Front Page Titles (by Subject) REV. SAMUEL MILLER TO JAY. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
REV. SAMUEL MILLER TO JAY. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
REV. SAMUEL MILLER TO JAY.
New York, March 17, 1800.
. . . . . . .
With regard to your observation, on the manner in which General Washington’s political character and services are taken notice of in the sermon, though I receive it, and consider the motive by which it was dictated, with profound respect, yet you will pardon me if I hesitate to adopt your opinion in the same unqualified manner, in this, as in the preceding instance.
On the occasion on which the sermon was delivered I was unwilling to touch upon any thing connected with party animosity. Had I, therefore, perfectly agreed with you in sentiments, with regard to the parties which have for several years divided the citizens of the United States, it would not have been thought proper by me, to introduce such sentiments, or indeed any other, involving the political polemics of the day, into a pulpit exercise. But, sir, I had a more powerful reason for speaking as I did. To avoid giving offence to an audience will always, I hope, be a secondary object with me to the duty of a candid expression of my sentiments, when such expression is demanded. I am one of those who do not entirely approve the measures of the late venerable President, and although I am persuaded that multitudes have opposed them from a fixed principle of hostility to the constitution and in a very unreasonable and criminal manner, yet, after as impartial an examination of my own mind as I am able to institute, I cannot believe that my disapprobation arises from any other source than “doubts of the wisdom of those measures.” My doubts, indeed, may be wholly groundless; and give me leave to say, that few things have more frequently tempted me to suspect that this might be the case, than a recollection of the splendid talents and (in my view) the unquestionable uprightness, which have been engaged in carrying on the measures referred to. Still, however, these doubts exist, though, I hope, they are entertained, and generally expressed, without obstinacy and without malevolence.
With respect to the last idea suggested in your letter, that the party who originally approved the Constitution have unanimously continued to approve the Government established by it, considered as a general remark, it is probably just. But many exceptions are certainly to be found. Being only a lad of seventeen years of age when the Constitution was adopted, it would be improper to speak of my own sentiments at that time. I was then residing in Delaware, my native State. In that State, you recollect, the Constitution was adopted promptly and unanimously. Among the number of its warmest admirers and most zealous supporters were my family and particular friends; and in the same class I have, ever since, considered myself. It is, moreover, beyond all question true, that many of the first characters, for talents, virtue, and property, in that State, who then took side in favour of the constitution with great decision, and who have uniformly professed themselves to be its friends to the present day, are now to be ranked with what is called the opposition. I have taken my examples from Delaware, as being better able to compare the different parts of the conduct of her principal citizens, for the last twelve years, than to do the same with regard to my adopted State. I am well aware that those who came under the description which has been mentioned, are charged with being inconsistent men, and with having changed their ground. That some have given reason for bringing this charge against them, and for suspecting their motives, I do not deny. But that disapproving parts of the conduct of Administration always implies enmity to the constitution, I am not convinced, and, therefore, am not ready, at present, to concede.—
You will, perhaps, be somewhat surprized at my taking the liberty to trouble you with these expositions and details of my sentiments, in answer to your remarks. I am sensible it is of little importance what my political opinions are. They have been generally held in a moderate and inoffensive manner, and both my profession and inclination forbid me to take an active part in the civil concerns of my country. It is, indeed, my wish to abstract myself more and more from party politics. But several reasons induced me to acknowledge the receipt of your remarks, and in doing this my first resolution was to be unreserved. You had given an example of candour too flattering and instructive not to be imitated. I have only to add, that, if I do not deceive myself, my highest ambition is to promote “the great interests of Religion, Virtue, and rational Liberty;”—that if any of my principles have a different tendency, I shall be among the first to abhor them on making the discovery; and that he who corrects any errors into which I may fall, will always be considered by me as my truest friend and benefactor.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of very high respect,
Your Excellency’s much obliged and humble Servant,