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TO LOUISA CATHERINE ADAMS
MY DEAREST FRIEND:
WASHINGTON, 11 August, 1821.
Your letter of the 3rd instant only reached me yesterday. You reason exceedingly well, both upon my real character and upon that of which I have unfortunately got the reputation. I always receive with deference your counsel which I know to be generally judicious, and invariably intended in kindness to me. On the present occasion, however, I have many special reasons for the request in my former letter with which you promise to comply, though at the same time you dissuade me from it. I beg on this occasion to be indulged with my humor. I well know that I never was and never shall be what is commonly termed a popular man, being as little qualified by nature, education, or habit, for the arts of a courtier, as I am desirous of being courted by others. Such as I am I envy not the reputation of any other man in the Union. There is not another man in the Union, excepting the Presidents past and present, who receives or continues to receive from the people of this country indications of esteem and confidence more distinguished and flattering than I have. With the exception of one signal mark of dissatisfaction from the legislature of my native state thirteen years since, my life has been one continual succession for more than five and twenty years of high, of honorable and important trusts, and of literary and scientific distinctions all conferred without any of those blandishments by which some others acquire esteem or favors. If ever man had reason to be grateful for the portion of public consideration which has been shown him, it is I, and I trust I am grateful for it. I am certainly not intentionally re
pulsive in my manners and deportment, and in my public station I never made myself inaccessible to any human being. But I have no powers of fascination; none of the honey which the profligate proverb says is the true fly-catcher; and be assured, my dear friend, it would not be good policy for me to affect it. The attempt would make me ridiculous because it would be out of nature.
The fatal duel between Fox and H. Randall 1 had well nigh been followed by another between Captain Randall and Lieutenant Kirk who lodged at Mrs. Coolidge's. But both the parties have been arrested, and it is said that an explanation and accommodation have taken place between them.
The theatre has been opened this week but is very thinly attended. Mr. Wood delivered an address in verse, said to have been written by Mr. Joseph Ingersoll. The company is a good one, but has no special attraction to fill the house. Booth is to come, but is now at Petersburg in Virginia.
Your ever affectionate husband.
TO STRATFORD CANNING
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, 15 August, 1821.
Your letter of the first of June last, together with its enclosures, has been submitted to the consideration of the President of the United States.
In the former correspondence between us in relation to the proposals of the British government to the United States inviting their accession to certain regulations which had been
1 See Sabine, Notes on Duels and Duelling, 178.
agreed upon in treaties between Great Britain and some other powers, for a concert of operations having in view the suppression of the African slave trade, the reasons were at some length assigned which restrained the American government from assenting to those regulations. As the simple fact, that the American government declined acceding to the proposals of your government, can scarcely render justice to their determination, and as the motives for it appear to have been misunderstood, I am instructed now to expose them in more detail, in evidence of the earnestness and sincerity with which the United States have pursued, and still pursue, the common and important object, the suppression of the trade.
Long and earnestly as the government of the United States have been engaged in contributing their exertions to that result, they have necessarily considered the range of their means for its accomplishment as limited by two principles: first, the boundaries of their own authority delegated to them in the constitution of the United States; and secondly, the respect due by them to the independence of other nations. The means of co-operation for the suppression of the trade, urged upon the acceptance of the United States by the proposals of Great Britain, and exemplified by her treaties with Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, were that the citizens of the United States engaged in commerce upon the high seas should be liable under certain circumstances, in time of peace, to have their vessels searched, and with their persons seized, and carried away by the naval officers of a foreign power, subjected to the decision of a tribunal in a foreign land, without benefit of the intervention of a jury of accusation, or of a jury of trial, by a court of judges and umpires, half of whom would be foreigners, and all irresponsible to the supreme authorities of the United States. To such modes
of trial and by such forms of process were the citizens of this Union to be subjected under charges for offences against the laws of their country.
The United States had very recently issued from a war with Great Britain, principally waged in resistance to a practice of searching neutral merchant vessels for men, in time of war, exercised by Great Britain, as the United States deems, in violation of the laws of nations. A proposal involving the exercise in time of peace of this same practice of search, though for different purposes, could not be acceded to by the American government consistently with their principles. Inadmissible as under any circumstances whatever they must have deemed this right of search to be, it was in one of the treaties to the stipulations of which their accession was invited presented under an aspect of peculiar import; authorizing its exercise in the case even of vessels under the convoy of a ship of war of their own nation. Under the operation of this provision the commander of an American convoy was not only to witness the search, seizure, and carrying away by a foreign naval officer, for offences against the laws of this country, of its own vessels under his immediate protection, but was to give every facility to
There appeared to the American government to be no conceivable combination of circumstances which could render the provisions of this stipulation necessary or proper, for the proposed co-operation to suppress the slave-trade, since a vessel under convoy of its own nation must always be amenable to the examination, search, and seizure of its commander, thereby rendering the intrusion of a foreign officer for the same purpose as unnecessary and useless for the end proposed as it is otherwise objectionable in itself.
If both these expedients had an aspect little reconcilable
to the independence of nations, other measures appertaining to the system exhibited features equally inauspicious to individual rights. Among the securities in the political institutions of the Union deemed the most important and precious to individual liberty are the rules established to shield from oppression the rights of persons accused of crimes. The constitution of the United States among other humane and beneficent provisions in their favor had ordained that they should be called to answer no other accusation than that of a grand jury, that they should be sentenced only upon a verdict of a jury of trial, and that they should be tried only by judges, themselves responsible to the justice of their country by the process of impeachment.
To agree to treaty stipulations in violation of these principles was not within the competent authority, or not within the just discretion, of the American government. They could neither sacrifice the individual rights of their citizens, by subjecting them to trial for offences against their municipal statutes, before foreign judges in countries beyond the seas, nor the rights of national independence by authorizing foreign naval officers to search and seize any American vessel, and still less a convoyed vessel, in the very presence of the American commander of the convoy. The reasons for declining these engagements were assigned to the British government in terms as explicit as was thought compatible with the spirit of conciliation which it was desirable to preserve throughout the discussion, and have remained without reply.
To the opinion strongly expressed in your letter the inefficiency of the measures proposed on the part of the United States as a substitute for those deemed by your government to be alone adapted to the attainment of the end, namely, the concession of the mutual right of search, it might be replied that neither the experience of the respective measures