A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter VI

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JAMES MADISON, who, as Secretary of State, had con- ducted the foreign relations of the government for the past eight years with only a fair degree of success, was regarded as the legitimate successor of the great Re- publican chief, and was chosen President with little opposition. The responsibilities of administration, from which Mr. Jefferson had so gladly escaped, were fated to press heavily upon him. The embargo which so greatly embarrassed the country had proved a failure, and he was confronted with the very troublesome ques- tions with England inherited from his predecessor, which were destined to bring him great anxiety, and, finally, much against his inclination and wishes, to plunge the nation into another war with the mother country.

His choice for Secretary of State should naturally have fallen upon either James Monroe or Albert Galla- tin. The first had recently returned from the London mission, and the other, as Secretary of the Treasury under Jefferson, had shown himself the most able and influential member of the Cabinet. But the President felt that, in the peculiar condition of affairs, he must


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" strengthen himself with the party/' and he was led to select a man for the head of the Cabinet, Robert Smith, of Maryland, who had no special fitness for the post, but whose brother was a senator, and the family influ- ential in political and financial circles; but he failed in his object. Gallatin was continued in the Treasury, and the two brothers Smith conspired with a coterie of friends to obstruct important financial legislation out of jealousy of Gallatin. Their opposition soon extended in a covert manner to the President, threaten- ing to make a serious breach in the administration ranks. Finally Mr. Madison determined upon a change in the Department of State, and, in order to bring it about with as little injury as possible to his party, ten- dered Mr. Smith a diplomatic appointment in Europe; but the latter, after considering it for some days, de- clined the offer, resigned in high temper, and issued an address to the people. The event resulted in a violent newspaper wrangle, but the unfaithfulness of the sec- retary was so fully exposed that the country heartily indorsed the President's action. In a memorandum written at the time of Smith's forced resignation, April, 1811, Mr. Madison gives full details of the event, and states as the reason for the former's displacement, his outside criticism of the President, and an inefficiency in managing his department, which threw additional work on the President' shoulders. 1

In filling the vacancy he turned instinctively to his old friend James Monroe. The latter had cherished aspiration for the presidency on the retirement of Jef-

  • 2 Madison's Works (ed. 1865), 495.


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ferson, and a party of adherents had sought to press his candidacy against Madison. Out of this had been engendered a coolness between the two Virginians, but no break in their friendship had occurred. Soon thereafter Monroe had been elected governor of Virginia, and was filling that important office when Madison approached him with old-time cordiality and frankness, and asked him to accept the vacancy in the Department of State. The critical condition of our affairs with England was such that he could not resist the call. He was a man of a different mould from Smith, and the President suffered no longer from intrigues and unfaithfulness in his Cabinet. Monroe was well fitted by political training and diplomatic experience for the post. We have already had occasion to refer to his two missions to France, his mission to Spain and to England. Although he had not achieved much success in these courts, his failure is to be attributed more to adverse circumstances than to his own shortcomings. Lord Holland, who was brought much in contact with him, both officially and socially, during his residence in London, gives this estimate of him: " He was plain in his manners and somewhat slow in his apprehension; but he was a diligent, earnest, sensible, and even profound man."


As secretary under President Madison he henceforth bore the burden of the diplomatic controversy which led up to the war of 1812. It would be a tedious work to attempt a narration of the causes and circum- stances which occasioned that conflict, but the questions of international law involved, and which were finally


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submitted to the arbitrament of arms, may be briefly stated as the right of search and impressment of sea- men, the principles of blockade, the rights of neutrals in war, and free ships and free goods. The subject of impressment was one of long standing. As early as 1792, Mr. Jefferson, as Secretary of State, had urged upon the British government its injustice, and stated the correct doctrine, finally accepted, that the flag of the vessel protects its crew. 1 Mr. Jay had sought to abolish it in his negotiation of 1794. The treaty of Monroe and Pinkney in 1806 was rejected by Presi- dent Jefferson mainly because it contained no provision on the subject. The practice was for the British naval officers to stop American vessels on the high seas, in British or even in neutral ports, compel a muster of all the crew on deck, by personal inspection decide on their own motion and without proof that certain of the crew were either British subjects or deserters, and carry them off in irons to the British warships. The natu- ralization of British subjects in the United States was disregarded, and the inspection of American crews was so hasty and arbitrary that many native born American citizens, some of whom had been soldiers of the Revolu- tion, were carried off and forced to serve in the British navy. It was stated in Congress in 1806 that at that date between 2500 and 3000 American citizens were in enforced service in the British navy. During the Napoleonic wars the British authorities were so embold- ened by the necessity of a larger supply of men for their navy that New York harbor was made a base

i 3 For. Rel. 574.


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of operations for the British squadron, which occupied itself in cruising just outside the coast line, lying in wait to overhaul and search American merchant vessels for forced recruits to its navy.

These high-handed outrages seemed to have reached their climax in the attack upon the Chesapeake, a frig- ate of the United States navy, in 1807. She had on board three colored native-born American seamen who were alleged to be deserters from the British navy. Their surrender had been demanded, but refused by the Secretary of State on the ground, first, that the British government had declined to enter into treaty stipulations for the surrender of deserters, and, second, because they were American citizens. The Chesapeake, not suspecting any violence on the part of the British squadron lying in Hampton Roads, passed out to sea for drill practice. She was followed by the British man-of-war Leopard, greatly her superior in armament. When outside the coast line the Chesapeake was over- hauled and a demand was made for the surrender of the deserters. The demand was refused. Without an opportunity being afforded for getting the Chesapeake into a state of defense, the Leopard opened fire, and in twelve minutes the Chesapeake was rendered helpless, the crew was mustered by the British officers, and three Americans and one British subject was taken off, and the disabled American frigate was left to find her way back into port as best she could.

