John Quincy Adams.

Writings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) online

. (page 5 of 42)
Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 5 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

himself is gone this day on a visit to his sister at Twer. He
is expected to return this day week. General Kamensky
is recalled from the army in Turkey, to the command of
which General KutuzufF is appointed In his stead. It is
understood that the campaign in Turkey is to be merely
defensive. A part of the army has been withdrawn to rein-
force the Polish frontier. I am, etc.


No. 44. [James Monroe]^

St. Petersburg, April 3, 181 1.

Mr. Harris arrived here a few days since, returning from
his tour to Archangel and Moscow, and since his arrival has
received a letter from Mr. John Speyer at Stockholm, men-
tioning that he was accredited as commercial agent for the
United States in Sweden, and intended to reside principally
at that capital. He requests Mr. Harris to communicate
this information to me, and to add that American prop-
erty would be duly protected by the government of that

^Napoleon's letter was dated February 28, 181 1, and the reply of Alexander,
March 25, 181 1. The mission of ChernichefF, or Tchernitcheff, and Napoleon's
conversations with him arc related in Tatistcheff, Alexandre I et Napoleon, III.


"^ Robert Smith was removed from the Department of State by the President and

James Monroe took office April 2. The change was not known to Adams until June.



If Mr. Speyer's commission extends to all Sweden, I
should hope that he will give a regular authority to some
proper person to act in the consular capacity at Gothenburg;
a place during the two last years of more commercial im-
portance than Stockholm, and concerning which I have
repeatedly had the honor of writing to you. Notwithstand-
ing all the reproaches and all the menaces on the part of
France to the Swedish government, the communication
between the port of Gothenburg and England by the means
of the packets is still regularly maintained. For the bay of
Gothenburg, the packets have only substituted as a landing
place the island of Anholt, a small spot in the Cattegat,
belonging to Denmark, and of which the English took
possession in the summer of 1809. It has no harbor, but
furnishes the means of communication with the Swedish
coast, which It has not yet been found practicable to prevent.
Through this channel there are now letters and newspapers
in this city down to the 5th of March, and by publications
in the English gazettes, some accounts from the United
States as late as 30 January.

The Intelligence from England occasions much uncertainty
here with regard to the state of navigation in the Baltic
during the ensuing season. It is stated as the intention of
the British government to grant no licenses to ports within
the Baltic, and to send Into that sea a larger force than they
had In it the last year. These circumstances have excited
an apprehension, which Is still further excited by rumors
invented for purposes of mercantile speculation, that the
design of the British government Is to declare a general
blockade of the Baltic; a measure which nothing can render
probable, and I had almost said, possible, excepting that it
would be the most injudicious step they could take. It
would, however, be altogether congenial to the determination


which the newspapers announce to have been communicated
to Mr. Pinkney, of a direct and categorical refusal to revoke
the orders in council, or the system of paper blockade, until
the decrees of Berlin and Milan shall have been really re-

It is suggested that the delays of the British government to
grant licenses to ports within the Baltic have arisen from
the seizures and confiscation of the merchandize which
came in licensed vessels the last year, and from the sequestra-
tions of those which came with the last convoy in November
from Gothenburg, scarcely any of which except the Americans
have yet been admitted, and a considerable number of which
are upon trial. English licenses it is conjectured will not be
granted, unless some pledge, or at least some tacit engage-
ment, be given to secure the property from a similar fate
in future. Some of the merchants here lately presented to
the Emperor a petition to grant licenses on his part under
the protection of which no enquiry should be made whence
the vessels came, or under what colors she was navigated.
In support of this petition the example of France was
alleged, but Its prayer was immediately rejected by the
Emperor. This circumstance which very recently occurred
has contributed much to silence the rumors of an immediate
peace v/ith England, and war with France which were
circulated with so much confidence and such strength of
notorious facts to support them, that It was not without
some hesitation that I wrote you on the 12th of February,
that in my opinion this event was not to be soon expected.
The preparations for war have nevertheless been continued
on both sides from that time to the present without inter-
mission, and there are now upwards of two hundred thousand
Russian troops on the frontier line of Prussia and Poland.
The Duke of Oldenburg is coming here. You will probably


receive from Paris the most authentic accounts of what is
passing there between the Russian embassy and the French
government, / am assured that Prince Kurakin was ordered
to present a strong remonstrance against the annexation of
that Princess territories to the French empire; that the paper
was sent back to him by the Duke de Cadore with a declaration
that it could not be received^ the measure having already received
the sanction of a senatus consultum; that Priyice Kurakin by
taking back the remonstrance gave some dissatisfaction to the
Emperor Alexander; that a new order has been dispatched to him
by Count Chernicheff to send anew the remonstrance or another,
couched in still stronger terms, and if it should again be denied
a reception to send copies of it officially to all the other foreign
ministers at Paris. I mention this more as an indication that
this is one of the principal subjects of irritated discussion be-
tween the two governments than from my own belief of the facts.
These I believe are exaggerated. It appears impossible that
the tone of negotiation from Paris should already be so near
to hostility, while that from St. Petersburg continues to be so
amicable.^ The Emperor Alexander and Count Roman-
zoff have expressed to various persons their satisfaction at the
appointment of Count Lauriston as the successor to the Duke
de Vicence, and the unusual compliment has already been
paid him of sending an officer to meet him at the frontier
town of Polangen.

