The Jay–Gardoqui Treaty (also known as the Liberty Treaty with Spain) of 1786 between the United States and Spain guaranteed Spain's exclusive right to navigate the Mississippi River for 20 years. It also opened Spain's European and West Indian seaports to American shipping. However, the Treaty was not ratified under the Articles of Confederation.
Congress commanded so little, and had so little power over the states of the Union and therefore over foreign policy, that other nations either ignored the young United States or ran roughshod over its interests with little fear of retaliation. The British ignored certain provisions of the Paris agreement and kept troops on American soil long after the peace treaty. 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. Instead, Jay signed 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.
The American armed forces, except for state militias, over which Congress had little control, were for all practical purposes disbanded after the war. (The U.S. Army numbered less than 100 men in 1784.) For good or ill, foreign affairs would come to dominate American public life and politics between 1790 and 1815—as Europe became steeped in the wars of the French Revolution and Empire. However, even in the immediate postwar years, America carried little weight in the world despite having successfully gained its independence during the American Revolutionary War.
United States' problems with Great Britain and Spain:
- Boundaries: The British refused to abandon forts in Northwest.
- The Royal Navy remains in American Waters, a threat to American independence of action.
- The issue of unpaid debts persisted, though some thought they should be renounced (George Mason: “What were we fighting for?”).
- The Port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River were closed to Americans, being territory of Spain restored to her by the Treaties of 1783. (Jay–Gardoqui Treaty defeated).
- The Spanish and British were also suspected of riling up the Indians against settlers in the west.
- The Confederation Government lacked power and authority and was unable to pass a treaty with Spain over the Florida boundary, etc.