Page images

lated period, his Catholic Majesty made known to the President that he should forthwith dispatch a person possessing entirely his confidence to ask certain explanations which were deemed by him necessary previous to the performance of his promise to execute the ratification.

The Minister of the United States at Madrid was enabled, and offered, to give all the explanations which could justly be required in relation to the treaty. Your government declined even to make known to him their character; and they are now, after the lapse of more than a year, first officially disclosed by you.

I am directed by the President to inform you that explanations which ought to be satisfactory to your government will readily be given upon all the points mentioned in your letter of the 14th instant; but that he considers none of them in the present state of the relations between the two countries, as points for discussion. It is indispensable that, before entering into any new negotiation between the United States and Spain, that relating to the treaty already signed should be closed. If, upon receiving the explanations which your government has asked, and which I am prepared to give, you are authorized to issue orders to the Spanish officers commanding in Florida to deliver up to those of the United States who may be authorized to receive it, immediate possession of the province, conformably to the stipulations of the treaty, the President, if such shall be the advice and consent of the Senate, will wait (with such possession given) for the ratification of his Catholic Majesty till your messenger shall have time to proceed to Madrid; but if you have no such authority, the President considers it would be at once an unprofitable waste of time, and a course incompatible with the dignity of this nation, to give explanations which are to lead to no satisfactory result, and to re

sume a negotiation the conclusion of which can no longer be deferred.

Be pleased to accept, etc.1



Department of State, WASHINGTON, 3 May, 1820.

The explanations upon the points mentioned in your letter of the 14th ultimo, which I have had the honor of giving you at large in the conference between us on Saturday last,3 and the frankness of the assurances which I had the pleasure of receiving from you, of your conviction that they would prove satisfactory to your government, will relieve me from the necessity of recurring to circumstances which might tend to irritating discussions. In the confident expectation that upon the arrival of your messenger at Madrid, his Catholic Majesty will give his immediate ratification to the treaty of 22 February, 1819, I readily forbear all reference to the delays which have hitherto retarded that event, and all disquisition upon the perfect right which the United States have had to that ratification.

1 The reply of the Spanish Minister, dated April 24, is in the American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV. 682. Adams thought this reply "seems to leave the possibility of coming to an agreement with him [Vivés] desperate."

2 Printed in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV. 683. The first draft of a note was prepared, April 26, and after some changes was approved by the cabinet on the 28th. The French minister had arranged for a conference between Adams and Vivés, and the note was held back to await the result. The conference took place on the 29th and made a new and different note necessary. This was prepared April 30 and submitted to the cabinet on the next day. A second conference with Vives modified it, but on May 3 it was sent, without signature.

3 Adams, Memoirs, April 29.

I am now instructed to repeat the assurance which has already been given you, that the representations which appear to have been made to your government of a system of hostility in various parts of this Union against the Spanish dominions and the property of Spanish subjects; of decisions marked with such hostility by any of the courts of the United States, and of the toleration in any case of it by this government, are unfounded. In the existing unfortunate civil war between Spain and the South American provinces, the United States have constantly avowed and faithfully maintained an impartial neutrality. No violation of that neutrality by any citizen of the United States has ever received sanction or countenance from this government. Whenever the laws previously enacted for the preservation of neutrality have been found by experience in any manner defective, they have been strengthened by new provisions and severe penalties. Spanish property, illegally captured, has been constantly restored by the decisions of the tribunals of the United States, nor has the life itself been spared of individuals guilty of piracy, committed upon Spanish property on the high seas. Should the treaty be ratified by Spain, and the ratification be accepted by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the boundary line recognized by it will be respected by the United States, and due care will be taken to prevent any transgression of it. No new law or engagement will be necessary for that purpose. The existing laws are adequate to the suppression of such disorders, and they will be, as they have been, faithfully carried into effect. The miserable disorderly movement of a number not exceeding seventy lawless individual stragglers, who never assembled within the jurisdiction of the United States, into a territory to which his Catholic Majesty has no acknowledged right other than the yet unratified treaty, was so far

from receiving countenance or support from the government of the United States, that every measure necessary for its suppression was promptly taken under their authority; and from the misrepresentations which have been made of this very insignificant transaction to the Spanish government, there is reason to believe that the pretended expedition itself, as well as the gross exaggerations which have been used to swell its importance proceed from the same sources, equally unfriendly to the United States and to Spain.

As a necessary consequence of the neutrality between Spain and the South American provinces, the United States can contract no engagement, not to form any relations with those provinces. This has explicitly and repeatedly been avowed and made known to your government both at Madrid and at this place. The demand was resisted both in conference and in written correspondence between Mr. Erving and Mr. Pizarro, and afterwards the Marquis of Casa Yrujo. Mr. Onis had long and constantly been informed that a persistence in it would put an end to the possible conclusion of any treaty whatever. Your sovereign will perceive that, as such an engagement cannot be contracted by the United States consistently with their obligations of neutrality, it cannot justly be required of them. Nor have any of the European nations ever bound themselves to Spain by such an engagement.

With regard to your proposals, it is proper to observe that his Catholic Majesty in announcing his purpose of asking explanations of the United States gave no intimation of an intention to require new articles to the treaty. You are aware that the United States cannot consistently with what is due to themselves stipulate new engagements as the price of obtaining the ratification of the old. The declaration which Mr. Forsyth was instructed to deliver at the exchange

of the ratification of the treaty, with regard to the eighth article, was not intended to annul, or in the slightest degree to alter or impair the stipulations of that article. Its only object was to guard your government, and all persons who might have had an interest in any of the annulled grants, against the possible expectation or pretence that those grants would be made valid by the treaty. All grants subsequent to the 24th of January, 1818, were declared to be positively null and void; and Mr. de Onis always declared that he signed the treaty, fully believing that the grants to the Duke of Alagon, Count Puñon Rostro, and Mr. Vargas, were subsequent to that date. But he had in his letter to me of 16th November, 1818, declared that those grants were null and void, because the essential conditions of the grants had not been fulfilled by the grantees. It was distinctly understood by us both that no grant, of whatever date, should be made valid by the treaty, which would not have been valid by the laws of Spain and the Indies, if the treaty had not been made. It was, therefore, stipulated that grants prior to 24 January, 1818, should be confirmed, only "to the same extent that the same grants would be valid, if the territories had remained under the dominion of his Catholic Majesty." This, of course, excluded the three grants above mentioned, which Mr. Onis had declared invalid for want of the fulfilment of their essential conditions a fact which is now explicitly admitted by you. A single exception to the principle that the treaty should give no confirmation to any imperfect title was admitted; which exception was, that owners in possession of lands, who by reason of the recent circumstances of the Spanish nation and the revolutions in Europe, had been prevented from fulfilling all the conditions of their grants, should complete them within the terms limited in the same, from the date of the treaty. This had ob

« PreviousContinue »