Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1816: GALLATIN TO CLAY. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 1
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1816: GALLATIN TO CLAY. - 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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GALLATIN TO CLAY.
New York, 4th January, 1816.
I have received your letter of 31st ult., and am enabled, from our correspondence and notes of conferences, to give a satisfactory answer to your inquiry respecting the effect, on our intercourse with the British West Indies, of the provisions of the convention as they now stand.
On 7th of June we delivered to the British plenipotentiaries our projet of treaty, containing, as part of the 2d Article, the following provision, viz.: “No other or higher duties or charges shall be imposed in any of the ports of the United States on British vessels (such only excepted as may be bound from or to British possessions into which vessels of the United States are not admitted) than shall be payable in the said ports by vessels of the United States; nor, &c.”
On the 16th of June the British plenipotentiaries sent us their contre-projet, containing the same provision, but omitting the exception provided for by the words between () in our projet.
On the 17th of June we addressed a note to the British plenipotentiaries, proposing, among other alterations, in their contre-projet the following, viz.:
“Article 2d. 1stly. . . . 2dly. To reinstate the clause in the projet of the undersigned, which excepted from the provision to equalize tonnage duties British vessels bound to or from possessions to which vessels of the United States were not permanently admitted; or to introduce a new article providing that neither the intercourse between the United States and his British Majesty’s possessions in the West Indies, nor that by sea between the said States and his British Majesty’s territories on the continent of North America, shall be affected by any article in the treaty, but that each party shall remain in the complete possession of its rights in respect to such an intercourse.”
The British plenipotentiaries reduced to writing, in their note of 20th of June, the substance of the observations made in a conference of the 19th on the several points contained in our note of the 17th; in which note of the 20th they say, “upon the second point referred to in the note of the American plenipotentiaries the undersigned expressed their readiness to agree to a clause which should contain the latter alternative suggested by the American plenipotentiaries.”
The clause was accordingly inserted as it now stands in the 2d Article of the convention, omitting the words which I have underscored, and which had reference to the then still pending article to provide for an intercourse by land with the North American British colonies, and substituting the words “any of the provisions of this article” to those any article in the treaty, as, by the convention as signed, the 2d Article alone could affect the subject.
We were induced to offer the alternative, because the words used in it answer the proposed object as well as those we had first proposed, being, in fact, not only as explicit but more comprehensive; and because, having been used with the same avowed intent in the unratified treaty of 31st December, 1806, and then understood and approved by both governments, they could not be objected to by the British plenipotentiaries.
In that treaty a partial abolition of discriminating duties is, without excepting vessels from British colonies, provided for in the 5th Article; and then a distinct article (the 6th) provides that, with respect to the intercourse with the British West Indies, “each of the parties shall remain in the complete possession of its rights in respect to such an intercourse.” The clause in the convention not only extends the principle to the British possessions on the continent of North America, but is still more precise than the 6th Article of the unratified treaty by the addition of the words, that the intercourse aforesaid “shall not be affected by any of the provisions of the article.”
The instructions given on that subject by our government to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney were (in the instructions of May 17, 1806), that “care must be taken not to deprive the United States of the right of making such regulations as they may think proper in relation to vessels coming from ports from which their own vessels are excluded, or in relation generally to the intercourse with such ports;” and (in the instructions of 3d February, 1807, written before the receipt of the treaty) that “if the West India trade cannot be put on some footing as is authorized by your instructions, it will evidently be best to leave it as it is, and of course with a freedom to either party to make such regulations as may be justified by those of the other.”
Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney in their letter of January 3, 1807, alluding to that part of the treaty, say, “we have, as you will perceive, in conformity with our instructions, reserved the right to our government to counteract any regulations by which the British government may exclude us from a fair participation in that commerce. . . . The reservation cannot fail to be considered by it as a powerful weapon of defence, to be used when occasion calls for it, &c.”
The treaty was not ratified. The Secretary of State in his letter of 20th of May, 1807, enumerates the objections of our government to that instrument, and, although he does object to part of the 5th Article (for not abolishing discriminating duties on exports, which we have obtained), he does not require any greater security with respect to the West India intercourse, and approves the 6th Article.
Although that treaty was a theme of discussion, it never was hinted by either party that it was defective in that respect. I am indeed confident that the objection would not now have been made had it not been suggested by the expressions used in our first projet. But that the words adopted fully imply the right of laying an additional duty on British vessels from the British West Indies, anything to the contrary notwithstanding in the other provisions of the article, is indisputable.
The British government understand the clause in no other sense. It was susceptible of no other; and, in addition to our explicit declarations, they were in full possession of the instructions and correspondence above quoted, which leave no doubt on the intention of the parties.
MONROE TO GALLATIN.
Washington, January 27, 1816.
I had hoped that it would have been in my power to have assured you before this that the salary of our ministers abroad would be raised, or the accommodation in house-rent and a private secretary afforded; but I can say nothing yet with any degree of certainty on these points. The business of the session advances slowly, and although the disposition to sound measures is generally favorable, there is cause to apprehend that a proposition to that effect at this time would be opposed by some not from the sole consideration that they thought such an arrangement improper. All that can be said is that the opinion of the Executive is favorable to such an augmentation, and that it will do all that it can with propriety to promote it. Much time must necessarily elapse before this can be done, or a decision on it, either way, be obtained. In the mean time, great solicitude is shown here respecting the missions to France and Russia, proceeding from the state of public affairs. The President must put them in train, or discontent will soon manifest itself. No step will be taken without hearing from you, and we both indulge a hope that it may be convenient to you to accept the mission to France, especially as there is reason to presume that the expense of living has been much diminished in France, in consequence of the general peace in Europe. We see by the papers that it has already produced that effect in England.
