JAY TO JAMES DE LANCEY.
Nothwithstanding the opposition of our sentiments and conduct relative to the present contest, the friendship which subsisted between us is not forgotten; nor will the good offices formerly done by yourself and family cease to excite my gratitude.
How far your situation may be comfortable and easy, I know not: it is my wish, and shall be my endeavour, that it be as much so as may be consistent with the interest of that great cause to which I have devoted every thing I hold dear in this world. I have taken the liberty of requesting Mr. Samuel Broome immediately to advance you one hundred dollars on my account.
Your not having heard from me sooner was unavoidable. A line by the first opportunity will oblige me. Be explicit, and avail yourself without hesitation of the friendship which was entertained as well as professed for you by
Your obedient and humble servant,
Poughkeepsie, 2d January, 1778.
JAMES DE LANCEY TO JAY.
Hartford, Jany. 14th, 1778.
I recd. your kind Letter of the 2d Inst. with 100 Dollars from Mr. Saml. Broome which with the many other obligations I am under to you will never be forgot; as I have had a plentifull supply of money from home returned it Mr. Broome.
The gentlemen of the Army particularly Genl. Parsons & some of the inhabitants of this place have been very civil to me; the Genl. has made application to the Governor & Councill to have me permitted to go on Parole to New York to settle my affairs there & to try if I could effect an exchange between Col. Ely & myself, but could not succeed on account of a letter from Genl. Clinton to Genl. Putnam requesting that I might not be exchanged without the consent of the Governor & Councill of New York State. I thought your letter would be of service to me in this affair & showed it to the Genl.
I believe from Genl. [Lewis] Morris’s Conduct to me on my way to this place that he has been the occasion of it.
I have been told by several People before and since I was taken that Genl. Morris reported I had broke my Parole to Genl. Mifflin—I do assuere you on my honour I never did give Genl. Mifflin the least reason to think I would stay in West-Chester whilst the Army was there for my treatment was such that I was determined to go to Long Island by the first opportunity.
Genl. Mifflin told me I should not go from Home without a pass from him or Col. Hand to which I made no answer; how that could be taken for a parole I know not. I do not mention this as the least disadvantage to me in this place but for fear if mentioned to you it should lessen your Friendship for me.
I should have been more hurt had I been neglected by you than anything I can suffer whilst a Prisoner, as my regard for you had not in the least abated on account of the difference of our sentiments. My compliments to Mrs. Jay.
I am Dear Sir,
Your Sincere Friend & most obdt. humble Servt.
James De Lancey.
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS TO JAY.
Camp,Valley Forge, Feb. 1st, 1778.
Congress have sent me here in conjunction with some other gentlemen, to regulate their army, and in truth not a little regulation hath become necessary. Our quarter-master and commissary departments are in a most lamentable situation. Opportunities have been neglected last campaign which were truly golden ones, but omnipotent fatality had, it seems, determined that the American capital should fall. Our sentiments on this occasion are so perfectly coincident that I will not enlarge. The mighty Senate of America is not what you have known it. The Continental currency and Congress have both depreciated, but in the hands of the Almighty Architect of empires, the stone which the builders have rejected may easily become head of the corner. The free, open, and undisturbed communication with the city of Philadelphia debauches the minds of those in its vicinage with astonishing rapidity. O, this State is sick even unto the death, and in Sir William [Howe] they have certainly got a most damnable physician. Just before the reduction of the forts, the enemy balanced exactly upon the point of quitting the city, and a straw would have turned in either scale. Our troops; Heu Miseros! The skeleton of an army presents itself to our eyes in a naked, starving condition, out of health, out of spirits. But I have seen Fort George in the summer of 1777. Next campaign I believe we shall banish these troublesome fellows. For Heaven’s sake, my dear friend, exert yourself strenuously in the great leading business of taxation. To that great wheel “a thousand petty spokes and small annexments are morticed and adjoined.” I earnestly entreat you and my other friends, fortia opponere pectora to that fatal system of limitation, which, if carried into execution, would be downright ruin, and in the ineffectual attempt will carry us to the brink of it. Yorktown and its neighbourhood, although nearly ninety miles from Philadelphia, already considers our money almost as waste paper. At taverns, take as specimen the following rates: breakfast and supper each, seven shillings and sixpence; dinner, ten shillings; one night’s hay for one horse, seven shillings and sixpence; oats, per quart, one shilling; toddy, per bowl, ten shillings; rum, per gill, seven shillings and sixpence; wine, per bottle, from thirty to forty shillings, and the like; you will observe this is proclamation. Hay, they tell me, hath been sold in some places at £20 proc. per ton. My love to Livingston. I shall write to him by this opportunity, if I can find time to send a long letter, which, indeed, I owe him. Remember me to Mrs. Jay, and believe me, yours,
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Poughkeepsie, 12th February, 1778.
