On August 24 Count Romanzoff read to the envoys his dispatch to Count Lieven, the Russian minister at London, renewing the offer of mediation. The commissioners considering their authority as limited to treating under the mediation of Russia, Mr. Gallatin wrote to Monroe, inclosing a copy of Baring's letter, which he looked upon as an informal communication of the views of the British government, and asked for contingent powers and instructions. These they could not expect to receive before February. Gallatin replied to Mr. Baring that no information of the refusal of Great Britain to the mediation had been received, but, even if it had, the commission was not authorized to negotiate in any other manner. They were, however, competent to treat of commerce without mediation. He declined to discuss the objection of Great Britain to the mediation of Russia, confining himself to an expression of ignorance in America of any such feeling on the part of the British ministry, and of the confidence placed in the personal character of the emperor, which was considered a sufficient pledge of impartiality; while the selection of a sovereign at war with France was clear evidence that America neither had nor wished to have any political connection with that power. That he himself believed an arrangement to be practicable, he said to Mr. Baring, was evident from the fact that he had given up his political existence, and separated himself from his family. His opinion was, that while neither nation would be induced to abandon its rights or pretensions in the matter of impressment, an arrangement might be made by way of experiment which would reserve to both their respective abstract rights, real or assumed.
To Moreau he wrote stating his hope that, notwithstanding the first objections of Great Britain, the mediation of the emperor would be accepted, and he asked the general for his personal interposition to this end. France and England he held to be equally at fault in the great European contest; the one usurping and oppressing the land, the other dominating and tyrannizing the sea. They alone, said he, have gained, if not happiness, at least power. Russia, he was firmly persuaded, was the only power at heart friendly to America. History has shown the sagacity of this judgment. This letter was never answered. Moreau was at death's door.
Early in October Mr. Dallas was sent to London to open relations with the British ministry. His presence there would save two months at least in each correspondence which involved communication between Washington, London, and St. Petersburg. Count Romanzoff gave the necessary letter of introduction to Count Lieven. Gallatin's instructions to the young secretary were explicit as to the caution he should exercise in a country where he could consider himself as only on sufferance. Hardly were these preliminaries concluded, and Dallas had not started on his journey, when Mr. Gallatin received word from America that the Senate had refused to confirm him in his position as commissioner. Mr. Gallatin had not resigned his position of secretary of the treasury. The Senate refused to sanction the cumulative appointment.
Stripped of his official character, he now felt himself at liberty to follow his own inclination. His first impulse was to go to London, where he was sure that Baring's friendship would open to him a means of usefulness in the matter on which he was engaged. The death of Moreau cut off the medium of approach to the emperor. This event was of no consequence, however, in the negotiation, as the emperor had been positively informed in July that England would not countenance even the appearance of foreign intervention in her dispute with America. But as yet no official information of his rejection had been received by Mr. Gallatin, nor did any reach him until March. Without it he could not well leave St. Petersburg. Meanwhile a diplomatic imbroglio, caused by the failure of the emperor to inform Romanzoff of Castlereagh's second refusal to accept the offer of mediation, embarrassed the commission all winter. Nor yet were they aware that the British minister, driven to the wall by the second offer of the emperor, had made proposals to Monroe to treat directly with the United States government. The British note with this offer was written on November 4. Mr. Gallatin was apprised of it by Mr. Dallas in January, 1814. Mr. Baring urged him, if he should return to America during the winter, to take his way through England, as good effects might result from even a passing visit. Gallatin was then, as he expressed it, "chained for the winter to St. Petersburg," nor had he any way of reaching home, except by a cartel from a British port.
No word coming from the emperor, the envoys concluded to withdraw from St. Petersburg. Before leaving, Mr. Gallatin addressed a letter of thanks to Count Romanzoff, and requested him to communicate any information he might receive from the emperor. It was supposed that the offer of England to treat directly with America might be inclosed in Castlereagh's letter of refusal to accept Russian mediation. On January 25, 1814, Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Bayard left St. Petersburg and traveled by land to Amsterdam, which they reached after a tedious journey on March 4. The captain of the Neptune was ordered to bring his vessel to a port of Holland. At Amsterdam, where the envoys remained four weeks, they learned that Mr. Madison had at once accepted Castlereagh's offer and appointed a new commission, consisting of Messrs. Adams, Bayard, Henry Clay, and Jonathan Russell. Mr. Gallatin was not included, as he was supposed to be on his way home to resume his post in the Treasury Department, the duties of which had been performed in his absence by Mr. Jones, the secretary of the navy. When correct information did reach Mr. Madison, on February 8, he immediately added Mr. Gallatin to the commission, and appointed Mr. G. W. Campbell to be secretary of the treasury. Thus it happened that Mr. Gallatin, whom Mr. Madison intended for the head of the commission, was the last named of those who conducted the negotiations.
On April 1, 1814, Mr. Gallatin concluded to pass through England on his return, and leaving orders for the Neptune on its arrival to proceed to Falmouth, he took the packet to Harwich, whither he requested Mr. Baring to send him the requisite passports to enable him to reach London with his suite without delay.
In company with Mr. Bayard, Mr. Gallatin reached the English capital on April 9, 1814. There they heard some days later of the arrival of Messrs. Clay and Russell at Gottenburg. The situation of Great Britain had greatly changed. Intoxicated with the success of their arms and the abdication of Napoleon, the English people were quite ready to undertake the punishment of the United States, while the release of a large body of trained troops in France, Italy, Holland, and Portugal enabled the ministry immediately to throw a large force into Canada for the summer campaign. In the British cabinet a belief was said to be entertained that a continuance of the war would bring about a separation of the American Union, and perhaps a return of New England to the mother country. In this emergency Gallatin availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself of addressing Lafayette in sending to that officer the patents for the Louisiana land granted to him by the American government, and urged the use of his influence to promote an accommodation between England and the United States.
To Clay he wrote on April 22, proposing that the place of negotiation be changed from "that corner" Gottenburg, either to London, or some neutral place more accessible to the friendly interference of those among the European powers upon which they must greatly rely. The Emperor Alexander was expected in London, and Castlereagh, who had recently returned from France where he had been in direct intercourse with him, was understood to be of all the cabinet the best disposed to the United States. From Clay Gallatin heard in reply that the British charge d'affaires at Stockholm had already asked the sanction of the Swedish government to the negotiation at Gottenburg. While Clay was unwilling to go to London he gave his consent to carry on the negotiations in Holland, if the arrangement could be made in such a manner as to avoid any ill feeling at the Swedish court by the change from Gottenburg. In May Gallatin and Bayard asked of Monroe, who was then secretary of state, authority for the commissioners to remove the negotiation to any place which their judgment should prefer. In May, also, the British government was officially notified by the American commissioners of their appointment. Lord Bathurst answered with an assurance that commissioners would be forthwith appointed for Great Britain, and with a proposal of Ghent as the place for negotiation. This was at once acceded to.
Meanwhile Mr. Crawford, the United States minister at Paris, was endeavoring, at the instance of Mr. Gallatin, to secure the friendly interposition of the Emperor Alexander, not as a mediator, but as a common friend and in the interest of peace to the civilized world. Crawford was unable to obtain an audience of the emperor, or even an interview with Count Nesselrode, but Lafayette took up the cause with his hearty zeal for everything that concerned the United States, and, in a long interview with the emperor at the house of Madame de Stael, submitted to him the view taken by the United States of the controversy, and obtained from him his promise to exert his personal influence with the British government on his arrival at London. Baron von Humboldt, the Prussian minister at Paris, who had been influenced by British misrepresentation, was also won over by Lafayette, and now tendered his services to Mr. Gallatin in any way in which he might be made useful. Lafayette's letter was brought by Humboldt in person. Gallatin and Humboldt had met in 1804, when the great traveler passed through Washington on his return from Peru and Mexico.
The Treaty of Paris having been signed, Lord Castlereagh reached London early in June, and the emperor arrived a few days later. Mr. Gallatin had an audience of the emperor on June 17, and on the 19th submitted an official statement of the American case and an appeal for the interposition of his imperial majesty, "the liberator and pacifier of Europe." From the interview Mr. Gallatin learned that the emperor had made three attempts in the interest of peace, but that he had no hope that his representations had been of any service. England would not admit a third party to interfere, and he thought that, with respect to the conditions of peace, the difficulty would be with England and not with America.
On June 13 Gallatin warned Monroe of the preparations England was making which would enable her to land fifteen to twenty thousand men on the Atlantic coast; that the capture of Washington and New York would most gratify the British people, and that no help need be expected from the countries of Europe, all which were profoundly desirous of peace.
