Notes on Debates
Mr. Jay’s Report stating objections agst. the motion of Mr. Madison for sending Mr. Jefferson to Madrid was taken into consideration.1
Mr. Madison observed that Mr. Jay had not taken up the proposition in the point of view in which it had been penned; and explained what that was;2 to wit, that it was expedient to retract the step taken for ceding the Mississpi, and to do it in a manner as respectful & conciliating as possible to Spain, and which at the same time would procrastinate the dilemma stated by Mr. Jay.3 He said he was not attached to the expedient he had bro’t forward, and was open to any other that might be less exceptionable.
Mr. Ghorum avowed his opinion that the shutting the Mississpi would be advantageous to the Atlantic States, and wished to see it shut.
Mr. Madison animadverted on the illiberality of his doctrine, and contrasted it with the principles of the Revolution, and the language of American patriots.4
Nothing was done in the case.
1. Jay’s report was read 20 Apr. 1787 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 217–20).
2. Jay’s report dealt with JM’s motion largely in terms of diplomatic protocol, thereby skirting JM’s “point of view.” Jay’s main points were that it was more honorable and advantageous to negotiate at home than abroad, and that such a measure as JM proposed would arouse the suspicion and disrespect of the Spanish court, causing them to demand “a speedy and categorical Answer” to their ultimate propositions. Dismissing JM’s two reasons for carrying the negotiations to Madrid as inadequate, Jay claimed that he was “at a loss to discern” what JM meant by “the present state of our Affairs” and that the difficulties and embarrassments of “the present state of negociation” would not be dispelled by transferring the negotiations to Madrid (ibid.). JM in his Notes on Debates for 18 Apr. explained what he meant by these two phrases.
3. Jay predicted in his report that Spain would perceive JM’s intention of gaining time (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 219). Jay had stated the dilemma in his earlier report of 12 Apr., that half of the country insisted on the right to navigate the Mississippi while the other half was not prepared to go to war to defend that right (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 204).
4. JM’s line of reasoning reflects the same attitude evident in his letter of 21 June 1786 to Monroe and that of his Resolutions Reaffirming American Rights to Navigate the Mississippi, 29 Nov. 1786.