Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN JAY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO JOHN JAY. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
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TO JOHN JAY.
West Point, Sept. the 7th, 1779.
I have received your obliging Favors of the 25th and 30th of last month and thank you for them.
It really appears impossible to reconcile the conduct Britain is pursuing, to any system of prudence or policy. For the reasons you assign, appearances are against her deriving aid from other powers; and, if it is truly the case that she has rejected the mediation of Spain, without having made allies, it will exceed all past instances of her infatuation.1 Notwithstanding appearances, I can hardly bring myself fully to believe, that it is the case; or that there is so general a combination against the interests of Britain among the European powers, as will permit them to endanger the political ballance. I think it probable enough, that the conduct of France in the affairs of the porte and Russia will make an impression on the Empress; but I doubt whether it will be sufficient to counterballance the powerful motives she has to support England; and the porte has been perhaps too much weakened in the last war with Russia to be over fond of renewing it. The Emperor is also the natural ally of England, notwithstanding the connexions of blood between his family and that of France; and he may prefer reasons of national policy to those of private attachment. ’T is true, his finances may not be in the best state, though one campaign could hardly have exhausted them; but, as Holland looks up to him for her chief protection, if he should be inclined to favor England, it may give her councils a decided byass the same way. She can easily supply what is wanting in the article of money, and by this aid give sinews to that confederacy. Denmark is also the natural ally of England; and, though there has been lately a family bickering, her political interests may outweigh private animosity. Her marine assistance would be considerable. Portugal, too, tho timid and cautious at present, if she was to see connexions formed by England able to give her countenance and security, would probably declare for her interests. Russia, Denmark, The Emperor, Holland, portugal, and England would form a respectable counterpoise to the opposite scale. Though all the maritime powers of Europe were interested in the independence of this country, as it tended to diminish the overgrown power of Britain, yet they may be unwilling to see too great a preponderancy on the side of her rivals; and when the question changes itself, from the separation of America to the ruin of England as a naval power, I should not be surprised at a proportionable change in the sentiments of some of those states, which have been heretofore unconcerned spectators, or inclining to our side. I suggest these things rather as possible than probable. It is even to be expected, that the decisive blow will be struck before the interposition of the allies England may acquire, can have effect. But still, as possible events, they ought to have their influence, and prevent our relaxing in any measures necessary for our safety, on the supposition of a speedy peace, or removal of the war from the present theatre in America.
The account, which Mr. Wharton received, of the reinforcement that came with Adml. Arbuthnot, corresponds pretty well, with respect to numbers, with the best information I have been able to obtain upon the subject. Some recent advices make it about Three thousand, and say, that these Troops are rather in a sickly condition. It is generally said, that they are Recruits; but whether there is so great a proportion of the Scotch, as his intelligence mentions, is not ascertained by any accounts I have received.1
With respect to the person you recommended last winter, he was employed in consequence, and I have not the smallest doubt of his attachment and integrity. But he has not had it in his power, and indeed it is next to impossible that any one should, circumstanced as he is, to render much essential service in the way it was intended to employ him. You will readily conceive the difficulties in such a case. The business was of too delicate a nature for him to transact it frequently himself, and the characters he has been obliged occasionally to confide it to, have not been able to gain any thing satisfactory or material. Indeed, I believe it will seldom happen, that a person acting in this way, can render any essential advantages more than once or twice at any rate; and what he will be compelled to do, to preserve the pretended confidence of the other party, will generally counterballance any thing he may effect. The greatest benefits are to be derived from persons, who live with the other side; whose local circumstances, without subjecting them to suspicions, give them an opportunity of making observations, and comparing and combining things and sentiments. It is with such I have endeavored to establish a correspondence, and on whose reports I shall most rely. From these several considerations I am doubtful, whether it will be of any advantage for the person to continue longer in the way he has acted. The points, to which he must have alluded in his letter, were the movements up the North River, and against Charles-Town, and the expedition to Virginia. I believe the first certain information of the first of these events came from him. He has never received any thing from me.1 The gentleman, who employed him first, had some money deposited with him for confidential purposes; but I cannot tell how much he may have paid him. With every sentiment of esteem, regard, and respect, I am, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]Mr. Jay, President of Congress, had written as follows: “Britain refused the mediation of Spain at a time when their spirits were elated by their successes in the West Indies and the southern States, and by the accounts they received of discord in Congress, discontent among the people, and a prospect of the evils with which we were threatened by the depreciation of our currency. Deceived by these illusory gleams of hope, they permitted their counsels to be guided by their pride. What reason they may have to expect succor from other powers is as yet a secret. M. Gerard is decided in his opinion, that they will obtain none. The conduct of France in establishing peace between Russia and the Porte has won the heart of the Empress; and the influence of Versailles at Constantinople will probably give duration to her gratitude. The Emperor and Russia are under similar obligations. The latter wishes us well, and the finances of the former are too much exhausted to support the expense of a war without subsidies from Britain, who at present cannot afford them. There is no reason to suspect that the peace of Germany will soon be interrupted. Britain may hire some troops there, but it is not probable she will be able to do more. Portugal and the Dutch, while directed by their interest, will not rashly raise their hands to support a nation, which, like a tower in an earthquake, sliding from its base, will crush every slender prop that may be raised to prevent its fall.”—August 25th.
[1 ]Notwithstanding the reinforcements that were coming to America, and the determination of the ministry to prosecute the war with vigor, Sir Henry Clinton began to be weary of the service; and in fact he had already solicited his recall.
[1 ]The person referred to was Captain Elijah Hunter, who had been recommended to Washington by Mr. Jay and General McDougall. In June, 1783, Washington wrote to him: “you obtained such intelligence either by yourself or your correspondents, of various things which passed within the British lines, as was of considerable consequence to us. Under this recollection of circumstances, I cannot hesitate to certify that I thought at the time, and still conceive, your services were of such an interesting nature as entitled you to the good opinion and favorable notice of your countrymen.” Captain Hunter may be the agent H—, mentioned in Washington’s letter to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 27 June, 1779, printed in Vol. VII., p. 475.