Read CHAPTER IV. of Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams. , free online book, by Josiah Quincy, on


Mr. Adams arrived in Stockholm on the 24th of May, and after visiting Count Engerstroem, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and meeting the Swedish and foreign ministers at a diplomatic dinner, given by Baron Strogonoff, he left that city on the 2d of June. A messenger from Mr. Clay informed him that, at the request of Lord Bathurst, the negotiation of the treaty of peace had been transferred to Ghent. Passing through Sweden, he embarked from Gottenburg in the United States corvette John Adams for the Texel, landed at the Helder, and proceeded through Holland to Ghent, where his associates met for the first time in his apartments on the 30th of June. The British commissioners did not arrive until the 7th of August, and their negotiations were not concluded until the 24th of December, 1814. On presenting three copies of the treaty, signed and sealed by all the commissioners, to Mr. Adams, and on receiving three from him, Lord Gambier said, he trusted the result of their labors would be permanent. Mr. Adams replied, he hoped it would be the last treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States.

The American commissioners were presented to the Prince of Orange, the sovereign of the Netherlands, and, on the 5th of January, 1815, the citizens of Ghent celebrated the ratification of the treaty, by inviting the representatives of both nations to a public entertainment at the Hotel de Ville. Mr. Adams left that city with characteristic expressions of gratitude for the result of a negotiation which he hoped would prove propitious to the union and best interests of his country.

On the 3d of February he arrived in Paris, and met the American commissioners, and with them was presented by Mr. Crawford, resident minister of the United States, to Louis the Eighteenth, and to the Duke and Duchess of Angoulême. He was also presented to the Duke of Orleans, at the Palais Royal, who spoke with grateful remembrance of hospitalities he had received in America. Mr. Adams was often in the society of Lafayette, Madame de Stael, Humboldt, Constant, and other eminent persons, and was deeply interested in observing the effect of all changes in the laws and government of France.

The intelligence that Napoleon had left Elba soon caused great excitement and anxiety in Paris, which continued to increase until the morning of the 20th of March, when Louis the Eighteenth left the Tuileries. In the evening Napoleon alighted there so silently, that Mr. Adams, who was at the Theatre Francais, not a quarter of a mile distant, was unaware of the fact until the next day, when the gazettes of Paris, which had showered exécrations upon him, announced “the arrival of his majesty, the Emperor, at his palace of the Tuileries.” In the Place du Carousel Mr. Adams, in his morning walk, saw regiments of cavalry, belonging to the garrison of Paris, which had been sent out to oppose Napoleon, pass in review before him, their helmets and the clasps of their belts yet glowing with the arms of the Bourbons. The theatres assumed the title of Imperial, and at the opera, in the evening, the arms of the emperor were placed on the curtain and on the royal box.

A few days afterwards, Mr. Adams requested an interview with the emperor’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Duke de Vicence, with whom he had been previously acquainted at St. Petersburg. He assured Mr. Adams that the late revolution had been effected without effort; that Fouche, the new Minister of Police, who received reports from every part of the country, informed him that there had not been one act of violence or resistance. He said, that if Napoleon had not returned, the misconduct of the Bourbons would have caused an insurrection of the people in less than six months; that the emperor had renounced all ideas of extended conquest, and only desired peace with all the world. Mr. Adams expressed a hope that the relations between France and the United States would become friendly and mutually advantageous, and said he was awaiting orders from his government, and should soon need a passport to England. The duke assured him of his readiness to comply with any request from him or from Mr. Crawford. All the other foreign ministers had already quitted Paris.

After Mrs. Adams had arrived from St. Petersburg, Mr. Adams, having been appointed American minister at the British Court, left Paris, with his family, on the 16th of May, 1815. About the time of his departure he observed: “War appears to be certain. The first thought of the inhabitants of Paris will be to save themselves. They have no attachment either to the Bourbons or Napoleon. They will submit quietly to the victorious party, and do nothing to support either.”

