Front Page Titles (by Subject) 10 Jan. 1785: TO MESSRS. WILLINK AND OTHERS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 8 (Letters and State Papers 1782-1799)
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10 Jan. 1785: TO MESSRS. WILLINK AND OTHERS. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 8 (Letters and State Papers 1782-1799) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 8.
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TO MESSRS. WILLINK AND OTHERS.
Auteuil, 10 January, 1785.
I have received with much pleasure your letters of the 20th and 30th of December. Give me leave to congratulate you on the flourishing state of your treasury, which furnishes a very good proof that the credit of the United States has much ameliorated since January, 1784, when I was obliged to undertake and undergo all the hardships and inconveniences of a winter voyage and journey in packet-boats, iceboats, and boors’ wagons, in extreme cold weather, to prevent Mr. Morris’s bills from being protested. It is a great satisfaction to me to reflect that I have been able, with your assistance, to obtain in Holland a loan of money for my country of near seven millions of guilders, a sum very nearly equal to all that was ever lent us by France. Our debt to France is thirty-four millions of livres, ten millions of which were borrowed in Holland on the warranty of the states-general. You see, therefore, that the whole national debt of the United States in Europe is less than two millions sterling. If a capitalist in Holland compares this with the national debt of England or France, or any other power, and at the same time considers the number of inhabitants, the extent and fertility of territory, the advantages for trade, and, above all, the rapid increase of population, industry, agriculture, commerce, and fisheries, he will soon think his money safer in the hands of the United States, and American stocks superior to any other.
For my own part, I confess I wish that congress would borrow money in Holland to pay off their debt to France, that they might not owe a shilling anywhere but in Holland. This, however, I say without authority; and it is certain that congress will not borrow money upon higher terms than they pay at present in France, to pay off the French debt.
I wait to know how many obligations you have on hand. I have no orders from congress to open a new loan, and I fancy I shall never have any to open another upon any other, at least higher terms, than the first five millions. But I should be glad to know your sentiments, whether there is a good prospect of success.
There is one subject which concerns myself personally, which I beg leave to propose to your consideration. My salary at present is so low, that it is with the utmost difficulty I can live upon it in any kind of proportion to the public character I sustain, and, therefore, I cannot afford to pay a commission of one per cent. of M. Van den Yver in Paris, and Mr. Puller in London, as those bankers have heretofore charged; and congress may perhaps be displeased to be charged with such a commission, merely for my convenience of receiving my money in London or Paris. You know, gentlemen, that of all the immense sums that I have borrowed upon my signature for the United States, not one farthing of benefit accures to me; and you know how parsimonious I have been of orders for money, even for necessary public services. So that I should be obliged to you for your advice, whether there is not any method by which I may receive my salary and disbursements in Paris or London, as may be most convenient to my affairs, or whether it will not be better for me to draw bills upon you in favor of bankers or merchants in London or Paris.
I accept with a sensible pleasure, gentlemen, your kind compliments of the season, and, in return, my family joins with me, in wishing you and your families all health, wealth, and honor, not only for the year ensuing, but for a long course of years after it.
I remain, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Auteuil, 10 January, 1785.
I have the satisfaction to inform congress, that, by a letter from our bankers in Amsterdam, I am informed they have in hand near a million of guilders, and, consequently, that the two loans I have opened, amounting in the whole to seven millions of guilders, are almost full. This is a full proof of an amelioration of our credit since January, 1784, when I was obliged, in a very tender state of convalescence, and an uncommonly rigorous season, to undergo the hardships and dangers of a voyage and journey in packet-boats, ice-boats, and bo[Editor: illegible letters] wagons, to obtain money to save Mr. Morris’s bills from being protested.
This is a very fortunate circumstance for us at this time, both as it furnishes us the means of treating with the Barbary powers, if congress should authorize us to make the necessary presents, upon which points we wait their instructions, and as it will enable congress to pay the interest of their debt to France.
Four letters upon the subject of this interest have been communicated to his colleagues by Dr. Franklin, one from the Count de Vergennes, and three from M. Grand, and no doubt transmitted to congress.
Dr. Franklin has sounded me several times, to know if I was willing to pay the salaries of the ministers, and Mr. Carmichael’s salary, Mr. Dumas’ salary, and Colonel Humphreys’. In short, there is no money in Europe at present, but what has been obtained in Holland by my signature, and is supposed to be under my inspection. I shall, therefore, be very soon embarrassed, as there will be many applications to me for money, and I shall not dare to advance it without orders. I therefore pray for the explicit instructions of congress upon this subject. Your ministers in Europe must not starve on the one hand, and I must not, on the other, presume to appropriate money, unappropriated by congress, without necessity. If it should be the pleasure of congress that I should draw for necessary moneys upon the certificate of their ministers here, or that they should draw upon my bankers in Amsterdam, this would relieve me from a great anxiety. At all events, it is absolutely necessary that congress should communicate to me their commands.
I wish also to know whether it is the expectation of congress that I should open a new loan, as one of the old ones is full, and the other is very near it.
I confess it grieves me to put my hand to an obligation, as it always brings home to my heart the reflection that I am burdening the industry and labor of my fellow-citizens and countrymen with a heavy load; and when demands are laid before me for millions of livres, for interest already due, I cannot help wishing that I might never have occasion to sign another obligation. It will, nevertheless, be absolutely necessary, as I believe, to borrow somewhat more; but it behoves the people to consider the necessity they are under of exerting themselves in season to provide for the payment of their foreign debt, and especially to avoid as much as possible the necessity of increasing it. They will find it very impoverishing to send annually out of their country such large sums for the payment of interest; an enormous bulk of the produce of the country must go to make up these sums, and we shall find the drain very exhausting to our patience, if not to our strength.
With great respect, &c.
BARON DE THULEMEIER TO JOHN ADAMS.
La Haie, 24 Janvier, 1785.
Vous recevrez, monsieur, par un courier Hollandais, adressé à Messieurs de Berkenrode et Brantzen, un paquet sous votre enveloppe et celle de Messieurs Franklin et Jefferson. Il renferme les observations du roi sur le contre-projet du traité de commerce, qui m’a été remis de votre part, au mois de Novembre de l’année dernière. Agréez qu’en qualité de votre ancien collègue, toujours reconnaissant de l’amitié que vous m’avez témoignée pendant votre séjour à la Haie, je prenne la liberté de vous parler avec quelque franchise. Les observations sur les articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, et 12, du contre-projet, sont envisagées à Berlin, comme trop essentielles, pour qu’on puisse se départir des changemens et additions proposés. Je ne vous dissimulerai point même, monsieur, qu’à en juger par mes instructions, la conclusion du traité en dépendra, selon toute apparence. Les remarques postérieures contribueront uniquement à donner plus de clarté et de précision à quelques articles.
Daignez, monsieur, envisager tout ceci, non comme une déclaration ministérielle, mais simplement comme un témoignage de ma confiance, et du désir dont je suis animé d’assurer le succès de nos soins communs, et d’éloigner tout ce qui pourrait faire naître des obstacles trop essentiels pour que je puisse espérer de les surmonter. Un mot de réponse de votre part me feroit grand plaisir.
Agréez les assurances, &c.
MESSRS. WILLINK AND OTHERS TO JOHN ADAMS.
Amsterdam, 2 February, 1785.
Last week we received your much esteemed favor of 10 January, and observed with much pleasure your satisfaction on the flourishing state of the treasury of the United States in our hands. Your Excellency desires our opinion, whether the prospect of making new loans for the congress would be favorable. In answer to this, we heartily wish that we may not very soon be charged to try it, and that before it may become necessary, congress may be put in a situation, by a unanimous consentment of all the American States of the confederation, to point out a sufficient fund for the punctual payment of the capital and interest, which, as you know, has not been the case with the two first loans, and which at present would absolutely be required, because people in this country know that the States have not agreed upon this capital point. This circumstance certainly occasions that the credit of the United States cannot be carried to the point which we believe it deserves in consequence of the inward solidity and promising prospect of the sources of her welfare. Besides this, we are daily questioned about the ratification of the last loan, and we are at a loss what we shall answer, having not received any letters from the office of finance since the time when Mr. Morris resigned.
But, sir, whenever our wishes in these points should be fulfilled, which certainly would strengthen greatly the American credit, we should not advise to try another loan for some time, because we know that a great number of bonds of both of the former remain still in the hands of the undertakers, which, as you know, is the second hand, and there is no great prospect that they will sell their shares so soon, on occasion that we have every day new loans opened here, as, for instance, one of seven millions in favor of the East India Company, one of twelve hundred thousand florins for the States of Zealand, one of two millions for Sweden, and we expect every day a loan for our Province; added to this, large sums are employed in the French loan, and you will easily conclude that money becomes very scarce, which we hope will not be the case next year; and if then congress might wish to pay off the loans in France, and raise the money in this country, it would give us much pleasure to give her again satisfaction with our endeavors, and at the same time to observe an unlimited confidence with our countrymen.
We observe, sir, what you are pleased to mention about the commission which our bankers charge upon the sums, which they pay you on account of your salary. It is our opinion, that properly this commission should be bonified by congress, and even that they should indemnify your Excellency for the trouble and hardships you had on their behalf, would not be amiss. But it being out of our line to decide any thing of that kind, we will only say, that, in case the said commission is charged by congress to your account, we will in future give such orders that you will have no reason to complain about it.
We beg to return our compliments to your worthy family, and remain, &c.
Wilhem and Jan Willink,
Nich. and Jacob Van Staphorst,
De la Lande and Fynje.
TO BARON DE THULEMEIER.
Auteuil, 13 February, 1785.
Your favor of the 24th of January did not reach me until two days ago. I communicated the observations inclosed in it immediately to my colleagues, who will transmit you our answers as soon as health and other circumstances will admit, I have communicated to them also your personal and confidential observations to me. They will have great weight, as they ought to have.
I am weary of the slow motions of other courts and states, as much as I admire the despatch, intelligence, and decision of that of Berlin, and as much as I am charmed to find the King do us the honor to agree to the platonic philosophy of some of our articles, which are at least a good lesson to mankind, and will derive more influence from a treaty ratified by the King of Prussia, than from the writings of Plato or Sir Thomas More.
You may depend upon it, I will do every thing in my power to bring this treaty to a speedy conclusion, and to conform in every thing, as far as I can consistently with my instructions, to his Majesty’s observations.
This answer, you perceive, is not ministerial, any more than your letter. But I hope to have the honor of signing the treaty with you, if I should not have that of residing near you at the Hague, which I wish, in a short time.
With great respect, &c.
TO MESSRS. WILLINK AND OTHERS.
Auteuil, 16 February, 1785.
I have received your favor of the 6th of January and that of the 2d of February, and am much obliged to you for the particular account of the state of the cash and obligations in your hands. By all that I have learned from your letters, as well as by inquiry in conversation, it seems to be so possible, and indeed so probable, that the United States might be exposed to a loss of several hundred thousand guilders by a sudden fall of the agio, that I have not been able to resolve upon giving you directions to put the cash on hand into the bank, especially as I have every day expected, and still expect, not only the ratification of the last loan, but orders from congress or their commissioners of the treasury what to do with the whole sum. I still expect every moment to receive the orders of congress, and, therefore, shall not venture as yet to give orders for putting the money into the bank. But, as you are on the spot, and are better informed than I am, I must leave it to your judgments to do what you shall think most for the interest of the United States, either by putting the whole, or a part, or none of the money into the bank. But, gentlemen, let me, above all things, recommend it to you, to keep the congress constantly informed of the state of their affairs in your hands. You may address your letters either to the president, his Excellency Richard Henry Lee, or to the office of finance. Perhaps it would be best to address duplicates; one to the president, and the other to the commissioners of the treasury.
I thank you, gentlemen, for what you say about my salary. But would it not be a saving for me to draw bills upon you and sell them here? As to an indemnification to me for “my troubles and hardships,” I have no idea of asking, or even wishing for such a thing. Exclusive of all these, it would require a larger sum perhaps than you imagine, to indemnify me for my losses. This, too, I neither expect nor desire. Indeed, while the war continued, and all was at stake, I never thought about trouble, hardships, losses, or savings. But as peace is made, and danger to the public is no more, I should think myself bound to economy for the sake of my family, if I were not necessitated to it in order to pay my daily expenses, as I literally am at present.
With much esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Auteuil, 9 March, 1785.
Permit me to congratulate the United States upon the acquisition of a minister of foreign affairs whose long services have so justly acquired their confidence, and whose experience, as well as his talents, so fully qualify him for this important trust.
The joint despatches of their ministers here will inform congress of the slow progress of the negotiations intrusted to their care. These delays are owing to the ordinary character of the deliberations of courts, and are in no measure occasioned by any inattention or inactivity on our part, and, as they are irremediable, must be submitted to with patience.
I must beg leave to repeat a request mentioned in several of my late letters, that congress would be pleased to transmit the ratification of my last loan, which I opened a year ago in Holland, and is long since full. The delay of the ratification has an ill effect. Congress will be pleased too to give orders, if it is not yet done, as I hope it has been, concerning near a million of guilders, which remain in the hands of their bankers at Amsterdam, as appears by some extracts of letters inclosed.
I have lately inquired of the Baron de Stael, the Swedish ambassador, and of M. d’Asp, the Swedish chargé d’affaires, an old acquaintance at the Hague, who has been lately removed to this Court, concerning the presents given by their Court to the Barbary powers. Both very obligingly promised to write to Stockholm for full information upon this subject. I have written to Mr. Dumas to apply to Mr. Bisdom and Mr. Van der Hope to learn the sums given by the Republic. The answers of those gentlemen I have communicated to my colleagues, and copies of them will be transmitted to congress by Mr. Humphreys in the joint despatches. If we can avoid this humiliating tribute, I should wish it with all my heart, but am afraid we must sooner or later submit to it. I cannot find it in my heart to wish ill-success to the two empires, if they really have, as they are suspected to have, the project of driving wholly out of Europe the Turkish empire, because the Barbary powers and their hateful piracies would probably come to an end at the same time. We wait for orders relative to those States, thinking it dangerous saying a word to Morocco before we are ready to treat with all.
There is at this time so intimate a connection between France, Sweden, and Holland, that I fancy we shall scarcely persuade either of the latter to agree to any supplementary treaties, unless the former should set the example, which we cannot expect, considering the opposition the ministry meets with from the merchants of the seaport towns, and even from some sovereign Courts. The ordinance of 30th August, 1784, which moderates the rigor of the letters-patent of October, 1727, and admits foreigners to the commerce of the Colonies under certain restrictions, has excited remonstrances from the merchants of Marseilles, Bordeaux, Rochelle, Nantes, St. Maloes, and Havre de Grace, and the parliament of Bordeaux has remonstrated, and that of Bretagne was very near it. The Marshal de Castries is yet unmoved, but this opposition will, I fear, discourage him from going further.
These remonstrances attack every part of the first article; they oppose the free ports or entrepôts; they oppose the liberty to strangers to import timber, coal, even live stock, but especially salt beef, saltfish, rice, Indian corn, vegetables, leather tanned or in the hair, pitch, tar, turpentine; they are eager for reviving the regulations of 1727, and totally excluding all foreigners from their islands. In short, I see that French merchants consider their Colonies and colonists as English merchants considered us twenty years ago. It is true that all have not been equally extravagant; some have gone in their remonstrances no farther than against salt beef and salt fish.
Merchants, whether French, English, or Dutch, are very bad rulers of colonies at a distance, and their mistakes, if not firmly corrected by their governments, will make a serious common cause between Americans, northern and western.
The French fisheries, in consequence of the extension of their limits by the treaty of peace, upon the island of Newfoundland, and the free communication between the United States and St. Peters and Miquelon, have succeeded the last year in a remarkable manner. Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Rochelle, and many other places, have engaged in the Newfoundland fishery with a new ardor and uncommon profit. This is one striking advantage, arising wholly from their alliance with us, and they ought to be too sensible of it, to wish so soon to exclude us wholly from their islands. The government and more enlightened part of the nation are so, and will not give way to the interested clamors of those who see no further than their own private profit.
Nothing is more extravagant than the confident pretensions of French and English merchants, that they can supply their own islands. It is whimsical, but it is true, that the mercantile spirit should be the most hostile to the freedom of commerce; governments the most disposed to favor it are continually solicited by bodies of merchants, from partial views and private interests, to restrain and shackle it.
England, it is plain, will never treat with us here; and it is for congress to determine, whether they will accept the proposition of the Court of St. James, and send a minister there, or renounce all thoughts of treating with it upon any thing. Spain seems equally averse to treating here; but if Mr. Gardoqui has arrived, who has full powers, congress may treat with him at New York.
The general state of Europe is critical, but the claims of the Emperor are so directly against treaties which interest so essentially all Europe, that I do not believe he will urge on a war that must embroil all the world, and end not at all to his advantage or honor.
With very great esteem, &c.
SECRETARY JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 15 March, 1785.
The inclosed extracts from the Journal of congress will inform you of your appointment to go as minister to the Court of London, and of Mr. Smith being elected secretary of legation.1
I congratulate you on this event. It argues the confidence reposed in you by the United States, and, I am persuaded, will redound to your advantage as well as to your reputation.
The necessary papers are preparing, and Mr. Smith will carry them to you by the next packet.
With great respect, &c.
TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Auteuil, 20 March, 1785.
According to your desire, I went early this morning to Versailles, and finding the Count de Vergennes unembarrassed with company, and only attended by his private secretaries. I soon obtained the honor of a conference, in which I told him that my colleagues were very sorry that indisposition necessarily prevented their paying their respects to him in person, and obliged them to request me alone to wait on him, and ask his advice upon a thorny question we had with the Barbary powers. He asked what it was; and I put into his hand all the letters upon the subject, in French, Spanish, Italian, and English, all of which he read very attentively, and observed that it was obvious what was wanted, and what had piqued the Emperor of Morocco, namely,—that congress had not written to him, nor sent him a consul with the customary presents; for that he was the most interested man in the world, and the most greedy of money. He asked whether we had written to congress and obtained their instructions. I answered, that we had full powers to treat with Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and the rest; but that it was impossible for us to go there, and that we had not a power of substitution. He said, then, we should write to the Emperor. I asked, if he would do us the favor to convey a letter for us through the French consul. He said he could not do this himself, because it was not in his department; but if we would make an office of it, he would communicate it to the Marshal de Castries, and return us his answer.
I told him, that in looking over the treaties between the several Christian powers and the Barbary States, we found that the treaty between the Crown of France and Algiers of the 25th of April, 1684, was expired, or near expiring, and we were desirous of knowing (if the question was not indiscreet) whether it had been renewed. He smiled upon this, and said it was true their treaty was upon the point of expiring, but he could not tell me whether it were renewed, as it was not in his department; but if we should insert this inquiry in our office, he would endeavor to obtain the Marshal de Castries’s answer.
I told him that, in order to lay before congress all the information we could, and to enable them to judge the better what other orders to give us, or what other course to take, we had obtained authentic information from Mr. Bisdom and Mr. Van der Hope, concerning the presents annually given by their High Mightinesses, and that we should be very glad to know (if it was not improper) what was the annual amount of the presents made by his Majesty to each of those States, and in what articles they consisted. He said, the king never sent them any naval or military stores, but he sent them glasses and other things of value; but that as it was not in his department, he could not give me particular information, but that we might put this into our office, with the other things.
I asked if there was not a considerable trade and frequent intercourse between parts of this kingdom and the coast of Barbary. He said there was, from Marseilles and the other ports upon the Mediterranean; but he thought, if we had presents to send, it would be more convenient to send them from Cadiz.
I then asked the favor of his advice, whether, in our letter to the Emperor of Morocco, we should leave it to his option to send here a minister to treat with us, or to wait until we could write to congress, and recommend it to them, to send a consul. He said he would by no means advise us to invite the Emperor to send a minister here to treat with us, because we must maintain him here and bear all the expenses of his voyages and journeys, which would be much more costly than for congress to send a consul.
But the Count concluded the whole conference by observing that every thing relative to this business was out of his department, and that we must state to him in writing all we desired to know or to have done, and he would convey it to the minister of the marine, and communicate to us his answer, and that we might depend upon it, that whenever we thought proper to make any office to him, it should be carefully attended to.
He added very particular inquiries concerning the health of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson, which I answered to the best of my knowledge, and took my leave.
With great respect, &c.
SECRETARY JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office of Foreign Affairs, 31 March, 1785.
I have the honor of transmitting to you, herewith inclosed, a certified copy of an act of congress of the 21st instant, instructing you to communicate to Mr. St. Saphorin the high sense the United States in congress assembled entertain of the liberal decision made by his Danish Majesty on the question proposed to his minister by you, respecting the ordination of American candidates for holy orders in the Episcopal church, commonly called the Church of England.
Congress has been pleased to order me to transmit copies of your letter, and the other papers on this subject, to the executives of the different States; and I am persuaded they will receive with pleasure this mark of your attention and of his Danish Majesty’s friendly disposition.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO DR. PRICE.
Auteuil, 8 April, 1785.
Some time since I received from Dr. Franklin a copy of the first edition of your Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution, and lately a copy of the second. I am much obliged to you, sir, for your kind attention to me, and for these valuable presents.
I think it may be said in praise of the citizens of the United States, that they are sincere inquirers after truth in matters of government and commerce; at least that there are among them as many, in proportion, of this liberal character, as any other country possesses. They cannot, therefore, but be obliged to you, and any other writers capable of throwing light upon these objects, who will take the pains to give them advice.
I am happy to find myself perfectly agreed with you, that we should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions consistent with morals and property, shall enjoy equal liberty, property, or rather security of property, and an equal chance for honors and power, and when government shall be considered as having in it nothing more mysterious or divine than other arts or sciences, we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society. But at what an immense distance is that period! Notwithstanding all that has been written from Sidney and Locke down to Dr. Price and the Abbé de Mably, all Europe still believes sovereignty to be a divine right, except a few men of letters. Even in Holland their sovereignty, which resides in more than four thousand persons, is all divine.
But I did not intend to enter into details. If you will permit, I should be glad to communicate with you concerning these things.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Auteuil, 13 April, 1785.
I have written by the late packets for the orders of congress concerning near a million of guilders in the hands of Messrs. Willink & Co. in Amsterdam, and requesting the ratification of my last loan and other subjects. By the February packet, hourly expected, I hope to have the honor of letters from you, with the pleasure of congress relative to these matters.
Our joint despatches will show all the information we have yet obtained concerning the power of the Barbary States, and the costliness of their friendship. We must proceed slowly and cautiously. I often hear the trade of the Mediterranean and of the Levant slightly spoken of, and represented as of small value to the United States. I think very differently, with an absolute certainty that time will demonstrate me in the right. But the rise of insurance on all of our trade is to be added to the full value of the trade we may have in the Mediterranean and the Levant; and, what is worse, we have the cries of our countrymen in captivity, in chains, and exposed to many cruelties, to consider. It is not the loss of property which has induced any nation to become tributary to them, but this inhuman practice of enslaving captives. France, England, and Holland have avoided stipulating in treaties to pay a tribute; but Sweden and Denmark have not. I hope we shall not imitate the example of these last. If we are directed to negotiate, we shall probably negotiate through the French consul; but it will be necessary, finally, for congress to send consuls to sign the treaties and to make the presents. We have collected some information which will be useful to our country respecting these powers. I wish we were able to do as much under our commission to Spain. That Court will not treat here, and for us to go to Madrid is a dangerous measure; we know not how much time the negotiation there may require, and if we go and return without success, it will be industriously spread by all the diplomatic corps, and will hurt the reputation of our country in Europe, and elate the English beyond measure; inconveniences which may be avoided by your conducting the negotiation with Mr. Gardoqui at New York, or by congress sending a minister to Madrid. This, I know, is much desired by the Spanish Court and by this Court, as many symptoms have indicated, particularly a conversation between the Duke de la Vauguyon and me a few days before his departure for Madrid. A minister at Madrid would be useful to us in conducting this business with the Barbary powers, and is, in all respects, as far as I can see, a desirable measure. The expense of maintaining three ministers is the same, whether they reside at Auteuil, Passy, and Paris, or at Madrid, Versailles, and the Hague; and I am sure we could not do less separately than we are likely to do together.
You remember, sir, that one of the first things Mr. Hartley said to us, was, to propose, in the name of the King his master and his minister Mr. Fox, that ministers should be exchanged immediately between congress and St. James’s. You have received before now the formal proposition from the Marquis of Carmarthen, transmitted to us through the Duke of Dorset, to the same effect. The appointment of Mr. Temple as consulgeneral, is a still stronger indication of a real wish in the ministry that this measure may be pursued, and of a secret consciousness that they shall be obliged to treat. In their refusal to treat here, they would be justified by all the courts and diplomatic bodies in the world. I make no scruple, no hesitation to advise that a minister may be sent, nor will I be intimidated from giving this advice by any apprehension that I shall be suspected of a design or desire of going to England myself. Whoever goes will neither find it a lucrative nor a pleasant employment, nor will he be envied by me. I know that for years, if he does his duty, he will find no personal pleasure or advantage. But the measure of sending a minister to England, appears to me the corner stone of the true American system of politics in Europe; and, if it is not done, we shall have cause to repent it for a long time, when it will be too late. Every thing is calculated, as it appears to me, to involve us in a war with England. Cries and prejudices are fomented in England and America, which have no other tendency but to involve us in a war long before we shall be ready. Ten or fifteen years hence we shall have nothing to fear from a war with England, if they should be mad enough to force us upon it. At present, it would distress us extremely, although it would ruin England. My system is a very simple one; let us preserve the friendship of France, Holland, and Spain, if we can, and in case of a war between France and England, let us preserve our neutrality, if possible. In order to preserve our friendship with France and Holland and Spain, it will be useful for us to avoid a war with England. To avoid a war with England, we should take the regular diplomatic steps to negotiate, to settle disputes as they rise, and to place the intercourse between the two nations upon a certain footing; then we may understand one another, avoid deceits and misrepresentations. It is so much the interest of England that we should be neutral in a future war, that I am persuaded cool and candid reasoning with their ministers upon the subject would convince them of it. The force of truth is greater, even in the minds of politicians, than the world in general is aware of. England is now mad with the hope of our having a war with Spain, and even France in consequence of the family compact, and of our courting them to become our allies and undertake our defence. Surely it would not be difficult for an American minister to convince a British one that this is chimerical, and that the only thing they ought to expect from America is neutrality. The real thing the English have to fear is our joining their enemies against them in a future war. She has no alliance to hope from us, unless Spain should force us into a war; and, even then, we ought not to ask or accept aid from England, if we could avoid it, unless France, from the family compact, should join Spain.
This reasoning and this system, you see, goes upon the supposition that we are independent of France, in point of moral and political obligation. But if the sentiments of America are otherwise, and those principles are general, which you and I once heard delivered with great formality and energy, namely,—“That America ought to join France against England in two future wars; one to pay the debt of gratitude already contracted, and the other to show ourselves as generous as France had been,”—I confess myself all wrong, and to be so totally ignorant of the rights, duties, and interests of my country, as to be altogether unfit for any share in their public affairs, foreign or domestic.
