Queries from the President to Members of the Cabinet
United States August 27th. 1790
Provided the dispute between Great Britain and Spain should come to the decision of Arms, from a variety of circumstances (individually unimportant and inconclusive, but very much the reverse when compared and combined) there is no doubt in my mind, that New Orleans and the Spanish Posts above it on the Mississippi will be among the first attempts of the former, and that the reduction of them will be undertaken by a combined operation from Detroit.
The Consequences of having so formidable and enterprizing a people as the British on both our flanks and rear, with their navy in front, as they respect our Western Settlements which may be seduced thereby, as they regard the Security of the Union and its commerce with the West Indies, are too obvious to need enumeration.
What then should be the Answer of the Executive of the United States to Lord Dorchester, in case he should apply for permission to march Troops through the Territory of the said States from Detroit to the Mississippi?
What notice ought to be taken of the measure, if it should be undertaken without leave, which is the most probable proceeding of the two?
The Opinion of the Secretary of State is requested in writing upon the above statement.
RC (DLC); in Lear's hand, signed by Washington. Recorded in SJPL but not in SJL. Another RC (DLC: Hamilton Papers). Dft (DLC: Washington Papers); in Humphreys' hand, with space left blank for designation of officer addressed and with following note at foot of text: “(Addressed thus separately to the Secretary of State, the Secy. of the Treasury, and the Secretary of War. Addressed to Mr. Jay thus: ‘Mr. Jay will oblige the Presidt. of the United States by giving his opinion in writing on the above Statement’”; accompanied by wrapper docketed by Lear: “Quaeries to and Opinions of the Vice-President, the heads of the Departments and Chief Justice of the U.S. of what Answer should be given if a Request should be made to March troops from the British territory to the Mississippi. 27th Augt. 1790.”