On the 25th of May Mr. Adams arrived in London, and on the 29th had an interview with Lord Castlereagh relative to the treaty of peace, and the commercial relations of Great Britain with the United States. The Prince Regent, at a private audience, said the United States might rely with full assurance on his determination to fulfil all engagements with them on the part of Great Britain.

After the convention concerning commerce had been concluded, and Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Clay had departed, Mr. Adams removed his residence to Boston House, Ealing, nine miles from London, where he commanded time for his favorite studies, and reciprocated the civilities paid to him and Mrs. Adams. He continued to receive in public and private the distinguished attentions due to his official station and his personal character and attainments. The queen gave him a private audience, and in May, 1816, with Mrs. Adams, he was present at the marriage of the Princess Charlotte of Wales. His society was sought and highly appreciated by the most eminent men of all classes; and he availed himself, with characteristic assiduity, of all opportunities to acquire information, especially that relative to the science of government, and the political relations of Europe.

Some conversations and opinions his papers preserve tend to throw light upon his course and character. In reply to an inquiry made by Lord Holland concerning the forms and results of representation in the United States, Mr. Adams said that one consequence was that a very great proportion of their public men were lawyers. Lord Holland said it was precisely the same in England; that the theory of their representation in the House of Commons was bad, but perhaps no theory could produce a more perfect practice of representation of all classes and interests of the community. Even the close boroughs often served to bring in able and useful men, who by a more correct theory would find themselves excluded. Men of property could always make their way into Parliament by their wealth. Men of family might go into the House of Commons for a few years in youth, to get experience of public business, and to employ time for useful purposes; and there was no man of real talent who, in one way or another, could fail of obtaining, sooner or later, admission into Parliament. But a great proportion of the House of Commons were lawyers, and most of the business of the house was done by them. In the House of Lords all that was of any use was done by lawyers. The great practical use of the House of Lords was to be a check upon mischief that might be done by the Commons. Many bills passed through that house without sufficient consideration. The Chancellor is under a sort of personal responsibility to examine and stop them. His character depends upon it. He is at the head of the nobility of the country, and his consideration depends upon his keeping this vigilant eye on the proceedings of the Commons. All the ordinary business of the house, therefore, rests upon a lawyer.

Lord Holland observed that from what he heard the most defective part of our institutions was the judiciary; which Mr. Adams admitted.

In August, 1816, at a diplomatic dinner, given on St. Louis’ day, by the French ambassador, the Marquis D’Osmond, Mr. Adams first met Mr. Canning, then recently appointed President of the Board of Control. At his request, he was introduced by Lord Liverpool to Mr. Adams. They both spoke of the great and rapid increase of the United States, and Canning inquired when the next presidential election would take place, and who would probably be chosen. Mr. Adams replied, Mr. Monroe. Lord Liverpool observed that he had heard his election might be opposed on account of his being a Virginian. Mr. Adams said that had been a ground of objection, but it would not avail. He afterwards remarks: “Mr. Canning, whose celebrity is great, and whose talents are probably greater than those of any other member of the cabinet, and who has been invariably noted for his bitterness against the United States, seemed desirous to make up by an excess of civility for the feelings he has so constantly manifested against us.”

After reading the Gazette Extraordinary sent him by Lord Castlereagh, containing an account of the victory of Lord Exmouth, on the 27th of August, over the Algerines, and that the terms of capitulation had forced them to deliver up all their Christian slaves, to repay ransom-money, and to stipulate for the formal abolition of Christian slavery in Algiers forever, Mr. Adams observed, “This is a deed of real glory.”

