Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO ROBERT GOODLOE HARPER. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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JAY TO ROBERT GOODLOE HARPER. 1 - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 4 (1794-1826).
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JAY TO ROBERT GOODLOE HARPER.1
New York, 19th January, 1796.
A friend of mine lately sent me your address to your constituents relative to the treaty. I have read it with pleasure. Had all the publications on that subject been written with equal knowledge and attention, or with equal candour and decorum, more truth would have been disseminated, and less irritation excited.
I observe in it the following paragraph, viz.:
“Objections both personal and constitutional have been made to Mr. Jay. He has been said to be prepossessed in favour of Britain, and an avowed enemy to France. If this had been true, it would have been a sufficient reason for rejecting him—but it is not true. I can contradict it, and do, on my own knowledge. I heard Mr. Jay express, in public and private, and those who have been much more and much longer acquainted with him, assure me that he always has expressed the utmost pleasure in the French Revolution, and the warmest wishes for its success, the greatest dislike for the former government, and sentiments of the highest esteem and respect for the nation.”
I am much obliged to you, sir, for this vindication; but it being summary and in general terms, and comprehending only one of the points, I think it best, in order to obviate all further questions, to state particularly my sentiments relative to them both.
It has, for obvious reasons, been judged convenient to represent me as being strongly attached to the interests of Britain, and as being equally hostile to those of France. Before I take notice of either, I will premise that, as it is my duty, so it is my inclination and resolution, never to be a partisan of any foreign court or nation, but to be and remain with those independent and genuine Americans, who think it unwise and improper to meddle in foreign politics, and who regard all foreign interference in our counsels as derogatory to the honour and dangerous to the best interests of the United States.
Not being of British descent, I cannot be influenced by that delicacy towards their national character, nor that partiality for it, which might otherwise be supposed not to be unnatural. I nevertheless continue to concur in, and to express those sentiments of esteem for that nation, which are expressed, and I believe with great sincerity, in the early Journals of Congress.
It is not from the characters of this or that administration, or prevailing party in the government, that the character of a nation is to be inferred. A true judgment of it can no otherwise be formed than by observing the general tenor of their dispositions and conduct, viewed under all their circumstances and in all their relations during a long course of time. It certainly is chiefly owing to institutions, laws, and principles of policy and government, originally derived to us as British colonists, that, with the favour of Heaven, the people of this country are what they are.
Notwithstanding the tendency which all arbitrary governments, and particularly the long reign of such a monarch as Louis the Fifteenth, have to debase and corrupt their subjects, the people of France continued to be highly distinguished by their talents, and by their progress in the arts both of peace and of war.
It is true that I returned from that country to this, with opinions unfavourable to their court; but not only without a wish unfriendly to them, but, on the contrary, with sentiments of good-will and regard. That I have from early life expressed a strong dislike to the former arbitrary government of France, is well known. The more I became acquainted with it, the more it appeared to me to be a government always dreadful in theory, and always more or less so in practice, according to the characters of those by whom its powers were exercised.
In the revolution which put a period to it, I did cordially rejoice: I mean the one which limited the power of the king, and restored liberty to the people. The patriotic Assembly which concerted and accomplished that revolution, and the people and army who concurred in and supported it, did themselves immortal honour; and impressed me (although my judgment did not accord with all their acts) with great respect and esteem for them, and with the warmest wishes for the ultimate success and perfection of the constitution and government which they established.
The successors of that memorable Assembly produced another revolution. They abolished the constitution and government which had been just established, and brought the king to the scaffold.
This revolution did not give me pleasure. I derived no satisfaction from the disastrous fate of a prince who (from whatever motives) had done us essential services, and to whom we had frequently presented the strongest assurances of our attachment and affection. This revolution had, in my eye, more the appearance of a woe than a blessing. It has caused torrents of blood and of tears, and been marked in its progress by atrocities very injurious to the cause of liberty and offensive to morality and humanity.
But this revolution having abolished the monarchy declared France a republic, and received the general concurrence of the nation, a new constitution became indispensable: and as, in case this revolution should be overthrown by the combined powers, they would doubtless dictate what that new constitution should be (an interference not to be submitted to), I wished success to the revolution, so far as it had for its object not the disorganizing and managing of other states, which ought neither to be attempted nor permitted, but the exclusive ordering of all internal affairs, and the establishment of any constitution which the nation should prefer. It gives me pleasure to find that one has lately been so established; and I sincerely wish it may be the means of giving permanent peace, liberty, and good government to France.
As to the issue of the war, I am far from desiring that either France, Britain, or Germany, or any other power, should acquire a decided preponderance in Europe. In my opinion, it would conduce more to the welfare and peace of those nations, and also of the United States, that they should remain in capacity to limit and repress the ambition of each other.
I will conclude this letter with an extract from one which I wrote to the late Secretary of State, dated at London on 21st November, 1794, viz.:
“I daily become more and more convinced of the general friendly disposition of this country towards ours; let us cherish it. . . . Let us cultivate friendship with all nations. By treating them all with justice and kindness, and by preserving that self-respect which forbids our yielding to the influence or policy of any of them, we shall, with the Divine blessing, secure peace, union, and respectability.”
With sentiments of esteem and regard, I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
[1 ]Member of Congress. This letter was published by Mr. Harper, at Mr. Jay’s request.