Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1815: JEFFERSON TO GALLATIN. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 1
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1815: JEFFERSON 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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JEFFERSON TO GALLATIN.
Monticello, March 19, 1815.
This letter will be presented to you by Mr. George Ticknor, a young gentleman of Boston. He favored me with a visit here, and brought high recommendations from Mr. Adams and others, and, during a stay of several days with us, I found he merited everything which had been said of him. He has been excellently educated, is learned, industrious, eager after knowledge, and, as far as his stay with us could enable us to judge, he is amiable, modest, and correct in his deportment. He had prepared himself for the bar, but before engaging in business he proposes to pass two or three years in Europe, to see and to learn what can be seen and learnt there. Should he on his return enter the political line, he will go far in that career. Every American considers his minister at Paris as his natural patron; but, knowing how acceptable it is in your station to be informed who are worthy of your particular attentions, I write this letter for your sake as well as his. I had given him one to Mr. Crawford, not then knowing your appointment. I sincerely congratulate you on it, knowing you will do much good there, as you would have done here also had you returned. How much have we wanted you! In fighting we have done well. We have good officers at length coming forward from the mass, who would soon have planted our standard on the walls of Quebec and Halifax. Our men were always good, and, after the affair of New Orleans, theirs would never have faced ours again. And it is long since they have ceased to trust their frigates to sail alone. But in finance we have suffered cruelly. With a revenue which all acknowledge will bring us in 35 millions this year, we are begging daily bread at the doors of our bankrupt banks. But this letter is not for public subjects. I shall write to you soon; glad you are there, wishing for you here, knowing your value everywhere, and being everywhere and always your affectionate friend.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Paris, 5th April, 1815.
On the 3d instant I had an interview with the Duke of Vicence, the result of which convinces me that the Imperial government has no intention at this time to do anything in relation to the spoliations committed upon American commerce. At the close of the conversation I communicated to him my intention of returning to the United States in the course of the present or succeeding month. In the letter of the Secretary of State communicating the consent of the President to my returning home in the spring, I was directed to appoint Mr. Jackson chargé des affaires, unless he should wish to return with me, in which event Mr. Purviance was to be selected. As the latter gentleman has returned to the United States, the alternative between the two is taken away.
I have this day seen a letter from Mr. Beasley to Mr. Adams, in which it is stated that you are appointed Minister to France. Your presence, I should imagine, has entirely superseded my instructions in this case. Although it is probable that your letters of credence are directed to Louis the Eighteenth, yet I suppose you can appoint a chargé d’affaires with as much propriety as I could have done had your appointment remained unknown to me. If, however, you think there might be any obstacle to your adopting this or any other course for the purpose of having the interests of the nation attended to until other letters of credence can be obtained, I will, under your instructions or by your advice, appoint Mr. Jackson chargé d’affaires, according to the original views of the State Department. Without such advice or instructions I shall do nothing in the case.
I suppose you will not, under existing circumstances, return in the Neptune. In this event, if I can get ready in time, I think of occupying your place on board that vessel, as it is wholly uncertain whether any American vessel will sail to Savannah or Charleston before the sickly season commences in those places. I suppose my return in her will not incommode the other gentlemen. If it should, I will not think of it, as I have no claim to a passage in her.
I am sorry that Mr. Beasley has been so laconic in his communication. I should like to know the interesting news alluded to, unless the appointments mentioned in it should be that news. We have received no English newspapers of later date than the 25th ult., and suppose we shall not receive any more of them.
With great respect, I am your most obedient and very humble servant.
P.S.—An early answer will be necessary, especially if you wish me to do anything in relation to the chargé des affaires. Mr. Bayard is improving, but very slowly. The Duchesse d’Angoulême succeeded at Bordeaux in making her volunteers fire on the troops of the line on their approach to the city. The fire was not returned, and her Royal Highness has embarked. The insurgents (they are now called so) of the south are more resolute and more numerous than those of Bordeaux. Grouchy is in march at the head of a considerable corps of troops to put a stop to their further operations.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, 4th September, 1815.
I have sent by Mr. Cutts the convention for regulating the commercial intercourse with Great Britain, and will write on that subject to the Secretary of State. I will only say that the British government appeared rather desirous to have made no arrangement and to have kept the whole intercourse to be controlled by their own municipal regulations, which they thought we could not counteract. The convention, such as it is, must, so far as relates to them, be considered as an evidence of friendly disposition. The campaign of 1814 had made us respected and gave us peace. Their antipathy and prejudices in other respects have been modified; and although their pride has, if that was possible, been increased by the late events in Europe, they will, I think, be disposed to preserve friendly relations with us, and, at all events, avoid a rupture. There had not, to my knowledge, been any case of impressment in the British ports since the commencement of the late hostilities. . . .
I received the account of my appointment to France with pleasure and gratitude, as an evidence of your undiminished friendship and of public satisfaction for my services. Whether I can or will accept I have not yet determined. The season will be far advanced for taking Mrs. G. across the Atlantic, and I have had no time to ascertain what arrangement, if any, I can make for my children and private business during a second absence. The delay has been rather advantageous to the public, as it was best to have no minister at Paris during the late events.
Mrs. G., with her best compliments, congratulates Mrs. M. on her son’s return; and I am, with the most sincere attachment and respect, truly yours.
I enclose a letter from La Fayette. When do you expect to be at Washington?
GALLATIN TO JEFFERSON.
New York, September 6, 1815.
I enclose two letters from Europe, one from La Fayette, who desired that I should bear witness to his constant endeavors, under all circumstances, in support of the cause of liberty, and to his undiminished affection for his American friends, and particularly for yourself. I was much gratified by the receipt of your kind letter of March last, brought by Mr. Ticknor. Your usual partiality to me is evinced by the belief that our finances might have been better directed if I had remained in the Treasury. But I always thought that our war expenses were so great, perhaps necessarily so, in proportion to the ordinary resources of the country, and the opposition of the moneyed men so inveterate, that it was impossible to avoid falling into a paper system if the war should be much longer protracted. I only regret that specie payments were not resumed on the return of peace. Whatever difficulties may be in the way, they cannot be insuperable provided the object be immediately attended to. If delayed, private interest will operate here as in England, and lay us under the curse of a depreciated and fluctuating currency. In every other respect I must acknowledge that the war has been useful. The character of America stands now as high as ever on the European Continent, and higher than ever it did in Great Britain. I may say that we are favorites everywhere, except at courts; and even there, although the Emperor of Russia is perhaps the only sovereign who likes us, we are generally respected, and considered as the nation designed to check the naval despotism of England.
