Front Page Titles (by Subject) ALEXANDER BARING TO GALLATIN. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 1
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ALEXANDER BARING TO GALLATIN. - Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 1 
The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1879). 3 vols.
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ALEXANDER BARING TO GALLATIN.
London, July 22, 1813.
The letter with which you honored my house from Gottenburg has remained for a few days unanswered, for the purpose of obtaining the information necessary to enable me to make a satisfactory reply.
For the money you may require you will please to direct drafts upon us or on Amsterdam in any manner you may think expedient. Messrs. Meyer & Bruxner, bankers at St. Petersburg, by whom this letter will be conveyed to you, have our directions to obey any orders you may give them on this subject, presuming that you will prefer not to let your own drafts go into public circulation. Our present exchange with Holland is about 79 the pound sterling, which will enable you to calculate what mode of reimbursement will best answer your purpose.
I have taken care to make in the proper quarter the communications you desire, and, as you express a wish to be informed of any occurrences here relating to your mission, some observations may perhaps be acceptable on the dispositions of government and of the public concerning it, upon which I have good reason to assure you that you may perfectly rely.
I anticipated the most favorable result from the names which constituted this new commission, and felt confident that we should soon see an end of this senseless war. I was quite sure you would not leave your home without the powers and the disposition to do your country this essential service, and although the place fixed upon for the negotiation, and the manner in which it was proposed to conduct it, considerably abated the confidence of the public, I never entertained those doubts of the sincerity of America with which those circumstances inspired others.
The mediation of Russia was offered, not sought,—it was fairly and frankly accepted,—I do not see how America could with any consistency refuse it; but to the eyes of a European politician it was clear that such an interference could produce no practical benefit. The only question now seriously at issue between us is one purely of a domestic nature in each country respectively; no foreign government can fairly judge of it. A question of the relative rights and duties of sovereign and subject between two great countries, where, owing to their recent separation, a distinction between the great masses of their seafaring population becomes almost impossible, can only exist between Great Britain and America; no other country can judge of the various positions of great delicacy and importance to which such a state of things must give rise; and even where the best understanding prevails between European courts, there are shades of difference and sometimes feelings of various sorts which must prevent any cordial mediation on such points. On the other hand, what a handle does such a subject offer for fomenting discord on points totally foreign from it! We have lately seen a threat of dragging American politics into a German congress, among powers neither understanding nor caring for any of its interests, but merely to enable them to wrangle more dexterously about their own.
This is not the way for Great Britain and America really to settle their disputes; intelligent persons of the two countries might devise mutual securities and concessions which perhaps neither country would offer in the presence of a third party. It is a sort of family quarrel, where foreign interference can only do harm and irritate at any time, but more especially in the present state of Europe, when attempts would be made to make a tool of America in a manner which I am sure neither you nor your colleagues would sanction.
These, I have good reason to know, are pretty nearly the sentiments of government here on the question of place of negotiation and foreign mediation, and before this reaches you you will have been informed that this mediation has been refused, with expressions of our desire to treat separately and directly here, or, if more agreeable to you, at Gottenburg.
I believe you may rely upon it that from this resolution we shall not here depart, not only from the sense of the objections I have already stated to a mediating negotiation, but that your persevering in such a course will be considered here as the touchstone of your sincerity. Although I trust our government does not participate in the prevailing opinion here that a secret political connection exists with France, yet your persevering in bringing this insulated question before the powers of the Continent would favor those suspicions, and induce ministers to believe that your only object was to assist France in the sort of mystification and confusion in which it often suits her purpose to involve her diplomatic negotiations.
I trust that these considerations, duly weighed, will satisfy you that no inference is to be drawn from our refusal of the Russian mediation unfavorable to our disposition for peace, and that if we wish to remove the seat of the negotiation it is in reality for the purpose of coming at that result with more certainty. This city has, I understand, been proposed to you, and Gottenburg offered as an alternative in case you do not choose to trust yourselves so near to us.
My hopes of a favorable result would be much increased by your coming at once in contact with our ministers. The advantages in all cases of treating with principals is obvious, but the peculiar character of the point in dispute gives them greater weight. You would find any minister of this country very cautious in giving instructions to any plenipotentiary to treat on a subject of so much delicacy as the rights and duties of sovereign and subject. Those instructions must remain recorded in his office, and may be called for by Parliament. Concessions might be made, securities and substitutes devised, and difficulties overcome in a direct negotiation which I should almost despair of if it were to be carried on at a distance; and I am quite sure that the mass of intelligence which your commission affords on the relative policy of Great Britain and America is more than a match for all our island can produce on the same subject, upon which the ignorance of many of our leading characters would probably surprise you. But you would naturally wish to ask the question whether, should you consent to come here to negotiate, there is a probable chance of a favorable result. Upon this I will give you my candid opinion, and I know that I can, without deceiving you, state the sentiments of government.
