John Quincy Adams.

Writings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) online

. (page 8 of 42)
Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 8 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

by name.

How far these circumstances which have all occurred so
nearly at the same time have been connected with or depend-
ent upon one another, I have at this distance not sufficient
information to say with certainty; but taken all together,
and more especially combined with the discomfiture and
retreat of the French army In Portugal, and the disasters
and dissensions of their generals In Spain, they have almost
entirely removed the apprehensions of an immediate war
between France and Russia which during the last fortnight
of April was universally expected, and which though not

^ Lettres Persanes.


partaking of that full conviction myself, I knew and wrote
you to be extremely probable.

There are many persons^ however, who think that the rupture
is only deferred for a few weeks until France shall have collected
a force sufficient to overwhelm the three hundred thousand, zvhich
it is on all hands allowed that Russia has on the Polish frontier.
This opinion is entertained and circulated hy that party which
has been stimulating the Emperor Alexander to seize the golden
opportunity and commence war before France could be pre-
pared. The irritations of the last month gave this party such
strength a7id confidence that it was doubtful whether the imperial
will itself would remain firm to the principles which there were
such plausible reasons for accommodating to the change of cir-
cumstances. The conduct of the Austrian legation at the same
crisis was remarkable. As the coolness between France and
Russia has been increased the anxiety of Russia to renew her
ties of intimacy with Austria has naturally been increasing
with it, and Austria notwithstanding her recent family connec-
tion with France has found so little of the advantage she had
anticipated deriving from it, and is still haunted by so many
cruel recollections and so many fearful prospects, that her in-
ducements have been of the most powerful nature to meet the
returning friendship of Russia with a return, if not of equal
assiduity, at least of reciprocal kindness. Such has been her
policy in point of form; but she seems at the same time so much
gratified with the situation of having her friendship so stu-
diously courted that she is in no haste either to take a side, or
reconcile the disputants with each other. Her only public
manifestations hitherto have been of a determination to observe
the strictest neutrality; b^it the conversations of her legation here
have just hinted remnants of violent resentment against France
and a strong probability that if the Russian arms shotdd be
successful the first campaign, Austria might then be ready to


throw her weight into the scale on her side. This language was
used at a time when it was well known that it would he urged to
the Emperor Alexander as a motive to begin and is quite as
indicative of the real policy of Austria as an official declaration.'^

The new French Ambassador, Count Lauriston, arrived
here on the 8th instant, and yesterday had a private audience
of the Emperor in which he deHvered his credentials. His
predecessor the Duke de Vicence immediately before deliv-
ered his letters of recall. He returns immediately to France.
It will probably soon be known what tone of negotiation will
be assumed by the new ambassador. As yet I cannot under-
take to assure you that there will be no war, before the end
of the ensuing summer; but this much I can say with cer-
tainty, that France disavows the intention; and that unless
France has the intention there will be none.

/ had a very few days since a conversation with the Duke de
Vicence in which he told me that he hoped the storm would blow
over, that there were no great interests at issue between the parties,
and few little ones which could not be easily compromised."^
His own personal wishes ^ are known to be for the continuance
of peace.

I am with much respect, etc.

^ Cypher.

^ Adams, Memoirs, May 6, 1811.

' Cypher.



No. 50. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 19 May, 181 1.

The first vessel which arrived at Cronstadt this season
was an American, last from Denmark, where she had win-
tered. She got in the nth instant at night, and was followed
the next day by one more vessel, under Prussian colors.
Since then there have been no other arrivals, and it appears
that even after they passed, the Gulph has again been too
full of ice for a free navigation.

