HUSKISSON William - Autograph Letter Signed 1829 objecting to American trade policies
William HUSKISSON (1770-1830)
Autograph Letter Signed (“W. Huskisson”), marked ‘Confidential’ to an unnamed correspondent, discussing trade relations with the United States, vehemently critical of U.S. President John Quincy Adams’ policies.
4 pages 4to marked ‘Confidential’, Eartham [West Sussex]. 5 January 1829.
In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain, Europe and America all struggled to find greater economic stability and restore healthy trading conditions. As a staunch exponent of the free market, and president of the Board of Trade until 1827, Huskisson was at the centre of negotiations. Over a fifteen year period, negotiations proceeded with mixed, often fruitless, results between Britain and America over the question of trade with the West Indies.
Treaties with France and other European nations led to improved trading conditions; however, Huskisson did not hesitate to retaliate against countries which imposed what he considered discriminatory duties on British goods, including the United States. In response to the perceived American discrimination against British trade, Britain closed off the West Indies to American trade. Adams soon closed all American ports to ships from the British West Indies. Unpleasantness between the two trading nations festered until the election of Andrew Jackson in November 1828.
In this remarkably splenetic letter, Huskisson makes his frustration and irritation with the Adams administration abundantly clear.
“I had no leisure till this morning for the perusal of the Letters which exhibit so clearly, and at the same time so temperately, the whole course and progress of the questions which have arisen and been discussed between this Country and the United States respecting their claim to commercial intercourse with our Colonies, from the commencement of American Independance up to the present time. . . Neither must I undervalue the importance of the testimony . . . to the sincerity and singleness of our conduct, contrasted with the refined trickery and mean evasions of the American Govt., especially under the guidance of the present President [John Quincy Adams]. The character of this latter Personage becomes the more striking, in all its odious colours of cant and spleen intermixed, from the calm and placid manner in which these leading features of the Man are drawn out . . . I shall begin to think rather better of the Americans if they prefer Jackson [Andrew Jackson, who took office in March of that year] to Him, bad as the former may be. But if they should, their preference . . . will be more determined by that which . . . is the spring of all their actions – the love of money making – than by any deep felt disgust at the crooked and shuffling policy of his Predecessor.
I am greatly obliged to you for affording me a perusal of Capt Hall’s very interesting Letter . . . It has given me the more satisfaction as the view which I have for some time taken of the American nation . . . very much accords with his. . . The business of a wise Administration in this Country . . . to treat with them always in the spirit of the strictest good faith, and carefully to cloth our communications in all those forms of coutesy and good will to which as a Nation they are particularly alive. This I hope and believe will be the general policy of our Govt.”
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