ROBERT MORRIS TO JAY.
Philadelphia, Feb. 4, 1777.
Your favour of the 7th ult. came safe to hand. Timothy Jones is certainly a very entertaining, agreeable man; one would not judge so from any thing contained in his cold insipid letter of the 17th Sept., unless you take pains to find the concealed beauties therein: the cursory observations of a sea captain would never discover them, but transferred from his hand to the penetrating eye of a Jay, the diamonds stand confessed at once. It puts me in mind of a search after the philosopher’s stone, but I believe not one of the followers of that phantom have come so near the mark as you, my good friend. I handed a copy of your discoveries to the committee, which now consists of Harrison, R. H. Lee, Hooper, Dr. Witherspoon, Johnson, you, and myself; and honestly told them who it was from, because measures are necessary in consequence of it; but I have not received any directions yet.
I should never doubt the success of measures conducted by such able heads as those that take the lead in your Convention. I hate to pay compliments, and would avoid the appearance of doing it, but I cannot refrain from saying I love Duane, admire Mr. Livingston, and have an epithet for you if I had been writing to another. I wish you had done with your Convention; you are really wanted exceedingly in Congress: they are very thin. Adieu, my dear sir; God bless you, and grant success to America in the present contest, with wisdom and virtue to secure peace and happiness to her sons in all future ages.
I am, with true regard
Your most obedient servant,
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO JAY.
Middlebrook, March 1st, 1777.
I have been a little surprised, that the several important pieces of intelligence lately received from Europe (such parts of it, I mean, as are circulated without reserve in conversation), have not been given to the public in a manner calculated to attract the attention and impress the minds of the people. As they are now propagated, they run through the country in a variety of forms, are confounded in the common mass of general rumours, and lose a real part of their effect. It would certainly be attended with many valuable consequences if they could be given to the people in some more authentic and pointed manner. It would assist the measures taken to restore our currency, promote the recruiting of the army and our other military arrangements, and give a certain spring to our affairs in general.
Congress may have particular reasons for not communicating the intelligence officially (which would certainly be the best mode if it could be done), but if it cannot, it were to be wished that as much as is intended to be commonly known could be published in as striking a way, and with as great an appearance of authority as may be consistent with propriety.
I have taken the liberty to trouble you with this hint, as sometimes things the most obvious escape attention. If you agree with me in sentiment, you will easily fall upon the most proper mode for answering the purpose.
With great esteem and regard, I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
JAY TO WILLIAM LIVINGSTON.
Kingston, 22d March, 1777.
Your obliging letters of the 18th ult. and 3d inst., after passing through various hands and places, were at length delivered to me two days ago. Your elegant panegyric on the amiable character and benevolent designs of his Britannic majesty meets with general approbation; and some do not hesitate to predict that it will stimulate your gracious prince to embrace the first opportunity of exalting you. On reading the proclamation against picking and stealing I could not forbear wishing there had been one pasted on the foreheads of some of our late protectors. Nothing but the chance of their being predestined to go to heaven, can save them from a campaign in the opposite regions. The least they can expect with any degree of modesty is to be decimated. They seem to have acted as if they thought themselves tenants in common in all the good things they met with, and that posterior instead of prior occupancy enabled them to hold in severalty. The affectionate manner in which you speak of our little boy is very obliging. I hope he may live to thank you for your kind attention and deserve it. Sally’s rheumatism continues now and then to pay her short visits; her health however is much mended and I flatter myself the approaching season will remove all her fears on that head.
At a time when the most strenuous efforts are necessary to our political salvation it is to be regretted that any of our measures should bear the marks of feeble or dispirited councils. Your militia bill should have been so framed as to give birth to strong and decisive executive powers. I should have thought the spirit of the speech added to the remembrance of the barbarous ravages of the enemy would have diffused thro’ the Legislature a degree of resentment, determination and enthusiasm which would have been productive of regulations better adapted to the times.
Our convention has now under consideration the report of the committee for preparing a form of government for their State, and unless my expectations are very ill founded, our constituents will have great reason to be satisfied.
The “Impartial Intelligence” does honor to the wit as well as the invention of its author.
Our printer for £200 a year bond or subscriptions etc., can afford only to publish a two-penny half sheet, filled for the most part with accounts of desertions for which he is paid, instead of interesting publications by which the public might be gratified; these and other considerations have induced the convention to take Holt into their service; and when he begins to print I may probably often have the pleasure of sending you a paper worth reading.
I am my dear sir,
With the greatest respect and esteem,
Your most obedient Servant,
FROM JAY TO MRS. JAY.
Kingston, 25th March, 1777.
My Dear Sally:
Accept my thanks for your affectionate letters of the 17th and 21st instants. I am happy to hear of the health of yourself and son and am pleased with your candour and sincerity on that subject. . . .
We have lately received an uncertain though unpleasant account of the enemy’s landing at Peekskill—How did your nerves bear the shock? My father and mother I apprehend were very uneasy. I should be happy were it in my power to bear all their as well as all your misfortunes. The infirmities of age added to the terrours and calamities of war conspire in depriving them of ease and enjoyment. I most sensibly feel for and pity them. God grant them the only remedy against the evils inseparable from humanity—fortitude founded on resignation. The moment I may suspect you to be exposed to danger I shall set out for Fishkill. As yet I think you very safe, for if the reports we have heard be true, the enemy’s force is not sufficient to penetrate the country.
I congratulate Peter on his recovery and return; remind him of sending to Captain Platt’s for the barley. Let not the fear of the enemy deter him from pursuing the business of the farm. The same Providence which enables us to sow may enable us to reap. Present my compliments to our good friends the Doctor and Mrs. Wyche.
My love to Cate.
I am, my dear wife,
Your very affectionate
ROBERT MORRIS TO JAY.
Philada, April 1st, 1777.
The enclosed letters came by a French Ship to New Hampshire and were sent under cover to me by Mr. Langdon with many others; I believe they are from England and wish they may convey agreeable tidings. Last week a Brigt. arrived here with 6,800 muskets & 2100 Gun Locks; another in Maryld. with 633 bbls Powder & this ship into Portsmouth brought with her about 12,000 muskets, 1000 bbls Powder a number of Blankets & cloathing; all these are for Continental account and many others may be daily looked for. An offer was made to our Comrs. at Paris of two Millions of Livres without interest to be repaid when these United States have established their Independancy in Peace & quietness; no Security or Condition required. You may be sure they accepted this noble Bounty & 500,000 Livres was paid down the 20th Jany.; 500,000 more was to be paid every three months until compleated or sooner if our affairs require it. The Commissioners were well received & promised protection of the Court and that their propositions should all be duly attended to.
Great armaments & preparations for war &c. I fancy however, we must try our strength alone for a while longer, altho I firmly believe a general war will & must eventually take place in Europe this summer. I wish our army was in the field; we want nothing else to make the day our own.
With great regard & esteem I am
Your affectionate & ob. Ser.
P. S. My best Compts. to Mr. Duane & Mr. Livingston.
R. R. LIVINGSTON AND G. MORRIS TO JAY.
We were much surprised at your letter to Mr. Hobart, as we could not perceive the danger which would result from permitting the several courts to appoint their own clerks, while on the other hand great inconveniences must arise from suffering them to be independent of such Courts, and of consequence frequently ignorant, always inattentive. Neither had we the most distant idea that a clause of this sort could meet with your disapprobation since you was so fully of the opinion to appoint by judges of the Supreme Court not only clerks but all other civil officers in the government.
As to what you mention about the licensing of Attornies there might perhaps be a propriety in permitting one court to do this drudgery for the rest if we could agree upon the proper court, but as the Gentlemen who preside in each may think themselves qualified to determine as well upon the abilities of the several advocates as upon the merits of the causes advocated, it will not be quite easy to persuade them that they have not an equal right with others to say who shall and who shall not be entitled to practice.
