19 September 1820
adams-john10 Neal MillikanBank of the United StatesCommerceForeign RelationsLouisiana PurchasePrivateeringLatin American Wars of Independence

19. III: Accomplishing my morning task somewhat earlier than usual, after calling at my Office I went to the President’s where I found Mr Wirt. He had brought the papers concerning the proposed accomodation to be furnished by the Bank of the United States to the Government; but the President had not heard before, one word of the deficit in the revenue. His motives for coming here were principally relating to the state of our foreign affairs; and chiefly with regard to Portugal and France. I had a conversation of nearly three hours with him upon these points which it is impossible for me to record in detail. With regard to Portugal he seemed inclined to ascribe the hostile aspect of our relations with her in a great measure to the ill-will of the Abbe Correa, to whom he imputed motives not very laudable— The abbe has been upon a visit to Mr Jefferson to whom he talked so much about an American system in which his Government and ours should be united, and by concert with the European powers, should agree to keep the Coasts of this Hemisphere clear of Pirates, on condition that they should sweep the Seas of the Eastern hemisphere clear of Barbary Pirates, that Mr Jefferson had been disposed to favour the project, and thought it might be carried into effect, so that our Squadron might be withdrawn from the Mediterranean.— The President said he had observed to the President that an American system upon that plan would be an alliance between the United States and Portugal against the South-American Independents, which was hardly reconcileable with any just view of our policy, and this was certainly true— I added that the Abbe had more than once broached this subject of an American system to be concerted between the two great Powers of the western Hemisphere; meaning the United States and Portugal— I had never disturbed the abbe in his romancing; but Portugal and the United States are the two great American powers, much as a jolly-boat and the Columbus are two great line of battle-ships—and as to an American System, Independent of Europe, Portugal is neither American nor Independent: So long as Portugal shall recognize the house of Braganza for her Sovereign, so long the house of Braganza will be European and not American; a Satellite and not a primary Planet— As to an American System, we have it; we constitute the whole of it—there is no community of interests or of principles between North and South-America. Mr Torres, and Bolivar and O’Higgins talk about an American system as much as the abbe Correa—but there is no basis for any such system— The President said Mr Jefferson had told the Abbe that as to the appointment of Commissioners to try the captures of Portuguese property by Baltimore pirates, it was out of the question—there could be no such thing— That the Abbe had been exceedingly irritable, and talked under very high excitement; for which Mr Jefferson could not account— I said that in his communications with me here; the Abbe had been mild and moderate— That I believed the subject was very disagreeable to him, and that he was very glad to be relieved from all further agency relating to it— But I had no difficulty in accounting for his excitement and irritability— The Portuguese property taken by the Pirates, notoriously and openly fitted out in Baltimore; officered and manned by our own People was enough to make any man in his situation irritable. The sufferers of course immediately resorted to their Government, and the Government by their Instructions to him— It was my opinion that Portugal had real grounds of complaint against us, and that if the case had been reversed, and we had suffered in the same way, and to the same extent by her People, we should have declared War against her without hesitation. War was not to be dreaded from her—she had too strong an interest against it; but she might assail us by commercial regulations and restrictions, and the Abbe had told me she infallibly would— The President wished me to write to the Abbe and call for his proofs against the naval Officers and judges of the United States whom he has denounced, and also his proofs in all the cases of Portuguese vessels captured by Baltimore Pirates— He 420said if there was proof against any of our naval officers they ought to be dismissed; and if against any of the judges, it should be laid before Congress— With regard to France he thought that notwithstanding the resentment of France at our late Tonnage duty, the French Government after satisfying their own pride will conclude to negotiate— He wished me therefore to draw up instructions for Mr Gallatin upon all the points in discussion between the two Countries— The discriminating Tonnage duties, direct and indirect—the Consular Convention—the delivery of deserting Mariners—the Claims of our Citizens upon the French Government—and a claim on the part of France of special privileges in Louisiana— I asked him on what principles the Instructions upon each of these points were to be drawn— I told him what I supposed would be the proposals of France on the Tonnage duties—that is that the duties on both sides should be so proportioned that each party should have half the shipping employed between them— I stated their argument upon it; that upon equal terms they cannot stand a competition with us in navigation, and that the advantages which our navigators have over theirs must in some manner be countervailed to enable them to have their just proportion of the carrying trade— He said he thought there was weight in it; but I observed I did not see how we could possibly assent to the principle. We had offered to all the world entire reciprocity. Great Britain, and several other Nations had accepted the proposal— France now called upon us to agree to be clogged, in order to enable her people to hold competition with us— If we should assent, our own people would first be dissatisfied, and next, all the Nations with which we have stood on terms of reciprocity— We should have clamour and discontent from all quarters. As to the Consular Convention, that, with France was an affair of State— She wanted by means of Consular Jurisdictions, to retain all her power over Frenchmen in this Country— The operation of the system was always odious here— The old Congress had refused to ratify the Convention which had been negotiated by Dr Franklin— Mr Jefferson finally signed one with the Comte de Montmorin; which was the most unpopular Treaty ever made by us— It gave constant dissatisfaction while it lasted, and would be no less disapproved if now renewed. The President thought it would be best to keep the subjects separate, and to postpone the matter of the Consular Convention— That we should agree to the Article for restoring deserting Seamen; and persist in rejecting the claim of privilege in Louisiana— With regard to the claims of our Citizens as there will be no prospect of obtaining any indemnity for them at present, Mr Gallatin should be instructed to endeavour to obtain an article stipulating that they shall be considered hereafter— On returning to my Office I began the draft of Instructions to Mr Gallatin— Mrs Adams and Mrs Smith returned home this day, from Frederick— After a stormy, but very sultry day, the Evening cleared off cold.