That we wish for a restoration of peace with you need not be argued. Our situation, the great contest in which we are engaged, make it impossible that we should be otherwise than heartily desirous of putting an end to a contest from which we suffer considerably (though, perhaps, less than was anticipated), and from which no good can result. The extent of injury which the two countries can do each other is now pretty well ascertained, we can tease and weaken each other without any practical result, and you cannot for a moment doubt our wish to carry the resources now employed in defending ourselves against you into the more important field of European contest.
With these feelings, why has the war continued so long? The only serious point at issue may be said to be that of the impressment of seamen,—a question presenting of itself serious and not imaginary difficulties. To hope for any solution of them the disposition on both sides must be sincere, the spirit of peace must animate both parties, and I will not disguise from you that when America set this question of seamen up as cause of war after the great effort for conciliation was made in the repeal of the orders in council, the prevalent opinion here was that the war was a war of passion with the people of America, and that concessions would only show weakness, and never satisfy them, and that therefore no alternative was left to us but to fight it out as well as we could. Whether this opinion was well or ill founded need not now be discussed; it prevented at the time any deliberate consideration of the question of seamen, which was considered merely as a pretext, to be followed by some other if once removed. This opinion I believe to be, in as far as government is concerned, on the change. The representation of persons desirous of seeing a return of peace on honorable terms, a growing opinion that America has a real and serious interest in this question of seamen, the repeated wish expressed by your Executive, and above all, the characters appointed for the pacific mission to St. Petersburg, have excited hopes; there is a disposition to examine the question, and I am quite certain that I can now assure you that should you come here you will be received with confidence in your intentions, with great personal respect, and with a determination to come to terms of peace with you if it be found practicable to do so consistently with the safety of our maritime power, supposed to be, and which undoubtedly is, involved in this question.
So much I can confidently say of the disposition existing here. But are the difficulties, supposing the disposition on both sides to be perfect, of themselves insurmountable, or are we doomed to the necessity of perpetual war? Upon this point I will give you with sincerity my opinion. I shall not trouble you with any extensive discussion of a subject with which you are so well acquainted. The difficulties are very considerable, but, although I can hardly say that I think they can be surmounted to the entire satisfaction of both parties, I do think that by sincere and friendly discussions some system may be devised of practical efficiency to answer the reasonable purposes of both countries. At all events, it is the duty of both to make some arrangement, because some arrangement or perpetual war are the only alternative. It is easy on either side to dress the question out with popular attractions, but any indifferent person understanding it and considering it calmly must be sensible that on our side we could not admit your pretensions to their full extent without endangering the discipline, and even the existence, of our navy, and, on the other hand, that on your part you cannot submit to the existing system as practised by us. There is, therefore, a necessity of some settlement. If you submitted at present, the growing power and population of America would force a settlement on the two countries at no distant period, perhaps after ruinous wars. Being frequently accused here of undue partiality towards America, I trust at least that I shall have credit with you for a sincere wish to see an end put to so permanent and certain a source of strife; but I must freely confess that, highly as I value a state of peace and harmony with America, I am so sensible of the danger to our naval power from anything like an unrestricted admission of your principles, that I should almost incline to think it safer to consider an American as an inevitable concomitant of a French war, and to provide for it accordingly. It is useless to discuss the abstract question of right when it becomes one of necessity, and with us I sincerely believe it to be so.
If, therefore, the disposition of your government be to adhere pertinaciously to the determination to give us no better security than the Act of Congress lately passed, I should certainly think your coming here or negotiating anywhere useless for any good purpose. I know it must be so, because I know that any government of this country would be restrained from such an unlimited concession by its known and certain danger, by the state of public opinion, and that the best friends to the restoration of peace would not be bold enough to recommend it. But, on the other hand, if you are desirous of endeavoring, by mutual explanation and concession, to consult the security and just apprehension of both countries, I know that I can assure you that you will find a corresponding disposition here; and although I would not speak lightly of the difficulties to be overcome, I am inclined by a long consideration of the subject to anticipate every reasonable degree of success from the joint efforts of yourselves and those persons whom our government will be prepared to appoint to meet you.
I have thus, my dear sir, ventured to suggest to you what occurs to me on the interesting subject of your mission. I should not have risked opinions without feeling certain that I was not misleading you if you think proper to trust to them. I hope they will encourage you not to return to America without at least making an experiment in the manner most likely to lead to success.
I am assured by my Lord Castlereagh that the requisite order shall be sent for permitting your cartel-ship, the Neptune, to carry the gentlemen composing your mission wherever they may think proper; and I trust that I shall be ere long gratified by seeing her bring with you the hope of peace to our shores.
If I can be personally of any service, I trust you will freely command me, and that I may be permitted to present my compliments to Mr. Bayard and Mr. Adams, with whom I believe I have the advantage of a very slight acquaintance, which I should have the greatest satisfaction in being afforded an opportunity of improving.
I am, with great consideration and personal regard, dear sir, your very obedient servant.