The affair occasioned intense excitement, and a de- mand for instant war was raised, notwithstanding the utter unpreparedness of the country. The British min-


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istry, however, disavowed the act as unauthorized, re- called the commanding officer, tendered indemnity for the killed and wounded and a surrender of the three Americans. The government of the United States sought to couple with these a relinquishment of the right of impressment, and this affair remained a source of negotiation and irritation for some time. 1 Madison, writing just before the affair of the Chesapeake, said of visitation and impressment : " That an officer from a foreign ship should pronounce any person he pleased on board an American ship, on the high seas, not to be an American citizen, but a British subject, and carry his interested decision, on the most important of all ques- tions to a freeman, into execution on the spot, is so anomalous in principle, so grievous in practice, and so abominable in abuse, that the pretension must finally yield to sober discussion and friendly expostulation." 2 But so far from yielding to discussion and expostula- tion, it survived a bloody war, and was not surrendered as to visitation till many years afterwards.

Equally among the causes of the war were the paper blockades decreed by France, and by Great Britain in retaliation, in utter disregard of neutral rights, and to the great damage of American commerce. They began with the Berlin Decree, issued by Napoleon, declaring the British Isles in a state of blockade, and prohibiting all commerce with them. This was followed by the British Orders in Council, forbidding all neutral trade with France or her allies, unless through Great Britain.

1 For affair of the Chesapeake, see 2 Schouler, Hist U. S. 164. a 2 Madison's Works, 405.


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Napoleon retaliated with his Milan Decree, by which every vessel which submitted to search by British cruis- ers, or paid tax, duty, or license money to the British government, or was found on the high sea bound to or from a British port, was denationalized and forfeited. 1 These measures meant death to American commerce, and Jefferson sought to overcome them by his embargo act, 2 which brought prostration and ruin to trade in our home ports, and seems to have had little effect abroad. For the next five years our government devoted its energies unceasingly to securing a relaxation on the part of Great Britain of the offensive practice of visita- tion and impressment, and on the part of the contend- ing European nations of their war upon American neu- tral vessels. But in the mighty conflict of Europe the interests or the rights of the young nation across the sea received little consideration, and the current of events was fast drifting us into open war with one or both contestants. In referring to this period, Secretary Everett, in a letter to Lord John Russell, wrote : " From the breaking out of the wars of the French Revolution to the year 1812, the United States knew the law of nations only as the victim of its systematic violation by the great maritime powers of Europe." 3 Developments in the West made it appear that Great Britain, in addi- tion to its outrages upon the sea, was contributing to stir up the hostility of the Indian tribes and furnishing them with military supplies from the government stores

1 2 Schouler, 156, 170, 174.

2 Ib. 178; 1 Richardson's Messages, 433. 1 Wharton's Digest, 577.


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in Canada. A party was formed in Congress known as the "War-Hawks," led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, then in the flush of their young manhood, who clamored for war, insisting that we should no longer submit to the British indignities.

Congress met in the winter of 1811-12. Madison's first term was approaching its close, and if he contin- ued in office he must, according to the usage of the day, receive his renomination.at the hands of his party friends in Congress. He was a man of peace, and was seeking every honorable expedient to avoid hostilities. He could hardly have held out much longer against the clamor of the party majority in Congress for war. To even him it finally became apparent that there was no hope of maintaining our rights except by an appeal to force, and on June 1, 1812, he sent in a confidential message 1 recapitulating the conduct of Great Britain, and submitted to Congress the momentous question. His closing language was : " Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpa- tions and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events, ... is a solemn question which the Consti- tution wisely confides to the legislative department of the government." The message received prompt action in the House, but in the Senate the act declaring war was much debated, but was finally passed June 18, and war was again proclaimed against our old enemy. 2

1 1 Richardson's Messages, 505. The official documents relating to the war will be found in 3 For. Rel. folio.

  • 2 U. S. Stat. at Large, 755.


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The vote in the House stood 79 to 49, and in the Senate 19 to 13, thus developing a decided opposition in both houses. It does not fall within the scope of this work to trace the progress of the war, but a few of its incidents cannot well be passed over. We have seen that the New England Federalists were against the acquisition of Louisiana, and that their leader in the House announced that it threatened at no distant day the subversion of the Union. 1 When the bill for the admission of Louisiana as a State was being considered in Congress, Quincy of Massachusetts, referring to the vast enlargement of the South, made the startling decla- ration that the passage of the bill would be " virtually a dissolution of the Union," and that it would be the duty of his section to prepare for the separation. The embargo brought great embarrassment on New England commerce and ruin to many of its commercial houses, and much dissatisfaction was engendered thereby in that section.

One of the grievances enumerated in the acts of Great Britain which occasioned the war was a secret mission of one Henry to Boston in 1809, who was sent by Sir James Craig, British governor of Canada, to do all possible to ferment and increase the discontent in New England. Henry, not being compensated to his satisfaction by the British ministry, sold the documents relating to his confidential mission to the government at Washington, and they were sent to Congress in March, 1812, and published. 2

So bitter was the feeling in Boston against the war

1 Supra, p. 202. 2 3 For. Rel. 645.


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that federal agents soliciting loans were obliged to receive subscriptions from bankers of that city under pledge of secrecy. The anti-war party in New Eng- land received the title of " blue-light " Federalists, owing to the charge that their adherents gave night signals to the British blockading vessels off our ports. This disaffection culminated in the Hartford Conven- tion, an assembly of delegates from the New England States, embracing some of their most able and distin- guished men. Its sessions were secret, but it is clear that designs against the integrity of the Union were entertained. To this opposition Madison attributed " the source of our greatest difficulties in carrying on the war," and " certainly the greatest if not the sole inducement with the enemy to persevere in it." l It is a dark blot on our country's history, which only the steadfast loyalty of New England in after years has partially effaced. 2

An incident of the war which brought everlasting disgrace upon British arms was the burning of Wash- ington, the capital of the nation. The disgrace is the deeper because it was done under the direction and in the presence of the commanding officers, and so far as the greater portion of the buildings was concerned their destruction could not be called for as a military mea- sure. The burning and destruction included the unfin- ished Capitol and Congressional Library, the Executive Mansion, the Treasury, and other department buildings,

  • 2 Madison's Works, 593.

3 For account of New England disaffection and Hartford Convention, J. Q. Adams's New England Federation; 8 H. Adams's Hist. U. S.


