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to “make no stipulation whatever for their re-admittance; and as to an equivalent for their property, he might attend to propositions on that subject only on a reciprocal stipulation, that Great Britain would make full compensation for all the wanton destruction which the subjects of that nation had committed on the property of the citizens of the United States."
Congress, also, expressed a wish, that in a treaty of peace, the United States should not be bound by any public engagement, to admit British subjects to any of the rights or privileges of citizens of the United States ; but to be left at liberty to grant or refuse such favors, as the public interest and honor might dictate.
In consequence of the success of the enemy at the south during the year 1780, the state of Virginia, in order to induce Spain to accede to the treaty of alliance, and to afford more effectual aid in the common cause, was willing to recede from insisting on the right of navigating the Mississippi, and of a free port below the thirty-first degree of north latitude; and on these points, instructed their delegates in congress, to procure an alteration in Mr. Jay's instructions.
Congress therefore in February, 1781, directed Mr. Jay, no longer to insist on this part of his instructions, in case Spain, should unalterably persist in her refusal ; and provided, the free navigation of the Mississippi, above latitude thirty-one degrees, should be acknowledged and guarantied by the king of Spain, to the citizens of the United States, in common with his subjects.
This was done, as congress declared, because the Americans were desirous, “to manifest to all the world, and particularly to his catholic majesty, the moderation of their views, the high value they place on the friendship of his catholic majesty, and their disposition to remove every obstacle to his accession to the alliance subsisting between his most christian majesty and these United States, in order to unite the more closely in their measures and operations, three powers who have so great a unity of interests,
* Secret Journals of Congress, vol. 2, pp. 339, 340,
and thereby to compel the common enemy to a speedy, just, and honorable peace.”
Soon after Mr. Jay's arrival at Cadiz, which, as we have before stated, was not until March, 1780, he sent his secretary, Mr. Carmichael from that place to Madrid, to sound the Spanish court, on the subject of his mission. As a preliminary, that court wished to obtain particular information, concerning the population, manufactures, commerce, military and naval power, and generally the wealth and resources of the United States, as well as the disposition of the Americans to persevere, in their struggle for independence.
The Spanish minister, therefore, requested of the American envoy answers to various questions on these subjects. To these Mr. Jay returned very long and able answers; and afterwards went to Madrid, and had many conferences with the prime minister, count Florida Blanca. He was soon informed that the king of Spain, would not accede to the treaties made with France ; and indeed he was told in the most explicit terms, that his catholic majesty was displeased with the king of France, for concluding those treaties without his concurrence.
The letter of the king of Spain to the French king, of the 22d of March, 1778, in answer to one from the latter, announcing his determination to disclose to the court of London his connection with America, bears strong marks of dissatisfaction.*
The American minister found the Spanish court very slow in all their movements. Having refused to acknowledge the independence of the United States, the king would not formally receive Mr. Jay, as an American minister. This rendered his situation humiliating as well as embarrassing. His embarrassments were greatly increased, in consequence of bills drawn upon him by congress to a large amount, before any provision was made for their payment. Presuming on the good will of the Spanish court towards the cause of America, the national legislature ventured to draw these bills, making them payable at six months sight; trusting their minister would be able be
* This letter will be found, in vol. 7, of Histoire, &c. de le diplomatie Francaise.
fore they fell due, to procure money from the king of Spain, either by loan or subsidy, to pay them. The Spanish minister, when informed of this, expressed no little surprise, that a step of this kind should be taken by congress, without a previous arrangement with his master ; and it was not without great difficulty, Mr. Jay obtained from him, an engagement to furnish part of the amount, for which the bills were drawn. When the American minister pressed the Spanish court on the subject of forming treaties with the United States, agreeably to his instructions, he was told that, as a preliminary, some definitive arrangement must be made respecting the navigation of the Mississippi ; and he was informed, that his catholic majesty had determined to exclude all foreigners from entering the gulf of Mexico by the rivers from the north. The American minister was strongly pressed to yield on these points.
