DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
The Secretary of State, to whom has been referred a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 26th of May last, requesting that the President of the United States would lay before that House at the then next session, as early as the public interest would permit, the correspondence which might be held with the Government of France prior to that time on the subject of injuries sustained by citizens of the United States since the year 1806, has the honor of reporting to the President copies of the documents requested by that resolution.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
(Extract of a letter from Mr. Adams (No. 1) to Mr. Sheldon, dated Department of State, Washington, August 13, 1823.)
I have had the honor of receiving your dispatches Nos. 1 and 2, the latter dated the 10th of June. Mr. Gallatin arrived with his family at New York on the 24th of that month.
I inclose herewith copies of the recent correspondence between the Count de Menou the charge' d'affaires of France, and this Department on various subjects highly interesting to the relations between the two countries.
With regard to the Count's note of the 11th of July, the President received with great satisfaction the testimonial of the Viscount de Chateaubriand to the candor and ability with which Mr. Gallatin has performed the duties of his official station in France. The proposal to renew the negotiation in behalf of the well-founded claims of our citizens upon the French Government in connection with a claim on the part of France to special privileges in the ports of Louisiana, which, after a very full discussion, had in the views of this Government been proved utterly groundless, could neither be accepted nor considered as evidence of the same conciliatory spirit. The claims of our citizens are for mere justice; they are for reparation of unquestionable wrongs--for indemnity or restitution of property taken from them or destroyed without shadow or color of right. The claim under the eighth article of the Louisiana convention has nothing to rest upon but a forced construction of the terms of the stipulation, which the American Government considered, and have invariably considered, as totally without foundation. These are elements not to be coupled together in the same negotiation, and while we yet trust to the final sense of justice of France for the adjustment of the righteous claims of our citizens, we still hope that their unquestionable character will ultimately secure to them a consideration unencumbered with other discussions. You will respectfully make this representation to the Viscount de Chateaubriand, with the assurance of the readiness of this Government to discuss the question upon the Louisiana convention further if desired by France, but of our final conviction that it is not to be blended with the claims of our citizens for mere justice.
Count de Menou to Mr. Adams.
LEGATION OF FRANCE TO THE UNITED STATE,
Washington, July 11, 1823
The Honorable SECRETARY OF STATE:
His Excellency the Viscount de Chateaubriand, in announcing to me that Mr. Gallatin was about to leave France, expresses his regret at his departure in such terms that I should do him injustice were I not to use his own expressions. "My correspondence with this minister," he remarks to me, "has caused me to appreciate his talents, his ability, and his attachment to the system of friendship that unites the two powers. It is with regret that I suspend my communications with him."
I esteem myself happy, sir, in conveying to you such sentiments toward the representative of the United States in France, and I should have thought that I had but imperfectly apprehended the design of the Viscount de Chateaubriand had I neglected to communicate them to the Federal Government.
The minister for foreign affairs reminds me also on this occasion that Mr. Gallatin having frequently laid before him claims of Americans against the French Government, he had shown himself disposed to enter upon a general negotiation, in which they should be comprehended with claims of French citizens against the Federal Government at the same time with the arrangement relative to the execution of the eighth article of the treaty of Louisiana. The object of his excellency was to arrive at a speedy and friendly disposition of all difficulties that might subsist between the two powers, well assured that France and the United States would be found to have the same views of justice and conciliation.
His excellency regrets that Mr. Callatin, who, he says, "has convinced him how pleasing and advantageous it is to negotiate with a statesman who exhibits candor and ability in his discussions," did not receive from his Government during his stay in France the necessary powers for this double negotiation. But he informs me that the Government of His Majesty remains always disposed to open it, either with Mr. Callatin should he return with these powers, or with Mr. Sheldon if the Federal Government should think proper to confer them on him.
I greatly desire, sir, to see these propositions acceded to by the Federal Government and to be able to reply to his excellency, as he expresses his wish that an arrangement putting an end to every subject of discussion might soon be expected.
I pray the Secretary of State to receive the renewed assurance of my high consideration.
The charge' d'affaires of France near the United States,
Mr. Adams to Count de Menon.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, August 12, 1823
The COUNT DE MENOU,
Charge' d' Affaires from France.