The ministry informing Mr. Gallatin that the British commissioners would start for Ghent on July 1, he improved the interval by a visit to Paris. He left London, where he had passed nearly three months in the uncertain preliminaries of negotiation, and after a few days in the French capital reached Ghent on July 6. The British commissioners only appeared on August 6. They were Lord Gambier, Henry Goulburn, and William Adams, all second-rate men, but for this reason suited to the part they had to play. After the overturn of Napoleon the British cabinet had no desire for peace, or at least not until they had secured by war some material advantages in the United States, which a treaty would confirm. The business of their representatives at Ghent was to make exorbitant demands of the Americans and delay negotiations pending the military operations in progress.
In June Gallatin was satisfied of the general hostile spirit of Great Britain and of its wish to inflict serious injury on the United States. He notified Monroe of his opinion and warned him that the most favorable terms to be expected were the status ante bellum, and not certainly that, unless the American people were united and the country able to stand the shock of the campaign. Mr. Madison's administration had already humbled itself to an abandonment, or at least to an adjournment, of the principle to establish which they had resorted to arms. But in the first stages of the negotiation it was clear that the British cabinet had more serious and dangerous objects in view, and looked beyond aggression and temporary injury to permanent objects. At the first meeting on August 8, the British commissioners demanded, as a preliminary to any negotiation, that the United States should set apart to the Indian tribes the entire territory of the Northwest to be held by them forever in sovereignty under the guaranty of Great Britain. The absurdity of such a demand is sufficient evidence that it was never seriously entertained. There could have been no idea that the military power of Great Britain was able to enforce, or that the United States would abjectly submit to, such a mutilation of its territory and such a limitation of its expansion. Behind this cover Mr. Gallatin instinctively detected the real design of the cabinet to be the conquest of New Orleans and the mouths of the Mississippi. If to the territory thus acquired that of Florida should be added by cession from Spain, which could hardly refuse any compensation asked of her by Great Britain in return for the liberation of the Peninsula, a second British dominion would be set up on the American continent. These views Gallatin communicated to Monroe in a private dispatch of August 20, 1814, by the hands of Mr. Dallas. To the sine qua non of the British commissioners no answer was made by the Americans. The negotiation was abruptly suspended, and only by informal conversation was Mr. Goulburn given to understand that reference had been had to America for instructions. Mr. Gallatin was of opinion that the negotiations were at an end, and in his despair of peace took consolation in the belief that the insolence of the demand would unite America from Maine to Georgia in defense of her rights, of her territory, and indeed of her independence. The American commissioners made no secret of their belief that their mission was closed. Two of the secretaries started from Ghent on a continental tour, and notice was given to the landlord of the house where the commissioners resided of their intention to quit it on October 1. On August 2, while matters were still at this deadlock, Lord Castlereagh passed through Ghent on his way to the Congress at Vienna. Goulburn was ordered to change his tone and Lord Liverpool was advised to moderate his demands; to use Castlereagh's words, to "a letting down of the question." Lord Liverpool replied on September 2, that he had already given Goulburn to understand that the commission had taken a very erroneous view of British policy. In this communication he betrays the hope, which the cabinet had entertained, of the outcome of American dissensions, by his expression of the opinion that if the negotiation had broken off on the notes already presented by the British commission, or the answer that the Americans were disposed to make, the war would have become popular in America.
Lord Bathurst reopened the negotiations, but his modification was of tone rather than of matter. The surrender of the control of the Lakes to Great Britain, and of the Northwest Territory to the Indians, was still adhered to. The reply of the American commissioners was drawn chiefly by Mr. Gallatin. It absolutely rejected the proposals respecting the boundary and the military flag on the Lakes, and refused even to refer them to the American government, but offered to pursue the negotiation on the other points. To Monroe Mr. Gallatin explained his reason for assenting to discuss the Indian article, and therein his colleagues concurred with him, to be: that they had little hope of peace, but thought it desirable, if there were to be a breach, that it should be on other grounds than that of Indian pacification. The reply of the commission on this point, also drafted by Mr. Gallatin, was sent in on September 26. It merely guaranteed the Indians in all their old rights, privileges, and possessions.
The destruction of the public buildings at Washington by the British troops, known in London on October 1, caused a great sensation in England. As Gallatin said in a letter to Madame de Stael, it was "an act of vandalism to which no parallel could be found in the twenty years of European war from the frontiers of Russia to Paris, and from those of Denmark to Naples." "Was it (he asked), because, with the exception of a few cathedrals, England had no public buildings comparable to them, or was it to console the London mob for their disappointment that Paris was neither pillaged nor burned?" It can hardly be doubted that the flames which consumed the American capital lighted the way to peace. The atrocity of war was again brought vividly to the view of nations whose sole yearning was for peace. Far from discouraging the American commissioners, it fortified their resolution. They knew that it would unite the people of the States as one man. It in no way disturbed Gallatin's confidence either in the present or future of his adopted country. To those who asked his opinion of the securities of the United States, he said: "If I have not wholly misunderstood America, its resources and its political morality, I am not wrong in the belief that its public funds are more secure than those of all European powers."
In spite of the protests of Mr. Goulburn, who felt the ground on which he stood daily less stable, and in his letters to his chief was unsparing in his denunciations, Lord Liverpool accepted the proposed settlement of the Indian question. Nothing remained but to incorporate in a treaty form the points agreed upon. Lord Bathurst, who seems throughout the negotiation to have forgotten the old adage, that "fine words butter no parsnips," and with true British blindness never to have appreciated how thoroughly he was overmatched by Mr. Gallatin, submitted a preliminary notification that the British terms would be based on the principle of uti possidetis, which involved a rectification of the boundaries on the Canadian frontier. To this the Americans returned a peremptory refusal. They would not go one step farther except on the basis of the status quo ante bellum. Lord Liverpool considered this as conclusive. A vigorous prosecution of the war was resolved upon by the cabinet. Only for reasons of expediency was a show of negotiation still kept up.
But when the cabinet took a survey of the general field they felt little complacency in the prospect of a struggle which sooner or later must interest the maritime powers. France, compelled by the peace of Vienna to withdraw from what even Lafayette considered as her natural frontier, was restive, and there was a large party in Russia who would gladly see the emperor take up the American cause. Moreover the chancellor of the exchequer saw before him an inevitable addition of ten millions of pounds sterling to his budget, the only avowable reason for which was the rectification of the Canadian frontier. In their distress the cabinet proposed to Wellington to go to the United States with the olive-branch and the sword, to negotiate or conquer a peace. The desire of the cabinet to bring the war to an honorable conclusion was avowed. But Wellington, before accepting this proposal, gave Lord Liverpool a very frank opinion of the mistake made in exacting territorial concessions, since the British held no territory of the United States in other than temporary possession, and had no right to make any such demand. Lord Liverpool was not tenacious. He was never, he wrote Lord Bathurst, much inclined to give way to the Americans, but the cabinet felt itself compelled to withdraw from its extreme ground. He accepted his defeat and acknowledged it.
The Americans meanwhile arranged a draft of a treaty. The articles on impressment and other maritime rights, absolutely rejected by the British, were set aside. There only remained the question of the boundaries, the fisheries, and the navigation of the Mississippi. Here Mr. Gallatin had as much difficulty in maintaining harmony between Adams and Clay as in obtaining a peace from Liverpool and Bathurst. Adams was determined to save the fisheries; Clay would not hear of opening the Mississippi to British vessels. A compromise was effected by which it was agreed that no allusion should be made to either subject. Mr. Gallatin terminated the dispute by adding a declaration that the commissioners were willing to sign a treaty applying the principle of the status quo ante bellum to all the subjects of difference. This was in strict conformity with the instructions from the home government. On November 10 the American draft was sent in. On the 25th the British replied with a counter-draft which made no allusion to the fisheries, but stipulated for the free navigation of the Mississippi. The Americans replied that they would give up the navigation of the river for a surrender of the fisheries. This proposal was at once refused by the British. The matter was settled by an offer of the Americans to negotiate under a distinct reservation of all American rights. All stipulations on either subject were in the end omitted, the British government on December 22 withdrawing the article referring to these points. In the course of the negotiation Mr. Gallatin proposed that in case of a future war both nations should engage never to employ the savages as auxiliaries, but this article does not appear. To the credit of civilization, however, the last article contained a mutual engagement to put an end to the trade in slaves. An agreement entered into in perfect faith, but which the jealousy of the exercise of search in any form rendered nugatory for half a century. On Christmas day the treaty was signed. Mr. Henry Adams justly says, "Far more than contemporaries ever supposed, or than is now imagined, the Treaty of Ghent was the special work and the peculiar triumph of Mr. Gallatin." His own correspondence shows how admirably he was constituted for the nice work of diplomatic negotiation. In the self-poise which he maintained in the most critical situations, the unerring sagacity with which he penetrated the purposes of his adversaries, the address with which he soothed the passions and guided the judgments of his colleagues, it is impossible to find a single fault. If he had a fault, says his biographer, it was that of using the razor when he would have done better with the axe. But the axe is not a diplomatic weapon. The simulation of temper may serve an occasional purpose, but temper itself is a mistake; and to Mr. Gallatin's credit be it said, it was a mistake never committed by him in the course of this long and sometimes painful negotiation. Looking back upon its shifting scenes, it is clear that even the pertinacity of Adams and the irascibility of Clay served to advance the purpose of the mission. From the first to the last Mr. Gallatin had his own way, not because it was his own way, but because it was the best way and was so recognized by the majority of the commission at every turn of difference. Fortunately for the interests of peace the battle of New Orleans had not yet been fought. There seems a justice in this final act of the war. The British attack upon the Chesapeake was committed before war had been declared. The battle of New Orleans was fought a fortnight after the Treaty of Ghent was signed. The burning of Washington was avenged by the most complete defeat which the British had ever encountered in their long career of military prowess.
