Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY ON THE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY ON THE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI. 1 - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 1 (1763-1781).
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JAY ON THE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI.1
Mr. Gerard had [in 1778] intimated to Congress the propriety of their taking speedy measures for drawing Spain into the general cause. He often enlarged on the policy and objects of that Court, one of which was to regain the Floridas, and to become possessed of the exclusive navigation of the Gulf of Mexico, and, of course, the Mississippi. He said he was confident that if these were ceded to her, it would not be difficult to induce her to join us; and especially as the Family Compact, and the refusal of Britain to accept her mediation, would afford a good pretext. He further insinuated, that we might reasonably expect to obtain from that court a considerable sum of money, which, considering the state of our finances, was a desirable object.
Though Congress was desirous of an alliance with Spain, and ready to take measures for the purpose, yet whom to employ became a serious question. Mr. Lee’s connections insisted that he ought to be the man; while others, who had neither a predilection for nor aversion to him, thought it inexpedient to commit that business to one respecting whom America at present entertained doubts, and who had become disagreeable to France, and, consequently, in a certain degree, to Spain. By these unfortunate circumstances nearly a year was wasted in fruitless altercation, and the opportunity of obtaining loans from Spain lost, by her having entered into war, and having occasion for all her money to defray the expense of it.
Some time prior to my appointment to Spain, suspicions of it prevailed, and both Mr. Gerard and Mr. Miralles expressed much satisfaction at the prospect of that event. On my coming to Congress in the fall of 1778, and constantly after, both Mr. Gerard and Mr. Miralles, the Spanish agent, had shown me every mark of civility and attention, though I have reason to think that both of them entertained higher opinions of my docility than were well founded.
As a member of Congress, it appeared to me very improper to make their proceedings a topic of conversation out-of-doors; and I made it an invariable rule not to speak of their debates, or of any matters before them, to any who were not members. Mr. Gerard used very frequently to spend an evening with me, and sometimes sat up very late. As the evening advanced, he often became more open, and spoke without reserve on the subject of the views of Spain, and the interest of America with respect to her. He pressed our quitting to her the Floridas and Mississippi as indispensable prerequisites to a treaty, and urged a variety of reasons to support his opinions; disclaiming, at the same time, his having any instructions on that head, and intimating that his friendship for the United States was his sole motive to declaring his opinion at any time relative to her concerns.
I soon found that he conversed in like manner with many others, and that he was seriously endeavoring to carry these points in Congress.
I was early convinced that provided we could ob-obtain independence and a speedy peace, we could not justify protracting the war, and hazarding the event of it, for the sake of conquering the Floridas, to which we had no title, or retaining the navigation of the Mississippi, which we should not want this age, and of which we might probably acquire a partial use with the consent of Spain. It was therefore my opinion that we should quit all claim to the Floridas, and grant Spain the navigation of her river below our territories, on her giving us a convenient free port on it, under regulations to be specified in a treaty, provided they would acknowledge our independence, defend it with their arms, and grant us either a proper sum of money, or an annual subsidy for a certain number of years. Such, then, was the situation of things as to induce me to think that a conduct so decided and spirited on the part of Spain would speedily bring about a peace, and that Great Britain, rather than hazard the loss of Canada, Nova Scotia, and the islands by continuing the war, would yield the Floridas to Spain, and independence to us. But when Spain afterwards declared war for objects that did not include ours, and in a manner not very civil to our independence, I became persuaded that we ought not to cede to her any of our rights, and of course that we should retain and insist upon our right to the navigation of the Mississippi.
[1 ]The above is an extract from what is described in his “Life,” vol. i., p. 95, as “Jay’s History of his Spanish Mission”—a paper he appears not to have completed. Its reference to the navigation of the Mississippi gives it an interest here in connection with Florida Blanca’s first mention of the subject in conference with Jay, as reported in preceding document.