Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA. - 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 FLORIDA BLANCA.
Aranjues, June 9, 1780.
The propositions which your Excellency did me the honour to send on the 7th inst., have been considered with all the attention which their great importance demands.
The evidence they contain of his Majesty’s friendly disposition towards the United States will, I am persuaded, make correspondent impressions on the citizens of America; and permit me to assure you that his Majesty’s desire of contributing to my personal satisfaction, by measures conducive to the welfare of my country, has excited my warmest acknowledgments and attachment.
The enlarged ideas my constituents entertain of the power, wealth, and resources of Spain are equal to those they have imbibed of the wisdom and probity of his Catholic Majesty, and of that noble and generous system of policy which has induced him to patronize their cause, and, by completing their separation from Great Britain, effectually to disarm the latter. Such wise and liberal designs, followed by such great and extensive consequences, would add a bright page to the annals of a reign already signalized by important events. It is, therefore, with deep regret that Congress would receive information that the aid they solicit, small when compared with their ideas of the resources of Spain, has been rendered impracticable by the expenses of a war, which, on the part of Spain, is of a recent date. Nor will their disappointment be less than their regret, when they find their credit diminished by the failure of a measure, from the success of which they expected to raise it.
The kind disposition of his Majesty to become responsible at the expiration of two years for the amount of the bills in question, and that even with interest, is a proof of his goodness, by which I am confident the United States will consider themselves greatly obliged. But when it is considered that bills of exchange, immediately on being drawn or sold, become a medium in commerce, and pass through various hands in satisfaction of various mercantile contracts; that the drawer and every endorser become responsible for their credit at every transfer; and that the object of the merchants last holding the bills, as well as of all other merchants, is money in hand or actively employed in trade, and not money lying still, at an interest greatly inferior to the usual profits to be gained in commerce; I say, on considering these things, it appears to me that, although no objection can be made to the good faith of his Majesty, which is acknowledged by all the world, yet that the last holders of the bills will prefer recovering the amount of them, with the usual damages on protests, to delay of payment for two years with interest.
Should these bills, therefore, meet with this fate, his Majesty will readily perceive its influence on the credit, operations, and feelings of the United States; on the common cause; on the hopes and spirits of the enemy. The necessity or prudence which detains his Majesty’s treasure in his American dominions is an unfortunate circumstance at a time when it might be so usefully employed. There is, nevertheless, room to hope that the great superiority of the allied fleets and armaments in the American seas will, in the course of a year or eighteen months, render its transportation safe and easy, and that the greater part of it may arrive before the bills in question would become payable. This will appear more probable, when the time necessary to sell these bills, and the time which will be consumed in their passage from America, and the time which will be employed in their journey from different ports of Europe to this place, are all added to the half a year which is allotted for the payment of them after they have been presented. I am authorized and ready to engage and pledge the faith of the United States for the punctual repayment, with interest, and within a reasonable term, of any sums of money which his Majesty may be so kind as to lend them.
As to the aids heretofore supplied to the United States, I am without information relative to the precise terms on which they were furnished, as well as their amount. When I left Congress, they appeared to me not to possess full and positive intelligence on these points. I ascribe this, not to omissions in their commissioner, who then had the direction of these affairs, but to those miscarriages and accidents to which the communication of intelligence to a distant country is liable in time of war. If it should appear proper to your Excellency, in order that I may be furnished with an accurate and full statement of these transactions, I will do myself the honour of transmitting them immediately to Congress; and, as they happened prior to my appointment, I shall request particular instructions on the subject.
With respect to the plan proposed for the repayment of such sums as Spain may lend to the United States, viz., by the latter furnishing the former with frigates, etc., etc., I beg leave to submit the following remarks to your Excellency’s consideration. In the United States there are timber, iron, masts, shipwrights, pitch, tar, and turpentine; and Spain can furnish the other requisities. But neither the timber, the iron, the masts, nor the other articles can be procured without money. The Congress are in great want of money for the immediate purposes of self-defence, for the maintenance of their armies and vessels of war, and for all the other expenses incident to military operations. The Congress, pressed by their necessities, have emitted bills of credit, till the depreciation of them forbids further emissions. They have made loans from their great and good ally, and, in aid of the system of gaining supplies by taxation and domestic loans, they have, for the reasons which I have already had the honour of explaining to your Excellency, drawn upon me the bills before mentioned. These bills will be sold in the United States for paper money, and that money will be immediately wanted for the purposes I have enumerated. If, therefore, this money was to be turned into frigates, the obvious ends of drawing those bills would not be attained. The war against the United States has raged without intermission for six years already, and it will not be in their power to pay their debts during its further continuance, nor until the return of peace and uninterrupted commerce shall furnish them with the means of doing it.
