Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorandum of Conversation with José de Jaudenes, 6 December 1791

Memorandum of Conversation with José de Jaudenes

[Philadelphia] Dec. 6. 1791

Don Joseph Jaudenes communicates verbally to the Secretary of State that his Catholic majesty has been apprised through the channel of the Court of Versailles of our sollicitude to have some arrangements made respecting our free navigation of the Missisipi, and a port thereon convenient for the deposit of merchandize of export and import for lading and unlading the sea and river vessels: and that his Majesty will be ready to enter into treaty thereon directly with us whensoever1 we shall2 send to Madrid a proper and acceptable person duly authorized to treat on our part.

MS (DNA: RG 59, NL); in TJ’s hand, with corrections approved by Jaudenes (see notes 1 and 2 below, and TJ to Joseph Jaudenes and Joseph Viar, 26 Jan. 1792); added at bottom of text: note of conversation with Jaudenes of 27 Dec. 1791. PrC (DLC); enclosed in TJ to Jaudenes and Viar, 26 Jan. 1792; entirely in TJ’s hand. Tr (DNA: RG 360, DL).

The historical background of Spain’s decision to resume negotiations with the United States at this time is discussed in Editorial Note on threat of disunion in the West, at 10 Mch. 1791. Although TJ was initially under the impression that Spain wished to confine the new negotiations to the navigation of the Mississippi, he subsequently learned from Jaudenes that the Spanish government wished to resolve all of its principal diplomatic differences with the United States (see Memorandum of Conversation with Jaudenes, 27 Dec. 1791; Jaudenes and Viar to TJ 25, 27 Jan. 1792; TJ to Jaudenes and Viar, 26 Jan. 1792). The changes in TJ’s diplomatic strategy toward Spain resulting from Jaudenes’ clarification of Spanish intentions can be seen most clearly by contrasting the limited goals he set forth in his 22 Dec. 1791 report to Washington with the far more ambitious objectives he sought to achieve in the instructions to the American commissioners to Spain contained in his 7 and 18 Mch. 1792 letters to Washington.

1TJ first wrote “between the two nations, whenever” but altered it to read as above.

2The remainder of the sentence was revised several times; it appears that TJ first wrote “[name?] duly authorized any person to do the same on our part at Madrid.” He crossed this out and interlined the above wording.

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