JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Office for Foreign Affairs,New York,
9th January, 1786.
Since my last of 7th December last, and indeed for some time before that, Congress has been composed of so few States actually represented as not to have it in their power to pay that attention to their foreign affairs which they would doubtless otherwise have done. Hence it has happened that no resolutions have been entered into on any of the important subjects submitted to their consideration. This obliges me to observe a degree of reserve in my letters respecting those subjects which I wish to be free from, but which is nevertheless necessary, lest my sentiments and opinions should be opposed to those which they may adopt and wish to impress.
There is reason to hope that the requisition will be generally complied with; I say generally, because it is not quite clear that every State, without exception, will make punctual payments.
Although a disposition prevails to enable Congress to regulate trade, yet I am apprehensive that, however the propriety of the measure may be admitted, the manner of doing it will not be with equal ease agreed to.
It is much to be regretted that the confederation had not been so formed as to exclude the necessity of all such kind of questions. It certainly is very imperfect, and I fear it will be difficult to remedy its defects, until experience shall render the necessity of doing it more obvious and pressing.
Does France consider herself bound by her guarantee to insist on the surrender of our posts? Will she second our remonstrances to Britain on that head? I have no orders to ask these questions, but I think them important.
Spain insists on the navigation of the great River, and that renders a treaty with her uncertain as yet.
Among the public papers herewith sent you will find the speech of the Governor of New York to the Legislature, and the answer of the Senate. A spirit more federal seems to prevail than that which marked their proceedings last year.
You will also perceive from the papers that Massachusetts begins to have troubles similar to those which this State experienced from Vermont. North Carolina suffers the like evils, and from the same causes. Congress should recollect the old maxim, “Obsta principiis.”
I wish the negotiations with the Barbary Powers may prove successful, because our country in general desires peace with them. For my part I prefer war to tribute, and that sentiment was strongly expressed in my report on that subject.
Our Indian affairs do not prosper. I fear Britain bids higher than we do. Our surveys have been checked, and peace with the savages seems somewhat precarious. That department might, in my opinion, have been better managed.
With great respect, I have the honour to be, dear sir, your most obedient and very humble servant,
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, Jan. 20th, 1786.
As the attention of the American merchants begins to turn to the China and India trade, and several of their vessels will probably be employed in it in the course of this year, I take the liberty of submitting to the consideration of Congress the propriety of appointing a consul and vice-consul general for Canton and other ports in Asia. Such officers would have a degree of weight and respect which private adventurers cannot readily acquire, and which would enable them to render essential services to their countrymen on various occasions. More credit would be given by strangers to men who bring such evidence of their merit, than to others whose characters cannot be so soon and so certainly known; and their commission would give them more ready access to a greater influence with princes, governors, and magistrates than private merchants can in general expect.
I have the honour to be, with great respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient and humble servant,
THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JAY.
Paris, Jan. 25th, 1786.
I received on the 18th instant your private favour of December 9th, and thank you for the confidence you are so good as to repose in me, of which that communication is a proof; as such it is a gratification to me, because it meets the esteem I have ever borne you. But nothing was needed to keep my mind right on that subject, and, I believe I may say, the public mind here. The sentiments entertained of you in this place are too respectful to be easily shaken. The person of whom you speak in your letter arrived here on the 19th, and departed for Warsaw on the 22d. It is really to be lamented that after a public servant has passed a life in important and faithful services—after having given the most plenary satisfaction in every station,—it should yet be in the power of every individual to disturb his quiet, by arraigning him in a gazette, and by obliging him to act as if he needed a defence—an obligation imposed on him by unthinking minds which never give themselves the trouble of seeking a reflection unless it be presented to them. Your quiet may have suffered for a moment on this occasion, but you have the strongest of all supports, that of the public esteem; it is unnecessary to add assurances of that with which I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,
JAY TO FREDERICK JAY.
My official situation with respect to foreign ministers, renders it improper for me to place myself under personal obligations to any of them, and consequently to request their personal favours. I flatter myself you will perceive as clearly as I do, the propriety of observing this delicacy, and therefore that you will impute my declining to apply to Mr. Gardoqui, on the subject mentioned in your note of last evening, to that consideration, and not to any reluctance to serve you; for as I shall always rejoice in your welfare, so I shall always regret every obstacle which may restrain me from measures tending to promote it.
Your affectionate brother,
JAY TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
New York, 26th January, 1786.
Experience convinces me that to do justice to my official business, it is necessary to devote all my time and attention to it; as it hence becomes improper for me to engage in any affairs that must necessarily call me off from the duties of my office, I find myself constrained to resign the appointment with which I have been honoured by this State as one of their agents for managing their controversy with Massachusetts. The number and acknowledged abilities of the other agents render this resignation of no further importance than that it deprives me of the satisfaction I always derive from serving my native State, to which I have been long and repeatedly indebted for strong and flattering marks of confidence.
I have the honour to be, with great respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, February 22, 1786.
Nine States are not yet represented in Congress, and therefore the affairs of this department continue in the same state that they were in at the date of my last.
The public papers will enable you to see the complexion of the times. Federal opinions grow, but it will be some time before they bear fruit; and, what is not the case with most other fruits, they will, to judge from present appearances, ripen slower in the South than in the North.
The packet will sail next week. I shall then write to you again. With great and sincere esteem and regard,
I have the honor to be, dear Sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant
FRANCIS HOPKINSON TO JAY.
Philadelphia, March 11, 1786.
My dear Sir:
Our friend, Mr. Jefferson having requested me to furnish him with the newspapers and other prints of this city, I have hitherto sent those packages by the French packet, but he has found, as I foresaw he would, that mode of conveyance too expensive, and has now desired me to send them to you, to be forwarded as merchandize, and not as papers or letters. I presume he has written to you on the subject. Agreeably to this plan, I send a package herewith, which you will please to transmit according to his desire.
May I ask how you come on in your political family. Our Law office is at present open, and the debates and proceedings there afford ample room for amusement, speculation and observation. The two parties of our State are so nearly ballanced in the House of Assembly, that neither are sure of carrying a point. This situation excites the Orators and leading men of the House to the most vigorous exertions, and those who have leisure to attend the debates are sure to be highly gratified. When both parties unite in a measure, it is a thousand to one that it is a salutary and proper measure. Pennsylvania hops along upon her one leg better than I expected. I never liked our Constitution; yet the above metaphor suggests one advantage which I did not think of before: viz: That having but one branch of Legislature—or if you please, but one leg to support her, the old lady is obliged to be very attentive and circumspect in her positions and motions, lest she should fall and break her nose. Those who have two to depend upon, are apt to trip thro’ carelessness. Your Constitution, I think, hobbles on one leg and a stick. But enough of this nonsense.
