George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 29 October 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Oct. 29. 1792.

Th: Jefferson has the honor of inclosing to the President a letter just received from Messrs Viar & Jaudenes, and will have that of waiting on him in the evening.1

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; AL (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 59, Notes from the Spanish Legation.

1Jefferson enclosed his translation of a letter of 29 Oct. 1792, written to him in Spanish at Philadelphia, by Spanish ambassadors José Ignacio de Viar and José de Jaudenes. It reads: “Tho’ the short time which has past since we had the honor of informing his Majesty of the contents of your letter of the 11th of July of the present year, does not admit us to have received any acknolegement whereby we might convince you again of the just conduct of our court, & the good disposition which subsists to preserve friendship & the best correspondances with the U.S. nevertheless as we have recieved advices from the Governor of Louisiana, which on one part confirm the suspicions which we insinuated to you in our answer to the said letter, ‘that doubtless the Commissioners of the U.S. insisted on fixing the limits where it is known clearly to be prejudicial to Spain, & opposed to the interests of the Creek Indians.’ & on the other part manifest the efforts which the said Governor has used to restrain the Indians from committing hostilities against the U.S. as they had determined. we have now the satisfaction to inclose to you an extract of the advices of the said Governor, concerning this object, as a new confirmation of the assurances of the good disposition & friendship which we have several times had the honor to give to the U.S.

“We omit commenting on the insinuations from the Governor of Louisiana, because we are persuaded that your own good understanding will easily penetrate to the bottom of them, and that they will have much weight in your reflection.

“We are induced equally to make the present communication by the consideration that we observe from the public papers, & some conversations, that the opinion prevails that Spain encourages the Creeks, at this moment, to commit hostilities against the U.S. and that those who explain themselves in this sense do not take time to examine into the true causes, and from whence they derive their root; nor do they appear to distinguish between the acts of individuals & those of nations. moreover it appears to be our duty to guard our government from all charge & censure for the want of an amicable preadmonition, whatever disagreeable consequences may probably result, if the U.S. do not desist from fixing the limits where they propose, or suspend all demarcation until the point is determined between our court & the U.S. by means of the negociation on foot; using at the same time the most efficacious means to prevent the exasperation of the minds of the Indians with threats, and all usurpation of their lands.

“You will be pleased to inform the President of the U.S. of what we have here expressed, & we flatter ourselves that the measures which the government of the U.S. take will be such as may contribute to preserve the good harmony & friendship which has so happily subsisted hitherto, & which otherwise would be much endangered” (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

Jefferson also enclosed an extract of the letter that Louisiana governor Carondelet wrote to Viar and Jaudenes on 24 Sept. from New Orleans. Jefferson’s translation of that letter reads: “The favorable situation in which (as you inform me) the matters are which are in treaty between our Court & the U.S. of A. has engaged me to restrain the hostilities which the Creek nation had resolved to commence against the state of Georgia, to recover the lands which it has usurped from them since the treaty of limits agreed to by McGillevray in the year 1790, but null in effect, as having been rejected by the nation from the time it was informed of it’s contents, as not having been ratified & confirmed by the Chiefs which compose their Council, & finally forasmuch as that the chiefs having already contracted in the year 1784. with Spain, they could not conclude with the U.S. a new treaty of limits, without their participation, nor could they stipulate in the said treaty, without an infraction of the friendship which subsists between them & Spain, that ‘the Creek nation acknoleges itself under the protection of the U.S. of A. & not under the protection of any other sovereign whatever.’

“I have engaged the Nation to await in peace the result of the negociations which are under treaty in Madrid: & I hope that the U.S. will take the same measure, & will suspend running the line of demarcation in that part until the conclusion of the negociations beforementioned: since on the contrary, & in the case that the Americans realize the menaces which they have thrown out against the said Indians, to destroy them in the autumn, it will indispensably kindle a very bloody war” (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

For the administration’s immediate response to the information contained in these two letters, see Jefferson’s “Notes of Cabinet Meeting on the Southern Indians and Spain,” 31 Oct., in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 24:547–50, and GW to Jefferson, 1 Nov. 1792, and note 1.

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