Though Mr. Jay had the promise of assistance in the payment of the bills drawn upon him, yet infinite delays and difficulties were constantly interposed in the fulfilment of this promise. In consequence of this, the credit of the American government was put in great jeopardy, the embarrassments of Mr. Jay increased, and his patience put to the severest trial. In order to meet the bills, he was obliged to apply to Dr. Franklin at Pa. ris, and but for his assistance, the bills would have returned to America unpaid, and the credit of the American government greatly injured in Europe. While Mr. Jay was in this situation, and was pressing the Spanish minister to furnish the funds agreeably to his engagement in order to save the honor and credit of the United States, he was informed, that if he would yield to the terms of Spain, respecting the navigation of the Mississippi, the money would be furnished. This was resisted by Mr. Jay, with great firmness, not only as contrary to his instructions, and inconsistent with the rights and interest of his country, but as an unwarrantable attempt to take advantage of his peculiar situation. The firm and patriotic conduct of the American minister on this occasion, was afterwards highly approved by congress.
After Mr. Jay received his instructions to recede from insisting on the free navigation of the Mississippi, and a free port below the thirty-first degree of north latitude, he proposed to the Spanish court, a plan of a treaty, one article of which was that “the United States should relinquish to his catholic majesty, and in future forbear to use the navigation of the river Mississippi, from the point where it leaves the United States down to the ocean." This article was accompanied with a declaration, on the part of the American minister, that if the offer was not then accepted, but postponed to a general peace, the United States would not be bound by it in future. This offer fell far short of the views of the Spanish court—the proposed treaty was rejected, and the negociation remained in this state, until June, 1782, when Mr. Jay was called to Paris, and the negociation was transferred from Ma. drid to that place.
Soon after the appointment of Mr. Jay to Spain, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, was appointed minister to the states of Holland, not only for the purpose of obtaining loans, but forming treaties with that republic. Overtures for a commercial connec. tion with the United States, had been made from Holland, in 1778. William Lee, the American minister to the court of Prussia, on his way to Berlin in August of that year, had an interview with John de Neufville, a principal merchant of Amsterdam, on the subject of a commercial treaty, between the states general of Holland, and the United States; and on the 4th of September following, Mr. de Neufville, by the order and direction of Van Berkel, pensionary of Amsterdam, proposed a plan of a treaty, between the two countries.
This plan was communicated to congress, and Mr. Laurens was appointed to carry it into effect, on the part of America. He did not sail for Europe, until the summer of 1780; and unfortunately, on the 3d of September, was taken by a British frigate on his passage, near Newfoundland. He threw his papers overboard, but by the activity of a British sailor, they were recovered, Among them was a copy of the above plan of a treaty with the states of Holland, and several letters from Mr. de Neufville, and
from Mr. Stockton, the secretary of William Lee, concerning the
Mr. Laurens being carried to London, was examined before the privy council, and on the 6th of October committed a close prisoner to the tower, on a charge of high treason. The disclosure of his papers, greatly incensed the court of London against Holland, and the English minister at the Hague, Sir Joseph Yorke, was istructed to present a memorial to the states general, on the subject. On the 10th of November, Sir Joseph Yorke, in pursuance of his instructions, demanded a disavowal of this conduct of Van Berkel, and also insisted" on speedy satisfaction, adequate to the offense, and the exemplary punishment of the pensionary and his accomplices, as disturbers of the public peace, and violaters of the rights of nations.”
Satisfaction for the supposed offense not having been made by the states general, the British minister was ordered to withdraw from Holland; and this was soon followed by a declaration of hostilities against that country by the court of London.
In June, 1780, Mr. Adams, then in Europe, was appointed in the room of Mr. Laurens to obtain loans in Holland, and in December of the same year, was invested with full powers to negociate a treaty of amity and commerce with that country.
Mr. Adams, though not then acknowledged as a minister, was determined to sound the Dutch government on the subject of forming a commercial connection with the United States, and for that purpose to communicate to their high mightinesses his commission and credentials, and to present to them also a memorial on the subject. This intention he communicated to the French minister at the Hague, the duke de la Vauguion. The latter, however, was opposed to this proceeding, and endeavored to dissuade Mr. Adams from taking this step at so unfavorable a moment.
Mr. Adams, however, considered it a favorable time for the United States to press the subject; and he drew a memorial bearing date the 19th of April, 1781, which he presented to the president of their high mightinesses.