A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Spain


The Continental Congress of the United States of America sent John Jay to Spain in 1779 in an attempt to convince the Spanish Court to recognize the new nation. Jay spent two years there to no success. Madrid was unwilling to risk relations with the Congress in Philadelphia until it became apparent that Britain and the United States were actually going to sign a treaty to end the war and recognized U.S. independence. Since 1783, when Spain did eventually recognize the United States, the two countries have broken relations just once, when they went to war against each other in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Currently Spain is a constitutional monarchy, a member of the European Union and NATO.

Modern Flag of Spain


Spanish Recognition of U.S. Independence, 1783.

Spain recognized the United States of America when Madrid officially received William Carmichael as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on February 20, 1783.

Consular Presence

U.S. Consulate in Barcelona, 1797.

The United States opened a consulate in Barcelona on December 29th, 1797. It served briefly as the U.S. Embassy in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1783.

Future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Jay was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary on September 29, 1779, and proceeded to Madrid shortly thereafter. However, he was never formally received by the Spanish Court due to the intricacies of Spanish involvement in the war against Great Britain at the time. The Spanish did not officially establish diplomatic relations with the United States until the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, William Carmichael, was officially received at the court in Madrid on February 20, 1783.

First Spanish Envoy in the United States, 1785.

The United States received Spanish Chargé d’Affaires Don Diego Gardoqui in June 1785.

Establishment of the American Legation in Madrid, 1783.

William Carmichael was officially received by Madrid as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, February 20, 1783, though he had been in Spain since May 1782.

Severance of Relations, 1898.

Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21, 1898, and U.S. Minister Stewart Woodford closed the legation in Madrid on that day. The United States declared war on Spain as of that date by an Act of Congress approved April 25, 1898.

Reestablishment of Relations, 1899.

After the Spanish-American War, the United States appointed Bellamy Storer as Minister on April 12, 1899, and he presented his credentials to Spain on June 16, 1899.

Elevation of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1913.

Joseph E. Williard, though originally appointed as Envoy, was made Ambassador on September 10, 1913, and presented his credentials on October 31, 1913.

American Legation Moves During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the American Embassy moved briefly to the U.S. consulate in Barcelona and then to St. Jean de Luz, France, where U.S. Ambassador to Spain Claude Bowers spent the last part of his assignment. The Embassy was re-established in Spain on April 13, 1939, when H. Freeman Matthews was received at Burgos as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Treaties & Agreements

Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation, 1795.

Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation, 1795. On October 27, 1795, Spain signed a Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation with the United States.


  • Department of State Country Fact Sheet: Spain
  • Department of State Country Information: Spain