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Her neighbor upon the continent is no better than herself,
but he manages his card with more dexterity. Since the
arrival of Mr. Barlow in France I have had scarcely any
communications from Paris. I had previously there an ex-
cellent correspondent in Mr. Russell. I only learn that the
poet has exercised his diplomatic skill in an official note, and
has been promised a satisfactory answer. In the meantime
all the American vessels taken by French privateers in the
Baltic have been condemned. Most of them without a

You see I cannot help forgetting that almost every letter
I write is opened and read either by French or English offi-
cers. Listeners they say seldom hear anything good of them-
selves. Seal breakers ought not to be more gratified.


No. 78. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 25 January, 1812.

• •••««

Nothing of a political nature has occurred here since I had
the honor of last writing you that materially affected the
aspect of affairs. It is still given out by the persons in
the confidence of this government that the negotiations at


Bucharest will certainly terminate in the conclusion of a
peace. This confidence is expressed in terms so unqualified,
that it may be unsafe to express any distrust of its accuracy.
There are however now many who doubt whether this peace
has been or will be accomplished.

Uncertainty is still the predominating character of the
relations with France. The refusal of a passport to Mr.
Labensky, and the decrees to raise the conscription of 181 2,
have been succeeded by diplomatic communications in a
style of so much gentleness, moderation, and even com-
placency, that great hopes begin to be entertained, or at
least to be circulated here, that the next summer will pass
over like the last, without bringing the parties to a hostile
issue. The ambassador declares that all the differences
between the two governments are a mere spider's web; all
the ministers of the princes of the Rhenish confederation
speak of the preservation of peace as a thing to be expected
as much as It is to be desired, but they all hold themselves
In readiness to depart at the shortest warning. The news-
dealers from the Russian cabinet echo back every sound of
peace, with double and treble repetition, while at least five
hundred thousand men are already arrayed in mutual op-
position, and needing nothing but a dispatch from Paris or
from St. Petersburg, to meet each other upon the field of
blood in less time than it would take to send the dispatch.

Such is at this moment the singular posture of affairs.
No specific negotiation has yet commenced. The report
that Count Nessclrode Is to go to Paris on a special mission,
with powers and Instructions for a settlement of all the differ-
ences, is yet prevalent, and it is still alleged that his depar-
ture Is delayed only till the arrival of the Turkish peace.
The general characteristic of the juncture is, that both with
regard to France and Turkey, the whispers from confidential


quarters are in direct opposition with the public and noto-
rious facts.

I have heard intimations that both the parties are indus-
triously negotiating for the favor of Austria. If this be true
there can be little doubt which will negotiate with the great-
est efficacy. The Illyrian provinces, held by France as
a conquest from Austria, may be offered on one part as the
price of her alliance and cooperation. On the other part
there is nothing to fear. On the contrary, there is to be con-
ciliated with the feelings of Austria, what she certainly
considers as not very propitious to her interests — the
Russian conquest and incorporation of the provinces of
Moldavia and Wallachia. The primary policy of Austria
will doubtless be, as she has already announced, a strict
neutrality. The state of her finances, and of her govern-
ment in general make tranquillity an object essential to her.
But it is not clear that a large offer for little exertion and less
danger, would find her altogether deaf to the calls of ambi-
tion, and the instigations of resentment.

The most difficult and dangerous of all situations under
these circumstances Is that of Prussia, whose endeavors to
obtain admission as a member of the Rhenish confederation
are said to have been unsuccessful, whose offer of mediation
between the parties has been declined, and who is not even
allowed to make those preparations for her own defence
which her position would on the event of a war render so
indispensably necessary. Within the last month official
notice has been published at Berlin, that an officer of the
army, who had conceived the idea of raising a Legion of
Volunteers, to offer their services in case of war, and had
engaged a number of persons out of service to apply to him
in that event, has been by order of the government arrested
and sent as a prisoner to Glatz, and that another person has



been exiled, for being privy to the design, without having
taken a part in it. These secret struggles and public dis-
avowals equally denote the anxious and perilous condition
of a state, which can scarcely fail to be the victim of that
conflict which she can neither avert nor delay.

It is doubtful whether I shall have another opportunity
of transmitting despatches to you, before the return of sum-
mer, and the opening of the navigation from this country.
If the President's instructions which I am still expecting
then allows me the permission, I shall myself embark upon
my return to the United States. I am very respectfully etc.^


No. 80. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 29 February, 181 2.