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with their valuable archives, printing-offices, and many private residences. It is related that Mrs. Madison, the wife of the President, carried away and preserved the original Declaration of Independence. No one at this day defends this act of vandalism. Even at the time there were London journals which denounced it. " Wil- lingly," said the London Statesman, " would we throw a veil of oblivion over our transactions at Washington. The Cossacks spared Paris, but we spared not the capi- tal of America."

The American army likewise gained little glory out of the British expedition against Washington and Baltimore, but it has left us one trophy out of the British repulse in the assault and bombardment of Fort McHenry our most popular national song, " The Star-spangled Banner."

This war is one of the most singular in history in its diplomatic aspects. Seldom has a war been entered upon which involved so many questions of international law, and yet it was concluded without the settlement of a single one of the issues upon which it was fought; nevertheless, its conclusion was hailed with pleasure and satisfaction by both nations.

The negotiations which resulted in the treaty of peace are interesting because of the distinguished men representing the United States, and of the singular character of the results just indicated. The American commissioners were John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, James A. Bayard, and Jonathan Rus- sell. Mr. Adams was recognized as our most experi- enced diplomat. Mr. Clay had been the leader of the


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war party in Congress, and in the exuberance of his young statesmanship had, at the opening of the war, talked about dictating peace at Quebec or Halifax. Mr. Gallatin was then Secretary of the Treasury, a post he had also filled through Jefferson's administration with distinguished ability, probably the most able of the administration leaders, and an opponent of the declaration of war. Mr. Bayard was a Federalist mem- ber of the Senate of recognized influence, in which body the family has had an honored representative almost continuously to our day. Mr. Russell had served as charge d'affaires in Paris, was acting in that capacity in London at the outbreak of hostilities, and when made a peace commissioner was minister to Swe- den. Never has our country been represented abroad by a commission of men of more varied experience or distinguished services.

The negotiations took place at Ghent, and continued through the last four months of 1814. The British commissioners were haughty and overbearing, and seemed implacable in their demands; but the weary and anxious months were interspersed with formal dinners and the exchange of cheerless courtesies. The task of winning over the British to an agreement was hardly less difficult than that of reconciling the differ- ences of the American commissioners. Adams and Clay, although utterly distinct in temperament, had one thing in common an irascible disposition. Adams was severe and uncompromising in his opinions, and Clay was hasty in judgment and free of speech, and the two kept the councils of the Americans in a fer-


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ment, bordering on a perpetual wrangle. Gallatin's time and efforts were chiefly occupied in pouring oil on the troubled waters and bringing the contestants to a united front before the opposing plenipotentiaries. Mr. Adams in his diary records with much minuteness the progress of the negotiations and these internal dis- cords. He complains that every paper he drafts is mercilessly treated by his colleagues. Mr. Gallatin would strike out everything offensive to the English- men; Mr. Clay would draw his pen through every figurative expression; Mr. Russell would further amend every sentence; and Mr. Bayard would, finally, insist on writing all over again in his own language. The following are some of the entries in his diary : " Oc- tober 31, Mr. Clay is losing his temper, and growing peevish and fractious." Later, " Mr. Clay lost his temper (to-day), as he generally does whenever the right of the British to navigate the Mississippi is dis- cussed." Again : " They [his colleagues] sit after dinner and drink bad wine and smoke cigars, which neither suits my habits nor my health, and absorb time which I can ill spare." He even records that one morning, as he rose at five o'clock to light his own fire and begin his day's work by candle-light, he heard the party breaking up and leaving Mr. Clay's room, where they had spent the night in card-playing. 1

When the commissioners on both sides met it became apparent that the great questions which had brought on the war could not be settled by treaty. Hence the subject of impressment was not introduced, nor was

1 For Adams's diary on the peace negotiations, 3 Memoirs, chapter 9.


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any effort made to define the matter of blockade or to regulate and protect neutral trade. An effort on the part of the British commissioners was made to enforce what is known in international law as uti possidetis, the holding by the belligerents of the territory occupied by their respective armies at the end of the war; they likewise sought to erect a neutral Indian territory out of a large section of the Northwest Territory of the United States, but they were given to understand that both propositions were wholly inadmissible. On the part of the American commissioners an attempt was made to secure a relinquishment of its claim of the free navigation of the Mississippi, and a recognition of our fishery rights as fixed by the treaty of 1783. But all efforts in that direction had, likewise, to be abandoned. An end finally came to all the internal wrangles and open conferences. Influences were at work with both governments more persuasive to peace than diplomacy. Secretary Monroe, under the direction of President Madison, who recognized the earnest desire of the country for peace, instructed the American commis- sioners to recede from all their demands and accept the status ante helium. The British cabinet, owing to its financial straits and its continental complications, gave instructions to the British commissioners of the same character; and there was little at last for the negotia- tors to do. When the treafy was drawn up for execu- tion it contained not a single provision respecting the issues which occasioned the war. Mr. Clay declared it was "a d d bad treaty," and thought he would not sign it, but he did; and he and his colleagues returned


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home to receive the plaudits of their countrymen. The signatures were attached to the treaty on Christmas eve, and the year closed with the exchange of social civil- ities, the burghers of Ghent entertaining their dis- tinguished guests with a banquet, at which it is related the band played constantly, in turn, " God Save the King" and "Hail Columbia."

Late at night, on February 11, 1815, a British vessel reached New York, bringing a copy of the treaty of peace already ratified by the British government, and the welcome news soon spread throughout the city. People ran about the streets shouting their delight, and expresses were dispatched throughout the country spreading the joyful intelligence, before it was known what were actually the terms of peace. The news reached Washington concurrently with that of General Jackson's overwhelming triumph at New Orleans, and the country was quite content to close the war under such a flush of victory. The Thirteenth Congress was just closing its sessions, and in its great satisfaction with the deliverance from further foreign strife and in- ternal dissension, passed a joint resolution recommend- ing to the country a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God "for his great goodness manifested in restoring to these United States the blessings of peace." l

While the American negotiators were able to secure little more than the formal peace stipulations in their treaty, it is a gratification to know that they were fully equal to their British colleagues in diplomatic skill or political acumen. Wellington declared in the House

1 3 U. S. Stat. at Large, 250.


