John Quincy Adams.

Writings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) online

. (page 7 of 42)
Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 7 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Dodsley, who on the reformation of the calendar in England
published a poem upon the tears of old May day. As this

1 Augustus John Foster (i 780-1 848).


is the only country in Europe where old May day Is held in
honor, it would not be expected that here, too, is precisely
the spot where she sheds the most tears. If she sheds none
upon the present visit which she is making us, it will be
because they freeze upon her face into snow. At least she
advances veiled in no shower of shadowing roses. Winter
verily lingers in her lap, and I think I shall excuse myself
from attendance at the celebration of her festival in the
procession of carriages this afternoon, remembering that in
reward for having joined In this act of devotion to her lady-
ship last year, she gave me one of the severest colds that I
have suffered in Russia. The procession of carriages takes
place from six to nine o'clock In the evening, just without
the city gate, and to a village called Catherlneshoff about
two miles distant from it. The Emperor and all the Im-
perial family usually appear in it, and all the splendid equi-
pages and liveries of the court and city exhibit themselves
in their proudest magnificence.

Although the day wears so unpromising an aspect, the
season has hitherto been uncommonly fine, and Is at least
three weeks farther advanced than it was at the same time
last year. There are clearly symptoms of vegetation upon
the fields and upon the trees. It so happens, however, that
I feel here more interested In the influence of spring upon the
waters, than In her generative progress upon the land.
Whether the bud shows its lip or the blossom opens its
petals a month sooner or late engages little of my concern.
But when the governor of the fortress upon the Island op-
posite the imperial palace shall cross the river in the first
boat, to receive from his Majesty's hand a hundred ducats
for a glass of Neva water; when the benumbed and torpid
members of the river god shall recover warmth and energy
enough to pour from his urn the floating crystals of the


Ladoga; when Mr. Sparrow, the consular agent at Cron-
stadt shall in his official bulletin announce that "between
here (Cronstadt) and St. Petersburg likewise, as far as the
eye can see to the westward, the water is entirely clear of
ice " (which notice he sent only three days ago) ; when
lastly, his register of emigrating ice shall be changed for a
daily list of vessels arrived and sailed, these are ail pro-
gressive stages towards the summer solstice, which, if I
was a poet, I should be more strongly tempted to sing,
than the returning verdure and harmony of the groves, or
the reviving genial raptures of the flocks and herds.

And yet when the arrivals come, how often do we find our-
selves disappointed in the expectation of letters from our
friends. In my last I told you I thought it impossible but
that some of you must have written by the Washiiigton,
Captain Brown. He is not yet here, but he has sent me a
letter of about five lines from Lieut. Governor Gray, and I
conclude that if he had any other letters he would have sent
them at the same time. We must be patient again, and
transfer our hopes to the next vessel.

I wrote you in the letter of which a press copy Is Inclosed,
that a war between Russia and France was highly probable,
and that it was on the point of breaking out. Since then,
however, various incidents have occurred which make It still
more improbable that the peace will be some time longer
preserved. The serious objects of controversy all remain
as unsettled as they were then, but France has yielded upon
certain points of form, and has discovered certain proce-
dures, which threatened immediate rupture. IMons. de
Champagny has been very suddenly and unexpectedly
removed from the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and
Mr. Marct, Duke of Bassano, appointed in his place. That
the war will blaze out yet before the end of the summer is


not improbable, but there is now a likelihood that this
event will be further postponed.

Count Lauriston, a native of Pondicherri and a lineal
descendant from the famous John Law, the prince of paper
financiers, arrived here last week, and has presented his
credentials as ambassador extraordinary from France,
superseding the Duke de Vicence, who has resided here
between three and four years in the same capacity, and who
has rendered himself so generally agreeable here that his
successor will find it difficult to replace him.

