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reconcile Spanish-American differences over the western lands and the navigation of the Mississippi. In mid-1785, Don Diego de Gardoqui, Spanish chargé d'affaires, arrived in the United States to negotiate a trade agreement and an arrangement regarding the river. Congress empowered Jay to negotiate, but not to sign any agreement without first submitting it for approval. A year passed, during which Jay allowed himself to be persuaded that a commercial agreement with Spain was worth closing the Mississippi to American navigation for 25 or 30 years. When Jay laid his proposal before Congress in late August 1786, the Eastern and Southern States formed voting blocs for and against it respectively. There would be no agreement with Spain under the Articles of Confederation.
A major theme during the period from 1778 to 1788 was French pressure for a consular convention with the United States to codify the powers, privileges, and immunities each side accorded to the other's consuls. Congress wanted consular officials to confine themselves to matters of navigation and commerce, without according them any extraterritorial qualities. The convention went through several drafts, one of which was signed by Franklin in 1784, but left unratified by Congress. Jefferson, commissioned to negotiate a convention in October 1787, achieved a practical agreement that minimized extraterritorial privileges. It was signed in August 1788, but not ratified by the United States until 1790.
Domestic upheavals in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the mid-1780s, fostered high glee in the reports of the British Consul General, who was convinced that the unrest marked the beginning of the end of the American experiment in self-rule. The British diplomat's view reflected the position of many foreign leaders toward the United States. Though it had succeeded in extricating itself from colonial rule and was, if ever so slowly, emerging as a new nation in the world community, its central government was considered weak and ineffectual. For prominent American leaders, this situation offered potential for change.
The need to strengthen the central government through an overhaul of America's fundamental law was a recurring theme in the correspondence of Jay and Adams, as it was in Madison's missives to Jefferson. For them, only by establishing a government with the power to control commerce, to raise revenues, and to force individual States to comply with federal laws and international agreements would the United States redeem itself in the eyes of Europe. The Constitution that emerged from the convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 would win the general approval of America's principal diplomatic figures, although all would concede the need for a bill of rights.
When John Adams left Europe in 1788, he returned to a country in the throes of debate regarding ratification of the United States Constitution.
Some States were eager to adopt the charter, others were indifferent, and a few were hostile, given the absence of a bill of rights. The authors of the Federalist Papers (including John Jay) were quick to point out the advantages of the Constitution for American diplomacy and foreign trade. After much debate, ratification was successful and a new federal government was established.
Positive foreign response evolved over time. The Comte de Moustier, the French minister to the United States, was at first suspicious of the new measure, but by 1789 had come to accept and support it, as had the French Foreign Ministry in Paris, on the premise that a stronger central government in America would ultimately serve French interests. British leaders eventually favored the new Constitution and came to view its adoption as advantageous to their interests. While some feared that a strong federal government would discriminate against British commerce or shipping in retaliation for British restrictions on American trade, they also realized that such a government would be able to enforce compliance with the terms of the 1783 peace treaty regarding recovery of debts and confiscated property.
Of the major European powers, only Spain had reason to regret the adoption of the Constitution. Given increasing immigration from Europe and the shift of population westward beyond the Appalachians, a stronger federal government could only mean increasing pressure on Spanish lands east of the Mississippi and on Spain's control of the mouth of that river. Despite the machinations of Spain's representatives in Louisiana, the Old Southwest, Tennessee, and Kentucky became integral parts of the United States.
The experience gained by the American diplomats under the Articles of Confederation served the nation well when they were elected or appointed to federal positions under the Constitution. Adams became Vice-President of the United States, Jefferson, Secretary of State, and Jay, Chief Justice of the United States. When the federal government began functioning in March of 1789, a period filled with challenges had ended; a new era with the same or similar challenges, but filled with even greater potential, had begun.
Note on Sources
The major source for documents included in this three-volume edition is National Archives Record Group 360: Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention. Other significant sources include copies of records from the Public Record Office of Great Britain and the Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères of France relating to the diplomacy of the 1780s in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress; the papers of Richard Oswald, David Hartley, and Lord Shelburne in the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan; The Adams Papers in the Massachusetts Historical Society; and the John Jay Papers in the Columbia University Libraries. Additional materials are included from the George Bancroft Papers in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division of the New York Public Library; the Benjamin Franklin Papers and the Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress; and the Benjamin Vaughan Papers in the American Philosophical Society Library. Whenever possible, research has been conducted in modern documentary editions. These include: The Papers of John Adams, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, Unpublished Papers, 1745-1780, John Jay: The Winning of the Peace, Unpublished Papers, 1780-1784, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, The Papers of James Madison, The Papers of Robert Morris, The Papers of George Washington, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791, The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, and The United States and Russia: The Beginning of Relations, 1765-1815.
Note on Maps
The maps included in these volumes are extracted from "A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America with the Roads, Distances, Limits, and Extent of the Settlements, Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honourable The Earl of Halifax, And the other Right Honourable The Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations, By their Lordships Most Obliged and very humble Servant Jno. Mitchell," annotated "B. F. Stevens's Facsimile of the Red-Line-Map in the British Museum ... 1897" from R.G. 76: Records of Boundary and Claims Commissions and Arbitrations. Additional information was extracted from the maps included in Samuel Flagg Bemis, The Diplomacy of the American Revolution, copyright 1935 by The American Historical Association, and from Samuel Flagg Bemis, Pinckney's Treaty, copyright 1926 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. National Archives and Records Administration volunteer Dean Aurecchia, formerly a cartographer with the United States government, rendered the project maps. The American Historical Association and The Johns Hopkins University Press gave permission to use their maps in the preparation of the project maps.
Document selection reflects the establishment of the United States as an independent nation in the world community. Selections are from the official papers of the United States Congress; British, French, and Spanish government records; and unofficial documents, including the papers of individuals who played a prominent role in United States foreign relations during this period. Where appropriate, selected documents, of significant value are included in their entirety. Where only part of a document contains significant diplomatic information, that portion has been excerpted. It was common to prepare multiple copies of letters and documents to defeat the accidents of 18th century travel and foreign interception. Whenever possible the editors have selected the recipient copy or record copy. When other copies have been printed, their selection is reflected in the citation. Headnotes were prepared to bridge documents or to present information necessary to understand the historical context of the documentation. Standard biographical reference works and modern documentary editions, including the Dictionary of American Biography, the Dictionary of National Biography, the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989, La Grande Encyclopédie: Inventaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts, Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder, Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada Europeo-Americana, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, The Diary of John Adams, The Papers of John Adams, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, Unpublished Papers, 1745-1780, John Jay: The Winning of the Peace, Unpublished Papers, 1780-1784, and The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, along with other research sources, were used to identify historical figures.
With few exceptions, documents are in chronological order. To ensure textual accuracy in the preparation of documents for publication, stylistic characteristics, including spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are maintained. Encyphered documents are provided in plain script. Ship names have been placed in italics. Contractions, abbreviations, and diacritical marks are retained as written. Unintelligible text is indicated by asterisks. Crossed-out words have been indicated by canceled text. Crossed-out text which is unintelligible is indicated by asterisks placed in angle brackets. Interlineations and marginalia are placed on the line in the closest approximate position, as indicated by the writer. Significant docketing information is placed at the end of the document. Conjected words and dates are placed in brackets. Contemporary translations are indicated in the source citation at the end of the document. Translations provided by the project staff are indicated at the beginning of the document. Dates written at the end of the document are placed at the beginning. Salutations and closings are included as written but are placed on a continuous line.
Textual Devices and Abbreviations
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