At any rate, our negotiations in this place have not answered the ends proposed by congress and expected by the people of America, nor is there now scarcely a possibility that they should. I am very happy in my friend Mr. Jefferson, and have nothing but my inutility to disgust me with a residence here. But I presume congress will not think it expedient to renew the commissions, or attempt any longer to carry on negotiations with the rest of the world in this place. If they should, however, I hope they will think of some other gentleman in my place, as it is my desire to return home at the expiration of the term of the present commissions.
With great respect and sincere esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Auteuil, 24 April, 1785.
The letter you did me the honor to write me on the 11th of February last, containing the ratification of my last loan of two millions of guilders, having been properly addressed to me as minister at the Hague, by a mistake of the post-office at Paris, was sent to Holland, from whence it returned to me last night. This loan is long since full, as my first loan of five millions of guilders is nearly so; I must, therefore, solicit the further instructions of congress, whether I am to open any new loan or not.
Your letter to Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jefferson, and me, of the 14th of January, has been duly received and answered.
If I had known a few weeks sooner that congress had resolved to send a minister to London, it would have saved you the trouble of a letter upon the subject which you will receive by the packet. It has appeared to me for some time to be an important and a necessary measure; and although the gentleman who may be sent there, whoever he may be, will probably find himself in a thicket of briars, from which he will hardly get free without tearing his flesh, yet I am persuaded that the appearance of an American minister at the British Court will have good effects upon our affairs, even in France and Spain, and the nations in alliance with them, as well as in the courts and nations in the opposite scale of the balance; but especially upon the British and American nations.
Will it be foreign to the purpose upon this occasion, or improper for me, to observe, that the people in America, and their legislatures in the several States, should prepare the way for their minister in England to require a faithful execution of treaties, by setting the example of a punctual execution on their part? If we establish the principle, that we have a right to depart from the treaty in one article, because they have departed from it in another, they will certainly avail themselves of the same principle, and probably extend it as much farther, as their sense of justice is less, and their opinion of their own power, however ill-founded, is greater. It cannot, I think, be too often nor too earnestly recommended to our countrymen to consider the treaty as sacred, and to fulfil it in all its parts, according to its real spirit and intention, in good conscience. In that most delicate point of all, respecting the refugees, I even wish that the people could conquer their natural feelings and suppress their just resentments. This, I am confident, is the best revenge that can be taken, and will most effectually disarm even those among them who are most distinguished for their enmity. If we have any thing to fear from Canada and Nova Scotia, or for our whale fishery, it arises, and will arise, from our own severity to these people; and the same observation may be applied to the fur trade, and the posts upon the frontier.
Your desire, sir, to hear from me frequently, and to have my poor opinion on the affairs of your department, does me great honor, and shall be complied with to the utmost of my power; but I shall much oftener have occasion for your advice in such affairs as are intrusted to me. I think myself extremely happy, in common with our countrymen, that I have to correspond with a gentleman to whom our foreign affairs are very familiar by long experience, who knows where our difficulties and dangers lie, and who has proved himself, upon all occasions, superior to them.
I am sorry to learn that the French chargé des àffaires has demanded Monsieur Longchamps to be delivered up, and am the more surprised, because I had understood from such sources as I thought authentic, that the punishment to which he has been sentenced was satisfactory at Court. It may not, however, be amiss for the French government to keep up a claim which may be a standing restraint to their own subjects in all foreign countries. But it cannot be doubted that the French ministry know our right to refuse, as well as theirs to demand, as there is no positive stipulation between the two powers that criminals shall be mutually given up, and surely it is no perfect right by the law of nations, nor is it a common practice; so far from it, that it will be difficult to show an example of it where there is no convention.1
Your packet for Mr. Carmichael shall be delivered to the Spanish ambassador to go by his courier, as you desire.
With the utmost respect and esteem, &c.
BARON DE THULEMEIER TO JOHN ADAMS.
La Haie, 3 Mai, 1785.
Je ressens une véritable satisfaction en mettant aujourd’hui la dernière main à un ouvrage qui a commencé d’être entrepris à la Haie sous vos auspices, et que vous avez favorisé, monsieur, de votre mieux. Vous verrez par la lettre cijointe, que j’ai l’honneur de vous adresser en commun avec messieurs vos collègues, que le roi n’a rien laissé à désirer aux États de l’Amérique. Il s’agit actuellement que vous ayez la bonté de faire mettre au net un exemplaire du traité dont nous sommes convenus. J’en ferai autant, de mon côté. Quelque puisse être le plaisir que je me permettrais dans une entrevue, en renouvelant notre ancienne connoissance, je crains cependant que, les affaires du roi m’attachant à la Haie, S. M. ne préfère que l’échange se fasse par une voie sûre, telle que le paquet des ambassadeurs de L. H. P.
Daignez m’accorder constamment une place dans votre souvenir, et agréez les assurances de l’attachement inviolable, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Auteuil, 4 May, 1785.
The day before yesterday I received the letter you did me the honor to write me on the 18th of March, inclosing a commission, instructions, and letter of credence to the Court of Great Britain, and a duplicate of your letter of February 11th, with the ratification of the loan in Holland.
The appointment to the Court of Great Britain demands my most grateful acknowledgments to congress, and the utmost care and diligence in the execution of it.
I am happy to see, by the resolution of March 7th, that a minister is to be appointed to succeed me at the Hague; both because a minister will be necessary there, and because that the minister in London will find employment for all his time, and should devote himself wholly to the duties of that mission. As no letter of recall is as yet arrived to me, I am a little perplexed. I have been a witness of so much friendship to the United States, and have experienced so much kindness to myself, in Holland, that I ought not finally to quit that country without taking leave of their High Mightinesses, even if established forms had not rendered such a ceremony indispensable.
There is no time to be lost unnecessarily in executing the instructions of congress; but you are very sensible, sir, of the necessity of taking leave of this Court and of the foreign ministers here, and of the time which such a formality takes up. It will, therefore, be longer before I can be in London than you may wish, perhaps five or six weeks; in the mean time, Colonel Smith, I hope, will arrive with the additional information, and I may take such measures as I can to prepare the way before us. The Duke of Dorset has offered me all the service in his power, and professes to wish me success. It may not be useless for me to see Mr. Harris at the Hague.
The instructions are perfectly agreeable to my own inclinations; but it would be my duty to carry them into punctual execution to the utmost of my power, if they were not so. It is not the first time that a public trust of some importance has been committed to me, but I do not know that any ever made a deeper impression upon my spirits, or gave me more serious reflections. To do my duty to our country and her allies, and to reconcile the Americans and English upon principles and terms which may give satisfaction to all, is no easy task. I can promise nothing but industry; the prospect of success is far from being encouraging. The measure of sending a minister had become indispensable. Congress will have tried the experiment, and done all that, in the opinion of the world, was incumbent on them; and if the English nation perseveres in obstinacy and delusion, the United States will be fully informed of it, and have it undoubtedly in their power to do themselves justice. The resolutions of New York and Rhode Island, the former laying heavier duties upon British ships and merchandises, and the latter adopting the impost of five per cent., if the public papers inform us truly, are symptoms of a spirit rising in America which will either make the English friendly to us, or their enmity a blessing.
The Count d’Aranda told me yesterday that your packet to Mr. Carmichael was gone to Madrid.
I forgot to mention in its place your letter of March 15th. The confidence you express is mutual, which I esteem one of the happiest circumstances in my whole life. I have not the honor to be personally known to Mr. Smith, but he shall receive from me all the regard which becomes the relation between us.
With sincere esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Anteuil, 5 May, 1785.
The Britons boast that all the prophecies of the loss of the American trade from the independence of the United States have proved false; that the experiment has been tried, and the contest decided; that there was at the peace a competition of the commercial nations of Europe for the prize; that the superior abilities of the British manufacturers, and the greater capitals of their merchants, have enabled them to give our traders better bargains and longer credit than any others in Europe; that, as we love our interests and have small fortunes, we must come to them who can furnish us with goods of the best qualities, at the cheapest rates, and allow us the longest time to pay; that Britain has monopolized our trade beyond credibility; that all the foreign merchants,—French, Dutch, and even Spanish and Portuguese,—who had engaged in our trade have failed, while few of theirs have suffered.
While, on the one hand, it is certain that in all this there is much exaggeration, it must be confessed, on the other, that there is too much truth; and the success of your mission to London will depend very much upon the researches of congress and the States into this subject, and the measures they may take in consequence of their inquiries. You will negotiate for reciprocities in commerce to very little purpose, while the British ministers and merchants are certain that they shall enjoy all the profits of our commerce under their own partial regulations.
It behoves the whole people of America, then, to turn their attention to this subject. It would be presumption in me to discuss the question, whether it is necessary that the States should give to congress a plenary power to govern the commerce of the whole confederation. I have been too long absent, and at too great a distance, to be able to form a judgment, even to my own satisfaction. But I can see numberless mischiefs and inconveniences arising from the want of unity and system, in the direction of such complicated interests, and every State will find itself necessitated frequently to apply to congress for their interposition, either by recommendations or decisions.
You will give me leave, then, to inquire, whether it may not be proper for congress to call upon the States, in such manner as they may judge constitutional, to furnish them with authentic accounts of all the exports and imports of every State since the peace, of the vessels which have entered or cleared out, the nation to which they belong, and all other particulars which may be thought proper. It should seem impossible that the Union can be preserved without some such general repository of the commercial interests and knowledge. The information to be derived from it would bring the States to act in concert, by showing the necessity of it to all, and congress or the States might take such measures as would insure them justice against the English; from such a view, they might lay such discouragements on British ships and manufactures, and procure such advantages to their own, as would be beneficial to our country, while it would show the English their own weakness; heavy duties might be laid upon articles of luxury wrought in England and imported from thence, which would discourage the extravagant use of them among ourselves, place other nations upon as good or a better footing than the English, and raise a revenue for the public out of that enthusiasm for England which has been, and is still, so unwise in itself, and so hurtful to our country. Such measures as these would discover to the English that we know our own strength and their weakness, and would have probably a greater tendency to influence the ministry, by preparing the nation, than any reasoning which can be used. It is a diplomatic axiom, “that he always negotiates ill who is not in a condition to make himself feared;” but measures for this purpose must be taken by the people of America. Our army will be no terror to them, because they think at present they shall never send an army to fight us in our own country, and they do not believe that ours will go abroad to attack them; they are too proud of their own navy, and have too much disregard of ours, to dread us upon the sea, although experience should have taught them that their commerce might be much endangered by our cruisers. So that we have no means to make an impression on them but by commercial regulations, which the vulgar may see strike essentially at their interests without injuring our own.
With great and sincere esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Auteuil, 8 May, 1785.
In executing the instructions of congress of the 7th of March last, as well as all former orders which concern the Court of Great Britain, the ministry will, no doubt, find my commission and letter of credence sufficient authority. But you will see, by a letter from the Duke of Dorset, which your ministers here some time since transmitted, that the British cabinet have conceived doubts, whether congress have power to treat of commercial matters, and whether our States should not separately grant their full powers to a minister. I think it may be taken for granted, that the States will never think of sending separate ambassadors, or of authorizing directly those appointed by congress. The idea of thirteen plenipotentiaries meeting together in a congress at every court in Europe, each with a full power and distinct instructions from his State, presents to view such a picture of confusion, altercation, expense, and endless delay, as must convince every man of its impracticability. Neither is there less absurdity in supposing that all the States should unite in the separate election of the same man, since there is not, never was, and never will be, a citizen whom each State would separately prefer for conducting the negotiation. It is equally inconceivable that each State should separately send a full power and separate instructions to the ministers appointed by congress. What a heterogeneous mass of papers, full of different objects, various views, and inconsistent and contradictory orders, must such a man pull out of his portefeuille, from time to time, to regulate his judgment and his conduct! He must be accountable, too, to thirteen different tribunals for his conduct; a situation in which no man would ever consent to stand, if it is possible, which I do not believe, that any State should ever wish for such a system. I suppose, too, that the confederation has already settled all these points, and that congress alone have authority to treat with foreign powers, and to appoint ambassadors and foreign ministers, and that the States have separately no power to do either. Yet it is plain, from the Duke of Dorset’s letter, that the British cabinet have conceived a different opinion. This is to be accounted for, only by conjecturing that they have put an erroneous construction on the limitation, restriction, or exception in the article of our confederation, which gives to congress the power of appointing ambassadors and making treaties. This limitation is confined to treaties of commerce; all others congress have full power to make. From this limitation, however, will probably arise a great deal of difficulty and delay to me. If the British ministry wish and seek for delays, this will be their pretext. But even if they should wish for despatch, which is not likely, they may have propositions to make which will fall within the limitation, and, in such case, it will not be in my power to agree with them. I can only transmit the proposition to congress, who will perhaps transmit them to the States, and no man can foresee when the answers will be received, so that the business can be brought to a conclusion.
It is a long time that congress have appeared to be aware of these obstructions in the way of our prosperity; but it does not yet appear that the States have been sufficiently attentive to them to remove them. It is not to be supposed that congress will ever frame any treaty of commerce with any foreign power, which shall be unequal and partial among the States, or oppressive upon any one of them; and it is very clear, from the situation and circumstances of the country, that no such treaty can ever be carried into execution or last long. If the States should be unwilling to confer upon congress a power to make treaties of commerce unlimited in point of time, it should seem that time alone might be a sufficient restriction; or the limitation might be to a particular nation, as the English for example, for a certain time, although it must be always remembered that we cannot favor the English with any thing which will not become common to other nations,—the French, the Dutch, and Swedes, at least.
It is very possible that the cabinet of St. James may decline even entering into any conferences at all upon the subject of a treaty of commerce, until the powers of congress are enlarged. If they should, the people of America cannot be too soon informed of it, and turn the deliberations in their assemblies to this object.
In this case, the only present hope of your minister will be, in obedience to his orders, to convince the British ministry of the necessary tendency of their restrictions on our trade, to incapacitate our merchants in a certain degree to make remittances to theirs; to urge the surrender of the posts, the restitution of the negroes, the explanation respecting the debts, and those other matters pointed out in his instructions, in which the right and power and equity are too clear to leave any plausible pretences for delay; and to transmit, by the earliest opportunities, to congress full and true accounts of his proceedings.
On the 30th of April, 1784, congress recommended to the legislatures of the States to vest them for fifteen years with the power to prohibit any merchandises from being imported or exported in vessels belonging to, or navigated by, the subjects of any power with whom we shall have no treaties of commerce; and to prohibit the subjects of any foreign State, unless authorized by treaty, from importing into the United States any merchandises which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are; provided that the assent of nine States be necessary.
To suppose that the British cabinet intended, by the doubts of our powers, expressed in the Duke of Dorset’s letter, to assist congress in obtaining from the legislatures a compliance with those recommendations, would be more charitable than their conduct in any other instance would justify. I rather think it was a mere excuse for delay, but it ought to operate upon the minds of the people of the States, and their assemblies, as a powerful incentive to compliance. But it may be still a question, whether a compliance of all the States will satisfy the British cabinet; and they may require an express vote of unlimited authority to congress, for a certain term at least, from each State, to enter into a treaty of commerce with them.
I have not yet been able to learn with certainty how many and which of the States have agreed to those recommendations of congress. It will now be necessary for me to be very attentive to this, and to request of you, sir, the earliest and most minute intelligence of every proceeding of congress and the States relative to it.
The last year must have been a prosperous period in the United States. The high prices of their produce, and the low prices of foreign merchandises, are a demonstration of it. Yet our shipping, our seamen, our carrying trade, have been discouraged. Present ease, and even wealth, should not be our only object.
We ought to attend to considerations of strength and defence. Our situation is different from some of the powers of Europe who have neglected their own defence. Switzerland is situated so, that if she should be attacked by one neighbor, she would infallibly be defended by two others. If attacked by Sardinia, she would be defended by France and the Emperor; if by the Emperor, France and Sardinia would support her; and if by France, the Emperor and Sardinia would unite to protect her. This is so fully known to her and all her neighbors, that she fears nothing, and is at no expense. Holland, if attacked by France, found a friend in England; when attacked by England, France supports her; when the Emperor threatened her, she found a friend in France, too, and she will forever be sure that neither of these three great powers can ever suffer her to fall a prey to any of the others. She has relied so much upon this, as to neglect her defence, to her great regret at present. But what are Switzerland and Holland,—small powers limited by nature, so that they never can be great,—to the United States of America, destined beyond a doubt to be the greatest power on earth, and that within the life of man? This is so well known, that, instead of being overlooked among the powers, like Holland and Switzerland, we shall be more an object of jealousy than any other upon earth. All the powers know that it is impossible for any, the proudest of them, to conquer us; and, therefore, if we should be attacked by any one, the others will not be fond of undertaking our defence; knowing we can defend ourselves, they will leave us to do it, and, if they assist us at all, it will not be until we have done the work, and then it will be feebly, and only with a view of deriving more benefit and reputation from it than they do us good. They will be pleased to see us weakened, and our growth a little retarded. It behoves the United States, then, to knit themselves together in the bands of affection and mutual confidence, search their own resources to the bottom, form their foreign commerce into a system, and encourage their own navigation and seamen, and to these ends their carrying trade; and I am much afraid we shall never be able to do this, unless congress are vested with full power, under the limitations prescribed of fifteen years, and the concurrence of nine States, of forming treaties of commerce with foreign powers.
With great esteem, &c.
TO M. DUMAS.
Auteuil, 11 May, 1785.
I received yesterday your favor of the 3d. I have received the orders of congress to go to London, according to the article you read in an English newspaper, which appears to have been copied from a gazette of New York. I have received too a commission and letters of credence as minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the King of Great Britain; and Mr. William Smith, formerly aid-de-camp of General Washington, is secretary of legation. Congress have resolved, too, that it will be expedient to appoint a minister to their High Mightinesses to succeed me. At first, I concluded to go to the Hague, and take my leave of their High Mightinesses and of the nation, with all that respect, affection, and gratitude which is due from me to them; but, as I have not received a letter of recall, and my successor is not arrived, I cannot yet take leave according to the forms. I learn that Colonel Smith was to embark in the packet for Falmouth, so that he may be expected by this time; and I must see him as soon as possible, to receive from him some additional papers, amongst which may possibly be my letter of recall; so that I have concluded to go to London first. Upon the arrival of my letter of recall, or of my successor, I shall go over to the Hague, if possible. But if I should chance to be engaged in business for the public which I cannot leave, I shall take leave of their High Mightinesses and of his Most Serene Highness by a respectful letter. In this case, however, I will not lose the pleasure of a visit to Holland, and of seeing my friends there, but will take a journey there with Mrs. Adams as soon as the public service will admit.
Whether this mission to St. James’s is a subject of felicitation or not, I know not. One thing I know. I quit the situation in Europe the most to my taste and the most for my health, for one that will probably be agreeable to neither. I exchange a quiet, cheerful mind, for an anxious one, and a life of ease for a scene of perplexity, confusion, and fatigue. If the public, however, should derive any benefit from it, I shall not regret it.
Dr. Franklin has leave to return, and talks of embarking next month. Mr. Jefferson is minister plenipotentiary at Versailles in his stead. Our commissions to negotiate commercial treaties remain in force, and we shall continue that business, Mr. Jefferson and I, as usual. We shall concert all affairs by letter, and meet together to sign, in London or Paris, as may be convenient, or sign the treaties separately, if we cannot meet. The communication between the Hague and London will be short and more frequent, and I hope to hear from you often.
My family send their respects to yours. My son is to take leave of us to-morrow morning, and may heaven’s blessings attend him. Remember him and his father to all our good friends, whom you know very well.
With great respect,
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Auteuil, 13 May, 1785.
We meet, as you know very well, so often with foreign ministers, at Court and at other places, and have so many transient conversations upon subjects in which America is more or less concerned, that I scarcely know when it is worth while to transmit them to you and when it is not. There is danger on one hand of degenerating into minuteness, and on the other, of omitting something which may be of consequence.
The Duke of Dorset has been, in general, very civil to Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jefferson, and me, and, I believe I may say with exact truth, that he has shown us as much respect and attention as he has to the ministers of any power whatever; but since the English papers, from the gazettes of New York, have published my appointment to his Court, he has been more assiduous, if I may use that expression, than ever.
He congratulated me, at Court, very politely, on my appointment, and said if he could be of any service to me, in public or private, by writing to Mr. Pitt or Lord Carmarthen, or to any of his private friends, it would give him pleasure to do it. I thanked his Grace in general terms, and said it was very possible he might be of service to me, and to his own country, too, as well as mine, if his Grace and his humble servant thought alike upon certain points. He thought then, as well as I, that it was proper we should compare notes; and said he would come out to Auteuil and see me on Saturday at twelve. Accordingly he came, and, repeating his professions of good will and his offers of service, I told his Lordship I did not mean to give him the trouble of any official representations, but, as he was willing to enter into private conversation with me upon affairs, I might ask what could be the reason why the posts upon our frontiers were not evacuated. He said, he could not tell. I added, there had undoubtedly been full time, and it could not but be considered as inconsistent with the treaty; that he might well imagine it must be a tender point with us, and that jealousies and apprehensions would be very justly kept alive among all our people until the treaty was fulfilled in this particular. He seemed wholly at a loss upon this subject, and did not incline to compromise himself by hazarding any opinion.
I then mentioned the debts, and said it was certainly for the mutual advantage of both sides that we should come to an explanation upon that article; that to let loose the law, and perhaps the inflamed passions of some creditors upon the debtors and their estates, might ruin the latter without paying the former; that if execution was served upon the person of a debtor for want of estate, by the ancient as well as modern laws, he might, in a stated period, obtain his liberty upon his oath, and then the debt would be lost. If execution should be levied upon estate, it must be sold at vendue, and, in the present scarcity of money, would not be sold for half its value, so that the creditor might lose as well as the debtor; that it would surely be better for both countries, as well as for creditor and debtor, that the latter should be allowed time to turn himself, and make the most of his property. The Duke replied, that if the matter should be represented in this light, and made appear to be so, perhaps the ministry and the creditors might be satisfied; but, he added, interest should be paid. I answered, that the question concerning interest would not be changed at all by a delay; it would be the same, whether the principal were paid now or some time hence. But I found his Lordship here again unwilling to hazard any opinion of his own.
I then mentioned the negroes, and asked why the treaty was so little attended to in this article. He asked, whether any considerable number had been carried off. I answered, a very great number; and not only against the treaty, but confessedly so, for that Sir Guy Carleton had, at the time of his carrying them away, acknowledged it to be against the treaty; but alleged that their treaties with the negroes obliged them to do it, and, therefore, they must pay for them. I added, that this made it still harder upon the American debtors, and, indeed, made it perfectly just for them to withhold payment, because that the property of many of them was thus wrongfully withheld from them; property by which they might have been enabled to pay at least much of their debts. But I found that either his Grace had not thought much upon these subjects, or that his prudence restrained him from speaking freely, and he chose to wave particulars, by repeating offers of his service. I replied, that I did not think it was proper for me to desire his Grace to make any official representations, because my first address of that kind should be made to Lord Carmarthen; but that noblemen and gentlemen of high rank were often here and in company with his Grace, and as conversation turned often upon American affairs, it might be in his Grace’s power to rectify many mistakes relative to these subjects. It would be still more in his power by his private correspondences. I could not, however, obtain any specific promises; but he concluded by more general assurances, that he sincerely wished that all questions might be settled to mutual satisfaction, and entire harmony and affection restored, &c. &c.
A few days after, the Duke came out a second time to see me at Auteuil, and brought me some letters to the custom-house at Dover, which he believed would save me any troublesome visits of those gentry, and said he had written to Mr. Pitt, to desire him to send an order to the custom-house which would certainly answer the end.
He then told me, I must be in London time enough to pay my respects to the King on the 4th of June, his birthday; that to that end I must carry over from hence a fine new coat, ready made, for that it was a rule of etiquette there for everybody who went to Court to have new clothes upon that day, and very rich ones, and that my family must be introduced to the Queen. I told him I was sorry to hear that, but that I hoped it was not indispensable, for that as at the Court of Versailles the families of ambassadors only were required to be presented, and ministers plenipotentiary and envoys had their option, my family had chosen to avoid it here for many reasons. He said it was true, that here the etiquette required only the presentation of ambassadresses; but in England it was otherwise, and the ladies and daughters of all ministers must be presented to the Queen.
I hope, sir, you will not think this an immaterial or a trifling conversation, when you consider that the single circumstance of presenting a family to Court will make a difference of several hundred pounds sterling in my inevitable annual expenses. This is not the first serious lecture that I have had upon the subjects of etiquette, and even dress. I have formerly related to you in conversation another much more grave, which I had five years ago from the Count de Vergennes. I believe I have also repeated to you similar exhortations made to me, even by the best patriots in Holland. There is a certain appearance in proportion to rank, which all the courts of Europe make a point of exacting from everybody who is presented to them.
I need not say to you, sir, because you know it perfectly well, that American ministers have never yet been able to make this appearance at any court. They are now less able to do it than ever. I lament this necessity of consuming the labor of my fellow-citizens upon such objects, as much as any man living; but I am sure that the debasing your ministers so much below their rank will one day have consequences of much more importance to the husbandman, artisan, and even laborer.
With the most cordial esteem, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 27 May, 1785.
I found that either the Duke of Dorset’s letter, to the premier had produced an order at Dover, or that his Grace’s letter to the custom-house office had had as good an effect, for I was allowed to pass without molestation, and, indeed, I received marks of particular respect.
We arrived yesterday in the afternoon, and, as fortune would have it, Colonel Smith arrived the night before. We soon met. I wrote a card to the Marquis of Carmarthen, at nine at night, acquainting his Lordship of my arrival, and desiring an hour to wait on him. This morning I had an answer, that his Lordship would be glad to see me at one at his house, or at four at his office, as I chose. I replied, that I would have the honor to wait on him at one. Colonel Smith went with me. We were admitted in an instant, and politely received. I laid before him my commission, and left him a copy. Colonel Smith did the same with his. I consulted his Lordship about the etiquette of my letter of credence, and he gave me the same answers as the Comte de Vergennes gave you. His Lordship then said, that on Wednesday next, after the levee, I should be presented to his Majesty, in his closet, and there deliver my letter of credence; and that, on the next levee-day, Colonel Smith would be presented. This, he said, was according to usage.
I have since seen the Dutch minister, who inquired of every particular, step by step, and then said I was received precisely upon the same footing with all the other ministers. I learned from the Dutch minister, too, another particular which gave me pleasure, namely,—that the usage here is directly contrary to that in Holland and France. Here the new minister receives the first visit from all the foreign ministers; whereas, in France and Holland, the new minister makes the first visit to all the foreign ministers, and notifies formally to them his reception. This saves me from an embarrassment, and we shall now see who will and who will not. We shall see what will be done by imperial ministers, &c.
With the most cordial esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
London, 30 May, 1785.
