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Negotiations with Spain-Boundaries of Louisiana-Cession of the Flori.
das-Fraudulent grant of the crown lands in the Floridas vacated-Treaty concluded--Mr. Forsyth appointed special envoy to obtain its ratification by the king of Spain–His correspondence with the Spanish ministerRatification refused-Don Vives sent to the United States to explain the reasons of the refusal-Proceeds by the way of Paris and London to consult the French and British ministers upon the subject-Correspondence between Vives and the secretary of state--Communication from the Russiafr, British, and French ministers at Washington, on the subject of SpainRevolution in the Spanish government-Cortes direct the treaty to be ratified-Importance of the Floridas to the United States--President's communications to congress, and their proceedings on the subject-Extension of the frontier posts to the northwest-At St Peters--At the Mandan villages -Expedition to the Yellow-stone river-Application by a German adventurer, to be employed in the office of state--Mr. Adams' reply--Second session of the 15th Congress-Message--Subjects of deliberation-Matthew Lyons' petition-Report of the secretary at war on the subject of roads and canals-Resolution of the senate on the subject of employing the military in constructing them-End of the session.
Treaty with Spain. The diplomatic controversy which had been carried on, with little interruption, between the American and Spanish governments for nearly a quarter of a century, terminated in February, 1819, in a treaty negotiated by Mr. Adams, the American secretary of state, with Don Onis, the Spanish minister at Washington, containing a cession of the Floridas to the United States. The negotiation, besides a great variety of minor questions, embraced two subjects of primary importance; one, the limits of Louisiana ; and the other, indemnity for commercial spoliations. The claims of the European nations who took possession of portions of the American continent soon after its discovery, almost universally interfered with each other. The Spaniards at first claimed dominion over the whole, in consequence of the discovery of Columbus. After this claim was contested, and partially relinquished, they next set up a title to the whole country bordering on the gulf of Mexico, by virtue of having taken posse:sion of some of the islands, and the southern coast of that sea; and ordered their viceroy to hunt out and exterminate all foreigners who should be found in that region either on land or water. Notwithstanding these threats, the French penetrated from
Canada to the mouth of the Mississippi, and formed several establishments on the gulf of Mexico; one at New Orleans, one at Mobile, one at Natchitoches, and one at the bay of St. Barnard, and denominated the whole country, Louisiana. In adjusting their respective claims to the American continent, the European nations adopted two principles ; one, that the nation, who had gained possession of any particu. lar portion of coast, thereby acquired title to the country watered by the rivers which discharged themselves into the sea, within their limits ; or that the possession of the mouth of any river gave title to all the lands watered by its branches ; the other, that where two nations had taken possession of different portions of coast, at a distance from each other, the middle line between their nearest establishments was the line of partition between them.
American claim as to the Louisiana boundary. On these principles, the American government claimed that Louisiana embraced the whole valley of the Mississippi, westward, and that it extended eastward as far as the river Perdido, that being nearly half the distance between Mobile and Pensacola, and westward on the gulf of Mexico, as far as the Rio de Nord, being about half way between the French establishment at the bay of St. Barnard, their westernmost point on the gulf; and Panaxaca, the nearest Spanish settlement in New Mexico. In terminating the war of 1756, England obtained Florida from Spain, and all that part of Louisiana lying eastward of the Mississippi, except New Orleans, from France; and divided the whole territory into two provinces, denominated East and West Flo. rida. At the same time, France ceded to Spain the residue of Louisiana. In settling the peace of 17833, England ceded the Floridas to Spain, including, under that denomination, all that part of Louisiana which she had received from France. Spain continued in possession of the whole country, under these denominations, until 1800, when she retroceded to France the colony or province of Louisiana, without defining its boundaries, but describing it as being of the same extent as it then had in the hands of Spain, as it had when France possessed it, and as it ought to have, after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states. This indefinite and contradictory description of the limits of Louisiana, introduced into the treaty of St. Ildefonso, under the direction of Talleyrand, when Spain herself was little more than a province of France, was evidently designed to enable Bonaparte to claim as much territory under that denomination, as it was convenient for him to hold, or dispose of, in America. In 1803, France sold Louisiana to the United States, with the same description of limits as was contained in her treaty with Spain, and, of course, vested in them all her claims. When the question, arose between the United States and Spain, as to these limits, France very readily declared that they embraced no territory eastward of the Mississippi, and but a narrow strip on the west. The French settlement in the bay of St. Barnard, by virtue of which the province of Texas was claimed to be within the limits of Louisiana, was broken up and destroyed by the Spaniards, in 1689, and several establishments on the coast of Texas, were afterwards made by Spain. In the year 1805, a special commission, consisting of Monroe
and Pinkney, on the part of the United States, and Don Pedro Cavallos on the part of Spain, met at Aranjuez, with full power to settle the question of the limits of Louisiana, and other subjects of controversy between the two nations, and after spending five months, and writing volumes of diplomacy on the subject of limits, separated, without coming to any result. In the negotiations of 1818, as it was agreed that Spain should cede to the United States all her territory eastward of the Mississippi, the boundary of Louisiana, on that quarter, ceased to be of any consequence, only as it related to the value at which the Floridas should be estimated, in the cornpromise.
