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is to be finished by a thunderbolt which will avenge Europe
and Asia by terminating this second Punic war, but which
will be delayed until England is exhausted, until she shall
have felt the evils which for twenty years she has been so
cruelly pouring upon the Continent, and until half her fam-
ilies shall be covered with the funeral veil.

I observed in one of my last letters, that there were many
indications, that he would soon abandon the contest for
Portugal, and perhaps, the unconquered part of Spain. The
declaration to the contrary here appears to be very explicit.
But Europe has already heard him at one time threaten to
plant the imperial eagles on the walls of Lisbon, where they
have not yet been seen to perch, and at another time to drive
the frightened leopard Into the sea, though the leopard still
ranges the Spanish plains, undismayed. In the action so
glorious to the French arms to which he alludes, French
blood flowed in streams, as copious, at least, as the English,
and the fact Is not concealed from the world, however It
may present itself to him, that all the most illustrious of
his generals have failed to accomplish hitherto his plans of
conquest In the Peninsula. The most distinguished of them


all, Massena, the spoilt child of victory,^ at the moment
when the Emperor thus announced the future thunderbolt,
was in Paris, though not present to hear him; just returned
crowned with no laurels from a campaign in which he had
in the face of a most attentive world been notoriously-
worsted, and to add the last drop of bitterness to the gall
of his mortification, worsted by an English general. Until
the issue of this campaign, the prospect of defending Spain
and Portugal appeared so desperate to all the best Informed
politicians and military men In Europe, that the British
ministry incurred no slight censure of extreme rashness for
venturing to stake anything upon It. That they have staked
and are staking more upon it than the prize. If they ever
obtain It, will ever be worth to their cause. Is my own opinion.
I do not very clearly see what advantage the British nation
will derive should they succeed in driving the French out of
Spain, unless they can keep It as a conquest of their own.
For If France should spontaneously withdraw all her armies
north of the Pyrenees, Spain, by whomsoever governed, must
in the nature of things very soon find herself In the same de-
pendence upon France which for so many years has Involved
her in the vortex of the French political system.

But on the other hand, the war in Spain has from Its first
commencement been extremely unpopular In France. No
radiance of glory has sufficed to cover, and no accumulation
of power has been adequate to suppress the character of the
transactions In which it originated. The losses, the dis-
asters, the disgraces, which France has so frequently suffered
in the course of this war have rendered it as odious as at all
times It has been thought useless. The generals and armies
sent Into the country where a constant experience has proved
that neither plunder nor honor Is to be acquired are all dls-

^ Bonaparte had called him "enfant chcrl dc la victoire."


satisfied with the service, and the Emperor himself has oc-
casionally manifested his weariness of it. The opinion is
fast gaining ground, throughout Europe, that the conquest
of the Peninsula is more than he can achieve, and if the
thunderbolt lingers much longer, it will be set at defiance in
regions other than Portugal or Spain.

As the probability of another winter of peace in this quar-
ter increases, the present administration recovers strength.
It is now generally believed that the political system will
undergo no change at present. Whether the British govern-
ment have made any advances for a separate peace or not,
I cannot positively say, but if they have, it has been without
success. The seizures and confiscations of the last year have
produced such an effect, that no insurance can be made in
London on goods brought into the Baltic by licensed vessels,
and all those sent here for English accounts come this year
in ballast.

I have this day received the despatches from your Depart-
ment, brought by Captain Bainbridge, consisting only of
duplicates — of the commission as an Associate Justice of
the Supreme Court of the United States, the letter of leave
to the Emperor of Russia, and the letter to me from the
Secretary of State of 26 February.

In my letter to you of 2 June, I had the honor of informing
you that I had found myself under the necessity of declin-
ing the appointment to a seat upon the bench. However
reluctantly I adopted this determination, the situation of
my family rendered it indispensable. From the indications
of public gazettes and of private letters, I have learnt the
probability that a successor to this mission has been ap-
pointed, and may shortly be expected here.^ In which case,
after transmitting to him the affairs of public trust, I shall

^ Robert Smith, late Secretary of State.


remain here in my individual capacity until the state of my
family will admit of our embarking for the United States,
that is, in all probability, until next June. . . .


