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more than par. As to my own opinion, I have no confidence
in the South-Western stocks, and would not invest in their 6
per cent, for my family at 80 per cent. The Louisiana, how-
ever, is much safer than the three other (Alabama, Mississippi,
Arkansas). Michigan is new, and has as yet no fixed character,
and Illinois runs so extravagantly in debt that I am afraid of
it. The nullifying propensities of South Carolina and Georgia
are dangerous. I place great confidence in New York, Massa-


chusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia, and have
good opinion of Indiana and Kentucky stocks. The other I
Would reject altogether; and permit me to add that, under the
existing law, it is natural that the worst and most unsalable
stocks should be oflered to be pledged; that, considering the
instability of stocks, it is very desirable that none but the
safest should be accepted; and that, particularly if the State
intends to issue more stocks for internal improvements or other
objects, it is obviously her interest that no other should be
received but those of the State. This city stock might indeed
be added, though at a less rate, as, though very safe, it is less
salable, and therefore less available in case of need for the
purpose intended by the banking law.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, sii', your obedient servant.


New York, 14th June, 1839.

Dear Sir, — Your letter of the 7th reached me the 12th, and
that of the 10th this day ; too late of course for any answer
being received in time for your purpose. This is not to be
regretted. The question seems to be one of expediency, and
which belongs exclusively to the State of Maine, I doubt
whether I could suggest anything new even if I was acquainted
with the new proposals ; and, ignorant as I am either of those,
or of the views in general of the British and American govern-
ments, I can only allude to some of your suggestions.

Your reference to the former convention of Mr. King, and
to that proposed by Messrs. Monroe and King [Pinkney ?], has
alarmed me. You might as well throw dice for the territory as
to leave the decision to a third commissioner. If British, he
will infallibly decide in favor of the British claim. Objection-
able as it may be in many respects, another reference to a
foreign sovereign would be preferable.

"With respect to the convention which I negotiated at London,
although it has not been executed, nothing should be done that

1839. LETTERS, ETC. 545

would admit that its provisions are abrogated. The acknowledg-
ment of the map A as binding the two parties is advantageous ;
but that of Mitchell's map is far more important and decisive as
to the intentions of the parties to the treaty of 1783. The defects
of that convention are, 1st, that the words of the Treaty of Ghent,
" in conformity with the treaty of 1783," though implied, were
not actually inserted in defining the subjects referred to the arbi-
trator ; 2dly, that the respective claims of the two parties were
not explicitly expressed in the body of the convention ; 3d]y,
that the arbitrator was not expressly authorized to call on the
parties for the instructions given to (and the correspondence be-
tween each government respectively and) the negotiators of the
treaty of 1783.

For the first omission I may perhaps be blamed. The two
other propositions were rejected by the British negotiators. This
is mentioned in order to call your attention to the subject if a
new reference should be proposed. The last point is the most
important, and might be brought to bear in the course of any
negotiation. We have published everything, and the British
have used against us not only our instructions and correspond-
ence, but even the previous deliberations of Congress. If that
government means to prove that it did not intend to yield what
we claim under the treaty, why decline to communicate the evi-
dence which will show what that intention was? and if they will
decline a formal application to that effect, it will strengthen our-
case in public opinion even in England.

As to the second point, it was not more outrageous than an.
egregious act of folly on the part of Great Britain to claim the
pretended north-west angle of Nova Scotia and the boundary-
line which was first suggested by the perverted mind of Chip-
man. As the matter stood in 1827 I wanted to tie them to- it,
which I did by the reference to their line as traced in the map
A ; but I tried unsuccessfully to make them express it in writing,,
which would have made the absurdity of the claim stUl more-
glaring. I do not precisely understand your allusion to- that
point, but agree with you in the conclusion that the British
government will probably hereafter only contend that our line
is not consistent with the treaty of 1783.
VOL. ir. — 36


It may be that the object of both governments is to procrasti-
nate ; and if that is necessary in order to preserve peace (a ques-
tion on which, for want of sufficient data, I cannot even form
an opinion), I certainly wish that Maine may find it practicable
to acquiesce without impairing her just claim. Permit me, in
reference to that point, to observe that new surveys can be of
no use but to gain time; that it is highly important not to de-
part from the principle ; that the words " high lands" are purely
relative; that the distinctive character of the boundary is its
dividing the waters ; and that the absolute elevation, the con-
tinuity, the depressions, and the character of the ground over
which that dividing line passes cannot affect the question.
Governor Sullivan's blunder in that respect was the source
whence arose our difficulties, and which led our government
to declare, in fact, that in its opinion there were, in the topog-
raphy of the country, obstacles to the execution of the treaty.
And even apart of Mr. Livingston's incomprehensible proposal,
it seems to me, from the general course of negotiations since the
award or mystification of the King of tlie Netherlands, that our
government at Washington has not taken the pains to imbue
itself thoroughly with the merits of the case and the points on
which the question in reality turned. I think, therefore, that
if, for the sake of procrastination, new surveys are resorted to,
great care should be taken, in giving the assent, to guard against
any inference unfavorable to the rights of Maine which might
be drawn from that acquiescence.