With regard to the new Russian manifest and tariff, the opera-
tion of which will be so unfavorable to the commerce of France,
it is probable that it will terminate in a negotiation for a treaty
of commerce between the two countries. A proposition of that
nature has already been made I believe on the part of France,
and has been assented to by this government. The project,
however, is yet but in embryo. If it should be pursued, I hope

^ Cypher.


to give you an account of its progress, hut it will undoubtedly
be subordinate to the course of political events.^

I expect daily to hear of the arrival of Mr. Erving at Co-
penhagen, and wish that he may meet there a disposition
more favorable to the claims of our countrymen, than has
been recently manifested by the Danish government. A
petition to the king for a delay of the decision of several
American cases involving a very large amount of property
until that gentleman should arrive, has been rejected and
the final sentences of condemnation have been issued. The
cases from Norway of the vessels captured there last July
have no better prospects before them. This state of things
presents an aspect of renewed danger to the American ves-
sels which have been wintering in the Russian ports, and
concerning w^hich I have so often had occasion to write to
you. Probably the navigation will be open for their home-
ward voyages in June. But the possibility of their passage
through the Sound or the Belt will depend upon the pleasure
or upon the instructions of the English naval force in the
Baltic.^ . . .

I am with great respect, etc.


St. Petersburg, 10 April, 181 1.
You observe in your letter of 24 September last, that my
son George was losing much of his French conversation idiom;
that is precisely one of the things upon which I had most ear-
nestly set my heart in his education. Walter Shandy, Esq.,
was of opinion that there was a great and mysterious virtue
in the name given to a child. He intended to call his son

^ Cypher.


Trismeglstus, and the name above all other names which
he abhorred was Tristram. Alas, hy trusting at the critical
moment his child to that leaky vessel Susanna, that very
execrated name was fastened upon the luckless wight for
life, and, as you remember, that was not the first disaster
of that child of afflictions, whose misfortunes began nine
months before he was born.

Mr. Shandy's disappointments often come into my mind
in reflecting upon my own. Before I had any children I
fancied myself so well qualified for conducting an education,
that I had various thoughts of writing and publishing a
treatise upon the subject. Mr. Locke, who had no children
of his own, and Jean Jacques, who sent his children to the
foundling hospital, had set the example, and It has been
followed by Miss Hannah More and Miss Edgeworth, and
Miss Wolstonecraft, and Madame de Genlls, and I know
not how many more masters and misses, who never had any
children of their own, or at least none that they had brought
into the world honestly. If I had gone childless through life,
there Is an even chance that I should have been one of the
education mongers. But I very soon found after George
was born, first, that a child is not Itself a piece of clay to be
moulded according to the fancy of every potter; and secondly,
that the clay, such as It Is, was not committed exclusively
to me, to be fashioned upon my taste alone. Yet I have not
lost a particle of my anxiety for the education of my children,
nor have I neglected when with them such attention to it
as I have been able to bestow. The French language was
one of the things, and indeed almost the only thing, for
teaching them which I depended chiefly upon myself. George
had a foundation of it laid, which I hoped he would never
lose; but John's delicate state of health, and his absence from
us which has been almost continual ever since he was of an


age capable of learning anything, have very much to my
regret deprived him of the same advantage.

I have adhered very generally to the practice, both with
George and Charles, of speaking nothing to them but French
myself. Charles in consequence of this system is now learn-
ing to speak It as well as could be expected from a child of his
age, though from female servants In the family, with whom
he passes most of his time, he learns much more German upon
which I had not calculated, though I am very glad he is
acquiring it. He is slowest at the French, because he learns
It only from me; but he Is making progress, and will shame
his eldest brother when we come home, if George does not
take care to keep enough of his French to talk it with him.

Of George's general proficiency you say Mr. Whitney
speaks well. This gives me pleasure and I have the fullest
confidence both In Mr. Whitney's attention to his progress
and in the accuracy of his report. But I wish to learn what
you or my father say of his general proficiency, that is. In the
studies which he is pursuing under Mr. Whitney's direction.
I want him to pass an examination at least as often as once
a month before my father or you, serving as a review from
time to time of his studies. Not an examination how he
can construe such a line in Virgil or parse such a verse of the
Greek Testament, as may have been prepared for him and he
for them a day before hand, but an examination of his mind,
and not merely of his memory. The most essential part of
education after all Is to teach a child to think. Perhaps, too,
it is the most difficult. Let George write me an account of
what he is studying, but do not let him get anybody else to
write it for him. It Is high time for him to be under the
necessity of writing his own letters.