France, which alone can have a navy, will, under her present dynasty, be for some years a vassal of her great rival; and the mission with which I have been honored is, in a political view, unimportant. The revolution has not, however, been altogether useless. There is a visible improvement in the agriculture of the country and the situation of the peasantry. The new generation belonging to that class, freed from the petty despotism of nobles and priests, and made more easy in their circumstances by the abolition of tithes and by the equalization of taxes, have acquired an independent spirit, and are far superior to their fathers in intellect and information. They are not republicans, and are still too much dazzled by military glory; but I think that no monarch or ex-nobles can hereafter oppress them long with impunity.
Accept, my dear sir, the assurance of my constant and grateful attachment and respect.
Your obedient servant.
MADISON TO GALLATIN.
Montpelier, September 11, 1815.
I have just received your favor of the 4th. I congratulate yourself and Mrs. Gallatin on your safe arrival and under circumstances which must console her so much for your prolonged absence. . . .
It was not much to be expected that the British government, on the pinnacle of its elevation, would look with solicitude on her relations to the United States. The convention is a proof, however, that she does not wish the sort of conflict which her countervailing duties would be likely to produce. And as it is certainly not our wish, the equalizing stipulation on the subject is valuable to both parties. The footing on which the East India trade is put fulfils the reasonable expectations of the public here. It would have been well, I believe, for both parties if a good arrangement had taken place on the subject of the West India trade; but this was promised neither by experience nor by the circumstances of the moment. The want of reciprocity in that trade whilst Great Britain permits her own vessels to come to our ports, will be more and more felt, particularly by the Eastern States, and will sooner or later produce invitations to the other States to concur in counteracting regulations. I retain my opinion that effectual ones might be adopted without incurring any very sensible inconvenience to our commerce, much less any risk to the peace between the two countries. But our present situation dissuades from experiments which are not urgent, and it may be hoped that before the convention expires the amity it secures may bring about an adjustment not only of that but of other points waived for the present. What are probably the views of the British Cabinet with respect to the fisheries, &c., within the marine league? Was it understood distinctly at Ghent that the restoration of the mouth of Columbia was included in the general article, and is it probable that orders have been sent thither from Great Britain to that effect?
I am not aware of any considerations that press for your decision as to the mission to Paris without the deliberation due to your private affairs. Mrs. M. returns her congratulations to Mrs. Gallatin with her affectionate respects. I beg leave to add mine to the assurances of my great esteem and cordial regards for yourself.
GALLATIN TO RICHARD BACHE.
Greenwich, 24th September, 1815.
I have this moment received your letter of yesterday, and the mail will close in a few minutes. I am more gratified by the mark of confidence given me by the Republican conferees of the Philadelphia district than I can express. But I cannot serve them in the station with which they would honor me. My property is not half sufficient to support me anywhere but in the Western country. To my private business and to making arrangements for entering into some active business I must necessarily and immediately attend. It is a duty I owe to my family. Return my sincere thanks and make my apology to the conferees, and believe me, &c.
GALLATIN TO A. J. DALLAS, SECRETARY OF TREASURY.
New York, 25th September, 1815.
I had the honor to receive your letter of 22d instant, asking for information respecting the state of the circulating medium of Russia. The specie or silver ruble contains 282½ troy grains of pure silver, and is worth about 76 cents money of the United States. But paper rubles (called bank paper) are the legal and only currency of Russia. I believe that all payments and purchases are made exclusively in that paper; and it is the only money of account. By ukase dated a short time after the Treaty of Tilsit, its value was fixed at the rate of four paper for one silver ruble. The legal value of the paper ruble or ruble of account is therefore about 19 cents money of the United States. From the date of that ukase till as late at least as last winter, the market price of silver in paper rubles has differed but little from that fixed by law. Even during the French war, and whilst they were at Moscow, there was [no] sensible depreciation in the paper currency. Still, there are some fluctuations, which are regularly quoted twice a week on exchange days, and may, I presume, be obtained from almost every merchant who has correspondents in Russia. Whilst I was there—from July, 1813, to the latter end of January, 1814—those fluctuations were from 396 to 408 paper for 100 silver rubles. I heard, however, in June last, whilst in London, that the paper currency had suddenly depreciated to the rate of five paper for one silver ruble. For this I cannot vouch, nor is it probable that such event, although it might instantaneously affect the rate of foreign exchanges, would have any immediate sensible effect on the price, in paper, of Russian commodities. Such an effect must necessarily be ultimately produced wherever there is a depreciated paper currency; but it is slow and progressive. I do not believe that the similar depreciation in English bank paper (or, as it is called now, the rise in the price of silver), which took place on the last entrance of Bonaparte in Paris, and which lasted till its capitulation to the allies, say the months of April, May, and June, had any material effect on the prices of English manufactures. The Treasury of the United States did not certainly alter on that account the mode of computing duties on British importations. The rate of exchange between St. Petersburg and London varies so much that it affords a very uncertain criterion for estimating the real value either of the respective currencies or of the merchandise exported from Russia. Payments being made in both countries in depreciated and fluctuating paper currencies, and St. Petersburg being at all times so remote, and inaccessible six months in the year, the equilibrium cannot be restored at once by shipments of specie, as is the case in the intercourse between England, Holland, and France. The exchange had been as high as 20 pence sterling per paper ruble during the winter 1812-1813. Whilst I was in Russia it varied from 16 to 13¼ pence sterling per ruble. And during the whole of that time there was no material variation in the relative value of silver to that of either British or Russian paper currency. The differences in the rate of exchange seem to be owing exclusively to the amount of bills at market and to the demand for them, and both these vary not only according to the commercial balance of trade, but are in a great degree connected with the operations of government, which has on one hand troops to supply abroad, and receives on the other subsidies from Great Britain. Yet importing and exporting merchants at St. Petersburg, as well as those in foreign countries who trade with that place, value the paper ruble, from the manner in which they obtain and dispose of their funds, at the price which it costs them or at which they can sell it in bills on England. It may not be improper to observe, in relation to Mr. Robert’s importation, that supposing his statement to be correct, viz., that the paper ruble was at the rate of five paper for one silver ruble, and that the exchange on London was at 10½ pence sterling per paper ruble, the mode of computing duties heretofore adopted at the Treasury will not place him on a worse footing than importers from England, if the value of specie be taken as the standard. I do not recollect the precise price of silver in England in May last, but it did not differ 2 per cent. from the rate of exchange on Holland, taking 11 guilders and 2 stivers for the par. If there was any difference, it was in favor of silver. The exchange was then, at most, 8 guilders and 19 stivers, equal to 3 dollars 58 cents per pound sterling, which makes 10½ pence sterling equal to 15 cents and . And the paper ruble, valued at five for one, is worth 15 cents and .