Mr. Serurier is recalled, and his secretary, Mr. Roth, appointed chargé des affaires. This is done perhaps merely to get rid of the former; still, the movements of that government require attention. The temper of the Spanish government and the state of affairs with Spain excite feeling. England will profit of circumstances, and we know not enough of the councils of the Emperor of Russia to infer that he will check any measures of other powers unfavorable to the United States. In short, the present state of the world urges the strongest reasons in favor of our being ably represented with those governments.
I beg you to present Mrs. Monroe’s and my best respects to Mrs. Gallatin, and believe me to be, with great respect and esteem, dear sir, sincerely yours.
I will send you by Monday’s mail a copy of a communication which has lately passed between this Department and Mr. Onis. It will be published.
GALLATIN TO JOHN FORSYTH, M.C.
New York, 31st January, 1816.
I do not know whether the debates of Congress on the bill for carrying into effect the convention with Great Britain have been correctly reported. If they have, it seems that some important facts concerning the former practice under our government have not been noticed. I see it asserted in the course of debate that the provisions in the treaty of 1794, which affected our revenue laws, were considered as law and not requiring legislative sanction to carry them into effect, and that the bill lately before the House was the first attempt of that kind and would therefore be a dangerous precedent.
Both assertions are utterly destitute of foundation. The provisions in the treaty of 1794, alluded to, were carried into effect by Act of Congress; and so far from it being true that the bill was an attempt for the first time made, that there is no instance of a treaty made since the adoption of the present form of government, and containing provisions inconsistent with the present revenue laws, in which it has not been thought necessary to give effect to such provisions by a legislative act.
Three treaties only have contained provisions of that nature, viz., the treaty of 1794 with Great Britain, the treaty with Spain of 1795, and the treaty with France of 1803 respecting the cession of Louisiana.
It was agreed by the 3d Article of the treaty of 1794 that merchandise imported into the United States from the British territories in North America, by land or inland navigation, should be subject to no higher duties than would be payable if imported in American vessels into the Atlantic ports of the said States,—a provision perfectly similar, so far as respected the intercourse by land with Canada, to that introduced in the late convention with respect to the intercourse with the European British territories, and which was equally inconsistent with the existing revenue laws, which then, as now, imposed an additional duty of ten per cent. on the duty imposed on merchandise imported in American vessels, when the importation was made in foreign vessels. The same 3d Article contained also several other provisions, either inconsistent with existing laws or embracing objects within the sphere of the legislative powers of Congress, such as the exemption of duty on peltries, on goods belonging to Indians, and on merchandise carried over the portages; the regulations of rates of ferriage; the general permission to import all goods not altogether prohibited, &c. The Western posts were not delivered to us till the year 1797; and it was only in 1799 that revenue districts and custom-houses were established by law on Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron. The same Act which established those,—the “Act to regulate the collection of duties on imports and tonnage,”—passed on the 2d March, 1799, contains also several sections enacted for the purpose of conforming the Act to the stipulations of the treaty of 1794, above mentioned. Those sections are the 104th and 105th of the Act (4th vol., pages 440-1), and embrace all the provisions of the 3d Article of the treaty to which I have alluded.
It was agreed by the 7th Article of the treaty of 30th April, 1803, with France that French and Spanish produce respectively imported in Louisiana in French or Spanish vessels should pay no higher duty during twelve years than merchandise imported in American vessels. That provision, also inconsistent with the revenue laws and similar to that in the late convention with Great Britain, was carried into effect by the 8th Section of the Act for laying and collecting duties on imports and tonnage in Louisiana, passed 24th February, 1804 (7th vol., page 33).
It was agreed by the 10th Article of the treaty with Spain of 1795 that if any vessel of either party should be wrecked or damaged on the coasts of the other party, no duties should be paid on such part of the cargo as should be reladen and carried away. This provision was inconsistent with the revenue laws, which imposed duties on such goods unless reladen in the same vessel in which they had been brought in and in the manner provided by the 38th Section of the Act of 4th August, 1790 (re-enacted verbatim in the Act of 2d March, 1799, of which it is the 60th Section). This inconsistency was not perceived at the time, and no legislative provision was supposed necessary. But a case of that kind having occurred at Norfolk in the year 1804, the Act for carrying into more complete effect the 10th Article of the treaty with Spain was passed on the 14th February, 1805 (7th vol., page 259), and made special provision for the case which had occurred, as well as general provision for carrying the article of the treaty into effect.
