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patient to try the chance of the die, although they feel that the
odds are against them.

I have so frequently written to you upon this subject, because
the question of this peace or war must materially affect the com-
merce, if not the general policy, of the United States. The


effect of French intrusion upon the Baltic is already very con-
siderable; the next year it will in all probability be much
greater.'^ The four American vessels which I mentioned to
you as having been taken at the beginning of this season by
a French privateer and carried into Dantzig have all been
condemned at Paris, ostensibly as English property, but
really as I am informed, on account of their destination,
and at the express desire of General Rapp to contribute to
the funds necessary for the new fortifications of that city.
The privateers at the passage of the Sound still intercept all
the American vessels coming hither, and twenty vessels
bound from this port to America were detained great part
of the months of August and September in Elsineur Roads,
by the fear of these privateers, which were anchored close
beside them there, ready to sally out immediately after them
to carry them back as prizes. ^ The British policy of leavifig
the coast clear for their privateers will serve their purpose better
than the blockade of the port of Elsineur.^

1 Cypher.

* "The [French] Consul [Lesseps] was very busy preparing dispatches to go by
the Ambassador's courier. He told me he had dined a few days since in a company
where there were a great number of Americans, and said he was convinced there were
a great number of real Americans from the United States here, though there were
people enough here ready to say they were all English. I entered into details of
conversation with him to convince him that almost all the Americans that came
here loaded were bona fide from America, and with cargoes of American property.
He said he gave full credit to my statement, and should report accordingly to his
government. He showed me his account of the vessels arrived at Cronstadt, of
which there were 88 Americans with cargoes and 33 in ballast. There were only
n with cargoes under other colors, all of which he told me he held unquestionably
for English property. Every vessel loaded at Gothenburg he considered as English
property. I noticed the state of the exchange between this country and England,
and the fact that no insurance could be obtained in England upon goods shipped
for this country, as proof that very little English property was really imported here,
which he allowed. This last fact, he said, he had not known before, and that he
should not fail to avail himself of it." September 28, 181 1. Ms. Diary.

' Cypher.


The official accounts from the Moldavian army come
down to the first of September. The Turks had taken pos-
session of an Island upon the Danube near WIddIn, from
which they were dislodged on the 25th of August with the
loss of their artillery. This and another small skirmish of
foraging detachments a few days before are all that has
been done in that quarter, where the campaign may be con-
sidered as at an end. Of the peace which was so confidently
anticipated, we now hear nothing. I am with great re-
spect, etc.


St. Petersburg, 14 October, 181 1.
Dear Sir:

• ••••••

I endeavor as much as possible to be your disciple in the
opinion that a navy would remedy many of our evils. ^ But
there are two sides to that question, and I have not definitely
settled In my mind whether the evil or the remedy is the
worst. If a navy, a respectable navy, could be formed, and
at the same time a steady peace with England could be pre-
served, it would certainly tend to raise our national character
in the estimation of the rest of the world. But if, even in
our present state of Impotence upon the ocean, the com-
mercial rivalry, jealousy and fears of England are pushing
her into a war with us for the sole purpose on her part of
arresting and reducing our prosperity, how much more in-
evitable would it be If her rancorous feelings were envenomed

^ "Our country has tried and will try every measure but the right one. The
navy, the navy, a navy is the grand desideratum, and the unum necessarium. In
private it is acknowledged, but nobody dares avow it in public." John Adams
to John Quincy Adams, February 22, 18 1 1. Ms.


by the sight of an American navy, which she could take or
destroy. It would be a perpetual stimulus to England for
making war against us, stronger than all those by which
she is now instigated put together. Nor would it be possible,
for us, even with the most liberal appropriations for a navy,
to create one in half a century of uninterrupted and unre-
mitting effort, capable of coping with hers. If she could not
endure the thought of our commercial profits, all of which
ultimately flow into her own lap, how much more eagerly
would she seize every occasion to annihilate any naval force
which should be rising to an aspect which could give her a
moment of alarm. The only possible chance we could have
for growing into strength at sea would be a time when we
should be upon good terms with her, and when we might
seem to be building for a contest against her enemies. The
affair of the Chesapeake and that of the Little Belt have shown
us samples of the questions that are apt to arise between
armed ships, and of a very compen-dious manner of settling
such questions to which, in certain tempers of mind, they
are no less prone. Multiply tenfold or fifty the number of
our frigates and send them out to meet British men of war
on the high seas, and you will have ten or fifty such ques-
tions to one that occurs now. Convoy questions, salute
questions, first hailing and first answering questions, with
a burning match at the touch hole of every gun in both ships,
and then solemn official reports on each side charging the
other with having fired the first gun. I cannot disguise to
myself the tendency of a navy to embroil us with Great
Britain, arising from the very nature of the thing. Nor
can I contemplate without anxious concern any instrument
so powerful, the character of which must be to produce and
multiply such collisions.

