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At one time or another more than one-half the present territory of the United States has been subject to the sovereign of Spain. From Mexico, the Spaniards claimed the country northward indefinitely. Cortez discovered California, and Spanish missionaries planted the cross far up the Pacific coast. In the interior, the Spanish adventurers west of the Rocky Mountains penetrated far to the northward—almost to the present southern boundary of the British possessions—in search of the precious metals, and everywhere they planted the Spanish tokens of sovereignty. They held possession of the country along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico (Florida and Texas) until a comparatively recent period. Everywhere that Spanish missionaries and traders gained a foothold the cross and the royal arms were set up. In 1507 King Ferdinand established a court which he called Casa de Contratacion, or Board of Trade, to which he committed the administration of American affairs.

The French under the lead of La Salle made the first European settlement in Texas. In 1714 the Viceroy of Mexico proceeded to colonize the country with Spaniards by planting missions in that territory. One was established at Natchitoches, within the present limits of Louisiana, another west of the Sabine, and others at different points. The establishment of these missions was under the direction of Capt. Don Domingo Ramo, and they were first in the hands of the Franciscans. The mission stations were really Spanish military posts. When war between France and Spain broke out in 1718, the French broke up these posts, but they were soon re-established. Down to 1720, the only Spanish inhabitants of Texas were in the missions, but in that year the Spanish government ordered the transportation of 400 families from the Canaries to Texas, but only thirteen families arrived that year and settled at San Antonio. This new population stimulated the missions to greater efforts. A Spanish governor of Texas was appointed. The population of Texas increased but slowly. As late as 1744 it did not exceed 1,500 souls. That province remained in the possession of Spain until the independence of Mexico was achieved, and it was part of that republic until it won its own independence in 1836.

War was begun by Great Britain against Spain in 1739, and Admiral Vernon was sent with a squadron to act against the Spanish dominions in the West Indies. He sailed from Jamaica with six ships, attacked Porto Bello (Nov. 21), and captured it. He blew up the castle and fortifications there and returned to Jamaica. The next year a great fleet was despatched to reinforce Vernon, who held possession of Porto Bello and Chagres, on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama, depots for all merchandise destined for the Pacific coast. The fleet conveyed an army of 12,000 men, led by General Cathcart, and the number of seamen amounted to 15,000. The army was composed of British regulars, battalions from the American colonies, and negroes from Jamaica—the greatest armament ever seen in the West Indies. The second in command of the troops was Sir Alexander Spottswood (q. v.), formerly governor of Virginia. The expedition met with disaster. While the fleet, with the soldiers yet on hoard the transports, was blockading Carthagena, the yellow fever broke out among them with great fury. Cathcart and Spottswood perished by the disease, and the command devolved on General Wentworth, who could not agree with Vernon. After several unsuccessful attacks upon [287] the city, the enterprise was abandoned, with immense loss, chiefly through sickness. Additional troops were sent from Massachusetts, and, with them, Vernon sailed for Cuba, but was unsuccessful. A fleet under Anson, which had been sent to the Pacific to repeat the exploits of Drake on the American coast, was equally unsuccessful. England then found herself (1742) threatened with a war with France. The war, really begun through the resolution of British merchants to force a trade with Spanish America, after spreading first to Europe and then to India, and adding nearly $150,000,000 to the British national debt, was brought to a close by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in the autumn of 1748.

“The position and strength of the countries occupied by the Americans,” said Grimaldi, the Spanish minister, in 1769, “excites a just alarm for the rich Spanish possessions on their borders. They have already introduced their grain and rice into our colonies by a commerce of interlopers. If this introduction should be legalized and extended to other objects of commerce, it would effectually increase the power and prosperity of a neighbor already too formidable. Moreover, should this neighbor separate from its metropolis, it would assume the republican form of government—and a republic is a government dangerous, from the wisdom, the consistency, and the solidity of the measures which it would adopt for executing such projects of conquest as it would naturally form.” This was the reply of the Spanish minister to a suggestion of establishing free-trade in America. Grimaldi's fears were prophetic.