I have redeemed a moment from a multitude of avocations at this critical time, to acknowledge the receipt by Colonel Smith of your letters of the 31st of March, with the resolutions of congress inclosed of the 21st of March. As M. de St. Saphorin is many months ago recalled from the Hague, I shall make inquiry after him, and, if I cannot find where he is, I shall communicate a copy of the resolution to the Danish minister here, by whom it will be transmitted to his Court, which I suppose will be an execution of my instructions as near the spirit of them as it is now practicable. The liberal decision of his Danish Majesty, respecting the ordination of American candidates for holy orders in the Episcopal church, called the Church of England, as soon as it was known in England, produced a more liberal spirit and decision here than had prevailed before, so that I hope that respectable body of our fellow-citizens who are interested in it have derived a benefit from it. I am much obliged to congress for this instance of their approbation, and for the honor they have done me in transmitting an account of it to the executives of the States.1
I have received, too, your letter of 13th of April, 1785, with the resolve of congress of 14th of February, 1785, empowering your ministers to apply a sum not exceeding eighty thousand dollars to the use of treating with Morocco, &c. But I have heard nothing of Captain Lamb, or the papers by him. What my colleagues will judge proper to do I cannot say; but the advice of the French Court was conformable to the opinion of us all,—that it will be indispensable for congress to send a consul with full powers.
I received at Auteuil my commission, instructions, and letter of credence to the Court of Great Britain, and have now received by Colonel Smith the papers sent by him.
I received at Auteuil the ratification of the last loan in Holland, which I transmitted immediately to Amsterdam, where it has been received, registered, and communicated to the lenders of the money, and has given them satisfaction, since which I have received from you, sir, duplicate and triplicate of the same ratification. The cipher is received, and shall be attended to.
Your ministers have written monthly an account of their proceedings. Not one packet has been missed; but when I left Auteuil we had no certain evidence that any one of our letters had been received. We supposed that this was because congress had not completed their instructions upon any of them; but I must beg the favor of you, sir, barely to mention the receipt of my letters, and their dates, although you may not be prepared to answer them. Without this one loses the chain of correspondence.
I have been visited by some gentlemen, who, I suppose, had seen the ministers, and learned from them what to say to me. They said that the ministry and the King considered the appointment of a minister as a proof of a conciliating disposition; that it was a relief to them from an anxiety, &c., and that they were fully determined to receive me in all respects like all the other foreign ministers. This, I believe is true; but we must be cautious what consequences we draw from it. It by no means follows that they are determined to do what their honor and their public faith oblige them to do according to our ideas of their obligations. It by no means follows that they will surrender the posts, restore the negroes, relieve the debtors, or make any equitable treaty of commerce. I hope they will do all these things; but I can ascertain nothing until my character is acknowledged by a public reception and audience of his Majesty, I have made my visits to his ministers, and have had time to enter into a candid discussion of these questions. You shall be punctually informed from step to step.
With great esteem, &c.
P. S. This morning Sir Clement Cottrell Dormer, master of the ceremonies, called upon me to inform me that he was ordered to attend me to Court on Wednesday, as he did on all foreign ministers at their first presentation, to show them the way through the apartments, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Bath Hotel, Westminster, 1 June, 1785.
In my letter of the 29th ultimo, I inclosed copies of the letters which had passed between the secretary of state and myself, wherein this day was fixed upon for my introduction to his Majesty. Agreeable to that arrangement, the master of ceremonies waited on me at one, and accompanied me to the secretary’s office, from whence Lord Carmarthen accompanied me to the palace. I was in a very short time introduced to the King’s closet, where, with the usual ceremony, I presented my letter of credence to his Majesty, and, after a few minutes’ conversation, retired. I have only time to observe, sir, that I was introduced with every necessary formality, and received with some marks of attention.
The door being now opened, I may perhaps soon have it in my power to form some opinion respecting the general disposition of the King and his ministers, relative to the objects of my mission, of which you may expect the earliest communication.
I am, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Bath Hotel, Westminster, 2 June, 1785.
During my interview with the Marquis of Carmarthen, he told me that it was customary for every foreign minister, at his first presentation to the King, to make his Majesty some compliments conformable to the spirit of his letter of credence; and when Sir Clement Cottrell Dormer, the master of the ceremonies, came to inform me that he should accompany me to the secretary of state and to Court, he said that every foreign minister whom he had attended to the Queen had always made a harangue to her Majesty, and he understood, though he had not been present, that they always harangued the King.
On Tuesday evening, the Baron de Lynden called upon me, and said he came from the Baron de Nolken, and they had been conversing upon the singular situation I was in, and they agreed in opinion that it was indispensable that I should make a speech, and that that speech should be as complimentary as possible. All this was conformable to the advice lately given by the Count de Vergennes to Mr. Jefferson; so that, finding it was a custom established at both these great Courts, and that this Court and the foreign ministers expected it, I thought I could not avoid it, although my first thought and inclination had been to deliver my credentials silently and retire.
At one, on Wednesday, the master of ceremonies called at my house, and went with me to the secretary of state’s office, in Cleveland Row, where the Marquis of Carmarthen received me, and introduced me to his under secretary, Mr. Fraser, who has been, as his Lordship told me, uninterruptedly in that office, through all the changes in administration for thirty years, having first been appointed by the Earl of Holderness. After a short conversation upon the subject of importing my effects from Holland and France free of duty, which Mr. Fraser himself introduced, Lord Carmarthen invited me to go with him in his coach to Court. When we arrived in the antechamber, the æil de bæuf of St. James’s, the master of the ceremonies met me and attended me, while the secretary of state went to take the commands of the King. While I stood in this place, where it seems all ministers stand upon such occasions, always attended by the master of ceremonies, the room very full of ministers of state, lords, and bishops, and all sorts of courtiers, as well as the next room, which is the King’s bedchamber, you may well suppose I was the focus of all eyes. I was relieved, however, from the embarrassment of it by the Swedish and Dutch ministers, who came to me, and entertained me in a very agreeable conversation during the whole time. Some other gentlemen, whom I had seen before, came to make their compliments too, until the Marquis of Carmarthen returned and desired me to go with him to his Majesty. I went with his Lordship through the levee room into the King’s closet. The door was shut, and I was left with his Majesty and the secretary of state alone. I made the three reverences,—one at the door, another about half way, and a third before the presence,—according to the usage established at this and all the northern Courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his Majesty in the following words:—
“Sir,—The United States of America have appointed me their minister plenipotentiary to your Majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your Majesty this letter which contains the evidence of it. It is in obedience to their express commands, that I have the honor to assure your Majesty of their unanimous disposition and desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal intercourse between your Majesty’s subjects and their citizens, and of their best wishes for your Majesty’s health and happiness, and for that of your royal family. The appointment of a minister from the United States to your Majesty’s Court will form an epoch in the history of England and of America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow-citizens, in having the distinguished honor to be the first to stand in your Majesty’s royal presence in a diplomatic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men, if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your Majesty’s royal benevolence, and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affection, or, in better words, the old good nature and the old good humor between people, who, though separated by an ocean, and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood.
“I beg your Majesty’s permission to add, that, although I have some time before been intrusted by my country, it was never in my whole life in a manner so agreeable to myself.”
The King listened to every word I said, with dignity, but with an apparent emotion. Whether it was the nature of the interview, or whether it was my visible agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him, I cannot say. But he was much affected, and answered me with more tremor than I had spoken with, and said:—
“Sir,—The circumstances of this audience are so extraordinary, the language you have now held is so extremely proper, and the feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the occasion, that I must say that I not only receive with pleasure the assurance of the friendly dispositions of the United States, but that I am very glad the choice has fallen upon you to be their minister. I wish you, sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the separation; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power. The moment I see such sentiments and language as yours prevail, and a disposition to give to this country the preference, that moment I shall say, let the circumstances of language, religion, and blood have their natural and full effect.”
I dare not say that these were the King’s precise words, and, it is even possible, that I may have in some particular mistaken his meaning; for, although his pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, he hesitated some time between his periods, and between the members of the same period. He was indeed much affected, and I confess I was not less so, and, therefore I cannot be certain that I was so cool and attentive, heard so clearly, and understood so perfectly, as to be confident of all his words or sense; and, I think, that all which he said to me should at present be kept secret in America, unless his Majesty or his secretary of state, who alone was present, should judge proper to report it. This I do say, that the foregoing is his Majesty’s meaning as I then understood it, and his own words as nearly as I can recollect them.
The King then asked me whether I came last from France, and upon my answering in the affirmative, he put on an air of familiarity, and, smiling, or rather laughing, said, “there is an opinion among some people that you are not the most attached of all your countrymen to the manners of France.” I was surprised at this, because I thought it an indiscretion and a departure from the dignity. I was a little embarrassed, but determined not to deny the truth on one hand, nor leave him to infer from it any attachment to England on the other. I threw off as much gravity as I could, and assumed an air of gayety and a tone of decision as far as was decent, and said, “that opinion, sir, is not mistaken; I must avow to your Majesty, I have no attachment but to my own country.” The King replied, as quick as lightning, “an honest man will never have any other.”
The King then said a word or two to the secretary of state, which, being between them, I did not hear, and then turned round and bowed to me, as is customary with all kings and princes when they give the signal to retire. I retreated, stepping backward, as is the etiquette, and, making my last reverence at the door of the chamber, I went my way. The master of the ceremonies joined me the moment of my coming out of the King’s closet, and accompanied me through the apartments down to my carriage, several stages of servants, gentlemen-porters and under-porters, roaring out like thunder, as I went along, “Mr. Adams’s servants, Mr. Adams’s carriage, &c.” I have been thus minute, as it may be useful to others hereafter to know.
The conversation with the King congress will form their own judgment of. I may expect from it a residence less painful than I once expected, as so marked an attention from the King will silence many grumblers; but we can infer nothing from all this concerning the success of my mission.
There are a train of other ceremonies yet to go through, in presentations to the Queen, and visits to and from ministers and ambassadors, which will take up much time, and interrupt me in my endeavors to obtain all that I have at heart,—the objects of my instructions. It is thus the essence of things is lost in ceremony in every country of Europe. We must submit to what we cannot alter. Patience is the only remedy.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Bath Hotel, Westminster, 6 June, 1785.
Colonel Smith, on the 3d of this month, informed me that Colonel Forrest had been with him, in behalf of two gentlemen of Glasgow,—Mr. Colquhoun, Provost of that city, and Mr. Alexander Brown,—who were deputed by the merchants of that place who had debts in America, to confer with the creditors in London concerning an application to ministry and parliament to obtain their interposition for the recovery of their claims, but that, having heard of the appointment of a minister to this Court, and of my arrival, they were desirous of seeing me. I desired Colonel Smith to inform them that I should be glad to see them the next morning. Accordingly, on the 4th, they came, and Mr. Colquhoun informed me of his errand, and said he was very glad that congress had appointed a minister, because he hoped that the article of debts would now be accommodated to mutual satisfaction, without any application on their part, and he should be glad to return to Scotland without making any, provided he could be furnished with a reasonable account to give of himself to his constituents.
I told him I was obliged to him for having given me an opportunity to see him; that the merchants of Glasgow must be sensible we were but just emerged from an impoverishing war, in which there had been a great interruption of agriculture and commerce, and a still greater destruction of property, which rendered it difficult for any debtor, and impossible for many, to discharge their debts forthwith; that I was persuaded there was a general disposition to discharge the debts as fast as it could be done, but that time and patience were as much for the interest of the creditors as the debtors; that if there had been any interposition of the governments in America, it had been, as I presumed, solely with a view of giving time to negotiate an explication of the article of the treaty, and to prevent the imprudence of hasty creditors from hurting themselves as well as the debtors, to no good end; that one principal object of my mission was to negotiate this affair with the minister, and, although I was not authorized by the debtors, and could not be impowered by congress to treat with the merchants of London and Glasgow, they might depend upon my devoting a full proportion of my time to this subject with the ministry, and should be always ready to hear any proposals, explanations, or arguments, even from individuals, and to transmit them to congress, if they were such as merited attention; that it was thought very hard and unreasonable in America, that interest should be insisted on during the war, and that if the creditors could be brought to consent to relinquish it, and that a reasonable time should be allowed, I thought the whole might be arranged to mutual benefit and satisfaction; that creditors should consider that there was a great demand for clothing, stock, and utensils, to repair the waste of war, and to put estates into a condition to produce, and to set commerce in motion; that this, together with the zeal to pay as much of their debts as possible, had already raised the interest of money even to an alarming height; that it must be better to allow the debtor time to turn himself, that he might pay all, rather than press him suddenly, so that he might not be able to pay more than a part; that if property were seized upon now, it might not produce half its value, whereas, left in the hands of the present possessor, it would enable him to employ it to such advantage as to pay his debts in time.
Mr. Colquhoun made no particular reply to the subject of interest, but said the merchants of Glasgow were fully sensible of the circumstances I had mentioned, and were very willing to wait, and they were desirous of entering into some agreement that the debts should be paid in five years by instalments, one fifth in a year; but they were alarmed at the spirit of migration into the wilderness of America; they thought it wrong to be restrained from arresting the person or attaching property of a debtor whom they saw about to remove to Kentucky and other places, where they could never be come at. I told him, that this was new to me; but that Kentucky and all other new settlements were under the laws and jurisdiction of some State, as I supposed, and, therefore, the debtor and his property would be within the reach of the creditor as much as if he remained in the cities and old settlements; and, as those removals commonly advanced the fortune of the emigrant, it might be rather a benefit to his creditors, by increasing the ability to pay. I subjoined that there were two things which fell very hard upon the debtors in the States of Virginia and New York (for he had mentioned these particularly). One was, the great number of negroes which had been carried away. If these negroes had been restored according to the treaty, they would have been at work to earn money to pay their master’s debts, but the carrying them off was a double loss to the owner; and the holding possession of the posts upon the frontiers had kept out of our hands a valuable trade, which would have gone a great way to enable us to pay our debts.
He said he thought it a very foolish thing to hold possession of the posts, &c.; that he would venture to return to Scotland, and would take no more measures about applying to parliament, which he was sensible must excite a clamor; and he hoped the merchants of Glasgow would be contented to wait. He seemed to be well pleased with the conversation, and took his leave in good humor, so that I think it very lucky that so noisy a business as a petition to parliament should be so easily diverted at this critical moment.
But I am unfortunate in another respect, as my Lord Carmarthen is ill of a fever, so that I shall not, I fear, be able to commence conferences with him upon business so soon as hoped. No time shall be lost by me.
With great and sincere esteem, &c.
M. DUMAS TO JOHN ADAMS.
La Haie, 7 Juin, 1785.
Je me vois honoré des vôtres du 11, 18, et 29 Mai. Je sens l’incongruité qu’il y auroit à venir prendre congé sans lettres de rappel, et j’ai soin de la faire sentir aussi à tous ceux qui m’en parlent. J’espère que M. Franklin conservera autant de vigueur de corps, qu’il en montre d’esprit en s’embarquant à 80 ans.
Je serois bien aise que vous eussiez la bonté de me marquer la conduite que vous désirez, monsieur, que je tienne avec Sir James Harris quand il reviendra ici. Lorsqu’il vint déployer son caractère, il fit annoncer son arrivée à tous, grands et petits; mais il ne fit rien dire ni à l’hôtel des États Unis ni chez moi. J’en conclus alors, que nous devions être comme deux paralleles qui, étant prolongées dans une même direction, ne se touchent jamais. Mais comme ceci ne regarde que le besoin personnel que nous ne pouvons avoir l’un de l’autre, je suis prêt, toutes les fois que le service des États Unis en profiteroit, à aller chez lui lorsque vous le souhaiterez.
Quant aux affaires de la République externes, elles continuent de traîner en longueur. Les internes sont poussées avec plus de vigueur. Vendredi il y a eu une résolution, quant à Rotterdam, fort désagréable au statdholder et ses créatures, et une proposition d’Amsterdam, rendue tout de suite commissoriale, encore plus alarmante pour lui. Sa commission de capitaine-général lui donne le commandement, mais non la direction, de l’armée. Il s’étoit emparé de la dernière, comme de bien d’autres choses. Il y a tout à parier que dans peu il sera mis ordre à cela. Les affaires dans l’empire sont dans une crise, dont je pourrai peut-être bientôt vous apprendre le développement, &c. &c.
P. S. J’allois faire partir cette lettre, lorsqu’un ami, au sortir de l’assemblée de Leur Hautes Puissances, dont il est membre, est venu amicalement et confidentiellement m’avertir, que L. H. P. ont reçu de Londres la nouvelle de l’audience et présentation de V. E. comme ministre des États Unis près de sa Majesté Brittanique; que cette démarche a étonné et blessé L. H. P.; qu’on a trouvé que ce n’est ni décent, ni dans l’ordre, d’envoyer et accréditer un ministre accrédité près d’une puissance, sans en donner connoissance ni explication à celle-ci, chez une autre puissance; qu’on a cité à cette occasion, dans l’assemblée, un Roi de Suède, qui prit un pareil procédé pour affront et hostilité; que dans les débats que cela a occasionnés, quelques bien intentionnés et modérés (entre autres, l’ami, que je vous ferai connoître dans la suite) ont opiné de charger M. Fagel de m’entretenir là-dessus, et d’ajuster l’affaire avec moi de manière que L. H. P. eussent contentement; mais que le sentiment d’autres, aisés à deviner, a prévalu, savoir, de faire écrire directement à leur ministre à Londres, pour savoir si M. Adams, qui vient d’avoir audience, &c. près de sa Majesté Brittannique, étoit le même qui se trouvoit toujours accrédité chez eux, ou un autre de même nom. On m’a fait part de tout cela expressément pour vous l’apprendre sans délai; et l’on est d’avis que la chose pourroit peut-être se raccommoder encore, sans un éclat désagréable et à V. E. et au congrès, si vous écriviez et faisiez présenter incessamment une lettre à L. H. P. où vous leur exposeriez votre cas, et les raisons propres à disculper le congrès. Je m’acquitte fort à la hâte. De votre excellence le susdit
C. W. F. Dumas.
M. DUMAS TO JOHN ADAMS.
La Haie, 8 Juin, 1785.
J’ai la satisfaction de pouvoir vous annoncer que tout est à peu près raccommodé. Je dis, à peu près; car il faudra toujours écrire, le plutôt le mieux, a Leur Hautes Puissances la lettre en question, où vous leur exposerez le cas. La résolution avoit passé hier, comme j’ai eu l’honneur de vous le mander. Mais comme la résomption devoit s’en faire aujourd’hui avant d’être arrêtée, on revint un peu à la proposition des modérés, d’avoir une explication avec moi. En conséquence M. Fagel m’a envoyé prier ce matin de passer chez lui a dix heures; ce qu’ayant fait, il m’a exposé la sensibilité de L. H. P., et demandé si M. Adams, accrédité et admis tout récemment auprès de sa Majesté Britannique, étoit le même qui étoit accrédité auprès d’eux. Je l’ai prié de me dire, s’il me faisoit la question comme M. Fagel, ou comme M. le Greffier. Il m’a dit, j’ai ordre de vous le demander de la part de L. H. P. J’ai donc, lui ai je dit, un double et triple motif de vous dire la vérité; la voici en trois mots. C’est le même. J’ai poursuivi, qu’il m’étoit aisé de vous justifier provisionellement, en attendant que vous le fissiez vous-même par lettre à L. H. P.; et làdessus je lui ai lu ce que vous m’avez fait l’honneur de me dire sur ce sujet dans vos lettres de Paris du 11 et du 18 Mai. Il a été très content de la manière dont vous exprimez votre embarras dans les deux passages, en ajoutant; “J’ai bien dit que M. Adams étoit honnête, et incapable de manquer à L. H. P. Je vous prie de lui faire mes complimens, et de l’assurer de mes sentimens d’estime et d’amitié pour lui.” Je lui ai lu ensuite ce qu’il convenoit de la minute de mon susdit postscrit, qu’il a approuvé. Il m’a dit alors, qu’il avoit écrit hier provisionellement à M. de Linde, de s’informer; mais que L. H. P. avoient trouvé bon, au lieu d’arrêter une résolution, de prendre la chose ad notam; en d’autres termes, de la rendre commissoriale, si les explications que je pourrai donner se trouvoient satisfaisantes; ce dont il ne doutoit pas, si je voulois lui donner extrait de ces lettres, pour le produire immédiatement à l’assemblée. Comme le temps étoit court, et qu’il n’y avoit rien d’ailleurs dans les deux lettres, qui ne pût être vu d’un chacun, j’ai pris le parti de lui confier les originaux (ce que M. de Verac, à qui je l’ai raconté, a approuvé). Il me les renverra.
J’ai couru delà à un autre bout de la ville, instruire l’ami d’hier, qui alloit sortir pour se rendre à l’assemblée. Mon attention lui a fait plaisir. Après diner j’ai appris que la prise ad notam a eu lieu. M. Fagel m’a dit aussi, que le Roi de Suède en question étoit celui d’aujourd’hui; le ministre dont il se croyoit offensé, M. de Linde actuellement à Londres; et celui qui cita ce trait hier à l’assemblée, M. son père, de Blitterswyck. Il m’a dit aussi que quelques têtes chaudes avoient opiné de rappeler M. Van Berckel.
La proposition d’Amsterdam, dont je vous ai parlé, et un terrible mémoire de M. le Comte de Maillebois, qui l’a suivie de près, vont, selon toute apparence, produire l’établissement d’un département militaire, qui diminuera prodigieusement certaine influence.
La crise en Allemagne continue de mûrir. Je viens de déchiffrer une lettre interessante là-dessus. Mais ceci fort entre nous.
P. S. du 10e Juin. M. le Greffier Fagel, en me rendant ce matin les deux lettres susdites, m’a dit, que l’éponge est passée sur toute cette affaire, et que L. H. P. ont ordonné de la rayer même des notes. Cela vous rendra, monsieur, la lettre de politesse, qu’il est toujours et d’autant plus à propos d’écrire, encore plus aisée.
C. W. F. Dumas.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Bath Hotel, Westminster, 10 June, 1785.
Yesterday, the 9th of the month, I was presented to the Queen by my Lord Ailesbury, her lord-chamberlain, having been attended to his Lordship and introduced to him by the master of the ceremonies. The Queen was attended by her ladies, and I made my compliments to her Majesty in the following words:—
“Madam,—Among the many circumstances which have rendered my mission to his Majesty desirable to me, I have ever considered it as a principal one, that I should have an opportunity of making my court to a great Queen, whose royal virtues and talents have ever been acknowledged and admired in America, as well as in all the nations of Europe, as an example to princesses and the glory of her sex. Permit me, madam, to recommend to your Majesty’s royal goodness a rising empire and an infant virgin world. Another Europe, madam, is rising in America. To a philosophical mind, like your Majesty’s, there cannot be a more pleasing contemplation, than the prospect of doubling the human species, and augmenting, at the same time, their prosperity and happiness. It will, in future ages, be the glory of these kingdoms to have peopled that country, and to have sown there those seeds of science, of liberty, of virtue, and permit me, madam, to add, of piety, which alone constitute the prosperity of nations and the happiness of the human race.
“After venturing upon such high insinuations to your Majesty, it seems to be descending too far to ask, as I do, your Majesty’s royal indulgence to a person who is indeed unqualified for courts, and who owes his elevation to this distinguished honor of standing before your Majesty, not to any circumstances of illustrious birth, fortune, or abilities, but merely to an ardent devotion to his native country, and some little industry and perseverance in her service.”
The Queen answered me in these words:—“I thank you, sir, for your civilities to me and my family, and am glad to see you in this country.”
The Queen then asked me if I had provided myself with a house. I answered, I have agreed for one, madam, this morning. She then made her courtesy, and I made my reverence and retired into the drawing-room, where the King, Queen, Princess Royal, and the younger princess, her sister, all spoke to me very obligingly. I attended until the drawing-room was over, and then returned home.
It has been necessary, in order to guard against false reports and malicious fictions, to reduce to writing what was said in my audiences of the King and Queen, and it is the custom of all ministers to transmit these compliments to their Courts. I transmit them to you in cipher, that they may be exposed to as little criticism as possible.
As the Court knew very well that the eyes of all nations were fixed upon these audiences, it may be fairly concluded from them, that it is the intention of the royal family and of ministers to treat America like other foreign powers; but our inferences can go no farther. We cannot infer from this, that they will relax their navigation act for us, any more than for France. We are sure of one thing, that a navigation act is in our power, as well as in theirs, and that ours will be more hurtful to them than theirs to us. In short, it is scarcely possible to calculate to what a height of naval power a navigation act would raise the United States in a few years.
With great esteem, &c.
TO M. FAGEL.
London, 10 June, 1785.
I have the honor to inform you that I have received from congress a letter of credence to his Britannic Majesty as minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, and that I have had the honor of presenting that letter to his Majesty, and of being received in that character.
I have received, too, authentic information that congress have resolved that it is expedient to appoint a minister to succeed me at the Hague; but I have not received my letter of recall, nor news of the actual appointment of a successor. This, sir, is the only reason why I did not, and could not, come to the Hague, and take a formal leave of their High Mightinesses and of his Most Serene Highness, as I wished. It is still my intention to come, or to take leave, by a respectful letter, whenever my letter of recall shall arrive, or a successor.
My being appointed to other service upon this occasion is no new thing. I was, last August, received at the Court of Versailles, as minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America to his Most Christian Majesty, which was never considered, any more than intended, as any failure of respect to the Republic. For myself and for my country I know that respect, esteem, and affection to the Republic is engraven on all our hearts.
I beg, then, the favor of your advice, if you think it proper and necessary for me to take any farther steps upon this occasion before my letter of recall, or my successor, shall arrive.
With great esteem, &c.
M. FAGEL TO JOHN ADAMS.
La Haie, 14 Juin, 1785.
Je viens de recevoir la lettre dont vous m’avez honoré le 10 de ce mois. Je considère comme une marque particulière de l’estime que vos merites vous ont acquis, que le congrès vous a nommé pour leur ministre plénipotentiaire auprès de sa Majesté Britannique; et je suis fâché que nous perdons par là la résidence d’une personne, qui s’est rendu très agréable chez nous, et qui par ses manières honnêtes se seroit rendu de plus en plus estimable. Il faut espérer que celui qui vous succedera aura les mêmes bonnes qualités. Je ne saurois vous déguiser qu’on a fait quelques réflexions ici sur ce que vous aviez remis vos lettres de créance au Roi d’Angleterre, avant que d’avoir présenté vos lettres de rappel aux états-généraux. J’ai même été chargé d’en entretenir M. Dumas, votre sécrétaire, qui m’en a donné telle explication, que, sur le rapport que j’en ai fait à l’assemblé, on a cru devoir s’en contenter.
Lorsque vous recevrez vos lettres de rappel, ce ne pourra être que très agréable à leurs Hautes Puissances que vous les présentiez en personne. Si les circonstances de vos affaires ne le permettent point, il suffira de le faire par un mémoire adressé aux états-généraux. Vous pouvez être persuadé, monsieur, que la réponse que leurs H. P. y feront, ne servira qu’a témoigner leur égard pour le congrès, et leur désir de cimenter, de plus en plus, l’union et la bonne intelligence dans laquelle elles ont le bonheur de vivre avec eux.
