Page images
PDF
EPUB

undertaken, after the conclusion of the treaty, to do that for the enemy which they had not done for themselves ; but the glaring fallacy of his letter was, that it represented that which had been urged on our part in discussion with them, as if it had been a subject of debate among ourselves. It undertook to prove, that the principles which we had asserted, and the arguments we had urged to the British commissioners, in support of our fishing liberties, contested by them, were entirely without foundation ; that we had no right to the fishing liberties, and no right even to advance a claim to them; and that these had been among his reasons for refusing his consent to the proposal of a stipulation for securing them. The duplicate,

6 Tam ficti, pravique tenax, quam nuncia veri,” blended with these misrepresentations, the objections which Mr. Clay had made, not only against the proposal which was offered, but against an article which never had been offered, and alleged as capping the climax of all Mr. Russell's reasons against the proposals, that it was in express violation of instructions which had been cancelled before the proposal was made.

Heterogeneous and incongruous as were these materials, they had obviously been mixed up with the design of exciting the resentment and indignation of the Western and Southern sections of the Union against the offer made to the British plenipotentiaries, and against those by whom it had been proposed. When the original letter from Paris was found, a comparison of it with the duplicate disclosed this design in still broader light. All the new pa. ragraphs had a direct tendency either to aggravate the criminality and injustice of the majority, or to make special claims for the writer to Western favour and gratitude, or to deprecate by flattering compliments the resentments of the Eastern fishing interest. To any person unacquainted with the real transactions at the negotiation of Ghent, the composition was mingled with so much address and plausibility, that it was eminently calculated to produce its effect. It was difficult to suppose that the Ghent documents, and this letter in particular, bad been called forth from their slumbers of seven years

for
any
other

purpose. There were circumstances of a peculiar nature, imposing upon me the obligation of meeting this accusation at once, and in the most explicit manner. The documents called for by the House in

their first resolution of 17th January, were to be furnished from the Department of State ; and some mistrust had been discovered, that there would be a disposition there to withhold some of them. The second call, was for a paper known not to be forth-coming from thence, until it should be furnished by Mr. Russell himself; for which he had taken care to be prepared. Mr. Russell, too, by observing, when he delivered it at the Department, that he was indifferent whether it should be communicated or not, but if not, that he wished it might be returned to him, evidently disclosed a supposition on his part, that I should feel reluctant at the communication of it to the House--that I should shrink from the exhibition of its contents to the world. My official duty was to report it to the President for communication to the House, and if precluded from the privilege of remarking upon it, I should have been reduced to the singular predicament of being made the silent reporter of my own condemnation. A deceased, and an absent colleague, were implicated in the charges of the letter, apparently as much as myself. Could I in justice to myself, I could not in duty to them, be the bearer of these imputations to the Legislative Assembly of the nation, without declaring them to be unfounded. I did, therefore, in reporting the paper to the President, request that in the communication of it to the House, it might be accompanied by my Remarks. The following pages will show the sequel.

In the collection of these papers, however, the defence and justification of myself and my colleagues of the majority, forms but a secondary purpose.

Its primary intention is to prove 1. That the principle assumed by the Americàn mission at

Ghent, at the proposal of Mr. Clay, and in a paragraph drawn up by him that the rights and liberties of the people of the United States in the North American fisheries, were not abrogated by the war of 1812, was a just and sound principle, en

tirely conformable to the law of nations. 2. That the article first offered by Mr. Gallatin, which was not

proposed to the British plenipotentiaries, and the amendment to the 8th article of the project, also offered by Mr. Gallatin, which was actually proposed to the British plenipotentiaries, and by them rejected, was only a declaratory recognition of that same principle, applied to the British right of navigating the Mississippi, as well as to our fishery rights and liberties.

