THE MISSISSIPPI QUESTION
INTIMATELY connected with the subject of the back lands and of more vital consequence to the future of America was the question of the boundary between the United States and Spanish territory and the right of navigating the Mississippi River.
By her chartered limits and Clark's conquests, Virginia claimed the territory to the banks of the river, and the General Assembly by resolution of November 5, 1779, ordered the delegates in Congress to favour the free navigation of the river to the sea. The question was, of course, an international one, and involved negotiations with Spain by a Power not yet independent.
In June, 1779, Spain and England were virtually at war, and the opportunity seemed to be ripe for securing Spain as an ally of the United States. In 1756 she had lost the Floridas to Great Britain, and by resolution of September 15, 1779, Congress held out to her the prospect of regaining them with America's help, provided "the United States should enjoy the free navigation of the River Mississippi into and from the sea." John Jay, our minister at Madrid, reported that the desired alliance was impossible at this price, but Congress agreed unanimously to adhere to the condition, and October 4, 1780, appointed Madison, Sullivan, of New Hampshire, and Duane, of New York, a committee to draw up an instruction to Jay on the subject, a copy of the instruction to be sent to Franklin at Paris. The paper was prepared by Madison, and October 17 he presented the completed draft, which Congress accepted without change. It was the first important State paper to come
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Publication information: Book title: The Life of James Madison. Contributors: Gaillard Hunt - Author. Publisher: Doubleday Page. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1902. Page number: 54.
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