Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1766. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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1766. - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 1 (1763-1781).
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BENJAMIN KISSAM TO JAY.
I have been strongly sollicited to take a Jaunt with Mr. Inglis to Philadelphia, and he proposes to set off on Tuesday next. I have consented to go provided my horse is well, and news of the Repeal of the Stamp Act should not arrive in the mean time.
Will you then be good enough to send my Horse down by a careful hand, if he is fit to go the Journey. As upon the Repeal of the Stamp Act, we shall doubtless have a Luxuriant Harvest of Law, I would not willingly, after the long Famine we have had, miss reaping my part of the crop. Should this news arrive in my absence, I shall upon hearing it, immediately return, and as soon as it reaches you I beg you ’ll come down and be ready to secure all Business that offers. Mr. Hicks will give you any assistance you may want, in case any thing difficult should turn up.2 Make my Complts: to Mr. & Mrs. Jay & all the Family—
I am your affectionate
25 April, 1766.
To Mr. John Jay, near Rye.
JAY TO BENJAMIN KISSAM.
New-York, 12th August, 1766.
To tell you that I often find myself at a loss for something to say, would be telling you nothing new; but to inform you that whenever I sit down to write, my invention makes a point of quarrelling with my pen, will doubtless be to account for the . . . in my letters. In writing to those who, I know, prefer honest hearts to clear heads, I turn thought out of doors, and set down the first ideas that turn up in the whirl of imagination. You desire me “to give you some account of the business of the office”: whether my apprehension is more dull than common, or whether I have slept too late this morning and the drowsy god is still hovering over my senses, or from what other cause, matter, or thing I know not; but I really do not well understand what you would have me do. You surely do not mean that I should send you a list of new causes on your docket; for I imagine ’t is perfectly indifferent whether you receive a fee in the cause A. vs. B., or B. vs. A.: the number of them, indeed, may (as the New-England lawyers’ phrase is) be a matter of some speculation. And, therefore, to remove every hook and loop whereon to hang a doubt, I won’t acquaint you that there are a good many; for you and I may annex different ideas to these words—but that you have ——— new ones in the Supreme, and ——— in the Mayor’s Court.
If by wanting to know how matters go on in the office, you intend I shall tell you how often your clerks go into it; give me leave to remind you of the old law maxim, that a man’s own evidence is not to be admitted in his own cause. Why? Because ’t is ten to one he does violence to his conscience. If I should tell you that I am all day in the office, and as attentive to your interests as I would be to my own, I suspect you would think it such an impeachment of my modesty as would not operate very powerfully in favour of my veracity. And if, on the other hand, I should tell you that I make hay while the sun shines, and say unto my soul,—“Soul, take thy rest, thy lord is journeying to a far country,” I should be much mistaken, if you did not think the confession looked too honest to be true.
When people in the city write to their friends in the country, I know, it is expected that their letters should contain the news of the town. For my part, I make it a rule never to frustrate the expectations of my correspondents in this particular, if I can help it; and that as much for my own sake as for theirs: for it not only saves one’s invention a good deal of fatigue, but fills up blank paper very agreeably. Things remain here, if I may speak in your own language, pretty much in statu quo. Some, with reluctance, shuffling off this mortal coil; and others solacing themselves in the arms of mortality. The ways of men, you know, are as circular as the orbit through which our planet moves, and the centre to which they gravitate is self: round this we move in mystic meas ures, dancing to every tune that is loudest played by heaven or hell. Some, indeed, that happen to be jostled out of place, may fly off in tangents like wandering stars, and either lose themselves in a trackless void, or find another way to happiness; but for the most part, we continue to frolic till we are out of breath; then the music ceases, and we fall asleep. It is said you want more soldiers. I suspect Mr. Morris was lately inspired by some tutelar deity. If I remember right, he carried a great many flints with him. Good Lord deliver you from battle, murder, and from sudden death.
