Thomas Jefferson Papers

William H. Crawford to Thomas Jefferson, 16 June 1814

From William H. Crawford

Paris 16th June 1814.

Dear Sir.

I have the honor of transmitting to you a very voluminous letter from your friend Mr. Dupont de Nemours. From the tenor of the note1 accompanying this letter, it appears that he wishes it to be translated into English, & printed in the united States.

You have no doubt been informed, thro’ the channels of the newspapers, of the great events which have occurred here, and which have entirely changed the political state of Europe. Of the causes of these events, you know as much as we do, who were on the spot. The absolute suppression of the liberty of the press, and the extreme vigilance of the police, under the late Emperor, prevented the disclosure of every circumstance which was offensive to the government. We were wholly unacquainted with the relative forces of the belligerents. We knew as little of the temper and disposition of the French nation. The state of the negociations at Chatillon—the demands which were made—the pretensions which were urged, on the one part, and the other, were wholly unknown, at the moment the Allies entered Paris.

The same extinction of the liberty of the press, and a considerable part of the vigilance of the police2 which characterized the late reign, still continue to exist. Neither the Allies, or the present government, seem disposed to give publicity to the official correspondence, which was carried on at Chatillon.3 The British minister had promised the Parliament, to produce this correspondence, but the abdication of the Emperor has induced him to retract this promise. The Paris journals, and the venal writers of the day, assert, that the peace is more favorable than would have been granted to Buonaparte. France is therefore indebted to the King for this advantageous treaty. If this assertion is true, nothing is more easy than to prove it. The publication of the official papers presented at Chatillon, by the ministers of the Allies and of France, would put this question at rest. The omission, justifies the conclusion, that the peace which was offered Napoleone, was more advantageous than that which has been imposed upon Louis, the 18th. From the time that I saw Lord Castlereagh was to be sent to the continent I believed that no peace would be made with the late Emperor. To draw on the Emperor of Austria step by step, to consent to dethrone his grand son, was a task of great delicacy, and no doubt put in requisition all the art and address of the British Secretary. The obstinacy and arrogance of Napoleone strongly seconded his efforts. The man who has 10½ Millions sterling in his pocket, cannot well fail to be very eloquent, and entirely Conclusive in his arguments. This was Lord Castlereaghs situation. Terms of peace, were no doubt offered, which the Emperor of Austria thought reasonable & just, but which his son in law, held to be very unreasonable. These terms, were from time to time modified, and the stupid old Emperor was led imperceptibly to agree, that if these terms were not accepted, that the other sovereigns might adopt such measures as they should deem expedient. Lest he should repent, and cha[nge] his mind, they kept him at a great distance from Paris, and placed Lord Castlereagh aided by Prince Metternich to watch him, and soothe him into an acquiescence in the measures which were to preclude his grand son from the first throne in the world. The Allies assert in their declaration, issued immediately after the rupture of the negociation at Chatillon, that they were ready to treat with Buonaparte up to the 15th of march. Lord Wellington in his4 proclamation dated the 1st of February at St Jean De Luz puts up the family of the Bourbons, and hoists the white flag which he declares shall precede him. There can be no doubt that Lord Wellington acted according to his instructions. There can be no doubt also, that this act of his Lordship’s was kept from the knowledge of the Emperor of Austria, until the declaration of the Emperor Alexander was made, in which he states that no treaty would be made with Napoleone or any of his family. Count D’Artois on the 27th of Jany, issued such a proclamation as Lord Wellington’s5 at Vesoul, and the Emperor of Austria suppressed it, & compelled the Count to leave France, which he did not re-enter until after the Allies were in possession of Paris.

At the present day, it is asserted, that the principal officers of the Emperor had conspired against him for more than twelve months before his downfal. This is incredible. It presupposes, that these officers reposed that personal confidence in each other, which can be found only among men of principle. I believe that many of his officers, in the civil, and military line, wished his downfal, and contributed to it, as far as they could, individually, without incurring the danger of detection. It is however a matter of no great importance how the change has been effected. The change itself must be eventually serviceable to the world. The reduction of France within its ancient limits will ultimately be for the interest of the United States. The time, and manner in which this reduction has been effected, cannot fail to be immediately injurious to us. The subsidies which England has advanced to the Allies, & the access of artful and designing men of that nation, to the councils of these sovereigns, have enabled them to poison their minds against the United States. The manner in which the Bourbons have been restored—the leading part which the British general has acted in that restoration, must have made some impression upon the mind of the present King. At the moment of his restoration certainly nothing like sympathy for the United States was manifested in any European cabinet. The Stipendiaries of England, if sensible to this impression, could not with any decency manifest it. I know the American government expected the good offices of the Emperor Alexander. Our ministers in the approaching negociation at Ghent entertained the same expectations. Admitting the disposition to exist, we have no right to expect any favorable result from its exertion. England has twice refused his mediation in circumstances more favorable to his views than at present. He will not therefore renew the offer unless he intends to resent the refusal. In the present state of maritime Europe, no effectual opposition can be made to the English navy. Time is necessary to restore order in the fiscal departments of all Europe. A few years will be sufficient for this. The struggle which the great continental powers have made against the gigantic power of the late Emperor, have convinced them of their capacity to accomplish any thing which they shall undertake. The struggle itself has imparted to these nations a degree of energy which never heretofore existed. The Continuance of the American war will make them feel practically, the effects of the maritime usurpations of England. When felt, the remedy will be applied. We must therefore exert our energies, and prosecute the war, until our enemy becomes rational, or until her injustice, and arrogance shall confederate against her, all the maritime states of Europe. Three years I think will effect this.