In the total dearth of direct Intelligence from the United
States I am obliged to take such as I find In the Hamburg
Correspondent, which is extracted usually from the Paris
Mo7iite:tr, where it Is introduced by translation from the
English newspaper. In passing through all these vehicles
it often gets disfigured, besides the risk of falsehood in the
original importation from America. It Is about three months
since we were told through this channel that Judge Living-
ston was Immediately coming out as minister to France, and
now the appointment of Mr. Barlow to that office comes
through the same source. Neither of these gentlemen had
arrived at Paris on the 4th of April, the date of my last
advices from Mr. Russell. Mr. Erving continues also to be
expected at Copenhagen, where I think his presence at this
time would be useful. By the same circuitous route I now
learn that Congress before they rose did pass an act supple-
mentary to the non-intercourse, prohibiting all Importations
from the British dominions subsequent to the second day of
February. You will see by my last letter that I expect no
benefit from this measure, and that I shall regret that It
actually passed. It Is not for me to blame the measures of the
legislature under which I serve, and at this distance I can-
not be qualified to judge with a full knowledge of their mo-


tives upon that propriety. I wish the new non-importation
may be productive of good, and that it may be more
successful than the preceding measures of a similar nature.
Spain and Portugal will still need the advantage of a free
trade with us, which may withhold the hand of England
from proceeding to extremities. To the policy of neutrality
we have more than ever reason to adhere. The only object
for which we could engage in a war would be commerce, and
from the moment war would take place our commerce would
be annihilated. Once involved in the contest it is Impossible
to foresee how long It would continue, or where It would
leave us. In Europe the prospect of peace is more remote
than war. England adheres more and more obstinately to
her orders In council, which France counteracts by her de-
crees and her encroachments upon the continent of Europe.
Portugal has a third time been rescued from subjugation.
Spain is neither subdued nor liberated. France Is preparing
for new wars and new conquests, which England cannot
prevent. Commerce is everywhere In the deepest distress,
and not a symptom on either side denotes a disposition to
relax from the oppressive and ruinous measures under which
it groans. The war is, therefore, yet likely to be long. So
say the ministers of the French Emperor, so says Mr.
Perceval, in Parliament, and so proclaims every act of both
the governments. Should we join In the conflict, we could
scarcely hope for a better fate than to be sacrificed as one of
the victims at its close.

I was under apprehensions at the date of my last letter of
being dispossessed of the dwelling house where we have re-
sided nearly a year, and of which I have a lease for another
year by a sale of the house Itself to the Emperor. It is now
said, however, that another house has been found more
suitable to the purpose for which this was wanted, and that





I shall have another chance for the full privilege of my
lease. I have, therefore, abandoned the intention of taking
a house for the summer in the country, though a summer
country seat is as fashionable as It Is desirable everywhere.

I received a few days since from my son George a letter
dated 24 September last, the same day with the most recent
letter that I have from you. George's however did not come
with yours. It was sent under cover to Mr. Preble at Paris,
and there underwent the learned and profound examination
of the police to ascertain what secrets of state it might dis-
close. I have already answered it, and hope George will
prove as punctual a correspondent as his father. He tells
me, as you do, that he is afraid of losing his French, to which
I could only reply, as I did to you, and as I now repeat, that
I rely both upon you and upon him that he will not. His
letter is partly written with his own hand, which I was re-
joiced to see, though the progress of his Improvement In
writing Is not so rapid as I could wish. This at least It Is
obvious he Is learning invita natura. So much the more
necessary will It be to conquer her obstacles by assiduity.

I have written to Mr. Copley in London requesting him to
deliver the portrait of my father to the order of Mr. Boylston;
but I suppose It will be necessary to send him at the same
time a supplementary order from my father, directing Mr.
Copley to comply with my request, as he will have from me
only my assurance that the picture was given to me. But If
this non-intercourse or non-Importation has been renewed,
I suppose it will oblige us to wait again two or three years
before the order can be executed. As It Is the only full
length portrait of the original good for anything that ever
was taken, I am most anxious that it may be safely trans-
ported and deposited In the Hall where I have consented
that It should be placed. I never think of this subject



without feeling against Stuart an indignation, which I wish
I could change into contempt. If there was another por-
trait painter in America, I could forgive him. I beg you to
try to get the portrait he has of my mother, and to buy of
him that of my father for me. If he will finish it, I will
gladly give him his full price for pictures of that sort for it.
Perhaps you may tempt him by this offer, taking care to
withhold the payment until the work is finished.^

We are all so well that the ladies Intend going this after-
noon to the May day parade. Whether May or January,
I am always with equal warmth of affection yours.

