Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY'S NOTES OF CONFERENCE WITH FLORIDA BLANCA. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY’S NOTES OF CONFERENCE WITH FLORIDA BLANCA. 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’S NOTES OF CONFERENCE WITH FLORIDA BLANCA.1
Madrid, July 5, 1780.
Mr. Jay waited on the Count de Florida Blanca agreeably to an appointment made by the latter to meet at his house at half-past eight this evening.
After the usual compliments, the bad news relative to the surrender of Charleston, just received, became the topic of conversation. The Count mentioned the channels through which he had received it, viz., by an express despatched by the Spanish Ambassador at Lisbon, in consequence of intelligence which Governor Johnson had received and published in that city, and by letters from the Count d’Aranda,2 with the accounts printed at London of the affair. He expressed his sorrow on the occasion, but observed that the Count d’Aranda flattered him that the arrival of the Chevalier de Ternay in that part of the world would totally change the face of affairs, particularly as there would be eight vessels of the line, and more than five thousand troops instead of three thousand, and three vessels of the line, which he had been informed were demanded by General Washington.
He seemed to think it strange that the place had not been better defended, and that more vigourous measures had not been taken to impede the enemy’s progress, and observed that, if the town was not in a condition to stand a siege, it would have been better to have withdrawn the troops and stores and reserved them for the defence of the country. Mr. Jay replied that, probably, when all circumstances relative to this affair were known, there might be reasons which would account for the conduct of the Americans on this occasion; to the truth of which remark the Count appeared to assent. He then mentioned the death of M. Mirales,1 and regretted his loss at this time. He said he had recommended to his Majesty a person to succeed him, whom we knew, that spoke English, whom he expected soon, and to whom he would explain his ideas on the subject of the bills, and on other matters touching which Mr. Jay had written to him, and who would confer also with Mr. Jay on those subjects.
Mr. Jay mentioned that, if it was agreeable to his Excellency to permit M. Del Campo (a confidential secretary of the Count, who speaks English, and who translated all the letters to and from the Count) to be present, he should be able to explain his sentiments more fully and clearly. Though the Count did not object to this proposal, he appeared disinclined to it, and said that, with the assistance of Mr. Carmichael, then present, they could understand each other very well.
He then proceeded to speak of the bills of exchange in the possession of the Messrs. Joyce,2 and seemed to be surprised that that house should be posssessed of so many of them. He advised Mr. Jay to be cautious of those gentlemen, saying that they were as much English in their hearts as the Ministry of that country; that he had known them long; that he thought their conduct extraordinary in being so urgent for the acceptance of these bills. Mr. Jay then informed his Excellency that he had paid those gentlemen a visit in order to obtain further time, and that they had consented to wait until Monday next. The Count mentioned a fortnight or three weeks as necessary, in order that he might have an opportunity of seeing the person he had sent for, and making some arrangements with him. He said that it would be more agreeable to his Majesty to pay those bills at Cadiz, Bilboa, or Amsterdam, than here; lamented the precipitancy with which Congress had entered into this measure, saying that, if they had previously addressed the King on the subject, ways and means might have been found, either to transport from their possessions in America specie for the service of Congress, or to have enabled them to have drawn bills of exchange at a shorter sight, which would have prevented the loss of one third of the money to which Congress had subjected themselves, by the terms on which the present bills were sold. Mr. Jay assured his Excellency that, by letters he had received from America, from members of Congress and others, he was informed that the terms were judged so unfavourable to the buyers, that the bills drawn on him sold heavily from that circumstance solely, and not from any doubt of their credit and payment.
This did not, however, appear to convince his Excellency, who spoke much of the deranged state of our finances and credit; of the advantages taken of Congress by merchants and others, who availed themselves of that circumstance, which he called cruel extortions, frequently expressing the King’s wishes and his own to render America all the service in their power in this crisis of their affairs; but observed that it was impossible to obtain much money in Europe while France, England, and Spain were making use of every resource to obtain it for the enormous expenses of the war, and while the channel through which the European merchants received supplies of specie was stopped, viz., the arrival of the usual quantity from America. This induced him to mention the arrival at Cadiz of three millions of piastres, all of which was on account of the merchants, and again to dwell on what he had before said of the possibility of transmitting specie to the States from the Spanish possessions abroad, and of the effect that this would have in re-establishing the credit of our money. Mr. Jay observed, in reply, that if a supply of specie could be sent to America, and his Excellency thought that measure more convenient and advisable than bills, the Congress would, in his opinion, readily suspend drawing on receiving that information; to which the Count answered that, when the person he had sent for arrived, this matter might be further discussed.
