Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 6 March 1793

From William Short

Aranjuez March 6. 1793

Dear Sir

I had the honor of writing to you on the 3d. ulto. from Madrid announcing to you my arrival there on the 1st. Since then M. Carmichael and myself have written to you a joint letter of the 19th. ulto. informing you of such circumstances as had then taken place concerning the business with which we are jointly charged—and particularly of the nomination of M. de Gardoqui to treat with us. We shall continue to write to you jointly on those subjects in proportion as any progress may be made in them.

As1 yet no step having been taken since the nomination of M. de Gardoqui,2 and we being amused3 with dilatory promises from day to day of commencing the conferences, although we know that he has not yet received4 either his instructions or his full powers, I cannot help thinking that they have some particular motive for delay in this business, over and above the standing rules of procrastination in all business. None presents itself so naturally to my mind as the present perhaps unsettled relation in which they stand to5 England and France. The eve6 of any other7 war than one which8 will throw them into the English scale would have been a favorable moment for our negotiation. It is highly9 probable this will be of a contrary tendency. I think I have seen enough already to be convinced that they will come to no favorable conclusion10 with us under present circumstances and I should be wrong not to express to you this my opinionthough you may rest assured we11 shall leave no effort unemployed on our part. In the mean time I am12 confirmed in my opinion of its being a personal misfortune to me to have been sent so far on this business. I count for nothing the length and fatigue of such a journey13 in the middle of the winter and in a state of health little adapted to such an undertaking—but as I suppose that mission must have attracted public notice in America14 so its producing nothing15 cannot but be followed by public dissatisfaction. I trust the President who will have a knowlege of all the circumstances will attribute it to its true causesbut the public will16 only judge from events without enquiring into causes. M. Car.17 thinks that any time since the formation of our new government would have been more favorable than the present for our business. He is firmly persuaded he could have settled it without difficulty in 1790 if he had had the proper powersand also that if he had been charged with standing full powers he could have18 found opportunities of doing it since then. Motives of19 delicacy probably prevented his suggesting this in time and asking to be furnished with those powers20 without which he could certainly have had few opportunities of bringing the minister in his crowd of business to attend to him. As it is the invariable usage of European courts (and by which European ministers will be guided in forming their opinion)21 to have standing plenipotentiary powers when there are objects of much less22 importance in discussion between them, the minister would have inferred from the contrary either an indifference in the U.S. to the business itself or an indifference to its conclusion at that time.23 It might be added too that he had other grounds also which have been mentioned to me here24 for supposing this indifference in the U.S. or in some of them. Independent of these considerations there are others which it will suffice simply to present to your recollection. I have frequently heard you remark the inconveniences to which were subjected at Versailles those members of the corps diplomatique even of the second order whose turn to speak to the minister came late. You could have little opportunity of observing it as to those of the third or residuary order, in which are classed chargés des affaires, residents and25 all inferior characters, as the few who were26 at that court were there by interim and seldom employed in any business which required their speaking to the minister—being destined for the most part only27 to write news for the amusement of those who employed them. At this court that class of persons is separated from the first and second class28 of foreign ministers by humiliating distinctions which did not exist at Versailles—and which cannot fail more or less to have an unfavorable influence on any negotiation they may be employed in with European ministers—so long as European ministers continue to be the same men and have the same sentiments as at present. Of this you would be sensible if I were to take up your time with mentioning them. I will only mention what will strike you more forcibly from your experience and recollection of the manner of doing business with a Minister29 of foreign affairs on this side of the Atlantic. You cannot have