J’ai l’honneur d’être, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Westminster, 17 June, 1785.
At three o’clock, according to appointment, I went to the secretary of state’s office in Cleveland Row, St. James’s, and was immediately received by the Marquis of Carmarthen.
His Lordship began the conversation, by saying that he could answer for himself, and he believed for the rest of the King’s servants, that they were sincerely desirous of cultivating the most cordial friendship with America, and of doing every thing in their power for dissipating every little animosity that might remain among individuals. In return, I told his Lordship that I was glad to hear such assurances from him and the other ministers, that I was very confident that the people of the United States had correspondent dispositions, and that I had sanguine hopes that in a short time all remaining difficulties would be amicably settled; that, to this end, I was charged by congress with several particulars which had hitherto given some uneasiness, but which, upon a candid discussion, might be easily accommodated, as I hoped, to mutual satisfaction; that there were six principal points to be discussed with his Lordship. The first, and perhaps the most pressing, was the posts and territories within the limits of the United States, which were still held by British garrisons; the exportation of negroes and other American property, which, by the seventh article of the treaty of peace, was not to be exported; the tendency of the restrictions on our trade to incapacitate our merchants to make remittances to theirs; the losses of our merchants as well as theirs, if we were uneasonably pressed for the payment of debts contracted before the war; the construction of the armistice of 20th January, 1783, and the decision of questions of captures made after the expiration of the month; and the liquidation of the charges of prisoners of war. These were the general heads. The great question of the commerce between the countries, involving so many interests, and those of so important and so permanent a nature, might be attended with the most difficulties, and require the longest time to be adjusted; but all the others appeared to be so clear and easy, that I hoped they might soon be finished; that, however, having barely opened to his Lordship the principal matters of negotiation, I should not enlarge upon all of them at present. That the debts seemed to be a leading point, because they were intimately connected with all the others. The withholding the posts, the exportation of so many negroes, the restrictions on our trade, the misconstruction of the armistice, and the delay of liquidating the charges of prisoners, had all contributed very much to obstruct our merchants in their honest exertions to discharge their debts to the merchants of Great Britain; that it could not be unknown to his Lordship, that the withholding the posts had withheld from our merchants a very profitable fur trade which we justly considered as our right; that the furs which would have been obtained, if the posts had been in our hands, would have come to England in payment of debts to the amount probably of several hundred thousand pounds; and his Lordship must be sensible that one hundred thousand pounds a year more would have gone a great way towards contenting the creditors of this country; that it was impossible to say what a difference had been made by carrying away the negroes which belonged chiefly to the Southern States, and, if the treaty had been observed, would have been at work on their master’s plantations, so that not only their original value, but their labor and the profit upon their labor had been lost, all of which might and ought to have been applied to the payment of debts; that it was well known that a number of valuable vessels had been taken upon the coast of America, after the expiration of the month, and as yet withheld from the owners, who were all probably debtors, which had incapacitated them so far to pay; that there was supposed to be a large balance in our favor in the account of the charges of prisoners, which being withheld, operated still to disable us on that account to do as we desired to do; that from all that I might be supposed to know of the character of the people of the United States, and from all the intelligence I could gather from all parts of them, I was persuaded that nothing lay with greater weight upon their minds than the payment of their debts; that they thought their moral characters, and their reputations as men, as well as their credit as merchants, concerned in it; that their zeal to make remittances had been such as to raise the interest of money to double its usual standard, to advance the price of bills of exchange to eight or ten per cent. above par, and to raise even the prices of the produce of the country to almost double its usual standard; that his Lordship well knew we had no other mines of gold and silver than our lands and seas; that large sums of the circulating cash we had, had been remitted to England in specie, and as much produce as could be purchased at almost any rate, but that this produce lay in magazines in London, because it would not fetch the price that was given for it in America; that the people of America were, nineteen twentieths of them, farmers; that these had sold their produce dearer, and purchased the manufactures of Europe cheaper, since the peace, than ever; but that the situation of the merchants both in America and in England, had been, and continued to be, very distressing. No political arrangements having been made, they had all expected that the trade would return to its old channels, and nearly under the same regulations; but they had been disappointed; British merchants had made large advances, and American merchants contracted large debts, both depending upon remittances in the usual articles and upon the old terms, but both had found themselves disappointed, and it was much to be feared that the consequence would be numerous failures; that the cash and bills had been chiefly remitted to the great loss and damage to the country; that remittances could not be made as heretofore, by reason of obstructions, restrictions, and imposts laid by Great Britain on our exports to Great Britain; that neither rice, tobacco, pitch, tar, turpentine, ships, oil, nor other articles, the great sources of remittances formerly, could now be sent as heretofore, and the trade of the West Indies, formerly a vast source of remittance, was now obstructed; that, under all these circumstances, if the debtor should be immediately pressed by his British creditor, it would be a certain loss to both; that it was apprehended, among a number of creditors, there might be some, perhaps many, influenced by strong passions, by keen avidity, or by personal resentment, who might rashly make use of the law to the ruin of the debtor, without being able, however, to recover much of his debt.
Here his Lordship interrupted me, and said, I have seen one remarkable instance of the violence and unreasonableness of private resentment, when Mr. Chase was here from Maryland, in one of the trustees of the Maryland stock. Mr. Chase produced from the legislature of Maryland authority to make full compensation to a relation of that trustee for an estate that had been confiscated, but he would not accept it, though I told him he would not be able to prevent the claim of Maryland, but would probably hurt his own interest, or that of his relations. I told his Lordship I had yesterday received a letter from Mr. Paca, the governor of Maryland, relative to the claim of that State, and should be glad to do them any service with his Lordship or elsewhere, respecting that affair; that if his Lordship gave their full weight to all these considerations, he must see the motives and the necessity of restraining the impetuosity of creditors. His Lordship then read me, from a late petition to him from the merchants, an account of a bill lately brought into the assembly of Virginia, for paying the debts by instalments, which he understood had been lost by a sudden storm or frost. The merchants complained of the cutting off the interest during the war, for the long term of seven years, and of the restraint from preventing the alienation of property, or removal of debtors into the wilderness.
His Lordship heard me very attentively, and said that he hoped we should be able with patience and time to adjust all these things; that we should probably meet with many rubs in our way; that passion and private interest would sometimes be in our way on both sides; but while the ministers on both sides could keep right, he should think we might succeed; for his part, he was for attending to every consideration, and giving it its just weight, and he desired me to give him in writing something to begin upon. He thought the affair of the posts the most pressing, and wished I would begin with that. I told his Lordship that I would let him know, between him and me, that I had instructions to require the evacuation of the posts and surrender of all our territory, but I wished to conduct the business with all the delicacy that was possible, and, therefore, I wished rather to inquire of his Lordship what were the intentions of his Majesty’s ministers, and whether they had already expedited orders for the evacuation of the posts, &c. His Lordship said I must give him my inquiries in writing, that he might have a ground for making those inquiries himself, as it was an affair in another department. I agreed accordingly to make an office of it.
I shall at first confine myself to decent inquiries concerning the orders given or to be given, and if I receive positive assurances that explicit orders are gone to the governor and commander-in-chief in Canada to evacuate all the posts and territories, I shall content myself to wait; but if I do not obtain such explicit assurances, I shall think it my duty to present a memorial with a decent but firm requisition. I shall transmit to you, sir, every step of my progress; but I find it very tedious, and fear you will find it more so, to transmit particular circumstances in detail; when one looks over again a letter in which he has attempted it, he finds a multitude of things omitted, or but half represented.
With great esteem, &c.
P. S. I forgot one circumstance of some consequence. His Lordship said he had seen in the gazettes some proceedings at Boston which he was very sorry to see. I answered that I had seen them in the same gazettes, as I supposed, and had no more authentic account of them; that I had no authority to say any thing officially about them, but, as an individual, I might say that the observations I just had the honor to make to his Lordship, concerning the state of the commerce between the two countries, would be sufficient to explain to his Lordship the motives to those proceedings, and to convince his Lordship of the probability of such sentiments and proceedings becoming general throughout the United States, and alienating the commerce of that country from this, either by increasing manufactures in America, or opening new channels of commerce with other countries, which might easily be done, unless some arrangements were made which might facilitate remittances. It was so obviously the true policy of this country to facilitate remittances from America, and to encourage every thing we could send (as the Americans think), that when they find remittances discouraged, impeded, and even prohibited, it was natural to expect they would be alarmed, and begin to look out for other resources; that my fellow-citizens were very confident they had the power in their own hands to do themselves justice, as soon as they should find it denied them here; but I hoped the difficulties would all be removed here.
The whole conference was conducted with perfect good humor, and, on the part of his Lordship, with perfect politeness.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Bath Hotel, Westminster, 26 June, 1785.
By the ninth article of the confederation, the United States, in congress assembled, have the sole and exclusive right and power of entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective States shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever.
I have ventured, sir, in some former letters to you, notwithstanding the delicacy of tampering with the confederation, to suggest to your consideration, whether it may not be necessary for the States to reconsider this proviso, and give to congress unlimited authority to enter into treaties of commerce with foreign powers, at least for a limited term of years. I have also inquired, whether it might not be necessary for the States to confer upon congress authority to regulate the external commerce of all the members of the confederation for a like term of years.
If the States should hesitate at this, I am persuaded they would readily comply with recommendations of congress to this effect. For example, if congress should recommend to the legislatures of the States to lay duties, heavy duties, upon all British vessels entering into or clearing out of their ports, especially upon all vessels coming from or bound to the West India Islands, Nova Scotia, Canada, or Newfoundland, and upon all merchandises imported from, or exported to, any part of the British dominions, I can scarcely doubt that every legislature would immediately comply; and by this means our own navigation would be encouraged, and the British discouraged to such a degree as to compel the British government to enter into an equitable treaty; nay, I cannot doubt the readiness of the States to comply with a recommendation of congress wholly to prohibit British vessels and merchandises.
Although I have been received here, and continue to be treated, with all the distinction which is due to the rank and title you have given me, there is, nevertheless, a reserve, which convinces me that we shall have no treaty of commerce until this nation is made to feel the necessity of it. I am every day astonished at the ignorance of all ranks of people of the relation between this country and ours. “Cui bono?” they cry, “to what end a treaty of commerce, when we are sure of as much American trade as we have occasion for, without it? The experiment has been tried, and the Americans have found that they cannot supply themselves elsewhere; there must be quīd pro quo; and what have the United States to give in exchange for the liberty of going in their own ships to our sugar colonies and our colonies upon the continent?” These smart reasoners are answered, “The Americans allow Britons to come in their own vessels to all their ports in the United States, and this is more than a quid for your quo. This is the true reciprocity; and while we allow you this liberty, we have a right to demand it in return.”
“But,” replies the Briton, “you cannot avoid this; you have no government; you cannot agree to prohibit our ships and goods, or to lay duties on them.” “Then,” says the American, “you give up the argument of reciprocity; you confess that you are not willing to allow us a quid for your quo, and that you are disposed to take advantage of our supposed disunion to get unequal benefits from us; but you will find yourselves disappointed in this disunion that you build so much upon. Nothing but too much good nature to you, and too high an opinion of your wisdom, has prevented the States hitherto from uniting in a reciprocal discouragement of your ships and goods; but when the Americans find themselves deceived, you will soon see them too much united for your purposes.”
Such have been the dialogues in conversation for a year or two, and these ignorant sophisms of the Britons will never be confuted to any effect, until vigorous measures are taken by all the States in concert. Whatever measures are taken, I should recommend them to be taken upon this express proviso, to continue in force only until things shall be otherwise settled by a treaty of commerce.
I receive sometimes unexpected visits from persons, who, I suppose, are sent on purpose to say things to me, which they wish no doubt to have transmitted to you. Since the appearance of the resolutions of the merchants, traders, and mechanics of Boston, I have several times fallen into company with persons, whose connections I knew, and who have assumed very grave faces, and inquired about the disturbances at Boston, as they call them, and given very sage hints of their fears, that those proceedings would obstruct my success. A few days since, my servant announced Lord Hood would be glad to see me, if I was at leisure. I desired his Lordship might walk up. I was surprised, that among so many visits of ceremony, his Lordship should not be content with leaving his card. But in the year 1768, I had appeared before him, then Commodore Hood, in a special court of admiralty, for the trial of four sailors for killing Lieutenant Panton in defending themselves from his press-gang; his Lordship took advantage of this very transient acquaintance of seventeen years standing, to make me a friendly visit; he soon began a conversation about the Boston proceedings; it is not necessary to repeat what was said, as it was of no consequence for you to know, excepting that his Lordship was very sorry to see the account of those proceedings; was very much afraid they would obstruct the return of friendship, and prove a bar to what he wished to see,—a good treaty of commerce. I told his Lordship that those proceedings were prefaced with, “whereas there is no treaty of commerce,” and, as I understood them, they were not to be in force any longer than there should be no treaty of commerce. His Lordship concluded by saying, that the sooner such a treaty was made, the better. I had no doubt, then, and have been confirmed by others since in the opinion, that his Lordship did not come of his own head.
All parties are upon the reserve respecting American affairs; they are afraid of each other; and it is my clear opinion, that it is congress and the States, and they alone, who can enable me to do any thing effectual; I may reason till I die, to no purpose. It is unanimity in America in measures, which shall confute the British sophisms and make them feel, which will ever produce a fair treaty of commerce.
With great esteem, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS OF CARMARTHEN.
Grosvenor Square, 14 July, 1785.
The twenty-second article of the preliminary treaty of peace between Great Britain and France, signed on the 20th of January, 1783, is in these words, namely—“In order to prevent all causes of complaint and dispute which may arise on account of prizes that may be taken at sea, after the signing of these preliminary articles, it is reciprocally agreed that the vessels and effects which may be taken in the channel and in the north seas, after the space of twelve days, to be computed from the ratification of those preliminary articles, shall be restored on each side. That the term shall be one month from the channel and the north seas, as far as the Canary Islands inclusively, whether in the ocean or in the Mediterranean; five months from the said Canary Islands as far as the said equinoctial line or equator; and, lastly, five months in all other parts of the world, without any exception or any other distinction more particular of time and place.”
In the preliminary articles of peace between Great Britain and Spain, a cessation of hostilities was stipulated in the same manner. On the same 20th of January, it was agreed between the minister plenipotentiary of his Britannic Majesty on the one part, and the ministers plenipotentiary of the United States of America on the other, that the subjects, citizens, and possessions of both powers should be comprised in the suspension of arms above mentioned, and that they should consequently enjoy the benefits of the cessation of hostilities at the same periods and in the same manner as the three crowns aforesaid, and their subjects and possessions respectively. It appears, however, that many vessels which were taken after the expiration of one month from the 3d of February, 1783, the day of the ratification of the said preliminary articles, within that part of the ocean which lies between the channel and north seas and the Canary Islands, have not been restored; but, on the contrary, in some instances, such vessels have been condemned as lawful prizes, upon an opinion that the words “as far as,” said to be used in the preliminary articles, meant the distance from Paris to the southernmost part of the Canaries.
It must be obvious to your Lordship, that this construction is extremely foreign from the intention of the contracting parties, who never had Paris in contemplation as a boundary of the region of one month, nor as any limit of a measure of distance; the channel and north seas being expressly marked as the northern boundary, and the southernmost Canary as the southern, and every part of the ocean, from the channel and north seas, up to the Canary Islands, inclusively, is comprehended.
Indeed, the words “as far as,” are scarcely a proper translation of the words “jusqu’aux,” in the article of the treaty. The original words are “depuis la Manche et les Mers du nord jusqu’aux Isles Canaries,” and not “depuis Paris jusqu’aux Isles,” &c., &c.
The intention of the contracting parties is so clear, and their expression so plain, that it is not easy to account for the misinterpretation of them; but, as many lawsuits are depending upon the point, and several Americans are now in London waiting the decision of them, I do myself the honor to propose to your Lordship a particular convention to determine all these controversies on both sides, by inserting the words “jusqu’à la latitude des Isles Canaries,” instead of “jusqu’aux Isles Canaries,” and also the words “depuis la latitude des dites Isles Canaries,” instead of “depuis les dites Isles Canaries,” it being apparent from the mention of the Mediterranean, as in the same stage of one month between the channel and north seas on the north, and the Canaries on the south, and of the equinoctial line as the next stage, that the line of latitude of the southern Canary was intended.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 18 July, 1785.
Your favors of June 22 and July 7 and 11, are before me.1 The delay of Mr. Lamb’s arrival is unfortunate; but I think with you, that the sooner a project of treaties is prepared, the better, and I will give the earliest attention to it whenever you shall send it. I shall go this morning to Stock-dale, to talk with him about sending you the newspapers and pamphlets through the channel of Cleveland Row; that is, Lord Carmarthen’s office.
I agree with pleasure to the appointment made by the Doctor and you, of Mr. Short, to carry the treaty through London to the Hague, and in joining Dumas with him in making the exchange. A letter to him, and another to Mr. Dumas, signed by you and me, as the Doctor is gone, would be sufficient authority. But I should have no objection to giving each of them a more formal commission, under our hands and seals, to be our secretaries, especially pro hâc vice. He must carry our original commission to show to the Baron de Thulemeier, and a copy of it attested by Colonel Humphreys to deliver him; and Mr. Dumas and he should see the Prussian commission, and receive an attested copy of that. I do not think of any other papers necessary.
I have given to Lord Carmarthen, long ago, an explanation of the power of congress to form treaties of commerce, exactly conformable to that which you gave the English gentleman; but I did not extend it to the case of consuls. He asked me no questions concerning consuls, and I did not think it proper for me to say any thing on that subject, not having any instructions. But I am not easy on that head. Mr. Temple talks of going out in three or four weeks, but I am very apprehensive he will meet with the difficulties you foresee.
(The rest in Cipher, and kept secret.)
I do not like the symptoms. Galloway, Deane, Chalmers, Watson, are too much in favor. The lottery for the tories, although perhaps in part inevitable, has been introduced with such pompous demonstrations of affection and approbation as are neither wise nor honest. There is too much attention to the navy; and there is another step which alarms my apprehensions. Hanover is joining Prussia, against the views of the two Imperial Courts, at least in Bavaria. Keep this as secret as the grave, but search it to the bottom among the foreign ministers where you are. Does this indicate a doubt whether our business with De Thulemeier may be delayed? Does it indicate a design in the British cabinet to be neutral, in order to be more at leisure to deal with us? Can it be a secret understanding between St. James’s and Versailles? The design of ruining, if they can, our carrying trade, and annihilating all our navigation and seamen, is too apparent.
Yours, most sincerely,
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 19 July, 1785.
Give me leave to propose for your consideration, and to request you to submit to the decision of congress, whether it would not be proper that some measures should be taken to furnish your ministers abroad with the laws of the several States, and more especially with such laws as may have a relation to external commerce or any other foreign affair.
Information of this kind will be wanted at every Court, but more particularly here, and at this critical period. Our fellow-citizens here, from all the States, have been very civil to me, in furnishing me with all the lights in their power, and this will ever be the case, it is to be hoped, wherever you have a minister; yet all the lights which individuals abroad can furnish, will be imperfect, though ever so carefully collected by a minister, without the continual assistance of congress and the States. I have been lately obliged to a fellow-citizen, Captain C. Miller, for the laws of New York, of the second meeting of the eighth session of the legislature, among which, to my great satisfaction, I find the United States in congress assembled vested for fifteen years with powers to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise from being imported into, or exported from, any of the United States, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by, the subjects of any power with whom these States shall not have formed treaties of commerce; and also with power of prohibiting the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, unless authorized by treaty, from importing into the United States any goods, wares, or merchandise which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are.
I read this act with pleasure, because it is very nearly all that is wanting. The legislature of New York have avoided giving to the United States the power of imposing equalizing or retaliating duties, and I cannot say that they are not right in this, although it is very probable such duties will be indispensable. Such duties, if laid by any State, should be laid by all; and if the States will, in such cases, respect the recommendations of congress, this may be sufficient. If we enter into treaty with England, how shall we manage this subject? Shall we stipulate that Britain shall pay in our ports no higher duties than the most favored nations shall pay, in return for her stipulating that Americans shall pay in her ports no higher duties than the most favored nation pays? This would be unequal, because the most favored nation pays in British ports much greater imposts, than the nation the most favored by the United States pays in our ports. If we enter into such a stipulation, the consequence will be, that, in order to form an equality, we must impose enormous duties, not only upon British subjects, but upon all other nations. For example, the most favored nation pays in England upon oil eighteen pounds three shillings sterling per ton. If we attempt to equalize and retaliate, we must lay on the amount of this upon the importation of goods from all other nations, a measure that may be very inconvenient to us. Should we not then endeavor to obtain a stipulation that Americans shall pay, in British ports, no higher duties than British subjects? No doubt, to obtain this, we must stipulate that Britons shall pay, in our ports, no higher duties than our own citizens; and even this will be unequal, because that duties in general are higher in England than in America. This, however, cannot be avoided, and, as it is our felicity, we have less cause to repine at it. But, if the British ministry should refuse to go farther than the mutual privilege of the most favored nation, we shall have no remedy but in equalizing duties, which it will be absolutely necessary to lay on, in order to do ourselves justice; this cannot be done, but by a concert of all the States; if such a concert can be effected by recommendations of congress, so much the better; if it cannot, I see no other remedy but to give congress the power.
This nation relies upon it, that our States can never accomplish such a concert, either by giving congress the power, or by complying with their recommendations. Proofs of this are innumerable. Lord Sheffield’s writings, the constant strain of all the writings in the newspapers, the language of conversation, the report of the committee of council, but above all, the system adopted by the Duke of Portland’s administration, and uniformly pursued by him and his successor, Mr. Pitt, are a demonstration of it. For, although many express a contempt of the American commerce, (and I am sorry to say that even Lord Camden has lately said, that while they had a monopoly of the American trade, it was a valuable thing; but now they had not, he thought very little of it) yet those of the ministry and nations who understand any thing of the subject, know better, and build all their hopes and schemes upon the supposition of such divisions in America as will forever prevent a combination of the States, either in prohibitions or retaliating duties. It is true that the national pride is much inflated at present by the course of exchange, which is much in their favor with all parts of the world, and disposes them to think little of American commerce. They say that the progress of the fine arts in this kingdom has given to their manufacturers a taste and skill, and to their productions an elegance, cheapness, and utility, so superior to any others, that the demand for their merchandises from all parts of Europe is greater than ever; that even Lord North’s prohibitory bill has contributed to this advantage, by occasioning a demand among foreign merchants during the war, for goods to supply America. The knowledge and taste for British manufactures, they say, has been, by this means, spread all over Europe, and the demands for them multiplied, which has turned the balance so much in their favor, and caused such an extraordinary influx both of cash and bills of exchange, into these kingdoms. Those who reflect more maturely upon this, however, see that this advantage is but temporary (if it is one); they say that the long stagnation of business by the war, had filled the country with manufactures; that, upon the peace, extraordinary efforts were made to dispose of them, by sending factors abroad, not only to America, but to all parts of Europe; that these factors have not only sold their goods at a low price, but have sent home cash and bills at a high one, so that their own factors have turned their course of exchange in their favor, in appearance, and for the present moment only, at their expense, for the loss, both upon the sale of goods and the purchase of remittances, is theirs. If these conjectures are right, the present appearance of prosperity will be succeeded by numerous failures and great distress. Be this as it may, the present appearance has produced a self-sufficiency which will prevent for some time any reasonable arrangement with us.
The popular pulse seems to beat high against America. The people are deceived by numberless falsehoods industriously circulated by the gazettes and in conversation, so that there is too much reason to believe that, if this nation had another hundred millions to spend, they would soon force the ministry into a war against us. The Court itself, whatever may be thought of it, appears at present to be the principal barrier against a war, and the best disposed towards us; and whether they are restrained by any thing beside their own poverty may be justly questioned. Their present system, as far as I can penetrate it, is to maintain a determined peace with all Europe, in order that they may war singly against America, if they should think it necessary.
Their attachment to their navigation act, as well as that of all other parties here, is grown so strong, and their determination to consider us as foreigners, and to undermine our navigation, and to draw away our seamen, is so fixed, in order to prevent us from privateering, in case of a war, that I despair of any equal treaty, and, therefore, of any treaty, until they shall be made to feel the necessity of it. It cannot, therefore, be too earnestly recommended to all the States to concur with the State of New York, in giving to congress full power to make treaties of commerce, and, in short, to govern all our external commerce; for, I really believe, it must come to that. Whether prohibitions or high duties will be most politic, is a great question. Duties may be laid, which will give a clear advantage to our navigation and seamen, and these would be laid by the States, upon the recommendations of congress, no doubt, as soon as the principle is admitted, that it is necessary that our foreign commerce should be under one direction.
You will easily infer, from all this, that I have no hopes of a treaty before next spring, nor then, without the most unanimous concurrence of all our States in vigorous measures, which shall put out of all doubt their power and their will to retaliate.
With great esteem, I am, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 24 July, 1785.
I have a letter from the Baron de Thulemeier of the 19th, and a copy of his letter to you of the same date. I hope now, in a few days, to take Mr. Short by the hand in Grosvenor Square, and to put my hand to the treaty. I think no time should be lost. We will join Mr. Dumas with Mr. Short in the exchange, if you please.
The Briton’s alien’s duty is a very burdensome thing, and they may carry it hereafter as far upon tobacco, rice, indigo, and twenty other things, as they now do upon oil. To obviate this, I think of substituting the words “natural born citizens of the United States,” and “natural born subjects of Great Britain,” instead of “the most favored nation.” You remember we first proposed to offer this to all nations, but, upon my objecting that the English would make their ships French or Swedish or Dutch, &c., to avail themselves of it, without agreeing to it on their part, we altered it to the footing of gentis amicissimæ. But, if the English will now agree to it, we shall secure ourselves against many odious duties, and no ill consequence can arise. It is true the French, Dutch, Swedes, and Prussians, will, of course, claim the advantage; but, as they must in return allow us the same advantage, so much the better. Let me know, if any objection occurs to you.
There is a bill before parliament to prevent smuggling tobacco, in which the restrictions are very rigorous, but cannot be effectual. Two thirds of the tobacco consumed in this kingdom, I am told, is smuggled. How can it be otherwise, when the impost is five times the original value of the commodity? If one pound in five escapes, nothing is lost. If two in five, a great profit is made. The duty is sixteen pence a pound, and tobacco sells for three pence; yet all applications for lowering the duty are resisted.
Yours, most affectionately,
TO THE MARQUIS OF CARMARTHEN.
Grosvenor Square, 27 July, 1785.
Since the letter which I did myself the honor to write to your Lordship, relative to the construction of the armistice, I have received further information from America, which I beg leave to communicate to your Lordship.