SIR: Your letter of the 11th of last month has been submitted to the consideration of the President of the United States, by whom I am directed to express the high satisfaction that he has felt at the manner in which His Excellency the Viscount de Chateaubriand has noticed in his correspondence with you the temporary absence of Mr. Gallatin from France and the terms of regard and esteem with which he notices the character and conduct of that minister. The anxious desire of the President for the promotion of the good understanding between the United States and France could not be more gratified than by the testimonial of His Most Christian Majesty's Government to the good faith and ability with which the minister of the United States at his Court has performed his official duties.
With regard to the assurance of His Excellency the Viscount de Chateaubriand's disposition to enter upon a negotiation with Mr. Gallatin in the event of his return to France, or with Mr. Sheldon during his absence, concerning the claims of citizens of the United States on the Government of France in connection with an arrangement concerning the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty, I am directed to observe that those subjects rest upon grounds so totally different that the Government of the United States can not consent to connect them together in negotiation.
The claims of the citizens of the United States upon the French Government have been of many years' standing, often represented by successive ministers of the United States, and particularly by Mr. Gallatin during a residence of seven years, with a perspicuity of statement and a force of evidence which could leave to the Government of the United States no desire but that they should have been received with friendly attention and no regret but that they should have proved ineffectual. The justice of these claims has never been denied by France, and while the United States are still compelled to wait for their adjustment, similar and less forceful claims of the subjects of other nations have been freely admitted and liquidated.
A long and protracted discussion has already taken place between the two Governments in relation to the claim of France under the eighth article of the Louisiana convention, the result of which has been a thorough conviction on the part of the American Government that the claim has no foundation in the treaty whatever. The reasons for this conviction have been so fully set forth in the discussion that it was not anticipated a further examination of it would be thought desirable. As a subject of discussion, however, the American Government is willing to resume it whenever it may suit the views of France to present further considerations relating to it; but while convinced that the claim is entirely without foundation, they can not place it on a footing of concurrent negotiation with claims of their citizens, the justice of which is so unequivocal that they have not even been made the subject of denial.
From the attention which His Excellency the Viscount de Chateaubriand has intimated his willingness to give to the consideration of these claims the President indulges the hope that they will be taken into view upon their own merits, and in that hope the representative of the United States at Paris will at an early day be instructed to present them again to the undivided and unconditional sense of the justice of France.
I pray you, sir, to accept the renewed assurance of my distinguished consideration.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
(Extract of a letter from Mr. Sheldon (No. 11) to Mr. Adams, dated Paris, October 16, 1823.)
I took an early occasion after the receipt of your dispatch No. 1, of the 10th August, to communicate the subjects of it in a conversation I had with Viscount de Chateaubriand. His observations in relation to that of the claims, as connected with the pretensions of France under the Louisiana treaty, were of a very general nature and amounted to little more than a repetition of his readiness to enter upon the consideration of whatever subjects of discussion might exist between the two countries and the expression of his satisfaction at the prospect of being soon relieved from the labor which the affairs of Spain had thrown upon him, and having thus more time to devote to those of the United States and others not of the same pressing nature. He avoided any intimation of a disposition to take up the claims by themselves, and it can hardly be expected that the French Government will at this time relax from the ground they have so lately taken upon that point. I informed him that I should communicate in writing an answer to the overture made by Count de Menou at Washington for uniting in a new negotiation this subject with that of the Louisiana treaty, in substance the same as that gentleman had already received there, and should again press upon the French Government the consideration of the claims by themselves; to which he replied that any communication I might make would be received and treated with all the attention to which it was entitled on his part.
Mr. Sheldon to the Viscount de Chateaubriand.