Mr. Jay then proceeded to observe that, by papers which he had transmitted to his Excellency, he would see that Congress had adopted a system to redeem and destroy the former emissions, and to emit other bills to be paid in Europe with interest in a certain term of years, and in fully establishing this system, it would be probably in their power, not only to sustain the credit of their money, but to contribute, in some measure, to assist Spain in the way proposed by his Excellency, viz., in building of frigates, etc., etc. He added that as his Majesty’s treasure was detained in America, and as much expense would be incurred by the armaments employed by Spain there, bills on the Havana in favour of the United States might be more convenient to Spain, and equally contribute to the end proposed. The Count did not seem to disapprove of the idea, but did not enlarge upon it. He asked Mr. Jay if America could not furnish Spain with masts and ship timber. Mr. Jay replied that those articles might be obtained there. The Count then said that he would defer further remarks on this head till the arrival of the person whom he expected would succeed M. Mirales, and appeared desirous of leaving this subject, and, indeed, all other matters relative to American affairs, to be discussed when he came.
In the further course of conversation, he recurred to the subject of the bills in question, and told Mr. Jay, if an immediate acceptance of them was insisted on, that he might accept them payable at Bilboa, but rather seemed to wish that their acceptance might be delayed till the coming of the above-mentioned person. Mr. Jay expatiated on the impression which the acceptance of these bills and every other mark of friendship would make in America at this particular crisis, and the Count, in a very feeling and warm manner, assured him that his desire to serve the States increased in consequence of their distresses. By his whole conversation he endeavoured to show how much he interested himself in the prosperity of our affairs, more than once desiring Mr. Jay not to be discouraged, for that with time and patience all would go well; expatiating on the King’s character, his religious observation of, and adherence to, his promises, and his own desire of having Mr. Jay’s entire confidence. Mr. Jay seized this opportunity of assuring him of his full reliance on the King’s justice and honour, and his particular and entire confidence in his Excellency, asserting to him that all his letters to Congress breathed these sentiments. The Count appeared much pleased with this declaration, and, seeming to speak without reserve, hinted his hopes that the combined fleets would soon be in condition to give the law to that of England in the seas of Europe, repeating that measures would be taken, on the arrival of the person expected, to provide for the payment of the bills of exchange, and that other arrangements would be made with the same person, which would contribute to relieve, as much as it was in his Majesty’s power, the present distresses of America, of which he frequently spoke very feelingly in the course of this conversation.
Mr. Jay reminded his Excellency, in a delicate manner, of the supplies of clothing, etc., etc., which had been promised in a former conference, and said that if they could be sent in autumn they would be essentially useful. The Count assured him that measures would be taken for this purpose, with the person so often hinted at in the course of the conference; that probably these goods would be embarked from Bilboa, as every thing was so dear at Cadiz. He also once more told Mr. Jay that at all events he might accept the bills presented by Messrs. Joyce, payable at Bilboa, though he appeared to wish that this measure might be delayed for a fortnight if possible. The conference ended with compliments and assurances on the one part and the other, the Count endeavouring to persuade Mr. Jay of his Majesty’s desire to assist the States, and Mr. Jay assuring him of his reliance on his Excellency, and of the good effects which such proofs of his Majesty’s friendship would have in America at the present juncture.
In this conference not a single nail would drive. Every thing was to be postponed till the arrival of the person intended to succeed M. Mirales.
[1 ]See notes to letters of May 11 and June 7, 1780.
[2 ]Spanish Minister at the French court.
[1 ]Representative of the Spanish court at Philadelphia.
[2 ]Mercantile house at Bilboa.