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TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
On the 5th of December last I had the honor of writing you relative to the loan of 800,000 dollars, which has been proposed, and to the interest due and not paid upon the Antwerp loan.
Since that time a total revolution has taken place in the political state of this country, but hitherto without operat ing any change of circumstances favorable to the success of the intended loan. The shyness and timidity of wealth are not yet removed, and the numerous recent deficiencies of payments at once diminish the usual quantity of superfluous money, and shake the confidence of individuals in all public engagements.
The interest due upon the loans of the Emperor of Russia, of Poland, of Sweden and of the Dutch East India Company are all suspended. The province of Holland itself is more than insolvent, and the only securities which have not considerably depreciated are those of the United States.
The advices from Lisbon upon which at all events the opening of the loan is to depend, have not been received. The bankers have repeatedly urged to me, and they have also written to you, Sir, their opinion of the expediency of an unconditional authority to take advantage of any favorable opportunity which may present itself. They say that from the nature of these transactions an occasion frequently occurs, which opens for a few days an avenue to the object which is totally barred before and afterwards.
They have written to Hamburg to make inquiries whether the loan could be made there, in case it should continue to be impracticable in this country. They have received orders to transmit money for the payment of the interest due upon the Antwerp loan, orders which it has hitherto been impossible for them to execute. At the time when the interest became due the communication between Amsterdam and Antwerp was interrupted, and a prohibition of the government here prevented the remittance. The inter course is now perfectly free, but Mr. de Wolf's compting house is shut up, and I have been told that he is himself detained as an hostage to secure the payment of a contribution imposed upon the city of Antwerp.
Should he be speedily liberated and his compting house again opened, the holders of the Brabant obligations who arc already impatient and uneasy will become clamorous unless they are immediately paid, and the delay, which I fear will then be inevitable, must have some temporary effect upon our credit.
Whether this delay in the case supposed shall be unavoidable or not, must depend upon the capacity and disposition of Mr. de Wolf to advance the money, for I confess I have little expectation that it will be remitted from hence.
In a conversation which I had a few days since with Air. William Willink and Mr. Hubbard they informed me, that when their payments of this month and of March shall be made, they shall be in advance with the Treasury Depart ment. And the former of these gentlemen intimated that in case Mr. de Wolf should be liberated, the obligation of making advances upon his loan was incumbent upon him, as those upon their loans would be a sufficient burden upon them.
This circumstance is mentioned in order to warrant an observation which becomes indispensable. It is, that no exertions beyond what a sense of duty prescribes are to be expected from the Amsterdam gentlemen to secure the fulfillment of our stipulations in the contract made at Antwerp.
It was also hinted that even in case there should be funds in possession at Amsterdam sufficient for the remittance, the possibility of an appropriation to other than the intended purposes of the money after its reception at Antwerp ought to be considered.
The character of the house at Antwerp is altogether un known to me. The suspicion discovered on this occasion may, perhaps without injustice, be attributed in part to motives more immediately concerning the interest of the gentlemen at Amsterdam than those of the United States. But in the revolutions of property and of principles which have become so frequent at this time, the inconvenience and danger of multiplying great pecuniary trusts cannot escape observation.
These trusts are necessarily so great, and at the same time accompanied with so little real responsibility, that it is to be wished the United States may seldom have occasion in future of recurring to the resource of European loans.
When payments of the principal are made a certain number of specific obligations are usually called in and cancelled. An instance has lately occurred in which the bankers who had negotiated a loan for the Danish government, instead of cancelling the obligations they had paid off, issued them into circulation again, and by this infidelity have loaded their employers with a double payment of the same debt.
The Emperor's bankers towards the close of the last year, advertised in the public papers that the interest pay able on the then ensuing new year's day would be paid as usual. By a subsequent advertisement they gave notice that the payments would be suspended for want of remittances. In the interval between the two publications they are said to have sold out all the obligations upon the loan held by themselves.
The Swedish bankers at Antwerp have paid the interests due since the arrival of the French in that city in assignats, whether by order of their government or otherwise, I am unable to say. In either case the creditors are without remedy. In the latter the Swedish government is in the same situation.
The bankers of the United States at Amsterdam are men of so much integrity that nothing is to be apprehended from their transactions disgraceful to themselves, or deroga tory to the honor of their employers. But the confidence which is safe in their hands, cannot with equal security be entrusted to a variety of commercial houses in different parts of Europe, among foreigners not amenable to our jurisdictions, and subject to no other control than their individual fidelity.
Upon this occasion it may be proper to suggest to consideration the propriety of some arrangements to ensure the payments of interest upon the Antwerp loan in future, independent of any gratuitous exertions at Amsterdam. Great confidence maybe reposed in the dispositions of those gentlemen to maintain the credit of the United States in their own city, and they will not hesitate in case of necessity to anticipate from their own chest a payment of interest, rather than suffer a failure of punctuality in the performance of stipulations contracted by their agency. The credit of
the United States at Antwerp they do not conceive to be so much within their department, nor of primary importance. It has nothing to expect from them but neutrality. I have the honor, etc.
- John Quincy Adams