James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Pinckney, 24 January 1804

From Charles Pinckney

Madrid 24 of January 1804.


I informed you in my last1 that having received your Dispatch of the 8th, November,2 & not hearing a single word from Mr. Monroe, I had communicated to the Secretary of State (Mr. Cevallos) the Ratification & exchange of Treaties, to which he replied in the manner mentioned in his Letter heretofore sent you, & of which a Duplicate is now inclosed.3 In consequence of his Letter & of yours of the 8th. November, I considered it my duty to see the French Ambassador as I have already informed you,4 who, in pursuance of Instructions from his Government, remonstrated strongly against the objections & Language said to have been held by the Marquis de Yrujo, and received from the Prince of Peace the most positive & unequivocal assurances that Louisiana would be quietly delivered to the French according to Treaty. I then saw the Prince of Peace myself, & hastened to transmit you the intelligence the same day by the Route of Lisbon.5 I have not yet seen the Protest said to have been made by the Marquis de Yrujo, nor the Treaty ceding Louisiana, nor can I hear where they are to be met with. In consequence however of the ticklish and critical state of things between England and Spain and well knowing that whenever Spain was convinced a war was inevitable She would prefer selling Florida to us to its falling as it must without an opposition into the hands of the British. I have considered it as proper to have many private conferences lately with the french embassador whose influence here (as you may suppose) is very great and the interest of whose nation it is that Florida Should never be occupied by their implacable foe. He informed me that his instructions were to give every aid to its coming into our hands—that things were extremely critical between England and Spain—that it was impossible to say what would be the result as the British Minister here was threatening this government exceedingly for making remitances of cash to Paris. That as I mentioned to you in my last6He had gone so far as to threaten to leave the country and that the prince of peace had strongly & firmly replied—he was free to do as he pleased—that in short he (“the french embassador”) had no doubt that the moment Spain was certain of war with England She would sell us the Floridas—indeed he went on to say, make yourselves easy on the Subject, Florida must and will be yours.