As to our internal policy, the argument for a navy is liable


to much controversy too. Its expense must be an important
object. The annual cost of the British navy now exceeds
twenty millions sterling. A tenth part of that sum equals
the whole expenditure of our national government. Ten
millions of dollars a year would give us just such a navy as
I think the English would for its own sake choose to destroy.
With ten millions of dollars a year we should have about
half the force which the same sum pays for in England.
There is no department of the English government in which
the nation is so outrageously plundered as in the navy. Our
nation would be plundered about twice as much as the Eng-
lish, for in the first place we must double pay both officers
and men. The officers, because we must take them from
occupations of which profit is the soul, and must indemnify
them for the advantages they give up for the service. The
men, because we have no power of impressment, because
their engagements must be voluntary, and because the public
to obtain them must outbid the wages of the merchant serv-
ice. Then the navy contracts, and the navy agents and the
pursers, the multitude of electioneering canvassers to be
provided for in the seaports, the riggers and caulkers, and
ship carpenters and mastmakers, and victuallers and poul-
terers, and all the little world who have something to do in
fitting out a ship, and who have also something to do upon
all our election days, will too easily discover the art of swell-
ing their bills for work done or articles furnished, with an
invisible item for their services in the political department.
And when money comes to be wanted by the public to pay
for all these expenses, the bank directors and stockholders
who can alone command it will find out and prove that eight
per cent, or perhaps ten, is the most moderate interest for
which it can possibly be obtained. Something too much of
this we have seen in our small experience. If my friend


Quincy had an oration to make upon the subject, it would
afford an ample field for his eloquence and his wit.

But all this is political heresy. That without a navy we
shall never have any security for our commerce, and shall
be continually injured and insulted by foreign nations, is
beyond all question. Now comes a new point to be mooted.
Is our commerce worth the cost and sacrifices which must
be made to protect it? To commerce, considered as trade^
as an honest calling affording employment, subsistence, and
fortune to a portion of the community, favor and even pro-
tection are due to a certain extent. To commerce considered
as the broker and carrier of agriculture (for Mr. Jefferson's
epithet of handmaid I do not approve) still higher importance
and more extensive protection is due. To commerce as the
purveyor of most of the comforts and enjoyments of our
physical existence, as holding the great link of human asso-
ciation between the remotest regions of the earth, as furnish-
ing the great vehicle of civilization and science, the most
distinguished favor and most liberal protection ought to be
given. But from all that I have seen and all that I have
heard and read of commerce, in this or in former ages, in
our own or in any other quarter of the globe, commerce is
the very last constituent interest in the nation upon which
I would bestow power. Mercury made a very good messen-
ger, but he would have been a detestable master. It is very
obvious however that a large navy would not only increase
the relative weight and influence of the commercial interest
in our country, but would arm it with a power which would
be extremely formidable to the whole. I will not, however,
turn my letter into a dissertation. I will only add the hope
that we shall not suffer ourselves to be entrapped into a war
while we have no navy. Congress I learn are soon to meet.
They must take care to steer clear of war. Your friend




Timothy has been sweating to prove that the war is already
begun. How Commodore Rodger's story will turn out upon
his Court of Inquiry remains to be seen.^ But the British
government is not so ready for a war with the United States
as Timothy calculated.

Mr. Barlow - has arrived in France, but brought us no
letters. I have seen however Boston newspapers to the
tenth of August. Mr. R. Smith's vindication of his resigna-
tion looks as if it would turn out not much better than that
of a predecessor in his office.^ If he made his explosion with
the view to take a higher station in the third party, which
we hear is putting in a claim to the next Presidency, he was
not well advised. I fancy by this time he wishes he had
taken the Siberian exile. For my own part I am not dis-
pleased that he chose to stay at home, for I should have been
in rather a ridiculous situation spending the winter here as a
private gentleman which I must have done, and with a
successor seated in my place. But I would rather have sub-
mitted to that than that he should expose himself and his
country as he has done by his pamphlet.

All the accounts which we get from America lead me to be
more and more contented with that dispensation of Provi-
dence which prevented our return to the United States the
present year. I should probably have mingled, whether
willingly or not, in some electioneering projects from which
it is my wish to be entirely disconnected. They will have
blown over by the next summer, and on my return I shall
have the prospect of at least some little quiet.

