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to complain of; yet he would still insist that the Mississippi must be shut against us.
* Circumstanced as we are, I think it would be expedient to agree that the treaty should be limited to twenty-five or thirty years, and that one of the articles should stipulate that the United States would forbear to use the navigation of that river below their territories to the
Thus the duration of the treaty and of the forbearance in question would be limited to the same period. Whether Mr. Gardoqui would be content with such an article, I cannot determine, my instructions restraining me from even sounding him respecting it. I nevertheless think the experiment worth trying for several reasons.
1. Because unless that matter can in some way or other be settled, the treaty, however advantageous, will not be concluded.
2. As the navigation is not at present important, nor will probably become much so in less than twenty-five or thirty years, a forbearance to use it while we do not want it is no great sacrifice.
3. Spain now excludes us from that navigation, and with a strong hand holds it against us. She will not yield it peaceably, and therefore we can only acquire it by war. Now, as we are not prepared for a war with any power; as many of the states would be little inclined to a war with Spain for that object at this day; and as such a war would, for those and a variety of obvious reasons, be inexpedient, it follows that Spain will, for a long space of time yet to come, exclude us from that navigation. Why, therefore, should we not (for a valuable consideration, too,) consent to forbear to use what we know is not in our power to use? * With respect to territorial limits, it is clear to me that Spain can justly claim nothing east of the Mississippi but what may be comprehended within the bounds of the Floridas. How far those bounds extend, or ought to extend, may prove a question of more difficulty to negotiate than to decide. Pains, I think, should be taken to conciliate and settle all such matters amicably: and it would be better even to yield a few acres than to part in ill humor.
* It is much to be wished that all these matters had lain dormant for years yet to come; but such wishes are vain: these disputes are agitating: they press themselves upon us; and must terminate in accommodation, or war, or disgrace. The last is the worst that can happen: the second we are unprepared for; and, therefore, our attention and endeavors should be bent to the first. * * *
“Spain is now able and willing to grant us favors: other treaties and other dispositions and views may render her in future both unable and unwilling to do the like. At a time when other nations are showing us no extraordinary marks of respect, the court of Spain is even courting our friendship, by strong marks not merely of polite and friendly attention, but by offering us favors not common for her to hold out or bestow; for I consider the terms she proposes as far more advantageous than any to be found in her commercial treaties with other nations. If after all her endeavors to take us by the hand, we should hold it back, every disposition and passion opposite to kind and friendly ones will undoubtedly influence her future conduct. Disappointed in her views, and mortified by repulse, and that in the sight of Europe, we may easily judge what her feelings would be: nor is it difficult to foresee that those feelings, stimulated by the jealousies and apprehensions before mentioned, will naturally precipitate and keep her in a system of politics, from which the United States cannot expect to derive advantage. The Mississippi would continue shut: France would tell us our claim to it was ill founded. The Spanish posts on its banks, and even those out of Florida in our country, would be strengthened, and that nation would there bid us defiance, with impunity, at least until the American nation shall become more really and truly a nation than it at present is. For, unblessed with an efficient government, destitute of funds, and without public credit, either at home or abroad, we should be obliged to wait in patience for better days, or plunge into an unpopular or dangerous war with very little prospect of terminating it by a peace, either advantageous or glorious. Supposing the Spanish business out of the question, yet the situation of the United States appears to me to be seriously delicate, and to call for great circumspection both at home and abroad; nor, in my opinion, will this cease to be the case, until a vigorous national government be formed, and public credit and confidence established."*
The delegates in Congress from the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were disposed, in case a treaty with Spain could not otherwise be made, to forbear, for a limited time, the use of the navigation of the river Mississippi below the southern boundary of the United States. The delegates from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia would not consent to a temporary relinquishment of the right of citizens of the United States to the free navigation of the Mississippi: and, as by the ninth article of the confederation the assent of nine states was necessary in making a treaty, the proposition of Mr. Jay was not carried into effect. Although Congress, while debating on this subject, sat with closed doors, its proceedings soon became partially known. The proposition was magnified into an actual treaty, and called from the western people most bitter complaints and reproaches.f The following is a copy of a letter from a western settler to the Governor of the state of Georgia :