forgotten30 with how much caution a particular audience is to be asked by a foreign minister and how seldom it must be repeated—you will readily concieve that the caution must be still greater and the repetition less seldom, by a person of the inferior order—and particularly here. Mr. Carm: could therefore only have counted on the public audience day for seeing and conversing with the minister. Let him have arrived at what hour he would he could not be admitted until all of the first and second order had had their audience although they should have arrived hours after him. Thus it would often happen that the time allotted for the31 audience expiring before32 those of the second order had done—those of the third were accordingly put off until the next audience day—when the same thing might and often would happen again—if it did not then such of the third order as had their turn would find the minister already wearied by all those who had preceded—often out of humour—impatient to be at the end, little in condition to attend to business of the nature of that of which M. Carmichael had to speak to him—and less in a disposition to do it when he would reflect that33 not being charged with plenipotentiary powers—conversations with him must end in nothing or could only serve to commit him (the Minister) without being binding on the U.S. Accordingly you observe how long a time it took to obtain from him a simple letter accompanied by verbal assurances. Although this was in fact nothing more than34 adjourning the business to Philadelphia yet it would35 have been of importance if Ct. de Florida had remained in the Ministry and was certainly as much as could have been expected or could have been obtained by any person in the situation of Mr. Car. and with no other powers than those he had. I cannot help regretting therefore that M. Car. had not resided here with ordinary36 plenipotentiary powers not only because I am persuaded that better opportunities than the present37 must have occurredbut also because I am convinced from my own observation and the practise and38 experience of all the powers of Europe both great and small that it is the most eligible39 mode of negotiating all kinds of business40 which admit of delayand by far the most convenient41 for the complaining party.42 Under this mode if the business should not succeed it at worst remains in statu quoand as there is no public evidence of an express demand43 being made44 so there is none of a refusal being recieved, and of course a greater facility in postponing the time of trying other modes of redress, than when a commission is formed and powers given ad hoc45in which case46 the non success of the business becomes as it were a refusal of justice of public notorietyand of course embarassing to the party refused, unless indeed where the determination is fixed of resorting immediately47 to the ultimate tribunal of redress for injured48 nations.49 This is one of the principal reasons probably why it has grown up into established usage50 for all the nations of Europe without any exception among those who are in the possibility of having any discussion between them to furnish their respective agents51 with standing52 plenipotentiary powers.53 Commissions ad hoc54 are thus avoided except either in desperate cases where war is absolutely decided on in case of refusal, or where they become indispensable from there being no ordinary minister as in treating of peace during the war &c. or for a particular object out of the line of ministerial55 functions as the fixing of limits or of56 damages &c. after the principle having been established by previous treaty. The usage of employing agents with plenipotentiary powers however low the salary and of abolishing those of the third order (except by interim) has been increasing from early in the present century and has of late years as you will see by simply adverting to their57 diplomatic establishments, become universal among European powers. It has been found more necessary for those who had not adopted it, in proportion as the number of those who had adopted it, increased. England has in consequence thereof for some years past made their secretaries of embassy (at the three European Courts where they keep Ambassadors) Ministers Plenipo: and other powers have in several instances adopted the same usage. I hope you will excuse my having digressed into these particularities58 as it seems to me probable they may have escaped your notice from the particular circumstances of the Court at which you resided.59 I am fully60 persuaded, and61 as I think, you will62 be from this63 view of the ground that the interests of the U.S. have suffered here from their having not conformed in this respect to the practise of all the nations with which this Country is accustomed to treat of objects of any importance.