Almost all the American vessels which have wintered at
the ports of Reval, Baltic Port, Riga and Llebau, will be
obliged to come for a market both of sale and of purchase at
St. Petersburg. A few of them have disposed of their cargoes
where they arrived and are about sailing on their return.
There is danger that they will find it as difficult to get out
of the Baltic as they did to get in. The British fleet has not
yet appeared, and the Danish privateers have free scope for
their operations. Several American vessels have already
been taken Into the ports of Denmark, and some of them
again been released. One coming from the United States,
and which sailed from Boston the twentieth of February,
has reached Baltic Port. But another, the Hercules, Captain
Snow, belonging to New Bedford, and coming from Charles-
ton, South Carolina, with a cargo almost entirely of the
produce of the United States, after having been taken and
carried Into a Danish port, and liberated by the sentence
of the prize court there, has again been taken by a privateer
fitted out under French colors from Dantzig and carried Into


that place, where by advices from the captain to Mr. Harris,
they have begun to unload her cargo.

The French and Hamburg gazettes last arrived here have
brought information of the arrival of Mr. Erving at L'Orient
the i6th of last month. I am in expectation of dispatches
from you, which I presume must have been brought by him;
but which Mr. Russell will not transmit until the opportunity
of a courier from the Russian Ambassador shall occur. At
Paris Erving will doubtless meet Indications clear enough
of the success which his mission may find at Copenhagen,
and I hope the prospects may be more auspicious than they
were at the date of the last letter I have from Mr. Russell.

It appears by all the accounts which we have from Eng-
land the intention of the British government is to send into
the Baltic a naval force still greater than that which they
kept there the last summer. It is not easy to conceive what
motive they can have for this armament unless it be for the
protection of their commerce. The numerous confiscations
in Russia and in Prussia, which their merchants and insurers
suffered the last year have rendered the trade extremely
perilous, if not unprofitable, and it is yet uncertain to what
extent their licenses have been or will be granted during the
present season. It is Indeed impossible to conceive anything
more profligate than this whole system of licenses. The
licenses are given to vessels under any flag except the French
(an exception not strictly adhered to in the practice); and
they are given to protect covered British property, in coun-
tries where it cannot be Introduced but by fraud and per-
jury. Every such license therefore is in substance a license
for perjury as much as for trade. But this is not the dif-
ficulty among the London merchants. Some of them im-
agine they have found out that their trade is of such
absolute necessity to their customers, that if they do but


stiffly refuse to carry it under any other flag than their own,
It will force its way into their ports in spite of every possible
prohibition. The prospect of a peace with Russia which
they have been flattering themselves with the whole winter,
and lately with great probability, has opened to them the
hopes of being admitted again into the Russian ports under
their own colors, which, if they could realize these hopes,
their Government would soon take care to make the only
flag that could find access to them. It was under the appar-
ent certainty of this peace with Russia, that some of the
merchants in London petitioned the Board of Trade that no
more licenses might be granted, and that no Importations
should be allowed from the Baltic but upon condition that an
equal amount of British goods should be taken in return,
and they are threatening the same measure as a retaliation
for the non-Importation act passed in Congress.

If, as according to present appearance there is every
reason to expect, they should be disappointed in their
visions of peace with Russia and of a war between Russia
and France, I know not how It will aflFect their policy towards
the commerce and vessels of the United States, but they
will be compelled to adhere to their trade of licenses in the
Baltic. Perhaps they might renounce for a year or two the
Importation of all the articles which they have been accus-
tomed to take from this country, excepting that of hemp;
but the scarcity of that in England Is already so great, they
find It so Impossible to obtain an adequate supply of it from
elsewhere, and it is an article of such Indispensable necessity
to their navy, that they must have It, whether by an English
flag, by licensed frauds, or by neutrals. They must receive
and not prescribe the conditions. Their North American
colonies alone preserve them from the same dependence with
regard to ship timber.


