PETER JAY TO WILLIAM LIVINGSTON.
Rye, the 31st January, 1774.
My son having informed me of his Inclination of being connected in your Family, and your favourable reception of his application, I take the earliest opportunity of acquainting you with our concurrence.
Tho’ we have not the pleasure of knowing the young Lady, yet the confidence we have in our son’s Prudence, satisfies us of the Propriety of his choice. Give me leave, Sir, to assure you that I will always readily adopt every measure that may conduce to their happiness, and tend to render the Connection between our Familys agreeable to both.
Be pleased to present our Compliments to Mrs. Livingston and the young Lady.
Sir, your very humble servant
To William Livingston, Esq., at Elizabethtown.
LETTER TO THE COMMITTEE OF CORRESPONDENCE, BOSTON.
New York, May 23, 1774.
The alarming measures of the British Parliament relative to your ancient and respectable town, which has so long been the seat of freedom, fill the inhabitants of this city with inexpressible concern. As a sister colony, suffering in defence of the rights of America, we consider your injuries as a common cause, to the redress of which it is equally our duty, and our interest to contribute. But what ought to be done in a situation so truly critical, while it employs the anxious thoughts of every generous mind, is very hard to be determined.
Our citizens have thought it necessary to appoint a large committee, consisting of fifty-one persons to correspond with our sister colonies on this and every other matter of public moment, and at ten o’clock this forenoon, we were first assembled. Your letter enclosing the vote of the town of Boston and the letter of your Committee of Correspondence were immediately taken into consideration.
While we think you justly entitled to the thanks of your sister colonies for asking their advice on a case of such extensive consequences, we lament our inability to relieve your anxiety by a decisive opinion. The cause is general, and concerns a whole continent who are equally interested with you and us; and we foresee that no remedy can be of avail unless it proceeds from the joint act and approbation of all. From a virtuous and spirited union much may be expected, while the feeble efforts of a few will only be attended with mischief and disappointment to themselves and triumph to the adversaries of liberty.
Upon these reasons we conclude, that a Congress of Deputies from the colonies in general is of the utmost moment; that it ought to be assembled without delay, and some unanimous resolutions formed in this fatal emergency, not only respecting your deplorable circumstances, but for the security of our common rights. Such being our sentiments, it must be premature to pronounce any judgment on the expedient which you have suggested. We beg, however, that you will do us the justice to believe that we shall continue to act with a firm and becoming regard to American freedom, and to co-operate with our sister colonies in every measure that shall be thought salutary and conducive to the public good.
We have nothing to add, but that we sincerely condole with you in your unexampled distress, and to request your speedy opinion of the proposed Congress, that if it should meet with your approbation, we may exert our utmost endeavours to carry it into execution.
John Jay. Com. on Draft of Letter.]
MISS PHILIPSE TO MRS. JAY.
Yonkers, July 1st .
You will I hope, my dear and amiable friend, excuse my not writing to you before. I have several times been prevented from doing myself that Pleasure; but as it is not yet too late, accept of my Congratulations on an event that has contributed so much to the felicity of my dear Mrs. Jay, and my ardent wishes for the long continuance of the Happiness you enjoy. The fan and gloves I received, and beg my thanks. It was no small mortification to me in not having it in my power to accept of your kind invitation by Cousin Kitty Livingston of being one of the Bridesmaids. In town I own that I had flattered myself with the pleasing expectation of being one of the number. Had it not been for my Papa (who thought the weather too warm for me to be in town) I should have reallized all those pleasures of which I had formed such a delightful idea. The being with my dear Mrs. Jay would have been my principal inducement, and spending with her some hours as agreeable as those I enjoyed at Elizabethtown. But apropos—Mama and I were a little Jealous at your stopping twice at Collo. Cortlandts and not once at Philipsborough, you being such a prodigious favourite. However, we all hope soon to be favoured with a visit from you and Mr. Jay. Papa and Mama beg their compts: to you and Mr. Jay with Congratulations.
