George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 10 July 1795

From Edmund Randolph

July 10. 1795

E. Randolph has the honor of sending to the President the draft of a letter to Mr Jaudenes in answer to his, respecting the Georgia sales—The papers, which he sent E.R. are (besides his letter, which I read to the President) a letter from the baron de Carondelet, enclosing one from his correspondent in Charleston, and the acts of Georgia translated into Spanish. They all go to the single point of stating to Mr Jaudenes, that such acts have passed, derogatory from the rights of Spain.1

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1The letter from José de Jaudenes, Spanish commissioner to the United States, was dated 8 July. As Randolph noted, he discussed the Georgia law passed on 7 Jan. to sell to four land companies the western lands that the state claimed to the Mississippi River (see James Seagrove to GW, 13 Jan., n.4). Jaudenes called it an illegal action concerning territory that belonged to the king of Spain and the Indians under Spanish protection. When the report of the sale first circulated, Jaudenes intended to contact GW, but illness prevented him from doing so. Since that time, he said, he had received two official messages from the governor of Louisiana that—together with the accompanying papers—refuted the legality of the Georgia law. Jaudenes called upon the U.S. government to intervene on behalf of Spain.

Jaudenes also enclosed a letter of 4 March from Francisco Luis Hector, Baron de Carondelet, Spanish governor of Louisiana, as well as a copy of a confidential letter from a Louisiana resident who had written to Carondelet from Charleston, S.C., on 27 January. Carondelet’s letter explained that the correspondent had told of the decision by the Georgia legislature to sell lands that the lawmakers surely knew belonged in part to the king of Spain by right of conquest over the English and by treaty with the various Indian tribes who lived there. The Choctaw had ceded lands to Spain by treaties in 1792–93 and, along with the Tallapoosas and Chickasaws, had lived there under the protection of Spain since 1784. Carondelet wrote that he was conveying this information to Jaudenes because Congress might not know of the situation. The consequences of such a sale might produce a rupture between the two powers.

According to the correspondent from Charleston, members of the four land companies were seeking to persuade Congress to approve their title. Their efforts and the character of the interested parties made it possible they would succeed. Copies of the Jaudenes letter, the enclosures, and the Georgia law of 7 Jan., all in Spanish, are found in G-Ar.

In a reply to Jaudenes dated 9 July, Randolph explained that Congress had decided in its most recent session to make an inquiry into the land sales. However, the secretary cautioned Jaudenes, “this is the only step, which can be taken at present, unless it be, to send to the Governor of Georgia a copy of your letter with its inclosures. It must not however be understood, that this is to be interpreted into any concession whatsoever, that Spain has a right to interfere in these transactions. It will moreover be expected, that hereafter no threats of his Catholic Majesty ‘withdrawing his friendship, his good disposition, and sincere confidence’ from the United States will be suggested, unless, (contrary to our belief and hope) you shall be specially instructed by him to hold this language” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). For the decision of Congress, see Journal of the House, description begins The Journal of the House of Representatives: George Washington Administration 1789–1797. Edited by Martin P. Claussen. 9 vols. Wilmington, Del., 1977. description ends 7:308.

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