By his political life Mr. Gallatin acquired an American reputation; by his management of the finances of the United States he placed himself among the first political economists of the day; but his masterly conduct of the Treaty of Ghent showed him the equal of the best of European statesmen on their own peculiar ground of diplomacy. No one of American birth has ever rivaled him in this field. Europeans recognized his pre-eminent genius. Sismondi praised him in a public discourse. Humboldt addressed him as his illustrious friend. Madame de Stael expressed to him her admiration for his mind and character. Alexander Baring gave him more than admiration, his friendship.
* * * * *
Upon the separation of the commissioners, Mr. Gallatin paid a flying visit to Geneva. His fame, or "glory," to use the words of Humboldt, preceded him. Of his old intimates, Serre was under the sod in a West Indian island; Badollet was leading a quiet life at Vincennes in the Indiana Territory, where Gallatin had obtained for him an appointment in the land office; Dumont was in England. Of Gallatin's family few remained. But he received the honors due to him as a Genevan who had shed a lustre on his native city. On his way to England, where he had made an appointment with his colleagues to attempt a commercial treaty with Great Britain, he stopped at Paris. Here he saw Napoleon, returned from Elba, his star in full blaze before its final extinction. Here he heard in April (1815) of his appointment by Madison as minister to France. His colleagues also had been honored by similar advancements. Adams was transferred from Russia to England. Bayard was named minister to Russia, but illness prevented his taking possession of his post.
In April, Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Clay opened negotiations with Lord Castlereagh in London, where they were quickly joined by Adams. Lord Castlereagh bore no malice against Mr. Gallatin for the treaty. On the contrary, he wrote of it to Lord Liverpool as "a most auspicious and seasonable event," and wished him joy at "being released from the millstone of an American war." With Lord Castlereagh Mr. Gallatin arranged in the course of the summer a convention regulating commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain, the only truly valuable part of which was that which abolished all discriminating duties. Mr. Gallatin considered this concession as an evidence of friendly disposition, and rightly judged that British antipathy and prejudice were modified, and that in the future friendly relations would be preserved and a rupture avoided. Beyond this, there was little gained. The old irritating questions of impressment and blockade and the exclusion of the United States from the West Indies trade remained.
In July Mr. Gallatin parted from Mr. Baring and his London friends on his homeward journey. From New York, on September 4, he wrote Madison, thanking him for the appointment of minister to France as an "evidence of undiminished attachment and of public satisfaction for his services;" but he still held his acceptance in abeyance. To Jefferson, two days later, he had also the satisfaction to say with justice, that the character of the United States stood as "high as ever it did on the European continents, and higher than ever it did in Great Britain;" and that the United States was considered "as the nation designed to check the naval despotism of England." To Jefferson he naturally spoke of that France from which they had drawn some of their inspirations and their doctrines.
He thus describes the condition of the people:—
"The revolution (the political change of 1789) has not, however, been altogether useless. There is a visible improvement in the agriculture of the country and the situation of the peasantry. The new generation belonging to that class, freed from the petty despotism of nobles and priests, and made more easy in their circumstances by the abolition of tithes, and the equalization of taxes, have acquired an independent spirit, and are far superior to their fathers in intellect and information; they are not republicans and are still too much dazzled by military glory; but I think that no monarch or ex-nobles can hereafter oppress them long with impunity."
And again, "Exhausted, degraded, and oppressed as France now is, I do not despair of her ultimate success in establishing her independence and a free form of government." But it was not till half a century later that Gambetta, the Mirabeau of the Republic, led France to the full possession of her material forces, and reestablished in their original vigor the principles of 1789. That Gallatin was not blinded by democratic prejudices appears in the letter he wrote to Lafayette after Napoleon's abdication, in which he said: "My attachment to the form of government under which I was born and have ever lived never made me desirous that it should, by way of experiment, be applied to countries which might be better fitted for a limited monarchy."
Minister to France
Strange as it appears, there is no doubt that Mr. Gallatin was at this time heartily weary of political life, and seriously contemplated a permanent retirement to the banks of the Monongahela. He naturally enough declined a nomination to Congress, which was tendered him by the Philadelphia district. His tastes were not for the violence and turbulence of the popular house.
Madison left him full time to decide whether he could arrange his private affairs so as to accept the mission to Paris. In November he positively declined. He considered the compensation as incompetent to the support of a minister in the style in which he was expected to live. His private income was at this time about twenty-five hundred dollars a year. Monroe pressed him earnestly not to quit the public service, but the year closed and Mr. Gallatin had not made up his mind. In the situation of France, which he considered "would under her present dynasty be for some years a vassal of her great rival," he did not consider the mission important, and his private fortune was limited to a narrow competence. "I do not wish," he wrote to Monroe, "to accumulate any property. I will not do my family the injury of impairing the little I have. My health is frail; they may soon lose me, and I will not leave them dependent on the bounty of others." But being again earnestly pressed, he on January 2, 1816, accepted the appointment. To Jefferson he wrote that he would not conceal 'that he did not feel yet old enough nor had philosophy enough to go into retirement and abstract himself wholly from public affairs.'
In April, Madison notified Mr. Gallatin of Dallas's probable retirement from the Treasury, and offered him the post if he cared to return to it. He was perfectly aware of his supreme fitness for the direction of the Treasury, and he declined with reluctance, because he was disturbed by the suspension of specie payments. Remembering Madison's weakness in 1812 on the subject of the renewal of the bank charter, which Gallatin considered necessary in the situation of the finances, he could hardly have felt a desire to return to the cabinet in that or indeed in any other capacity. He was perfectly conscious that as leader of the House of Representatives, as secretary of the treasury, and as negotiator of the Ghent treaty, he had brought into the triumvirate all its practical statesmanship. His short career abroad had opened to him a new source of intellectual pleasure. He had earned a right to some hours of ease. Diplomacy at that period, when communication was uncertain and difficult, was perforce less restricted than in these latter days, when ambassadors are little more than foreign clerks of the State Department without even the freedom of a chief of bureau. Gallatin felt entirely at home, and was happy in this peculiar sphere. There was no time in his life when he would not have gladly surrendered all political power for the enjoyment of intellectual ease, the pursuit of science, and the atmosphere of society of the higher order of culture in whatever field. And Paris was then, as it is still, the centre of intellectual and social civilization.
Jefferson rejoiced in Gallatin's appointment to France, and rightly judged that he would be of great service there. Of Louis XVIII., however, Jefferson had a poor opinion. He thought him 'a fool and a bigot, but, bating a little duplicity, honest and meaning well.' Jefferson could give Gallatin no letters. He had 'no acquaintances left in France; some were guillotined, some fled, some died, some are exiled, and he knew of nobody left but Lafayette.' With Destutt de Tracy, an intimate friend of Lafayette, Jefferson was in correspondence. Indeed, he was engaged on the translation of Tracy's work on political economy, the best, in Jefferson's opinion, that had ever appeared.
Gallatin reached Paris with his family on July 9, 1816, and had an interview with the Duc de Richelieu, the minister of Louis XVIII., two days later. The conversation turned upon the sympathy for Bonaparte in the United States, which Richelieu could not understand; but Gallatin explained that it was not extended to him as the despot of France, but as the most formidable enemy of England. Richelieu warned him of the prejudices which might be aroused against the reigning family 'by ex-kings and other emigrants of the same description' who had lately removed to the United States. This was an allusion to Jerome, who had fled from the throne of Westphalia to the banks of the Delaware. The king gave Gallatin an audience on the 11th, when he presented his credentials. His reception both by his majesty and the princes was, he wrote to Monroe, "what is called gracious." Louis the Eighteenth was a Bourbon to the ends of his fingers. He had the bonhommie dashed with malice which characterized the race. None could better appreciate than he the vein of good-natured satire, the acquired tone of French society, which was to Mr. Gallatin a natural gift. Mr. Gallatin was not only kindly but familiarly received at court; and at the petits soupers, which were the delight of the epicurean king, his majesty on more than one occasion shelled the crawfish for the youthful daughter of the republican ambassador. An anecdote is preserved of the king's courteous malice. To a compliment paid Mr. Gallatin on his French, the king added, "but I think my English is better than yours."
