The idea of recruiting French officers had come initially as covert instructions from Secretary of State James Monroe; Acquired directly from the descendants of U.S. Ambassador to France, William H. CrawfordOn August 8, 1814, talks began at Ghent, Belgium, that would ultimately result in a treaty ending the War of 1812. The head of the American negotiating team was John Quincy Adams, the U.S.’s most experienced diplomat. The four men who served with him were carefully selected by President Madison to reflect the varieties of political sentiment in the United States. Foremost among them was Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a noted War Hawk. Albert Gallatin had served as Secretary of the Treasury for both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. James Bayard was a U.S. Senator belonging to the Federalist Party who had been an opponent of the war, and was one of the 13 Senators to vote against declaring it. However, once the war began he supported the war effort. Jonathan Russell was acting U.S. ambassador to Britain when war was declared. Sent to Ghent as a negotiator, he was also serving as ambassador to Sweden and Norway. He proved instrumental in achieving the final peace terms.William H. Crawford was U.S. ambassador to France during the negotiations, and was responsible for superintending the American consuls in Europe and keeping them informed of developments. More than that, he was an advisor to the President on the happenings on the Continent. As Ambassador to the Court of one of the two major adversaries in the conflicts in Europe, he was also actively involved in the Ghent negotiation process, advising the negotiators and responding to their confidential communiqués. He would later serve as Secretary of War and Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Madison and Monroe.At the start the U.S. negotiators had their instructions: the impressment of seamen and illegal blockades were the principal cause of the war," which would "cease as soon as these rights are respected." British cruisers must not be allowed to stop and search U.S. vessels, which practice "withholds the respect due our flag…It is expected that all American seamen who have been impressed will be discharged.” Another major object of the negotiations was to end the British blockades. “We also need to be assured that no further interference with our commerce" will take place. Next the instructions took up the question of the British arming and supplying the Indians. The article in the Treaty of 1794 "allowing "British traders from Canada and the North to trade with the Indian Tribes in the U.S., must not be renewed." Nor must Britain continue to use native forces against "our Western States and Territories.” Thus, the U.S. negotiators must insist on an end to impressment, and ship seizures, and a stop to aiding the Indians in the American west.As for the British, they initially demanded “uti possidetis” (Latin for "as you possess”), a principle in international law that territory and other property remains with its possessor at the end of a conflict. Moreover they wanted the country now occupied by the states of Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, the larger part of Indiana, and about one third of Ohio, should be set apart for the Indians to serve as a buffer, a perpetual protection of the British possessions against American ambition. They demanded also that the United States should relinquish the right of keeping any armed vessels on the Great Lakes; and, in addition to all this, they asked for the cession of a piece of Maine, and for the right of navigating the Mississippi River.The American position, was based on rejecting “uti possidetis”; instead the Americans wanted "status antebellum", whereby whoever governed the land at the start of the war would also at the end. At this same time an interesting opportunity arose.In late June, Secretary of State James Monroe had written Crawford, “”If the war goes on, some skillful French officers…may be useful. This is merely a hint…”On October 14, pursuant to Monroe’s instructions, Crawford wrote to the Commissioners in code of a secret offer that had been made by the French, to the effect that experienced French troops would come to the US side to fight against the English in America. “It my duty to communicate to you certain propositions which have been made and which it is believed have been made with a sincere desire to fulfil them. It is also believed that engagements of the same kind may be offered to a considerable extent and that the demand for advances [of cash from the U.S.] may be greatly diminished...In the latter event I cannot see any objection which can be offered to it on our part. The difficulty of executing these engagements excludes the idea that they can be very extensive but the advantages which they offer even upon a contracted scale ought not to be overlooked.” Faced with more stalling from the British, U.S. delegation sent George Boyd, a messenger and secretary, to meet with Crawford in Paris and give a short but optimistic response to the French offer. John Quincy Adams describes this incident in some detail in his Memoirs.Meanwhile, the British were giving the American negotiators mixed signals, not really backing off of uti possidetis, but in the same note expressly stating that they had been instructed to conclude a peace on the principle of both parties restoring whatever territory they might have taken. The Americans absolutely insisted on an acceptance of status antebellum; and although the British were not giving in on that point yet, they were clearly edging towards it.Towards the end of October the American delegation updated Crawford on the negotiations with the British, and their attitude on French involvement.Autograph letter signed, in the hand of Adams, and signed by Adams, Bayard, Clay, Gallatin, and Russell, October 25, 1814. “We enclose herewith copies of the notes which have passed between the British Plenipotentiaries and us, since we had the honour of writing to you by Mr. Boyd. The tenor of the last communication received from [the British Commissioners] confirms us in the opinion which we then gave you, with regard to the proposal on which you had consulted us.” The original notes are still present.Autograph document signed, by delegation secretary Charles Hughes, being a copy of an October 24 message from the U.S. to the British Commissioners, 2 pages.“Amongst the general observations which the undersigned in their note of August 24 made on the propositions then brought forward on the part of the British Government they remarked that those propositions were neither founded on the basis of uti possidetis nor that of status ante bellum. But so far were they from suggesting the uti possidetis as the basis on which they were disposed to treat, that in the same note they expressly stated that they had been instructed to conclude a peace on the principle of both parties restoring whatever territory they might have taken. The undersigned also declared in that note that they had no authority to cede any part of the territory of the United States and that to no stipulation to that effect would they subscribe, and in the note of September 9 after having shown that the basis of uti possidetis such as it was known to exist at the commencement of the negotiation gave no claim to his Britannic Majesty to cessions of territory founded upon the right of conquest, they added that even if the chances of war should give to the British arms a momentary possession of other parts of the territory of the United States such events would not alter their views with regard to the terms of peace to which they would give their consent. The undersigned can only now repeat those declarations and decline treating upon the basis of uti possidetis or upon any other principle involving a cession of any part of the territory of the United States as they have uniformly stated they can only treat upon the principle of a mutual restoration of whatever territory may have been taken by either party. From this principle they cannot recede and the undersigned after the repeated declarations of the British plenipotentiaries that Great Britain had no view to the acquisition of territory in this negotiation deem it necessary to add that the utility of its continuance depends on their adherence to this principle.”This is a remarkable document, signed by all the Ghent negotiators, in the hand of John Quincy Adams, seeking to draw France further into the conflict on the side of the Americans. It was acquired directly from the Crawford descendants and has not been offered for sale before. (Inventory #: 11197)
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