I believe at the same time that the corner of territory watered
by the Restigouche might be yielded without its being a dis-
graceful concession. The letter of the treaty is in our favor;
but resorting to the intentions of the parties, I am inclined to
think that, if the negotiators had known the fact, they would
have defined the north-west angle as being at the intersection
of the north line with the highlands which divided the rivers
emptying into the Atlantic from those falling into the Gulf ov
river St. Lawrence.

Unfortunately, this concession would not give to Great Britain
^vhat she wants, and I do not perceive, unless she should be
induced to yield altogether, how the dispute can be ultimately

1840. LETTERS, ETC. 647

arranged peaceably otherwise than by an amicable exchange of
territory. Yet, for myself, I would prefer another attempt
(properly defined and guarded) to refer the subject to a foreign
independent sovereign, to war.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant.

GALLATIN TO WM. WOODBRIDGE, Governor of Michigan.

New York, 19th September, 1840.

Sir, — Your letter of 25th May has been duly received. My
age and infirmities do not permit me to write long letters, still
less to enter into discussions of important public questions. Yet
on that which you proposed I never entertained or now have
any doubt. The title of the United States to the lands within
the new Western States is derived either from treaties with for-
eign nations or from cessions of some of the thirteen original
States. The United States never had any claim to lauds in Ver-
mont and Kentucky, because both those States were entirely
within the chartered and acknowledged bounds of old States,
Kentucky within those of Virginia, and Vermont within those
of New York and New Hampshire ; and Virginia, New York,
and New Hampshire ceded their rights respectively to the people
of Kentucky and of Vermont, and not to the United States.
All the lands south of the Lakes, east of the Mississippi, west
of Pennsylvania, and north of the Ohio were, prior to the war
of independence, claimed by the Crown. Almost if not the
whole was claimed by Virginia as lying within its chartered
bounds, and portions were, on the same principle, also claimed
by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. By virtue of
cessions from those several States and of the treaty of peace of
1783 with Great Britain, every possible claim (save that of the
aborigines and a few previous French grants to the inhabitants
of Detroit, Vincennes, and Kaskaskia) to those lands was re-
leased to the confederated thirteen United States, whose title to
the same was indisputable and questioned by none.

By the ordinance of 1787 it is declared that certain articles


shall be considered as articles of compact between the original
States and the people and States in the said territory, and for-
ever remain unalterable, unless by common consent, to wit: and
the fourth article contains the following provisions:

The Legislatures of those districts, or new States, shall never
interfere with the primary disposal of the soil by the United
States in Congress assembled, nor with any regulations Congress
may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bona
fide purchasers. No tax shall be imposed on lands the property
of the United States, and in no case shall non-resident proprietors
be taxed higher than residents.

I have always considered those provisions as just in themselves
and binding on the parties.

It is true that, generally speaking, the right of sovereignty
embraces that of the unappropriated soil. But that right may,
like all others, be limited by contract. To declare war, to make
peace, to coin money, are attributes of sovereignty universally
acknowledged. Yet they have been yielded to the general or
common government by the several independent sovereign States
of America. The Western States have all been admitted in the
Union subsequent to the adoption of the Constitution, which
provides that "the Congress shall have power to dispose of, and
make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or
other property belonging to the United States, &c."

I do not recollect ever to have heard it suggested that the new
States had or claimed a right to the soil by virtue of their sov-
ereignty till after my return from Europe, in the year 1823;
and I was quite astonished when, for the first time, I heard the
claim asserted in a speech of Mr. Hendricks, of Indiana.

I certainly never had entertained such an idea; and I presume
that any report which may have reached you has grown out of
some confused notion respecting a letter written by me as Secre-
tary of the Treasury to Mr. Giles, chairman of the committee
on the admission of the North-West Territory into the Union ;
of which I enclose a copy.

Congress very properly reduced the term of exemption from
taxation from ten to five years ; and now that the idea of a quid
pro quo has been set aside, and that the lands are sold for cash,

1840. LETTEES, ETC. 549

I see no reason why the lands once sold should be at all exempted
from taxation. But it is a matter of regret that the ten per cent,
intended for the national road should have been reduced.

Whether, now that the public debt has been paid, there may
not be considerations in favor of a less rigid line of policy, is
another question. Michigan has certainly a right to be treated
as favorably as any other of the Western States. Every arrange-
ment, however, should be by mutual consent, and with a due
regard for the rights of the people of every part of the Union.
For my part, I wish that the public lands, now that the resources
of the Union are sufficient to meet any exigency, might be so
disposed of as to become in fact (as was the case under the colonial
system) the patrimony of the poorer classes of society throughout
the Union.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your obedient

I never had any conversation with Mr. Griswold, and do not
recollect any with Mr. Randolph, on the subject.


