Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, August 29, 1790
Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress
As tensions simmer between Great Britain and Spain, Thomas Jefferson writes to George Washington about the possibility of British troops crossing American soil to confront the Spanish. In this note, he offers further comments to the note penned August 28, 1790.
Opinion on the question whether it will be expedient to notify to Lord Dorchester the real object of the expedition preparing by Governor St. Clair.
On considering more fully the question whether it will be expedient to notify to Lord Dorchester the real object of the expedition preparing by Governor St. Clair, I still think it will not be expedient.
For, if the notification be early, he will get the Indians out of the way, and defeat our object.
If it be so late as not to leave him time to withdraw them before our stroke be struck, it will then be so late also as not to leave him time to withdraw any secret aids he may have sent them. And the notification will betray to him that he may go on without fear in his expedition against the Spaniards, and for which he may yet have suificient time after our expedition is over.
On the other hand, if he should suspect our preparations are to prevent his passing our territory, these suspicions may induce him to decline his expedition; as, even should he think he could either force or steal a passage, he would not divide his troops, leaving (as he would suppose) an enemy between them able to take those he should leave, and cut off the return of those he should carry.
These suspicions, too, would mislead both him and the Indians, and so enable us to take the latter more completely by surprise; and prevent him from sending secret aid to those whom he would not suppose the objects of the enterprise; thus eifecting a double purpose of preventing his enterprise, and securing our own.
Might it not even be expedient, with a view to deter his enterprise, to instruct Governor St. Claireither to continue his pursuit of the Indians till the season be too far advanced for Lord Dorchester to move; or, on disbanding his militia, to give them general orders (which might reach the ears of Lord Dorchester) to be ready to assemble at a moment's warning, though no such assembly be really intended?
Always taking care neither to say nor do, against their passage, what might directly commit either our Peace, or Honour.