Page images



WASHINGTON, 28th May, 1822.


I thank you heartily for your cheering voice in the midst of my trial, a trial by God and my country, upon a charge of treachery to her interests and to my duty — a charge by an associate in the trust and by his own showing a participator in the offence. To such a charge in all the bitterness and all the violence of party conflicts I had never before been subjected, and when from the bottom of my soul I believed that the very gist of the charge was the most important service I had ever rendered to my country, it was too much for my patience to endure. I thought it a point of obligation to the public morals, not only to vindicate myself and my colleagues, but to put my assailant upon the defensive. We shall see what hand he will make of it.

As for me, since this fashion of Secretary hunting has set in I know not what other charges await me, nor when they will be brought forth, nor how they will be managed; but being devotionally inclined I pray God that all my accusers may have as little foundation as he had, and that in the development of their projects they may be guided by that same retributive spirit which brought him with his duplicate in the fancied security that the original was irretrievably lost. . .

Being with sincere respect, etc.



WASHINGTON, 30th May, 1822.

I return you my letter of the 20th which, as containing the expression of my sentiments and feelings, I have no motive for withholding from you.

The publication of a third edition of Mr. Russell's letter in the National Gazette of the 10th instant is an incident of no inconsiderable interest in the history of this transaction.

In your favor of the 15th instant you mention having received it from Mr. R. M. Patterson, an intimate friend of his. As I understand your letter it was through that gentleman from Mr. Russell himself.

Mr. Russell left this city for Philadelphia on the 4th or 5th of this month. I conclude it was after that, and on his passage through, that he furnished the copy for publication in the National Gazette. If I am correct in this conjecture, I will thank you to confirm it. The two letters of Mr. Russell of 25th December, 1814, and 11th February, 1815, were a part of the NEGOTIATIONS of Ghent with which I had been entirely unacquainted, until upon the first call1 of Dr. Floyd 2 for the residue of the Ghent treaty documents. I, on examining the files of the Department to answer the call, found the short letter of 25th December. Dr. Floyd's call was for the correspondence which led to the conclusion of the treaty of Ghent. It did not therefore strictly include this letter written after the signature of the treaty. But as an improper inference might have been drawn from the withholding of the letter, I asked Mr. Russell himself whether he 1 January 16, 1822.

2 John Floyd (1770-1837).

would choose that it should be communicated to the House or not. He first said that it was a private letter which he did not wish should be made public, but upon further reflection he said he would be glad to see it. He expressed also the wish to see the other documents of the negotiation and the official records of the instructions to the Commissioners at Ghent, in all which he was indulged to the extent of his wishes. After having made this examination he told me there was a subsequent letter which he had written from Paris to the Secretary of State, as promised in the letter of 25th December, and which he wished might be also communicated to the House. Repeated searches were made on the files of the Department for this letter, but it was not found. I had never heard of the existence of this letter before he thus told me of it himself. The answer to Mr. Floyd's call for the Ghent papers was delayed a week or ten days for repeated searches to find the letter. It became at last necessary to answer the call of the House, and the papers were sent including the short letter of 25th December. On the 19th of April the House adopted Dr. Floyd's second call, which was specifical for the letter promised in that of 25 December. In the editorial article of the National Gazette of the 10th it is said that you learn from good authority that Mr. Russell had no share in the call for his private letter. Mr. Daniel Brent states in writing that Mr. Russell told him that Dr. Floyd's call for the private letter had been made at his, Russell's, suggestion. The call was not made until he was ready to produce the letter himself. The resolution passed the house on the 19th of April, Friday, and on Monday the 22nd he delivered the duplicate at the Department. He had sent to Mendon 1 for the copy of his real letter in the interval between the first and second calls, and after having 1 Massachusetts, his place of residence.

learnt that the letter was not to be found at the Department. The moment I read this duplicate I was convinced that certain parts of it, and especially the prophetic paragraph,1 had not been written in February, 1815, at Paris. Yet that he should have falsified his own letter to produce it in the face of Congress and of the nation appeared to me so shocking a supposition that I scarcely dared to trust myself in believing it. Knowing indeed as I did what had actually passed at Ghent, I saw immediately that the whole letter was a fable; yet the variation of the copy seemed to require a degree of assurance hardly conceivable against the bare possibility that the original might yet be found.

From that moment too I saw that a public controversy was unavoidable, and that its proper scene for me was the hall of the House of Representatives, the spot where by this letter the majority of the Ghent mission were thus to be arraigned by one of their own associates in the face of the whole nation. I took the letter to the President, requested him attentively to read it, and then to have search made among his private papers to see if the original could be found. The search was accordingly made and it was found. My own wish thenceforward was that both the letters should be communicated to the House, together with my remarks upon them. The President, who of course wished to take no part in the controversy, preferred stating the circumstances to the House leaving them to determine whether to repeat the call or not. The last call was made at my desire. and was opposed by Dr. Floyd and other friends of Mr. Russell. He himself in the meantime had left the city, but not without having an explanation from me face to face of the opinions which I entertained of his letters, in which I pointed out to him the differences between them, and showed him

1 Duplicate Letters, 91.

in the records of the Department the copy of the letter of instruction of 19th October, 1814, which substantially cancelled the paragraph of the instructions of 15th April, 1813, of which he has made such notable use in the duplicate and in the National Gazette of the 10th instant.

I have given you this detail that you may be fully aware not only of the real nature of the transaction, but of the degree in which he succeeded to make the National Gazette instrumental to his purposes in the production of this letter. The charge of violated instructions and the citation of the cancelled paragraph were what he knew would tell in the western country more than all the rest of the letter, and by the publication in the National Gazette he hoped to forestall public opinion where the refutation might never reach or reach too late for operation. With the notice that you have taken of the variation between the original and the Gazette copy I am satisfied; nor is it my wish that you should at any time further manifest any opinion favorable to me or otherwise to him in connection with this affair. Nor shall I inquire what your sentiment is with regard to his candor towards yourself, in making the National Gazette the vehicle by deception practiced upon you of an imposture, deliberately planned for the purpose of devoting me to ruin in the good opinion of my country.

You tell me in your letter of the 22nd instant that the country will be satisfied. I hope it will. I have said and I repeat that I would be content to leave the cause to the verdict of western intelligence. But prejudice will not be satisfied, and there is no rag so shabby but jealousy will take it for a handkerchief.

As to the navigation of the Mississippi, subject to the restrictions and limitations expressly prescribed in our proposal, I certainly thought little of the objections started

« PreviousContinue »