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of Lords that the American commissioners " had shown a most astonishing superiority over the British during the whole correspondence." It was something, in the presence of such a powerful antagonist, to have yielded nothing; and to the credit of our government and our plenipotentiaries be it said that every principle for which they contended against Great Britain has since been accepted by that nation as a recognized principle of international law or of governmental practice. Only a few years after the war the Lord Chief Justice of England declared that " the orders in council were grievously unjust to neutrals, and it is now generally allowed that they were contrary to the law of nations and our own municipal law." 1

The results of the war as a whole may be regarded as of much benefit to the country. Our army gained little glory on land, but our small navy had shown that it possessed the courage to meet " the mistress of the seas," and was able, even against odds, to achieve vic- tory. We had shown that no nation, however power- ful, could trespass with impunity upon what we claimed as our rights, and that we were prepared to draw the sword against any antagonist in defense of our national interests. Of the United States the London Times said in 1817 : " Their first war with England made them independent; their second made them formid- able." Thenceforth to this day none of the nations of the earth have seen fit to begin against us an aggres- sive war.

The United States had against Great Britain just

i 1 Wharton's Digest, 577. ]


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cause of war, and it was only by an appeal to arms we could vindicate our proper position among the nations. But in the natural indignation at our national wrongs, we are hardly inclined to give England even scant credit for the circumstances which forced her to such high- handed measures of self -protection. She was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Napoleon, whose tri- umph over England meant not merely the supremacy of French arms, but the complete suppression of liberal principles and free government in Europe. He repre- sented the worst type in modern times of absolutism and military tyranny. Napoleon began the reprisals on neutral commerce and England followed his example with retaliation. She needed every possible seaman to maintain the right arm of her power, and she studied little the interests of her late rebellious colonies in attaining her end. Justly as we resented our national grievances, we rejoice that the European struggle, into which our country was finally drawn, resulted in the overthrow of Napoleon and the maintenance of liberal government and English institutions.

No one welcomed the return of peace more than President Madison. He entered upon the war with great reluctance and proved ill fitted for such times. The remainder of his term was a grateful period of peace abroad and reviving prosperity at home. The finances had become greatly embarrassed by the war and specie payments had been suspended throughout the States. It was his good fortune to close his ad- ministration with the remission of the war taxation, the resumption of specie payment, and commerce and trade


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resuming their former prosperity. There was no dim*- culty in transferring the government to his faithful secretary, Mr. Monroe, who became President with little opposition. To the venerable John Adams, ambitious for the advancement of his son to the high post, this continuous succession of Virginians became wearisome, and he exclaimed : " My son will never have a chance until the last Virginian is laid in the graveyard."

Mr. Monroe, on becoming President, selected as his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, whose long career is unique in the history of our government, and especially so in its relations to our diplomacy. At the age of eleven he accompanied his father on his diplo- matic mission to Europe, and early acquired a know- ledge of French and German. When only fourteen he went to St. Petersburg as private secretary to our minister, Mr. Dana. At sixteen he served as one of the secretaries of the American plenipotentiaries during the negotiations resulting in the treaty of peace and independence of 1783. At the age of twenty-seven he was appointed by Washington minister to Holland, and afterwards was minister to Berlin and commissioner to Sweden. After serving for some years in the United States Senate he was sent in 1809 as minister to Russia, where he remained till 1815, and was then transferred to London, where he resided till 1817, when he became Secretary of State. His career as President and his long service and tragic death in the national House of Representatives are familiar history.

He had a busy life during his eight years' occupancy of the State Department. No man ever entered the


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department better equipped for his duties, none labored more assiduously, and few more successfully for his country. The events which most distinguished his service were the enunciation of what is known as the Monroe Doctrine, and the making of the Spanish- Florida and Russian treaties. This period (1817 to 1825) covered also the revolt and independence of the Spanish-American colonies, which brought to Mr. Adams many perplexing questions, greatly embarrassed by the threatened interference of Congress. Much of the time also our relations with Great Britain were not cordial, and his intercourse with and treatment of the resident British ministers, as recorded in his diary % are full of interest. The same temperament which was shown at Ghent on the peace commission was exhibited when the British representative at Washington mani- fested too aggressive an attitude, as was not uncommon in the early days of our government. This tempera- ment may have served a good purpose under provoking circumstances, and in the latter years of his useful life was somewhat modified, but it was a serious obstacle to his personal advancement. One of his biographers says : " Never did a man of pure life and just pur- poses have fewer friends or more enemies. ... If he could ever have gathered even a small personal follow- ing, his character and abilities would have insured him a brilliant and prolonged success; but for a man of his calibre and influence, we see him as one of the most lonely and desolate of the great men of history." l The close of the second war with Great Britain left

1 Morse's Life of J. Q. Adams, 11.


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on the Great Lakes a considerable naval force of both nations, which, with the return of peace, it was found desirable should be greatly reduced, if not entirely dis- pensed with. By an exchange of diplomatic notes it was accordingly agreed in 1817 that thenceforth the two governments would maintain not more than one vessel on Lake Champlain, one on Ontario, and two on the upper lakes, of not more than one hundred tons each, and armed with one eighteen - pound cannon. This fact is here mentioned because it illustrates two points of interest as to international stipulations : First, that these may take other forms than those of a formal treaty or convention; and, second, that even treaty stipulations may become obsolete by time and changed circumstances of the contracting countries. In the vol- ume of " Treaties of the United States," published by the State Department, the stipulation for disarmament on the lakes is called an " arrangement," and appears in the form of a simple note from the British minister stating the willingness of the British government to reduce the naval force on the Great Lakes to the limits mentioned, and of a note in reply from the Secretary of State agreeing to the reduction in the terms stated. Some time afterwards these two notes were submitted to the Senate, and it recommended that the " arrange- ment " should be carried into effect, whereupon the President issued a proclamation reciting the terms of the two notes, the approval of the Senate, and the sanc- tion of the Prince Regent of Great Britain; and it has since that day been recognized as a binding obliga- tion by both governments. 1

1 For official documents, 4 For. Rel. (folio) 202-207.


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At the time this arrangement was entered upon steam and iron were not used in naval construction, there was no canal outlet to the ocean, and there was little commerce or population on the lakes. A great transformation has since occurred in that region. Rev- enue cutters of much larger tonnage were found to be needed for the enforcement of the customs laws, and it was held that a fair construction of the arrangement did not forbid these, even though carrying armament. During the Canadian rebellion and our Civil War the terms of the arrangement were temporarily disregarded by each party in turn without serious complaint, the exigencies of the time being recognized. The United States has for some years past maintained a naval ves- sel on the upper lakes for training purposes much above the tonnage prescribed. One of the stipulations was that no other vessel of war should be built or armed on these lakes. This provision has been held to be a prohibition against any vessels being there built for the American navy to be taken through the canals to the sea, thus depriving the large shipyards on the lakes of the privilege of bidding for the construction of naval vessels, although it could hardly have been the intent of the negotiators of the arrangement. It is so manifestly obsolete and unsuited to our times that the two governments have agreed to submit it to a complete revision by the British- American Commission constituted to adjust Canadian questions.