It is true that silver, though not a perfect, and there can be none, is the best and in fact the only common standard by which to ascertain the value both of paper currencies and of merchandise of different countries. But where the depreciation is neither acknowledged nor considerable, and varies from day to day, as is the case with English currency, it would be an endless task, if at all practicable, to reduce every invoice and to calculate the duties according to the silver value, for the time being, of that currency. It was not, therefore, attempted here, and no complaint was made, although the same duty was raised on the article which cost 23½ francs specie in France, and on that which cost one pound sterling bank paper in England, at a time when that pound was only worth 18 francs. When the question was raised respecting the manner of calculating duties on importations from Russia, neither the legal value of the paper ruble nor the steadiness for a number of years of its market value were correctly known at the Treasury; and the mode of calculating according to the rate of exchange on England was adopted on the ground of placing importations from those two countries on the same footing. That principle appeared more just and practicable than an attempt to ascertain the specie value of the ruble, because paper was the currency of both countries, and because the great mass of goods on which duties ad valorem were imposed was imported from England. If it shall be thought proper to alter that mode, it may be done in two ways: either to take the legal value of the paper ruble at the rate of 4 for 1, which will give the constant value of that ruble equal to 19 cents, and is the rule applied to importations from England, the pound sterling being always estimated here at its legal value, equivalent to 4 dollars and 44 cents; and to ascertain for each importation the relative value of the paper to the silver ruble. But in this last case it would be consistent to adopt the same principle with respect to importations from England, and, indeed, from every other country which has a paper currency.
I have, &c.
GALLATIN TO JAMES H. BLAKE.
Washington City, November 6, 1815.
I request you to return my thanks to the corporation of the city of Washington for the favorable opinion they entertain of the manner in which the duties enjoined on the ministers employed in negotiating peace with Great Britain have been performed, and for the honor done me by the adoption of the resolution which you have transmitted to me.
I embrace with pleasure this opportunity to express my grateful sense of the civilities and kindness which, during my residence in this city, I have uniformly experienced from its inhabitants; and, praying you to accept my sincere wishes for their prosperity and for your personal happiness, I have the honor to be, with respectful consideration,
Your obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, 23d November, 1815.
I have ultimately decided not to go to France, and write this day accordingly to the Secretary of State. I am fully sensible of the efforts you made to keep me in the Treasury, of the unpleasant situation in which my absence and that effort placed you, as well as of the friendly motives which, combined with your view of public utility, induced you to give me this last proof of your high regard and confidence. I feel truly grateful for every part of your conduct towards me before and since you were President, and I would have wished to have been able to evince my sense of it by a cheerful and thankful acceptance of the honorable office to which you had appointed me. But every consideration connected with private prudence and regard to my family forbids my doing it; and, considering the present depressed situation of France, no motive of public utility urges a contrary determination, even if, under other circumstances, my services could have been deemed useful at that court. As regards myself, I will briefly state that the compensation allowed to foreign ministers is incompetent to the support of a minister at Paris in the style in which he is expected to live, and which it is of some importance for the country that he should maintain; that my private resources are too scanty to supply the deficiency without making sacrifices which would leave my family at my death dependent on others; that, supposing I could barely exist there for a few years, I would return with children having acquired expensive and foreign habits and lost the opportunities of entering into the active pursuits by which they must support themselves, and myself too old to assist and too poor to support them; and that a residence in France will at this time, both in a public and private view, be irksome and unpleasant to an American minister, affording no compensation for the sacrifices it would require. But I must add that these sacrifices would without hesitation have been made if the mission had in view any important and attainable object of public utility. This not being at all the case, I have supposed myself at liberty to listen to motives of private and prudential consideration, and, perceiving no probability that my present views of the subject would be changed, I have thought it fair not to keep it any longer in suspense, and to decline the appointment before the meeting of Congress.
I have heard with concern the report of the cession of Florida to England. In the present situation of Europe it is only from that country that we have to apprehend any foreign collision. I still hope that the report is unfounded, and that peace being secured, at least for some years, your labors and those of the other public functionaries may be exclusively and successfully applied to the arrangement of our internal concerns.
Mrs. Gallatin requests to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Madison. We are all well; and after spending this winter with Mrs. G.’s friends, it is our present intention to retire in the spring to our home on the Monongahela.
With most sincere wishes for your personal happiness, and great respect, I remain your affectionate and obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, 23d November, 1815.
After giving to the subject all the consideration due to it, I find it necessary to decline accepting the appointment of minister of the United States to the Court of France, which the President had been pleased to bestow on me. In making this communication to him, permit me to request that you will express my grateful thanks for this distinguished proof of his approbation, as well as for the other marks of confidence and of friendship with which he has ever honored me. With my most sincere wishes that your and his unremitted efforts for promoting the interests and welfare of the United States may meet with all the success they merit, I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO CLAY.
New York, 23d November, 1815.
My accounts being settled and in the Register’s office, you will be able to ascertain the principles which have been adopted. Compensation has been allowed to the 22d of July, the day of departure from England, and an allowance made for the travelling expenses incident to the removal of the seats of negotiation. This, in my case, has been for travelling from St. Petersburg to London and thence to Ghent, and from Ghent to London. I presume that in yours the allowance will be from Gottenburg to Ghent, and from Ghent to London. You have in addition your extraordinary expenses at Gottenburg. It did not appear to me that a charge could be made for the extra expenses in London.
