George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 1 July 1790]

Thursday July 1st. Exercised between 5 and 7 Oclock on Horseback.

Announced to the House of Representatives (where the Bills originated) that my signature had been given to the Acts above mentioned.

Having put into the hands of the Vice President of the U: States the communications of Mr. Gouvr. Morris, who had been empowerd to make informal enquiries how well disposed the British Ministry might be to enter into Commercial regulations with the United States, and to fulfil the Articles of Peace respecting our Western Posts, and the Slaves which had been carried from this Country, he expressed his approbation that this step had been taken; and added that the disinclination of the British Cabinet to comply with the two latter, & to evade the former, as evidently appears from the Corrispondence of Mr. Morris with the Duke of Leeds (the British Minister for Foreign Affairs) was of a piece with their conduct towds. him whilst Minister at that Court; & just what he expected; & that to have it ascertained was necessary. He thought as a rupture betwn. England & Spain was almost inevitable, that it would be our policy & interest to take part with the latter as he was very apprehensive that New Orleans was an object with the former; their possessing which would be very injurious to us; but he observed, at the sametime, that the situation of our affairs would not Justify the measure unless the People themselves (of the United States) should take the lead in the business.

Received about three Oclock, official information from Colo. Willet, that he was on the return from the Creek Nation (whither he had been sent with design to bring Colo. McGillivray, and some of the Chiefs of these people to the City of New York for the purpose of treating) that he, with the said McGillivray and many of the head Men, were advanced as far as Hopewell in So. Carolina on their way hither and that they should proceed by the way of Richmond with as much expedition as the nature of the case wd. admit.

It having been reported, upon information being recd. at St. Augustine of Colo. McGillivrays intention of coming to this place that advice thereof was immediately forwarded by the Commandant of that place to the Governor of the Havanna And a Mr. Howard Secretary of East Florida and an influencial character There under pretext of bad health and a Spanish Armed Brig of 20 Guns, ostensibly to bring 50,000 dollars for the purpose of buying Flour, arriving here immediately thereupon, affording strong ground to suspect that the Money & the character abovementioned were sent here for the purpose of Counteracting the Negotiations which was proposed to be held with Colo. McGillivray & the other Chiefs of the Creeks & this suspicion being corroborated by Mr. Howards visit to Philadelphia I directed the Secretary at War to advertise Colo. Willet thereof, that he might, if a meeting should take place at Philadelphia, or elsewhere on the Rd. observe their Conduct & penetrate, if possible, into the object of it. He was desired at the sametime to make suitable provision for lodging, & otherwise entertaining Colo. McGillivray & his party.

The following Gentn. & Ladies dined here to day. viz. The Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary at War & their Ladies—Mr. Dalton & Mr. King & their Ladies Mr. Butler & his two daughters—Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Stanton & Mr. Foster & Mr. Izard. The Chief Justice & his Lady, Genl. Schuyler & Mrs. Izard were also invited but were otherwise engaged.

In the fall of 1789 GW had requested Gouverneur Morris to open unofficial discussions with the British ministry on outstanding differences between the United States and Great Britain (see entry for 7 Oct. 1789). Among the letters that GW showed to Adams today was probably Morris to GW, 7 April 1790, describing in detail his polite but unsatisfactory interview with the duke of Leeds, British minister for foreign affairs. “On Monday the twenty ninth I waited upon him at Whitehall and after the usual Compliments, presented your Letter telling him that it would explain the Nature of my Business. Having read it, he said with much Warmth and Gladness in his Appearance ‘I am very happy Mr. Morris to see this Letter and under the Presidents own Hand. I assure you it is very much my Wish to cultivate a friendly and commercial Intercourse between the two Countries and more, and I can answer for the Rest of his Majesty’s Servants that they are of the same Opinion.’ . . . I assured him of our sincere Disposition to be upon good Terms and then proceeded to mention those Points in the Treaty of Peace which remained to be performed: and first I observed that by the Constitution of the United States which he had certainly read all Obstacles to the Recovery of British debts are removed. . . . He said he was very happy to receive this Information, that he had been of Opinion and had written so to Mr Adams that the Articles ought to be performed in the Order in Which they stood in the Treaty. . . . I took Occasion to observe that the Southern States who had been much blamed in this Country for obstructing the Recovery of british Debts, were not liable to all the Severity of Censure which had been thrown upon them—that their Negroes having been taken or seduced away, and the Payment for those Negroes having been stipulated by Treaty they had formed a Reliance on such Payment for Discharge of Debts contrated with british Merchants both previously and subsequently to the War.” Morris then brought up the main questions of British retention of the frontier posts and payment for slaves that had been taken away by the British army after the war. Leeds “became a little embarrassed” and could not say how the question of the posts stood. “That as to the Affair of the Negroes he had long wished to have it brought up and to have Something done, but Something or other had always interfered. He then changed the Conversation but I brought it back, and he changed it again. Hence it was apparent that he could go no farther than general Professions and Assurances.” Leeds was equally noncommittal on the subject of an exchange of ministers between the two countries. “Wherefore as it was not worth while to discuss the Winds and the Weather I observed that as he might probably chuse to consider the matter a little and to read again the Treaty and compare it with the American Constitution. He said that he should and wished me to leave your Letter which he would have copies and return to me. . . . Thus Sir this Matter was began but nine Days have since lapsed and I have heard Nothing farther from the Duke of Leeds” (DLC:GW). Morris’s correspondence with the duke of Leeds was enclosed.

