Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 3 February 1793

From William Short

Madrid Feb. 3. 1793

Dear Sir

My letter from the Hague of the 18th. of Dec. will have informed you of my intention to set out from that place the next day and proceed to this by the way of France. This I have accordingly done, and have now the honor to inform you of my arrival here the day before yesterday, after completing my journey of 400 leagues. I was singularly and unexpectedly fortunate in meeting with no impediment in my route through France except what arose from the present state of the roads. These occasioned a very considerable delay, having become from a total neglect of four years almost impracticable for carriages of any kind, and rendering unavoidable frequent stoppages for repairs to those which get through. From Bayonne to this place there being no regular post I came with the same horses the whole way, and was therefore twelve days on the road, owing in some measure also to the advanced season and several of the mountains which I had to pass being covered with snow, so as to render the assistance of oxen necessary to draw my carriage over them.

The court having lately gone to Aranjuez, Mr. Carmichael wrote yesterday to the Duke de la Alcudia, the present minister of foreign affairs, who is there also, to inform him of my arrival and to know when we can wait on him: we are expecting his answer and shall immediately on recieving it, repair to that residence.

I have delivered to M. Carmichael the two packets you addressed to him containing the journals of Congress and gazettes—and also the several papers I had received at the Hague addressed to us jointly containing the instructions relative to our business here.1

In your letter of January 5th. 1792. you say “see the three lines of the second page2 of that letter beginning some and ending letter3—since then I have not had the honor of receiving any letter from you on that subject addressed to me except that of January 23d. 1792 simply saying “—see the last page—the sentence beginning The and ending orders”—as these are the only circumstances you have ever mentioned respecting this business in your letters to me and as you said nothing in those addressed to us jointly which I received of4 the Causes which induced the President to form the Commission for treating at this place I remained absolutely ignorant of them. I took it for granted however that this Court had given assurances of their desire that persons should be sent to treat here [and]5 imagined you had omitted mentioning it as being known to Mr. Carmichael from whom I might learn it. I find however on speaking with him that he has no knowledge of it. He takes it for granted that the Spanish Agents in America must have been instructed to give such assurances although you have not thought it worth while to mention it to us and yet it seems to me by no means indifferent for us to know with precision and particularly in the present situation of affairs on what our mission was grounded. Mr. Carmichael knows of no other ground than a letter of Count Florida to him, sent to you, saying the King had resolved to send [to America]6 a person authorised to treat and verbal assurances from the same Minister of the good dispositions of this Court—he was told by Ct7 Aranda during his short administration, in speaking on this subject, that the assurances given by one Minister were not an obligation on his successor. I cannot yet know in what light the present Minister who is a remove further from the Count Florida will consider the assurances he gave. I am fully persuaded however he will give no weight to them further than as they correspond with his own sentiments, being his personal enemy and desirous to find out all means of staining and counteracting his administration. Besides this Change of Administration (since the assurances given to Mr. Carmichael which can’t but be unfavorable to our business at present as far as depends on negotiation)8 I can’t dissemble to you my fear also that there will be a Change of Circumstances which will be still more unfavorable. The news of the assassination9 of Louis the sixteenth arrived here three days ago; This seems to render war certain between France and this Country—between France and England war is still more certain—of course these two Countries will unite in their exertions against the Common Enemy. An union between two Countries, situated, governed and disposed of like these two is nothing less than Spain putting itself in the dependence of England. They will pay this dear in the end and repent of it, but in the mean time they will probably consider themselves fortified with respect to us, they will be forced in many instances to obey English influence in doing what they do not chuse. They will be happy in listening to it therefore in those cases when it shall dictate what they do chuse. We can’t doubt of the real sentiments of Spain as to the Missisippi and their territorial claim[s]10 nor can we suppose that the English Minister is so changed as to become a Missionary of peace and desire to see these subjects of Contention removed from between Spain and us. As it is not in the power of the United States to prevent Spain and England having a Common Enemy nor to prevent their being more or less united, it becomes our business it seems to me to await the developement of this union and not increase it by increasing alarm here. My opinion will be for holding on every occasion that language which I conceive will be conformable to the sentiments of the President, namely of our real desire of living on terms of close friendship with Spain. It would not be difficult to prove to a Minister of Information that Spain since the loss of France will have in future, more than ever, need of our friendship, that she11 may hope finally to oppose a Balance to the English Marine and prevent the advantages of transmarine possessions and the remains of her commerce being swallowed up by that power. These however are considerations for the time to come—and most Ministers are for the time present. He who governs every thing [at present]12 here being young and without experience will be less apt to be suspicious of English professions and promises, and as young men believe readily what they desire, he will believe perhaps that the English affection will be real and will be a protection for this Country. Mr. Carmichael tells me he has good reason to believe that vague propositions have already passed between the two Countries, which ultimately regard us but in what manner they regard us he does not know. These circumstances will sufficiently suggest to us the propriety of aiming at peace at present, but of being prepared for events.

