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selves on such occasion I can easily conjecture. But I fancy
to myself a captain telling them honestly that they are


fighting for the cause of Impressment; that having been
most of them impressed themselves in the face of every
principle of freedom of which their country boasted, they
must all be sensible how just and how glorious the right of
the press-gang Is, and how clear the right of practising it
upon American sailors as well as upon themselves must be.
I think they will not very readily receive such arguments;
no doubt they will keep them at their guns with others.
But there may be times and occasions upon which the Eng-
lish seaman may be made to understand for what he is to
fight In this war, and when It may have its effect upon the
spirit with which he will fight. The English talk of the
seduction practised by us upon their seamen. There Is a se-
duction in the nature of this cause which it would be strange
indeed If their seamen were Insensible to It. I have heard
that many of their seamen taken by us have shown a re-
luctance at being exchanged, from an unwillingness to be
sent back to be impressed again. A more admirable com-
ment upon the character of the war could not be imagined.
Prisoners who deem it a hardship to be exchanged, with
what heart can they fight for the principle which is to rivet
the chains of their own servitude.?

I have been reading a multitude of speculations in the
English newspapers about the capture of their two frigates
Guerriere and Macedonian. They have settled It that the
American forty-fours are line of battle ships in disguise,
and that henceforth all the frigates In the British navy are
to have the privilege of running away from them. This of
itself Is no despicable result of the first half year of war. Let
It be once understood as a matter of course that every single
frigate In the British navy Is to shrink from a contest with
the large American frigates, and even this will have Its effect
upon the spirits of the tars on both sides. It differs a little


from the time when the Guerriere went out with her name
painted in capitals on her fore-top sail in search of our
disguised line of battle ship President.

But the English Admiralty have further ordered the im-
mediate construction of seventeen new frigates to be dis-
guised line of battle ships too. Their particular destination
is to be to fight the Americans. Their numbers will be six
to one against us, unless we too taking the hint from our
success can build frigate for frigate, and meet them on their
own terms; in which case if our new ships are commanded,
and officered, and manned, like the Constitution, and United
States, and Wasp, I am persuaded they will in process of time
gain one step more upon the maxims of the British navy,
and settle it as a principle that single English ships are not
to fight Americans of equal force. Thus much I believe it
will be in their power to do, and further I wish them never to
go. I hope they will never catch the insolent affectation of
seeking battle against superior force — an English pretension
which has been so well chastised in the fate of their two fri-

Our navy like all our other institutions is formed' upon
the English model. With regard to the navy at least the
superiority of that model to all others extant is incontestable.
But in the British navy itself there are a multitude of abuses
against which we may guard, and there are many improve-
ments of which it is susceptible and for which the field is
open before us. Our three 44-gunshIps were originally
built not as the English pretend for line of battle ships,
but to be a little more than a match in force to the largest
European frigates, and the experience, both of our partial
war with France in 1798 and 1799, as well as our present war
with England, has proved the wisdom of the principle upon
which they were constructed. It has been a great and mo-


mentous question among our statesmen whether we should
have any navy or not. It will probably still be a great
question; but Great Britain appears determined to solve all
our doubts and difficulties upon the subject. She blockades
our coast and is resolved to crush us Instantly upon the
ocean. We must sink without a struggle under her hand,
or we must have a navy.


No. 105. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 2 February, 1813.

The war in its progress has been extremely destructive
and distressing to Russia, but its result has been not only
to dejiver her entirely from that terror of the French Power
which had spread Itself so universally over the whole Con-
tinent of Europe, but to place in the hands of Russia herself
that predominant Influence which France had been so long
and so perseverlngly striving to establish. It Is scarcely
possible but that henceforth Russia should be the arbltress
of Europe by land. Her loss of human lives in this dreadful
struggle has probably been greater than that of France.
Her loss of property has certainly been more considerable.
But her losses have not been in the sinews of her strength.
Those of France have been In the vitals of her military power.
The spell of the Emperor Napoleon's name Is not yet totally
dissolved. His friends yet cherish a vague and general hope,
and his enemies feel an Involuntary fear, that his transcen-