The first of the Acts which I have quoted, that of 2d March, 1799, was the spontaneous act of a Federal Administration, was introduced and passed by the highest-toned Federal Congress that has existed under the present form of government. The two others were passed under a Republican Administration and by a Republican Congress, but without any opposition whatever, so far as related to any constitutional question, on the part either of the Federal members or of the Senate, although the title of the last Act was sufficient to alarm, if any constitutional objection had existed. But the fact is that none did exist, and that now is the first time that an attempt is made to prevent the passage of a law intended to carry into effect, or, if you please, to execute, a treaty, on the ground that the treaty itself becomes a law, any[thing] in the statute to the contrary notwithstanding. The uniform practice and the doctrines heretofore held are equally in contradiction with that novel and unprecedented attempt. In the long debates on the constitutional question which arose in 1796 respecting the treaty-making power, it was contended by the Federal minority of the House of Representatives, 1st, that the treaty once ratified was binding on the nation, and that Congress was as much bound to pass the laws necessary to carry such treaty into effect as the President and courts were to execute its provisions; 2dly, that if there was any discretion in Congress it was limited to the special Act required of them, to the propriety of making an appropriation or of regulating duties; and that they had no right to take into consideration, as a motive of dissent, other parts of the treaty which avowedly required no legislative sanction. That that minority did not contend for the principle now advanced is evident from their subsequent conduct in passing or assenting to the Acts above quoted.
I perceive no other effect likely to result from the rejection of any bill to carry the convention into effect but to defeat the convention itself, and to prevent treaties of a similar nature being hereafter made with foreign nations. The practice having uniformly been as I have stated, how can the President assume the responsibility and the right to execute the convention? How can he construe the rejection of the bill otherwise than as an evidence that Congress intends to prevent the execution of that compact? Permit me at the same time to add that I do not see any substantial objection to the expression declared adopted by the Senate in their bill. You will find a precedent for it in the 104th Section of the Act of 2d March, 1799; and provided a law be allowed to be necessary, the formula does not seem essentially material.
It is very possible that what I have written had been already fully stated, but the uniformity of the practice, if stated in debate, not having been noticed by the reporter, I thought it might have happened that provisions contained in revenue laws familiar to me were not sought for in those Acts, and might have escaped the research of gentlemen who had rarely occasion to recur to those laws. You will be pleased to accept this apology for this long letter; and I request you to believe me, with sincere respect, your obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, 2d February, 1816.
I have received your letter of 27th ult., and have at last concluded to avail myself of the permission given me to accept again the mission to France. I am duly sensible of yours and the President’s kindness in having kept the question so long opened, and hope you will find an apology for my hesitation in the importance, at my age, of a decision which must so materially affect the prospects for life of my wife and children. I believe with you that the chance of Congress making any additional allowance to foreign ministers is not the better on account either of the present incumbents or of the state of suspense in which some of the important missions are now kept. On what may hereafter be done no reliance can be placed. I calculate only on what now exists, and mean, as I before stated, to regulate my expenses accordingly. If I find it impracticable to live without encroaching on my small property, I will beg permission to return. I believe an additional compensation to be much more important to the United States than to the individual.
I have still some private arrangements to complete, which will not, however, detain me long, and I will be ready to repair to Washington, for the purpose of reading the former correspondence and receiving your instructions, at any time you may be pleased to appoint. It will best suit my convenience to have a short time allowed me on my return from Washington. I will, in the mean while, wait for your answer.
I beg you to present Mrs. G.’s and my best respects to Mrs. M. and to Mrs. Hay, and to believe me, with sincere respect and esteem, truly yours.
You will have the goodness to return or destroy the letter in which I had declined the appointment, as it should not remain on the files of the office.
MONROE TO GALLATIN.
Washington, February 13, 1816.
We were much gratified to find by your last letter that you accepted the mission to France. I have not wished to take you from your affairs, which I am convinced must require your unremitted attention before your departure; but I now think that the sooner you come here the better it will be. It is known that you have accepted the mission, and an early visit here will produce a good effect. The prospect of obtaining an augmentation, in the modes heretofore suggested, of the salary, is improved by the acceptance, and being here, the opportunity you will have of conferring with Mr. Clay and Mr. Crawford on the subject, and interesting them in it, will give to our exertions much aid. This you may afford, in the present state, with perfect delicacy. Everything will be done to accommodate your views, in the time of your departure, that circumstances will permit. Your former letter was not filed in the Department; I will return it to you when we meet. Our best regards to Mrs. Gallatin.
With great respect and esteem, sincerely yours.
GALLATIN TO T. R. GOLD.
Washington, March 19, 1816.
I am this moment honored with your note of this day. The information you have received that I was concerned with Mr. Astor in the importing business is altogether erroneous. I never have been, nor am at present, either directly or indirectly, connected with that gentleman in any business whatever. I am not engaged and do not intend to engage in any commercial pursuits. However unimportant or erroneous my opinions may be on the subject, they are at least wholly disinterested; yet the length of time I spent in the Treasury may have produced some bias on my mind, and the danger of infractions of the revenue laws probably strikes me more forcibly than it does other persons.
From various considerations I have been induced to wish that there should be a total prohibition of the importation of East India cotton goods, so far at least as relates to those of coarse fabric. That opinion I expressed to Mr. Thomas Morris in New York, and is, I presume, that to which you allude. It has been communicated to others, and is not changed.
