JAY TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL.
New York, 4th January, 1787.
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Since the 3d day of November last a sufficient number of States to do business have not been represented in Congress, and it is doubtful whether some weeks more will not elapse before that will be the case. Hence it is that I am obliged to be less particular than I should otherwise be on sundry subjects.
The public papers have informed you of commotions in Massachusetts; they have not yet subsided, although that government have manifested great moderation, and condescended to treat the complaints of the malcontents with much respect. What may be the issue of those disturbances, or how far they will extend, is as yet far from certain.
The inefficiency of the Federal Government becomes more and more manifest, and how it is to be amended is a question that engages the serious attention of the best people in all the States. Endeavours are making to form a convention for the purpose, but it is not clear that all the States will join in that measure. On this and some other great points the public mind is fluctuating though uneasy; perhaps a few months more may produce a greater degree of decision. The treaty with Portugal it seems meets with obstacles. I wish they may not be insuperable; for I view a commercial connection with that nation and also with Spain as beneficial to all the parties. Our treaty with Spain also has its difficulties; you can easily conjecture what they are. . . .
I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
New York, 7th January, 1787.
They who regard the public good with more attention and attachment than they do mere personal concerns must feel and confess the force of such sentiments as are expressed in your letter to me by Colonel Humphrey last fall. The situation of our affairs calls not only for reflection and prudence, but for exertion. What is to be done? is a common question not easy to answer.
Would the giving any further degree of power to Congress do the business? I am much inclined to think it would not, for among other reasons there will always be members who will find it convenient to make their seats subservient to partial and personal purposes; and they who may be able and willing to concert and promote useful and national measures will seldom be unembarrassed by the ignorance, prejudices, fears, or interested views of others.
In so large a body secrecy and despatch will be too uncommon; and foreign as well as local influence will frequently oppose and sometimes prostrate the worst measures. Large assemblies often misunderstand or neglect the obligations of character, honour, and dignity, and will collectively do or omit things which individual gentlemen in private capacities would not approve. As the many divide blame and also divide credit, too little a portion of either falls to each man there to affect him strongly, even in cases where the whole blame or the whole credit must be national. It is not easy for those to think and feel as sovereigns who have been always accustomed to think and feel as subjects.
The executive business of sovereignty depending on so many wills, and those wills moved by such a variety of contradictory motives and inducements, will in general be but feebly done. Such a sovereignty, however theoretically responsible, cannot be effectually so in its departments and officers without adequate judicatories. I therefore promise myself nothing very desirable from any change which does not divide the sovereignty into its proper departments. Let Congress legislate—let others execute—let others judge.
Shall we have a king? Not in my opinion while other experiments remain untried. Might we not have a governor-general limited in his prerogatives and duration? Might not Congress be divided into an upper and lower house—the former appointed for life, the latter annually,—and let the governor-general (to preserve the balance), with the advice of a council, formed for that only purpose, of the great judicial officers, have a negative on their acts? Our government should in some degree be suited to our manners and circumstances, and they, you know, are not strictly democratical. What powers should be granted to the government so constituted is a question which deserves much thought. I think the more the better, the States retaining only so much as may be necessary for domestic purposes, and all their principal officers, civil and military, being commissioned and removable by the national government. These are short hints. Details would exceed the limits of a letter, and to you be superfluous.
A convention is in contemplation, and I am glad to find your name among those of its intended members. To me the policy of such a convention appears questionable; their authority is to be derived from acts of the State legislatures. Are the State legislatures authorized, either by themselves or others, to alter constitutions? I think not; they who hold commissions can by virtue of them neither retrench nor extend the powers conveyed to them. Perhaps it is intended that this convention shall not ordain, but only recommend; if so, there is danger that their recommendations will produce endless discussion, perhaps jealousies and party heats.
Would it not be better for Congress plainly and in strong terms to declare that the present Federal Government is inadequate to the purposes for which it was instituted; that they forbear to point out its particular defects or to ask for an extension of any particular powers, lest improper jealousies should thence arise; but that in their opinion it would be expedient for the people of the States without delay to appoint State conventions (in the way they choose their general assemblies), with the sole and express power of appointing deputies to a general convention who, or the majority of whom, should take into consideration the Articles of Confederation, and make such alterations, amendments, and additions thereto as to them should appear necessary and proper, and which being by them ordained and published should have the same force and obligation which all or any of the present articles now have? No alterations in the government should, I think, be made, nor if attempted will easily take place, unless deducible from the only source of just authority—the People.
Accept, my dear sir, my warmest and most cordial wishes for your health and happiness, and believe me to be with the greatest respect and esteem,
Your most obedient servant,
EDWARD RUTLEDGE TO JAY.
Charleston, Jan. 16th 1787.
I thank you, my dear Friend, for your letter of the 12th ulto., and for the remembrance of the commission, with which I promised to trouble you.
I have given Captain Tinker about Four Hundred dollars, which he will deliver you, and I must request you to vest them in a pair of good horses. I intend them for a very high English built coach, and they will therefore require strength, as well as size. I am attached to bays as they retain their colour in a warm climate longer than others, and in case of a loss, they are more easily matched. If you could send them by Tinker’s return, they will be taken care of. You will receive by this conveyance a few of the Pride of India, the Fringe, Tallow and Iron trees, the Yellow Jessamine, a sweet scented shrub. All but the Pride of India, are natives, (if you’ll allow the expression,) of this country, and are classed with the most favoured. You will also receive some of the seed of the Pride of India; should any of them flourish and be at all acceptable to you or your friends, I will procure in the season whatever you may wish.
If reports are well founded the House of Bourbon has cut short for the present the dispute about the Mississippi. The cession of the Floridas to France will be attended with very important consequences. She is an active Nation, and will rival the Southern States in their most valuable productions. I speak from good authority when I say that the soil of the Western country is so far superior to that of the Atlantic States, as to render us contemptible by comparison. France will not only be our competitor in rice and tobacco, but she will be able to supply all the West India Islands with lumber. But how does the cession agree with her Treaty of Alliance? Perhaps you will tell me it neither agrees or exists, and put an end to this sort of speculation; could we restrain the other sort within due bounds, we might reduce things by time, into good order. But the manner of our people must undergo a very material change indeed, before the event can be expected.
Make a tender of Mrs. Rutledge’s best compliments with mine, to Mrs Jay; I hope she enjoys what my female friend very much wants. She has been at the point of death since her return; and has been saved from the grave but by the greatest attention and care. I am thankful that she has recovered and that I have been shielded from an affliction that would have sunk me to the dust—Henry is perfectly well and desires to be affectionately remembered to Peter.
We have not as yet made an House of Assembly; but shall in the course of next week; and do in all probability some good and a great deal of mischief: or else we shall differ very much from our sister States.
Adieu, my dear friend, and believe me to be sincerely yours.
P. S. I send you Tinker’s receipt which is for more money than I thought of sending at first; but as I wish the horses very good, I’ve added to the 400 dollars.
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 9th February, 1787.
Since my last to you of the 14th December I have been honoured with yours of the 26th September last, which, with the papers that it enclosed, has been laid before Congress; but neither on that nor on any of your late letters have any orders as yet been made.
The annual election produces much delay in affairs; from that time to this scarcely any thing has been done. It was not until last week that, seven States being represented, a president was elected; the choice fell on Major-General St. Clair. They have much back business to despatch; several reports on important subjects from the different departments are to be considered and decided upon. A form of government so constructed has inconveniences which I think will continue to operate against the public or national interest until some cause not easy to be predicted shall produce such a modification of it as that the legislative, judicial, and executive business of government may be consigned to three proper and distinct departments.
The struggles for and against the impost remain, but promise little. The States in general pay little attention to requisitions, and I fear that our debts, foreign and domestic, will not soon be provided for in a manner satisfactory to our creditors. The evils to be expected from such delays are less difficult to be foreseen than obviated. Our governments want energy, and there is reason to fear that too much has been expected from the virtue and good sense of the people.
You will receive herewith enclosed a letter from Congress to his most Christian Majesty, with a copy of it for your information. It is in answer to one received from him, and should have been of earlier date had Congress sooner convened; be pleased to explain this circumstance to the Minister.
The public papers herewith sent contain all we at present know respecting the troubles in Massachusetts. Whether they will soon be terminated, or what events they may yet produce, is perfectly uncertain; and the more so, as we are yet to ascertain whether and how far they may be encouraged by our neighbours.
I enclose a copy of a letter from Mr. Otto formally contradicting the report of an exchange between France and Spain for the Floridas. That report had excited attention. Our apprehensions of an Indian war still continue; for we are at a loss to determine whether the present continuance of peace is to be ascribed to the season, or their pacific intentions.