I hope you will seriously determine to serve your country, at least in a legislative capacity. Class yourself with those great men of antiquity, who, unmoved by the ingratitude of their country, omitted no opportunities of promoting the public weal. In this field malice cannot prevent your reaping laurels, and remember that the present state of our affairs offers you a plentiful harvest. Set about it then, my dear sir, in earnest. I know not who will be the bearer of this letter, and therefore forbear enlarging.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
26th February, 1778.
As an opportunity of going to Albany will not probably be given me during the session of the Legislature, and as I have too long kept you in suspense relative to the farm you was so kind as to offer me, I ought now to acquaint you that I am under a necessity of denying myself the pleasure of being your neighbour. My father’s infirmities have so increased as to render a removal to Saratoga so inconvenient and painful, if practicable, that he cannot prevail upon himself to undertake it. So that, my dear sir, filial obligations will constrain me to continue in his neighbourhood.
He is greatly obliged by your friendly offer, and believe me, it will ever excite the gratitude of your obliged and
Affectionate friend and servant,
JAY TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
11th March, 1778.
Your favour of the 1st of February came to hand last week. It gives me pleasure to hear you were then at headquarters, especially on business so important and perplexed. It is time that inquiries, as well as punishments, should become more frequent. I wish better, or rather more, use was made of courtsmartial. Why is the inquiry directed to be made into the causes to which we are to ascribe the loss of Fort Montgomery, etc., so long delayed? Had it been immediately after that event took place, the river would now have been well fortified, and a general at the head of the troops in the southern part of the State.
Pennsylvania, I believe, is sick unto death. It will nevertheless recover, though perhaps not soon. Weak and bad constitutions incline to chronical disorders.
Were I sure that this letter would reach you uninspected, I should commit many things to paper worth your knowledge, but which would give you little pleasure or surprise; but as it is uncertain who will be the bearer, they must be reserved for the present. God bless you, and give you diligence and patience. Where you are, both are necessary.
I am your friend,
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS TO JAY.
Yorktown[York, Pa.], 28th April, 1778.
I won’t dispute who has written most. I have written more than twice what you acknowledge to have received, but this is of no consequence.
I am sorry for your session, but I wish you had marked out what taxes have been laid, what salaries given, and a few more striking outlines of legislation. These, with what I know of your men, would have enabled me to imagine proper lights and shades.
I choose that my friends should write freely, and those who know me must know that such freedoms need no apology. I never thought the person you allude to so steady as could be wished. We have all of us our weak sides; would to God that were the worst.
What you mention relative to our plan of rights shall be attended to. I am a busy man, though, as heretofore, a pleasurable one.
Let your governor cleanse the Augean stable in his State, which no public body would do though it stink under their noses. I am labouring at arrangements of various kinds. God prosper me, and give me patience and industry. It was a good wish from one who knew my wants.
We have ordered troops from the highlands, but we will send thither a general, who shall be empowered to call forth the swarms of the eastern hive. Men were necessary at the Valley Forge. I have a good knack at guessing. I guess the enemy won’t attempt Hudson River.
I do think of Vermont: and unless I mistake, matters shall be managed to effect, without bellowing in the forum, which I believe hath been a little too much the case. But why should I blame impetuous vivacity,—hath it never led me into an error?
Putnam will soon be tried. The affair of Schuyler and St. Clair laboured under awkward circumstances. Their friends and their enemies appear to me to have been equally blind. I enclose extracts from the minutes made the other night to possess myself of the real state of facts. There are some other entries from time to time. It was erroneous to order a committee simply to collect facts; they should have been directed to state charges. This morning, my colleague being absent, I got a committee appointed for the latter purpose: Sherman, Dana (Massachusetts), and Drayton (South Carolina). This was unanimous, and yet I would have undertaken to argue for it in a style which would absolutely have ruined the measure. You know it would have been easy to say, justice to those injured gentlemen, instead of justice to an injured country requires, &c.
