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The Jay–Gardoqui Treaty (also known as the Liberty Treaty with Spain) of 1786 between the United States and Spain was not ratified. It would have guaranteed Spanish exclusive right to navigate the Mississippi River for 25 years.[1] It also opened Spain's European and West Indian ports to American shipping. However, the Treaty was opposed by Virginia leaders James Madison and James Monroe who secured its rejection by the Continental Congress.[2]

American foreign-policy was confused, with a weak central government, and the 13 states each having their own policies on trade and tariffs. European powers looked at the new nation as a weakling, and tried to run roughshod over it. American nationalists realized the problem, and used the weakness in dealing with foreign powers as one of the reasons to install a new constitution in 1789. Spain had numerous schemes to keep the new nation weak, including closing the Mississippi River to its traffic, and forming alliances with Indian tribes along its southern border.[3]

On the other hand, Spanish merchants welcomed trade with the new nation, which had been impossible when it was a British colony. Madrid therefore encouraged the United States to set up consulates in Spain's New World colonies[4] American merchants and Eastern cities likewise wanted to open trade with the Spanish colonies which had been forbidden before 1775. [5] a new line of commerce involved American merchants importing goods from Britain, and then reselling them to the Spanish colonies. [6]

When Spain closed the port of New Orleans to American commerce in 1784, Congress sent John Jay to Madrid to achieve terms to open the Mississippi to Americans. Gardoqui, however, arrived in New York in June 1785 and Spanish-American treaty negotiations began soon after.[7] A year's worth of diplomacy resulted in the ambassadors signing an agreement that ignored the problem of the Mississippi in exchange for commercial advantages benefiting the Northeast (the Jay–Gardoqui Treaty). Congress rejected the treaty, and the issue smoldered for ten more years. Congress also claimed lands in the west still occupied by the British and Spaniards, but could not forcefully challenge those nations for control of the land.[8]

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  1. ^ Yoo, John (2005), The Powers of War and Peace : The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 77, retrieved 11 June 2018, From 1785 to 1786, John Jay, as secretary for foreign affairs, negotiated with Spain concerning various boundary disputes with Spain’s North American territories. Chief among these issues was the right of American settlers to navigate the southern reaches of the Mississippi River, which passed through Spanish territory on its way to the sea. Spain had closed its portion of the Mississippi to American commerce in 1784; Congress specifically instructed Jay that any treaty with Spain had to win back that right. Spain’s ambassador, Don Diego de Gardoqui, refused to accede to this demand out of Spanish fears of America’s westward expansion.
  2. ^ Stuart Leibiger (2012). A Companion to James Madison and James Monroe. pp. 569–70.
  3. ^ Lawrence S. Kaplan, Colonies into Nation: American Diplomacy 1763 – 1801 (1972) pp 145-81
  4. ^ Roy F. Nichols, "Trade Relations and the Establishment of the United States Consulates in Spanish America, 1779-1809." The Hispanic American Historical Review 13.3 (1933): 289-313.
  5. ^ Arthur P. Whitaker, "Reed and Forde: Merchant Adventurers of Philadelphia: Their Trade with Spanish New Orleans." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 61.3 (1937): 237-262. online
  6. ^ Javier Cuenca-Esteban, "British 'Ghost' Exports, American Middlemen, and the Trade to Spanish America, 1790–1819: A Speculative Reconstruction." William & Mary Quarterly 71.1 (2014): 63-98. online
  7. ^ Robertson, James Alexander (1910), List of Documents in Spanish Archives relating to the History of the United States which have been Printed or of which Transcripts are Preserved in American Libraries, Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, p. 195, June 30 [1785]. New York. Gardoqui to Floridablanca (confidential no I)
  8. ^ Westley F. Busbee, Jr (2014). Mississippi: A History. pp. 45–47.