November 17 1814: Adams Report

On November 17 1814, John Quincy Adams writes to William Harris Crawford.

GHENT, 17 November, 1814.

DEAR SIR: I received yesterday your favor of the loth instant, which was brought by Mr. Storrow. My expectations with regard to the issue of the campaign in America are colored perhaps more by general reasoning than by reference to the particular state of facts. I cannot suppose it possible that Izard s object was an attack upon Kingston. I take it for granted it was to relieve and reinforce our army at Fort Erie, which by our most recent accounts was in a situation more critical than that of Drummond, and still beseiged by him.

Among the last rumors from Halifax is that of a successful sortie from Fort Erie, and if that report was well founded we might rely more upon the issue of Izard s expedition.
My distrust of it arises from the necessity of exact correspondence in the execution of combined operations, and a want of confidence in our military manoeuvres upon the
land. We have not yet learnt to play the game.

The debates in Parliament upon the Regent s speech have disclosed the system pursued by his government in the negotiation at this place. Lord Liverpool avows without scruple that their demands and propositions are to be regulated by circumstances, and of course while that policy prevails nothing can be concluded. Even when all the preparations are made, and all the funds provided for another campaign, it is not clear that they will find it expedient to break off this negotiation, and it is certain that we shall not break it off without orders from our government. We sent on the 10th instant the project of a treaty, assuming the basis of status ante bellum with regard to the territory, and have offered in the note sent with it to extend the same principle o all other objects in dispute between the two countries.

We have presented articles on the subjects of impressment, blockades, indemnities, exclusion of savage cooperation in future wars, and amnesty. But we have declared ourselves willing to sign a peace placing the two nations precisely as they were at the commencement of the war, and leaving all controversial matter for future and pacific negotiation. I was earnestly desirous that this offer should be made, not from a hope that it would be accepted, for I entertained none; but with the hope that it would take from them the advantage of cavilling at any of our proposed articles, as manifesting no disposition for peace, and compel them to avow for what object they intend to continue the war. We have offered no equivalent for the fisheries. We have considered the rights and liberties connected with them as having formed essential parts of the acknowledgement of our independence. They need no additional stipulation to secure us in the enjoyment of them, and that our government upon these principles had instructed us not to bring them into discussion. This was originally my view of the subject, and the principle on which I thought the rights to the fisheries must be defended, from the moment when we were informed in the first conference they would be contested. The offer of an equivalent was afterwards suggested from a doubt whether the ground I had proposed to take was tenable, and with the intention of relieving it from all contention. I was prepared for either alternative, but I held the one or the other to be indispensable. We finally assumed the principle on which I had originally rested the cause. It is urged, that the principle, if correct, includes the equivalent which it had been contemplated to offer, and I admit that it may.

The general basis of the state before the war includes in substance both, to my mind beyond all doubt. And although I have no hope that this offer will be now accepted, yet if it should, I am not only ready to adhere to it and abide by it in all its consequences, but to sign the treaty with a degree of pleasure which has not yet fallen to my lot in this life.

I am very certain that after seven years of war we shall not obtain more, and what heart would continue the war another day, finally to obtain less?

You will have observed that the atrocious manner in which the British are carrying on the war in our country has been a subject of animadversion in Parliament. The ministers placed it on the footing of retaliation. Lord Grenville and Mr. Whitbread censure in the style which Burke described as “above all things afraid of being too much in the right”. They are evidently not in possession of the facts which shed the foulest infamy upon the British name in these transactions. We have seen several interesting speculations in the Paris papers on the same subject. Would it not be possible through the same channel to show the falsehood of the pretext of retaliation, or to make the principle recoil upon themselves? You have no doubt the report of the committee made 31 July, 1813, on the spirit and manner in which the war had been waged against us even then. It has occurred to me that a short abstract from that might be presented to the public in Europe, with a reference to dates, which would point the argument of retaliation, such as it is, directly against the enemy. In general, the British have had ever since the commencement of the war such entire possession of all the printing presses in Europe, that its public opinion has been almost exclusively under their guidance. From the access which truth and humanity have obtained in several of the public journals in France in relation to our affairs, it may be inferred that no control unfavorable to them will be exercised, however unwelcome the real exposition of facts may be across the channel.

It appears that the principles asserted by the French plenipotentiaries at Vienna have made a profound impression, that they have already disconcerted some of the projects of Lord Castlereagh, and that without offering any pretext for hostility from any quarter, they have laid the foundation for the restoration to France of that influence in the affairs of Europe without which this continent would be little more than a British colony. The issue of the Congress at Vienna will undoubtedly be pacific; but if France has taken the attitude ascribed to her by the rumored contents of Talleyrand s memorial, her rival will not long enjoy the dream of dictating her laws to the civilized world. France had lost her place in the family of nations. It was at Vienna that it became her to resume it. We have reason to hope that she did resume it exactly where she ought, and as the place she took was marked at once with dignity and moderation, it is to be presumed it will be maintained with firmness.

I am etc.

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