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Sir, - The negotiations at this place will have the result which I have anticipated. In one respect, however, I had been mistaken. I had supposed, whilst in England, that the British Ministry in continuing the war yielded to the popular sentiment, and were only desirous of giving some that to the termination of hostilities, and by predatory attacks of inflicting gratuitous injury on the United States. It appears now certain that they have more serious and dangerous objects in view. On these I will not dwell, as they are sufficiently explained by our public despatches, and will only observe that the capture of Moose Island, and the manner of taking possession, accord with the general scope of their demands here. But I beg leave to advert to the effect which those views, now fully disclosed, may have on the manner of conducting the war.
The British will naturally attempt the conquest of what they wish to acquire by the peace. They will make great efforts in Canada with respect to the possession of Lakes Ontario and Erie, for the recapture of Detroit, and for the support of the Indians, so as to derive from the status quo some claim to what they already demand. And your attention will be naturally drawn to that quarter, and, amongst other objects, to a vigorous prosecution of the Indian war, which, by a total expulsion of the adjacent tribes, or by compelling them to make peace, will remove every pretext for what is now made a sine qua non, and, indeed, afford an opportunity to Great Britain to desist (without retracting) from that preliminary. It is not improbable that their warfare on our Atlantic shore will be on a smaller scale than I had conjectured, and may be confined to desultory attacks made successively on several points, for the purpose principally of distracting our defensive measures and of diverting a considerable part of our force from the points of real and serious attack. It appears to me most likely that their true and immediate object is New Orleans. They well know that it is our most distant and weakest point, and that if captured it could not be retaken without great difficulty. If successful in other quarters, there is no possession which, as a sugar colony, as a port in the Gulf of Mexico, and as commanding all our Western country both in a political and in a commercial view, they would be more desirous of holding. If less successful in Canada than they expect, New Orleans would be made a set-off, and its restitution to depend on our compliance with their demands in the North.
You will also perceive that they would hardly have any other object in view when they gave in their official note the formal intimation that if we did not now sign a treaty, Great Britain would not be precluded from the right of varying her demands according to the state of the war at the time of resuming the negotiations.
Finally, the expedition ready to sail under Lord Hill in the beginning of September cannot, it seems, considering the season of the year, have any other object but Louisiana. It is evidently too late for Canada, and even for all our Northern coast. There is no apparent utility for them in an attack on Charleston or Georgia, and immense advantages to be derived from the conquest of New Orleans. It is not impossible that this last object may be connected with Florida, the cession of which by Spain to England is possible.
It is now evident that Great Britain intends to strengthen and aggrandize herself in North America. Knowing that that object would be fully disclosed by her proposals, and that these were inadmissible, it is not uncandid to suppose that her object in protracting the negotiations has been to delay their rupture to the very moment when her expedition under General Hill would be ready and must sail, in order to prevent, as far as practicable, our taking early alarm and making sufficient preparations to repel the attack.
It is highly probable that our struggle will be longer and more arduous than I had anticipated. I believe the other views I had given you respecting Europe to be correct. We cannot expect assistance from any quarter on our own account. An earlier renewal of war here than had been conjectured is not impossible, and would operate in our favor. It is an event which we cannot in any respect control, and of which, without relying on it, we must be ready to take advantage whenever it may happen.
Mr. Dallas is the bearer of our despatches. I have told him that I expected government would pay his expenses from this place to the Helder, and those of his passage and provisions on board the John Adams. He will accordingly state and transmit his account to you.
I do not expect that we can be detained more than two or three weeks longer, for the purpose either of closing the negotiation, of taking every other necessary step connected with it, and of making all the arrangements for our departure. In the hope of having the pleasure of seeing you again very soon, I have, &c.
I do not know to what the British commissioners allude in their note of yesterday, when they say that their government has forborne to press certain points on which they had a right to insist, unless it be to a recognition of their assumed right of impressment.
- The writings of Albert Gallatin, Vol I, Henry Adams