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TO THE EARL OF CARYSFOOT 1
WASHINGTON, 3 May, 1821.
I request the favor of your Lordship's acceptance of a copy of a report upon weights and measures recently made to the Senate of the United States. In offering this feeble testimonial of my lasting remembrance of the kindness which I have, at different periods and distant intervals of time and place, experienced from you, I indulge the hope that the subject of the report itself will not be without peculiar interest to you, from the circumstance that your Lordship's father was the chairman of the committee of the House of Commons which, in 1758, led the way to those inquiries into the history of the weights and measures of England, of which this report is one of the results.
More than half a century has elapsed since he made the report of that committee to the House, and the subject yet remains in deliberation as well before the imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, as before the Congress of the United States of America. Called in the discharge of an official duty to report upon this subject to the latter of those bodies, it has been to me one of the sources of satisfaction with which the researches required by the call were pursued, to reflect that for much of the information obtained by them I was indebted to the labors of your father. A satisfaction mingled with regret, from the fact that I have been unable ever to obtain sight of the report of the committee of 1758, or of that of 1759, by which it was succeeded, and have known them only by the reference to them of the late
1 John Joshua Proby (1751-1828), British minister at the court of Berlin, when Adams was the American minister.
writers on English weights and measures, and by the extracts from them published with the report of the committee of the House of Commons in 1814.
It has occurred to me as possible that your Lordship may have it in your power to indicate where copies of the reports of 1758 and 1759 might yet be found, elsewhere than among the records of Parliament. Should this be the case, may I ask the favor of your notifying it by a line to Mr. Rush, the minister of the United States at London, who will then procure them and forward them to me?
I am happy to avail myself of this occasion of requesting in behalf of Mrs. Adams your Lordship to present the remembrance of her grateful and affectionate attachment to Lady Carysfoot.
I have the honor, etc.1
1 This report on "Weights and Measures" had occupied Adams for more than three years. The correspondence upon it was voluminous, and the mass of notes, calculations, comparisons and applied tests prove his breadth of investigation and his care for accuracy. The report still holds a position of authority and is a striking example of Adams' industry and capacity for mastering a difficult subject in the intervals of much engrossing official duties. He sent a copy of the report to Prince Talleyrand, accompanied by the following note:
"To the Prince de Talleyrand, the first proposer of a concerted effort of civilized and commercial nations for the introduction of a system of weights and measures, uniform, permanent, and universal, the report herewith transmitted, in which the importance of that idea to the happiness and improvement of mankind is urged in the sincerity of conviction, is presented as a token of respect to him from whom it originated." Washington City, 1 May, 1821.
Another copy was sent to the distinguished astronomer, Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre (1749–1822), a member of the Board of Longitude, with this dedication: "Author and editor of the Basse de Système Métrique, the volume herewith transmitted, in which a feeble tribute is rendered to the extent and importance of his services to the cause of human happiness and improvement, by his labors for the introduction of a system of weights and measures suitable to universal application, is presented as a testimonial of respect by
"City of Washington, 1 May, 1821."
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS"
TO HYDE DE NEUVILLE
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, II May, 1821.
In the communication from the Baron de Neuville, received on the 14th of April, an abstract was presented of six proposed articles, for arranging by a convention the commercial intercourse between the United States and France.
Of these articles, the first, second and third, were adapted to secure, by concessions on the part of the United States, important advantages to the commerce and navigation of France. They were articles not of mutual operation, equally, or at least reciprocally, beneficial to both parties, but of which the whole benefit would be for France, and the whole sacrifice or concessions on the part of the United States.
The fourth article was also exclusively for the benefit of France. It was a reduction of the discriminating duties of the United States in favor of French vessels laden with French productions or manufactures, generally and without exception.
The fifth article offered a reduction, indefinite, of the discriminating duties imposed in France, upon four specific articles, and no more, of American produce, when imported from the United States into France in American vessels.
The sixth article proposed to settle the tonnage duties on both sides, on principles of reciprocity.
This project, therefore, consisted of one article of reciprocal benefit; one article of partial equivalent to the United States, for a corresponding article of general benefit to France; and three articles exclusively for the advantage of France, without any equivalent whatsoever.
In the memorandum transmitted on the 18th of April to
the Baron de Neuville, as an answer to the above proposals, the offer was made to agree to the three articles, the operation of which would be exclusively favorable to France. The only equivalent asked for, which was that the sale of American tobacco in France should be released from the shackles of a monopoly, and placed on the footing of all other articles of the traffic between the two countries.
And it was proposed that all discriminating duties and surcharges, whether of tonnage upon vessels or upon the articles of traffic, should be abolished on both sides, and the principle of perfect reciprocity be substituted for them.
In the reply of the Baron de Neuville, dated the 21st of April, he observes that commercial concessions, being only of secondary consideration, may for the present be altogether set aside, and proposes to adjust the navigation question alone.
To which purpose he proposes a basis founded upon two principles: one, that the discriminating duties on both sides should be reduced; the other, that the reduction should be so modified that the vessels of both countries might share in the conveyance of the articles of trade between them.
However reluctant the American government must naturally feel at acceding to a basis, the avowed object of which was to burden the shipping of the United States for the benefit of the shipping of France; at consenting to deprive by unequal incumbrances their own navigation of advantages which it possessed; yet even this basis was not rejected; and in a note from this Department of 26 April, the Baron de Neuville was requested to specify, in the form of an article, what reduction of the discriminating duties on both sides he would consider as suitable to the views of France, and likely upon the principle of mutual concession to be just to the interests and satisfactory to the feelings of both countries.
It has not been without surprise and concern, that in the reply to this note, the President has seen, not the specification desired of a single article, setting aside, as proposed by the Baron de Neuville himself, the commercial concessions as secondary; nor even a return to the project first presented; but a third project in five articles, not only blending again together the navigating and the commercial concessions, but advancing new and additional claims of articles exclusively favorable to France; and suggesting that other indispensable articles must follow, without even an intimation what the purport of those articles would be, or to what they relate.
The objects of discussion and suitable for adjustment between the two countries are various, and encumbered with difficulties in various degree. But there is one, which in the present state of things bears with peculiar hardship upon the interests of both countries; and must continue so to bear so long as it shall remain unadjusted. It is in the power of the two governments, by an immediate agreement, to remove this altogether, and to restore the commercial intercourse between them through the medium of their own navigation. Every day of delay to the adjustment adds to the injuries suffered from the present state of things by both parties. Not only commercial concessions, as remarked by the Baron de Neuville, but all the other subjects of negotiation between the two governments are secondary to this. It was therefore with much satisfaction that in the Baron de Neuville's note of 21 April the President perceived a proposal to arrange this interest, first of all, and separately from all others. Pursuing this idea, I am authorized to propose, that the discriminating duties as at present existing, as well upon vessels as their cargoes, shall cease on both sides; that in their stead the tonnage duties and all charges upon the vessel shall be equalized, as proposed by the Baron de Neu