The Lord Mayor of London introduced Mr. Adams to Sir Philip Francis, then the supposed author of the letters of Junius. On this celebrated work, on a subsequent occasion, Mr. Adams remarked: “Sir Philip Francis is almost demonstrated to be the culprit. The speeches of Lord Chatham bear the stamp of a mind not unequal to the composition of Junius. Those of Burke are of a higher order. Were it ascertained that either of them were the political assassin who stabbed with the dagger of Junius, I should not add a particle of admiration for his talents, and should lose all my respect for his morals. Junius was essentially a sophist. His religion was infidelity, his abstract ethics depraved, his temper bitterly malignant, and his nervous system timid and cowardly. The concealment of his name at the time when he wrote was the effect of dishonest fear. The perpetuation of it could only proceed from the consciousness that the disclosure of his person would be discreditable to his fame. The object of Junius, when he began to write, was merely to overthrow the administration then in power. He attacked them in a mass and individually; their measures, their capacities, their characters public and private; charged them with every crime and every vice. Afterwards, he followed up his general assault by singling out, successively, the Dukes of Grafton and Bedford, Lord Mansfield, Sir William Blackstone, and the King himself. He magnified mole-hills into mountains, inflamed pin-scratches into deadly wounds, and at last abandoned his course in despair at the very time when he might have pursued it with the most effect. But while he was battering the ministry upon paltry topics, which had neither root or stem, he had declared himself emphatically and repeatedly upon their side on the only subject on which their fate and the destiny of the nation altogether dependedthe controversy with America. The course he took in the early stage of that conflict, and his disappearance from the theatre of politics at the time when it was ripening into the magnitude of its nature, have marked Junius in my mind as a man of small thingsa splendid trifler, a pompous and shallow politician.”

In July, 1816, Mr. Adams showed Lord Castlereagh his authority and instructions to negotiate a new commercial convention with the British government, stating “that one object was to open the trade between the United States and the British colonies in North America and the West Indies, as great changes had occurred since the existing convention between the countries was signed. That convention equalized the duties upon British and American vessels, in the intercourse between Europe and the United States, and thereby admitted British vessels into the ports of the United States upon terms of equal competition with American vessels. But, since that time, the exclusive system of colonial regulations had been resumed in the West Indies with extraordinary rigor. American vessels had been excluded from all the ports, and some seizures had been made with such severity that there were cases upon which it would soon become his duty to address the British government in behalf of individuals who had suffered, and deemed themselves entitled to the restitution of their property. The consequence of these new regulations, as combined with the operation of the commercial convention, was, that British vessels being admitted into our ports upon equal terms with our own, and then being exclusively received in the British West India ports, not only thus monopolized the trade between the United States and the West Indies, but acquired an advantage in the direct trade from Europe to the United States, which defeated the main object of the convention itself, of placing the shipping of the two countries upon equal terms of fair competition. In North America the same system was pursued by the colonial government of Upper Canada. An act of the Colonial Legislature was passed at their last session, vesting in the Lieutenant-Governor and Council of the province the power of regulating its trade with the United States; and immediately afterwards a new tariff of duties was issued, by an order of the previous Council, dated the 18th of April, laying excessively heavy duties upon all articles imported into the province from the United States, with the exception of certain articles of provision of the first necessity; and a tonnage duty of twelve and sixpence per ton upon American vessels, which was equivalent to a total prohibition.”

Lord Castlereagh said “that he had not been in the way of following the measures adopted in that quarter, and was not aware that there had been any new regulations either in the West Indies or in North America. In time of war he knew it had been usual to open the ports of the West India Islands to foreigners, merely as a measure of necessity; and it was not until the Americans attempted to starve them by their embargo acts that they were driven to the resort of finding resources elsewhere. But in time of peace it had been usual to exclude foreigners from these islands.”

He then asked if the trade was considerable. Mr. Adams replied that it was. “Even in time of peace it was highly necessary to the colonies, in respect to some of the imports indispensable to their subsistence; and, by the exports, extremely advantageous to the interests of Great Britain, by furnishing a market for articles which she does not take herself, and which could not be disposed of elsewhere. At the very time of the embargo, the governors of the Islands, so far from adhering to the principle of excluding American vessels, issued proclamations inviting them, with promises even that the regular papers should not be required for their admission, and encouraging them to violate the laws of their own country by carrying them supplies. In time of peace it was undoubtedly not so necessary. Even then, however, it was so in a high degree. The mother country may supply them in part, but does not produce some of the most important articles of their importation,rice, for example, and Indian corn, the best and cheapest articles for the subsistence of negroes. Even wheat and flour, and provisions generally, were much more advantageously imported from the United States than from Europe, being so much less liable to be damaged in those hot climates, from the comparative shortness of the voyage. Another of their importations was lumber, which is necessary for buildings upon the plantations, and which, after the hurricanes to which the islands are frequently exposed, must be had in large quantities.”