Cousin Kitty Van Horne has spent three weeks with me and proposes staying a week longer. But, my dear Sally, do not you intend to favour me with a letter. Remember you are a long one in my debt, and that I cannot think of losing my correspondent. It would not indeed be generous in you in depriving me of so great an opportunity of improvement. If at Elizabethtown, please to give my love to Cousin Livingstons, and to Cousin Susan and Kitty, and believe me to be sincerely
Your truly affectionate Friend
Maria Eliza Philips.
Do not omit my Compts: to Mr. Jay & congratulations.
ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF GREAT BRITAIN.
From the Delegates appointed by the several English Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties on the Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, to consider their grievances in General Congress, at Philadelphia, September 5th, 1774.
When a nation, led to greatness by the hand of liberty, and possessed of all the glory that heroism, munificence, and humanity can bestow, descends to the ungrateful task of forging chains for her friends and children; and instead of giving support to freedom, turns advocate for slavery and oppression, there is reason to suspect she has either ceased to be virtuous, or been extremely negligent in the appointment of her rulers.
In almost every age, in repeated conflicts, in long and bloody wars, as well civil as foreign, against many and powerful nations, against the open assaults of enemies and the more dangerous treachery of friends, have the inhabitants of your island, your great and glorious ancestors, maintained their independence, and transmitted the rights of men and the blessings of liberty to you, their posterity.
Be not surprised, therefore, that we, who are descended from the same common ancestors; that we, whose forefathers participated in all the rights, the liberties, and the constitution you so justly boast of, and who have carefully conveyed the same fair inheritance to us, guaranteed by the plighted faith of government, and the most solemn compacts with British sovereigns, should refuse to surrender them to men who found their claims on no principles of reason, and who prosecute them with a design that, by having our lives and property in their power, they may with the greater facility enslave you.
The cause of America is now the object of universal attention: it has at length become very serious. This unhappy country has not only been oppressed, but abused and misrepresented; and the duty we owe to ourselves and posterity, to your interest, and the general welfare of the British empire, leads us to address you on this very important subject.
Know then. That we consider ourselves, and do insist that we are and ought to be, as free as our fellow-subjects in Britain, and that no power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.
That we claim all the benefits secured to the subject by the English constitution, and particularly that inestimable one of trial by jury.
That we hold it essential to English liberty, that no man be condemned unheard, or punished for supposed offences without having an opportunity of making his defence.
That we think the Legislature of Great Britain is not authorized by the constitution to establish a religion fraught with sanguinary and impious tenets, or to erect an arbitrary form of government in any quarter of the globe. These rights we, as well as you, deem sacred. And yet, sacred as they are, they have, with many others, been repeatedly and flagrantly violated.
Are not the proprietors of the soil of Great Britain lords of their own property? Can it be taken from them without their consent? Will they yield it to the arbitrary disposal of any man, or number of men whatever? You know they will not.
Why then are the proprietors of the soil of America less lords of their property than you are of yours? or why should they submit it to the disposal of your parliament, or any other parliament or council in the world, not of their election? Can the intervention of the sea that divides us cause disparity in rights? or can any reason be given why English subjects, who live three thousand miles from the royal palace, should enjoy less liberty than those who are three hundred miles distant from it?
Reason looks with indignation on such distinctions, and freemen can never perceive their propriety. And yet, however chimerical and unjust such discriminations are, the parliament assert, that they have a right to bind us in all cases without exception, whether we consent or not; that they may take and use our property when and in what manner they please; that we are pensioners on their bounty for all that we possess; and can hold it no longer than they vouchsafe to permit. Such declarations we consider as heresies in English politics, and which can no more operate to deprive us of our property, than the interdicts of the pope can divest kings of sceptres, which the laws of the land and the voice of the people have placed in their hands.
At the conclusion of the late war—a war rendered glorious by the abilities and integrity of a minister, to whose efforts the British empire owes its safety and its fame; at the conclusion of this war, which was succeeded by an inglorious peace, formed under the auspices of a minister of principles and of a family unfriendly to the Protestant cause, and inimical to liberty; we say, at this period, and under the influence of that man, a plan for enslaving our fellow-subjects in America was concerted, and has ever since been pertinaciously carrying into excution.
