Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY'S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR AT MADRID. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY’S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR AT MADRID. 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 ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR AT MADRID.1
St. Ildefonso, August 27, 1780.
Mr. Jay waited on the Count de Montmorin this morning at nine o’clock, agreeably to appointment the day before. The former commenced the conversation by observing that in his first conferences with the Minister of Spain, at Aranjues, the Minister divided the subject into two parts, and spoke largely on that of the bills drawn on Mr. Jay, and on the treaty proposed to be entered into between Spain and America. Mr. Jay recapitulated the minister’s assurances relative to the former, and informed the Ambassador that the result of this conference was a promise of the Minister to send him written notes on both points, a few days afterwards. That with respect to the notes relative to the treaty, Mr. Jay had not received them as yet. That on the other point, he had received notes, which, as well as his answer, he had shown to the Ambassador. That on the 5th of July he had another conference with the Minister at Madrid, in which he had endeavoured to turn the conversation to the several objects of his business and mission here, but that the Minister postponed the discussion of them, until a person for whom he had sent, with a view to succeed M. Mirales, should arrive, when all the necessary arrangements should be made. He indeed told Mr. Jay that if the Messrs. Joyce were pressing, he might accept their bills, payable at Bilboa, and throughout the whole conference had given Mr. Jay warm and repeated assurances, not only of the King’s good faith and friendly disposition towards America, but of his own personal attachment to her interest, on both of which, as well as in his candour and promises, he desired him to place the greatest reliance.
Mr. Jay proceeded further to inform the Ambassador that, being exceedingly pressed by Messrs. Joyce and others, holders of the bills, for a decisive answer, which they had required to have on the Monday last past, he had signified the same to the Minister by three letters, requesting his directions, to none of which he received any answers. . . .
The Ambassador told Mr. Jay that he ought to ask an audience of the Minister. To this Mr. Jay replied that he could not hope to have an answer to this request, as he had not been able to procure one to the different applications he had already made. The Ambassador said that he would willingly speak to the Minister, but that he feared he should not be able to enter fully into the subject with him until Wednesday, both the Minister and himself having their time employed on objects, which at present, and for some time past, had engrossed much of their attention. He then asked Mr. Jay if he had written to Congress to stop drawing bills on him. Mr. Jay replied that he could not with propriety give such information to Congress, after the general and repeated assurances made him by the Count de Florida Blanca ever since his arrival here, and particularly the Minister’s declaration that he should be able to furnish him with thirty or forty thousand pounds sterling, at the end of the present or commencement of the next year, and that in the meantime other arrangements might be taken to pay such bills as might become due after that period. He added that if the Count had candidly told him that he could not furnish him with money to pay the bills, he should then immediately have informed Congress of it, who would have taken, of course, the proper measures on the occasion, but that should he now send a true account of all that had passed between the Count de Florida Blanca and himself thereon, he could not answer for the disagreeable effects such intelligence would produce. The Count seemed to think the Spanish Minister would pay the bills that had been already presented. . . .
The conference ended with a promise of the Count de Montmorin that he would endeavour to speak to the Count de Florida Blanca on the subject, but that he was afraid he should not be able to do it fully until Wednesday next. . . .
On Wednesday afternoon, 30th of August, I waited on the Ambassador, to know the result of the conversation he had promised to have with the Minister on our affairs. He did not appear very glad to see me. I asked him whether he had seen the Minister and conversed with him on our affairs. He said he had seen the Minister, but that as Count d’Estaing was present, he had only some general and cursory conversation with him, and slipping away from that topic, went on to observe that I would do well to write another letter to the Minister, mentioning the number of letters I had already written, my arrival here, and my desire of a conference with him. I told the Ambassador, that while four letters on the subject remained unanswered, it could not be necessary to write a fifth. That these letters had been written with great politeness and circumspection; that the last was written the day of my arrival at St. Ildefonso; that I had also gone to the Minister’s house to pay my respects to him, and on being told that he was sick, had left a card; and that, notwithstanding these marks of attention and respect, I still continued unanswered and unnoticed. I observed to him further, that this conduct accorded ill with the Minister’s assurances; that unless I had met with more tenderness from the holders of the bills, they would have been returned noted for non-acceptance; that if such an event should at last take place, after the repeated promises and declarations of the Minister, there would of necessity be an end to the confidence of America in the Court of Spain.
