Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN JAY. [PRIVATE.] - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
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TO JOHN JAY. [PRIVATE.] - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XII (1790-1794).
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TO JOHN JAY.
Philadelphia, 1 November, 1794.
My dear Sir,
On Tuesday last I returned from my tour to the westward. On Monday Congress by adjournment are to meet, and on the day following Mr. Bayard, according to his present expectation, is to leave this city for London.
Thus circumstanced, (having so little time between my return and the opening of the session to examine papers and to prepare my communications for the legislature,) you will readily perceive, that my present address to you must be hurried. At the same time my friendship and regard for you would not let an opportunity so good as the one afforded by Mr. Bayard pass, without some testimony of my remembrance of you, and an acknowledgment of the receipt of your private letters to me, dated the 23d of June, 21st of July, and 5th and 11th of August. These comprehend all the letters I have received from you since your arrival in England to the present date.
That of the 5th of August dawns more favorably upon the success of your mission, than any that had preceded it; and for the honor, dignity, and interest of this country, for your own reputation and glory, and for the peculiar pleasure and satisfaction I should derive from it, as well on private as on public considerations, no man more ardently wishes you complete success than I do. But as you have observed in some of your letters, that it is hardly possible in the early stages of a negotiation to foresee all the results, so much depending upon fortuitous circumstances and incidents, which are not within our control; so, to deserve success by employing the means with which we are possessed to the best advantage, and trusting the rest to the All-Wise Disposer, is all that an enlightened public, and the virtuous and well-disposed part of the community, can reasonably expect; nor in which will they, I am sure, be disappointed. Against the malignancy of the discontented, the turbulent, and the vicious, no abilities, no exertions, nor the most unshaken integrity are any safeguard.
As far as depends upon the executive, measures preparatory for the worst, while it hopes for the best, will be pursued; and I shall endeavor to keep things in statu quo until your negotiation assumes a more decisive form, which I hope will soon be the case, as there are many hot heads and impetuous spirits among us, who with difficulty can be kept within bounds. This, however, ought not to precipitate your conduct; for, as it has been observed, “there is a tide in human affairs” that ought always to be watched; and because I believe all, who are acquainted with you, will readily concede, that considerations both public and private combine to urge you to bring your mission to a close with as much celerity as the nature of it will admit.
As you have been, and will continue to be, fully informed by the Secretary of State of all transactions of a public nature, which relate to, or may have an influence on, the points of your mission, it would be unnecessary for me to touch upon any of them in this letter, was it not for the presumption that the insurrection in the western counties of this State has excited much speculation, and a variety of opinions abroad, and will be represented differently according to the wishes of some and the prejudices of others, who may exhibit it as an evidence of what has been predicted, “that we are unable to govern ourselves.” Under this view of the subject, I am happy in giving it to you as the general opinion, that this event having happened at the time it did was fortunate, although it will be attended with considerable expense.
That the self-created societies, which have spread themselves over this country, have been laboring incessantly to sow the seeds of distrust, jealousy, and of course discontent, thereby hoping to effect some revolution in the government, is not unknown to you. That they have been the fomenters of the western disturbances admits of no doubt in the mind of any one, who will examine their conduct; but fortunately they have precipitated a crisis for which they were not prepared, and thereby have unfolded views, which will, I trust, effectuate their annihilation sooner than it might otherwise have happened; at the same time that it has afforded an occasion for the people of this country to show their abhorrence of the result, and their attachment to the constitution and the laws; for I believe that five times the number of militia, that was required, would have come forward, if it had been necessary, in support of them.
The spirit, which blazed out on this occasion, as soon as the object was fully understood, and the lenient measures of the government were made known to the people, deserves to be communicated. There are instances of general officers going at the head of a single troop, and of light companies; of field-officers, when they came to the places of rendezvous, and found no command for them in that grade, turning into the ranks and proceeding as private soldiers, under their own captains; and of numbers, possessing the first fortunes in the country, standing in the ranks as private men, and marching day by day with their knapsacks and haversacks at their backs, sleeping on straw with a single blanket in a soldier’s tent, during the frosty nights, which we have had, by way of example to others—nay more, many young Quakers, not discouraged by the elders, of the first families, character, and property, having turned into the ranks and are marching with the troops.
These things have terrified the insurgents, who had no conception that such a spirit prevailed, but, while the thunder only rumbled at a distance, were boasting of their strength, and wishing for and threatening the militia by turns; intimating that the arms they should take from them would soon become a magazine in their hands. Their language is much changed indeed, but their principles want correction.
I shall be more prolix in my speech to Congress on the commencement and progress of this insurrection, than is usual in such an instrument, or than I should have been on any other occasion; but, as numbers at home and abroad will hear of the insurrection, and will read the speech, that may know nothing of the documents to which it might refer, I conceived it would be better to encounter the charge of prolixity by giving a cursory detail of facts, that would show the prominent features of the thing, than to let it go naked into the world, to be dressed up according to the fancy or inclination of the readers, or the policy of our enemies.1
I write nothing in answer to the letter of Mr. Wangenheim, enclosed by you to me. Were I to enter into correspondences of that sort, admitting there was no impropriety in the measure, I should be unable to attend to my ordinary duties. I have established it as a maxim neither to invite nor to discourage emigrants. My opinion is, that they will come hither as fast as the true interest and policy of the United States will be benefited by foreign population. I believe many of these, as Mr. Wangenheim relates, have been, and I fear will continue to be, imposed on by speculators in land and other things; but I know of no prevention but caution, nor any remedy except the laws. Nor is military or other employment so easily obtained as foreigners conceive, in a country where offices bear no proportion to the seekers of them.
With sincere esteem, &c.
P. S. Nov. 5. Your correspondence with New York is, I have no doubt too frequent & regular to render any account of Mrs. Jay from me necessary; yet, as I was told yesterday by Mr. King that she and all your family were well, I choose to mention it. For want of a Senate, Congress cannot proceed to business.
[1 ]“The servile copyist of Mr. Pitt, thought he too must have his alarms, his insurrections and plots against the Constitution. Hence the incredible fact that the freedom of association, of conversation and of the press, should in the 5th year of our government have been attacked under the form of a denunciation of the democratic societies, a measure which even England, as boldly as she is advancing to the establishment of an absolute monarchy, has not yet been bold enough to attempt. Hence too the example of employing military force for civil purposes, when it has been impossible to produce a single fact of insurrection, unless that term be entirely confounded with occasional riots, and when the ordinary process of law had been resisted indeed in a few special cases, but by no means generally, nor had its effect been duly tried. But it aroused the favorite purposes of strengthening government and increasing the public debt; and therefore an insurrection was announced and proclaimed and armed against and marched against, but could never be found. And all this under the sanction of a name which has done too much good not to be sufficient to cover harm also. And what is equally astonishing is that by the pomp of reports, proclamations, armies, &c, the mind of the legislature itself was so fascinated as never to have asked where, when and by whom has this insurrection been produced? The original of this scene in another country was calculated to excite the indignation of those whom it could not impose on: the mimicry of it here is too humiliating to excite any feeling but shame. Our comfort is that the public sense is coming right on the general principles of republicanism, and that its success in France puts it out of danger here.”—Jefferson to Monroe, 26 May, 1795.