Prior to this era, you were content with drawing from us the wealth produced by our commerce. You restrained our trade in every way that could conduce to your emolument. You exercised unbounded sovereignty over the sea. You named the ports and nations to which alone our merchandise should be carried, and with whom alone we should trade; and though some of these restrictions were grievous, we nevertheless did not complain; we looked up to you as to our parent state, to which we were bound by the strongest ties; and were happy in being instrumental to your prosperity and grandeur.
We call upon you yourselves to witness our loyalty and attachment to the common interest of the whole empire: Did we not, in the last war, add all the strength of this vast continent to the force which repelled our common enemy? Did we not leave our native shores, and meet disease and death, to promote the success of British arms in foreign climates? Did you not thank us for our zeal, and even reimburse us large sums of money, which, you confessed, we had advanced beyond our proportion, and far beyond our abilities? You did.
To what causes, then, are we to attribute the sudden changes of treatment, and that system of slavery which was prepared for us at the restoration of peace?
Before we had recovered from the distresses which ever attend war, an attempt was made to drain this country of all its money, by the oppressive Stamp Act. Paint, glass, and other commodities which you would not permit us to purchase of other nations, were taxed; nay, although no wine is made in any country subject to the British state, you prohibited our procuring it of foreigners without paying a tax, imposed by your parliament, on all we imported. These and many other impositions were laid upon us most unjustly and unconstitutionally, for the express purpose of raising a revenue. In order to silence complaint, it was indeed provided, that this revenue should be expended in America for its protection and defence. These exactions, however, can receive no justification from a pretended necessity of protecting and defending us. They are lavishly squandered on court favourites and ministerial dependants, generally avowed enemies to America, and employing themselves by partial representations to traduce and embroil the colonies. For the necessary support of government here, we ever were and ever shall be ready to provide. And whenever the exigences of the state may require it, we shall, as we have heretofore done, cheerfully contribute our full proportion of men and money. To enforce this unconstitutional and unjust scheme of taxation, every fence that the wisdom of our British ancestors had carefully erected against arbitrary power has been violently thrown down in America, and the inestimable right of trial by jury taken away in cases that touch life and property. It was ordained, that whenever offences should be committed in the colonies against particular acts imposing various duties and restrictions upon trade, the prosecutor might bring his action for the penalties in the courts of Admiralty: by which means the subject lost the advantage of being tried by an honest, uninfluenced jury of the vicinage, and was subjected to the sad necessity of being judged by a single man, a creature of the crown, and according to the course of a law which exempts the prosecutor from the trouble of proving his accusation, and obliges the defendant either to evince his innocence, or to suffer. To give this new judicatory the greater importance, and as if with design to protect false accusers, it is further provided, that the judge’s certificate of there having been probable causes of seizure and prosecution, shall protect the prosecutor from actions at common law for recovery of damages.
By the course of our law, offences committed in such of the British dominions in which courts are established, and justice duly and regularly administered, shall be there tried by a jury of the vicinage. There, the offenders and witnesses are known, and the degree of credibility to be given to their testimony can be ascertained.
In all these colonies, justice is regularly and impartially administered; and yet, by the construction of some, and the direction of other acts of parliament, offenders are to be taken by force, together with all such persons as may be pointed out as witnesses, and carried to England, there to be tried in a distant land, by a jury of strangers, and subject to all the disadvantages that result from want of friends, want of witnesses, and want of money.
When the design of raising a revenue from the duties imposed on the importation of tea into America, had in a great measure been rendered abortive by our ceasing to import that commodity, a scheme was concerted by the ministry with the East India Company, and an act passed enabling and encouraging them to transport and vend it in the colonies. Aware of the danger of giving success to this insidious manœuvre, and of permitting a precedent of taxation thus to be established among us, various methods were adopted to elude the stroke. The people of Boston, then ruled by a governor, whom, as well as his predecessor Sir Francis Bernard, all America considers as her enemy, were exceedingly embarrassed. The ships which had arrived with the tea were by his management prevented from returning. The duties would have been paid, the cargoes landed and exposed to sale; a governor’s influence would have procured and protected many purchasers. While the town was suspended by deliberations on this important subject, the tea was destroyed. Even supposing a trespass was thereby committed, and the proprietors of the tea entitled to damages, the courts of law were open, and judges appointed by the crown presided in them, The East India Company, however, did not think proper to commence any suits, nor did they even demand satisfaction either from individuals, or from the community in general. The ministry, it seems, officiously made the case their own, and the great council of the nation descended to intermeddle with a dispute about private property. Divers papers, letters, and other unauthenticated ex parte evidence were laid before them; neither the persons who destroyed the tea, nor the people of Boston, were called upon to answer the complaint. The ministry, incensed by being disappointed in a favourite scheme, were determined to recur from the little arts of finesse, to open force and unmanly violence. The port of Boston was blocked up by a fleet, and an army placed in the town. Their trade was to be suspended, and thousands reduced to the necessity of gaining subsistence from charity, till they should submit to pass under the yoke, and consent to become slaves, by confessing the omnipotence of parliament, and acquiescing in whatever disposition they might think proper to make of their lives and property.