dental Ge^iius (so they term it) will yet burst forth, chain
down Fortune at his feet, and range the world again con-
quering and to conquer. I see no substantial ground for
such a hope, or such a fear. The highest probabilities now
are that his fall will be as great as his elevation has been
extraordinary; and with regard to his Genius, if it ever sur-
passed that of other great generals and statesmen, it has
most assuredly deserted him in the undertaking and in the
execution of the Russian war. That it was lightly, wantonly,
unjustly undertaken, I have the most thorough conviction
from an attentive and impartial observation of its rise and
progress of which my communications from this place to
your Department during that whole period contain the re-
sult. That in its execution the most flagrant and egre-
gious blunders or imprudences continually insulted the in-
dulgence of Fortune and produced his final overthrow, is
equally clear and far more notorious, . The genius that suf-
fered the most inveterate of Russia's enemies, the Ottoman
Porte, to conclude a disadvantageous peace with her at the
very moment when he was Invading Poland, released Ad-
miral Tchitchagoff's army to force his right wing and close
upon his rear on one side. The genius that drove Sweden
under one of his own generals into the arms of Russia re-
leased another army from Sweaborg and the Finland fron-
tier, with which Wittgenstein forced his left wing at Polotzk
and closed upon his rear on the other side. The genius which
rushed headlong on to Moscow In September, without fore-
seeing or preparing for the possible necessity of retreat in
winter; and the genius which found ice and frost premature
in November under Polish and Russian skies is not that sort
of genius which, by the steadiness of its judgment and the
immensity of Its resources, redeems from such overwhelm-
ing ruin as that in which by such errors as those involved his


whole army. That he may still maintain his authority in
France it would be presumptuous positively to deny. That
he may again collect armies and win battles is altogether
possible, and by errors not unlike his own may be rendered
hereafter even probable. But in the general tenor of human
history, when Fortune has once turned her back upon those
to whom she has been most lavish of her favors, she never
takes them to her own again. A cast-off favorite must look
for anything but kindness.

In the annihilation of that Immense host which but half a
year since burst upon the Russian Empire providence has
certainly reserved the greatest and most essential agency to
itself. But in the conduct of the sovereign, of the nobility,
of the citizens, of the peasantry, and of the army of this
nation, under the heavy trial which they have been called
to endure, it would be the highest injustice to deny that there
has been little to censure and much to applaud and admire.
The spirit of patriotism has burst with the purest and most
vivid flame in every class of the community. The exertions
of the nation have been almost unparalleled, the greatest
sacrifices have been made cheerfully and spontaneously. I
wrote you before the war began that it was anticipated with
some dejection and despondency. But from the moment it
began scarcely a symptom of that kind has ever betrayed it-
self among any class of the Russian people. In the most
trying extremity they have been calm and collected, deeply
anxious, but uniformly confident and sanguine in their hopes
of the result.

On the 19th of December the Emperor Alexander left
this city and on the 22d arrived at the headquarters of his
army at Wilna. He is still with them and there is no present
expectation of his return. The Chancellor, Count RomanzoflF,
has not yet followed him. A commercial treaty with Eng-


land is talked of among the merchants, but is not even in
discussion between the governments. I am with great
respect, etc.


St. Petersburg, 18 February, 1813.

As I shall probably not have an opportunity of dispatch-
ing letters for America after that of which I now avail my-
self, at least before the expiration of the present month, and
as I am unwilling to break through the rule which I pre-
scribed to myself of writing to you at least once every
winter, I sit down to repeat to you what only three days
since I wrote to my father, namely that I have not seen the
handwriting of any of my friends at Quincy dated later than
last April. I have however written to them, and had occa-
sions to forward my letters to them as often as I did before
the new wars. As yet I have heard of no new obstacles to
the passage of Americans, most of them that have gone
from this country since last summer have taken their course
homeward by the way of England; but as the British govern-
ment grows more Inveterate as the war advances, I perceive
by one of the last English newspapers received here that
they have prohibited the embarkation of any person from
their island to America without a special license, and I hear
that they are taking other measures of rigor with the Amer-
icans captured by them since the war commenced. The
Regent has also issued a manifesto in answer to that of our
committee of Congress which recommended the declaration
of war, but I have not yet seen it.^

The war against the United States appears to be now ap-
proved and supported by all parties in England, for the

^Annual Register, 1813, 330.


original opposition to the present Administration, very
rashly and very unjustly, pledged themselves to join min-
isters upon this point of their policy, if the revocation of the
Orders in Council should not satisfy the Americans. And now
the ministers and their friends hold them to their word.
Some of their parliamentary leaders are as wrong headed
and stiff-necked in support of the press-gang as the ministry
themselves, and the others dare not avow the disposition to
compromise this point, because John Bull among his whim-
sies has taken it into his head that his trident Is at stake
upon the question, and they think he will look with an evil
eye upon any one who advises him to abandon It. Cobbett
is the only politician among them who has boldly and ex-
plicitly told this nation that they never can have a solid
peace with America, while they practice impressment on
board of American vessels at sea. But Cobbett Is out of
favor with all parties, and since he began to speak the lan-
guage of truth and justice and humanity, has lost all credit
with his countrymen. As to the fragments struck off from
the ministry by their internal collisions, such as Wellesley
and Canning, who form what was once called in America a
quid party, they are among the bitterest of our enemies, and
having been themselves the principal causes of the war very
constantly say that nothing can be more just than a war
with America now. But they are not at all satisfied with
the conduct of the war. The Wellesley gazette (the Times)
abuses the ministry for not having blown the American navy
to atoms, and Canning abuses them In Parliament for not
having ravaged our coast with fire and sword. They say in
answer to the first, that they gave orders to their admirals
on the American station to burn, sink and destroy all Amer-
ican vessels before the war began, and that they have con-
stantly had on those American stations a force equal to


