Ambassador John Quincy Adams Informs Secretary of State James Monroe That Great Britain Has Approved American Use of Gibraltar by the Naval Squadron Watching Over the Barbary States

A sign of thawing diplomatic relations between the two countries after the War of 1812, approved by the Prince Regent, the future King George IV, himself.

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A very uncommon letter from one future president to another

On December 24, 1814, the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.  The key American negotiators had been Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, and John Quincy Adams.  Adams had been the Ambassador to Russia and...

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Ambassador John Quincy Adams Informs Secretary of State James Monroe That Great Britain Has Approved American Use of Gibraltar by the Naval Squadron Watching Over the Barbary States

A sign of thawing diplomatic relations between the two countries after the War of 1812, approved by the Prince Regent, the future King George IV, himself.

A very uncommon letter from one future president to another

On December 24, 1814, the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.  The key American negotiators had been Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, and John Quincy Adams.  Adams had been the Ambassador to Russia and was recalled for the purpose of this negotiation. But after the Treaty was signed, he did not return to Russia, but instead went to London to serve as Ambassador to America’s former wartime rival, a post he held until 1817.  His task was a delicate one that required an adept diplomatic hand, mending relationships with a country with which America had been at war twice in recent history.  Both sides felt an interest in ending this period of hostility.  England continued to face down the Napoleonic threat, and America was weary of war and foreign entanglements.

The Barbary States, a group of several North African countries, had preyed on American and European vessels for years, which the victims considered nothing more than piracy. This aggression had led to the First Barbary War from 1801 and 1805, after which the Barbary States left off this piracy.  The War of 1812 had given these states a chance to resume their pillage and ransom activities.  But with the war now behind them, the Americans could once again turn to confronting the Barbary States.  On March 3, 1815, Congress authorized the use of naval power against Algiers.  As a show of friendship, Britain allowed American vessels to use Gibraltar as a point of debarkation to attack North Africa.  This Stephen Decatur’s squadron did, and in July 1815, after capturing the Algerian flagship, a treaty was negotiated.  Decatur was victorious, and returned home, leaving the Squadron in command of William Bainbridge, who left it to Commodore John Shaw in October.  On October 30, Shaw sailed with the fleet for Minorca, where they would be headquartered through the winter.  But before he did, he appealed to the leaders of Gibraltar for use of their storage facilities, in case another attack on North Africa might prove necessary.  Since the country of Spain, in whose jurisdiction their new headquarters would reside, was not as friendly to the United States interests as the country would have wanted, access to the stores at Gibraltar was crucial.  Around this time, the new American consul to Gibralter, Bernard Henry, had arrived, evidently without his formal appointment and authorization by the Secretary of State.  There was a question about whether he could serve without this document.

Lord Bathurst was Quincy Adams’ counterpart in the Foreign Office in London, and the man with whom he was negotiating.  At the time of this incident, Adam and Bathurst were negotiating the potential disarming of the Great Lakes region by forbidding fleets to operate there, disagreement over the boundary of Maine, as well as the status of escaped slaves in British hands. Yet even during this tense time of negotiating following the War of 1812, Britain and America were working to build a normal diplomatic relationship based on amity.

When Adams mentions the “Prince Regent,” he is referring to the future King George IV, who was acting as Regent as his father, George III, descended into illness and was unable to perform the duties of King.

Autograph letter signed, London, November 21, 1815, to the Secretary of State of the United States.  “Sir, Mr. Morier, one of the Under Secretaries of State in the foreign Department, lately wrote me a note requesting me to call at that office; and when I called he informed me that the Commander of the Squadron at Gilbraltar had requested permission of the Lieutenant Governor of that place to deposit certain naval stores for safe keeping at the place where the public stores of this government were kept.  That this permission had been granted by the Lieutenant Governor and had been approved by the Price Regent.   That a similar permission would be readily granted in future, if I should apply for it, as desired by the Government of the United States; but that if it should be merely the request of the Commander of a Squadron, it would be liable to other Considerations. I have since received a note from Lord Bathurst upon the same subject, a copy of which and of my answer to it I have now the honour to enclose.

“Mr. Morier also mentioned that Sir Bernard Henry had presented to the Lieutenant Governor of Gilbraltar a Commission as Consul for the United States at that place and had been recognized pro tempore, subject to the Prince Regent’s approbation.  Mr. Morier observed that Mr. Henry might continue to act in that capacity under this authorization until his commission can be regularly presented by me for approbation in in the usual form.  The course of proceeding to obtain the exequatur being the same for consuls at the British dependencies abroad as for those residing within the Kingdom.”

Letters from one president to another are quite uncommon, particularly those with significant content. James Monroe would run for president in 1816, win, and serve two terms. John Quincy Adams was his Secretary of State, placing him in the same role that Monroe played with James Madison. Adams would then succeed Monroe as President.

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