We have not yet received the Morocco treaty; as soon as it arrives I am persuaded that Congress will take the earliest opportunity of making their acknowledgments to the friendly powers that promoted it. Mr. Lamb is still absent. He doubtless has received the order of Congress directing his return, either from you and Mr. Adams, or directly from me. Congress has not yet given any orders respecting further negotiations with the Barbary States, nor can I venture to say what their sentiments will be on that head. I am equally at a loss to judge what they will direct respecting treaties of commerce with the Emperor and other European powers. For my own part I think, and have recommended, that commissions and instructions should be sent by you and Mr. Adams for those purposes. In my opinion such treaties for short terms might be advantageous. The time is not yet come for us to expect the best. The distance of that period will however depend much on ourselves.
With very sincere esteem and regard I am, dear sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 21st February, 1787.
Nine States are now represented, but as yet little progress has been made in the business before them. My report on the infractions of the treaty, complained of by Britain, has been referred to a new committee, and I think a very good one; various opinions prevail on the subject and I cannot conjecture what the ultimate decision of Congress on it will be. The insurrection in Massachusetts seems to be suppressed, and I herewith enclose the papers containing the details we have received since the 6th instant, when I wrote to you by the packet. Your sentiments on that business prove to have been just. I ought to write to you fully on many subjects, but I am not yet enabled; when I shall be, cannot be predicted.
Our government is unequal to the task assigned it, and the people begin also to perceive its inefficiency. The convention gains ground. New York has instructed her delegates to move in Congress for a recommendation to the States to form a convention; for this State dislikes the idea of a convention unless countenanced by Congress. I do not promise myself much further immediate good from the measure than that it will tend to approximate the public mind to the changes which ought to take place. It is hard to say what those changes should be exactly. There is one however which I think would be much for the better, viz., to distribute the federal sovereignty into its three proper departments of executive, legislative, and judicial; for that Congress should act in these different capacities was, I think, a great mistake in our policy.
This State in their present session has greatly moderated their severities to the tories, a law having been passed to restore a very great majority of those resident here to the rights of citizens. I hope all discriminations inconsistent with the treaty of peace will gradually be abolished, as resentment gives place to reason and good faith. But, my dear sir, we labour under one sad evil—the treasury is empty though the country abounds in resources, and our people are far more unwilling than unable to pay taxes. Hence result disappointment to our creditors, disgrace to our country, and I fear disinclination in too many to any mode of government that can easily and irresistibly open their purses. Much is to be done, and the patriots must have perseverance as well as patience.
I am, dear sir,
Your affectionate friend and servant,
JAY TO EDWARD RUTLEDGE.
New York, 25th February, 1787.
My Good Friend:
By Captain Tinker I received your letter of the 16th of last month, together with the trees, etc., mentioned in it. I would readily have been at trouble and expense in getting them of a nurseryman, for it is agreeable to add the trees and shrubs of other climates to those of our own. But I am particularly pleased in receiving these from you. From that circumstance certain ideas, always welcome to my mind, will become associated with them, and be present whenever I prune and tend them, and watch their growth. If some of the many changes incident to this mutable scene should not interpose, I may live to enjoy under the shade of their branches a frequent retreat from noise and business; and those serene and tranquil intervals will be rendered more pleasant by the soothing reflections which recollected friendship insensibly inspires.
My inquiries for horses have been frequent and extensive; fine, large, and strong, are qualities rarely found united since the war, especially in this and the neighbouring States, from which the two armies drew great supplies, and in which a less number than formerly were bred. I could find very decent useful horses, but not of size sufficient. Some of the large Dutch horses, stout and heavy, might be had—but having no pretensions to beauty or elegance, they fall not under the description of fine.
Mr. Hunt, of Jersey, whom I employed, and who is an honest, intelligent dealer, wrote me that he did not yet know of any horses that would do. Being informed however that Mr. Hunt had a pair of clever horses, 15 hands high, I wrote to him about them. He answered that they were of that size, and stout and good, but plain. His price induced me nevertheless to suppose they must approach a good way towards fine, and as my inquiries in the upper part of the State proved fruitless, their best horses being under the size proper for your coach, I wrote to Mr. Hunt to send on his. His description of them was just, and I think them too plain to please you; they will be 7 years old this spring, and their price, 213 dollars and one 6th. They arrived two days ago, and Tinker sails the day after to-morrow, so that there is little time for further search. I have therefore concluded to keep them for the present, and send you mine at the price (viz. 250 dollars) which they cost me. As I have only a light chariot, a pair of handsome, middle-sized horses will answer my purpose and not be difficult to procure. I am not certain that my horses will please Mrs. Rutledge. Let your driver be sparing of his whip, and let the check reins be loose, the curbs not too sharp, and the harness easy, for though neither shy nor vicious, they are high-spirited. The least and most handsome of the two goes on the off or right-hand side. He is well broke and to a single chair, in which way we used him often during the last season. These horses must be about ten years of age, but whether coming or past I cannot say. I have no reason to think they have ever been abused, and therefore if well kept will continue as good as they are now for several years. I must request it as a favor that if, for any reason whatever, they should not suit you, they may be sold on my account and the freight charged to me, for I confess I send these horses under an idea of their not being quite such sedate family horses as you may prefer or want to have. If so, let them be sold, and I will with pleasure send on others until you receive a pair to your mind. These horses to be in proper order must be kept high, and almost daily driven and by a driver who understands it. From the money received by Tinker I have taken 250 dollars. For the residue (being the identical money he paid me) you will find his receipt enclosed.
I also enclose a copy of a letter from Mr. Adams. On reading it you will perceive that it establishes a fact which some men, very unlike you, wish incapable of proof.
Mrs. Jay joins me in requesting the favour of you to present our best compliments to Mrs. Rutledge, to whom and to you and to yours we sincerely wish uninterrupted health and happiness.
I am, my dear sir,
Your affectionate friend and servant,
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO JAY.
Mount Vernon, March 10th, 1787.
I am indebted to you for two letters. The first, introductory of Mr. Anstey, needed no apology; nor will any be necessary on future similar occasions. The other, of the 7th of January, is on a very interesting subject, deserving very particular attention.
How far the revision of the federal system, and giving more adequate powers to Congress, may be productive of an efficient government, I will not, under my present view of the matter, pretend to decide. That many inconveniences result from the present form, none can deny; those enumerated in your letter are so obvious and sensibly felt, that no logic can controvert, nor is it probable that any change of conduct will remove them; and that all attempts to alter or amend it will be like the propping of a house which is ready to fall, and which no shores can support (as many seem to think), may also be true.
But is the public mind matured for such an important change as the one you have suggested? What would be the consequence of a premature attempt?
My opinion is, that this country has yet to feel and see a little more before it can be accomplished. A thirst for power, and the bantling—I had like to have said monster—sovereignty, which have taken such fast hold of the States individually, will, when joined by the many whose personal consequence in the line of State politics will in a manner be annihilated, form a strong phalanx against it; and when to these, the few who can hold posts of honour or profit in the national government are compared with the many who will see but little prospect of being noticed, and the discontents of others who may look for appointments, the opposition would be altogether irresistible, till the mass as well as the more discerning part of the community shall see the necessity.
Among men of reflection, few will be found, I believe, who are not beginning to think that our system is better in theory than practice; and that, notwithstanding the boasted virtue of America, it is more than probable we shall exhibit the last melancholy proof that mankind are not competent to their own government, without the means of coercion, in the sovereign. Yet I would try what the wisdom of the proposed Convention will suggest, and what can be effected by their counsels. It may be the last peaceable mode of essaying the practicability of the present form, without a greater lapse of time than the exigency of our affairs will admit. In strict propriety, a Convention so holden may not be legal; Congress, however, may give it a colouring by recommendation which would fit it more to the taste, without proceeding to a definition of powers: this, however constitutionally it might be done, would not in my opinion be expedient; for delicacy on the one hand, and jealousy on the other, would produce a mere nihil.
My name is in the delegation to this Convention; but it was put there contrary to my desire, and remains contrary to my request. Several reasons at the time of this appointment, and which yet exist, combined to make my attendance inconvenient, perhaps improper, though a good deal urged to it. With sentiments of great regard and friendship, I have the honour to be,
Dear sir, your most obedient and
Affectionate humble servant,
P. S. Since writing this letter I have seen the resolution of Congress, recommendatory of the Convention proposed to be held in Philadelphia the 2d Monday in May.
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Office for Foreign Affairs,
11th April, 1787.