That excellent frigates and other vessels may be built in America cheaper than in Europe, I am persuaded. And I know, that Congress will cheerfully give every aid in their power to facilitate the execution of any plan of that kind which his Majesty may adopt, but, Sir, their necessities will not permit them to supply money to those purposes, and I should deceive your Excellency with delusive expectations were I to lead you to think otherwise. I would rather, that the United States should be without money than without good faith; and, therefore, neither my own principles of action, nor the respect due to his Majesty and reputation of my country, will ever suffer me (if my authority extended so far) to enter into any contracts which I had not the highest reason to believe would be fully, fairly, and punctually performed on the part of my constituents. Nor, in case his Majesty should think proper to cause frigates to be built in America, can I encourage your Excellency to expect that they could be easily manned there for cruises. The fact is, that the American frigates often find difficulties in completing their complements, principally because the seamen prefer going in privateers, which are numerous, and too useful to be discouraged.
The design of preparing an armament to intercept the English East Indiamen appears to me very judicious. The enemy draw their resources from commerce; to annoy the one, therefore, is to injure the other. Before the present war, there were several, but not a great many, Americans well acquainted with the route of the East Indiamen. But whether any number of these men could now be secretly collected is uncertain; for if by a particular selection of and inquiry for them the enemy should become apprised of the design, they would naturally take measures to frustrate it. For my part, I should suppose that many of these men are not necessary, and that the proper number may be had from France, if not from America.
The idea of the United States co-operating in the execution of this plan is flattering, and the terms proposed generous. But so far as this co-operation will depend on the building of frigates there as proposed, it cannot be effected from their want of money. Whether the American frigates could be employed in such an enterprise, that is, whether the services for which they may be already destined will admit of it, is, with other similar circumstances, necessary to be known before that question could possibly be answered. The distance from America, and the length of time necessary to ask for and receive information and instructions from thence, are such, that it would probably be more expedient that engagements for these purposes should be discussed and concluded there than here. The circumstances of the United States, while invaded, will be more fluctuating than those of Spain, and measures in which they might conveniently embark at one period may shortly after be rendered impracticable by the vicissitudes of war. It is further to be observed, that a people, rising amidst such terrible struggles, with an extensive country to defend, and that country invaded, and, as it were, on fire in several places at once, are not in good condition for foreign enterprises; but, on the contrary, that it must generally be their interest, and of course their policy, to keep their forces and strength at home, till the expulsion of their enemies shall afford them leisure and opportunities for distant and offensive operations.
Whenever this period shall arrive, his Majesty may be assured, that the United States will not remain idle, but that, impelled by resentments too deep and too just to be transitory, as well as by unshaken attachment to their friends, they will persevere with firmness and constancy in the common cause, and cheerfully unite their efforts with those of France and Spain, in compelling the common enemy to accept of reasonable terms of peace. I can, also, with great confidence, assure your Excellency that the United States will be happy in every opportunity, which may offer during the war, of joining their arms to those of Spain, and in co-operating with them in any expeditions, which circumstances may render expedient against the Floridas, or other objects. The Americans would most cheerfully fight by the side of the Spaniards, and by spilling their blood in the same cause, and on the same occasion, convince them of their ardent desire to become their faithful friends and steadfast allies.
I cannot prevail upon myself to conclude, without expressing to your Excellency my apprehension of the anxiety and painful concern with which Congress would receive intelligence of the failure of their bills, and especially after the expectations they have been induced to conceive of the successful issue of their affairs here. What conclusions the enemy would draw from the inability of Spain to advance the sum in question, even to men actually in arms against Great Britain, I forbear to mention, nor would it become me to point out the several evil consequences flowing from such an event, to those who enjoy from nature and experience more discernment than I am blessed with.
I still flatter myself that some expedients may be devised to surmount the present difficulties, and that the harvest of laurels now ripening for his Majesty in America will not be permitted to wither for want of watering.
Influenced by this hope, I shall delay transmitting any intelligence respecting this matter to Congress, till your Excellency shall be pleased to communicate to me his Majesty’s further pleasure on the subject.
I have the honour to be, etc.,