Gallatin's first negotiations were to obtain indemnity for the captures under the Berlin and Milan decrees; but although the Duc de Richelieu never for a moment hinted that the government of the Restoration was not responsible for the acts of Napoleon, yet he stated that the mass of injuries for which compensation was demanded by other governments was so great that indemnity must be limited to the most flagrant cases. They would pay for vessels burnt at sea, but would go no farther. In spite of Mr. Gallatin's persistency no advance was made in the negotiation. A minor matter gave him some annoyance. On July 4, 1816, at a public dinner, the postmaster at Baltimore proposed a toast which, by its disrespect, gave umbrage to the king. Hyde de Neuville, the French minister to the United States, demanded the dismissal of the offender. If our institutions and habits as well as public opinion had not forbidden compliance with this request, the dictatorial tone of De Neuville was sufficient bar. Richelieu could not be made to understand the reason for the refusal, and while disclaiming any idea of using force, said that the government would show its dissatisfaction in its own way. This seemed to intimate an indefinite postponement of a consideration of American demands, and would have rendered Mr. Gallatin's further residence useless as well as unpleasant; but French dignity got the better of what Gallatin termed, "the sickly sentimentality which existed on the subject of personal abuse of the king," and the insignificant incident was not allowed to interfere with friendly intercourse.
In 1817 Mr. Gallatin was engaged not only in advising Mr. Adams at London upon the points of a commercial treaty with Great Britain, but also, together with Mr. William Eustis, minister to the Netherlands, in a negotiation with that government.
The commission met at the Hague, Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Van der Kemp representing Holland. The subjects were the treaty of 1782 between the States-general of the Netherlands and the United States, the repeal of discriminating duties, and the participation of the United States in the trade with the Dutch East Indies. The basis of a treaty could not be agreed upon, and the whole matter was referred back to the two governments, the American commissioners recommending to the President a repeal of duties discriminating against vessels of the Netherlands, which would no doubt prevent future exaction of extra tonnage duties imposed on American vessels by that government. These negotiations occupied the late summer months. At the end of September Mr. Gallatin was again at his post in Paris.
In June, 1818, Mr. Richard Rush, who owed his introduction into public life to Mr. Gallatin, was appointed minister to England, Adams returning to the United States to take the portfolio of State in President Monroe's cabinet. Gallatin was joined to Rush, for the conduct of negotiations with Great Britain, rendered necessary by the approaching expiration of the commercial convention of July 3, 1815, which had been limited to four years. The general field of disputed points was again entered. It included the questions of impressment, the fisheries, the boundaries, and indemnity for slaves. The commissioners were supported by a temper of the American people different from that which prevailed when Jay and Gallatin respectively undertook the delicate work of negotiation in 1794 and 1814. A compromise was arrived at, which was signed on October 20, 1818. The articles on maritime rights and impressment were set aside. A convention was made for ten years in regard to the fisheries, the northwest boundary, and other points, and the commercial convention of 1815 was renewed. The English claim to the navigation of the Mississippi was finally disposed of, and the article concerning the West India trade was referred to the President. The arrangement of the fishery question disturbed Mr. Gallatin, who found himself compelled to sign an agreement which left the United States in a worse situation in that respect than before the war of 1812. But as the British courts would certainly uphold the construction by their government of the treaty of 1783, our vessels, when seized, would be condemned and a collision would immediately ensue. This, and the critical condition of our Spanish relations, left no choice between concession and war. A short time afterward Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington expressed friendly dispositions, and the mooted points of impressment and the West India trade were considered by them to be near an arrangement. The right of British armed vessels to examine American crews was abandoned in the convention itself.
In July, 1818, the capture of Fort St. Mark and the occupation of Pensacola in Florida by General Jackson made some stir in the quiet waters of our foreign diplomacy. Uncertain as to whether the act would be disavowed or justified by the American government, Mr. Gallatin explained to the European ministers that the forcible occupation of the Spanish province was an act of self-defence and protection against the Indians, but Richelieu replied that the United States "had adopted the game laws and pursued in foreign ground what was started in its own." Yet, to the astonishment of Mr. Gallatin, Richelieu was moderate and friendly in language, and urged a speedy amicable arrangement of differences with Spain, in whose affairs France took an interest, and who had asked her good offices. But Gallatin at once rejected any idea that the United States would join France in any mediation between Spain and her revolted colonies. It seems rather singular that, to the suggestion that a Spanish prince might be sent over to America as an independent monarch, Gallatin contented himself with expressing a doubt as to the efficacy of such a course to preserve their independence. Mr. Adams was informed that public recognition of the independence of the insurgent colony of Buenos Ayres would shock the feelings and prejudices of the French ministers, but that notwithstanding this displeasure, France would not join Spain in a war on this account. England, however, would see such a war without regret, and privateers under Spanish commissions would instantly be fitted out, both in France and England. Under the existing convention with Great Britain three hundred American vessels arrived at Liverpool in the first nine months of 1818 from the United States and only thirty English, an advantage to the United States which war would at once destroy. Russia also was displeased with the recognition of the independence of the Spanish colonies. At the Congress of Aix la Chapelle various plans of mediation were proposed, but England refusing to engage to break off all commercial relations with such of the insurgent colonies as should reject the proposals agreed to, the whole project was abandoned. An agreement between the five great powers for the suppression of the slave trade was also proposed at this Congress, but France declined to recognize the right to visit French vessels in time of peace, and Russia making a similar declaration, this plan also fell to the ground, and even an association against the exactions of the Barbary powers was prevented by jealousy of the naval preponderance of Great Britain.
While Mr. Gallatin was still actively engaged in an endeavor to put our commercial relations with France on a satisfactory basis, and negotiating with M. Pasquier, the new French minister for foreign affairs, both with regard to indemnities for captures and the new Spanish relations involved in the cession of Florida to the United States, a serious trouble arose in which Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Adams were at direct difference. In the spring of 1821 a French vessel, the Apollon, was seized on the St. Mary's River, on the Spanish side, and condemned for violation of the United States navigation laws. Mr. Adams sustained the seizure and Mr. Gallatin did his best to defend it, on the ground that the place where the vessel was seized was embraced in the occupation of the United States. To Adams he wrote that the doctrine assumed by the State Department with respect to the non-ratified treaty with Spain was not generally admitted in Europe, and that "he thought it equally dangerous and inconsistent with our general principles to assert that we had a right to seize a vessel for any cause short of piracy in a place where we did not previously claim jurisdiction." Mr. Gallatin succeeded in satisfying M. Pasquier that the seizure was not in violation of the law of nations or an insult to the French flag, and the captain having instituted a suit for redress against the seizing officers, the French minister allowed the matter to rest. Adams, however, was indignant at having his arguments set aside. He complained of it to Calhoun, and asked what Mr. Gallatin meant. Calhoun answered that perhaps it was "the pride of opinion." But when Adams got to his diary, which was the safety-valve of his ill-temper, he set a black mark against Mr. Gallatin's name in these words: "Gallatin is a man of first-rate talents, conscious and vain of them, and mortified in his ambition, checked as it has been, after attaining the last step to the summit; timid in great perils, tortuous in his paths; born in Europe, disguising and yet betraying a superstitious prejudice of European superiority of intellect, and holding principles pliable to circumstances, occasionally mistaking the left for the right handed wisdom." Against this judgment, Gallatin's estimate of Adams may be here set down. It was expressed to his intimate friend Badollet in 1824: "John Q. Adams is a virtuous man, whose temper, which is not the best, might be overlooked; he has very great and miscellaneous knowledge, and he is with his pen a powerful debater; but he wants, to a deplorable degree, that most essential quality, a sound and correct judgment. Of this I have had in my official connection and intercourse with him complete and repeated proofs; and although he may be useful when controlled and checked by others, he ought never to be trusted with a place where, unrestrained, his errors might be fatal to the country." Crawford complained of the difficulty he encountered in the cabinet of softening the asperities which invariably predominated in the official notes of the State Department while under Adams's direction, and said that, had they been allowed to remain as originally drafted, the government would have been "unembarrassed by diplomatic relations with more than one power." But it must be remembered that there was no love lost between Adams and Crawford—political rivals and not personal friends.
The commercial negotiations, and the discussion of French pretensions under the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty, opened with M. Pasquier, were continued with the Vicomte de Montmorenci, who succeeded him as minister of foreign affairs. In September, 1821, Mr. Gallatin had communicated to Mr. Adams his intention of returning home in the spring; but there appearing a chance of success in the negotiation of a treaty, he wrote in February, 1822, to President Monroe that if no successor had been appointed, he was desirous to remain some time longer. He was loath to return without having succeeded in any one subject intrusted to his care. Meanwhile Mr. Adams and M. de Neuville, the French minister, had been busy in the United States. A commercial convention was signed at Washington on June 24, 1822. Concerning this agreement Mr. Gallatin wrote to Adams that the terms were much more favorable to France than he had been led to presume would be acceded to, and more so than had been hoped for by the French government. He nevertheless expressed the wish that, as it had been signed, it should be ratified, in anticipation that the superior activity of our ship-owners and seamen would enable America to stand the competition.