1 "I will write from this place to Air. Copley in London requesting him to deliver
the portrait to the order of Mr. Boylston; so that whenever the non-intercourse shall
again cease, he may have it by writing for it. But you must also procure from
your father an order upon Mr. Copley to deliver it to my disposal, which I think he
did once give me, but which I had not then the means of transmitting, and which
I have not now at hand. This reminds me of the two portraits, of my father and
mother, which that, I know not what to call him, Stuart has so shamefully kept,
and which I wish you could get once more out of his hands, as you once rescued
them from the sheriff at Philadelphia. Among some of my papers which I left with
you, is the receipt for painting that of my mother, but I know not whether you can
find it. If you can, I recommend to you to bring an action against Stuart, and make
the sheriff take it from him again." To Thomas Boylston Adams, March 29, 181 1.

Copley painted this portrait in London, in 1783. "it is I believe the only full
length picture of my father as large as life that ever has been painted, and per-
haps the only one that will remain after him. Mr. Stuart was engaged by the leg-
islature of Massachusetts to paint one to be placed in the hall of the House of
Representatives, and in pursuance of this engagement he actually took a likeness
of his face. But Mr. Stuart thinks it the prerogative of genius to disdain the per-
formance of his engagements, and he did disdain the performance of that. There
is in America no other painter capable of executing a work, which I should wish
to see preserved, and considering my father's age, it is more than probable that
hereafter your portrait of him will be an unique. You will easily judge therefore
how anxious I am for its preservation." To John Singleton Copley, April 29,
181 1. Ms.



No. 48. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 6 May, 181 1.

On the 3rd instant I received several packets under the
seal and superscription of your Department containing a set
of the National Intelligencer from 8 December, 1809, to 2
March, 1810, and sundry public documents printed during
the second session of the Eleventh Congress. These are the
remainder of the despatches mentioned in my letters Nos. 41
and 42 as having been received by Mr. Forbes of Hamburg,
and which he forwarded by private hands to Riga, whence
they now came. It was fortunate that directions had been
given not to put them into any post office in Europe: direc-
tions which it is adviseable always to give for packets ex-
ceeding the weight of two or three sheets of letter paper, and
for all letters which may be desired to reach their destina-
tion unopened.

The apprehension of immediate hostilities between France
and Russia, which at the date of my last letter was at its
greatest height, has since then considerably subsided. Be-
sides the expectations which the known preparations for
war on both sides had excited, all the private advices from
Germany and from Paris concurred in representing the de-
termination in that ^^ Capital of the WorW^ as irrevocable,
and the impatience for action so great that the month of
May could not pass without bringing the parties to issue.
In the approximation of these two great powers toward that
conflict which every reflecting man knows that nothing less than
a supernatural interposition can prevent^ the opinion of all those


who are not in the most intimate confidence of one or the other
of the two governments has constantly outstripped the reality.'^
I need not recapitulate the causes of the present misunder-
standings between them, because they have been enumerated
in many of my former letters. The immediate preparations
for a war began last summer on the part of France, by a new
organization and great reinforcement of troops under the
superintendence of Prince Joseph Poniatowsky - in the
Duchy of Warsaw. Russia soon followed the example,
and after beginning by a very considerable increase of for-
tifications upon the river Dwina, and along the whole Polish
frontier, has been marching troops and sending artillery
thither, until, from authority which I cannot doubt, I am
assured there is between Riga and Kiew a force of three
hundred thousand men. All these preparations, however,
on the part of Russia have been essentially defensive; and
until very lately I know that it has been the determination
of the Emperor Alexander not to strike the first blow. He
was indeed much exasperated by the decree, which in annex-
ing the Hanseatic cities to the French empire, despoiled the
Duke of Oldenburg of all his possessions. The restoration
of this Prince's territories had been expressly stipulated by
France in the 12th article of the treaty of Tilsit, and in the
25th article of the same treaty there was a mutual guaranty
of the integrity of the possessions of the two empires, and of
all the princes included in the treaty. The annexation of the
Duke's dominions to France was therefore a direct and undis-
guised violation of the peace of Tilsit, and as such has undoubt-
edly been the subject of strong remonstrances on the part of
Russia. That these remonstrances have produced and will
produce no effect is well known or easily foreseen, and it is
confidently said, and highly probable, that they have been

