George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Jay, 29 August 1779

To John Jay

Head Quarters West-point 29th August 1779


I have the honor to inclose your Excellency the Manifesto of His Most Catholic Majesty delivered at the Court of London by his Ambassador the Marquis D’Almadovar and the message of the British King there upon to the House of Commons, with some other articles of intilligence copied from a (borrowed) Boston paper of the 23d instant.1 As this paper has come on with a good deal of dispatch, this may reach Congress sooner than any other notice of it, which has induced me to transmit the Copy by express. I sincerely congratulate Congress on this further confirmation of an event the most interesting and agreable. With the highest respect and Esteem. I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s most Obedt humble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. A note on the docket indicates that Congress read this letter on 4 September.

1The enclosure, apparently copied from the 23 Aug. Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser (Boston), reads: “Saturday last [21 Aug.] arrived at Salem, the Salem Packet, Capn Cook, in about 30 days from Bilboa—We have been favored with an English paper which came in this vessel containing the following, Parliamentary intelligence, respecting the Spanish manifesto, or rescript delivered in by Count D’Almodovar, with some debates which passed thereon.

London. House of Commons, June 16th

“The novelty of the Spanish Ambassador’s having delivered in a manifesto, i.e. a Declaration of war (for no one expected it, and least of all the minister himself) together with the expectation of the Kings message thereupon, a prodigious crowd of strangers blocked up the door, and filled up every avenue leading to the house, a little after two o’clock, under the most expressive impatience and anxiety for an introduction, while scarce a member came down without a friend or two, who had forestalled him the other side Westminster hall.

“Lord North having entered the house during the time the speaker was attending the Lords on the Kings commission, to give an assent to the bills, his Lordship upon the Speakers return, acquainted the house, that he had it in command from his Majesty to lay before them a true translation of the Manifesto delivered by the Spanish Ambassador, with a message from his majesty respecting the same.

“The very strong desire the public must undoubtedly possess for the fullest information on this most important, and truely interesting subject, causes us to feel a very particular satisfaction that we are, through the most happy efforts for that purpose, enabled to lay before our readers, and that at so early a time copies verbatim, of the Spanish manifesto, and the Kings message thereon.

Spanish Manifesto

“All the world has been witness to the noble impartiality of the King, in the midst of the disputes of the court of London with its American Colonies and with France. Besides which, his majesty having learned that his powerful mediation was desired, generously made an offer of it, which was accepted by the belligerent powers, and for this motive only a ship of war was sent on the part of his Britannic majesty to one of the ports of Spain. The King has taken the most energetic steps, and such as ought to have produced the most happy effects, to bring those powers to an accommodation equally honorable to both parties, proposing for this end wise expedients for smoothing difficulties, and preventing the calamities of war. But altho’ his Majesty’s propositions, and particularly those of his ultimatum, have been conformable to those which at other times the Court of London itself had appeared to judge proper for an accommodation, and which were also quite as moderate, they have been rejected in a manner that fully proves the little desire which the British cabinet has to restore peace to Europe, and to preserve the Kings friendship. In effect, the conduct of that cabinet, with regard to his majesty, during the whole course of the negociation, has had for its object, to prolong it for more than eight months, either by vain pretences, or by answers which could not be more inconclusive, whilst ⟨in⟩ this interval, the insults on the Spanish flag, and the violation of the Kings territories were carried on to an incredible excess; prizes have been made, ships have been searched and plundered, and a great number of them have been fired upon, which have been obliged to defend themselves, the registers have been opened and torn in pieces, and even the packets of the Court found on board the Kings packet boats.

“The dominions of the Crown in America have been threatned, and they have gone to the dreadful extremity of raising the Indian Nations, called Chatcas, Cheroquies, and Chickacas, against the innocent Inhabitants of Louisiana, who would have been the Victims of the rage of these Barbarians, if the Chatcas themselves had not repented, and revealed all the seduction the English had planned. The sovereignty of his Majesty in the province of Darien, and on the coast of St Blas has been usurped; The Governor of Jamaica having granted to a Rebel Indian, the Commission of Captain General of those provinces.

“In short, the Territory of the Bay of Honduras has been recently violated by exercising Acts of hostility, and other excesses against the Spaniards, who have been imprisoned, and whose houses have been invaded; besides which, the Court of London has hitherto neglected to accomplish what the 16th article of the last treaty of Paris stipulated relative to that coast.

“Grievances so numerous, so weighty, and recent, have been at different times the object of complaints made in the King’s name, and stated in Memorials which were delivered either to the British Ministers at London, or transmitted to them through the Channel of the English Ambassador at Madrid; but although the answers which were received have been friendly, his Majesty has hitherto obtained no other satisfaction than to see the insults repeated, which lately have amounted to the number of one hundred.

“The King, proceeding with the sincerity and candor which characterise him, has formally declared to the Court of London, from the commencement of it’s disputes with France, that the conduct of England should be the rule of that which Spain would hold.