I shall be glad of a line from you when you have nothing else to do. I shall always think myself honored by your esteem and happy in your friendship.
JAY TO R. LUSHINGTON.
New York, 15th March, 1786.
I have been favoured with your letter of the 22d ult., and immediately communicated it to the Committee of our Society for promoting the liberation of slaves and protecting such as may be manumitted. They are taking proper measures on the occasion, and I flatter myself that our Legislature will interpose to prevent such enormities in future.
It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.
Whatever may be the issue of the endeavours of you and others to promote this desirable end, the reflection that they are prompted by the best motives affords good reasons for persevering in them.
I am, sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
New York, March 16, 1786.
Although you have wisely retired from public employment, and calmly view from the temple of fame the various exertions of that sovereignty and independence which Providence has enabled you to be so greatly and gloriously instrumental in securing to your country, yet I am persuaded that you cannot view them with the eye of an unconcerned spectator.
Experience has pointed out errors in our national government which call for correction, and which threaten to blast the fruit we expected from our tree of liberty. The convention proposed by Virginia may do some good, and would perhaps do more if it comprehended more objects. An opinion begins to prevail that a general Convention for revising the Articles of Confederation would be expedient. Whether the people are yet ripe for such a measure, or whether the system proposed to be attained by it is only to be expected from calamity and commotion, is difficult to ascertain. I think we are in a delicate situation, and a variety of considerations and circumstances give me uneasiness.
It is in contemplation to take measures for forming a general convention; the plan is not matured. If it should be well concerted and take effect, I am fervent in my wishes that it may comport with the line of life you have marked out for yourself to favour your country with your counsels on such an important and signal occasion. I suggest this merely as a hint for consideration, and am with the highest respect and esteem, dear sir,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
JAY TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON.
New York, 29th March, 1786.
I have had the pleasure of receiving your letter of the 11th inst., with the packet for Mr. Jefferson. He has omitted to write to me on the subject, but I shall take care to forward it to him in the manner you point out. It is probable he will find some difficulty in getting such parcels sent to him from L’Orient under the denomination of merchandizes, uninspected. In such governments the transmission of republican letters and papers is neither encouraged nor facilitated.
You and other manufacturers of laws more generally consult the prevailing fashions and predilections of the day than the utility of their goods to those who are to wear them. What will fetch most popularity, or may be exchanged for most personal advantages, are common questions, and the answers to them often determine the colour and the kind of stuff to be fabricated. So it is here, and so I believe it is, and always has been, everywhere, in greater or lesser degrees.
It appears to me that the people are exactly represented in most of their assemblies, and that the various classes of wise, weak, etc., out of the House, have their due proportion of representatives in it. It is hard to tell whether your government gets on with one leg, or runs on those of the Executive Council. I like our Constitution better than yours because in my opinion it is more capable of being well administered, and less capable of being ill administered. I suspect your sage pilot will find use for all his experience to navigate safely between your parties; I wish they would unite in wise and temperate measures.
With great esteem and regard I am, dear sir,
Your affectionate and humble servant,
JAY TO LORD LANSDOWNE.
New York, 16th April, 1786.
Accept my thanks for the letter you did me the honour to write on the 4th September last, and for your obliging interposition in behalf of the person alluded to in it.
Your Lordship’s conjectures respecting the new principles of trade and finance will probably be realized. We hear of several circumstances which look and promise well. The extent of those principles, and the system of commerce to be reared on them, are subjects, however, on which no decided judgment can here be formed, for want of information more minute and unquestionable than we at present have.
Various, my Lord, are the conjectures of this country respecting the real disposition and intentions of yours on these and some other interesting points. While such doubts and apprehensions exist, a degree of jealousy will naturally continue to operate against mutual confidence. For my part, I sincerely wish to see good-humour prepare the way for friendly intercourse, and by degrees incline both countries rather to promote than retard each other’s welfare. It gives me pleasure to reflect that our wishes on this head correspond, and that the time may yet come when your abilities and liberality will produce all the public benefits which may justly be expected from them. Mr. Pitt’s views as to America, are yet to be ascertained: I wish they may be such as to increase the reputation and affection which his father’s memory enjoys among us. It strikes me that a minister of any nation, much connected with this, will always find advantage in possessing the esteem and confidence of America.
To what events this country may in future be instrumental, is indeed uncertain; but I cannot persuade myself that Providence has created such a nation, in such a country, to remain like dust in the balance of others. We are happy, my Lord, in the enjoyment of much more interior tranquillity than the English newspapers allow, or their writers seem to wish us. In free states, there must and ought to be a little ferment. When the public mind grows languid, and a dead calm, unmarked by the least breeze of party, takes place, the vigour of a republic soon becomes lost in general relaxation. We perhaps are yet too distant from that point; for although our laws and manners now give us as much personal security as can elsewhere be found, and although the same may in a great, though less, degree be said of our property, yet our federal government has imperfections, which time and more experience will, I hope, effectually remedy.
I have the honour to be, my Lord, with great respect and esteem, your Lordship’s
Most obedient and very humble servant,
JAMES MUNROE TO JAY.
New York, April 20, 1786.
The Committee to whom it is referred to report the plan of a temporary government for such States as shall be erected under the acts of cession from individual States, previous to their admission into the Confederacy, as also to organize the Indian department, request the favor of your attendance and advice upon those subjects upon Saturday next in Congress chamber at half after ten in the morning. The first question which arises with respect to the government is, Shall it be upon Colonial principles, under a governor, council and judges of the U. S., removeable at a certain period of time and they admitted to a vote in Congress with the common rights of the other States, or shall they be left to themselves until that event? In the former instance how the correspondence or superintendence of such colony or colonies, shall be systematically preserved and presented to the view of Congress? The same question occurs with respect to the Indian department. These subjects altho’ not immediately within your province we consider as intimately connected with it, and shall be happy in your assistance in forming those arrangements which will become necessary respecting them.
I have the honor to be with great respect and esteem, your most obedient servant,
JAY TO LORD LANSDOWNE.
New York, 20th April, 1786.
Mr. Ansley this morning delivered the letter you did me the honour to write on the 26th of February last. Every opportunity of manifesting my attention to your Lordship’s recommendations will give me pleasure, and that inducement will conspire, with others of public nature, to ensure to Mr. Ansley my friendly endeavours to facilitate the execution of his commission, and render his residence here agreeable to him.