/ had the honor of informing you in my last letter that in the
conference which I had the day before it was written with the
Chancellor^ he had spoken without reserve of a war with France
as being expected by him. As his remarks upon this subject
were connected with other observations respecting the state of
our own relations with France^ I think it best to repeat them as
nearly according to his own expressions as my memory will
permit^ premising on this, as 07i for^ner occasions, that the

^"It gives me pleasure to add that the manner in which you have conducted
the business of your mission at St. Petersburg meets the entire approbation of the
President, and that your remaining there accords with his wishes, more particu-
larly as it did not suit your convenience to accept of a seat on the bench of the
Supreme Court of the United States." Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams,
November 23, 181 1. Ms. See also Madison to John Quincy Adams, November 15,
181 1, in Writings oj Madison (Rives), II. 515.


Count always gives me to understand that in conversing freely
upon topics of so delicate a nature he speaks altogether in con-
fidence. I do not consider this as requiring me to withhold from
you the correct report of the sentiments, and even of the expres-
sions which he uses, but as meaning only that they shall not
be made public. Thus far he undoubtedly intends to be confi-
dential, and in communicating to you his observations I write
in the same confidence. ^

He began by mentioning that he had just received from
Stockholm, the English papers, containing the Regent's
speech or message to Parliament at the opening of the ses-
sion. ^ He observed that It made no mention whatsoever of
the north of Europe; and that Its tone with regard to the
United States was of a conciliatory nature; that It spoke of
the affair of the Chesapeake as having been amicably ar-
ranged, and expressed the hope that other subjects In dis-
cussion would be likewise adjusted. I intimated to him
that professions of a conciliatory disposition had always been
sufficiently made by the British government; but they had
been so long the only things we had experienced from Eng-
land that were conciliatory that now something more would
be necessary to produce the effect, and of this I was sorry
to say I could scarcely discern any prospect. He said there
were some rumors of a new offer of negotiation from France
to England. At least that a French messenger had landed
in England; but that might be for the sake of exciting the
apprehension here of a separate negotiation for peace, which
In the great and extraordinary armaments said to be now
making In France and destined against Russia, might be
thought calculated to produce a certain effect here. I told
him that as to negotiations between France and England I
did not much believe In them or in their success, if really

.^Cypher. 2 January 7. See Annual Register, 18 12, 326.


attempted; but that I had heard there were prospects of
war between France and Russia, which I lamented. He
had mentioned the Emperor Napoleon. How happy would
It be for the tranquillity of mankind, if it were possible that
the will for peace could be inspired into his heart! The
Count replied that by his advices from Paris it was con-
sidered there that a better understanding with the United
States was intended and even explicitly avowed. That the
entire revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees, so far as
concerned the United States was confirmed, and that with
regard to American vessels which should arrive in France,
there would be little or no difficulty made as to whence they
came, or as to the nature of their cargoes. I said that my
own information without being so particular was, that the
aspect of the disposition of the French government towards
the United States was more amicable, and more just than
it had been for a long period. There was an obvious political
interest to account for the change. As the Emperor saw
the situation In which the English had chosen to place them-
selves with respect to America, he was taking advantage of
it by assuming a course of an opposite character. I believed
the British government alone, by a like change of their
policy could prevent his succeeding in it completely. The
Count said that in the general view of the Russian policy
this new turn was highly agreeable to him, both from the
interest which this government took in whatever was ad-
vantageous to the United States, and because It showed
something like a relaxation In favor of commerce; but he re-
ferred me to our former conversations for his opinion upon the
character of the Emperor Napoleon. He did not think that the
permanency of anythijig to which he should assent concerning
commerce could he relied upon. Every resolution, every act
was the result of an impulse of the moment — the effect of an


occasional impression. Today the impression was of one sort
and the measure corresponded with it; tomorrow the impression
would he of an opposite nature and the measure would follow
that too. To make them consistent was not in the nature of
the man. He never looked at commerce with commercial eyes.
He never considered commerce as an interest in which all man-
kind was concerned. He saw in it nothing hut the trade of a
certain class of individuals. But in truth, added the Count,
commerce is the concern of us all. The merchants are indeed
only a class of individuals hearing a small proportion to the
mass of a people; hut commerce as the exchange of mutual su-
perfluities for mutual wants is the mutual chain of human as-
sociation. It is the foundation of all the useful and pacific
intercourse hetween nations. It is a primary necessity to all
classes of people. The Emperor Napoleon will never see it in
this light and so his commercial regulations and promises will
never be systematic or consistent. You will find that you can
place little dependence upon them. ^^ As to his will for peace
and tranquility — wo/" continued the Cou7it, "that is impossible.
I can say to you in confidence that he once told me so himself.
I was speaking to him about Spain and Portugal and he said
to me, ' / must always he goi^ig after the peace of those, so where
could I go but to Spain? I went to Spain because I could not
go elsewhere. ' And this was all he had to say in justification
of his having gone into Spain and Portugal; and now, as per-
haps there, he is not quite satisfied with his going, he may in-
tend to turn against us from the same want of any other place
where to go." I said that one would think Spain and Portugal
still furnished and were likely long to furnish him quite room
enough to go in without making it necessary to gratify his pas-
sion in another quarter. The Count replied that there was no
political consideration whatsoever upon which he founded a
hope that peace might yet be preserved. But there was a con-