You must have received a letter from the Treasury similar to that written to me respecting duties on our baggage. I have not answered mine, wishing first to know what you intend to do. I brought nothing but effects coming under the description of wearing-apparel, books, and furniture (including some plate and glass) to a very moderate amount, all for my use and that of my family, and all such as, when imported by a minister returning from a foreign mission, have by uniform practice been considered as exempt from duty, although many, if imported by a private individual, would have paid duty. The Secretary of the Treasury is under a mistake in his inference from two letters, copies of which he enclosed to me, that either an inventory (meaning thereby an invoice or detailed specification of the articles contained in each package) has ever been required from any minister, or that the question has ever been left to the collector to decide which of such articles were liable to or exempt from duty. In both the cases referred to in the letters above mentioned (Messrs. King and Erving), the collector is required to deliver the baggage without requiring duty, and nothing is left to his discretion; and the inventory alluded to in the letter respecting Mr. Erving, which was furnished by him, not required from him, was used for the purpose not of authorizing or enabling the collector to distinguish what articles might be liable to duty, but of enabling him to distinguish Mr. Erving’s baggage from other packages imported in the same ship, the said baggage not having been brought in the same vessel in which he had returned home.
In every case referred to the Treasury, whilst I was Secretary, the order thus to deliver the baggage was, subsequent to Mr. King’s case, given as a matter of course. But I believe that in most cases the collectors, knowing the practice, delivered the baggage without difficulty and without reference to the Treasury. The first reference was on Mr. King’s return; he had much baggage, and it was the first case in that port since Mr. Gelston was collector. I knew the practice, although I could not find the instructions on record. They must, however, have been given, perhaps in private letters not recorded, or they may have escaped the research of the clerk. The easiest way to ascertain the fact beyond dispute was by applying to Mr. Jefferson for information, as he was the first minister who had returned from a foreign mission under the present government. He informed me that his baggage, which was valuable and contained at least as many articles, which if imported by individuals would have paid duty, as those belonging to subsequent ministers, had paid no duty, and that this was, as far as he knew, the constant rule. This case had, in fact, established the rule. I wrote accordingly to the collector of New York the letter respecting Mr. King’s baggage. Such as has afterwards arrived in the same port under similar circumstances has been delivered without hesitation on reference to the Treasury. This was the case with respect to the baggage of Mr. Livingston, of Mr. Armstrong, (I believe of Mr. Barlow,) and lately of Mr. Crawford, which came in the Hesper from Havre. Whether on the return of Messrs. Monroe, William Pinkney, Charles Pinckney, and Bowdoin, the baggage was delivered by the respective collectors without reference to the Treasury, or upon an order from the Treasury, I cannot positively say, although I have some recollection of an application, verbal or written, in the case of Mr. W. Pinkney. But I can assert that the rule was uniform, and the order given at once whenever the case was referred to the Treasury. If a new rule be established, ought it not to be prospective? or, if retrospective on the assumed ground of error [or] reconsideration, should it not be general and embrace every case from Mr. Jefferson downwards, instead of being confined to a single case, nay, to a single vessel? for no question is asked respecting Mr. Crawford’s subsequent importation of baggage in the Hesper, Mr. Erving in another vessel, or even ours, if any, in the Lorenzo. To this long detail I will only add that, according to practice, the error in the case of the Neptune was not the order to deliver to the ministers their baggage free of duty, but to have considered all the baggage and other articles on board the vessel as if belonging to the ministers and being exempt from duty. Upon the whole, have the goodness to let [me] know what you intend to do, and the final decision of the Secretary of the Treasury, to whom you may communicate this letter,—a course preferable in my situation to a more formal answer to his letter to me. Present Mrs. Gallatin’s and my respects to Mrs. Clay, and believe me, truly and respectfully, your obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, 25th November, 1815.
Whilst last at Washington I communicated some observations connected with the late commercial convention with Great Britain, which, in conformity with your suggestion, I will now reduce to writing.
The last instructions given on that subject to which we were generally referred were those of 20th May, 1807. We had, in addition, the Act passed by Congress during their last session, subsequent to the ratification of the treaty of peace, by which a general and reciprocal abolition of all discriminating duties was proposed. Considering, therefore, this last object as that which by our country was considered most important and desirable in our relations with foreign nations, we offered in our note of 24th June to the British plenipotentiaries to agree to an arrangement confined to that object alone. But we refused to accede to their proposal (as contained in their note of the 23d) to omit altogether the article respecting India, and to sign a convention embracing not only the abolition of discriminating duties, but also all the other provisions respecting the intercourse between the United States and the British territories in Europe, contained in the article then and finally agreed to. The instructions of 20th May, 1807, whilst forbidding an attempt to modify the East India article by offering to waive the privilege of indirect outward voyages, gave the preference to the omission of any articles on the subject, and to a reliance on the regulations which Great Britain would find it her interest to make without any treaty stipulation. There was nothing, therefore, in those instructions forbidding us to accept the proposal of the British plenipotentiaries; but we preferred insisting on the India article, and, for the sake of its being inserted, to agree that the convention should be limited to a shorter period of time than had been contemplated. We refused to agree to the European article entire unless the India article made part of the convention. I mentioned at Washington, and will now repeat, the reasons which, in my view of the subject, rendered that course proper.
Not only had those instructions contemplated a treaty embracing important objects not included in the proposed convention, but they were framed at a time when Great Britain pursued a very different policy with respect to the East India trade from that which has lately been adopted. Whilst she continued to exclude her own subjects from any participation in that branch of commerce, the acknowledged incompetency of the East India Company to supply India with a sufficient amount of specie and to carry off the surplus produce of that country made it necessary for both those purposes to resort to the foreign nations, or, to speak more properly, to that of the United States. Without any treaty stipulation the subject might, therefore, be left safely at that time to such internal regulations as Great Britain would, of her own accord and in pursuance of her general policy, make in regard to it. This opinion is supported by experience, our vessels having been admitted in the British East Indies subsequent to the expiration of the treaty of 1794 as freely and on the same terms as they had been whilst that treaty was in force.
