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whom had subscribed to it. That the proposal to make this offer had been made to the mission not by me, but by a citizen of the Western Country: that it was warranted, and as I believed, absolutely required by the instructions to the mission at the time when the proposal was made to the British commissioners, and that if I had felt and shown great solicitude at Ghent for the fisheries, I did not expect it was to be imputed to me as an offence, either in my character of a servant of the Union, or in that of a native citizen of Massachusetts. He said the proposal was at all events to be so represented, that it was charged exclusively upon me, and that I should hear more about it ere long.
On the 16th of January last, Mr. Floyd, a member of the House of Representatives of the United States, submitted to the House a resolution in the following words:
"Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before this House, all the correspondence which led to the treaty of Ghent, which has not yet been made public, and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose."
The said resolution was read, and ordered to lie on the table one day.
The proceedings of the House upon it the next day, are thus reported in the National Intelligencer of the 18th of January.
Thursday, January 17th, 1822.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
On motion of Mr. Floyd, the House proceeded to the consideration of the resolution offered by him yesterday, requesting of the President of the United States "all the correspondence which led to the treaty of Ghent, which has not yet been made public, and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose."
Mr. Floyd remarked that, as peace was now restored, there was no reason why the whole of the correspondence which led to the treaty of peace, should not be made public. He therefore modified his motion by striking out the excepting clause, in italic, and inserting after the word "Ghent," the words, "together with the protocol." He would also observe, that the bill which he had this day, reported to the House, contemplated a very considerable change in our intercourse with the Indian tribes in the West, and it appeared, by the report of the Secretary of War, made yesterday, that a great influence was exercised over those tribes by our European neighbours in that quarter. The correspondence between the commissioners at Ghent embraced this subject, among others, and he thought it was desirable that the House should be in possession of the whole of it.
Mr. Lowndes presumed the House would have no objection to obtaining the information alluded to, if it were proper to make it public; but he thought it would be proper to leave the President, in the form of the request, the option of communicating such of the correspondence only as he might deem it not improper to disclose. This was the usual form adopted by the House, and, although peace had taken place, there might be some parts of the correspondence which it would be improper to publish. An unlimited call for all the information in the possession of the govern. ment on the subject, might create some embarrassment, and he hoped the mover of the resolution would restore it to its original shape.
Mr. Floyd was unwilling, by any act of his, to embarrass the executive; but presumed there was nothing asked for in this resolution which would have that effect, and feeling anxious to obtain all the information on his subject which could be furnished, he preferred the motion in its present form. If the motion would reach any state secret-admitting there ought to be any state secrets in this government-he wished not to be instrumental in disturbing it; but he anticipated no such consequence.
Mr. Lowndes rejoined, in substance, that although five or six years had elapsed since the restoration of peace, it did not follow that all that passed in the negotiations was proper for publication. Some parts of the correspondence it might be incompatible with the public interest to disclose to the world; at any rate it was proper to except such as the President might deem the public good required him to withhold. Mr. L. therefore moved to amend the resolution by restoring the words, and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose."
Mr. Floyd thought there was, in reality, no difference between himself and the gentleman from South Carolina. If the gentleman was apprised of any thing which it was improper to communicate to the House, to be sure that would be a different matter; but if his remarks were general, and had reference to no particular facts in the correspondence, there was no reason for the amendment.
The question being taken, the amendment was agreed to; and Thus amended, the resolution was adopted, and a committee of two appointed to carry it to the President.
On this debate it was observable that the mover of the resolution had struck out the usual exception, which had been in his draft of it presented the day before, of such papers as in the President's opinion, it might be improper to disclose; and had added the words "together with the protocol," which had not been in the original resolution. The words of exception were restored, after debate upon the motion of Mr. Lowndes. The inferences naturally drawn from these circumstances were, that in the day's inter
val between the offering of the resolution, and the debate upon it, suggestions had been made to the mover, that there might be motives operating upon the executive, for withholding precisely the information that was desired, unless the whole should be demanded; and that a request for the correspondence would be liable to fail in drawing forth the momentous disclosure, unless the protocol should also be required. This special reference to the protocol, would more readily occur to a person who had been concerned in the negotiation, than to others, and the debate indicated at once some eagerness to obtain very complete information, some apprehensions that pains would be taken to suppress it, and some impression, that the evidence of the material fact to be elicited was lodged in the protocol.*
It was in the protocol of the conference of 1st December, 1814, that the proposal made to the British plenipotentiaries relating to the Mississippi and the fisheries was contained. But all the American plenipotentiaries had been present at that conference, and on the face of the protocol it appeared that the proposal had been made by them as a joint act of all. There was a subsequent letter from them of 14th December, 1814, to the British plenipotentiaries, signed by all, and referring to it as an article to which they had no objection, considering it as merely declaratory. There was nothing in the documents showing at whose instance in the American mission, the proposal had been offered; but in the joint letter of the mission to the Secretary of State of 25th December, 1814, it was stated that a majority of the mission had determined to offer it, and in a separate letter of the same date, Mr. Russell noticing this passage of the joint letter, acknowledged, in candour, that he had been on that occasion in the minority; and reserved to himself thereafter, the power of assigning his reasons to vindicate his motives. It will be seen in the course of the following papers, that the indication in the joint letter, that the offer had been made, upon a determination of a majority, had, by an alteration of the original draft been inserted, through the agency of Mr. Russell, not (as he stated) at his own desire, but at that of Mr. Clay. But neither Mr. Clay, nor any other member of the mission, save Mr. Russell, had thought it necessary at the time to inform the government how he
See in the Appendix, Mr. Floyd's Letter, published in the Richmond Enquirer of 27th August, 1822, and the remarks upon it.