One of the subjects left unsettled by the treaty of peace of 1814 was the northeast fisheries on the coasts of Canada and Newfoundland. In the past


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century and a quarter no international question has been so often before the American people, and none has proved more irritating or difficult of a satisfactory solution. The effort of the British ministry to deprive the New England colonies of participation in these fish- eries was one of the moving causes of the war of the Revolution. We have seen how strenuously the Ameri- can negotiators of the treaty of peace and independ- ence of 1783 contended for and secured the right which they had enjoyed as colonies. Between that period and the war of 1812 the business of fishing had grown to very large proportions, and had become one of the most important industries of the country. Fifteen hundred American vessels had been known to be fishing at one time on the coast of Labrador alone. But all this came to an end with that war. Our com- missioners at Ghent, and especially John Quincy Adams, labored most persistently to secure an express stipula- tion in the treaty of peace recognizing the binding force of the provision in the treaty of 1783, but the British commissioners claimed that it had been lost by the war, and they refused to revive it by the treaty of peace.

Soon after the termination of hostilities the New England fishermen sought to reestablish their old busi- ness, but the British authorities, instigated by the Canadian fishermen, began to warn the American ves- sels away, and finally to seize them. This brought about a remonstrance from the American government, which was followed by a lengthy correspondence, in which it was contended by John Quincy Adams, as


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resident minister in London, and afterwards as secre- tary of state, that, as the treaty of 1783 was one of independence and partition of sovereign rights, it was permanent in its character, and that the fishing rights therein secured could no more be annulled by war than our independence.

The British government would not accept this con- tention, but signified its willingness to enter upon negotiations with a view to some settlement. Mr. Richard Rush was our minister to England, and with him in the negotiations was joined Albert Gallatin, at the time minister in Paris, a man of much political wisdom, and possessed of the full confidence of the administration. The result of their negotiations was the treaty of 1818, the first article of which fixed the American rights as to fishing in British- American wa- ters. It was a material retrenchment of the privileges contained in the treaty of 1783. It gave Americans the right to fish in certain specified territorial waters off the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, and to dry and cure their catch on certain of these coasts; but they renounced their former privileges as to all the other waters and coasts of Canada. They were, however, granted the privilege to resort to those waters for four purposes, to wit, shelter, repairs, wood, and water. 1

When this treaty was made the British government reserved the commerce and trade of its colonies exclu- sively for its own vessels, and the four privileges just enumerated were in the nature of a special concession

1 For official correspondence, 4 For. Rel. 348-407.


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to fishing vessels. But in 1830, and subsequently, by means of concurrent legislation and executive procla- mations, the former condition of trade was changed, and the ports of the British colonies and of the United States were opened to the free commerce of vessels of both nations. Thereupon the New England fisher- men claimed they were entitled to the same rights for their vessels in Canadian ports as were granted to other American vessels, such as the right to purchase supplies and bait, to land and transship cargoes and ship crews. The government of the United States has maintained this contention for many years, but it has been persistently refused by the Canadian and British governments. The question was held in abeyance during the operation of the reciprocity treaty of 1854, again during the operation of the fishery clauses of the treaty of 1871, and it was sought to be settled by the Bayard-Chamberlain treaty of 1888, which was rejected by the Senate.

The treaty for the purchase of Louisiana left unde- fined the western boundary with Mexico and the eastern boundary with Florida, and both were soon a matter of dispute. That treaty presents the anomaly of trans- ferring from one sovereignty to another a territory of immense extent without any pretense of setting forth its boundaries. When pressed by the American commissioners to perfect the treaty in this respect, Napoleon's answer was that he could only transfer what he had received from Spain, and in its terms, and he therefore directed that there should be textually embodied in the treaty the description contained in the


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cession from Spain, which is as follows : " His Catho- lic Majesty promises and engages on his part to cede to the French Kepublic . . . the colony or the pro- vince of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it, and such as it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states." When Napoleon's attention was called to the obscurity in the article on limits, and the incon- venience which might arise from it, he replied : " If an obscurity did not already exist, it would perhaps be good policy to put one there." l

The eastern boundary with Florida could not .be accurately delineated from the terms of the cession just quoted, but it was manifest to President Jefferson that the acquisition of that Spanish possession was a natural consequence of that of Louisiana, and that it was use- less to waste time in negotiations about the boundary when it would become a necessity to us to have the whole province. We have seen that he sought to carry out this idea by dispatching Monroe to Madrid in 1804, soon after the signing of the treaty of pur- chase of Louisiana. During the negotiations in Paris, Napoleon had promised to exert his good offices with the Spanish government to that end, but he took no further interest in the matter, and nothing came of Monroe's effort. The object was, however, kept con- stantly in view during both the Jefferson and Madison administrations, and was especially pressed in the latter term, in connection with the American claims growing out of the European wars.