But a different policy has now been adopted by Great Britain. The India trade has, by the last modification of the charter of the East India Company, been opened to the private enterprise and capital of British subjects, and the same motives no longer exist, at least to the same extent, for encouraging our commerce. Without pretending to conjecture how far this new state of things may in practice operate, there was sufficient evidence of a change of disposition in the refusal on the part of the British plenipotentiaries to place in that respect by treaty the United States on the footing of the most favored nations, a provision which, it appears by your correspondence, could have been obtained without difficulty in 1806-1807. It appeared, therefore, unsafe to accede to the proposal of agreeing to the second article of the convention entire and alone, by which every commercial advantage the United States had to offer was yielded, without securing or reserving any means of obtaining the admission of our vessels in British India. And it seemed due to our government not to act upon an instruction given under circumstances different from the existing state of things, and which, with a knowledge of the change which had taken place, the President might have deemed proper to revoke or to modify.
It is not irrelevant to the subject also to observe that, although the British Parliament refused the proposal to place, permanently by treaty, the United States on the same footing with respect to the East India trade as the most favored nations, the convention secures to us that trade in the manner now enjoyed by those nations; and that Great Britain has by that refusal only reserved to herself the right of granting hereafter greater advantages to other nations than they now enjoy, without being obliged to extend those advantages to the United States.
The importance which public opinion and the general tenor of former instructions had attached to that subject would make it the duty of American ministers to pay particular attention to it. I must, however, acknowledge that if listening to my private opinion I would have set much less value on that trade than duty compelled me to do during the late negotiation. It consists almost exclusively in the exportation of specie, which experience at this moment forcibly proves to be the necessary basis of a solid system even of paper circulating medium; and in the importation of articles in competition with one of the most important branches of our manufacture and agriculture. Should the policy of the country induce the adoption of restrictive measures either on the exports or imports connected with that trade, they would have the collateral advantage of proving to the British government that, so far from being disposed to make any sacrifice in order to obtain what it supposes a privilege, the United States consider that branch of commerce as of no real advantage to them.
The only part of the convention, therefore, which to me appears truly valuable, is that which regulates the intercourse with the British dominions, and particularly the provision which abolishes all discriminating duties,—a policy which, removing some grounds of irritation, and preventing in that respect a species of commercial warfare, may have a tendency to lay the foundation of a better understanding between the two nations on other points; and which consists also with the soundest principles of political economy, giving the greatest extent to commercial enterprise in both countries, and enable alike the manufacturer and grower of produce to obtain the highest price for the products of their industry, and the consumer to obtain those articles at the cheapest rate. I feel also a perfect conviction that in the competition, founded on such fair principles, which will ensue, the natural and acquired advantages of America, above all, the superior activity, enterprise, and skill of her citizens over the subjects of any European nation, will give a decided superiority to the United States over Great Britain; and my only apprehension is that that superiority will be such as to convince that country that they cannot compete with us on equal terms, and to induce the British government not to renew the convention.
My colleagues and myself agreed on the general result; but, not wishing to commit either of them with respect to the grounds of their opinion, I have in this letter spoken in the first person. As you may easily ascertain whether I am mistaken, I will add that I am under the impression that even in that respect Mr. Clay and myself were substantially of the same opinion, and had taken nearly similar views of every subject connected with the negotiation.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO JEFFERSON.
New York, November 27, 1815.
On my return from Washington I found your welcome letter of October 16, which my friends here, daily expecting my return, had kept instead of forwarding it.
Our opinion of Bonaparte is precisely the same. In that La Fayette’s and every friend of rational liberty in France did coincide. The return of that man was generally considered by them as a curse. Notwithstanding the blunders and rooted prejudices of the Bourbons, the alienation of the army and the absolute want of physical force had made them, upon the whole, harmless, and as soon as the termination of the congress at Vienna and the dissolution of the coalition would have left France independent of foreign interference, they must in the course of things either have been overset or have governed according to public opinion. After Bonaparte’s restoration, it was hoped by some that his weakness would compel him to pursue a similar course; others, placing confidence in the declarations of the allies, hoped to get rid both of him and of the Bourbons. All saw the necessity of defending the country against foreign invasion, but the fatal catastrophe was not, to its full extent, anticipated by any. I call it a catastrophe with an eye only to the present; for, exhausted, degraded, and oppressed as France now is, I do not despair of her ultimate success in establishing her independence and a free form of government. The people are too enlightened to submit long to any but a military despotism. What has lately passed was a scene in the drama, perhaps necessary to effect a radical cure of that love of conquest which had corrupted the nation and made the French oppressors abroad and slaves at home. As to independence, we have the recent instance of Prussia, which, with far inferior population, resources, or intellect, arose in two years from almost annihilation to the rank of a preponderating power. But, to return to Bonaparte, I lament to see our Republican editors so much dazzled by extraordinary actions or carried away by natural aversion to our only dangerous enemy as to take up the cause of that despot and conqueror, and to represent him as the champion of liberty, who has been her most mortal enemy, whose hatred to republican systems was founded on the most unbounded selfishness and on the most hearty contempt for mankind. I really wish that you would permit me to publish, or rather that you would publish, your opinions on that subject. This might have a tendency to correct those which are daily published, and which do injury to our cause at home, to our country abroad.
Under different circumstances, without having any wish for a foreign mission or a residence in France, I might have accepted the appointment of minister there. But, satisfied that nothing can at this moment be effected in that country, and it being very reluctant to my feelings to be on a mission to a degraded monarch and to a nation under the yoke of foreign armies, I thought that I might, without any breach of public duty or of private gratitude, consult my own convenience, and I have accordingly officially informed our government that I declined altogether the appointment.