St. Petersburg, 10 July, 181 1.
• ••••.,

As long as the waters flow we have very frequent and often
very recent intelligence from our country. The public news
we generally get from the gazettes. For example I find in
the Boston papers which I have seen to 8 May, that you
were one of the commissioners appointed to go into the dis-
trict of Maine, and that you were at Wiscasset the first day
of that month. I was happy to hear so much as that of you
and of so late a date, but I marvelled that you had mentioned
nothing of this appointment in any of your letters. The
first accounts that we had of the Massachusetts elections
(they came from England), were that Mr. Gerry and Mr.
Gray were superseded by the federal candidates. This I
find was a miscalculation; but the complexion of both
branches of the legislature remains yet very uncertain.
Massachusetts appears still to depend upon foreign politics.
The Port Folio critique upon my lectures has never pre-
sented itself to me, neither am I at all anxious to see it. I
never heard of its existence but by your letter of 22 January.
If it Is as dull as the Knickerbocker History, I should choose
to be excused from reading it. Whatever may be my fate
elsewhere, I am sure I shall never have an impartial critic
in America while I am myself alive. No one but a friend or
foe will take the trouble to review me, or a mongrel of both
breeds like the Anthologist. As to the Port Folio, to which


you and I once rendered so many thankless services, I ex-
pect as little justice from it as from all the other federal
common sewers of literature and politics in America. How
the Port Folio under all its metamorphoses has lived so long
is to me unaccountable. I think it has now received its
death wound from Walsh, ^ whose Review will be edited
with more talents, more industry, more consistency and in-
comparably more address. I have seen Walsh's pamphlet
on France ^ and the first number of his Review. Making
allowances for the prejudices and passions of a violent par-
tisan, his account of France appears to be tolerably correct;
but his bombastical enthusiasm for England is not only so
absurd, but so full of representations ridiculously false, that
it has given me a strong suspicion of his honesty. It looks
too much as if it were calculated for the federal swallow (for
which no camel is too big), with a cool and deliberate con-
tempt of truth. He has had the cunning to declare himself
a warm friend to the American revolution. Dennie and the
Anthology were more candid and more in unison with Eng-
lish passions. Walsh will find it hard, very hard, to get
along with his ardor for the American revolution and his
worship of John Bull, marching pari passu. He sets out with
the avowed intention of indoctrinating the people of America
to know what is good for themselves. Ames tried that ex-
periment for several of the last years of his life. Timothy
[Pickering] labors in the same vineyard, and they, to recom-
mend themselves to their auditory, began by telling them
that they were all a pack of knaves, and fools, and madmen.
Hopeful disciples to turn into wise, and sober, and virtuous
patriots! Walsh is more cunning, too, in this respect. He

1 Robert Walsh (1784-1859), who began in 1811 to publish a quarterly The
American Review of History and Politics.

2 Letter on the Genius and Disposition of the French Government (1810).


does not begin so much like the Irish orator with, "you
ragged, beggarly, lowly rascallions, I love you, you know
I do," but he tells us the country is hideously metamor-
phosed since the days of Washington, and promises very
kindly to change it back again to all its former beauty.
There is no character which our federal heroes are so fond of
assuming as that of a reformer. But it is not like their
charity. It never begins at home.

Mr, Blodget,^ of Philadelphia, arrived here last week and
brought me a letter from our friend S. Ewing. Though it
was written last August he mentions having received the
copy of my lectures which you had sent him; but does not
tell me what I first learnt from Mr. Blodget, that he was
married. I believe Dennie now remains the only bachelor
of your old circle of intimates at Philadelphia, and he, I
understand, lives entirely with Mr. Meredith.

