A Quaker Goes to Spain

Back to Diplomats and Diplomacy

A Quaker Goes to Spain:  The Diplomatic Mission of Anthony Morris, 1813–1816

quaker1The 51st volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series, this book tells the story of the unusual man sent to perform a vexing but largely forgotten diplomatic mission at the height of the War of 1812. As war with Britain intensified in the summer of 1813, President James Madison secretly dispatched an envoy to the Regency government of Spain with the urgent goal of thwarting a feared British bid to use Spanish Florida as a base for attack against the United States, and with the further hope of acquiring that territory for America. The man Madison sent to pursue those challenging tasks was Anthony Morris, a friend of Dolley’s from their youth in Philadelphia and a devout Quaker lawyer who had never before journeyed abroad. Morris, a widower, willingly accepted the president’s call, despite the separation it would impose upon him and his four teenage children.

Developments in Spain conspired to alter the Morris mission’s scope and prolong its duration, compelling Morris to persevere at his post long after the war had ended as the only American link to an unfriendly Spanish monarchy. As he dutifully did so, ill-founded accusations by two other frustrated American diplomats slurred his reputation. Meanwhile, he thirsted to rejoin his maturing children, whose lives were taking paths unlikely had he never left them.

No one has ever before recounted the full story of this distinctive but little-remembered diplomatic endeavor. Woolfley’s account reveals much about the frustration and confusion endemic to American diplomacy in the age of sail, when events often moved faster than the mails. Interwoven with that historical account is a poignant revelation of the spiritual and cultural growth that the steadfastly philosophical Anthony Morris reaped from his odyssey, as displayed in a stream of intimate, charming letters to the daughters he had left at home.

Former ambassador Peter Bridges called the book “a significant addition to the historiography of American diplomacy––an authoritative, well-sourced, and well-written account of how an American diplomatic agent sought to reestablish contact with the authorities of a country that had played a major role in both Europe and the Americas until Napoleon’s invasion of Iberia put down the Spanish kingdom.”

H. L. Dufour Woolfley, a retired officer of the United States Foreign Service, has held varied diplomatic and consular assignments centered on U.S. ties with Europe, including as political adviser to the commander of NATO’s southern flank. Prior to joining the Department of State he practiced law in his native Louisiana and served for three years in the United States Army. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University Law School (JD) and also studied at Robert College in Istanbul and the American University of Beirut. He is the author of Susquehanna Squire, The Story of William Lloyd (2005).

Select an Option

by H.L. Dufour Woolfley
Lehigh University Press, May 2013
212 pp, 9 illustrations, 3 maps, notes, bibliography, index
Hardcover $70.00 (members' price $55.00)

"“As a piece of American history, the book gives fascinating examples of the infant state of American diplomacy at the time –– the sloppiness, the lack of clarity in instructions and methods, and the internal feuds and backbiting that marked our diplomacy. It is as a family and social history, though, that the book makes its most interesting contribution, in tracing both the anxieties of a long separation on a close family circle and the reactions of a plain and devout American to the traditions, idolatry, and corruption of an Old World monarchy.”
GORDON S. BROWN, author of Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the American Revolution