The division of the State into Districts was in your own opinion as you will well remember improper as a part of the Constitution and only to be taken up by the Legislature. If this opinion was well founded there can be no great evil in the omission. Neither had you any ground to suppose that we would go into the Connecticut Plan of holding up which we have declared to be in our opinion inconvenient and by reason of the rotatory mode of electing entirely useless.
But if we had been so fortunate as to agree in all or any of your ideas yet as the Government was not only agreed to but solemnly published, it would have been highly improper to attempt any reconsideration. Besides this the difficulties we were obliged to wade thro’ in order to get any Government at all merely by reason of reconsiderations were so great and by us so highly reprobated that no persons could have stood in a more aukward situation to propose them. . . .
We wish you would get here soon, as many matters of considerable importance are on the carpet.
We are yours &c,
Robt. R. Livingston.
Kingston, 26 April, 1777.
JAY TO LIVINGSTON AND MORRIS.
Fishkill, 29 April, 1777.
Your letter of the 26th instant was this evening delivered to me. When I was called east from Convention, a clause in the report of the form of Government had been by a very great majority agreed to instituting a council for the appointment of military and many civil officers, including clerks of courts; and though I publicly advocated and voted for that clause, you express much surprize at my disapproving a material alteration of it.
Had you retained the most distant idea of the part I took relative to the various modes proposed for the appointment of officers, I am confident you would not have asserted “that I was fully of opinion to appoint by judges of the Supreme Court, not only clerks, but all other civil officers in the Government.” Had such a representation of my opinion relative to the best mode of appointing those officers, fallen from some persons whom I could name, I should have called it very disingenuous and uncandid.
The fact was thus—The clause directing the Governor to nominate officers to the Legislature for their approbation being read and debated, was generally disapproved. Many other methods were devised by different members, and mentioned to the House merely for consideration. I mentioned several myself, and told the Convention at the time, that however I might then incline to adopt them, I was not certain but that after considering them, I should vote for their rejection. While the minds of the members were thus fluctuating between various opinions, Capt. Platt moved for the only amendment which was proposed to the House for introducing the judges. I told the House I preferred the amendment to the original clause in the report, but that I thought a better mode might be devised. I finally opposed the adoption of Capt. Platt’s amendment, and well remember that I spent the evening of that day with Mr. Morris at your lodgings, in the course of which I proposed the plan for the institution of the Council as it now stands, and after conversing on the subject, we agreed to bring it into the House the next day. It was moved and debated and carried with the only amendment that the Speaker of the General Assembly for the time being was then (to avoid the Governor’s having frequent opportunities of a casting vote) added to the Council.
As to the alteration in question, vizt., transferring the appointment of clerks, etc., of courts from the Council to the respective judges, I dislike it for many reasons which the limits of a letter will not admit of being fully enumerated and discussed.
You say that “great inconveniencies must arise from suffering clerks to be independent of such courts, and of consequence frequently ignorant, always inattentive.” If ignorance and inattention would by some necessary consequence unknown to me, characterize all such clerks as the Council (of which the Governor is President, and consisting of the Speaker of the General Assembly and four senators elected in that House) should appoint, I grant that the appointment ought to be in other hands. But I am at a loss and unable to conjecture by what subtle refinement or new improvement in the science of politics it should be discovered that a council acknowledged to be competent to the choice and appointment of the first judges of the land, was insufficient to the nomination of clerks of courts; or from whence it is to be inferred that they, by whose will and pleasure the duration of many other offices is limited by the Constitution, would either appoint or continue in office ignorant or inattentive clerks, more than ignorant or inattentive judges, sheriffs or justices of the peace. Nor can I perceive why the clerks in chancery appointed by the Council, should be more ignorant and inattentive than the examiners, who you are content should still be appointed by that body; unless ignorance and inattention be supposed less dangerous and important in the one than the other.
That clerks should be dependent is agreed on all hands. On whom? is the only question. I think not on the judges.
The chancellor, and the judges of the Supreme Court holding permanent commissions, will be tempted not only to give those appointments to their children, brothers, relations, and favourites, but to continue them in office against the public good. You, I dare say, know men of too little probity, abilities, and industry to fill an office well, and yet of sufficient art and attention to avoid such gross misbehaviour as might justify loud clamours against them.
Besides, men who appoint others to offices, generally have a partiality for them, and are often disposed, on principles of pride as well as interest, to support them.
By the clerks of court being dependent on the judges collusion becomes more easy to be practised, and more difficult to be detected, and instead of publishing and punishing each other’s transgressions, will combine in concealing, palliating, or excusing these mutual defects or misdemeanours.
From the clerks, etc., being appointed by the Council, these advantages would result—
The Council might avail themselves of the advice of the judges without being bound by their prejudices, or interested in their designs.
Should the Council promote their favourites at the expense of the public, that body, having a new set of members every year, a bad officer thus appointed would lose his office on his patrons’ being removed from the Council.
It would avoid that odium to which that part of the Constitution will now be exposed, viz., that it was framed by lawyers, and done with design to favour the profession.
The new claims respecting the licensing of attorneys, to speak plain, is in my opinion the most whimsical, crude and indigested thing I have met with.
There will be now between thirty and forty courts in this State, and, as that clause now stands, an attorney (however well qualified and licensed by the Supreme Court) must, before he can issue a writ in a little borough or mayor’s court, obtain their license also. The reasons assigned for this seem to be: that it would be improper for one court to do this drudgery for the rest; that it would be difficult to distinguish which court it would be most proper to impose it upon; that the judges of the inferior courts might be offended at being relieved from this drudgery, thinking themselves as capable of judging of the merits of an attorney as of a cause, and that they had equal right with others to say who shall and who shall not be entitled to practise.
To say that it would be improper for one to do this drudgery for the rest, is begging the question. Other courts than the Supreme Court never had this drudgery to do; and I believe never will have in any part of the world, except in the State and by the Constitution of New York. Why the examination and licensing of attorneys should with more propriety be styled a drudgery than striking a jury, or any other business incident to the office of judge, I know not. If it be, I should think it ought not to be multiplied by thirty or forty, and then imposed on all in the State, compelling them to solicit and pay fees for admission to thirty or forty courts when one would have sufficed.
How it should be difficult to distinguish the proper court for the purpose, is to me mysterious.
The Supreme Court controls all the courts in the State which proceed according to the course of the common law, and its jurisdiction is bounded only by the limits of the State. An attorney is an officer of a common-law court. That court, therefore, which, by the Constitution, is made superior to the others, must be supposed most competent, not only to the determination of causes, but of the qualification of the attorneys who manage them.
The lesser courts cannot be deemed equally qualified for either; and, being dependent and inferior in every other respect, ought not to have concurrent, independent, or equal authority in this. Justice as well as decency forbids that a mayor and four aldermen should constitutionally have a right to refuse admission to attorneys licensed by the Supreme Court.
Whence is it to be inferred that the judges of the inferior courts, unless gratified with this novel, unprecedented power, would complain? It is not to be found among the rights enjoyed by them prior to the Revolution; and I must doubt whether, unless within this fortnight or three weeks, there was a single man in the State who ever thought of such a thing.
It would be arrogance in them to expect to be indulged in a right to examine, question, and reject the judgment of the Supreme Court respecting the qualifications of attorneys, when that very court is appointed, among other things, to correct their errors in all other cases. Nay, in this case the mere will of these little courts is to be the law; and an attorney of reputation and eminence in the Supreme Court is without remedy in case an inferior court should unjustly refuse to admit him.
According to the present system an attorney must, if he chooses to have general license, obtain admission into the Supreme Court, three mayors’ courts, thirteen inferior courts of common pleas for counties, fourteen courts of sessions for the peace, and the Lord knows how often or in how many courts of oyer and terminer and gaol delivery.
Remember that I now predict that this same clause which thus gives inferior courts uncontrolled and unlimited authority to admit as many attorneys as they please, will fill every county in the State with a swarm of designing, cheating, litigious pettifoggers, who, like leeches and spiders, will fatten on the spoils of the poor, the ignorant, the feeble, and the unwary.