We have resided during the summer months in the coun-
try. Last week we returned to the city where we are settled

^ He commanded the President in the action with the Little Belt.
* He had arrived at Cherbourg, September 6.
' Edmund Randolph.


until next June. What is then to be our destination still
depends upon the pleasure of the President of the United

The political state of affairs on the European continent
is equivocal and threatening. But on this head I can say
little. I mentioned to my brother not long since a proof of
curiosity in the French police department to read my letters.
I have just had another. Mr. J. S. Smith wrote me a few-
lines from London in disgust, and addressed to me a small
packet of English newspapers. The person who had charge
of them happened to land in France. These letters for me
were taken from him by the police at Havre and sent to
Paris. Mr. Russell on hearing of it wrote to the Duke de
Bassano, claiming my letters. The Duke de Bassano sent
him two, assuring him that the Duke de Rovigo (Minister
of the Police) had found no more for me. Mr. Russell has
sent them to me. They were sealed but had apparently
been opened. What became of the third letter or what it
contained I am not informed. I suppose it is in the paradise
of fools. Perhaps the foolish forgery just at that time pub-
lished in the English papers, and in which my name was
used, sharpened the Duke of Rovigo's optics. At any rate
I have mementos enough for discretion, and so I bid you


St. Petersburg, 15 October, 181 1.
Dear Sir:

Mr. S. A. Wells ^ arrived here and delivered to me last
Saturday your favor of 17 September. That of the 6th of
the same month, which you mention as having sent by the

* Samuel Adams Wells.


way of Sweden, is not yet here. "Dear" as it may be to me,
I should be very sorry that any good natured friend on its
way should have conceived the idea of sparing me the ex-
pense of its postage. Your passport and dispatch made It
necessary for Mr. Wells to come in person to St. Peters-
burg, which perhaps was not his Intention. And now he Is
here he could not get away again In less than five or six
weeks, unless I procured for him a courier's passport to re-
turn. By the police laws here no foreigner can either come
Into the country or go out of It without a passport Issued by
the Russian government, which can seldom be obtained
without a lapse of several weeks. There Is an exception for
mariners and persons named In ship's papers, and also for
couriers; but the latter to go away must have a passport
from the Department of Foreign Affairs. So I have asked
for a courier's passport for Mr. Wells, as charged with
dispatches for you, and I must ask you to take this for the

Mr. Wells brought me also the Boston newspapers to 10
August. I had seen Mr. R. Smith's pamphlet copied Into the
Aurora. The first part of the Review attributed to Mr.
Barlow an extract from Colvin's conflicting agitation for the
credit of two brouillon letters, and a part of Mr. Smith's
reply, complaining of the Ullberallty of contesting a gentle-
man's abilities.

The pamphlet had excited In my mind questions con-
cerning Mr. Smith's character of more Importance In my
own estimation than any question of capacity. It Is always
rather an awkward thing for a man to have the affirmative
of a controversy to maintain, when the point at Issue is his
own talents, and I did not think much of Mr. Smith's logic,
when he urged the offer of the Russian mission as a circum-
stance for closing all argument as to the President's opinion


respecting his intellectual powers.^ But my logic did not see
how Mr. Smith's pamphlet could be reconciled with his
official duty and his official oath, which I supposed him to
have taken. The review, however, seems to admit that he
was not under an oath of office. If so, the offense may lose a
little of its aggravation, but nothing of its essential character.
If it was not perjury, it was not the less breach of trust.

It did not seem to me very wise for Mr. Smith to insist so
much upon the long and unintermitted confidence which
Mr. Madison had shown him during the whole period of
Mr. Jefferson's administration, in the very act of showing
to the world how little that confidence was deserved. Nor
did I think that either sense or spirit was very conspicuous
in the cause assigned for the sudden and violent transition
from only 7iot accepting the Russian mission, to extreme in-
dignation at the discovery of the supposed motive for
the offer. All this had some tendency to advertise unfurn-
ished apartments in the ex-Secretary's brain; but the ob-
vious preparation which had so long been making for this
rupture, the painful and laborious hoarding of topics for
future crimination which seems to have occupied all Mr.
Smith's time and talents in the Department of State, opened
to view certain apartments of his heart not unfurnished,
but which I thought a sense of decency, if not of delicacy,
should have Induced him to keep closed, both from the eye
and the nostril of his country. There was an acuteness and
energy In the two drafted letters, for which I could not easily

^ "It had occurred to me that he might not be disinclined to serve his country in
a foreign mission, and that St. Petersburg, where there was a vacancy, might be an
eligible, as it certainly was an important situation. London more so, he remarked
quickly. For London, I replied, another arrangement was thought of; adding,
witn a view to repress miscalculations, that it was a place of discussions and nego-
tiations, calling for appropriate talents and habits of business." Madison, in
Writings of Madison (Rives), II. 501.


account; but the most distant suspicion never entered my
head that what was in them belonged to Colvin. I knew
something Indeed of this man's talents, but I did not even
know that he was a clerk In the Department of State.