Let justice and humanity cease to be the boast of your nation! Consult your history, examine your records of former transactions, nay, turn to the annals of the many arbitrary states and kingdoms that surround you, and show us a single instance of men being condemned to suffer for imputed crimes, unheard, unquestioned, and without even the specious formality of a trial; and that too by laws made expressly for the purpose, and which had no existence at the time of the fact committed. If it be difficult to reconcile these proceedings to the genius and temper of your laws and constitution, the task will become more arduous, when we call upon our ministerial enemies to justify, not only condemning men untried and by hearsay, but involving the innocent in one common punishment with the guilty, and for the act of thirty or forty, to bring poverty, distress, and calamity on thirty thousand souls, and those not your enemies, but your friends, brethren, and fellow-subjects.
It would be some consolation to us if the catalogue of American oppressions ended here. It gives us pain to be reduced to the necessity of reminding you, that under the confidence reposed in the faith of government, pledged in a royal charter from a British sovereign, the forefathers of the present inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay left their former habitations, and established that great, flourishing, and loyal colony. Without incurring, or being charged with a forfeiture of their rights, without being heard, without being tried, without law, and without justice, by an act of parliament their charter is destroyed, their liberties violated, their constitution and form of government changed: and all this upon no better pretence, than because in one of their towns a trespass was committed on some merchandise, said to belong to one of the companies, and because the ministry were of opinion, that such high political regulations were necessary to compel due subordination and obedience to their mandates.
Nor are these the only capital grievances under which we labour. We might tell of dissolute, weak, and wicked governors having been set over us; of legislatures being suspended for asserting the rights of British subjects; of needy and ignorant dependants on great men advanced to the seats of justice, and to other places of trust and importance; of hard restrictions on commerce, and a great variety of lesser evils, the recollection of which is almost lost under the weight and pressure of greater and more poignant calamities.
Now mark the progression of the ministerial plan for enslaving us. Well aware that such hardy attempts to take our property from us, to deprive us of the valuable right of trial by jury, to seize our persons and carry us for trial to Great Britain, to blockade our ports, to destroy our charters, and change our forms of government, would occasion, and had already occasioned, great discontent in the colonies, which might produce opposition to these measures; an act was passed to protect, indemnify, and screen from punishment, such as might be guilty even of murder, in endeavouring to carry their oppressive edicts into execution; and by another act the Dominion of Canada is to be so extended, modelled, and governed, as that by being disunited from us, detached from our interests by civil as well as religious prejudices, that by their numbers daily swelling with Catholic emigrants from Europe, and by their devotion to an administration so friendly to their religion, they might become formidable to us, and, on occasion, be fit instruments in the hands of power to reduce the ancient, free Protestant colonies to the same state of slavery with themselves.
This was evidently the object of the act: and in this view, being extremely dangerous to our liberty and quiet, we cannot forbear complaining of it, as hostile to British America. Superadded to these considerations, we cannot help deploring the unhappy condition to which it has reduced the many English settlers who, encouraged by the royal proclamation, promising the enjoyment of all their rights, have purchased estates in that country. They are now the subjects of an arbitrary government, deprived of trial by jury, and when imprisoned, cannot claim the benefit of the habeas corpus act, that great bulwark and palladium of English liberty. Nor can we suppress our astonishment that a British Parliament should ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion, through every part of the world.