How far this may be remedied will depend much on the future circumstances of this country.64 At present I think it my duty to give you the superficial view which so short a residence has enabled me to take of their present, though a very uncertain means of judging of their future, situation.

It is one of the characteristics of the French revolution to affect sensibly the minds and affairs of their neighbors. This country was of course not exempt from that influence.65 I learn since my arrival here that all the leading events which had taken place in France however various and opposite in their nature66 had found each their censurers and approvers herethis together with the successive67 changes which have taken place in the ministry of this country68 had produced a variety of contending impressions on the public mind that rendered69 it difficult to ascertain the nature and force of the public opinion. The news of the horrible catastrophe which took place at Paris on the 21st of Janry. seems to have compressed all this into one mass of sentiment, directing the feelings of all to this single event, which produces the same impressions on the mind of all. Whether a sentiment so violent will be lasting I cannot say, but it may be affirmed I think with certainty that there has been no instance of national hatred and animosity being more fully and unquestionably expressed. All orders from the highest to the lowest have given proofs of this in different ways. All70 foreigners who are taken for Frenchmen are exposed to be insulted by the people. At Madrid particular kinds of dress are proscribed by them as being Frenchin the theatre particularly71 they72 exercised this kind of despotism, in the presence of the magistrate who is always there to prevent disorder and who did not interfere. Accounts from the provinces shew the same dispositions there.73 In some parts of Catalonia where the French supposed they had the greatest number of friends the magistrates have been obliged to exert themselves to prevent the massacre of those who resided there. At Valencia, a mob rose broke the windows of all the French houses—plundered two considerable magasines belonging to them, the proprietors having first escaped by flight, and would unquestionably have proceeded to greater excesses, but for the interference of the governor—and several ecclesiastics. The rich74 nobility and clergy are daily making offers of assistance both in men and money, in case of war to an amount75 beyond what could have been expected from them notwithstanding they consider it as a war for their orders, privileges and fortunes. Several have begun already to recruit from among their vassals in whom they find a readiness to enlist of which there is no example here.76 The Kings recruiting officers are also employed and meet with the same success. The cities and corporations have followed the example of77 the nobility and clergy in the offers they are making—emulation is excited among all orders and individuals by the lists of the offers made, being published daily with the names of the persons. All these promises will probably not be complied with in their full extent, yet they shew that the King would find resources on this occasion far78 beyond what has taken place or79 could be expected on any other. The government has issued orders for the expulsion of all Frenchmen [from] the Kingdom, with [the] exception of a few descriptions only.80 These orders embracing a81 great number of persons engaged here in various kinds of business82 have been executed with a degree of expedition and rigor which has exposed all of them to much injury and many to ruin. They will of course return to their country83 accompanied by despair and rage and under the present form of French government and in the present state of mens minds in that country, this circumstance cannot fail to have a very84 considerable influence there. This measure might justly therefore be deemed impolitic if there be a desire still85 as is supposed by some to avoid being forced into war. It must be observed however that the imprudence of some86 of the French inhabitants in foreign countries has been carried to a degree of indecence under the present crisis that it was difficult to pass over unnoticed.

The several circumstances which have taken place between France and Spain under the administration of Ct. D’aranda and the present, of which you have been of course informed, will have served to have shewn you beyond all doubt the sincere desire which this country had to preserve peace. As they seemed at last to give up every other point and contend alone for the preservation of the life of the unfortunate monarch, it was natural to expect that the horrible event which took place would have brought this country at once to an open87 decision. Several considerations have88 probably contributed to prevent it as yet. The older89 part of the ministry have grown up with prejudices against English policy and suspicions of their designs. They see that war will necessitate union between them and place this country at their mercy in future, as to their foreign possessions. It is difficult90 to exempt themselves at once from91 long rooted suspicions—they are therefore averse to the war as uncertain in the advantages it may procure to their interests in France and certain in its disadvantages to Spain.92 The Queen and the young principal minister are in fact averse to the war also for many obvious reasons. In all other cases they govern without control. But since the reciept of the93 news [of the] event of the 21st.94 the King’s desire of revenge, added to the kind of point of honor not to be in arrear of the other monarchs of Europe, whilst he is the nearest relation and the head of the Bourbon family, have so decided him, that it is thought the Queen and the young minister not venturing to oppose openly the King’s sentiment have thought it best to95 subscribe to it. Still this kind of conflict would necessarily have occasioned delay. Besides it has been thought proper perhaps not to declare96 before completing the preparations which are carrying on with great activityand97 the desire of bringing in Portugal with certainty if France should be the aggressor has probably also had influence on the delay here.

The French minister who resided at Madrid was admitted to conference and treated with until the King’s death was known. From that time it ceased and it having been signified to him not to come to this residence of the court he has [set]98 out with his family for France. His Secretary of legation still remains at Madrid and has not been comprehended in the late order for the expulsion of French inhabitants.

Under this view of circumstances war must be considered as hardly to be avoided99 unless by some miraculous change in affairs. Mr. Jackson the English Min. Plen. has been urging it by all the means in his power and seems confident of success. It is natural for England being engaged in the war herself to endeavour to draw in others and particularly this country.100 The English Ambassad. arrived at Corunna the 26th. ulto. and is now on his road to this place.101 You will have learned from London that the affair of Nootka has been finally settled there. Money has been already sent to effectuate the payment of the damages agreed on.