The division of the State into districts for the purposes of facilitating elections, I well remember, was agreed to be referred to the Legislature; and I well remember, too, several members as well as myself were of the opinion that a short clause should be inserted in the Constitution which would give the people a claim on the Legislature for it.
The Connecticut plan of nominating or holding up senators I ever warmly espoused. I thought it bore strong marks of wisdom and sound policy; nor have I forgot that others opposed it, or that I undertook, with the leave of the House, to reduce it to writing and offer it to their consideration. The opinion that the rotatory mode of electing renders it entirely useless, I have neither heard nor can I perceive any reason for.
The difficulty of getting any governor at all, you know, has long been an apprehension of little influence on my mind, and always appeared to be founded less in fact than in a design of quickening the pace of the House.
What the secretary may have written to Mr. Benson I know not. I expressed the same sentiments to him that were inserted in my letter to Mr. Hobart, and no others.
The other parts of the Constitution I approve, and only regret that, like a harvest cut before it was all ripe, some of the grains have shrunk.
Exclusive of the clauses which I have mentioned, and which I wish had been added, another material one has been omitted, viz., a direction that all persons holding offices under the government should swear allegiance to it, and renounce all allegiance and subjection to foreign kings, princes, and states in all matters, ecclesiastical as well as civil.
I should also have been for a clause against the continuation of domestic slavery, and the support and encouragement of literature, as well as some other matters, though perhaps of less consequence.
Though the birth of the Constitution is, in my opinion, premature, I shall nevertheless do all in my power to nurse and keep it alive, being far from approving the Spartan law which encouraged parents to destroy such of their children as perhaps by some cross accident might come into the world misshapen.
I am, etc.,
To Robt. R. Livingston and Gouverneur Morris, Esqrs.
JAY TO ABRAHAM YATES.
16th May, 1777.
From the information you were pleased to give me, before you left this place, that it would be proposed to hold me up as a candidate for the office of governor, I think it necessary to be very explicit on that subject. That the office of first magistrate of this State will be more respectable, as well as more lucrative, and consequently more desirable than the place I now fill, is very apparent. But, sir, my object in the course of the present great contest neither has been, nor will be, either rank or money. I am persuaded that I can be more useful to the State in the office I now hold than in the one alluded to, and therefore think it my duty to continue in it. You are acquainted with the reasons which induce me to be of this opinion, and although I entertain a high sense of the honour which my friends are disposed to confer upon me, I must request the favour of them not to encourage my being named as a candidate for that office, but to endeavour to unite the votes of the electors in the county of Albany in favour of some other gentleman.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
WILLIAM DUER TO JAY.
[Phila.] May 28th, 1777.
My dear Sir:
You have been undoubtedly surprised at my long silence, but when I assure you what is fact, that my principal reasons for not writing have been want of time, and of satisfactory matter, I flatter myself I shall stand acquitted, (if not with honor) at least as a wilful offender against the laws of friendship.
As General Schuyler expects to deliver this letter in person I shall refer you to him for the particular [intelligence] respecting his own affairs, and for the political complexion of affairs in Congress. From a very low ebb at which our affairs were when we arrived here we have recover’d surprisingly; and I may venture to say that the eyes of all those who are not willfully blind are open, and that we may expect [something] to take place with respect to our State.
I congratulate you on the completion of the task of forming and organizing our new Government. I think it upon the maturest reflection the best system which has as yet been adopted, and possibly as good as the temper of the times would admit of. If it is well administered, and some wise and vigorous laws pass’d at the opening of the [session] for watching, and defeating the machinations of the enemy and their abettors, and for supporting by taxes, and other means the credit of the circulating money, it will be a formidable engine of opposition to the designs of our tyrannical enemies; but I assure you I am not without my fears concerning the choice which will be made of those who are to set the machine in motion.
Our all depends on it. It is very observable that in almost every other State where Government has been formed, and establish’d either from the convention of parties, or from a want of proper power being vested in the executive branches, disaffection has encreased prodigiously, and an unhappy langour has prevailed in the whole political system. I sincerely wish that this may not be the case with us, but that the new Government may continue to act with that spirit, integrity, and wisdom which animated the councils of the old!
In this State [Penn.] toryism, or rather treason, stalks triumphant; the credit of our money is sapp’d by the arts and advances of the malignants, and monopolists (?), and such is the desperate situation of affairs that nothing but desperate remedies can restore these people to reason, and virtue.
The assembly is now conven’d, but I am afraid will not dare to lay a tax to call in part of the large sums of money circulating in this State, or to pass vigorous laws to crush the disaffected.—All my hope is that the spirit of Whiggism will at length break forth in some of the populace, which (if well directed) may affect by quackery or cure what the regular State physicians, are either not adequate to, or unwilling to attempt.
A spirit of this kind under the name of Joyce has made his appearance in Boston; I should not be surprised if he was to travel Westward. It would be attended with good effects.
What think you of an Episcopalian Clergyman in this City praying last Sunday for the Lords Spiritial and Temporal—or rather what think you of the Congregation which heard him with patience?— If in the midst of your political business you can now and then drop me a line I will esteem it as a favor, and (if not regularly) I will by starts, when there is any thing worth communicating, write to you.
A word in the ear of a friend: When I was sent here I had some idea that I was entring into the temple of public virtue. I am disappointed and chagrined. Genl. Schuyler will communicate my sentiments and his own at large.
Col. Lee will I am credibly inform’d be left out of the next delegation for Virginia which is now in agitation. The mere contemplation of this event gives me pleasure; my mind is full, and I wish to unburthen it, but prudence forbids me.
I condole with you on the loss of your aged mother; or rather should I not congratulate you that she is arrived in a secure and pleasant Haven, from a storm, which she was little calculated to bear? This reflection I believe has alleviated your distress.—May we be as virtuous as your parents should we live to be as old.—From the rapid increase of villainy both moral and political, it is to be fear’d that we shall not increase in virtue, as we may in years—Remember me to all my friends, particularly to my fellow-labourers in the Council of Conspiracy. Adieu and believe me
Yours with much esteem and affection
I have delivered Genl. Schuyler a letter from your friend Mr. Dean in France; I have had it some time by me, but waited a safe mode of conveyance.
JAY TO LEONARD GANSEVOORT.
Kingston, 5th June, 1777.
Mr. Cuyler informs me that some of my friends in your county have done me the honour of naming me, among other candidates, for the office of governor.
In my opinion I can be more useful in the place I now hold; and therefore, though the other is far more respectable as well as lucrative, yet, sir, the regard due to the public good induces me to decline this promotion.
I thought it necessary that you and others should be informed of my sentiments on this subject; and it would give me pleasure to hear that the electors in Albany had united in a design of voting for some one gentleman whose spirit, abilities, and reputation might recommend him to that important office.
Our Constitution is universally approved, even in New England, where few New York productions have credit. But, unless the government be committed to proper hands, it will be weak and unstable at home, and contemptible abroad. For my own part, I know of no person at present whom I would prefer to General Schuyler.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
FROM JAY TO MRS. JAY.
Kingston, 6th June, 1777.
My Dear Sally:
I was extremely happy to be informed by Mr. Morris’ letter that you arrived safe at Troy. The length of the journey and the improbability of your having good accommodations on the road gave me no little anxiety. Elmendolph tells me the little boy behaved very well. I fear the bones of our sister Kate were sore vexed, and that the memory of this jaunt will influence her to decline paying a second visit to Fishkill. Employ all your eloquence to induce her to return; if it has as much influence on her as on me you will be successful.
Let me remind you of consulting your health in all things—ride, bathe, etc.; should a horse be wanting, buy one at any price. Let your returning with Mr. Morris be determined entirely by your own inclination. A court is directed to be held in Dutchess, and I expect the like order will be given for other counties, so that should you not hear from me so frequently, ascribe it to my absence from here. The family at Fishkill continue as usual, my father weak and his spirits much depressed.
