Notes on Debates
See Journal till April 18th  Wednesday
It having appeared by the Report of Mr. Jay on the instruction agreed to monday the 2d. inst & on information refd. to him concerning the discontents of the western people:1 that he had considered the act of 7 states as authorising him to suspend the use of the Misspi. and that he had accordingly adjusted with Mr. Guardoqui an article to that effect;2 that he was also much embarrassed by the ferment excited in the western Country by the rumored intention to cede the Misspi. by which such cession was rendered inexpedient on one side; and on the other side, by the disinclination in another part of the Union to support the use of the River by arms if necessary: It was proposed by Mr. Madison as an expedient which if it should answer no other purpose would at least gain time: that it should be Resolved “that the present State of the Negociations with Spain [meaning the step taken under the spurious authority of seven States] and of the affairs of the U. S. [meaning the temper & proceedings in the Western Country],3 renders it expedient that the Minister Plenipo. at the Court of France should proceed under a special commission, to the Court of Madrid, there to make such representations, and to urge such negociations as will be most likely to satisfy the said Court of the friendly disposition of the U. S and to induce it to make such concessions relative to the Southern limit of the sd. States, and their right to navigate the river Misspi. and to enter into such commercial Stipulations with them as may most effectually guard against a rupture of the subsisting harmony, and promote the mutual interest of the two nations: And that the Secy. of F. A. prepare & report the instructions proper to be given to the said Minister, with a proper commission & letter of credence; and that he also report the communications and explanations which it may be advisable to make to Mr. Guardoqui relative to this change in the mode of conducting the negociations with his Court.”4
Mr. King said he did not know that he should be opposed to the proposition as it seemed to be a plausible expedient, and as something seemed necessary to be done; but that he thought it proper that Congs. should before they agreed to it, give the Secy. for F. A. an opportunity of stating his opinions on it, and accordingly moved that it should be referred to him.5
Mr. Clarke & Mr. Varnum opposed the reference, it being improper for Congs. to submit a principle for deciding which no further information was wanted, to the opinion of their Minister. The reference being however at length acceded to by the other friends of the proposition on the principle of accomodation, it had a vote of seven States.
1. The words beginning with “& on information” to this point may have been added at a later time by JM.
2. JM originally wrote here “that he supposed some steps necessary to be taken by Congs. in consideration of this,” which he deleted at a later time.
3. Both pairs of brackets are JM’s.
4. Congress ordered Jay on 4 Apr. to report on the state of negotiations with Gardoqui. Jay’s report, dated 11 Apr., was entered under 13 Apr. in the Journal. On the same day Jay’s report on the papers from North Carolina and Virginia concerning disturbances in the western country was read (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 147, 152, 184–204). After hearing the reports, JM moved that they be referred to a committee, but his motion was defeated. He was attempting to reopen the whole question of the Jay-Gardoqui negotiations and the American navigation rights on the Mississippi. JM had succeeded in his first maneuver by having Jay instructed to report on the state of negotiations. After failing to have the report referred, JM delayed further action until the reports underwent consideration this day (18 Apr.), when he proceeded to introduce a motion on the floor (Notes on Debates, 30 Mar. and 2  Apr. 1787: JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 204).
On 29 Aug. 1786 Congress, by a vote of 7 to 5, had repealed that part of Jay’s instruction which required him “to stipulate the right of the United States to their territorial boundaries, and the free navigation of the Mississippi.” The southern states, led by Monroe, argued that Congress could enter into treaties only with the assent of nine states, hence Jay’s instructions could not be altered by the vote of only seven states. Jay nevertheless proceeded in the negotiations under the revised instructions (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 595–96, 597–600; Monroe to JM, 31 May 1786, 30 Aug. 1786, 3 Sept. 1786 and n. 2, 29 Sept. 1786, 7 Oct. 1786; JM to Monroe, 5 Oct. 1786; JM to Jefferson, 23 Apr. 1787).
This was not the first attempt to remove the negotiations from New York to Madrid. In August 1786 the Virginia delegates had proposed that the U.S. charge d’affaires at Madrid be instructed to establish principles there, upon which a treaty could be agreed, and that Jay and two additional commissioners would conclude the treaty in New York. JM’s proposition went one step further by attempting to entrust the negotiations to Jefferson in Europe, a trusted representative of southern interests and a respected citizen of the U.S. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 591–92; Monroe to JM, 30 Aug. 1786; JM to Randolph, 15 Apr. 1787; JM to Jefferson, 23 Apr. 1787). See also the Resolution to Transfer Negotiations with Spain to Madrid, 18 Apr. 1787 and nn. 1–4.
5. Rufus King consistently attempted to block reconsideration of the question of the navigation of the Mississippi. He had been a leading proponent for deletion of the restrictive clause on the Mississippi in Jay’s instructions the previous summer (Notes on Debates, 29 and 30 Mar., 19 and 25 Apr. 1787; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 204; Monroe to JM, 31 May 1786 and nn. 5, 13; 14 Aug. 1786 and n. 3, and 30 Aug. 1786 and n. 2).