I perfectly agree in sentiment with your Lordship, that it much concerns the honour and future intercourse of both countries to have the treaty of peace duly and faithfully executed. It is to be lamented that wars like the last usually leave behind them a degree of heat which requires some time and prudence to allay. Minds like yours will not be susceptible of it, but the mass of the people commonly act and reason as they feel, and have seldom sufficient temper and liberality to perceive that peace should draw a veil over the injuries of war, and that when hostilities cease, no other contest should remain, but that of who shall take the lead in magnanimity and manly policy. Although these remarks apply to both countries, yet, whatever may be said or written to the contrary, there is certainly, my Lord, more temper in this country than it has credit for; and I am persuaded it would become more manifest, if less discouraged by irritating proceedings here and abroad. In the Legislature of this State there are this day members sitting, who, it is well known, are disqualified by law for their conduct during the late contest; and an act has lately passed for restoring all such of the gentlemen of the law as, for the same reason, had been suspended from the exercise of their profession. The execution of all laws of this sort becomes more and more relaxed, and of the many persons returned to this State from exile, and living in their former neighbourhoods, I have not heard of one that has met with any molestation. There are, indeed, certain characters who can never return with safety; but the greater part of them are such as merit no other attention from any country than what national policy may exact. With respect to the generality of these people, the public mind daily becomes more and more composed. It is true that our affairs are not yet perfectly arranged; some former acts are to be done away, and more proper regulations to be introduced. There is reason, however, to hope that things will gradually come right, and I am persuaded that a little more good-nature on the part of Britain, would produce solid and mutual advantages to both countries.
My Lord, I write thus freely from a persuasion that your ideas of policy are drawn from those large and liberal views and principles, which apply to the future as well as the present, and which embrace the interests of the nation and of mankind, rather than the local and transitory advantages of partial systems and individual ambition; for your Lordship’s plans on the peace were certainly calculated to make the revolution produce only an exchange of dependence for friendship, and of sound and feathers for substance and permanent benefits. How greatly would it redound to the happiness as well as honour of all civilized people, were they to consider and treat each other like fellow-citizens; each nation governing itself as it pleases, but each admitting others to a perfect freedom of commerce. The blessings resulting from the climate and local advantages of one country would then become common to all, and the bounties of nature and conveniences of art pass from nation to nation without being impeded by the selfish monopolies and restrictions with which narrow policy opposes the extension of Divine benevolence. It is pleasant, my Lord, to dream of these things, and I often enjoy that pleasure; but though, like some of our other dreams, we may wish to see them realized, yet the passions and prejudices of mankind forbid us to expect it.
I have the honour to be, with great respect and sincere regard, my Lord,
Your Lordship’s most obedient
And very humble servant,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 4th May, 1786.
I have been favoured with your letter, in which you mention Mr. Warren. Your opinion of that gentleman, added to the merits of his family, cannot fail to operate powerfully in his favour. I have communicated that letter to Mr. King, an able and valuable delegate from Massachusetts, who, I have reason to think, wishes well to you, and to all who, like you, deserve well of their country.
Our friend Gerry has retired from Congress with a charming, amiable lady, whom he married here. I regret his absence, for he discharged the trust reposed in him with great fidelity, and with more industry and persevering attention than many are distinguished by. Mr. King has also married a lady of merit, and the only child of Mr. Alsop, who was in Congress with us in 1774. I am pleased with these intermarriages; they tend to assimilate the States, and to promote one of the first wishes of my heart, viz., to see the people of America become one nation in every respect; for, as to the separate legislatures, I would have them considered, with relation to the Confederacy, in the same light in which counties stand to the State of which they are parts, viz., merely as districts to facilitate the purposes of domestic order and good government.
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO JAY.
Mount Vernon, 18th May, 1786.
In due course of post I have been honoured with your favours of the 2d and 16th of March, since which I have been a good deal engaged, and pretty much from home.
I coincide perfectly in sentiment with you, my dear sir, that there are errors in our national government which call for correction,—loudly I will add: but I shall find myself happily mistaken if the remedies are at hand. We are certainly in a delicate situation; but my fear is, that the people are not yet sufficiently misled to retract from error! To be plainer, I think there is more wickedness than ignorance mixed with our councils. Under this impression, I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general Convention. That it is necessary to revise and amend the articles of confederation, I entertain no doubt; but what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet something must be done, or the fabric must fall; it certainly is tottering! Ignorance and design are difficult to combat. Out of these proceed illiberality, improper jealousies, and a train of evils which oftentimes in republican governments must be sorely felt before they can be removed. The former, that is ignorance, being a fit soil for the latter to work in, tools are employed which a generous mind would disdain to use, and which nothing but time and their own puerile or wicked productions can show the inefficacy and dangerous tendency of. I think often of our situation, and view it with concern. From the high ground on which we stood, from the plain path which invited our footsteps, to be so fallen! so lost! is really mortifying. But virtue, I fear, has in a great degree taken its departure from our land, and the want of disposition to do justice is the source of the national embarrassments; for under whatever guise or colourings are given to them, this I apprehend is the origin of the evils we now feel, and probably shall labour under for some time yet.
With respectful compliments to Mrs. Jay, and sentiments of sincere friendship, I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
JAY’S REPORT TO CONGRESS ON A JOINT LETTER FROM ADAMS AND JEFFERSON.
Office for Foreign Affairs,
May 29, 1786.
The Secretary of the United States for the Department of Foreign Affairs, to whom was referred a joint letter from Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, of 28th March last, together with a motion of the Honorable Mr. Pinckney on the subject of it, reports:
That those gentlemen in this letter mention that in a conference with the Ambassador of Tripoli he informed them that 12,500 guineas to his constituents, with ten per cent. on that sum for himself, must be paid, if the treaty was made for only a period of one year.
That 30,000 guineas for his employers and 3,000 for himself were the lowest terms on which a perpetual peace could be made.
That Tunis would treat on the same terms, but that he could not answer for Algiers or Morocco.
They further observe that if Congress should order them to make the best terms they can with Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, and to procure the money wherever they can find it, upon terms like those of the last loan in Holland, their best endeavours should be used, etc.
The motion in question proposes an instruction conformable to the above suggestion.
Two questions seem to arise on this letter:
1st. Whether these Ministers shall be authorized and instructed to make the best terms with those powers.
2d. Whether they shall be authorized and instructed to endeavour to borrow money in Europe for the purpose.