We have had since our first arrival here a continual succes-
sion of Americans, so that we dwell among our own people
almost as much as if we were at home. The winter before
last, sixteen American vessels wintered at Cronstadt, and
several at Archangel. Upwards of one hundred and fifty
arrived at and sailed from Russian ports last summer. More
than thirty passed the last winter in them, and sixty-three
have already arrived this summer at Cronstadt, besides
twenty or thirty at Archangel and Riga. A large proportion
of these vessels have supercargoes or owners, and many of
them bring letters of introduction to me. They are for the
most part transient acquaintance who remain here only
while their business detains them, but they enliven our so-
ciety, and by their own correspondences with America keep
us informed of the principal news In circulation, sooner than
we can obtain it from our own. Some of them are natural-

» William H. Blodget.


ized Americans, but the greater number are natives of the
northern and eastern states as far as Virginia, Inclusive. Of
the states south or west of that, I think I have not seen a
native since I have been In Russia.


No. 58. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 13 July, 181 1.

In my letter of 2 June I mentioned having received, among
the despatches brought by Mr. Erving, a commission for
Mr. Samuel Hazard as Consul at Archangel, and that he was
not then In this country. He arrived at Cronstadt this day
last week, having taken passage in an American vessel from
Copenhagen. As by the regulations of the police, it was
necessary for him to obtain a passport from the Department
of Foreign Affairs before he could come to St. Petersburg,
he did not arrive here until last night, and he called on me
this morning. I had delivered his commission to one of
his friends, to send to him at Cronstadt, where he received
it. The only document which had accompanied It was a
short letter from the Secretary of State Informing him of
the appointment. He had received no other communication
from your Department. So that he has neither the circular
Instructions, nor the collection of the laws relating to the
duties of our consuls, nor even the knowledge of the private
marks by which the genuine American registers of vessels
are to be recognized. I have advised him to apply to Mr.
Harris for information of the private marks, and for a copy


of the circular instructions, as well as for a loan of the pam-
phlet containing the collection of the consular laws. Proba-
bly these documents so essential to enable him to discharge
the duties of his office have been despatched to him by some
vessel bound directly to Archangel, and that he will receive
them on his arrival there.

Our accounts from England here are to the 14th of last
month, and I have seen a file of the Courier, a ministerial
paper, down to the nth. From these papers It Is evident
that at that time the British government was In the full ex-
pectation of an Immediate war between France and Russia.

The Courier states that all the Russian prisoners In Eng-
land had already embarked to be sent home, and had ac-
tually sailed. He asserts that a plan for an alliance offensive
and defensive between Russia and Great Britain had been
sent from St. Petersburg to the British ministry, who had
It under consideration, and It insinuates that France will be
under the necessity of employing so large a portion of her
forces In the north, that she will not be able to send any re-
enforcements to her armies In Spain. I have In former letters
Intimated to you the probability that there was a negotia-
tion en train, between Russia and Great Britain, In London.
If It be true that the plan of an alliance has been sent from
this country, it has not been through any official department,
but by one of those Irregular channels which as most likely
to escape discovery are often preferred by governments
which are not checked by any settled principle of responsi-
bility. It Is still more probable that this ostentatious res-
toration of a few hundred Russian sailors, and these boasts
of projected alliance were Intended to produce the events
they anticipate — to sharpen the jealousies, to multiply
the suspicions and to inflame the resentments already ex-
isting between France and Russia. At least It might be


supposed they would prevent the French Emperor from send-
ing into Spain the reenforcements necessary to renew the con-
test for the dominion of the Peninsula.