1 Marbois's Louisiana, 286.


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When Monroe became President, renewed interest attached to the subject, both because of his intimate diplomatic acquaintance with it, and of the constant trouble and irritation occasioned by the inefficient rule of Spain over the territory. The Indians who in- habited it were a constant source of annoyance on account of their predatory excursions across the border, and it became necessary to keep a considerable portion of the American army in the vicinity to protect life and property. Added to this was the occupation of certain places in Spanish territory by bands of adven- turers or freebooters, who used them as a base of opera- tions for smuggling slaves into the United States and for violating the customs laws. These lawless acts became so flagrant, and in the face of them Spanish authority was so apparently helpless, that the govern- ment of the United States determined to take the mat- ter into its own hands. A naval force was dispatched to Amelia Island, on the east coast of Florida, the free- booters were expelled, and the island temporarily held by the naval force. 1

About the same time General Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans, was assigned to the command of the army on the Florida frontier. His instructions were to put a stop to the Indian raids, and to that end he was authorized, if necessary in hot pursuit, to follow them across the boundary line, but he was not to inter- fere with any Spanish occupation or posts. With his accustomed impetuosity he soon attacked the Indians, who, according to their custom, took refuge in Spanish 1 4.For. Rel. 183-202.


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territory, but were closely followed by Jackson, who scattered them in the swamps and destroyed their vil- lages. Not content with this, he marched upon the adjoining Spanish post of St. Marks, seized and occu- pied it; and thence proceeded with his army to the principal Spanish post of Pensacola, which he took against the protest of the Spanish commandant, who sailed away with his garrison to Havana. These acts, in violation of his instructions, Jackson justified on the ground that the seized post had been used by the Indians as bases of supplies and operations, with the countenance of the Spanish authorities.

But his aggressive measures were not confined to the Spaniards. During his military operations he had cap- tured two prominent British subjects, Ambrister and Arbuthnot, who, it was alleged, had aided and encour- aged the Indians in their incursions into American ter- ritory. They were tried by a drumhead court-martial, and upon evidence which would have made their con- viction before a civil court very uncertain, they were condemned to death, and, although one of them was recommended to clemency, Jackson caused them both to be promptly executed.

The general was hailed by the people en route to his home in Tennessee as a great hero and patriot, but we can well understand the consternation and perplexity with which the news was received in Washington. The President had been pushing as much as possible the negotiations for the peaceable acquisition of Florida, and he saw at once that unless Jackson's acts were promptly disavowed, the negotiations would not only


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be broken off, but war might be the consequence. In addition to this embarrassment the British government had to be placated, as the indignation of the kingdom was awakened by the summary executions. The Brit- ish Minister for Foreign Affairs said to Mr. Rush, after the difficulty had been adjusted, war might have been produced " if the Ministry had but held up a finger." 1

The President, after a Cabinet council, decided at once to disavow the acts as unauthorized, the Spanish posts were delivered back, and the American troops withdrawn. But the discussion and decision of the Cabinet were the subject years after of warm party disputes and personal animosities. Strange to say, the only member of the Cabinet to defend Jackson's course was Mr. Adams, the experienced diplomat; but on this, as on other occasions while Secretary of State, he was only manifesting his intense Americanism, which more than ever it became the duty of Monroe to temper with discretion. 2

The negotiations for the cession of Florida were very tedious, and Spanish subterfuges and delays often tried Mr. Adams's patience. They were also embarrassed by opposing influences in the United States. The sympathy of the American people had become strongly enlisted in behalf of the revolted Spanish colonies, which had for several years been carrying on a strug- gle against the mother country. Henry Clay had be- come their champion, and was seeking to obtain a recognition by our government of their independence,

1 3 Schouler's U. S. 71, 80.

2 4 For. Rel. 495-509 j 3 Schouler's U. S. 67-83.


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It had, in the presidency of Madison, granted them belligerent rights, and they had freely made use of our ports in furtherance of their military operations. In fact, the Spanish minister in Washington was kept busy in lodging complaints of the imperfect and partial enforcement of neutrality. To recognize their inde- pendence was to dismiss all hopes of a treaty acquisi- tion of Florida, which was the matter then most desired by the administration. On the other hand, .Mr. Clay contended that the recognition of the Spanish- Ameri- can republics ought no longer to be delayed, and that Florida was bound in the course of events to come to us. Besides, the Jackson invasion had been a warning to Spain that unless she gave heed to the solicitations of the American government, she might lose the pro- vince by force, and with it all compensation. The argu- ment of the situation to her was that she had better sell out than be driven out; and the treaty of cession was finally signed in February, 1819.

By its terms Florida was ceded to the United States in exchange for the assumption by the latter of all the claims of its citizens against Spain, and the sum of five millions of dollars was stipulated to be disbursed for that purpose. The treaty was also of value in that it determined by exact delineation the western boundary of the Louisiana territory. The latter was established along the Sabine River, thence to the Arkansas River, and along the 42d degree of latitude to the " South Sea," as it was called in the treaty, or the Pacific Ocean. We thus acquired our first treaty right of access to the Pacific, as the Louisiana territory never extended beyond the Rocky Mountains.


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The western boundary along the Sabine River was of more present importance then, because it surren- dered the claim, which had been put forward with much insistence, that Texas up to the Rio Grande was in- cluded in the Louisiana purchase. Laussat, the French prefect, who transferred the province of Louisiana to the United States, stated that the western boundary was the Rio Bravo (Grande), 1 and Mr. Jefferson, who made a careful study of the subject, maintained the same view. 2 Mr. Adams held strongly to this con- tention, and only yielded to the judgment of Monroe, who claimed that in due time Texas would be absorbed in the Union. The country was at that time in the throes of the Missouri slavery discussion, and the pru- dent judgment of Monroe was that it was not wise to complicate the acquisition of Florida with the doubtful claim to Texas, which would not fail to have the effect of strengthening the anti-slavery sentiment in the coun- try. 3

Adams, in signing the treaty, records in his diary that it is "perhaps the most important day of my life; . . . a great epoch in our history." 4 But he was

  • 2 For. Rel. 575.

2 8 Writings of Jefferson, 242.