In the case of war I know on unquestionable authority102 that [it] is the intention of this government to prohibit all kinds of French productions and manufactures, in whatever vessels they may be brought to this country. This will of course render the English commerce and103 manufactures more necessary to104 them.105

The Algerines have declared war to106 the Dutchthe usual mode of pacification will no doubt ensue.107 Some of their vessels having been taken by the Algerine cruisers and carried in to Algiers,108 the Dey, contrary to usage,109 ordered them to be released because taken before the expiration of the term he had allowed in his declaration.110 It is reported that he has lately published or renewed his declaration of war against the U.S. [I beg pardon for so long and tedious a letter and have the honor to be &c. &c

W: Short]

Dft (DLC: Short Papers); heavily emended, en clair text with parts variously designated by Short for encoding (see note 1 below); at head of text: “No. 124”; at foot of first page: “Th. Jeff. Sec. of State”; bracketed words supplied from Tr; significant recoverable emendations are noted below. Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DD); entirely en clair with coding included in part of one section and in several places in later sections where coding in missing RC was problematic; contains variant paragraphing and some variant wording. Recorded in SJL as received 17 May 1793. Neither text is an entirely satisfactory substitute for the missing RC, but only the Dft indicates all the parts intended by Short for encoding—albeit with two ambiguities. Evidently after completing the Dft Short went through the text to identify passages he wished to encode, ultimately dividing the letter into six sections for this purpose and employing in each a variation of one of two basic methods: drawing a brace in the margin to define a block of text and writing “not cyphered” lengthwise in the margin; or underscoring passages that were to remain en clair. Based on the presence or absence of braces, marginal notes, and underscoring in the Dft—as well as sporadic instances of coding in the Tr—the Editors have been able to identify the encoded portions of the missing RC with certainty in all but the two sections where Short’s designations were ambiguous. Opposite the fifth section in the Dft (identified in note 73 below) Short drew a brace in the margin but offered no comment and did not employ underscoring to indicate unencoded text; it seems likely, however, that he intended this section to be entirely en clair and, employing the method he used in two earlier sections, simply neglected to write “not cyphered” in the margin—a hypothesis strengthened by the absence of coding anomalies in the corresponding section of the Tr in spite of their occurrence in every other section known to have been encoded. The final section of the Dft has no brace, written designation, or underscoring; given the absence of underscoring and the existence of several coding anomalies in the corresponding section of the Tr, it has been assumed that Short silently reverted to the second method and intended to encode the entire section.

William Carmichael obviously believed that, given the proper powers, he could have taken advantage of the 1790 crisis between Spain and Great Britain over Nootka Sound to settle without difficulty the leading points at issue between the American and Spanish governments. the horrible catastrophe the execution of Louis xvi in Paris on 21 Jan. 1793. the french minister who resided at madrid was Jean François de Bourgoing; his secretary of legation was the Marques d’Urtubize (Charles Alexandre Geoffroy de Grandmaison, L’Ambassade Française en Espagne Pendant La Révolution [1789–1804] [Paris, 1892], 72n, 84n, 319). Alleyne Fitzherbert, Baron St. Helens, was the the english ambassad. extraordinary to Spain, 1790–94 (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds. Dictionary of National Biography, 2d ed., New York, 1908–09, 22 vols. description ends ).

TJ submitted this letter to the President on 18 May 1793, and Washington returned it two days later (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 143, 144).

1Except where noted, this and subsequent words in italics, both in the text and in the canceled matter quoted in textual notes below, represent passages clearly designated by Short for encoding in the Dft or tentatively identified as such by the Editors. Coding in the Tr has been verified by the Editors employing partially reconstructed Code No. 10, anomalies being recorded below.

2Short here canceled “as far as can be known to us with certainty.”

3Tr: word deciphered interlinearly as “and used” because of a coding anomaly.

4Short here canceled “either from the department of foreign affairs.”

5Tr: word deciphered as “have” because of a coding anomaly.

6Tr: word deciphered as “even” because of a coding anomaly.

7Short here canceled “kind of.”

8Above this word Short first interlined and then canceled “like this.”

9Word written over what appears to be “possible,” erased.