Your Secretary thinks full confidence may be reposed in the integrity and discretion of those Ministers, and therefore is of opinion that it would be expedient to leave the terms of the proposed treaties to their prudence.
As to authorizing and instructing them to endeavour to borrow money for the purpose in Europe, your Secretary much doubts the policy of it.
The probability of their borrowing so much money appears questionable.
Because those nations to whom our war with the Barbary States is not disagreeable will be little inclined to lend us money to put an end to it.
Because no funds are yet provided for paying even the interest of our former loans, either foreign or domestic.
Because the payments due France, though pressed, have not been completed.
Because the reluctance of the States to pay taxes, or to comply with the economical requisitions of Congress, or to give efficacy to their Federal Government, are topics of common conversation in Europe.
If a loan should be attempted and not succeed, the credit and respectability of the United States would be diminished by the attempt.
Your Secretary thinks that neither individuals nor States should borrow money without the highest probability at least of being able punctually to repay it; and that States should never attempt a loan without having previously formed and arranged adequate funds for its discharge.
It appears to your Secretary improper to open such a loan, even if the success of it were certain.
Because, as the Federal Government, in its present state, is rather paternal and persuasive than coercive and efficient, Congress can make no certain dependence on the States for any specific sums to be required and paid at any given periods, and consequently are not in a capacity safely to pledge their honour and their faith for the repayment of any specific sums they may borrow at any given period, which must be the case if they should make this or any other loan.
Because, as the people or generality will never provide for the public expenses, unless when moved thereto by constitutional coercion, or by the dictates of reason, or by their feelings; and as the first of these motives is here out of the question, your Secretary thinks it probable that the States, on being applied to, will be more disposed to supply money to purchase these treaties of peace while they feel the evils resulting from the war, than they will to supply money to repay borrowed sums when all their fears and dangers from Sallee rovers, Algerine corsairs, and the pirates of Tunis and Tripoli are vanished and gone.
For these reasons your Secretary is much inclined to think that a fair and accurate state of the matter should be transmitted to the States, that they should be informed that the sum of ——— will be necessary to purchase treaties from the Barbary States, and that until such time as they furnish Congress with their respective portions of that sum, the depredations of those barbarians will, in all probability, continue and increase.
All which is submitted to the wisdom of Congress.
JAY TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New York, 16th June, 1786.
During your absence from France I omitted being so regular in my correspondence as I should otherwise have been. I have been honoured with your letters of the 18th April, and 6th September in the last year, and with one of 11th February last. They were all communicated to Congress.
The account of your German excursion is concise and interesting. The sentiments and opinions respecting the United States and American affairs, which you found there prevailing, appear to me very natural. Successful revolutions and victorious arms have always a degree of splendour about them which shines at a great distance, and excites admiration, whether well or ill founded. Few have been at the pains of examining and understanding the merits of the case between Great Britain and us, and nine tenths of that few have taken their sides less from conviction and opinion of right than from some of the many other more common and more stimulating motives, which usually govern the declarations and conduct of the mass of mankind. It is equally natural that reports to our disadvantage, composed of such proportions of truth and falsehood as might render them probable and palatable, should be generally diffused and believed. There are very few States, and very few ministers in them, who think it convenient to magnify America either by word or deed. Politicians, like critics, are often more disposed to censure than to commend the works of others, and patriotic manœuvres pro bono publico, like pious frauds pro salute animarum, were never uncommon. As there is, and always was, and will be, an actual though involuntary coalition between the men of too much art and the men of too little, so they who either officially or from choice fabricate opinions for other people’s use, will always find many to receive and be influenced by them. Thus errors proceeding from the invention of designing men are very frequently adopted and cherished by others, who mistake them for truths. It must be easy for the maritime nations to make the rest of Europe believe almost what they please of this country for some years yet to come, and I shall be much mistaken if fame should soon do us justice, especially as her trumpet is, in many places, employed and hired for other purposes.
Whence it happens, I know not, but so the fact is, that I have scarcely met with six foreigners in the course of my life who really understood American affairs. The cause of truth will probably be little indebted to their memoirs and representations, and when I consider what mistakes are committed by writers on American subjects, I suspect the histories of other countries contain but very imperfect accounts of them.
I can easily conceive that, at the German courts you visited, you have done us service, because I know how able, as well as how willing, you are to do it. I wish all who speak and write of us were equally well-informed and well-disposed. It is a common remark in this country that wherever you go you do us good. For my part, I give you credit, not merely for doing us good, but also for doing it uniformly, constantly, and upon system.
Do you recollect your letter of the 2d March, 1783, containing what passed between you and Count de Florida Blanca, respecting our western limits? I communicated that part of it some months ago to Mr. Gardoqui, in opposition to his pretensions and claims. He lately told me you had mistaken the Count, for that he never meant to convey to you anything like a dereliction of those claims, which, by-the-bye, are too extensive to be admitted. In a word, they do not mean to be restricted to the limits established between Britain and us. Why should people, who have so much more territory than they know what to do with, be so solicitous to acquire more?
The moneys due by the United States to subjects of France have given occasion to applications by Mr. Marbois, and to reports on them by the board of treasury, which are now under the consideration of Congress. You, my dear sir, are not acquainted with the state of our finances, nor with the difficulties resulting from the inefficiency of our federal government. Time and more experience must and will cure these evils; when or how is less certain, and can only be conjectured.
I had the honour last summer of writing a letter to the Marchioness, in answer to one she was so obliging as to favour me with; did it ever come to hand? Mrs. Jay writes to her by this conveyance. We and many others are pleased with the expectation of seeing you both here, and with the opportunity we shall then have of personally assuring you of our esteem and attachment,
I am, dear sir, your affectionate and obedient servant,
JAY TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, June 27, 1786.
Being deputed by the Church Convention of New York to attend a general one convened here, I brought with me your obliging letter of the 18th ult., that I might devote the first leisure hour to the pleasure of answering it. Congress having freed the papers, of which the enclosed are copies, from injunctions of secrecy, and permitted the delegates to make and send extracts from them to their different States, I think myself at liberty to transmit copies to you. These papers have been referred to me; some of the facts are inaccurately stated and improperly coloured, but it is too true that the treaty has been violated. On such occasions I think it better fairly to confess and correct errors than attempt to deceive ourselves and others by fallacious, though plausible, palliations and excuses. To oppose popular prejudices, to censure the proceedings, and expose the improprieties of States, is an unpleasant task, but it must be done. Our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution—something that I cannot foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive; more so than during the war. Then we had a fixed object, and though the means and time of obtaining it were often problematical yet I did firmly believe we should ultimately succeed, because I was convinced that justice was with us. The case is now altered; we are going and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.
