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John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 1 (1763-1781).
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Table of Contents
Of this Letter-press Edition
750 Copies have been Printed for Sale
June, 1890[Back to Table of Contents]
John Jay’s public services extended over and beyond the formative period of our national life—from 1774 to 1801. During those twenty-seven years he devoted himself to varied important duties with a zeal, fidelity, ability, and success that from the beginning of his career entitled him to rank with the distinguished fathers of the Republic and framers of its Constitutional system. The several official positions he occupied called out his talents and energies in four directions. First, he promoted the general interests of the Colonies during the early years of the Revolutionary struggle, in serving at intervals from 1774 to 1779 as delegate in the Continental Congress. Again, as Minister or Envoy, at different periods, to Spain, France, and Great Britain, he rendered perhaps his most conspicuous service to the country. Again, as Chief-Justice, both of his own State and of the United States, he impressed grand juries and all concerned with the necessity of encouraging a profound respect for law and constitutions in the new order of things, and at the outset, through his own personal dignity and integrity, gave character to our highest courts since traditionally preserved. And again, in his native State of New York, he proved himself invaluable as a member of Provincial bodies and committees in providing the sinews of war, in suppressing conspiracies, in drafting laws, in organizing the machinery of the new State, in urging, through the “Federalist” and in the New York Convention, the adoption of our common Constitution, and finally, in twice filling the office of Governor. As Congressman, diplomatist, jurist, and State leader, seeking in each sphere of action to secure substantial results without display or effect, he was pre-eminently a man for his times. Perhaps, also, as nearly as any one in our civil history, he filled the ideal of a public servant.
The first “Life” of Jay was published in 1833. This work, issued in two volumes, one of which was devoted to sections from his correspondence, was edited by William Jay, son of John Jay, and ranks as a standard contribution to our historical literature. For many years, however, it has been out of print, and practically inaccessible except in libraries. Other biographies have since appeared, the latest of which, published in the current year, and edited by Mr. George Pellew, is a re-study from the Jay papers and other authoritative sources.
To meet the need of a purely documentary edition the present set of four volumes has been prepared upon the plan of the writings of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and others. This change and expansion provides for the addition of numerous letters and documents from the Jay correspondence not published in the volumes of 1833.
Jay’s papers were voluminous, and the greater portion have been carefully preserved by his immediate descendants and in public and private collections. What can be said of but few of his contemporaries, he retained with his own drafts most of the personal or semi-official letters written to him during a period of nearly half a century, many of which, received from eminent and observing men, throw those side-lights upon affairs and social and political life in general so much sought and prized by students of American history to-day. As the correspondence of this description supplements and explains much that Jay himself wrote, a considerable number of new selections have been introduced into, and constitute a feature of, the present edition. The principal space is allotted, necessarily, to Jay’s own writings.
By courtesy of the Hon. John Jay, the fine collection of Jay papers in his possession has been placed in the hands of the publishers and editor for the preparation of this work. It should also be said that the labor of examination and selection has been greatly relieved by an exhaustive and critical index and analysis of the papers arranged by Miss Ruth Putnam.
Some selections have been made from other manuscript sources and from printed works.
Henry P. Johnston.
New York City,June, 1890.[Back to Table of Contents]
CORRESPONDENCE AND PUBLIC PAPERS OF JOHN JAY.[Back to Table of Contents]
1763.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JAY FROM HIS FATHER.
Your observation on ye Study of ye Law, I believe, is very just, and as its your inclination to be of that Profession, I hope you’ll closely attend to it with a firm resolution that no difficulties in prosecuting that Study shall discourage you from applying very close to it, and if possible, from taking a delight in it.—The dictionary you ’ve bought is doubtless necessary for you, but as to other Books, I suppose you have them in ye College, or doubtless on application to your uncle or Aunt Chambers, they would let you have ye reading of such of his Books as you may want. It’s paying very dear for them to buy them at York. I’m glad you’ve wrote to Doctr: Johnson. We all remember our love to you & I always am
|Bills emitted and circulating||$159,948,880|
|Moneys borrowed before the 1st of March, 1778, the interest of which is payable in France||7,545,19667/90|
|Moneys borrowed since the 1st of March, 1778, the interest of which is payable here||26,188,909|
|Money due abroad, not exactly known, the balances not having been transmitted, supposed to be about||4,000,000|
For your further satisfaction, we shall order a particular account of the several emissions, with the times limited for their redemption, and also of the several loans, the interest allowed on each, and the terms assigned for their payment, to be prepared and published.
The taxes have as yet brought into the treasury no more than $3,027,560; so that all the moneys supplied to Congress by the people of America amount to more than 36,761,665 dollars and 67-90ths, that being the sum of the loans and taxes received. Judge then of the necessity of emissions, and learn from whom and from whence that necessity arose.
We are also to inform you that on the first day of September instant we resolved, “that we would on no account whatever emit more bills of credit than to make the whole amount of such bills two hundred millions of dollars”; and as the sum emitted and in circulation amounted to $159,948,880, and the sum of $40,051,120 remained to complete the two hundred million above mentioned, we on the third day of September instant further resolved, “that we would emit such part only of the said sum of 40,051,120 dollars as should be absolutely necessary for public exigences before adequate supplies could otherwise be obtained, relying for such supplies on the exertions of the several States.”
Exclusive of the great and ordinary expenses incident to the war, the depreciation of the currency has so swelled the prices of every necessary article, and of consequence made such additions to the usual amount of expenditures, that very considerable supplies must be immediately provided by loans and taxes; and we unanimously declare it to be essential to the welfare of these States, that the taxes already called for be paid into the Continental treasury by the time recommended for that purpose. It is also highly proper that you should extend your views beyond that period, and prepare in season as well for bringing your respective quotas of troops into the field early the next campaign, as for providing the supplies necessary in the course of it. We shall take care to apprize you from time to time of the state of the treasury, and to recommend the proper measures for supplying it. To keep your battalions full, to encourage loans, and to assess your taxes with prudence, collect them with firmness, and pay them with punctuality, is all that will be requisite on your part. Further ways and means of providing for the public exigences are now under consideration, and will soon be laid before you.
Having thus given you a short and plain state of your debt, and pointed out the necessity of punctuality in furnishing the supplies already required, we shall proceed to make a few remarks on the depreciation of the currency, to which we entreat your attention.
The depreciation of bills of credit is always either natural, or artificial, or both. The latter is our case. The moment the sum in circulation exceeded what was necessary as a medium in commerce, it began and continued to depreciate in proportion as the amount of the surplus increased; and that proportion would hold good until the sum emitted should become so great as nearly to equal the value of the capital or stock on the credit of which the bills were issued. Supposing, therefore, that $30,000,000 was necessary for a circulating medium, and that $160,000,000 had issued, the natural depreciation is but little more than as 5 to 1; but the actual depreciation exceeds that proportion, and that excess is artificial. The natural depreciation is to be removed only by lessening the quantity of money in circulation. It will regain its primitive value whenever it shall be reduced to the sum necessary for a medium of commerce. This is only to be effected by loans and taxes.
The artificial depreciation is a more serious subject, and merits minute investigation. A distrust, however occasioned, entertained by the mass of the people, either in the ability or inclination of the United States, to redeem their bills, is the cause of it. Let us inquire how far reason will justify a distrust in the ability of the United States.
The ability of the United States must depend upon two things: first, the success of the present revolution; and, secondly, on the sufficiency of the natural wealth, value, and resources of the country.
That the time has been when honest men might, without being chargeable with timidity, have doubted the success of the present revolution, we admit; but that period is passed. The independence of America is now as fixed as fate, and the petulant efforts of Britain to break it down are as vain and fruitless as the raging of the waves which beat against her cliffs. Let those who are still afflicted with these doubts consider the character and condition of our enemies. Let them remember that we are contending against a kingdom crumbling into pieces; a nation without public virtue, and a people sold to and betrayed by their own representatives; against a prince governed by his passions, and a ministry without confidence or wisdom; against armies half paid and generals half trusted; against a government equal only to plans of plunder, conflagration, and murder—a government, by the most impious violations of the rights of religion, justice, humanity, and mankind, courting the vengeance of Heaven, and revolting from the protection of Providence. Against the fury of these enemies you made successful resistance, when single, alone, and friendless, in the days of weakness and infancy, before your hands had been taught to war or your fingers to fight. And can there be any reason to apprehend that the Divine Disposer of human events, after having separated us from the house of bondage, and led us safe through a sea of blood towards the land of liberty and promise, will leave the work of our political redemption unfinished, and either permit us to perish in a wilderness of difficulties, or suffer us to be carried back in chains to that country of oppression, from whose tyranny he hath mercifully delivered us with a stretched-out arm?
In close alliance with one of the most powerful nations in Europe, which has generously made our cause her own, in amity with many others, and enjoying the good-will of all, what danger have we to fear from Britain? Instead of acquiring accessions of territory by conquest, the limits of her empire daily contract; her fleets no longer rule the ocean, nor are her armies invincible by land. How many of her standards, wrested from the hands of her champions, are among your trophies, and have graced the triumphs of your troops? And how great is the number of those who, sent to bind you in fetters, have become your captives, and received their lives at your hands? In short, whoever considers that these States are daily increasing in power; that their armies have become veteran; that their governments, founded in freedom, are established; that their fertile country and their affectionate ally furnish them with ample supplies; that the Spanish monarch, well prepared for war, with fleets and armies ready for combat, and a treasury overflowing with wealth, has entered the lists against Britain; that the other European nations, often insulted by her pride, and alarmed at the strides of her ambition, have left her to her fate; that Ireland, wearied with her oppressions, is panting for liberty; and even Scotland displeased and uneasy at her edicts;—whoever considers these things, instead of doubting the issue of the war, will rejoice in the glorious, the sure, and certain prospect of success. This point being established, the next question is, whether the natural wealth, value, and resources of the country will be equal to the payment of the debt.