In January, 1823, Montmorenci resigned and was succeeded by M. de Chateaubriand. The change of ministers made no change in the French persistence in connecting the discussion of the American claims with that of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty, an arrangement to which Mr. Gallatin would not consent. As a last resort he so informed M. de Chateaubriand, but receiving an unsatisfactory answer he concluded that there was at that time no disposition in France to do us justice; and as his protracted stay could be of no service to the United States, he determined to return home in the course of the spring. In April he received leave of absence from the President. On May 13 he had a final conference with Chateaubriand, in which he could get no promise of any redress, but did obtain the explicit declaration that France would in no manner interfere in American questions.
Mr. Gallatin took passage at Havre, and arrived in New York on June 24, 1823. His political friends, especially Crawford, were eager for his return. Crawford wished him to stand for vice-president in the coming presidential campaign. After a short visit to Washington he went to his home at New Geneva. The real value of perfect public service, or indeed of any service, is only appreciated when it ceases, and friction takes the place of smooth and noiseless order. Hardly was Mr. Gallatin settled at Friendship Hill when a letter from President Monroe (October 15) arrived, urging him to return to Paris, if only for the winter, or until the crisis brought on by the rupture between France and Spain should be over. Mr. Gallatin replied, that the deranged state of his private affairs rendered his return to Europe extremely improbable.
Goethe says in his "Elective Affinities" that we cannot escape the atmosphere we breathe. The natural atmosphere of Mr. Gallatin was public life. In November, 1825, Mr. Clay, Adams's secretary of state, offered, and, meeting a refusal, pressed upon Mr. Gallatin the post of representative of the United States at the proposed Congress of American Republics at Panama. Mr. Clay was right in considering it the most important mission ever sent from the United States, and had Mr. Gallatin accepted it, relations with these interesting countries might have been improved to an immeasurable degree of happiness to them, and of benefit to both continents. But his family would not hear of his exposure in the fatal climate of the American Isthmus. Moreover, he pleaded his ignorance of the Spanish language as a sufficient excuse for declining the mission,—an example which has not been followed in later days.
Minister to England
In the spring of 1826 Mr. Rufus King, who had taken the place of Mr. Rush at London, that gentleman having been called to the Treasury by President Adams, fell ill, and requested the assistance of an extraordinary envoy. Mr. Gallatin accepted the mission. Before his nomination reached the Senate Mr. King's resignation was received and accepted. President Adams wishing to intrust Mr. Gallatin alone with the pending negotiations, and unwilling to make the two nominations of minister and envoy, proposed to Mr. Gallatin to take the post of minister, with powers to negotiate, and liberty to return when the negotiations should be finished. Personal expenses at London were so great that the post of resident minister was ruinous. Mr. Adams promised Mr. Gallatin carte blanche as to his instructions. But instead of latitude and discretionary power he received at New York voluminous directions which he engaged faithfully to execute, while regretting that they had not been made known to him sooner. Nevertheless, in the three days which intervened before his sailing, he wrote to Mr. Clay a lucid statement of the points in issue, and mentioned the modifications he desired. The points were: 1. The northeastern boundary. Upon this he was only authorized to obtain a reference of the subject to a direct negotiation at Washington. He asked consent, in case it should be desirable, to open a negotiation on this point at London. Should Great Britain refuse to open a negotiation at either place, or to agree to a joint statement, then he was not to be bound to propose an immediate reference to a third power. 2. The boundary west of the Stony Mountains. The instructions limited British continuance on settlements south of the 49th parallel to five years. Mr. Gallatin thought this insufficient, and proposed fifteen years. 3. The St. Lawrence navigation, and the intercourse with Canada, as to which he suggested alternate plans. 4. Colonial trade, on which he asked precise instructions as to what was desired. To the President he complained of his instructions as 'of the most peremptory nature, leaving no discretion on unimportant points, and making of him a mere machine,' and he requested that it be officially announced to him 'that the instructions were intended to guide but not absolutely to bind him.' He was not afraid of incurring responsibility where discretion was allowed, but he would not do it in the face of strict and positive injunctions. Mr. Gallatin sailed from New York with his wife and daughter July 1, 1826. Mr. William Beach Lawrence, then a youth, accompanied him as his secretary. They reached London on August 7.
Canning was then at the head of the foreign office, and the temper of the ministry was not that of Castlereagh and Wellington. Mr. Gallatin did not like French diplomacy, nor did he admire that of England. He wrote to his son: 'Some of the French statesmen occasionally say what is not true; here (in London) they conceal the truth.' But while in diplomacy he found strength and the opinion of that strength to be the only weapons, he felt satisfaction that the country could support its rights and pretensions by assuming a different attitude. In the course of the negotiations Mr. Gallatin learned that one of the king's ministers had complained of the tone of United States diplomacy towards England, and had added, that it was time to show that it was felt and resented. No such fault could attach to the correspondence of Mr. Rush and Mr. King, or to that of Mr. Clay, which Mr. Addington had found quite acceptable; but it was ascribed to Mr. Adams's instructions to Mr. Rush, printed by order of the Senate. Mr. Gallatin later discovered that the offensive remarks were in Baylies's report on the territory west of the Stony Mountains. Mr. Gallatin explained the independence of the House committees in the United States, but as a diplomatist he felt the need of a concert between the executive and the committees of Congress in all that concerns foreign relations. Government, after all, is a complex science.
The simple directness with which Mr. Gallatin dealt with Lord Liverpool could not serve with a man of Canning's disposition. Mr. Gallatin did not fail to bring to bear the pressure of a possible change in the relations of the United States and Great Britain, which might arise from the war which seemed imminent between that power and Spain. The new questions of Cuba, and the old habit of impressment, might at once bring the United States into collision with England. But the war did not take place, and the close of the year found the negotiations not far advanced. Only the convention of 1815 would no doubt be renewed. He asked for further instructions on that subject, the joint occupancy of western territory, and impressments, all of which he hoped to arrange in the spring and summer, and return home. Mr. Lawrence he found to be a secretary more capable in the current business of the legation than any of his predecessors. Mr. Gallatin could safely leave him there as charge d'affaires.
In December, Chateaubriand used in the House of Peers the words which Mr. Gallatin had said to him, 'that England could not take Cuba without making war on the United States, and that she knew it.' Mr. Gallatin so informed Adams, and added, that France would no doubt agree, as Chateaubriand would have agreed, to a tripartite instrument if England were of the same opinion.
In March, 1827, Adams warned Gallatin that the sudden and unexpected determination of Great Britain to break off all negotiation concerning the colonial trade, and the contemporaneous interdiction of the vessels of the United States from all British ports in the West Indies, had put a new face on matters. A renewal of the convention of 1818 would probably be agreed to by the Senate, but no concession in the form of a treaty would be acceptable. His words were emphatic. "One inch of ground yielded on the northwest coast,—one step backward from the claim to the navigation of the St. Lawrence,—one hair's breadth of compromise upon the article of impressment would be certain to meet the reprobation of the Senate." In this temper of parties, Adams added, "All we can hope to accomplish will be to adjourn controversies which we cannot adjust, and say to Britain as the Abbe Bernis said to Cardinal Fleuri: 'Monseigneur, j'attendrai.'"
But changes now occurred in the British ministry: Lord Liverpool died in February, 1827—Mr. Canning in the following August. Lord Goderich became prime minister. The new administration returned from Canning's eccentric course to the old and quiet path. The commercial convention of 1815 was renewed indefinitely, each party being at liberty to abrogate it at twelve months' notice. The joint occupancy of the Oregon Territory, agreed to in 1818, was continued in a similar manner. On September 29 a convention was signed, referring the northeast boundary to the arbitration of a friendly sovereign. Mr. Gallatin believed that, had Canning lived, he would have opened a negotiation on the subject of impressment. Huskisson considered that 'the right, even if well founded, was one the exercise of which was intolerable, but that this was not the time to take up the subject.' The new British administration did not dare to encounter the clamor of the navy, the opposition of the Tories, and the pride of the nation on this question.