* Cypher. 2 joseph-Antoine Poniatowski (1762-1813).


treated with little respect not to say with pointed contempt at
Paris. In this state of things there has certainly been about the
person of the Emperor Alexander a certain infltience urgi^ig
him to commence the war. Their suggestions to him have been
that the war is resolved in the heart of Napoleon, that it cannot
be avoided, that he is not so fully prepared as Russia, that
time must be taken by the forelock; that by beginning now,
Russia might insure the advantage of the first campaign, which
success would secure to her the cooperation of Austria for the
second; that the favorable moment must be seized for making
sure of an advantageous peace with England; that if time is
given to France to summon all her auxiliaries of the Rhenish
Confederation, strengthened by those of Denmark and Prussia,
which cannot chuse but be arranged under the same banners,
Russia will find her own territories assailed at unawares by an
overwhelming power, and a single campaign may wrest from her
all the shores of the Baltic and all the conquests of Peter and
his successors; that now the plan of campaign to begin with is
easy, and its success almost certain; the Duchy of Warsaw
must be first occupied and Dantzig besieged, and all the interval
of Prussian provinces between this line and Magdeburg con-
verted into a desert. This would give Russia an inexpugnable
barrier, which she need not step over herself, and within which
she might bid defiance to the enemy. The offer of money from
a certain quarter mentioned in my cyphered letter of the igth
April, was made at this crisis, and for some days it became
doubtful whether the counsels which were spurring him to im-
mediate hostility. [Here there appears to be an omission in
the cyphers.] / have reason to believe that he has resisted
the impetuous impulse of his martial advisers, has adhered to
the political system of the Chancellor, and has explicitly de-
clared his determination not to be the aggressor. I am further
told {but of this information I speak with less confidence) that


he has declined overtures of negotiation from England as in-
compatible zvith engagements which he means to fulfil with
inflexible fidelity. ^

One of the circumstances which contributes to accredit
the rumors of immediate rupture was the delay of the de-
parture of the new French Ambassador appointed to super-
sede the Duke de Vicence. The English gazettes had an-
nounced that this new ambassador never would come, and as
the time which the French embassy here had given out when
he intended to leave Paris was several times postponed from
week to week, It began seriously to be believed that he would
not come at all. He did, however, begin his journey from
Paris on the 5th of April, and has already been heard of as
having passed through Frankfort, Dresden, Berlin, and
Dantzig. His arrival is expected here this day or tomorrow,
and it is probable we shall very soon know what turn the
negotiations will take under his direction. Since his de-
parture from Paris an event has occurred there, which may
likewise contribute to a political change of system. Mr.
Champagny, the Duke de Cadore, is removed from the
Department of Foreign Affairs, it is said in disgrace, and
Mr. Maret, Duke de Bassano,^ hitherto Minister Secretary
of State has been appointed in his stead. The cause of Mr.
Champagny's misfortune I have not learned, nor whether
the change will tend to defer or to hasten the explosion with
Russia. There was in the Journal de U Empire of April 12,
a very extraordinary and insulting article, alluding to the
recent mission of Count Chernicheff, who had arrived two
days before at Paris. ^ I enclose you a translation of It In the

^ Cypher.

