Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1815. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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1815. - 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 JUDGE PETERS.
Bedford, 9th January, 1815.
It is a great while since any letters have passed between us; perhaps some of them have miscarried. The season reminds me that I have survived the last year, and that I have left with it a great number who enjoyed more health and strength. Many friendly wishes have, as usual, been reciprocated on this occasion, but it seems to be questionable whether an average proportion of them will be realized. Public adversity, you know, is at variance with individual happiness; and it has not yet become very probable that this will be a happy year to our country. I should rejoice to find myself mistaken, but I cannot be persuaded that general prosperity will be restored while our nation continues to be misled by the delusions which caused and which prolong our calamities. We have not only declared war unwisely, but have also unwisely (though not unwittingly) excited disgust and resentment. How far angry passions will retard the return of peace may be conjectured rather than calculated. We are yet to learn whether the result of the negotiations at Vienna will impede or promote those at Ghent. While the former are pending, I suspect that Britain will not be anxious to obviate delays. To me, personally, these things cannot long be very interesting, but I feel for those whom I shall leave behind me. You are in the way of knowing more about our national affairs than I am, and I sincerely wish that your views of them may be more consoling than mine are.
My health continues to wear away, but I seldom suffer severe pain. Conversation, books, and recollections still enable me, with the blessing of Providence, to amuse confinement, and to glide on placidly towards that ocean to which the stream of time is bearing us all.
Tell me how you do. With constant esteem and regard, I am, dear sir,
Your very humble servant,
JUDGE PETERS TO JAY.
Belmont, Jan. 19th, 1815.
My Dear Sir:
Your very welcome letter of the 9th inst. I received at the moment I was contemplating sending to you our third volume of Agricultural Memoirs, as a small token of remembrance. I shall, by the first opportunity, have it forwarded to you. A few of us endeavour to keep this subject alive amid the din of arms, which are ever hostile to the arts of peace and their attendant blessings. Too much of this effort falls on me; but yet some relief from surrounding glooms is found in attention to topics which abstract the mind from the vices and follies plentifully scattered throughout our devoted country. Mortification under what we are, is at least for the moment suspended, while we contemplate on what we have been. It may return with double force, when we consider what we might have been.
But it seems that history affords ample proofs, and ours as much as any other, that “this world was made for Cæsar.” The enjoyment of liberty is fugacious; but despotism, under a variety of shapes, is permanent. There is a tendency to it in all human political institutions; and the people of every country have, from time immemorial, forged their own chains. Our “free and enlightened” citizens are now very busy at the anvil; but whether their work will now be completed, is not for us to decide. Heaven may send us chastisement without ruin, and possibly the former may save us for a time. Delusion is the order of the day. Gordon, in one of his discourses on Tacitus, endeavours to prove that the people, when deceived by deluders, are blind and cruel, yet mean well. Too many of our people are blind, yet few cruel; as to their meaning well, they take a lamentable mode of showing it.
Your letter contains an epitome of my thoughts on our political situation. Had I written a book (and I have no adversary who would think it worth his while to wish that I had), I could not express myself more clearly on the subject. At our age we are lookers on, and see the game better than those who play it. The insight which calm observation and experience afford is, however, of no use to those who deem themselves too wise to need instruction. We must wait events, like passengers in a bark buffeted by storms, and mismanaged by unskilful pilots and mariners. I hope our vessel is yet staunch, and that she will get into port, whatever untoward appearances may predict. It is indeed distressing when hope alone is our comforter. But, alas! all I know is far from furnishing light or brilliancy to the threatening and dusky cloud which overhangs our hemisphere.
Our president is not the man we once supposed him. Party antipathies may possibly paint in too sombre colours; but the stories I hear are distressing, particularly to me, who in early times had a sincere personal friendship for him. He would then take some strange flights: one of them was his joining in the philippic against you, for not consulting the French minister (Vergennes), when the interest of your country forbade the step. But, in general, I thought and acted with him. In this matter, far otherwise; nor have I, in his modern conduct, been in union with his political sentiments on any important subject, although I entertain no personal enmity.
I have a strong impression that we shall, ere long, have peace; but the why and the wherefore I cannot tell, save that there seems nothing really substantial enough in the litigated affairs of the two nations, to continue the business of throat-cutting; and I fancy our enemy is tired of the employment, after following the trade so long.
I am gratified with the account of your travelling on towards the goal we all must arrive at, with a mind tranquil, and a body without pain. Your companions—books and recollections—are consolatory and essential, when all others have lost their relish.
I thank you for your kind inquiries about my health. I have but lately recovered from a most unfortunate accident, having been thrown on the stones of our turnpike from my horse, who took fright and ran away with me. He was a Kentucky racer (a quality I did not know), and no doubt took his revenge for his countrymen, by chastising me for my bad politics. I had three trenched gashes in my pericranium; yet I escaped becoming cracked-brained, which may be reckoned uncivil, as it is fashionable nowadays, at least among politicans; and it is the ton to be in the fashion. Believe me always
Most affectionately yours,
JAY TO REV. DR. MORSE.
Bedford, 14th February, 1815.
On the 4th inst. I received by the mail from New York your interesting letter of the 17th ult. I have read the pamphlets communicated to me by Mr. Grant, and derived from them the only knowledge I have of the transactions noticed in them. It would not be easy to introduce into my mind doubts of your rectitude. My opinion of it has undergone no alterations. You are drawing consolation from a source which always affords it.
As to the work you mention, I am glad you have undertaken it, because it is desirable, and because I expect it will be well performed. It would give me pleasure to afford the aids you request, but the state of my health admits of very little exertion of mind or body. I can neither read nor write much at a time, without bringing on a feverish weariness.
My public life did not commence so early as you supposed. In 1766 I was a clerk in a lawyer’s office, and on leaving it was occupied in professional affairs until the year 1774, when I was sent to the first Congress. In 1775 I was also in Congress; in 1776 the Convention of this State detained me with them. In 1778 I was again sent to Congress, and remained there until September, 1779, when I was sent to Europe. In 1784 I returned home.
From this statement, you will perceive that my knowledge of the important events which occurred before the year 1774 cannot be particular.
The difficulty of collecting materials, and of ascertaining their real value, will increase with time. There are very few of the well-informed official men of those days now alive, and the few who remain will in a few years more be gone. To you I need not remark that many things have been written and said which are not correct. The collection of materials (if nothing to perfect it be left undone) will cost much time, trouble, and expense. Some information may be acquired by letters, but much more and much better may be obtained by personal inspections, applications, and interviews.
Valuable materials exist in the office of the Secretary of State, in the public and private journals of Congress, and among the papers of the several States, etc.
You know my sentiments respecting history,—festina lente. No good history has been, nor can be, produced in haste.
I regret the impediments which deprived me of the pleasure of the visit you intended. I hope some favourable opportunity of making it will yet occur, and that Mrs. Morse may come with you. We will then converse on these topics, and I will readily communicate to you such materials among those I possess as you may deem interesting.
Be so obliging as to assure Mr. and Mrs. Evarts of my best wishes for the health and prosperity of themselves and their family. I am glad their little boy is doing well. May he long continue to do so in every respect.
I am, dear sir,