The Tories desert in great numbers to take the benefit of our act of grace. Mr., or rather the Rev., Parson Beardsley and others of some note have come in. Adieu, my dear Sally. Remember me to all the family.
I am, with the most sincere affection, Yours,
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Esopus, 20th June, 1777.
It would have given me pleasure to have acknowledged the receipt of your letters of the 10th and 14th inst. I returned on Tuesday last from Fishkill, and postponed writing till I could collect a little information.
The elections in the middle district have taken such a turn as that, if a tolerable degree of unanimity should prevail in the upper counties, there will be little doubt of having, erelong, the honour of addressing a letter to your Excellency.
Clinton by being pushed for both offices may have neither; he has many votes for the first and not a few for the second. Scott, however, has carried a number from him, and you are by no means without a share. The conclusions to be drawn from such divisions are obvious.
A report that Albany designed General Ten Broeck for Lieutenant-Governor excited jealousy. What influence it may have had is difficult to conjecture. I believe not very great, as it had not time to spread wide or take root deep.
I have casually hinted at holding the first session of the Legislature at Albany, and find a general disinclination to it. Some object to the expense of living there as most intolerable, and others say that should Albany succeed in having both the great officers, the next step would be to make it the capital of the State. In my opinion the election should be determined before it will be proper to say much on this subject, and then should the governor only come from Albany, and could assurances be given that the members might live as cheap there as here, a removal may be practicable and prudent; but should such a measure be occasioned by a coalition of the upper counties, and carried by a slender majority, it would be productive of more evil than its advantages would probably compensate.
You may rely on receiving by express the earliest notice of the event alluded to.
GENERAL SCHUYLER TO JAY.
Albany, June 30, 1777.
Your favor of the 20th Instant I received on the 26th and I have not been able to snatch a moment to give you a line in answer.
General Clinton I am informed has a majority of votes for the Chair. If so he has played his cards better than was expected.
The enemy have opened the ball in every quarter. It is pretty certain that they will pay us a visit from the westward as well as from the North. I am in much pain about Ticonderoga; little or nothing has been done there this spring. However if the garrison escapes, or if it does not and we get a reinforcement from below and are spiritedly seconded by the Militia we shall prevent them from [advancing] on the side of the Lakes. It would greatly inspire the people with confidence to see the whole Council of Safety here; as I shall be to the Northward somebody ought to be here to give advice and assistance to our people in the western quarter. I therefore earnestly wish to see you and your brethren.
My compliments to all friends,
I am Dr. Sir
Very Sincerely Your
Most obedient humble Servant,
ALEXANDER HAMILTON TO JAY.
Head Quarters,Pompton Plains [N. J.],
July 13th, 1777.
I received your favour and one from Mr. Morris last night by Express. The stroke at Ticonderoga is heavy, unexpected and unaccountable.’—If the place was untenable why not discovered to be so before the Continent had been put to such an annoying expence, in furnishing it with the means of defence? If it was tenable, what, in the name of common sense could have induced the evacuation? I would wish to suspend my judgement on the matter; but certainly present appearances speak either the most [despicable] cowardice, or treachery. What can have become of St. Clair and the army? did they venture to return without knowing where the enemy were, or what rout to take?—Or did they wilfully run into their mouths?—All is mystery and dark beyond conjecture.—But we must not be discouraged at a misfortune—we must rather exert ourselves the more vigorously to remedy the ill consequence of it. If the army gets off safe, we shall soon be able to recover the face of affairs—I am in hope that Burgoigne’s success will precipitate him into measures that will produce his ruin. The enterprizing spirit he has credit for, I suspect, may easily be fanned by his vanity into rashness.
The day before yesterday, our whole army marched to this place, computed to be about eighteen miles from Morris Town; as soon as the weather will permit we shall continue our march to Peeks-Kill. Howe’s army we are told are all embarked. We suppose they will shortly make an excursion up the North River.—If we can get there before them all will be well.
The most we have to fear is that a panic will seize the people, and disqualify them for giving their aid. It behoves their leaders to put on a cheerful countenance, and combat their fears by a spirited and manly example.
I am, Dr. Sir,
Your most obed. servant,
GENERAL SCHUYLER TO JAY.
Fort Edward, July 14th, 1777.
I am much obliged by your two favors of the ——— and 11th Instant. I am happy that the Council of Safety have written the letter to Gen. Putnam, a copy whereof you were so good as to send me.—I feel myself so superior to my malicious enemies from the happy reflection that I have zealously done my duty to my country, that I shall as you very [wisely] recommend not discompose myself in the occupation. This calumny will bring shame and confusion on themselves.
I am in such a situation that it is necessary for me to conciliate the affections of all about me, I dare not speak my sentiments on the evacuation of Tyconderoga. You will perceive I have not done it to Gen. Washington. In the Council of Safety, to your secrecy, I can confide them. They are that it was an ill judged measure not warrented by necessity, and carried into execution with a precipitation that could not fail of creating the greatest panic in our troops and inspiriting the enemy. I am confident that with a moderate degree of foresight and exertion the far greater part of the valuable stores might have been saved, even if it had been really necessary to have abandoned the posts. From my letters to Gen St. Clair he had the greatest reason to believe that I would have joined him in a few days with a very considerable body of troops, and I believe I should have been with him at the head of four or five thousand men by this time if not before; but all this is Entre nous. I hope Gen. Clinton’s having the chair of Government will not cause any divisions amongst the friends of America. Altho’ his family and connections do not entitle him to so distinguished a predominance; yet he is virtuous and loves his country, has abilities and is brave, and hope he will experience from every patriot what I am resolved he shall have from me, support, countenance and comfort. I think I am neither enthusiastical or superstitious but I cannot help informing you that I am impressed with a presentiment that all will go well, that amidst the multiplicity of business which engages my attention this friendly guest intrudes at every hour, with the ‘be of good cheer,’ and so amazingly raises my spirits that I feel like a conqueror. You will laugh at me; do if you please and let our friends laugh with you, but remember if all I feel should be caused by some dreadful and flattering divinity, such as removed the pilot Athamos from Ithaca which he thought he beheld and approached, I am still happy whilst the illusion lasts.
Adieu—my best wishes attend you and my other friends.
Your most Obt. Servt.
FREDERICK JAY TO JAY.
Fish Kill, 18th July, 1777.
Both your letters are come to hand—I have been to Kent & provided Accommodations for the Family in case of a retreat.
I have done every thing in my power to get your Books removed, but in vain; not a waggon or Cart to be hired at any rate, the People here being busy in their Harvests. I shall speak to Coll. Hughes to day for two Continental teams; if he has them, I make no doubt he ’ll be ready to assist us.—The peas are not yet come to hand. The Family as usual, except Peggy who has been ill with a fever ever since you left us, which is the reason of my not writing to you sooner.
Genl. Sullivan with 2000 Continental Troops are now encamped in the Town of Fishkill; this affair makes the old Gentleman imagine that the Enemy will certainly attempt the River. I could wish he was as easy about the matter as myself—Mr. Platt of Kent informs me that there is a Farm of about 160 Acres with a Comfortable House to be sold near him for about £700, Lawful [money]. Would it not be better to purchase it than have the family in different houses; had I the money of my own, the farm should be mine. The old Gentleman I believe would soon come into the measure if you was to give him only a hint about it.
I am Your Afft. Brother
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Kingston, 21st July, 1777.
Your favour of the 14th inst. came safe to hand. I am happy to see so much cheerfulness diffused through it. I hope your sweet smiling genius won’t play the coquette. The confidential part of your letter shall remain secret. Putnam’s answer was cautious; he believed there was a fault somewhere, but neither excused nor accused anybody; nor did he take any notice of that part of our letter which respected you. This kind of reserve is not friendly. The evacuation of Ticonderoga continues to be the subject, not only of general speculation, but also of general censure and reproach. The public, not being furnished with the reasons for that measure, are left to form their own conjectures, and seem very universally to impute it to treachery and practice with the enemy; nor are the four generals alone the objects of suspicion; it reaches you.