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that, at the conclusion of the war, the emissions should amount to 200,000,000; that, exclusive of supplies from taxes, which will not be inconsiderable, the loans should amount to 100,000,000, then the whole national debt of the United States would be 300,000,000. There are at present 3,000,000 of inhabitants in the thirteen States; three hundred millions of dollars, divided among three millions of people, would give to each person one hundred dollars; and is there an individual in America unable, in the course of eighteen or twenty years, to pay it again? Suppose the whole debt assessed, as it ought to be, on the inhabitants in proportion to their respective estates, what then would be the share of the poorer people? Perhaps not ten dollars. Besides, as this debt will not be payable immediately, but probably twenty years allotted for it, the number of inhabitants by that time in America will be far more than double their present amount. It is well known that the inhabitants of this country increased almost in the ratio of compound interest. By natural population they doubled every twenty years; and how great may be the host of emigrants from other countries, cannot be ascertained. We have the highest reason to believe the number will be immense. Suppose that only ten thousand should arrive the first year after the war, what will those ten thousand, with their families, count in twenty years’ time? Probably double the number. This observation applies with proportionable force to the emigrants of every successive year. Thus, you see, great part of your debt will be payable, not merely by the present number of inhabitants, but by that number swelled and increased by the natural population of the present inhabitants, by multitudes of emigrants daily arriving from other countries, and by the natural population of those successive emigrants, so that every person’s share of the debt will be constantly diminishing by others coming to pay a proportion of it.
These are advantages which none but young countries enjoy. The number of inhabitants in every country in Europe remains nearly the same from one century to another. No country will produce more people than it can subsist; and every country, if free and cultivated, will produce as many as it can maintain. Hence we may form some idea of the future population of these States. Extensive wildernesses, now scarcely known or explored, remain yet to be cultivated, and vast lakes and rivers, whose waters have for ages rolled in silence and obscurity to the ocean, are yet to hear the din of industry, become subservient to commerce, and boast delightful villas, gilded spires, and spacious cities rising on their banks.
Thus much for the number of persons to pay the debt. The next point is their ability. They who inquire how many millions of acres are contained only in the settled part of North America, and how much each acre is worth, will acquire very enlarged, and yet very inadequate ideas of the value of this country. But those who will carry their inquiries further, and learn that we heretofore paid an annual tax to Britain of three millions sterling in the way of trade, and still grew rich; that our commerce was then confined to her; that we were obliged to carry our commodities to her market, and consequently sell them at her price; that we were compelled to purchase foreign commodities at her stores, and on her terms, and were forbid to establish any manufactories incompatible with her views of gain; that in future the whole world will be open to us, and we shall be at liberty to purchase from those who will sell on the best terms, and to sell to those who will give the best prices; that as the country increases in number of inhabitants and cultivation, the production of the earth will be proportionably increased, and the riches of the whole proportionably greater;—whoever examines the force of these and similar observations, must smile at the ignorance of those who doubt the ability of the United States to redeem their bills.
Let it also be remembered that paper money is the only kind of money which cannot “make to itself wings and fly away.” It remains with us, it will not forsake us, it is always ready and at hand for the purpose of commerce or taxes, and every industrious man can find it. On the contrary, should Britain, like Nineveh (and for the same reason), yet find mercy, and escape the storm ready to burst upon her, she will find her national debt in a very different situation. Her territory diminished, her people wasted, her commerce ruined, her monopolies gone, she must provide for the discharge of her immense debt by taxes, to be paid in specie, in gold, or silver, perhaps now buried in the mines of Mexico or Peru, or still concealed in the brooks and rivulets of Africa or Hindostan.
Having shown that there is no reason to doubt the ability of the United States to pay their debt, let us next inquire whether as much can be said for their inclination. Under this head three things are to be attended to:
1st. Whether, and in what manner, the faith of the United States has been pledged for the redemption of their bills.
2d. Whether they have put themselves in a political capacity to redeem them; and
3d. Whether, admitting the two former propositions, there is any reason to apprehend a wanton violation of the public faith.
1st. It must be evident to every man who reads the journals of Congress, or looks at the face of one of their bills, that Congress have pledged the faith of their constituents for the redemption of them. And it must be equally evident, not only that they had authority to do so, but that their constituents have actually ratified their acts by receiving their bills, passing laws establishing their currency, and punishing those who counterfeit them. So that it may with truth be said that the people have pledged their faith for the redemption of them, not only collectively by their representatives, but individually.
2d. Whether the United States have put themselves in a political capacity to redeem their bills, is a question which calls for more full discussion.
Our enemies, as well foreign as domestic, have laboured to raise doubts on this head. They argue that the Confederation of the States remains yet to be perfected; that the Union may be dissolved, Congress be abolished, and each State, resuming its delegated powers, proceed in future to hold and exercise all the rights of sovereignty appertaining to an independent state. In such an event, say they, the Continental bills of credit, created and supported by the Union, would die with it. This position being assumed, they next proceed to assert this event to be probable, and in proof of it urge our divisions, our parties, our separate interests, distinct manners, former prejudices, and many other arguments equally plausible and equally fallacious. Examine this matter.
For every purpose essential to the defence of these States in the progress of the present war, and necessary to the attainment of the objects of it, these States now are as fully, legally, and absolutely confederated as it is possible for them to be. Read the credentials of the different delegates who composed the Congress in 1774, 1775, and part of 1776. You will find that they establish a Union for the express purpose of opposing the oppressions of Britain, and obtaining redress of grievances. On the 4th of July, 1776, your representatives in Congress, perceiving that nothing less than unconditional submission would satisfy our enemies, did, in the name of the people of the Thirteen United Colonies, declare them to be free and independent States; and “for the support of that declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, did mutually pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour.” Was ever confederation more formal, more solemn, or explicit? It has been expressly assented to, and ratified by every State in the Union. Accordingly, for the direct support of this declaration, that is, for the support of the independence of these States, armies have been raised, and bills of credit emitted, and loans made to pay and supply them. The redemption, therefore, of these bills, the payment of these debts, and the settlement of the accounts of the several States, for expenditures or services for the common benefit, and in this common cause, are among the objects of this Confederation; and, consequently, while all or any of its objects remain unattained, it cannot, so far as it may respect such objects, be dissolved consistently with the laws of God or man.
But we are persuaded, and our enemies will find, that our Union is not to end here. They are mistaken when they suppose us kept together only by a sense of present danger. It is a fact, which they only will dispute, that the people of these States were never so cordially united as at this day. By having been obliged to mix with each other, former prejudices have worn off, and their several manners become blended. A sense of common permanent interest, mutual affection (having been brethren in affliction), the ties of consanguinity daily extending, constant reciprocity of good offices, similarity in language, in governments, and therefore in manners, the importance, weight, and splendour of the Union,—all conspire in forming a strong chain of connection, which must for ever bind us together. The United Provinces of the Netherlands, and the United Cantons of Switzerland, became free and independent under circumstances very like ours; their independence has been long established, and yet their confederacies continue in full vigour. What reason can be assigned why our Union should be less lasting? or why should the people of these States be supposed less wise than the inhabitants of those? You are not uninformed that a plan for the perpetual Confederation has been prepared, and that twelve of the thirteen States have already acceded to it. But enough has been said to show that for every purpose of the present war, and all things incident to it, there does at present exist a perfect solemn confederation, and therefore, that the States now are, and always will be, in political capacity to redeem their bills, pay their debts, and settle their accounts.
3d. Whether, admitting the ability and political capacity of the United States to redeem their bills, there is any reason to apprehend a wanton violation of the public faith?
It is with great regret and reluctance that we can prevail upon ourselves to take the least notice of a question which involves in it a doubt so injurious to the honour and dignity of America.
The enemy, aware that the strength of America lay in the union of her citizens and the wisdom and integrity of those to whom they committed the direction of their affairs, have taken unwearied pains to disunite and alarm the people, to depreciate the abilities and virtue of their rulers, and to impair the confidence reposed in them by their constituents. To this end, repeated attempts have been made to draw an absurd and fanciful line of distinction between the Congress and the people, and to create an opinion and a belief that their interests and views were different and opposed. Hence the ridiculous tales, the invidious insinuations, and the whimsical suspicions that have been forged and propagated by disguised emissaries and traitors in the garb of patriots. Hence has proceeded the notable discovery, that as the Congress made the money they also can destroy it, and that it will exist no longer than they find it convenient to permit it. It is not surprising that in a free country, where the tongues and pens of such people are and must be licensed, such political heresies should be inculcated and diffused; but it is really astonishing that the mind of a single virtuous citizen in America should be influenced by them. It certainly cannot be necessary to remind you, that your representatives here are chosen from among yourselves; that you are, or ought to be, acquainted with their several characters; that they are sent here to speak your sentiments, and that it is constantly in your power to remove such as do not. You surely are convinced that it is no more in their power to annihilate your money than your independence, and that any act of theirs for either of those purposes would be null and void.
