Thomas Jefferson to Gouverneur Morris
New York, 12 August 1790.
Autograph letter signed, 2 pages + docket.
Aug. 12. 1790.
Your letter of May 29. to the President of the United states has been duly recieved. you
have placed their proposition of exchanging a Minister on proper ground. it must certainly come
from them & come in unequivocal form. with those who respect their own dignity so much, ours
must not be counted at nought. on their own proposal formerly to exchange a minister, we sent
them one. they have taken no notice of that, and talk of agreeing to exchange one now, as if the
idea were new. __ besides what they are saying to you, they are talking to us thro' Quebec; but
so informally that they may disavow it when they please. it would only oblige them to make the
fortune of the poor Major whom they would pretend to sacrifice. thro' him they talk of a
minister, a treaty of commerce and alliance. if the object of the latter be honorable, it is useless;
if dishonorable, inadmissible. these tamperings prove they view a war as very possible; & some
symptoms indicate design against the Spanish possessions adjoining us. the consequences of
their acquiring all the country on our frontier from the S
Croix to the S
. Mary's are too obvious
to you to need development. you will readily see the dangers which would then environ us. we
wish you therefore to intimate to them that we cannot be indifferent to enterprises of this kind.
that we should contemplate a change of neighbors with extreme uneasiness; & that a due balance
on our borders is not less desireable to us, than a balance of power in Europe has always
appeared to them. We wish to be neutral, and we will be so,  if they will execute the treaty
fairly, and attempt no conquests adjoining us. the first condition is just: the 2
. imposes no
hardship on them. they cannot complain that the other dominions of Spain would be so narrow
as not to leave them room enough for conquest. if the war takes place, we would really wish to
be quieted on these two points, offering in return an honorable neutrality. more than this they are
not to expect. it will be proper that these ideas be conveyed in delicate and friendly terms; but
that they be conveyed if the war takes place; for it is in that case alone, & not till it be begun, that
we would wish our dispositions to be known. but in no case need they think of our accepting any
equivalent for the posts.