December 7 1812: American Diplomatic Discussions

On December 7 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes following diary entry
7th. On returning this morning from my walk I found a note from Count Romanzoff, proposing a change of the time and place which he had fixed for seeing me, and asking me to call upon him between one and two o'clock this afternoon at the Hotel of Foreign Affairs, which I accordingly did. 
I told him that my motive for desiring this conversation with him was, that since I saw him last I had received from my Government official notice of the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain, together with a letter from the Secretary of State, dated first July; that I had not received any instruction to make an official communication on the subject to this Government, but the Secretary of State had explicitly expressed the views of the Government  at this juncture on several points, which I thought it important to communicate to him.
The first was the desire of the United States that this war might be confined to them and Great Britain, that no other power might be involved in it; that the United States wished to preserve unimpaired their relations of amity with all other powers, and that this wish was declared in a particular manner in regard to Russia; that the war between Russia and France, though it could not then be known in America to have commenced, was anticipated as inevitable, and was a subject of great regret to the American Government; that the state of our affairs with France Was said to be in an unsettled condition, and there was not much expectation of any speedy settlement of them satisfactory to us; but that, whatever course they might take, the American Government did not contemplate any more intimate connection with France; nor was it aware of any occurrence whatsoever which could induce it to enter into any such connection. This sentiment, I said, was expressed in terms as strong as language could employ, to the desire of the United States to maintain in their full extent the friendly and commercial relations with Russia was in terms of equal earnestness. 

The Count said he was obliged to me for the communication, which- he was sure would be peculiarly agreeable to the Emperor, before whom he should lay the substance of it; that the Emperor's desire to maintain the friendly and commercial relations with the United States was entirely reciprocal to those of the American Government, and it was the apprehension that they might be interrupted by the English which had made him wish so sincerely the termination of this war; that we might be assured that no circumstances could induce the Emperor to interrupt the friendly relations of Russia with the United States, even if he were prepared to enter into more intimate engagements than he is at present inclined to form with any power whatsoever. And with regard to the assurance that the intention of the American Government was not to form any more intimate connection with France, as it would afford particular gratification to the Emperor, he wished to ascertain precisely whether he had understood what I stated as having been, expressed to me in the communication from my Government. He then repeated over in substance, and correctly, what I had said, and I assured him that he had perfectly understood me. He asked me whether I had any objection to his communicating to the British Ambassador, Lord Cathcart, this part of what I had said to him. 

I answered him that, far from having any objection, I thought it might do good, and could not believe it would produce any unfavorable effect; that in the discussion of our differences with Great Britain previous to the war, the British Ministers had frequently believed, or professed to believe, that the American Government were partial in favor of France, and were actuated by a French influence in opposition to England. If they really entertained such a prejudice, the frank and explicit declaration of my Government's intentions after the declaration of war against them, and precisely at that time, must, if they were capable of giving it a candid consideration, tend to remove a prejudice and to produce a more pacific disposition. 

The Count replied he did not mean to say that he thought this the only obstacle to the restoration of a good understanding between the United States and England; but he thought it a great one, and that it would be a favorable circumstance to have it removed. He then asked me whether I had any late intelligence from America indicating the determination of the American Government after the revocation of the Orders in Council was known. 

I said I had not, but that although I was satisfied, if that revocation had been known, the declaration of war would not have been made, yet war being once declared, there were other points of collision upon which an accommodation became essential for the restoration of peace; and upon the chief of these, the impressment of seamen from our merchant vessels, it appeared the British Government would listen to nothing. I then explained to the Count the nature and character of this practice, as exercised by the British naval officers — the impossibility that any nation having a sense of independence, and of the protection due to its own citizens, should submit to it, or endure it without indignation, and I told him that two several proposals had been made by our Government to the British for a suspension of hostilities; the Orders in Council to stand revoked, and they stipulating to discontinue the practice of impressment from American vessels ; the United States prohibiting by law the employment of British subjects, either in their public ships or in private merchant service. 

He said he thought the latter part of the proposal could not easily be carried into execution. 

I told him I did not think it could meet with much difficulty; but that at any rate the American Government, having made the proposal, would have been responsible for its execution. The British Minister, however, had rejected it, and until they should be willing to come to some accommodation upon the point I saw no prospect of a peace. I was aware, and did not wish to disguise, that there was an inherent difficulty which made the British adverse to a compromise. 

The Count asked if they did not complain that they lost great numbers of their seamen by their becoming naturalized as Americans. 

I said it was not exactly that. There were very few British sailors who ever were or could be naturalized as Americans; and I mentioned to him the conditions of naturalization by our laws, and the character of them, which makes it sure that few foreign seamen can avail themselves of them. But, I said, the American sea service, public and private, was more attractive than the British, for our common seamen were better fed, better paid, and better treated than English seamen are wont to be in their own service. It was natural therefore for English sailors to prefer our service to their own, and to seize every opportunity they could of entering it This the English Government consider, and complain of, as seduction, and they have no other remedy against it than that violent and tyrannical practice of their naval officers, of stealing men from our merchant vessels. I did not know that it would be possible ever to come to a compromise with them upon it; but I hoped if we could not hit upon any expedient for arranging it, he, the Count, would furnish us with one. 

He said, ''il faudra travailler a cela," and concluded by promising to give the Emperor an account of this conversation, after which, he said, he would see me again. 

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