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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9


This note contained in document ADMS-06-09-02-0087
3. JA is referring to the “Act Separate and Secret,” signed on 6 Feb. 1778 in conjunction with the Franco-American treaties of alliance and commerce (Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:45–46). The “Act” provided for Spain's accession to the treaties whenever it “shall judge proper.” This commitment was and continued to be one-sided, for in discussions with American representatives Spain never obligated itself to form a treaty connection with the United States or even to recognize American independence.
Although there is no indication that he had any knowledge of its content, specific or otherwise, JA might just as well have been referring to an article of the secret Convention of Aranjuez, signed by France and Spain on 12 April 1779. The provisions of that agreement, which brought Spain into the war and set down the war aims of the two nations, conflicted with those of the Franco-American treaties on several points, but from the standpoint of JA's concern over the lack of a quid pro quo the most important article would have been that obligating France to continue the war until Gibraltar had been returned to Spain. Taken in conjunction with the prohibition against a separate peace in the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance, this meant that no Anglo-American peace treaty could be concluded until Gibraltar had been conquered, while Spain had no obligation either to recognize American independence or to make such recognition a sine qua non of a peace settlement (Henri Doniol, ed., Histoire de la participation de la France à l'établissement des Etats-Unis d'Amérique, 5 vols., Paris, 1886–1899, 3:803–810; Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:38–39).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/