Great Britain seriously means to treat. Our affairs are most critical, though not dangerously so. If the minister from France were present as well as him from England, I am a blind politician if the thirteen States (with their extended territory), would not be in peaceable possession of their independence three months from this day. As it is, expect a long war. I believe it will not require such astonishing efforts after this campaign to keep the enemy at bay. Probably a treaty is signed with the house of Bourbon ere this; if so, a spark hath fallen upon the train which is to fire the world. Ye gods! what havoc doth ambition make among your works.
My dear friend, adieu. My love to your wife. Remember me to all my friends of every rank and sex.
I am yours,
P.S. I meant to have said, the present is within the spirit of our constitution, a special occasion.
JAY TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Albany, April 29, 1778.
My last to you was written about a week ago. I am now engaged in the most disagreeable part of my duty, trying criminals. They multiply exceedingly. Robberies become frequent: the woods afford them shelter, and the tories food. Punishments must of course become certain, and mercy dormant—a harsh system, repugnant to my feelings, but nevertheless necessary. In such circumstances lenity would be cruelty, and severity is found on the side of humanity.
The influence of Lord North’s conciliatory plan is happily counterbalanced by the intelligence from France. There was danger of its creating divisions. A desire of peace is natural to a harassed people; and the mass of mankind prefer present ease to the arduous exertions often necessary to ensure permanent tranquillity.
What the French treaty may be, I know not. If Britain would acknowledge our independence, and enter into a liberal alliance with us, I should prefer a connexion with her to a league with any power on earth. Whether those objects be attainable, experience only can determine. I suspect the commissioners will have instructions to exceed their powers, if necessary. Peace, at all avents, is, in my opinion, the wish of the minister. I hope the present favorable aspect of our affairs will neither make us arrogant nor careless. Moderation in prosperity marks great minds, and denotes a generous people. Your game is now in a delicate situation, and the least bad play may ruin it. I view a return to the domination of Britain with horror, and would risk all for independence; but that point ceded, I would give them advantageous commercial terms. The destruction of Old England would hurt me; I wish it well: it afforded my ancestors an asylum from persecution.
Parties here are still in a ferment. I hope it will be the means of purging off much scum and dross. I can’t be particular. This letter may never reach you.
I expect in a few days to see General Schuyler; and my importunities shall not be wanting to urge him to join you without delay. The people grow more reconciled to him.
The military departments here, I believe, are well managed. The commissary deserves credit. Handsome things are said of the quarter-master; and there is one at the head of the artillery, who appears to me to have much merit. The park elaboratory and stores are in high order. There is the appearance of regularity, care, and attention in all the public works. As to the hospital I can say little, not being as yet well informed. Conway is pleased with Schuyler, and manages the Vermont troops properly; but of this say nothing. I fancy he does not well understand the views of his patron. Neither of them ought to know this.
The clothier-general, once the Duke of Bolton’s butler, is an anti-Washington. An ignorant butcher is issuing commissary. Let me again hint to you the propriety of restraining the staff from trade: besides general reasons, there are particular ones. Many good cannon remain yet at Ticonderoga—strange neglect. Remember Vermont. Why do the marine committee keep Tudor in pay? I can’t hear that he does any thing for it.
I am, and will be your friend,
JAY TO PETER VAN SCHAACK.
Poughkeepsie, 26th June, 1778.
It is but three days since your favour of the 3d instant was delivered to me. A fair wind, good company, the prospect of a short passage, and thereby avoiding the fatigue and inconvenience of a journey by land, induced me to return from Albany by water. The letter you mention to have written on the subject of a pass, etc., has never come to hand. On conversing with the governor yesterday on that subject, he told me he lately had the pleasure of seeing you, and had settled that matter to your satisfaction.
I am of the number of those who think exercise and change of air and company essential to your health. I might add a third requisite—a mind at ease. The two first conduce to the other. Misfortunes, and severe ones, have been your lot. The reflection that they happened in the course of a providence that errs not, has consolation in it. I fear, too, that your sensibility is wounded by other circumstances—but these are wounds not to be probed in a letter. Could we now and then smoke a few pipes together, you would perhaps be in a better humour with many things in the world than I think you now are. I suspect your imagination colours high and shades too deep. But more of this another time.
