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JQA Diary, volume 28 15 February 1811
JQA Neal Millikan Commerce Embargo Diplomacy/Diplomatic Activities

15. I called at 12 O’Clock this day upon the french Ambassador, according to our appointment, and found Count Fagnani with him— He was giving an account of his journey yesterday to Gatschina— I presume he is a traveller for publication. He soon went away, and I mentioned to the Ambassador the case of the American vessels, and the difficulties in the way of their admission, concerning which he had questioned me when he last visited me, and which I had then told him were ascribed to him. I then observed to him that some of our American vessels, though not of this last list had met with objections for having been provided with Certificates of origin given by the French Consuls in America, as I was informed an official declaration had been made by the Duke de Cadore, the french Minister of foreign Affairs that all such papers must be forgeries, and that the french Consuls in the United States gave no such Certificates— He said he recollected that I had mentioned the same thing to him some Months ago; but that he had even since then received again from his Government, a formal declaration, and had in fact communicated it to the Government here, that the french Consuls in America issued no such documents, and that all such papers were therefore forgeries— I told him that this was certainly a mistake— That I had within a few days received the copy of a paper, of which I expected shortly to receive also the original; which with his permission I would read to him— It was a certificate of origin, signed by Mr: Geraud the French Consul at Boston, dated the 31st: of October last, and to which was added a Certificate from 210the same person that he had been in the constant practice of delivering Certificates of Origin when required, and upon satisfactory proof, excepting during the time of the Embargo— The Ambassador took minutes of this paper, which I told him I had brought to shew him, not officially, because it was only a copy, nor from the expectation that any others of my Countrymen here would be injured by producing any such paper in future; for after the warning they have had I supposed those who had them would be careful to keep them in their desks; but from the expectation that his own Government, when informed of its mistake, would take measures, which its own credit and dignity, as well as the honour of its public Officers would seem in such a case to require— But, said he— suppose our Consuls have given these Certificates in disobedience of their Orders?— I said I thought it more probable as well as more liberal to the character of those public Officers, to suppose, that if such orders had been dispatched to them, they had not been received, or that they were expressed in terms to which the Consuls had not given the Construction intended by them, than that they had violated their duty by acting in direct violation of their orders— But that even were this the case, it became a question between the Officer and his Government, which could not affect the rights, reputation or property of persons who had received their certificates— If they had violated their duty, their Government might say so to the world—might recall and punish them—might disavow their acts, and discredit them after due notice— But this was a very different thing from declaring their real signatures to be forgeries— It was merely a question of fact—did they, or did they not give the Certificates— If they did, and you declare they did not, it is precisely the case of an individual, who should deny his own hand-writing to a promissory Note— And said I, the dishonour of such a procedure must fall ultimately upon the Officer himself, whose Government falsifies his acts, or upon the Government which thus gratuitously discredits its own Officer— I could not suppose such an intention in the Government of France— He said that to be sure, there could not be two opinions upon a case so clear considered as a question of law or of morality— Consider it Monsieur l’Ambassadeur said I as a question of honour— As a question between men of honour—what would be the answer then?— He smiled and said, precisely the same— He added that as by the late measures in France, it appeared that the Government was inclined to come upon good terms with the United States, he was persuaded that they would do Justice in this case— I told him that I thought this was a case which his Government would consider as altogether distinct from any consideration of good or bad terms between the two Nations— That it implicated the honour of his Government itself, and that even if we were in the midst of a War, the falsification of a french Officer’s signature by his own Government, knowing it to be true, would not be justifiable, but an act of injustice which France would disdain— He said it was very true, and that as the credit due to the Consul’s signatures was conferred by those who appointed them, it was properly not just that others should suffer if they were guilty of a disobedience of orders— But said he; it seems you are great favorites here— You have found powerful protection; for most of your vessels have been admitted— I told him that they had; but that it was after a delay of three months, and after their papers had been taken from the Commission of neutral Navigation, and had undergone a very strict examination before the Imperial Council. After this Circumstance had occurr’d, I had written to Count Romanzoff, and sent him a list of the vessels, for which I undertook to answer that they came from the United States, and of which I had no doubt but that their Cargoes were American property— All of these, had now been admitted excepting four, which I expected would soon be, as their cases were equally clear with the rest.— I then added, that in the first Audience that I had of the Emperor Alexander, he had expressed a determination to favour the Commerce between the United States and Russia; which he well knew was a Commerce highly advantageous to Russia— And that he had at the same time manifested to me his strong desire to harmonize with France, and his attachment to his alliance with her— That ever since that time Count Romanzoff, had uniformly and invariably assured me that such was his own system of policy—to adhere to the French alliance, and to favour the Commerce with America— That with regard to 211the French Alliance, this was a subject with which as an American it was not my business to meddle; but that it was my duty to support to the utmost of my powers the rights and interests of our Commerce with this Country, and I hoped therefore that the Emperor would persist in his favorable Sentiments towards it— In fact I considered the two things as perfectly reconcileable, together— I hope they will be more reconcileable still, said he, as France and the United States will come to a better understanding with each other— But after all, you have had a very advantageous commerce this last year— I am told you have had more than a hundred vessels at Archangel— As great a number here— And now between twenty and thirty of these last arrived— But, said I, you are to consider, that, thanks to you, we have had scarcely any part of the Continent of Europe open to us— We have had only the Ports of Spain and Portugal where you are not the masters, and Russia— For you made Denmark and Prussia shut their doors against us, without a shadow of reason for it— You could not however have much Commerce with Denmark, said he— I replied that it was considerable, as long as goods were allowed to be introduced from Holstein into Holland and France, through Hamburg by land— He finally said that it appeared further measures were to be taken in France after the 2d: of February, and he hoped they would lead to the relief of Commerce generally, which was now so excessively oppressed.— I left the Ambassador after a conversation of about an hour, and went to Mr Fisher’s with the two Passports which I received yesterday— Mr: Fisher not being at home I left them at his house and walked on the Quay, the Fontanka, and through the Newsky Perspective home—the thermometer—Reaumur’s, being at 20. degrees below 0.— I felt the effects of this cold more by rheumatic pains in the Evening, than while I was walking— The leisure of this Evening I employed in finishing the perusal of L’Evesque’s History of Russia, and in beginning that of Bossuet’s Discourse upon Universal History. L’Evesque upon the whole has not satisfied my expectations.