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The reasoning of the counsellor at law has the appearance of sound argument, but I should wish to hear the other side, before I could make up a definite opinion upon it, and even then I might hesitate at the ulterior question, whether in this case it could not be more conducive to the public weal to endure the wrong than to extort the right? 1
With regard to religious opinions, I have felt it my duty to make up my own upon the light of such evidence as perhaps too busy a life has allowed me to obtain. I have sought that evidence rather in the text of the Scriptures than in the glosses or the disputes of commentators, and I have drawn my conclusions rather from the operations of my own mind than from the argumentations of others. The result has been that there is no denomination of Christians with whose devotions I cannot cheerfully associate, and none to whose peculiar doctrines I can conscientiously subscribe. I have followed with very imperfect and much interrupted attention the progress of the Unitarian controversy which has been for some years maintained with so much zeal and ability on both sides in our country. Of what I have seen it appears to me that as a question upon the meaning of certain passages of Scripture, the disputants on each side have been more successful in combating the doctrines of their adversaries than in maintaining their own. I consider it as an unprofitable controversy. The only importance of religion to my mind consists in its influence upon the conduct; and upon the conduct of mankind the question of Trinity or Unity, or of the single or double personal nature of Christ, has or ought to have no bearing whatsoever.
1 Sullivan claimed that Webster sought to confirm by constitutional provision the law framed by Parsons in 1810, reënacted in 1814, the intention of which was to make the University "a powerful engine in the hands of politicians and polemical divines."
I am sorry to learn that you have met with any opposition from the Unitarians in the establishment of the Episcopal Church of which you have become a member. There seems to be an excess of zeal among the younger partisans of the Unitarian creed, but it may perhaps be attributed to the impression that they are themselves persecuted. Religious liberty for ourselves, religious salvation for the opinions of others, are the only doctrines which I deem essential to all, and the only creed which I earnestly hope may become universal.
Lest you should possibly prefer to this long letter a short and explicit answer to your inquiry, I conclude with the remark that my distance from the scene, and my inability to make myself thorough master of the merits of the college question, forbid my taking part in a dispute upon which I should be afraid of performing only the part of chaos,
"And by decision more embroil the fray."
1 On January 26 a sharp encounter between the Secretary of State and the British Minister occurred on the subject of settlements on the Columbia River. Adams has recorded in his Memoirs (V. 243) the interview, and Canning in a dispatch to Castlereagh showed the effect produced upon him. His biographer wrote: "Lord Castlereagh or the Marquis of Londonderry as he had then become - decided to let the matter drop, and Canning himself acknowledged that there were faults in his own manner of raising the question." Lane-Poole, Life of Stratford Canning, I. 308. Of Adams Canning wrote in his "Memoirs," compiled in part after he had entered his ninety-third year: "Mr. Adams was naturally the official of whom I saw most. He was more commanding than attractive in personal appearance, much above par in general ability, but having the air of a scholar rather than a statesman, a very uneven temper, a disposition at times well-meaning, a manner too often domineering, and an ambition causing unsteadiness in his political career. My private intercourse with him was not wanting in kindness on either side. The rougher road was that of discussion on matters of business. The irritation of a sensitive temper had much to excuse it in the climate. . . . Under much waywardness on the surface there lay a fund of kindly and beneficent intentions which ought to go down the stream of time with the record of his life and characteristic
TO RICHARD RUSH
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Among the documents published in the files of the Intelligencer, which will be transmitted to you by this opportunity, you will observe two messages from the President to the House of Representatives, communicating in answer to a call from them the correspondence which has taken place with the British government relative to the suppression of the slave-trade.
From the zeal and earnestness with which Mr. Canning since his arrival here has pressed the proposal of the British government that we should accede to the mutual right of search and anomalous tribunals of their treaties with Portugal and the Netherlands, it would seem that they had not in any adequate manner understood the force and insuperable character of our objections to that proposal. Mr. Canning urged and reiterated the wishes of his government on the subject until it became necessary to manifest a concern which we had at every previous stage of this negotia
qualities." Ib. Adams' opinion of Canning is in his Memoirs, June 24, 1823. Of it Lane-Poole says: "For an opponent the judgment is singularly just and clearsighted."
1 The draft read "a feeling on the protracted and persevering efforts to obtain our acquiescence in measures, not less odious to us than the slave-trade itself." On this Monroe wrote, suggesting the word "concern" for "feeling" and added: "I think it probable that all that may be written on the subject will come before the public, and as Mr. C[anning] may make representations to his government of what passed in late interviews, corresponding with the temper which he indicated in them, which may, connected with the interfering claims of the two governments, finally produce some unpleasant results, it seems advisable to be on our guard not to furnish them with any pretext for improper conduct." Monroe to Adams, February 3, 1821. Ms.
tion from motives of conciliation anxiously endeavored to avoid. From the first moment that this proposal had been suggested to us, there had been neither doubt nor hesitation shown in our manner of receiving it. The nature of our objections had been disclosed in terms as explicit and with a purpose as obviously fixed as we thought candor to require and good humor to permit. In the discussion with Mr. Canning his tenacious adherence to the expedient which had been so unequivocally and repeatedly declined by us elicited remarks upon the character of that expedient, and its close analogy to the causes of our late conflict with Great Britain, which, though deemed indispensable, were very reluctantly made.
He has expressed some sensibility at the publication of the instructions to Mr. Gallatin and you, and of your letter to me alluding to the speech of Lord Castlereagh in Parliament. The necessity for the communication to the house. and consequent publication of those documents with the others arose from the feeble impression which the direct correspondence between the two governments was found to have made upon the minds of the British cabinet in their estimate of our sentiments upon the main proposition. It is not supposed probable that the British government will renew the same proposal, but if any intimation of such an intention should be suggested to you, candor will require that with everything conciliatory in the manner, you should leave no sort of doubt upon the substance of the President's determination, but let it distinctly be understood that the right of mutual search can, on our part, under no circumstances whatsoever be admitted.
You will observe that as a substitute for this proposal we have offered a concert of operations between the armed
vessels of the two nations stationed upon the coast of Africa, for the suppression of the slave-trade. This concert, it is believed, may be effected without a formal convention, but by instructions to be given on both sides to the commanders of the vessels. Such instructions will be given to our officers employed on that service, in general terms and with a discretionary power to apply them in such a manner as their experience may point out as best adapted to the attainment of the end. In the course of the last year four vessels engaged in the trade have been captured by our cruisers, sent into our ports and condemned. There is good reason to expect that the measures which have been taken, and will be perseveringly pursued by this government for the execution of the laws, will effectually suppress the abuse of the flag of the United States to cover a traffic which has incurred the general indignation of mankind. I am, etc.
TO DON FRANCISCO DIONISIO VIVÉS 1
Department of State, WASHINGTON, 28 February, 1821.
I have submitted to the consideration of the President of the United States the observations which, in conformity to the instructions of your government, were verbally made by you at the conference which I had the honor of holding with when you you, notified me of your readiness to exchange
1 Printed in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV. 703. The treaty, ratified by Spain, reached Washington February 10, though the Cortes had acted in November. The bearer of the treaty sailed from Bordeaux and after a passage of eighty-eight days landed at Wilmington, Delaware. Vivés had his conference with Adams on the 12th. No reply to his observations was made until the end of February. Adams, Memoirs, February 12 and 28, 1821.