On the lamentable state to which the banks have reduced the circulating medium of the country there ought to be but one opinion. Yet I fear with you that there will be no legislative effectual interference. The remedy becomes also more difficult every day it is delayed. Specie, for which there is no use but for exportation, is hoarded up or exported. The number of borrowers and of pretended lenders, equally interested in continuing and extending the present system at the expense of the community, daily increases. What might have been done last April with perfect facility cannot now be effected without causing much clamor and some distress, and if delayed much longer will not be done at all, and will place us in a situation similar to that of Great Britain. I have no patience on that subject. The war has been successfully and honorably terminated; a debt of no more than 80 millions incurred, which, as we had paid more than 40 during your Administration and till the war began, makes that debt only 40 millions or 50 per cent. more than it was in March, 1801; and Louisiana paid for, and an incipient navy created in the bargain; our population increased in the same, and our resources in a much greater proportion; our revenue greater than ever; and yet we are guilty of a continued breach of faith towards our creditors, our soldiers, our seamen, our civil officers; public credit, heretofore supported simply by common honesty, declining at home and abroad; private credit placed on a still more uncertain basis; the value of property and the nature of every person’s engagements equally uncertain; a baseless currency varying every fifty miles and fluctuating everywhere,—all this done, or at least continued, contrary to common sense and to common integrity, not only without necessity or law, but in the face of positive laws and of the provisions of the Constitution itself. Yet a majority of the Republican papers already leans to that system. The seat of government is the worst focus of the evil, there not being less than 14 banks already organized in the District of Columbia, and some more preparing. The language of several of the bank directors is similar to that of Peter to his brothers in the Tale of the Tub. They insist that their bread (God grant it was even bread!) is good, substantial mutton, that their rags are true solid silver; and some of them do already damn to all eternity every unbeliever. I have, however, some hope that the magnitude of the evil will produce a corrective, and I cannot help thinking that the Treasury will now be so rich that its will would alone be sufficient to prostrate at once that paper fabric. I have also indulged, with more warmth than is usual to me, in a political effusion; but I have been so long wedded to the national credit and integrity, that any stain which attaches to them touches me in a very tender point.
Ever respectfully and affectionately yours.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, November 30, 1815.
I have the honor to enclose a copy of the inofficial note presented to the Emperor of Russia on the 19th of June, 1814, and alluded to in my letter to you of 21st of same month. Its object was to condense in as small a compass as possible, so as to have a chance of its being read by him, the argument respecting the question of impressment and the terms on which the United States were disposed to make peace. No expectation was at that time entertained of any efficient interference in our favor on the part of Russia. But it appeared important to preserve in the Emperor’s mind a favorable opinion of the grounds on which we had made war, of the rights which we were maintaining, and of our general pacific disposition. It was thought eligible, without diminishing the force of the main argument, to detach it from the question of the right to migrate, which Russia might not be disposed to favor, and to present the subject in that view in which she could perceive that she had a common interest with us. Hence the allusions in the note to the British practice with respect to the migration of their own subjects and to the naturalization of foreigners, as well as to the concealed objections to our not employing British seamen in time of peace.
Anticipating the extravagant demands which the British government was disposed to make at Ghent, and knowing the possibility of the note reaching that government through some of the persons near the Emperor, it was deemed proper, as it respected both Russia and England, whilst showing the most pacific disposition, explicitly to state that no such demands would be acceded to.
I do not recollect any other omission in my correspondence, and I know that all our joint despatches from Ghent reached you. But I will thank you to direct a memorandum to be made out and transmitted to me of the date of all our public despatches from St. Petersburg, and of all my letters from Europe, directed to the Department of State, which have been received. This will enable me to see whether there is any which did not reach you, and in that case to transmit copies to you.
I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO JOSIAH MEIGS.
New York, December 4, 1815.
I had the honor to receive your friendly letter of 17th ult., and have delayed so long answering it from hesitation respecting the propriety of publishing the extract of my letter of 19th September, 1810, to Judge Thruston. There are in that letter some allusions to a circumstance which had taken place during the preceding winter,—I mean a most unfounded and wicked charge, that I had speculated or was in some shape connected with purchases or speculations of the public lands of the United States. The charge first appeared in the Virginia Argus, whose editor refused to name the author; and it was expressed in so vague a manner, without specification of facts, that it was to me unintelligible, and left me no means to refute or repel it otherwise than by a simple denial. Some member of Congress moved for an inquiry, which motion, the charge being vague and anonymous, was rejected; and thus the matter has ever since remained, false in itself, unsupported by names or facts, and yet, I dare say, propagated by enemies and believed by some. It could not, therefore, be but agreeable to me that a favorable opportunity should offer itself of proving by the general records of the land office that my conduct (whilst it was under my superintendence) was uniformly dictated by a conscientious sense of duty, and altogether inconsistent with the supposition of my being concerned in any purchases of any kind. None appears in my name, nor is there any act of mine, a single one of favoritism, such as may create a suspicion of my being concerned in the transaction, or as might be expected from an officer guilty himself, afraid of detection, and compelled to show undue forbearance to speculators less culpable than himself; yet I apprehend that the publication of my letter to Judge Thruston, which is but my own evidence in favor of myself, might be charged to improper motives, and, not being called for, would have the appearance of ostentation and self-applause.
Since, however, your letter offers me the opportunity, I beg leave to avail myself of it for the purpose of placing on the files of your office my explicit denial of the charge, and such observations on my landed property as may prove its falsity.
I suppose it unnecessary to say anything respecting my (home) property in Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Monongahela. All the other lands I own, or have ever owned or been concerned in, are in the States of Virginia, Ohio, or Kentucky. Of these there is but one acquired since I was Secretary of the Treasury, and in the following manner. A Nova Scotia refugee, named Samuel Rogers, being in Washington in the year 1803, destitute of money, I lent him one hundred dollars, for which he pledged to me a tract of 36 acres in the State of Ohio, being one of those allowed to him for his losses as refugee. I gave him an instrument of writing obliging myself to reconvey the land on his repaying the money within a limited number of years, which has expired. He has not redeemed the land, nor have I heard of him these ten years. Considering the land as only pledged, I have uniformly refused to sell it, although several offers have been made to purchase it. Mr. Nourse, Register of the Treasury, was a witness to the whole transaction, and [had] the goodness to draw the necessary writings.
With that single exception, all my other lands lying as above stated in the States of Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky were acquired prior to my holding the office of Secretary of the Treasury, and, moreover, not an acre ever was the property of the United States, being all derived from Virginia titles; most of them purchased and located in the years 1784-1785, some in 1795, two by exchange in 1800. For three of them, containing together 1700 acres, being Virginia military lands located in the State of Ohio, I obtained the patents subsequent to my being Secretary of the Treasury. The warrant on which they were founded I had purchased in 1784; they were located for me by Major Hardin, who was killed by the Indians in 1794; they were all three surveyed prior to my holding the office of Secretary of the Treasury. The patents for all the other lands are of a prior date.