We should pay an ill compliment to the understanding and honour of every true American, were we to adduce many arguments to show the baseness or bad policy of violating our national faith, or omitting to pursue the measures necessary to preserve it. A bankrupt, faithless republic would be a novelty in the political world, and appear among reputable nations like a common prostitute among chaste and respectable matrons. The pride of America revolts from the idea; her citizens know for what purpose these emissions were made, and have repeatedly plighted their faith for the redemption of them; they are to be found in every man’s possession, and every man is interested in their being redeemed; they must therefore entertain a high opinion of American credulity who suppose the people capable of believing, on due reflection, that all America will, against the faith, the honour, and the interest of all America, be ever prevailed upon to countenance, support, or permit so ruinous, so disgraceful a measure. We are convinced that the efforts and arts of our enemies will not be wanting to draw us into this humiliating and contemptible situation. Impelled by malice and the suggestions of chagrin and disappointment at not being able to bend our necks to their yoke, they will endeavour to force or seduce us to commit this unpardonable sin, in order to subject us to the punishment due to it, and that we may henceforth be a reproach and a byword among the nations. Apprized of these consequences, knowing the value of national character, and impressed with a due sense of the immutable laws of justice and honour, it is impossible that America should think without horror of such an execrable deed.
If, then, neither our ability nor inclination to discharge the public debt is justly questionable, let our conduct correspond with this confidence, and let us rescue our credit from its present imputations. Had the attention of America to this object been unremitted, had taxes been seasonably imposed and collected, had proper loans been made, had laws been passed and executed for punishing those who maliciously endeavoured to injure the public credit,—had these and many other things equally necessary been done, and had our currency, notwithstanding all these efforts, declined to its present degree of depreciation, our case would indeed have been deplorable. But as these exertions have not been made, we may yet experience the good effects which naturally result from them. Our former negligences, therefore, should now animate us with hope, and teach us not to despair of removing, by vigilance and application, the evils which supineness and inattention have produced.
It has been already observed, that in order to prevent the further natural depreciation of our bills, we have resolved to stop the press, and to call upon you for supplies by loans and taxes. You are in capacity to afford them, and are bound by the strongest ties to do it. Leave us not, therefore, without supplies, nor let in that flood of evils which would follow from such a neglect. It would be an event most grateful to our enemies; and, depend upon it, they will redouble their artifices and industry to compass it. Be, therefore, upon your guard, and examine well the policy of every measure and the evidence of every report that may be proposed or mentioned to you before you adopt the one or believe the other. Recollect that it is the price of the liberty, the peace, and the safety of yourselves and posterity that now is required; that peace, liberty, and safety, for the attainment and security of which you have so often and so solemnly declared your readiness to sacrifice your lives and fortunes. The war, though drawing fast to a successful issue, still rages. Disdain to leave the whole business of your defence to your ally. Be mindful that the brightest prospects may be clouded, and that prudence bids us be prepared for every event. Provide, therefore, for continuing your armies in the field till victory and peace shall lead them home; and avoid the reproach of permitting the currency to depreciate in your hands when, by yielding a part to taxes and loans, the whole might have been appreciated and preserved. Humanity as well as justice makes this demand upon you. The complaints of ruined widows, and the cries of fatherless children, whose whole support has been placed in your hands and melted away, have doubtless reached you; take care that they ascend no higher. Rouse, therefore; strive who shall do most for his country; rekindle that flame of patriotism which, at the mention of disgrace and slavery, blazed throughout America and animated all her citizens. Determine to finish the contest as you began it, honestly and gloriously. Let it never be said, that America had no sooner become independent than she became insolvent, or that her infant glories and growing fame were obscured and tarnished by broken contracts and violated faith, in the very hour when all the nations of the earth were admiring and almost adoring the splendour of her rising.
By the unanimous consent of Congress,
Philadelphia, Sept. 13, 1779.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FREDERICK JAY.
Philadelphia, 16th September, 1779.
I am now to inform you that I have resigned the office of chief justice [of New York]; and if the State should incline to keep me here, I shall consent to stay, provided either you or Sir James1 will undertake to attend constantly to our good old father and his unfortunate family: otherwise I shall at all events return for that purpose. Sir James has his doubts respecting his future destination; and therefore his return is precarious at present. I wish to know, without delay, the result of your reflections on this subject. Should you succeed with Wadsworth, I think you would then be in capacity to serve them as well as ever: if you live on Harris’ farm, you will not. Make up your mind on this matter: if you find you cannot pay necessary attention to Fishkill, prevent my election, and let me know your intention by the first opportunity. I am, dear Fredy,
Your affectionate brother,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
Philadelphia, 25th September, 1779.
Whether the resolutions of Congress of the 24th inst., providing for the settlement of all disputes between New York and her neighbours, as well as revolted citizens, will please my constituents as much as they do me is uncertain. Nor am I convinced of the prudence of committing to paper all the reasons which induce me to think them (all circumstances considered) perfectly right. Some of them, however, I shall communicate. My first object on coming here was to prevail upon Congress to interpose, though in the smallest degree; well knowing, that if they once interfered ever so little, they might with more ease be led to a further and more effectual interposition.
Soon after my arrival, I found the following objections to an interference with Vermont generally prevailing.
1st. That Congress, being instituted for the sole purpose of opposing the tyranny of Britain, and afterward of establishing our independence, had no authority to interfere in the particular quarrels of any State. Hence all their former resolutions on the subject were merely negative. 2d. That the confederation had not yet taken place, and that the business should be postponed till all the States had acceded: an event then daily expected. 3d. That it was an improper season to interfere, and that the attention of Congress ought not to be diverted from the general objects of the war. 4th. That harsh measures against Vermont might induce them to join the enemy and increase their force. 5th. That they possessed a strong country, were numerous, warlike, and determined; and that more force would be required to reduce them, than could be spared from the general defence.
These were some of the ostensible objections. Besides which I had reason to suspect the following private ones:
1st. That divers persons of some consequence in Congress and New England expected to advance their fortunes by lands in Vermont. 2d. That Vermont, acquiring strength by time, would become actually independent, and afterward acknowledged to be so. 3d. That being settled by New England people, and raised into consequence by New England politics, it would be a fifth New England State, and become a valuable accession of strength both in and out of Congress. 4th. That ancient animosities between New York and New England naturally inclining the former to side with the middle and southern States, the less formidable she was the better, and therefore the loss or separation of that territory was rather to be wished for than opposed. These and many other considerations of the like nature induced me to postpone bringing on the matter till I could have an opportunity of preparing the way for it by acquiring a knowledge of the characters then in Congress, etc.
It is also proper to observe that the House was for the greater part of the winter so heated by divisions on points of general importance, that it would have been improper and imprudent to have called upon them to decide on this delicate business till more temper and calmness had taken place. When these began to appear the subject was introduced, and you have had a copy of the resolutions proposed by New York on that occasion. Against them all objections before mentioned operated, with this additional one, that it would be highly unjust and impolitic to determine against Vermont, without previous inquiry into the merits of their claims, and giving them an opportunity of being heard. This objection, so far as it respected their claim to independence, was absurd though plausible; but it was not to be overcome; and though we might have carried a resolution against it by a slender majority, that majority would have consisted of southern members against a violent opposition from New England and their adherents. A resolution carried under such circumstances would rather have encouraged than disheartened Vermont, and was, therefore, ineligible.
Hence I conceived it to be expedient to promote the measure of appointing a committee of inquiry; knowing that if Congress proceeded to inquire, it would be a ground for pressing them to go further and determine, especially as I was apprised that the result of these inquiries would be in our favour.
The committee, you know, never had a formal meeting; it, nevertheless, had its use. The individual reports of the members who composed it advanced our cause; and even Mr. Witherspoon, who was and is suspected by New York, made representations in our favour.
Your last resolutions were of infinite service, by evincing the moderation, justice, and liberality, and, at the same time, the spirit of the State. On the other hand, the law of Vermont for whipping, cropping, and branding your magistrates made an impression greatly to their disadvantage. Before these emotions should have time to subside, as well in observance of our instructions, I pressed Congress from day to day to adopt such measures as the public exigencies called for, and thereby prevent the flames of civil war from raging. It would not, I believe, have been difficult to have obtained what some among you would call very spirited and pointed resolutions, but which, in my opinion, would have been very imprudent ones; because, among other reasons, they would not have been unanimous. You will find the recitals and particular resolutions numbered in the margin of the copy herewith enclosed, from 1 to 13. I shall trouble you with a few explanatory remarks on each of them, under heads numbered in like manner.
1st and 2d. These recitals were inserted to show the reason why Congress now proceed without the report of the committee, after having resolved to postpone the further consideration of the subject till their report should be made.
3d. This recital justifies the facts set forth in your representations, and in case an appeal to the public should become necessary, may be used with advantage to New York.
4th. This recital destroys the doctrine that the Union (independent of the articles of confederation) had no other object than security against foreign invasions.
5th. This recital is calculated to impress the people with an opinion of the reasonableness and policy of the requisition or recommendation which follows, and therefore will the more readily induce those States to adopt the measures recommended to them.
6th. You may inquire for what reason I consented to this recital, as it puts Massachusetts and New Hampshire on a footing with New York; whereas I well knew that New York alone had a right to claim jurisdiction over Vermont. My reasons were these: Vermont extends over Connecticut River into the acknowledged jurisdiction of New Hampshire; as to Massachusetts, the recital admits only her claims, not her title; and it is as impossible to deny the existence of claims when made, as it is to prevent them. Their delegates pointedly asserted and insisted on the claim of Massachusetts; and it appeared to me expedient to provide for a speedy determination of all claims against us, however ill-founded. You may further ask why Vermont is made a party? The reason is this: that by being allowed a hearing, the candour and moderation of Congress may be rescued from aspersions; and that these people, after having been fully heard, may have nothing to say or complain of, in case the decision of Congress be against them, of which I have no doubt.
