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Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to George Joy

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01540 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: St. Petersburg, Russia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 4 August 1812 Pagination: 4 p. ; 23 x 19 cm.

Discusses some political pamphlets that dealt with the 1807 British naval attack by the ship Leopold against the Chesapeake, an American ship, and its consequences for the War of 1812. Adams was then the United States Ambassador to Russia. Joy, who lived in London, was an advocate for the Americans during the War of 1812.

Written two months after Congress declared war on England. On June 22, 1807, the British frigate "Leopard" mauled the American frigate the "Chesapeake" while retrieving four British deserters. Three of the four sailors were Americans who had volunteered to serve with the British navy. The severity of the damage to the ship, and American citizenship of the sailors, greatly wounded American pride and ignited anti-British sentiment. These feelings festered until 1811 when the British minister, Augustus Foster, came to the United States to make reparations. Adams complains that the ship's captain was never punished for attacking the American vessel.

George Joy Esqr., London
St. Petersburg 4. August 1812
Mr. Richardson brought me on his arrival here, a packet containing two pamphlets, with a minute from you, promising a duplicate and letter by Mr. Willing. That Gentleman had already been some time here; but I was disappointed in the hope which the minute had excited. I found upon enquiry that he had neither pamphlet nor letter for me. Since then however, and within a few days, the duplicate of the "American Question," the Manuscript Copy of the letter to the noble Lord, and half the letter which was to have been sent by Mr. Willing have come to hand. For the other half of the letter I still live in hope, and in the mean time will no longer postpone my thanks for what I have received.
I have read the pamphlets with the attention which the subject, and the manner of discussing it were calculated to excite -- and observing the main object of their argument and the Meridian for which they were intended, I consider their reasoning as quite unanswerable, and it is presented in lights suitable to carry conviction, where it was to be produced. There is a passage in page 64 of the letters to a Clergyman, which I have understood as alluding to a publication of mine, written at a very early period of these [2] controversies; but this being mere conjecture and the allusion being in general terms, I may have mistaken its object. I certainly did believe and publish my belief that "Young Mr. Rose's Mission" was intended not to succeed. I gave much at large my reasons for that opinion, nor have I seen cause since to apprehend that I had entertained it unjustly. I did not know however untill now, that either the King or the Prince Regent had felt or manifested personally so strong and clear an inclination that reparation should be made for the outrage upon the Chesapeake; and indeed the 5th Letter to the Clergyman, leaves some doubt upon my mind whether its meaning in this respect is explicit or ironical. There is however a conclusion in it, which in Candour, and merely as it regards the impression upon your own mind, I ask you to reconsider. It says "As it was, I am no advocate for any expression of dissatisfaction on the part of that Government, in accepting the proffered atonement." & c. Remember that in the very instrument offering this atonement, the British Government falsely pretended that it included the punishment of the offending officer, while in reality [struck: she] [inserted: they] inflexibly refused to punish him at all. By accepting an atonement relinquishing that most important part of the satisfaction which America had so just a right to demand, was it not incumbent upon the President to show that he did not recognize the pretence of Berkley's punishment to have been really such -- and would it not really have been more honourable to the King of England, to have punished the offender in fact, than to have pretended he had punished him, when he really had not, but had peremptorily refused to punish him?
[3] Had no expression of dissatisfaction been used in accepting the atonement, [struck: upon] any future appeal to the documents, would have shown that America had actually taken for substantial punishment, a mockery of words, notoriously false. Who shall engage to say that it would not have been produced as a Precedent to refuse future malefactors of the same class from all Punishment? The Exclusion of this Conclusion was in my view so essential in that Transaction that I do most heartily approve that expression of dissatisfaction, which Mr. Smith inserted by Mr. Madison's express command, and which in his pamphlet he says he himself disapproved. After all the bluster of Mr. Canning about this expression of dissatisfaction, the British Government have finally agreed to make the very same atonement, accepted with an expression still stronger of the very same dissatisfaction. This even in the Times newspaper is spoken of as a smart and just observation, upon the inconsistency of the pretension that Berkeley had been punished. I regret the more that the Clergyman's Correspondent yields this point, because it has been made so personal to Mr. Madison, because it has been so often misstated and misunderstood both in Europe and America; and because its justification never has been placed upon its true grounds, or indeed so far as I have seen publicly attempted at all.
Since the publication of these two pamphlets, what a change in the relations between the United States and Great Britain has already taken place! How many questions to [4] settle besides anti-neutral orders in Council and Non-Importations or Impressments of Seamen and Exclusion of Ships of War. Even yet however I would not despair that Peace may be restored, if not preserved. Mr. Foster's letter of 30 May to Mr. Monroe, would have left the case perfectly hopeless, had not the Regent's Proclamation of 22 June given a new Commentary upon it, and upon the whole system of the Orders in Council, the beneficial effect of which will I hope, yet, not be lost. When England has yielded the substance, I am willing to hope she will persist in the purpose of obtaining the object for which it was conceded. Upon herself alone I am persuaded it depends.
I am with respect, Sir, your very humble and obedt. Servt.
John Quincy Adams

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