PARIS, October 11, 1823
SIR: Mr. Gallatin, during his residence as minister of the United States in France, had upon various occasions called the attention of His Majesty's Government to the claims of our citizens for the reparation of wrongs sustained by them from the unjust seizure, detention, and confiscation of their property by officers and agents acting under authority of the Government of France. During the past year His Majesty's ministers had consented to enter upon the consideration of these claims, but they proposed to couple with it another subject having no connection with those claims, either in its nature, it origin, or the principle on which it depended--a question of the disputed construction of one of the articles of the treaty of cession of Louisiana, by virtue of which France claimed certain commercial privileges in the ports of that Province. Mr. Gallatin had not received from his Government any authority to connect these two dissimilar subjects in the same negotiation, or, indeed, to treat upon the latter, which had already been very amply discussed at Washington between the Secretary of State of the United States and His Majesty's minister at that place, without producing any result except a conviction on the part of the Government of the United States that the privileges for French vessels, as claimed by the minister of France, never could have been, and were not in fact, conceded by the treaty in question. A stop was then put to the negotiations already commenced in relation to the claims, and with which had been united, on the proposition of the French Government, and as being naturally connected with it, the consideration of certain claims of French citizens on the Government of the United States.
The charge' d'affaires of France at Washington has lately, on behalf of his Government, expressed to that of the United States a wish that this double negotiation might be resumed and that a definitive arrangement might be made as well in relation to the disputed article of the Louisiana treaty as of the subject of the claims upon the one side and upon the other. The Government of the United States has nothing more at heart than to remove by friendly arrangements every subject of difference which may exist between the two countries, and to examine with the greatest impartiality and good faith as well the nature and extent of the stipulations into which they have entered as the appeals to their justice made by individuals claiming reparation for wrongs supposed to have been sustained at their hands.
But these two subjects are essentially dissimilar; there are no points of connection between them; the principles upon which they depend are totally different; they have no bearing upon each other; and the justice which is due to individuals ought not to be delayed or made dependent upon the right or the wrong interpretation by one or the other party of a treaty having for its object the regulation of entirely distinct and different interests.
The reclamations of American citizens upon the Government of France are for mere justice--for the reparation of unquestionable wrongs, indemnity or restitution of property taken from them or destroyed forcibly and without right. They are of ancient date, and justice has been long and anxiously waited for. They have been often represented to the Government of France, and their validity is not disputed. Similar reclamations without greater merit or stronger titles to admission presented by citizens of other nations have been favorably received, examined, and liquidated, and it seems to have been hitherto reserved to those of the United States alone to meet with impediments at every juncture and to seek in vain the moment in which the Government of France could consent to enter upon their consideration. Although the question arising under the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty has already been fully examined, the Government of the United States is ready, if it is desired by France, and if it is thought that any new light can be thrown upon it, to discuss the subject further whenever it shall be presented anew by France to their consideration. But they are convinced that by blending it with the claims not only will no progress be made toward its solution, but that these last, standing upon their own unquestionable character, ought not to be trammeled with a subject to which they are wholly foreign.
I am instructed to bring them anew before your excellency, and to express the hope of the President that His Majesty's Government will not continue to insist upon connecting together two subjects of so different a nature, but that the claims may be taken up on their own merits and receive the consideration which they deserve, unencumbered with other discussions.
I request your excellency to accept the assurance, etc.
(Extracts of a letter from the Secretary of State to Mr. Brown, dated Washington, December 23, 1223.)
You will immediately after your reception earnestly call the attention of the French Government to the claims of our citizens for indemnity.
You will at the same time explicitly make known that this Government can not consent to connect this discussion with that of the pretension raised by France on the construction given by her to the eighth article of the Louisiana cession treaty. The difference in the nature and character of the two interests is such that they can not with propriety be blended together. The claims are of reparation to individuals for their property taken from them by manifest and undisputed wrong. The question upon the Louisiana treaty is a question of right upon the meaning of a contract. It has been fully, deliberately, and thoroughly investigated, and the Government of the United States is under the entire and solemn conviction that the pretension of France is utterly unfounded. We are, nevertheless, willing to resume the discussion if desired by France; but to refuse justice to individuals unless the United States will accede to the construction of an article in a treaty contrary to what they believe to be its real meaning would be not only incompatible with the principles of equity, but submitting to a species of compulsion derogatory to the honor of the nation.
(Extract of a letter (No. 2) from James Brown, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States, dated April 28, 1824.)
I have in a letter to M. de Chateaubriand, copy of which I have now the honor to send, made an effort to separate the claims of our citizens from the Louisiana question.
