Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, 31 May 1790

To William Carmichael

New York May 31st. 1790


Having but a few Hours Notice of the sailing of a Vessel from this Port for Bilboa, I can only avail myself of it so far as to send you a Duplicate of my Letter of April 11th. but not of the Papers which accompanied it. I add the Copy of a Letter and Deposition, which were not then sent, and which shew you that the Practice complained of in Mr. Jay’s Letter of September 9th. 1788 has not been discontinued, and is of such a Nature as to require pointed Attention.

Mine of the 11th. of April covered a Letter of Credence for yourself addressed to the Count de Florida Blanca. The present encloses an original Commission for you as Chargé des Affaires signed by the President. At the Date of my former, I had not had Time to examine with minuteness the proper Form of Credentials under our new Constitution; I governed myself therefore by foreign Precedents, according to which a Chargé des Affaires is furnished with only a Letter of Credence from one Minister of foreign Affairs to the other. Further Researches have shewn me that under our new Constitution all Commissions (or Papers amounting to that) must be signed by the President. You will judge whether any Explanation on this Subject to the Count de Florida Blanca be necessary.

The President after a short but severe Illness is reestablished.

The public Papers as usual accompany this, and will inform you of the state of Things here. I have the Honor to be with Sentiments of the most perfect Esteem Sir Your most obt. & most h’ble Servt.

Tr (Lloyd W. Smith, Madison, N.J., 1946); in hand of Henry Remsen, Jr. FC (DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 121); followed by copies of enclosures, in addition to Dupl and commission: (1) George Walton to John Jay, Augusta, 22 Aug. 1789, transmitting an affidavit showing “one among the many proofs existing of the unfriendly Conduct of the Spaniards with respect to our black People,” sent “to form a Part of the Documents which it is expected you will make the Foundation of some Discussions with the Spanish Minister, before the rising of the national legislature.” (2) Affidavit of William John Davies, 31 July 1789, stating that about 8 May 1789 sixteen slaves belonging to him and two others “took a Boat with their Baggage and set out for East-Florida” that the owners pursued the runaways, “whom they discovered crossing Cumberland Island, and who were afterwards run ashore between Crooked and Satilla Rivers,” where several were taken but three made their escape to East Florida; that afterwards he went to the Spanish post at St. Mary’s where he was told by the commandant that one of his negroes, Harry, had come there and had been sent to St. Augustine to the governor; that he was told by the commandant he could not go to St. Augustine without a permit; and that, on writing to a friend at St. Augustine to obtain such a permit to go there to recover Harry and two other slaves, Hector and Isaac, that he believed to be there, he “received for Answer, no such Permit would be granted as the Deponent’s Business was to obtain his Negro, and as no Negro would be given up to their Owners by the Spanish Governor or his Ministers.”

On 20 Apr. 1790 Washington signed commissions for Short and Carmichael and noted in his diary that these “though not usually given to Diplomatic Characters of their Grades [were] yet made necessary in the opinion of the Secretary of State by an Act of Congress” (Washington, Diaries, ed. Fitzpatrick, iv, 117).

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