The aspect of affairs between France and Russia remains
much as at the date of my last letter. The reception at Paris
of the note which had at first been refused by the Duke de Cadore
has quieted the alarm of an immediate explosion, but all the
causes of dissension between the parties remain unadjusted
and unexplained.^ The late French Ambassador at this court
has taken leave, and departs with the most signal marks of
personal regard from the Emperor Alexander which he was
ever known to bestow, and his successor Count Lauriston
has been received, if not with equal cordiality at least with
the same courtesy. It is however regarded as something ex-
traordinary that with respect to the principal complaint of
Russia he has no instructions.'^ It is yet impossible to pro-
nounce whether the issue of the discussions will be peace or
war. There is hitherto no symptom of disarming on either
side in Poland. / am assured that the Russian reinforcements
continue to march towards that quarter.'^ But at all events the
signal for war will not now be given here. If it comes from
the south you must receive information of it sooner than it
would be possible for me to give it. I am very respectfully,

No. 51. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, May 26th, 181 1.


In the course of the last week I have received a letter from
Mr. Erving written at Paris, in which he mentions that he
was the bearer of several despatches from you to me, which
would be forwarded by the first courier to be sent by the

^ Cypher.


Russian Ambassador, Prince Kurakin. He was to leave
Paris in about fifteen days after tlie date of Mr. Erving's
letter and is expected here within a week or ten days.

The arrival of this courier is expected with some anxiety,
as it is foreseen that the character of the dispatches with
which he will be charged may put an end to the equivocal
state of the political relations between France and Russia,
which still subsists. The last accounts which we have from
England represent those between the United States and Great
Britain as extremely critical, and the prospect of war as
more imminent than it ever has been before. The ministerial
papers announce without qualification that orders have been
issued to their naval officers to take all American vessels,
bound to France, and they intimate that the same instruc-
tions have been dispatched by the frigate Actaeon to the
East Indies, and by other vessels sent by express to Halifax
and to the West India station. They have not yet pro-
claimed the same measure with reference to the Baltic navi-
gation, but they only hint that some very important pur-
pose is intended by the unexampled armament coming out
under the command of Admiral Saumarez, who sailed from
England about the 20 April and is said to have appeared
already before Gothenburg. At the same time it is said that
Mr. Foster has sailed to the United States with proposals,
which Mr. Perceval in the House of Commons declared to
be of a conciliatory nature towards the United States.

At the point of extremity towards which our negotiations with
Great Britain have been so long vergingj and which appears to be
so near at hand, it cannot be a matter of indifference to the Presi-
dent to be accurately iiiformed of the real state of the relations be-
tween Russia and her ally {if the term may be used) on the
one part, and their common enemy on the other. Impressed
with the importance to our country that a just and somewhat


circumstantial view of the present and prospective policy of
Russia may he taken by the American government, at the mo-
ment when the filial election must he made, of adherence to that
neutrality so long and so earnestly maintained, or of becoming
parties to a war so formidable in its aspect, so ardently dep-
recated, hut from which the spirit of the nation may have no
honorable and practicable retreat,^ I have been and still am
to the highest degree sensible of the duty devolving upon me
to obtain the most correct and particular information of the
real state of things here, and to communicate it to you as
early and as speedily, as the great distance and the numerous
difficulties and obstructions, both natural and occasional,
to the intercourse will admit. But correct information is not
always attainable, and the fabrication of false secret news is
as flourishing as that of false papers is under the license
system in London. It is sometimes more difficult to detect
the political forgeries of the newsmongers than the com-
mercial forgeries of the British traders, and in the very
eagerness of zeal to give you all the important changes in the
political atmosphere of this country, I sometimes unavoid-
ably transmit to you accounts of particular incidents, which
ultimately prove to have belonged to the spurious breed.
This observation, I flatter myself, will apply only to facts
of no extraordinary moment, and even with regard to them,
it is always my intention, in writing to you, to discriminate
between those, upon which undoubting reliance may be
placed, and those, the authenticity of which is questionable.
Of the latter class Is the paper of which I now enclose you
a translation. It is secretly circulated here as a speech made
by the Emperor Napoleon to his Council of Commerce
on the 6 April last. The day is a mistake, for on the 6 April
there was no Council of Commerce held. But there was on

1 Cypher.


the 25 March and on the 8 April. And in one of those days,
or shortly before, the Emperor Napoleon did make, or at least is
believed by the Russian government to have made, a speech in-
dicating a determination of war with Russia, unless Russia
should completely and actually carry into execution measzires
against English commerce corresponding with his own.

