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a month before an opportunity occurred of sending it on its
way to you. I am afraid that the delay will entirely defeat
its object, and that it will be found impracticable to send out
my two sons to me the next summer. The river Neva Is now
again open, and I trust that in about six weeks or two
months opportunities for writing to you again will present
themselves. To you, my dear Mother and to you alone, I
am indebted for Information concerning my family and
friends in your quarter of the world. From June last until
the commencement of the present year I have received from



i8i2l JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 319

you several letters in the course of the winter, and have
never suffered a month to pass by without writing to you.
Since I wrote you last we have received your letter to my
wife of 25 November which she has answered. I sent last
week this answer, with another letter from her, and my own
of 30 March to Mr. Russell at London, with a request to
him to forward them. I suppose he will have no difficulty
to do this; for although Mr. Foster did threaten that if our
non-importation should not be repealed his government
would retaliate; and although I trust it has not been re-
pealed, yet a non-importation from America may not be
so convenient in England just now, with the quartern loaf
at eighteen or nineteen pence, and all the importation of
grain and flour from France, of which they boasted so much
last year, prohibited not only by law but by scarcity.

The effects of our non-importation are doubtless felt and
pretty strongly felt in England, nor is there any doubt of her
disposition to retaliate whenever retaliation shall not con-
sist in self starvation. There was no inconsiderable pains
taken last summer to demonstrate in Parliament and to the
public that England was quite independent of America for
supplies of bread, and official statements were published to
show that in the course of the preceding year more than
double the quantity of the staff of life had been imported
from France to that which had come from the United States.
The strength of this argument rested on the position that
France was an infallible source of subsistence for England,
and that it was better to depend upon France for subsis-
tence than upon America. Therefore England might boldly
threaten America with non-importation, and even proceed to
war with perfect indifference as to the consequences. This
calculation has been for the present disconcerted by a scanty
harvest in France. The Emperor Napoleon says that nine



320 THE WRITINGS OF [1812

years of abundance in France have been succeeded by one
year of mediocrity. That is to say a year when famine has
driven the people to such riotous extremities that in one city
he has been shooting a number of men and women to pre-
serve peace. He has also been obliged to provide two mil-
lions of Rumford soups a day, from April to September, to
be distributed throughout the Empire. A good harvest
in France the present year will doubtless supply the de-
ficiencies of the last, but will not produce grain sufficient for
her own consumption, and although she may this year have
markets open to her which for some years past have been
closed, yet for her own wants, as well as for those of her
armies in Spain and Portugal, she must depend upon im-
portation from America. Her threats of retaliation upon
non-importation are therefore not very formidable, and
whether she perseveres in her present system of war with
the language of peace, or proceeds to that of open and avowed
war, I am persuaded the event will prove to all who have
eyes to see or ears to hear that her dependence upon com-
mercial intercourse with us is more essential to her than ours
upon her is to us. Her government, however, has not yet
acquired this conviction nor is it probable they will until the
evidence of it shall be more clear and unequivocal than five
years of experience has yet proved it. . . .

I May, 1812.
In a Hamburg newspaper which I received last evening
there is a paragraph, dated London, 28 March, asserting by
letters that morning arrived from Liverpool it appeared an
embargo was laid upon all the American vessels there until
the arrival of dispatches expected from America; and an-
other article, dated 31 March, announced that the 41st
regiment and the 4th battalion of the 50th and 103 d regi-
ments had received orders to embark for America, and that



i8i2] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 321

the Lord Mayor ol London had again advanced the price
of bread three pence sterling the quartern loaf. If this in-
formation is correct, as I think it now probable it Is, the
British government have come to their determination, and
are resolved upon a war with the United States. They have
probably chosen their time for this measure when they sup-
pose it cannot be known in time to stop the supplies which can
be shipped before the new harvest comes In. They doubtless
calculate also upon having a new market opened to them in
the Baltic. They certainly have reason for trusting in some
degree to this resource, but the armies assembled In the north
of Europe must so greatly increase the consumption on this
part of the continent that the most abundant granaries will
have no extraordinary superfluity to send abroad.

