Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1821. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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1821. - 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 GEORGE A. OTIS.
Bedford, Westchester County, N. Y.
I have received your letter of the 23d ult. expressing a desire that Botta’s History and your translation of it may have my approbation; and also that I would mention to you the most authentic of the documents which are before the public relative to the negotiations at Paris in 1782.
Having, as yet, received and read only the first volume of the History, I cannot form, and consequently cannot express, an opinion of the whole work.
As to the first volume, there are in it certain assertions, representations, and suggestions, of which there are some which I believe to be erroneous, and others which I suspect to be inaccurate. Being too feeble either to write or to read much at a time without fatigue; I forbear to enumerate them. I will, nevertheless, for your satisfaction, select and notice one of the most important, viz.: that anterior to the Revolution there existed in the colonies a desire of independence.
The following extracts respect this topic, viz.:
Page 10.—“The love of the sovereign and their ancient country, which the first colonists might have retained in their new establishments, gradually diminished in the hearts of their descendants.”
Page 11.—“The greater part of the colonists had heard nothing of Great Britian, excepting that it was a distant kingdom, from which their ancestors had been barbarously expelled.”
Page 12.—“As the means of restraint became almost illusory in the hands of the government, there must have arisen and gradually increased in the minds of the Americans, the hope, and with it the desire, to shake off the yoke of English superiority . . . The colonists supported impatiently the superiority of the British government.”
Page 15.—“Such was the state of the English colonies in America; such the opinions and dispositions of those who inhabited them, about the middle of the eighteenth century . . . It was impossible that they should have remained ignorant of what they were capable; and that the progressive development of national pride should not have rendered the British yoke intolerable.”
Page 33.—“Already those who were the most zealous for liberty, or the most ambitious, had formed, in the secret of their hearts, the resolution to shake off the yoke of England, whenever a favourable occasion should present. This design was encouraged by the recent cession of Canada.”
Page 199.—“The colonists looked upon it [the Congress of 1774] as a convention of men who, in some mode or other, were to deliver their country from the perils that menaced it. The greater part believed that their ability, &c., would enable them to obtain from the government a removal of the evils that oppressed them, and the re-establishment of the ancient order of things. Some others cherished the belief that they would find means to conduct the American nation to that independence which was the first and most ardent of their aspirations; or rather the sole object of that intense passion which stung and tormented them night and day.”
Page 314.—“Both [Putnam and Ward] had declared themselves too openly in favour of independence. The Congress desired indeed to procure it, but withal in a propitious time.”
Page 388.—“Thus ceased, as we have related, the royal authority in the different provinces. It was replaced progressively by that of the people; that is, by Congresses or Conventions extraordinary, that were formed in each colony. But this was deemed insufficient by those who directed the affairs of America; their real object being independence,” &c.
Explicit professions and assurances of allegiance and loyalty to the sovereign (especially since the accession of King William), and of affection for the mother country, abound in the journals of the colonial Legislatures, and of the Congresses and Conventions, from early periods to the second petition of Congress in 1775.
If these professions and assurances were sincere, they afford evidence more than sufficient to invalidate the charge of our desiring and aiming at independence.
If, on the other hand, these professions and assurances were factitious and deceptive, they present to the world an unprecedented instance of long-continued, concurrent, and detestable duplicity in the colonies. Our country does not deserve this odious and disgusting imputation. During the course of my life, and until after the second petition of Congress in 1775, I never did hear any American of any class, or of any description, express a wish for the independence of the colonies.
Few Americans had more or better means and opportunities of becoming acquainted with the sentiments and dispositions of the colonists, relative to public affairs than Dr. Franklin. In a letter to his son, dated the 22d March, 1775, he relates a conversation which he had with Lord Chatham in the preceding month of August. His Lordship having mentioned an opinion prevailing in England, that America aimed at setting up for herself as an independent state, the Doctor thus expressed himself: “I assured him that, having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company, eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, I never had heard in any conversation from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or a hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America.”
It does not appear to me necessary to enlarge further on this subject. It has always been and still is my opinion and belief, that our country was prompted and impelled to independence by necessity, and not by choice. They who know how we were then circumstanced, know from whence that necessity resulted.
