One of the most important diplomatic aims of the Washington administration was to secure recognition of American borders from the great powers. Britain did so in Jay's Treaty (negotiated in 1794 and ratified in 1795). France was unlikely to cooperate on any issue, given that the United States had failed to honor the alliance of 1778. Spain at this time held the prized port of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Thomas Pinckney, U.S. minister to Britain, was dispatched to Spain and won two highly desirable concessions:
- Spain recognized U.S. borders at the Mississippi and the 31st parallel (the northern border of Florida, a Spanish possession)
- Spain granted Americans the right to deposit goods for transshipment at New Orleans.
The second provision was a vital concern of American farmers in the West. Efforts to transport their goods to market in the East by overland routes were time-consuming and expensive. The right of deposit allows one nation to temporarily store goods on another nation's soil without paying any fees or duties.
Spain granted these concessions to the United States, not from fear of America's military might, but from concern over major power diplomatic realities.
Spain was a rival of Britain and noted the warming relationship between Britain and the U.S. as evidenced in Jay's Treaty. Therefore, Spain hoped to keep Britain off balance by establishing a positive relationship with America.