Pray, how do all these insignia of war and bloodshed sit upon Sam Jones’ lay stomach. I wonder how he can bear to see Justice leaning on an officer’s arm, without getting a fit of the spleen; or behold the forum surrounded with guards, without suffering his indignation to trespass on his stoicism. I dare say he is not much pleased with such unusual pomp of justice, such unprecedented array of terror; and would rather see the court hop lamely along upon her own legs, than walk tolerably well with the assistance of such crutches. God bless him. I wish there were many such men among us; they would reduce things to just principles.
I have just read over what I have written, and find it free enough in all conscience. Some folks, I know, would think it too free, considering the relation we stand in to each other.
If I were writing to some folks, prudence would tell me to be more straight-laced: but I know upon what ground I stand; and professional pride shall give me no uneasiness, while you continue to turn it, with Satan behind your back.
BENJAMIN KISSAM TO JAY.
I just now received your long letter of the 12th inst., and am not a little pleased with the humour and freedom of sentiment which characterize it. It would give me pain if I thought you could even suspect me capable of wishing to impose any restraint upon you, in this high and inestimable privilege of friendship. Because I can see no reason why the rights of one relation in life should destroy those of another, I detest that forbidding pride which, with formal ceremony, can stalk over the social rights of others, and elevate the soul in a vain conceit of its own dignity and importance; founded merely in some adventitious circumstance of relative superiority. Take this, therefore, if you please, as a nolli prosequi for the heinous crime of writing a free and familiar letter to me; with this further, that whenever you transgress in the other extreme, you must not expect to meet with the same mercy.
I really believe, Jay, your pen was directed by the rapid whirl of imagination; nay, I am convinced that this whirl was begun, continued, and ended with a strong tide. I can’t help conceiving it under the idea of a mill-tide, which keeps the wheels in a quick rotation, save only with this difference, that the motion of that is uniform, yours irregular—an irregularity, however, that bespeaks the grandeur, not the meanness of the intellectual source from whence the current flows. . . .
I will now explain to you what I meant by asking how business went in the office. And first, negatively, I did not want a list or the number of the new causes; neither was I anxious to know how often you visited the office. But, as a regard to your modesty on the one hand, and your veracity on the other, has induced you to evade an answer to the last, I will, nevertheless, solve the dilemma for you by saying, that I believe you have too much veracity to assume a false modesty, and that you are too honest to declare an untruth. And, as you have left me between two extremes, I shall take the middle way; and do suppose that, upon the whole, you attend the office as much as you ought to do; so that you see I save both your modesty and veracity, and answer the question as you state it into the bargain.
But, affirmatively, I am to tell you, that I did mean to ask in general, whether my business decreased much by my absence; and whether my returns at the last term were pretty good; and whether care has been taken to put that business forward as much as possible. I conclude, however, that though you did not take me, as the Irishman said, yet these things have been properly attended to.
Here we are, and are likely to be so, I am afraid, these ten days. There are no less than forty-seven persons charged, all upon three several indictments, with the murder of those persons who lost their lives in the affray with the sheriff. Four or five of them are in jail, and will be tried this day: what their fate will be, God only knows; it is terrible to think that so many lives should be at stake upon the principles of a constructive murder: for I suppose that the immediate agency of but a very few of the party can be proved. . . .
I am, your affectionate friend,
Albany, the 25th of August, 1766.
[1 ]See preceding letter and note.
[2 ]On the following day, April 26th, Kissam wrote again to Jay: “We were last night strangely deluded with a mistaken account of the Repeal of the Stamp Act, and all the Bells have been ringing since Break of Day. Upon inquiry we find that the intelligence amounts to no more than that the Bill had passed the House of Commons on the 28 of Feb.y and was to be sent up to the Lords on the 3d March. There is indeed a Letter dated at Falmouth on the 5th of March which says the Stamp Act is repealed, but this can be no more than its having passed the House of Commons, which we find they commonly call a Repeal.”
[1 ]This and the letter following were exchanged between Jay and Kissam while the latter was temporarily absent from New York on professional business.