sideration of a different nature which might have its weight and
upon the effect of which he still rested some expectation. It was
the scarcity of grain. He understood it was considerable at
Paris. I said I had heard the same and that the price of wheat
and of flour had much advanced, tho' not that of bread, as it was
kept down by payments of the bakers received from the govern-
ment. He said that the scarcity was so great that there had
been recently several riots at the doors of the bakers both at Paris
and at Lyons, and as large armies could not be put in motion
without very large supplies of such provisions, he still hoped
that as the months of April and May would come on, the incon-
venience and difficulty of procuring such supplies for those
armies would ultimately arrest their march. " For which how-
ever, " added he, "the circumstances have rendered It proper
for us to place ourselves In a state of preparation as we have
accordingly done." ^

/ then passed to another subject ^ the removal of Count
Pahlen from the Russian mission to the United States to
that of Brazil. I said that my instructions made it my duty
to express to the Emperor, the sentiments entertained by
my government, and their strong sense of the friendly policy
constantly pursued by his Majesty towards them, and that
it gave me peculiar pleasure to communicate to him the
assurance that Count Pahlen's deportment during his resi-
dence in the United States had been highly agreeable to the
President, and had conciliated universal regard and esteem.
He said that he was sure that the Emperor would receive this
information with pleasure, and that such a testimonial would
contribute further to raise his good opinion of Count Pahlen.
That the letters from that officer had constantly spoken in
the highest terms of the treatment that he had received from

^ This last sentence was also in cypher, but underlined.

^ Cypher.


all classes of people in America, and that he would quit the
country with the warmest regard for it. / observed that his
mission to Brazil would place him in an advantageous position
for observation not only in regard to that country itself, but to
the scenes which were passing in the other parts of South America,
particularly the Spanish provinces. He asked me whether the
government of the United States took any measure respecting
them, in what light they considered them? I said there were dep-
uties at the seat of our government at the province of Venezuela.
That our government considered with favorable sentiments the
change that was taking place in those provinces believing it
would be generally advantageous to the interests of mankind,
and that I readily cofifided to him these views of my govern-
ment because from former conversatio7is that I had held with
him, and from other circumstances of which I had heard, I
thought there was the most perfect coi^icidence between his views
on this subject and theirs. He said they were the same. There
was only one doubt on his mind which gave him some concern.
The people of those provinces had been kept in such a state of
grievous oppression that he zvas afraid they would in accom-
lishing their emancipation exhibit examples of that sort of
violence and those scenes of cruelty which experience had
proved to be too common in such revolutions. He hoped, how-
ever, it might be otherwise. He had been in favor of a free com-
merce between them and this country which would have implied
a recognition of their new state, and he had made a proposition
to that effect {in the Imperial Council). "Mais en cela j'ai
echoue. The apprehension of those discords to which I have
alluded prevented my success. On pourra cependant revenir
par cet objet."

In my letter of 26 October last. No. y^^ reporting to you this
proposition of the Chancellor and its failure in the Council the
real cause of its failure was suggested. There was a lurking


English influence working at bottom, arid the terror of disorders
and cruelties was a motive suitable to be avowed.

Since the day upon which I had this conference with the Count
the symptoms of approaching war between France and this
country have been constantly increasing in number and in
gravity. The Turkish peace so long and so confidently spoken
of as certain is cast up a forlorn hope. It is believed that the
Emperor imputes the disappointment entirely to the inter-
ference of a French agency, and that the irritation which it
excited in his mind determined him not to send Count Nessel-
rode to Paris as he had intended, and of which he had even
communicated his intention to the French ambassador.'^ The
occupation of Swedish Pomerania by French troops is sup-
posed to be a mere preliminary to the Russian war. Since
this event a Colonel Knesebeck, an aide de camp to the
king of Prussia, and Count Lowenhielm, an aide de camp to
the king of Sweden, have arrived here on special missions.
The first to urge again the Emperor Alexander to negotiate
with France, and the second probably to concert resistance
against France. Austria assembles a body of troops in
Galllcia, of which an official communication has been made
here by Count St. Julien. Austria professes at the same
time amicable intentions towards Russia — the resolution to
remain strictly neutral if war should ensue — but with friendly
advice to the Emperor, to negotiate with France. In the
meantime France, and all the princes of the Rhenish confedera-
tion are arming with all possible expedition, and the note of
preparation here is as strong as ever. Three regiments of
the garrison of this city march this week for the frontiers.
I am with the greatest respect, etc.