8 For treaty questions, boundary, etc., 4 For. Rel. 422-625.

4 The diary of J. Q. Adams extends through his eventful life, and is a valuable contribution to the history of his times. It will be interesting to give a fuller extract than the sentence above quoted, to indicate the spirit in which he penned his journal. This extract recalls the exaltation of the elder Adams on the signing of the treaty of peace of 1782, al- ready cited. After giving a detailed account of the signing of the treaty, he writes : " It was perhaps one in the morning when I closed the day with ejaculations of fervent gratitude to the Giver of all good. It


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destined to still further delays before the treaty became a reality. It was submitted to the Senate, promptly and unanimously ratified by that body, and presented to the Spanish government for exchange of ratifications; but the king hesitated and asked for delay. Among the causes, real or alleged, were two prominent ones. After the treaty had been practically agreed upon, the king had made grants of large tracts of lands to three of his nobles, embracing about all the public lands in the province. These grants would deprive the United States of much of the benefits expected to be derived to its treasury by the cession, and the President insisted upon a clause abrogating them. The other cause of delay was a demand on the part of Spain that the United States should more stringently enforce its neu- trality laws, and should give an assurance that it would not recognize the independence of the revolted colonies. Much as the President desired the acquisition of Florida, he was not prepared to give the latter assurance.

These matters were the subject of anxious Cabinet deliberations on the eve of the assembling of Congress, and while the annual message was being prepared. The President was steering the ship of state between Scylla and Charybdis, having a desire in his public

was perhaps the most important day of my life. What the consequences may be of the compact this day signed with Spain is known only to the all-wise and all-beneficent Disposer of events, who has brought it about in a manner utterly unexpected, and by means the most extraordinary and unforeseen. . . . Let no idle and unfounded exultation take possession of my mind, as if I could ascribe to my own foresight or exertions any portion of the event. It is the work of an intelligent and all-embracing Cause." 4 Memoirs of J. Q. Adams, 274.


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utterances not to offend Spain on the one hand, nor on the other to put himself in hostility to the strong sympathy of the country for the Spanish- American republics. In the midst of the Cabinet conferences. Secretary Crawford, who was a treasure-house of anec- dotes, came forward with a narration of the experience of a Georgia governor who told his secretary to make the phrase of a certain executive document "a little more mysterious." It is reported that the story created a hearty laugh around the presidential table, and the hint was evidently followed in the message, which dwelt at much length on the long and unnecessary delays of Spain in the ratification of the treaty, but gave scant and vague consideration to the revolted colonies. 1 Mr. Adams records that the President adopted his advice, " that the less said about those republics, just now, the better, for independence and recognition would come in good time."

The delay in exchanging the treaty continued, not- withstanding the prudent course of the President, and when two years had nearly passed, Adams favored occu- pying Florida without the ratification, but more conser- vative counsels prevailed; and, finally, just two years after the signature, the treaty was promulgated. There was no assurance given of non-recognition of the Spanish- American states as a condition of the procla- mation of the treaty; and within two weeks thereafter President Monroe sent a message to Congress recom- mending such recognition, and this was favorably acted upon by Congress on May 4, 1822. It was followed

1 2 Richardson's Messages, 54, 58.


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by a strong protest on the part of the Spanish minis- ter, but by no more serious consequences. 1 It was sev- eral months after recognition before diplomatic repre- sentatives were appointed to the new republics, but early in 1825 ministers had been named for Mexico, Buenos Ayres, Chili, and Colombia. General Jackson was first nominated for Mexico, but suspecting it was an effort to suppress his ambition for the presidency, he declined with disdain the offer, and added a word of contempt for the usurping emperor, " the tyrant Iturbide." Adams also urged the appointment of Henry Clay as minister to Colombia, but President Monroe was not willing to appear to court the favor of so bitter an opponent of his administration.

The establishment of independent governments in North and South America, in connection with the de- signs of the monarchs of continental Europe to aid in their re-subjugation to Spain, led to the most important and far-reaching act of this administration, the pro- mulgation of what is known as the Monroe Doctrine.' As this subject is complicated with other questions, and has a history extending throughout the century, I have thought best to defer its consideration to a separate chapter devoted exclusively to it. 2

Another of the treaties negotiated under the direction of Secretary Adams was that with Russia, concluded in 1824, for the adjustment of our conflicting claims on the northwest coast of America and in the Pacific Ocean. The negotiations which led to this treaty were occasioned by the issuance, in 1821, of a ukase by the

i 5 For. Rel. 379, 380. See chapter xii.


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Emperor of Russia, claiming the territory on that coast down to the 51st degree of latitude, and exclusive jurisdiction over the ocean for one hundred miles from the coast and islands. The claim was at once met by an earnest protest from Mr. Adams as to the pretended ocean jurisdiction, and with a statement as to certain undefined rights of the United States to territory de- rived from discovery, occupation, and our treaty of 1819 with Spain. The British government followed the United States with a similar protest and by certain claims as to territory on its part. These claims were adjusted by a treaty between Russia and the United States in 1824, and between Russia and Great Britain in 1825. These treaties settled the respective claims of the United States and Great Britain with Russia; but the conflicting territorial claims of the two former gov- ernments remained open until 1846, when the Oregon boundary dispute was compromised. The stipulations of the treaties of 1824 and 1825 have been invoked in the recent discussions between the United States and Great Britain as to the Bering Sea seals and the Alaska boundary. 1

As some space has been given to the troubles of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison with the diplomatic corps growing out of Washington etiquette, it is due to Mr. Monroe to say that he was quite free from such annoyances. When he became President he saw fit to change the Jeffersonian regime at the Execu- tive Mansion, and to return somewhat more nearly

1 For Alaska boundary, see National Geographic Magazine, Washing- ton, November, 1899.


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towards that established by Washington at the organ- ization of the government. The presidential drawing- rooms were reestablished, or rather made more select, and certain social lines were observed. The President appeared sometimes on those occasions with a dress sword, as he valued his military service during the Kevolutionary War; and it is reported the White House servants were in livery. When he received foreign ministers, he was attired in a half military uni- form, or full dress suit of black; the diplomats ap- peared in their full court uniforms; and a certain ceremonious form of receiving their credentials was observed. Society at the capital had become enlarged, was more pretentious, and besides the President's official dinners, the Vice-President and Cabinet officers gave weekly dinners during the sessions of Congress, and the entertainments at the foreign legations, espe- cially of the British and French, were particularly noted. The war had apparently wrought a change in the social demeanor of the British representative; at any rate, the arrival of Sir Charles Bagot soon after the peace inaugurated a new era in Washington society, and this minister, a man of pleasing manner and noble family, established such a popularity and reputation for hospi- tality as none of his predecessors had attained.