If you should come as soon as you think to the single point
of past condemnations, I cannot say that I should recommend
very long waiting for an answer; a reasonable time, however,
must be allowed, and the discussion may take more time than
you anticipate before it can be either fairly closed or found
bottomless. The principle you have assumed, and upon which
you have written home that you should proceed, appears to
me perfectly correct, but in its application will require a
deliberate and judicious selection of the moment between
precipitation and unprofitable lingering. In the choice of
that moment a variety of occasional as well as permanent
considerations may be combined, and which cannot at this
distance be foreseen. I do not expect, however, that the
pending cases will be cleared away so soon, and I have some
apprehensions that the new ones which have accrued or
will accrue may require our attention longer than you were
aware. I presume that they will come within the object of
your commission and instructions.

Mr. and Mrs. Bentzon now Intend to pass part of the
winter and perhaps the whole of It here. He told me some
time since that he should communicate to me the object of
his visit here, but he has not yet done it. His purpose is
now to go from hence to Copenhagen.

The Emperor Napoleon's northern tour has occasioned
some misgivings and tremulation here as well as with you.
But the government is not alarmed. You doubtless knew
before this all about the speech of the 15th of August. An
ukaze has issued here for a new levy of troops, four men out
of every five hundred. It will raise nearly 130,000 men.


The new obstruction at the passage of the Sound is not
seen with pleasure here, and I understand the Russian min-
ister at Copenhagen has already been instructed about it.
But the annoyance that it gives here, and even to Denmark
may be a motive rather for its aggravation than for its dis-
continuance. I believe with you that we must prohibit con-
voy or allow to arm. But then, at least in the two last of
these cases, we must not break with Great Britain, and how
can we help that.^* I think the next year will present an
entire new scene upon the Baltic. I am, etc.


No. 72. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 16 October, 181 1.

All the American vessels which have arrived at Cronstadt
this season are gone. Since the beginning of September
none have arrived. Several which were bound here have been
arrested by the French and Danish privateers at the passage
of the Sound, some have been taken into Copenhagen, and
some have turned back to Gothenburg. A convoy bound up
the Baltic is said to have left that port on the 21st of last
month, among which there were several Americans; the
arrival of many of them is expected here from day to day.
But if they arrive there is every prospect that they will be
detained here over winter, as within one month from this
day it is probable the river and the gulf of Cronstadt will be
solid as marble.

You will receive Information from Mr. Erving, which I pre-
sume will prove to you beyond a question, that the appearance


of these French privateers at the Sound is not an accidental
thing. It has become a part of the French poHtical system,
to consider all colonial produce (under which many natural
productions of the United States are included) as coming
from England or being English property. And there is now
another motive for encouraging these privateers; namely,
that of annoying the commerce of Russia. Mr. Harris
lately mentioned their appearance and the obstructions they
occasion to the intercourse between the United States and
Russia, in a letter to the Minister of Finances, Mr. GouriefF.
The subject was laid before the Emperor, who directed Count
Romanzoff to complain of it to the Dafiish minister here.

I saw the Count yesterday ayid spoke to him of it again. He
told me that he had written to Baron Blome ( The Danish min-
ister) by the Emperor'' s command concerning it, but he did not
expect that it would be with much effect. For, said he, what can
be done? How can Denmark herself interfere to put a stop to
these proceedings? If France had no possessions bordering on
the Baltic the antient ground might be taken, that it was a mare
clausum, and that privateers should not be admitted upon it;
but now France herself has ports in it, and the sea cannot he
closed against her. I told him that a similar course of reasoni^ig
had induced me to spare him the trouble of a formal application
from me in this case. I believed that little would be effected by
any remonstrance against it long; the only practical remedy
that I foresaw as likely to he resorted to by my countrymen for
the future would be, to avoid the passage of the Sound altogether
and look for another which they might find, with little danger of
being stopped. He said he hoped many of them would take their
destination to Archangel, as there would he no cause for ap-
prehension of French in those seas.

He asked me if I had any late accounts from America, and
particularly with regard to the prospect of a war between the


United States ayid Englaiid. I a7iszvered, that from the United
States I had no nezvs later than of the loth of August and those
merely of the public prints. It was from England^ however,
rather than from America, that the prospects of peace or war
between those two countries were to be expected in the first in-
stance here; and that as far as the information I had from thence
could lead me to form a judgment, if I could venture to give him
my private opinion, it was, that it would not come to a war,
that France was taking too much pains on her part to reconcile
us by such measures as those we had been speaking of, and I
thought they would not be entirely without effect.

These enquiries still indicate the wish in the Russian govern-
ment that the war between the United States and England may
be avoided. It is not improbable that they may consider their
own peace with France as depending much upon it. The system
of the Emperor Napoleon is yet incomplete, as long as any inlet
to colonial goods remaijis open, and he is now again renewing
the attempt to prevent all commercial communication between
England and Russia. The Russian commerce of exportation
is an object of such importance not only to the nation but to the
crown and to the nobility who compose the imperial councils and
command in the armies that they can never consent to sacrifice

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