James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Quincy Adams, 27 September 1815

From John Quincy Adams


London 27. September 1815.


The bearer of this Letter, has been made the medium of a communication to the Government of the United States, which may be useful to the important purpose of preserving and rendering permanent the Peace, between them and Great Britain.1

The British navy is at this moment undergoing the process of reduction to a Peace Establishment. At the same time the army is rather increasing than diminished. But the naval Armaments on the Lakes of Canada, are also to be augmented, and there is reason to believe that a cession of the Floridas has been obtained from Spain. Of the carrying away of the Negroes, in the face of the Treaty of Peace, of the detention of Michillimakinac and the instigations to Indian hostilities—of Colo. Nicolls’s Offensive and Defensive Treaty, and of Captain Lock’s warning of sixty Miles, to American fishing Vessels,2 I can only say that no satisfaction will be given us, for any of those Acts, unless we can make a paper blockade of the whole American Coast a dangerous as well as a difficult undertaking.

A small naval force capable of being soon brought into action, would make a blockade of the whole American Coast impossible. It would make the transportation of any considerable number of troops to Canada so difficult and dangerous that no Ministry would very readily undertake it. The value of the Objects for which a new War must be waged would be more nicely weighed, and a more attentive ear would be lent to the proofs of its injustice. The proposal made through this Gentleman, if accepted and carried into effect, will in my opinion have so powerful a tendency, both to preserve our Peace, and to ensure the maintenance and acknowledgment of our rights, that I sincerely wish that it may be accepted. There can be I presume little difficulty in carrying it into effect. You will judge of the opportunity and the auspices under which it would open to us new and advantageous relations in Europe, and of the expediency of applying to the purpose the further services of the bearer. I have the honour to be, with perfect respect, Sir, your very humble and obedt Servt

John Quincy Adams.

FC (MHi: Adams Papers).

1Erick Bollmann’s 28 Nov. 1815 letter to JM (DLC) indicates that Bollmann was the bearer of the present letter. The communication he carried was evidently an offer from the Austrian government to sell warships to the United States (Bollmann to JM, 28 Nov. 1815, DNA: RG 59, ML; Adams, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, 3:404).

2In his instructions to Adams of 21 July 1815 (DNA: RG 59, IM), James Monroe had discussed the controversy over U.S. slaves in British custody, the tensions regarding the post at Michilimackinac, Lt. Col. Edward Nicolls’s dealings with East Florida Indians, and Capt. Nagle Lock’s threats against U.S. ships in the Canadian fisheries (for the last incident, see Alexander J. Dallas to JM, 16 July 1815, and n. 1). Adams replied on 19 Sept. 1815 (DNA: RG 59, DD, Great Britain; printed in Ford, Writings of John Quincy Adams, 5:377–88), stating in part that Nicolls had presented a proposed Indian treaty to the British government, which Lord Bathurst told Adams had been unequivocally disavowed. Nicolls, already notorious in the United States for his 1814 attempt to recruit Jean and Pierre Laffite’s Baratarian pirates to attack New Orleans, gained even more ill fame by remaining in East Florida months after the ratification of peace, arming and training Indians and escaped slaves, and asserting that the ninth article of the Treaty of Ghent, which restored Indian enemies of the United States to their status in 1811, had nullified the Treaty of Fort Jackson. His proposed treaty with the Red Stick faction of the Creek nation granted the Indians an independent state to be defended and commercially supported by the British (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 8:355 n. 29; Niles’ Weekly Register 8 [1815]: 261–62, 271, 285–87; Nathaniel Millett, The Maroons of Prospect Bluff and Their Quest for Freedom in the Atlantic World [Gainesville, Fla., 2013], 46, 75, 80, 86–87, 90–91, 93; Frank L. Owsley Jr., “Prophet of War: Josiah Francis and the Creek War,” American Indian Quarterly 9 [1985]: 284–85).

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