Mr. Brown to M. de Chateaubriand.
PARIS, April 28, 1824.
His Excellency Viscount DE CHATEAUBRIAND,
Minister of Foreign Affairs, etc.
SIR: In the conference with which your excellency honored me a few days ago I mentioned a subject deeply interesting to many citizens of the United States, on which I have been instructed to address your excellency, and to which I earnestly wish to call your immediate attention.
It is well known to your excellency that my predecessor, Mr. Gallatin, during several years made repeated and urgent applications to His Majesty's Government for the adjustment of claims to a very large amount, affecting the interests of American citizens and originating in gross violations of the law of nations and of the rights of the United States, and that he never could obtain from France either a settlement of those claims or even an examination and discussion of their validity. To numerous letters addressed by him to His Majesty's ministers on that subject either no answers were given or answers which had for their only object to postpone the investigation of the subject. Whilst, however, he indulged the hope that these delays would be abandoned, and that the rights of our citizens, which had been urged for so many years, would at length be taken up for examination, he learned with surprise and regret that His Majesty's Government had determined to insist that they should be discussed in connection with the question of the construction of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty of cession. Against this determination he strongly but ineffectually remonstrated in a letter to Mr. De Villele, dated the 12th November, 1822.
It is notorious that the Government of the United States, whenever requested by that of His Majesty, have uniformly agreed to discuss any subject presented for their consideration, whether the object has been to obtain the redress of public or private injuries. Acting upon this principle, the question of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty was, upon the suggestion of the minister of France, made the subject of a voluminous correspondence, in the course of which all the arguments of the parties respectively were fully made known to each other and examined. The result of this discussion has been a thorough conviction on the part of the Government of the United States that the construction of that article of the treaty contended for by France is destitute of any solid foundation and wholly inadmissible. After a discussion so full as to exhaust every argument on that question, the attempt to renew it in connection with the question of the claims of our citizens appeared to the Government of the United States to be a measure so contrary to the fair and regular course of examining controverted points between nations that they instructed Mr. Sheldon, their charge d'affaires, to prepare and present a note explaining their views of the proceeding, which he delivered on the 11th of October, 1823. To this note no answer has ever been received.
I have the express instructions of the Government again to call the attention of that of His Majesty to this subject, and to insist that the claims of our citizens may continue to be discussed as a distinct question, without connecting it in any way with the construction of the Louisiana treaty. The two subjects are in every respect dissimilar. The difference in the nature and character of the two interests is such as to prevent them from being blended in the same discussion. The claims against France are of reparation to individuals for their property taken from them by undisputed wrong and injustice; the claim of France under the treaty is that of a right founder on a contract. In the examination of these questions the one can impart no light to the other; they are wholly unconnected, and ought on every principle to undergo a distinct and separate examination. To involve in the same investigation the indisputable rights of American citizens to indemnity for losses and the doubtful construction of a treaty can have no other effect than to occasion an indefinite postponement of the reparation due to individuals or a sacrifice on the part of the Government of the United States of a treaty stipulation in order to obtain that reparation. The United States would hope that such an alternative will not be pressed upon them by the Government of His Majesty.
Whilst I indulge a hope that the course to which I have objected will no longer be insisted on by His Majesty's ministers, permit me to renew to your excellency the sincere assurance that the United States earnestly desire that every subject of difference between the two countries should be amicably adjusted and all their relations placed upon the most friendly footing. Although they believe that any further discussion of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty would be wholly unprofitable, they will be at all times ready to renew the discussion of that article or to examine any question which may remain to be adjusted between them and France.
I request your excellency to accept, etc.
(Extract of a letter (No. 3) from James Brown to the Secretary of State, dated Paris, May 11, 1824.)
I have the honor to inclose a copy of the answer of the minister of foreign affairs to the letter which I addressed to him on the 27th ultimo, upon the subject of the claims of our citizens against the French Government. You will perceive that no change has been made in the determination expressed to Mr. Gallatin of connecting in the same discussion the question on the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty of cession and the claims of the citizens of the United States against France. In expressing this resolution it has not been considered necessary even to notice the arguments made use of to induce them to adopt a different opinion.
