Page images

letter of the 5th instant,1 however, it appears that no discretion has been left you to pledge even his Majesty's promise of ratification in the event of your being yourself satisfied with the explanations upon all the points desired; that the only promise you can give is conditional, and the condition a point upon which your government, when they prescribed it, could not but know it was impossible that the United States should comply - a condition incompatible with their independence, their neutrality, their justice, and their honor.

It was also a condition which his Catholic Majesty had not the shadow of a right to prescribe. The treaty had been signed by Mr. Onis with a full knowledge that no such engagement as that contemplated by it would ever be acceded to by the American government, and after long and unwearied efforts to obtain it. The differences between the United States and Spain had no connection with the war between Spain and South America. The object of the treaty was to settle the boundaries, and adjust and provide for the claims between your nation and ours; and Spain, at no time, could have a right to require that any stipulation concerning the contest between her and her colonies should be connected with it. As his Catholic Majesty could not justly require it during the negotiation of that treaty, still less could it afford a justification for withholding his promised ratification after it was concluded.

The proposal which, at a prior period, had been made by the government of the United States to some of the principal powers of Europe for a recognition, in concert, of the independence of Buenos Ayres, was founded, as I have observed to you, upon an opinion then and still entertained that this recognition must, and would at no very remote period, be made by Spain herself; that the joint acknowledgment by 1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV. 684.

an event

several of the principal powers of the world at the same time might probably induce Spain the sooner to accede to that necessity, in which she must ultimately acquiesce, and would thereby hasten an event propitious to her own interests, by terminating a struggle in which she is wasting her strength and resources without a possibility of success ardently to be desired by every friend of humanity afflicted by the continual horrors of a war, cruel and sanguinary almost beyond example; an event, not only desirable to the unhappy people who are suffering the complicated distresses and calamities of this war, but to all the nations having relations of amity and of commerce with them. This proposal, founded upon such motives, far from giving to Spain the right to claim of the United States an engagement not to recognise the South American governments, ought to have been considered by Spain as a proof at once of the moderation and discretion of the United States; as evidence of their disposition to discard all selfish or exclusive views in the adoption of a measure which they deemed wise and just in itself, but most likely to prove efficacious by a common adoption of it, in a spirit entirely pacific, in concert with other nations, rather than by a precipitate resort to it on the part of the United States alone.

The conditional promise, therefore, now offered by you, instead of the positive one which you have declared yourself authorised to give, cannot be accepted by the President, and I am constrained to observe that he can consider the procedure of your government, in thus providing you with powers and instructions utterly inefficient for the conclusion of the negotiation with which you are charged, in no other light than as proceeding from a determination on its part still to protract and baffle its final successful issue. Under these circumstances, he deems it his duty to submit the

correspondence which has passed between us, since your arrival, to the consideration of the Congress of the United States, to whom it will belong to decide how far the United States can yet, consistently with their duties to themselves, and the rights of their citizens, authorize the further delay requested in your note of the 5th instant.

In the conclusion of that note, you have remarked, alluding to a great change which appears to have taken place since your departure from Madrid in the government of Spain, that this circumstance alone would impose on you the obligation of giving no greater latitude to your promise previous to your receiving new instructions. If I have understood you right, your intention is to remark that this circumstance alone would restrain you, in any event, from giving, without new instructions, the unconditional promise of ratification, which, in a former note, you have declared yourself authorized, in the name of your sovereign, to give. This seems to be equivalent to a declaration that you consider your powers themselves, in the extent to which they were intrusted to you, as suspended by the events to which you thus refer. If I am mistaken in taking this as your meaning, will you have the goodness to inform me how far you do consider your powers affected by the present state of your information from Spain? 1

Please to accept the assurance, etc.

'The reply of the Minister, May 9, is in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV. 688.



Department of State,
WASHINGTON, 18 May, 1820.

The Congress of the United States having, conformably to the recommendation of the President, postponed acting upon the subject of the relations between the United States and Spain, it becomes important to know as speedily as possible the final determination of your government concerning them. From the correspondence and conferences between us your personal satisfaction upon all the points concerning which you had been instructed to require explanations has been declared; and I am now directed to inform you that the further delay in which the government of the United States has acquiesced in the just pursuit of their rights, was suggested by the spirit of the most friendly conciliation towards your country, and with a special regard to the interesting circumstances in which it is now placed. At all times, could the government of this Union indulge its earnest inclinations, undisturbed by the collision of duties to the just rights and interests of its own citizens, it would be to maintain the most friendly and harmonious intercourse with Spain. At this moment in particular, so far as the late changes in your government, of which every nation is its own exclusive judge, may contribute to the happiness, the prosperity, and the glory of your country, so far will they continue to be attended by the most friendly sympathies and good wishes of the United States. Presuming that you are now prepared to transmit to Spain the result of your mission, the President directs me to request of you the com

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

munication as soon as possible of the decision of your gov

ernment upon it.1

I seize the occasion, etc.


DEPARTMENT of State, WASHINGTON, 25 May, 1820.


You will perceive by the result, that although General Vivés declares himself personally satisfied upon all the points concerning which he had been instructed to ask for explanations, yet inasmuch as upon one point, that of the demand. that the United States should engage not to form any political relations with the South American provinces, they had not entirely met the expectations of the King, he declines giving more than a conditional promise in the name of his Catholic Majesty that the treaty shall be ratified immediately upon the arrival of the messenger whom he now dispatches to Madrid.

This proposal could obviously not be accepted; and had the government of Spain continued to this time essentially the same as when General Vivés received his instructions. and proceeded upon his mission, there would have remained for the United States no other course than that of asserting their rights by the occupation of the territory ceded to them by the treaty. But the revolution which has since occurred

1A paragraph, expressing in "too strong terms approbation" of the revolution in Spain, was omitted at the suggestion of the President. Adams, Memoirs, May 18, 1820. On May 28th Vivés announced that the ancient title of the king of Spain had been altered to "Don Ferdinand the Seventh, By the Grace of God and by the Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy, King of Spain."


Correspondence on the Spanish treaty, submitted to Congress, May 9, 1820.

« PreviousContinue »