December 24 1814: Treaty of Ghent Signed

On December 24 1814, John Quincy Adams writes in his diary.

24th. I wrote letters to the Secretary of State and to my mother, to be prepared for Mr. Hughes, and took my last letter to the Secretary of State to Mr. Smith, for a duplicate to be made. Engaged much of the morning in preparing the copies of papers to be transmitted by Mr. Hughes. Mr. Clay was not ready with his copy of the treaty at three o’clock, and Mr. Hughes called upon the British Plenipotentiaries to postpone the meeting until four. At that hour we went to their house, and after settling the protocol of yesterday’s conference, Mr. Baker read one of the British copies of the treaty; Mr. Gallatin and myself had the two other copies before us, comparing them as he read. Lord Gambier, Mr. Goulburn, and Dr. Adams had our three copies, comparing them in like manner. There was a variation between the copies merely verbal, which arose from the writing at full length, on both sides, the dates, which in the drafts were in arithmetical figures. All our copies had the Treaty of Peace of seventeen hundred and eighty-three. All the British copies had it one thousand seven hundred and eighty- three. There was the same difference in the date of the signature of this treaty. It was not thought necessary to alter either of them. A few mistakes in the copies were rectified, and then the six copies were signed and sealed by the three British and the five American Plenipotentiaries.

Lord Gambier delivered to me the three British copies, and I delivered to him the three American copies, of the treaty, which he said he hoped would be permanent; and I told him I hoped it would be the last treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States. We left them at half-past six o’clock. Mr. Baker had a carriage in the yard waiting for him to start for Ostend, where there is a vessel in readiness to take him over to England. It was agreed that the signature of the treaty should not be divulged here until to-morrow noon, so that Mr. Baker may have an opportunity to carry the first information of the event to the British Government.

On our return home we found Mr. Bentzon, who had been this morning invited by Mr. Bayard to dine with us. He was during the dinner all eye and all ear watching to catch some certainty of what he suspected we had been doing. It is but three days since he returned from London. The Danish frigate, The Pearl, which was to have gone to England, there to take him and the other Danish Commissioners to receive the Danish West India Islands, is lost. She sailed at first from Copenhagen, and returned dismasted. She sailed a second time, and was totally lost; the crew saved. Bentzon told me he had this day received the news of this last event, and that he must now go to England, there to find a passage to the West Indies as he could. I asked him when he should go ; he said to-morrow, or perhaps this night. He lingered with us some time after dinner, and then went to Mr. Clay’s chamber, and afterwards to Mr. Carroll’s. About ten at night he wrote a note to Mr. Gallatin to inform him that he was immediately going. He went before midnight. Mr. Baker and Mr. Gambier had started about nine. I went for an hour to Mr. Smith’s lodgings.

I cannot close the record of this day without an humble offering of gratitude to God for the conclusion to which it has pleased him to bring the negotiations for peace at this place, and a fervent prayer that its result may be propitious to the welfare, the best interests, and the union of my country.

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