seven times the whole American navy. In answer to Canning
they had the grace to say, not in Parliament but in the
Courier their newspaper, that to ravage our sea coast with
fire and sword would be trespassing a little upon the laws of
nations and that it would be spiteful. But notwithstanding
this we may be assured they will follow Mr. Canning's pre-
scription if they can.

The war against American Independence was for five
years of Its continuance one of the most popular wars that
the nation ever waged, and It was seven before they could
be convinced that they could not obtain by war the object
of the war. Their real object In the present war Is the dis-
memberment of the American Union. Their professed ob-
ject is the press-gang. The war for the press-gang will be
as popular as the war against American Independence was,
until we can convince them that they cannot obtain by war
the object of the war. Were It possible to conceive that the
success of the war upon the ocean would for seven years
correspond to that of the first six months, my hopes would
be sanguine that they would eventually be completely de-
feated In both their objects and that we should finally suc-
ceed In ours. But this cannot be expected. If our country
could expend in three years as many dollars upon naval
force as they expend pounds sterling In one, I should hold
success for Infallible; but as It Is the chances are too un-
equal. Providence may Interpose In ways of its own to
vindicate the righteous cause, and I have had under my
eyes the last half year a signal instance of such Interposition.
The cause against the press-gang Is righteous. If there ever
was one since the hand of man was armed against oppression.
The cause of the press-gang Is doubly atrocious as a British
cause. Impressment as practiced upon their own subjects
and within their own territory not only brands the nation


with the mark of the most odious despotism, but gives the
lie to every pretence of freedom in their constitution. And
as if it were to show how far the absurdity of human iniquity
could go, the Helots of Britain are their sailors. The only
class of people subjected to the most unqualified servi-
tude, robbed of every right of personal liberty, kidnapped
like African negroes, without resource or relief in the tri-
bunals of their country, the outlaws of the land who have
no rights in the eyes of kings' judges, because they are stolen
from their families and employments to serve the king, are
precisely the class of people who maintain with their blood
the power, and dignity, and glory, nay, as their assassins
say, the existence of their nation. They talk of our prac-
tising seduction upon their sailors. The charge is false and
ridiculous. But in this war it would be strange indeed if
there were not seduction to their sailors in the very nature
of our cause. Our war is the sailors' war; it is surely enough
if they force their seamen to die in battle for the press-gang.
If their men are human beings, their hearts must be on
our side.

The war as far as the British professions can be trusted is
now reduced to this single point. What its issue will be must
be left in the hands of him who scourges the vices and crimes
of nations by war, and who has sent this for our chastise-
ment as well as for that of our enemies. At the thought of
what my country will suffer and go through before a rational
prospect can open of her success in this contest my heart
would sink within me, but for the reliance which I place in
the divine goodness. There are great and glorious qualities
in the human character which as they can unfold themselves
only in times of difficulty and danger seem to make war from
time to time a necessary evil among men. A nation long
at peace seldom fails to become degraded. Symptoms of


this spirit of corruption were very visible in our country.
God grant that in suffering the unavoidable calamities we
may recover in all their vigor the energies of war! I am, etc.


St. Petersburg, 15 February, 1813.

My Dear Sir:

Although the wars which broke out in the course of one
week last summer both in Europe and America appear to
have deprived our friends in the United States totally of the
few opportunities which they had before of writing to us, so
that we still remain without a line from any of them bearing
a later date than last April, we have hitherto had the means
of communication to them, particularly since the approach
of winter, at least as frequently as we ever had before during
our residence in this country, and I trust you will hear di-
rectly from us as often as before the war. There are here a
number of Americans who upon concluding the business
which brought them are successively departing to return
home and, at least while the winter lasts, they are obliged
to take the same course. They go by land to Gothenburg,
thence in the British packets to England, where they have
hitherto found no difficulty in obtaining permission to land
or in meeting opportunities to embark for the United States.
By some of them I have had the means of dispatching my
letters at least once every month since the close of the last
year's navigation, and I hope to have similar occasions to
write by them from time to time until the return of summer.
When that comes it is likely there will be neutral vessels
going directly from hence as well as from Gothenburg to


I wish I could foresee any probability that a restoration
of peace between the United States and England will open
once more the highway of nations to our own vessels to pass
to and from this country. But all the hopes of this that I
had cherished have been fading into disappointment, and
the events of the war hitherto have tended so much to ex-
asperate and embitter on both sides without disabling either
that I see no resource left in regard to the wish for peace
but resignation to the will of heaven.

