Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 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 TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
Madrid, May 26, 1780.
The house of Gardoqui at Bilboa are rich, in favour with the ministry, and friends to America. The Navy Board have sent to them for goods for the use of the navy, and have remitted to them only an inconsiderable part of the sum to which they will amount, desiring the residue on credit, and promising speedy payment. One of the house now here spoke to me on the subject; I advised him to complete the orders. It is of the utmost consequence that the Navy Board be punctual in their remittances. American credit is not high, and ought to be higher. I am the more anxious on this subject, as that house is exceedingly well disposed, and a disappointment would not only be injurious to them, but much more so to us. Perhaps it would be a good rule if the United States were to contract debt only with governments, and never with individuals abroad.
I received a letter last week from a Captain Hawkins at Cadiz, informing me that the Americans, who had escaped from captivity and were collected there, were fitting out a vessel for America, which they were arming, and wished to be enabled to act offensively and defensively on their way home, by having a proper commission from me for that purpose. As I had neither blank commissions nor authority to grant them, I referred him to Dr. Franklin.
Congress will be pleased to consider how far it may be proper to remove these obstacles, by sending me both. This leads me again to remind your Excellency of several letters I wrote you from Cadiz, respecting American seamen coming to Spain from captivity at Gibraltar and other places. As copies of these letters have been sent by different vessels, I presume some of them have reached you. It certainly is necessary that provision be made for these people, and in a regular established manner. I am very desirous of instructions on this subject.
The credit given me by Congress on Dr. Franklin is expended, and I am without other means of obtaining supplies than by private credit, which I am at a loss to satisfy. To apply to, and be maintained by, the Court, is, in my opinion, too humiliating to be for the public good; and as yet I have neither received nor heard of remittances from America. It would give me pleasure to know in what manner Congress mean I should be supplied, and whether any measures have been taken for that purpose.
I am much embarrassed for the means of conveying and receiving intelligence. Being at a great distance from the sea, all my letters to and from thence here must either be conveyed by private couriers or the public post. All my letters by the latter, whether in France or Spain, are opened. By that conveyance, therefore, it would not always be proper to write either to Congress, to Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, or others, with that freedom which would often be useful, and sometimes necessary. The salary allowed me, so far from admitting the expense of private couriers, is inadequate for the common purposes for which it was given. This is a delicate subject, and I wish it was not my duty to say any thing respecting it. This place is the dearest in Europe. The Court is never stationary, passing part of the year in no less than five different places, viz., Madrid, Pardo, Aranjues, St. Ildefonso, and the Escurial; hence considerable expenses arise. I forbear enumerating particulars, my design being only to mention this matter to Congress, not to press it upon them. I shall always live agreeably to my circumstances; and if, from their being too narrow, inconveniences result to the public, they ought to be informed of it. I hope what I have said will be viewed in this light only; so far as I am personally interested, I am content.
Mr. Harrison, a gentleman of Maryland, now here, will be the bearer of this letter to Cadiz. I therefore embrace this good and unusual opportunity of being so minute and explicit in it.
The family of Galvez is numerous and of weight. The one on the Mississippi has written favourably of the Americans to his brothers here, three of whom are in office. It would be well to cultivate this disposition whenever opportunities of doing it offer.
The resolution providing for Spanish prisoners at New York was well judged.
Dr. Franklin is more advantageously circumstanced than I am to gain and transmit to Congress intelligence of the disposition of Holland and of the Northern Powers.
From the conduct of their Ministers here, I have no reason to predict much to our advantage. They are cold, and I have received nothing more than common civility from any of them, except the Ministers of Holland and Sweden, and indeed not much more from them. Perhaps they have been rendered unusually cautious by an extract of a letter from Madrid in the Leyden paper, mentioning the precious reception Mr. Carmichael met with here, and the attentions he received from the foreign Ministers. You have probably seen it in the Courier de l’Europe.
From what I hear of the character of the Empress of Russia, I cannot but think that a prudent agent there would be very useful. They say she is sensible, proud, and ambitious. Hence I infer that such a mark of attention would be grateful, and consequently useful.
I should have given your Excellency seasonable intelligence of the Spanish fleet and armament, which lately sailed from Cadiz, as I believe to the Havana, and whose objects I suspect to be the Floridas or Jamaica, or probably both, but I omitted writing on that subject previous to the departure of the fleet, from a persuasion that any letters by the post containing such advices would not be permitted to proceed, and therefore I thought it unnecessary; nor will I now swell the pages of this letter, already very voluminous, by entering into particulars relative to it, especially as that armament will probably have begun its operations before this letter will come to your Excellency’s hands.
The reports of dissensions in Congress, which prevailed here prior to my arrival, and the causes to which they were ascribed, had filled this Court with apprehensions; and it gives me pleasure to assure you that the present appearance of union in Congress is attended here with very happy effects.
The people in this country are in almost total darkness about us. Scarce any American publications have reached them, nor are they informed of the most recent and important events in that country. The affairs of Stony Point, Paulus Hook, etc., etc., had never been heard of here, except perhaps by the great officers of state, and they could scarcely believe that the Roman Catholic religion was even tolerated there.
There are violent prejudices among them against us. Many of them have even serious doubts of our being civilized, and mention a strange story of a ship driven into Virginia by distress, about thirty years ago, that was plundered by the inhabitants, and some of the crew killed in a manner and under circumstances which, if true, certainly indicate barbarity. The King and Ministry are warm, yet I have reason to believe that the bulk of the nation is cold, toward us; they appear to me to like the English, hate the French, and to have prejudices against us.
I mention these things to show in a stronger light the necessity of punctuality in sending me from time to time all American intelligence of importance, and observing such conduct towards Spaniards in general as may tend to impress them with more favourable sentiments of us. There was a little uneasiness among the mercantile people at Cadiz respecting the capture of some Spanish vessels by privateers. I hope the former have had ample justice done them; it certainly is of great importance that they should have reason to be satisfied.
Your Excellency may observe that I have written very particularly. Both this Court and that of France have very particular information respecting the proceedings of Congress.
Want of prudence, rather than virtue, I believe to be the cause. I nevertheless think it my duty to give Congress from time to time full information of their affairs here, and shall not be restrained by the apprehension of any consequences that may result from want of secrecy there. I make it a rule to write on these subjects only to Congress, and to them very particularly.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
P. S.—Congress may think it extraordinary that Mr. Carmichael’s handwriting does not appear in this letter. He is, with my approbation, now at Aranjues, and I must do him the justice to say that he is always ready and willing to do his duty as Secretary.
[1 ]This is the closing portion of Jay’s official communication to Congress, mentioned in note to “Jay’s Notes of Conference” etc., May 11th ante.