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September 21 1812: Tsar Offers Mediation


On September 21 1812, John Quincy Adams, the American Ambassador in St Petersburg, is approached by Count Romanzoff, the High Chancellor of Russia, with an offer from Tsar Alexander. The Tsar was offering to mediate the dispute between the United States and Great Britain. Adams writes the following entry in his diary that day:
21 St. At seven this evening I called by appointment upon Count Romanzoff, who told me that he had asked to see me by the Emperor's command; that, having made peace an re-established the relations of amity and commerce with England, the Emperor was much concerned and disappointed to find the whole benefit which he expected his subjects would derive commercially from that event defeated and lost by the new war that had arisen between the United States and England; that he had thought there were various indications that there was on both sides a reluctance at engaging and prosecuting this war, and it had occurred to the Emperor that perhaps an amicable arrangement of the differences between the parties might be accomplished more easily and speedily by indirect than by a direct negotiation; that his Majesty had directed him to see me and to enquire whether I was aware of any difficulty or obstacle on the part of the Government of the United States if he should offer his mediation for the purpose of effecting a pacification.
I answered that it was obviously impossible for me to speak on this subject otherwise than from the general knowledge which I had of the sentiments of my Government ; that I was so far from knowing what their ideas were with regard to the continuance of the war, that I had not to this day received any official communication of its declaration, but that I well knew it was with extreme reluctance they had engaged in the war; that I was very sure that whatever determination they might form upon the proposal of the Emperor's mediation, they would receive and consider it as a new evidence of his Majesty's regard and friendship for the United States ; and that I was not aware of any obstacle or difficulty which could occasion them to decline accepting it. For myself, I so deeply lamented the very existence of the war, that I should welcome, any facility for bringing it to a just and honorable termination. I lamented it, because I thought that the only cause which had made it absolutely unavoidable was actually removed at the moment when the declaration was made. If the course which had been adopted by my Government had been such as I could not in my own mind approve, it would not become me to censure it. But it was not so. The Declaration of the English Regent in April, and the letter which Mr. Foster had written to the American Secretary of State in communicating it, had, as it appeared to me, left the American Government no alternative but an immediate appeal to arms or a dishonorable abandon ment of all the unquestionable rights for which they had contended, and eveii the essential characteristics of an independent nation. The blame of the war was therefore entirely on the English side, but the war itself was not the less disagreeable to me. I lamented it particularly as occurring at a period when, from my good wishes for Russia and the Russian cause, I should have rejoiced to see friendship and harmony taking place between America and England, rather than discord and hostility. I knew the war would affect unfavorably the interests of Russia. I knew it must be highly injurious both to the United States and England. I could see no good result as likely to arise from it to any one ; nothing but mischief, and gratification to the makers of mischief. 

The Count said he had considered it altogether in the same light ; and so had the Emperor, who was sincerely concerned for it, and who had himself conceived the idea of offering his mediation. He thought an indirect negotiation conducted here, and aided by the conciliatory wishes of a friend to both parties, might smooth down difficulties which, in direct discussion between the principals, might be found insuperable. To a mutual friend each party might exhibit all its complaints and all its claims without danger of exciting irritations or raising impediments. The part of Russia would only be to hear both sides, and to use her best endeavors to conciliate them.

I said, the Count was aware there was a third party to be consulted as to the proposal — the British Government. He said the proposal had already been suggested to the British Ambassador, and he had yesterday dispatched an account of it to his Court. I asked if I could obtain a courier's passport to communicate the information to my Government He said it might be furnished in a manner, that the person should be dispatched as a Russian courier. I asked him if he could obtain from Lord Cathcart any paper which should operate as security from capture by British cruisers, as in that case I presumed I could find an American vessel here to carry the dispatches. He said he' would ascertain and inform me in the course of a very few days, and he should write to Mr. Daschkoft to report the same proposal to the Government of the United States.  The Count dwelt earnestly on the Emperor's regard for the United States, and added that the Emperor was fully sensible of the great advantage to the interests of his people resulting from the commercial relations with America. He said it manifested itself even in objects of a light nature. He, the Count, had received from Mr. Daschkoft a picture, a view of Mr. Jefferson's seat, and upon his mentioning it to the Emperor, his Majesty had insisted upon seeing it himself. The Count was obliging in his enquiries and condolence upon my domestic misfortune.'  His countenance retains strong traces of the illness he had at Wilna, and he  complained of having taken cold at the funeral of Baron Budberg, one of his predecessors in the Department of Foreign AfFairs. He read me a note which he received while I was with him, from Lord Cathcart, with news from England and Spain — of the English and allies having taken Madrid.

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