The first judgment rendered on a mistaken interpretation of the armistice, appears to have been at New York, where all American vessels taken within the second month were condemned as lawful prize by the judge of admiralty. The fame of these decrees having reached Connecticut and Rhode Island, it is said that similar decrees were rendered by the inferior courts of admiralty there, against British vessels. There is, my Lord, a court of admiralty in each of the United States, but, by our constitution, an appeal lies from all of them to a court appointed by the United States in congress assembled, for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of capture. If the parties interested in the decrees in Connecticut and Rhode Island had appealed to the supreme court, those decrees would certainly have been reversed; because every cause which ever came before that court, upon the point in question, has been decided in favor of the British owner of the vessel; and should a declaration be now made of the true intention of the contracting parties, the British owners, against whom the decrees were rendered in Connecticut and Rhode Island, may still appeal, and have justice, if the time limited is not passed; if it is, by an application to the legislatures of those States, there is no doubt to be made, that an appeal would be granted under the present circumstances, notwithstanding the lapse of time.
The decisions in the court of admiralty of Massachusetts and all other States have been conformable to the judgment of the supreme court of appeals; that is to say, conformable to the true intention of the armistice; and it is with pleasure that I add, that the judgments of his Majesty’s court of admiralty, at Halifax, have been the same way.
The words of the armistice are supposed to be the same which have been constantly used in every treaty of peace for the last hundred years, and it is not known that there ever was, before, any doubt or difference of opinion concerning the construction of them. In order to establish confidence between the two countries, my Lord, it is necessary there should be a mutual confidence in each other’s tribunals of justice, which can hardly exist while such various interpretations are given of so plain a point, by different courts in each nation.
In order to settle all disputes upon this subject upon one principle, I have the honor to propose to your Lordship, that a declaration should be made, in the form inclosed, or to the same effect in any other form, which to your Lordship may appear more proper.
With great respect, &c.
Whereas, by the first article of the preliminary treaty of peace between the Crown of Great Britain and the Crown of France, signed at Versailles, on the 20th of January, 1783, it was stipulated in these words, namely:—
“As soon as the preliminaries shall be signed and ratified, sincere friendship shall be reestablished between his Most Christian Majesty and his Britannic Majesty, their kingdoms, states, and subjects, by sea and by land, in all parts of the world; orders shall be sent to the armies and squadrons, as well as to the subjects, of the two powers, to stop all hostilities, and to live in the most perfect union, forgetting the past, their sovereigns showing the example; and for the execution of this article, sea-passes shall be given on each side to the ships which shall be despatched to carry the news of it to the possessions of the said powers.”
And by the twenty-second article of the same treaty it was stipulated in these words;—
“In order to prevent all causes of complaint and dispute which may arise on account of prizes that may be taken at sea, after the signing of these preliminary articles, it is reciprocally agreed, that the vessels and effects which may be taken in the channel and in the north seas, after the space of twelve days, to be computed from the ratification of these preliminary articles, shall be restored on each side; that the term shall be one month from the channel and the north seas, as far as the Canary Islands, inclusively, whether in the ocean or in the Mediterranean; two months from the said Canary Islands, as far as the equinoctial line or equator; and, lastly, five months in all other parts of the world, without any exception or any other distinction more particular of time and place.
“And, whereas, on the said 20th day of January, 1783, it was agreed, and, by instruments signed by the minister plenipotentiary of his Britannic Majesty, in behalf of his Majesty, on one part, and by the minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, in behalf of the said United States, on the other, it was mutually declared, that the said United States of North America, their subjects and their possessions, and his Britannic Majesty, his subjects and possessions, should be comprised in the suspension of arms above mentioned, and that they should consequently enjoy the benefit of the cessation of hostilities at the same periods and in the same manner as the crowns aforesaid, and their subjects and possessions respectively; and whereas a doubt has arisen, and a question has been made, concerning the sense and intention of the high contracting parties, by the words “d’un mois depuis la manche et les mers du Nord jusqu’aux Isles Canaries, inclusivement,” and by the words “de deux mois depuis les dites Isles Canaries jusqu’à la ligne equinoxiale;”
Now, in order to remove all such doubts and questions, and to the end that the same rule of justice may take place in all courts of justice, in both nations, it is hereby agreed and declared by—in the name and behalf of his Majesty, the King of Great Britain, on the one part, and by—, minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Court of Great Britain on the other, in the name and behalf of the said United States, that the line of latitude of the southernmost Canary Island was intended by the said contracting parties, and that the armistice aforesaid ought to be everywhere understood and construed in the same manner as if the words had been “from the channel and the north seas to the latitude of the Canary Islands inclusively,” and “from the latitude of the said Canary Islands to the equinoctial line;” and that all judgments and decrees of courts of justice of either of the parties to this declaration, rendered upon any different construction of the armistice aforesaid, ought to be reversed.
Done at Westminster, this NA day of
TO THE MARQUIS OF CARMARTHEN.
Grosvenor Square, 29 July, 1785.
The course of commerce, since the peace, between Great Britain and the United States of America, has been such as to have produced many inconveniences to the persons concerned in it on both sides, which become every day more and more sensible. The zeal of Americans to make remittances to British merchants, has been such as to raise the interest of money to double its usual standard, to increase the price of bills of exchange to eight or ten per centum above par, and to advance the price of the produce of the country to almost double the usual rate. Large sums of the circulating cash, and as much produce as could be purchased at almost any rate, have been remitted to England; but much of this produce lies in store here, because it will not fetch, by reason of the duties and restrictions on it, the price given for it in America. No political arrangements having been made, both the British and American merchants expected that the trade would have returned to its old channels, and nearly under the same regulations, found by long experience to be beneficial; but they have been disappointed. The former have made advances, and the latter contracted debts, both depending upon remittances in the usual articles, and upon the ancient terms, but both have found themselves mistaken, and it is much to be feared that the consequences will be numerous failures. Cash and bills have been chiefly remitted; neither rice, tobacco, pitch, tar, turpentine, ships, oil, nor many other articles, the great sources of remittances formerly, can now be sent as heretofore, because of restrictions and imposts, which are new in this commerce, and destructive of it; and the trade with the British West India Islands, formerly a vast source of remittance, is at present obstructed.
These evils, my lord, as far as they merely affect the United States, should not be offered to your Lordship’s consideration. They are proper subjects for the deliberations of congress and the legislatures of the several States; but, as far as they affect the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain and Ireland, and as far as they affect the general system of commerce, revenue, and policy of the British empire, your Lordship will, undoubtedly, give them their due weight. There is a literal impossibility, my lord, that the commerce between the two countries can continue long to the advantage of either upon the present footing. The evils already experienced will be much increased and more severely felt, if the causes of them are permitted much longer to operate. It is the desire of the citizens of the United States to cultivate the most friendly intercourse with the King’s subjects, and it will be with regret that they shall see the necessity of searching for other resources, as substitutes for British commerce, either in other countries or in manufactures at home. Whether it is not putting at hazard too material an interest, to risk an alienation from these kingdoms, of the American commerce, or any considerable part of it, for the sake of the advantages that can be obtained by the present restrictions on it, is a question which must be submitted to your Lordship’s consideration.
In order to bring this subject, so momentous to both countries, under a candid discussion, I do myself the honor to inclose to your Lordship, and to propose to the consideration of his Majesty’s ministers, a project of a fair and equitable treaty of commerce between his Majesty and the United States of America, prepared in conformity to the instructions of congress; and submit it entirely to your Lordship to decide, whether the negotiation shall be conducted with your Lordship, or with any other person, to be invested with powers equal to mine, to be appointed for the purpose.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 29 July, 1785.
I have the honor to inclose a copy of a letter to the Marquis of Carmarthen of the 14th July, another of the 27th, with a project of a declaration concerning the construction of the armistice, and another of this date, with a project of a treaty of commerce. It is high time something should be done to turn the attention of administration to the relation between this country and the United States; and it seemed most advisable to lay the project of a treaty directly before the ministry, rather than first negotiate the appointment of any other minister to treat with me than the Marquis of Carmarthen himself. If I had first proposed the appointment of a minister, they would have procrastinated the business for six months, and perhaps twelve, before I could have communicated any thing to them; now, they can have no excuse. The offer is made, and hereafter they may repent of their error, if they do not accept it, or something nearly like it, immediately. I am very sensible it will greatly embarrass the administration, because most of them, I believe, are sensible that some such treaty must be one day agreed to, and that it would be wise to agree to it now, but they are afraid of oppositions from many quarters. I must not, however, disguise my real sentiments. The present ministry are too much under the influence of Chalmers and Smith, and others of that stamp, and have been artfully drawn into so many manifestations of a determination to maintain their navigation laws, relatively to the United States, and of a jealousy of our naval power, small as it is, that I fear they have committed themselves too far to recede. Their Newfoundland act, as well as their proclamations, and the fourth of their Irish propositions, are in this style. I have no expectation that the proposed treaty will be soon agreed to, nor that I shall have any counter project, or indeed any answer, for a long time. It is very apparent that we shall never have a satisfactory arrangement with this country, until congress shall be made by the States supreme in matters of foreign commerce and treaties of commerce, and until congress shall have exerted that supremacy with a decent firmness.
I am, with great esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 6 August, 1785.
I find the spirit of the times very different from that which you and I saw, when we were here together, in the months of November and December, 1783.
Then, the commerce of the United States had not fully returned to these kingdoms; then, the nation had not digested its system, nor determined to adhere so closely to its navigation acts, relatively to the United States; then, it was common, in conversation, to hear a respect and regard for America professed and even boasted of.
Now, the boast is, that our commerce has returned to its old channels, and that it can follow in no other; now, the utmost contempt of our commerce is freely expressed in pamphlets, gazettes, coffee-houses, and in common street talk. I wish I could not add to this the discourses of cabinet counsellors and ministers of state, as well as members of both houses of parliament.
The national judgment and popular voice is so decided in favor of the navigation acts, that neither administration nor opposition dare avow a thought of relaxing them farther than has been already done. This decided cast has been given to the public opinion and the national councils by two facts, or rather presumptions. The first is, that in all events this country is sure of the American commerce. Even in case of war, they think that British manufactures will find their way to the United States through France, Holland, the Austrian low countries, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the French and Dutch West Indies, and even through Canada and Nova Scotia. The second is, that the American States are not, and cannot be united. The landed interest will never join with the commercial nor the southern States with the northern, in any measures of retaliation or expressions of resentment. These things have been so often affirmed to this people by the refugees, and they have so often repeated them to one another, that they now fully believe them; and, I am firmly persuaded, they will try the experiment as long as they can maintain the credit of their stocks. It is our part, then, to try our strength. You know better than I do, whether the States will give congress the power, and whether congress, when they have the power, will judge it necessary or expedient to exert it, in its plenitude.
You were present in congress, sir, in 1774, when many members discussed in detail the commercial relations between the United States, then United Colonies, and Great Britain, Ireland, the British West Indies, and all other parts of the British empire, and showed to what a vast amount the wealth, power, and revenue of Great Britain would be affected by a total cessation of exports and imports. The British revenue is now in so critical a situation, that it might be much sooner and more essentially affected than it could be then. You remember, however, sir, that although the theory was demonstrated, the practice was found very difficult.
Britain has ventured to begin commercial hostilities. I call them hostilities, because their direct object is not so much the increase of their own wealth, ships, or sailors, as the diminution of ours. A jealousy of our naval power is the true motive, the real passion which actuates them; they consider the United States as their rival, and the most dangerous rival they have in the world. I see clearly they are less afraid of an augmentation of French ships and sailors than American.
They think they foresee, that if the United States had the same fisheries, the same carrying trade, and the same market for ready built ships, which they had ten years ago, they would be in so respectable a posture, and so happy in their circumstances, that their own seamen, manufacturers, and merchants, too, would hurry over to them.
If congress should enter in earnest into this commercial war, it must necessarily be a long one, before it can fully obtain the victory; and it may excite passions on both sides which may break out into a military war. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the people and their councils will proceed with all the temperance and circumspection which such a state of things requires. I would not advise to this commercial struggle, if I could see a prospect of justice without it; but I do not; every appearance is on the contrary.
I have not, indeed, obtained any direct evidence of the intentions of the ministry, because I have received no answer to any of my letters to Lord Carmarthen; and, it seems to me, to press them at this juncture, with any great appearance of anxiety, would not be good policy. Let them hear a little more news from Ireland, France, and, perhaps, Spain, as well as America, which I think will operate in our favor.
I am, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 7 August, 1785.
I am happy to find we agree so perfectly in the change which is made in the project. The die is cast. The proposal is made; let them ruminate upon it. I thought of proposing a tariff of duties, that we might pay no more in their ports than they should pay in ours; but their taxes are so essential to their credit, that it is impossible to part with any of them, and we should not choose to oblige ourselves to lay on as heavy ones. We are at liberty, however, to do it when we please.
If the English will not abolish their alien’s duty, relatively to us, we must establish an alien duty in all the United States. An alien duty against England alone will not answer the end. She will elude it by employing Dutch, French, Swedish, or any other ships, and by Frenchifying, Dutchifying, or Swedishing her own. If the English will persevere in excluding our ships from their West India Islands, Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, and in demanding an alien duty from us in their ports within the realm, and in refusing to American built ships the privileges of British built ships, we must take higher ground,—a vantage-ground. We must do more than lay on alien duties. We must take measures by which the increase of shipping and seamen will be not only encouraged, but rendered inevitable. We must adopt in all the States the regulations that were once made in England (5 Richard II. c. 3), and ordain that no American citizen, or denizen, or alien friend or enemy, shall ship any merchandise out of, or into the United States, but only in ships built in the United States, and navigated by an American captain and three fourths American seamen. I should be sorry to adopt a monopoly; but, driven by the necessity of it, I would not do things by halves. The French deserve it of us as much as the English, for they are as much enemies to our ships and mariners. Their navigation acts are not quite so severe as those of Spain, Portugal, and England (as they relate to their colonies, I mean) but they are not much less so; and they discover as strong a lust to annihilate our navigation as anybody.
Or, might we modify a little? Might we lay a duty of ten per cent. on all goods imported in any but ships built in the United States, without saying any thing about seamen? If we were to prohibit all foreign vessels from carrying on our coasting trade, that is, from trading from one State to another, and from one port to another in the same State, we should do something; for this commerce will be so considerable as to employ many ships and many seamen, of so much the more value to us, as they will always be ready at home for the defence of their country. But, if we should only prohibit importations, except in our own bottoms, or in the bottoms of the country or nation of whose growth or production the merchandises are, we should do nothing effectual against Great Britain. She would desire nothing better than to send her productions to our ports in her own bottoms, and bring away ours in return. I hope the members of congress and the legislatures of the States will study the British acts of navigation, and make themselves masters of their letter and spirit, that they may judge how far they may be adopted by us; and, indeed, whether they are sufficient to do justice to our citizens in their commerce with Great Britain.
There is another inquiry which I hope our countrymen will enter upon, and that is, what articles of our produce will bear a duty on exportation. All such duties are paid by the consumer, and, therefore, are so much clear gain. Some of our commodities will not bear any such duties; on the contrary, they will require encouragement by bounties. But I suspect that several articles will bear a handsome impost. We shall find our commerce a complicated machine, and difficult to manage. And I fear we have not many men who have turned their thoughts to it. It must be comprehended by somebody in its system and in its detail, before it will be regulated as it should be.
I am, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 8 August, 1785.
It would be of little consequence to us, whether there was a union between Great Britain and Ireland, or not, or whether Mr. Pitt’s twenty propositions are accepted or not, provided both these countries should be allowed to trade with the United States upon free and equal terms; but the design is too apparent, at least too suspicious, of drawing Ireland into the shackles of the navigation acts, in order that the three kingdoms may be made to act in concert, in maintaining that system of monopoly against us.
Several speakers in parliament, and many writers, have lately thrown out hints of an union with Ireland, and a certain printer and bookseller is now employed in reprinting Daniel de Foe’s book upon the union with Scotland, to which he has engaged Mr. de Lolme to write an introduction. This is all a ministerial operation, and is intended to be pushed, if Mr. Pitt’s twenty propositions should either be rejected by the Irish parliament, or give too much discontent to the volunteers.
The twenty propositions, and the bill which is grounded on them, betray too clearly the intentions of the ministry.
“Whereas, it is highly and equally important to the interests, both of Great Britain and Ireland, and essential to the objects of the present settlement, that the laws for regulating trade and navigation, so far as relates to securing exclusive privileges to the ships and mariners of Great Britain and Ireland, and the British colonies and plantations, and so far as relates to the regulating and restraining the trade of the British Colonies and plantations, should be the same in Great Britain and Ireland, and that all such laws in both kingdoms should impose the same restraints, and confer the same benefits, on the subjects of both, which can only be effected by the laws to be passed in the parliament of both kingdoms (the parliament of Great Britain being alone competent to bind the people of Great Britain in any case whatsoever, and the parliament of Ireland being alone competent to bind the people of Ireland in any case whatsoever); therefore, be it declared, that it shall be held and adjudged to be a fundamental and essential condition of the present settlement, that the laws for regulating trade and navigation, so far as the said laws relate to the securing exclusive privileges to the ships and mariners of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Colonies and plantations, shall be the same in Great Britain and Ireland, and shall impose the same restraints, and confer the same benefits, on the subjects of both kingdoms.”
“That all privileges, advantages, and immunities which are now granted, or shall, by any law to be passed by the parliament of Great Britain, be hereafter granted, to ships built in Great Britain, or to ships belonging to any of his Majesty’s subjects residing in Great Britain, or to ships manned by British seamen, or to ships manned by certain proportions of British seamen, shall, to all intents and purposes whatever, be enjoyed in the same manner, and under the same regulations and restrictions respectively, by ships built in Ireland, or by ships belonging to any of his Majesty’s subjects residing in Ireland, or by ships manned by Irish seamen, or by ships manned by certain proportions of Irish seamen.”
“That it shall be held and adjudged to be a fundamental and essential condition of the present settlement, that such regulations as are now, or hereafter shall be in force, by law passed or to be passed in the parliament of Great Britain, for securing exclusive privileges, advantages, and immunities as aforesaid, to the ships and mariners of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Colonies and plantations, shall be established in Ireland, for the same time and in the same manner as in Great Britain, by laws to be passed in the parliament of Ireland, within—months, &c., provided, that the laws so to be passed in the parliament of Great Britain for the purposes aforesaid, shall impose the same restraints, and confer the same benefits, on the subjects of Great Britain and Ireland.”
“That it shall be held and adjudged to be a fundamental and essential condition of the present settlement, that Irish sailcloth shall be deemed British sailcloth within the meaning of 19 G. II., or any other act or acts of parliament, respecting the furnishing of ships with British sailcloth, and that Irish sailcloth shall be entitled to equal preference and advantage as British for the use of the British navy.”
“That it shall be held and adjudged to be a fundamental and essential condition of the present settlement, that all goods of the growth, produce, or manufacture of any British, or of any foreign colony in America, or in the West Indies, or of any of the British or foreign settlements on the coast of Africa, and all peltry, rum, train oil, and whale-fins, being the growth, produce, or manufacture of the countries belonging to the United States of America, or being the produce of the fisheries carried on by the subjects of the United States of America, shall, on importation into Ireland, be made subject to the same duties and regulations as the like goods are, or from time to time shall be subject to, on importation into Great Britain; or, if prohibited from being imported into Great Britain, shall, in like manner, be prohibited from being imported into Ireland.”
These extracts from the bill for finally regulating the intercourse and commerce between Great Britain and Ireland, moved in the house of commons by the chancellor of the exchequer, are sufficient evidence of a design to draw Ireland into a combination against America.
This jealousy of our ships and mariners, sir, is not peculiar to the English; the French are equally possessed of it; and both are infected with it to such a degree, that I am confident, that each of these nations had rather contribute to the increase of the others’ ships and mariners than those of the United States. It would not surprise me at all, if these two Courts, which can agree in nothing else, should combine together to exclude us from every branch of the carrying trade and every advantage of the whale fishery.
What shall we do to defend ourselves? Shall we confine the exportation of the produce of the United States to the ships and mariners of the United States? To increase the English navy, the statute of the 5 Ric. II. c. 3, enacted that “none of the King’s liege people should ship any merchandise out of, or into the realm, but only in the ships of the King’s liegeance, on pain of forfeiture.” If the United States were able and willing to imitate this statute, and confine all our exports and imports to ships built in the United States, and navigated with American seamen, or three quarters American seamen, or one half, or even one third American seamen, what would be the consequence? We should not have at first enough either of ships or seamen to export the produce, and import what would be wanted from abroad; but we should see multitudes of people instantly employed in building ships, and multitudes of others immediately becoming sailors, and the time would not be long before we should have enough of both. The people of the United States have shown themselves capable of great exertions, and possessed of patience, courage, and perseverance, and willing to make large sacrifices to the general interest.
But are they capable of this exertion? Are they possessed of patience, courage, and perseverance enough to encounter the losses and embarrassments which would, at first, be occasioned by an exclusion of foreign ships? I wish I could know the number of foreign ships which have entered the ports of the United States since the peace, including English, French, Dutch, Italian, and Swedish vessels. The number must be very great. If all these ships and seamen were American, what materials would they furnish for a navy in case of need! How would this be received by foreign nations? Spain and Portugal would say nothing, because they have no ships in our trade; France has few; Italy would have no right to object; nor Germany, Russia, Sweden, or Denmark. It would be laying an axe at the root of the British commerce, revenue, and naval power, however slightly they may think of us. Whether a heavy duty upon all foreign vessels, such as should operate as a decisive encouragement to American ships, would not answer the end as well, I am not able to judge.
The provisions of the act of navigation, 12 Car. II. c. 18, would not be sufficient for our purpose. If the United States should agree in a law, that no goods should be suffered to be imported into the United States in any other than American bottoms (navigated by an American master, and three fourths of the seamen American), or in the ships of that European nation of which the merchandise imported was the genuine growth or manufacture, this would not accomplish our wish, because British and Irish ships would desire no other than to import into our States the manufactures of the British empire, and to export our produce in the same bottoms. Some of the British statutes prohibit foreigners to carry on the coasting trade, that is, to go from one port to another in Great Britain; and this regulation will now be extended to Ireland, if the twenty propositions are accepted. A similar regulation might be adopted by the United States; and this would be a vast encouragement to our navigation, for the intercourse between one State and another, and between one port and another of the same State, will now be so frequent and considerable as to employ many ships and mariners; and in these the greatest strength of a country consists, because they are always at home ready to fight for the defence of their firesides.
If we should get over our aversion to monopolies and exclusions, and adopt the selfish, unsocial principles of the European nations, particularly of France and England, we should astonish the world with a navy in a very few years, not more than eight or ten, equal perhaps to the third maritime power in Europe. This would be amply sufficient for our defence. European statesmen know it better than we do, and dread it more than we desire it, because they think that from that period all the West India Islands, Canada, Nova Scotia, the Floridas and Mexico, too, would be made to join us. Why, then, will England pursue measures which will force us to try experiments against our inclinations? There is no answer to be given to this question, but the same which must be given to another. Why did she force us into independence? The nation îs infatuated, and every successive minister must be infatuated too, or lose his popularity and his place. Nor is France much less infatuated in her system of politics relative to America. The jealousy of our navigation is so strong and so common to both, that I should not be at all surprised, if France should agree that England should carry her point in Ireland, draw her into the navigation monopoly, and agree together to keep peace with one another, and force us, if they can, out of every nursery for seamen. I know that French noblemen are in England, and English gentlemen in France, preaching up to each other a terror of our naval power, and even the late arrêt against British manufactures may be but a blind to cover very different designs; both Courts are capable of such dissimulation, and they are now acting in concert in Germany, so much to the disgust of the two Imperial Courts, that I confess I do not admire this appearance of friendship any more than I can account for it.
It will require all the wisdom and all the firmness of congress and the States to plan and execute the measures necessary to counteract all these wiles.
With great and sincere esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 10 August, 1785.
The arrêt of the King of France, in his council of the 10th of July, has a preamble which deserves to be well considered in America. The increasing liberality of sentiment among philosophers and men of letters, in various nations, has for some time given reason to hope for a reformation, a kind of protestantism, in the commercial system of the world; but I believe that this arrêt is the first act of any sovereign which has openly avowed commercial principles so generous and noble. “Nothing could appear to the King more desirable, or suitable to his own principles, than a general liberty which, freeing from all kinds of fetters the circulation of all productions and goods of different countries, would make of all nations, as it were, but one, in point of trade; but, as long as that liberty cannot be universally admitted, and everywhere reciprocally, the interest of the kingdom requires of his Majesty’s wisdom, that he should exclude from it, or suffer to be imported by the nation only, those foreign goods, the free importation of which would be hurtful to his kingdom and manufactories, and might make the balance of trade to be against him.”
The United States of America have done more than all the economists in France towards propagating in the world this magnanimous sentiment. But they have more cause than the Court of France to complain, that liberty is not universally and reciprocally admitted. They have cause to complain against France herself, in some degree, but more against Great Britain; for France, in some degree, calculates all her policy towards us, upon a principle which England pursues more steadily; a principle not so properly of enriching and strengthening herself at our expense, as of impoverishing and weakening us even at her own expense. Simple selfishness, which is only the absence of benevolence, is much less unamiable than positive malevolence. As the French Court has condescended to adopt our principle in theory, I am very much afraid we shall be obliged to imitate their wisdom in practice, and exclude from the United States, or suffer to be imported by our nation only, and in their own ships, those foreign goods which would be hurtful to the United States and their manufactories, make the balance of trade to be against them, or annihilate or diminish their shipping or mariners.
We have hitherto been the bubbles of our own philosophical and equitable liberality; and, instead of meeting correspondent sentiments, both France and England have shown a constant disposition to take a selfish and partial advantage of us because of them, nay, to turn them to the diminution or destruction of our own means of trade and strength. I hope we shall be the dupes no longer than we must. I would venture upon monopolies and exclusions, if they were found to be the only arms of defence against monopolies and exclusions, without fear of offending Dean Tucker or the ghost of Doctor Quesnay.
I observe further, with pleasure, in the preamble, that the King “is particularly occupied with the means of encouraging the industry of his subjects, and of propagating the extent of their trade, and reviving their manufactories.” Great things may be done in this way, for the benefit of America as well as of France, if the measures are calculated upon the honest old principle of “live and let live.” But, if another maxim is adopted, “I will live upon your means of living,” or another still worse, “I will half starve that you may quite starve,” instead of rejoicing at it, we must look out for means of preserving ourselves. These means can never be secured entirely, until congress shall be made supreme in foreign commerce, and shall have digested a plan for all the States. But, if any of the States continue to refuse their assent, I hope that individual States will take it separately upon themselves, and confine their exports and imports wholly to ships and mariners of the United States, or even to their own ships and mariners, or, which is best of all, to the ships and mariners of those States which will adopt the same regulations. I should be extremely sorry, however, that there ever should be a necessity of making any distinction between the ships and mariners of different States. It would be infinitely better to have all American ships and seamen entitled to equal privileges in all the thirteen States; but their privileges should be made much greater than those of foreign ships and seamen.
With great respect, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 18 August, 1785.
