John Quincy Adams.

Writings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) online

. (page 21 of 42)
Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 21 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


it, nor would the sovereign himself, perhaps, be secure upon
his throne, should he arrest entirely the circulation which feeds
the so^irce of his own revenues and of the private fortunes of all
the principal nobility. But Great Britain and the United States
are the only markets for this exportation still open, and so long
as the peace between them continues, the ships and vessels of the
United States provide the meaiis of carriage to England as well as
to America. Should, however, the war break out, the exportation
to both would become much more difficult. The English being
masters of the Baltic would probably not permit the American
flag to appear upon it, no neutral vehicle of cofnmerce would be



252 THE WRITINGS OF [1811

lefty and Russia would he reduced to the alternative of sacrificing
all her export trade, or of permitting it to be carried by English
vessels. The first is obviously the present purpose of France;
but I have suggested the causes which render compliance with
it here impracticable. The second cannot be done without an
avowed and formal peace with England, or at least without pre-
cipitating a war with France, which Russia is equally desirous
of avoiding. It is this view of things which makes Russia take
so much interest in our peace with England; nor is it one of the
motives upon which France is so anxious to procure the war.
The same view appears to me not less important to the United
States themselves, whose policy, if I may be permitted to express
an opinion, coijicides entirely with that of Russia."^

To show you the principle assumed by France, I beg leave
to refer you to an official notification from the director of the
French customs to the burgomaster of Dantzig, dated 16
August:

I hasten to inform you that the importation of colonial mer-
chandizes, even by paying the duties fixed by the tariff of 2 Octo-
ber, Is contrary to the views of the Emperor, and that his Majesty
has formally declared that every species of colonial merchandizes
which may be attempted to be introduced, from what place so-
ever they may come, and to what country soever they may belong^
must be considered as coming from England and confiscated.

With this principle thus avowed I trust our merchants will
need no additional warning to withhold their vessels from at-
tempting to pass next Spring through the Sound. They can
expect nothing but seizure and confiscation, if they fall into the
hands of Frenchmen. I hope also that in deliberating upon the
course of policy to be pursued with regard to Englaiid, this state
of things will be clearly and explicitly understood. If we do not

^ Cypher,



i8ii] JOHN QUINCY ADAAIS 253

break with Eriglaiid, our trade to the Baltic will have little to
apprehend from France. Congress will judge whether all otir
national interests are not equally secure from any possible harm
she can do us. On the sayne contingency they will judge also
whether with such principles avowed, and the practice out-
stripping even the principles, the shadow of an obligation upon
the United States can remain to discriminate in their measures
of defense, self-protection or resentment between her and her
enemy .^ I am with great respect, etc.



TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE

No. 73. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 26 October, 181 1.

Sir:

The angry and threatening state of the political relations
between Russia and France has naturally excited great dis-
quietude in the Prussian government. The rumor mentioned
in my letters No. 62 and 63, that the king of Prussia had been
admitted as a member of the Rhenish confederation, appears
not to have been well founded. On the contrary, under
the apprehension that the attack upon Russia would proba-
bly be preceded by an Invasion of the Prussian territory,
Prussia had thought it necessary to strengthen some of her
remaining fortifications on the side of France, which France
very soon noticed. An explanation of the motives for these
works was desired, and an intimation of the real cause was
given in answer. The French minister at Berlin was then
instructed to make an explicit declaration in person to the
King, that this alarm was altogether without foundation.

^ Cypher.



254 THE WRITINGS OF [iSn

That the Emperor Napoleon harbored no intention whatso-
ever unfriendly to Prussia, or of hostility against Russia.
And particularly that he had no design of restoring the
kingdom of Poland, but that the object of all his efforts would
be the pursuit of the war against England, and the subjuga-
tion of the Peninsula. And the inference that Prussia was
requested to draw from all this was, that any further ex-
penditures of her resources upon the projected fortifications
were unnecessary and inexpedient. This declaration in its
precise terms was transmitted to Baron Schladen, the Prus-
sian minister here, and a few days since was by him communi-
nicated in extenso to the Chancellor, Count Romanzoff. It
was accompanied by an offer of the mediation of Prussia, to
effect an accommodation of the differences between France
and Russia. The answer to which, in substance has been,
that the nature of the objects upon which a variance between
Russia and France subsists is so inconsiderable, that it will
not require the intervention of a third party to effect its
conciliation.

