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founded on an inadmissible construction of an article in the treaty for the cession of Louisiana.1
If the construction contended for of that article by France were even correct, how can the present government claim any advantage from a compact made with Napoleon, after an explicit declaration that they hold themselves absolved from all obligation of indemnities due to the United States and their citizens for his acts? I mention this now, because Mr. Roth 2 informs me that he has directed the French consul at New Orleans to protest against the execution of the act of 15 May, 1820, specially in the ports of Louisiana. There was a long and elaborate note from Mr. de Neuville on this subject, to which a distinct and explicit answer was given by me. That minister replied, but as there was nothing new in the shape of argument in his second note, a second answer from me was postponed, merely for the purpose of avoiding altercation, where it could be no possible object to us to have the last word. The pretence is that by the 8th article of the Louisiana treaty, French vessels are to be forever treated in that province on the footing of the most favored nation; and on the strength of this they claim to be admitted there, paying no higher duties than English vessels. Our answer is that English vessels pay there no higher or other duties than our own, not by favor but by bargain. England gives us an equivalent for this privilege; and a merchant might as well claim of another, on the score of equal favor, that he should give a bag of cotton or a hogshead of tobacco to him, because he had sold the same articles to a third, as France can claim as a gratuitous favor to her that which has been granted for valuable consideration to Great
'This argument is considered in Gallatin's reply, in Adams, Writings of Gallatin,
'French chargé d'affaires at Washington.
Britain. The claim to which we admit that France is entitled under that article is to the same privilege enjoyed by England upon her allowing the same equivalent. That is completely and exclusively our treatment of the most favored nation, and to that we are not only willing but desirous of admitting France. But even to that she can have no pretence while she refuses to be responsible for the deeds of Napoleon. If she claims the benefit of his treaties, she must recognize the obligation of his duties, and discharge them. . . .1
TO THE PRESIDENT
WASHINGTON, 26 August, 1820.
The enclosed letter from I. Byers of New York to General Parker was delivered to me by that officer, and relates to a
1 "The act of Congress of 15 May last was passed on the last day of the session; but had been presented by the Committee on the 15th of February. At the time when it was proposed its commencement on the first of July would have given ample time for the owners of all French vessels in Europe to be made acquainted with its provisions, before fitting out or dispatching any vessel which would have been subject to them. Other subjects absorbed the attention and feeling of both houses till the close of the session, and a motion to postpone the commencement of the act to the first of October was made on the last day and lost only from an apprehension that as an amendment requiring the concurrence of both Houses it was not at that stage of the bill in order, and might endanger its passage. . . . The Committee of Commerce who reported the bill intended to levy a tonnage duty at least counter-balancing all the surcharges of the French law. Your letters, I believe, formed the principal substratum of the evidence upon which they acted. The Executive had contemplated a duty of twelve dollars, but the Committee, as you know all committees of Congress do, consulted the Executive and followed their own ideas. The call for the law from the merchants was loud and urgent, and the Committee, as usual, sympathized with the feelings of their constituents." To Gallatin, September 13, 1820. Ms.
subject of very considerable importance. To give you a more perfect understanding of its contents, I enclose with it a letter of 15 November, 1819, from Jeremy Robinson, at Valparaiso. General Parker says that more than twenty vessels have been fitted out from New York, and have sailed or are about to sail upon sealing and whaling voyages to this newly discovered island or continent.1 Byers says they will be on the spot before the English, but whether they can reach latitude 61° 40' south in October, which answers to our April, is to be seen. I much doubt it. If they do, and the English adventurers come there afterwards, we shall hear more of it. Nootka Sound and Falkland Island questions may be expected. I beg leave to recommend the affair to your particular consideration. The British government just now have their hands so full of coronations and adulteries, liturgy, prayers, and Italian sopranos, Bergamis and Pergamis, high treasons and petty treasons, pains, penalties and paupers, that they will seize the first opportunity they can to shake them all off; and if they can make a question of national honor about a foothold in latitude 61° 40′ upon something between rock and iceberg, as this discovery must be, and especially a question with us, they will not let it escape them.
I desired General Parker to advise Mr. Byers to see the Secretary of the Navy and confer with him about this project of a settlement and sending a frigate to take possession. I hope this plan will meet your approbation. There can be no doubt of the right, and the settlement is a very good ex
1 "The discovery of land in the Pacific, of great extent, is an important event, and there are strong reasons in favor of your suggestion to aim at its occupancy on our part. Communicate the documents to the Secretary of the Navy and suggest the motive, asking how far it would be practicable to send a frigate there, and thence to strengthen our force along the American coast. I shall also write him on the subject." Monroe to Adams, September 1, 1820.
pedient for protecting the real objects to catch seals and whales. The idea too of having a grave controversy with Lord Castlereagh about an island latitude 61° 40′ south is quite fascinating.
I send also another letter from Jeremy Robinson of 17 January, 1820, very long and interesting. This man has given us so much valuable information, and sees things with so much more impartiality and therefore accuracy than some others who have been there, that I almost wish you would forget his indiscretion by which he forfeited the commission he had obtained, and restore him to some subordinate agency. I shall have a translation made of the long letter from the Director O'Higgins 1 to you which was forwarded through Robinson, and to which I suppose the Director will expect an answer verbal or written.
With perfect respect, etc.
TO THE PRESIDENT 2
WASHINGTON, 30th August, 1820.
I had an interview yesterday with Mr. Correa, the Portuguese Minister, according to his request. He strongly urged the proposal contained in his note which I forwarded to you, for the appointment of commissioners to investigate the complaints of Portuguese subjects, owners of vessels and cargoes taken by privateers fitted out in our ports, and chiefly offi1 Bernardo O'Higgins (1778–1842), ruler of Chile. 2 Adams, Memoirs, August 29, 1820.
cered and manned by citizens of the United States. I suggested to him that there were difficulties opposed to the appointment of such a commission. That it would be in its nature a judicial tribunal. That the constitution and laws of the United States had already provided tribunals for the trial of all such cases as could be brought before such a commission. That if there had been any misconduct in the judges of the existing courts, they were liable themselves to trial by impeachment; but that it was hardly to be expected commissioners should be appointed to perform the duties of those judges without any allegation of complaint against them. He insisted that it was impossible for Portuguese subjects to obtain justice from our courts as now constituted.1 That to impeach and remove the judges would be no satisfaction, if it could take place. That whether they should be impeached and punished was for the exclusive consideration of this government itself. But what Portugal had a right to claim was indemnity for the wrongs of her subjects committed by citizens of the United States. It was notorious that great numbers of Portuguese subjects had been ruined by these depredations, and that at the very moment when the message of the President at the commencement of the last session of Congress was sent to that body, there were seven privateers in the port of Baltimore,
1 "I do not recollect any previous example of an attack on the integrity, as this seems to be, of the judiciary, of any power by a foreign minister. The error and inconsistency of judicial decisions with the law of nations may fairly be urged as a cause of complaint against the government; but beyond the government I do not think that the minister has a right to go. The government is responsible to foreign powers for the conduct of the court; the court is responsible to the nation for any misconduct, fairly imputable to it, in a constitutional way. If the Portuguese minister has erred in this respect, he will have no right to complain, if it should be adverted to in a suitable way in the close of the correspondence." Monroe to Adams, September 4, 1820. Ms.