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To facilitate the comparison between the Original and Duplicate of Mr. Russell's Letter of 11th February, 11 to Mr. Monroe, they are in this Collection printed in corresponding pages, with the variations between them numbered and printed in a brevier type. The passages in the Ghent Documents, particularly referred to in the subsequent discussion, are enclosed in brackets.
10 VINU AMBORLIAO
During the progress, and after the conclusion, of the negotiation at Ghent, despatches were at three several periods received by the executive government of the United States, from their plenipotentiaries at that place. The documents relating to the negotiation, transmitted by the first and second of these occasions, were communicated by messages from the President of the United States to Congress, and thereby became generally known to the public. They are to be found in the 9th volume of Wait's State Papers, and in the 7th volume of Niles' Register, and they contain the correspondence of the American mission, as well with their own government as with the British plenipotentiaries, from the commencement of the negotiation till the 31st of October, 1814. The third messenger brought the treaty of peace itself. The correspondence subsequent to the 31st of October, was of course communicated to the Senate with the treaty, when it was submitted to that body for their advice and consent to its ratification. But it was not communicated to Congress or made public, nor was there at that time manifested any desire to see it either by the House of Representatives or by the nation.
In the course of the last summer, (of 1821,) I was apprised by a friend, that rumours very unfavourable to my reputation, even for integrity, were industriously circulated in the Western Country. That it was said I had made a proposition at Ghent to grant to the British the right to navigate the Mississippi in return for the Newfoundland fisheries, and that this was represented as, at least, a high misdemeanor. I observed that a proposition to confirm both these rights as they had stood before the war, and as stipulated by the treaty of 1783, had been offered to the British plenipotentiaries, not by me, but by the whole American mission, every one of
whom had subscribed to it. That the proposal to make this offer had been made to the mission not by me, but by a citizen of the Western Country: that it was warranted, and as I believed, absolutely required by the instructions to the mission at the time. when the proposal was made to the British commissioners, and that if I had felt and shown great solicitude at Ghent for the fisheries, I did not expect it was to be imputed to me as an offence, either in my character of a servant of the Union, or in that of a native citizen of Massachusetts. He said the proposal was at all events to be so represented, that it was charged exclusively upon me, and that I should hear more about it ere long.
On the 16th of January last, Mr. Floyd, a member of the House of Representatives of the United States, submitted to the House a resolution in the following words :
"Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before this House, all the correspondence which led to the treaty of Ghent, which has not yet been made public, and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose."
The said resolution was read, and ordered to lie on the table one day.
The proceedings of the House upon it the next day, are thus reported in the National Intelligencer of the 18th of January.
Thursday, January 17th, 1822.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
On motion of Mr. Floyd, the House proceeded to the consideration of the resolution offered by him yesterday, requesting of the President of the United States "all the correspondence which led to the treaty of Ghent, which has not yet been made public, and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose."
Mr. Floyd remarked that, as peace was now restored, there was no reason why the whole of the correspondence which led to the treaty of peace, should not be made public. He therefore modified his motion by striking out the excepting clause, in italic, and inserting after the word "Ghent," the words, "together with the protocol.' He would also observe, that the bill which he had this day reported to the House, contemplated a very considerable change in our intercourse with the Indian tribes in the West, and it appeared, by the report of the Secretary of War, made yesterday, that a great influence was exercised over those tribes by our European neighbours in that quarter. The correspondence between the commissioners at Ghent embraced this subject, among others, and he thought it was desirable that the House should be in possession of the whole of it.
Mr. Lowndes presumed the House would have no objection to obtaining the information alluded to, if it were proper to make it public; but he thought it would be proper to leave the President, in the form of the request, the option of communicating such of the correspondence only as he might deem it not improper to disclose. This was the usual form adopted by the House, and, although peace had taken place, there might be some parts of the correspondence which it would be improper to publish. An unlimited call for all the information in the possession of the government on the subject, might create some embarrassment, and he hoped the mover of the resolution would restore it to its original shape.
Mr. Floyd was unwilling, by any act of his, to embarrass the executive; but presumed there was nothing asked for in this resolution which would have that effect, and feeling anxious to obtain all the information on his subject which could be furnished, he preferred the motion in its present form. If the motion would reach any state secret-admitting there ought to be any state secrets in this government-he wished not to be instrumental in disturbing it; but he anticipated no such consequence.
Mr. Lowndes rejoined, in substance, that although five or six years had elapsed since the restoration of peace, it did not follow that all that passed in the negotiations was proper for publication. Some parts of the correspondence it might be incompatible with the public interest to disclose to the world; at any rate it was proper to except such as the President might deem the public good required him to withhold. Mr. L. therefore moved to amend the resolution by restoring the words," and which, in his opinion, it may not be improper to disclose."
Mr. Floyd thought there was, in reality, no difference between himself and the gentleman from South Carolina. If the gentleman was apprised of any thing which it was improper to communicate to the House, to be sure that would be a different matter; but if his remarks were general, and had reference to no particular facts in the correspondence, there was no reason for the amendment.
The question being taken, the amendment was agreed to; and Thus amended, the resolution was adopted, and a committee of two appointed to carry it to the President.
On this debate it was observable that the mover of the resolu tion had struck out the usual exception, which had been in his draft of it presented the day before, of such papers as in the President's opinion, it might be improper to disclose; and had added the words "together with the protocol,” which had not been in the original resolution. The words of exception were restored, after debate upon the motion of Mr. Lowndes. The inferences naturally drawn from these circumstances were, that in the day's inter
val between the offering of the resolution, and the debate upon it, suggestions had been made to the mover, that there might be motives operating upon the executive, for withholding precisely the information that was desired, unless the whole should be demanded; and that a request for the correspondence would be liable to fail in drawing forth the momentous disclosure, unless the protocol should also be required. This special reference to the protocol, would more readily occur to a person who had been concerned in the negotiation, than to others, and the debate indicated at once some eagerness to obtain very complete information, some apprehensions that pains would be taken to suppress it, and some impression, that the evidence of the material fact to be elicited was lodged in the protocol.*
It was in the protocol of the conference of 1st December, 1814, that the proposal made to the British plenipotentiaries relating to the Mississippi and the fisheries was contained. But all the American plenipotentiaries had been present at that conference, and on the face of the protocol it appeared that the proposal had been made by them as a joint act of all. There was a subsequent letter from them of 14th December, 1814, to the British plenipotentiaries, signed by all, and referring to it as an article to which they had no objection, considering it as merely declaratory. There was nothing in the documents showing at whose instance in the American mission, the proposal had been offered; but in the joint letter of the mission to the Secretary of State of 25th December, 1814, it was stated that a majority of the mission had determined to offer it, and in a separate letter of the same date, Mr. Russell noticing this passage of the joint letter, acknowledged, in candour, that he had been on that occasion in the minority; and reserved to himself thereafter, the power of assigning his reasons to vindicate his motives. It will be seen in the course of the following papers, that the indication in the joint letter, that the offer had been made, upon a determination of a majority, had, by an alteration of the original draft been inserted, through the agency of Mr. Russell, not (as he stated) at his own desire, but at that of Mr. Clay. But neither Mr. Clay, nor any other member of the mission, save Mr. Russell, had thought it necessary at the time to inform the government how he
* See in the Appendix, Mr. Floyd's Letter, published in the Richmond Enquirer of 27th August, 1822, and the remarks upon it.