We are still Ignorant of the issue of our presidential
election, which the British ministry either believe or affect
to believe to be the test of peace or war. It has even been as-
serted from publications in American gazettes to which
I give not the least credit, that the candidate opposed against
Mr. Madison was agreed upon by a coalition of very hetero-
geneous oppositions upon a special pledge that. If elected,
he would within twenty-four hours after his installation
suspend hostilities against Britain and commence a negotia-
tion for peace. The English gazettes have seized with avidity
this absurd tale, and circulated it throughout Europe to
propagate the opinion that the war is in America considered
merely as Mr. Madison's war, and that if his antagonist
should be elected, the new President would rush Into the
arms of England without asking a question of Congress, and
take just such a peace as my Lord Castlereagh should be
pleased to give him. That the chance of peace will depend
upon the event of the American election the British min-
istry have explicitly avowed to be their expectation, and
their ambassador here. Lord Cathcart, some months since
intimated to me in conversation the same thing. But there
is a duplicity in the conduct of the British ministry towards
America which makes it impossible to judge what they In-
tend from what they say, unless by taking the exact counter-


part of their public professions for their real intentions. On
the publication of Captain Henry's correspondence Lord
Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh solemnly disavowed having
ever intended to countenance any project for the dismember-
ment of the American Union, though it was so strongly
urged on the face of Sir James Craig's instructions to Henry,
and although Lord Castlereagh was forced to acknowledge
that they had never expressed any disapprobation to Sir
James Craig for having given those instructions. At the
same time when Mr. Whitbread moved in the House of
Commons for copies of Sir James Craig's correspondence,
Lord Castlereagh refused them, and Mr. Whitbread de-
spaired of being able to carry his motion and withdrew it.
I have too much reason for believing that even when they
revoked the Orders in Council it was only because they
knew the measure would come too late to prevent the war.
The opposition in England have lately charged them with
having been taken by surprise and unprepared by the Ameri-
can declaration of war, and as the loss of their two frigates
has made the nation sore, and given some color to this charge,
an elaborate defence of them against It has been published
in their principal newspaper disclosing the fact that instruc-
tions had been sent as early as last May to Admiral Duck-
worth on the Newfoundland station, to burn, sink and de-
stroy all American vessels on the slightest aggression by the
Americans. These instructions the writer urges must have
been given to all the other British commanders on the
American stations at the same time as to Admiral Duck-
worth. He sees that he can defend his patrons from the
charge of negligence only by bringing down upon them the
charge of perfidy; but to this they are so indifi"ercnt that he
does not attempt to refute or even to deny It.

Even in the present Parliament Mr. Canning has censured


them In the House of Commons for not having answered the
American ministers, and denied the charge of having been
impHcated in Henry's mission of dismemberment which he,
Canning, disavows in the name of the whole ministry of
which he was then a member. Very well, Mr. Canning. But
Sir Robert Wilson, an officer of high distinction and certainly
no enemy to the British ministry, asserted here at the table
of an English gentleman (as I am informed) that Mr. Per-
ceval at the time of his death was determined to have a war
with America, and expected that the result of that war would
be the dismemberment of the American Union. A gentleman
present at the dinner, which was shortly after Lord Liver-
pool's and Lord Castlereagh's parliamentary disavowals,
questioned the correctness of Sir Robert's information, upon
which he replied, sir, my informant is Mr. Perceval; a very
few days "before his death he told me so himself." With
such facts In the face of such professions it is scarcely possible
to indulge a hope of peace while the present British ministers
are In power, unless it be such a peace which to the heart of
an American feeling for the honor of his country would be
worse than the most disastrous war.

The war in the north of Europe is for the present at an
end. The dissolution of the Emperor Napoleon's army is so
complete that the Russians who have entered Prussia and
the Duchy of Warsaw advance now in the depth of an
extremely severe winter without finding an enemy to oppose
them. They go as friends and deliverers, and say they are
everywhere received as such with joy and triumph. Na-
poleon has been now nearly two months at Paris, where a
popular fermentation menacing the whole foundation of
his government is said to be not very secretly working. A
peace and alliance both with Austria and Prussia is expected
here, and the negotiations though not public are believed to


be far advanced. The Emperor Alexander Is with his army
in the Duchy of Warsaw. I am, etc.


No. 106. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 16 February, 1813.

Some weeks since there appeared in the English news-
papers transmitted to this country several paragraphs as-

Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 34 of 42)