In obedience to the order of Congress directing me to give information of the state of my negotiation with the Encargado de Negocios of Spain, I have the honour of informing your Excellency that . . . I have had several conferences with Mr. Gardoqui on the well-known points in difference between us, viz., on the navigation of the river Mississippi and on the limits.
With respect to the first point we have had repeated conversations which produced nothing but debate, and in the course of which we did not advance one single step nearer to each other. He continued and still continues decided in refusing to admit us to navigate the river below our limits on any terms or conditions, nor will he consent to any article declaring our rights in express terms, and stipulating to forbear the use ofit for a given time. But he did not appear to me so decidedly opposed to the same ideas in the way of implication, though he did not say so. I drew that inference from a number of circumstances, but yet he said nothing so unequivocal to warrant it, as to commit himself. I thought it therefore advisable to try how far he would silently yield to that idea; and therefore drew up articles in a variety of shapes clearly implying the right, and expressly forbearing the use during the term of the treaty. These drafts he positively refused to admit; and finding that arguments in support of them rather irritated than convinced him, we parted without doing any thing. Subsequent conferences took place, and he continuing inflexible in refusing the articles as they stood, we gradually but very cautiously talked of amendments. It was my business to endeavour to change the dress but retain the spirit and sense. Many difficulties and questions, unnecessary to detail, occurred. It was, however, finally so adjusted as in my opinion to save the right and only suspend the use during the term of the treaty, at the expiration of which this and every other article in it would become null and void. . . .
Congress will doubtless observe that the reasons assigned in this article for forbearance militate against a supposition of his Majesty’s having an exclusive right; for it does not either admit his right or relinquish ours, but, on the contrary, in order to avoid and obviate differences and questions, to suit his Majesty’s system of government and policy, to meet the King’s wishes, and to evince our sense of his friendship, it only stipulates not to use, etc.
On that and every other occasion I thought it best to be very candid with Mr. Gardoqui. I told him that he must not conclude that what I might think expedient would also be deemed so by Congress, and hoped that when he considered they were sitting in the same place with us, he would see the propriety of my observing the greatest delicacy and respect towards them.
As to the limits, I have reason from him to believe that, notwithstanding the extent of their claims, he would, in case all other matters were satisfactorily adjusted, so far recede as to give up to us all the territories not comprehended within the Floridas as ascertained by our separate and secret article with Great Britain, of which I early perceived that he was well informed.
As he could not in any manner be drawn lower down than this line, it struck me that it would be prudent to confine, if possible, all questions of limits to the land between the two lines; and therefore hinted the expediency of settling the dispute, so limited, by Commissioners.
He expressed no reluctance to this, and I believe he has written for instructions on that point, but am not certain. He seemed very cautious of committing himself, and I cannot now say that he admitted our right to extend down to the first line, but only gave me to understand that all other things being agreed, his Majesty from motives of accommodation might be content with that limitation.
These are the facts, and so matters at present stand between him and me. A variety of circumstances and considerations which I need not mention, render this negotiation dilatory, unpleasant, and unpromising; and it is much to be wished that the United States could jointly and unanimously adopt and pursue some fixed and stable plan of policy in regard to Spain, especially during the residence of Mr. Gardoqui, who, I do verily believe, is sincerely disposed to do everything useful and acceptable to America that his instructions and the essential interests of his country, as understood by him and his master, will permit.
I have the honour to be with great respect and esteem your Excellency’s most obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 24th April, 1787.
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It is greatly to be regretted that communications to Congress are not kept more private; a variety of reasons which must be obvious to you oppose it, and while the federal sovereignty remains just as it is little secrecy is to be expected. These circumstances must undoubtedly be a great restraint on those public and private characters from whom you would otherwise obtain useful hints and information. I for my part have long experienced the inconvenience of it, and in some instances very sensibly.
The convention of which you have been informed will convene next month at Philadelphia. It is said that General Washington accepts his appointment to it, and will attend. I wish their councils may better our situation; but I am not sanguine in my expectations. There is reason to fear that our errors do not proceed from want of knowledge, and therefore that reason and public spirit will require the aid of [virtue] to render their dictates effectual.
The insurrection in Massachusetts is suppressed, but the spirit of it exists and has operated powerfully in the late election. The governor, whose conduct was upright and received the approbation of the Legislature, is turned out, and Mr. Hancock is elected. Many respectable characters in both Houses are displaced, and men of other principles and views elected. Perhaps these accounts are exaggerated. Perhaps Mr. Hancock will support his former character, and that the present Legislature will be zealous to maintain the rights of government as well as respect the wishes of the people. Time alone can ascertain these matters. The language, however, of such changes is not pleasant or promising.
For your information I enclose a copy of certain resolutions of Congress relative to infractions of the treaty of peace. How they will be received or what effect they will have I know not. Some of the States have gone so far in their deviations from the treaty that I fear they will not easily be persuaded to tread back their steps, especially as the recommendations of Congress, like most of the recommendations, are seldom efficient when opposed by interest. A mere government of reason and persuasion is little adapted to the actual state of human nature in any age or country.
One of our five Indiamen, viz., an Albany sloop (?), returned a few days ago in four months from Canton, and I heard last evening that one or two vessels are preparing at Boston for a voyage to the Isle of France. The enterprise of our countrymen is inconceivable, and the number of young men daily going down to settle in the western country is a further proof of it. I fear that western country will one day give us trouble. To govern them will not be easy, and whether after two or three generations they will be fit to govern themselves is a question that merits consideration. The progress of civilization and the means of information are very tardy in special and separate settlements. I wish our differences with Spain in that quarter were well settled; but the maxim of ———(?) does not suit our southern sanguine politicians.
The English are making some important settlements on the river St. Lawrence, etc.; many of our people go there, and it is said that Vermont is not greatly inclined to be the fourteenth State. Taxes and relaxed government agree but ill.
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MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE TO JAY.
Versailles, May the 1st, 1787.
My Dear Sir:
I have but a little time to write to America, and am taken up from morning until late in the night by the business of our Assembly [Notables]. I have some days ago given some account of it to Col. Hamilton to whom I refer you.
The Archbishop of Toulouse, a man of fine abilities and great honesty, has at last been put at the head of the finances. We are now collecting our ideas on the plans of economy, and measures to be taken to prevent future depredations, which the Assembly shall present to the King before we can think of advising him to new taxes. The cause of liberty will not on the whole be a looser in the bargain.
While examining the returns of the new year, the unpaid interest of the American debt has been brought before us, and as often questions have been put to me which I answered in the best way I could, but which I wish I could have answered in the manner most suitable to my feelings as an American. I cannot help observing, however, that the domestic debt, the debt to the army, is still more sacred and pressing. . . .
With mine and Madame Lafayette’s most affectionate compliments to Mrs. Jay and to you,
I have the honour to be very respectfully,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office for Foreign Affairs, May 12, 1787.
I had the pleasure of writing you a few lines on the 2d of last month, since which I have received and communicated to Congress your letters of 9th, 24th, and 27th January, and 3d and 24th February last.
My health still continues much deranged, and I purpose in a few days to make an excursion into the country for about a fortnight.
A motion has lately been made in Congress to remove to Philadelphia, and the party who supported it persevere in pushing it from day to day. They are not joined by a single member from either of the Eastern States, and yet there is reason to apprehend that they will carry their point. No other motive for their strange measure is publicly assigned by them, except that Philadelphia is more central than New York. Several important affairs which ought to have been despatched have given place to this unfortunate contest, so that I can by this conveyance send you little of importance.
Accept my thanks for the book you were so kind as to send me. I have read it with pleasure and with profit. I do not, however, altogether concur with you in sentiment respecting the efficiency of our great council for national purposes, whatever powers more or less may be given them. In my opinion a council so constituted will forever prove inadequate to the objects of its institution.
With great and sincere esteem I have the honour to be, dear sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
P. S.—A new edition of your book is printing in this city and will be published next week. You will herewith receive the late newspapers.
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office for Foreign Affairs,
4th July, 1787.
I have been honoured with your letters of the 10th, 19th, and 30th April and 1st May last. Since the sitting of the Convention, a sufficient number of States for the despatch of business have not been represented in Congress, so that it has neither been in my power officially to communicate your letters to them, nor to write on several subjects on which it is proper that Congress should make known their sentiments to you.
Your information of the attempt to counterfeit the paper of the Carolinas and the probable design of exporting base pence to this country is interesting, and shall be made proper use of.
The public attention is turned to the Convention. Their proceedings are kept secret, and it is uncertain how long they will continue to sit. It is nevertheless probable that the importance and variety of objects that must engage their attention will detain them longer than many may expect. It is much to be wished that the result of their deliberations may place the United States in a better situation, for if their measures should either be inadequate or rejected, the duration of the Union will become problematical. For my own part I am convinced that a national government, as strong as may be compatible with liberty, is necessary to give us national security and respectability.