I am very glad that you obtained at last the fifty copies of
my lectures for which I had stipulated, and of which I have


requested you to make distribution. If it should not be
completed before you receive this, I recommend it again
particularly to your care. It is a friendly attention which I
am the more earnest to show to the persons named upon
the list I sent you, because in my absence it is the best token
of remembrance that I can send them. And it is only while
the work is a novelty that I can suppose the present would
be acceptable. You mention that you had been applied to
concerning a second edition. But If there ever should be a
real call for that, I presume it will not be for some years, and
that I shall have time to return home and to give the whole
book such a revision, as will rernove some of its imperfections
and make It more worthy of the public eye. I cannot, In-
deed, reproach myself for any neglect In Its composition.
It is the measure of my powers, under the circumstances and
the occupations of a different nature in the midst of which it
was written. But its publication you know was premature,
and I have been, and still am, so distrustful of Its success,
that I shall wait for the indication which the demand for a
new edition would afford, to ascertain whether I ought to
devote any more of my time and labor to its improvement.
It is now my expectation to return to the United States the
next year, and when I come I hope to have leisure for literary
pursuits. I have as many projects of this kind floating in my
mind as Charles Fox had while (to speak like the Anthology
critic) he was running after a barren and withering chaplet
of political renown.^ Literature, the education of my children
and the familiar intercourse of my friends at Quincy, are the
pictures which my imagination draws In the most glowing
colors, and on which it dwells with the purest delight in
forming my prospects of futurity. As for the law, the little
metal I ever had of It has gathered such an Inveterate rust,

' See Vol. Ill, 514 n, supra.


that it will never take an edge or a polish again. But if the
servile drudgery of caucuses, the savage buffeting of elec-
tions, the filth and venom of newspaper and pulpit calumny,
and the dastardly desertion of such friends as Anthology
critics and Boston legislators, are to be my lot as it has been
in time past, I shall with the blessing of God live through
it again as I have done before, but I shall almost regret the
stagnant political atmosphere and the Scythian winters of
St. Petersburg. There is a possibility that we may return
home in the course of the ensuing summer, but this is not
probable, nor in the present situation of my family desirable.
The only time in which it is possible to embark from this
spot for a voyage through the Baltic, is from the first of
June to the last of October, and the navigation during the
last two of these five months is so dangerous, that nothing
short of the extremest urgency could induce me to embark
with a wife and child later than the first days of September.
Whether we could embark earlier this season is uncertain,
and at any rate we shall not attempt it, unless my orders
from the United States should make it indispensable.

• ••••••

I had heard of the decease of President Webber even be-
fore the date of your letter, but that of Judge Gushing had
not been announced to us until this information from you.
They were both good and respectable men, and the judge had
been an able man in his profession. The place at the Uni-
versity is more than supplied by Dr. Kirkland, who I hope
will not be more of a politician than his predecessor. The
prophet who told you the successor Judge Gushing would
have had, if I had been at his funeral, was not well inspired.
Without pretending to any extraordinary degree of self-
knowledge, I am conscious of too little law even for practice
at the bar, still less should I feel myself qualified for the


bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. I am
also, and always shall be, too much of a political partisan
for a judge; and although I know as well as any man in
America how and when to lay the partisan aside, I do not
wish to be called so often and so completely to do it, as my
own sense of duty would call me, were I seated upon the
bench. Besides all which there was another man whom I
should have considered as the natural successor to Judge
Gushing, so fully entitled to the place, and so entirely de-
serving of it, that I should have considered my occupation
of it to the exclusion of him as an atrocious usurpation. I
know not whether the government has been sufficiently
sensible of his merit to place him in, but I know that nothing
could have induced me to take it, while he would have been
overlooked in this appointment. You understand me to
speak of Judge Davis, one of the men that I have ever known
whom I most love and esteem. . . .


No. 45. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 13 April, 181 1.

In some of the English newspapers which have been re-
ceived here of as late a date as 19 March I find the only
accounts from the United States that have reached us since
the 4th of January, when I received your favor of 16 October,
1 8 10, and among them I perceive a correspondence between
you and General Turreau, respecting the certificates of
origin delivered by the French consuls in the United States;
a subject which you will see renewed in a large proportion


of my dispatches from the i6th of August last to this

The official gazette of the French government, the Moni-
teur, of the loth of July 18 10, contained an article of which
the following is an exact translation:

American vessels present themselves at the ports of the North
Sea, and of the Baltic, furnished with pretended certificates of
origin from French consuls. We are officially authorized to de-
clare that these certificates are false and that the possessors of
them must be considered as forgers. These papers are mani-
festly fabricated in England; for the consuls of his Majesty in
America have long since ceased to deliver any such certificates.