I have received your favor of the 6th instant, with the notes and project inclosed. How can we send another person? We have not, in our full power, authority to substitute. Will not the Emperor and the regencies feel their dignity offended, if a person appears without a commission from congress? Do you mean that he should only agree upon the terms, and transmit them to us to be signed? If you think this method will do, I have no objection to either of the persons you mention, nor to Mr. Short. Dr. Bancroft is the greatest master of the French language. If we conclude to send either, he should have an attested copy, at least, of all our commissions for Africa, and a letter and instructions from us. If there is any truth in any of the reports of captures by the Algerines, Lamb’s vessel may be taken by them. Whoever is sent by us should be instructed to correspond constantly with us, and to send by whatever conveyance he may find, whether through Spain, France, England, Holland, or otherwise, copies of his letters to us to congress. He should be instructed further, to make diligent inquiry concerning the productions of those countries which would answer in America, and those of the United States which might find a market in Barbary, and to transmit all such information to congress as well as to us.
I have read over the project with care. The seventeenth article appears to be carried further than our countrymen will be willing at present to go. I presume the three last words of the third line of this seventeenth article must be left out; and in the fourth line, the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth words, and in the sixth line, the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth words.
You have seen by this time our Massachusetts navigation act; and the reasonings and dispositions of all the States tend the same way at present; so that we must conform our proceedings, as I suppose, to their views.
Yours, &c. &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 23 August, 1785.
Last night I received your favor of the 17th.1 If both governments are possessed of the contents of my letter of the 7th, by opening it in the post-office, much good may those contents do them. They both know they have deserved them. I hope they will convince them of their error, and induce them to adopt more liberal principles towards us. I am for answering their utmost generosity with equal, and, indeed, with greater generosity; but I would not advise my country to be the bubble of her own nobleness of sentiment.
The spirited conduct of Ireland, I think, will assist me here. The news of the reception in the Irish parliament of the twenty resolutions, together with the efforts in America towards a navigation act, have raised my hopes a good deal; but our States must mature their plan, and persevere in it, in order to effect the work in time; and, with a steady pursuit of our purpose, I begin to think we shall prevail.
If Mr. Barclay will undertake the voyage, I am for looking no farther. We cannot find a steadier or more prudent man. He should look out for some clerk or companion who can write French, and who understands Italian.
When Dr. Price returns from his August excursion to some watering place, I will get him to make the insurance upon Houdon’s life on the best terms he can.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 25 August, 1785.
Yesterday, I had a long conference with Mr. Pitt for the first time. He never had proposed any interview with me, and I had delayed to request him to appoint any time, after the first ceremonial visit, for two reasons,—because, while parliament was sitting, his time and mind were so engaged, that it was impossible he should attend in earnest to the affairs of the United States; and because I expected that a little time would bring, both from America and Ireland, intelligence which would somewhat lessen that confidence with which the ministry and the nation were elated. Such intelligence has now arrived. The twenty resolutions have been in effect given up, that they might not be rejected by the Irish parliament; and the Massachusetts act of navigation has appeared, together with advices from Virginia, Philadelphia, New York, and various other parts of the United States, which have excited a serious apprehension that all have the same principles and views.
I shall not attempt to give you the conversation in detail, yet it is necessary to give some particulars, from which you may judge how much or how little may result from the whole. He asked, me what were the principal points to be discussed between us? I answered, that I presumed the Marquis of Carmarthen had laid before the King’s servants some papers which I had done myself the honor to write to him. He said he had. I replied, that those letters related to the evacuation of the forts upon the frontier; to the construction of the armistice; and to a treaty of commerce; and that, besides these, there were the negroes carried off contrary to the treaty, and some other points which I had particularly explained to Lord Carmarthen. He said that the carrying off the negroes was so clearly against the treaty, that they must take measures to satisfy that demand, if we could prove how many were carried off. I told him that Sir Guy Carleton could easily ascertain the number, and that Colonel Smith, who negotiated with Sir Guy, could do the same, and that I had the evidence of their proceedings ready to produce, whenever it was wanted. He entered, then, into the subject of the armistice, and we were longer on this point than we needed to have been. I observed to him that Mr. Blower’s construction was demonstrably absurd, because it would place the whole coast of America in the period of five months; the coast of the United States certainly was not between the Canary Islands and the equator, and, therefore, could not be included in the period of two months; it is neither in the channel nor north seas, and, therefore, cannot be within the period of twelve days; consequently, if it is not in the period of one month, it must be in that of five months, an idea that never could have been entertained a moment by either of the contracting parties. Mr. Pitt said he thought that was clear, and that this point might be easily settled; but, as to the posts, says he, that is a point connected with some others, that I think must be settled at the same time. I asked him, what these points were. He said, the debts. Several of the States had interfered, against the treaty, and, by acts of their legislatures, had interposed impediments to the recovery of debts, against which there were great complaints in this country. I replied to this, that I had explained this at great length to the Marquis of Carmarthen; but that I might now add, that congress had, very early after the peace, proposed an explanation of the article, as far as it respected the interest of debts contracted before the war. They had instructed their ministers at Paris to propose such an explanation to this Court; that we had proposed it through Mr. Hartley first, and the Duke of Dorset afterwards, and that I had renewed the proposition to my Lord Carmarthen, upon my first conference with him; but that we had never received an answer. I thought it was best there should be an explanation; for I was persuaded that an American jury would never give any interest for the time which ran during the war. Mr. Pitt said, that would surprise the people here; for that wars never interrupted the interest nor principal of debts, and that he did not see a difference between this war and any other, and the lawyers here made none. I begged his pardon here, and said, that the American lawyers made a wide difference; they contended that the late war was a total dissolution of all laws and government, and, consequently, of all contracts made under those laws; and that it was a maxim of law, that a personal right or obligation, once dissolved or suspended, was lost forever; that the intervention of the treaty and the new laws was necessary for the revival of those ancient rights and obligations; that these rights were in a state of non-existence during the war, and no interest during that period could grow out of them. These being the opinions in America, it was not probable that any jury would be found, from Georgia to New Hampshire, who would give, by their verdict, interest to a creditor; and, therefore, it was most fair and equitable, that an explanation should be made, that the same rule of law might be observed on both sides. This observation appeared to strike him. He said, if there was any danger of this, it would be best that an explanation should be made, but that the balance of debts was much in favor of this country, which I did not deny; but, he said, the government would not dare to make it, without previously feeling out the dispositions of the persons chiefly interested, and knowing how it would be taken by them. We had a much longer conversation concerning these debts, and the difficulty of paying them, arising from the restrictions on our trade, in which I repeated to him what I had before said to Lord Carmarthen and to the deputies of the Scotch creditors; but, as I have transmitted that to you before, it is unnecessary to repeat it here.
He then began upon the treaty of commerce, and asked what were the lowest terms which would be satisfactory to America. I answered, that I might not think myself competent to determine that question. Articles might be proposed to me, that I should not think myself qualified to decide upon without writing to congress; but I would venture so far as to say, that I thought the project I had communicated to Lord Carmarthen would give satisfaction to America, and secure the friendship of the United States, and the essence of their trade to this country. But that, in proportion as a plan less liberal was adopted, that friendship would be precarious, and that trade would be scattered. I added, that the most judicious men in America had been long balancing in their minds the advantages and the disadvantages of a commerce perfectly free on one side, and of a navigation act on the other; that the present time was a critical one; the late intelligence from all parts of America concurred with the navigation act of Massachusetts, in proving which way the balance began to incline, and, in my opinion, it would be decided by the conduct of this country; it was now in his, Mr. Pitt’s power, to decide it; but the more Americans reflected upon the great advantages which they might derive from a navigation act, the more they would become attached to that system. I had heard there were five hundred foreign ships employed the last year in the commerce of the United States. How easy would it be to have all these ships the property of American citizens, and the navigators of them, American seamen! There was once a statute in England (that of 5 Ric. II. c. 3), “That none of the King’s liege people should ship any merchandise out of, or into the realm, but only in ships of the King’s liegeance, on pain of forfeiture.” I asked him what physical or political impediment there was to prevent the United States from adopting that very act in all its rigor. The right of every nation to govern its own commerce, its own exports and imports, would not be denied nor questioned by any nation. To this he agreed. Our ability to build the ships, and our abundance of materials, could not be doubted. This he assented to. Nobody would pretend that our produce would not find a market in Europe in our own ships, or that Europeans would not sell us their manufactures to carry home in them. Even England, if she should make ever so strict laws to prevent exports and imports in our bottoms, would still be glad to receive and consume considerable quantities of our produce, though she imported them through France or Holland; and to send us as many of her manufactures as we could pay for, through the same channels.
He more than smiled assent to this, for he added that there were American articles of much importance to them; but, he said, that Englishmen were much attached to their navigation. And Americans, too, said I, to theirs. But, said he, the United States having now become a foreign nation, our navigation act would not answer its end, if we should dispense with it towards you. Here I begged his pardon again; for I thought their navigation act would completely defeat its own end, as far as it respected us; for the end of the navigation act, as expressed in its own preamble, was to confine the commerce of the Colonies to the mother country; but, now we were become independent States, if carried into execution against us, instead of confining our trade to Great Britain, it would drive it to other countries. This he did not deny; but, said he, you allow we have a right. Certainly I do; and you, sir, will allow we have a right, too. Yes, I do; but you cannot blame Englishmen for being attached to their ships and seamen which are so essential to them. Indeed, I do not, sir; nor can you blame Americans for being attached to theirs, which are so much fewer and so much more essential to them. No, I do not blame them.
As this was a very sprightly dialogue, and in very good humor, I thought I might push it a little. I will be very frank with you, sir, said I, and I think it will be best for us to go to the bottom of these subjects. The Americans think that their exclusion from your West India Islands, the refusal of their ships and oil and other things, and their exclusion from your Colonies on the continent and Newfoundland, discover a jealousy of their little naval power, and a fixed system of policy to prevent the growth of it; and this is an idea that they cannot bear. No, said he, if we endeavored to lessen your shipping and seamen, without benefiting or increasing our own, it would be hard and unreasonable, and would be a just ground of uneasiness; but when we only aim at making the most of our own means and nurseries, you cannot justly complain. I am happy, sir, to hear you avow this principle, and agree with you perfectly in it; let us apply it. Both parties having the right and the power to confine their exports and imports to their own ships and seamen, if both exercise the right and exert the power in its full extent, what is the effect? The commerce must cease between them. Is this eligible for either? To be sure, said he, we should well consider the advantages and the disadvantages in such a case. If it is not found to be eligible for either, said I, after having well considered, what remains, but that we should agree upon a liberal plan, and allow equal freedom to each other’s ships and seamen? especially if it should be found that this alone can preserve friendship and good humor. For I fully believe that this plan alone can ever put this nation in good humor with America, or America with this country. He then mentioned ships and oil. He said we could not think hard of them for encouraging their own shipwrights, their manufactures of ships, and their own whale fishery. I answered, by no means; but it appeared unaccountable to the people of America, that this country should sacrifice the general interest of the nation to the private interest of a few individuals interested in the manufacture of ships and in the whale fishery, so far as to refuse these remittances from America, in payment of debts, and for manufactures which would employ so many more people, augment the revenue so considerably, as well as the national wealth, which would, even in other ways, so much augment the shipping and seamen of the nation. It was looked upon in America as reconciling themselves to a diminution of their own shipping and seamen, in a great degree, for the sake of diminishing ours in a small one, besides keeping many of their manufacturers out of employ, who would otherwise have enough to do; and besides greatly diminishing the revenue, and, consequently, contrary to the maxim which he had just acknowledged, that one nation should not hurt itself for the sake of hurting another, nor take measures to deprive another of any advantage, without benefiting itself.
He then asked me, if we could grant to England, by a treaty, any advantages which would not immediately become the right of France. I answered, we could not. If the advantage was stipulated to England, without a compensation, France would be entitled to it without a compensation; but, if it was stipulated for an equivalent or reciprocal privilege, France must allow us the same equivalent or reciprocal privilege. But, I added, France would not be a very successful rival to Great Britain in the American commerce, upon so free a footing as that of the mutual liberty of natural-born subjects and citizens; upon the footing of the most favored nation, France would stand a good chance in many things. In case of mutual navigation acts between Britain and America, France would have more of our commerce than Britain. In short, Britain would lose and France gain, not only in our commerce, but our affections, in proportion as Britain departed from the most liberal system. Upon this he asked me a question which I did not expect. “What do you really think, sir, that Britain ought to do?” That question, sir, may be beyond my capacity to answer, and my answer may be suspected; but, if it is, I will answer it to the best of my judgment, and with perfect sincerity. I think this country ought to prescribe to herself no other rule, but to take from America every thing she can send as a remittance; nay, to take off every duty, and give every bounty that should be necessary to enable her to send any thing as a remittance. In this case, America would prescribe to herself no other rule than to take of British productions as much as she could pay for. He might think this no proof of our republican frugality, but such was the disposition of our people, and, how much soever I might lament it, I would not disguise it. He then led me into a long, rambling conversation about our whale fishery and the English, and the French whale fishery that M. de Calonne is essaying to introduce, too little interesting to be repeated. Yet I should mention that he asked me a sudden question, whether we had taken any measures to find a market for our oil anywhere but in France. This question must have been suggested to him, I think, either by information that our oil is wanted in some countries upon the continent, or by a suspicion that we have been trying to introduce our oil into Ireland. I answered, that I believed we had, and I have been told, that some of our oil had found a good market at Bremen; but there could not be a doubt that spermaceti oil might find a market in most of the great cities in Europe which were illuminated in the night, as it is so much better and cheaper than the vegetable oil that is commonly used. The fat of the spermaceti whale gives the clearest and most beautiful flame of any substance that is known in nature, and we are all surprised that you prefer darkness, and consequent robberies, burglaries, and murders in your streets, to the receiving, as a remittance, our spermaceti oil. The lamps around Grosvenor Square, I know, and in Downing Street, too, I suppose, are dim by midnight, and extinguished by two o’clock; whereas our oil would burn bright till nine o’clock in the morning, and chase away, before the watchmen, all the villains, and save you the trouble and danger of introducing a new police into the city.
He said, he owned he was for taking advantage of the present short time of leisure, to mature some plan about these things. I told him, I rejoiced to find that was his opinion, and that I would be at all times ready to attend him, or any other minister, whenever any explanation should be wanted from me; that I was anxious for an answer concerning the posts, as I was in duty bound to insist on their evacuation. He said he thought that connected with several other points, and should be for settling all these together, so that he must reserve himself at entire liberty concerning them.
I am sorry that, in representing all these conversations, I am obliged to make myself the principal speaker; but I cannot get them to talk. The reason is, they dare not. All must be determined in the cabinet, and no single minister chooses to commit himself, by giving any opinion which may be ever quoted to his disadvantage by any party.
This is not only the state of mind of every minister, but of every ministry. They have an unconquerable reluctance to deciding upon any thing, or giving any answer; and although Mr. Pitt and Lord Carmarthen have hazarded opinions upon some points to me, I do not believe I shall get any answer officially from the cabinet or the minister of foreign affairs. I wish for an answer, be it ever so rough or unwise. Mr. Pitt, I confess, was much more open than I expected. He was explicit in my favor, relative to the negroes and the armistice, and for digesting the whole in the present leisure, and giving me an answer. I should rejoice in a cabinet answer to all my letters, and especially in a counter-project of a treaty; but I will be so free as to say I do not expect any answer at all before next spring, nor then, unless intelligence should arrive of all the States adopting the navigation act, or authorizing congress to do it; and, even in that case, I am inclined to think they will try the experiment, and let our navigation acts operate, to satisfy themselves which people will first roar out with pain. They deceive themselves yet in many points, which I may enumerate in a future letter.
From what Mr. Pitt said, I am convinced we shall have no answer concerning the posts.
With great respect, &c.
This letter will be delivered to you by Mr. Charles Storer, your old acquaintance, who has served me much as a private secretary, and that without fees.
SECRETARY JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office for Foreign Affairs, 26 August, 1785.
It gives me pleasure to inform you that your letters of 2d, 6th, and 17th June last have been received, and were this day laid before congress, who, I am persuaded, will read them with as much satisfaction as I have done. You have been in a situation that required much circumspection. I think you have acquitted yourself in a manner that does you honor.
The vessel that is to carry this sails in the morning, so that, at present, I can only add my best wishes, and assure you that
I am, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 30 August, 1785.
The more I consider what I see and hear every day, the more I am inclined to think we shall be obliged to imitate the Utopians, who, as Sir Thomas More informs, “as to their exportations, thought it better to manage that themselves, than to let foreigners come and deal in it; for, by this means, as they understand the state of the neighboring countries better, so they keep up the art of navigation, which cannot be maintained but by much practice in it.”
I would not be understood, however, to wish that the United States should at present proceed farther than to exclude British ships from “coming and dealing” in our exportations. Other nations may be permitted, for any thing that I know, without inconvenience; at least the experiment may be tried. Other foreign nations will probably have few ships employed in this way; England, Scotland, and Ireland would have many; but, if it should be found that British ships are Frenchified, Dutchified, or otherwise metamorphosed, in order to manage any part of our exportations, I hope the United States will not hesitate to make the prohibition universal to the ships of all nations, and confine their exports to their own. There is no other way that I know of, in which we can compensate ourselves for that vigorous exclusion of American built ships from the British dominions, upon which all parties here, I fear, are determined. The popular cry has been universal, as I am informed, “What! Shall the United States be our ship carpenters? Shall we depend upon a foreign nation for our navigation? In case of war with them, shall we be without ships, or obliged to our enemies for them?”
With regard to duties, will our countrymen be long contented to pay four or five hundred per cent, upon their tobacco, and fifty per cent. upon other articles of their produce, in the ports of Great Britain, while British subjects pay but ten per cent. upon the importation of any of their commodities in our ports? I do not believe they will. They will rather lay duties upon British luxuries, to repay their own citizens the duties they pay in British ports. It is indeed impossible to foresee where this conflict of prohibition and duties will end. It is impossible to conjecture what the English will attempt. I am not easy about the negotiations now on foot with France and Spain. I have not yet sufficiently explained myself to you upon this subject.
By the eighteenth article of the definitive treaty of peace between France and England, signed at Versailles the 3d of September, 1783, it is stipulated that “immediately after the exchange of the ratifications, the two high contracting parties shall name commissaries to treat concerning new arrangements of commerce between the two nations, on the basis of reciprocity and mutual convenience, which arrangements shall be settled and concluded within the space of two years, to be computed from the first of January in the year 1784.”
In the ninth article of the definitive treaty between Great Britain and Spain, there is a stipulation in the same words; and the Duke of Manchester made a declaration to each of those powers at the same time “that the new state in which commerce may, perhaps, be found in all parts of the world, will demand revisions and explanations of the subsisting treaties.”
In compliance with these stipulations and declarations, Mr. Crawford was long ago sent to Paris to treat with the Court of Versailles, and Mr. Woodward is lately appointed here to treat with Mr. Del Campo on the part of Spain. Mr. Crawford transmitted to his Court, a year ago, a plan which he received from the French minister; but I know, from the Duke of Dorset, who told me himself, that Mr. Crawford had no answer from England in six months, and, indeed, I conjecture that he had none till since the edict of the French King, prohibiting British manufactures. If these arrangements are not made before the first of January, the two years will be expired, and nothing more will be said of them until another war and peace. But, I confess, I shall be anxious until new year’s day. The conduct of this Court, in these discussions with France and Spain, is very interesting to us, as it will throw much light upon their intentions towards us. There are great appearances of a fixed intention to keep the peace with France and Spain for a long period. The late advice of the ministers of the King of Great Britain to the Elector of Hanover, to join the league of the King of Prussia, against the views of the Emperor and Empress, can be accounted for on no supposition, but that of a determination, in all events, to preserve their peace with France and Spain. Whence this love of France and of peace? Neither is a natural passion in an English breast. Let my country answer, “it is not love of me.” On the contrary, although I wish not to alarm my fellow-citizens, it appears to me that the plan of this country towards us is nearly settled; it is not fully, and will not be, until the next budget is opened. The next budget will decide the fate of this country, and especially her system towards the United States.
If Mr. Pitt should then, in 1786, be able to justify his hypothesis at the opening of the budget in 1785, and shall be able to show that the taxes have increased in the proportion, with the hope of which he flattered himself and the nation, this government will then preserve the peace with France and Spain, at almost any rate, persevere in their system of commerce respecting the United States of America, in spite of all your arguments and remonstrances, prohibitions and retaliations, and ultimately attack you with a new war. In my private opinion, in the mean time it is their fixed design to keep possession of the posts on the frontier. Sir John Johnson is certainly going out; and it is given out that fifteen hundred men are going to Quebec, and materials, engineers, and workmen for large fortifications in Nova Scotia.
In short, sir, America has no party at present in her favor. All parties, on the contrary, have committed themselves against us, except Shelburne and Buckingham, and the last of these is against a treaty of commerce with us; so is even Mr. Temple, who is gone out to New York, appointed, as I suppose, in compliment to his namesake, the Marquis of Buckingham. I had almost said the friends of America are reduced to Dr. Price and Dr. Jebb. Patience, under all the unequal burthens they impose upon our commerce, will do us no good; it will contribute in no degree to preserve the peace with this country. On the contrary, nothing but retaliation, reciprocal prohibitions and imposts, and putting ourselves in a posture of defence, will have any effect.
This country can furnish their West India Islands and continental colonies and Newfoundland, so that we cannot suddenly make them feel. We cannot prevent the introduction of their manufactures among us so effectually as to make them feel very soon. They may lessen the duties on Spanish tobacco, so as to make the Spaniards our rivals, and hurt our tobacco States. There are many ways in which they may hurt us, of which we should be apprized beforehand. Ships and oil, all men say, will never be received of us.
I hope the States will be cool, and do nothing precipitately; but, I hope, they will be firm and wise. Confining our exports to our own ships, and laying on heavy duties upon all foreign luxuries, and encouraging our own manufactures, appear to me to be our only resource, although I am very sensible of the many difficulties in the way, and of the danger of their bringing on, in the course of a few years, another war. Nothing but our strength and their weakness will, in my opinion, protect us from such a calamity. They will never again pour large armies into the United States; but they think they can distress us more, by cutting off all our trade by their shipping, and they mean that we shall have no ships nor sailors to annoy their trade.
I would, however, advise the States to suspend their judgments as much as they can, without suspending their navigation acts, until another spring and summer shall have developed the British system of politics in Germany, their plans with France and Spain, and, above all, the state of their debts and taxes and their credit.
I do not believe the ministers have yet digested their own system. It will depend still, in some measure, upon contingencies. There is a taciturnity among them that is very uncommon. They have spies in every corner, who can carry them every whisper as punctually as the police of Paris. I wish I had better means of obtaining intelligence from them, and watching their words and actions; but information of this kind is costly beyond my revenues.
With great esteem, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 16 September, 1785.
I have received your letter of the 4th instant, by Colonel Franks, with a project of a letter to the Emperor of Morocco, and several other papers. I have had this letter fairly copied, with very few and very inconsiderable alterations, and have signed it. I have left room enough at the beginning for you to insert, or leave Mr. Barclay to insert, the Emperor’s titles and address, which may be done with the most certainty in Morocco. By the treaty we have with Holland, the states-general have agreed, upon requisition, to second our negotiations in the most favorable manner, by means of their consuls. I would have prepared a memorial and requisition to that purpose, and have sent it to the Hague; but such a memorial would publish to all the world Mr. Barclay’s mission. I shall wait for your advice, and, if you think proper, I will still send a memorial. But, I am inclined to think, we had better wait until we receive from Mr. Barclay, in Morocco, some account of his prospects. The best argument Mr. Barclay can use, to obtain treaties on moderate terms, is, that we have absolutely, as yet, no ships in the Mediterranean Sea, and shall have none until treaties are made; that our seamen will not go there until treaties are made; that, therefore, the Algerines will have no chance of taking any American vessels anywhere but in the Atlantic, and there they can expect to take but very few, at a vast expense of corsairs, and exposed to our privateers and frigates. Treaties of peace are very unpopular with the people of Algiers; they say it is taking from them all the opportunities of making profits by prizes, for the sake of enriching the Dey by presents. The probability, then, that our trade would be more beneficial to the people than the few prizes they would have a chance to make, by going at a vast expense out of the Mediterranean, and spreading themselves over the ocean, in quest of our ships, exposed to our frigates and the men-of-war of Portugal, &c., would be the best reason for the Dey to use with the people. The common argument is, the bombardments and depredations with which their enemies threaten them by their fleets and squadrons, which commonly accompany the embassy. Mr. Barclay will be very naked in this respect.
Your most humble servant,
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 18 September, 1785.
Inclosed, you have, in confidence, some compliments. Give me in confidence your opinion of them. Is there any thing said by me, which I ought not to have said? Is there any expression exceptionable? Have I compromised myself or the public in any thing, more than ought to be?
The custom of making a speech is so settled, that not only the secretary of state and the master of ceremonies, but some of the foreign ministers took the pains to inform me it was indispensable. Otherwise, being sensible of the difficulty of being complaisant enough, without being too much, I intended to have delivered my credentials without saying more than that they were credentials to his Majesty from the United States.
THE COMMISSIONERS TO JOHN JAY.
London, 2 October, 1785.
We have the honor to transmit to congress, by Mr. Fitzhugh, the treaty between the United States and the King of Prussia, signed separately by your ministers at the several places of their residence, and by the Baron de Thulemeier at the Hague, in English and French, and exchanged at the Hague in presence of Messrs. Short and Dumas. As this treaty may be of considerable importance to the United States, and will certainly promote their reputation, it is to be wished that the ratifications may be exchanged, and the publication made, as soon as possible. The admission of our privateers into the Prussian ports, by a treaty signed at the moment of the negotiation of the league in which Brandenburg and Hanover are parties, is a little remarkable. It certainly merits the consideration of congress and the States.
With great respect, &c.
Paris, 11 October, 1785.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 2 October, 1785.
Colonel Franks arrived yesterday afternoon with your favor of the 24th September. I have signed all the papers as you sent them, not perceiving any alterations necessary. I am afraid that our agent to Algiers, going without any military power, will not succeed; as the danger of having their town bombarded, or their vessels taken, is the principal argument which the Dey has to use with the people to reconcile them to peace. However, we must try the experiment. I have received a letter from Mr. Stephen Sayre, dated New York, 25th August, inclosing another of 23d August, signed by Messrs. Gerry, King, Hardy, Monroe, and Grayson, recommending strongly Mr. Sayre to you and to me, to be employed as agent to Morocco, Algiers, and the other powers, and inclosing another letter to you, probably to the same effect. This letter I now inclose you. It is but a day or two those letters have been received by me. Franks is gone to see if Mr. Randall can be prevailed on to go. If he cannot, will you join Sayre with Lamb? If you will, insert his name in the papers. Mr. Lamb will meet Mr. Sayre at Madrid, where I suppose he now is. But, if he is not, Lamb must not wait for him a moment. I should very willingly undertake the trouble of having bills drawn on me, both by Mr. Barclay and Mr. Lamb, if the good of the service could be promoted by it. But you are sensible there must be a loss in transferring money from Amsterdam to London; yet the advantage may balance it.
