Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO COUNT DE VERGENNES. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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JAY TO COUNT DE VERGENNES. - 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 COUNT DE VERGENNES.
St. Ildefonso, September 22, 1780.
I have never taken up my pen with so much reluctance as I now do, although my design is to write a letter to your Excellency. But, Sir, there are few sensations more painful than those which they experience who, already covered with benefits, are impelled by cruel necessity to ask for more. Such is my present situation, and hence proceeds my regret.
My uniform and unreserved communications to the Count Montmorin, who has my fullest confidence, precludes the necessity and consequently the propriety of a minute detail of American affairs here.
Your Excellency will recollect the resolution of Congress for drawing bills on me, as well as the reasons assigned for that measure. In my first conference with the Minister on that subject, he enlarged on the necessities of the State, but nevertheless told me he should be able, at the end of the present or beginning of the next year, to advance thirty or forty thousand pounds sterling, and that further arrangements respecting the residue should then be made.
I afterwards received and answered propositions for the reimbursement of this money; and from time to time was permitted to accept such of the bills as were most pressing.
Things remained in this state till the 5th of July, when, after many warm assurances of friendship and good-will, the further discussion of these matters was postponed by the Minister until the arrival of a person intended to succeed M. Mirales, the late Spanish agent at Philadelphia, and I was told that they should then be arranged and adjusted.
Several weeks elapsed after the time assigned for his arrival had expired. The holders of the bills became importunate, and insisting on my accepting or refusing them.
I wrote several letters to the Minister, requesting his directions, but was not favoured with an answer to any of them.
On the 3d instant, after fruitless endeavours to see the Minister, I received the following note from him by the hands of M. Gardoqui:
“The Count de Florida Blanca sends his compliments to Mr. Jay, and advises him to become acquainted with the bearer of this letter, who is the person that has been expected from day to day.”
This gentleman made many remarks tending to show the propriety of America’s offering some specific consideration for this money, and hinted at the navigation of the Mississippi, ship timber, vessels, tobacco, etc., etc. I replied that the only consideration Congress could offer was that which all other nations at war, who borrowed money, offered, viz., to repay the principal with a reasonable interest after the war; that I should deceive him, were I to enter into contracts to pay it sooner; that the proposition of paying it during the war, in ship timber, tobacco, or other articles, did not lessen the difficulty, for that these things were worth and cost money in America as well as in Europe; and that as to the Mississippi, it could not come in question as a consideration for one hundred thousand pounds. The conversation was concluded by his desiring me to meet him at M. Del Campo’s the next morning. M. Gardoqui then, and since, behaved with temper, candour, and politeness.
The next day we saw M. Del Campo. He was liberal in his censures on the measure of drawing the bills in question on Spain. He informed me that the King must first take care of his own people before he gave supplies to others; that Spain, instead of deriving advantage from America, heard of nothing but demands. That if Congress wanted money, they should have drawn on France, with whom they were in alliance, and who had all the profit of their trade; that we ought to have distinguished between our allies and those who only wished us well, and that applications for aid might be proper to the one, which were not so to the other; that our affairs were in a ruinous condition, and that it was even said some of the States were holding secret negotiations for peace with the enemy, etc., etc., etc. My replies were such as the subject naturally suggested, and as prudence dictated; there are seasons when men mean not to be convinced, and when argument becomes mere matter of form. On such occasions, we have little more in our power than moderation and temper. I gave M. Del Campo credit for his frankness, and wish I could with propriety have extended it to his delicacy.
A day or two afterwards, viz., the 6th instant, I was permitted to accept bills to the amount of one thousand one hundred and ten dollars.
On the 13th, M. Gardoqui, by order of the Minister, told me that the exigencies of the State would not permit the King to provide for the payment of more of the bills than had been already accepted, amounting to about fourteen thousand dollars. This gave occasion to my letter to the Minister of the 14th, and to his answer of the 15th, which was dictated by him to M. Del Campo, and by M. Del Campo to M. Gardoqui, copies of both of which your Excellency will receive from Count Montmorin. The Minister’s answer made a conference between us expedient. I requested that favour the 15th instant, and have been informed that the Count de Florida Blanca will endeavour to see me on Saturday evening next.
I forbear remarks on this singular conduct. I wish it could be explained in a manner compatible with the reputation Spain enjoys in North America. I much fear partial resentments, which ought not to affect America, have been permitted to have an undue degree of influence, and that the Minister forgot, in his zeal for a certain scheme of finance, that it was unjust to wound opponents through the sides of their friends. But whatever may have been the cause, the effect, unless removed, will be destructive, and France only can at present afford the means of doing it.
When I consider, on the one hand, that France was our first, and is still our best, and almost only friend; that she became our ally on terms of equality, neither taking, nor attempting to take ungenerous advantages of our situation; that she has clothed and armed our troops, and is at this moment assisting us with her fleets, her armies, her treasure, and her blood; gratitude and generosity forbid me to solicit a further tax on her magnanimity. But, on the other hand, when I reflect that the loss of American credit would be a loss to the common cause, and an eventual injury to France; that such an event would be a matter of triumph to our common enemy, and of pain to our friends; that the honour of Congress, suspended on the fate of these bills, now hangs as it were by a hair, and that our enemies here and elsewhere are doing all in their power to cut it; when I consider, that America would feel more sensibly the loss of reputation in this instance, than the loss of battles in many others; I say, Sir, when I consider these things, I find it to be my duty to request your Excellency to interpose the amity of France, and that his Majesty will be pleased to add this strong link to the chain of benefits, by which he has already bound the affections of America to his family and people.
I ought to inform your Excellency, that bills for about fifty thousand dollars remain unaccepted. The greater part of these are in the hands of merchants, who waited my answer with a degree of patience, I could not have expected; some of them ever since the month of June last. Further delays, therefore, were not to be asked or obtained, and I was reduced to the necessity, either of promising to accept them, or permit the credit of Congress to perish with them. I could not long hesitate. I promised to accept them. Fortunately, these bills have hitherto come on slowly, though, it is probable, that the assurances of Spain, which I have communicated to Congress, may quicken their pace. A period, however, will soon be put to their drawing, as I have written to them by several conveyances immediately to stop.
I ought also to inform your Excellency, that a promise made me in June last of some clothing for our troops has been renewed, and that his Majesty has been pleased to offer us his responsibility to facilitate a loan of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I shall endeavour to make the most of this offer, and your Excellency may rest assured that I shall gladly embrace every measure, which may be calculated to lessen the weight with which the American cause presses on the finances of France.
I have the honour to be, etc.,