Page images

the ratifications of the treaty of 22 February, 1819, between the United States and Spain.

With regard to the omission on the part of the Spanish negotiator of the treaty, to insist upon some provision of indemnity in behalf of Spanish claimants to whom a pledge of such indemnity had been stipulated by the previously ratified convention of 1802, an omission stated by you to have been peculiarly dissatisfactory to the Cortes, I am directed to observe, that as in all other cases of the adjustment of differences between nations, this treaty must be considered as a compact of mutual concessions in which each party abandoned to the other some of its pretensions. These concessions on the part of the United States were great; nor could it be expected by the Spanish nation that they would be obtained without equivalent. Probably the Spanish negotiator considered the claims of Spanish subjects embraced by that convention as so small in amount, as scarcely to be worthy of inflexible adherence to them. He certainly considered the whole treaty as highly advantageous to Spain; a sentiment in which the government of the United States always entirely participated, and still concurs.

This also furnishes the reply which most readily presents itself to the proposition which you have also been instructed to make, that some compensation should be allowed by the United States for the benefit of the grantees of lands, recognized by the treaty to have been null and void. While appreciating in all its force the sense of justice, by which after the maturest deliberation and the fullest examination, the Cortes have declared that those grants were so, as at the signature of the treaty they had been clearly, explicitly and unequivocally understood to be, by both the plenipotentiaries who signed it, the President deems it unnecessary to press the remark which must naturally present itself, that to

grantees whose titles were in fact null and void, and by all parties to the negotiation were known to be null and void, no indemnity can be due, because no injury was done. Nor can it be admitted that this is one of the cases of misunderstanding from which the grantees could be entitled to the benefit of a doubtful construction. The construction of the article was in no wise doubtful. For any construction which would have admitted the validity of the grants, would have rendered impossible the fulfilment of other most important stipulations of the treaty.

The discussion of this subject having already been a subject of correspondence between the minister of foreign affairs of your government and Mr. Forsyth, could now be continued to no profitable purpose. I take much more satisfaction in assuring you of the pleasure with which the President has accepted the ratification of the treaty as an earnest of that cordial harmony which it is among his most ardent desires to cultivate between the United States and Spain. This disposition he cherishes the hope will be further promoted by the community of principle upon which the liberal institutions of both nations are founded, and by the justice, moderation and love of order which they combine with the love and the enjoyment of freedom.

[blocks in formation]

1 The Secretary of State prepared the instructions for Major General Jackson, commissioner to receive possession of the Floridas, governor of the same, and commissioner "vested with special and extraordinary powers" to carry the stipulations of the treaty of cession into effect. These instructions and letters from Adams to Jackson during his governorship are in the American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV. 750 et seq. Adams also prepared, for the House Committee on Foreign Relations, the minutes of an act for carrying the Florida treaty into execution; "which I did, combining the precedents of the Acts for taking possession of Louisiana with provisions for the establishment of the commission for claims." These minutes were returned to the Secretary of State with a request that he should draft a bill, which he did. Adams, Memoirs, February 26 and 27, 1821.




The latest dispatches received from you are of 8 January, No. 170. The newspapers and public documents, which have since my last letter been forwarded to you, will have informed you of the final ratification of the Florida treaty, of the termination of the session of Congress, and of the second inauguration of the President.

The Baron Hyde de Neuville arrived here so shortly before the 4th of March, that had the prospects of a satisfactory commercial arrangement with him been more favorable than they were, it would scarcely have been possible to bring them to a close in time to have submitted the convention to the consideration of the Senate. It was very soon after his arrival perceived that the conjectures in your No. 169 were corroborated by every indication to be drawn from his course of proceeding. He began by manifesting a degree of irritation at the seizure of the Apollon, for which neither the importance of the case, nor the circumstances which had attended it, appeared to call. Besides the claim to exclusive privileges for French ships, under color of the eighth article of the Louisiana cession treaty, he intimated doubts whether he could enter upon the discussion of merely commercial interests, until satisfaction should be given for this seizure of the Apollon, and for another vessel, the Eugène, which 1 1 Adams, Memoirs, November 1, 1820; January 5, February 24.


2 The draft of a letter to de Neuville in reply to his representations was returned by the President on March 29, with some suggested alterations. It is printed in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, V. 163, 650. See Adams, Memoirs, March 29.

had been required to depart from the same south side of St. Mary's River. He gave even some countenance to an idea which Mr. Roth,1 in one of his written communications, had suggested with some hesitation: that the flag of France had in these cases been insulted. This manifest effort to give a coloring to those transactions entirely different from their real character could not but excite some surprise, until, in the course of the verbal discussion between us, he disclosed the fact that the French government had been consulted by some of their merchants to enquire whether this expedient to evade our tonnage duties would be effectual; and had been answered by his own advice, that it would be. It thus appears that the project of Captain Edou was part of a system which the French merchants would have found very convenient, had it succeeded, but which was altogether disconcerted by the seizure of the Apollon.

The Spanish minister, General Vivés, at the instigation of Mr. Roth, had also addressed notes of complaint for the alleged violation of the territorial rights of Spain by the seizure of the Apollon. Written answers to these notes had been delayed from an unwillingness to pursue, at the moment when the ratification of the Florida treaty was expected, a correspondence which necessarily required recrimination upon officers of the Spanish government; upon the governor of East Florida, for this establishment of a pre

1 On January 6 the Secretary of State wrote to Gallatin of a letter from Roth on the Apollon and Eugène, “expressed in terms so insulting to this government that it has required some forbearance to abstain from sending it back to Mr. Roth, with an intimation that its language forfeited all claim to an answer. In the hourly expectation of the arrival of Mr. Hyde de Neuville and the hope that with him the discussion may proceed in the spirit of conciliation which the President has not ceased to cherish in the conduct of our relations with France, he has directed me to overlook the character of these communications with Mr. Roth, so far as to confine to verbal conference with him the remarks to which they have necessarily given rise."

tended port where there was no town or settlement for trade, for purposes so obviously hostile to the United States; and upon the Spanish acting vice-consul at Savannah, whose purposes thus hostile were not merely to be inferred from his conduct in this transaction, but were explicitly avowed in letters written by himself, which had come to the possession of this government. The Baron de Neuville, after his arrival, urged again General Vivés to press his complaint; and since the exchange of the ratifications of the treaty an answer has been sent him, of which a copy is inclosed.

Copies are also now transmitted of the correspondence between the Baron and this department, both in relation to the claim under the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty, and to the cases of the Apollon and Eugène, to which a third case, that of the Edmond, Captain Mestre, has recently been added. This vessel, by a general order from the War Department issued shortly after Amelia Island was taken into our possession in 1817, could not have entered there with a cargo. It happened, very opportunely for her admission, that she touched on the bar at St. Augustine, had been only saved by unloading her cargo there, and then resorted in distress to Amelia Island to repair her damages. Admitted on the principle of humanity, the extreme good faith of Captain Mestre induces him to inquire of the French consul at Charleston, whether he can take in a cargo, to be carried to him there from the United States, without payment of any duties of entry. And the Baron has addressed two successive letters to this Department, reiterating that inquiry. These anxious exertions to interest the honor of the French flag, and the sanctity of the territorial immunities of Spain, in defense of gross and glaring projects of fraud upon the laws and revenue of the United States, portend a disposition little favorable to any arrangement upon principles of reci

« PreviousContinue »