Your book gives us many useful lessons, for, although I cannot subscribe to your chapter on Congress, yet I consider the work as a valuable one, and one that will tend greatly to recommend and establish a thorough principle of government on which alone the United States can erect any political structure worth the trouble of erecting.
The western Indians are uneasy and seem inclined to be hostile. It is not to be wondered at. Injustice is too often done them, and the aggressors escape with impunity; in short, our governments, both particular and general, are either so impotent or so very gently administered as neither to give much terror to evil-doers nor much support and encouragement to those who do well.
I have not answered Colonel Smith’s letters, but I have not forgotten him nor will I forget him. What Congress will say about your resignation or your successor I know not, for that and other matters in this department are yet to come under their consideration. The great delays which mark their proceedings on almost every interesting subject are extremely inconvenient and sometimes injurious.
With great and sincere esteem and regard, I am, dear sir,
Your affectionate and obedient servant,
JAY TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
New York, 25th July, 1787.
Permit me to hint whether it would not be wise and reasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of foreigners into the administration of our national government, and to declare expressly that the command-in-chief of the American army shall not be given to nor devolve on any but a natural-born citizen.
I remain, dear sir,
Your faithful friend and servant,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 25th July, 1787.
My Dear Sir:
. . . . . . .
Your experience in affairs, your knowledge of character, and your intimate acquaintance with the concerns and interests of this country, together with other circumstances and considerations, induce me to wish that all questions between us and the Court of London, as well as other affairs in Europe, could be adjusted and arranged before you leave it. The decided manner, however, in which you mention your intention to return is decisive, and as the prospect of your doing much good here is fair and promising, perhaps it may upon the whole be best that you should be with us, especially considering the actual situation of our affairs.
You have, my dear friend, deserved well of your country, and your services and character will be truly estimated, at least by posterity, for they will know more of you than the people of this day. I have collected your public letters and despatches, and a good clerk has already recorded a large volume of them. It is common, you know, in the course of time for loose and detached papers to be lost, or mislaid, or misplaced. It is to papers in this office that future historians must recur for accurate accounts of many interesting affairs respecting the late Revolution. It is best, therefore, that they should be recorded regularly in books; and although it will take much time and labor, which some may think unnecessary, I shall nevertheless persevere in the work.
Your book circulates, and does good. It conveys much information on a subject with which we cannot be too intimately acquainted, especially at this period, when the defects of our national government are under consideration, and when the strongest arguments are necessary to remove prejudices and to correct errors which in many instances design unites with ignorance to create, diffuse, and confirm.
If after all that we have seen and done and experienced in public life, we should yet live to see our country contentedly enjoying the sweets of peace, liberty, and safety under the protection of wise laws and a well-constructed, steady government, we shall have reason to rejoice that we have devoted so many years to her service.
Be assured of my constant esteem and attachment, and believe me to be, dear sir,
Your affectionate friend and servant,
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 8th September, 1787.
I had flattered myself that Chevalier Jones would have been prepared to go in the French packet which is to sail the day after to-morrow, but certain circumstances make it necessary for him to postpone his departure to some future opportunity.
On the 24th July last I had the honour of writing you that further despatches on subjects touched in your letters should soon be transmitted, and I flatter myself that the reasons which have hitherto delayed them will soon cease. Your letters of the 4th May and 21st June have since arrived and been communicated to the President of Congress. Since their arrival a quorum of the States has not been represented, so that as yet they have not been laid before Congress, and consequently have not given occasion to any acts or instructions. I read them with pleasure, for in my opinion they do honour to the writer. . .
The Convention will probably rise next week, and their proceedings will probably cause not only much consideration, but also much discussion, debate, and perhaps heat; for as docti indoctique, etc., so disinterested patriots and interested politicians will sit in council and in judgment, both within and without doors. There is, nevertheless, a degree of intelligence and information in the mass of our people which affords much room for hope that by degrees our affairs will assume a more consistent and pleasing aspect. For my own part, I have long found myself in an awkward situation—so very much to be done and enabled to do very little. All we can do is to persevere, and if good results follow, our labour will not be in vain; if not, we shall have done our duty, and that reflection is valuable. With the best wishes for your health and happiness, and with very sincere esteem and regard,
JOHN ADAMS TO JAY.
Grosvenor Square, Septr. 22, 1787.
Your private letter of the twenty-fifth of July is very friendly and obliging as usual. Give yourself no concern about my apprehensions of your want of attention. I know too well your constant and assiduous application to the duties of your public offices, as well as to the just concerns of your private friends, ever to suspect you of failing in either. I shudder when I think of your next volume of my dispatches. I shall appear before posterity in a very negligent dress and disordered air. In truth I write too much to write well, and have never time to correct any thing. Your plan, however, of recording all the dispatches of the foreign ministers is indispensible. Future negotiations will often make it necessary to look back to the past, besides the importance of publick history.
The true idea of the negotiation with Holland particularly will never be formed without attending to three sorts of measures. Those taken with the Statholder and his party those taken with the aristocratical people, and those taken with the popular party. If any one of these had been omitted, that unanimity could never have been effected, without which the United States could not have been acknowledged nor their Minister admitted. By obtaining from Congress a Letter of Credence to the Prince of Orange, a measure that the patriots did not like, his party was softened; and by the inclosed letters to two very important Burgomasters in Amsterdam, his intimate friends and many others of the aristocraticks were kept steady. I had not time to transmit copies of these letters to Congress in the season of them, but they ought to be put upon the files or records of Congress. I do myself the honour to transmit you a copy for yourself and another for Congress.
Whether it would lie in my power to do most service in Europe or at home, or any at all in either situation, I know not. My determination to go home was founded in a fixed opinion that neither the honor of Congress nor my own, nor the interest of either could be promoted by the residence of a Minister here, without a British Minister at Congress; and in that opinion I am still clear.
If my book does any good I am happy. Another volume will reach you before this letter. In the calm retreat at Pens Hill I may have leisure to write another, but if I should venture to throw together my thoughts or materials on the great subject of our Confederation I should not dare to do it in such haste as the two volumes already printed have been done. The Convention at Philadelphia is composed of heroes, sages, and demigods, to be sure, who want no assistance from me in forming the best possible plan, but they may have occasion for under-labourers to make it accepted by the people, or at least to make the people unanimous in it, and contented with it. One of the under-workmen, in a cool retreat, it shall be my ambition to become. With invariable esteem and affection,
I am, dear Sir,
Your most obedient servant and real friend,
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office for Foreign Affairs,
3d October, 1787.
. . . . . . .
I enclose a copy of the federal government recommended by the Convention, and which has already passed from Congress to the States. What will be its fate in some of them is a little uncertain; for although generally approved, an opposition is to be expected, and in some places will certainly be made to its adoption.
There are now but nine States represented in Congress, and unless that number should continue there for some weeks, much business, and particularly in the Department of Foreign Affairs, will remain unfinished. There is much to be done, and I am apprehensive that much will be left too long undone; for the expectation of a new government will probably relax the attention and exertions of the present.
With great and sincere esteem and regard, I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JAY.
Paris, October 8, 1787.
The Count de Moustier, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Court of Versailles to the United States, will have the honour of delivering you this. The connection of your offices will necessarily connect you in acquaintance; but I beg leave to present him to you on account of his personal as well as public character. You will find him open, communicative, candid, simple in his manners, and a declared enemy to ostentation and luxury. He goes with a resolution to add no aliment to it by his example, unless he finds that the disposition of his countrymen require it indispensably.—Permit me at the same time to solicit your friendly notice, and thro’ you, that also of Mrs. Jay, to Madame la Marquise de B. sister-in-law to Monsieur de Moustier. She accompanies him in hopes that a change of climate may assist her feeble health, and also that she may procure a more valuable education for her son, and safer from seduction, in America than in France. I think it impossible to find a better woman, more amiable, more modest, more simple in her manners, dress and way of thinking. She will deserve the friendship of Mrs. Jay, and the way to obtain hers is to receive her and treat her without the shadow of etiquette.
The Count d’ Aranda leaves us in a day or two. He desired me to recall him to your recollection and to assure you of his friendship.—In a letter which I mean as a private one, I may venture details too minute for a public one, yet not unamusing nor unsatisfactory. I may venture names too, without the danger of their getting into a newspaper. There has long been a division in the council here on the question of war and peace. M. de Montmorin and M. de Breteuil have been constantly for war. They are supported in this by the queen. The king goes for nothing: he hunts one half the day, is drunk the other, and signs whatever he is bid. The archbishop of Thoulouse desire speace. Tho’ brought in by the queen he is opposed to her in this capital object, which would produce an alliance with her brother. Whether the archbishop will yield or not, I know not, but an intrigue is already begun for ousting him from his place, and it is rather probable that it will succeed. He is a good and patriotic minister for peace, and very capable in the department of finance—at least he is so in theory. I have heard his talents for execution censured.
