George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 16 December 1793

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States December 16th 1793.

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.

The situation of affairs in Europe, in the course of the Year 1790. having rendered it possible that a moment might arrive favorable for the arrangement of our unsettled matters with Spain, it was thought proper to prepare our representative at that Court to avail us of it. A confidential person was therefore dispatched to be the bearer of instructions to him, and to supply by verbal communications any additional information of which he might find himself in need. The Government of France was at the same time applied to for it’s aid and influence in this negociation.1 Events however took a turn which did not present the occasion hoped for.

About the close of the ensuing Year, I was informed through the representatives of Spain here, that their Government would be willing to renew at Madrid the former conferences on these subjects,2 though the transfer of scene was not what would have been desired, yet I did not think it important enough to reject the proposition; and therefore, with advice and consent of the Senate, I appointed Commissioners plenipotentiary for negociating and concluding a treaty with that Country on the several subjects of boundary, navigation and Commerce, and gave them the instructions now communicated.3 Before these negociations however could be got into train, the new troubles which had arisen in Europe had produced new combinations among the powers there, the effects of which are but too visible in the proceedings now laid before you.

In the mean time, some other points of discussion had arisen with that country, to wit, the restitution of property escaping into the territories of each other, the mutual exchange of fugitives from Justice, and above all the mutual interferences with the Indians lying between us. I had the best reason to believe that the hostilities threatened and exercised by the Southern Indians on our border were excited by the agents of that government. Representations were thereon directed to be made, by our Commissioners, to the Spanish Government, and a proposal to cultivate with good faith the peace of each other with those people.4 In the mean time, corresponding suspicions were entertained, or pretended to be entertained on their part, of like hostile excitements by our agents to disturb their peace with the same nations. These were brought forward by the representatives of Spain here, in a stile which could not fail to produce attention. A claim of patronage and protection of those Indians was asserted, a mediation between them and us, by that Sovereign assumed, their boundaries with us made a subject of his interference, and at length, at the very moment when these savages were committing daily inroads on our frontier, we were informed by them that “the continuation of the peace, good harmony, and perfect friendship of the two nations was very problematical for the future unless the U.S. should take more convenient measures and of greater energy than those adopted for a long time past.” 5

If their previous correspondence had worn the appearance of a desire to urge on a disagreement, this last declaration left no room to evade it, since it could not be conceived we would submit to the scalping knife and tomahawk of the Savage, without any resistance. I thought it time therefore to know if these were the views of their sovereign, and dispatched a special messenger with instructions to our Commissioners which are among the papers now communicated. Their last letter gives us reason to expect very shortly to know the result.6 I must add that the Spanish representatives here, percieving that their last communication had made considerable impression, endeavored to abate this by some subsequent professions which being also among the communications to the legislature, they will be able to form their own conclusions.7

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Foreign Relations; LB, DLC:GW; Df in Thomas Jefferson’s writing, DLC: Jefferson Papers.

This message and its enclosures are printed in ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:247–88. The enclosures included, in addition to the items discussed in notes below, some documents about the negotiations between John Jay and Diego de Gardoqui from 1785 to 1787; reports from William Carmichael and William Short to Jefferson about the progress of negotiations with Spain, 18 April, 5 May, 6 June, 1 July, 15 Aug., and 20 Aug.; a few of Jefferson’s letters to Spanish representatives José de Jaudenes and José Ignacio de Viar; and various documents about Spanish relations with the Indians.

1For the instructions carried by David Humphreys to the American chargé d’affaires at Madrid, William Carmichael, in 1790, see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 8 Aug. 1790, source note and n.7 to that document. A copy of Jefferson’s letter to Carmichael of 2 Aug. 1790 about those instructions (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 17:111–12) was included among the enclosures with this message. For the approach to France, see Jefferson to William Short, 10 Aug. 1790 (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 17:121–25).

2Jaudenes informed Jefferson in December 1791 of Spain’s willingness to enter negotiations (see Jefferson’s memorandums of conversation, 6 and 27 Dec. 1791, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 22:381, 459). Jefferson reported the approach in a letter to GW of 22 Dec., a copy of which was included as one of the enclosures with this message.

3For GW’s appointment of Carmichael and William Short as commissioners plenipotentiary for negotiating with Spain “a convention or treaty concerning the navigation of the River Mississippi by the Citizens of the United States,” see GW to the United States Senate, 11 Jan. 1792. To communicate their instructions with this message, GW enclosed a copy of Jefferson’s report on negotiations with Spain, 18 March 1792 (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 23:296–317).

4For the instructions to Carmichael and Short on negotiating the mutual exchange of fugitives, see Jefferson to GW, 22 March 1792, n.1. Jefferson’s letter to Carmichael and Short of 24 April 1792 transmitted those instructions and directed them to open negotiations (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 23:453–54). Copies of both documents were enclosed with this message. Jefferson, in letters of 14 Oct. and 3 Nov. 1792 (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 24:479–81, 565–67), instructed Carmichael and Short to protest the activities of Spanish agents among the Indians. A copy of the 3 Nov. letter was enclosed with this message.

5GW was quoting from Jaudenes and Viar to Jefferson, 18 June 1793 (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 26:313–17). GW also enclosed translations of Jaudenes and Viar’s letters to Jefferson of 25 May 1793 (misdated 1792) and 12 June 1793 (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 26:118–20, 263–66). The strongest Spanish claim of their protection of the Indians came in Jaudenes and Viar’s letter to Jefferson of 7 May 1793, which was not enclosed with this message (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 25:677–78).

6On the dispatch of James Blake with instructions for Carmichael and Short, see Thomas Jefferson’s first memorandum to GW of c.11 July, n.1. Copies of Jefferson’s letter to Blake of 12 July and Jefferson’s letter to Carmichael and Short of 30 June (the main instructions carried by Blake) were enclosed with this. In Carmichael and Short’s letter to Jefferson of 29 Sept., they promised to raise the issue with Spanish Ministro de Hacienda Diego de Gardoqui immediately and endeavor to get his answer by mid-October (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 27:161–63). A copy of that letter was also enclosed with this message.

7GW enclosed translations of Jaudenes and Viar to Jefferson, 13 July, professing their “true esteem and indubitable attachment to the US,” and 30 Nov., “Corroborating the good disposition of our Governors in Louissiana and Saint Augustine towards preserving peace with the United States and the indians of the Frontiers” (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 26:497–98, 27:462–64).

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