That we shall again recover, and things again go well, I have no doubt. Such a variety of circumstances would not, almost miraculously, have combined to liberate and make us a nation for transient and unimportant purposes. I therefore believe that we are yet to become a great and respectable people; but when or how, the spirit of prophecy can only discern.
There doubtless is much reason to think and to say that we are wofully and, in many instances, wickedly misled. Private rage for property suppresses public considerations, and personal rather than national interests have become the great objects of attention. Representative bodies will ever be faithful copies of their originals, and generally exhibit a checkered assemblage of virtue and vice, of abilities and weakness.
The mass of men are neither wise nor good, and the virtue like the other resources of a country, can only be drawn to a point and exerted by strong circumstances ably managed, or a strong government ably administered. New governments have not the aid of habit and hereditary respect, and being generally the result of preceding tumult and confusion, do not immediately acquire stability or strength. Besides, in times of commotion, some men will gain confidence and importance, who merit neither, and who, like political mountebanks, are less solicitous about the health of the credulous crowd than about making the most of their nostrums and prescriptions.
New York was rendered less federal by the opinions of the late President of Congress. This is a singular, though not unaccountable fact—indeed, human actions are seldom inexplicable.
What I most fear is, that the better kind of people, by which I mean the people who are orderly and industrious, who are content with their situations and not uneasy in their circumstances, will be led by the insecurity of property, the loss of confidence in their rulers, and the want of public faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of liberty as imaginary and delusive. A state of fluctuation and uncertainty must disgust and alarm such men, and prepare their minds for almost any change that may promise them quiet and security.
Be pleased to make my compliments to Mrs. Washington, and be assured that I am, with the greatest respect and esteem, dear sir,
Your obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 14th July, 1786.
Since my last to you of the 16th ult. I have been honoured with your letter of 23d and a joint one from you and Mr. Adams of 25th April.
Considering the importance of our commerce with Portugal, it gives me pleasure to learn that a treaty with that kingdom was so nearly concluded. Until our affairs shall be more perfectly arranged, we shall treat under disadvantages; and therefore I am not surprised that our negotiations with Britain and Barbary are unpromising. To be respectable abroad, it is necessary to be so at home; and that will not be the case until our public faith acquires more confidence, and our government more strength.
When or how these great objects will be attained, can scarcely be conjectured. An uneasiness prevails through the country, and may produce eventually the desired reformations, and it may also produce untoward events. Time alone can decide this and many other doubts; for nations, like individuals, are more frequently guided by circumstances, than circumstances by them.
There are some little circumstances that look as if the Dutch regret our having found the way to China; and that will doubtless be more or less the case with every nation with whose commercial views we may interfere. I am happy in reflecting, that there can be but little clashing of interests between us and France, and therefore that she will probably continue disposed to wish us well and do us good; especially, if we honestly fulfil our pecuniary engagement with her. These engagements, however, give me much concern. Every principle and consideration of honour, justice, and interest calls upon us for good faith and punctuality; and yet we are unhappily so circumstanced, that the moneys necessary for the purpose are not provided, nor in such a way of being provided as they ought to be. This is owing, not to anything wrong in Congress, but to their not possessing the power of coercion without which no government can possibly attain the most salutary and constitutional objects. Excuses and palliations, and applications for more time, make bad remittances, and will afford no inducements to our allies or others to afford us similar aids on future occasions.
With great respect I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO JAY.
Mount Vernon, 15th Aug., 1786.
I have to thank you very sincerely for your interesting letter of the 27th of June, as well as for the other communications you had the goodness to make at the same time.
I am sorry to be assured, of what indeed I had little doubt before, that we have been guility of violating the treaty in some instances. What a misfortune it is, that Britain should have so well founded a pretext for its palpable infractions! and what a disgraceful part, out of the choice of difficulties before us, are we to act!
Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be is also beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errors to correct. We have, probably, had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us, that men will not adopt, and carry into execution, measures the best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union, in as energetic a manner as the authority of the different State governments extends over the several States.
To be fearful of vesting Congress, constituted as that body is, with ample authorities for national purposes, appears to me the very climax of popular absurdity and madness. Could Congress exert them for the detriment of the public without injuring themselves in an equal or greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably connected with those of their constituents? By the rotation of appointment, must they not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens? Is it not rather to be apprehended, if they were possessed of the powers before described, that the individual members would be induced to use them, on many occasions, very timidly and inefficaciously for fear of losing their popularity and future election? We must take human nature as we find it. Perfection falls not to the share of mortals. Many are of opinion, that Congress have too frequently made use of the suppliant, humble tone of requisition in applications to the States, when they had a right to assume their imperial dignity, and command obedience. Be that as it may, requisitions are a perfect nihility, where thirteen sovereign, independent, disunited States are in the habit of discussing and refusing compliance with them at their option. Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a by-word throughout the land. If you tell the Legislature they have violated the treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy, they will laugh in your face. What, then, is to be done? Things cannot go on in the present train forever.
It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people, being disgusted with the circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate and prevent disastrous contingencies would be the part of wisdom and patriotism.
What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking; thence to action is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.
Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet, having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port, and having been fairly discharged, it is not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles. Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have much weight on the minds of my countrymen. They have been neglected, though given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner. I had then perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having none at present.
With sentiments of sincere esteem and friendship,
I am, Dear Sir, Your most obedient
and affectionate humble servant,
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 18th August, 1786.
It has happened, from various circumstances, that several reports on foreign affairs still lay before Congress undecided upon. The want of an adequate representation for long intervals, and the multiplicity of business which pressed upon them when that was not the case, have occasioned delays and omissions which, however unavoidable, are much to be regretted. It is painful for me to reflect that, although my attention to business is unremitted, yet I so often experience unseasonable delays and successive obstacles in obtaining the decision and sentiments of Congress, even on points which require despatch. But so it is, and I must be content with leaving nothing undone that may depend on me.
I have long thought, and become daily more convinced, that the constitution of our federal government is fundamentally wrong. To vest legislative, judicial, and executive powers in one and the same body of men, and that, too, in a body daily changing its members, can never be wise. In my opinion, these three great departments of sovereignty should be forever separated, and so distributed as to serve as checks on each other. But these are subjects that have long been familiar to you, and on which you are too well informed not to anticipate everything that I might say on them.