With respect to the proposed tariff, I do not perceive, as it relates to the consumer, that it can be very material to him whether his share of the public burdens is raised on the cloth he wears or on the sugar and coffee he consumes. There appears, therefore, in that respect, no objection to a modification of the duties which shall afford encouragement to domestic manufactures. The limit to high duties is the danger of smuggling on that large scale which will defeat the object in view. What that limit is must be matter of opinion. No man can assert positively the precise point to which you may go with safety and beyond which it would be dangerous to raise the duty. I may, however, state as a fact that prior to the adoption of our restrictive measures a duty of 17½ per cent. was raised on a considerable portion of the goods paying duties ad valorem, without any sensible or dangerous evasions of the duties having taken place. I do at the same time most sincerely believe that the highest rates of duties proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury, as applicable to the finer species of goods, would fill the country with smuggled merchandise, and would prove equally injurious to the fair trader and to the manufacturer himself. The revenue may be protected against considerable illicit importations by sea; but the great danger arises from the vicinity of New Brunswick and from our very extensive northern land frontier. To what extent smuggling is carried on under similar circumstances in Europe is well known, and the habits and skill acquired here during the restrictive system cannot be overlooked. I must repeat that what may be thought the highest safe rate of duty is only a matter of opinion until it has been tested by experience. I give mine with diffidence, but think that with coarse cotton and woollen goods, which may, I presume, be discriminated, and with the exception of other bulky articles, such as hardware, &c., it would be dangerous at present to go beyond 20, or at most 25 per cent. If I was either a manufacturer or a legislator, I had rather begin with 20 per cent., with a view to a gradual subsequent increase if justified by the experiment. An absolute prohibition of East India cotton goods can be carried into effect with much more facility than very high duties, because in the first case the goods which are easily distinguished may be seized anywhere and at any time, whilst in the other they are almost entirely beyond the reach of seizure the moment they have passed our boundary-line. The experience of England with respect to French silks and even to laces is decisive on that point. I may add that the measure would also have the double effect of assisting in resuming specie payments, and demonstrate to the British government that we do not consider the permission to trade with their East India possessions as conferring any valuable privilege on us.
GALLATIN TO JEFFERSON.
Washington, 1st April, 1816.
I have much regretted that a detention in my journey to this place prevented my arriving at Baltimore till after your nephew’s departure. I had brought with me letters from Geneva, which I have sent after him. Mr. Erving takes duplicates, and I will send triplicates on my arrival at Paris, so that I hope that he will experience no disappointment on that account. I found the institutions and professors as good at Geneva as when I had left it thirty-five years before.
After what I had written to you, you could hardly have expected that I would have accepted the French mission. It was again offered to me in so friendly a manner and from so friendly motives that I was induced to accept. Nor will I conceal that I did not feel yet old enough, nor had I philosophy enough, to go into retirement and abstract myself altogether from public affairs. I have no expectation, however, that in the present state of France I can be of any utility there, and hope that I will not make a long stay in that country. The late events must have dispersed a great number of your acquaintances there. If you have yet any correspondence to which you wish any letters to be safely transmitted, such as you will send by me will be safely delivered in their own hands. I presume that I will sail the latter end of this month from New York, for which place I will set off to-morrow. In every country and at all times I never can cease to feel gratitude, respect, and attachment for you. With every wish for your happiness, I remain sincerely and respectfully.
JEFFERSON TO GALLATIN.
Monticello, April 11, 1816.
Your last favor is received just as I am setting out for a possession ninety miles southwardly, from whence I shall not return until the first week of the ensuing month. I hasten, therefore, to drop you a line of adieu. I sincerely rejoice that you are going to France. I do not think with you that nothing can be done there. Louis XVIII. is a fool and a bigot, but, bating a little duplicity, he is honest and means well. He cannot but feel the heavy hand of his masters, and that it is England which presses it, and vaunts the having had the glory of effecting their humiliation. His Ministers too, although ultra-royalists, must feel as Frenchmen. Although our government is an eyesore to them, the pride and pressure of England is more present to their feelings, and they must be sensible that, having a common enemy, an intimate connection with us must be of value to them. England hates us, dreads us, and yet is silly enough to keep us under constant irritation instead of making us her friends. She will use all her sway over the French government to obstruct our commerce with them, and it is exactly there you can act with effect by keeping that government informed of the truth in opposition to the lies of England. I thank you for your attention to my request as to Mr. Terril. You judge rightly that I have no acquaintances left in France: some were guillotined, some fled, some died, some are exiled, and I know of nobody left but La Fayette. I correspond with his connection, M. Destutt Tracy, the ablest writer in France in the moral line. Your acquaintance with M. de la Fayette will of course bring you to that of M. Tracy. Will you permit me to tell you a long story, and to vindicate me in conversation to both those friends, before whom it is impossible but that I must stand in need of it? M. Tracy has written the best work on political economy which has ever appeared. He has established its principles more demonstratively than has been done before, and in the compass of one-third of even M. Say’s work. He feared to print it in France, and sent it to me to have it translated and printed here. I immediately proposed it to Duane, who engaged to have it done. After putting me off from six months to six months, he at length (after two or three years’ delay) wrote me that he had had it translated, but was not able to print it. I got from him the original and the translation, and proposed the publishing of it to Milligan, of Georgetown, promising to review the translation if he would undertake it. He agreed to it. When I came to look into the translation, it had been done by one who understood neither French nor English, and I then rejoiced that Duane had not published it. It would have been horrid. I worked on it four or five hours a day for three months, comparing word by word with the original, and, although I have made it a strictly faithful translation, yet it is without style. Le premier jet was such as to render that impossible. I sent the whole to Milligan about ten days ago, and he had informed me his types and everything was ready to begin it. I have not the courage to write to M. Tracy until I can send him a copy of the book; and were I to write to M. La Fayette and be silent on this subject, they would conclude I had abandoned it; but, in truth, I have never ceased to urge it. Indeed, I take great interest in its publication. Its brevity will recommend it to our countrymen, and its logic set their minds to rights as to principle; and you know there is no science on which they are so little informed. Now can you remember all this? and will you be so good as to place me erect again before my friends by a verbal explanation? God bless you, and give you a safe and pleasant voyage, and a safe return to us in the fulness of time!