It is unnecessary to observe that, like many other worthy characters, you have your enemies; and it is also true that countenance is indirectly given to the popular suspicions by persons from whom I should have expected more candour, or I may say more honesty.
It is said, but I know not with what truth, that St. Clair, on being asked by some of his officers why the fort was evacuated, replied generally, that he knew what he did; that on his own account he was very easy about the matter, and that he had it in his power to justify himself. From hence some inferred that he must have alluded to orders from you.
Another report prevails, that some short time before the fort was left, a number of heavy cannon were by your order dismounted and laid aside, and small ones placed in their room. This is urged as circumstantial proof against you.
The ship-carpenters have come down, much dissatisfied and clamorous. In short, sir, that jealousy which ever prevails in civil wars, added to the disappointment and indignation which the people feel on this occasion, together with the malice of your enemies, require that the integrity and propriety of your conduct be rendered so evident, as that there may not be a hook or loop whereon to hang a doubt.
I forgot to mention that stress is also laid on your distance from the fort at the time of the enemy’s approach, and from this circumstance unfavourable conclusions are drawn.
Your friends in the mean time are not idle; they argue that you would have been highly reprehensible, if you had, by being in a fort besieged, deprived the other parts of the department of your services and superintendence. That they are assured of your having neither ordered nor been privy to the evacuation of the fort, etc., etc., etc. A clear, short, and authentic statement of facts can alone do the work; while the people remain uninformed they will suspect the worst. I think the generals (who are mortal if honest) ought to give you a certificate that Ticonderoga was left without your direction, advice, or knowledge; and I submit to you whether it would not be expedient to write such a letter to the Council of Safety on this subject, as they could with propriety publish. I think it should not look like a defence, though it should amount to it. It should take no notice of accusations, and yet remove all grounds for them. Charges may be answered without seeming to know of any; a defence more pointed and particular would give a certain degree of consequence even to calumny, and resemble an implied admission that there was apparent room for suspicion.
In one of your late letters to the council was this sentiment. “You wished the evacuation might not be too much depreciated”; and your reasons for this caution may have weight; but, sir, a certain gentleman at that board, whom I need not name, and from whom I do not desire this information should be concealed, is in my opinion your secret enemy. He professes much respect, etc., for you; he can’t see through the business; he wishes you had been nearer to the fort, though he does not doubt your spirit; he thinks we ought to suspend our judgment, and not censure you rashly; he hopes you will be able to justify yourself, etc., etc. Observe so much caution, therefore, in your letters, as to let them contain nothing which your enemies may wrest to their own purposes.
I must also inform you that the flying seals of your letters to General Washington often arrive there broken. That from the different colour of the wax, if not from the clumsy manner in which they are often put up by the secretaries, it can be no difficult matter for those who receive them to perceive that they have been inspected. I wish some other mode was devised.
Thus, sir. I have performed the unpleasing task of writing to you with much freedom on a very disagreeable subject, and of acquainting you with facts that will give you pain, and put your equanimity to a trial.
I won’t apologize for the liberty I have taken, being persuaded that you will consider it as a proof of the regard with which I am, dear sir,
Your friend and humble servant,
TO THE GENERAL COMMITTEE OF TRYON COUNTY.
(In Council of Safety.)
Kingston, 22d July, 1777.
We have received your letter, and several others from different parts of your county, and are no less affected by the dangers than the fears of the people of Tryon. It is with the utmost concern that we hear of the universal panic, despair, and despondency which prevail throughout your county. We flattered ourselves that the approach of the enemy would have animated, and not depressed their spirits. What reason is there to expect that Heaven will help those who refuse to help themselves; or that Providence will grant liberty to those who want courage to defend it. Are the great duties they owe to themselves, their country, and posterity, so soon forgotten? Let not the history of the present glorious contest declare to future generations that the people of your county, after making the highest professions of zeal for the American cause, fled at the first appearance of danger, and behaved like women. This unmanly conduct gives us great concern. We feel too much for your honour and reputation not to be uneasy. Instead of supplicating the protection of your enemies, meet them with arms in your hands—make good your professions, and let not your attachment to freedom be manifested only in your words.
We could scarcely have believed that a man among you would have thought of protections (as they are falsely called) from the enemy. Of what advantage have they been to the deluded wretches who accepted them in Jersey, New York, Westchester, and Long Island? After being seduced from their duty to their country, they were plundered, robbed, cast into prison, treated as slaves, and abused in a manner almost too savage and cruel to be related. We ought to profit by the woful experience of others, and not with our eyes open run to destruction. Nor imagine you will remain unsupported in the hour of trial. We consider you as part of the State, and as equally entitled with other counties to the aid of the whole. . . .
Let all differences among you cease. Let the only contest be, who shall be foremost in defending his country. Banish unmanly fear, acquit yourselves like men, and with firm confidence trust the event with that Almighty and benevolent Being who hath commanded you to hold fast the liberty with which he has made you free; and who is able as well as willing to support you in performing his orders. If you can prevail on your people to exert their own strength, all will be well. Let us again beseech and entreat you, for the honour and reputation, as well as the safety of the State, to behave like men.
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Kingston, 26th July, 1777.
Your favour of the 24th instant, covering a letter from General St. Clair, was delivered to me this evening. I have sent the letter to the press; it will be printed entire. Extracts might be followed by suspicions. The malicious might remark, that parts were concealed which, if made known, would probably give a different colour to the whole. A number of Holt’s papers shall be sent to you, and care taken to transmit others to Congress, to headquarters, to Peekskill, etc. I shall also request Loudon to reprint it.
This attack on your reputation will, I hope, do you only a temporary injury. The honest though credulous multitude, when undeceived, will regret their giving way to suspicions which have led them to do you injustice.
I have reason to suspect that the Council of Safety believed that Ticonderoga was left by your direction or advice, or with your knowledge. They appear fully satisfied of the contrary, and, in my opinion, St. Clair’s letter will remove all doubts on that head.
The propriety of appointing a committee to inquire into your conduct appears to me very questionable. Supposing it unexceptionable in point of delicacy with respect to you (which I by no means think it), yet as this Council and the late Convention have, on certain occasions, made your cause their own, your enemies would not fail to insinuate that the proposed inquiry was a mere contrivance to give a favourable complexion to your conduct. Your readiness to submit to such an inquiry is no doubt a strong argument of innocence and conscious rectitude; but whether it would not be assuming in the Council to propose it, and inconsistent with the dignity of your station to accede to it, are questions of importance. Besides, a proposition so apparently officious and out of their line might perhaps be maliciously ascribed to their apprehensions of mismanagement, and consequently cast weight in the scale against you.
A temperate statement of facts, formed from the materials you mention, would doubtless set your conduct in its true point of view. Although a strict scrutiny may be eligible, yet how far it would be proper to press Congress to adopt that measure is worth consideration. The affairs of the northern department have lately engaged much of their time and attention. The evacuation of Ticonderoga will naturally bring about an inquiry. The country will not be satisfied without it. You will then have a fair opportunity of vindicating your conduct. The manner in which you account for the removal of the cannon mentioned in my letter is very satisfactory. Mr. Morris returned this afternoon. The Council were displeased with the last letter from him and Mr. Yates. They have passed a resolution declaring it disrespectful and unsatisfactory, and dissolved that committee. They have, nevertheless, joined Mr. Morris with me, and directed us to repair to headquarters, to confer with his Excellency on the state of your army, the means of reinforcing it, etc. We set out to-morrow. With the best wishes for your health and prosperity,
I am, dear sir,
Your friend and obt. servant,
JAY TO GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
Kingston, 28th July, 1777.
Your letter of the 25th July inst., which does no less honour to your candour than justice to the reputation of General Schuyler, was very acceptable. Agreeable to what I apprehend to have been your intention, I have sent it to the press, and flatter myself the purposes for which it was written will be fully answered.