I have advised Congress to renew your commission as to certain powers. Our treasury is ill supplied—some States paying nothing, others very little; the impost not yet established; the people generally uneasy in a certain degree, but without seeming to discern the true cause, viz., want of energy both in State and Federal governments. It takes time to make sovereigns of subjects.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JAY.
Philad. Aug. 24, 1786.
I hear a treaty is compleated with Portugal. As soon as it may be made public you will oblige me much by favouring me with a Copy of it.
The monument of General Montgomery—May I ask what is become of it? It has formerly been said that republicks are naturally ungrateful. The immediate resolution of Congress for erecting that monument contradicts that opinion. But the letting the monument lie eight years unpack’d, if true, seems rather a Confirmation of it.
On a review of my affairs since my return I think it proper to make some changes in the disposition of my will. Having no other copy on this side the water but that in your possession, I wish you to send it to me, which will much oblige, dear sir, your most obedient servant,
GOVERNOR WILLIAM LIVINGSTON TO JAY.
Elizabeth Town, 28 Augt, 1786.
Are you totally discouraged from coming to Elizabeth Town by our bad luck at fishing on our last jaunt? and have you forgot the motto of perseverando? Pray let us try again, and I can almost assure you of better success. I wish you could come next Friday, and if not interfering with Peter’s studies, to bring my little favourite with you. I need not tell you how glad all of us would be to see Mrs. Jay at the same time, if both of you can at the same time conveniently be spared from the family. I wish your answer, and if you come, I should be glad that instead of the pompous train that usually attends the great in Europe or Asia, yours were composed, amongst any others you may choose, of a few lobsters and blackfish.
I am, Sir, Your most humble Servant,
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 27th October, 1786.
The inefficacy of our government becomes daily more and more apparent. Our treasury and our credit are in a sad situation; and it is probable that either the wisdom or the passions of the people will produce changes. A spirit of licentiousness has infected Massachusetts, which appears more formidable than some at first apprehended. Whether similar symptoms will not soon mark a like disease in several other States is very problematical.
The public papers herewith sent contain everything generally known about these matters. A reluctance to taxes, an impatience of government, a rage for property and little regard to the means of acquiring it, together with a desire of equality in all things, seem to actuate the mass of those who are uneasy in their circumstances. To these may be added the influence of ambitious adventurers, and the speculations of the many characters who prefer private to public good, and of others who expect to gain more from wrecks made by tempests than from the produce of patient and honest industry. As the knaves and fools of this world are forever in alliance, it is easy to perceive how much vigour and wisdom a government, from its construction and administration, should possess, in order to repress the evils which naturally flow from such copious sources of injustice and evil.
Much, I think, is to be feared from the sentiments which such a state of things is calculated to infuse into the minds of the rational and well-intended. In their eyes, the charms of liberty will daily fade; and in seeking for peace and security, they will too naturally turn towards systems in direct opposition to those which oppress and disquiet them.
If faction should long bear down law and government, tyranny may raise its head, or the more sober part of the people may even think of a king.
In short, my dear sir, we are in a very unpleasant situation. Changes are necessary; but what they ought to be, what they will be, and how and when to be produced, are arduous questions. I feel for the cause of liberty, and for the honour of my countrymen who have so nobly asserted it, and who, at present, so abuse its blessings. If it should not take root in this soil, little pains will be taken to cultivate it in any other.
I have the honour to be, with great respect, dear sir,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office for Foreign Affairs,New York,
1st November, 1786.
My report on the answer of the British Minister to your memorial respecting our frontier posts, is under the consideration of Congress. Your ideas and mine on those subjects very nearly correspond, and I sincerely wish that you may be enabled to accommodate every difference between us and Britain, on the most liberal principles of justice and candour. The result of my inquiries into the conduct of the States relative to the treaty, is, that there has not been a single day since it took effect, on which it has not been violated in America, by one or other of the States; and this observation is just, whether the treaty be supposed to have taken effect either at the date or exchange of the provisional articles, or on the day of the date of the definitive treaty, or of the ratifications of it.
Our affairs are in a very unpleasant situation, and changes become necessary, and in some little degree probable. When government, either from defects in its construction or administration, ceases to assert its rights, or is too feeble to afford security, inspire confidence, and overawe the ambitious and licentious, the best citizens naturally grow uneasy and look to other systems.
How far the disorders of Massachusetts may extend, or how they will terminate, is problematical; nor is it possible to decide whether the people of Rhode Island will remain much longer obedient to the very extraordinary and exceptionable laws passed, for compelling them to embrace the doctrine of the political transubstantiation of paper into gold and silver.
I suspect that our posterity will read the history of our last four years with much regret.
I enclose for your information a pamphlet, containing the acts of the different States granting an impost to Congress.
You will also find enclosed a copy of an act of Congress, of 20th and 21st ult., for raising an additional number of troops. This measure was doubtless necessary, although the difficulty of providing for the expense of it is a serious one. I flatter myself you will be able to obviate any improper suspicions which the minister may be led to entertain respecting the object of this force. I have pressed the policy of deciding on my report on the infractions of the treaty without delay, that you may thence be furnished with conclusive arguments against the insinuations of those who may wish to infuse and support opinions unfavourable to us on these points.
The newspapers herewith sent will give you information in detail of Indian affairs, but they will not tell you, what however is the fact, that our people have committed several unprovoked acts of violence against them. These acts ought to have excited the notice of government, and been punished in an exemplary manner.
With great and sincere esteem and regard, I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 1st November, 1786.
Accept my thanks for your friendly letter mentioning the marriage of your daughter, and my cordial congratulations on that pleasing event. They who best know the Colonel [William S. Smith] speak of him as brave and honourable; and strangers to the lady naturally draw the most favourable inferences from her parentage and from the attention and example of a mother whose character is very estimable. I sincerely wish, my dear friend, that you had as much reason to be pleased with your political as with your domestic situation. The sweets, however, of the latter must greatly soften the asperity of the former, and when public cares and considerations excite painful emotions, you doubtless enjoy the reflection that though patriots seldom rest on beds of roses, yet that your private pillow, like your conscience, is free from thorns. . . .
I am, dear sir,
Your affectionate friend and servant,
EDWARD RUTLEDGE TO JAY.
[Charleston, S. C.] Nov. 12, 1786.