I trouble you with two letters to Mr. Terril to be forwarded to Geneva.
MADISON TO GALLATIN.
Washington, April 12, 1816.
Mr. Dallas has signified to me that, it being his intention not to pass another winter in Washington, he has thought it his duty to give me an opportunity of selecting a successor during the present session of Congress; intimating a willingness, however, to remain, if desired, in order to put the national bank in motion.
Will it be most agreeable to you to proceed on your mission to France? or are you willing again to take charge of a Department heretofore conducted by you with so much reputation and usefulness, on the resignation of Mr. Dallas, which will, it is presumed, take effect about the 1st of October? In the latter case, it will be proper that a nomination be forthwith made for the foreign appointment. Favor me with your determination as soon as you can make it convenient, accepting, in the mean time, my affectionate respects.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, April 18, 1816.
Your letter of the 12th reached me only the day before yesterday, and, not willing to make a hasty decision, I have delayed an answer till to-day. I feel very grateful for your kind offer, which I know to have been equally owing to your friendship for me and to your views of public utility. I decline it with some reluctance, because I think I would be more useful at home than abroad, and I had much rather be in America than in Europe. The reasons which induce me, nevertheless, to decline, under existing circumstances, preponderate. With these I do not mean to trouble you, and will only mention that, although competent, as I think, to the higher duties of office, there is, for what I conceive a proper management of the Treasury, a necessity for a mass of mechanical labor connected with details, forms, calculations, &c., which, having now lost sight of the thread and routine, I cannot think of again learning and going through. I know that in that respect there is now much confusion, due to the changes of office and the state of the currency; and I believe that an active young man can alone reinstate and direct properly that Department. I may add that I have made a number of arrangements founded on the expectation of the French mission, of a short residence there, and of a last visit to my Geneva relations, which could not be undone without causing inconvenience to me and disappointment to others. Accept my grateful thanks, and the assurance of my constant and sincere attachment and respect.
Your obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, April 18, 1816.
I have not had the pleasure to hear from you since I left Washington. The instructions will always reach me in time, but there are some points on which, as they affect my immediate arrangements, I wish information as soon as convenient. The most important relates to the time and manner of departure. As to the first, I am and have been prepared since the time I left Washington. With respect to the last, I should know whether I am to go in a public vessel, since I cannot make my arrangements for a passage in a private one till that is ascertained. The bill for the increase of salaries having been rejected, it is also of some importance that I should know from what time the salary will commence. Whether I go in a public or private vessel, it will cost me about 2000 dollars before I can land my family at Paris. I know that you will make every allowance within your power, and only wish to know what it will be. Those are the only points necessary for me to know before my departure. On account of the aforesaid rejection I beg leave also to repeat my application of clerk-hire, and to ask whether I am bound by standing instructions to give table and board to the secretary of legation. This it is my intention to do with Mr. Sheldon; but I wish to know whether it is a matter of duty. These two last inquiries to be answered at your leisure. I have had a severe cold since I saw you, and we have still here January weather. How are you? I do not like your damp room at the State office. Mrs. Gallatin requests to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Monroe and to Mrs. Hay. Accept the assurance of my affectionate respect.
Your obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, 19th April, 1816.
Last Washington mail brought me the enclosed letter (returned) from General John Smith, of New York. Mr. Astor has never spoken to me on the subject. It would please me that he should be gratified in that respect. It will promote the filling of subscriptions, and he has a fair claim to that honorific distinction. In April, 1813, when the Federalists of New York refused to subscribe to the 16 millions loan, he came out with a subscription of more than two millions of dollars, bottomed exclusively on his own resources and credit, and enabled me, by that competition, to obtain better terms from Parish and Girard. I know that amount was much more than was convenient and did much embarrass him.
Respectfully, your obedient servant.
JOHN SMITH TO GALLATIN.
New York, 5th April, 1816.
It appears probable that the Act for incorporating a national bank will become a law. I therefore take the liberty of mentioning to you that our friend Mr. Astor would be gratified if the President should think proper to appoint him one of the commissioners for receiving subscriptions to the bank.
Mr. Astor contemplates becoming a large stockholder, and if you think that you can with propriety mention his name to the President for the appointment, he will consider it a particular favor done him.
I am, with much respect, yours, &c.
GALLATIN TO NATHANIEL MACON.
New York, 23d April, 1816.