When In my letter to you of 16 August, noticing this official
declaration, and Its Inaccuracy In point of fact, I added that
probably the consuls had been ordered to deliver no such
certificates for the future, I really did not suspect that even
until that day no such order had ever been sent.

The letter from General Turreau to you Is not published
In the English papers;^ but from your reply, It appears that
he had acknowledged the Issuing of certificates by the con-
suls until the 13 th of November, when they ceased to de-
liver them by an order from the Duke de Cadore, dated
31 August, 1810

Your letter alludes In general terms to the inconveniences
and odious suspicions which Americans were suffering In
Denmark for want of a candid and explicit declaration by the
French government to that of Denmark, of the real fact. But

* "^The only way that I get any news from America is through the English news-
papers." Ms. Diary. He noted an unusually short run of fifty-four days from

^ The correspondence was printed in The (London) Times, February i8, i8li;
Am. State Papers, Foreign Relations, III. 400.


you were not then informed of the like inconveniences and
suspicions which other fair Americans were suffering in
the Russian ports, not from the omission of the French
government to give a true declaration, but from the official
repetition of the same false declaration, which had been
published in the Moniteur of lo July, in a petition solemnly
announced by the French consul to the Russian govern-
ment more than two months after I had remonstrated to
the French Ambassador here against it. The Ambassador
promised me at the time, that he would immediately com-
municate to his government my observations on the subject.
He has since assured me that he did communicate them.
The only answer was an order to the consul, Mr. Lesseps,
to renew the declaration which is now demonstrated to have
been unfounded.

Of the sequestrations in France, under the Berlin and
Milan decrees, of all the American merchant vessels which
have arrived there since the Duke de Cadore declared on
the 5th of August last that those decrees were revoked, I
shall say nothing, because excepting the letters of Mr. Russell
relative to the seizure of the New Orleans Packet at Bordeaux
InDecember, which likewise appear in the Englishnewspapers,
I have no authentic information of anything which has
lately been done in France concerning American aifairs.
But there are some circumstances which have not hitherto
been mentioned in my correspondence with you, and which
it is now proper to notice, as they are perhaps equally char-
acteristic of principles and practice with those which mark
the above transactions.

Some months after my arrival here, it was Intimated to
me, through a third person,^ from the French Ambassador,
that most of the difficulties which prevented an amicable

^ Six d'Oterbeck. See Adams, Memoirs, August 17, 1810.


settlement of all the differences between the United States
and France, arose from the American Minister In France,
who had made himself personally disagreeable, and it was
suggested to me that it would be advisable that I should
give notice of this to the government of the United States.
I did not feel Inclined to become the reporter to my own
government, of a complaint against an ofhcial colleague, so
vague in substance and so indirect in form. I paid no at-
tention to it. About two months afterwards, that Is, on the
17th of August last, the same person who had made the
first insinuation to me, renewed it with more earnestness and
precision, adding that the Ambassador himself would readily
converse with me on the subject, if I wished It. There was
an additional hint disclosed at this time, sufficiently clear to
Indicate purposes of which It might be convenient to make
me the Instrument: which was, that I was myself the most
suitable person to take the place of the gentleman against
whom I was to be the secret informer. I asked what was the
particular cause of complaint which General Armstrong had
given to the French government. The answer was that they
did not Impeach his integrity, but that he was morose, cap-
tious and petulant. I was now convinced more than ever
of the Impropriety of the part with which I was desired to
charge myself, and explicitly declined It.^

On the 22nd of the same month of August, I met the Am-
bassador at court, and he Introduced the subject in a private
conversation with me of his own accord. He assured me,
and formally requested me to write to the government of the
United States, that it was the strongest desire of the Em-

* "Charge the Due de Vicence to tell Mr. Adams that we have here an American
minister who says nothing; that we need an active man whom one can comprehend,
and by whose means we could come to an understanding with the Americans.'
Napoleon to Champagny, July 13, 1810. See Henry Adams, History, V. 253.


peror of France and of his Ministers to come to terms of
perfect harmony with the United States. That they con-
sidered our interests as altogether the same; and that if
any other person than General Armstrong were at Paris,
on the part of the United States, all the differences between
the two countries might be settled with the utmost facility,
and entirely to the satisfaction of the American govern-
ment. I told him that this would certainly be pleasing
intelligence to my government, which I should not fail to
communicate to you; that I regretted very much, as I had
no doubt the President would regret, that any displeasure
should have been conceived by the Emperor of France or his
government, at anything in the conduct of the American
Minister in France; but if this was to be mentioned by me,

Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 5 of 42)