3. That, considered even on the narrow ground of conflicting

sectional interests, this article and amendment proposed to place the East and the West in the same state as before the

war ; without gain to one or loss to the other. 4. That the objection, by the minority, against the article and

amendment, insisted, in principle, upon the sacrifice of an

Eastern for the benefit of a Western interest. 5. That the Eastern interest to be sacrificed, was of

very great importance to the Union, and of vital magnitude to the State of Massachusetts ; while the Western interest, for which it was to be immolated, was altogether speculative and imaginary. It was most truly denominated, by the member of the

mission now no more, bragging a million against a cent. If, therefore, the letter of Mr. Russell, of 11th February, 1815, from Paris, had been the real exposition of the motives of the minority, for objecting to the proposed article and amendment of Mr. Gallatin, its whole foundation, both of law and of fact, failing, would have left the minority without any justification for their votes whatsoever. With regard to the comparative value of the two interests in question, it was impossible for the minority with more sincere and deep conviction to believe the views of the majority to be erroneous, than the majority thought those of the minority to be so. But it never entered into my head, and never could have entered into my heart, to treasure up these errors of opinion for after-use against a colleague of the mission ; to “set in a note-book, con, and learn by rote,” opinions expressed in the mutual confidence of associates in a great national trust, in order to bring them forth, after many years, as engines to ruin a rival reputation.

But the letter from Paris was no exposition of the opinions which had been manifested by the minority at Ghent. The principle, that the fishing liberties had not been abrogated by the war, had been asserted by the mission at Ghent, on the proposal of Mr. Clay. The refutation of it is the most heavily laboured part of the letter from Paris. If individual opinions upon the expediency of particular measures adopted by the mission, are to be made the test of merit or demerit for individual members of the mission, it is not a little whimsical that Mr. Russell, for the minority, should now disclaim the principle adopted at the motion of one of them, and which has been completely successful in maintaining the interest in de

fence of which it was advanced, and pin all their claims of superior service upon their ineffectual opposition to a proposal which they did actually concur in making, and which failed, not in consequence of their objections, but because the enemy disdained to accept it. If by the sturdiness of their adherence to their opinions, they had prevented the proposal from being made, there might have been some semblance of a claim to credit from those who tremble at the sight of an Englishman afloat upon the Mississippi. If the enemy had eagerly snatched at the offer, and British emissaries, British smugglers, and Indian wars, had swarmed upon us, in consequence, the minority might have had some apology, for disengaging their responsibility to the act, and casting upon their colleagues of the majority all its evil report. But so far as the proposal could possibly have operated mischief, they are answerable for it by their concurrence. So far as the immediate rejection of the proposal by a clear-sighted enemy, can test its possible consequences, the event affords as little cause for the minority to glory in their foresight, as their assent to what they thought so pernicious, gives them reason to be proud of their firmness. A loud call upon the nation to discriminate between the profound wisdom and comprehensive patriotism of the minority, and the dulness, absurdity, and contracted spirit, or treachery, of the majority, could scarcely rest on weaker grounds, than upon the aversion of the minority to principles which they nevertheless did sanction; and upon their arguments against measures to which they did subscribe their names. The majority have asked for no discrimination. As one of them, I have as little desire to conceal, as to proclaim, my separate agency in the transactions of the mission, or my vote upon any measure discussed by them. I ask, only, not to be misrepresented.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS..

21st September, 1822,

CORRESPONDENCE WHICH LED TO THE TREATY OF

GHENT.

Extract from the Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

JANUARY 16, 1822.
Mr. Floyd submitted the following resolution, viz:

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.

JANUARY 17, 1822. On motion of Mr. Floyd, The House proceeded to consider the resolution submitted by him yesterday, and the same being again read, and modified to read as follows:

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, together with the Protocol, which has not yet been made public.

Mr. Lowndes moved to amend the same, by subjoining the following, viz: “And which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose.”

And the question being taken thereon, it passed in the affirmative.

The said resolution, modified and amended as aforesaid, was then agreed to by the House; and Mr. Floyd and Mr. Walworth were appointed a committee to present the same to the President of the United States.

To the House of Representatives of the United States :

I transmit to the House of Representatives, a Report from the Secretary of State, with the Documents accompanying it, in pursuance of a resolution of the House of the 17th of January last.

JAMES MONROE. Washington, 21st February, 1822.

Department of State,

Washington, 21st Feb. 1822. The Secretary of State, to whom has been referred the resolu. tion of the House of Representatives of the 17th January, requesting the President of the United States to cause to be laid before the House all the correspondence which led to the Treaty of Ghent, together with the Protocol, which has not been made public, and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose, has the honour to submit to the President the papers embraced by that resolution.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The President of the United States.

« PreviousContinue »