Can I be useful here to Mrs. Jay or yourself in executing any commissions great or small? I offer you my services with great cordiality. You know whether any of the wines of this country may attract your wishes. In my tour last spring I visited the best vineyards of Burgundy, Coterotie, Hermitage, Lunelle, Frontignan, and white and red Bordeaux, got acquainted with all the proprietors, and can procure for you the best crops from the Vigneron himself. Mrs. Jay knows if there is anything else here in which I could be useful to her. Command me without ceremony, as it will give me real pleasure to serve you, and be assured of the sincere attachment and friendship with which I am, dear Sir, your most obedient and humble servant.
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Office for Foreign Affairs,New York,
16th October, 1787.
Since my last to you of the 3d inst. I have not been favoured with any letters from you.
I have at length the pleasure of transmitting to you, herewith enclosed, an act of Congress complying with your request to return, and expressing their sentiments of, and their thanks for, the important services, you have rendered your country. They have not yet come to any decision respecting a Minister or a Chargé d’Affaires at London, nor directed me to convey to you any instructions relative to any matters within the department of your Legation. You will also find herewith enclosed a certified copy of an act of Congress, of the 11th inst., for ratifying the contract you made on the 1st June last, together with the ratification in form. . . .
The public mind is much occupied by the plan of federal government recommended by the late Convention; many expect much good from its institution, and others will oppose its adoption. The majority seems at present to be in its favor. For my part, I think it much better than the one we have, and therefore that we shall be gainers by the exchange, especially as there is reason to hope that experience and the good sense of the people will correct what may prove to be inexpedient in it. A compact like this, which is the result of accommodation and compromise, cannot be supposed to be perfectly consonant to the wishes and opinions of any of the parties. It corresponds a good deal with your favourite, and I think, just principles of government, whereas the present Confederation seems to have been formed without the least attention to them.
Congress have thought it best to pass a requisition for the expenses of the ensuing year, but, like most of their former ones, it will produce but little. As Mr. Jefferson’s present commission will soon expire, Congress have directed another to be prepared for him. What further arrangements they may think proper to make relative to their foreign affairs is as yet undetermined. I am inclined to think that until the fate of the new government is decided no very important measures to meliorate our national affairs will be attempted.
It is much to be wished that our friends, the Dutch, may be able to escape the evils of war in a manner consistent with their true interest and honour. I think it fortunate that neither France nor Britain are ripe for hostilities. A little republic surrounded with powerful monarchies has much to apprehend, as well from their politics as their arms. It gives me pleasure to reflect that we have no such neighbours, and that if we will but think and act for ourselves and unite, we shall have nothing to fear. I wish it may be convenient to you to return in some vessel bound to this port, that I may have the pleasure of taking you by the hand and personally assuring you of the sincere esteem and regard with which I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
JAY TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Office for Foreign Affairs,New York,
3d November, 1787.
Since the date of my last, which was the 24th ult., Congress have been pleased to pass an act, of which the enclosed is a copy. It contains instructions to you relative to the demands of the United States against the Court of Denmark. As they are express and particular, remarks upon them would be unnecessary. I am persuaded that the manner in which the business will be conducted and concluded will evince the propriety of its being committed to your direction.
Advices from Georgia represent that State as much distressed by the Indians. It is said that the apprehensions of the people there are so greatly alarmed that they are even fortifying Savannah. There doubtless is reason to fear that their frontier settlements will be ravaged. The Indians are numerous and they are exasperated, and will probably be put to no difficulties on account of military stores. The embarrassments result from want of a proper government to guard good faith and punish violations of it. With very sincere esteem and regard I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
To the People of the State of New York:
When the people of America reflect that they are now called upon to decide a question which, in its consequences, must prove one of the most important that ever engaged their attention, the propriety of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a very serious, view of it will be evident.
Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable that, whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy of consideration, therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America, that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government.
It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion, that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that object. But politicians now appear, who insist that this opinion is erroneous, and that instead of looking for safety and happiness in union, we ought to seek it in a division of the States into distinct confederacies or sovereignties. However extraordinary this new doctrine may appear, it nevertheless has its advocates; and certain characters who were much opposed to it formerly, are at present of the number. Whatever may be the arguments or inducements which have wrought this change in the sentiments and declarations of these gentlemen, it certainly would not be wise in the people at large to adopt these new political tenets without being fully convinced that they are founded in truth and sound policy.
It has often given me pleasure to observe, that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, wide-spreading country was the portion of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together; while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their various commodities.
With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice, that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people; a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established their general liberty and independence.
This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.
Similar sentiments have hitherto prevailed among all orders and denominations of men among us. To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people; each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection. As a nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances and made treaties and entered into various compacts and conventions with foreign states.
A strong sense of the value and blessings of union induced the people, at a very early period, to institute a federal government to preserve and perpetuate it. They formed it almost as soon as they had a political existence; nay, at a time, when their habitations were in flames; when many of their citizens were bleeding, and when the progress of hostility and desolation left little room for those calm and mature inquiries and reflections which must ever precede the formation of a wise and well-balanced government for a free people. It is not to be wondered at, that a government instituted in times so inauspicious should on experiment be found greatly deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.
This intelligent people perceived and regretted these defects. Still continuing no less attached to union, than enamoured of liberty, they observed the danger, which immediately threatened the former and more remotely the latter; and being persuaded that ample security for both could only be found in a national government more wisely framed, they, as with one voice, convened the late Convention at Philadelphia, to take that important subject under consideration.
This Convention, composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue, and wisdom in times which tried the minds and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task. In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultations; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their Country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.
Admit, for so is the fact, that this plan is only recommended, not imposed, yet let it be remembered, that it is neither recommended to blind approbation nor to blind reprobation, but to that sedate and candid consideration which the magnitude and importance of the subject demand, and which it certainly ought to receive. But this (as was remarked in the foregoing number of this Paper) is more to be wished than expected, that it may be so considered and examined. Experience on a former occasion teaches us not to be too sanguine in such hopes. It is not yet forgotten, that well grounded apprehensions of imminent danger induced the people of America to form the memorable Congress of 1774. That body recommended certain measures to their constituents, and the event proved their wisdom; yet it is fresh in our memories how soon the press began to teem with pamphlets and weekly papers against those very measures. Not only many of the officers of government who obeyed the dictates of personal interest, but others, from a mistaken estimate of consequences, or the undue influence of former attachments, or whose ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public good, were indefatigable in their endeavors to persuade the people to reject the advice of that patriotic Congress. Many indeed were deceived and deluded, but the great majority of the people reasoned and decided judiciously; and happy they are in reflecting that they did so.
They considered that the Congress was composed of many wise and experienced men. That being convened from different parts of the country, they brought with them and communicated to each other a variety of useful information. That in the course of the time they passed together in inquiring into and discussing the true interests of their country, they must have acquired very accurate knowledge on that head. That they were individually interested in the public liberty and prosperity, and therefore that it was not less their inclination than their duty, to recommend only such measures as after the most mature deliberation they really thought prudent and desirable.
These and similar considerations then induced the people to rely greatly on the judgment and integrity of the Congress; and they took their advice, notwithstanding the various arts and endeavors used to deter and dissuade them from it. But if the people at large had reason to confide in the men of that Congress, few of whom had then been fully tried or generally known, still greater reason have they now to respect the judgment and advice of the Convention, for it is well known that some of the most distinguished members of that Congress, who have been since tried and justly approved for patriotism and abilities, and who have grown old in acquiring political information, were also members of this Convention, and carried into it their accumulated knowledge and experience.
It is worthy of remark, that not only the first but every succeeding Congress, as well as the late Convention, have invariably joined with the people in thinking that the prosperity of America depended on its Union. To preserve and perpetuate it was the great object of the people in forming that Convention, and it is also the great object of the plan which the Convention has advised them to adopt. With what propriety, therefore, or for what good purposes, are attempts at this particular period, made by some men, to depreciate the importance of the Union? Or why is it suggested that three or four confederacies would be better than one? I am persuaded in my own mind, that the people have always thought right on this subject, and that their universal and uniform attachment to the cause of the Union rests on great and weighty reasons, which I shall endeavor to develop and explain in some ensuing papers. They who promote the idea of substituting a number of distinct confederacies in the room of the plan of the Convention, seem clearly to foresee that the rejection of it would put the continuance of the Union in the utmost jeopardy: that certainly would be the case, and I sincerely wish that it may be as clearly foreseen by every good citizen, that whenever the dissolution of the Union arrives, America will have reason to exclaim in the words of the poet, “Farewell! a long farewell, to all my greatness.”
