Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael and William Short to be in cypher
[Philadelphia] Mar. 23. 1793.
It is intimated to us, in such a way as to attract our attention, that France means to send a strong force early this spring to offer independance to the Spanish American colonies, beginning with those on the Missisipi: & that she will not object to the receiving those on the East side into our confederation, interesting considerations require that we should keep ourselves free to act in this case according to circumstances, & consequently that you should not, by any clause of treaty, bind us to guarantee any of the Spanish colonies against their own independance,1 nor indeed against any other nation. for when we thought we might guarantee Louisiana on their ceding the Floridas to us, we apprehended it would be seised by Great Britain who would thus completely encircle us with her colonies & fleets. this danger is now removed by the concert between Great Britain & Spain: and the times will soon enough give independance, & consequently free commerce to our neighbors, without our risking the involving ourselves in a war for them.
ADfS, DLC: Jefferson Papers.
In January 1792 GW had appointed William Carmichael and William Short commissioners plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty or convention with Spain granting U.S. citizens free navigation of the Mississippi River (GW to U.S. Senate, 11 Jan. 1792). Additional topics for negotiation were later added to the diplomats’ instructions (Jefferson to GW, 7 Mar. 1792 [second letter], and enclosure of the same date, and 18 Mar. 1792, n.1). The idea that the United States should guarantee Spain’s possession of Louisiana against British aggression in return for the U.S. acquisition of East and West Florida preceded current negotiations (Jefferson to Carmichael, 2 Aug. 1790, and enclosure, 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 17:111–17).
1. Jefferson had submitted the original draft of this letter to GW on 22 Mar., but GW evidently returned it for revision (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 99). The original draft ended at this point with the following text: “but only that of Louisiana against those who hold Canada also, & that only in consideration of their ceding the Floridas to us. we are very anxious to hear from you.” Jefferson struck this additional text along with his original signature and the internal address to “Majrs Carmichael & Short,” and he then added the remainder of the letter as it appears here. GW wrote at the bottom of the draft, “The above meets the approbation of Go: Washington.” See also the entry for 24 Mar. in JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 104.