10In the Tr to this point encoded passages are given in cipher with interlinear decipherment. Hereafter the Tr gives code only in several instances where the decipherer suspected that it was defective. See notes 45 and 94–5 below.

11Word interlined in place of “I.”

12Sentence to this point and last four words of preceding sentence interlined in place of “untried to satisfy the wishes of the Prest,” which in turn replaced “untried to obtain it.”

13Short here canceled “at such a season.”

14Preceding two words interlined.

15Preceding two words interlined in place of “failure.”

16Word interlined in place of “can.”

17Remainder of sentence interlined in place of “considers this the most unfavorable moment for our business which has occurred since the formation of our new government.”

18Short here canceled “settled it at different epochs which have since occurred.”

19Preceding two words interlined in place of “I am of course unacquainted with the R.”

20Preceding two words interlined in place of “such standing powers, according to the constant practice of countries which have such objects of discussion between them and.”

21Preceding four words interlined.

22Preceding two words interlined.

23Preceding three words interlined.

24Preceding eight words interlined in place of “too.” Short initially designated the next four words to be en clair, but then reversed the designation.

25Preceding five words interlined.

26Short first wrote “as there were none such at that court employe” before altering the passage to read as above.

27Preceding five words interlined in place of “merely.”

28Tr: “order.”

29Short first wrote “recollection of the public audience of a Minister” before altering the passage to read as above.

30Short wrote “You will readily concieve that” before altering the passage to read as above.

31Preceding four words interlined in place of “hour of dinner.”

32Tr: “as soon as.”

33Short here canceled “M. C.”—that is, Mr. Carmichael.

34Preceding three words interlined.

35Short here canceled “certainly.”

36Word interlined.

37Preceding three words interlined.

38Preceding seven words interlined in place of “the.”

39Short here interlined and then canceled “and honorable.”

40Word omitted in Tr.

41Preceding five words interlined in place of “most honorable.”

42Here in Tr, instead of the end of sentence, a comma and “because” are inserted.

43Tr: “total.”

44Preceding five words interlined in place of “a demand.”

45Underscoring of preceding two words canceled by Short. The phrase is given correctly in the Tr, but the ciphers interlined beneath the words indicate that Short garbled the encoding. At the second occurrence of the phrase, at note 54 below, the ciphers are again interlined underneath to indicate that on this occasion Short had encoded it correctly.

46Coding garbled in Tr, where this word is deciphered as “ca grow.” Below in this paragraph in Tr, where the coding for the singular of this word was similarly garbled, the clerk wrote in the margin: “suppose, case.”

47Word interlined.

48Word given correctly in Tr, but ciphers interlined beneath it indicate that Short encoded it incorrectly.

49Short wrote the remainder of this and the following paragraph on a separate sheet and keyed it by asterisk for insertion at this point to serve as a fair copy of a heavily emended section that he crossed out. Because the final state of the canceled section closely follows the fair copy which replaced it, only the most important and recoverable emendations are given below in notes 50–53, 55, 58, and 64.

50Here in the canceled section described in the preceding note Short initially wrote and then struck out “since the commencement of this century.”

51Here in the canceled section described in note 49 Short initially wrote and then struck out “who were formerly of the third order.”

52Word interlined in the canceled section described in note 49.

53Word omitted in Tr, which has no sentence break here. In the canceled section described in note 49 Short initially wrote and then lined through “—and thus avoid the necessity of commissions ad hoc except in cases which admit of no other alternative.” Although Short underscored ad hoc, he probably meant to emphasize the Latin phrase rather than to indicate words intended to be en clair.

54Preceding two words underscored, probably to emphasize the Latin phrase as he had done earlier (see note 53 and text at note 45 above), rather than to indicate words not to be encoded.

55Word interlined in place of “plenipotentiary” in the canceled section described in note 49.

56Preceding two words omitted in Tr.

57At this point Tr has “present.”

58The sentence to this point and the one preceding it were substituted in the canceled section described in note 49 for “Even the republic of Geneva has now adopted it in the course of the last year and England has carried it so far as to make their Secretaries of embassy ministers Plenipotentiary at the courts where they keep Ambassadors, this is done that their characters might keep pace with the agents of those countries who formerly keeping ministers of the third order had now placed them in the second by giving them plenipotentiary powers. I think it my duty to mention these circumstances to you.”