It would, indeed, be extraordinary, if a foreigner, remote (like Mr. Botta) from the best sources of authentic information, should, in writing such a history, commit no mistakes. That gentleman doubtless believed his narrations to be true, but it is not improbable that he sometimes selected his materials with too little apprehension of error, and that some of his informers were too little scrupulous. This remark derives a degree of weight from the following passage in the History, viz.: General Montgomery “left a wife, the object of all his tenderness, with several children, still infants, a spectacle for their country, at once of pity and admiration. The state, from gratitude towards their father, distinguished them with every mark of kindness and protection.” I have been acquainted with General Montgomery’s widow from my youth. The fact is that she never had a child.
In making the translation, attention has doubtless been paid to the rule, that a translator should convey into his translation, with perspicuity and precision, the ideas of his author, and no others, and express them, not literally, but in well-adapted classical language. How far your translation is exactly correct, I am an incompetent judge; for not understanding the language of the original, I cannot examine and compare the translation with it. Of the style and manner of the translation, I think well.
Which are the most authentic documents before the public relative to the negotiations at Paris in 1782, is a question which I am not in capacity to answer. Many years have elapsed since I have read any of them, and others have since been published which I have not seen. Without a previous and careful examination of each of them, it would be rash and unfair to give a preference to either:
On receiving your first letter, I conjectured that you were of the respectable family of your name in Massachusetts; and that conjecture appears from your last to have been well founded. If, in going from Philadelphia to Boston, you should not find it inconvenient to take the road through this town, you will meet with a welcome reception from
Your obedient servant,
JAY TO JUDGE PETERS.
Bedford, 12th March, 1821.
My letter to you of the 26th December last, contained some remarks relative to the perversions and obliquities which you had noticed, and which I observed were neither recent nor unexpected. In that letter there was not room for explanatory details. Those remarks were therefore concise and general. To supply that deficiency is the design of this letter
These perversions and obliquities began on the receipt of a letter which I wrote to Congress, and of which the following is a copy.
[Here was inserted the letter of 20th September, 1781, relative to the instruction to the American commissioners appointed to negotiate the treaty of peace. See vol. ii., p. 69.]
This letter was written under the influence of indignant feelings, and in some respects with too little of deliberate consideration. The impressions it made on those who had originated and urged the instruction mentioned in it may easily be conceived.
That this instruction was more complimentary than wise was afterward evinced by the circumstances which constrained the American commissioners at Paris to disobey it. That disobedience gave additional excitement to the displeasure and to the complaints of the French and their consociates. Nor were they pleased with the implied approbation of that disobedience, which resulted from my appointment to the office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs, before my arrival in 1784. From time to time after my return, I was informed of various incidents which showed that their malevolence was far from being dormant.
The presumptuous attempts of the republican minister Genet, to facilitate the designs of France at the hazard of our peace and neutrality, gave occasion to the measures of President Washington on that subject. Disappointed and irritated by these impediments, Genet and his partisans indulged themselves in animadversions on the administration and its advocates, which were neither candid nor decorous.
The treaty with England in 1794, did not accord with the views and wishes of France, nor with the views and wishes of sundry individuals among us. Although the strenuous efforts made to defeat it did not succeed, yet the feelings and motives which prompted those efforts continued to operate.
Certain politicians, desirous to give a new direction to public opinion, finally succeeded in forming a party for the purpose, and in introducing a policy varying from that which President Washington and his friends had preferred. Those friends were not regarded with a friendly eye.
They who censured the precipitate commencement and the unsuccessful conduct of the late war with England incurred the resentment of those by whom these errors were committed.
Among those who had been active Federalists, there were individuals who, at subsequent periods, were induced to think it expedient for them to join the opposing party. They who thus pass from one side to the other are apt to mistake cunning for wisdom, and to act accordingly.
These details will suffice to explain the concise remarks in my letter. Many more might be added, and I could fill much paper with apposite anecdotes; but I forbear to enlarge on topics which (mutatis mutandis) the history of Greece and other countries, as well as observation and experience, have rendered familiar to us both.
In the course of my public life, I have endeavoured to be uniform and independent; having, from the beginning of it in 1774, never asked for an office or a vote, nor declined expressing my sentiments respecting such important public measures as, in my opinion, tended to promote or retard the welfare of our country.
You will, I am persuaded, pardon this egotism, and believe me to be, dear sir,
Your constant and affectionate friend,
JAY TO LINDLEY MURRAY.
Bedford, 24th April, 1821.
My Good Friend:
It gives me pleasure to learn from my son, that, in a letter lately received by your nephew, you made inquiries respecting me.