You mistake me much if you suppose the frequency of your letters or applications troublesome to me. I assure you it would give me pleasure were opportunities of being useful to you more frequent than either. When you were last here, fourteen miles more would have carried you to Fishkill. That little ride would have been a gratification to me, and not unpleasant to you. What detained you? Was you not sure I would be glad to see you? God bless you and give you health. I am, dear Peter, affectionately yours, etc.,
EDWARD RUTLEDGE TO JAY.
Charleston, Dec. 25th, 1778.
My dear Jay:
It is a long time since we have had any correspondence, but I see no reason why it should be longer, when we have any thing to say, and leisure to say it in. Such is just my situation; for it is Christmas-day, and all the world (i. e. my clients) being either at their devotions or their amusements, I have time to tell you, and I fear with some reason (as it comes north about), that a damned infamous cabal is forming against our commander-in-chief, and that whenever they shall find themselves strong enough they will strike an important blow. I give you this hint, that you may be on your guard; and I know you will excuse me for doing so, when you recollect that there are some men of our acquaintance who are in possession of all the qualities of the devil, his cunning not excepted. Recollect the indirect attempts that were repeatedly made against the command and reputation of poor Schuyler, and the fatal stab that was at last aimed at both; and let us be taught how necessary it is to oppose a cabal in its infancy. Were it in my power, I would stifle it in its birth. Conway, the ****, and ******* are said to be at the bottom of this, besides an abundance of snakes that are concealed in the grass. If these are not encouraged to come forward, they will continue where they are; but if the former are permitted to bask in the sunshine of Congressional favour, the latter will soon spread themselves abroad, and an extended field will be immediately occupied by the factious and the ambitious. The fate of America will then be like the fate of most of the republics of antiquity, where the designing have supplanted the virtuous, and the worthy have been sacrificed to the views of the wicked. Indeed, my friend, if the Congress do not embrace every opportunity to extinguish that spirit of cabal and unworthy ambition, it will finally be more essentially injurious to the well-being of this continent than the sword of Sir Harry and his whole army. I view the body of which we were for a long time members, as possessing, in a very eminent degree, the powers of good and evil. It depends on those who manage the machine to determine its object. I hear you have returned to Congress, and I hope you will have your full share in the management. I do not know what gentleman we shall send from this State. We have some fine plants, nay, saplings, that will do wondrous well in a few years, but are too tender at present to bear up the weight of this continent. Were it now to be imposed upon them, it might check their growth, or, as they are the production of a southern clime, it is possible they might be blighted by a northern wind. When you write me, let me know how Robert R. Livingston is. Remember me to him, for I esteem him highly. God bless you, my dear Jay, and believe me to be, with great sincerity,
Your affectionate friend,
TO JAY FROM MRS. JAY.
Persipiney, Decbr. 28th, 1778.
My Dear Mr. Jay:
. . . . . . . .
I had the pleasure of finding by the newspaper that you are honor’d with the first office on the Continent, and am still more pleased to hear this appointment affords general satisfaction. Will you be so kind as to inform me whether our State has prolonged your stay beyond the first of March or not? As by your present appointment your personal attendance upon Congress I imagine can’t be dispensed with, I am very solicitous to know how long I am still to remain in a state of widowhood. Upon my word I sincerely wish these three months may conclude it; however, I mean not to influence your conduct, for I am convinced that had you consulted me as some men have their wives about public measures, I should not have been Roman matron enough to have given you so entirely to the public, and of consequence your reputation and claim to the gratitude of your country would have been as much diminished as theirs who have acted so imprudent tho’ tender a part.
It will give you pleasure to be informed that your son and myself are still favored with health, and if you can spare time to give me the same grateful tidings of yourself, you can hardly imagine what happiness you ’ll confer upon your Affecte. wife,
A Westchester County loyalist and an officer in Oliver De Lancey’s corps recruited in New York and Long Island. Surprised and captured by a party of Americans in the fall of 1777, he was taken to and confined at Hartford. See his answer following.
See note to preceding letter.
A well-known loyalist, one of Jay’s friends before the war, now a prisoner on parole. See “Life of Van Schaack,” by his son.
This “appointment” was Jay’s election to the presidency of the Continental Congress, December 10, 1778. Under the New York Constitution the Chief Justice was debarred from holding any other office except that of delegate to Congress on “a special occasion.” The irritating Vermont controversy presented such an occasion, and on November 4th the New York Legislature elected Jay a delegate without vacating his judicial office. Three days after taking his seat in Congress he was elected president of that body, succeeding Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, who had resigned.