I will add that I sold no lands whilst I was at the head of the Treasury. What I now have I had (with the exception of Rogers’s tract) when I came in office, and what I had then I now have; I neither acquired or sold, increased or decreased the amount whilst in office, nor, with the exception of that tract, am I or was I ever concerned or interested, either in my name or that of any other, directly or indirectly, in the purchase, sale, grant, or acquisition of any of the public lands of the United States.
You will excuse my having said so much on that subject. It is with great reluctance that I can bring myself to answer accusations so unfounded, so absurd (since, if true, I was liable to be impeached), so unworthy, I may say, of my general character. I felt equally reluctant to trouble any person with a subject of a personal nature. But I have stated my motive for saying what I have; and the friendly motives which dictated your letter have encouraged me in doing it.
Wishing that you may fully succeed in your honorable endeavors to defend and preserve the patrimony of the people of the United States against every unprincipled attack, I have the honor to be, with sincere esteem and respect, sir, your obedient servant.
P.S.—I may still add that all my lands (those at and near New Geneva on the Monongahela excepted) are not together worth and would not sell for twelve thousand dollars.
MONROE TO GALLATIN.
Washington, December 4, 1815.
It is only this moment that I find with regret that the passport which you requested for Mr. Christie has not been forwarded to you. I now send one in the hope that it will arrive in time.
To your other letter I have felt a repugnance to give a reply. We have been long in the public service together, engaged in support of the same great cause, have acted in harmony, and it is distressing to me to see you withdraw. I will write you again on this subject soon. We are happy to hear that you arrived safe. Our best respects and wishes to Mrs. Gallatin.
I am, dear sir, with great respect and esteem, sincerely yours.
GALLATIN TO A. J. DALLAS.
New York, 12th December, 1815.
The order to cause the ship American Eagle to be seized and libelled having been transmitted by the Secretary of the Treasury whilst I held the office, Mr. Gelston has repeatedly called on me on that subject, and, finding himself in a very perplexing situation, he has concluded to go to Washington in order to confer with you thereupon. You know that the presumed owners of the ship have recovered a sum exceeding one hundred thousand dollars damages. The judgment will certainly be affirmed in January next by the Supreme Court of this State; and in order to bring the cause before the Supreme Court of the United States it is necessary, in the first place, to carry it by writ of error before the Court of Errors (the Senate) of this State. The suit cannot be removed, under the Act of Congress of last session, to the Circuit Court of the United States, inasmuch as the Act will expire before that court can take cognizance of the suit; and even if it could be immediately thus removed, there being no provision in the Act for the continuance of suits commenced under it, its expiring would, according to repeated decisions (one particularly of the Supreme Court of the United States in a St. Domingo case), be fatal to all suits pending at such time.
In order to carry a suit from the Supreme Court to the Court of Errors of this State it is necessary, by a statute, that actual security should be given for the payment of the amount of the judgment and costs, amounting together, in this case, to a sum exceeding 120,000 dollars. Such security is not unusual in other courts; for I recollect, in the case of the Charming Betsy, in which you were concerned for Commodore Murray, government was obliged, in some stage of the suit, to direct one of its officers to give the required security at Philadelphia.
It is from that circumstance that arises the immediate embarrassment of Mr. Gelston. He cannot find security for such an amount. His estate is far from being equal to it. It unavoidably follows that, unless relieved by government, his property will be seized and himself be imprisoned in a few weeks.
With respect to the chance of having the judgment reversed, or the amount of damages diminished, by prosecuting the suit through every possible stage, I think there is no probability of success. The facts which gave rise to the seizure are susceptible of demonstration. It can be fully established that the ship was intended for, or actually the property of, Petion. And I believe the damages, supposing the seizure to have been illegal and Hoyt to be really the person entitled to them, to be altogether exorbitant. But I understand that from the nature of the pleas, and from the decision of the courts below, neither of those questions can now be agitated; that the only question which can be brought before either the Court of Errors or the Supreme Court of the United States is whether the ship, taking the record alone in consideration, was liable to seizure in the manner in which she was seized under the Act of 1794, and that that question will, as the record stands, be simply whether Petion can be considered as a prince or state within the meanings of the Act; that the Supreme Court of the United States will decide the question in the negative is relied on, on account of a former decision that San Domingo could not by the courts be considered as an independent state. Not having seen the record, I may not have stated the case with perfect precision; but the outline is substantially correct, and the lawyers who have been employed in the case, and with whom I have conversed, are certainly of opinion that a further prosecution of the suit will be productive of delays and increased costs without any reasonable prospect of altering the decision.
It is at Mr. Gelston’s request that I have thus addressed you, and I have complied with his wish with pleasure, from the knowledge that he had only been an agent of government in the transaction, and had through the whole performed his duty faithfully, and nothing more than his duty. Permit me to add, in regard to the merits of the case, that if the seizure was illegal under the Act of 1794, it follows that this Act has not provided for the case of vessels intended to be employed by a rebel colony (so called) against the mother-country, and that San Domingo, or any other country in a similar situation, must be considered as being neither independent nor part of the mother-country; for it must not be forgotten that, when the seizure in question took place, France was at war with Great Britain. If this decision, which I do not pretend to arraign, be correct, how can the President maintain the neutrality of the United States during the contest between the Spanish colonies and Spain, or any similar one? It was at all events his duty, until such decision had taken place, to avail himself of the powers supposed to have been vested by the Act of 1794, in order to arrest armaments compromitting the neutrality and peace of the United States. It might at least have been presumed that to bring such important question before the courts, under an Act at least of doubtful construction, could not have subjected the agent of government to damages, and that a certificate of reasonable cause of seizure would have been granted by the district judge. His refusal to do it, he being the officer vested by law with the discretionary power of granting or refusing it, has been fatal in all the stages of the subsequent suit for damages against the collector. There is, however, no remedy, and I sincerely hope that, whether it be thought eligible or not that the suit should be carried through every remaining attainable stage, he will be relieved from the distressing situation in which he has been placed.
I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant.
MONROE TO GALLATIN.
Washington, December 16, 1815.
An attack of the prevailing epidemic has prevented my writing you as soon as I intended.