We have both experienced afflicting dispensations. Your portion of health has for a long time been diminished; and I have not had a well day for the last twelve years. You have been deprived of an excellent brother, who was an excellent man; and I of several relations, and particularly of an amiable and affectionate daughter. It is a comfort to hope and believe that such dispensations answer merciful purposes, and that the time will come when we shall rejoice in having been reminded by adversity, that temporal enjoyments are transient.
The winter having been more cold than common, has confined me to the house during the course of it; and the weather this spring has not yet been so mild as to admit of my going abroad without risk. Although my old complaint has gradually reduced me to a state of incurable debility, yet I seldom suffer from acute pain, except occasionally from rheumatism. In various respects, I have abundant reason to be thankful.
We have both passed the usual term of human life, or (as the lawyers say) our leases have expired, and we are now holding over. To be thus circumstanced, is not very important to those who expect to remove from their present abodes to better habitations, and to enjoy them in perpetuity. That we may both be, and continue to be, numbered with these, is the sincere desire of
Your affectionate friend,
JAY TO GOVERNOR BROWN.1
Bedford, 30th April, 1821.
I have received, and thank you for, the interesting report of the joint committee of both houses of your Legislature, relative to certain proceedings of the Bank of the United States, which you were so obliging as to send me.
Controversies between the national and a state government, or any of their respective departments, are to be regretted. It is desirable that the one which occasioned this report, should be brought to an amicable and satisfactory termination; and that the limits which bound the authorities of the national and state governments be well ascertained and observed.
However extensive the constitutional power of a government to impose taxes may be, I think it should not be so exercised as to impede or discourage the lawful and useful industry and exertions of individuals. Hence, the prudence of taxing the products of beneficial labour, either mental or manual, appears to be at least questionable.
Whether taxation should extend only to property, or only to income, or to both, are points on which opinions have not been uniform. I am inclined to think, that both should not be taxed. If the first is preferred, then tax the land and stock of a farmer, but not his crops; tax his milch-cows, but not their milk, nor the butter and cheese made of it, whether the same be sent to market or consumed in his family. Tax the real and personal estate of a physician and a lawyer, but not the conjectural and varying profits they derive from the skilful and industrious exercise of their professions, etc., etc. On this and similar subjects, there will be different opinions. Our minds are probably as little alike as our features; and it is not uncommon for men of unquestionable talents and candour to take opposite sides of the same question; neither of them being culpable, both are entitled to allowances for the risk of committing mistakes, to which we are all more or less exposed. It is an agreeable circumstance that prosperity attends you; and permit me to add, that for its continuance and increase, you have the best wishes of, Sir,
Your obliged and obedient servant,
MRS. MARIA BANYER TO JAY.
Geneva, N. Y., 28th June, 1821.
My dear Papa,
I hope Sister has received my letter from Utica which informed you of our route so far. On Sunday evening we rode 17 miles to Union thro’ a very beautiful Country resembling some of the finest parts of Connecticut, passing thro’ some very pretty villages ornamented with shrubbery and flowers; the land very rich and well cultivated. As my friends had some near relations at Union we stayed there until Monday afternoon when we rode 8 miles to the Canal. We went thro’ this part of the Oneida reservation and saw with great pleasure a very pretty Episcopal Church which has been built for the Indians, and regretted we had not gone there the day before. A lady of Utica told me she had never seen a more devout Congregation; they make the responses very well and sing delightfully. Their Clergyman is a man of talents, zealous in the cause and exemplary in his conduct; there yet remains much to be done. It was painful to observe the difference between their farms and those of their neighbours. The land could not be finer than it is, but we did not see more than half a dozen of them at work; great numbers were supinely lying on the ground or sitting at their doors.
Between 4 and 5 we embarked on the Canal in a neat boat about 70 feet long; it was towed by two horses which are exchanged every two miles;—we glided along very pleasantly at the rate of 4 miles an hour. About sun set it was delightful passing thro’ woods of a height I had not before seen; we had some mosquitoes and later in the season they will be a great drawback on the comfort of travelling thro’ that region. We passed thro’ six locks, the first in the night which I saw thro’ the window of my berth; it looked as if we were sinking into a large dungeon. We ascended, which was more agreeable. Having travelled 56 miles in this way we left the canal, but as all who love their Country feel an interest in its success, I know you will be pleased to hear that so far it has answered the most sanguine expectations of its friends. There are two passage boats owned by gentlemen in Utica who last year cleared $2,000 from them, altho’ the fare including lodging, tea, and breakfast is only 4 cents a mile. The amount of produce carried down is immense.