To the People of the State of New York:
It is not a new observation that the people of any country (if, like the Americans, intelligent and well-informed) seldom adopt, and steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting their interests. That consideration naturally tends to create great respect for the high opinion which the people of America have so long and uniformly entertained of the importance of their continuing firmly united under one federal government, vested with sufficient powers for all general and national purposes.
The more attentively I consider and investigate the reasons which appear to have given birth to this opinion, the more I become convinced that they are cogent and conclusive.
Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their safety seems to be the first. The safety of the people doubtless has relation to a great variety of circumstances and considerations, and consequently affords great latitude to those who wish to define it precisely and comprehensively.
At present I mean only to consider it as it respects security for the preservation of peace and tranquillity, as well against dangers from foreign arms and influence, as from dangers of the like kind arising from domestic causes. As the former of these comes first in order, it is proper it should be the first discussed. Let us therefore proceed to examine whether the people are not right in their opinion, that a cordial Union under an efficient national government, affords them the best security that can be devised against hostilities from abroad.
The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and weight of the causes, whether real or pretended, which provoke or invite them. If this remark be just, it becomes useful to inquire, whether so many just causes of war are likely to be given by united America as by disunited America; for if it should turn out that united America will probably give the fewest, then it will follow, that in this respect the Union tends most to preserve the people in a state of peace with other nations.
The just causes of war for the most part arise either from violations of treaties, or from direct violence. America has already formed treaties with no less than six foreign nations, and all of them, except Prussia, are maritime, and therefore able to annoy and injure us. She has also extensive commerce with Portugal, Spain, and Britain, and, with respect to the two latter, has, in addition, the circumstance of neighborhood to attend to.
It is of high importance to the peace of America, that she observe the laws of nations towards all these Powers, and to me it appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done by one national government than it could be either by thirteen separate States, or by three or four distinct confederacies.
Because when once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it; for although town or country, or other contracted influence, may place men in State assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice, or executive departments, yet more general and extensive reputation for talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men to offices under the national government,—especially, as it will have the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of proper persons which is not uncommon in some of the States. Hence it will result, that the administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions of the national government will be more wise, systematical, and judicious than those of individual States, and consequently more satisfactory with respect to other nations, as well as more safe with respect to us.
Because, under the national government, treaties and articles of treaties, as well as the laws of nations, will always be expounded in one sense, and executed in the same manner,—whereas adjudications on the same points and questions, in thirteen States, or in three or four confederacies, will not always accord or be consistent; and that, as well from the variety of independent courts and judges appointed by different and independent governments, as from the different local laws and interests which may affect and influence them. The wisdom of the Convention, in committing such questions to the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by, and responsible only to, one national government, cannot be too much commended.
Because the prospect of present loss or advantage may often tempt the governing party in one or two States to swerve from good faith and justice; but those temptations not reaching the other States, and consequently having little or no influence on the national government, the temptation will be fruitless, and good faith and justice be preserved. The case of the treaty of peace with Great Britain adds great weight to this reasoning.
Because even if the governing party in a State should be disposed to resist such temptations, yet as such temptations may, and commonly do, result from circumstances peculiar to the State, and may affect a great number of the inhabitants, the governing party may not always be able, if willing, to prevent the injustice meditated, or to punish the aggressors. But the national government, not being affected by those local circumstances, will neither be induced to commit the wrong themselves, nor want power or inclination to prevent or punish its commission by others.
So far therefore as either designed or accidental violations of treaties and the laws of nations afford just causes of war, they are less to be apprehended under one general government than under several lesser ones, and in that respect the former most favors the safety of the people.
As to those just causes of war which proceed from direct and unlawful violence, it appears equally clear to me, that one good national government affords vastly more security against dangers of that sort than can be derived from any other quarter.
Because such violences are more frequently caused by the passions and interests of a part than of the whole; of one or two States than of the Union. Not a single Indian war has yet been occasioned by aggressions of the present Federal Government, feeble as it is; but there are several instances of Indian hostilities having been provoked by the improper conduct of individual States, who, either unable or unwilling to restrain or punish offences, have given occasion to the slaughter of many innocent inhabitants.
The neighbourhood of Spanish and British territories, bordering on some States and not on others, naturally confines the causes of quarrel more immediately to the borderers. The bordering States, if any, will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritation, and a quick sense of apparent interest or injury, will be most likely, by direct violence, to excite war with those nations; and nothing can so effectually obviate that danger as a national government, whose wisdom and prudence will not be diminished by the passions which actuate the parties immediately interested.
But not only fewer just causes of war will be given by the national government, but it will also be more in their power to accommodate and settle them amicably. They will be more temperate and cool, and in that respect, as well as in others, will be more in capacity to act advisedly than the offending State. The pride of States, as well as of men, naturally disposes them to justify all their actions, and opposes their acknowledging, correcting, or repairing their errors and offences. The national government, in such cases, will not be affected by this pride, but will proceed with moderation and candor to consider and decide on the means most proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.
Besides it is well known that acknowledgments, explanations, and compensations are often accepted as satisfactory from a strong united nation, which would be rejected as unsatisfactory if offered by a State or Confederacy of little consideration or power.
In the year 1685 the State of Genoa, having offended Louis XIV., endeavored to appease him. He demanded that they should send their Doge, or chief magistrate, accompanied by four of their Senators, to France, to ask his pardon and receive his terms. They were obliged to submit to it for the sake of peace. Would he on any occasion either have demanded, or have received, the like humiliation from Spain, or Britain, or any other powerful nation?
To the People of the State of New York:
My last Paper assigned several reasons why the safety of the people would be best secured by Union, against the danger it may be exposed to by just causes of war given to other nations; and those reasons show that such causes would not only be more rarely given, but would also be more easily accommodated by a national government, than either by the State governments, or the proposed little confederacies.
But the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes for war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed, that there are pretended as well as just causes of war.
It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, that absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These, and a variety of motives, which affect only the mind of the Sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice, or the voice and interests of his people. But, independent of these inducements to war, which are more prevalent in absolute monarchies, but which well deserve our attention, there are others which affect nations as often as kings; and some of them will on examination be found to grow out of our relative situation and circumstances.
With France and with Britain, we are rivals in the fisheries, and can supply their markets cheaper than they can themselves, notwithstanding any efforts to prevent it by bounties on their own, or duties on foreign fish.
With them and with most other European nations, we are rivals in navigation and the carrying trade; and we shall deceive ourselves, if we suppose that any of them will rejoice to see it flourish: for as our carrying trade cannot increase, without in some degree diminishing theirs, it is more their interest, and will be more their policy, to restrain than to promote it.
In the trade to China and India, we interfere with more than one nation, inasmuch as it enables us to partake in advantages which they had in a manner monopolized, and as we thereby supply ourselves with commodities which we used to purchase from them.
The extension of our own commerce in our own vessels cannot give pleasure to any nations who possess territories on or near this continent, because the cheapness and excellence of our productions, added to the circumstance of vicinity, and the enterprise and address of our merchants and navigators, will give us a greater share in the advantages which those territories afford, than consists with the wishes or policy of their respective Sovereigns.
Spain thinks it convenient to shut the Mississippi against us on the one side, and Britain excludes us from the Saint Lawrence on the other; nor will either of them permit the other waters, which are between them and us, to become the means of mutual intercourse and traffic.
From these and such like considerations, which might, if consistent with prudence, be more amplified and detailed, it is easy to see that jealousies and uneasinesses may gradually slide into the minds and cabinets of other nations; and that we are not to expect they should regard our advancement in union, in power and consequence by land and by sea, with an eye of indifference and composure.
The people of America are aware that inducements to war may arise out of these circumstances, as well as from others not so obvious at present; and that whenever such inducements may find fit time and opportunity for operation, pretences to color and justify them will not be wanting. Wisely therefore do they consider Union and a good national government as necessary to put and keep them in such a situation as, instead of inviting war, will tend to repress and discourage it. That situation consists in the best possible state of defence, and necessarily depends on the Government, the arms, and the resources of the country.
As the safety of the whole is the interest of the whole, and cannot be provided for without government, either one or more or many, let us inquire whether one good government is not, relative to the object in question, more competent than any other given number whatever.
