Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Papers on Spain Received from Edmond Charles Genet, I, [2 July 1793]

Papers on Spain Received from Edmond Charles Genet

Note on the principles of Spain relative to the navigation of the Missisipi.

There must be in the records of the Secretary of state of the US. a letter from Vergennes to Mr. Jay dated the 6th. Sep. 1782, with a Memoir of that Minister of foreign affairs, the object of which was to engage the US. not to think of the navigation of the Missisipi, and to leave things on the footing which existed then, which exists yet, and which probably will exist a long time if the US. do not take energetic measures to change it. This step of the Minister of foreign affairs was taken at the instigation of Spain, whose invariable principles are contained in the extract, here subjoined, from a Report of Montmorin to Vergennes.1

‘The Cabinet of Madrid, Monsr. le Comte, thinks it has the greatest interest not to open the Missisipi to the Americans, and to disgust them from making establishments on that river, as they would not delay to possess themselves of the commerce of New Orleans and Mexico, whatever impediments should be opposed to their progress, and that they would become neighbors the more dangerous for Spain, as even in their present weakness they conceive vast projects for the conquest of the Western shore of the Missisipi.’2

Montmorin adds ‘that Spain is decided to make the savages a barrier between her possessions and those of the Americans, that it would oppose if necessary, other obstacles to their progress, and that his M.C.M. could not give to his Catholic Majesty a greater proof of his attachment, than in employing his influence in the US. to divert their views from the navigation of the Missisipi.’

The court of France conformed itself constantly to this insinuation, as is proved by the instructions which it gave to all it’s Ministers with Congress.

Tr (DNA: RG59, NL); undated; in TJ’s hand, with his notation at head of text subsuming all three documents: “Translation of papers communicated to Th: Jefferson by Mr. Genet July 2. 1793”; written on recto of a sheet containing No. II on verso. PrC (DLC: TJ Papers, 90: 15441); with penciled notes by TJ (see notes below); part related to Montmorin overwritten in a later hand. Dft (DLC: Genet Papers); in French; in Genet’s hand. Tr (DLC: William Short Papers); in French. Tr (CtY); in French; endorsed by Thomas Pinckney. PrC (DLC: TJ Papers, 90:15483–4). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DCI); in French. Tr (Lb in same, SDC); in English. Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.); in English; lacks one paragraph (see note 1 below). Enclosed in TJ to William Carmichael and William Short, 12 July 1793, TJ to Genet, 23 July 1793, and TJ to Thomas Pinckney, 11 Sep. 1793.

In order to demonstrate that the French Republic was a more suitable ally for the United States than the recently overthrown Bourbon monarchy, the Provisional Executive Council provided Genet with extracts from various diplomatic documents purporting to show that the government of Louis XVI had consistently acted contrary to vital American interests (Turner, CFM, 202–3). Genet made some of these extracts available to TJ on 2 July 1793, evidently to further his efforts to obtain American acquiescence in French plans to liberate Canada and Louisiana (Notes of a Cabinet Meeting and on Conversations with Edmond Charles Genet, 5 July 1793). The Letter from Vergennes and the Memoir by him, which were designed to secure for Spain complete control of the Mississippi south of the Ohio and thus to deny the American claim to a right to navigate that vital waterway, were actually written by Joseph Matthias Gérard de Rayneval, undersecretary to the Comte de Vergennes, then French minister of foreign affairs (Richard B. Morris and Ene Sirvet, eds., John Jay, The Winning of the Peace: Unpublished Papers, 1780–1784 [New York, 1980], 329–33).

1In the PrC TJ later penciled lengthwise in the margin next to this paragraph “this part not to be copd.,” so as to ensure its omission in the Tr submitted to the Senate.

2In the PrC TJ later interlined in pencil above the first two lines of this paragraph “Extract of Ire from M. de Montmorin Ambassador of France at Madrid to M. de Vergennes Minister of Foreign affairs,” which served almost verbatim as the heading for the Tr submitted to the Senate.

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