James Madison Papers

Washington’s Queries concerning Negotiations with Spain, [ca. 25 July] 1789

Washington’s Queries concerning
Negotiations with Spain

[ca. 25 July 1789]1


If there should be a majority—or a large minority—in the Senate for continuing the negotiations (maugre the difficulty with respect to the navigation of the Mississipi) from an opinion that the terms, upon the whole, ought to be acceded to; will the President stand justified under the notification of Mr. Gardoqui’s leave of absence, & intended departure by the first opportunity, for letting him do this without submitting the matter in some form or another to the Senate?2—notwithstanding it is the opinion of the President that the claim of the U. S to this Navigation ought not to be weakened by any negotiation whatsoever.
Is there not something in the expression of the answer of Mr. Jay to Mr. Gardoqui that may be construed into a relaxation on this point, when the present derangements are done away, and we shall be in a condition to renew the Negotiations under the new Governt.3
Would it be improper, besides withholding or qualifying the expression above alluded to, to convey verbally (a memorandum of which to be taken) but delicately to Mr. Gardoqui that from the very nature of things, and our peculiar situation we never can loose sight of the use of that Navigation however it might be restrained—and that by a just & liberal policy both Countries might derive reciprocal advantages?

He had better, in my opinion, return with our ideas to this effect, delicately & tenderly expressed, than with any hope or expectation of our yeilding the navigation of a River which is so tenaciously contended for by a large part of the Union, and the Relinquishment of which, or the fear of which, founded on appearances, would occasion—certainly—the seperation of the Western territory.4

Ms (DLC: Washington Papers).

1Although undated, these queries were drawn up sometime between 24 and 27 July 1789. On the former date Gardoqui wrote Jay and enclosed a note to the president announcing his imminent departure for Spain. Jay replied to Gardoqui’s note on 27 July (Diplomatic Correspondence of the U.S., III, 279–80). One of Washington’s queries related to Jay’s draft of this reply (see n. 3). Whether Washington submitted these queries to JM, Jay, or both of them, is uncertain. That JM read them and commented on them is a reasonable conjecture in view of his position as confidential adviser to Washington and his intimate knowledge of the Spanish negotiations.

2In September 1788 Congress had suspended negotiations with Spain and referred the matter to the new federal government (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77; vols. 11—, Charlottesville, Va., 1977—). description ends , XI, 257, 259 n. 1, 266–68; Diplomatic Correspondence of the U.S., III, 278).

3The original draft of Jay’s reply has not been found. In the final draft the sentence alluded to said nothing of renewing negotiations: “Considering how long the negotiations depending between our countries have unavoidably been suspended by the derangements which such a change as has taken place in this Government will always occasion, it is much to be regretted that your departure should be so near the period when those derangements will cease” (Diplomatic Correspondence of the U.S., III, 279–80).

4Although Jay drafted messages and instructions on the Spanish negotiations for the president to communicate to the Senate, Washington never acted on them. For a detailed account of the incident, see Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, 1950—). description ends , XIX, 498–505.

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