Having accomplished all that was practicable, completed all the current business, and leaving the British government in a better temper than he found it, Mr. Gallatin returned to the United States, reaching New York on November 29, 1827. Nothing remained in foreign relations in respect to which Mr. Gallatin felt that he could be of much use except the northeast boundary. In a letter of congratulation to Mr. Gallatin on his arrival, President Adams made ample amends for all his harsh judgments, expressed or withheld. The three conventions were entirely satisfactory to him. Of the negotiation he said, in words as graceful as warm, "I shall feel most sensibly the loss of your presence at London, and can form no more earnest wish than that your successor may acquire the same influence of reason and good temper which you did exercise, and that it may be applied with as salutary effect to the future discussions between the two governments." During his visit to London Mr. Gallatin was overwhelmed with civilities. Canning was courteous to a degree, and rarely a day passed that the American ambassador had not to choose between half a dozen invitations to dinner. At the house of the Russian minister, the Count de Lieven, he was always welcome, and the Countess de Lieven, the autocrat of foreign society in London, without whose pass no stranger could cross the sacred threshold of Almack's, was his fast friend. To each circle he carried that which each most prized. Whether the conversation turned upon government or science, the dry figures of finance, or the more genial topic of diplomatic intrigue, Mr. Gallatin was its easy master, and his words never fell on inattentive ears.
With this mission to London Mr. Gallatin's diplomatic service closed. He would have accepted the French mission in 1834, and so informed Van Buren, but General Jackson, who was President, had his own plans, and 'ran his machine' without consulting other than his own prejudices or whims. But although Mr. Gallatin was no longer in the field of diplomacy, his counsels were eagerly sought. The northeastern boundary was a troublesome question, indeed in the new phases of American politics an imminent danger. The extension of the commercial relations of Great Britain and the United States rendered it imperative that no point of dispute should remain which could be determined. For two years after his return from England, Mr. Gallatin was employed in the preparation of an argument to be laid before the king of the Netherlands, who had been selected as the arbiter between the United States and Great Britain on the boundary. The king undertook to press a conventional line, which the United States, not being bound to accept, refused. In 1839 Mr. Gallatin prepared, and put before the world, a statement of the facts in the case. This, revised, together with the speech of Mr. Webster, a copy of the Jay treaty, and eight maps, he published at his own expense in 1840.
At this time conflicts on the Maine frontier brought the subject up in a manner not to be ignored. Popular feeling was at high pitch. In this condition of affairs Alexander Baring, who had been raised to the peerage as Lord Ashburton, was sent to America on a mission of friendship and peace. As a young man he had listened to the debate on Jay's treaty in 1795. He was now to be received by Webster in Washington in the same spirit in which Grenville received Jay in London, when it was mutually understood that they should discuss the matter as friends and not as diplomatists, and leave their articles as records of agreement, not as compromises of discord. Gallatin eagerly awaited the arrival of his old friend, and was grievously disappointed when contrary winds blew the frigate which carried him to Annapolis. Letters were immediately exchanged; Lord Ashburton engaging before he left the country to find Gallatin out, and, as he said, to "draw a little wisdom from the best well." After the treaty was signed, Lord Ashburton went from Washington to New York, and the old friends met once more: Mr. Gallatin was in his 82d year, but in the full possession of his faculties; Lord Ashburton in his 68th year: a memorable meeting of two great men, whose lives had much in common; the one the foremost banker of England, the other the matchless financier of America; and to this sufficient honor was added for each the singular merit of having negotiated for his country the most important treaty in its relation to the other since the separation of 1783,—Mr. Gallatin, the Treaty of Ghent, which gave peace to America; Lord Ashburton, that treaty which is known by his name and which secured peace to Great Britain.
In 1846 Mr. Gallatin rendered his last diplomatic service by the publication of a pamphlet on the Oregon question, which was then as threatening as that of the northeastern boundary had been. This admirable exposition, which put before the people as well as the negotiators the precise merits of the controversy, powerfully contributed to the ultimate peaceful settlement.
Still once more Mr. Gallatin threw his authoritative words into the scale of justice. His last appearance in public had been when he presided on April 24, 1844, at a meeting in New York city to protest against the annexation of Texas. He then held that the resolution of the House declaring the treaty of annexation between the United States of America and the Republic of Texas to be the fundamental law of union between them, without and against the consent of the Senate, was a direct and undisguised usurpation of power and a violation of the Constitution. In the storm of opposition he lifted his feeble voice in condemnation of the violation of treaties, and the disregard of the sacred obligations of mankind. "I am highly gratified," were his final words, "I am highly gratified that the last public act of a long life should have been that of bearing testimony against this outrageous attempt. It is indeed a consolation that my almost extinguished voice has been on this occasion raised in defense of liberty, of justice, and of our country." Of the war with Mexico, he was wont to say, "that it was the only blot upon the escutcheon of the United States." Aged as he was, he would not rest until he had made his last appeal for peace with Mexico. He also prepared supplementary essays on war expenses: the first of these was published in 1847, the second in 1848. For months all his faculties, all his feelings were absorbed in this one subject. These pamphlets were widely circulated by the friends of peace. The venerable sage had the comfort of knowing that his words were not in vain. Peace with Mexico was signed on February 2, 1848.
* * * * *
Mr. Gallatin was no believer in the doctrine of 'manifest destiny,'—the policy of bringing all North America into the occupation of a race speaking the same language, and under a single government. On February 16, 1848, before news of the signature of the treaty at Guadalupe Hidalgo, by Mr. Trist, the American negotiator, was known in New York, Mr. Gallatin condemned this idea in a remarkable passage, in a letter to Garrett Davis:—
"What shall be said of the notion of an empire extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the North Pole to the Equator? Of the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race, of its universal monarchy over the whole of North America? Now, I will ask, which is the portion of the globe that has attained the highest degree of civilization and even of power—Asia, with its vast empires of Turkey, India, and China, or Europe divided into near twenty independent sovereignties? Other powerful causes have undoubtedly largely contributed to that result; but this, the great division into ten or twelve distinct languages, must not be neglected. But all these allegations of superiority of race and destiny neither require nor deserve any answer. They are but pretences under which to disguise ambition, cupidity, or silly vanity."
The justice of these reflections was assuredly borne out by the experience of history, but manifest destiny takes no account of past lessons.
Before these lines of Mr. Gallatin were penned, on January 19, 1848, gold was discovered in California. The announcement startled the world and opened a new era, not only to Europe, but to mankind. Extending the metallic basis, which no man better than Mr. Gallatin recognized and held to be the true solvent of money transactions, it postponed for a half century the inevitable conflict between capital and labor, the first outbreaks of which in Europe had been with difficulty suppressed, when the news of good tidings gave promise of unexpected relief. Credit revived, new enterprises of colossal magnitude were undertaken, and the demand for labor quickly exceeded the supply. Emigration to America rose to incredible proportions. Had Mr. Gallatin lived, he would have found new elements to be weighed in his nice balance of probabilities. He would no longer, as in 1839, have been compelled to say that "specie is a foreign product," but would have given to us inestimable advice as to the proper use to be made of the vast sums taken out from our own soil. He would have been also brought to face the ethnologic problem of a continent inhabited by a single race, not Anglo-Saxon, nor Teutonic, nor yet Latin, but a composite race in which all these will be merged and blended; a new American race which, springing from a broader surface, shall rise to higher summits of intellectual power and, with a greater variety of natural qualities, achieve excellence in more numerous ways. This vision was denied to Mr. Gallatin. He died at the threshold of the new era—of the golden age. A half century has not passed since his death, and the United States has taken from her soil a value of over three thousand millions of dollars, in gold and silver (gold two thousand millions, silver one thousand millions), more than two thirds of the total amount estimated by Mr. Gallatin as the store of Europe in 1839; and has also added to her population, by immigration alone, ten millions of people, of whom but a small proportion are of the Anglo-Saxon race.
[Footnote 19: Life of Albert Gallatin, p. 546.]
[Footnote 20: The frigate Chesapeake was captured by the British man-of-war Leopard in June, 1807.]
[Footnote 21: A translation of this work, Economie Politique, was published under Jefferson's supervision in 1818.]
CANDIDATE FOR THE VICE-PRESIDENCY
During the twelve years that Mr. Gallatin was in the Treasury he was continually looking for some man who could take his place in that office, and aid in the direction of national politics; to use his own words, "who could replace Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Madison, and himself." Breckenridge of Kentucky only appeared and died. The eccentricities of John Randolph unfitted him for leadership. William H. Crawford of Georgia, Monroe's secretary of the treasury, alone filled Gallatin's expectations. To a powerful mind Crawford "united a most correct judgment and an inflexible integrity. Unfortunately he was neither indulgent nor civil, and, consequently, was unpopular." Andrew Jackson, Gallatin said, "was an honest man, and the idol of the worshipers of military glory, but from incapacity, military habits, and habitual disregard of laws and constitutional provisions, entirely unfit for the office of president." John C. Calhoun he looked upon as "a smart fellow, one of the first amongst second-rate men, but of lax political principles and an inordinate ambition, not over-delicate in the means of satisfying itself." Clay he considered to be a man of splendid talents and a generous mind; John Quincy Adams to be 'wanting to a deplorable degree in that most essential quality, a sound and correct judgment.'