In my last letter I assured you that at all events the signal for
war would not be given here; but in that as on former occasions
I have suggested that there is aii active and powerful English
party here seizing every occasion of access to the Emperor and
stimulating him to be before hand with France. / believe the
enclosed paper was got up by them, and that its object is to
prevail upon the Emperor Alexander to commence or conclude
a negotiation of peace with England. I say, to commence or
conclude, because I cannot pronounce with certainty whether
such a negotiation between Russia and England is or is not on
foot. In my cyphered letter of ig of April I spoke of it as prob-
able. It was an inference which I drew from certain facts, but
of which I had no sure advice. I have since written you that
I was told overtures from England had been declined by the
Emperor Alexander; but although I had this from a person
likely to know, and on whose veracity I placed perfect reliance, I
could \not\ venture to give it you as certain. Since then additional
circumstances have occurred to warrant the belief that a separate
negotiation with England is en train, and that it is carrying
on at London; but if such be the fact, it is neither through the
medium, nor with the knowledge of the Chancellor, Count
Romanzoff, though he is still the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

There is yet no change in the outward manifestation of amity
towards Frarice at this court. The new French Ambassador
continues to be treated with distinction by the Emperor, but the
reinforcements of troops are still marching to the frontiers of
Poland. Count Lauriston is still without instructions rel-


attve to the occupation of the Duchy of Oldenburg, and Russia
was never less disposed than at this juncture to shut up her
ports against commerce.^ It is rumored that the Emperor
Alexander himself proposes to go and review his forces at the
frontiers, and the probability is suggested of a new interview
between him and the Emperor Napoleon.

The peculiarly menacing and hostile attitude which the
English government have assumed towards the United States
is one of the circumstances which indicate their confidence
of an approaching accommodation of their affairs with Russia.
If they expected that the Russian markets would be rigorously
shut against them, they would not likely deprive themselves of
North America, especially when they depend so essentially
upon one or the other of those markets for such articles as
bread and naval stores.^

Since I wrote you last week I have learnt the capture of
three more American vessels by a French privateer from
Dantzig — the Atlantic, Jayne, from New York, the Catherine,
Oakington, from Boston, and the Julia Ann, from Philadel-
phia. Their papers are sent to Paris where their fate must
be decided. [One line and a half of cypher not decyphered.]
I am with great respect, etc.

^ Cypher.



No. 52. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 2 June, 181 1.

The Russian consul general In France, Mr. Labensky,
arrived here on Wednesday, the 29 ultimo, as a courier from
the Ambassador at Paris, and brought me the dispatches of
which Mr. Erving had been the bearer from the United
States. The packets of which I have to acknowledge on this
occasion the receipt from your Department are the following.

1. Your letter of the ijth February, authorizing me to con-
cert with the Russian government a treaty of commerce, and
giving me some general instructions relative to the negotiations,
accompanied with a draft of the heads of a treaty to be considered
as a part of these instructions.^

2. Letter of 26 February, advising me of the President's
having been pleased, by and with the advice and consent of
the Senate, to appoint me an Associate Justice of the Supreme
Court of the United States: directing me in consequence of
this appointment to return to the United States as soon as
the public interest and my own convenience would admit,
and enclosing a letter of leave to the Emperor of Russia:
a blank commission for a charge d'affaires or a secretary
of legation, to be filled In case of my return to the United
States: and the commission to myself as an Associate Justice
of the Supreme Court.