Yours of 18th instant is received. The sale of United States stock will undoubtedly assist not only the banks but also their debtors. The banks may sell theirs instead of curtailing discounts, or for the purpose of purchasing specie. Those of their debtors who own such stock, and they are numerous, principally in Baltimore, may pay their discounted notes by a similar sale. But I think an additional issue of Treasury notes one of the worst measures that could be adopted. We have a redundancy of currency, and to raise its value its amount must necessarily be diminished. What is called scarcity of money is not the scarcity of circulating medium, but a greater desire of borrowing than there are means to satisfy it. So long as banks do not pay in specie, they may, indeed, by new issue of paper, increase their loans. But this is effected by depreciating the currency; in other words, by raising a tax on the community for the benefit of the banks and borrowers, and, what is worse, by impairing the sanctity of contracts. This is the evil to be cured; and if you add to the circulation as many Treasury notes (receivable in duties but not payable in specie) as you subtract bank-notes from it, you undo with one hand what you were repairing with the other. In my opinion, the surplus of Treasury notes beyond the amount which could have been circulated at their specie par value ought to have been funded as soon as peace was made. At all events, this should have been done with respect to all those which became due. This was done but in part, and the effect of the revenue was relied on to absorb the residue. The consequence has been that nothing could be received in payment of that revenue but Treasury notes, depreciated 15 per cent. below specie, or bank paper, still worse. All the public creditors have since the peace, when necessity could no longer be pled, in direct violation of the pledged faith of the United States, been paid in similar depreciated currency, instead of the gold and silver promised to them. The army and navy, the public officers of government, have been paid in the same manner. The Treasury has gained what it would have lost in funding the Treasury notes at their market specie price; but it was an illicit profit. The consequence has been that the public stocks have never been since the peace higher than 85 per cent., a lower price than they were during the war prior to the suspension of payments in specie by the banks. At last the revenue begins to operate. A greater demand exists for Treasury notes; they are for the first time, without any artificial means, on a par with New York paper; that is to say, about 8 per cent. below specie. If you issue an additional quantity at this time, a retrograde motion will take place, and instead of gradually rising to specie par they will again depreciate. The Treasury will again be without money here, the public creditors paid with paper worse than at present, and the prospect of that sound state of currency and fidelity in fulfilling public and private engagements which rest alone on the resumption of specie payments by the Treasury and by the banks, will still be farther removed. Public confidence will again be further impaired, and the difficulty of filling the national bank and carrying it into operation will be increased.
I write hastily and perhaps with not sufficient perspicuity on this complex subject. There is none on which I ever had more perfect conviction of the soundness of my opinion; for it rests not only on supposed advantages, but on a strong sense of justice. I also think that instead of striking out in the bill the coercive clause on the banks, it would have been far better to retain it, removing to a greater distance (say 1st July or 31st December, 1817) the day on which it was to operate.
I believe that the banks here, if you do nothing more than to require specie payment into the Treasury after 1st January next, will resume their specie payments; but I fear those of Baltimore will not do it unless coerced.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 6th May, 1816.
Mr. Dallas has informed the President of his determination to resign his office in the month of September, or sooner if a successor can be found. The President has offered, and indeed pressed it upon me. From observations then made, he considered your determination to go to France as conclusively made up. My own impressions are that your situation in France will not be pleasant. The refusal to increase the salary ought to be considered as final, at least with the present Congress; and there is but little reason to expect that the next will be more liberal. Your residence there will then probably be of short duration. It is certainly true, however, that the salary of $9000 in Paris is better than the same sum in this place, if living is always to be as high as at this time. Under these circumstances I have felt it to be my duty to state the intended resignation, and to assure you that I am confident Mr. Madison would see you in that office with great pleasure.
I do not know your feelings towards his successor, nor do I know his feelings towards me; nor is it a matter of any consequence, as far as I am concerned, what they may be; but it may be an object of great importance with you in the decision of this question.
My answer has been decidedly in the negative. I do not feel at liberty to disclose the ulterior views of the President as far as he has formed them. At present everything depends upon contingencies. I fear, however, that if he should fill the office at all it will not be well filled, unless you should think fit to resume your former station.
From this declaration you will discredit the reports of Mr. Lowndes’s succeeding Mr. Dallas. I suggested this arrangement, but, although it was not rejected, I discovered that a different selection would be made unless I consented to take charge of the Department. My reasons for declining this offer are too strong to be removed. It is therefore useless to disclose them.
I have the honor to be your most obedient and very humble servant.
GALLATIN TO MATTHEW LYON.
New York, May 7, 1816.
I was much gratified by the receipt of your friendly letter of 29th October last, which ought to have been sooner acknowledged, but which I will not, before my departure for Europe, leave unanswered. I am sorry for your losses, but hope that the property you have left will be sufficient to make you as comfortable as your active industry and knowledge of business certainly deserve.
The war has been productive of evil and good, but I think the good preponderates. Independent of the loss of lives, and of the losses in property by individuals, the war has laid the foundation of permanent taxes and military establishments, which the Republicans had deemed unfavorable to the happiness and free institutions of the country. But under our former system we were becoming too selfish, too much attached exclusively to the acquisition of wealth, above all, too much confined in our political feelings to local and State objects. The war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and character which the Revolution had given, and which were daily lessened. The people have now more general objects of attachment with which their pride and political opinions are connected. They are more Americans; they feel and act more as a nation; and I hope that the permanency of the Union is thereby better secured.
