Thomas Jefferson Papers

X. Secretary of State to William Short, 19 March 1791

X. Secretary of State to William Short

Philadelphia Mar. 19. 1791.

Dear Sir

Your letter of Nov. 6. No. 46 by Mr. Osmont came to hand yesterday and I have just time before the departure of Mr. Terrasson the bearer of my letter of the 15th. inst. and dispatches accompanying it, to acknowlege the receipt, and inform you that it has been laid before the President. On consideration of the circumstance stated in the 2d. page of your letter, he is of opinion that it is expedient to press at this moment our difference with Spain to a settlement. You are therefore desired, instead of confining your application for the interference of the court of France to the simple case of Ste. Marie, mentioned in my letter of the 15th. to ask it on the broad bottom of general necessity that our right of navigating the Miss[issip]i be at length ceded1 by the court of Madrid, and be ceded in such form as to render the exercise of it efficacious and free from chicane. This cannot be without an entrepot in some convenient port2 of the river where the river and sea craft may meet and exchange loads without any controul from the laws of the Spanish government. This subject was so fully developed to you in my letter of 3 that I shall at present only refer to that. We wish you to communicate this matter fully to the M. de la Fayette, to ask his influence and assistance, assuring him that a settlement of this matter is become indispensable to us,4 any further delay exposing our peace both at home and abroad to accidents the result of which are incalculable and must no longer be hazarded. His friendly interposition on this occasion, as well as that of his nation will be most sensibly felt by us. To his discretion therefore and yours we confide this matter, trusting that you will so conduct it as to obtain our right in an efficacious form, and at the same time to preserve to us the friendship of France and Spain the latter of which we value much, and the former infinitely. Mr. Carmichael is instructed to press this matter at Madrid, yet if the Marquis and yourself think it could be better effected at Paris with the count de Nuñnez it is left to you to endeavor to draw it there. Indeed we believe it would be more likely to be settled there than at Madrid, or here. Observe always that to accept the navigation of the river without an entrepot would be perfectly useless, and that an entrepot, if trammeled, would be a certain instrument for bringing on war instead of preventing it.—I am with sincere and great esteem Dear Sir &c.

Th: Jefferson

Dft (DLC); consisting of text en clair of entire dispatch, except for complimentary close and signature, which are supplied from FC; in margin in Remsen’s hand: “(This letter was put in Cyphers)”; containing a number of deletions and interlineations, some of which are noted below. RC (DLC: Short Papers); salutation, dateline, and signature in TJ’s hand; complimentary close lacking; body of dispatch in code in Remsen’s hand, with interlinear decoding in Short’s hand. PrC of RC (DLC). FC (DNA: RG 59, DCI). For the identification of the passage in the 2d page of Short’s letter, see note 1, Short to TJ, 6 Nov. 1790.

1TJ first wrote “acknowledged” in Dft and then substituted “ceded,” an alteration perhaps accounted for by the haste in which TJ wrote. When he developed the case more fully for the United States’ position, he was careful to make it a sine qua non of the treaty that no phrase be admitted in it “which would express or imply that we take the navigation of the Missisipi as a grant from Spain” (TJ to American commissioners, 18 Mch. 1792).

2TJ first wrote “spot” in Dft and then altered it to “port.”

3Date left blank in all texts, owing perhaps to haste and TJ’s habit of keeping his foreign dispatches under lock in his own residence. Remsen thus did not have TJ’s letter available as he encoded TJ’s text. The allusion is to the letter to Short of 10 Aug. 1790 (Document VI in group of documents on war crisis of 1790).

4Preceding two words interlined in Dft in substitution for “to our citizens,” deleted.

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