Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 3 (1782-1793)
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JAY TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 3 (1782-1793) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 3 (1782-1793).
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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.1 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,
[1 ]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.”