During the Revolutionary War the Spanish Court was more hostile to the American cause than any other in Europe, for it was seen that encouragement to the revolt might hasten the independence of the Spanish-American colonies. Spain was not only hostile in principle, but was willing to be actively meddlesome in checking the good offices of France towards the United States. Soon after the arrival in Philadelphia, in 1778, of the first French minister, a Spanish emissary (Juan de Miralles) appeared there, without any authority, but was received as a friend and diplomatic agent of Spain by the unsuspecting Congress. He was only a spy. France had pressed Spain to join her in helping the Americans, but the latter had steadily refused, and when a despatch announcing the treaty reached Madrid the government was amazed, and saw spectres of colonial losses in the near future. Florida Blanca, the Spanish minister, suspected the good faith of the French; and when in April (1778) the French ambassador at Madrid asked him at what time Spain would take part in the war against Great Britain, he burst out into a tirade against the French policy. “The American deputies,” he said, “are treated like the Roman consuls, to whom the kings of the East came to ask support.” Blanca soon began the meditation of intrigues with Great Britain to crush or reduce the growing power of the United States.

Early in 1779 the Spanish Court offered to be a mediator between France and Great Britain. Pending this affair the French minister (Gerard) had urged the Continental Congress to fix what terms of peace they would accept and to appoint ministers authorized to negotiate. The Spanish offer was at first evaded and then rejected by Great Britain, when the Spanish Court published a manifesto, which was equivalent to a declaration of war against England, and so, indirectly, gave aid to the United States. France, financially weak, now wished for peace, and therefore the minister suggested to Congress measures for securing it.

In 1795 Thomas Pinckney was sent on a special mission to Spain, where he negotiated a treaty which settled a longpending dispute concerning the Spanish boundary and the navigation of the Mississippi River. This treaty was signed at Madrid by Thomas Pinckney and El Principe de la Paz on Oct. 20, 1795. It fixed the Florida boundary at lat. 31° N., between the Mississippi and the Apalachicola, and east of the Apalachicola a line from the junction of the Flint to the head of the St. Mary, and thence by that river to the sea. The navigation of the Mississippi was to be free to both parties throughout its entire extent. The Americans were to enjoy a right of deposit at New Orleans for three years, at the end of which period either this [288] privilege was to be continued, or an equivalent establishment was to be assigned them at some other convenient point on the lower Mississippi. Neither party was to make alliances with the Indian tribes living within the territories of the other, nor was either party to allow its Indians to carry hostilities into the territories of the other. It made stipulations concerning commerce and neutral rights, and a board of commissioners was provided for to liquidate losses on the part of the Americans in consequence of illegal captures by Spanish cruisers, such losses to be paid by the Spanish crown.

The rising of the people of the Spanish-American provinces to secure their political independence of Spain began soon after the royal family of Portugal abandoned Europe and took refuge in Brazil in 1807. The rising began in Buenos Ayres, Venezuela, and Chile. In 1810 Mexico revolted, but did not secure its independence until 1821. The other states followed at various intervals, Bolivia, in 1824, being the last. The people of the United States naturally sympathized with these movements. When the diplomatic appropriation bill came up in Congress, March 24, 1818, Henry Clay moved to insert an appropriation for a minister to the new South American republic of La Plata. Early in the session of 1819 he proposed the acknowledgment of the South American republics, but it was considered premature. He brought the question before Congress again early in 1821, when the House of Representatives adopted resolutions to that effect. In his annual message (Dec. 3, 1821), President Monroe called the attention of Congress to these republics, suggesting that they were really independent of Spain and deserved acknowledgment. In accordance with these suggestions, a resolution was offered in the House of Representatives in January, 1822, for recognizing the independence of Mexico and five provinces of South America formerly under the dominion of Spain. The vote in the House in favor was nearly unanimous, and $100,000 were appropriated to defray the expenses of envoys to those republics, who were soon afterwards appointed by the President. Before these States had assumed a permanent shape, their independence was formally acknowledged by the United States, openly and boldly, in the face of the world. This measure was proposed by President Monroe in a special message, March 8, 1822. See Monroe, James.

On March 8, 1895, the United States mail-ship Allianca, on her homeward voyage from Colon to New York, when 6 miles from the coast of Cuba, was repeatedly fired upon by a Spanish gunboat with solid shot. The Windward Passage, where this took place, is the usual highway for vessels plying between ports of the United States and the Caribbean Sea. Captain Crossman, of the Allianca, paid no attention to the gunboat and escaped the Spanish vessel. Secretary of State Gresham at once cabled Minister Taylor at Madrid that this government must demand a prompt apology from Spain. The general position taken by the United States was in accordance with the following resolution passed by the Senate in June, 1858: “Any molestation by force or show of force on the part of a foreign power of an American vessel on the high seas in time of peace is in derogation of the sovereignty of the United States.” The Spanish minister at Washington complicated the matter somewhat by his intemperate utterances to newspaper men, declaring that Captain Crossman must have dreamed that he saw a gunboat. For a time the affair promised serious complications, but on proofs of the occurrences being furnished, Spain apologized.

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