Pinckney's Treaty

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Pinckney's Treaty, also known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo or the Treaty of Madrid, was signed in San Lorenzo de El Escorial on October 27, 1795 and established intentions of friendship between the United States and Spain. It also defined the boundaries of the United States with the Spanish colonies and guaranteed the United States navigation rights on the Mississippi River. The treaty's full title is Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation Between Spain and the United States. Thomas Pinckney negotiated the treaty for the United States and Don Manuel de Godoy represented Spain. Among other things, it ended the first phase of the West Florida Controversy, a dispute between the two nations over the boundaries of the Spanish colony of West Florida.[1]

The treaty was presented to the United States Senate on February 26, 1796 and after debate was ratified on March 7, 1796. It was ratified by Spain on April 25, 1796 and ratifications were exchanged on that date. The treaty was proclaimed on August 3, 1796.


The Spanish acquired Florida and the southern coast along the Gulf of Mexico in the Peace Treaty of 1783. Though Florida had never been extensively colonized many British settlers and loyalists had left by 1785,[2] and Spain sent in some soldiers but never sent settlers. Madrid had no plans for the future of Florida, which cost $30,000 a month for the garrisons, and realized the need to clarify the boundaries. The border with the U.S. was disputed. In 1784, the Spanish closed New Orleans to American goods coming down the Mississippi River. In 1795, the border was settled and the U.S. and Spain had a trade agreement. New Orleans was reopened and Americans could transfer goods without paying cargo fees (right of deposit) when transferring goods from one ship to another.[3]

Treaty terms[edit]

The Spanish, led by Manuel Godoy, were willing to negotiate with the United States more from fear of a U.S.-British alliance, which seemed imminent with the Jay Treaty of 1794. Less influential was the recently signed Peace of Basel which had ended the war between Spain and France.

By terms of the treaty, Spain and the United States agreed that the southern boundary of the United States with the Spanish Colonies of East Florida and West Florida was a line beginning on the Mississippi River at the 31st degree north latitude drawn due east to the middle of the Chattahoochee River and from there along the middle of the river to the junction with the Flint River and from there straight to the headwaters of the St. Marys River and from there along the middle of the channel to the Atlantic Ocean.[4] This describes the current boundary between the present states of Florida and Georgia and the line from the northern boundary of the Florida panhandle to the northern boundary of that portion of Louisiana east of the Mississippi. (The line ceases to be a border from the Pearl River to the Perdido River in order to provide the states of Mississippi and Alabama with seaports.)

This boundary had been in dispute since the British had expanded the territory of the Florida colonies while it was in their possession. They had moved the boundary from the 31st parallel north, northwards to a line drawn due east from the junction of the Yazoo River and the Mississippi, the present day location of Vicksburg, Mississippi. After the American Revolutionary War, Spain claimed the British border at the day of the Treaty of Paris while the United States insisted on the old boundary.

The treaty directed the United States and Spain to jointly survey the boundary line, and Andrew Ellicott served as the head of the U.S survey party. The treaty set the western boundary of the United States, separating it from the Spanish Colony of Louisiana as the middle of the Mississippi River from the northern boundary of the United States to the 31st degree north latitude. The agreement therefore put the lands of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations of American Indians within the new boundaries of the United States.[5] The United States and Spain agreed not to incite native tribes to warfare. Previously, Spain had been supplying weapons to local tribes for many years. Spain and the United States also agreed to protect the vessels of the other party anywhere within their jurisdictions and to not detain or embargo the other's citizens or vessels. The treaty also guaranteed navigation of the entire length of the river for both the United States and Spain. The territory ceded by Spain in this treaty was organized by the United States into the Mississippi Territory in 1798.

Manifest Destiny[edit]

Grant (1997) argues that the Treaty was critical for the emergence of American expansionism (later known as "Manifest Destiny"), because control of the Natchez and Tombigbee districts were needed for America's dominance of the Southwest. The collapse of Spanish power in the region was inevitable as Americans poured into the district, and very few Spaniards lived there. Spain gave up the area for reasons of international politics, not local unrest. Spanish rule was accepted by the French and British settlers near Natchez. Relations with the Indians were tranquil. However, with the loss of Natchez, Spain's frontier was no longer secure and the rest of her territory was lost piecemeal.


Under the secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso of October 1, 1800, Louisiana and an undefined portion of West Florida were formally transferred back to France, although the Spanish continued to administer it. The terms of the treaty did not specify the boundaries of the territory being returned. When France then sold the Louisiana Territory to the US in 1803, a dispute arose again between Spain and the United States Of America on which parts of West Florida exactly had Spain ceded to France, which would in turn decide which parts of West Florida were now US property versus Spanish property.[6]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. Pinckney's Treaty: A Study of America's Advantage from Europe's Distress, 1783-1800 (1926; 2nd ed. 1960).
  • Grant, Ethan. "The Treaty of San Lorenzo and Manifest Destiny" Gulf Coast Historical Review, 1997, Vol. 12 Issue 2, pp 44–57
  • Young, Raymond A. "Pinckney's Treaty - A New Perspective," Hispanic American Historical Review, Nov 1963, Vol. 43 Issue 4, pp 526–539


  1. ^ Samuel Flagg Bemis, Pinckney's Treaty: A Study of America's Advantage from Europe's Distress, 1783-1800 (1926; 2nd ed. 1960).
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gerard H. Clarfield,"Victory in the West: A Study of the Role of Timothy Pickering in the Successful Consummation of Pinckney's Treaty." Essex Institute Historical Collections 101.4 (1965): 333+.
  4. ^ Avalon Project of Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale University
  5. ^ O'Brien, Greg (2005) [2002]. "Choctaw and Power". Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750–1830. University of Nebraska Press. 
  6. ^ Raymond A. Young,"Pinckney's Treaty - A New Perspective," Hispanic American Historical Review, Nov 1963, Vol. 43 Issue 4, pp 526–539

External links[edit]