James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Pinckney and James Monroe, 1 March 1805

From Charles Pinckney and James Monroe

Aranjuez 1st. March 1805


We had the pleasure to write to you by Mr. Gorham on the 2nd. of Feby. and to transmit a copy of our first note to Mr. Cevallos, and of the Project which we presented him for the adjustment of all differences between the U. States and Spain, as also of his answer to it, which we had then just received. We now forward the sequel of the correspondence,1 by which it appears that we are as distant from agreement on any one of the points which he has touched, as we were in the commencement. We should not be surprised after he has gone thro’ the whole of them in his dilatory mode, to receive from him some proposition in reply to that which we made him, as unjust and unequal, as the reasoning by which he supports the pretentions of spain are unfounded. There is much reason to presume that the tone which his Govt. assumes on this occasion is produced, in a great measure, by the countenance it receives from France, who has as you see, declared herself, on two important points in favour of Spain. Knowing that much would depend on the part France might take in this business, and having an early anticipation of what that most probably would be, we were of opinion from the commencement, that it was as important to make suitable impressions there as here. After the negotiation commenced, these, so far as depended on us, could only be made by the incidents which grew out of it. Its early stages furnished none that were materially interesting. It appearing however in the progress that France had taken part in favor of Spain, in the two points above alluded to, in one of which we had been already called on to disclaim her doctrine in explicit terms, it seemed proper that our view of the subject should be placed in its proper light before her. It was likewise important that she should be enabled to form a just estimate of the consequences likely to result from a failure of the negotiation, which under existing circumstances would be attributed to her; as that she should clearly understand that altho’ we were studious to preserve the most friendly relations with her, we would not do it, by the sacrifice of our just claims in the points in question. With this view and to give France a new proof of the friendship of the U. States, we transmitted, on the 26th. ulto. a copy of the whole of our correspondence with Mr. Cevallos, to General Armstrong2 authorising him to shew the whole or such parts as he thought fit to the Govt. of France, and requesting him to make such impressions on the Govt. in the spirit of this letter, as he might deem proper. It is not reasonable to suppose that Spain will suffer this negotiation to terminate without an adjustment of our differences, or indeed that France would assent to it. It is difficult however to make them believe that we will hazard the advantages incident to our neutral situation, for the attainment of the objects in question. They Know the pacifick temper of our Govt. and Country, of which very erronious impressions have been made here, as we presume by their Minister at Washington; in reference to the tone and attitude it is capable of taking when the occasion requires it. We flatter ourselves that they will form a more correct estimate on this point by the part we have and shall continue to pursue here, since they must conclude that we act in obedience to the orders of our Govt. Both France & Spain ought to see that the destiny of the Western world is in our hands, and that by hesitating to settle in the manner we propose, the questions depending with the latter, they put at issue others of infinitely greater importance to themselves. They ought to Know that altho’ peace might be concluded it [sic] this time, before our adjustment, of which there is little probability, that we have it in our power at any time, by associating ourselves with England for the purpose, to promote a new rupture, and to sweep them completely from our hemisphere. They ought to see that in the part which our govt. has taken in this business, as in many others, in which the allurements of ambition and what would be called in Europe, glory, have been disregarded, and that a respect for peace and friendship with them, have been one of the motives and that not a slight one. We beg to assure you that we shall continue to press the negotiation to a conclusion, on the principles of our instructions, in the best manner in our power, and that you shall have the result as soon as concluded, in whatever form it may be, with the greatest despatch possible.

Of the state of the war, and the probability of its continuance, you will doubtless, obtain from Paris and London more correct information than we can give. We think proper however to inform you that we have reason to believe that a fleet of ten ships of the line and 15,000 men are about to sail shortly on some secret expedition, and that great exertions are making here for raising troops by requisition. We cannot as yet form an opinion about the destination of these troops, but expect soon to do it. We are Sir, with great respect and Esteem Yr. Obt. Sts.3

Charles Pinckney

Jas. Monroe

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 8); Tr and Trs of enclosures (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 7); letterbook copy (NN: Monroe Papers); summaries of RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 8). RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Pinckney and Monroe; summaries in Daniel Brent’s hand. Acknowledged in JM to Monroe, 23 May 1805. Copies of Cevallos’s 10, 16, 24, and 28 Feb. 1805 letters to Pinckney and Monroe (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 8) are in Spanish; the Trs of these letters (ibid., vol. 7) are English translations; Trs of Pinckney and Monroe to Cevallos, 12, 18, and 26 Feb. (cover sheet) are in vol. 7 only. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted. For enclosures, see nn. 1–3.