I have been sincerely and anxiously desirous that this war
might ultimately be avoided. I saw little prospect of any
ultimate benefit to be derived from It to my own country,
and I could not look forward to its possible consequences
upon our internal organizations without some apprehen-
sion. But as It must come, I feel great consolation in the
spirit of unanimity which appears to have marked the late
proceedings In Congress, and hope It Is a solid pledge of that
which will carry us through this trial with honor and success.
The present English ministry have assumed as a principle
that there shall be no neutrality upon the ocean. Between
submission to this edict of expulsion from one of the most Im-
portant common possessions of mankind, and a war to main-
tain our right to It, the United States have exhausted every
expedient that wisdom could suggest and honor could en-
dure. To forego the right of navigating the ocean would
be a pusillanimity which of itself would degrade us from the
rank and rights of an Independent nation. Yet it has been
too clearly demonstrated that nothing but force can now



322 THE WRITINGS OF I1812

maintain it. That Britain should abuse her maritime
power in the consciousness of its superiority is so conform-
able to the ordinary experience of mankind that it is hardly
worth while to indulge our indignation upon seeing it. But
as it is the nature of the serpent to sting, It is the duty of man
to bruise his head for self-protection. On the high seas we
have no resource and can have no efficacious defence against
her. But she has vulnerable parts, and I pray to God that
those who have the administration of our public affairs may
have studied and discovered where they are situated, and
prepared to touch them till she shall feel.

As the embargo at Liverpool must undoubtedly be ex-
tended to the other ports of the British islands, it will doubt-
less have been combined with orders to take and carry in
vessels at sea. In that case we shall have no access to or
from the Baltic the present year, and I must at all events
be disappointed in the wish of having my sons come to me.
I expressly requested in my former letters to you and to
Mr. Gray that they might not be sent, If we should have
war with England. I shall on many accounts regret the loss
of our commercial intercourse with Russia, but it has already
become the last year much less advantageous, though vastly
more extensive than the preceding seasons. And the pros-
pects of the present year are more unfavorable than they
have ever been before. A war between France and Russia,
now more than probable, will necessarily open all the ports
of this country to the English flag with advantages of com-
merce with which we could not stand a competition. All the
articles of merchandise that our vessels bring here are the
same of which the English have such floods to pour upon the
continent when once open to them. The only exception is
cotton, of which even now, just at the opening of a new year's
navigation, the market is so overstocked that it can scarcely



i8i2] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 323

be sold at its first cost in America. There has been during
the last year a great outlet to foreign merchandise by land
carriage from this country into Germany. But as all Ger-
many will be in alliance with France against Russia, the
moment the war breaks out all commercial intercourse will
be stopped, and all the issues of exportation choked up.
The consumption of these colonial merchandise in this
country Is very small, and scarcely sufficient to afford a
market for fifty vessels in a year. When the English will
have many hundreds flocking here the chance of ours in
competition with them must in nine cases out of ten be
equivalent to a total loss of the voyage and cargo. If there
should between Russia and France be no war, I do not yet
believe that England will venture upon one against us.
I think, therefore, that our merchants must on every pos-
sible contingency renounce all hope of a profitable trade with
Russia this year.



TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE

No. 84. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 9 May, 1812.
Sir:

Since the departure of the Emperor Alexander, the opinion
has been more generally prevalent that previous to the com-
mencement of hostilities, a personal Interview between him
and the Emperor Napoleon will take place, and the expecta-
tion appears to be generally entertained that the result of it
will be a pacific arrangement, which may still avert the war
now so Imminent. The ofiiclal notification of the Emperor's
journey, a copy of which was enclosed with my last letter, as



324 THE WRITINGS OF [1812

you will perceive, assigns the ordinary review of his troops,
and the inspection of some of his provinces as the motives for
his absence from the capital. Thus studiously is every expres-
sion still avoided which might intimate a design of war, and a
similar caution is observed in every public document of the
other party. In the last conversation I had with the Chan-
cellor he explicitly told me there was no cause of war be-
tween France and Russia, and the French ambassador has
very recently and repeatedly told me the same thing. It
is now, however, ascertained that if the war should com-
mence both Austria and Prussia will take part in it as allies
of France. How far this event was expected I do not posi-
tively know. I believe that it was sufficiently seen that
Prussia could do no otherwise; but until very lately the
neutrality of Austria was considered as certain, and there
were even hopes entertained that she would eventually side
with this country. Of her neutrality the most positive
assurances were given by her minister here, who appears
to have been as much surprised as anyone, at the information
which was lately communicated from Sweden of an alliance
offensive and defensive between France and Austria, signed
at Paris on the 14th of March. This alliance was made
known to the Swedish government by a communication from
the Austrian ambassador who signed the treaty. Prince
Schwarzenburg, accompanied with a proposition from Aus-
tria to Sweden, to accede to the treaty. The proposition is
said to have been rejected immediately by Sweden, although
it was baited with an offer, extending not only to the restora-
tion of Finland, but to the recovery of all the provinces on
the Baltic which belonged to Sweden before the conquests
of Peter the Great.

The combination of power which now threatens this country
is so formidable that in entering upon the war she can scarcely



i8i2] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 325

calculate upon any rational foundation that she will issue from
it without loss of territory and of relation.'^ But It seems to be
the genius of war to disappoint the calculations of human
foresight. With means far inferior, Frederick the Second of
Prussia defeated a coalition of greater power, and the result
of our own revolution was equally wide from the prognosti-
cations of those statesmen who never reckon, because they
cannot foresee, the operations of time and chance. In the
war of the Spanish succession the death of one man, and in
the seven years war the death of one woman, produced a
revolution, not only upon the military aspect of the war, but
upon all the political relations and views of the parties, which
an hundred battles, and years and years of alternate dis-
asters and mutual destruction, had not been able to accom-
plish. There is doubtless now existing one individual, upon
whose thread of life the destinies of mankind are suspended
much more than they could ever be supposed to be upon the
life of Joseph I of Austria, or of the Empress Elizabeth.
It is a life too, in the nature of things, more exposed to sudden
and violent extinction, than that of ordinary men. Setting aside,
however, the accidents which may befall this one person, it now
appears that war is certain, and in general that its event must
correspond with those of the preceding wars, since the ascend-
ancy of France, in the political situation of Europe, was es-
tablished on the basis of conscription.^

Mr. Speyer informs me by a letter from Stockholm of 14
April that the Prince Royal had desired him to inform the
government of the United States, that England would ac-
knowledge the neutrality of Sweden, and that the ports of
Sweden would be open for the admission of neutrals and of
all sorts of merchandise. ^ A very important question how-
ever remains upon my mind, which Mr. Speyer's letter has

^ Cypher. ^ Due to Thornton's mission.



326 THE WRITINGS OF [1812

not solved, and upon which I have been equally unable to
obtain a satisfactory elucidation from the Swedish special
mission now here. That is, what England understands by
acknowledging the neutrality of Sweden? Whether for in-
stance she intends to allow to Sweden the common rights
of neutral commercial intercourse with France and her
dependencies? If she does, she must abandon the Orders in
Council. If she does not, it is scarcely possible that France
should recognize a neutrality of so equivocal a nature.

The Emperor Alexander arrived at Wilna the 14/26 April,
Previous to his departure from this city, the forces on the
frontiers had been distributed Into three armies. The first
called the First Army of the West, to the command of which
the General of Infantry, Barclai de Tolly was appointed,
holding at the same time the office of Minister at War.
The second army, called the Army of the Danube, is that
which had heretofore been called the Moldavian army, and
remains under the command of the General of Infantry,
Count Golenischtscheff KutuzofF. And the third denom-
inated the Second Army of the West, is commanded by the
General of Infantry, Prince Bagration. There is no com-
mander in chief, other than the Emperor himself.