You are diffident of interpositions; but it is possible we may carry this too far. I think Mr. Barclay and Mr. Lamb would do well to visit all the foreign consuls. Every one of them will, I am persuaded, show them civilities, and do nothing at all to obstruct their negotiations. They will not dare to do it without orders, and no cabinet in Europe, I verily believe, will venture to give such orders. It will not be from governments that we shall receive opposition. Agents of insurance offices in London, or of merchants trading in fish, &c., in the Mediterranean, may stimulate the corsairs, by exaggerated representations of our wealth, and the riches of our prizes; but that is all. As nothing can be more hostile to the United States than any endeavors to embarrass, obstruct, or counteract them in their endeavors to form treaties of peace with the Barbary powers, I wish you would impress it upon Mr. B. and Mr. L. to be attentive to this, and obtain proofs. And, if the consul or agent of any foreign power should be found and proved to do any thing against us, that they transmit to us the earliest account of it with the evidence. Congress would, no doubt, order a formal complaint to be made against him to his Court; and in this way he would be held up publicly to the execrations of all mankind, and probably be punished by his master.
We have prevailed on Paul Randall, Esquire, to go with Mr. Lamb, so that Sayre, I suppose, must be out of the question, especially as we know not that he is arrived in Europe. I should think that much time might be saved by Mr. Lamb’s going directly to Marseilles, and from thence over to Algiers; but, if you think there will be a greater advantage in the seeing the Algerine envoy at Madrid, or the Count d’Expilly, if he negotiated the late treaty for Spain, I shall submit entirely to your judgment.
As our commissions authorize us, I suppose, it will be construed that they require us to constitute the agents by writing, under our hands and seals. I have accordingly made out four commissions, which, if you approve, you will sign and seal, as I have done.
I have written letters to Mr. Barclay and Mr. Lamb, authorizing them to draw on me. These letters you will please to sign, as the signature of both of us will be necessary. You will be so good, also, as to write to Messrs. Willink, and Nicholas and Jacob Van Staphorst, of Amsterdam, giving your approbation and consent to their paying the bills to be drawn upon me by Mr. Barclay and Mr. Lamb. Otherwise, they may think my authority alone imperfect.
I am, sir, yours, &c.
THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, 11 October, 1785.
Colonel Franks and Mr. Randolph arrived last night. This enables me to send copies of all the Barbary papers to congress by the Mr. Fitzhughs, together with the Prussian treaty. They wait till to-morrow for this purpose.
Considering the treaty with Portugal, as among the most important to the United States, I some time ago took occasion at Versailles to ask the Portuguese ambassador if he had yet received an answer from his Court on the subject of our treaty. He said not; but that he would write again. His secrétaired’ambassade called on me two days ago, and translated into French, as follows, a paragraph of a letter from his minister to the ambassador.
“Relativement à ce que votre excellence nous a fait part de ce qu’elle avoit parlé avec le ministre de l’Amérique, cette puissance doit être déjà persuadée par des faits de la manière dont ses vaisseaux ont été accueillis ici; et par conséquence sa Majesté auroit beaucoup de satisfaction à entretenir une parfaite harmonie et bonne correspondance avec les mêmes États Unis. Mais il seroit à propos de commencer par la nomination réciproque des deux parties des personnes qui, au moins avec le caractère d’agens, informeroient réciproquement leurs constituants de ce qui pourroit conduire à la connoissance des intérêts des deux nations sans préjudice de l’un ou de l’autre. C’est le premier pas qu’il paroit convenable de donner pour conduire à la fin proposée.”
By this, I suppose, they will prefer proceeding as Spain has done, and that we may consider it as definitive of our commission to them. I communicate it to congress, that they may take such other measures for leading on a negotiation as they may think proper.
You know that the third article of instructions, of October 29, 1783, to the ministers for negotiating peace, directed them to negotiate the claim for the prizes taken by the Alliance, and sent into Bergen, but delivered up by the Court of Denmark. You recollect, also, that this has been deferred, in order to be taken up with the general negotiation for an alliance. Captain Jones, desiring to go to America, proposed to me that he should leave the solicitation of this matter in the hands of Dr. Bancroft, and to ask you to negotiate it through the minister of Denmark at London. The delay of Baron Waltersdorf is one reason for this. Your better acquaintance with the subject is a second. The Danish minister here being absent, is a third. And a fourth, and more conclusive one, is, that, having never acted as one of the commissioners for negotiating the peace, I feel an impropriety in meddling with it at all, and, much more, to become the principal agent. I therefore told Captain Jones I would solicit your care of this business. I believe he writes to you on the subject.
Mr. Barclay sets out in two or three days. Lamb will follow, as soon as the papers can be got from this ministry. Having no news, I shall only add, &c. &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 15 October, 1785.
I have received the letter you did me the honor to write me the 6th September. The act of congress of the 18th of August, which you inclose, shall be communicated as directed.
I have the honor to agree fully with you in your opinion, that “it is manifestly as much the interest of this country to be well with us, as for us to be well with them;” but this is not the judgment of the English nation; it is not the judgment of Lord North and his party; it is not the judgment of the Duke of Portland and his friends; and it does not appear to be the judgment of Mr. Pitt and the present set. In short, it does not at present appear to be the sentiment of anybody; and, I am much inclined to believe, they will try the issue of importance with us.
I have insisted upon the surrender of the posts with as much earnestness as prudence would warrant, but can obtain no other answer than certain hints concerning the debts and some other points, which are sufficient to convince me that the restoration of the posts will have certain conditions tacked to it. I have insisted in conversation, and have inquired in writing, but have not yet made a formal requisition, by a memorial in the name, and by order, of the United States. If I had done it, I should have compromitted my sovereign, and should certainly have had no answer. Whenever this is done, it should be followed up. I shall certainly do it, if I should see a moment when it can possibly prevail. If it is the judgment of congress that it should be done immediately, I should be glad of their orders, which shall be exactly obeyed. I should even wish they would prescribe to me the form of the memorial.
It is, indeed, as you observe, in the power of congress to take a certain step, which would be longer and more sensibly felt by Britain than the independence of the United States. You have not hinted at the nature of this measure. I can conceive of more than one. Exclusion of British ships from all our exports, and a heavy duty upon British manufactures, is one; a defensive alliance with France, Spain, and Holland, is another. A case may happen in which this last might be justifiable. But, I presume, it will not hastily be adopted, nor ever, without Canada and Nova Scotia to be admitted into our confederation, and one half at least of the best of the English West India Islands, besides stipulations for the admission of our produce freely to the French West India Islands, and some articles into France, duty free, with similar stipulations with Spain and Holland. I hope, however, the first measure will be adopted forthwith, and not the smallest article of our produce be permitted to be exported in British bottoms.
Mr. Barclay is appointed to go to Morocco, and Colonel Franks goes with him. Mr. Lamb to Algiers, and Paul R. Randall, with him. There will be captives to redeem, as well as treaties to form.
I can obtain no answer from the ministry to any one demand, proposal, or inquiry. In this I am not alone; it is the complaint of all the other foreign ministers. The Dutch envoy, particularly, told me yesterday that he could obtain no answer to any of his memorials, some of which were presented as long ago as last April. The ministry, since the ill fortune of their studies in Ireland, have been in a lethargy; but they must soon awake. Mr. Pitt has long had with him, in the country, our project of a treaty, and it cannot be long before he comes to some determination. They have had lately evidence enough of the utility to them of the public hope of a commercial agreement with America. Holding up the idea of a treaty has rapidly raised the stocks. But I cannot entertain any sanguine hopes; for all experience, all evidence, seem to be lost upon this nation and its rulers. According to most appearances, a nation so entirely given up to the government of its passions, must precipitate itself into calamities greater than it has yet felt. I still think, however, that a decided opinion concerning the system it will pursue, cannot be formed before the opening of the next budget.
With great esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 17 October, 1785.
It has been the general sense of our country since the peace, that it was their duty and their interest to be impartial between the powers of Europe, and observe a neutrality in their wars. This principle is a wise one, upon the supposition that those powers will be impartial to us, and permit us to remain at peace. But it is natural for England and France to be jealous of our neutrality, and apprehensive that, notwithstanding our professions, we may be induced to connect ourselves with one against the other. While such uncertainties and suspicions continue, we may find that each of these rival kingdoms will be disposed to stint our growth and diminish our power, from a fear that it will be employed against itself, and in favor of its enemy. If France could be sure of our perpetual alliance, it is to be supposed she would favor our increase in every thing which could be reconciled to her own interest. If England could obtain such an alliance with us, she, for the same reason, would favor our interests in all cases compatible with her own.
I need not point out to you instances in proof of such a jealousy in France. Yet it may not be amiss to refer you to some hints in Mr. Necker’s late work.
Mr. Hartley, you will remember, dwelt much too often upon the subject of an alliance with England, for us to doubt that, however indecent the suggestion of such an idea was, he nevertheless entertained it. He has lately renewed this topic with me, and I gave him the only answer which can ever be given, namely,—that the moral character of the United States was of more importance to them than any alliance; that they could not, in honor, hear such a proposal; but that, if honor and character were out of the question, while England held a province in America, we could not safely forfeit the confidence of France, nor commit ourselves to the consistency of England.
But, to rise higher. When the King was pleased to say to me that he would be foremost in favor and friendship to the United States, when he should see a disposition to give the preference to this country, he probably meant more than we can comply with. If a preference in commerce only had been meant, it was quite unnecessary to make it a future condition, because the ardor of our citizens in transferring almost the whole commerce of the country here, and voluntarily reviving that monopoly which they had long complained of as a grievance, in a few of the first months of the peace, imprudently demonstrated to all the world an immoderate preference of British commerce. It was impossible that we could give stronger proofs of a preference in this sense. If the royal expression, then, was a deliberate one, it must have intended something more, and something which the United States cannot agree to.
The British ministry, therefore, have now before them a question as important to the British empire as any that ever was agitated in it; whether by evacuating the posts, and fulfilling the treaty of peace in other points, and by opening their ports in the West Indies and on the continent of America, as well as in Europe, to our ships and produce, upon equal and fair terms, they shall insure the impartiality and neutrality of America; or whether, by a contrary conduct, they shall force them into closer connections of alliance and commerce with France, Spain, and Holland. A treaty of defensive alliance with France would deserve a long and careful deliberation, and should comprehend the East and West Indies. I mean our right to trade in them, as well as many other considerations, too numerous to hint at here. A new treaty of commerce might be made greatly beneficial to both countries. If we once see a necessity of giving preferences in trade, great things may be done. By the treaty between England and Portugal of 27th of December, 1703, Portugal promised to admit forever into Portugal the woollen cloths and the rest of the woollen manufactures of the Britons, as was accustomed, till they were prohibited by the laws; nevertheless, upon this condition,—“II. That is to say, that Great Britain shall be obliged forever hereafter to admit the wines of the growth of Portugal into Britain, so that, at no time, whether there shall be peace or war between the kingdoms of Britain and France, any thing more shall be demanded for these wines by the name of customs or duty, or by whatsoever title, directly or indirectly, whether they shall be imported into Great Britain in pipes, or hogsheads, or other casks, than what shall be demanded from the like quantity or measure of French wine, deducting or abating a third part of the customs or duty. But if, at any time, this deduction or abatement of customs shall, in any manner, be prejudiced, it shall be just and lawful for his sacred royal Majesty of Portugal again to prohibit the woollen cloths and the rest of the British woollen manufactures.”
This treaty, which the Irish call the Methuen treaty, from the name of the ambassador who signed it, and which they now claim the benefit of as Britons, although the Portuguese deny them to be Britons, and accordingly refuse their woollens, has had a vast effect both in Portugal and England. The consequence has been, that Portugal has now, for more than fourscore years, clothed herself in British woollens, like an English colony, and has never been able to introduce woollen manufactures at home; and the British islands have drank no other wine than Port, Lisbon, and Madeira, although the wines of France are so much better.
The United States may draw many useful lessons from this example. If, from the blind passions and rash councils of the Britons, they should be compelled to deviate from their favorite principle of impartiality and neutrality, they might make a new commercial treaty with France, for a term or forever exempting all the manufactures of France from one third or one half, or all the duties which shall be stipulated to be laid upon the English manufactures. In this case, what becomes of the manufactures of Britain? what of their commerce, revenue, and naval power? They must decline, and those of her rival must rise.
I hint only at these things. They open a wide field of inquiry, and require all the thoughts of the people. We should stipulate for the admission of all our produce, and should agree upon a tariff of duties on both sides. We should insist upon entire liberty of trade and navigation, both in the East and West Indies and in Africa, and upon the admission of our oil and fish, as well as tobacco, flour, rice, indigo, potash, &c. &c.
This country boasts of her friends and partisans in this and the other assemblies, particularly in New York and Virginia, and is confident we can do nothing, neither exclude their ships from our exports, nor lay on duties upon their imports into our States, neither raise a revenue, nor build a fleet. If their expectations are not disappointed, we shall be, and that in a few months, not only a despised, but a despicable people. With the power in our own hands of doing as we please, we shall do nothing; with the means of making ourselves respected by the wise, we shall become the scorn of fools.
I am under embarrassments in treating with the ministry here, to know how far it is prudent in me to go, in urging upon them what the United States may do, or not do, with France. There would be danger of my committing congress imprudently; but, in conversation with friends, arguments may be casually, and by way of speculation only, put into their mouths, which they will not fail to use where they may or ought to have weight. Yet it is still uncertain whether any thing can have weight. The ministry behave as if they saw certain ruin coming upon the nation, and thought it of no importance in what shape it should appear.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 21 October, 1785.
Yesterday, at eleven o’clock, I went, by appointment, to Lord Carmarthen’s office, and was admitted to his Lordship as soon as he arrived from his house. As this was an hour earlier than the usual appearance of the foreign ministers at the secretary of state’s levee, I had time for a long conversation with his Lordship.
At first I presented him a memorial, containing a requisition of immediate orders for the discharge of our citizens, particularly of Low; secondly, the correspondence between Governor Bowdoin and Captain Stanhope, with the act of congress upon it; and, thirdly, a letter concerning the questions some time ago communicated to your ministers at Paris, relative to their full powers, by the Duke of Dorset. These papers were left with his Lordship for his perusal, at his leisure; but, I conjecture, he laid them before the King in a conference after the drawing-room. After the communication of those papers, I had the honor to observe to his Lordship, that, although they contained matters of some importance, I most sincerely wished there were nothing of greater difficulty and more danger between the two countries. His Lordship wished so too. I added, that, as it was wished on both sides, it was remarkable that the business was not done, as it seemed to be very easy to do; that it was much to be lamented, when the war was ended, and every thing essential which had been in contest was decided, that such circumstances as remained should impede the return of confidence between the two nations. I paused here, in hopes his Lordship would have made some reflection, or dropped some hint, from whence I could have drawn some conclusion, excited some hope, or started some fresh topic; but not a word escaped him. After a long silence, I told him that I hoped for an answer from his Lordship, concerning the posts upon the frontiers; not a word of reply. I said I was extremely uneasy concerning those posts; that, by the last accounts from America, there seemed to be danger of our being involved in an Indian war, merely from the circumstance of their being withheld; that his Lordship could not be unacquainted with the cruelty and barbarity with which those savages made war upon people the most innocent, peaceable, and defenceless; that an Indian war, by filling the gazettes and conversation with relations of horrors, naturally spread a greater alarm, and excited keener passions, than other wars which might be much more destructive and impoverishing; that, if such a war should happen in consequence of withholding the posts, it would enkindle a flame in America which might spread wider, and last longer, than any man could foresee; that I sincerely hoped the King’s ministers would think seriously of it, and give orders for the evacuation; that I must insist on an answer.
Here, his Lordship, in broken sentences, expressed a wish that the ministry would answer everybody, and conveyed a hint that it did not depend upon him. I proceeded, upon this, to say, that, in a conference with Mr. Pitt, when I pressed him for an answer concerning the posts, although he was not explicit with me, I understood him to insinuate to me, that the surrender of the posts would be made conditional upon something respecting the debts. Here, I got something out. His Lordship said,—“To be sure, nothing could be done until the debts were paid.” Paid! my Lord! that is more than ever was stipulated. No government ever undertook to pay the private debts of its subjects; and, in this case, nobody ever had such a thought. The treaty only stipulated that creditors should meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of their debts. But, said his Lordship, if lawful impediments have been thrown in the way—and this was all he could or would let out. I understood him to mean, that government, by putting an impediment in the way, had made itself answerable for the debts themselves. This was the first suggestion to me of such a thought; but it was so fully communicated, that I should not be surprised, if a requisition should be made to that effect. I proceeded with his Lordship, that the people in America saw the treaty violated in two important points, relative to striking objects. The negroes were carried off, and the posts were withheld. The last looked like a continuance of war. It was continuing a foreign army in their territory. These were the first breaches of the treaty; and, without them, I did believe that the debtors would not have had influence enough in any assembly to have procured an act or vote to impede the course of law; and, if the posts were now evacuated, and the negroes paid for, I did not believe the impediment would be continued longer than to the meeting of the assemblies. But, if the removal of these impediments should be made a condition precedent to the evacuation of the posts and payment for the negroes, I very much apprehended it would not be done. As the English had been first in the wrong, it was natural and reasonable to expect that they should be first to get right.
Finding it impossible to learn any thing from his Lordship of his own sentiments or those of his colleagues upon these points, after a pause of some time, I proceeded to some others, and said,—
Your Lordship alone was present, when the King was pleased to say to me, that when he should see a disposition in the United States to give this country the preference, he would be foremost in friendship to them. Yes, I was, said his Lordship. What greater preference, my Lord, can be expected or reasonably desired than has been given? It is not possible for one country to give another stronger proofs than America has given this, of a commercial preference. They have, with an imprudent ardor, discovered too early, and too immoderate a predilection to the commerce of this country, by voluntarily reviving, at the peace, almost the very monopoly which had been established before the war by the acts of parliament. Can any other preference than a commercial one be thought of? No answer. Is it not receiving this disposition too coldly, my Lord, to meet it with obstructions to so many of our remittances? Is there not danger that the conduct of this country will change that disposition? Is it not easily changed? Does it not consist chiefly in mode and taste, setting aside what there is remaining of good will between the people? And, if credit is the lure, is it not easily counteracted? We have been used to buy Russian hemp and duck in London. Say we paid ten per cent. more than it would have cost us in Petersburgh, and that the advantage of having it upon credit was worth to the American merchant twenty per cent, by laying on a duty of ten per cent. on these articles imported from London more than when imported directly from Russia, would not the advantage of credit be wholly counteracted? By laying on fifteen per cent. more, would there not be an end forever to American importations of these articles by the way of London? Silesia linens are another article which we bought in London. May not this commerce be diverted entirely to Stetin and Embden by a similar duty? May not all sorts of manufactures in iron be bought in Germany, and all other manufactures in cotton, linen, metals, silk, velvet, wool, be in the same manner diverted from this to other countries in Europe, only by thus laying a bounty on the importation of them into America, to be paid by those who choose to purchase in England?
It has become fashionable here for gentlemen to speak diminutively of American trade, even among some who had magnified it while in opposition to Lord North. These could not certainly be sincere; but be the value of it what it may, can it be good policy in this country to divert it from herself and send it to her rivals? For example, could it be wise in the English to throw their own Newfoundland fishery into the hands of the French, merely to prevent Americans from supplying it with provisions and necessaries in their own bottoms? I was very much afraid the ministry had not yet duly considered upon what a delicate circumstance their fishery depended; how easily it might be lost, and how hardly recovered. Though the fishery was very beneficial to the public as a nursery of seamen, and a source of wealth, as it stood connected with various other branches of business, yet, to the generality of individuals, it was not very profitable. With their utmost art, industry, and economy, they could but barely live. The Jamaica fish, as some call it, or the West India fish, as others named it, was one third part of the whole; and the preservation and sale of it was essential to the life of the fishery. Unfit for the European market, it had never found any other consumers than the negroes; and the English depended upon selling theirs to the French in their West India Islands. They have been able to undersell the French in their own islands. Why? Because their fishery at Newfoundland being supplied from the United States at a cheaper rate than the French could be from Europe, they could afford to sell their fish cheaper; but now the tables were turned. The French are supplied from the United States, and the English must be from Europe; the consequence of which must be, that the French will very soon be able to supply their own islands cheaper than the English can; and, when this happens, it will be very natural for them to prohibit all foreign fish, American as well as English. I left his Lordship to judge, if this was a probable means of increasing British seamen and navigation, and whether it was not probable, that, if the Americans saw the English, like rash gamesters, playing away their own fisheries into foreign hands, they would look out for themselves, and purchase of the French the admission of their fish into the islands, by stipulating some equivalent for it. Here his Lordship said he wished the council could be brought to take into consideration the relative situation of the two countries and their commerce. I was in hopes he would have said more, and waited long to hear; but, as it appeared he did not intend to be more particular, I said, it was surely necessary that something should be thought of and done with regard to the West India trade. It would be well to consider, whether the United States, if they found themselves excluded from the English islands, would not think it necessary to purchase a free admission of their flour and ships, as well as fish and other things, to perpetuity, by stipulating with the French Court some perpetual advantage, in some particulars, over the English commerce. Hitherto, it had been the policy of the States to be impartial; but, if they were once driven from this principle, I left his Lordship to judge how far they might go, and ought to go. I asked his Lordship, whether it would not be just and wise in France to stipulate with us a perpetual admission of our oil to illuminate their cities; of our potash, duty free; of our tobacco, upon easier duties and better terms; in short, of all the produce of our country, upon better conditions, of our flour, fish, and ships into their islands, and of our ready built ships for sale, into all her dominions, if congress would stipulate with them a perpetual preference of French ships and manufactures over the English in America. If we would stipulate to lay on duties one third or one half heavier upon English than French navigation and merchandize, might we not make a profitable bargain? might we not do the same with any and every other trading nation in Europe? Necessity would force us to carry our trade where we could find a market for our produce; and, if England would not receive it upon living terms, we must carry it to Germany or the Baltic, to Holland or the Mediterranean, to Portugal or France, to Spain or even to the East Indies. All this was very patiently and civilly heard, but not a word of answer. I then asked, what could be the reason that the commerce between the United States and the remaining British Colonies, Canada and Nova Scotia, should not be encouraged; it had been found mutually beneficial heretofore, and our share of the profit of it had been a source of remittance to England, and would be again. Those colonies, especially Nova Scotia, would find it difficult to subsist without it for a long time. Finding, however, that his Lordship was determined to deliver no opinions, nor give the smallest hint from whence any conclusions or conjectures could be formed, I asked him for his advice, whether it would answer any good end for me to wait on any other of the ministers, as my Lord Camden and the Duke of Richmond, for example, and enter into more particular conversation with them upon these subjects. His Lordship said, Lord Camden was gone into the country, and the Duke of Richmond to the distant seaports, and would not be here for many weeks; but Mr. Pitt was here. I replied, that I had found Mr. Pitt, in the conversations I had had with him, candid and intelligent; and that, for any thing I knew, the affairs of the nation could not be in better hands; but he was in a critical situation; and, if a foundation should be laid of a final alienation between England and America, it would be a deeper stain, a blacker blot upon his administration, than the indepenence of the United States had been upon that of Lord North.
It is not worth your while nor mine to endeavor to recollect more particularly this useless conversation, in which the reciprocity, as Lord North said on another occasion, was all on one side. I did not think it prudent to urge to his Lordship the possibility of any other new connections between the United States and other European nations, than commercial ones. The possibility and the probability of a more permanent, indeed of a perpetual, defensive alliance between France, Spain, Holland, and the United States, with even Ireland soliciting to be the fifth power, is so obvious to common sense, that one would think it could not escape the contemplation of the ministry.
There are persons in this kingdom sufficiently insane to say, that they will bring America to petition to come again under the government of this country; they will distress them till they break their faith with France, and then they say “we will spurn them.” If the King and ministry entertain such thoughts, they are weaker than I ever thought them, and wickeder than anybody ever represented them. But, although insidious policy is not a novelty in this country, I do not believe them capable of such an excess of it at this time.
The true secret I conceive to be, a real ignorance and indecision what to do. They have discovered, by their Newfoundland bill and Irish propositions, a desire to preserve the principle of the navigation act against the United States. Both these experiments have been unfortunate. The first produced the Massachusetts and New Hampshire navigation acts; and the last procured a defeat in the parliament of Ireland. They are now confounded, and know not whether to persevere or to retreat; and, I am convinced, they have agreed together to observe a total silence with me until they shall come to a resolution. This reserve they maintain to all others, as well as to me, lest any hints might escape them, by which the various parties who are led by Shelburne, Buckingham, North, and Fox, should know how to begin the foundation of their opposition. They are really embarrassed; for, whatever treaty they make with us must be submitted to parliament, either before it is signed, or it must be made and signed, expressly subject to the approbation or disapprobation of parliament; and they are at a loss to guess what they can carry through parliament, knowing the talents of the opposition, and the force of national prejudice and passion in favor of the navigation laws. They are afraid to attempt what they know they ought to do.
This being the state of things, you may depend upon it, the commerce of America will have no relief at present, nor, in my opinion, ever, until the United States shall have generally passed navigation acts. If this measure is not adopted, we shall be derided; and the more we suffer, the more will our calamities be laughed at. My most earnest exhortations to the States, then, are, and ought to be, to lose no time in passing such acts; they will raise our reputation all over the world, and will avail us in treating with France and Holland, as well as England; for, when these nations once see us in the right way, and united in such measures, they will estimate more highly our commerce, our credit, and our alliances. The question has been asked in France as often as in England, What have you to give in exchange for this and that? particularly, it was a constant question of the Marechal de Castries, What have you to give as a reciprocity for the benefit of going to our islands? When we have once made a navigation act, or shown that we can unite in making one, we may answer, we can repeal our act or our imposts in return for your repealing yours.
With regard to this country, I confess to you, I never should have believed, nor could have imagined the real situation of it, if I had not been here and resided here some time. I never could have conceived such an union of all parliamentary factions against us, which is a demonstration of the unpopularity of our cause. If the States do not make haste to confine their exports to their own ships, and lay on duties upon British merchandise which shall give a decided advantage to our own manufactures and those of Germany, France, and other nations, it will be to no purpose to continue a minister here; and I am sure I shall wish myself anywhere else rather than here. These are remedies which congress and the States can apply. I should hope they will not proceed farther at present; but, if these are found insufficient, I hope they will think of proceeding farther in commercial treaties with other nations, and reserve the resource of further alliances as a last resort.
The drafts already made, and the negotiations in Barbary, will exhaust your little fund in Amsterdam; and, before next March, all your servants in Europe must return home for want of means, even of subsistence, unless something is done; our countrymen should not expect that miracles will be wrought for their relief; if their affairs are not conducted with wisdom and activity, they will reap, most certainly, the fruits of folly and supineness.
Before I conclude, I will mention one more extravagance that I know is lurking in some hearts here. They would willingly embarrass Mr. Pitt in any rational plan of agreement with me, and cheerfully precipitate him into a war with the United States, if they could, well knowing that it would be his ruin. They think, and, I can add, they say, “that Canada and Nova Scotia must soon be ours; there must be a war for it; they know how it will end, but the sooner the better; this done, we shall be forever at peace; till then, never.” But these people do not consider that this will involve us in unchangeable connections with France, and prove the final ruin of this country.
