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The President is nevertheless willing that you should agree to an article of a convention stipulating the delivery of deserting seamen. The ninth article of the old consular convention of 14 November, 1788, may serve as a model. But we can make such an engagement no otherwise than by convention; and far from conceding it as a right, we consider it as giving us a just claim to a valuable equivalent in some other article. At least to the reciprocity of equal duties. We know that the reciprocity in the article itself will in point of fact yield us nothing. If it were not already a general internal municipal regulation of France, our ship-owners and masters of vessels would not need it. Our seamen have no temptation to desert in France. What should induce them to desert? Lower wages? A strange language? Shackles upon their personal freedom? The article, therefore, will be of no beneficial use to us. The concession is all from us, the reciprocity is merely formal. The solid benefit to France of the stipulation may be estimated by the eagerness with which her ministers call for it. We return for it nothing but reciprocity in the article of duties.
To the proposal of Baron Pasquier it may be sufficient to answer that the President can bind the faith of this nation upon either of these articles, no otherwise than by stipulations in form, subject to the constitutional sanction of the Senate.
He has noticed with regret the insinuations which were made in your conference with Baron Pasquier and the Duke de Richelieu; that for the success of their recent measures the French government rely upon supposed collisions of interest between the citizens of different portions of the Union. Such insinuations are not matter of argument; they must receive their answer from time. He regrets them because they may be imputed to a spirit neither amicable nor
conciliatory, the existence of which he has not suspected, and because they are not reciprocal to those which he has felt, and would fain yet feel towards France. Had her recent ordinance been merely retaliatory, however unjust and injudicious it might have appeared, there might have been found some apology for it in the irritation of momentary feeling. But France had in substance excluded American laden shipping from her ports before. A hundred francs of additional tonnage duty could do no more. But the premium for South American cotton over that of the United States, indirectly given in the second ordinance, and the temptations held out to citizens of the United States to violate or evade the law of their country by shipments to Florida or the West Indies, indicate a spirit neither warranted by any thing done on the part of the United States, nor calculated to promote or encourage the friendly feeling which under every vicissitude they have cherished towards France. Should the policy of that country, however, find its account in the mutual exclusion of each other's ships from the carriage of the commerce between them, the consolation will remain to us that while France was the first to commence this unexpected course of policy, so we shall be ever ready to welcome her recovery from it to what we deem sounder and juster views not only of our interests but of her own. I am, etc.
TO HENRY MIDDLETON
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
WASHINGTON, 6 November, 1820.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches Nos. 1 and 2 from London with their enclosures. By a letter since received from Mr. Rush I have learnt that you left London on the 20th of September, and I trust that you have by this time safely arrived at St. Petersburg. The course of your negotiation at London, merely with a view to settle the mode in which the subject of the controversy relating to the slaves should be brought before the Emperor, has sufficiently shown the obstacles which will beset every part of its progress. The pretension that the United States should be limited to the claim of indemnity for one list furnished of slaves taken from Cumberland Island alone, was so extraordinary that I should scarcely have believed it possible that it should have been advanced. The proposal that if the award should be in our favor, a certain sum should be settled, to be paid for every individual carried away was more reasonable, and if the British government should be so inclined, might be agreed between you and Mr. Bagot, without referring it either to the Emperor, or to the commission. I will at an early day write you further on this subject.
It was precisely from a desire, if possible, to narrow down the part of the Emperor as umpire to a mere opinion of the just construction of the treaty, that you were authorized to confer with the British government, and ascertain whether they were prepared, if the decision should be in our favor, to carry it into effect without starting other questions, which might as effectually defeat our claim with a decision that
it is just, as if the award should be against us. The result has been to show that it will be highly important to reserve every question that can arise till full performance of the award for the eventual decision of the Emperor. We give full credence to the declaration of Lord Castlereagh, that his personal dispositions would be to carry into immediate execution the determination, if it should be in our favor, and that he would afford every facility depending upon him for that purpose. But as the whole subject is submitted to the Emperor by the convention, the most effectual security that we can have, for agreeing with Great Britain upon the means of execution, will be by retaining the right to have them also in case of disagreement settled by the arbitrator.
In the statement of the British ground of argument upon the claim in the submission, they have broadly asserted the right of emancipating slaves, private property, as a legitimate right of war. This is utterly incomprehensible on the part of a nation whose subjects hold slaves by millions, and who in this very treaty recognized them as private property. No such right is acknowledged as a law of war by writers who admit any limitation. The right of putting to death all prisoners in cold blood and without special cause might as well be pretended to be a law of war; or the right to use poisoned arrows, or to assassinate. I think the Emperor will not recognize the right of emancipation, as legitimate warfare; and am persuaded you will present the argument against it in all its force, and yet without prolixity.1 I am, etc.
In the decision of the Emperor no judgment was rendered on this point: "The Emperor... does not think himself called upon to decide here any question relative to what the laws of war permit or forbid to the belligerents," and rested solely on the "grammatical interpretation" of the article of the treaty. Moore, International Arbitrations, I. 362.
TO STRATFORD CANNING 1
Department of State,
WASHINGTON, 30 December, 1820.
I have had the honor of receiving your note of the 20th instant, in reply to which I am directed by the President of the United States to inform you that, conformably to the assurances given you in the conversation to which you refer, the proposals made by your government to the United States, inviting their accession to the arrangements contained in certain treaties with Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, to which Great Britain is the reciprocal contracting party, have again been taken into the most serious deliberation of the President, with an anxious desire of contributing to the utmost extent of the powers within the competency of this government, and by means compatible with its duties to the rights of its own citizens, and with the principles of its national independence to the effectual and final suppression of the African slave-trade.
At an earlier period of the communications between the two governments upon this subject, the President, in manifesting his sensibility to the amicable spirit of confidence with which the measures concerted between Great Britain and some of her European allies had been made known to the United States, and to the free and candid offer of admitting the United States to a participation in those measures, had instructed the minister of the United States residing near your government, to represent the difficulties resulting
1 Stratford Canning, first Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe (1786-1880), first cousin of George Canning. He arrived in Washington, September 28, 1820. 2 Adams, Memoirs, October 2, 20 and 26; December 23 and 30, 1820.