The number of troops composing these three armies
amounts to upwards of four hundred thousand effective men,
in addition to which there are directed to be formed three
armies of reserve, consisting of more than one hundred
thousand men each. Eighteen new divisions of infantry
have been added to the former number of twenty-nine and
the divisions of cavalry have been increased from eight to
sixteen. In the month of November last a levy of four men
to each 500 had been raised, and in March a further levy of
two to 500, upon the basis of a new census, was directed.
The returns of this census shew the population of the Empire



i8i2] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 327

to be more than forty millions of souls. I am with great
respect, etc.



TO WILLIAM PLUMER

St. Petersburg, 13 May, 1812.
Dear Sir:

• ••••••

I had seen since I left the United States only one number
of the Boston Anthology, but I had known long before that
there was nothing to support it but the spirit of faction.
The Port Folio had for several years lived upon the plunder
from the English periodical journals. Of the Register ^ I do
not recollect having ever known so much as the name until
you announced to me the publication of its sixth volume after
the death of its editor. I had read one or two of his pam-
phlets which, although manifesting an extent of knowledge
seldom possessed by our political writers, had by no means
tended to my edification. Mr. Walsh's learned labors have
also reached me. They had proved so acceptable in England
that sufficient care had been taken to circulate them from
thence upon the continent.

Walsh's talents appear to have excited in America a sort
of enthusiasm of delusion which has much abated since the
appearance of his first work. His picture of England was
utterly false and adapted only to flatter the prejudices of that
party among us who, having more money than wit, eagerly
snatched at everything which with an assurance of informa-
tion and argument furnished a prop to their darling delusions.
He made a very feeble attempt to extricate himself from the
net of his own misrepresentations by a semblance of censure

' American Register, edited by Charles Brockden Brown.



328 THE WRITINGS OF [1812

upon the British administration then in power; but even
that line of discrimination, faint as it was, made it impossible
for him to pursue any system of politics without plunging
himself into the most absurd inconsistencies. The true pic-
ture of England would have been as dark and odious as he
had made that of France. Had he presented it to the public
he would have shown an independent spirit and a mind re-
gardful of truth. But his book would have had fewer edi-
tions in America and none at all in Europe, and he must
have renounced the project of publishing a periodical journal
by subscription.

The proceedings in Congress having relation to foreign
affairs are generally noticed in the English newspapers, and
through them I receive information of them from time to
time, though occasionally distorted by comments which
have their primary source in America. But of the transac-
tion in the state legislatures, and even of their composition as
respects parties, I hear little or nothing beyond the result of
elections. Your letters have contained the principal in-
formation of current politics that have found their way to
me. Most of my other friends are deterred from writing by
an apprehension which our experience has shown to be too
well founded, that their letters if they ever reach me will
have been broken open and read by others on their way.
The same consideration has often restrained me from writ-
ing and will now serve as my excuse to you for saying only
what privateersmen and admiralty judges, lieutenants of
men of war, and ministers of state, pickpockets and high-
waymen by land or by sea, may read without temptation
to divert it from its destination or pervert It to their own
purposes.