This being a state of facts, let us beseech you to consider to what end they lead. Admit that the ministry, by the powers of Britain, and the aid of our Roman Catholic neighbours, should be able to carry the point of taxation, and reduce us to a state of perfect humiliation and slavery: such an enterprise would doubtless make some addition to your national debt, which already presses down your liberties, and fills you with pensioners and placemen. We presume, also, that your commerce will somewhat be diminished. However, suppose you should prove victorious, in what condition will you then be? what advantages or what laurels will you reap from such a conquest? May not a ministry, with the same armies enslave you? it may be said, you will cease to pay them; but remember, the taxes from America, the wealth, and we may add the men, and particularly the Roman Catholics of this vast continent, will then be in the power of your enemies; nor will you have any reason to expect, that after making slaves of us, many among us should refuse to assist in reducing you to the same abject state.
Do not treat this as chimerical. Know that in less than half a century, the quit-rents reserved to the crown from the numberless grants of this vast continent, will pour large streams of wealth into the royal coffers. And if to this be added the power of taxing America at pleasure, the crown will be rendered independent of you for supplies, and will possess more treasure than may be necessary to purchase the remains of liberty in your island. In a word, take care that you do not fall into the pit that is preparing for us.
We believe there is yet much virtue, much justice, and much public spirit in the English nation. To that justice we now appeal. You have been told that we are seditious, impatient of government, and desirous of independence. Be assured that these are not facts, but calumnies. Permit us to be as free as yourselves, and we shall ever esteem a union with you to be our greatest glory and our greatest happiness; we shall ever be ready to contribute all in our power to the welfare of the empire; we shall consider your enemies as our enemies, and your interest as our own.
But if you are determined that your ministers shall wantonly sport with the rights of mankind; if neither the voice of justice, the dictates of the law, the principles of the constitution, or the suggestions of humanity can restrain your hands from shedding human blood in such an impious cause, we must then tell you, that we will never submit to be hewers of wood or drawers of water for any ministry or nation in the world.
Place us in the same situation that we were at the close of the last war, and our former harmony will be restored.
But lest the same supineness, and the same inattention to our common interest, which you have for several years shown, should continue, we think it prudent to anticipate the consequences.
By the destruction of the trade of Boston the ministry have endeavoured to induce submission to their measures. The like fate may befall us all. We will endeavour, therefore, to live without trade, and recur for subsistence to the fertility and bounty of our native soil, which affords us all the necessaries, and some of the conveniences of life. We have suspended our importation from Great Britain and Ireland; and in less than a year’s time, unless our grievances should be redressed, shall discontinue our exports to those kingdoms and the West Indies.
It is with the utmost regret, however, that we find ourselves compelled, by the overruling principles of self-preservation, to adopt measures detrimental in their consequences to numbers of our fellow-subjects in Great Britain and Ireland. But we hope that the magnanimity and justice of the British nation will furnish a parliament of such wisdom, independence, and public spirit as may save the violated rights of the whole empire from the devices of wicked ministers and evil counsellors, whether in or out of office; and thereby restore that harmony, friendship, and fraternal affection, between all the inhabitants of his majesty’s kingdoms and territories, so ardently wished for by every true and honest American.
LETTER TO THE COMMITTEE OF MECHANICS, NEW YORK.
The polite and respectful terms in which you are pleased to communicate your approbation of our conduct, in an important office, demand our most sincere and grateful acknowledgments.
Honoured by the united suffrages of our fellow-citizens, and animated by a sense of duty, and the most cordial affection for our oppressed country, however unequal to the delicate and arduous task, we undertook it with cheerfulness, and have discharged it with fidelity.
While, from abundant experience, we bear testimony to the unshaken zeal for constitutional liberty, which has ever distinguished the worthy inhabitants of this metropolis, and is nobly exerted at the present alarming crisis, your anxious solicitude for the restoration of that harmony and mutual confidence between the parent state and America, on which the glory and stability of the British empire so absolutely depend, cannot fail of recommending you to the esteem of all good men, and of holding you up as an example worthy of imitation and applause.
To soften the rigour of the calamities to which, in this tempestuous season, we may be exposed, let us all, with one heart and voice, endeavour to cultivate and cherish a spirit of unanimity and mutual benevolence, and to promote that internal tranquillity which can alone give weight to our laudable efforts for the preservation of our freedom, and crown them with success.
