Front Page Titles (by Subject) JAY TO GEORGE A. OTIS. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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JAY TO GEORGE A. OTIS. - 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,