3. Letter of 6 March, together with copies of your letters
to Mr. Russell of the same date, and to Mr. PInkney of the
day before, and the National Intelligencer of 5 March, con-

1 Cypher.


taining the supplementary non-intercourse act, to which all
these letters relate.

4. A cover, inclosing an open dispatch addressed to Samuel
Hazard, Esq., Archangel, and containing a commission for
him as consul at that post, with a letter from you informing
him of his appointment.

5, 6. Two packets containing printed documents of the
third session of the eleventh Congress; the laws of the three
preceding sessions and a few newspapers.

7, 8, 9. Three packets, containing a file of the National
Intelligencer from 25 June, 1810, to 29 January, 181 1. The
file of papers comes down to 14 February.

/ shall immediately request a conference with the Chancellor ^
Count Romanzoff, and communicate to him the authority zvhich
I have received respecting the negotiation of a treaty. Possibly
some objection may arise with respect to the nature of my
powers, but as that which I possess may suffice for every step
previous to the signature and conclusion, perhaps no other will
be at an earlier period required.^

Deeply sensible of the honor done me by the President
and Senate of the United States in the appointment to the
bench of the Supreme Court, I lament, that circumstances
beyond my control have prescribed to me the duty of de-
clining It. As they are for the most part of a private nature
I have taken the liberty to explain them in a letter to the
President himself, herewith enclosed: and which I have to
ask of you the favor to deliver to him. One of them, itself
decisive to dictate my determination, is the Impracticability
of my return to the United States during the present year,
arising from the peculiar situation of my family, the length of
time necessary to accomplish a voyage from the extremity
of the Gulph of Finland to the continent of North America

^ Cypher.


and the short portion of the year during which such a voyage
can be commenced. This circumstance necessarily detain-
ing me here, will induce me to withhold the letter of leave
to the Emperor, and to leave the commission for a charge
d'aflPaires or a secretary of legation In blank until I shall
receive the further orders of the President.

The effect of the act, supplementary to that commonly
called the non-intercourse, will I hope be favorable, in
regard to our relations with France, as it will probably In-
crease the Inveteracy of the present British ministry against
us. On this occasion it may he proper to inform you, with the
request that it may he received as in the closest secrecy, that I
have recently had two accidental conversations with his Imperial
Majesty, in which he manifested the desire to he informed,
what was the precise state of our present relations with England.
In the last of them, which was the day before yesterday, he told
me that he had received very interesting dispatches from Count
Pahlen which had given him much pleasure.^ I have it from a
good source that in those dispatches the Count gives it as his
decided opinion that there will ultimately he no war hetween the
United States a7id England, and I know from authority equally
good that the Russian government earnestly wishes there may
he no such war. You will of course understand that nothing of
this sort has heen said to me hy the Emperor, or officially hy any
of his ministers.^

Mr. Hazard Is not at present in this country. He spent
part of the winter in this city and in February went to
Copenhagen. His Intention was, however, to return here
In the Spring, but I have not heard directly from him since
the first week In March. I have heard that he went from
Copenhagen to England. I shall Inform Mr. Erving that the
commission is in my hands, and desire him to give Mr.

1 Adams, Memoirs, May 3 1, i8i i. ' Cypher.



Hazard notice of it, if he is still at Copenhagen. You will
have learnt directly from Mr. Harris, that previous to his
receiving knowledge of this appointment, he had given that of
Vice Consul at Archangel to Mr. Francis Dana, Jr., who had
been recognized in that capacity by the Russian government.
He will discharge the duties of the office until Mr. Hazard
shall repair to the post, and if that gentleman should not
return to this country at all, I would recommend that Mr.
Dana may receive the appointment in his place. From what
I saw of Mr. Hazard, while he was here, I consider him as a
discreet and intelligent young man, well qualified for the
office, as I believe Mr. Dana to be also.

The documents, laws and newspapers, sent me by Mr.
Erving, I have not yet had time to peruse with the attention
due to them. Should the inspection of them suggest to me

Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 8 of 42)