Viscount Chateaubriand to Mr. Brown.
PARIS, May 7, 1824.
SIR: The object of the letter which you did me the honor to address to me on the 28th of April is to recall the affair of American claims, already repeatedly called up by your predecessors, that they may be regulated by an arrangement between the two powers, and that in this negotiation the examination of the difficulties which were raised about the execution of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty should not be included.
Although the claims made by France upon this last point be of a different nature from those of the Americans, yet no less attention ought to be paid to arrange both in a just and amicable manner.
Our claims upon the eighth article had already been laid before the Federal Government by His Majesty's plenipotentiary when he was negotiating the commercial convention of 24th June, 1822.
The negotiators not agreeing upon a subject so important, the King's Government did not wish this difficulty to suspend any longer the conclusion of an arrangement which might give more activity to commerce and multiply relations equally useful to the two powers. It reserves to itself the power of comprehending this object in another negotiation, and it does not renounce in any manner the claim which it urged.
It is for this reason, sir, that my predecessors and myself have constantly insisted that the arrangements to be made upon the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty should be made a part of those which your Government were desirous of making upon other questions still at issue.
It is the intention of His Majesty not to leave unsettled any subject of grave discussion between the two States, and the King is too well convinced of the friendly sentiments of your Government not to believe that the United States will be disposed to agree with France on all the points.
His Majesty authorizes me, sir, to declare to you that a negotiation will be opened with you upon the American claims if this negotiation should also include the French claims, and particularly the arrangements to be concluded concerning the execution of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty.
Accept, sir, the assurances of the very distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be, etc.,
(Extracts of a letter (No. 4) from the Secretary of State to My. Brown, dated Department of State, Washington, August 14, 1824.)
The subject which has first claimed the attention of the President has been the result of your correspondence with the Viscount de Chateaubriand in relation to the claims of numerous citizens of the United States upon the justice of the French Government.
I inclose herewith a copy of the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the House of Representatives upon several petitions addressed to that body at their last session by some of those claimants and a resolution of the House adopted thereupon.
The President has deliberately considered the purport of M. de Chateaubriand's answer to your note of the 28th of April upon this subject, and he desires that you will renew with earnestness the application for indemnity to our citizens for claims notoriously just and resting upon the same principle with others which have been admitted and adjusted by the Government of France.
In the note of the Viscount de Chateaubriand to you of 7th May it is said that he is authorized to declare a negotiation will be opened with you upon the American claims if this negotiation should also include French claims, and particularly the arrangements to be concluded concerning the execution of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty.
You are authorized in reply to declare that any just claims which subjects of France may have upon the Government of the United States will readily be included in the negotiation, and to stipulate any suitable provision for the examination. adjustment, and satisfaction of them.
But the question relating to the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty is not only of a different character--it can not be blended with that of indemnity for individual claims without a sacrifice on the part of the United States of a principle of right. The negotiation for indemnity presupposes that wrong has been done, that indemnity ought to be made, and the object of any treaty stipulation concerning it can only be to ascertain what is justly due and to make provision for the payment of it. By consenting to connect with such a negotiation that relating to the eighth article of the Louisiana convention the United States would abandon the principle upon which the whole discussion concerning it depends. The situation of the parties to the negotiation would be unequal. The United States, asking reparation for admitted wrong, are told that France will not discuss it with them unless they will first renounce their own sense of right to admit and discuss with it a claim the justice of which they have constantly denied.
The Government of the United States is prepared to renew the discussion with that of France relating to the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty in any manner which may be desired and by which they shall not be understood to admit that France has any claim under it whatever.
Mr. Brown to Mr. Adams (No. ,12).
PARIS, August 12, 1824 .
SIR: Some very unimportant changes have taken place in the composition of the ministry. The Baron de Damas, late minister of war, is now minister of foreign affairs; the Marquis de Clermont Tonnese is appointed to the department of war, and the Count Chabrol de Crousal to that of the marine.
