Author: John Quincy Adams  | Date: 1875

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The Spanish Treaty of 1819


10th [July, 1818]. HAD an interview at the office with Hyde de Neuville, the French Minister — all upon our affairs with Spain. He says that Spain will cede the Floridas to the United States, and let the lands go for the indemnities due to our citizens, and he urged that we should take the Sabine for the western boundary, which I told him was impossible. . . .

11th [November]. The Spanish Minister, Onis, came to my office at two o’clock. . . . He . . . said . . . that he could not agree to my proposal for the western boundary; that they had always supposed our proposed line would be north to the Missouri and follow the course of that river. . . .

[17th.] The French Minister, Hyde de Neuville, came to talk with me about our negotiations with Spain and to urge our yielding further upon the western boundary of Louisiana. He said he had thought we offered the forty-second degree of latitude, running to the South Sea; but I had very explicitly told him, and shown him, that it was the forty-first. He went over all the arguments he could muster; but I repeated to him, and requested him to write to the Duke of Richelieu, that we had retreated to the wall upon that quarter, and would never give up one drop of the waters of the Mississippi. . . .

20th. . . . The President wrote me a note suggesting a wish that I should send Onis, as soon as possible, an answer to his last letter, and, as he has rejected the western boundary offered as our ultimatum, the United States must no longer be bound to accept it. . . .

February 1st [1819]. Called upon the President, and had a conversation with him upon this renewal of negotiations with the Spanish Minister. There are various symptoms that if we do come to an arrangement there will be a large party in the country dissatisfied with our concessions from the Rio del Norte to the Sabine on the Gulf of Mexico. . . .

[4th.] I returned to the office, and Mr. De Neuville soon after came there. I discussed with him the substance of his note, told him how exceedingly anxious the President was to accomplish an arrangement with Spain, but that if we gave up the boundary on one side, Spain must give up on the other. . . .

[9th.] . . . Mr. Onis came at the appointed hour of one, and delivered to me his projet of a treaty . . .

11th. . . . The second article of Onis’s projet contains the cession of the Floridas by the King of Spain to the United States, but describing the Floridas such as they were ceded by Great Britain in 1783, and with the limits by which they are designated in the treaty of limits and navigation concluded between Spain and the United States on the 27th of October, 1795. I struck out this passage, as being useless to define the cession, and as implying an admission that the part of West Florida of which we are already in possession was not included in the proposal . . .

. . . Onis’s ninth article confirms all grants of lands made before the 24th of January, 1818 — that being the day when he made the first proposal for the cession of the Floridas — and declares all grants subsequent to that date null and void, the grantees not having fulfilled the conditions of the cession. I proposed to add that all prior grants should be valid only to the same extent that they would be to the King of Spain himself. It was agreed that I should urge for this addition.

The tenth article contains the mutual renunciations of claims of indemnity. . . .

The eleventh article annuls in part the Convention of August, 1802, and provides that the indemnities due to the citizens of the United States for spoliations shall be made from the proceeds of the public lands in Florida. . . .

I had drawn an additional article, to be the eleventh, providing for the examination and adjustment of all the claims by three Commissioners, citizens of the United States, to sit at Washington, and providing for the payment of the claims to the amount of five millions of dollars. . . .

[15th.] A more formidable objection was made by Mr. Onis to my third article, containing the boundary line westward of the Mississippi. After a long and violent struggle, he had agreed to take longitude one hundred, from the Red River to the Arkansas, and latitude forty-two, from the source of the Arkansas to the South Sea. But he insisted upon having the middle of all the rivers for the boundary, and not, as I proposed, the western and southern banks . . .

20th. Mr. Onis came this morning to my house, and told me that he must accept the treaty as now prepared, since we would have it so, though he still thought we ought to give up the limitation of the five millions, and the banks for the middle of the rivers as the boundaries. . . .

[April 13, 1820.] . . . In the negotiation with Spain we had a just claim to the Mississippi and its waters, and our citizens had a fair though very precarious claim to indemnities. We had a mere color of claim to the Rio del Norte, no claim to a line beyond the Rocky Mountains, and none to Florida, which we very much wanted. The treaty gives us the Mississippi and all its waters — gives us Florida — gives us an acknowledged line to the South Sea, and seventeen degrees of latitude upon its shores — gives our citizens five millions of dollars of indemnity — and barely gives up to Spain the colorable claim from the Sabine to the Rio del Norte. . . .

John Quincy Adams, (edited by Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia, 1875), IV, 106–V, 69 passim.


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Chicago: John Quincy Adams, "The Spanish Treaty of 1819," Memoirs, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 482–483. Original Sources, accessed August 11, 2022,

MLA: Adams, John Quincy. "The Spanish Treaty of 1819." Memoirs, edited by Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia, Vol. V, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 482–483. Original Sources. 11 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: Adams, JQ, 'The Spanish Treaty of 1819' in Memoirs, ed. . cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.482–483. Original Sources, retrieved 11 August 2022, from