Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY'S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH GARDOQUI AND DEL CAMPO. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
JAY’S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH GARDOQUI AND DEL CAMPO. 1 - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 1 (1763-1781).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
JAY’S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH GARDOQUI AND DEL CAMPO.1
September 3-15, 1780.
M. Gardoqui began the conversation by assurances of his personal attachment to our cause and country, which gave occasion to mutual and complimentary professions too unimportant to repeat. I told him that the holders of the bills, after having shown me great forbearance and delicacy, were at length perfectly tired; that the house of Casa Mayor had sent their bills after me, but that as I was not to expect the honour of a conference with the Minister until Tuesday evening, at soonest, I had requested time till Wednesday to give my answer. I therefore begged the favour of him to mention this to the Minister, and obtain his directions what I should do. He asked to what amount Congress had resolved to draw. I told him. He observed, that the Court ought previously to have been applied to. In answer to which I recapitulated the reasons before given to the Minister. He dwelt largely on the necessities of the State, and I expatiated on the extensive ideas entertained of Spanish opulence in America. He assured me they were mistaken, and spoke of the difficulties occasioned by the detention of their treasures abroad. He then remarked, that we offered no consideration for the money we solicited. I replied, that we offered the same consideration that other nations did who borrowed money, viz., the repayment of the principal with interest. He asked me if we had nothing further to offer, and mentioned ship timber. I said we had ship-timber, but that as it belonged to individuals, the public could not get it otherwise than by purchase, and that it could answer no purpose to borrow money with one hand and instantly repay it with the other, for that a repayment in money, or in ship timber, was the same thing in fact, and differed only in name. Besides, that if Spain wanted timber from America, it would be better, in case he went there, that he should be charged with that business, than that it should be under the direction of Congress, for that public works were always more expensive than private. He agreed in this. He again asked me whether I could think of nothing else to offer. I told him no. Whether there was nothing on the side of the Mississippi that I could offer. I told him nothing that I could think of except land, and that I did not think it would be worth the King’s while to buy a hundred thousand pounds worth of land there, considering the immense territories he already possessed. He inquired whether I thought Congress would draw for the whole sum. I answered that it was in my opinion not improbable, for that they would consider the acceptance of ten or twelve thousand dollars as a prelude to further aids, naturally supposing, that if the King afforded us any supplies at all, they would be such as would correspond with his dignity, and not be limited to that little pittance. He desired me to meet him the next day at M. Del Campo’s, which I promised to do.
In the evening M. Gardoqui again paid me a visit, and pointedly proposed my offering the navigation of the Mississippi as a consideration for aids. I told him that object could not come in question in a treaty for a loan of one hundred thousand pounds, and Spain should consider, that to render alliances permanent, they should be so formed as to render it the interest of both parties to observe them; that the Americans, almost to a man, believed that God Almighty had made that river a highway for the people of the upper country to go to the sea by; that this country was extensive and fertile; that the General, many officers, and others of distinction and influence in America, were deeply interested in it; that it would rapidly settle, and that the inhabitants would not readily be convinced of the justice of being obliged, either to live without foreign commodities, and lose the surplus of their productions, or be obliged to transport both over rugged mountains and through an immense wilderness, to and from the sea, when they daily saw a fine river flowing before their doors, and offering to save them all that trouble and expense, and that without injury to Spain. He observed, that the present generation would not want this navigation, and that we should leave future ones to manage their own affairs, etc.
The next day, that is, the 4th of September, I met M. Gardoqui at M. Del Campo’s. After some unconnected conversation, I observed to M. Del Campo, that as all the papers between the Minister and myself had passed through his hands, it was unnecessary to give him any information, except what related to the present state of the bills drawn upon me, which I proceeded to state in a short, but particular manner. He replied by making several strictures on the impropriety of drawing bills without previous notice and consent. He remarked, that they might with more propriety have been drawn on France, with whom we were allied, and who were richer than they; that the King must first take care of his own people, before he could supply us; that Spain had been brought into the war by our quarrel, but received no advantage from us; that they had been told of our readiness to assist in taking Pensacola, etc., but instead of aids, he had heard of nothing but demands from us; that our situation was represented as being deplorable, and that the enemy talked of the submission of some of the States, and of negotiations being on foot for that purpose.
Whether this style proceeded from natural arrogance, or was intended to affect my temper, I cannot say; in either case, I thought it most prudent to take no notice of it, but proceed calmly and cautiously, and the more so as this was the first time I had ever conversed with this man. I told him in substance, though more at large, that the assurances given Congress of the friendly disposition of Spain by M. Mirales and others had been confided in, and had induced Congress to expect the aids in question. That if this application could be called a demand, it was still the first they had made to my knowledge; that men in arms against the enemies of Spain were serving her as well as themselves, and therefore might without impropriety request her aid; that our separation from Britain was an object important to Spain, and that the success with which we had opposed her whole force for six years showed what the power of both, if under one direction, might be capable of; that I knew nothing of Spain’s having been drawn into the war by or for us, and that this was not to be found among the reasons she had alleged for it; that an attack on Pensacola could not be expected to be made by troops actually employed in repelling the enemy’s assaults from their own doors, and that the principles of self-defence would not permit or justify it; that Spain had much to expect in future from our commerce, and that we should be able as well as willing to pay our debts; that the tales told of our despondency and submission resulted from the policy of the enemy, not from fact, and I believed no more of their private negotiations between America and Britain than I did of there being private negotiations between Spain and Britain for a separate peace, which the Minister assured me was not the case; that if on the arrival of the bills I had been told plainly that no money could be advanced, further drafts would soon have been prevented; but that a contrary conduct having been adopted, other expectations had been excited; that as to France, she had done, and was still doing much for us, and that her being our ally did not confer propriety upon every request that we could make to her. He still pressed this point, and complained that the greater part of the money heretofore advanced by Spain had been laid out in France. He saw that France was deriving great commercial advantages from us, but that our commerce never would be an object with Spain, because all her productions would find a better market in her own colonies. He desired a note of the bills which had arrived, and then made some reflections on the proposal of a treaty. We agreed perfectly well that mutual interest should be the basis of it, and I added, that the good opinion entertained of the King and nation by America was also a pleasing circumstance. He said, however that might be, America did not seem inclined to gratify Spain in the only point in which she was deeply interested. Here followed much common-place reasoning about the navigation of the Mississippi, of which your Excellency has heretofore heard too much to require a repetition. He spoke also much of the difficulties of Spain as to money matters, saying that their treasures in America could at present be of no use to them, as they had given orders that none should be sent home during the war, even if it continued these ten years; and this was done in order, by stopping the usual current of specie into Europe, to embarrass the measures which Great Britain must take to obtain her necessary supplies. . . .