But while the hopes of a northern coalition were so san-
guine in England, all prospect of it had vanished here. Or
rather to speak more correctly, no such prospect of a coali-
tion against France had ever existed. The real prospect was
of a war between France and Russia, in which the whole
Rhenish confederation, together with Denmark and Prussia,
would have been allies of France; and Sweden and Austria,
neutral in the first instance. I have heretofore informed you
what the Austrian policy was on that occasion, and I believe
she is now not a little mortified and disappointed at the fail-
ure of a war, which she flattered herself would add so much
to the importance of her friendship in the estimation of
both parties. But in the war Russia would have stood

I have told you of the great expectations which were en-
tertained that the Duke de Vicence upon his return to France
would produce impressions of a conciliatory nature upon
the mind of the Emperor Napoleon. He arrived at Paris
on the 5th of June, and the speech of the Emperor to the
legislative body on the i6th evidently shows the pacific in-
fluence of the assurances and sentiments reported to him
by that ambassador upon his return. It is the opinion of
all the speculative politicians, the best informed, both here
and at Paris, that the intention to expel Russia from Europe
is a long settled plan in the French cabinet; that its execu-
tion is to be attempted whenever the opportunity shall be
favorable; and that in the full confidence that the subjuga-
tion of Spain and Portugal would have been completed the
last winter, France was preparing by a series of the most
offensive pretensions and provocations, for the commence-


merit of the Russian war, immediately after that of the
Peninsula should be ended. This poHcy was in truth pur-
sued so far, and Russia was so deeply exasperated, that there
was a short period during which It was doubtful whether
Russia would not, as in all probability France had intended
she should, commit the first act of hostility; and thus seem
to be the aggressor. It was the personal prudence and firm-
ness of the Emperor Alexander alone, which averted this
catastrophe, and It has, I would fain hope, saved Europe,
and will contribute to save America from one bloody and
most calamitous war. The formidable attitude of defense
assumed by Russia, together with the failure of the Portu-
guese campaign of Massena, and the precarious state of the
French affairs in Spain, have suspended for this time the
prosecution of the project against Russia, and It being now
ascertained that she will not on her part commence the at-
tack, the peace of the continent Is here universally considered
as secured during the present year.

The hopes of a peace between Russia and the Turks, are
not so sanguine as they were when I had the honor of writ-
ing you last. The Russian armies on the line of the Danube
have been so much weakened by detachments to strengthen
the Polish frontier that they are scarcely competent to de-
fend what they acquired at such heavy expense the last
summer. They are retiring to the left banks of the river.
It is said that In proportion to the eagerness for peace mani-
fested by Russia, the Turks rise in their pretensions, until
instead of ceding provinces they have come to the point of
demanding Indemnities for themselves. There is no doubt
but that Russia would restore all that she has acquired Jor the
sake of peace. ^

Before the late war between Sweden and Russia, Count

^ Cypher.


Stedlngk had been many years the Swedish ambassador at
this court, but without the formal character. He has now
taken leave of the Emperor, and returns home. He goes by
water, having made a vow that he never would set his foot
again in a province, to the cession of which he had been under
the necessity of signing his name. But he is obliged to go
under a passport or safe-conduct from the British admiral
in the Baltic, which he says is as mortifying as it would
have been to have gone through Finland. He is a nobleman
of the most elevated sentiments and is universally respected.
To an American he has peculiar claims of veneration, hav-
ing served and bled In our cause during the war of our rev-
olution. He was an officer in the French army, and was
wounded at the affair of Savannah. I am with great respect


St. Petersburg, 21 July, 181 1.
My Dear Sir:

American vessels are now pouring upon us in floods. I
wrote you less than a month since that there had then ar-
rived at Cronstadt forty since the opening of the year's
navigation, and already the number exceeds ninety, besides
as many more at Archangel and the other Russian ports.
They have already glutted the market until they are forced
to disgorge, but I hear that they are still coming by the
hundred. I am sorry for the adventurers. They will almost
universally make ruinous voyages.

To us however they furnish the advantage of bringing
numbers of our countrymen, bearers of news and news-
papers from the United States, and occasionally, though
very rarely, a letter from some one of our friends. Yester-


day morning for instance Captain Boit, of the Cordelia,
called upon me and delivered me your favor of 23 April,
dated from the "Head Quarters of the Lieutenant Governor."
I had already received ten days ago your letter of 10 April,
which was intended to have been sent by the same oppor-
tunity, but which was brought by a Captain Peart. In both
these letters you manifest anew the wish for our return, and
in one of them repeat the desire that I should accept the
judicial ofRce to which I had been appointed.

