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that the American government should remunerate its citi. zens to an amount not exceeding five millions of dollars, which should be in full satisfaction of all claims either on the French or Spanish governments, for depredations committed on their commerce by the Spaniards, or by French cruisers in the waters of Spain, or where the captured vessels were carried in, and condemned in Spanish ports; and that Spain might have the benefit of all claims on the French government for remuneration. The treaty also provided for a mutual renunciation of all other claims existing between the two nations. In the course of the negotiation, it was strongly urged on the part of Spain, that the American government should stipulate not to recognize the independence of the Spanish American republics. This was not acceded to, and the United States were left free to act on that subject, as circumstances, in their judgment, should require.
Delay in ratifying the treaty. The treaty was immediately laid before the senate, approved by them, and ratified by the president on the 25th of the same month. Mr. Forsyth, of Georgia, was appointed special envoy to the court of Spain, and dispatched with the treaiy to exchange ratifications. From the length of time the negotiation had been pending, and the minute discussion which every topic connected with the treaty had undergone, both at Washington and Madrid, it was confidently expected that it would be promptly ratified on the part of the Spanish government: and the Hornet, which took out Mr. Forsyth, was directed to wait at Cadiz for that event, and bring home the ratified treaty. Further delay and evasion on the part of Spain was the less to be expected, as the Floridas had long since ceased to be of any pecuniary or political advantage to her. The expenses of the colonial government were burthensome to the parent state, whose authority had become merely nominal." It was evident that they must soon pass into other hands; and Spain had now an opportunity of extinguishing a long existing claim of great magnitude, by parting with what was of no value to her, and what, in all events, she must soon lose. This expectation was confirmed by adverting to the strong and unusual expressions of the king, in the full powers given to Don Onis, and communicated to the president, by virtue of which the treaty was concluded. “We do hereby oblige ourselves and promise,” say the full powers, “on the faith and word of a king, to approve, ratify, and fulfil it; and cause to be inviolably observed and fulfilled, whatever may be stipulated and signed by you, to which intent and purpose I grant you all authority and full power, in the most ample form.” But the United States had as yet only got through with the first chapter of Spanish intrigues and tergiversations. The treaty, ratified on the part of the United States, was immediately transmitted to his government by a special messenger from
Don Onis, and arrived there early in April. On the 19th of May, the American minister presented his credentials to the Spanish government, informing their minister of foreign relations of his readiness to exchange ratifications whenever it might suit his convenience, and wishing it might be done at an early day, that it might be sent to the United States by their vessel then waiting at Cadiz to take charge of it. Not receiving any answer to this communication, on the 4th of June, he addressed another of the same purport to the minister; and on the 19th received an answer, stating that in view of the great importance of the treaty, his majesty must examine it with the greatest caution and deliberation, before he proceeds to ratify it.
Mr. Forsyth, disgusted and deeming his government insulted by this procrastination, replied in terms inconsistent with diplomatic courtesy, expressing his astonishment at the delay, and his conviction that Spain dare not refuse the · ratification; and that the United States knew well how to punish such an act of perfidy, should there be occasion. After a further delay of nearly two months, the Spanish minister, on the 10th of August, replied, expressing his disapprobation of the insulting language, as he termed it, of Mr. Forsyth, and informing him of the determination of his catholic majesty to send a special envoy to the United States to require explanations, before the treaty could be ratified. The time limited by the terms of the treaty for the exchange of ratifications expiring on the 22d of August, Mr. Forsyth notified the Spanish government, that after that period, the treaty not being ratified, all the claims of the United States upon Spain would be uncancelled, and his govern. ment free to enforce them in any manner that its honor and interest might require. Afterward, a fruitless discussion of the question, whether, upon the principles of national law, and the peculiar expressions of the king of Spain in his commission to Don Onis, he was bound in all events to ratify the treaty, terminated the correspondence of Mr. Forsyth and the Spanish minister upon the subject.
Proceedings of congress relating to Spain. In communicating the papers relating to this negotiation, and its result, to congress, in December, 1819, the president remarks, “ that this proceeding, on the part of Spain, has formed a relation between the two countries which would justify any measures on the part of the United States, which a strong sense of injury and a proper regard for the rights and interests of the nation might dictate. Had the United States been desirous of making conquests, or willing to aggrandize themselves in that way, they could have had no inducement to form this treaty, and much cause of gratulation at the course which had been pursued by Spain. An ample field for ambition would be open before them. But such a course is not consistent with the principles of their government, or the interests of the nation." . On the whole, the president submits to the consideration of congress, whether it would be proper to carry the conditions of the treaty into effect, in the same manner as if it had been ratified by Spain, claiming on the part of the United States all its advantages, and leaving to Spain all those secured to her. This the president deems the proper course ; but as his catholic ma. jesty had twice signified his intention to send a special envoy to the United States to ask explanations on certain points, and to give his reasons for the delay, he recommends to wait the result of that embassy before decisive measures are taken on the subject; and that any act which congress should pass, authorizing the occupation of the Floridas, might be contingent, and its execution left to depend on the result of the new embassy now daily expected from Spain. In the course of the summer, the ministers of Great Britain, France, and Russia had taken occasion to remark to the American government, upon the conduct of Spain in relation to this negotiation, expressing their sense of the justice of the claim, and of the impropriety of the delay, and wishing that no measures of a hostile character might be suddenly taken, and expressing their belief that Spain would ultimately ratify the treaty.