Mr. Adams added, “that the American government did not on this ground now propose that these ports should be opened to their vessels. They did not seek for a participation in the British trade with them. Great Britain might still prohibit the importation from the United States of such articles as she chose to supply herself. But they asked that American vessels be admitted equally with British vessels to carry the articles which could be supplied only from the United States, or which were supplied only to them. The effect of the new regulations had been so injurious to the shipping interest in America, and was so immediately felt, that the first impression on the minds of many was that they should be at once met by counteracting legislative measures of prohibition. A proposal to that effect was made in Congress; but it was thought best to endeavor, in the first instance, to come to an amicable arrangement of the subject with the British government. Immediate prohibitions would affect injuriously the British colonies; they would excite irritation in the commercial part of the British communities. The consideration, therefore, of enacting legislative regulations, was postponed.”

Lord Castlereagh, after expressing the earnest disposition of his government to promote harmony between the two countries, said “he was not then prepared to enter upon a discussion on the points of the question, but would take it into consideration as soon as possible.”

Mr. Adams then said “that the American government was anxious to settle by treaty all the subjects of collision between neutral and belligerent rights which, in the event of a new maritime war in Europe, might again arise:blockade, contraband, searches at sea, and colonial trade, but most of all the case of the seamen,concerning whom the American government proposed that each party should stipulate not to employ, in its merchant ships or naval service, the seamen of the other.”

Lord Castlereagh inquired “whether the proposal in the stipulation related only to native citizens and subjects; and, if not, how the question was to be escaped,whether any act of naturalization shall avail to discharge a seaman from the duties of his original allegiance.”

Mr. Adams replied, “that it was proposed to include in the arrangement only natives and those who are on either side naturalized already; so that it would not extend to any hereafter naturalized. The number of persons included would, of course, be very few.” Lord Castlereagh inquired “what regulations were proposed to carry the stipulation into effect.” Mr. Adams replied, “that if it was agreed to, he thought there would be no difficulty in concerting regulations to carry it into execution; and that the American government would be ready to agree to any Great Britain might think necessary, consistent with individual rights, to secure the bona fide fulfilment of the engagement.” “But,” said Lord Castlereagh, “by agreeing to this stipulation, is it expected we should abandon the right of search we have heretofore used; or is this stipulation to stand by itself, leaving the rights of the parties as they were before?” Mr. Adams replied, “that undoubtedly the object of the American government was that the result of the stipulation should ultimately be the abandonment of the practice of taking men from American vessels.” “How, then,” said Lord Castlereagh, “shall we escape the old difficulty? The people of this country consider the remedy we have always used hitherto as the best and only effective one. Such is the general opinion of the nation, and there is a good deal of feeling connected with the sentiment. If we now give up that, how will it be possible to devise any regulation, depending upon the performance of another state, which will be thought as efficacious as that we have in our own hands? He knew that the policy of the American government had changed; that it was formerly to invite and encourage British seamen to enter their service, but that at present it was to give encouragement to their own seamen; and he was in hopes that the effect of these internal legislative measures would be to diminish the necessity of resorting to the right of search.” Mr. Adams, in reply, said, “that his lordship had once before made a similar observation, and that he felt it his duty to take notice of it. Being under a perfect conviction that it was erroneous, he was compelled to state that the American government never did in any manner invite or encourage foreign seamen generally, or British seamen in particular, to enter their service.” Lord Castlereagh said “that he meant only that their policy arose naturally from circumstances,from the extraordinary, sudden, and almost unbounded increase of their commerce and navigation during the late European wars; they had not native seamen enough to man their ships, and the encouragements to foreign seamen followed from that state of things.” Mr. Adams replied, “that he understood his lordship perfectly; but what he asserted was his profound conviction that he was mistaken in point of fact. He knew not how the policy of any government can be manifested otherwise than by its acts. Now, there never was any one act, either of the legislature or executive, which could have even a tendency to invite British seamen into the American service.” “But,” said Lord Castlereagh, “at least, then, there was nothing done to prevent them.” Mr. Adams replied, “That may be; but there is a very material distinction between giving encouragement and doing nothing to prevent them. Our naturalization laws certainly hold out to them nothing like encouragement. You naturalize every foreign seaman by the mere fact of two years’ service on board of your public ships, ipso facto, without cost, or form, or process. We require five years’ residence in the United States, two years of notice in a court of record, and a certificate of character, before the act of naturalization is granted. Thus far only may be admitted,that the great and extraordinary increase of our commerce, to which you have alluded, had the effect of raising the wages of seamen excessively high. Our government certainly gave no encouragement to this; neither did our merchants, who would surely have engaged their seamen at lower wages, if possible. These wages, no doubt, operated as a strong temptation to your seamen to go into the American service. Your merchant service could not afford to pay them so high. The wages in the king’s ships are much lower, and numbers of British seamen, accordingly, find employment on board American vessels; but encouragement from the American government they never had in any manner. They were merely not excluded; and even now, in making the proposal to exclude them, it is not from any change of policy, but solely for the purpose of giving satisfaction to Great Britain, and of stopping the most abundant source of dissension with her. It proves only the earnestness of our desire to be upon good terms with you.”

