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your very special care, after you shall have perused them, to send them back to me. If as I apprehend is possible this correspondence begins to grow oppressive to you, I will forbear pursuing it further.
I remain, etc.
TO ROBERT WALSH
WASHINGTON, 21st June, 1822.
Your letters of the 11th and 16th instants have been duly received and with the latter the budget which I had sent you relating to the fisheries. I am duly sensible to your obliging offer of communicating to the public any observations which may be necessary and appropriate to my defence against that war of defamation which, according to your friends of the Richmond Enquirer, did not commence till I was hors de combat. So that it seems my ci-devant Ghent colleague was employed to stab me three or four times after I was dead, that he might claim the reward for having despatched me himself.
When I see Mr. Jefferson, with the snows of fourscore winters upon his head and with all the claims of a life devoted to the service of his country and of mankind to the veneration of all, hunted in the face of evidence as a fraudulent peculator of a sum less than 1200 dollars by "a native of Virginia" with a malignity and pertinacity equal to but not surpassing the address and cunning of the accusation, I am willing to forget the charges equally false and equally base of the same native of Virginia against myself. That his charges against me are all as false as that against Mr. Jeffer1 See Writings of Jefferson (Ford), X. 208.
son I affirm, and have proved to the satisfaction of the Committee of Congress upon the expenditures in the Department of State. Their report was I believe published in the National Gazette, and I now mention it, because by your naming the native of Virginia I thought you might perhaps have some reference to his charges against me.
The Richmond Enquirer is sensitive enough (not too much so) to the baseness of the denunciation of Mr. Jefferson by "a native of Virginia;" but when a "Native of Massachusetts" with equal malice and with deeper depravity falls foul of me, and compels me to retort upon him in self-defence, the Enquirer is ready to shout for joy at the sight of two Massachusetts men in conflict with each other, and delights in the anticipation that they will both lose character by the controversy - an observation which might with as much propriety be made by the winner and the loser of what the governor of Virginia calls "Property acquired by crime" upon the highway.
The Richmond Enquirer does not approve of me for next President for the United States. This declaration is fair and candid, nor have I a word to say in objection to it; but when in setting forth my sins it charges me with a proposal to let the British into the heart of our country, it is neither fair, nor candid, nor true. And as it considered me hors de combat for the Presidency even before the last kick which is to prove my coup de grâce, to join in the slander upon me was as needless as it was ungenerous. If the editors of the Richmond Enquirer1 and of a dozen other newspapers in the United States would sincerely and honestly consider me as hors de combat, they would save themselves much of the labor they are yet to undergo in flirting from their scavenger carts mud in my face to finish me.
1 Thomas Ritchie and
Sex Richmand Ferquists March 3, 1820 (Friday)
Situated as I am I well know how hopeless a task it would be to attempt the refutation of the falsehoods which are constantly circulating against me in the newspapers. For every amputated head of the hydra there will always be two new ones to shoot up. Slander is the first and most efficacious of electioneering engines among us, but newspaper slander is not that which has operated or will operate most unfavorably to me. An undercurrent of calumny has been flowing and will continue to flow in every direction throughout the Union, nothing of which appears in the newspapers, but it goes in whispers and in private correspondence. It is a branch of the caucusing system, and it adapts its movements to the feelings and prejudices of the different sections of the country. It has a story for Pittsburg and a story for Portland, a misrepresentation for Milledgeville and a lie for Lexington. I have notice of all this undermining from every quarter of the Union, and in several instances from persons total strangers to me, in others by anonymous letters. I have no countermining at work to blast the reputation of others and seldom attempt even to defend my own. I make no bargains. I listen to no overtures for coalition. I give no money. I push for no appointments of canvassing partisans to office. This utter inability to support my own cause passes among the caucus mongers for simplicity approaching to idiotism. I know it has been an avowed motive to some and a successful argument to others for resorting to other standards, and during the late session of Congress there was so animated a recruiting service and so general an enlistment, that Duane and Ritchie had good reason for concluding that I, who had neither Captain Plume nor Sergeant Kite to recruit for me, was hors de combat.
Enough and too much of myself. My great concern is for principles. You are not yet convinced that the American
people after the rupture with the mother country could be said to have the right to fish within the limits of her jurisdiction, nor that the last war did not abrogate the treaty of 1783. Yet the very extract you have had the goodness to send me of Lord Loughborough's speech proves the light in which it was viewed by all parties at that time. As much as the seal with the motto "piscemur, venemur UT OLIM." At the time of the Declaration of Independence the people of the United States enjoyed, in common with the rest of the British nation of which they had till then formed a part, and under certain stipulated participations in it enjoyed by France, the Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Gulph of St. Lawrence, and Labrador fisheries, with the appurtenant rights of drying and curing fish upon certain unsettled shores which were necessary for the exercise of a part of the right of fishing. For the purpose of the argument the whole must be considered, as it is in fact, one fishery. It was all an appropriated fishery belonging exclusively to the British nation, with the reserve of a limited participation in it enjoyed by the French.
By the law of nature the people of the United States had a peculiar right to participate in this fishery, because a part of it was upon a part of their own coast, and the whole of it in their immediate vicinity. But whatever portion of the right they derived from the law of nature it was not derived from the Declaration of Independence but from their locality. They had always enjoyed it before and continued to enjoy it after that event. The Declaration of Independence neither gave nor took it away. The Spanish colonies which have recently declared their independence have no more right to it than Spain herself.
But the people of the United States had enjoyed it as a
1 Quoted in Duplicate Letters, 189.
part of the property of the British nation in common with the rest of that nation. This is the portion of right which after the Declaration of Independence they could no longer claim as British subjects. But in the exchanging by the Declaration of Independence the rights of British subjects for those of a distinct and separate sovereignty, they maintained the right of participation in this fishery as a possession in common with the British nation as it had been enjoyed before. The right to the fishery was like the right to the writ of habeas corpus, a British right which they neither forfeited nor surrendered by the Declaration of Independence.
This principle they effectually maintained at the negotiation of the peace of 1782, and by the third article of the treaty obtained the acknowledgment of it by Great Britain. It was only by that same treaty that the remaining British colonies in America became to the people of the United States a foreign jurisdiction, and in the same act by which they recognized this they reserved to themselves the fishing rights and liberties which they had possessed while the jurisdiction was the same as their own, and to this principle Great Britain assented by the treaty. Lord Loughborough's objection to the article is on that very account, and shows that it was universally so understood.
Consider now that the jurisdiction became foreign and the fishing liberties within it were reserved by one and the same act. The boundary line severed the jurisdictions which had been one in two. The third article acknowledged the continuance of the American fishing rights and liberties in the places which had been within the common jurisdiction but were thenceforth to be within the jurisdiction exclusively British. Then look at Vattel, Book 1st, Ch. 23, §§ 279-287, especially the latter part of this last section,1 and you have 1 Duplicate Letters, 188.