The contest lay between Adams and Crawford. Crawford was the choice of Jefferson and Madison as well as of Gallatin. The principles of the Republican party had so changed that Nathaniel Macon could say in 1824, in reply to a request from Mr. Gallatin to take part in a caucus for the purpose of forwarding Mr. Crawford's nomination, that there were "not five members of Congress who entertained the opinions which those did who brought Mr. Jefferson into power." But Macon was of the Brutus stamp of politicians; of that stern cast of mind which does not 'alter when it alteration finds or bend with the remover to remove,' and held yielding to the compulsion of circumstances to be an abandonment of principle.
Jefferson still held the consolidation of power to be the chief danger of the country, and the barrier of state rights, great and small, to be its only protection even against the Supreme Court. Gallatin took broader ground, and found encouragement in the excellent working of universal suffrage in the choice of representatives to legislative bodies. But he was opposed to the extension of the principle to municipal officers having the application of the proceeds of taxes, forgetting that universal suffrage is the lever by which capital is moved to educate labor and relieve it from the burdens of injury, disease, and physical incapacity at the expense of the whole. Without stopping to argue these debatable questions, Mr. Gallatin, with practical statesmanship, determined to maintain in power the only agency by which he could at all shape the political future, and he threw himself into the canvass with zeal.
Crawford had unfortunately been stricken with paralysis, and the choice of a vice-president became a matter of grave concern. Mr. Gallatin was selected to take this place on the ticket. To this tender he replied that he did not want the office, but would dislike to be proposed and not elected, and he honestly felt that as a foreigner and a residuary legatee of Federal hatred his name could not be of much service to the cause. Still, he followed the only course by which any party can be held together, and surrendered his prejudices and fears to the wishes of his friends. The Republican caucus met on February 14, 1824, in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Of the 216 members of the party only 66 attended. Martin Van Buren, then senator from New York, managed this, the last congressional caucus for the selection of candidates.
The solemnity given to the congressional nominations, and the publicity of the answers of candidates, Mr. Gallatin held to be political blunders. In fact the plan was adroitly denounced as an attempt to dictate to the people.
Crawford was nominated for president by 64 votes, Gallatin for vice-president by 57. This nomination Mr. Gallatin accepted in a note to Mr. Ruggles, United States senator, on May 10, 1824. But there were elements of which party leaders of the old school had not taken sufficient account. Macon was right when he said that "every generation, like a single person, has opinions of its own, as much so in politics as anything else," and that 'the opinions of Jefferson and those who were with him were forgotten.' And Jefferson himself, in his complacent reflection that even the name of Federalist was "extinguished by the battle of New Orleans," did not see that the Republican party of the old school had been snuffed out by the same event. The new democracy, whose claims to rule were based, not on the policy of peace or restricted powers, but on the seductive glitter of military glory, was in the ascendant, and General Jackson was the favorite of the hour. New combinations became necessary, and Mr. Gallatin was requested to withdraw from the ticket, and make room for Mr. Clay, whose great western influence it was hoped would save it from defeat. This he gladly did in a declaration of October 2, addressed to Martin Van Buren, dated at his Fayette home, and published in the "National Intelligencer." The result of the election was singular. Calhoun was elected vice-president by the people. The presidential contest was decided in the House, Adams being chosen over Jackson and Crawford, by the influence of Clay. Mr. Gallatin quickly discerned in the failure of the people to elect a president the collapse of the Republican party. He considered it as "fairly defunct."
Jackson had already announced the startling doctrine that no regard was to be had to party in the selection of the great officers of government, which Mr. Gallatin considered as tantamount to a declaration that principles and opinions were of no importance in its administration. To lose sight of this principle was to substitute men for measures. Jackson's idea of party, however, was personal fealty. He engrafted the pouvoir personnel on the Democratic party as thoroughly as Napoleon could have done in his place. Moreover, Gallatin considered Jackson's assumption of power in his collisions with the judiciary at New Orleans and Pensacola, and his orders to take St. Augustine without the authority of Congress, as dangerous assaults upon the Constitution of the country and the liberties of the people, and he dreaded the substitution of the worship of a military chieftain for the maintenance of that liberty, the last hope of man. Ten years later he uttered the same opinion in a conversation with Miss Martineau, and he expressed a preference for an annual president, a cipher, so that all would be done by the ministry. But in the impossibility of this plan, he would have preferred a four years' term without renewal or an extension of six years; an idea adopted by Davis in his plan of disintegration by secession. The presidency, Mr. Gallatin thought, was "too much power for one man; therefore it fills all men's thoughts to the detriment of better things."
When Mr. Gallatin visited Washington in 1829, he found a state of society, political and social, widely at variance with his own experience. The ways of Federalist and Republican cabinets were traditions of an irrevocable past. Jackson was political dictator, and took counsel only from his prejudices. The old simplicity had given way to elegance and luxury of adornment. The east room of the presidential mansion was covered with Brussels carpeting. There were silk curtains at the windows, French mirrors of unusual size, and three splendid English crystal chandeliers. In the dining-room were a hundred candles and lamps, and silver plate of every description, and presiding over this magnificence the strange successors of Washington and his stately dame, of Madison and his no less elegant wife,—the Tennessee backwoodsman and Peggy O'Neil.
When, it is not too soon to ask, in the general reform of civil service, shall the possibility of such anomalies be entirely removed by restricting the executive mansion to an executive bureau, and entirely separating social ceremony from official state, to the final suppression of back stairs influence and kitchen cabinets?
Mr. Gallatin's land speculations were not profitable. His plan of Swiss colonization did not result in any pecuniary advantage to himself. His little patrimony, received in 1786, he invested in a plantation of about five hundred acres on the Monongahela. Twelve years later, in 1798, he was neither richer nor poorer than at the time of his investment. The entire amount of claims which he held with Savary he sold in 1794, without warranty of title, to Robert Morris, then the great speculator in western lands, for four thousand dollars, Pennsylvania currency. This sum, his little farm, and five or six hundred pounds cash were then his entire fortune. In 1794, the revolution in Switzerland having driven out numbers of his compatriots, he formed a plan of association consisting of one hundred and fifty shares of eight hundred dollars each, of which the Genevans in Philadelphia, Odier, Fazzi, the two Cazenove, Cheriot, Bourdillon, Duby, Couronne, Badollet, and himself took twenty-five each. Twenty-five were offered to Americans, which were nearly all taken up, and one hundred were sent to Geneva, Switzerland, to D'Yvernois and his friends. The project was to purchase land, and Mr. Gallatin had decided upon a location in the northeast part of Pennsylvania, or in New York, on the border. In the summer Gallatin made a journey through New York to examine lands with the idea of occupation. In July, 1795, he made a settlement with Mr. Morris, taking his notes for three thousand five hundred dollars. Balancing his accounts, Mr. Gallatin then found himself worth seven thousand dollars, in addition to which he had about twenty-five thousand acres of waste lands and the notes of Mr. Morris. In 1798 Mr. Morris failed, and, under the harsh operations of the old law, was sent to jail. Mr. Gallatin never recovered the three thousand dollars owed to him in the final balance of his real estate operations.
After Mr. Gallatin left the Treasury he located patents for seventeen hundred acres of Virginia military lands in the State of Ohio, on warrants purchased in 1784. In 1815 he valued his entire estate, exclusive of his farm on the Monongahela, at less than twelve thousand dollars. Forty years later he complained of his investment as a troublesome and unproductive property, which had plagued him all his life. Besides the purchase of lands, Mr. Gallatin invested part of his little capital in building houses on his farm, and in the country store which Badollet managed. The one yielded no return, and the sum put in the other was lost through the incompetency of his honest but inexperienced friend. His wife brought him a small property, but at no time in his life was he possessed of more than a modest competency. But he had never any discontent with his fortune nor any desire to be rich.
Mrs. Gallatin, who had always until her marriage lived in cities, was entirely unfit for frontier life. In these days of railroads it is not easy to measure the isolation of their country home. Pittsburgh was nearly five days' journey from Philadelphia, and the crossing of the Alleghanies took a day and a half more. Before his marriage Mr. Gallatin had seen very little of society. Though in early manhood he felt no embarrassment among men, he said 'that he never yet was able to divest himself of an anti-Chesterfieldian awkwardness in mixed companies.' He did not take advantage of his residence in Philadelphia to accustom himself to the ways of the world. There he lived in lodgings and met the leading public characters of both parties. But when he took his seat in the cabinet, he found it necessary to enter upon housekeeping and to take a prominent part in society, for which his wife was admirably suited, both by temperament and education. Washington Irving wrote of her in November, 1812, that she was 'the most stylish woman in the drawing-room that session, and that she dressed with more splendor than any other of the noblesse;' and again the same year compared her with the wife of the President, whose courtly manners and consummate tact and grace are a tradition of the republican court. "Tell your good lady," mother Irving wrote to James Renwick, "that Mrs. Madison has been much indisposed, and at last Wednesday's evening drawing-room Mrs. Gallatin presided in her place. I was not present, but those who were assure me that she filled Mrs. Madison's chair to a miracle." This is in the sense of dignity, for Mrs. Gallatin was of small stature.
