No. 315.
Mr. Westenberg to Mr. Fish.

Sir: In the note of February 19 with which I was honored, and which contained an answer to the claim presented by me for extension, to the Dutch line of steamers between Rotterdam and New York, of the exemption from tonnage duties in American ports, recently accorded to the steamers of the North German Lloyd, your excellency argued that the treaty of 1782 between the Netherlands and the United States was to be considered, for political reasons and events, as being no longer in force. In support of this opinion your excellency referred to a note of April 12, 1815, written by the Hon. James Monroe, Secretary of State, to. Mr. Changuion, then minister of the Netherlands in the United States.

In my reply which I had the honor to address to your excellency on March 8th, last, I explained the reasons why I could not agree to your opinion on these points—reasons based as well on considerations of international law as on my consideration of the said note of the Hon. James Monroe.

My attention has since been called to some questions that arose between the Netherlands and the United States about claims of various nature, all of them presented a few years after the note of Hon. James Monroe had been addressed to Mr. Changuion; and in the correspondence that took place, I found confirmed by the official American State Papers the following assertions from both sides, by which, I hope, it will be evident that, whatever may have been, in general, the opinions and intentions in 1815, mentioned by the honorable Secretary of State Monroe, the treaty of 1782 was still considered as to be and to have remained in full force, dejure as well as de facto. I take the liberty to present here, inclosed to your excellency, the passages concerning it. While submitting to you these declarations, declarations the more to be appreciated, [Page 719] as those from the American side were given by the United States Government itself by the Hon. John Quincy Adams, the justly celebrated statesman, and precisely when the Hon. James Motiroe was President, I hope, respectfully, that they may contribute to bring your excellency to the opinion of the permanent and still actual continuance of said treaty and its basis, and consequently to reconsider favorably the claim which I had the honor to present.

Accept, &c.,


American Stale Papers: Documents legislative and executive of the Congress of the United States, selected and edited under the authority of Congress. Clay I. Foreign Relations, vol. v, page 603. Claims against Netherlands No. 7.

Extract of a letter of Mr. Adams to Mr. Alexander H. Everett, chargé d’affaires at the Hague:

August 10, 1824.

No principle of international law can be more clearly established than this, that the rights and the obligations of a nation, in regard to other states, are independent of its internal revolutions of government. It extends even to the case of conquest. The conqueror who reduces a nation to his subjection, receives it subject to all its engagements and duties toward others, the fulfillment of which then becomes his own duty. However frequent the instances of departure from this principle may be in point of fact, it cannot, with any color of reason, be contested on the ground of right. On what other ground is it, indeed, that both the governments of the United States and the Netherlands now admit that they are stUl reciprocally bound by the engagements, and entitled to claim from each other the benefits of the treaty between the United States and the United Provinces of 1782. If the nations are respectively bound to the stipulations of that treaty now, they were equally bound to them in 1810 when the depredations for which indemnity is now claimed were committed; and when the present King of the Netherlands came to the sovereignty of the country, he assumed with it the obligation of repairing the injustices against other nations, which had been committed by his predecessors, however free from all participation in them he had been himself.

Mr. Everett to Baron de Nagell.

Eodem, No. 8, (a,) page 605.

It is regarded by the Government of the United States as a settled and unquestionable principle of public law, that the rights and obligations of nations are in no way affected by their internal revolutions in government. Political forms may be altered, different persons or families may be called to the administration, but under every change that occurs, the new government succeeds to all the obligations, as it does to all the duties, of the old one, or, in other words, the nation, though it has changed its rulers, continues to be bound by its own acts. If this were not the case, a nation by changing its rulers, or its form of government, could at any time release itself from all its engagements, a supposition too absurd to be refuted.

* * * * *

No act of the nation can discharge it from this duty, except the fulfillment of it. These principles are recognized by the great writers on international law, &c.

Eodem, vol. vi, page 380, No. 448.

Extract from a letter of the Chevalier Huygens (minister of the Netherlands in the United States) to the Secretary of State:

Washington, November 11, 1826.

From the commencement of the relations between the United Provinces of the Neth erlands and the United States of America, founded and stipulated by the treaty of 1782, and faithfully maintained until the war of Europe, and, in fine, the invasion of the United Provinces of the Netherlands by a foreign power suspended their happy relations, [Page 720] the American flag was there treated on an equality with the national flag, which enjoyed a perfect reciprocity in the United States.

The desire of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands to favor and extend the navigation and commerce “between his kingdom and the United States is well known, and of the sincerity of his disposition the President cannot be in doubt. His Majesty has given unequivocal proofs of it from his coming to the throne to the time when Belgium was united to the kingdom of the Netherlands. His Majesty, without knowing the reciprocal disposition of the Government of the United States, admitted, without hesitation, the bases of the treaty of 1782, and caused them to be applied to the navigation and commerce of the United States. The Americans were placed immediately in the position of the most favored nation.