It seems almost incredible that the Canal can be carried thro’; near Genesee river it must be dug 25 feet deep thro’ solid rock for 3 miles. We rode 8 miles to Auburn yesterday where we stayed during the heat of the day; it is a pretty town. The State Prison is a grand building; the ornamental stone is brought from Oswego, and is very handsome, much resembling Newark stone but of a finer grain. How painful it is to reflect on the vice that renders such structures necessary! Very different feelings were excited on viewing another stone building errecting for a Theological Seminary. May the purifying principles of the blessed Gospel to which we owe this milder system of punishment daily render all punishment less necessary! We stayed at Auburn during the heat of the warmest day we have had, and in the afternoon and evening had a delightful ride to this place. The approach to Cayuga Lake is very fine; a noble sheet of water 40 miles long and 4 broad; we crossed it on a bridge 1¼ miles long; another bridge still nearer the foot of the Lake and the Steam boat enlivened the prospect. We rode several miles on the borders of the Senecca Lake before we entered this town, but it was too dark to see it to advantage. This is indeed a wonderful country, and thro’ out the whole of it has marks of great prosperity; it seems impossible that a Country of the same dimensions can possibly possess greater advantages than the State of New York. . . .
May our Heavenly Father grant you every blessing. Most truly your gratefully affectionate and dutiful daughter,
PETER A. JAY TO JAY.
New York, 5 July, 1821.
My dear Father,
I received your letter of the 25th ult. too late to answer it by last week’s mail, and I have this morning received that of the 3d inst.
I have directed an estimate to be made of the expence of building two houses on Walker Street. There are several reasons both for and against that Measure. I doubt whether such houses as would be most profitable in that situation can be built and completely finished for less than $5000 each, and the rent at present would not exceed $400, so that reckoning a lot at only $1800 the rent would be less than 6 per Cent. on the capital, and that too without considering repairs, which never fail to amount to something every year. On the other hand the value of the adjoining land would certainly be increased and it is not improbable that rents will rise. There is now so much idle capital in the City that upon pledges of stock money can be borrowed at 5 pr. Ct. Stock of all kinds is enormously high; even 5 pr. Ct. Stock sells at 7 pr. Ct. above par, yielding about 4½ pr. Ct. interest. There is generally a fashion in the money market as elsewhere. Some years ago it was the fashion to employ capital in Manufactures; nobody does so now. At present there is a rage for stock, but this I think cannot last long, and I should think it probable that capitalists will begin by and by to purchase land. If this should be the case, then building at present will be advantageous. But unless land or rents or both should rise, it will not be profitable.
We are all well. Our love to Nancy, William, and Augustus. I am, my dear father,
Your very affectionate Son,
Peter Augustus Jay.
PETER A. JAY TO JAY.
Albany, 10 Oct. 1821.
My dear Father,
Our prospects here grow more unpleasant. The more violent members of the Convention begin to act more in a body and to gather strength.1 They have held at least one caucus. Upon the whole there is a good deal of bad feeling, and I should not be surprized if something very violent should be attempted in relation to the judiciary. This will probably depend upon the likelihood of its succeeding, and of this I cannot yet judge. We have had a long and latterly angry contest about the appointment of justices of the peace. The dominant party who gave up the Council of Appointment with great reluctance were anxious to retain the power of appointing these magistrates at Albany, and Mr. V. Beuren proposed a plan for this purpose which he openly urged on party grounds; others very desirous that the minority should not be utterly excluded from office proposed to elect Justices by the people. This enraged the Jacobins exceedingly, who were obliged to argue in contradiction to their own principles and professions. I voted against both plans and both were lost. The contest ended in the adoption of a Scheme by which the power of appointing is lodged in the Supervisors and County Court. The discussion has produced violent animosity between the followers of Mr. V. Beuren and the N. York delegation, and the latter seem to me to be alarmed and to be acting feebly. I heard yesterday from Mary who was well; I hope Nancy has by this time returned in better health than when she left you.
I went a few days ago to the cattle show of this County and was disappointed. I am much inclined to believe that William could show on your farm as fine cattle, and almost as many of them, as were exhibited.
My love to him and sisters.
I am, my dear father,