One government can collect and avail itself of the talents and experience of the ablest men, in whatever part of the Union they may be found. It can move on uniform principles of policy. It can harmonize, assimilate, and protect the several parts and members, and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each. In the formation of treaties it will regard the interest of the whole, and the particular interests of the parts as connected with that of the whole. It can apply the resources and power of the whole to the defence of any particular part, and that more easily and expeditiously than State governments, or separate confederacies can possibly do, for want of concert and unity of system. It can place the militia under one plan of discipline, and, by putting their officers in a proper line of subordination to the Chief Magistrate, will, as it were, consolidate them into one corps, and thereby render them more efficient than if divided into thirteen or into three or four distinct independent bodies.
What would the militia of Britain be, if the English militia obeyed the Government of England, if the Scotch militia obeyed the Government of Scotland, and if the Welsh militia obeyed the Government of Wales? Suppose an invasion: would those three governments (if they agreed at all) be able, with all their respective forces, to operate against the enemy so effectually as the single Government of Great Britain would?
We have heard much of the fleets of Britain, and the time may come, if we are wise, when the fleets of America may engage attention. But if one national government had not so regulated the navigation of Britain as to make it a nursery for seamen—if one national government had not called forth all the national means and materials for forming fleets, their prowess and their thunder would never have been celebrated. Let England have its navigation and fleet—let Scotland have its navigation and fleet—let Wales have its navigation and fleet—let Ireland have its navigation and fleet—let those four of the constituent parts of the British Empire be under four independent governments, and it is easy to perceive how soon they would each dwindle into comparative insignificance.
Apply these facts to our own case. Leave America divided into thirteen, or if you please into three or four, independent governments, what armies could they raise and pay, what fleets could they ever hope to have? If one was attacked, would the others fly to its succor, and spend their blood and money in its defence. Would there be no danger of their being flattered into neutrality by specious promises, or seduced by a too great fondness for peace to decline hazarding their tranquillity and present safety for the sake of neighbors, of whom perhaps they have been jealous, and whose importance they are content to see diminished? Although such conduct would not be wise, it would nevertheless be natural. The history of the states of Greece, and of other countries, abounds with such instances; and it is not improbable, that what has so often happened would, under similar circumstances, happen again.
But admit that they might be willing to help the invaded State or Confederacy. How, and when, and in what proportion shall aids of men and money be afforded? Who shall command the allied armies, and from which of them shall he receive his orders? Who shall settle the terms of peace, and in case of disputes what umpire shall decide between them, and compel acquiescence? Various difficulties and inconveniences would be inseparable from such a situation; whereas one government, watching over the general and common interests, and combining and directing the powers and resources of the whole, would be free from all these embarrassments, and conduce far more to the safety of the people.
But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly united under one national government, or split into a number of confederacies, certain it is, that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is; and they will act towards us accordingly. If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered—our trade prudently regulated—our militia properly organized and disciplined—our resources and finances discreetly managed—our credit re-established—our people free, contented, and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment. If, on the other hand, they find us either destitute of an effectual government, (each State doing right or wrong, as to its rulers may seem convenient,) or split into three or four independent and probably discordant republics or confederacies, one inclining to Britain, another to France, and a third to Spain, and perhaps played off against each other by the three, what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would she become not only to their contempt, but to their outrage; and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.
To the People of the State of New York:
Queen Anne, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the Union then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention. I shall present the public with one or two extracts from it. “An entire and perfect Union will be the solid foundation of lasting peace: It will secure your religion, liberty, and property, remove the animosities amongst yourselves, and the jealousies and differences betwixt our two kingdoms. It must increase your strength, riches, and trade; and by this Union the whole Island, being joined in affection and free from all apprehensions of different interest, will be enabled to resist all its enemies.” “We most earnestly recommend to you calmness and unanimity in this great and weighty affair, that the Union may be brought to a happy conclusion, being the only effectual way to secure our present and future happiness; and disappoint the designs of our and your enemies, who will doubtless, on this occasion, use their utmost endeavors to prevent or delay this Union.”
It was remarked in the preceding Paper, that weakness and divisions at home would invite dangers from abroad, and that nothing would tend more to secure us from them than Union, strength, and good government within ourselves. This subject is copious and cannot easily be exhausted.
The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons. We may profit by their experience, without paying the price which it cost them. Although it seems obvious to common-sense, that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another. Notwithstanding their true interest, with respect to the continental nations, was really the same, yet by the arts and policy and practices of those nations, their mutual jealousies were perpetually kept inflamed, and for a long series of years they were far more inconvenient and troublesome than they were useful and assisting to each other.
Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Would not similar jealousies arise; and be in like manner cherished? Instead of their being “joined in affection, and free from all apprehension of different interests,” envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other bordering nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.
The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form them so at first; but admitting that to be practicable, yet what human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality? Independent of those local circumstances which tend to beget and increase power in one part, and to impede its progress in another, we must advert to the effects of that superior policy and good management which would probably distinguish the government of one above the rest, and by which their relative equality in strength and consideration would be destroyed. For it cannot be presumed that the same degree of sound policy, prudence, and foresight would uniformly be observed by each of these confederacies for a long succession of years.
Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance, and would also restrain them from measures calculated to advance or even to secure her prosperity. Much time would not be necessary to enable her to discern these unfriendly dispositions. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.
The North is generally the region of strength, and many local circumstances render it probable, that the most Northern of the proposed confederacies would, at a period not very distant, be unquestionably more formidable than any of the others. No sooner would this become evident, than the Northern Hive would excite the same ideas and sensations in the more Southern parts of America which it formerly did in the Southern parts of Europe. Nor does it appear to be a rash conjecture, that its young swarms might often be tempted to gather honey in the more blooming fields and milder air of their luxurious and more delicate neighbors.
They who well consider the history of similar divisions and confederacies, will find abundant reason to apprehend, that those in contemplation would in no other sense be neighbors than as they would be borderers; that they would neither love nor trust one another, but on the contrary would be a prey to discord, jealousy, and mutual injuries; in short, that they would place us exactly in the situations in which some nations doubtless wish to see us, viz., formidable only to each other.
From these considerations it appears that those gentlemen are greatly mistaken who suppose that alliances offensive and defensive might be formed between these confederacies, and would produce that combination and union of wills, of arms, and of resources, which would be necessary to put and keep them in a formidable state of defence against foreign enemies.
When did the independent states, into which Britain and Spain were formerly divided, combine in such alliances, or unite their forces against a foreign enemy? The proposed confederacies will be distinct nations. Each of them would have its commerce with foreigners to regulate by distinct treaties; and as their productions and commodities are different, and proper for different markets, so would those treaties be essentially different. Different commercial concerns must create different interests, and of course different degrees of political attachment to, and connection with, different foreign nations. Hence it might and probably would happen, that the foreign nation with whom the Southern confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the Northern confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship. An alliance so contrary to their immediate interest would not therefore be easy to form, nor, if formed, would it be observed and fulfilled with perfect good faith.
Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe, neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be more desirous to guard against the others, by the aid of foreign alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances between themselves. And here let us not forget how much more easy it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart. How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the character of allies, and what innovations did they, under the same character, introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to protect.
Let candid men judge, then, whether the division of America into any given number of independent sovereignties would tend to secure us against the hostilities and improper interference of foreign nations.
To the People of the State of New York:
It is a just and not a new observation, that enemies to particular persons, and opponents to particular measures, seldom confine their censures to such things only in either as are worthy of blame. Unless on this principle, it is difficult to explain the motives of their conduct, who condemn the proposed Constitution in the aggregate, and treat with severity some of the most unexceptionable articles in it.
The second section gives power to the President, “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties,provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should not be delegated but in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest security, that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good. The Convention appears to have been attentive to both these points; they have directed the President to be chosen by select bodies of electors, to be deputed by the people for that express purpose; and they have committed the appointment of Senators to the State Legislatures. This mode has, in such cases, vastly the advantage of elections by the people in their collective capacity, where the activity of party zeal, taking advantage of the supineness, the ignorance, and the hopes and fears of the unwary and interested, often places men in office by the votes of a small proportion of the electors.
As the select Assemblies for choosing the President, as well as the State Legislatures who appoint the Senators, will in general be composed of the most enlightened and respectable citizens, there is reason to presume, that their attention and their votes will be directed to those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence. The Constitution manifests very particular attention to this object. By excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle. If the observation be well founded, that wise kings will always be served by able ministers, it is fair to argue, that as an assembly of select electors possesses, in a greater degree than kings the means of extensive and accurate information relative to men and characters, so will their appointments bear at least equal marks of discretion and discernment. The inference which naturally results from these considerations is this, that the President and Senators so chosen will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence. With such men the power of making treaties may be safely lodged.