“LOUISVILLE, Falls of Ohio, December 23, 1786. “Honored and respected sir: Since I had the pleasure of writing my last, many circumstances of alarning nature have turned up to view. The commercial treaty with Spain is considered to be cruel, oppressive, and unjust. The prohibition of the navigation of the Mississippi has astonished the whole western country. To sell us and make us vassals of the merciless Spaniards is a grievance not to be borne. Should we tamely submit to such manacles we should be unworthy the name of Americans, and a scandal to the annals of its history. It is very surprising to every rational person that the legislature of the United States, which has been so applauded for their assertion and defence of their rights and privileges, should so soon endeavor to subjugate the greatest part of their dominion even to worse slavery than ever Great Britain presumed to subjugate any part of hers. Ireland is a free country to what this will be when its navigation is entirely shut. We may as well be sold for bondsmen as to have the Spaniards share all the benefits of our toils. They will receive all the fruits, produce of this large, rich and fertile country at their own prices, (which you may be assured will be very low,) and therefore will be able to supply their own markets and all the markets of Europe on much lower terms than what the Americans possibly can. What then are the advantages that the inhabitants of the Atlantic shores are to receive? This is summed up in a very few words: their trade and navigation ruined, and their brethren laboring to enrich a luxurious, merciless, and arbitrary nation. Too much of our property have they already seized, condemned, and confiscated, testimonies of which I send you accompanying this. Our situation cannot possibly be worse; therefore every exertion to retrieve our circumstances must be manly, eligible and just. The minds of the people here are very much exasperated against both the Spaniards and Congress. But they are happy to hear that the state of Georgia has protested against such vile proceedings: therefore they have some hopes, looking up to that state, craving to be protected in our just rights and privileges.
*Secret Journals of Congress, iv. 45. Pitkin, ii. 208.
“Matters here seem to wear a threatening aspect. The troops stationed at Post Vincennes by orders of General George Rogers Clark have seized upon what Spanish property there was at that place, also at the Illinois, in retaliation for their many offences. General Clark, who has fought so gloriously for his country, and whose name strikes all the western savages with terror, together with many other gentlemen of merit, engages to raise troops sufficient, and go with me to the Natchez to take possession, and settle the lands agreeable to the lines of that state, at their own risk and expense; provided you in your infinite goodness will countenance them and give us the lands to settle it agreeable to the laws of your state.
Hundreds are now waiting to join us with their families, seeking asylum for liberty and religion. Not hearing that the lines. are settled between you and the Spaniards, we therefore wish for your directions concerning them, and the advice of your superior wisdom. At the same time assuring you that we have contracted for a very large quantity of goods, we hope sufficient to supply all the Indians living within the limits of Georgia. Trusting that we shall be able to make them independent of the Spaniards, wean their affections and procure their esteem for us and the United States, as we expect to take the goods down with us. We earnestly pray that you would give us full liberty to trade with all those tribes, and also to give your agents for Indian affairs all the necessary instructions for the prosperity of our scheme. The season for the Indian trade will be so far advanced that I wait with very great impatience.
“General Clark, together with a number of other gentlemen, will be ready to proceed down the river with me on the shortest notice, therefore hope and earnestly pray that you will despatch the express back with all possible speed with your answer, and all the encouragement due to so great an undertaking. As to the further particulars I refer you to the bearer Mr. William Wells,* a gentlemen of merit who will be able to inform you more minutely than I possibly can of the sentiments of the people of this western country. Sir, I have the honor to be your honors, &c.
THOMAS GREEN.” During the winter of 1786–7, copies of the following pro
*"Locisville, December 4, 1786:--Jefferson County, ss. «Whereas William Welis is now employed by Colonel Thomas Green and others to go to Augusta, in the state of Georgia, on public business, and it being uncertain whether be will be paid for his journey out of the public treasury: should he not be, on bis retạrn, we the subscribers do jointly and severally, for value received, promise to pay him on deniand the several sums that are affixed to our names, as witness our hands. Thomas Green, £10 00 James Huling,
£1 00 John Williams,
1 00 George R. Clark, 10 00 John Montgomery,
1 00 Lawrence Muse, 3 00 Ebenezer S. Platt,
1 00 Richard Brashears, 5 00 Robert Elliott,
10 Jamos Patton, 3 00 Thomas Stribbling,
1 10 [Secret Journal of Congress, iy. 318.