7th. It is true that by this resolution the merits of former settlements with these States will be again the subject of inquiry, discussion, and decision; and therefore it may at first sight appear improper; but these settlements will still remain strong evidence of our rights, however objectionable they may be represented to be by those States. Nor will Congress be easily prevailed upon to annul them, because in that case all their boundaries would be afloat. Besides, in my opinion, it is much better for New York to gain a permanent peace with their neighbours by submitting to these inconveniences, than by an impolitic adherence to strict rights, and a rigid observance of the dictates of dignity and pride, remain exposed to perpetual dissensions and encroachment. Peace and established boundaries, under our circumstances, are, I think, almost inestimable.
8th. The reason of this is assigned in the last sentence under the 6th head.
9th. For the same purpose of preserving the appearance of equality in claims, whatever difference there may be in titles, the three States are mentioned in this recommendation, The object of it is a settlement of all disputes respecting interfering grants, in case Vermont should be abolished, and that district in part, or in the whole, adjudged to either of the three States.
10th. I am sure you will admit my prudence in giving your voice for this resolution.
11th. As it was not absolutely certain that New Hampshire and Massachusetts would pass the laws in question, and as I was sure that New York would, it appeared to me highly expedient to provide, by this resolution, that the dispute between New York and Vermont should be determined, whether the other two States came in or no; and, lest the former guarantee contained in the tenth resolution might be construed to be contingent, and to depend on the event of all the three States adopting the measures recommended to them, it is here repeated. You will observe that neither of the three States are to vote on the decision.
12th. On the plan of hearing Vermont, this resolution, however inconvenient, became indispensable. Care, however, has been taken in it to exempt all persons from their jurisdiction who profess allegiance to either of the three States. But you will say, Why to the three States? Why not to New York only; from whom they revolted, and under whose actual jurisdiction they last were? Because it would have clashed with the equality of claims before mentioned, and the least opposition to which would have prevented these resolutions from being unanimous; a circumstance, in my opinion, infinitely more valuable than the preservation of useless etiquette. And, further, because the district is here so described as to extend over the river and affect New Hampshire. In a word, the necessity of the resolution was so obvious that there was no avoiding it. These inconveniences will be temporary, and, if the principles laid down in it are observed, will not be very great; especially as Congress have determined a violation of it to be a breach of the peace of the confederacy, and have declared their resolution to maintain it.
13th. This resolution needs no comment, the policy and justice of it being extremely evident. Anxious to avoid a moment’s delay in sending you these resolutions, I have not time by this opportunity of adding any thing further than that upon this occasion I have acted according to the best of my judgment, after having maturely considered and well weighed the force and tendency of every consideration and circumstance affecting the business in question. When I first received my special commission, I did not apprehend that this matter was in a more particular manner confided to me than to my colleagues, though some of them considered it in that light. The commission vested me with no further power than what any other of your delegates possessed; nor was any matter given more particularly in charge to me than to the others by the Legislature. Their late instructions, however, speak a different language. I am satisfied to be viewed in that light, that is, to be the responsible man; and, provided the measures I adopt are not thwarted, I am confident that I shall be able to bring all these matters to a happy conclusion. I hope, however, that this will not be considered as a hint for my being continued in the delegation; I assure you, nothing but an adherence to the resolutions and principles of action I adopted and professed at the commencement of the war would induce me to remain here at the expense of health as well as property; for though I shall always be ready to serve my country when called upon, I shall always be happy to find it consistent with my duty to remain a private citizen.
I am, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
Philadelphia, 4th October, 1779.
It gives me very sensible pleasure to find, from the act of Congress enclosed in your Excellency’s polite favour of the 1st inst., that my conduct in the chair and the execution of public business has been honoured by the approbation of Congress. The testimony given of it by this act demands my warmest acknowledgments. Be pleased, sir, to assure the Congress, that my happiness is inseparable from the welfare and esteem of my country, and that my endeavours to promote the one and merit the other, shall continue unremitted.
I have the honour to be,
With great respect and esteem,
Your excellency’s most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON TO JAY.
Kingston, 6th October, 1779.
I have just now heard that you are upon the point of leaving us. I might have expected to have received this intelligence from yourself, rather than from loose report, since there is scarce a transaction in the world in which I feel myself more interested. I rejoice at it as it advances your fortune and reputation. I lament it, as it adds to the losses I have already felt in the course of this war, that of a friend whom I had sense enough to value, even before age had ripened my judgment, and whom an after acquaintance with the world has taught me to think inestimable. I call it a loss, for I have but little prospect of seeing you here again. You will now move in a more enlarged sphere, and will hardly think of recrossing the Atlantic, till the blood runs too slowly in our veins to keep up the ardour of friendship. I was going to give you a long detail of State politics, but they are now unworthy your attention. Besides that, I by no means feel myself disposed at this moment to view them in any other than the most contemptible light, or to execrate them for detaining me here, when I so ardently wish to receive your last adieu. When do you embark, and where? If from Boston, tell me when to meet you at Fishkill, and perhaps (if the Legislature adjourn) to accompany you. If this pleasure is denied me, believe that you and yours are attended by every tender wish which the sincerest friendship can dictate. I will not wrong you so much as to ask you to omit no occasion of lessening the pain I feel in your absence, by writing to me by every conveyance; your own heart has and will for ever suggest that thought. Adieu, my dear John.
May you be as happy as I wish you,
Robert R. Livingston.[Back to Table of Contents]
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO JAY.
West-Point, October 7, 1779.
Among the number of your friends, permit me also to congratulate you, and my country, on your late honourable and important appointment. Be assured, sir, that my pleasure on this occasion, though it may be equalled, cannot be exceeded by that of any other.
I do most sincerely wish you a pleasant and agreeable passage, the most perfect and honourable accomplishment of your ministry, and a safe return to the bosom of a grateful country.
With the greatest regard, and sincerest personal attachment, I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient and
Affectionate humble servant,
George Washington.[Back to Table of Contents]
EDMUND PENDLETON TO JAY.
Edmunsbury, October 11, 1779.
I congratulate you, sir, upon your appointment to represent the American States at the court of Madrid; the just testimony of that confidence which the honourable body you have presided over, have in your abilities and integrity. May health, success, and every felicity accompany you; but, while I am sensible of the advantages we shall reap from your eminent services there, I have my fears that they will be missed, importantly, where you now are; and that the spirit of party, almost laid to sleep, will revive upon your absence. I cordially wish you may be able to heal the new-made breach between Spain and Britain since France appears disposed to peace, and I am mistaken if the court of London are not ready to make up with us, if nothing respecting our allies hinders it. Indeed we want an honourable peace; but I hope there lives not a wretch who wishes it upon terms of dishonour to our noble allies.
I am, sir, with unfeigned regard,
Your most obliged and obedient servant,
Edmund Pendleton.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 14th October, 1779.
My Dear Sir:
Your very kind letter of the 7th inst., gave me all that pleasure which accompanies marks of cordial esteem and attachment from those whose commendation is praise, and whose friendship is discriminate.
Among the objects of my mission are some which, however just, will not be easily attained, and therefore its success will be precarious, and probably partial. The only satisfaction I promise myself from this appointment, will flow from the rectitude with which the duties of it will be discharged, and not from a prospect of general approbation.
God grant that the time may not be far distant when peace and liberty shall lead you from the field, to enjoy, in silence and retirement, the luxury of reflecting that you had saved your country.
Adieu, my dear sir,
With sincere affection and esteem,
I am your friend and servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
INSTRUCTIONS TO JAY AS MINISTER TO SPAIN.1
By the treaties subsisting between his most Christian Majesty and the United States of America, a power is reserved to his Catholic Majesty to accede to the said treaties and to participate in their stipulations at such time as he shall judge proper, it being well understood nevertheless, that if any of the stipulations of the said treaties are not agreeable to the King of Spain, his Catholic Majesty may propose other conditions analogous to the principal aim of the alliance and conformable to the rules of equality, reciprocity and friendship. Congress is sensible of the friendly regard to these States manifested by his most Christian Majesty and these United States; and therefore that nothing may be wanting on their part to facilitate the views of his most Christian Majesty and to obtain a treaty of alliance and of amity and commerce with his Catholic Majesty, have thought proper to anticipate any propositions which his Catholic Majesty might make on that subject by yielding up to him those objects which they conclude he may have principally in view, and for that purpose have come to the following resolution,
“That if his Catholic Majesty shall accede to the said treaties and in concurrence with France and the United States of America continue the present war with Great Britain for the purpose expressed in the treaties aforesaid, he shall not thereby be precluded from securing to himself the Floridas; on the contrary if he shall obtain the Floridas from Great Britain, these United States will guaranty the same to his Catholic Majesty; provided always that the United States shall enjoy the free navigation of the river Mississippi into and from the Sea.”
You are therefore to communicate to his most Christian Majesty the desire of Congress to enter into a treaty of alliance and of amity and commerce with his Catholic Majesty and to request his favourable interposition for that purpose; at the same time you are to make such proposals to his Catholic Majesty as in your judgment, from circumstances, will be proper for obtaining for the United States of America equal advantages with those which are secured to them by the treaties with his most Christian Majesty, observing always the resolution aforesaid as the ultimatum of these United States. You are particularly to endeavour to obtain some convenient port or ports below the 31st degree of north latitude on the river Mississippi free for all merchant vessels, goods, wares and merchandize, belonging to the inhabitants of these States.
The distressed state of our finances and the great depreciation of our paper money incline Congress to hope that his Catholic Majesty, if he shall conclude a treaty with these States, will be induced to lend them money; you are therefore to represent to him the great distress of these States on that account, and to solicit a loan of five million of dollars upon the best terms in your power not exceeding six per centum per annum, effectually to enable them to co-operate with the allies against the common enemy. But before you make any proposition to his Catholic Majesty for a loan, you are to endeavour to obtain a subsidy in consideration of the guaranty aforesaid.