had voted on the question, or to vindicate his motives for his vote. When the documents called for by the resolution of the House of 17th January, 1822, were on the 23d of February communicated by the message from the President, they did indeed show that this portentous proposal had been made; but that it was by the concurrent act of all the American plenipotentiaries. They also showed that upon the expediency of making the proposal, there had previously been taken a vote, on which occasion Mr. Russell had been in the minority. The documents were, by order of the House, laid upon the table, and there reposed for the space of nearly two months till the 18th of April.
In the mean time the correspondence from Washington, and the newspapers indoctrinated by it, had not been equally inactive. Through these channels, the public were assured that the proposal of offering the navigation of the Mississippi for the fisheries, had been made by me; that Mr. Clay had uniformly declared that he would not sign the treaty, with such an article in it; and that the proposal had been finally set aside, by Mr. Bayard's having changed his mind, and come over to the opinion of the minority. Not one of these three statements was true, though Mr. Russell has since positively asserted the second, and gone still further than the third, by alleging that the proposal was actually made by a minority of the mission, against the will of Mr. Bayard, and without giving him notice after he had changed his mind.
None of these allegations could derive any countenance from the documents communicated to the House, under their resolution of the 17th of January. But Mr. Russell's letter from Paris was in reserve. The following papers will show how it was finally brought before the House, together with a new edition of it in the form of a duplicate; and how a third exemplar, varying from both, was presented to the public, in the National Gazette at Philadelphia. The duplicate was the first of these papers seen by me, and from the moment of my perusing it, I could be no longer at a loss, for the origin of the storm, which a friendly voice had warned me was to burst upon me from the West. The letter was a tale wrought up with the ingenuity of a novelist, representing the proposition made to the British plenipotentiaries on the 1st of December, 1814, as a deliberate and wanton sacrifice of the peace and security of the whole Western and Southern section of the Union, for the doubtful
accommodation of a few Eastern fishermen, annually decreasing in number, entirely exempt from the danger, and unsupported by any claim of right. To take away all excuse from this procedure, it was represented as having been pursued by the majority, in wilful and express violation of the instructions to the mission, as understood by themselves, and in defiance of the remonstrances of the minority; Mr. Russell represented himself as having inflexibly opposed it to the last, and the whole purport of the letter tended to the impression that he had, in the deliberations of the mission at Ghent, opposed the measure by urging against it all the reasons which were set forth in the letter itself. There was withal, a profession of unfeigned respect for the integrity, talents, and judgment of the majority, thus represented as having grossly violated their own sense of their duties, and been prepared to lay open to British smugglers and emissaries, and to all the horrors of Indian warfare, the unof fending citizens of the largest portion of the Union.
No one member of the majority was specially named in Mr. Russell's letter, as peculiarly responsible for the obnoxious proposal, but the joint letter of the mission to the Secretary of State, of 25th December, 1814, had been drawn up by me. Mr. Russell, who had signed it without discussion, and without proposing any alteration to it, excepting those noticed in these papers, had, as appeared by this duplicate, taken it as the text for an adverse commentary. The joint letter, written the day after the signature of the treaty, to be despatched with it, had given to the Secretary of State, a concise and summary narrative of the proceedings of the mission since the 31st of October, 1814, the date of their last preceding despatch. In this narrative were mentioned the circumstances under which the proposal to the British plenipotentiaries of 1st December, 1814, had been made; the reasoning by which it had been discussed with them, the counter-proposition which they had offered as a substitute for it, and their final acceptance, in its stead, of the alternative which we had offered with it, of omitting altogether the article by which they would have abandoned their claim to the boundary line to the Mississippi. It was to the reasoning interwoven with this narrative, reasoning which had been used by the American mission in debate with the British plenipotentiaries, and as adversaries in argument to them, that I found Mr. Russell's duplicate was a deeply-studied, counter-argument. He had