My dear Genl

In the full confidence you receive my letters as testimonials of my
unceasing respect, and from a solicitude to acquaint you with all
material contingencys in the administration of our national affairs,
that you may be able to form your judgement on authentic documents, and
consequently that your opinions being bottomed on truth may not fail to
produce the most beneficial effects to our country, I again address
you, and mean to confine myself to one subject, which will I apprehend
soon become the topic of public debate. Among the defects which degrade
the constitution of the fœderal gœvernment is the physical
impossibility of secrecy in the sovereignty, therefore it is often
necessary to make confidential communications, when they serve to
correct the circulation of erroneous informations on subjects of
national concern which in their nature is secret, but from the cause
just mentioned become public. Considering myself therefore at full
liberty to give you a history of this business, I will do it with
brevity.

We are told here that the decided difference which prevailed in Congress on
the proposed treaty with Spain is generally understood in every part of
the Union, and it is suggested that the project of the treaty will
become the subject of deliberation in the Assembly of Virga.

True it is that this affair unfortunately produced an intemperance common
in democratic bodys & always impervious to the interest of the
public; for to judge wisely on systems & measures, the mind ought
to be free from prejudice & warmth, and influenced by a full
deliberate view of the general effects of such system & measures.

The eastern states consider a commercial connexion with Spain, as the only
remedy for the distresses which oppress their citizens, most of which
they say flow from the decay of their commerce. Their delegates have
consequently zealously pressed the formation of this connexion, as the
only effectual mode to revive the trade of their country. In this
opinion they have been joined by two of the middle states. On the other
hand, Virginia has with equal zeal opposed the connection, because the
project involves expressly the disuse of the navigation of the
Mississippi for a given time, & eventually they think will
sacrifice our right to it. The delegation is under instructions from
the state on this subject. They have acted in obedience to their
instructions & myself excepted in conformity to their private
sentiments. I confess that I am by no means convinced of the justice or
policy of our instructions & very much apprehend, unless they are
repealed by the present Assembly the fatal effects of discord in
council will be experienced by the U. States in a very high degree.

The project submitted by the secretary for foreign affairs was founded as
well as I can recollect on the following principles –

1st. The commerce between the U.S. & the King of Spain to be founded on
the principles of perfect reciprocity, which reciprocity to be diffused
in all the sub-regulations.

2d. The trade to be confined to his Catholic Majestys European dominions.

3d. The bona fide manufactures & produce of the respective countrys
imported into either, to be subject to the same dutys as are paid by
the citizens and subjects of the two Nations.

4h. A Tariff to be established by convention within one year after the
ratification of the treaty ascertaining the necessary dutys, to be
imposed.

5th. Mast & timber annually requisite for the Navy of Spain to be
bought from the Merchants of the U. States in preference, provided they
are equal in price and quality.

There are some other matters which I forget. In consideration of the
advantages of this treaty the US stipulate to forbear for the term of
the treaty the use of the river M. The boundarys will be (in case of
treaty) established as fixed in the definitive treaty of peace between
the U States and G. Britain.

The article of tobacco is excepted in the project being the produce of
Spanish colonies & is to continue on the present footing, which is
favorable.

Thus have I delineated to You the outlines of the proposed plan.

Among the many arguments used by the advocates for the treaty I will
mention only one which I think ought to be known. They say that the
right of the navigation of the M, is disputed, that the use of that
right is now suspended & cannot be possessed, but by force, or by
treaty; and that a forbearance of the use on our part, is a
confirmation of our right, the use of which right will be in due time
possessed in consequence of the present project without putting our
claim to the issue of war, which is always precarious, & for which
we are totally unprepared.

Should this matter come before our Assembly, much will depend on Mr. Masons
sentiments.

So many reasons founded on true policy will arise in a full investigation
of this subject, that I cannot but hope that the state of Virginia will
consider a treaty with Spain on the principles of the project,
essentially necessary to her political happiness, and to her commercial
aggrandizement.

The sedition in Massachusetts is in some degree subsided, but is not I fear
extinguished.

Col. Monroe who was an aid in Lord Stirlings family, a delegate from
Virginia in Congress will in a few days return home with his lady.

He means to do himself the honor to pay his respects to Mount-Vernon in his
way.

My best respects to Mrs. Washington: with the most affectionate
attachment I have the honor to be your h. ser.,

Henry Lee Junr.
NOTES:

Receiver’s copy, Washington Papers, Library of Congress.