On the 13th of September, M. Gardoqui delivered me the following verbal message from Count de Florida Blanca: “That the exigencies of the State would not permit his Majesty to provide for the payment of more of the bills drawn upon me than had been already accepted.” I expressed my regret that this had not been told me at first, and told him it appeared a little extraordinary that the Minister should employ himself and me three months in making and answering propositions relative to a loan, which it was not in his power to make. . . .
As the Count’s message was a verbal one, and might hereafter be denied or explained away as convenience might dictate, I thought it important to establish it, and for that and other reasons which need no explanation, I wrote the Count the following letter.
St. Ildefonso, September 14, 1780.
The information I received yesterday from your Excellency by M. Gardoqui, has drawn the affair of the bills of exchange to a conclusion. He told me, that the exigencies of the State would not permit his Majesty to provide for the payment of more of those bills than were already accepted, amounting to about fourteen thousand dollars.
As it is important that every nation at war should know exactly the state of their resources, and as America has been induced to consider the friendship of his Catholic Majesty as among the number of hers, I must request the favour of your Excellency, to tell me frankly whether the United States may expect any, and what aids from Spain. The general assurances of amity, which that country has received from this, together with what has passed between your Excellency and myself relative to clothing for our troops, and supplies of specie in America, will I hope be considered as authorizing this question; and the more so, as M. Gardoqui, to whose arrival your Excellency postponed the discussion of these matters, informs me he is not instructed to say any thing to me on these, or indeed any other subjects.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
The next day, the 15th of September, M. Gardoqui delivered to me a paper by way of answer to my letter of yesterday to the Minister. It is in these words:
St. Ildefonso, September 15, 1780.
The following answer has been dictated to me in his Excellency’s name by Don Bernardo del Campo, to be delivered to the honorable John Jay.
That it is not his Majesty’s intention to stop assisting the States, whenever means can be found to do it, but that it will be impossible to supply them with money in Europe, there being none to spare, for that which ought to have come this year from America, has neither come, nor is it known when it will, and that which would have facilitated a far advanced negotiation is likely to produce no effect, in a great measure, through the undermining of some persons of rank in France.
The States not giving timely advice, nor having taken his Majesty’s previous consent, he could not arrange his affairs beforehand, in order to assure the acceptance and payment of the bills they have drawn, for which reasons, and that Congress has not to this day given any tokens of a recompense, his Majesty might have just cause of disgust, but notwithstanding he does not, nor will change his ideas, and will always retain those of humanity, friendship, and compassion, that he has had towards the colonies. That consequently, if Mr. Jay or his constituents should find money upon credit, to the sum of one hundred or one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, that his Majesty will be answerable for the said sum, payable in the space of three years; that his Majesty will besides exert all that is possible to assist them with clothing and other things, and, finally, in order that his Majesty may extend his further dispositions, it is precisely necessary that they should give sure and effective tokens of a good correspondence, proposing reciprocal measures of a compensation that may establish a solid friendship and confidence, without reducing it to words and protests of mere compliment.
This being the substance, I would futher suggest to Mr. Jay’s consideration, that the continuance of assisting the States by answering the sum expressed in a manner much more public than that of paying the money privately, shows plainly the sincerity of his Majesty, although the States have not to this day proposed any equivalent to the assistance already given, and to the expenses occasioned by a war, which had its true origin from them, to all which must be added, (though by the way no credit is given to it,) that there are hints of some understanding between the colonies and England.
It is to be observed, that this paper when first delivered was not signed, and suspecting that this omission might not be accidental, I mentioned it to M. Gardoqui a day or two afterwards. After some hesitation, and doubts of its being necessary, he signed it. I made no remarks at all to M. Gardoqui on any part of this paper except the last article, which I treated with great indignation. . . .
Three days afterwards, I had a long and satisfactory conversation with the French Ambassador, in which he was very unreserved, candid, and confidential. He read to me part of a letter he intended to send to Count de Vergennes on our affairs, and justice calls upon me to say that we are obliged to him for it.1
[1 ]On September 3, 1780, and subsequent days, Jay held conferences with M. Gardoqui, member of a wealthy firm at Bilbao, and M. Del Campo, Secretary to Florida Blanca, both of whom acted as the Secretary’s representatives. The interviews again proved unsatisfactory.
[1 ]See Jay’s letter to Vergennes, dated September 22, 1780, in which he reviews the situation at the Spanish Court, and appeals to France for financial aid.