Nbtv York, 5th JSTovember, 1840.

Deae Sie, — I have this moment received your favor of 3d
of this month, and enclose by mail a copy of my argument on
the North-Eastern boundary. . . .

As I did devote near two years of my time to that subject, I
certainly ought to understand it ; but in a popular lecture you
should try to simplify it. The four questions, stated both in
the Preface and at the beginning of No. 11" of the Appendix,
are the only questions at issue between the two governments ;
and the recapitulation was intended as the substance of the

You may find it more easy to simplify than to add some-
thing new, as I am perfectly satisfied that I have taken the
true ground, from which both Mr. Edward Livingston and Mr.


Louis McLane had, when Secretary of State, sadly departed,
simply because they did not take the trouble to examine the

There is, however, a portion which I have only sketched, and
on which you could add something more pointed at least than
what I have said, — I mean a full reply to the report of Messrs.
Featherstonhaugh and Mudge. That document I was obliged
to treat much more tenderly than it did deserve, on account of
its having been laid before Parliament by Lord Palmerston,
whom I did not wish to irritate in a work of which I have sent
copies to every British statesman I knew, and in which I appeal
to the justice of that government. For if it persists in refusing
it, where is our remedy ? Detesting a recourse to war, unless
it is actually made or forced upon us, I know of no other way
than to appeal to public opinion both in England and in other
foreign countries. This has been too much neglected by our
government, and induced me, notwithstanding my age and love
of repose, to make this publication.

With that object in view, I think it necessary that the report
of Messrs. F. and M., which, in the absence of other documents
and sustained by an apparatus of scientific observations, has
produced an unfavorable effect in England, should be more
fully exposed and castigated than has been done [by] me; for
I have only indicated its principal errors, as I have mildly
designated that tissue of folly, mendacity, and effrontery. I
wish, therefore, that you could obtain a copy of it from Wash-
ington, which would enable you, after giving a short and
popular outline of the question, to exhibit that arrant piece of
quackery in its true colors. There is room for sarcasm as well
as for argument ; and I think your lecture would have more
originality, be more entertaining, and, what is of greater im-
portance, be more useful. Excuse these suggestions, and, after
all, follow your own view of the subject.

I remain, respectfully, dear sir, your obedient servant.

1841. LETTEKS, ETC. 55I


New York, 9th February, 1841.

Gentlejien, — I had the honor to receive your letter dated
yesterday. I believe that Mr. John L. Lawrence is in every
respect qualified for the office of collector of this port. I know
him to be a man of strict integrity and one of our most honor-
able and respectable fellow-citizens ; and there is no one, within
the limited circle of my personal acquaintance in this city, whose
appointment would be more gratifying to me.

At the same time I beg leave to observe that, from the time
I ceased to be employed in the public service, I determined, for
obvious reasons, not to intrude my unasked advice on the Ad-
ministration ; above all, never to apply for removal or recom-
mend for office. To that resolution I have scrupulously adhered ;
and I may add that I have no claim on the next Administra-
tion, and do not entertain the belief that my opinion can add
any weight to a recommendation so respectable as your own.

I have the honor, &c.

N.B. — Mentioned verbally to Mr. Lawrence that the gentle-
men might make any use they pleased of my letter, but must
not ask my permission or any explanation.


New Tork, 14th June, 1841.
SiK, — I had duly received the letter you addressed to me last
winter, and had hoped that my declining to answer it would
satisfy you that I had an insurmountable objection to any use
whatever being made of any conversation that may have taken
place between Mr. Jefferson and myself on the subject of the
Bank of the United States. I will only say that the report
which reached you was imperfect and incorrect, and that he


lived and died a decided enemy to our banking system gener-
ally, and specially to a bank of the United States.

My last essay, the receipt of which you do me the honor to
acknowledge, was written without reference not only to parties,
but even to any general political views, other than the restora-
tion and maintenance of a sound currency. Except in its char-
acter of fiscal agent of the general government, I attach much
less importance to a national bank than several of those who are
in favor of it; and perhaps on that account it is a matter of
regret to me that it should continue to be, as it has been since
General Jackson's accession to the Presidency, and not before,
a subject of warm contention and the pivot on which the politics
of the country are to turn. I am quite sure that if this takes
place, and the issue before the people be barik or no bank, those
who shall have succeeded in establishing that institution will be
crushed. I do not doubt your sincerity and bravery; but the
cause is really not worth dying for. Did I believe that a bank
of the United States would effectually secure us a sound cur-
rency, I would think it a duty, at all hazards, to promote the
object. As the question now stands, I would at least wait till
the wishes of the people were better ascertained. So far as I
know, the opponents are most active, virulent, and extremely
desirous that the great contest should turn on that point; the
friends, speculators and bankrupts excepted, are disinterested
and not over-zealous.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your obedient servant.