The evacuation of Ticonderoga was an event very unexpected as well as important, and has given occasion to much speculation and discontent. How far it was necessary or prudent, can only be determined by gentlemen acquainted with the forts, grounds about them, strength of both parties, and many other circumstances essential to a proper discussion of that subject.
I hope the expediency of the measure may, contrary to the general expectation, derive proof from the event, and that the determination of the general officers on that head may on inquiry be found undeserving the censure it at present meets with.
I am, sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
Brigadier-General St. Clair.
TO JAY FROM HIS FATHER.
Fish Kill, 29 July, 1777.
I have received your letter of the 21 Inst:—The evacuation of Ticonderoga is very alarming; I wish it may soon be made to appear in a less gloomy light.
Hitherto Fady has not been able to succeed in providing waggons to remove your Books to Kent.—My thoughts have been much imployed of late about removing from hence in case of need, but the more I consider of it the more I am perplexd., for my present state of health admits of my undergoing no fatigue. Besides I conceive my going to Kent will be attended with an immense expence, for there I can hire no Farm to raise necessarys for my numerous Family, but must lodge them in different Houses and buy daily food &c for them, I suppose at the same exorbitant rate that is extorted from the distressed in other parts of the Country; so that unless I can get a Farm in order to raise so much as will in some measure answer the expence of the Necessarys of life, I am very apprehensive it will have too great a tendency to our ruin, for we may long continue in our present distressed situation before a Peace takes place. I am indeed at a loss what steps to take and therefore I could wish you were nearer at hand to consult with you and Fady what to do. Hitherto my present abode appears to me as safe as elsewhere, and it may be most prudent to continue here till we know what rout the Regulars take & their success if any they have; but in the mean time it may be best to remove some of my most valuable things by way of precaution, which we’ll consider of when you come here. If we can purchase another Waggon it shall be done.
Johnny Strang was here about a fortnight or three weeks ago when we was expectg. the Regulars were about coming up the River; he then proposed to send a box or two he has of yours at his Father’s to Salem, and promised to remove them from there in case of need & said he would be very careful of them. Nancy is now unwell & Peggy is very sick with an intermitting fever ever since her return from Albany.
I am yr. affecte. Father
JAY’S CHARGE TO THE GRAND JURY OF ULSTER COUNTY.
It affords me very sensible pleasure to congratulate you on the dawn of that free, mild, and equal government which now begins to rise and break from amid those clouds of anarchy, confusion, and licentiousness which the arbitrary and violent domination of Great Britain had spread in greater or less degree throughout this and the other American States. And it gives me particular satisfaction to remark that the first fruits of our excellent Constitution appear in a part of this State, whose inhabitants have distinguished themselves by having unanimously endeavoured to deserve them. This is one of those signal instances in which Divine Providence has made the tyranny of princes instrumental in breaking the chains of their subjects, and rendered the most inhuman designs productive of the best consequences to those against whom they were intended.
The infatuated sovereign of Britain, forgetful that kings were the servants, not the proprietors, and ought to be the fathers, not the incendiaries of their people, hath, by destroying our former constitutions, enabled us to erect more eligible systems of government on their ruins; and, by unwarrantable attempts to bind us in all cases whatever, has reduced us to the happy necessity of being free from his control in any.
Whoever compares our present with our former Constitution will find abundant reason to rejoice in the exchange, and readily admit that all the calamities incident to this war will be amply compensated by the many blessings flowing from this glorious revolution—a revolution which, in the whole course of its rise and progress, is distinguished by so many marks of the Divine favour and interposition, that no doubt can remain of its being finally accomplished.
It was begun and has been supported in a manner so singular, and I may say miraculous, that when future ages shall read its history they will be tempted to consider a great part of it as fabulous. What, among other things, can appear more unworthy of credit than that, in an enlightened age, in a civilized and Christian country, in a nation so celebrated for humanity as well as love of liberty and justice as the English once justly were, a prince should arise who, by the influence of corruption alone, should be able to reduce them into a combination to reduce three millions of his most loyal and affectionate subjects to absolute slavery, under a pretence of a right, appertaining to God alone, of binding them in all cases whatever, not even excepting cases of conscience and religion?
What can appear more improbable, although true, than that this prince and his people should obstinately steel their hearts and shut their ears against the most humble petitions and affectionate remonstrances, and unjustly determine by violence and force to execute designs which were reprobated by every principle of humanity, equity, gratitude, and policy—designs which would have been execrable if intended against savages and enemies, and yet formed against men descended from the same common ancestors as themselves—men who had liberally contributed to their support and cheerfully fought their battles even in remote and baleful climates. Will it not appear extraordinary that thirteen colonies, the object of their wicked designs, divided by variety of governments and manners, should immediately become one people, and though without funds, without magazines, without disciplined troops, in the face of their enemies, unanimously determine to be free, and, undaunted by the power of Britain, refer their cause to the justice of the Almighty, and resolve to repel force by force, thereby presenting to the world an illustrious example of magnanimity and virtue scarcely to be paralleled? Will it not be matter of doubt and wonder, that notwithstanding these difficulties, they should raise armies, establish funds, carry on commerce, grow rich by the spoils of their enemies, and bid defiance to the armies of Britain, the mercenaries of Germany, and the savages of the wilderness? But, however incredible these things may in the future appear, we know them to be true; and we should always remember that the many remarkable and unexpected means and events by which our wants have been supplied and our enemies repelled or restrained, are such strong and striking proofs of the interposition of Heaven, that our having been hitherto delivered from the threatened bondage of Britain ought, like the emancipation of the Jews from Egyptian servitude, to be forever ascribed to its true cause; and instead of swelling our breasts with arrogant ideas of our powers and importance, kindle in them a flame of gratitude and piety which may consume all remains of vice and irreligion.
Blessed be God! the time will now never arrive when the prince of a country in another quarter of the globe will command your obedience, and hold you in vassalage. His consent has ceased to be necessary to enable you to enact laws essential to your welfare; nor will you in future be subject to the imperious sway of rulers instructed to sacrifice your happiness whenever it might be inconsistent with the ambitious views of their royal master. The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favoured with an opportunity of deliberating upon, and choosing the forms of government under which they should live. All other constitutions have derived their existence from violence or accidental circumstances, and are therefore probably more distant from their perfection, which, though beyond our reach, may nevertheless be approached under the guidance of reason and experience.
How far the people of this State have improved this opportunity, we are at a loss to determine. Their constitution has given general satisfaction at home, and been not only approved but applauded abroad. It would be a pleasing task to take a minute view of it, to investigate its principles and remark the connection and use of its several parts; but that would be a work of too great length to be proper on this occasion. I must therefore confine myself to general observations, and among those which naturally arise from a consideration of this subject, none are more obvious than that the highest respect has been paid to those great and equal rights of human nature, which should forever remain inviolate in every society, and that such care has been taken in the disposition of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government, as to promise permanence to the constitution, and give energy and impartiality to the distribution of justice. So that while you possess wisdom to discern and virtue to appoint men of worth and abilities to fill the offices of the State, you will be happy at home and respectable abroad. Your lives, your liberties, your property, will be at the disposal only of your Creator and yourselves. You will know no power but such as you will create; no authority unless derived from your grant; no laws but such as acquire all their obligation from your consent.
Adequate security is also given to the rights of conscience and private judgment. They are by nature subject to no control but that of the Deity, and in that free situation they are now left. Every man is permitted to consider, to adore, and to worship his Creator in the manner most agreeable to his conscience. No opinions are dictated, no rules of faith prescribed, no preference given to one sect to the prejudice of others. The constitution, however, has wisely declared, that the “liberty of conscience thereby granted shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State.” In a word, the convention by whom that constitution was formed were of opinion that the gospel of Christ, like the ark of God, would not fall, though unsupported by the arm of flesh; and happy would it be for mankind if that opinion prevailed more generally.