“His Majesty likewise declared to that Court, that at the time their differences with that of paris might be accomodated, it would be absolutely necessary to regulate those which had arisen, or might still arise with Spain, and in the plan of mediation which was sent to the Underwritten Ambassador the 28th of last September, and which was by him delivered to the British Ministry in the beginning of October; a plan of which Lord Grantham was apprized and of which he received a Copy. His Majesty declared in positive terms to the belligerent powers, that in considerations of the insults which his subjects and dominions had suffered, and likewise of the attempts levelled against his rights, he should be under the necessity of taking his part, in case the negociation, instead of being continued with sincerity, should be broken off, or should produce no effect.

“The causes of complaint given by the Court of London not having ceased, and that Court shewing no disposition to give reparation for them, the King has resolved, and orders his Ambassador to declare, that the honor of his Crown, the protection which he owes to his Subjects, and his own personal dignity, do not permit him to suffer their insults to continue and to neglect any longer the reparation of those already received, and that in this view, notwithstanding the pacific dispositions of his Majesty, and even the particular inclination he has always had and expressed for cultivating the friendship of his Britan⟨nic⟩ Majesty, he finds himself under the disagreable necessity of making use of all the means which the Almighty has intrusted him with, to obtain that justice which he has solicited by so many ways without being able ⟨to⟩ acquire: In confiding on the just⟨ice⟩ of his cause, his Majesty hopes that the consequences of this Resolution will not be imputed to him before God or man, and that other nations will form a suitable idea of this Resolution, by comparing it to the conduct which they themselves have experienced on the part of the British ministry.

signed Le Marquis D’Almodovar

London, 16 June 1779

King’s Message

George R.

“The Ambassador of the King of Spain having delivered a paper to Lord Viscount Weymouth and signified that he has recd orders from his Court immediately to withdraw from this Country His Majesty has judged it necessary to direct a Copy of that paper to be laid before the House of Commons as a matter of the highest importance to the Crown and people and his Majesty acquaints them at the same time that he has found himself obliged in consequence of this hostile declaration to recall his Ambassador from Madrid.

“His Majesty declares in the most solemn manner that his desire to preserve and to cultivate peace and friendly intercourse with the Court of spain has been uniform and sincere and that his conduct towards that power has been guided by no other motives or principles than those of good faith—honor and Justice: and his Majesty sees with the greater surprise the pretences on which this declaration is grounded, as some of the grievances enumerated in that paper have never come to the knowledge of his Majesty, either by representation on the part of the Catholic King or by intelligence from any other quarter and in all those cases where applications have been received the matter of complaint has been treated with the utmost attention and put into a course of enquiry and redress.

“His Majesty has the firmest confidence that his faithful Commons will with that Zeal and public spirit which he has so often experienced support his Majesty in his resolution to exert all the power and all the resourses of the Nation to resist and repel any hostile attempts of the Court of spain. And that by the blessing of God on the rectitude of his intentions and the equity of his Cause His Majesty will be able to withstand and to defeat the unjust and dangerous enterprises of his Enemies agt the honor of his Crown and the Commerce—the Rights—and the common Interest of all his subjects.

“These important papers being read Lord North moved for an hu[m]ble address to his Majesty and was seconded by Lord John Cavendish assuring his Majesty that his faithful Commons were ready to assist him with their lives and fortunes against his Enemies.

“No debate ensued and the question being put it passed in the Affirmative without a division.

“Lord Jno. Cavendish now moved the House that an humble address be presented to his Majesty praying his Majesty that the whole force of Great Britain both Naval and Military might be immediately collected together and directed against the House of Bourbon.

“Mr Jenkinson aware of the ingenuity with which this motion was framed, instantly required of the Noble Lord who proposed it that he would inform the House whether by the Words the whole force of Great Britain he meant to include the naval and military force at present employed in America.

“Lord Jno. Cavendish readily admitted this to be included in the meaning of his Motion and was seconded by Mr Thomas Townsend.

“This occasioned a very war[m] and general debate which continued till 11 OClock in the course of which the whole of the American War was travelled over afresh; and all the Errors and follies of Ministry brought into review, and pointed against them with the most acrimonious satire, and reproach, particularly by Mr Fox, who was up for an hour and an half, sometimes shooting like a Meteor thro’ the regions of eloquence dazzling the whole House as it were with the Beauties and brilliancy of his declamation and at other times pouring down his sarcasms and strictures like a Cataract on the Minister, and his wretched dependents.

“The Ministry at length, afraid to negative the Motion, and unwilling to let it pass, Mr Jenkinson moved by way of getting rid of it, that the House should adjourn, which being divided upon: there appeared for the Motion 156 Agst it 80 Majority 76. The House then broke up and the speaker is to attend His Majesty at St James’s this day with the address voted yesterday.

“On the 17th June, the day after the Spanish Manifesto was delivered, the King of Great Britain issued a Proclamation, making reprisals of all Spanish Vessels, property, &c. comprehending much to the same purpose, as that which took Place some time since against France—Which we have received, but for want of room must omit it.

“Extract of a Letter from Bilboa dated July 6th 1779

“‘The Brest, Cadiz & Ferol, Fleets are all at sea to the number of 70 ships of the Line, besides Frigates, Bombs, &c. so that a Little time will discover their destination—All English effects have been prohibited with the Utmost severity’” (DNA:PCC, item 152).

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