|Letter from John Quincy Adams to
Don Luis De Onis
March 12, 1818
Niles Register, Vol 14
With regard to the motives for the occupation of Amelia Island, the messages from the president of the United States to
congress, and my letter to you of 16th January, have given the explanations which, it is presumed, will be satisfactory to
your government. The exposed and feeble situation of that island, as well as the remainder of East Florida, with their
local position in the nieghborhood of the United States, have always been among the primary inducements of the United
States for urging to Spain, the expediency to the interests of both nations, that Spain should cede them for a just and
suitable equivalent to the United States.
In the letter of the 28th of January, 1805, from Messrs. Pinkney and Monroe, to Mr. Cevallos, the following passage
stands prominent among the arguments used by them to that effect. "Should Spain," say they, "not place a strong force
in Florida, it will not escape your excellency's attention, that it will be much exposed to the danger of being taken
possession of by some other power, who might wish to hold it with very different views towards Spain than those which
animate the government of the United States. Without a strong force being there, it might even become an asylum for
adventurers and freebooters, to the great annoyance of both nations."
You know, sir how far the events thus anticipated, and pointed out so early as in January, 1805, to the prudent forecast
of Spain, have been realized. Pensacola has been occupied by another power, for the purpose of carrying on war from
it against the United States, and Amelia Island has been occupied by adventurers, to the great annoyance of both
nations and all others engaged in lawful commerce upon the Gulf of Mexico. Before these events occurred, the
congress of the United States, aware of the great and growing danger of them, which had been so long before distinctly
forseen, had made it the duty of the executive government, in the case of such a contingency, to take the temporary
possession of the country which might be necessary to avert the injuries that must result from it. Amelia Island was
taken, not from the possession of Spain, but of those from whom she had been equally incapable of keeping or of
recovering its possession, and who were using it for purposes incompatible with the laws of nations and of the United
States. No purpose, either of thaking or of retaining it as a conquest from Spain has ever been entertained, and unless
ceded by Spain to the United States, it will be restored, whenever the danger of its being again thus occupied and
misused shall have ceased.
It is needless to add, that the proposal, that the United States should take any further measures than those already
provided by law for preventing armaments hostile to Spain within the territories of the United States, is inadmissible. The
measures already taken, and the laws already existing against hostile armaments within our jurisdiction, incompatible
with the obligations of neutrality, are sufficient for its preservation, and the necessary means will continue to be used, as
they have been, to carry them faithfully into execution.
I have the honor to be, with great consideration, sir, your obedient and very humble servant.
John Quincy Adams
|John Quincy Adams
U. S. Secretary of State
|Luis De Onis
Spanish minister to the United States from 1809 to 1819.
Negotiated the Adams-Onís Treaty with United States
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1819.
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