In the house of representatives the subject was referred to the committee of foreign relations; the chairman, by direction of the board, addressed a letter to the president, inquiring whether he considered the treaty, in its present state, of the same force as though it had been ratified. by Spain. The question as to the validity of the treaty under existing circumstances, was a point of national law, the solution of which was to be obtained from writers upon that
subject, and not from executive documents. The secretary of state readily gave the desired information, stating his views upon the subject to be, that the treaty was not valid as an executed instrument, under which any rights could be claimed, but was likened to a case at law, of a covenant to convey, where one party refused to execute the deed, in which a court of chancery would place the injured party in the same situation as though the conveyance had been executed; but as no court of chancery to settle contested rights existed between nations but arms, the United States might resort to them and redress themselves. The policy of the measure, under all circumstances, was the only question in the case.
The committee, towards the close of the session, reported a bill, authorizing the immediate occupation of the Floridas; but the president, having received positive information of the appointment of a minister, and recommending a further postponement of the subject, in conformity to the wishes of the principal European powers, no definitive measures were taken at this session.
Don Vives' mission. After a delay of ten months, from the time of the arrival of the treaty in Spain, and six, from the period limited for its ratification, Don Vives, a Spanish general of considerable eminence, set out on a mission from his Catholic majesty, to the American government, to obtain from them certain explanations in relation to the treaty, in order to enable his majesty to determine the question of its ratification. Instead of directing his course immediately to the place of his destination, Don Vives made his debut at Paris, to learn the feelings of the French government, and what would probably be their course in case of a rupture between the United States and Spain. Having there received information of a character contrary to his wishes, he proceeded to London on the same errand, and met with the same success. The character of the American nation, at this time, stood high in Europe ; the ground taken in relation to Spain was justifiable, and had been maintained with moderation and firmness. The other European nations saw that Spain must yield, or a war which might reach them would be the probable consequence. For such an event they had no desire. Nothing was to be gained by Spain in a war with America. The latter had no colonies exposed to her grasp, no territory to be conquered. The recent display of American naval enterprize, by no means encouraged them to expose their commerce to å second hazard. Don Vives was given to understand, both at London and Paris, that his government could expect no countenance from the other powers of Europe, in a contest with the United States. With this information, the Spanish minister arrived at Washington in April, 1820. He was not the bearer of a ratified copy of the treaty to be exchanged, on obtaining satisfaction relative to the points on which his government required an explanation ; he was not authorized to bring to a close the long existing controversy his object seemed to be, to open another diplomatic cam. paign on subjects long since exhausted. In his first official communication, after exhibiting his letters of credence, he stated, that the difficulties which had occurred to prevent his sovereign from ratifying the treaty were, the encouragement given to his rebellious subjects in America, by suffering ar. maments to be fitted out in the ports of the United States, to their aid ; secondly, an expedition which, he said, had been set on foot to take possession of the Texas; and, thirdly, the note accompanying Mr. Forsyth's communications, requiring the recent grants of the Florida lands to be consi. dered void, although they might bear date prior to the 24th of January, 1818. Mr. Erving, not having been able to obtain the precise dates of those grants, it was apprehended that when brought forward, they would appear to be anterior to that time. To guard against a fraud of this description, Mr. Erving had been instructed to represent to the Spanish government, that any grant, designed to defeat the objects of the treaty, would not be regarded, whatever might be its date. This, he stated, was essentially varying an important article in the treaty. He required a satisfactory explanation on these points, and a stipulation, that the American govern. ment should not recognize the independence of the South American republics, as indispensable conditions, which being complied with, he was ready, not to exchange ratifications, but to give the word of the king, that the treaty should be ratified at some future period.
Answer of the secretary of state to his communications. To this communication, Mr. Adams replied, that the American government already had the king's word solemnly pledged to ratify the treaty, and the mere renewal of an old promise could not add to its value; that his government would be satisfied with nothing short of an exchange of • ratifications, or an actual surrender of the Floridas, neither of which he appeared authorized to give ; and that a further