Hearing through Channels I could not doubt that Mr. Monroe was at present importantly occupied in forming new Commercial Arrangements with England—that it was uncertain whether he would come or not before Spring, particularly if at all embarrassed in his present negociations—I considered it my duty to write the Prince of Peace the inclosed Letter, (No. 1).7 Finding the situation of things becoming every day apparently more favorable to our views I proceeded to write the Letter (No. 2.)8 & then had an interview with him on Thursday, as he is the prime minister and mover here in every thing that is important. In this interview I pressed upon him every thing that is stated in these Letters, and in all my former communications upon these subjects, on which I have written Volumes to him, & added in the strongest terms the certainty of the loss of florida in case of a war with England and the policy of their now saving it by making it the means of settling all their differences with us, & of rivetting the affection of our Government & Countrymen in a manner not easily to be weakened hereafter. I stated to him our force, the extent of our Commerce & Commercial Marine, now fast treading on the heels of even England—that She & France well knew our importance, & were each anxious to keep us out of the others Scale—that any Disputes or serious differences between Spain & us, would be extremely embarrassing to France, as it was her Interest to see us friends, while England would rejoice at an event which she would consider as drawing after it in its consequences a Rupture between France & us—that Spain would get nothing by it, for could Great Britain but once see us fairly engaged, she would immediately strike at Spain also, and then the consequences would ensue, which I had so often detailed to him & Mr. Cevallos of an Union of force between England & the United States—that he well knew the innocence & Justice of our Government, & that it was neither their wish or mine to deceive him—that our requests & demands were honorable, & such as we had a right to expect & insist upon—that the Territories of His Majesty were so extensive & valuable in all parts of the world, & Florida of so little consequence either from its fertility or Population, that I was confident upon a cool & deliberate examination of the subject, he would of himself come forward & make me some propositions for the general arrangement of all our Concerns. He conversed much with me upon the subject, said he had stated the whole to His Majesty & asked me whether I would be at Aranjuez, the Sitio where the King now is, or in Madrid—to which I replied, “that I would make a point of being whereever he or Mr. Cevallos pleased, and in the way to hear & receive any propositions he thought proper to make.” He said, all official Communications would naturally come through the Secretary of State, from whom I would hear. I could not get any thing positive from him, but he appeared in this interview to attend very much to what I said—to be uncommonly serious and to hear of the cession of florida with less repugnance than formerly. In order to afford him every information respecting our Country, that I thought would give him a favorable impression of us, I had the President’s message translated into Spanish, & gave it to him, for which he was very thankful, & expressed his highest approbation of the wise, honorable & moderate Principles and opinions it contained in every part of it. I shall continue to have very frequent interviews with the french embassador and him as I begin now to be hopeful that all will yet end well. We must be moderate and patient—the game we are playing is not a trifling one and appears now to be more within our reach than ever. When I first arrived here, I found Spain at peace. She had lost but little by the War, and thinking the Peace likely to last, she was by no means content to acquiesce in our demands however just: she promised fair but whenever brought to the point flew off and endeavors to explain away. I obtained an agreement to arbitrate the losses arising from the Acts of Spaniards, but whatever she said or wrote the fact was, she never hitherto would consent to arbitrate the french Condemnations. The pains she took to ransack the United States for Lawyer’s opinions in support of her refusal must convince you of her anxiety & determination on this point.9 The truth was she was determined never to arbitrate them and those Lawyers opinions have strengthened her opinion that She ought not—the approaching war will probably render her a little more supple and the mixing the whole together in one general arrangementwill afford her pride (of which she has at least as much as her Situation entitles her to) an excellent opportunity to close it without appearing to yield from necessity. In order to be ready at a moments warning to seize circumstances as they occur I am preparing such an arrangement as will consistently with your Instructions embrace every thing. The french embassador has frequently repeated to me what I knew at the time that he came expressly hither from france to obtain the floridas for her at any rate that among other things he was directed to offer the dutchy of Parma in exchange and seemd to hint that it was owing to us who were then trying to make the same purchase that he had not got it—that had france retained louisiana from the extent of the sea coast, number of good harbours and the excellent situation of florida she would have been very anxious to possess it. I well knew we had been the means of Spain not parting with it to france; but as things were changed and we are now anxious to have their aid in procuring it I considered it as best to be silent and to urge his warm and active exertion in preparing and persuading Spain to do so. I have also writen to Mr Livingston to urge the french government to pursue & continue unremittingly their instructions to their ⟨e⟩mbassador here on this subject. I inclose you for your private inspection a copy of a Letter I wrote Mr. Livingston on the …10 of December. since which I have not heard from him. On perusing the inclosed Letters, those before sent, & a review of the whole business, I trust you will be convinced every thing has been done here that was possible to promote the views of our Government. The part we have to act in time of peace is a difficult one: their government is haughty, slow in its movements and extremely jealous and afraid of the United States. They suspect us of things of which I am sure we have not the most distant idea they think we look with a wishful eye to their rich but feeble dominions now in our neighborhood and this jealousy of us it has hitherto been the policy of other nations to increase and inflame. I have constantly done every thing in my power to remove it, & convince them of our Justice & Love of Peace. I shall continue to do so, and am sure the moment the war commences, our affairs here will become ⟨be⟩tter. I must however repeat to you my apprehension that the sum you have limited will be considered as too small11 after they have refused to exchange it for Parma and after they have seen the sum given for Louisiana and particularly if they have seen the report a committee of Congress lately published12 and a wo[r]k or preface to a work of Mr Ellicott13 on the same subject which I have heared of but have not seen. I fear the sum you mention will not be thought an equivalent: of this however you are the best Judge. I wrote you before, that it was important to know what was your opinion as to the limits of the new purchase.

I had made the application directed respecting the navigation of the Mobile, a copy of which I sent you, and had conferences with the Minister on the subject, in pursuance of your instructions. Upon, however, receiving an official Letter from Mr. Livingston & Mr. Monroe, informing me they considered West Florida as included in their purchase,14 I considered it as proper to say nothing farther on the subject of the Mobile until I heared from you, or Mr. Monroe arrived.15 I inclose you my letter to the Minister,16 stating the manner in which I had made the application.17

In pursuance of what I mentioned in my last I applied to the Ambassadour of France & the Ministers of England & Denmark & Encargado of Sweden to write to their Consuls in Tripoli to use their influence to have Our Countrymen as well treated as possible & at the same time I requested the Ambassadour of France to authorise the French Consul to advance Two or Three thousand Dollars to procure some necessaries for them, if he found it requisite on Enquiry from Captain Baimbridge & the Officers. I wrote at the same time to Colonel Lear to inform him, that I had made this attempt to get a little money to them, in aid of his Exertions or in case of an accident to them & to request him to write me whenever he thought I could be useful to him on this or any other account & that although I was not authorised I was sure our Government would approve any thing that could be done to alleviate the sufferings of our brave but unfortunate Countrymen. I inclose you such letters &c. as I have since recieved respecting this unexpected & disagreeable Event.18

The intelligence I sent you respecting the intention of this Government to order five Regiments to America consisting of six or eight thousand troops may still be repeated. It is said to be only a measure of precaution—that part of them are for Cuba—it is however doubted whether they will yet go at all & whether the English will permit them. The Packet Boat the Marquis de Yrujo dispatched express to the Government here had not returned at the date of my last letter from Cadiz but was expected soon to do so. We are anxiously waiting to hear from You here & to Know how things have gone at Orleans. I shall write again the next week & in the interim requesting you to present my affectionate respects to the President & compliments to our other friends I remain with sincere regard & Esteem Dear Sir Yours Truly19

Charles Pinckney

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