If the negociations at Ghent fail to procure peace, they can hardly fail to produce a considerable degree of unanimity at home. In this event we have nothing to apprehend. We can never negociate under more inauspicious circumstances.

You will have seen the French constitution before you receive this letter. It is a strange medly. In religion it is greatly in advance of England. The temper and disposition of the nation is very bad. Every thing is unsettled. The demands and expectations of the old, & new nobility, are entirely irreconcilable, & must give the King much trouble. The propensity which he has manifested to restore all the ostentatious pomp of the Roman Catholic religion, & to make his reign a reign of devotion, incites the ridicule of the great body of the people, and the disgust and discontent of the Protestants. If I am not entirely mistaken Europe was never more unsettled. The peace will be nothing but an armed truce. If the Allies had left the great body of Belgium annexed to France, the peace might have had some duration. As it is, the people of Belgium & of France have been equally disappointed, and are equally dissatisfied.

I am sensible that I have trespassed too long upon your patience, but when I assure you, that my error is the result of the high respect which I bear towards your person, & for the distinguished services you have rendered your country, I confidently rely upon your indulgence for my pardon. With sentiments of the highest esteem I am sir your most obt & very humbl servt

Wm H Crawford

RC (DLC); torn; adjacent to signature: “Thos Jefferson. late President of the US. A.”; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Oct. 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

William Harris Crawford (1772–1834), attorney and public official, was a native of Amherst County whose family moved to South Carolina and then to Georgia by 1783. He established a law practice in 1799 in Lexington, Georgia. Crawford was elected to the Georgia state legislature in 1803 and served until he was elected to fill a vacant United States Senate seat in 1807. He was a politically independent Jeffersonian Republican, initially opposing TJ’s embargo policy but later fighting its repeal. Crawford also gained recognition leading the unsuccessful effort to recharter the First Bank of the United States. His election as president pro tempore of the Senate in March 1811 obliged him to preside continuously after Vice President George Clinton died the following month. Crawford served as the United States minister plenipotentiary to France, 1813–15, as secretary of war for more than a year after his return to the United States, and as secretary of the treasury, 1816–25. Despite strong support for his own presidential prospects in 1816, he supported James Monroe in the name of party unity. Crawford was a leading hopeful to succeed Monroe as president when he experienced a severe attack of paralysis in 1823 that substantially weakened his candidacy and subsequent political career. TJ communicated sporadically with Crawford, with whom he visited in 1823, and he seems to have favored his candidacy in 1824. Refusing President John Quincy Adams’s offer to keep him at the Treasury, Crawford returned to Georgia in 1825 and recovered his health enough to serve as a superior court judge until his death (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Chase C. Mooney, William H. Crawford, 1772–1834 [1974]; TJ to Crawford, 20 Mar. 1808 [DLC], 21 Sept. 1824, 15 Feb. 1825; TJ to James Madison, 13 Oct. 1814; Virginia J. Randolph [Trist] to Nicholas P. Trist, 21 Oct. 1823 [DLC: Nicholas P. Trist Papers]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 26 Sept. 1834).

Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours’s voluminous letter to TJ was a revision of the treatise on political economy that he had sent to TJ four years earlier (Du Pont de Nemours to TJ, [ca. 28 July 1810]; TJ to Du Pont de Nemours, 28 Feb. 1815). The Congress of chatillon was a gathering of the Allied leaders, February–March 1814. They offered to leave Napoleon on the throne of France if he would accept the boundaries of 1792. After his refusal the Allies signed the Treaties of Chaumont, in which they agreed that they would maintain a coalition against France for twenty years and that none of them would conclude a separate peace with that nation. The emperor of austria was Francis I. His daughter, Marie Louise von Habsburg, married Napoleon and bore Francis’s grand son Napoleon François Joseph Charles, to whom Napoleon gave the title of King of Rome (Connelly, Napoleonic France description begins Owen Connelly and others, eds., Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1799–1815, 1985 description ends , 109, 194–5, 324–5). stipendiaries: “mercenaries” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Word interlined in place of “letter.”

2Preceding three words interlined.

3Manuscript: “Chattillon.”

4Crawford here canceled “declaration.”

5Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and Napoleon search
  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; as peace mediator search
  • Artois, Charles Philippe, comte d’ (later Charles X, king of France); and Napoleon search
  • Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount; as foreign secretary search
  • Chatillon, Congress of (1814) search
  • Crawford, William Harris; identified search
  • Crawford, William Harris; letters from search
  • Crawford, William Harris; minister plenipotentiary to France search
  • Crawford, William Harris; reports on European affairs search
  • Du Pont de Nemours, Pierre Samuel; TJ receives letters from search
  • France; and U.S. search
  • France; freedom of the press in search
  • France; Napoleon’s constitution search
  • Francis I, emperor of Austria; and Napoleon search
  • Francis I, emperor of Austria; daughter of marries Napoleon search
  • Francis I, emperor of Austria; makes peace with France search
  • Ghent; peace negotiations at search
  • Great Britain; and France search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Louis XVIII, king of France; restoration of search
  • Marie Louise, empress of France search
  • Metternich, Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar von; and Napoleon search
  • Napoleon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte, king of Rome (son of Napoleon I; later styled Napoleon II); and line of succession search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; abdicates search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Austria search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Congress of Chatillon search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; family of search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; marriage of search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; restricts freedom of the press search
  • United States; and France search
  • United States; and Great Britain search
  • Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of (formerly Viscount); proclamation of search