^ Cypher.



St. Petersburg, 30 March, 1812.

The spirit which has manifested itself in Congress since
the commencement of their session, if its ultimate result,
should be real and substantial preparation for war, will be
the happiest turn for our public affairs that has occurred
since the treaty with France In 1800. It is apparently not
just now the wish of the British government to have a war
with America added to the work they already have upon
their hands. But they will yield nothing in negotiation,
because they have formed a settled opinion that America
will not, perhaps that she cannot, undertake a war against
England. In the condition of our public force (if force it
can be seriously called) this opinion is one of the best founded
and wisest that has found its way to the head of a British
ministry for many years. The rights against which England
is pursuing a course of systematic outrage are of a nature
which we might and ought to maintain by force. But before
we resort to force for maintaining them, we must be In
possession of the force itself, and really with our army of
five or six thousand men, and our navy of ten or twelve
frigates, to talk of maintaining by force any right whatso-
ever against such a power as Great Britain is too ridiculous.
We have had many prevailing opinions among ourselves
which must be fairly and completely disgorged before we
can soberly think of maintaining our rights by force. The
opinion that Britain, or indeed any European nation, will
square her political conduct by the rule of her own interest
is one of them. No less a statesman than John de Witt


has been said to have stumbled more than once over this
fundamental position, that the policy of nations would
always be governed by their interests. John had not been,
like Chancellor Oxenstiern's son, to see how the world was
governed. Many of our politicians need a tour of travel to
make the same observation. Another opinion among us
which our stomachs stood very stoutly for a great length
of time was, that a British ministry was to be intimidated
by a prospect of famine in the West India islands, or by riots
among the journeyman weavers, spinsters and pinmakers
of their manufacturing towns. Experience has pretty well
disburthened us of this error and I hope it will never en-
cumber us again. Perhaps we have yet to learn that looking
and talking big will be as Ineffectual to maintain our rights
as the interests of our adversaries or the hunger of West
India negroes or Nottingham frame breakers. To main-
tain our rights we must first raise and organize force. Con-
sidering the measures proposed In Congress as resulting from
this conviction and destined to this end I do most heartily
approve of and rejoice in them. But there must be con-
nected with them measures of raising revenue, which I do
not yet see so clearly disclosed, and the effect of which upon
the popular sentiment It may not be so easy to foretell.
Mr. Gallatin's last annual report observes ingeniously that
our revenue from impost in peace Is almost sufficient for the
expenses of war, and in war would scarcely suffice for the
wants of peace. The last part of this remark is unquestion-
ably true, but we must not calculate that the utmost produce
of our national revenue which we have yet had would
almost meet the expenses of a war. It has been in my opinion
one of our misfortunes, as well as one of our errors, to rely
too much upon impost for revenues, and not only to sacrifice
but to decry all the others. I believe, though I am afraid


this will yet pass for political heresy, that all the taxes
which were abandoned must be restored, and that many
others much more burdensome must be imposed, before we
can entertain a rational expectation of maintaining hy force
against Great Britain any right of which she may choose to
deprive us. Now until a real and respectable /orc^ shall be
raised, organized, systematically provided for by substantial
revenue, and prepared for vigorous action, I should hold it
impossible to commence a war with England, and I hope
that no such measure will be taken.

At the same time it would be worse than folly for us to
imagine that we shall be allowed henceforth to enjoy upon
the ocean any rights which we are not able to maintain by
force. The base and servile doctrine of holding our naviga-
tion and commercial rights upon the tenure of England's
friendship and protection, the beetle-blind idiotism of pre-
tending to hold them upon her sense of justice, appear to be
losing their influence in America and may they never be
harbored by us again. It is quite time for us to show, what
for my part I never doubted, that there is among us a latent
energy capable of being roused into action with a vigor and
effect of which neither England, nor any other European
nation, nor a large portion of our own people, have any sus-
picion. I wish to see in the course now pursued by Congress
an approximation to that result, and with this hope welcome
the spirit which has united parties otlierwise discordant in
the determination to raise and prepare a public force. I
hope also to see them followed up with corresponding meas-
ures for raising an adequate revenue. Without them all
the rest would be mere political bubbles.

We have here the prospect of a new war which announces
itself as the probable shock of two immense powers. It is
said with confidence that Russia has now under arms and


disciplined for war not less than nine hundred thousand
men. There are upon her frontiers from the Baltic to the
Black Sea undoubtedly more than three hundred thousand,
and a number at least equal to them of French, Prussians,
Poles and Germans, are arrayed for conflict against them.
Ten or fifteen regiments of the choicest troops of the empire
have within the last month marched from this city to join
the forces on the Polish border. The commencement of
the campaign will according to all present appearances

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