Such is the official style of communication of the two em-
pires, respecting their situation and purposes In regard to
each other, several weeks after the Emperor Napoleon's
discourse to the Russian ambassador on the 15th of August.
The substance of it is no more than an intimation of France
to Prussia to discontinue her fortification, and a refusal of
Russia to accept the tender of a Prussian mediation. Neither
of these events is calculated to diminish the probabilities
of an approaching war.

The tone, the language, and the substance of the birthday
speech, all appear to disclose an intention to intimidate;
and the circumstances of it having been spoken in the hear-
ing of the Austrian ambassador, as well as of two others was
doubtless not unintended. The official circular account of



i8ii] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 255

this conversation, drawn up the next day and transmitted
to the French ministers abroad by the Duke of Bassano,
differs from the speech itself only as it omits all the threats
and offensive personalities with which it abounded. These
would have been useless and improper in the dispatch. But
it can hardly be supposed they were without their purpose
in the real speech. It may be observed that there was a
repeated complaint that Russia had evaded giving explana-
tions, but without saying of what. If It referred merely to
the detachment of the five divisions, from the Moldavian
army, to reenforce the Russian line in Poland, that cause of
dissatisfaction has been removed; but I have reason for be-
lieving that something more than explanations has been and still
is demanded oj Russia. The English newspapers have con-
tained articles from St. Petersburg asserting that this demand
was nothing less than the admission of a French garrison into
the Russian ports upon the Baltic to superintend the effectual
execution of the continental system. Probably this statement
is not entirely without foundation. Of Riga in particular it
may be true. But as yet no symptom of a disposition to comply
with this demand is discoverable here. An inflexible resolu-
tion to reject it is supposed to be taken even if its only alterna-
tive should be war.^

A proposition has been submitted by the Chancellor to
the Imperial Council, for authorizing by law, a free commerce
with the Caracas, in consequence of certain overtures to
that effect, said to have been made from thence.^ Although
it had been previously presented to the consideration of the
Emperor, and favorably viewed by him, it met with strong
and unexpected opposition in the Council, where it was if

^ Cypher.

2 The independence of Venezuela was proclaimed July 14, 1811, but was not

recognized by Spain until 1845.



2S6 THE WRITINGS OF [iSn

not ultimately rejected, at least indefinitely postponed last
Monday. The opposition to the measure arose from an idea
that it would involve the principle of acknowledging the in-
dependence of that province, and so it was no doubt intended
by Count Romanzoff. His views upon this subject so far
as he thought proper to disclose them to me have been here-
tofore reported in several of my letters to you. The Russian
policy as contemplated by him is to favor the independence
of the provinces of South America which belonged to Spain.
Declarations of a similar disposition were made nearly two
years ago by France. How far they may suit the present
purposes of the French government is perhaps questionable,
but the Count did not expect any difficulty from that
quarter. There appears to be some embarrassment In the
conduct of the English government relative to this question.
They do not seem to be very sanguine In the hope that the
Spanish colonies will ever be restored to their former state
of dependence upon their mother countr\', and they are not
a little anxious to grasp at a share, If they must despair of
the monopoly of their trade. But nothing less than complete
restoration can satisfy the pretensions of the Cortes; and
the bare intimation from England, that a compromise with
the insurgents would be expedient, and especially that Eng-
land must herself be allowed to trade with them, has pro-
duced dissensions between these allies, which they cannot
conceal from the knowledge of the world. It might be the
wish of Count Romanzoff that Russia should be the first or
among the first to recognize this new 'power ^ and the opposition
in the Council, produced it may be presumed from views of
policy coincidiyig with those of England more than the Chan-
cellor has upon any object of general importance been wont to
do.^

^ Cypher.



i8ii] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 257

The Turkish army under the command of the Grand
Vizier has been defeated by General KutuzofF. A courier
arrived the night before last with the account, but the de-
tails of the victory have not yet been made public. It is
supposed by some persons here that the new English mission
to Constantinople will contribute to accelerate the peace
between Russia and the Porte, but I believe this to be mere
political speculation. I am with much respect, etc.