It is with reluctance that I have accepted the French mission; and I hope that my absence will be short, and that I will soon be able to return with my family in the bosom of my friends and country. My private business, to which I had during the last fifteen years hardly attended, has suffered and will continue to suffer. Amongst other objects, I fear I may have lost the tract of 666⅔ acres on Cumberland River, having never taken any measures to remove the man who had taken possession. I do not know his name; and I will thank you to communicate it to Mr. Robert Alexander, President of the Bank of Kentucky, at Frankfort, together with any information you have respecting that man’s claim and disposition and the quality and value of the land. I have given to Mr. Alexander a power of attorney for my Kentucky lands, and told him that you would give him that information.
Mrs. Gallatin sends you her compliments. I never received your letter respecting a glass-house and the procuring of glass-blowers. I would attend to it if I knew what capital you and your friends can employ in the establishment. On that point success depends. There must be no embarrassment, or business would be ruinous. I commenced mine with about ten thousand dollars, and made no profit during the first years, nor until the capital amounted to near twenty thousand. That now employed in our glass-works, including outstanding debts, exceeds forty thousand, and gives us an annual profit of about eight thousand, of which only one-seventh part belongs to me. I must observe that there is an inconvenience in your situation. You are below the greater part of the fast-improving country north of the Ohio, in which the great consumption of glass takes place. The works situated high up the Ohio, at Pittsburg and above, have in that respect a great advantage. At New Orleans market you must meet the competition of the cheap German glass.
I have lost three old friends,—Mr. Savary, Thos. Clare, and Mr. Smilie. You have heard that Dr. Jones, of Virginia, Richard Brent, and Stanford, of North Carolina, are also dead.
With sincere, &c.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 10th May, 1816.
My dear Sir,—
I have the honor to enclose a letter of introduction to the Duchess of Plaisance, and another to her father.
It will afford me great pleasure to furnish you with the little information which it will be in my power to give you during your residence in Paris. I will thank you to send me a file of one of the minor papers, which I suppose you will take, and which will not be transmitted to the Department of State.
Knowing as I did that you considered the Presidential contest to lie between Mr. Monroe and Mr. Tompkins, and that you preferred the latter to the former, I never suspected that you had any agency in obtruding my name in the discussions of that question. I did suspect that you had something to do with the New York Patriot. The course which that paper took was the one which I expected you would pursue.
Upon this subject I think I have serious cause of complaint against my particular friends. They would not consent, when the declarations of Dr. Bibb were insufficient, that I should put an end to the contest by declaring that I would not serve if elected. Their plan I understood to be to attend the caucus and vote for Mr. Monroe and state the facts in the Intelligencer, which would, as they believed, place me on higher ground than could be occupied in any other way, as I did not wish to be elected. This plan was eventually abandoned, without any explanation ever having been given. Bibb, Tait, Macon, and Hall all absented themselves, with several others, and of course deprived themselves of the right to make the proposed statement. The charge of intrigue and double-dealing I was fully aware would be made by Mr. Monroe’s friends, if not by himself. I have not heard that any insinuations of this kind have been made by any member of Congress, but I think it more than probable that it will be. The Letters to the President in the Democratic Press have assailed him, and everybody who has been in his Cabinet, except Mr. Monroe and Mr. Dallas. You have come off better than the President. Indeed, I am not certain that he intended to abuse you at all, as he professes great respect for Mr. Madison, especially in his latter numbers. In the first the charges of folly and cowardice are roundly made. He asserts that the imbecility of the persons selected for the Cabinet, or dread of their political power, has been the sole rule of selection; that he was influenced in his choice by the same principle that the ignorant savages worship the devil. There is some reason to believe that Glurdy, of Baltimore, is the author. The letters are remarkable only for the grossest ignorance of the subject on which they treat, and asperity of abuse. As he proceeded, his asperity diminished. His principal ground of abuse against me is my supposed tyrannical conduct in removing Mr. Warden from the consulship, and the gross ignorance which he asserts I displayed in Paris, to the shame and mortification of my countrymen in that city. The general assertions are made in the first letter, and the specifications are exhibited in the last, in which D. B. Warden makes a first-rate figure. In his facts he is most unfortunate. Not a single one has even the semblance of truth in its favor.
Mr. Dallas and family have left this place, to which he does not think of returning as Secretary of the Treasury. A few days before his departure he expressed a wish that I might succeed him in that office. I informed him that the President had urged me to take it, and that I had declined the offer. I stated it as my opinion that it would be expedient to let it remain vacant until Mr. Madison’s successor should come into office, who would by that means be less shackled in forming his Cabinet. He said, in tendering the office to me, he supposed that subject had been fully considered, and that Mr. Monroe had been consulted. His manner of expression was calculated to convey rather indistinctly the idea that he knew this to be the fact. I told him that no intimation of that kind had fallen from the President when he had urged me to accept it, and that the fact, if true, would not have had any influence upon my decision.
I presume the office will remain vacant until the 4th of March next. It is said that Mr. Crowninshield will retire with the President. Should this be the case, Mr. Monroe will have an entire new Cabinet to form. I have some doubts whether, under the particular circumstances in which I have been placed, it will not be my duty to remain some time a member of his Cabinet, if he should wish it, and at least to give him an opportunity of manifesting his displeasure, if I have incurred it. In deciding upon this question, I shall not take the advice of my friends, as the chances are two to one that their advice will be wrong. The most of Mr. Monroe’s friends expect that he will offer me the Department of State. From Mr. Dallas’s expressions, it would seem that he wishes me to take the Treasury.
