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Onis, Luis de

Observations On the Conducts of Our Executive Towards Spain. [Georgetown. 1813]. 25 pp. This volume bears a modern three quarter calf binding with marbled boards. The printed wrappers are lacking.

In 1810 residents of West Florida near the Mississippi River revolted against Spain and requested annexation to the United States. Many settlers from the western states had emigrated to this area and Spain was in danger of losing its political hold on the region The settlers were extremely unhappy under the rule of the Spanish Governor Vincente Folch. President Madison proclaimed the right to West Florida by virtue of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1811 Congress passed a resolution asserting authority over the territory. This action drew howls of protest from Spain, although the objections met with little sympathy. In the present document (which is signed only at the end by "Verus" but undoubtedly written by Luis de Onis, the subsequent Spanish ambassador), Onis defends Spain's title to West Florida and attacks American claims that the Brazos River constitutes the western boundary of Louisiana. He also protests against the Guiterrez de Lara filibuster from Natchitoches into Texas. In 1819 Onis negotiated the sale of Florida to the United States, settling the question of the western boundary of Louisiana and Texas in the same treaty. This is the second of three pamphlets Onis wrote attacking American aggression in the South and West.

Luis de Onis was a native of the town of Cantalapiedra in the province of Salamanca. He studied law at the University of Salamanca and in 1780 became the personal secretary to his uncle, Don Jose de Onis, ambassador to Saxony. In 1792, Luis de Onis was chosen to be minister to the United States, but his appointment was prevented due to the fall of the Cabinet of Floridablanca. Onis remained in Germany until 1798, when he was made official of the ministry of state in Madrid. In 1809, he was chosen to represent the Junta Central and the king in Washington. Due to the uncertainty of the Spanish Civil War, however, he was not immediately recognized in the United States. Onis remained in America and began publishing pamphlets justifying Spain's interests on the continent. Three of these treatises were published under the pseudonym "Verus," and were published in 1810, 1812, and 1817. This volume contains a translation of the second pamphlet. Onis appealed to the citizens of both the United States to honor the rights of the Spanish colonies and their citizens.

However, the occupation of West Florida has been carried into execution; and new measures and exertions do appear from day to day, calculating to bring the violence and hostilities against the Spanish nation to the highest degree: so that every citizen of America, who has the honour and welfare of his country at heart, cannot be insensible to such baneful abuses, and to such a fatal mischievousness. Very often the human mind, when waxed warm with ambition and pride, acknowledges neither rules not duties; and by sailing with supreme dominion through the azure deep of the air, or wantoning in giddy circles, it thinks to reach the utmost summit of power, grandeur and fame; but, like the presumptuous Icarus of mythology, it falls down to ruin and opprobium.

Onis continues his narrative, complaining of the actions of the present administration in the United States and providing examples of the many slights against Spain and her colonies. He appeals to public citizens to recognize the wrongdoing of its leaders.

Citizens of America, either democrats or federalists, we are all brethren, and all equally concerned in the safety and happiness of our republic. It is settled on the venerable principles of justice, good faith, moderation, and honour; but alas! you must confess, that they are undermined, and that the majestic structure of the virtues, and the wisdom of our fathers, is much endangered as to be already tottering, and ready to fall. The measures and exertions adopted by our executive against the Spanish nation, are to be heard with astonishment and execration in every quarter of the world.

Onis concludes his treatise:

Let my good fellow citizens reflect on this subject, as on the whole strain of the observations I added above to those displayed in my first number. They are evinced all with impartiality, strictly conducted under the light of reason and truth, and settled upon the wisest principles, which can alone be permanently sustain a free republic. Our administration must listen to this series of undeniable facts, decisive arguments, and infallible evidences, with an unbiassed mind, and do honour to themselves. Such are the general wishes, and the true interests of America.