The system of the English in case of War with France will be to cut off all foreign supplies from them, and particularly of provision and this will be the most distressing mode of warfare they can exercise against a13 Country under their present wants. [They]14 will probably sieze neutral vessels going into their15 ports—what they will do with them is for time to determine. I think they would prefer having us for enemy16 to allowing us to carry them supplies of provision, if they can prevent it no other way.17 I have the honor to be with the most perfect respect & sincere attachment Dr. Sir &c &c

W: Short

PrC (DLC: Short Papers); entirely en clair; consists of first page only, bearing dateline, salutation, and first three paragraphs, pasted onto a longer sheet containing part of subjoined FC, remainder of letter being supplied from Tr (see note 1 below); at head of text: “1. No. 123.” Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DD); partially encoded copy, with interlinear decipherment, made from missing RC; several words and part of last paragraph supplied from FC; paragraphing varies from PrC and FC; at head of text: “No. 123 To the Secy. of State”; text beginning with first deciphered word repeated, with minor variations, en clair at foot of text. FC (DLC: Short Papers); written en clair in Short’s hand in 1795; consists of all but the first three paragraphs subjoined to PrC and continued on two additional pages; note by Short in margin at foot of first page: “This part of the letter was written on a brouillon from which it was reduced to a partial cypher, being forwarded by post. It is now transcribed here from that brouillon.—Note on transcribing this part of the letter at Madrid Jan. 22. 95. The original was addressed thus Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State Philadelphia”; at foot of text on third page is a note by Short relating to a subjoined copy, continued on a fourth page, of a letter in Short’s hand from William Carmichael and Short to the Duke de la Alcudia of 17 Feb. 1793 headed “2” (for a discussion of this letter, see Carmichael and Short to TJ, 19 Feb. 1793). Recorded in SJL as received 8 May 1793.

TJ’s instructions to Short and William Carmichael regarding their mission to Spain are embodied in his 18 Mch. 1792 Report on Negotiations with Spain. Short’s forebodings about the diplomatic consequences of a Union between Spain and Great Britain proved to be well founded. The conclusion of an alliance between these two countries in May 1793, making them partners in the first coalition against France, strengthened Spain’s determination to make no concessions to the United States on the various issues Short and Carmichael had been authorized to resolve (Bemis, Pinckney’s Treaty description begins Samuel Flagg Bemis, Pinckney’s Treaty: America’s Advantage from Europe’s Distress, 1783–1800, rev. ed., New Haven, 1960 description ends , 168–70). Manuel Godoy, Duque de la Alcudia, the young Spanish first secretary and the favorite and suspected paramour of Queen Maria Luisa, was the person who governs every thing at present here (Richard Herr, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain [Princeton, 1958], 316–18).

TJ submitted this letter to the President on 11 May 1793, and Washington returned it two days later (Washington, Journal, 136).

1PrC ends here; remainder supplied from Tr.

2FC: “see the three last lines.”

3This and the next quotation are bracketed in FC.

4This and subsequent words in italics are written in code and have been supplied from the interlined decipherment, which has been verified by the Editors using partially reconstructed Code No. 10 and collated with the conjoined PrC and FC, the most significant variations and discrepancies being recorded below.

5Word supplied from FC.

6Preceding two words, encoded but not deciphered interlinearly, supplied from FC.

7Word deciphered thus, but encoded as “Count.”

8Parentheses not in FC.

9Word omitted in FC.

10Word encoded as “claims,” but deciphered as “claim.” FC: “claims.”

11FC: “that it is by us that she.”

12Preceding two words, encoded but not deciphered interlinearly, supplied from FC.

13Word interlined in place of “that.” FC: “that.”

14Sentence to this point supplied from FC. Corresponding section of Tr is mistakenly encoded as “Ther will probably siise neutral ve need,” decoded interlinearly as “These will probably si fight ise ve need,” and repeated at foot of text as “These will probably si sight ise neutral ve need.”

15FC: “those.”

16FC: “enemies.”

17A variant text of this paragraph is quoted in Short to TJ, 16 Oct. 1793.

Index Entries