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We are of opinion that Congress has a right under the powers vested in it by the Constitution to make a regulation prohibiting slavery in a territory.

We are also of opinion that the eighth section of the act which passed both houses on the 3d instant for the admission of Missouri into the Union is consistent with the Constitution, because we consider the prohibition as applying to territories only and not to




WM. WIRT, Attorney Genl. U. S.

My answer to the within questions is in the affirmative, and would add that in my opinion the eighth section of the act applies only to Territories.


Deposited by the President in the Department of State. 1


20 March, 1820.

By the communications lately received from St. Petersburg and Madrid, as well those of an official character from Mr. Campbell and Mr. Forsyth as others more indirect and informal, it appears that the Russian government takes an earnest interest in the late transactions between the United States and Spain; that they have a full knowledge of the facts relating to the negotiation of the Florida treaty, and have manifested unequivocally the opinion that Spain was bound in good faith to ratify it. In consequence of which 1 The original paper was not found in the Department of State when search was made for it about 1870. Ib., v. 15n.

2 Adams, Memoirs, March 18, 20-25, 1820.

* See "Correspondence of the Russian Ministers in Washington, 1818-1825," in American Historical Review, XVIII. 309, 537.

it appears that the Russian minister to Spain, who was at St. Petersburg upon a leave of absence, had been ordered to return to Madrid. That in the meantime the Russian chargé d'affaires there had made such representations to the Spanish government as had drawn from them the strongest assurances of the king's desire and determination to settle amicably the differences with the United States. That Mr. Onis, who is known since his return to Europe to have declared uniformly and explicitly that he understood the grants to have been declared null by the treaty, has been appointed Spanish minister to Russia, and that the appointment by the king of Spain of General Vivés to come as Minister to the United States has been officially communicated by the Duke of San Fernando to Mr. Forsyth, but that he had not left Madrid on the 10th of January. The information from Mr. Everett that General Vivés was at Paris in December having proved to be erroneous, though given on the authority of the Spanish chargé d'affaires at The Hague, Mr. Forsyth thinks that General Vivés will not arrive here earlier than the month of May.1

1 Vivés had, in February passed through Paris, on his way to Liverpool, and had conferred with Pasquier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on his mission to the United States. Pasquier on February 12 informed Gallatin of this conference, who reported to Adams as follows: "General Vivés had told him that the principal points with Spain were that the honor of the Crown should be saved (mis à couvert) in the business of the grants, and to receive satisfactory evidence of our intention to preserve a fair neutrality in the colonial war. Mr. Pasquier had observed to him that it would be a matter of deep regret that private interest should prevent the conclusion of such an important arrangement, and that when it was clear that there had been at least a misunderstanding on the subject, the King's dignity could not be injured by a resumption of the grants or by an exchange for other lands. . . . He had expressed to General Vives his opinion of the impropriety of asking from the United States any promise not to recognize the independence of the insurgent colonies, and had told him that, on that subject, Spain could only rely on the moral effect which a solemn treaty, accommodating all her differences with the United States would have on their future proceedings." From Vivés Gallatin

It is also ascertained that the Emperor of Russia earnestly wishes that no act of hostility on the part of the United States may in the present state of things intervene to endanger the general peace of Europe.

The sentiments of France in this respect are known to coincide with those of Russia, and the recent disturbances in Spain, although they may render it more certain that possession might be taken of Florida without hazarding a war, yet in the reasoning of a generous policy, may plead for a new proof of moderation and forbearance on the part of the United States.

It is suggested in Mr. Forsyth's dispatch that Spain may herself wish that the United States take forcible possession of Florida, with the expectation that she might under that circumstance contend with a better grace for a confirmation of the grants. It may be worthy of consideration whether the occasion even for this pretext should not be withheld from her.