Mr. Gallatin's house shared the fate of the public buildings and was burned by the British when Washington was captured in 1814. He was then abroad on the peace mission. On his return from France Mr. Gallatin made one more attempt to realize his early idea of a country home, and with his family went in the summer of 1823 to Friendship Hill. Here an Irish carpenter built for him a house which he humorously described as being in the 'Hyberno-teutonic style,—the outside, with its port-hole-looking windows, having the appearance of Irish barracks, while the inside ornaments were similar to those of a Dutch tavern, and in singular contrast to the French marble chimney-pieces, paper, mirrors, and billiard-table.' In the summer Friendship Hill was an agreeable residence, but Mr. Gallatin found it in winter too isolated even for his taste.
One exciting circumstance enlivened the spring of 1825. This was the passage of Lafayette, the guest of the nation, through western Pennsylvania on his famous tour. Mr. Gallatin welcomed him in an address before the court-house of Uniontown, the capital of Fayette County, on May 26. In his speech Mr. Gallatin reviewed the condition of the liberal cause in Europe, and the emancipation of Greece, then agitating both continents. In this all scholars as well as all liberals were of one mind and heart. After the proceedings Lafayette drove with Mr. Gallatin to Friendship Hill, where he passed the night; crowds of people pouring down the valley from the mountain roads to see the adopted son of the United States, the friend of Washington, the liberator of France. The intimacy between these two great men, who had alike devoted the flower of their youth to the interests of civilization and the foundation of the new republic, was never broken.
Mr. Gallatin passed only one winter at New Geneva. On his return from his last mission to England he settled permanently in New York, and in 1828 took a house at No. 113 Bleecker Street, then in the suburbs of the city. He wrote to Badollet in March, 1829, that "it was an ill-contrived plan to think that the banks of the Monongahela, where he was perfectly satisfied to live and die in retirement, could be borne by the female part of his family, or by children brought up at Washington and Paris." The population of New York has always been migratory, and Mr. Gallatin was no exception to the rule. In the ten years which followed his first location he changed his residence on four May days, finally settling at No. 57 Bleecker Street, nearly opposite to Crosby Street. His life in New York is a complete period in his intellectual as in his physical existence, and the most interesting of his career. His last twenty years were in great measure devoted to scientific studies.
The National Bank, over which he presided for the first ten years, took but a small part of his time. The remainder was given up to study and conversation, an art in which he had no superior in this country and probably none abroad. Soon after his arrival in New York, Mr. Gallatin was chosen a member of "The Club," an association famous in its day. As no correct account of this social organization has ever appeared, the letter of invitation to Mr. Gallatin is of some interest. It was written by Dr. John Augustine Smith, on November 2, 1829. An extract gives the origin of the club.
"Nearly two years ago some of the literary gentlemen of the city, feeling severely the almost total want of intercourse among themselves, determined to establish an association which should bring them more frequently into contact. Accordingly they founded the 'Club' as it is commonly called, and which I believe I mentioned to you when I had the pleasure of seeing you in Bond Street. Into this 'Club' twelve persons only are admitted, and there are at present three gentlemen of the Bar, Chancellor Kent, Messrs. Johnston and Jay, three professors of Columbia College, Messrs. McVickar, Moore, and Renwick, the Rev. Drs. Wainwright and Mathews, the former of the Episcopal Church, the latter of the Presbyterian Church, two merchants, Messrs. Brevoort and Goodhue, and I have the honor to represent the medical faculty. Our twelfth associate was Mr. Morse, of the National Academy of Design, of which he was president, and his departure for Europe has caused a vacancy. For agreeableness of conversation there is nothing in New York at all comparable to our institution. We meet once a week; no officers, no formalities; invitations, when in case of intelligent and distinguished strangers, and after a plain and light repast, retire about eleven o'clock."
At this club Mr. Gallatin, with his wonderful conversational powers, became at once the centre of interest. The club met at the houses of members in the winter evenings. There was always a supper, but the rule was absolute that there should be only one hot dish served, a regulation which the ladies endeavored to evade when the turn of their husbands arrived to supply the feast. Among the later members were Professor Anderson, John A. Stevens, Mr. Gallatin's countryman De Rham, John Wells, Samuel Ward, Gulian C. Verplanck, and Charles King. No literary symposium in America was ever more delightful, more instructive, than these meetings. On these occasions Mr. Gallatin led the conversation, which usually covered a wide field. His memory was marvelous, and his personal acquaintance with the great men who were developed by the French Revolution, emperors and princes, heroes, statesmen, and men of science, gave to the easy flow of his speech the zest of anecdote and the spice of epigram. Once heard he was never forgotten. And this rare faculty he preserved undiminished to the close of his life. Washington Irving, himself the most genial of men, and the most graceful of talkers, wrote of him, after meeting him at dinner, in 1841: "Mr. Gallatin was in fine spirits and full of conversation. He is upwards of eighty, yet has all the activity and clearness of mind and gayety of spirits of a young man. How delightful it is to see such intellectual and joyous old age: to see life running out clear and sparkling to the last drop! With such a blessed temperament one would be content to linger and spin out the last thread of existence."
At the close of the year 1829 Mr. Gallatin attempted to carry out his old and favorite plan of the "establishment of a general system of rational and practical education fitted for all, and gratuitously open to all." The want of an institution for education, combining the advantages of a European university with the recent improvements in instruction, was seriously felt. New York, already a great city, and rapidly growing, offered the most promising field for the national university on a broad and liberal foundation correspondent to the spirit of the age. The difficulty of obtaining competent teachers of even the lower branches of knowledge in the public schools, the system of which was in its infancy, was great. Persons could be found with learning enough, but they were generally deficient in the art of teaching. Governor Throop noticed this deficiency in his message of January, 1830, without, however, the recommendation of any remedy by legislation. The existing colleges could not supply the want. At this period religious prejudice controlled the actions of men in every walk of life; for the old colonial jealousies of Episcopalian and Presbyterian survived the Revolution. The religious distrust of scientific investigation was also at its height. Columbia College, the successor of old King's College, was governed in the Episcopalian interest. Private zeal could alone be relied upon to establish the new enterprise on a foundation free from the influence of clergy; an indispensable condition of success. These were the views of Mr. Jefferson in 1807. These were the views of Mr. Gallatin. In response to his request abundant subscriptions in money and material were at once forthcoming.
The project of a national university at New York was received by the literary institutions of the United States with great enthusiasm. In October, 1830, a convention of more than a hundred literary and scientific gentlemen, delegates from different parts of the country, and of the highest distinction, was held in the common-council chamber. The outcome of their deliberations was the foundation of the New York University. Mr. Gallatin was the president of the first council, but his connection with the institution was of short continuance. The reasons for his withdrawal were set forth in a letter to his old friend, John Badollet, written February 7, 1833. Beginning with an expression of his desire to devote what remained of his life "to the establishment in this immense and growing city (New York) of a general system of rational and practical education fitted for all and gratuitously opened to all," he said, "but finding that the object was no longer the same, that a certain portion of the clergy had obtained the control, and that their object, though laudable, was special and quite distinct from mine, I resigned at the end of one year rather than to struggle, probably in vain for what was nearly unattainable." The history of the university through its precarious existence of half a century amply justifies Mr. Gallatin's previsions and retirement. Instead of an American Sorbonne, of which he dreamed, it has never been more than a local institution, struggling to hold a place in a crowded field.
Mr. Gallatin followed the evolutions of French politics with interest. His friend Lafayette, who, during the Empire, lived in almost enforced retirement at his estate of La Grange, was a voluntary exile from the court of Charles X., whose autocratic principles and aggressive course were rapidly driving France into fresh revolution. In July, 1830, the crisis was precipitated by the royal decrees published in the "Moniteur." Lafayette, who was on his estate, hurried instantly to Paris, where he became a rallying point, and himself signed the note to the king, announcing that he had ceased to reign. In September following it fell to him to write to Mr. Gallatin on the occasion of the marriage of Gallatin's daughter. In this union Lafayette had a triple interest. Besides his personal attachment for Mr. Gallatin, each of the young couple was descended from one of his old companions-in-arms. The groom, Mr. Byam Kerby Stevens, was a son of Colonel Ebenezer Stevens, of the continental service, who was Lafayette's chief of artillery in his expedition against Arnold in Virginia, in the spring of 1781; the bride, Frances Gallatin, was, on the mother's side, the granddaughter of Commodore James Nicholson, who commanded the gunboats which, improvised by Colonel Stevens, drove out the British vessels from Annapolis Bay and opened the route to the blockaded American flotilla.