59At this point Tr has “and as.”

60Word omitted in Tr.

61Word omitted in Tr, and “as … ground” given in parentheses.

62Word written over “would.” Tr: “would.”

63Tr: “a.”

64In the canceled section described in note 49 this sentence originally read “How far this may be regained by time must depend on time and future circumstances.”

65Preceding sentence interlined.

66Preceding three words interlined.

67Word interlined in place of “late.”

68Preceding three words omitted in Tr.

69Preceding nine words interlined in place of “of impressions which left the public.”

70Short first began the sentence as “At Madrid all” before altering it to read as above.

71Word interlined.

72Next twelve words interlined in place of a heavily reworked passage that in its final state read “forced a lady to take off a cap.”

73Beginning with the following sentence, Short drew a brace around a long section of text ending with “disadvantages to Spain.” For reasons explained above, the Editors have assumed that Short intended this section of the missing RC to be entirely en clair.

74Word interlined.

75Preceding twelve words interlined. Short wrote the remainder of the sentence and the following three sentences lengthwise in the left margin, keying them to this point in the text and substituting them for a heavily emended and canceled passage of substantially the same import that in its final state included the following particulars: “one person only has within these few days carried 2 millns. of reals to the royal treasury as a free gift—others offer and effectuate various sums—others promise and are engaged in raising troops from among their vassals, in whom they find a willingness to enlist of which there is no example here—one city has promised 15000 men—and others different numbers in proportion to their population.”

76Word interlined.

77Preceding five words interlined in place of “vie with.”

78Word omitted in Tr.

79Preceding four words interlined.

80Word omitted in Tr.

81Short here canceled “very.”

82Preceding thirteen words interlined.

83Preceding eight words interlined in place of a passage revised by Short to read as follows: “Three days only were allowed them, including the day of notification and that of departure—their houses and appartments locked up under a double key of which one was left to a person named by them—the other kept by the public officer—on this deposit a sum was to be advanced them sufficient to carry them to the frontier.”

84Word omitted in Tr and interlined with the preceding two words in place of “produce a” in Dft.

85Preceding seven words interlined in place of “therefore extremely impolitic in this government if they really desire.”

86Word interlined in place of “many.”

87Preceding two words interlined in place of “a public.”

88Preceding three words interlined in place of “This would probably have been the case if the King.”

89Short here canceled “unthinking.”

90At this point Tr adds “for them.”

91At this point Tr adds “so.”

92Emending as he proceeded, Short initially wrote a passage of this import—“of course they are therefore avoiding war as useless to the Bourbon French monarchy and dangerous to Spain”—before emending the passage several more times and finally settling on the wording given above.

93Preceding three words omitted in Tr.

94Date given as “21” in Tr, although two codes interlined beneath it indicate that Short encoded it incorrectly.

95Remainder of sentence garbled in Tr: “submit behind ibe to it.” The clerk underscored “ibe” and interlined the codes for it beneath to indicate a perceived encoding error by Short.

96Preceding nine words interlined in place of a passage revised by Short to read “the successes of the French in the last campaign have perhaps suggested the propriety of not declaring.”

97Word omitted and sentence ended here in Tr.

98Dft: “sat.”

99Preceding nine words interlined in place of “you will consider war as inevitable.”

100Preceding sentence interlined.

101Here Short canceled the following sentence: “He will no doubt add new weight to the representations of M: Jackson.”

102Short first wrote “I am unquestionably authoris” before altering the phrase to read as above.

103Preceding two words interlined.

104Tr: “for.”

105Preceding two words interlined in place of “to them and of course tend to increase the union which a common enemy will produce between them.”

106Tr: “against.”

107Preceding nine words interlined.

108Preceding five words omitted from Tr.

109Short here canceled “and in this giving an example of generosity to European powers.” He had originally written Christia” before replacing it with “European.”

110Short here canceled “in one instance he carried this principle so far, that the Dutch sailors having deserted their vessel and escaped.”

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