2 Hugues-Bernard Maret (1763-1839). See Henry Adams, History, V. 401.
^ The article was entitled Les Nouvellistes. See Vandal, Napoleon et Alexandre /,
III. 13s.


extracts from the gazettes. To understand its true character
it must be remembered that Chernlcheff has been a con-
fidential officer of the Emperor Alexander, who during the
war of 1809 attended the person of the Emperor Napoleon
through the whole campaign as one of his family, living
constantly at his table and sleeping in his tent. Since the
peace he has been repeatedly the messenger of personal com-
munications between the two sovereigns, and on this last
mission his message was undoubtedly of deep import to the
destiny of two empires and of five or six kingdoms. How an
article aff"ecting to shed so much ridicule upon the person
and his errand could get into an official gazette, in a country
where the press is under more complete control than in
any other, can be explained only by persons who are upon
the spot. The Ambassador here says that the ce^isor who
permitted this article to appear has been imprisoned, and
that Count Chernicheff has been received and treated by the
Emperor Napoleon with very peculiar distinction. I am
with great respect etc.


No. 49. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 12 May, 181 1.

A courier from the Russian Ambassador at Paris who
arrived here In the course of the last week brought me a
letter from Mr. Russell, enclosing a section from an English
paper, the Times of 18 February. It contained your corre-
spondence with General Turreau on the subject of the certif-
icates of origin, only one letter of which I had before seen,


and that also, as I have heretofore mentioned, in an EngHsh
newspaper. The true state of this matter is now sufficiently
clear, but I regret that I have not yet received the documents
in such a shape that I can make an official communication
of them to the Russian government. There is indeed now
no American vessel in any port of Russia liable to confisca-
tion for having produced such a paper, but I should be glad
to give Baron Campenhausen notice with all suitable official
solemnity, that the government of the United States did,
as he often intimated to me that they should, notice pub-
licly this argued falsehood of the French consular certifi-

If the transactions of the Duke de Cadore, in his office of
exterior relations were all of a stamp with his proceedings
throughout this business and with his dealings in regard to
General Armstrong, there may be less reason than ever to be
surprised at his uneasiness on the receipt of ^'peevish notes,"
which he could not misrepresent to his master, or at the
manner in which he Is said to have gone at last out of the
ministry. It was a "testy note" sent to him by the Russian
Ambassador, protesting against the violation of the treaty
of Tilsit, in the invasion of the Duchy of Oldenburg, which
he refused to receive, and sent back to Prince Kurakin,
alleging that he could not receive any representation against
a measure sanctioned by a senatus consult. The same note
was again sent back to Paris, by Count Chernicheff, with
orders to Prince Kurakin, not only to Insist upon its being
received, but to complain of the refusal to receive before.
And as there was a probability that the refusal to receive it
would be renewed, at the same time when ChernlcheflF was
last sent off from St. Petersburg, copies were dispatched of
the same protest, and reservation of the right of the Em-
peror Alexander to the Duchy of Oldenburg, to the courts of


Austria and of Sweden, and to most If not all the Sovereigns
of the Rhenish Confederation. Chernlcheff arrived at Paris
on the loth of April. On the I2th appeared in the Journal
de U Empire the insulting article of which I sent you with
my last letter a translation. On the 15th Chernicheff was
noticed by having the honor of attending the Emperor
Napoleon upon a hunting party, which it is now received
and considered as a high mark of distinction; and on the 17th
the Duke de Bassano took the oath as Minister of Exterior
Relations, a circumstance which in the official gazette is
announced without saying whether the Duke de Cadore had
resigned or was removed; and indeed without making men-
tion of his name. The note which had been refused, has now
been received; and the French Ambassador here has made
excuses in person to the Emperor Alexander, for the article
in the Journal de UEmpire; an article not only offensive
by its indirect allusion to himself, and to the mission of
Count Chernicheff, but by the adoption from an obscene
and libellous book, entitled Secret Memoires upon Russia,^
of a ridiculous story concerning an officer, now a lieutenant
general in the Russian service, whom it holds up to derision

Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 7 of 42)