My Dear Sir:
After a disagreeable passage and a variety of weather Tinker has at last safely landed us in Charleston, where I have resumed the character of a busy man and have a clear prospect of passing an active Winter between my professional, and political occupations. But altho’ my exertions shall be equally great, the individual, and the public will not be equally benefited. That spirit of faction which is prevalent in other States has extended her influence to this, and is too manifest not to be descerned, even when it assumes the shape of instruction. It is really very curious to observe how the people of this world are made the dupes of a word. “Liberty” is the motto; every attempt to restrain licentiousness or give efficacy to Government is charged audaciously on the real advocates for Freedom as an attack upon Liberty. On my return home, I found several of my compatriots so highly disgusted with the artifices of some unworthy characters, that they had determined to withdraw from the theatre of public action, to scenes of retirement and ease. But I have the pleasure to think that I have prevailed on them to change their resolutions and to continue in responsible stations: for indeed, my Friend, if the field is to be abandoned by men of Virtue, either from the clamour of the worthless, or the ingratitude of the foolish part of the faction, the condition of humanity would be wretched indeed. Whereas, if men who have given decided and repeated proofs of their love to their Country, unite together and show a firmness similar to that to which they displayed thro’ the war, I am convinced that sooner or later they will vanquish their enemies, and leave to themselves and their posterity all the ends of good Government.
The subject of the western waters I found was in the possession of many of our people on my arrival. Various are their opinions; the majority of those, with whom I have conversed, believe we should be benefited by a limited cession of it to Spain, or rather a cession for a limited time. But then we must take care and be explicit on one head: we must not be called on by Spain at a future day, to guarantee the cession. That will be absolutely impracticable; she should understand clearly, the extent of our engagement. If from our relinquishment at present, she can retain for a number of years, the exclusive navigation of the river, it is well—it will stop migration, it will concenter force, because the settlers can have no vent for the productions of that country but down the Mississippi, and, therefore, think they will not be fond of immediately inhabiting her banks. But when the time shall arrive, when the inhabitants shall be very numerous, will it not be worth the while of Spain to permit them the navigation of the river, give them the benefit of their labor, encourage in them the spirit of agriculture, and divert their minds from conquests? I should suppose it would. It will behoove Spain to consider the affair with much attention; consider too the genius as well as the interest of those western Settlers and ever carry in her remembrance that in her cession of American territory, Great Britain cherished an idea that she was sowing the seeds of discord between the States and Spain. Again, suppose at some future day Britain should set on foot, by the way of Canada and the Lakes, a negociation with the Western people, and assist them in opening not only the passage of the river, but the way to the Southern World, how is this to be counteracted? Would it not become Spain to put on the spirit of accommodation with the settlers of the distant Country and prevent by such a measure, such an injurious union? I am too little acquainted with the wisdom of that Court, to say what they will do, and after all, the changes in men and measures leave a vast field for speculation into distant ages. What is the wisdom of the most wise to-day, is depreciated into nothing to-morrow. But we must nevertheless act, and acting from the best of our judgment, endeavor to justify wisdom of her children. I am limited in time and have been repeatedly interrupted by clients since I began this letter. You shall hear from me as opportunities offer. Mrs. Rutledge has been confined to the house ever since we landed; but she is too much obliged to Mrs. Jay to forget her in any situation. We both remember her with very affectionate respect. She sends Mrs. Jay a barrel of potatoes; they are not large, but I believe they are good; size, you know, is not a characteristic of goodness. The vegetation has not as yet ceased. It will before Tinker returns, when I will send you the Fringe and Pride of India trees. I wish they may flourish. In truth I wish every thing which belongs to you may flourish; and that you may live to enjoy your family, and the fruit of your labor. Adieu, my dear Friend, and believe that I am warmly attached to your family and yourself.
P. S. Tell Peter, Henry wishes this post-script may contain affectionate remembrance.
DR. RICHARD PRICE TO JAY.
Newington Green, [England]
Nov. 25th, 1786.
I have received both the letters with which you have honoured me, and I return you many thanks for them. I know your time must be much engaged by the duties of your office, and therefore I can not but feel very sensibly your kind attention which exceeds all that I could have any reason to expect. Your civility and friendship to Mr. Curtauld deserve my particular gratitude. His mother and family are much impressed by them. . . .
I am a sad stranger to myself, if my pamphlet address’d to the United States is not an effort of well meant zeal to promote their best interests, and thro’ them the happiness of mankind. Though I have given offence in some places, I have reason to be very well satisfied on the whole with the reception it has met with. Were I to write it again I should lower some expressions in it; for I am sensible that I have been too hasty and sanguine in my expectations. I cannot, however, despair while I know that such a person as you are, and many others of whose wisdom integrity and liberal principles I have a high opinion, are members of the United States and concerned in advising and directing them. I now see that such an improved state of society in America as I wish for must be the work of more time than I imagined; and, perhaps, the result of severe struggles and conflicts still to be gone thro’. Affairs between this country and yours wear a dark complexion. It is unhappy for us that the coalition between Ld. North and Mr. Fox prevented the makers of the peace from completing it. Our councils now are under a different direction, nor is there any probability of a change. I lament continually our wretched policy. We are throwing away the trade and the friendship of a world rapidly increasing, and forcing it into the scale of France. Should the issue be a total alienation and the conversion of the extreme of love into the extreme of hatred, the fault will be chiefly ours, and we shall be the greatest sufferers. Trade is essential to our existence. On the contrary, the rage for trade is one of your greatest enemies; and all events that check it may do you the greatest service. Were even all your ports shut up, you would be only rendered more independent and secure; and in a course of years you might, with the aid of simple manners, general liberty, plenty produced by agriculture, and a strong federal union, become the most powerful and happy people on earth. At present your affairs, I am afraid, are far from being in this train. God forbid that, in consequence of luxery, mercantile avarice, and the feebleness of the federal government, the United States should ever become the image of our Europe.—I ask pardon, for entering into these reflexions. I did not intend them when I began this letter. I am very happy in the friendship of Mr. Adams. He will send better information than I can give. All (as you observe at the end of your letter) that the best men can do is to persevere in doing their duty to their country, leaving the consequences to the Disposer of all events. The happiness attending the consciousness of such conduct is the greatest any of us can enjoy. This is a happiness which I doubt not, you will enjoy. Wishing you, Dear Sir, every possible blessing I am, with great Respect,
Your oblig’d humble Servt
JAY TO JACOB REED.
New York, 12th December, 1786.
