Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO BENJAMIN KISSAM. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY TO BENJAMIN KISSAM. - 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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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.
[1 ]This and the letter following were exchanged between Jay and Kissam while the latter was temporarily absent from New York on professional business.