1The enclosures are copies of (1) Pinckney and Monroe to Pedro Cevallos, 5 Feb. 1805 (6 pp.; marked “(Copy)”; cover sheet marked “N. 4,” printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:640–41), stating that the issues to be negotiated were U.S. claims against Spain for spoliations on U.S. citizens by French nationals in Spanish territory, U.S. claims for damages suffered from the closing of the deposit at New Orleans, and the Louisiana boundaries; (2) Cevallos to Pinckney and Monroe, 10 Feb. 1805 (13 pp.; cover marked “N. 5,” in Spanish, translation printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:641–42), denying that Spain was at all responsible for the first class of claims, complaining about the Mobile Act and the refusal of the Senate to ratify the convention of August 1802 with resulting inconveniences for Spanish subjects, and stating that Charles IV was prepared to ratify that convention after modification; (3) Pinckney and Monroe to Cevallos, 12 Feb. 1805 (2 pp.; printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:642–43), stating that Spain’s denial of responsibility for the French spoliations meant there was no point in discussing the claims issue as they could accept “no arrangement which did not provide for every injury,” and asking for Spain’s position on the questions of the Louisiana boundaries and the claims for losses stemming from the closure of the deposit; (4) Cevallos to Pinckney and Monroe, 16 Feb. 1805 (13 pp.; cover marked “N. 7,” in Spanish, translation printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:643–44), expressing surprise at their refusal to discuss the claims, again denying responsibility for French actions, arguing that any losses following the closure of the deposit were caused by anxiety resulting from erroneous reports in American newspapers and not by Spanish actions, and agreeing to discuss the Louisiana boundaries; (5) Monroe and Pinckney to Cevallos, 18 Feb. 1805 (1 p.; printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:644), saying that his letter of 16 Feb. seemed calculated to end the negotiations on an unfriendly note and asking for a meeting to clarify the matter; (6) Monroe and Pinckney to Cevallos, 26 Feb. 1805 (1 p.; printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:646), covering enclosure (7); and (7) Monroe and Pinckney to Cevallos, 26 Feb. 1805 (22 pp.; cover marked “No. 13,” printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:646–49), objecting to Cevallos’s descriptions of the U.S. government and press as disrespectful, rejecting his position on French spoliations and listing U.S. reasons why Spain was responsible for the claims, denying his arguments against the New Orleans claims, and expressing a desire to have the Louisiana boundaries settled.

2Monroe and Pinckney enclosed copies of (1) Monroe to Armstrong, 15 Feb. 1805 (6 pp.; cover marked “N. 10”), stating that he and Pinckney were treating jointly with Cevallos, enclosing copies of their correspondence with him, stating that if their negotiations failed there would doubtless be a rupture in relations between the United States and Spain, a result which they had been told might be more popular in the United States than a treaty, pointing out that the United States had respected France’s wishes throughout their dealings with Spain, noting that should a rupture with Spain occur the United States would have to find allies elsewhere (i.e., Great Britain), suggesting that Armstrong make the French aware of all this, and urgently requesting maps of Louisiana which were unavailable in Spain, and (2) Monroe to Armstrong, 26 Feb. 1805 (7 pp.), stating that they had held back the previous letter until after their meeting with Cevallos, enclosing a copy of their 26 Feb. letter to Cevallos (see n. 1, above), saying that if they could not reach an agreement and the negotiations were broken off it would be attributed in the United States to French influence, suggesting that Armstrong show the enclosed correspondence to the French government to persuade them to make Spain agree to U.S. terms, and asking for information about the state of the war and for any suggestions Armstrong might have on how to proceed with Spain, adding that he knew better than they how to deal with the French government.

3The Tr and letterbook copy contain the following postscript which is not on the RC: “We add to the communications mentioned within a third letter to General Armstrong, which contains the substance of an interview with the Prince of Peace, of this day, with such reflections as were suggested by it. We also enclose two additional letters from Mr. Cevallos, one on the Eastern boundary of Louisiana the other in reply to such parts of our last to him, as noticed certain objectionable parts of his preceding one.” Monroe and Pinckney enclosed a copy of Monroe to Armstrong, 1 Mar. 1805 (7 pp.; marked “N 12”), expressing dismay at the support France gave Spain in its position on the Louisiana boundary and spoliation claims, asking Armstrong to have the French give the United States the support owed them, suggesting that he start a rumor that should their negotiations break down it would be the fault of France and could lead to a rupture in relations between it and the United States, enclosing their correspondence with Cevallos, and suggesting that if the French still refused to change their position he should have Purviance or Erving notify the British of the differences emerging between the United States and France. The other enclosures are copies of Cevallos to Monroe and Pinckney, 24 Feb. 1805 (16 pp.; cover marked “No 9,” in Spanish, translation printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:644–45) and 28 Feb. 1805 (7 pp.; cover marked “10,” in Spanish, translation [DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain, vol. 7] printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 2:649–50), the first detailing Spain’s arguments against the U.S. position that West Florida was included in the purchase of Louisiana, the second disavowing any intention to insult either the U.S. government or the American people in his letter of 16 Feb. 1804 (see n. 1 above).

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