He replied, that he hoped things would take a more favourable turn; that to his knowledge the Minister had been of late much occupied and perplexed with business; that I ought not to be affected with the inattention of his conduct; that I should continue to conduct the business smoothly, having always in view the importance of Spain, and remembering that we were as yet only rising States, not firmly established, or generally acknowledged, etc., and that he would by all means advise me to write the Minister another letter, praying an audience.
I answered that the object of my coming to Spain was to make propositions not supplications, and that I should forbear troubling the Minister with further letters, till he should be more disposed to attend to them. That I considered America as being, and to continue, independent in fact, and that her becoming so in name was of no further importance than as it concerned the common cause, in the success of which all the parties were interested; and that I did not imagine Congress would agree to purchase from Spain the acknowledgment of an undeniable fact at the price she demanded for it; that I intended to abide patiently the fate of the bills, and should transmit to Congress an account of all matters relative to them; that I should then write the Minister another letter on the subject of the treaty, and if that should be treated with like neglect, or if I should be informed that his Catholic Majesty declined going into that measure, I should then consider my business at an end, and proceed to take the necessary measures for returning to America; that I knew my constituents were sincerely desirous of a treaty with Spain, and that their respect for the House of Bourbon, the desire of France signified in the Secret Article, and the favourable opinion they had imbibed of the Spanish nation, were the strongest inducements they had to wish it; that the policy of multiplying treaties with European nations was with me questionable, and might be so with others; that for my own part, I was inclined to think it the interest of America to rest content with the treaty with France, and, by avoiding alliances with other nations, remain free from the influence of their disputes and politics; that the situation of the United States, in my opinion, dictated this policy; that I knew it to be their interest, and of course their disposition, to be at peace with all the world; and that I knew, too, it would be in their power, and I hoped in their inclination, always to defend themselves.
The Ambassador was at a stand; after a little pause, he said he hoped my mission would have a more agreeable issue. He asked me if I was content with the conduct of France. I answered, most certainly; for that she was spending her blood as well as treasure for us. This answer was too general for him. He renewed the question, by asking whether I was content with the conduct of France relative to our proposed treaty with Spain. I answered that, as far as it had come to my knowledge, I was. This required an explanation, and I gave it to him, by observing that, by the Secret Article, Spain was at liberty to accede to our treaty with France whenever she pleased, and with such alterations as both parties might agree to; that Congress had appointed me to propose this accession now, and had authorized me to enter into the necessary discussions and arguments; that, to give their application the better prospect of success, they had directed me to request the favourable interposition of the King of France with the King of Spain; that I had done it by letter to Count de Vergennes, who, in answer, had assured me of the King’s disposition to comply with the request of Congress; and informed me that instructions analogous to this disposition should be given to the Ambassador at Madrid; that it gave me pleasure to acknowledge that his conduct towards me had always been polite and friendly, but that I still remained ignorant whether any and what progress had been made in the mediation. He seemed not to have expected this; but observed that all he could do was to be ready to do me any friendly office in his power, for that he did not see how his mediation could be proper, except in cases where points of the treaty were discussed, and could not be agreed upon. To this I replied that these were only secondary objects of the expected mediation, and that the primary one was to prevail upon the King of Spain to commence the negotiation, and enter upon these discussions; but that I remained uninformed of what he might have done on that subject. The Ambassador made no direct reply to these remarks, but again proceded to repeat his advice that I should try one more letter to the Minister. I told him I had, after much consideration, made up my mind on that subject, and that it appeared to me inexpedient to follow his advice in this instance; and that when he should see the letters I had already written, he would probably be of the same opinion. I promised to show him the letters the next day, and took my leave. How far the tone of this conversation may be judged to have been prudent, I know not. It was not assumed, however, but after previous and mature deliberation. I reflected that we had lost Charleston, that reports ran hard against us, and therefore that this was no time to clothe one’s self with humility. . . .
[1 ]The vacillation and delays of the Spanish Minister prompted Jay to present his case to Count Montmorin. “It appeared to me proper,” he writes, “to mention my embarrassments to the French Ambassador, who had always been friendly, and ask his advice and aid on the subject. The next day I had a conference with him, and the following are the notes of it”—as above.