The prospect of a separation of France from England, and of a better understanding between France, Russia, and the United States, has made it probable that the situation of our minister in Paris will be more eligible than circumstances seemed to admit when you were here. The appointment of the Duke of Richelieu was made in opposition to the British Cabinet, and was resented by the Duke of Wellington in an open and harsh manner. It is understood to have been made at the instigation of the Emperor Alexander, with a view to acquire an interest in the French Cabinet at the expense of the British. These circumstances, taken together, inspire hope of a division between Russia and England, which may operate advantageously for France. Since you were here, I have received a letter from the Duke of Richelieu announcing his appointment, and expressing in strong terms a desire to cultivate a good understanding between the United States and France. As he intimated at the same time, in a note to Mr. Jackson, his willingness to communicate with him on public affairs, whereby the ordinary channel was opened and waived, I have thought that some importance might be attached to the preference thus given to a direct notification to this Department, favorable to the presumed independence of France and to the respectability and utility of our minister at Paris. I wish I could add that the salary would be increased. The reasons for it are conclusive, and the President is decidedly for it, as I have long been; but that will depend on Congress. Your declension has not been made public, so that it is still in your power to accept the mission if, on reconsideration, you are so disposed. I have thought that these circumstances were entitled to some attention, and have, therefore, communicated them. Should they, or any other cause, produce a change in your mind, I will thank you to have the goodness to inform me of it.
With great respect and esteem, I am, dear sir, very truly yours.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, 26th December, 1815.
I have received your friendly letters of 4th and 16th instant, and have a grateful sense of the motives which dictated them. I can assure you that I feel a great reluctance to part with my personal and political friends, and that every consideration merely personal to myself and detached from my family urges a continuance in public life. My habits are formed and cannot be altered. I feel alive to everything connected with the interest, happiness, and reputation of the United States. Whatever affects unfavorably either of them makes me more unhappy than any private loss or inconvenience. Although I have nothing to do with it, the continued suspension of specie payments, which I consider as a continued unnecessary violation of the public faith, occupies my thoughts more than any other subject. I feel as a passenger in a storm, vexed that I cannot assist. This I understand to be very generally the feeling of every statesman out of place. Be this as it may, although I did and do believe that, for the present at least, I could not be of much public utility in France, I did, in my private letter to the President, place my declining on the ground of private considerations. In that respect my views are limited to the mere means of existence without falling in debt. I do not wish to accumulate any property. I will not do my family the injury of impairing the little I have. My health is frail; they may soon lose me, and I will not leave them dependent on the bounty of others. Was I to go to France, and my compensation and private income (this last does not exceed 2500 dollars a year) did not enable me to live as I ought, I must live as I can. I ask your forgiveness for entering in those details; but you have treated me as a friend, and I write to you as such. You have from friendship wished that I would reconsider my first decision, and I will avail myself of the permission. It will be understood that in the mean while, if the delay is attended with any public inconvenience, a new appointment may immediately take place. My motive for writing when I did was a fear that, specially with respect to other missions, the belief that I would go to France might induce the President to make different arrangements from those he would have adopted on a contrary supposition. I will write to Mr. Crawford, in order to ascertain with precision the rate of living and other points connected with the subject. As to any increase of compensation, I am sensible of the difficulties which may oppose its being done by Congress. The general argument in favor of it is that the prices and rate of expense have increased at least 50 per cent. In Europe since the year 1790, when the present salaries were established. The last Act now in force certainly requires revision. It would afford relief, if nothing else can be obtained, that Congress should permit, in addition to the secretary of legation, an allowance of 1500 dollars a year for a private secretary, and should also allow house-rent, not to exceed the price actually paid, nor in any case a fixed sum, say 2000 dollars. There is a kind of precedent,—the United States having purchased a house at the Hague for their minister. The compensation for ministers was also higher during the Revolutionary war than at present. It was reduced from £ NA sterling to the present sum in 1790. I have thrown in those suggestions, as they may be used in regard to the general question and independent of my case.
With great respect and esteem, &c.
In the latter end of May or beginning of June, 1812, Mr. Astor, of New York (who had, with the knowledge of government, purchased one-half of the British concern in what is called the Southwest or Michilimackinac Fur Company), stated that in the event of a war the arms, powder, and other merchandise which he had at St. Joseph’s, on Lake Huron, would fall in the hands of the Indians or British, and requested that an order might be given to the officers of the United States to receive that property, the admission of which was prohibited by the Non-Intercourse Act. The President thought the subject of sufficient importance to give directions to that effect; and accordingly a letter was written to General Hull by Mr. Eustis, and another by the Secretary of the Treasury to the collectors of Detroit and Michilimackinac on the subject (Mr. Sheldon will send to Mr. Dallas an attested copy of the last). Those letters were written by duplicate, one transmitted to Mr. Astor and the other sent by mail, either under cover of General Hull or of the collector of Detroit. Mr. Atwater (the said collector) received one (but which is not known), which did not reach him till after the capture of Michilimackinac. No other communication respecting Mr. Astor was made by the Secretary of the Treasury.
He gave information of the war neither to Mr. Astor nor to any other person. Mr. Astor did not believe in its probability, notwithstanding the precaution which he wanted to be taken, and heard of the declaration on his way to Washington, between that place and Baltimore.
Whether or how Mr. Astor or his clerk transmitted the account to Canada I cannot say; but I am certain that none was sent by either till after the official account had been received at New York. This it is not for me to explain. I will add that the news of the war was sent by express to General Hull, who must necessarily have known of that event some time before the British. It has been said that his despatches containing that account (which he did not communicate to the army) were by him put in a vessel, which was of course taken by the British; but it is probable that an account from New York via Niagara would reach St. Joseph’s and Michilimackinac long before the news from Washington would arrive.
Memorandum. Astor’s letters of 21st and 22d June, 1812, received by Abbot on 9th July. On 10th, Atwater gave copy of Treasury letter, which, with Astor’s letters to Day & Dixon, were forwarded to Michilimackinac by Jacob Smith. He returned on 29th, and brought news of capture of Michilimackinac on 16th. General Hull opened and detained letters to Day & Dixon on Smith’s return.
[1 ]“De Astor and communications by the Treasury to collectors before the declaration of war.” Note by Mr. Gallatin.