TO THOMAS BOYLSTON ADAMS

St. Petersburg, 21 October, 181 1,

• • • • • • •

Mr. Russell goes (or rather by this time is gone) to take
charge of public affairs of the United States in England until
the appointment of a minister. I have great regard and es-
teem for Mr. J. S. Smith, who was several months with us
here, and whose amiable disposition and lively character
made him an universal favorite. When I learned that he
was to be our charge d'affaires in England, though I thought
him well qualified for that office, I was a little surprised that
a situation of such importance and responsibility should have
been assigned to so young a man, and with so little experi-
ence. At present I am persuaded that the change has not
been occasioned by any deficiency on his part in the per-
formance of his duty, and I hope it has not necessarily been
connected with the misconduct of his uncle. With Mr. Rus-
sell I have been In correspondence during his residence at
Paris, and It has been a source of much valuable information.
I expect to renew this correspondence with him in England.
If, as I now expect, we should return home next summer, it
will be too late to ask you to write to us under cover to him.



2S8 THE WRITINGS OF [iSn

But probably that channel will be the shortest and the
surest for the transmission of letters between the United
States and Russia.

Mr. Barlow will be obliged to wait, I presume, until the
Emperor Napoleon's return to Paris before he can enter
upon business, or even be recognized in his diplomatic char-
acter. When acknowledged, I am not very sanguine that
he will be able to accomplish anything useful or honorable
to his country. He will have according to a French proverb-
ial expression to feed upon adders. But as I hope he is au-
thorized to assume with the French government a tone be-
coming the dignity of the nation that he represents, and if,
as I trust, he is not to be cajoled by unmeaning phrases and
hypocritical compliments, he may do honor to himself and re-
fute, as Armstrong refuted, the calumnies of those who have
so long charged us with subserviency to France. The manner
in which Armstrong's letter of lo March, l8lO, was received
by all Europe as well as all America, proves to perfect dem-
onstration that the full assertion of our rights, in a style
of firmness and intrepidity, is the most useful as well as the
most spirited policy.

I hope that Congress will take special care not to break
into a war with England. It is probable, and I might say
almost inevitable, that the British system of policy which
has been so full of outrage to our rights will soon undergo a
great change. It is now persevered in only from passion,
obstinacy, and defiance of opposition. It Is already recoil-
ing upon England herself with such Increasing pressure
as must ere long be intolerable. I have reasons which I
cannot fully explain to you for writing, that a war may still
be avoided; but one equivalent to all the rest is that it would
reduce us to a state of great dependence upon France. It
would draw us Into the vortex of the French political system,



i8ii] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 259

from which it might take a century to extricate us again, or
by a reaction equally pernicious, it would throw us back as
an appendage to the British system, and plunge us head-
long into the ruin towards which that is so rapidly tending.



TO WILLIAM EUSTIS

St. Petersburg, 26 October, 181 1.

Dear Sir:

Since I wrote and forwarded the letter of which the in-
closed is a press copy, Mr. R. Smith's pamphlet as extracted
or copied into the Aurora has come to knowledge and has
removed some part of the obscurity of which I then com-
plained. But as some of the topics discussed In the pamphlet
are the same with those touched upon In my letter, and as
Mr. Smith professes to have avowed sentiments respecting
certain public measures similar to those which I have avowed
to you, I think it now proper to assure you that at the time
when I wrote the original of the Inclosed I knew not the
existence of his pamphlet, and had no suspicion either that
he Intended to publish or that those sentiments had been
entertained by him. I say this, because considering as I do
the publication of his pamphlet as a breach of trust. If the
coincidence of his arguments upon the measures with my
opinions had not of itself been enough to stagger my con-
fidence in my own mind, It would at least have led me to
hesitate in expressing even confidentially ideas and views
which I believed him to be proclaiming for the purposes
very different from those of the public welfare. Of the Re-
view of the pamphlet which appeared in the National In-
telligencer I have seen only the introductory number, but