In reflecting upon your observations with regard to the
policy of a war with England I am happy to find your opin-



i8i2] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 329

ion perfectly concurring with my own. We want neither
provocation nor cause of war. But unfortunately neither
the most righteous cause nor the most atrocious provocation
are the principal objects of calculation when the question
is upon the policy of war. They decide indeed the question
of its justice, but have very little weight upon that of its
prudence. The effect of a war upon our national character
and institutions would probably be great and I hope favor-
able. That we should be destined to enjoy a perpetual
peace, however ardently humanity may desire it, can not
reasonably be expected. If war is not the natural state of
human society at all times, it is that of the age upon which
we have fallen. The spirit of ambition, of glory and of con-
quest burns in Europe with an Intenseness beyond all former
example. France and England are equally inflamed with it
and consuming under it. The present prime minister of
England, who appears to be firmly rooted In that station,
has openly avowed the purpose of endless war. France,
without making the profession, has a government whose
temptations to war are far more alluring, and whose success
by war has been far more fascinating than those which have
Inspired the British delirium. The result, however, Is the
same. War is now the permanent political system of both
nations and conquest Is the object of both. Neither our
distance nor the intervening ocean can or will protect us
from the consequences of this European spirit and its applica-
tion sooner or later to ourselves. It has indeed already been
applied partially to the only part of our lawful possessions
which the power of the belligerents could reach, that Is our
rights upon the ocean and our commerce. Partially I say,
because even yet neither Britain nor France has formally
and officially interdicted all neutrality. But they have
assumed the principle that neutral commerce depends solely



330



THE WRITINGS OF [1812



upon the toleration of the belligerents, and they tolerate
only as much as they find necessary to their own purposes.
If we should abandon our commerce to the plundering of
Europe it could not be long before we should be called to
defend our territory against them. There are many among
us who think we should wait for that moment as the signal
for resistance. It may be doubtful whether our commerce
is perceptible of defence by war, or worth this inevitable
cost at which alone it can be defended. But to stay for the
moment of invasion to make preparation against It would
greatly increase its dangers and its calamities. Real prepa-
ration, therefore, rather than present war appears to be our
right policy, and in the idea of preparation I include a deliber-
ate consideration of all our latent resources of our means
offensive and defensive and of the spirit necessary to call
them forth.

I am etc.



TO THOMAS BOYLSTON ADAMS

St. Petersburg, 22 May, 18 12.

Although I do not get newspapers often enough and in
variety enough to find them insupportably tedious, the very
caput mortuum of dulness, yet those that I do get are not
always of the right kind to give me the information in which
I feel the strongest interest. I receive also a regular file of
the National Intelligencer, and have it now down to the 25 th
of February last. The debates in Congress are not what you
understand as included In my complaints of dulness, though
even among them I find some of my old acquaintance sus-



i8i2] JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 331

pended occasionally In the midst of their eloquence by the
discovery that there is not a quorum of the House to hear
them. But for the last two years I have never had a steady
succession of Boston papers, and know very imperfectly the
transactions of the Massachusetts legislature. I have even
seen only scattered numbers of the Patriot, and have read
only scattered fragments of the historical correspondence
published in It. Your appointment as Chief Justice of the
court of Common Pleas I learnt by letters from my mother
and from Mr. Plumer of New Hampshire. Mr. Everett
wrote me from London that there has been an entire new
organization of the courts of Common Pleas, and this was
all that I knew about it, until your letter informed me that
the Common Pleas were metamorphosed into a Circuit
Court, and that your colleagues were Mr. N. Mitchell and
Mr. Ware of Wrentham. Others write me that they say
nothing of these matters because I shall hear them all from
you. And you tell me that you omit them because I shall
hear them from others. I am therefore still in a great
measure Ignorant how big the spot of work cut out by the
legislature of last year for somebody to do was, though I am
very glad that so much of It was to be done by you.

Your Massachusetts election for the ensuing year is at the
moment that I write decided. I regret very much that Mr.
Gray determined to decline a reelection. I can Indeed con-
ceive that he could not conveniently spare the time which his
office necessarily absorbed, but who could be required to
sacrifice his time with more reason than Mr. Gray.^ You
have not Informed me, neither have I heard from any other
source, why the federal candidates of the two preceding years
was laid aside, or how the sage of Northampton was pre-
vailed upon to be held up again for the prize of a contested
election. Mr. Strong has at least taken no part in these



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