You are to use your utmost endeavours for obtaining permission for the citizens and inhabitants of these States to lade and take on board their vessels salt at the island of Salt Tortuga; and also to cut, load and bring away logwood and mahogany in and from the bay of Honduras and its rivers, and to build on its shores storehouses and magazines for the woodcutters and their families in the extent ceded to his Britannic Majesty by the seventeenth article of the definitive treaty concluded at Paris the tenth day of February, 1763, or in as great extent as can be obtained.
Given at Philadelphia this Sixteenth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy nine and in the fourth year of our Independence, by the Congress of the United States of America.
Saml. Huntington, President.
Attest, Chas. Thompson, Secy.
The honble. John Jay, Minister Plenipotentiary appointed to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce and of alliance with his Catholic Majesty.[Back to Table of Contents]
MRS. JAY TO HER MOTHER.1
On Board of the “Confederacy,” 12th December, 1779.
About 4 o’clock in the morning of the 7th November, we were alarmed by an unusual noise upon deck, and what particularly surprised me was the lamentations of persons in distress. I called upon the captain to inform me of the cause of the confusion that I imagined to prevail; but my brother desired me to remain perfectly composed, for that he had been upon deck but half an hour before, and left every thing in perfect security.
Perfect security! vain words! Don’t you think so? And so indeed they proved; for in that small space of time we had been deprived of nothing less than our bowsprit, foremast, main-mast, and mizen-mast; so that we were in an awkward situation, rendered still more so by a pretty high sough-east wind, and a very rough sea. However, our misfortunes were only begun. The injury received by our rudder the next morning served to complete them, as we were ready to conclude. The groans that distressed me were uttered by two men who had suffered from the fall of the masts; one of them was much bruised, and the other had his arm and hand broken: the former recovered, but the latter, poor fellow! survived not many days the amputation of his arm.
Will it not be painful to my dear mamma to imagine to herself the situation of her children at that time? Her children did I say? Rather let her imagine the dangerous situation of more than three hundred souls, tossed about in the midst of the ocean in a vessel dismasted and under no command, at a season too that threatened approaching inclemency of weather. And would you for a moment suppose me capable of regretting that I had for a time bid adieu to my native land, in order to accompany my beloved friend? Would you have despaired of ever embracing your affectionate children? or would you have again recommended them to Him who appointed to the waters their bounds—who saith unto the waves thus far shalt thou go, and to the winds, peace, be still! Mamma’s known piety and fortitude sufficiently suggest the answer to the two latter queries; and to the former it becomes me to reply. I assure you that in no period of our distress, though ever so alarming, did I once repine, but incited by his amiable example, I gave fear to the winds, and cheerfully resigned myself to the disposal of the Almighty.
After our misfortunes of the 7th and 8th of November (the memorable era from which we now date all events relative to ourselves), a council of the officers was held to consider where it was most expedient to bend our course. It was unanimously concluded that it would be impossible to reach Europe at this season with a ship in the condition that ours was. They were likewise united in opinion that the southern direction was the only one that offered a prospect of safety; and of the islands, Martinico was the most eligible, for its commodious harbour, and the probability of being supplied with materials to refit. Accordingly, the first fair wind that offered (which was not till near three weeks from the above-mentioned era), was embraced in pursuance of the advice given by the officers; and, after having passed through very squally latitudes, we are now in smooth seas, having the advantage of trade-winds which blow directly for the islands; nor are we, if the calculations made are just, more than 200 miles distant from the destined port.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Martinico, St. Pierre, 25th December, 1779.
I have done what, perhaps, I shall be blamed for; but my pride as an American, and my feelings as a man, were not on this occasion to be resisted. The officers of the Confederacy were here without money, or the means of getting any. The idea of our officers being obliged to sneak, as they phrase it, from the company of French officers for fear of running in debt with them for a bottle of wine, or a bowl of punch, because not able to pay for their share of the reckoning, was too humiliating to be tolerable, and too destructive to that pride and opinion of independent equality which I wish to see influence all our officers. Besides, some of them wanted necessaries too much to be comfortable, or in this country decent. In a word, I have drawn on the fund pointed out for the payment of part of my salary, for one hundred guineas in their favour, to be divided among them according to their respective ranks. Indeed, it would have given me pleasure to have done something towards covering the nakedness of the crew, but the expense I have been put to by coming here, and the preparations for another voyage would not admit of it.
I have the honor to be, sir,
With great esteem and personal regard,
Your excellency’s most obedient and humble Servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
1780.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Cadiz, 26th January, 1780.
You have doubtless been amused this month or two past with various conjectures about the fate of the Confederacy. She left Chester (on the Delaware) the 18th [26th?] October bound for France; was dismasted and split her rudder the 7th November off the banks of Newfoundland. On the 23d following, the officers of the ship being all of opinion that the condition of her rudder forbid our proceeding to Europe, we steered for Martinico and arrived there the 18th December. We sailed from thence the 28th following in the Aurora, and I expected to have proceeded with her to Toulon, but on arriving here, the 22d inst., we heard of the success of the enemy in the Mediterranean and of several cruisers near the coast which we had fortunately escaped. The further prosecution of my voyage having thus become improper, I gave notice of my appointment and arrival to Don Joseph De Galvez, the Secretary of State for the Department of the Indies. . . .
Although I had letters with me to gentlemen in other parts of Spain, yet it unluckily happened that I had none for any person here. You may imagine therefore that I was at first a little embarrassed in the article of money, but it gives me pleasure to inform you that the polite and unsolicited offer of Chevalier Roche and Mr. Ponet have made me easy on that head for the present.
American credit suffers exceedingly in this place from reports that our loan office bills payable in France have not been duly honoured but have been delayed payment under various pretexts, one of which is that it was necessary for a whole lot of bills to arrive before the money would be paid. How far you may be in capacity to answer the demands upon you I cannot determine, but many considerations induce me to entreat you by all means punctually to pay the bill in question. Private honour forbids that these gentlemen should by an act of kindness to me expose their friends to inconvenience, and public credit demands that the reputation of Congress be not destroyed by the protests of bills drawn under their immediate authority for the necessary subsisttence of their servants. I might also add that if this bill should fail there will be an end put to my credit, and on the consequences of such an event it is neither necessary or pleasant to dwell.
I have in my possession several letters or rather packets directed to you and am much at a loss what to do with them. Be pleased to direct me. There are many things I wish to say to you but you must, my dear sir, excuse my postponing them to another opportunity. I have been so confined since my arrival by preparing letters for Madrid, France, and America, that I have not yet been two hours out my chamber.
God bless you, my dear sir, and long continue you the blessing of health and cheerfulness. Believe me to be with sincere regard and esteem,
Your most obedient servant,
Benjamin Franklin. Esq.
P. S.—Be pleased to present my compliments to Mr. Adams. I shall do myself the pleasure of writing to him by the next opportunity. When we left Philadelphia Mr. and Mrs. Bache with their children (which are really fine ones) were in perfect health.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO COUNT DE VERGENNES.1
Cadiz, 27th January, 1780.
It is with very sensible pleasure that I commence a correspondence with a Minister, of whose disposition and abilities to promote the happiness of my country we have received repeated proofs, and on a subject that affords His Most Christian Majesty an opportunity of perceiving the desire and endeavours of the United States to become cordial and steadfast friends and allies to an illustrious branch of his royal house.
By the treaties subsisting between His Most Christian Majesty and the United States of America, His Most Christian Majesty, in consequence of his intimate union with the King of Spain, did expressly reserve to his Catholic Majesty the power of acceding to the said treaties, and to participate in their stipulations at such time as he should judge proper. It being well understood, nevertheless, that if any of the said stipulations should not be agreeable to the King of Spain, his Catholic Majesty might propose other conditions analogous to the principal aim of the alliance, and conformable to the rules of equity, reciprocity, and friendship. And the Deputy of the said States, empowered to treat with Spain, did promise to sign, on the first requisition of his Catholic Majesty, the act or acts necessary to communicate to him the stipulations of the treaties above mentioned, and to endeavor in good faith the adjustment of the points in which the King of Spain might propose any alteration, conformable to the principles of equality, reciprocity, and perfect amity.
But as the above reservation has always been no less agreeable to the United States than to their great and good ally, both considerations conspired in inducing them to make the first advances towards attaining the object of it. And, therefore, instead of waiting till the requisitions mentioned in the said article should be made, they have thought proper to assure his Majesty, not only of their readiness to comply with the terms of it, but of their desire to obtain his confidence and alliance, by carrying it immediately into execution on the most liberal principles. Trusting also that the same wise reasons which induced his most Christian Majesty to give birth to the said article would lead him to facilitate the endeavours of his allies to execute it, they resolved that their desire to enter into the said treaties should be communicated to his Majesty, and that his favorable interposition should be requested.
The more fully to effect these purposes, the Congress were pleased, in September last, to do me the honour of appointing me their Minister Plenipotentiary, and, in pursuance of this appointment, I sailed from America for France on the 26th of October last, with M. Gerard, who was so obliging as to wait till I could embark in the frigate assigned for his service. After being thirteen days at sea, the frigate was dismasted, and her rudder so much damaged that it was thought imprudent to proceed on our voyage. We therefore steered for Martinique, and arrived there on the 18th of December. I cannot on this occasion forbear expressing my warmest acknowledgments for the very polite attention and hospitality with which we were received and treated, both by the officers of government and many respectable inhabitants of that island. We left Martinique on the 28th day of the same month in the Aurora, in which I expected to have gone to Toulon, but on touching at this place, it appeared that the further prosecution of our voyage had become impracticable without running risks that could not be justified.