26o THE WRITINGS OF [i8n

Mr. Smith's reply on the subject of the grant to Mr. Ervlng
has been pubHshed entire in the EngUsh newspapers where
I have read it.^ I am therefore still uninformed of the reason-
ing upon which the opposite view of policy relating to our
affairs with France is supported, and know not how far it
might convince me of the inaccuracy of the opinions I had
held and which in the inclosed letter I had suggested to you.
Having now an opportunity by Commodore Bainbridge,
upon the safety of which I can rely, in giving you freely
my present opinions I feel it as a duty to embrace the oc-
casion committing my sentiments to you in the most entire
confidence and with the assurance that if they are incor-
rect they will have no improper influence and if just that
they will not, as in factious times so often happens, be per-
verted to purposes more pernicious than error itself.

Of the reception which Mr. Barlow has met from the
French government and of the instructions under which he

' "I have seen in an English newspaper the late Secretary's reply to the Review,
but the Review itself, excepting the first number, has not reached me. Whether
there has been any reply to Colvin's disclosure I have not learnt. The Secretary
has been unlucky in calling for the umpirage of the people, he speaks of it as a duty
and after setting at nought his real duties there was some pretence for him to assume
an imaginary one. He began by alleging self justification as his motive. In the
reply he avows the character of an accuser against Mr. Madison and of his twelve
charges returns only to that concerning you. It was the only thing in his whole
budget which appeared to me in the first instance to need some explanation upon
the part of Mr. Madison. I suppose it has been given in the Review. Taken all
together the case made out in the pamphlet was pitiful. I thought it as you did a
clumsy mimicry of Hamilton, conducted with more popular Pandarism but with
infinitely inferior talents. Some of the last newspapers threaten a book too from
General Armstrong. What can be his motive or pretext? He went off with such
flying colors from France that I had better hopes of him. He will need no Colvin
to manage his weapons, but I hope and trust that if he follows the Secretary's track,
he will not be more successful in the chase." To George William Erving, October 29,
181 1. Ms. Madison states the facts as to Erving in his letter to Jefferson, July 8,
18 1 1, in Writings of Madison (Rives), II. 514.



i8ii] JOHN QUINCY ADA.MS 261

Is to act I am yet equally ignorant. The situation of his
immediate predecessor (Air. Russell) has been irksome, and
I do not think his own will be agreeable. That good words
in abundance may be given is possible; but it is my belief
not only that nothing like satisfaction for past injuries will
be obtained but that no material modification will be made of
a system as hostile to the United States in everything but
the name as declared war. And that in the full and unyield-
ing execution of this system a tone of insolent dictation to
the United States will be officially maintained with regard
to their mode of resenting the outrages of England. The
object of all this will be to entangle us in an English war,
and I cannot dissemble the wish that it may have the directly
contrary effect of preserving us from it.

I have read also in the English newspapers some late
lucubrations of Mr. Pickering to prove his old fable of a
compact between Mr. Jefferson and Napoleon that the
United States should go to war with England. If Pickering
believes this himself, it is by means of the process with which
Shakespeare says a man works himself up "to credit his own
lye;" but Pickering is cunning enough to see that a war with
England may be unavoidable, and then he thinks to batter
down the administration with this foolish tale of Its having
been concerted with France beforehand. But though none
but a political idiot or a political fanatic could believe any
President of the United States to be seeking a war with
England (unless by a species of corruption which even Pick-
ering dares not insinuate), yet it is unquestionably true that
France had been doing everything in her power to draw us
into that war, just as England on her side though in a more
blundering manner has been urging us to a war with France.
Now France has within the last eighteen months been play-
ing her game with so much address that I sometimes fear it



262 THE WRITINGS OF [i8u

will ultimately prove successful, and if Congress during the
approaching session are not completely upon their guard in
this respect, we may find ourselves involved in that war
without an adequate attainable object in view at its issue,
and in a state of fivefold dependence upon the caprices, the
insolence and the rapacity of France.