Your friendly letter has long remained unanswered; but a variety of private as well as public affairs constrained me to postpone indulging myself in the pleasure I always derive from writing to my friends. The recess (if I may so call it) of Congress gives their officers too much leisure at present; and there is reason to fear that the members will be as long in convening this year as they were last. Business is at a stand for want of an adequate representation. The languor of the States is to be lamented; many inconveniences have already arisen from it, and if continued, serious evils will awaken our people. Our affairs, my dear sir, are in a delicate situation, and it is much to be wished that the real patriots throughout the States would exert themselves to render it more safe and respectable. The feuds in Massachusetts are rather suspended than extinguished. What events they may ultimately produce, is uncertain; but I should not be surprised if much trouble was to result from them. The public creditors will soon become importunate, and Congress cannot create the means of satisfying them. It is true that order usually succeeds confusion; but it is a high price to pay for order, especially when a little virtue and good sense would procure it for us on very reasonable terms. If the best men would be prevailed upon to come forward, and take the lead in our legislatures as well as in Congress, and would unite their endeavours to rescue their country from its present condition, our affairs, both at home and abroad, would soon wear a more pleasing aspect. It is time for our people to distinguish more accurately than they seem to do between liberty and licentiousness. The late revolution would lose much of its glory, as well as utility, if our conduct should confirm the tory maxim, “That men are incapable of governing themselves.”
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Office for Foreign Affairs,
14th December, 1786.
The situation of our captive countrymen at Algiers is much to be lamented, and the more so as their deliverance is difficult to effect. Congress cannot command money for that, nor indeed for other very important purposes; their requisitions produce little, and government (if it may be called a government) is so inadequate to its objects, that essential alterations or essential evils must take place. If our government would draw forth the resources of the country, which, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, are abundant, I should prefer war to tribute, and carry our Mediterranean trade in vessels armed and manned at the public expense. I daily become more and more confirmed in the opinion, that government should be divided into executive, legislative, and judicial departments. Congress is unequal to the first, very fit for the second, and but ill calculated for the third; and so much time is spent in deliberation, that the season for action often passes by before they decide on what should be done; nor is there much more secrecy than expedition in their measures. These inconveniences arise, not from personal disqualifications, but from the nature and construction of the government.
If Congress had money to purchase peace of Algiers, or to redeem the captives there, it certainly would, according to their present ideas, be well to lose no time in doing both; neither pains nor expense, if within any tolerable limits, should be spared to ransom our fellow-citizens. But the truth is, that no money is to be expected at present from hence; nor do I think it would be right to make new loans until we have at least some prospect of paying the interest due on former ones.
Our country is fertile, abounding in useful productions, and those productions in demand and bearing a good price; yet relaxation in government and extravagance in individuals create much public and private distress, and much public and private want of good faith.
The public papers will tell you how much reason we have to apprehend an Indian war, and to suspect that Britain instigates it. In my opinion, our Indian affairs have been ill managed. Details would be tedious. Indians have been murdered by our people in cold blood, and no satisfaction given; nor are they pleased with the avidity with which we seek to acquire their lands. Would it not be wiser gradually to extend our settlements as want of room should make it necessary, than to pitch our tents through the wilderness in a great variety of places, far distant from each other, and from those advantages of education, civilization, law, and government which compact settlements and neighbourhoods afford? Shall we not fill the wilderness with white savages?—and will they not become more formidable to us than the tawny ones which now inhabit it?
As to the sums of money expected from the sale of those lands, I suspect we shall be deceived; for, at whatever price they may be sold, the collection and payment of it will not be easily accomplished.
I have the honor to be, etc.
Jefferson refers in this note to an abusive attack made upon Mr. Jay’s integrity by a young man named Littlepage, who had lived with him in Spain. The correspondence in the case appears in “Life of Jay,” vol. i., pp. 204-229.
This note appears in reply to one from Jay’s brother Frederick, who desired a recommendation from the Spanish minister to secure the sale of the cargo of a Spanish vessel lately arrived at New York in distress.
Respecting boundaries and the proprietorship of the western part of New York State.
The two parties in the Pennsylvania Assembly referred to were known as the “Republicans” and “Constitutionalists”—the latter conservative, and opposed to changes in the existing governmental machinery of the State, whose Legislature was composed of but one House.
This Society was organized early in 1785, and held its first quarterly meeting on May 12th of that year at the “Coffee House” in New York. Its officers were President, John Jay; Vice-President, Samuel Franklin; Treasurer, John Murray, Jr.; Secretary, John Keese. In 1808 it was incorporated under special act of the Legislature, and supported a free school for the education of negro children, which in 1807 had an attendance of about one hundred.
Mr. R. Lushington, to whom Jay wrote the above, was a benevolent Quaker, of Charleston, S. C., who had reported the case of a negro kidnapped in New York and sold at Charleston. He had expressed the hope to Jay that “some mode might be adopted to prevent and deter people from pursuing so vilainous a practice.”
Jay favored, and with others petitioned for, the total prohibition of the exportation of slaves from New York to the Southern States in order to prevent, as far as possible, the separation of families and increase of their miseries. As to slavery at home he believed in gradual or considerate emancipation, and followed out his theory in practice, as in the case of the negro boy he purchased in the West Indies in 1779 and released in 1787. “Life of Jay,” vol. i., p. 230. On Oct. 1, 1798, he wrote: “I purchase slaves and manumit them at proper ages, and when their faithful services shall have afforded a reasonable return.”
England’s restrictive policy in trade matters, especially the closing of her West India ports to the Americans immediately after the Revolution, was deprecated by several of her leading statesmen, of whom Lansdowne was one. In his letter to Jay of Sep. 4, 1785, he writes:
“I have great pleasure in telling you that the new principles regarding both trade and finance, are making an evident progress among the publick. It must be expected that they will meet with some interruption from the influence of old prejudices and the activity of present parties. But I have no doubt of their overcoming both, if they are not precipitated or too vigorously pushed in every instance.
“I am anxious to hear that the government of United States has taken a solid consistence upon those wise and comprehensive foundations which you stated to me. I shall always look upon this Country as deeply interested in whatever regards your prosperity and reputation and above all your interior tranquillity.”
“Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States from 1783 to 1789,” vol. ii.
In reply, Lafayette wrote to Jay, October 25, 1786, enclosing a copy of the letter referred to, quoting Florida Blanca against Gardoqui, and added: “As to the navigation of the Mississippi, you know better than I what are the strong prejudices of that Court against it. But we know equally well that in a little time we must have the navigation one way or other, which I hope Spain may at last understand.”
This, the most valuable of Dr. Price’s pamphlets, was entitled, “Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution, and the Means of Making it a Benefit to the World.” It was published first in London in 1784, then at Philadelphia in 1785, and again at Boston in 1812, 1818, and 1820. Mirabeau translated it into French.