Thus circumstanced, the respect due to his Most Catholic Majesty demanded an immediate communication of my appointment and arrival, which I had the honour to make in a letter to his Excellency, Don Joseph Galvez, of the Council of his Catholic Majesty, and general Secretary of State for the Department of the Indies, of which the enclosed is a copy.
Will you therefore, sir, be so obliging as to lay this circumstance before his Most Christian Majesty, and permit me, through your Excellency, to assure him of the desire of Congress to enter into a treaty of alliance and of amity and commerce with his Catholic Majesty, and to request his favourable interposition for that purpose?
I am happy in being able to assure you that the United States consider a cordial union between France, Spain, and them as a very desirable and most important object, and they view the provision which his Most Christian Majesty has made for it by the above-mentioned article, not only as evincive of his attention to his royal ally, but of his regard to them.
Under these views and these impressions, they are most sincerely disposed, by the liberality and candour of their conduct, to render the proposed treaties speedy in their accomplishment and perpetual in their duration.
Your Excellency will receive this letter by M. Gerard, who is so obliging as to take charge of it, and to whom the Congress have been pleased to give such ample testimonies of their esteem and confidence, as to enable him to exert his talents with great advantage on every occasion interesting to them.
I cannot conclude without indulging myself in the pleasure of acknowledging how much we are indebted to the politeness and attention of the Marquis de La Flolte, and the other officers of the Aurora, during the course of our voyage.
With great respect and esteem, I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO DON JOSEPH GALVEZ.1
Cadiz, 27th January, 1780.
Permit me through your Excellency to have the honour of representing to His Most Catholic Majesty, that on the sixth day of February, 1778, the respective Plenipotentiaries of His Most Christian Majesty, and the United States of America, by whom the treaties now subsisting between them were concluded, did make and subscribe a secret article in the words following, viz.:
“The Most Christian King declares, in consequence of the intimate union which subsists between him and the King of Spain, that in concluding with the United States of America this treaty of amity and commerce, and that of eventual and defensive alliance, his Majesty had intended, and intends to reserve expressly, as he reserves by this present separate and secret act, to his Catholic Majesty, the power of acceding to the said treaties and to participate in their stipulations, at such time as he shall judge proper. It being well understood, nevertheless, that if any of the stipulations of the said treaties are not agreeable to the King of Spain, his Catholic Majesty may propose other conditions analogous to the principal aim of the alliance, and conformable to the rules of equality, reciprocity, and friendship. The deputies of the United States, in the name of their constituents, accept the present declaration to its full extent; and the deputy of the said States, who is fully empowered to treat with Spain, promises to sign, on the first requisition of his Catholic Majesty, the act or acts necessary to communicate to him the stipulations of the treaties above written. And the said deputy shall endeavour, in good faith, the adjustment of the points in which the King of Spain may propose any alteration, conformable to the principles of equality, reciprocity, and perfect amity; he the said deputy not doubting but the person or persons, empowered by his Catholic Majesty to treat with the United States, will do the same with regard to any alterations of the same kind, that may be thought necessary by the said Plenipotentiary of the United States.”
The Congress, willing to manifest their readiness fully to comply with an article, which they have reason to believe particularly agreeable to their great and good ally, and being desirous of establishing perpetual amity and harmony with a prince and nation whom they greatly respect, and with whom various circumstances lead them to wish for the most cordial and permanent friendship, have thought proper to request his most Catholic Majesty to accede to the said treaties, and thereby preclude the necessity of that measure’s originating in the manner specified in the article. For this purpose they have done me the honour to appoint me Minister Plenipotentiary, and directed me to communicate to his most Catholic Majesty the desire of Congress on this subject, and to request his favourable interposition. They also made it my duty to give his most Catholic Majesty the fullest assurances of their sincere disposition to cultivate his friendship and confidence; and authorized me, in their behalf, to enter into such treaties of alliance, amity, and commerce, as would become the foundations of perpetual peace to Spain and the United States, and the source of extensive advantages to both.
Thus commissioned, I embarked without delay on board the frigate, which had been appointed to carry the Sieur Gerard to France, and sailed with him for that kingdom, from Pennsylvania, on the 26th day of October last.
But after having been thirteen days at sea, the frigate was dismasted, and her rudder so greatly injured as to oblige us to alter our course and steer for Martinique. We arrived there on the 18th day of December last; and sailed from thence on the 28th day of the same month in a French frigate which was bound to Toulon, but had orders to touch at this port for intelligence. We arrived here the 22d instant, and received information of recent events, which rendered the further prosecution of our voyage too hazardous to be prudent.
Providence having thus been pleased to bring me directly to Spain, the respect due to his Most Catholic Majesty forbids me to postpone communicating to him my appointment and arrival; and the same motive will induce me to remain here till he shall be pleased to signify to me his pleasure. For although nothing would afford me more sensible pleasure, than the honour of presenting to his Majesty the despatches, which I am charged by Congress to deliver to him, yet on this, as on every other occasion, it shall be my study to execute the trust reposed in me in the manner most pleasing to his Majesty, agreeable to the true intent and meaning of the article above mentioned.
And that his most Christian Majesty may have the highest evidence of the intention and desire of Congress fully and faithfully to execute this article, I shall immediately do myself the honour of communicating the same, together with my appointment and arrival; and I flatter myself that the request of Congress for his favourable interposition will meet with the same friendly attention which he has uniformly extended to all their concerns, and of which I am too sensible not to derive the highest satisfaction from acknowledging it on every occasion.
Mr. Carmichael, my secretary, will have the honour of delivering this despatch to your Excellency, as well as of giving every information in his power to afford. This gentleman was a member of Congress at the time of his appointment, and will be able more fully to express the ardour with which the United States desire to establish a union with France and Spain, on principles productive of such mutual attachment and reciprocal benefits as to secure to each the blessings of uninterrupted tranquillity.
I have the honour to be, with great consideration and respect, &c.
P. S.—I do myself the honour of transmitting to your Excellency, herewith enclosed, a copy of my letter to his Excellency the Count de Vergennes.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cadiz, 27th January, 1780.
This morning M. Gerard set out from this city for France, and Mr. Carmichael, charged with despatches from me to the Spanish Ministry, accompanies him as far as Madrid.
We arrived here the 22d inst., and I have been so much engaged ever since in preparing letters, etc., as not to have an opportunity of writing circumstantially to your Excellency by Captain Proctor, who I am told is to sail early in the morning for the Delaware or Chesapeake.
We left Martinique on the 28th of December, in the Aurora frigate, bound to Toulon. On touching here for intelligence we were informed that the enemy had acquired a decided superiority in the Mediterranean, and that the coast was infested by their cruisers, all of whom we had fortunately escaped. Hence it became improper for me to proceed to France by water, and it would in my opinion have been indelicate, and therefore imprudent, to have passed silently through this kingdom to that for the purpose of making a communication to his most Christian Majesty, which could be fully conveyed by paper. On this subject I shall take the liberty of making a few further remarks in a future letter.
Congress will be enabled to judge of the propriety and plan of my conduct from the papers herewith enclosed, viz., a copy of a letter to M. Galvez, the Spanish Minister; a copy of a letter to the Count de Vergennes; of both these I have sent copies to Dr. Franklin; a copy of a letter to Mr. Arthur Lee; and a copy of my instructions to Mr. Carmichael.
It is in pursuance of what appears to me to be my duty, that I shall render frequent, particular, and confidential accounts of my proceedings to Congress. I flatter myself care will be taken to prevent the return of them to Europe.
I have the honor to be, &c.
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY’S INSTRUCTIONS TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL.1
Cadiz, January 27th, 1780.
You will proceed to Madrid with convenient expedition, and if M. Gerard, with whom you set out, should travel too deliberately, I advise you to go on before him. The propriety of this, however, will depend much on circumstances, and must be determined by your own discretion.
On delivering my letter to M. Galvez, it would be proper to intimate, that I presumed it would be more agreeable to him to receive my despatches from you, who could give him information on many matters about which he might choose to inquire, than in the ordinary modes of conveyance. And it may not be amiss to let him know, that his not receiving notice of our arrival from me by M. Gerard’s courier, was owing to a mistake between that gentleman and me.
Treat the French Ambassador with great attention and candour, and that degree of confidence only which prudence and the alliance between us may prescribe. In your conversations with people about the Court, impress them with an idea of our strong attachment to France; yet, so as to avoid permitting them to imbibe an opinion of our being under the direction of any counsels but our own. The former will induce them to think well of our constancy and good faith; the latter, of our independence and self-respect.
Discover, if possible, whether the Courts of Madrid and Versailles entertain, in any degree, the same mutual disgusts, which we are told prevail at present between the two nations, and be cautious when you tread on this delicate ground. It would also be useful to know who are the King’s principal confidants, and the trains leading to each.
To treat prudently with any nation, it is essential to know the state of its revenues. Turn your attention, therefore, to this object, and endeavour to learn whether the public expenditures consume their annual income, or whether there be any, and what overplus or deficiency, and the manner in which the former is disposed of, or the latter supplied.
If an opportunity should offer, inform yourself as to the regulations of the press at Madrid, and, indeed, throughout the kingdom; and the particular character of the person at the head of that department. Endeavour to find some person of adequate abilities and knowledge in the two languages, to translate English into Spanish with propriety, and, if possible, elegance. I wish also to know which of the religious orders, and the individuals of it, are most esteemed and favoured at Court.
Mention, as matter of intelligence, rather than in the way of argument, the cruelties of the enemy, and the influence of that conduct on the passions of Americans. This will be the more necessary, as it seems we are suspected of retaining our former attachments to Britain.