The general result of my reflections as to the principle
which I could wish Congress to adopt, and which I flatter
myself may still preserve us from war, is that of placing the
two powers again upon precisely the same footing. That is,
if the non-importation is continued against England, to ap-
ply it, or a measure of equal force, to France; or if no measure
restrictive of intercourse with France is adopted, to remove
that upon the intercourse with England. The great question
about colonial trade is already annihilated by the situation
of South America. The Orders in Council must soon be
given up, for they recoil already so much upon England her-
self that she will not much longer endure them. The practice
of impressment is the only ineradicable wound which, if
persisted in, can terminate no otherwise than by war; but it
seems clearly better to wait the effect of our increasing
strength and of our adversary's more mature decay, before
we undertake to abolish it by war. For as I have no hesita-
tion in saying that at the proper period I would advise my
country to declare a war explicitly and distinctly upon that
single point, and never afterwards make peace without a
specific article expressly renouncing forever the principles
of impressing from any American vessel, so I should think it
best to wait until the time shall come, and I think it not
far distant, when a declaration to that effect would obtain
the article without needing the war.

It would require a longer letter than I can flatter myself
you would have patience to read, to develop all the considera-



i8iil JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 263

tions upon which these opinions are founded. I submit them
to you without reserve, at the same time repeating that they
are all subordinate to the Inclination and duty of supporting
whatever course of policy the constitutional authority
of our country shall after due deliberation deem it most ad-
visable to pursue. I am etc.



TO JOHN ADAMS

St. Petersburg, 31 October, 181 1.
Dear Sir:

In the month of June last Mr. Myers Fisher, Junior, of
Philadelphia, who Is established here as a partner of a com-
mercial house, called upon me with a gentleman who had
just arrived with a vessel and cargo of which he was the
owner, and whom he introduced to me by the name of Mr.
David, of Philadelphia. I thought this gentleman a total
stranger to me, and was a little surprised when he said to
me, "Sir, you and I are very old acquaintances with each
other. Do you not recollect a boy by the name of David
who was one of your school fellows at Mr. Le Coeur's, at
Passy, in 1778,^" "I recollect two boys of that name who
were brothers, born In London of French parents, and who
had been sent over to France for their education." "Well,
sir, I am the younger of those two brothers;" and then he
told me several anecdotes of occurrences at the school which
had as completely escaped my memory until he reminded
me of them as his own person. I excused myself as well as I
could for not having had a memory so retentive as his, but
the passage from twelve to forty-five years of age accomplishes
a metamorphosis in one's looks, which It requires something
more than memory to trace back. It was remarkable that



264 THE WRITINGS OF [i8u

this was the second since I have been here In which I have
been recognized by schoolmates of Le Coeur's pension. The
other was a Mr. Rudolphe, an engineer, whom I had more
Irretrievably forgotten than Mr. David. For even now,
after he brought circumstances to my mind which I do re-
member, I can recall no trace either of his person or his
name. I have not been well pleased with myself to find that
my schoolmates of that period have so much better memories
than mine, and I have set all the usual casuistry of self-love
In motion to account for it In a manner which may spare me
all the mortification of the discovery.

But the occasion upon which I mention Mr. David to you
is, that after having passed the summer here, he Is now going
to Gothenburg, Intending to return hence either directly or
through England to Philadelphia, and it is by him that I
shall take the opportunity of forwarding this letter. It is
already the third that has occurred since the navigation
directly from Cronstadt has been closed, and I hope to have
several others in November and perhaps December. There
is, however, a very troublesome, and at this season a very
dangerous, water passage over the gulf of Bothnia between
this place and Gothenburg, and the winter has already de-
clared itself here with such severity that the River Neva is
completely frozen over.



Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 21 of 42)