There is a delicacy and some danger in making some of the important facts publicly known at this time, but it is submitted to the President's judgment, whether in the present aspect of affairs it would be advisable by a message to Congress 1 to state that while the most recent information from Europe forbids the expectation of the arrival of the Spanish minister before the close of their present session, learned that he was not the bearer of the certificates of ratification of the treaty, but he could "in case of an arrangement, give satisfactory security to the United States, and that it would consist in consenting that they should take immediate possession of Florida, without waiting for the ratification of the treaty." Adams, Writings of Gallatin, II. 134. Almost a month passed after Vivés' visit before the King of Spain declared his acceptance of the constitution, which gave opportunity to urge its restriction on his power to alienate national territory as a reason for delaying ratification of the treaty with the United States.

1 See Monroe's message to Congress, March 27, 1820. Messages and Papers of the Presidents, II. 69; Adams, Memoirs, March 31, 1820.

incidents have arisen which in the opinion of the President make it expedient that no step for the forcible occupation of Florida should be taken before the next meeting of Congress, and that he is not without hopes that amicable arrangements may during the recess be made with Spain, which will preclude the necessity of resorting to that measure.1



WASHINGTON, April 21, 1820. a. F

I am directed by the President of the United States to express to you the surprise and concern with which he has

1 "I return you the note of the Spanish minister with your draft of a reply, with such modifications as the short time I have had it in my possession has enabled me to make. . . . Among those proposed is the entire omission of what relates to Mr. Forsyth. The minister does not press his complaint, and as we cannot altogether justify Mr. F., and know that the public have disapproved the tone he assumed, I am inclined to think that perfect silence in regard to him is the most advisable." Monroe to Adams, April 15, 1820. Ms. Poletica reported to Nesselrode (February 12, 1820): "Le ton de la correspondance de Mr. Forsyth avec le Ministre Espagnol est maintenant presque généralement désaprouvé et l'on attribue la faute à Mr. Adams, qui en avait donné le premier exemple dans sa correspondance avec le chevalier Onis antérieurement à la conclusion du Traité."

"It is worthy consideration whether it will not be most advisable to decline all discussion with the Spanish minister and simply to consider his government in the wrong in not having ratified the treaty within the time stipulated, and to call on him for the proper reparation at this time. I fear if you enter on the subject at all, by replying to his specific heads, that he will prolong the discussion to indefinite length. I wish you to reflect on this, and to bring with you a short note to this effect, to be taken into view at the same time, as an alternate plan, provided it will not occasion improper delay." Monroe to Adams, April 17, 1820. Ms.

2 He arrived in Washington, March 9, as Spanish minister in succession to Onis, but did not present his credentials to the President until April 12. See Gallatin to J. Q. Adams, February 15, 1820, Adams, Writings of Gallatin, II. 133; Adams, Memoirs, April 7.

Adams had prepared, on April 19, the draft of a note to the Spanish minister,

learned that you are not the bearer of the ratification by his Catholic Majesty of the treaty signed on the 22d February, 1819, by Don Luis de Onis, by virtue of a full power equally comprehensive with that which you have now produced, a full power, by which his Catholic Majesty promised on the faith and word of a king, to approve, ratify, and fulfil whatsoever might be stipulated and signed by him."

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By the universal usage of nations, nothing can release a sovereign from the obligation of a promise thus made, except the proof that his minister, so impowered, has been faithless to his trust, by transcending his instructions.

Your sovereign has not proved, nor even alleged, that Mr. Onis had transcended his instructions; on the contrary, with the credential letter which you have delivered, the President has learned that he has been relieved from the mission to the United States only to receive a new proof of the continued confidence of his Catholic Majesty in the appointment to another mission of equal dignity and importance.

On the faith of this promise of the king, the treaty was signed and ratified on the part of the United States, and it contained a stipulation that it should also be ratified by his Catholic Majesty, so that the ratifications should, within six months from the date of its signature, be exchanged.

In withholding this promised ratification beyond the stipu

having positively learned from Vives that he did not bring the Spanish ratification of the treaty of 1819, and could give only pledges for a future performance conditional upon satisfactory answers to proposals to be submitted to the United States. Calhoun objected that this would mean a new negotiation which might be long condoned, and suggested it would be best to refuse to negotiate again and insist on bringing the matter to a close. Accordingly a new note was prepared, as above, approved by the cabinet and sent to Vivés.

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