Gilbert C. Din


"I look forward to a time, not very far distant, when . . . the whole [of Georgia] will be settled and connected . . . to the banks of the Mississippi." Judge George Walton of Wilkes County, Georgia, who spoke these words in 1785, visualized the expansion of his state after the assembly had that year enacted a law for the erection of Bourbon County on the Mississippi’s east bank. The new county extended along the Father of Waters from the Yazoo River to the thirty-first parallel. In creating it, Georgia based itself on the 1783 peace treaty with Britain which ceded to the United States lands down to the thirty-first parallel. The same treaty gave the new nation the right to navigate the Mississippi throughout its course. Britain’s generous treaty concessions to the United States, however, failed to take into account the Spanish conquest of West Florida in the American Revolution and Britain’s own recognition of the Floridas as Spanish in a separate treaty. Spain also claimed lands north of the Yazoo (Britain’s northern boundary of West Florida) and eastward to the Appalachian mountains. Moreover the Spaniards, in refusing to grant the United States the navigation of the Mississippi where it possessed both banks, closed the river to Americans in 1784. While Spain had not obtained a clear definition of its boundaries and rights in the peace treaties, it intended to resolve disputed points in direct negotiations with the United States. For this purpose, the Spanish court named Diego de Gardoqui as its envoy to the United States in late 1784, and he arrived in the new republic in mid-1785.2 Before that time, however, Georgia had created Bourbon County, which was the Natchez district of West Florida, and authorized commissioners to take peaceful possession of it.