On this subject my determination was founded upon cir-
cumstances, which could not be known to you at the time
when your letters were written. I hope they will be sufficient
in your mind for my justification. With regard to my ac-
ceptance of the office, it is now too late for repentance nearly
two months since I declined it. I have not changed my feel-
ings or my opinions. But in your letter of 10 April there
seems a suggestion that the state of things in America has
increased your Idea of the urgency, that I should accept the
proffered seat upon the bench. In a former letter you had
intimated that refusal of the office would be imputed to
unbridled ambition.

I suppose there are who would Impute It to unbridled am-
bition, whether I had or had not consented to be adjudicated.
Because there are who have long since settled it in their own
minds, that I am ambitious, and that, as you observe
with reference to another person, all ambition is boundless.
When the mind Is predisposed to a certain conclusion In
matters of opinion, the facts most irreconcilable with each
other serve equally well for premises. For Instance, if from
my refusal of one of the most distinguished offices In the
Union the Inference must be drawn, that my motive was un-
bridled ambition, what would have been the inference from
my acceptance of it.^ Do you think it would have established


me a reputation for meekness and humility? I never was
afraid of the reproach of being ambitious. But I have many,
many times felt an obligation of duty to sacrifice the senti-
ment of ambition to my family or my friends, and still oftener
have I been irresistibly impelled to sacrifice it merely to tran-
quillity, not to say to the love of ease.

When I came to Russia my motive doubtless in the opinion
of many was ambition. But there were not wanting persons
who thought I was sent here for the express purpose of put-
ting me out of the way. More than one of my friends wrote
and spoke to me of it as of an exile, and it was certainly not a
voyage which / considered calculated to promote ambitious
views. I knew that it was not agreeable to you, and that
circumstance alone was enough to take away all pleasure
from it. I knew equally well that it was going straight away
from the high road of ambition, and so far as related to
political prospects retiring into obscurity. My real motive
was perfectly simple. The constitutional organ of my coun-
try had assigned this to me as my proper post. I saw no
reason sufficient to induce me to refuse it. The same con-
stitutional organ has now seen fit to call me home, and to put
me, as one of my friends writes me, upon a high shelf. How
does it appear to you.^ You welcome it as the means to pro-
cure my return, and because it would remove me from the
tourbillon of politics. But yet you specially wish me to ac-
cept, because parties are splitting up, because one secretary
is out and another in; because the Governor and Senate of
Massachusetts are Republican; because all was uncertainty
from Europe, and a special session of Congress was expected.

In this state of things, had I accepted and returned
home, do you think that a seat upon the bench would
have removed me from the tourbillon of politics? Do you
think it would have been a shelter from the "wind of this


commotion?" I will candidly confess to you that I have no
such idea. If my own passions would allow me to stand aloof
from all politics, as much as every judge ought to, the pas-
sions of others would involve me in them. If my heart is
sufficiently impartial towards all my countrymen to make me
a proper umpire in their controversies, their hearts are not
impartial enough to me to make them lit to be judged by
me. Is this the phantom of my Imagination? I will not give
you a dissertation for what you will understand by a hint.
My aversion to a judicial office rests chiefly upon this settled
opinion — the opinion upon all my experience, all my self
observation, all my observation of others in their relations
to me.

I have other objections against holding a judicial office,
with which I need not trouble the public, and which I should
have desired to keep exclusively within my own breast.
How shall I disclose them to you, after acknowledging my ap-
prehension that you will disapprove the opinions in which
they originate? Pressed as I am by your advice so earnestly
and so repeatedly urged, I must however disclose them, and
leave the estimate of their weight to your indulgence. Let

Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 12 of 42)