In speaking of American affairs, remember to do justice to Virginia, and the western country near the Mississippi. Recount their achievements against the savages, their growing numbers, extensive settlements, and aversion to Britain for attempting to involve them in the horrors of an Indian war. Let it appear also from your representations, that ages will be necessary to settle those extensive regions.
Let it be inferred from your conversation that the expectations of America, as to my reception and success, are sanguine; that they have been rendered the more so by the suggestions of persons generally supposed to speak from authority, and that a disappointment would be no less unwelcome than unexpected.
I am persuaded that pains will be taken to delay my receiving a decided answer as to my reception, until the sentiments of France shall be known. Attempts will also be made to suspend the acknowledgment of our independence, on the condition of our acceding to certain terms of treaty. Do nothing to cherish either of these ideas; but, without being explicit, treat the latter in a manner expressive of regret and apprehension, and seem to consider my reception as a measure which we hoped would be immediately taken, although the business of the negotiation might be postponed till France could have an opportunity of taking the steps she might think proper on the occasion.
You will offer to transmit to me any despatches which M. Galvez may think proper to confide to you; or to return with them yourself, if more agreeable to him.
You will be attentive to all other objects of useful information, such as the characters, views, and connections of important individuals; the plan of operations for the next campaign; whether any and what secret overtures have been made by Britain to France or Spain, or by either of them to her, or each other; whether any of the other powers have manifested a disposition to take a part in the war; and whether it is probable that any, and which of them, will become mediators for a general peace, and on what plan. If the war should continue, it would be advantageous to know whether Spain means to carry on any serious operations for possessing herself of the Floridas and banks of the Mississippi, etc., etc., etc.
Although I have confidence in your prudence, yet permit me to recommend to you the greatest circumspection. Command yourself under every circumstance; on the one hand, avoid being suspected of servility, and on the other, let your temper be always even and your attention unremitted.
You will oblige me by being very regular and circumstantial in your correspondence, and commit nothing of a private nature to paper unless in cipher.
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
WILLIAM CARMICHAEL TO JAY.
Madrid, February 15, 1780.
I arrived in this city late in the evening of the 11th, after a tedious and disagreeable journey. The next day, though much indisposed, I waited on the French Ambassador, who had, by a message over night, requested M. Gerard to engage me to dinner. I was received by him and all his family in the most friendly manner, and was offered every service in his power to render us, without those personal professions, which give birth to many unmeaning words and more suspicion. Indeed, I have neither expressions nor time to represent the apparent candor and liberality of his sentiments. He entered fully into the good disposition of his Court, and informed me, that the King, as a further proof of his friendship for us, had agreed to pay us annually the additional sum of three millions of livres during the continuance of the war, in order to enable us to purchase the necessaries for our army, &c. &c. and that his Majesty had also determined to send a considerable marine and land force early in the year to America, to be at the disposition and under the direction of our General. Seventeen sail of the line, and four thousand troops, are also to be sent to the West Indies, if they have not already sailed. Judge after this, if attention, candor, and apparent unreservedness, were not the more necessary on my part.
On inquiring, I found that M. Galvez was at the Pardo, about two leagues from Madrid, where the King resides at present, and in the course of conversation discovered, that the proper channel of address ought to have been through the Count de Florida Blanca.
The Ambassador offered to introduce me, but as this could not be done with propriety without previous application, he undertook to make it the day following, and to fix the time for my reception by both, and I think the manner will be the sole difficulty.
Among other circumstances, which induce this conclusion, is the certain knowledge I have obtained, that M. Mirales received instructions several months past to enter into engagements with Congress, to take into pay a body of troops to assist in the conquest of Florida. Your own good sense will point out the use which may be made of this intelligence. It answers to one point of the instructions which I had the honor to receive from you. The short time I have been in this city has not hitherto given me an opportunity of writing so circumstantially as I could wish, in the matters abovementioned, and much less of giving a decided opinion on many objects contained in your instructions. I find, however, hitherto no difficulty in acquiring in time a knowledge on most of the subjects recommended to my attention.
I have reason to believe, that the same disgusts do not subsist between the Crowns as between the nations, but the most perfect harmony and good understanding.
I have been positively assured, and from good authority, that no overtures have been made for peace.
The Dutch are arming, which is a circumstance in our favor, as their preparations originate from their discontent with England, on account of the late affair of the convoy.
Mr. Harrison is here, and proposes to proceed to Cadiz next week, which will furnish me a good opportunity of writing to you. I enclose you the last paper received from America; the people were in high spirits, and everything in a good state in the beginning of January.
I cannot conclude without mentioning the very polite manner in which the French Ambassador offered his personal civilities in everything, that depended on him, to be useful to you in this place.
M. Gerard will write to you himself, yet I must do him the justice to mention his personal kindness to me, and the candid representations he has made in every public company here of the prosperous situation of our affairs.
I have the honor to be, &c.
William Carmichael.[Back to Table of Contents]
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JAY.
Passy, Feb. 22d, 1780.
It gives me infinite pleasure to hear of your Excellency’s safe arrival in Spain. Knowing that the Confederacy had Sailed the 28th of Octr. we began to despair of ever hearing more of her.
I received your advice of the bill drawn on me for four thousand and seventy-nine livres tournois, at sixty days date, which I order’d to be immediately paid as you desired. I have also lodged a credit for you at Madrid of 24,000 Livres, deducting this bill. You will be so good as to furnish Mr. Carmichael with 1800 livres of it, which he has desired of me.
I enclose a letter of introduction to the Marquis d’Yranda with whom the credit is placed, and whose acquaintance and friendship may be otherwise of use to you.
With great esteem and respect
I have the honor to be
Your Excellency’s most
obedient and most humble
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
JOHN ADAMS TO JAY.
Paris,Hotel de Valois, Feby. 22d, 1780.
I most sincerely congratulate you on your happy arrival in Europe, which must be the more agreeable to you for the terrible voyages you have had. Every good American in Europe I believe suffered a great anxiety from the length of time that passed between the day when it was known the Confederacy sailed, and the time when the news arrived of your being at Cadiz. I too have had my hair breadth escapes, and after my arrival, a very tedious journey in the worst season of the year by land. Happy, however, shall we be if all our hazards and fatigues should contribute to lay the foundation of a free and a prosperous people.
I hope no accident or disagreeable circumstance has happened to your family, to whom I shall be obliged to you to present my respects.
From what I saw and heard in Spain, from the strong assurances I received of the good will of the Court and nation, and from the great attention and respect that were paid to me by officers of government of the highest rank in the provinces through which I passed, I am persuaded you will meet with the most distinguished reception, and I hope will soon have the honor and satisfaction of concluding a treaty with Spain.
You will have the advantage of more frequent and speedy intelligence from home than we can have; at least you will have it in your power. There are vessels oftener arriving from America at Bilboa and Cadiz, I think, than in France. Many of these vessels come from Boston and Newbury Port, perhaps the most of them; so that by directing your correspondents to send their letters that way you will have them much sooner than we can commonly obtain them, and by transmitting yours to Messrs. Gardoqui and Co. at Bilboa, and M. Montgomery or some other at Cadiz, your dispatches will go more speedily and more safely than ours. We find it almost impossible to get a letter across the Bay of Biscay from France in a merchant vessel there are so many privateers in the route, the danger from whom is avoided chiefly by vessels from Bilboa keeping near the coast and running into harbour in case of danger, and wholly by those from Cadiz.
We have nothing new here at present, but what you must have had before. Pray what think you of Peace? It seems to be the will of Heaven that the English should have success enough to lead them on to final destruction. They are quite intoxicated with their late advantages, altho’ a poor compensation for what they cost.
My respects to Mr. Carmichael, and believe me to be, with respect and esteem, sir,
Your most obedient humble Servant,
John Adams.[Back to Table of Contents]
FLORIDA BLANCA1 TO JAY.
Pardo, February 28th, 1780.
Having received by the hands of Don Joseph de Galvez the letter which your Excellency sent by Mr. Carmichael, and having communicated the contents to his Majesty, I have it in command to inform you, that his Majesty highly approves the choice, which the American Congress have made of you to the trust mentioned in your letter, as well on account of the high estimation in which his Majesty holds the members who made the choice, as the information he has received of your probity, talents, and abilities. His Majesty also received with pleasure the information of the desire which the Colonies have to form a connexion with Spain, of whose good disposition they have already received strong proofs. Nevertheless, his Majesty thinks it necessary in the first place, that the manner, the forms, and the mutual correspondence should be settled, upon which that Union must be founded, which the United States of America desire to establish with this monarchy. For this purpose there is no obstacle to your Excellency’s coming to this Court, in order to explain your intentions and those of the Congress, and to hear those of his Majesty, and by that means settling a basis upon which a perfect friendship may be established, and also its extent and consequences.
His Majesty thinks, that until these points are settled, as he hopes they will be, it is not proper for your Excellency to assume a formal character, which must depend on a public acknowledgment and future treaty. But your Excellency may be assured of the sincerity and good dispositions of his Majesty towards the United States, and of his earnest desire to remove every difficulty, for the mutual happiness of them and of this monarchy. This has been intimated to Mr. Carmichael, who can communicate the same to your Excellency, to whom I beg leave to make a tender of my service, being, &c.
Count de Florida Blanca.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cadiz, 3d March, 1780.
Captain Morgan being still here, waiting for a fair wind, I have an opportunity of transmitting to your Excellency a copy of a letter just come to hand from the Count de Florida Blanca, in answer to mine to M. Galvez.
Being apprehensive that if present I should probably be amused with verbal answers capable of being explained away if necessary, until the two courts could have time to consult and decide on their measures, I thought it more prudent that my first application should be by letter rather than in person.