A letter of 1 May from Morris to GW, also enclosing correspondence with Leeds, reported little progress in the negotiations. “It seems pretty clear that they wish to evade a commercial Treaty but not peremptorily to reject it, and therefore I have construed into Rejection his Graces abstruse Language. . . . I have some Reason to believe that the present Administration intend to keep the Posts, and withhold Payment for the Negroes” (DLC:GW).

The RUPTURE BETWN. ENGLAND & SPAIN involved a conflict between the two powers at Nootka Sound on the west coast of North America. When the British attempted in 1789 to establish a post in territory claimed but not effectively occupied by Spain, Spanish forces in the area resisted and captured several British ships. By mid-June reports reached the United States from London that the British were preparing for war and that a conflict appeared imminent (see John Rutledge, Jr., to Jefferson, 6 May 1790, JEFFERSON [1] description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 16:413–15).

For the background of Alexander McGillivray’s trip to New York, see entry for 10 Mar. 1790. McGillivray, Marinus Willett, and their party apparently started north in mid-May, “McGillivray and several others on horseback, twenty-six chiefs and warriors in three wagons, and Willett riding in a sulky. All along the way the delegation was greeted with great interest and McGillivray was feted by the more prominent citizens. Particularly was this the case at Guildford Courthouse, North Carolina, at Richmond and Fredericksburg in Virginia, and at Philadelphia” (CAUGHEY description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends , 43). Carlos Howard was an Irish officer who joined the Hibernia Regiment of the Spanish army in 1761. He had attained the rank of captain when in 1784 he was appointed provisional secretary of the captaincy-general of St. Augustine, serving in that post for the next 11 years (LOCKEY description begins Joseph Byrne Lockey. East Florida, 1783–1785: A File of Documents Assembled, and Many of Them Translated. Edited by John Walton Caughey. Berkeley, Calif., 1949. description ends , 183–84, n.2). American suspicions about Howard’s role were undoubtedly justified. He was sent to New York from St. Augustine ostensibly on sick leave but actually to keep an eye on the negotiations. John Leslie of the trading firm of Panton, Leslie & Co. wrote McGillivray from St. Augustine, 13 May 1790, concerning “our mutual friend Captain Carlos Howard, who by chance is about to make an excursion, which he has contemplated for some time past to the northern States in order to get for his health a change of climate and the benefits of the sea air.” Leslie noted that the two men were sure to meet in New York and since Howard had “seen much of the world” his advice would be useful. “If you meet in New York, it will be in his power to introduce you to the Spanish minister in case you do not carry letters from the Governors. . . . Anyhow you will find him useful in other ways, for I am persuaded that he will be most happy to render you every possible service in any affair in which you conceive that he can contribute to further your views or facilitate your wishes, especially in connection with any communications that you may have to make to the Spanish governors or even to the court at Madrid” (CAUGHEY description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends , 264). McGillivray and his party arrived in New York City on 20 July, and Howard made every effort to insinuate himself into the negotiations. “We are by no means satisfied with the conduct of the Spanish Officer, who arrived lately from the foreign possessions of that Crown,” Hamilton stated. “We cannot prove it positively, but have every reason to think, that he has been using endeavours to check or even to frustrate our negotiations with the Creek Indians, and with this view that he has made them large presents in this city; this we consider as perfectly unwarrantable” (HAMILTON [2] description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 6:547). Howard himself, in his lively account of his activities in New York, stated that the United States government “appointed people to watch and follow my footsteps. . . . McGuillivray was convinced that my presence . . . contributed to the fact that the Americans did not insist on an unqualified recognition on the part of the Indians of the sovereignty of the United States as well as that a secret article concerning the settling of the question of Indian trade was deferred for two years” (Howard to Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada, governor of East Florida, 24 Sept. 1790, CAUGHEY description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends , 281–84). The negotiations with the Creek continued in July and early August, and the Treaty of New York was signed on 7 Aug. 1790 (KAPPLER description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends , 25–29).

Joseph Stanton, Jr. (1739–1807), newly elected senator from Rhode Island, had just arrived in New York. He served in the Rhode Island legislature 1768–74 and during the Revolution as a colonel of a Rhode Island regiment and brigadier general in the Rhode Island militia. In 1790 he was a member of the Rhode Island Ratifying Convention.

Theodore Foster (1752–1828), a native of Brookfield, Mass., graduated from Rhode Island College (Brown University) in 1770 and began the practice of law in Providence about 1771. He held several local positions, including judge of the court of admiralty in 1785. In June 1790 GW appointed him naval officer for Providence. At this time he had just been elected to represent Rhode Island in the United States Senate.

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