Luis de Onís y González-Vara

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Luis de Onís y González-Vara
Luis de onis.jpg
Personal details
Born June 4, 1762
Cantalapiedra, Salamanca, Spain)
Died May 17, 1826
Madrid, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Spouse(s) Federika Christina von Mercklein
Profession Diplomat and ambassador of Spain.

Luis de Onís y Gonzalez-Vara (1762–1827) was a Spanish diplomat. He served as the Spanish minister to the United States from 1809 to 1819. He is remembered for negotiating the Adams-Onís Treaty with United States Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1819.[1]


Family and early life[edit]

Luis de Onís y González Vara López y Gómez was born in Cantalapiedra, Salamanca [1] in June 4, 1762.[2] He was the son of Joaquin de Onís, one of the main landowners in the village, of noble family and of Asturian origin likely that, by residing in Salamanca, gave his son a brilliant education. It is said that he had begun the study of Greek and Latin by age 8.[2] He studied at the University of Salamanca.[1] and that at sixteen had concluded at the university the studies of philosophy, rhetoric, moral philosophy and humanities, plus two years of law.[2][3]

Early work as an ambassador[edit]

After studying in that University, was to working at the Spanish embassy in Dresden, Germany, with his uncle José. After four years of the best learning and diplomatic practice with his uncle, it was proposed to occupy the post of interim Chargé d'Affaires, during his forced absence of that court, a period that lasted for eight years.becoming with time in secretary and business manager,[2] visiting thus all Central Europe.[3] In 1786, when he was 24 years old, Onís moved to Freiberg to follow a course with the famous Prussian mineralogist of orictognosia Werner, winning the friendship of teachers and students and getting to know the reality of life in the mines and the existence of a surplus of workers willing to be hired. Onis could choose to thirty-six men, including six mine managers, sent to Spain when nobody expected it. Recognized success, Floridablanca proposed him as a minister near the United States, promotion that not could comply, because leaving the count at the Ministry. In 1792 he was rewarded with the Cross of Carlos III. In 1798 was elected officer of the first Secretary of State in Madrid. In March 1800 he was appointed vocal member of the Board of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Carlos III. By then took part in the negotiations and conclusion of the Peace of Amiens and, in October 1802, received the title of secretary to the king with exercise of decrees, house and apartment. In 1808, be moved to the Administration of Seville, and continued as head of the Secretariat of State in his capacity as senior officer oldest, but soon received a proposal to cover an embassy, first in Russia, then in Sweden and finally to the president and the U.S. Congress.[2]

U.S. Ambassador[edit]

His appointment, in June 29, 1809, contained a recommendation to come out as soon as possible to your destination. The mission entrusted to him was difficult. This was to ensure peace and friendship between the two States, achieving recognition of Fernando VII, discuss with sincerity and good faith all the points in dispute within limits, maintain and keep united to Spain the Spanish possessions in the New World, buy guns, schooners and supplies to help to Spain in its war against the French, and finally, to counter the Bonapartist propaganda in United States. He be occupied of all this from the start, despite the flat refusal of Secretary of State to recognize him while lasted of the Spanish war. The commitments of President James Madison with Napoleon I prevented it, despite their good words and personal messages of commitment to the cause of independence in Spain. Howeve, Onis decided to stay in Philadelphia, using the consular body officially recognized for the maintenance of the minimum official relations, and displaying a tireless work of harassment and rejection of U.S. attempts to penetrate into both Florida and its covert support to French agents step towards the Spanish provinces. Since his arrival, he paid special attention to the activities of Spanish and Latin American revolutionary agents, increasingly frequent. The Secretaries of State, James Monroe and Smith, rejected his writings and protests, while informally lent their support to insurgent movements. The occupation of West Florida in 1810 was the consummation of a set of facts that had been prolonged for years, caused by the indeterminacy of the border between Florida and Louisiana, when France ceded it to Spain in 1763. At the start of U.S. war with Great Britain in 1812, the danger of invasion of East Florida, a territory that had never been in dispute, escalated and was the subject of constant disputes Onís correspondence with Monroe. The U.S. government had to recognize the presence of Onis, who presented his credentials on December 20, 1815, five years after he arrived in New York City. Thereafter, he continued arguing and claiming the Spanish positions with the same emphasis to which he was accustomed. Monroe, meanwhile, sent an ambassador to Madrid, John Erving, who had to wait several months, rejected by the Secretary of State Pedro Cevallos, to the formalization of the presence of U.S. Onis. At this time, it seemed forced to start negotiations between the two countries, that Onis tried postpone through various subterfuges, such as changing Cevallos by Jose Leon y Pizarro, American recognition in the court of Madrid. After two years of difficult negotiations and consultations, and through the intervention of the French ambassador Hyde de Neuville, who defended the Spanish argument against radicalism of Henry Clay in Congress and General Jackson, who emphasized his hostility on East Florida, on February 22, 1819 the treaty was signed "Adams-Onis." [2]

The treaty of Adams y Onís[edit]

The treaty consisted of 16 items, half of which came to a complete agreement of the points in dispute since 1783, giving all Crown lands located east of the Mississippi, known under the name of West Florida and East Florida. The most serious confrontation, setting the borders to the west and northwest of the Mississippi, was maintained until the last moment, because Onís aimed away from Texas, New Mexico and California. The signing of treaty found, surprisingly, a favorable response from the public and the U.S. Senate. Onis returned to Europe convinced that the alternative to the treaty could have been the loss of all territories to the Rio Grande and to some extent on the internal provinces of New Spain.[2]

Last years[edit]

Back in Spain, in mid-1819, he was awarded the Gran Cruz Americana (Grand Cross American), honors of State Councilor, but aspired to the Secretary of State in Madrid, managed to be appointed minister in St. Petersburg. The revolution of 1820 prevented the taking possession of this office, but the constitutional government that canceled this destination ascended him to ambassador in Naples. In Madrid, he published a work in two volumes entitled "Memorias sobre las Negociaciones entre España y los Estados Unidos de América" (Reports on the Negotiations between Spain and the United States of America) that gave rise to the Treaty of 1819 and on the other hand, he was named fellow perpetual of Salamanca, whose title was issued by the House, to yes, their children and successors. The last diplomatic mission was conferred in February 1821 as a minister in London, where he participated in diplomatic exchanges for the recognition of Hispanic American countries by the United States, returning to Madrid in November 1822. Onis managed to prevent the European powers to follow the American example.[2] After, settled in Madrid where, a few months after his return, in May 17, 1826 (or 27) died to caused an illness that lasted four days.[2][3]

Personal life[edit]

De Onis invited the Circus of Pepin and Breschard to sail from Spain to perform in the United States, which they did in 1807.[1] Don Luis married in Dresden, 9 August 1788, with Federika Christina von Mercklein, and had three children: Mauricio, Narcisa and Clementina.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Greenwood, Isaac Circus Its Origin and Growth 1898
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i La web de las biografías (In Spanish: The Encyclopedia web). Posted by Manuel Ortuño. Retrieved in December 06, 2011, to 19:11 pm.
  3. ^ a b c LA FAMILIA ONÍS .... (In Spanish: The Onis´s family)