But let it be remembered that whatever marks of wisdom, experience, and patriotism there may be in your constitution, yet like the beautiful symmetry, the just proportion, and elegant forms of our first parents before their Maker breathed into them the breath of life, it is yet to be animated, and till then may indeed excite admiration, but will be of no use: from the people it must receive its spirit and by them be quickened. Let virtue, honour, the love of liberty and of science be and remain the soul of this constitution, and it will become the source of great and extensive happiness to this and future generations. Vice, ignorance, and want of vigilance will be the only enemies able to destroy it. Against these be forever jealous. Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country, and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.
This, gentlemen, is the first court held under the authority of our constitution, and I hope its proceedings will be such as to merit the approbation of the friends, and avoid giving cause of censure to the enemies of the present establishment.
It is proper to observe that no person in this State, however exalted or low his rank, however dignified or humble his station, but has a right to the protection of, and is amenable to, the laws of the land; and if those laws be wisely made and duly executed, innocence will be defended, oppression punished, and vice restrained. Hence it becomes the common duty, and indeed the common interest of those concerned in the distribution of justice, to unite in repressing the licentious, in supporting the laws, and thereby diffusing the blessings of peace, security, order and good government, through all degrees and ranks of men among us.
I presume it will be unnecessary to remind you that neither fear, favour, resentment, or other personal and partial considerations should influence your conduct. Calm, deliberate, reason, candour, moderation, a dispassionate and yet a determined resolution to do your duty, will, I am persuaded, be the principles by which you will be directed.
You will be pleased to observe that all offences committed in this country against the people of this State, from treason to trespass, are proper objects of your attention and inquiry.
You will pay particular attention to the practice of counterfeiting bills of credit, emitted by the General Congress, or either of the American States, and of knowingly passing such counterfeits—practices no less criminal in themselves than injurious to the interests of that great cause, on the success of which the happiness of America so essentially depends.
ROBERT TROUP TO JAY.
Camp 3 miles above Still-Water,
Sept. 14, 1777. 11 o’clock at night.
My Dear Sir:
On the 9th Instant about 8 o’clock A.M. the army marched from Van Shaack’s Islands, & London’s Ferry; at 3 in the afternoon it incamped at Forts Mills, and early next morning reached Still-water.
We took Post on the Heights, began to open Communications and throw up a few small redoubts principally with a view of amusing the Enemy. On the 11th we recd. Intelligence that Gen. Burgoyne had called in his Out-posts, collected his Carriages, and was making every Preparation to advance. The General conceiving the Ground we occupied was not calculated for Defence went to reconnoitre & 3 Miles in Front discovered a Spot which fully answered his wishes.—On the 12, he marched the Army upon it and made the necessary dispositions for Action. But in this he was disappointed.
Gen. Burgoyne, like his Colleague, seems to be exceedingly embarrassed. For some time past, he has had his Army in Point, without making a single Motion, till to-day. By the Information of our Scouts he has brought the main Body of his Army to Saratoga. They declare they distinctly counted 800 Tents on the West Side of the River near General Schuyler’s House. From this Circumstance, with a variety of others we conclude he means to attack us. Should he be so rash as to adopt this Plan, I think we shall end the War in the Northern Department. I speak with Confidence because our Army is truly respectable, & every thing wears the most flattering aspect. We have now on the Ground 9000 Men, well armed, in good Health, high Spirits, & eager for Action. The horrid Barbarities committed by the Enemy, & the Sacredness of our Cause seem to have stamped in every Countenance the glorious words—conquer or die. Permit me to add to these considerations the Strength of our post. There are two Roads only which lead to our Encampment. The one to our Flank by Saratoga Lake, thro a thick marshy swamp; and the other to our Front along Hudsons River. I am inclined to think they will advance on both in order to divide our attention. In the former their Artillery will be of little service; we have obstructed the Pass already by felling Trees, and shall secure it properly to-morrow by fortifying a commanding Eminence. The latter is also favorable to our Designs. Within Musket Shot of it, on the left, is a Ridge which extends very far; this the Riflemen, Infantry, & a large Detachment of the Army will take Possession of, about 4 or 5 Miles in Front, to gall the Enemy sorely before they engage the Main Body. In one word—if the action becomes general, they will be obliged to contend with Hills, Rocks, Gullies & Trees on all sides. I have impartially considered the different accounts relative to the number of the Enemy. I make a large allowance when I estimate them at 7000. These compose a motley Crew of Englishmen, Germans, & Tories quarrelling with each other & discontented with the Service. From Men void of Principle, and destitute of Harmony can Victory be expected?
Reason & Justice say no. Gen. Lincoln is near Skeensborough with a numerous Body of Militia. The object of his Expedition is to push in the Enemy’s Rear.—This he will completely effect, if the delicate, polite, & humane Colonel of the Queen’s Dragoons Attempts to get more elbow Room.
This much for Military Matters.
When I saw Mrs. Jay last I promised to write to her. I am extremely sorry the great Hurry of Business will not permit me to enjoy that Pleasure. I beg you will present my best respects to her, at the same Time apologise for me. How is your little Boy? Does he grow cleverly? Can he talk so as to be understood? Pray, let me hear from your Family, when you have nothing of more Importance to do.—I am in perfect Health, & hope I shall not, in the critical hour, disgrace you, or any of my good Friends.
I am, my dear Sir,
With Respect, yours
GENERAL SCHUYLER TO JAY.
Saratoga, November 6th, 1777.
My Dear Sir:
When I did myself the pleasure to write you on the 17th ult., I was not apprized of the enemy’s progress up Hudson’s River, nor of the barbarous devastation they have been guilty of committing at Kingston, and other places in the vicinity. It is no consolation to me that I have so many fellow-sufferers; I feel, however, a very sensible one, in the fate which has attended General Burgoyne.
Is it not probable that the enemy, in a future campaign, will make another attempt to sail up Hudson River? If they do, and at the same time attack the Eastern States, will there not be a want of bread in those States? As in that case little or none can be conveyed to that quarter, would it not be prudent to form very considerable magazines of flour on the east side of the Green Mountains? and does it not appear necessary to throw such obstructions in Hudson River, as to render it impracticable for shipping to penetrate beyond the highlands? Perfectly to obstruct the navigation of Hudson River is certainly a very arduous task, but not attended with so many difficulties as may at first view be imagined. And I am persuaded, that a spirited director, at the head of four hundred men, would completely prepare every thing in the course of the winter, so as to sink the works in the course of six weeks after the ice shall have quitted the river. The British engineers and officers confess, that if the works on the Lake, at Ticonderoga had been completed, it would have been impossible to have opened a passage in less than ten days, if they had been possessed of every requisite for such a business, and if not the least molestation had been given them. Very early in the war I urged the necessity of securing Hudson River; I have repeated my wish more than once, and I shall be extremely happy to see a business completely executed, on which I am persuaded much of the safety of the United States in general, and this in particular, depends. If I had any interest with the Senate and Assembly, I should venture to address them on the subject; but as I have not, I must leave it to you, if you are in sentiment with me on the necessity of the work, to mention it to your friends in both Houses.
As I shall shortly be altogether out of public life, I am earnestly engaged in building me a house at this place, that I may be as far out of the noise and bustle of the great world as possible. I am confident (provided we repel the enemy), that I shall enjoy more true felicity in my retreat, than ever was experienced by any man engaged in public life. My hobby-horse has long been a country life; I dismounted with reluctance, and now saddle him again with a very considerable share of satisfaction (for the injurious world has not been able to deprive me of the best source of happiness, the approbation of my own heart), and hope to canter him gently on to the end of the journey of life.
When Congress will send for me to inquire into my conduct, I cannot even make a guess at. I have entreated that it may be soon, and respectfully observed, that from my past services I ought not to remain longer than needs must be in the disagreeable situation in which I now stand.