To the successful management of our foreign rela- tions, Mr. Monroe had the satisfaction of adding the assurance of domestic harmony and good-will. His administration was termed the " era of good feeling," and he is the only president except Washington who has been chosen, as he was for his second term, without


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opposition. The aged John Adams congratulated him on an administration " which, as far as I know, has been without a fault; " and Chief Justice Marshall wrote : " The retrospect is not darkened bj a single spot."

The election of Adams to the presidency in 1824 was one of the most memorable political contests in our history, but it has no relation to our present study except as it is connected with the choice of his Secre- tary of State. The vote of the Electoral College was divided between the four candidates, Jackson receiving the highest number, Adams standing next, Crawford third, and Clay lowest on the list. No candidate hav- ing received a majority of all the votes, the election, in accordance with the constitutional provision, devolved upon the House of Representatives, and the votes of Clay's adherents being cast for Adams resulted in his choice. Preceding and immediately following the elec- tion it was charged that the result was brought about by a corrupt bargain, by the terms of which Mr. Clay was to be made Secretary of State. The latter indig- nantly denied the charge in a public card, but the story continued to be repeated by the combined opposition.

Upon his inauguration Mr. Adams confirmed the prediction of his opponents by sending Mr. Clay's nomi- nation to the Senate, by which after a strong opposi- tion it was confirmed. The " corrupt bargain " has been conclusively shown to have had no existence, but then and for a long time after it obtained wide cre- dence in the country and greatly exasperated Mr. Clay. Still, for a considerable period no responsible person


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seemed willing to publicly countenance the story, until finally, after Mr. Clay had been for more than a year in charge of the State Department, the eccentric John Randolph, in public debate in Congress, plainly refer- ring to this charge, characterized Adams and Clay as " the coalition of Blifil and Black George the com- bination ... of the Puritan and the black-leg." Al- though Mr. Clay only a few months before, in an address to the people of Kentucky, had declared his " deep abhorrence of ... the pernicious practice " of dueling, and urged that a public sentiment ought to be formed which would " unite in its unqualified pro- scription," he nevertheless promptly challenged Ran- dolph to mortal combat. He was in deadly earnest, and in the two shots which were exchanged, Mr. Clay's bullet twice pierced Randolph's clothing, but the latter fired in the air. Not since the Hamilton-Burr duel had the country been so excited regarding "the code," but as in this instance it was bloodless in its character, con- demnation of the practice was by no means universal. Mr. Benton, long after, in recording the details of the event in his " Thirty Years in the Senate," says : " It was about the last high-toned duel that I have wit- nessed, and among the highest-toned I have ever wit- nessed." 1

Randolph's term, " The Puritan and the black-leg," was a well-understood allusion to Mr. Clay's indulgence in the practice, so common at that day, of playing cards for high stakes. Mr. Adams, in his faithful and all- embracing diary, refers to this habit of his secretary,

1 1 Benton's Thirty Years in the Senate, 77.


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whose losses at times were said to reach sums which he could ill afford. A friendly foreign critic of our insti- tutions, in referring to the social conditions which sur- rounded Secretary Clay, speaks of the " capital in the wilderness, with but little of general society to temper the roughness of the legislators and mitigate the vio- lence of party conflicts. The presence of slavery was not conducive either to good manners or virtue. No wonder if politics at Washington were somewhat crude, if affrays and duels were not uncommon, if the dullness of senatorial boarding-houses were too often relieved by drinking and gambling, and their lack of domestic happiness by connections to which slavery everywhere opens the door." 1 The glimpses we have of our earlier statesmen lead to the consoling suggestion that, how- ever imperfect may be the present standard of political life and social morality, at least some progress has been made since the earlier years of the century.

Aside from the inaptness of the selection on account of " the corrupt bargain " charge, the choice of Mr. Adams of his Secretary of State appeared singular in view of the striking difference in their temperaments and of their past relations. I have already referred to the wrangles which occurred between them in the peace negotiations of 1814. During Mr. Adams's term as secretary, Mr. Clay had been conspicuous in Congress in attacking his conduct and policy and in harassing the administration. But the President entered upon his duties with a sense of patriotism high above per- sonal or party considerations, and would have given i Goldwin Smith's Hist. U. S. 149.


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places in his Cabinet to the other two presidential oppo- nents, but they declined them, an example which was successfully followed by Mr. Lincoln in 1861. Besides, Mr. Clay had been an aspirant for the same position when Mr. Monroe became President, and was the most prominent leader of his party. It is greatly to the credit of both men and an evidence of their high states- manship that their relations during the entire term were harmonious, and that they separated at its close with cordial esteem for each other.

Mr. Clay's incumbency of the department was marked by no foreign complications of a "serious character. The most important feature was the Panama Congress of the American Republics, which will be treated here- after in connection with the Monroe Doctrine. It was a busy term, in which more treaties were negotiated and signed than during the whole period since the adoption of the Constitution. The feature especially prominent in these treaties was the principle of com- mercial reciprocity which has controlled the conduct of the government ever since, to wit, that privileges granted by treaty for a valuable consideration could only be secured by a third nation for a similar consid- eration. His brilliant qualities and genial manners made Mr. Clay a great favorite in the diplomatic corps. But the confinement of the office work, so dissimilar to his long congressional life, and the worry of the " cor- rupt bargain " slander seriously affected his health, and he welcomed the end of his term of office, which en- abled him to return to the more congenial sphere of debate and active politics. It is a temptation to digress


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from the course I have marked out for this work, and follow the career of one of the most interesting and attractive of our public men, but it lies henceforth entirely beyond the sphere of diplomacy.

For twenty-eight years, through four succeeding ad- ministrations, from 1801 to 1829, the office of secretary of state had proved the stepping-stone to the presi- dency, but with the defeat of Mr. Clay by General Jack- son in 1828 the line of succession was broken and has never been renewed. With the exit of Mr. Adams we mark the end of administration by statesmen whose ser- vices date back to the foundation of the government, and men of quite a different character and calibre now succeed to the presidency for a long series of years.