Want to save this letter now that you've found it?
It's easy - just create your own collection of letters after signing up for a free account.
The government of this country having resolved, in execution of the eighth article of the treaty of amity and commerce, concluded between the United States of America, and his most Christian Majesty, on the sixth day of February, 1778, to employ their good offices with the Regency of Algiers, to bring about a treaty of peace, have desired me to nominate and appoint some person on the part of the United States, to be present and assist at the negotiations to be had and made for that purpose ; and, you having consented to under take that office, I have by a commission of this day authorised you to negotiate and conclude such treaty on the part of the United States of America. It becomes necessary, there fore, to explain to you my situation, and thence, as well as from the circumstances of the moment, to deduce rules for your government.
And, first, you are to know that my appointment of you is a mere assumption of power on my part, no such authority being given to me as that which is implied in your commission. I act on this occasion upon the principle, that where great public interests are concerned, and when, from .the nature of the case, it is impossible that the will of the government can be seasonably expressed, the confidential servants of the pub lic are in duty bound to imply that will. But your good sense will show you, that by reason hereof, a more critical degree of responsibility is incurred. And hence results two rules for your guidance.
1. Avoid as much as possible all interference, leaving the business to the agents of this government, and only advising with them, so as to secure to the utmost the interests of the United States, in the treaty which they may be able to conclude.
2. In any such treaty, whether you do, or do not, appear as a Commissioner, take care that it be limited to a short period, (such, for instance, as one year,) unless approved by the United States. Such approbation to be expressed by the President of the said States, agreeably to the Constitution thereof.
I give you herewith a copy of the treaty concluded between the United States and the Emperor of Morocco, which will serve as a model or groundwork for you to go by. I expect that the Regency of Algiers will be exorbitant in their demands of money, as heretofore they have been ; and I presume that some unfriendly European powers (I might say unchristian powers) may endeavor to counteract you ; the rather, as I am informed, that a British Consul in that quarter has declared that America will never obtain a treaty with Algiers, but through the medium of his government. It is proper, there fore, that the business be conducted with the utmost secrecy, and that you appear, what by birth you are, a Frenchman, at least until some good purpose can be answered by the exhibition of your true character and country. It will be useful to inculcate on your companions the same secrecy, which I have just requested you to preserve.
The method by which, as far as I can learn, a treaty has hitherto been avoided, and which may perhaps be still pursued is, by demanding of the United States a sum of money out of all proportion to the object. And as far as it has come to my knowledge, the disposition of America is divided between the obtaining such treaty by purchase or by force. We have heard, I know not with what truth, that the United States are fitting out thirty frigates. Be it as it may, the report can be turned to account on the present occasion. It may be insinuated to the Dey and his Ministers, that the United States will send a fleet into the Mediterranean manned with the best sea men in the world, (for such the seamen, natives of America, unquestionably are,) with orders to cruise continually and intercept all vessels whatever going to or coming from the port of Algiers. That with this fleet are to be connected some light armed schooners, and a body of riflemen hunters, whose skill, whose activity, and whose courage are unequalled ; that this armament will be directed to rendezvous in the port of Malta, in order to commence their operations.
It will be proper to state the greatest amount of all their captures from the United States, since the year 1783 to the present hour, and, without making any deductions therefrom for the expense of the armaments against our commerce, (and which would probably exceed the value of the prizes,) divide the same by ten for the number of years. t It will then appear of how little value is the object, even could it be longer pursued without risk or inconvenience. It will appear that, if the whole amount had gone into the Dey's coffers, he would not be much benefitted thereby, and he should be made- to observe, that if the Americans pursue their plan, and obtain, as they may, subsidies from the Italian States and others, their armaments will cost them nothing, and he will lose the sum he now receives for preserving peace with those States.
The United States have less shipping than is needful to carry their produce, and the latter increases faster than the former ; so that they can easily forego the commerce of the Mediterranean, seeing that they would then be unable to get back, of course they could take nothing from us, and would lose much by engaging with us.
From what I have just said, you will see that it is my object to obtain a peace with the smallest possible sacrifice of money, for nothing, if you can. But whether a treaty be, or be not, made, it will be proper to get back the unfortunate men who are captives in that country. If a peace be obtained, their re lease should be one article of it. If not, you must contrive to get them away for as little money as possible. And it would be well to obtain such passports as may carry them home, lest they should be intercepted in their return.
Before I conclude, it is proper to mention the expense to be incurred on this occasion ; and this I divide into two parts, national and personal. This government will make due pro vision for the former, and it must be your object to confine it within narrow bounds. It is true that neither you nor I can incur any responsibility in relation to that object, beause I have fully expressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs my total want of authority ; and, consequently, their actsare purely their own ; but, still, as the United States will be under a kind of honorary obligation to discharge the debt, which may thus be incurred, it is our duty to render it as light as possible.
As to your personal expense, I will pay it, and I pray you to be as economical as circumstances will permit; for I must again repeat to you, that, having no authority to act, if my conduct should be disapproved, it is but just that the cost be defrayed by me.
And now, Sir, I commit you to your own understanding and discretion, of which you have a plentiful share, and to the protection of God. If you succeed, as I hope and believe you will, I doubt not you will receive the grateful acknowledgements of America. My thanks are already due for the readiness with which you have undertaken this task, which is by no means a pleasant or agreeable one. I am, &tc.
- Gouverneur Morris
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. II., Jared Sparks, 1832