Where are you lodged—and where is your father’s family? Can I be of any service? Some tory tenants of mine have lost fine farms, either for grain or stock, between this and Albany; two or three of them in good fence, with small tenements on them. If these or any of them can be of any use, I am sure they are much at your service. What further buildings are necessary may be cheaply and speedily erected, as the frame of a whole house can be sawed, boards and every other material procured at the cheapest rates. I will not let any of these farms, except such as I am confident would not do for you, until I have the pleasure of hearing from you; or rather, until I have had the happiness of giving you a bed in the new house, which I began upon on the 1st instant, and which will be under cover, and have two rooms finished by the 15th instant, unless the weather should prove remarkably wet: but observe that it is only a frame house, sixty feet long, twenty-one broad, and two stories high, filled in with brick.
I hope pains will be taken to recruit our army; we ought not to grow negligent, and trust too much to our good fortune: there is danger in too much confidence, and I apprehend that Britain, like a desperate gamester whose affairs are on the brink of ruin, will make a bold push to retrieve the loss, if yet it is possible.
Pray make my compliments to the governor, the chancellor, speaker, R. Yates, and such other of my friends as are in your quarter. I do not mention Morris, because I hear he has gone to relieve Mr. Duane. It is rather hard upon the latter to be obliged to such a constant attendance. Adieu: my best wishes attend you through life.
I am, dear sir, with great esteem and affection,
Your obedient humble servant,
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Fishkill, 11th December, 1777.
Your very friendly letter of the 6th ult. was this moment delivered. I am happy to find your firmness unimpaired, and your attachment to your country unabated by its ingratitude. Justice will yet take place, and I do not despair of seeing the time when it will be confessed that the foundation of our success in the northern department was laid by the present commander’s predecessor. I am nevertheless anxious that such authentic evidence of the propriety of your conduct should be transmitted to posterity as may contradict the many lies which will be told them by writers under impressions and under an influence unfriendly to your reputation. This subject merits attention. Facts, and not a single resolution of Congress, will in my opinion be effectual to do the business. I have thought much of this matter, but more of this when we meet.
Your offer of a farm, etc., is very obliging: be pleased to accept my thanks for it. I am at present at a loss how to determine. Let not my delay, however, be injurious to you. This place, at which all the family now reside, is by no means agreeable or convenient, if secure, which is also doubtful. I purpose doing myself the pleasure of seeing you this winter, and shall then avail myself of your advice.
The rapidity with which the desolation of your seat at Saratoga is repairing does not surprise me. I remember the despatch with which the preparations for our first expedition into Canada were completed. I wish the repair of our forts, etc., in the river was in the same train.
As to your loss of influence among a certain body, it is less so than you may imagine. The virtuous and sensible still retain their former sentiments. The residue ever will be directed by accident and circumstances. Few possess honesty or spirit enough openly to defend unpopular merit, and by their silence permit calumny to gain strength. These, however, are temporary evils, and you do well to despise them.
I am, my dear sir, very sincerely
Your friend and obedient servant,
Reference is made here to the secret correspondence between Silas Deane and the committee of Congress mentioned in note, p. 97. Deane wrote his letters with invisible ink, which the committee were to decipher through some chemical preparation. To mislead the enemy in case of the interception of the letters, Deane would write a brief and unimportant note over an assumed name on the upper portion of the sheet of paper on which the hidden communication was entered. Timothy Jones, in Morris’ letter above, was one of Deane’s fictitious signatures. See “Life of Jay,” vol. i., p. 64.
The first Constitution of the State of New York, with which Jay’s name is closely associated, was adopted April 20, 1777. Unfortunately no record of the deliberations of the committee that framed it is known to exist, and the debate upon its adoption in the Convention was but meagrely reported, while the only material bearing upon any of its features found among Jay’s papers consists of the above letter from Livingston and Morris, Jay’s reply following, and the letter from Duane of May 28, 1777. The main facts in the history of the Constitution are well known. A committee to draft the instrument, in accordance with a general recommendation from the Continental Congress (see note, p. 58), was appointed as early as August 1, 1776, but events delayed the submission of its report until March 11, 1777. This committee, a majority of whom were prominent lawyers, was composed of Messrs. Jay, Hobart, Smith, Duer, Morris, Livingston, Broome, Scott, Abraham and Robert Yates, Wisner, DeWitt, and Townhsend. According to Jay’s biographer, Chancellor Kent, and others, the first draft of the Constitution was presented in Jay’s handwriting, and reflected the committee’s mature deliberations. That he devoted much attention to it himself and stamped it largely with his own views is evident from the debate in the Convention and his letter of April 29, 1777. During the debate changes were made and amendments adopted. Jay, for example, moved the substitution of the ballot for the previous viva-voce method of electing representatives; he also proposed the Council of Appointment for the nomination of civil officers. Morris, Livingston, Scott, and others figure in the proceedings.
See note to preceding letter.
A letter in the “Calendar of New York Historical MSS.,” vol. i., pp. 678, 679, March 24, 1777, contains this reference:
“Mr. Jay is exceedingly unhappy about the 27th paragraph of the form of Government which puts the appointmt. of the clerks of courts in the power of the respective Judges. . . . He alleges that ’t is putting in their power to provide for Sons, Brothers, creatures, Dependants, &c—That it will prevent obtaining Evidence against the most wicked Judge should such be appointed. Corrupt bargains may be made for appointments to those offices,” etc.
Such a recommendation was introduced by Gouverneur Morris and passed, but subsequently omitted. It was in the form of a call upon “the future Legislatures of the State to take the most effectual measures, consistent with the public safety and private property of individuals, for abolishing domestic slavery within the same, so that in future ages every human being who breathes the air of this State shall enjoy the privileges of a freeman.” Jay, who, on account of his mother’s illness, was absent from the Legislature during the last days of the debate, does not appear to have been aware of the clause offered by Morris. It was during Jay’s term as governor, however, that slavery was finally abolished in New York.
Abraham Yates, of Albany, member of the New York Convention.
William Duer, of Charlotte County, lately member of the New York Convention, and now delegate in Congress.
Leonard Gansevoort, of Albany County, member of the New York Convention.
Although Jay had declined to stand as a candidate in this first gubernatorial election in New York, he received a considerable number of votes, as appears from the following note on p. 164 “Civil List, State of New York, 1886”: “A fragment of the canvass of 1777 shows the returns from Albany, Cumberland, Dutchess, Tryon, Ulster, Westchester as follows: George Clinton, 865; John Morin Scott, 386; Philip Schuyler, 1,012; John Jay, 367; Philip Livingston, 5; Robert R. Livingston, 7. The votes from Orange and other Southern counties gave the election to Clinton. The returns were made to the Council of Safety, July 9, and the Governor was sworn in on the 30th at Kingston.”
Before it dissolved in May, 1777, the New York Convention appointed a Council of Safety to provide for the military necessities of the State until the meeting of the first Legislature in September. Jay was a member of this Council. Its published proceedings show that the suppression of toryism, the mustering of the militia, and the general defence of the State were the principal matters absorbing its attention.
Evacuation of Ticonderoga by Gen. St. Clair on the approach of Burgoyne, July 4, 1777.
The above letter is credited by his biographer to Mr. Jay, vol. i., p. 71. Jay seems to have conducted a large part of the correspondence for the Council of Safety; its proceedings contain or refer to drafts of letters by him to Washington, Clinton, Schuyler, Trumbull, and others.
Upon the adoption of the State Constitution, April 20, ’77 (see note p. 126), the New York Convention appointed a committee, distinct from the Council of Safety, to establish the authority of the new government in all its branches. As the situation required the organization of the judiciary without delay, the convention itself proceeded. on May 3d, to name the officers, and elected, among others, John Jay, as Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court. He received nineteen votes, against fifteen cast for John Morin Scott. The Supreme Court was not formally opened until September 9th following, at Kingston, when Jay delivered the above charge to the grand jury, a body described at the time as “composed of the most respectable characters in the County, no less than twenty-two of whom attended and were sworn.” The charge was published at the jury’s request.
Colonel Robert Troup, aide-de-camp to General Gates. Subsequently Judge United States District Court of New York.