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JQA Diary, volume 31 22 March 1820
JQA Neal Millikan Adams-Onis Treaty Dueling Foreign Relations Health and Illness War of 1812

22. V:45. Before I left my house this Morning to go to my Office, W. S. Smith came in, and told me that Commodore Decatur, had just been brought in from Bladensburg, mortally wounded in a duel with Commodore James Barron, who was also wounded; but not dangerously; I went immediately to Decatur’s house; on the way, met Captain’s M’Donough, and Ballard, who were coming from it, and whose information was discouraging, but not decisive. At the house, I saw, Genls. Brown and Harper, Coll. Bomford and E. Wyer. Brown and Harper were flattered by some uncertainties of D r Lovell, the Surgeon General, who I supposed thinks it humane to keep Mrs Decatur and her father who is with her in suspense as long as possible— Wyer, who had seen Decatur told me that he could not survive the day— He died between nine and ten O’Clock this Evening. The Nation has lost in him one of its heroes— One who has illustrated its History and given grace and dignity to its character in the eyes of the world. He was warm-hearted, cheerful, unassuming, gentle in deportment, friendly and hospitable; beloved in social life; with a soul all devoted to his Country, and a sense of honour; too disdainful of life, since it could not attain that highest summit of magnaminity which deliberately refuses the guilt and exposure of private War. He has fallen in a duel, and his dying breath was a sigh, of compunction that it was not in his Country’s cause— The sensation in this City and neighbourhood produced by this Catastrophe was unusually great. But the Lamentations at the practice of duelling were and will be fruitless as they always are— Forbes called at my house this Evening; he had been sitting an hour with Barron, who is at Beale’s Congress Hotel on Capitol Hill. He has a Ball in his body; which spared his life, by hitting and glancing from the hip-bone. The cause of the duel is said to have been Decatur’s resistance, as one of the Commissioners of the Navy, to the restoration of Barron to the Naval Service— Barron had been suspended for five years from 1807. by the sentence of a Court-Martial, of which Decatur was a member, for the 291unfortunate affair of the Chesapeake Frigate with Berkley’s Squadron— The five years expired, during our late War with Great Britain. Barron was then in Europe, and did not return to the United States during our War with G. B. though he made application for a passage in the John Adams, from Gothenburg in June 1814. After the Peace he came back, and claimed to be restored to active employment: which it is said Decatur prevented him from obtaining. He has also spoken of him in slighting and contemptuous terms— A Correspondence of mutual crimination and defiance has been passing between them since last June; and is now to be published. I left at Decatur’s house offers of any service in my power, or in that of Mrs Adams, who also called herself and made the same tender— I had requested to see Mr Poletica the Russian Minister and he came, between three and four O’Clock. I mentioned to him the President’s intention to send in a Message to Congress, conformable to the wishes which had been expressed by his Government; and asked him if it would be satisfactory to the Emperor that public reference should be made to the sentiments avowed by him, concerning the settlement of our differences with Spain. He said he was sure it would be entirely satisfactory, and even very gratifying to the Emperor. I asked him to shew me again the despatch from Count Nesselrode, and the Letters from Capodistrias, and Pozzo di Borgo, which he had shewn me before. He promised to bring them to me to-morrow.— He also mentioned a singular Letter from La Serna the Spanish Charge d’Affaires to him complaining that I had alledged in a Letter, now published, to the Chairman of the Committee of foreign Relations, that we had been told by France and Russia, that in the present State of our differences with Spain, all Europe was in our favour and against Spain—and with something like niaiserie, asking him whether he had told me so. La Serna, he said had written precisely such another Letter to Mr De Neuville, but had not yet sent it, owing to the Distress of De Neuville and his family consequent upon the news of the Assassination of the Duke de Berri. He said it was easy for him to have answered La Serna, that for what he said or wrote he was accountable to his own master only; but as they were upon good terms he had answered him that he certainly had never arrogated the absurdity of speaking in the name of all Europe. And that in the absence of all suggestions of reasons by Spain for withholding the ratification of the Treaty, the Emperor would very naturally conclude that the Treaty was favorable to Spain, since the King had liberally bestowed favours upon every person concerned in the making of it— He said he would shew me the Letters to-morrow— General Van Rensselaer came for a certificate that a Commission had issued to Mr Skinner, as District U.S. judge for the Northern District of New-York— The object is to disqualify him as a candidate for the Senate of New-York, as he now is— Rensselaer is a Clintonian— I gave him the certificate— I called at the Presidents, and he gave me the draft of a Message to Congress, with authority to shew it to Poletica, and to Mr Lowndes, Chairman of the Committee of foreign relations, whom he requested me to see and consult. I called twice this Evening at his lodgings, but he was not at home. I left a request that he would call at my house on his way to the Capitol to-morrow Morning. Mr Calhoun’s child died this day.