Diplomacy and the Borderlands: The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819

Diplomacy and the Borderlands: The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819

Diplomacy and the Borderlands: The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819

Diplomacy and the Borderlands: The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819

Excerpt

This account of the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819 between Spain and the United States has resulted from an investigaall the countries represented in the negotiation. In it I have essayed to weigh the comparative influences of frontier conditions and of political considerations upon the diplomats. Certain aspects of the agreement involved inevitable recognition of existing occupation of territory, whereas others were largely matters of arbitrary bargaining on paper by the negotiators, who faced some circumstances unknown on the frontiers.

Heretofore the treaty has been subjected to limited interpretations because of its having been studied in the archives and libraries of only one of the nations concerned. Profiting by an examination of materials in Spain, France, and England, as well as in the United States, this portrayal, it is hoped, will give a broad view of all the major complications involved.

The rôle played by Spain has been the phase most neglected by historians, and it forms the core of this narrative. Accordingly, the central theme is the career of Don Luis de Onís as Spanish minister in this country from 1809 to 1819. The intricacies of following the thread of a single negotiation through the kaleidoscopic tangles of the post-Napoleonic period have made the selection of materials a difficult task.

The treaty was intimately concerned with the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase, but it did not define them as such. The decisions reached were not based upon the rights acquired in that purchase, but were determined by the comparative power of the two nations, the conditions of settlement on the frontiers, and the skill of the negotiators.

Certain of the territorial claims which were advanced are still disputed among historians. These claims did not determine the delineation of 1819, nor were they settled by it; some conclusions regarding them, however, are reached in this study. It appears that the United States had no justifiable title to West Florida as a part of the Louisiana Purchase, but the fact that the United States had occupied the region was a strong bargaining point. Partly through . . .

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