The stocks have lately risen to sixty-five and sixty-six. Whether this is owing to ministerial tricks, or the real affluence of money, it will raise the fund of pride and vanity in the nation in a much greater proportion, and make it more difficult for the minister to do what even he may think right with America. I must conclude, by repeating that my only hopes are in the virtue, resolution, and unanimity of my fellow-citizens.
With great respect, &c.
RICHARD HENRY LEE TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 24 October, 1785.
Having yesterday written a long letter to you, I have now only to request your attention to the following business, which is of very great importance to those whom it concerns, and who form a considerable portion of the citizens of these States. The representatives of those professing the church of England system of religion, having been lately assembled at Philadelphia, where lay and clerical deputies from seven States were convened in general convention, for the purpose, among other things, of preserving and maintaining a succession of divines in their church, in a manner which they judge consonant to the gospel, and no way interfering with the religious or civil rights of others, have sent an address to the archbishops and bishops of England, proposing a plan for the consecration of American bishops. It is imagined that, before any thing is done in this business by the bishops of England, they will consult the King and ministry, who, it is apprehended, may now, as heretofore, suppose that any step of the kind being taken in England might be considered here as an officious intermeddling with our affairs that would give offence on this side the water. Should this be the case, the church of England members in congress have the greatest reliance on your liberal regard for the religious rights of all men, that you will remove mistaken scruples from the mind of administration, by representing how perfectly consonant it is with our revolution principles professed throughout all the States, that every denomination of Christians has a right to pursue its own religious modes, interfering not with others; that, instead of giving offence, it must give content, by evidencing a friendly disposition to accommodate the people here who are members of the church in question. In proof of this, congress did lately show their attention to the accommodation of this class of Christians, by communicating to the different executives your information from the Danish minister of that King’s willingness to facilitate the business of ordination for our church. And the assembly of Virginia hath incorporated this society, under which act of incorporation the convention was held in that State, that sent both lay and clerical deputies to the general convention lately held in Philadelphia.
I have the honor to be, &c.
Richard Henry Lee.
JOHN JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 1 November, 1785.
The inclosed letter from President Lee to you (of the subject and contents of which I am informed) will explain to you the design of the letters and papers which accompany this. The ones to the archbishops of York and Canterbury are left open for your information; and that you may the more easily determine with yourself, either to deliver it in person, or merely to forward it by a proper conveyance. The attention you manifested to the Episcopalian church, in the affair of Denmark, has much obliged the members of it, and induced them to hope for your further good offices.
The convention are not inclined to acknowledge or have any thing to do with Mr. Seabury. His own high church principles, and the high church principles of those who ordained him, do not quadrate either with the political principles of our Episcopalians in general, or with those on which our revolution and constitutions are founded. They wish, therefore, to have a bishop to whom no objections of that kind can be made, and that is the object of their present measures. It will be much in your power to aid them in the attainment of it; and, for my own part, I think, your friendly interposition will neither disserve your country nor yourself.
To me, personally, bishops are of little importance; but, as our civil affairs are now circumstanced, I have no objections to gratifying those who wish to have them. I confess I do not like the principles of the non-jurors; and, I think, the less patronage such opinions meet with among us, the better.
With great and sincere esteem,
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 4 November, 1785.
Yesterday, at the minister’s levee, one of the foreign ministers put into my hands a Leyden gazette, in which I found announced to the public an arrêt of the King of France of the 18th of September, in which a bounty of ten livres per quintal is promised to any French merchants who shall import into the market of the French West India Islands, or of Spain, Portugal, or Italy, any fish of the French fisheries, and in which the impost upon all foreign fish is raised to five livres a quintal. This amounts to an encouragement of fifteen livres a quintal upon French fish in the West Indies.
As the supply of the French islands with fish is so material, perhaps so essential to our fishery, this ordinance deserves the earliest and most serious attention of every man in America, who has any regard to our fisheries.
As the supply of the French islands with fish is of so much consequence to the British fishery, I took occasion, in a conference with the Marquis of Carmarthen, to mention it to him, and to observe to him, that I left it to his Lordship to consider, whether the British fisheries could be supported against the influence of this ordinance, without the freest communication of supplies from the United States. His Lordship thought it deserved consideration, and that was all the oracle would deliver. I afterwards mentioned it to Mr. Fraser, his Lordship’s under secretary of state.
The Marquis of Carmarthen, that I may let you into enough of his character to account for his conduct, is a modest, amiable man, treats all men with civility, and is much esteemed by the foreign ministers, as well as the nation, but is not an enterprising minister; is never assuming, and, I believe, never takes upon himself to decide any point of importance, without consulting the cabinet. He never gives his private opinion; but, in all things which respect America, I do not believe that he or any other of the ministry has yet formed any. We shall, I think, learn nothing of their designs till they are brought forth in parliament in the course of the winter and spring.
Mr. Pitt commenced his career with sentiments rather liberal towards the United States; but, since he has been prime minister, he has appeared to give ear to the chancellor and Lord Gower, Mr. Dundas, and Mr. Jenkinson, with their instruments, Erving, Chalmers, Smith and others, so much as to have departed from his first principle. He has tried the experiments of the Newfoundland bill and the fourth Irish proposition; but, finding the fatal success of both, he may be brought back to the system with which he set out; but I doubt it; or rather, I am convinced he never will, until he is obliged to it, by our States adopting navigation acts.
There is published this morning, in the Chronicle, the proceedings at Charleston on the 15th August, which look very encouraging. If the legislature of South Carolina lay partial restrictions on the ships of such nations as have no treaty of commerce with the United States, I think it cannot be doubted that all the other States will come into the measure; because there is none which will suffer a greater temporary inconvenience by it. These measures have a tendency to encourage the naval stores of North Carolina so much, that she will be a gainer. But the principal danger is, that these restrictions may not be sufficiently high to give a clear advantage to the ships of the United States.
I cannot repeat to you too often, sir, that all my hopes are founded upon such exertions in America. The trade with America must come under consideration of parliament in the renovation of the intercourse act, if not of the Newfoundland act; and their deliberations will be influenced by nothing but American navigation acts. I fear there are not enough of these yet made, nor likely to be made this year, to have much effect.
This nation is strangely blinded by prejudice and passion. They are ignorant of the subject beyond conception. There is a prohibition of the truth, arising from popular anger. Printers will print nothing which is true, without pay, because it displeases their readers; while their gazettes are open to lies, because they are eagerly read, and make the paper sell. Scribblers for bread are wholly occupied in abusing the United States; and writers for fame, if there are any such left in this country, find the public applause wholly against us. The rise of the stocks has established Mr. Pitt; and, if he were willing, he would scarcely be able to do right, until America shall enable him and oblige him.
I am, sir, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 5 November, 1785.
The Chevalier de Pinto, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from Portugal, after a long absence by leave of his Court, is lately arrived here from Lisbon. Upon several occasions, when I met him at Court and upon visits, he told me that he had orders from his Court to confer with me, upon the project of a treaty between the United States and Portugal; but he never descended to particulars till yesterday, when he called upon me, and said that, before he left Lisbon, his Court had learned that I was in England, and had charged him to enter into conference with me, concerning that project of a treaty which had been transmitted to his Court by the Count de Souza; that the Portuguese ministry, notwithstanding their high esteem for their ambassador in France, knowing that he lived in the country, and was in distress, did not choose that the negotiation should be any longer conducted by him, but had committed the project to their envoy at the Court of England, and had instructed him to assure me that the Court of Lisbon was sincerely desirous of entering into a treaty of commerce with the United States of America, a power with which it was more convenient for Portugal to trade than any other. But there were some things in the plan proposed, which were inadmissible; particularly, the Americans could never be admitted into the Brazils. It was impossible. It was the invariable maxim of their Court, to exclude all nations from those territories; and, having himself served for some years as governor-general of one of the Brazils, he knew it was a policy from which his Court could never, on any condition, depart; that it was a great compliment to him, to be preferred to the Count de Souza for the conduct of such a negotiation; that he made no pretensions to such merit, but readily acknowledged the superiority of the ambassador; but it was the pleasure of his Court, and he had no right to dispute it.
I answered, that I had no authority to treat, but in conjunction with Mr. Jefferson, the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at the Court of Versailles; that the full power to treat with Portugal was to Mr. Jefferson and me jointly; so that I could conclude nothing without his concurrence, nor carry on any conferences without communicating them to him. To this I supposed he could have no objection. He said, none at all.
His first instruction was, he said, to confer with me concerning the mutual wants and several productions of our countries, which might be the objects of commerce. His countrymen wanted, he said, grain. I asked, if they did not want flour. He said he was not precisely instructed concerning flour; but they had mills in Portugal which they wished to employ. I replied, that, in every negotiation, I thought there ought to be a mutual consideration of each other’s profits and losses, advantages and disadvantages, so that the result might be equitable, and give satisfaction on both sides; that a commerce founded upon compacts made upon this principle, would ever be carried on with more pleasure and to better effect; that we had mills which we wished to employ, as well as Portugal, and mills as costly and as good as those of any nation. In this respect, then, our pretensions were mutual and equal; but there were other particulars in which, without benefit to Portugal, the loss to the United States would be very great. The commodity was more difficult to preserve in grain than in flour; it was more exposed to the insect and to heat, both at home and upon the passage, by which means the loss upon wheat was much greater than that upon flour; that it would not be equitable, then, for Portugal to receive wheat to the exclusion of flour; that this was a point of so much importance, that it would facilitate the treaty, and encourage the commerce, if his Court should think fit to agree to receive our flour.
He said he had not precise instructions, but he would write to his Court particularly upon this subject. The next article wanted by the Portuguese was lumber of various sorts, particularly staves for pipes, in large quantities. They wanted, also, ship timber, pitch, tar, and turpentine, potash for their manufactures of glass, iron, masts, yards and bowsprits, furs, ginseng, and, above all, salt fish. The consumption of this article in Portugal, he said, was immense; and, he would avow to me, that the American salt fish was preferred to any other, on account of its quality. Here, you see, says the Chevalier de Pinto, is a catalogue of articles which the Portuguese will want in larger or smaller quantities; now, what are the articles you can take in America in exchange? It behoves my nation to inquire what they can supply yours with; otherwise the balance in your favor may be too ruinous to us. It happens unluckily for Portugal, that the Americans have no occasion for our principal commodities, which are tobacco, rice, indigo, &c., the produce of the Brazils. I replied, that the United States had been used to take considerable quantities of Madeira, Lisbon, and port wines, fruits, olive oil, salt, &c. He asked, why we could not take tea from Lisbon. They imported from the east large quantities, and very good. The English East India Company had purchased of them this year teas to the amount of forty thousand pounds, and he thought they could sell it to us cheaper than we bought it elsewhere. They could supply us, likewise, with other East India goods. Perhaps we intended to supply ourselves by a direct trade to India. He was glad to hear that our first enterprises had succeeded; but, if we continued to take any part of our consumption from Europe, they could supply us as cheaply as any other nation. Sugar, too, the produce of the Brazils, they could furnish to us, of as good quality as English or French, and much cheaper. If we should think of manufactures among ourselves, they could let us have wool of the same quality with the Spanish, and cotton in any quantities we might want. If we made chocolate, they could sell us cocoa. Indeed, they had woollen manufactures, and could afford us cloth as good and cheap as other nations.
These were things, I replied, in which the merchants on both sides should speculate. If the United States should proceed in the plan already begun, of encouraging their own manufactures, the raw materials of wool and cotton would be in demand; and, if they persevered in their measures for encouraging their own navigation, they would want large quantities of hemp, sail cloth, &c., from the Baltic; and, for what I knew, they might find their account in taking sugars, cotton, cocoa, &c., at Lisbon, to carry as remittances to Petersburgh and Stockholm. They might even, upon some occasions, purchase tobacco, rice, and indigo for the same market, as well as the Mediterranean, if that sea should be open to our ships. But all these things would depend upon the facilities given to our commodities by the treaty. Nothing would contribute so much to promote the trade, as their receiving our flour without duties or discouragements; our ready built ships, too, were an article of importance to us. He said he did not know that our ready built ships were prohibited. I asked, if they could not take our spermaceti oil to burn in their lamps, or for any other uses. He said, no; they had such an abundance of oil made in the country, of olives which grew there, that they had no occasion for their own spermaceti oil, which they sold to Spain; they had now a very pretty spermaceti whale fishery which they had learned of the New Englanders, and carried on upon the coast of Brazil. I asked, if they could not take our spermaceti candles, and burn them in their churches. He said, they made some wax in Portugal and some in Brazil; but he would own it was not enough for their consumption; the surplus they bought in Italy and Barbary at a dear rate. At length, I observed to the Chevalier that Portugal abounded in two articles which would be extremely convenient to my fellow-citizens, in which she might always balance accounts with us to our entire satisfaction, whether we should take more or less of their other commodities. These were silver and gold, than which no kind of merchandise was in greater demand, or had a higher reputation. The Chevalier thought the taste of his countrymen so much like ours, that they had rather pay us in any thing else.
I added, if the conduct of the Court of St. James should oblige the United States to make a navigation act, their commerce must increase with Portugal. A navigation act! said he. Why, there is not a nation in Europe that would suffer a navigation act to be made in any other, at this day. The English navigation act was made in times of ignorance, when few nations cultivated commerce, and no Court but this understood or cared any thing about it; but, at present, all courts were attentive to it. For his part, if he were minister in Portugal, he would not hesitate to exclude from her ports the ships of any nation that should make such an act. I replied, that I did not mean a navigation act against any nation but this; but, if the English persevered in enforcing their act against us, we could do no other than make one against them. The Chevalier said we should be perfectly in the right. The Courts of Europe had a long time cried out against this act of the English. If it were now to begin, it would not be submitted to.
This observation is just, and it may be carried farther. I do not believe the British navigation act can last long; at least, I am persuaded, if America has spirit enough, umbone repellere umbonem, that all other nations will soon follow her example, and the apprehension of this would be alone sufficient, if thinking beings governed this island, to induce them to silence America, by giving her satisfaction. But they rely upon our disunion, and think it will be time enough, when we shall have shown that we can agree.
The Chevalier concluded the conference, by saying that he would write to his Court for farther information and instructions; and, as I understood him, for full powers. But, before he went away, he said he had orders from his Court to inquire of me what were the sentiments of congress upon the head of ministers and consuls, whether they would send a minister and consul to Lisbon. His Court had a mind to send somebody to the United States; but etiquette required that congress should send in return to Portugal. I answered, that, in the project of a treaty, which was in his possession, there was an article that each party should have a right to send consuls; so that, when the treaty was concluded, Portugal would be at liberty to send when she would. As to ministers, I had no instructions; but there could be no doubt, that, if their Majesties of Portugal thought proper to send an ambassador of any denomination, he would be received by congress with all the respect due to his character and his sovereign. He said, if there was a treaty, there ought to be ministers. I could not answer to this particularly, for want of instructions; but congress had, as yet, but few ministers abroad; and, indeed, they had not found many gentlemen disposed to quit the delights of their own families and connections, and the esteem of their fellow-citizens, for the sake of serving in Europe; and here ended the conversation.
With great esteem, &c.
P. S. I forgot to mention in its place, that I asked the Chevalier about our ships being admitted to the Portuguese island of Macao in the East Indies. He said, that would be of importance to us; for he did not see how the commerce with China could be carried on without the use of that island, as there were certain seasons of the year when European ships, and American, too, he supposed, could not be admitted into Canton. But our ships should enjoy the benefit of their island as fully as any nation in Europe.
You will perceive, sir, by this conference, what is more and more manifest every day; that there is, and will continue, a general scramble for navigation. Carrying trade, ship building, fisheries, are the cry of every nation; and it will require all the skill and firmness of the United States to preserve a reasonable share of their own. They have brought treaties of commerce so much into fashion, that more have been made since the American war, and are now in negotiation, than had been made for a century before. Courts which never made one before, are now proposing them to several others. Portugal is supposed to be pushing for one with Russia; and, if we have heretofore been discouraged and thwarted in any attempts, it was by those who meant to be beforehand with us in proposals which they taught us to believe it unnecessary and beneath our dignity to make. France does not now think it beneath her dignity to propose a treaty with Russia, nor do French or English newspapers, under the direction of their Courts, think it beneath them to fill all Europe with reports of our disunion, and of the want of powers in congress to make treaties, in order to keep us back.
The fatal policy of obstructing and delaying our treaties of commerce, especially with England, has thrown American merchants into their present distress, and not only prevented our acquiring fresh advantages in trade by the revolution, but taken from us many sources which we enjoyed before. Our countrymen, partly from penury, and partly from fondness, have been too easily drawn into the snare.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 11 November, 1785.
There is no better advice to be given to the merchants of the United States, than to push their commerce to the East Indies as fast and as far as it will go.
If information from persons who ought to know may be depended upon, the tobacco and peltries, as well as the ginseng of the United States, are proper articles for the China market, and have been found to answer very well; and many other of our commodities may be found in demand there. But there is another resource which may prove of equal value at present. There are many persons in the European factories in India, particularly the English, who have accumulated large property, which they wish to transmit to Europe, but have not been able to do it, on account of the distance and the scarcity of freights. These would be glad to sell us their commodities, and take our bills of exchange upon Europe or America, payable in twelve or eighteen months, possibly in longer periods.
These facts are known to individuals in America, but will probably be concealed from the public at large, lest the speculators and adventurers should be too numerous for the profit of a few.
The States may greatly encourage these enterprises by laying on duties upon the importation of all East India goods from Europe, and, indeed, by proceeding in time to prohibitions. This, however, may never be necessary. Duties, judiciously calculated, and made high enough to give a clear advantage to the direct importation from India, will answer the end as effectually as prohibitions, and are less odious, and less liable to exceptions.
We should attend to this intercourse with the east with the more ardor, because the stronger footing we obtain in those countries, of more importance will our friendship be to the powers of Europe who have large connections there. The East Indies will probably be the object and the theatre of the next war; and the more familiar we are with every thing relating to that country, the more will the contending parties desire to win us to their side, or, at least, what we ought to wish for most, to keep us neutral.
Much will depend upon the behavior of our people who may go into those countries. If they endeavor, by an irreproachable integrity, humanity, and civility to conciliate the esteem of the natives, they may easily become the most favored nation; for the conduct of European nations in general, heretofore, has given us a great advantage.
East India manufactures in silk and cotton, &c., are prohibited in England; and, as we have no such prohibitions in America, because we have no such manufactures for them to interfere with, we may take them to a great advantage.
I am, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 24 November, 1785.
I was yesterday honored with your letter of the 14th of October, accompanied with the gazettes and the act of congress of the 27th September.
You will learn from Mr. Dumas’s letters, as well as by the public papers, that the treaty of defensive alliance between France and Holland was signed at Paris on the 10th of this month. The vain exertions of the cabinet of St. James to prevent it, are so far from being a secret, that the English, or Orange party, which is the same, have inserted them in their own Courier du Bas Rhin. The offers are there stated to have been, the restitution of Negapatnam, the renunciation of the navigation of the Moluccas, the payment of the millions to the Emperor, the warranty of the new treaty with the Emperor, and the alteration of the navigation act in favor of Holland.
Sir James Harris, with his secretary of legation and three clerks, are said to have been very busy night and day, but all to no purpose. It is not at all to be wondered at, that British ministers should be alarmed; the only wonder is, that they did not foresee and prevent the danger. Two years ago, by an honest settlement with America, and less costly offers to Holland, they might have maintained their rank among the powers of Europe. It is now lost forever.
The loss of the empire of the seas, which their ambition has long aspired to, and which their arrogance has long claimed, would be a benefit to mankind, and no real evil to them; but they will now find it difficult to defend their liberty upon the seas; and, if the United States of America should accede to this defensive alliance upon any reasonable terms, think of it as they will, their navigation, their possessions in the east and the west, and their empire, will be at mercy.
I am not informed whether congress have any such measure in contemplation; but, if they have, they ought not to delay it from any expectation of any thing that I can do here. So far from entertaining any sanguine hopes, I think there is scarcely a possibility that I should do any thing. There are divisions in the ministry. Thurlow, Gower, Dundas, and Jenkinson are of the old leaven, and the King will have them or some other of the same stamp to govern. Pitt is but a tool and an ostensible pageant, a nose of tender virgin wax; he could not carry in parliament, nor in the cabinet, any honest system with America, if he meant to do it; but he is himself very far from being steady in his American politics, any more than Camden or Richmond; and Sidney and Carmarthen are ciphers. This is naked truth; but I should be unworthy of your confidence, if I did not expose it to you, although your prudence and that of congress will not proclaim it to the world.
This great event of the French and Dutch alliance, must awaken the feelings of this nation, if they have any left; and it affords the only opportunity which has yet presented for offering, with any propriety, a memorial concerning the evacuation of the frontier posts. It would have looked somewhat too emphatic, to have gone with a memorial the first moment of the arrival of the news; and it would be imprudent to delay it till the whole impression is worn off. As a medium, then, I have concluded, on the day of the next stated conferences of the foreign ministers, which will be next Thursday, before the drawing room, to wait on Lord Carmarthen with a memorial requiring, in the name of the United States, the evacuation of all the posts.
It will not be done, however, and I shall have no answer. They have not the courage to refuse, any more than to comply. I have no answer to any of my letters or memorials to the ministry, nor do I expect any before next spring; perhaps not then.
There is no resource for me in this nation. The people are discouraged and dispirited, from the general profligacy and want of principle, from the want of confidence in any leaders, from the frequent disappointments and impositions they have experienced in turn from all parties. Patriotism is no more; nor is any hypocrite successful enough to make himself believed to be one. Fox, and his friends and patrons, are ruined by the endless expenses of the last elections, and have no longer any spirit or any enterprise. North and his friends are afraid of impeachments and vengeance, and, therefore, will avoid all hazardous experiments, by which the popular cry might be excited.
I see nothing, therefore, to prevent the States from completing their measures for the encouragement of their own manufactures and navigation, or from deliberating upon a new treaty of commerce with France, or even a new alliance. You might probably purchase a market for your ready built ships and your oil, &c., in France, and the admission of your flour and all other things to their islands, by stipulating to lay greater duties upon British than French ships and goods, to lay duties upon English West India rum, in favor of French brandies, &c. But in these things I think we need not be in haste.
Mr. Barclay and Mr. Franks are gone to Morocco; and Mr. Lamb and Mr. Randall to Algiers, as I suppose.
Russia, as well as Portugal, are piqued at present with this Court; and Count Woronzow has several times lately asked a friend of mine, why the United States did not make advances to his mistress. Our commissions for treating with the powers of Europe expire next June, long before we shall have completed the business. Congress will determine whether to renew them.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 24 November, 1785.
I should have added in my letter of this day, that Shelburne professes to be steady to the principle which he adopted at the peace; and, if he were to come in, he would do something if he could; but, as an Irishman, he is hated both by the English and Scotch nobility. As Marquis of Lansdown, he is envied for his elevation over older families; and he seems to have no sufficient connections to support a vigorous administration, nor do I learn there is any probability of his coming in.
Indeed, I think this nation will have dangerous convulsions. The nobility are poor, in debt, and distressed; and, at present, the great families are all out of power. Ireland will give them trouble; and no one can say what events may turn up from day to day. If the stocks can be supported, however, the calm will continue; but it is doubtful whether this can be.
There is no question more frequently asked me by the foreign ministers, than what can be the reason of such frequent divisions of States in America, and of the disposition to crumble into little separate societies, whereby there seems to be danger of multiplying the members of the confederation without end, or of setting up petty republics, unacknowledged by the confederacy, and refusing obedience to its laws. In the infancy of societies, men have generally been too little informed in their understandings, and too much given up to the government of their passions, to associate in large communities; but experience has shown them the ill effects of too many divisions. Spain was not long ago divided into ten or twelve kingdoms; ten of them are now united in one. France was once divided into twelve States; now all incorporated into one kingdom. Scotland was formerly divided into two kingdoms, and England into seven. These are all now in one. One must read many volumes of history to see the miseries arising from those petty divisions of mankind, and the immense expense of blood and treasure which it cost them to learn, by experience, the necessity of uniting in larger bodies.
I have not information enough of the facts, in any particular instance, to apply these reflections to any particular case; but the frequent accounts we have in Europe of new States springing up out of fragments of old ones, and the numerous proposals of more, do us much harm abroad. They are considered as proofs of an impatience of temper, a restlessness of disposition, that will give us much inconvenience, will weaken us, and endanger our confederation.
It is the earnest wish of all who desire our prosperity, that this dangerous spirit may be checked, as far as it can be, consistently with reason and justice.
It gives me pleasure to learn that Doctor Franklin is arrived in so good health, and that he is happy in Philadelphia; and I wish very sincerely that his great age and singular reputation may give him a dominion over the minds of the people, sufficient to reconcile them to certain amendments in the constitution of Pennsylvania, without which, that respectable commonwealth, from the very nature of man and society, must forever remain a prey to unbalanced parties.
I have not had the time to send you copies of the letters which passed between me and Mr. Fagel and Mr. Dumas, upon my arrival here. If Mr. Dumas has done it, I am much obliged to him; and it will be unnecessary for me to repeat them. I wish a minister may be soon sent there. But it is doubtful whether anybody can be found to accept of an appointment abroad; and you will not be surprised at the reluctance.
With great regard, &c.
WILLIAM WHITE TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 26 November, 1785.
I presume on the circumstance of being not entirely unknown to your Excellency, to offer to you the inclosed papers, knowing that the president of congress has already written to you on the subject of them.
As you formerly, sir, communicated to congress information of the friendly dispositions of the Danish government and clergy towards the Episcopal church in these States, it may be proper for me to state to you the reason of the non-acceptance of their kind offer of ordaining for us, however gratefully we acknowledge the favor, as well as your Excellency’s liberal intention to serve us on that occasion.
I believe I might mention that there are objections against the succession of the Danish bishops; but I have not sufficiently informed myself of the constitution of that church to say any thing more on this head.
I might also mention, that, before the information reached us of a door being opened in that quarter, an act had passed the British parliament, allowing the Bishop of London to admit to the orders of priest and deacon, persons out of allegiance to the King, without administering the oaths.
But, sir, it is the wish of all the well informed members of our church, to be independent and self-governed, principally from a conviction of the unhappy influence which a foreign spiritual jurisdiction has always maintained in civil matters wherever it has been acknowledged. This we have severely felt in the late war; and, if persevered in, it must at last be fatal either to our church or to the commonwealth, in those States, at least, where the members of our communion are a majority of the people. There is nothing wanting to the establishing of our constitution, but the obtaining the episcopal succession in the first instance from the English bishops, which, we trust, will fix our church on such a footing as must be desired by all who wish well to the present civil system of confederate America. Should any political objection arise from the British ministry, on the point of delicacy, as to intermeddling with the concerns of this country, I cannot doubt of your Excellency’s endeavors to remove it.
With my best wishes, &c.