Mr. Adams said, with regard to his proposal of excluding each other’s seamen, “that he was not prepared to say that an article could not be framed by which the parties might stipulate the principle of mutual exclusion, without at all affecting or referring to the rights or claims of either party. Perhaps it might be accomplished if the British government should assume it as one of the objects to be arranged by the convention.” On which Lord Castlereagh said: “In that case there will not be so much difficulty. If it is a mere agreement of mutual exclusion, tending to diminish the occasion for exercising the right of search, and undoubtedly if it should prove effectual, it would in the end operate as an inducement to forbear the exercise of the right entirely.”

Discussions with the same nobleman on other topics bearing upon the commercial relations between the two nations are preserved among the papers of Mr. Adams.

On the 16th of April, 1817, Mr. Adams received letters from President Monroe, with the information that, with the sanction of the Senate, the Department of State had been committed to him; a trust which he accepted with a deep sense of its weight and responsibility. In compliance with Mr. Monroe’s request, he made immediate arrangements to return to the United States. On presenting his letters of recall to Lord Castlereagh, congratulations on his appointment were attended with regrets at his removal from his mission. Mr. Adams stated that the uncertainty of his acceptance of the office of Secretary of State had prevented an immediate appointment of his successor, but that he was instructed in the strongest manner to declare the earnest desire of President Monroe to cultivate the most friendly intercourse with Great Britain. He gave the same explanation to the Prince Regent, at a private audience, who replied by an assurance of his disposition to continue to promote the harmony between the two nations which was required by the interests of both. There was no formality in the discourse on either side, and the generalities of mutual assurance were much alike, and estimated at their real value. In reply to the inquiries of the Prince, the names of the members of Mr. Monroe’s cabinet were mentioned. He was not acquainted with any of them, but spoke in handsome terms of Mr. Thomas Pinckney and Mr. Rufus King, and asked many questions concerning the organization of the American government. Lord Castlereagh, in his final interview with Mr. Adams, made numerous inquiries relative to the foreign relations of the United States, especially in regard to Spain, and again expressed the desire of the British government not only to remain at peace themselves, but also to promote tranquillity among other nations. Prince Esterhazy, in a parting visit to Mr. Adams, also assured him that the cabinets of Europe were never so universally and sincerely pacific as at that time; that they all had finances to redeem, ravages to repair, and wanted a period of long repose.

After taking leave of his numerous friends in office and in private life, Mr. Adams bade farewell to London, and embarked with his family from Cowes, in the packet-ship Washington, on the 17th of June, 1817, for the United States.