Although the absolute necessity of system in the conduct of any business is universally known and acknowledged, yet the high importance of it in national affairs has not yet become sufficiently impressed on the public mind. They who wish to commit the power under consideration to a popular assembly, composed of members constantly coming and going in quick succession, seem not to recollect, that such a body must necessarily be inadequate to the attainment of those great objects which require to be steadily contemplated in all their relations and circumstances, and which can only be approached and achieved by measures which not only talents, but also exact information, and often much time, are necessary to concert and to execute. It was wise, therefore, in the Convention to provide, not only that the power of making treaties should be committed to able and honest men, but also that they should continue in place a sufficient time to become perfectly acquainted with our national concerns, and to form and introduce a system for the management of them. The duration prescribed is such as will give them an opportunity of greatly extending their political information, and of rendering their accumulating experience more and more beneficial to their country. Nor has the Convention discovered less prudence, in providing for the frequent elections of Senators in such a way as to obviate the inconvenience of periodically transferring those great affairs entirely to new men; for by leaving a considerable residue of the old ones in place, uniformity and order, as well as a constant succession of official information, will be preserved.
There are few who will not admit, that the affairs of trade and navigation should be regulated by a system cautiously formed and steadily pursued, and that both our treaties and our laws should correspond with and be made to promote it. It is of much consequence that this correspondence and conformity be carefully maintained; and they who assent to the truth of this position will see and confess, that it is well provided for by making concurrence of the Senate necessary, both to treaties and to laws.
It seldom happens in the negotiation of treaties, of whatever nature, but that perfect secrecy and immediate despatch are sometimes requisite. There are cases where the most useful intelligence may be obtained, if the persons possessing it can be relieved from apprehensions of discovery. Those apprehensions will operate on those persons, whether they are actuated by mercenary or friendly motives; and there doubtless are many of both descriptions, who would rely on the secrecy of the President, but who would not confide in that of the Senate, and still less in that of a large popular Assembly. The Convention have done well, therefore, in so disposing of the power of making treaties, that although the President must, in forming them, act by the advice and consent of the Senate, yet he will be able to manage the business of intelligence in such a manner as prudence may suggest.
They who have turned their attention to the affairs of men must have perceived that there are tides in them; tides very irregular in their duration, strength, and direction, and seldom found to run twice exactly in the same manner or measure. To discern and to profit by these tides in national affairs is the business of those who preside over them; and they who have had much experience on this head inform us, that there frequently are occasions when days, nay, even when hours, are precious. The loss of a battle, the death of a prince, the removal of a minister, or other circumstances intervening to change the present posture and aspect of affairs, may turn the most favourable tide into a course opposite to our wishes. As in the field, so in the cabinet, there are moments to be seized as they pass, and they who preside in either should be left in capacity to improve them. So often and so essentially have we heretofore suffered from the want of secrecy and despatch, that the Constitution would have been inexcusably defective if no attention had been paid to those objects. Those matters which in negotiations usually require the most secrecy and the most despatch are those preparatory and auxiliary measures which are no otherwise important in a national view, than as they tend to facilitate the attainment of the objects of the negotiation. For these, the President will find no difficulty to provide; and should any circumstance occur, which requires the advice and consent of the Senate, he may at any time convene them. Thus we see, that the Constitution provides that our negotiations for treaties shall have every advantage which can be derived from talents, information, integrity, and deliberate investigations, on the one hand, and from secrecy and despatch, on the other.
But to this plan, as to most others that have ever appeared, objections are contrived and urged.
Some are displeased with it, not on account of any errors or defects in it, but because, as the treaties, when made, are to have the force of laws, they should be made only by men invested with legislative authority. These gentlemen seem not to consider that the judgments of our courts, and the commissions constitutionally given by our Governor, are as valid and as binding on all persons whom they concern, as the laws passed by our Legislature. All constitutional acts of power, whether in the executive or in the judicial department, have as much legal validity and obligation as if they proceeded from the Legislature; and therefore, whatever name be given to the power of making treaties, or however obligatory they may be when made, certain it is, that the people may, with much propriety, commit the power to a distinct body from the Legislature, the Executive, or the Judicial. It surely does not follow, that because they have given the power of making laws to the Legislature, that therefore they should likewise give them power to do every other act of sovereignty by which the citizens are to be bound and affected.
Others, though content that treaties should be made in the mode proposed, are averse to their being the supreme laws of the land. They insist, and profess to believe, that treaties, like Acts of Assembly, should be repealable at pleasure. This idea seems to be new and peculiar to this country; but new errors, as well as new truths, often appear. These gentlemen would do well to reflect, that a treaty is only another name for a bargain; and that it would be impossible to find a Nation who would make any bargain with us, which should be binding on them absolutely, but on us only so long and so far as we may think proper to be bound by it. They who make laws may, without doubt, amend or repeal them; and it will not be disputed that they who make treaties may alter or cancel them: but still let us not forget that treaties are made, not by only one of the contracting parties, but by both; and consequently, that as the consent of both was essential to their formation at first, so must it ever afterwards be to alter or cancel them. The proposed Constitution, therefore, has not in the least extended the obligation of treaties. They are just as binding, and just as far beyond the lawful reach of Legislative acts now, as they will be at any future period, or under any form of government.
However useful jealousy may be in republics, yet when like bile in the natural, it abounds too much in the body politic, the eyes of both become very liable to be deceived by the delusive appearances which that malady casts on surrounding objects. From this cause, probably, proceed the fears and apprehensions of some, that the President and Senate may make treaties without an equal eye to the interests of all the States. Others suspect, that two thirds will oppress the remaining third, and ask, whether those gentlemen are made sufficiently responsible for their conduct; whether, if they act corruptly, they can be punished; and if they make disadvantageous treaties, how are we to get rid of those treaties?
As all the States are equally represented in the Senate, and by men the most able and the most willing to promote the interests of their constituents, they will all have an equal degree of influence in that body, especially while they continue to be careful in appointing proper persons, and to insist on their punctual attendance. In proportion as the United States assume a national form, and a national character, so will the good of the whole be more and more an object of attention; and the government must be a weak one indeed, if it should forget, that the good of the whole can only be promoted by advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole. It will not be in the power of the President and Senate to make any treaties by which they and their families and estates, will not be equally bound and affected with the rest of the community; and having no private interests distinct from that of the Nation, they will be under no temptations to neglect the latter.
As to corruption, the case is not supposable. He must either have been very unfortunate in his intercourse with the world, or possess a heart very susceptible of such impressions, who can think it probable, that the President and two thirds of the Senate will ever be capable of such unworthy conduct. The idea is too gross, and too invidious, to be entertained. But in such a case, if it should ever happen, the treaty so obtained from us would, like all other fraudulent contracts, be null and void by the law of nations.
With respect to their responsibility, it is difficult to conceive how it could be increased. Every consideration that can influence the human mind, such as honor, oaths, reputations, conscience, the love of country, and family affections and attachments, afford security for their fidelity. In short, as the Constitution has taken the utmost care that they shall be men of talents and integrity, we have reason to be persuaded, that the treaties they make will be as advantageous as, all circumstances considered, could be made; and so far as the fear of punishment and disgrace can operate, that motive to good behavior is amply afforded by the Article on the subject of impeachments.
“A Defence of the Constitution of the United States against the Attack of M. Turgot,” by John Adams. The work, in three volumes, was in substance “an analysis of the various free governments of ancient and modern times, with occasional summaries of their history, to illustrate the nature of the evils under which they had suffered and ultimately perished.” The first volume was issued during the sitting of the Federal Convention.
In a letter to Adams of July 31st following, Jay writes: “It seems that the Convention at Philadelphia have agreed on the leading principles or great outlines of their plan, and appointed a committee to put it into form; but we know not what it is, and I believe it is best that we should not.”
Lafayette was as solicitous as any American. On August 4th he wrote to Jay from Paris: “With great anxiety, my dear friend, I wait for the results of the Convention. No circumstance can be more interesting to a heart that prides itself in the glory of America, and is happy of her happiness. Indeed, my dear sir, it is time for the United States to take those measures which have long been talked of by their ablest and most zealous friends. I can only pretend to be ranked among the latter, but am too deeply wounded by any circumstance that does not come up to my ideas of the future greatness, prosperity, and internal happiness of the United States, that I don’t only wish them to be well, but as perfectly well as it is possible for a nation to be.”
Of the eighty-five papers which make up the Federalist, Jay wrote Nos. II., III., IV., V., and LXIII., the original drafts of which, No. II. excepted,are known to be preserved. Jay was interrupted in his contributions by the wound he received in the “Doctor’s Mob” in New York City, April, 1788.