Western boundary agreed on. On the west, the United States agreed to relinquish their claim to the province of Texas, a territory several times as large, and much more valuable, than both the Floridas, their title to which, however, was very questionable; and the south western boundary, between the United Staies and the Spanish dominions in America, was finally established to be a line beginning at the Sabine river, on the gulf of Mexico, two hundred and fifty miles westward of the mouth of the Mississippi, and running in a northerly and westerly direction, to the 42d degree of north latitude, and from thence, on that parallel, to the Pacific ocean. The northern boundary, between the United States and the possessions of Great Britain, from the head waters of lake Superior to that ocean, being on the 49th parallel of latitude, the United States, by virtue of the Louisiana purchase, possess a territory of seven degrees, or about five hundred miles, in width; the whole extent of the continent westward of the Mississippi. The distance
in a direct line, having never been ascertained, is variously estimated, from two to three thousand miles.
The other claims on the part of the United States, introduced into the negotiation rather for the purpose of meeting claims on the part of Spain, than from the expectation of obtaining any pecuniary satisfaction, were, the suspension of the right of deposit at New Orleans; and the injury sustained in consequence of the Spanish authorities in the Flo. ridas supplying the Indians with munitions of war, and encouraging their hostilities, instead of restraining them, agreeable to the terms of the treaty of 1795.
While Spain was in possession of both banks of the Mississippi, near its mouth, the privilege secured to the United States, of the free navigation of that river, was of little consequence to their citizens, unless they could have a place of deposit in the Spanish territory, where the productions of the valley of the Mississippi, which descended that river in boats and rafts, could be transhipped in sea vessels, to foreign markets. By the treaty of 1795, it was stipulated that the United States should enjoy this privilege at New Orleans, until the Spanish government should designate some other place on the river, equally convenient for that purpose. In a few years afterwards, the Spanish superintendent of finance, at New Orleans, arbitrarily suspended this privilege, without designating any other place, under pretence that it was made use of to cover smuggling, and defraud the revenue. On a remonstrance to the Spanish government, the privilege was restored. The damages sustained in consequence of this suspension, formed one subject of claim upon the Spanish government, from that time until the signing of the treaty of 1819. Though it operated as a serious injury to the citizens of the west, yet no individual could claim any definite sum, as the amount of his loss. The suspension, however, formed an item of considerable consequence in the negotiation to balance Spanish claims. It has led to the purchase of Louisiana, an event incalculably of more consequence than all the losses sustained by the suspension.
The countenance given by the Spanish governor of Florida to the Seminole Indians and runaway negroes within his borders, in their hostilities against the United States, contrary to the provisions of the treaty of 1795, were among the principal causes of the depredations on the southern frontier, and the subsequent Seminole war. - But as the American government had taken a temporary possession of the Floridas, and in this manner redressed themselves, it now only formed an item to balance the claims of Spain for taking possession of the territory.
On the other hand, the demands of Spain against the United States were, for permitting a military expedition to be fitted out at New York, under Miranda, against her American colonies; for damages sustained by reason of privateers fitted out in the ports of the United States, with American capital, and manned by American seamen, cruising under the flag of her revolted colonies, against Spanish commerce; and the forcible seizure of the Floridas by the troops under General Jackson. The plenipotentiaries being unable to come to any adjustment of these subjects, they were waived, and by the treaty, which was ultimately ratified, mutually discharged.
Fraudulent grants. At the instance of the Spanish minister, the negotiation was suspended from March to October, 1818. În the mean time, the American government received information from their minister at Madrid, that the king of Spain, soon after he had authorized Don Onis to cede the Floridas to the United States, in satisfaction of their claims, had conveyed away all the public or crown lands in the Floridas to three of his subjects; so that the United States, by the cession, would obtain nothing but an empty and expensive jurisdiction, without any ungranted territory out of which their citizens, who had suffered by Spanish spoliations, might be indemnified. Although the American minister was unable to obtain copies of these alienations, or learn their precise dates, he acquired such information on the subject as placed the matter beyond a doubt.
In January, 1819, the Spanish minister having received fresh instructions from his sovereign, the negotiation was renewed. Mr. Adams expressed in forcible terms to Don Onis, the views of the American government in relation to the recent grants of the crown lands in the Floridas ; that it was a direct and palpable fraud attempted to be practiced upon them, of which they would not be the dupes; and that no treaty would be made unless these grants were annulled, or some other adequate provision made to remunerate their citizens.
Terms of the treaty. On the 22d of February, a treaty was concluded, which contained a stipulation, that all grants made by the crown of Spain subsequent to the 24th of January, 1818, of Florida lands, should be void. It provided,