These appointments are believed to correspond with the wishes of the president of the Council of Ministers, and do not inspire a hope that our claims will be more favorably attended to than they have been under the former administrations. The interpretation of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty contended for by France will, I apprehend, be persisted in and all indemnity refused until it shall have been discussed and decided. After the correspondence which has already passed upon that article, it would appear that any further discussion upon it would be wholly unprofitable. With a view, however, of ascertaining the opinions of the minister of foreign affairs, I shall at an early day solicit a conference with him, and inform you of the result.
I have had the honor of receiving your letter recommending the claim of Mr. Kingston to my attention. The difficulties which that claim must experience, from its antiquity and from the operation of the treaty of 1803, can not have escaped your observation. It has also to encounter, in common with all our claims, the obstacle presented by the eighth article, which is found broad enough to be used as a shield to protect France, in the opinion of ministers, from the examination and adjustment of any claim which we can present.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
Mr. Brown to Mr. Adams (No. 14).
PARIS, September 28, 1824.
SIR: Little has occurred of importance during the present month, except the death of the King. This event had been anticipated for nearly a year; he had declined gradually, and the affairs of the Government have been for some time almost wholly directed by Monsieur, who on his accession to the throne has declared that his reign would be only a continuation of that of the late King. No change in the policy of the Government is expected, and probably none in the composition of the ministry The present King is satisfied with Mr. De Villele, who is at its head; and if any of its members should be changed the spirit in which public affairs are directed will not, it is believed, be affected by that circumstance.
The ceremonies attending the change of the Crown have principally occupied this public attention for the last fortnight. It will, I presume, be officially announced by the French minister at Washington, and, according to the forms observed here, will, I understand, require fresh letters of credence for all foreign ministers at this Court, addressed to the new King.
My health has not permitted me (having been confined for some weeks to the bed by a rheumatic affection) to confer with the Baron de Damas on our affairs since his appointment as minister of the foreign department. I should regret this the more if I were not satisfied that the same impulse will direct the decisions of the Government upon these points now as before he had this department in charge, and that no favorable change in those decisions can be expected from any personal influence which might be exerted by the new minister. I shall, however, take the earliest opportunity that my health will allow to mention the subject to him and ascertain what his views of it are.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
(Extracts of a letter from Mr. James Brown to Mr. Adams (No. 16).)
PARIS, October 23, 1824.
The packet ship which sailed from New York on the 1st of September brought me the letter which you did me the honor to address to me on the 14th of August.
In conformity with the instructions contained in that letter, I have addressed one to the Baron de Damas, minister of foreign affairs, a copy of which I now inclose. I expect to receive his answer in time to be sent by the packet which will sail from Havre on the 1st of next month, in which event it may probably reach Washington about the 15th of December.
The recent changes which have been made in the ministry, of which I have already informed you, do not justify any very strong expectation that a change of measured in relation to our affairs at this Court will follow. The same individuals fill different places in the ministry from those which they formerly held, but in all probability adhere to their former opinions in relation to the subjects of discussion between the United States and France. On the point to which my letter to the Baron de Damas particularly relates the Count de Villele has already given his deliberate views in his letters to Mr. Callatin dated 6th and 15th November, 1822, and I have every reason to believe that they remain unchanged. Having bestowed much attention on the subject, it is probable his opinion will be in a great measure decisive as to the answer which shall be given to my letter. It is the opinion of many well-Informed men that in the course of a few months important changes will be made in the composition of the ministry. As these changes, however, will proceed from causes wholly unconnected with foreign affairs, I am by no means sanguine in my expectations that under any new composition of the ministry we may hope for a change of policy as it relates to our claims. The eighth article of the Louisiana treaty will be continually put forward as a bar to our claims and its adjustment urged as often as we renew our claim for indemnity.
The Journal des De'bats of this morning states that at a superior council of commerce and of the colonies at which His Majesty yesterday presided Mr. De St. Cricq, president of the bureau de commerce, made a report on the commercial convention of the 24th June, 1822, between the United States and France.
Mr. Brown to Baron de Damns.
PARIS, October 22, 1824.
His Excellency BARON DE .DAMAS,
Minister of Foreign Affairs, etc.
SIR: I availed myself of the earliest opportunity to transmit to my Government a copy of the letter which I had the honor to address to the Viscount de Chateaubriand on the 28th day of April last, together with a copy of his answer to that letter, dated 7th of May.
