Cabinet Meeting. Opinion Respecting
a Communication from the Spanish Commissioners1
[Philadelphia] June 20. 1793.
At a meeting this day of the heads of departments at the President’s on summons from him, a letter from Messrs. Viar & Jaudenes dated June 18. & addressed to the Secretary of state,2 was read: whereupon it is the opinion that a full detail of the proceedings of the US. with respect to the Southern Indians, & the Spaniards be prepared, and a justification as to the particular matters charged in the said letter, that this be sent with all the necessary documents to our Commissioners at the court of Madrid3 with instructions to them to communicate the same to the court of Madrid, leaving to them a discretion to change expressions in it which to them may appear likely to give offence in the circumstances under which things may be at the time of their receiving it, & that a copy be sent to mr Pinckney4 for his information, & to make such use of the matter it contains as to him shall seem expedient; that an answer be written to Messrs. Viar & Jaudenes, informing them that we shall convey our sentiments on the subject to their court through our commissioners at Madrid, and letting them see that we are not insensible of the stile & manner of their communications.5
A draught of a letter from the Secretary of state to mr Hammond asking when an answer to his letter of May 29. 1792.6 might be expected, was read & approved.
DS, in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; copy, in the handwriting of Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
1. The description of this cabinet meeting in JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends reads as follows: “Met the Heads of the Departments at 9 o’Clock. The points which had been postponed at the last meeting for consideration, were further postponed but a communication from the Spanish Commrs. [Josef de] Jaudennes & [Josef de] Viar, exceptionable both in its matter & manner was read & resolutions come to thereupon, as pr minutes taken …” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 163).
2. A letterpress copy in Spanish of this letter from Viar and Jaudenes may be found in the Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. A translation of the letter reads in part as follows:
“Since our last letter which we had the honor of sending you we are newly informed of different acts practised by Govr. [William] Blount which not only are contrary to the treaty itself which the US. concluded with the Creeks, and which your government wishes to maintain, but which manifest views very distinct from those pacific & friendly ones towards our nation & those Indians, of which the United States have so repeatedly assured us.
“We will state some of the undeniable ones, & which merit great attention.
“The 1st. article of the treaty between the US. and the Creeks promises to maintain perpetual peace & friendship, between both the contracting parties, & the 14th. article promises to carry into full execution what is stipulated in the treaty by both parties, with good faith and sincerity.
“Permit us to ask now, does it denote good faith, or prove sincerity to excite the Chickasaws to commence war against the Creeks with the palpable views, that they, being less numerous than the Creeks, may be under the necessity to ask the protection of Governor Blount & his troops, & so give him then a good occasion of asking in recompence from the Chickasaws lands to form an establishment at the place called Ecores Amargas … and have a source whence to incommode & intercept the communication between New Orleans & the establishments of Spain at the Illinois & New Madrid.…
“Does it argue good faith or sincerity towards the Creeks to succour the Chickasaw nation with a portion of corn, that they might with the more convenience pursue the war …?
“The Governor of New Madrid [Tomás Portell] saw all this with his own eyes, & it was confirmed by many Indians of the Chickasaw nation.…
“In the 11th article of the treaty between the US. and the Creeks, these last oblige themselves to give information to the citizens of the former, of every design which they shall know or suspect to be formed in any of the neighboring tribes, or by any person whatever against the peace & interests of the U.S.
“Is it good reciprocity, sincerity, or good faith, on the part of these not only to inform the Creeks of the disposition of the Chickasaws against them, but that the said states should be the principal & inciting cause? …” (Translation in the handwriting of Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.)
See also the introductory note to “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on the Depredations of the Creek Indians Upon the State of Georgia,” May 29, 1793; “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on Sending an Agent to the Choctaw,” June 1, 1793.
3. This material and a letter from Jefferson stating the United States position on the Spanish charges were forwarded to William Carmichael and William Short, United States commissioners to Spain, on June 30, 1793 (ADf, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). This letter is printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 265–67. A list of the documents enclosed in Jefferson’s letter may be found in the Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
4. Thomas Pinckney, United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain.
5. On July 11, 1793, Jefferson informed Viar and Jaudenes that their letter had been submitted to Washington and that the “matter it contains, is of so serious a complexion, that he chooses to treat of it with your Government directly. To them, therefore, his sentiments thereon will be communicated, through the channel of our commissioners at Madrid, with a firm reliance on the justice and friendship of his Catholic Majesty. In doing this, it will be impossible not to manifest the impression which the style, as well as matter of your communications, make on the Government of the United States” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 267). On July 13, 1793, the two Spanish agents wrote to Jefferson: “It is with great sensibility we observe that the office which we had the honor to send you, on the 18th of June last, has given any kind of disgust to the Government of the United States, as we perceive by your favor of the 11th instant.
“We assure you particularly, with the purest truth, that if any warmth is observed in it, it has no other object than to give all possible energy to the reason which we are persuaded is on our side, and that we are very far from having the least desire of offending the Government of the United States, or of showing the least want of respect, but the most cordial affection to their most worthy President, and to your own merit.
“Be pleased, sir, to present this to the President of the United States, and to receive yourself this sincere assurance of our true esteem and indubitable attachment to the United States, and the very worthy heads of its Government.…” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 268).
6. For background to Jefferson’s letter of May 29, 1792, see the introductory note to H to Jefferson, May 20–27, 1792. Jefferson’s letter to George Hammond, dated June 19, 1793, and Hammond’s reply, dated June 20, 1793, are printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 238.