Present my respects to Mrs. Gallatin and family, and accept my best wishes for favorable gales to waft you across the Atlantic, and for the continuation of your and their health and happiness.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
New York, 15th May, 1816.
I perceive that in the printed correspondence of the American ministers at Ghent my name is omitted in the despatch of 12th August, 1814, to the Secretary of State. This omission compels me to say that this despatch, of which the original draft is now before me, was not only signed but almost entirely prepared by myself at the request of my colleagues. It is indeed a simple statement of facts which any person might have written. After it had been transcribed and signed by all of us, it was agreed to make a slight alteration by omitting the first intended concluding paragraph. This rendered it necessary for Mr. Hughes to transcribe a second time the last sheet, which contained our signatures. And I understand that he neglected to send this new copy to me for my signature, and transmitted it in that shape to the Department of State. Although I presume that the duplicate and triplicate signed by me have been duly received, I have thought it proper to remove by this communication any erroneous impression which might have been made by this accidental circumstance.
JEFFERSON TO GALLATIN.
Monticello, May 18, 1816.
I have just received a request from M. de la Fayette to send him two copies of the Review of Montesquieu, published in Philadelphia about four or five years ago, and have written to Dufief to forward them under cover to you, wherever you may be, which he will know better than I can. I pray you to be the bearer of them, with the letter for him now enclosed; and if you have never read the work, that you will amuse yourself with it on the passage. Although in some points it will not obtain our concurrence either in principle or practice, yet, on the whole, you have never seen so profound and so correct an exposition of the true principles of government. A work of equal distinction on the science of political economy is now in the press at Washington, profound, solid, and brief.
You are so much more in the way of receiving information of what is passing in the world, that it would be idle in me to offer you any. One fact, perhaps, can be better judged of in the country than in the cities,—a belief expressed by every one I see (for I go little out, and meddle less with their opinions),—that at the next election of Representatives to Congress there will be the most signal display which has ever been seen of the exercise by the people of the control they have retained over the proceedings of their delegates. At least, if those of the other States are cast in the same mould of their fellow-citizens in this. And what is very remarkable is, that this spontaneous and universal concurrence of sentiment has been produced without scarcely a word having been said on the subject in the public papers of this State. I consider this last circumstance as presenting an element of character in our people which must constitute the basis of every estimate of the solidity and duration of our government. Sincere prayers for your safe and pleasant passage, and a happy return in the fulness of time when your own wishes and the public good shall require.
P.S.—I trouble you also with a letter for Mr. Warden.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, 2d June, 1816.
I duly received your letter, and will of course see La Fayette and procure the busts. The Peacock will, it is said, be ready on Wednesday, and we expect to sail on that day. I do not contemplate a long residence in France, and hope that I may soon be permitted to return to America, which I leave with a heavy heart. In the expectation of having again the pleasure in a short time of seeing you, and with every wish for your health and happiness, I remain, with gratitude and respect, dear sir, your affectionate and obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, June 4, 1816.
* * * * * * * *
A late circumstance induces me to mention another subject. During the twelve years I was in the Treasury I procured places only for two friends. One is an obscure clerk in one of the offices of the Treasury. The other, whose name is John Badollet, is the register of the land office at Vincennes. He is perfectly competent, of most strict integrity, and supports a large family with the moderate emoluments of his office. Permit me to request, as my absence deprives him of his friend, that if the attempt should be made, he may not be removed without sufficient cause and inquiry. This, I know, is the same thing as to request that he should not be removed at all.
Captain Rodgers informed me yesterday that he would not be ready to sail before Friday, and requested that the day of departure should be fixed for Sunday; to which I assented. As the wind is east, there is as yet no detention.
Respectfully and truly yours.
GALLATIN TO MADISON.
New York, 7th June, 1816.
I have this moment received yours of 3d instant, an answer to which has been anticipated by my two last letters.
I am urging the captain of the Peacock, and still hope that he will be ready to sail the day after to-morrow. I almost envy you the happy time which you will spend this summer in Orange, and which will not, I hope, be disturbed by any untoward change in our affairs. I think that upon the whole we have nothing to apprehend at this time from any foreign quarter. You already know how thoroughly impressed I am with the necessity of restoring specie payments. This subject will not disturb you in the country; but the present state of the currency is the only evil of any magnitude entailed by the war, and which it seems incumbent on us (pardon the expression) to cure radically. Public credit, private convenience, the sanctity of contracts, the moral character of the country, appear all to be involved in that question, and I feel the most perfect conviction that nothing but the will of government is wanted to reinstate us in that respect. The choice of the Secretary of the Treasury is, under those circumstances, important, and I am sorry that Mr. Crawford, as I am informed, has declined the appointment. I wish it may fall on Mr. Lowndes or on Mr. Calhoun. Our Maryland and Pennsylvania politicians, without excepting some of the most virtuous, and whom I count amongst my best friends, are paper-tainted. The disease extends, though more particularly to this State.
I beg you to forgive this digression on a subject which I had no intention to touch when I began this letter.
Mrs. Gallatin begs to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Madison. I send my best compliments to my friend Todd, and I beg you to accept the assurance of my respectful attachment and best wishes.
Your obedient servant.
end of volume i.