After a candid and deliberate consideration of the subject of that correspondence, my Government has sent me recent instructions to renew with earnestness the application, already so frequently and so ineffectually made, for indemnity to our citizens for claims notoriously just, and resting on the same principles with others which have been admitted and adjusted by the Government of France.
In reply to that part of the Viscount de Chateaubriand's letter in which he offers to open with me a negotiation upon American claims if that negotiation should also include French claims, and particularly the arrangements to be concluded concerning the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty, I have been instructed to declare that any just claims which the subjects of France may have upon the Government of the United States will readily be embraced in the negotiation, and that I am authorized to stipulate any suitable provision for the examination, adjustment, and satisfaction of them.
The question relating to the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty is viewed by my Government as one of a very different character. It can not be blended with that of indemnity for individual claims without a sacrifice on the part of the United States of a principle of right. Every negotiation for indemnity necessarily presupposes that some wrong has been done, and that indemnity ought to be made; and the object of every treaty stipulation respecting it can only be to ascertain the extent of the injury, and to make provision for its adequate reparation. This is precisely the nature of the negotiation for American claims which has been for so many years the subject of discussion between the Governments of the United States and of France The wrongs done to our citizens have never been denied, whilst their right to indemnity has been established by acts done by the French Government in cases depending upon the same principles under which they derive their claim. By consenting to connect with such a negotiation that relating to the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty the United States would abandon the principle upon which the whole discussion depends. When asking for reparation for acknowledged wrong the United States have been told that France will not discuss it with them unless they will first renounce their own sense of right and admit and discuss in connection with it a claim the justice of which they have hitherto constantly denied. In any negotiation commenced under such circumstances the situation of the parties would be unequal. By consenting to connect the pretensions of France under the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty with claims for indemnity for acknowledged injustice and injury the United States would be understood as admitting that those pretensions were well founded; that wrong had been done to France for which reparation ought to be made. The Government of the United States, not having yet been convinced that this is the case, can not consent to any arrangement which shall imply an admission so contrary to their deliberate sense of right.
I am authorized and prepared on behalf of the United States to enter upon a further discussion of the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty in any manner which may be desired, and by which they shall not be understood previously to admit that the construction of that article claimed by France is well rounded; and also to renew the separate negotiation for American claims, embracing at the same time all just claims which French subjects may have upon the Government of the United States.
The change which has lately taken place in His Majesty's department of foreign affairs encourages the hope that this important subject will be candidly reconsidered; that the obstacles which have arrested the progress of the negotiation may be removed, and that the subjects of contestation between the two Governments may be ultimately adjusted upon such principles as may perpetuate the good understanding and harmony which have so long subsisted between the United States and France.
Should I, however, be disappointed in the result of this application, it is to be seriously apprehended that as the United States have not hitherto seen in the course of the discussion any just claim of France arising from the eighth article of the Louisiana treaty, so in the persevering refusal of the French Government to discuss and adjust the well-founded claims of citizens of the United States to indemnity for wrongs unless in connection with one which they are satisfied is unfounded the United States will ultimately perceive only a determination to deny justice to the claimants.
Permit me respectfully to request that at as early a day as your convenience will allow your excellency will favor me with an answer to this letter.
I embrace with pleasure this occasion to offer to your excellency the renewed assurance, etc,
JAMES BROWN. December 24, 1824.
To the House of Representatives of the United States:
In compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 23d December, 1823, requesting that a negotiation should be opened with the British Government "for the cession of so much land on the island of Abaco at or near the Hole-in-the-Wall, and on such other places within the acknowledged dominions of that power on the islands, keys, or shoals of the Bahama Banks as may be necessary for the erection and support of light-houses, beacons, buoys, or floating lights for the security of navigation over or near the said banks, and to be used solely for that purpose," directions were given to the minister of the United States at London on the 1st of January, 1824, to communicate the purport of that resolution to the Government of Great Britain with a view to their acceding to the wish of this; and I transmit to the House copies of Mr. Rush's correspondence upon this subject, communicating the result of his application to the British Government.
James Monroe, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207331