New Tork, 12th July, 1841.
Sir, — I was so prostrated by the heat that I could not attend
to the plan for collecting and disbursing the public revenue,
transmitted along with your letter of 27th June. JSTor have I,
even now, sufficiently investigated it to form a decisive opinion
of its utility or practicability. Old men are not the most proper

1841. LETTEES, ETC. 553

judges of new projects, as they are naturally afraid of innovations.
My principal objection to the plan is that it is an experiment.

Taxes are less oppressive in proportion as they are less felt.
It is an objection to direct taxes that they must be paid at once
for the whole year. In France, where they are heavy, the in-
convenience was such that they have been made payable in twelve
monthly instalments. There is at least that advantage in in-
direct taxation, that the consumer who ultimately pays the tax
does it imperceptibly, and at the same time when he pays for the
article consumed, which is generally the most convenient for him
to pay. The question in relation to the collection of duties by
government is, what is the most convenient time and mode of
payment by the merchants on whom it falls in the first instance ?

Your plan and report show that you are fully aware of the
fact that by far the greater part of all large payments, whether
public or private, are effected by the transfer of respective debits
and credits ; for which purpose you wish to place in immediate
contact the debtors and creditors of government. But those
creditors have debts to pay or expenses to defray; and those
debtors or merchants rely almost exclusively for the payment
of the duties on the simultaneous collection of the debts due to
them. It seems to me that there would be a great inconvenience
in being compelled to concentrate in a single day all their pay-
ments for one quarter, unless the same usage could be made to
prevail with respect to the debts due to them. I should also
think that, although the nominal payments by the Treasury
proper might be made to conform with the plan, it would be
extremely inconvenient for the parties concerned that all the
actual payments by the War and Navy Departments should be
made on the same day once only every three months. You will
be pleased to consider those desultory observations as merely
suggesting some of the difficulties which might occur in carrying
the plan into effect.

I presume that your object was to offer a substitute for the
sub-treasury. The fact is that there has been no difficulty in
the collection or safe-keeping of the public moneys so long as
we had a national bank, or, in its absence, so long as the State
banks sustained specie payments. With all its defects and dan-


gers, Congress cannot prevent a bank currency from being that
of the people at large. The suspension of specie payments is
the great and natural disease of the system. Whenever it takes
place, the general currency ceases to be uniform, that is to say,
to be everywhere equivalent to gold and silver. Amongst other
and greater evils, it cannot be used, in conformity with the Con-
stitution, for the collection of the revenue and for the public ex-
penditures. Hence my anxiety that a remedy may be found for
that evil. In the mean while, a modification of the sub-treasury,
that will permit the use of specie-paying banks as depositories
and of their notes as a public currency, united with the con-
tinuation of the issues of Treasury notes for the same purpose
(viz., for the payment of duties, &c.), appears to me to be in
every respect the most eligible mode. It should be adopted for
the present, even if a national bank was established, until that
institution was organized and had substituted its own notes.

You may have constitutional objections to such banks which
I do not entertain. Viewed only as a question of expediency
and in reference to the general government, I have no doubt of
its great convenience and utility for all the purposes above stated,
provided that it is laid under proper restrictions and affords a
guarantee against its own suspension. For which purposes I
deem it indispensable, 1st, that the restrictions should be enforced,
not by occasional, but by actual, complete, and at least semi-
annual inspections, carried on by officers appointed for that
special purpose; 2d, that in case any of its branches did sus-
pend its specie payments, the bank should cease to issue any of
its notes whatever until those payments were resumed; and that
if the suspension continued beyond the definite time determined
by the act of incorporation, the bank should be ipso facto dis-
solved and its charter forfeited.

For the soundness of my opinion on the last point, I rely
much less on any general abstract argument than on the lessons
of experience. The banks of New York would have forfeited
their charters on the 10th of May, 1838, if they had not resumed
specie payments on that very day; having taken an active part
in that event, I may say that it is doubtful whether it would
have taken place had they not been thus compelled to resume.

1841. LETTEES, ETC. 555

The want of a similar provision enabled the United States Bank
of Pennsylvania to prolong and renew the suspension ; and the
preponderating, in this instance most baneful, influence which
its overwhelming capital gave it over the other moneyed institu-
tions of three-fourths of the country, has been and continues to
be seen and felt, in the present state of the currency, in such
manner as seems to require no comment. It may be said that
continued unfavorable foreign exchanges, accompanied by other
untoward circumstances, might force even a great and well-ad-
ministered bank into a temporary suspension; and on that account

Online LibraryAlbert GallatinThe writings of Albert Gallatin → online text (page 50 of 60)