We are, gentlemen, with the most affectionate regard, your obliged and very humble servants,
To Mr. Daniel Dunscombe, Chairman, and the Committee of Mechanics in the City of New York. [November 18 (?), 1774.]
The “young Lady” in question, whom Jay married, April 28, 1774, was Sarah Van Brugh Livingston, daughter of William Livingston, subsequently Governor of New Jersey, etc. See Miss Philipse’s letter to Mrs. Jay, July 1, 1774. A portrait and sketch of Mrs. Jay appear in Mrs. Ellett’s “Queens of American Society.”
Jay’s public career begins with his participation in the meetings held by citizens of New York during the alarm and excitement consequent on the passage of the Boston Port Bill, March 31, 1774. At the first meeting, May 16, 1774, a committee of fifty, with Isaac Low as chairman, was nominated to correspond with the other colonies “upon all matters of moment,” and on the 19th “a great concourse of the inhabitants” assembled at the Coffee House and confirmed the nominations. Of this committee, known as the Committee of Correspondence, Jay was a member. On the 23d it met in the forenoon and appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Messrs. McDougall, Low, Duane, and Jay, to report “at 8 o’clock P.M.” the draft of an answer to a communication from the Boston Committee of Correspondence. The citizens of Boston had held a meeting May 13th, and voted “That it is the opinion of this town that if the other Colonies come into a joint resolution to stop all importations from Great Britain, and exportations to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the Act for blocking up this harbour be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties.” The answer from New York appears above, it being the draft of the sub-committee, of which Jay, as stated, was a member. Its historical importance lies in the fact that while suggestions for holding a general congress of the colonies to consult on common rights had previously been made in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the proposition to the same effect from New York was framed in such pointed terms as to hasten action in the matter and, with a similar call from Virginia, to lead to the assemblage of the famous Congress in September following. This New York draft was possibly from Jay’s own pen.
Jay took an active part in the proceedings of the General Committee. At the meeting of July 19th, for example, he moved, “That a committee be appointed to take the distresses of the poor of the town of Boston, and ways and means for their relief, into consideration, and make their report with all convenient speed.” Such a committee was named with Jay as a member, and donations for Boston secured. The Committee of Correspondence was succeeded, November 22d, by another composed of sixty members, called the Committee of Inspection, which in turn was succeeded, May 1, 1775, by still another General Committee of one hundred. Jay was elected to both, but, as appears from the succeeding note, p. 17, he was to be preoccupied much of the time with the duties of a more important station.
See letter, ante, from Peter Jay to Wm. Livingston, January 31, 1774.
During the spring and summer of 1774 the several colonies, through their Assemblies or Committees of Correspondence, resolved upon holding a General Congress of Delegates to take common action against the alarming encroachment of Parliamentary authority. The Boston Port Bill, like the Stamp Act, had aroused indignation and distrust, and a crisis threatened. Delegates being elected to the proposed Congress, that body met at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774, and on October 20th adopted the well-known Articles of “Association” interdicting all trade with Great Britain, that were to be followed later by still stronger bonds of union. Important addresses were also issued. The delegates representing New York City and County were Messrs. Philip Livingston, John Alsop, Isaac Low, James Duane, and John Jay. They were unanimously elected by the freeholders, freemen, and other taxpayers of the city, July 28th, upon the platform of a “non-importation agreement,” as the most efficacious means of compelling a redress of grievances. See note p. 13.
It was during the session of this Congress that Jay first became known beyond the limits of his own constituency as a writer of marked ability. He was the author of the above “Address” to the people of England, which Jefferson, among others, admired and praised. Lee, of Virginia, and Livingston, of New Jersey, were his colleagues on the committee appointed to prepare the document. See “Life of Jay,” vol. i., p. 30, and vol. ii., pp. 380-384. Jay also served on the committees “to state the rights of the colonies,” to prepare a letter to the colony agents in London, etc.
Letter in answer to an “Address from the Committee of Mechanicks of New York, presented to the Delegates who represented the City at the General Congress.” Printed in Force’s “American Archives.”