The answer in question, divested of the gloss which its politeness spreads over it, gives us, I think, to understand, that our independence shall be acknowledged, provided we accede to certain terms of treaty, but not otherwise; so that the acknowledgment is not to be made because we are independent, which would be candid and liberal, but because of the previous considerations we are to give for it, which is consistent with the principles on which nations usually act.
I shall proceed immediately to Madrid. There are many reasons (hereafter to be explained) which induce me to suspect that France is determined to manage between us, so as to make us debtors to their influence and good correspondence with Spain for every concession on her part, and to make Spain hold herself obligated to their influence and good correspondence with us for every concession on our part. Though this may puzzle the business, I think it also promotes it.
M. Gerard has often endeavoured to persuade me that a certain resolution of Congress would, if persisted in, ruin the business, which, however, he did not appear much inclined to believe, but, on the contrary, that if every other matter was adjusted you would not part on that point. I assured him that ground had, in my opinion, been taken with too much deliberation now to be quitted, and that expectations of that kind would certainly deceive those who trusted them. And, indeed, as affairs are now circumstanced, it would, in my opinion, be better for America to have no treaty with Spain than to purchase one on such servile terms. There was a time when it might have been proper to have given that country something for their making common cause with us, but that day is now past. Spain is at war with Britain.
I do not like the cipher in which I write, and shall therefore defer further particulars till Mr. Thompson shall receive the one now sent him.
I have the honour to be, with great respect and esteem, your Excellency’s most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Cadiz, March 6, 1780.
I have been honoured with your Excellency’s favour of the 24th ultimo, which did not come to my hands till some time after its arrival.
The sentiments which his Majesty is pleased to entertain of me, together with the polite manner in which your Excellency has been so obliging as to express them, demand my warmest acknowledgments, and give additional force to the many motives which render me desirous of a permanent union between his Majesty and the United States.
The honour and probity, which have ever characterized the conduct of Spain, together with the exalted reputation his Majesty has acquired by being an eminent example of both, have induced the people of the United States to repose the highest confidence in the proofs they have received of his friendly disposition towards them; and to consider every engagement with this monarchy as guaranteed by that faith, and secured by that ingenuousness which have so gloriously distinguished his Majesty and this kingdom among the other princes and nations of the earth.
Permit me to request the favour of your Excellency to assure his Majesty that the people of the United States are convinced that virtue alone can animate and support their governments; and that they can in no other way establish and perpetuate a national character, honourable to themselves and their posterity, than by an unshaken adherence to the rules which religion, morality, and treaties may prescribe for their conduct. His royal mind may also be persuaded, that gratitude will never cease to add the influence of inclination to the power of dignity, in rendering them solicitous for the happiness and prosperity of those generous nations, who nobly strengthened their opposition to a torrent of oppression, and kindly aided in freeing them from the bondage of a nation, whose arrogance and injustice had become destructive of the rights of mankind, and dangerous to the peace and tranquillity of Christendom.
Having, therefore, the most perfect conviction that the candour and benignity of his Majesty’s intentions are equal to the uprightness and sincerity of those of Congress, I shall set out in a few days for Madrid, with the pleasing expectation that there will be little delay or difficulty in adjusting the terms of a union between a magnanimous monarch and a virtuous people, who wish to obtain, by an alliance with each other, only reciprocal benefits and mutual advantages.
I have the honour to be, with perfect respect and consideration, your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
FLORIDA BLANCA TO JAY.
Pardo, March 9th, 1780.
Before entering into a discussion with Mr. Jay or Mr. Carmichael, jointly or separately, on the subject of the affairs of the United States of North America, and their mutual interest with respect to Spain, it is judged indispensable at Madrid, that the Catholic King should be exactly informed of the civil and military state of the American Provinces, and of their resources to continue the present war, not only for the defence of their own liberty, but also with respect to the aid and succors they may be able to afford to Spain in its operations, in case hereafter this Crown should become the ally of America. The Civil Affairs ought to comprehend:
1st. A true account of the population and form of government of each Province of the Union, and the resolution of the inhabitants to continue the war with vigor, as long as it is necessary.
2dly. Whether there is any powerful party in favor of England, and what consequences are to be apprehended from it; whether the heads of this party suffer themselves to be seduced by the great promises of the British government.
3dly. A statement of the revenues of these Provinces, and of their ability to contribute to the general expense; to which may be added, whether they will be able long to support this burthen, and even to increase it should it be judged necessary.
4thly. A statement of the public debts, and of the particular debts of each State, taken collectively or separately, of their resources to lessen them, and the possibility of their being able to support their credit in all the operations of government, in the commerce of their inhabitants, and above all in the protection of national industry.
5thly. By what means, or with what branches of commerce will the States of America have it in their power to indemnify Spain, whenever this power may second the views and operations of the Americans; and particularly the Court wishes to know, whether it may be convenient for the said States to furnish ships of war of the best construction for the Spanish marine, and likewise timber and other articles for the King’s arsenals, and the whole without loss of time, and fixing the terms on which they would make an agreement of this nature, and who would be commissioned to bring the vessels and these naval stores to Spain.
With respect to the Military State of America, it is necessary to be informed first, of the number and strength of the different bodies of troops armed by the Provinces, and of their present situation, in order to judge whether they are sufficient to oppose the enemy wherever they may go, and particularly in Carolina and Georgia.
Further, it may be expedient to know the means of augmenting the American Army in case it is necessary, or to keep it always on the same footing, notwithstanding its daily losses. In what condition their clothing and arms are at present; whether they are partly in want of those articles, and how much it would require to remedy these defects.
The subsistence of an army being an object of the greatest consequence, the Court desires to know if proper measures have been taken for that purpose, that it may be ascertained whether it can act everywhere, if necessary, even in the above mentioned Provinces, without danger of being in want of necessaries.
It is highly essential for the Provinces of America to keep a marine to act against the common enemy, and to secure their own possessions during the present war. The Spanish Minister therefore is desirous of knowing its strength, including the armed vessels belonging to individuals, and by what means it may be augmented, and what succors will be necessary for that purpose.
The Court of Spain, desirous of information on these subjects with all possible frankness and precision, does not pretend to dive into matters which Mr. Jay or Mr. Carmichael may regard as reserved to themselves. Its only aim is to be acquainted with the present state of the American forces, their resources, and ability to continue the war, so that if it was in consideration for new allies to supply them with succors of any kind, the former might be able to plan on solid grounds their operations convenient for the common cause, and for the particular advantage of these States, without running the risk of being misled by false calculations for want of foresight and proper information.[Back to Table of Contents]
COUNT DE VERGENNES TO JAY.
Versailles, March 13th, 1780.
I have received your favor of the 27th of January, and I am fully sensible of the confidence you have reposed in me, by communicating to me the object of your mission. You know too well the attachment of his Majesty to the United States not to feel assured that he sincerely wishes you success, and will be eager to contribute to it. The Count de Montmorin1 has received instructions accordant with this disposition, and I do not doubt that your confidence in him will enable him to fulfil them to your entire satisfaction.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
De Vergennes.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Madrid, April 25th, 1780.
Mr. Carmichael has delivered to me a paper he had the honour of receiving from your Excellency before my arrival here, containing heads of many important inquiries,2 respecting which it was thought necessary that his Catholic Majesty should be exactly informed, before entering into a discussion with me and Mr. Carmichael, jointly or separately, on the subject of the affairs of the United States of North America, and their mutual interest with respect to Spain; but that the court, though desirous of information on these several articles, with all possible frankness and precision, did not mean to dive into matters which Mr. Carmichael and myself might regard as reserved to ourselves only. . . .
The inquiries in question are numerous and important. They do honour to the sagacity which suggested them, and, if fully answered, would produce a very interesting history of the present condition of the American States. On some of the subjects proposed, I can give your Excellency full and positive intelligence; on others, only general and by no means precise information. On all, however, I shall write with candour.
Such is the nature of the American governments and confederacy, that the Congress, and all other rulers of the people, are responsible to them for their conduct, and cannot withhold from their constituents a knowledge of their true situation without subjecting themselves to all the evils which they experience who substitute cunning in the place of wisdom. Hence it is that a knowledge of their affairs is easily attainable by all who will be at the trouble of collecting it; and as it is neither the policy nor inclination of America to draw a veil over any part of their affairs, your Excellency may be persuaded that every consideration forbids their servants, by a suppression or misrepresentation of facts, to deceive or mislead those whose amity they so sincerely endeavour to cultivate as they do that of Spain.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE CIVIL STATE OF NORTH AMERICA.
Your Excellency has, with great propriety, arranged the subjects of your inquiry under two heads—the civil and military states of North America. The first of these is again branched into several subdivisions, at the head of which is the
Population of each State.
The exact number of inhabitants in the United States has not, I believe, been ascertained by an actual census in more than two or three of them. The only computation made by Congress was on the 29th of July, 1775, the manner and occasion of which exclude every suspicion of its exceeding the true number. Congress had emitted bills of credit to a very considerable amount, and were apprized of the necessity of emitting more. Justice demanded that this debt should be apportioned among the States according to their respective abilities; an equitable rule whereby to determine that ability became indispensable. After much consideration, Congress resolved “that the proportion or quota of each colony should be determined according to the number of the inhabitants of all ages (including negroes and mulattoes) in each colony”; but as that could not then be ascertained exactly, they were obliged to judge of and compute the number from circumstantial evidence. The delegates gave to Congress an account of the population of their respective colonies, made from the best materials then in their power, and so great was their confidence in each other that from those accounts that computation was principally formed. Your Excellency will readily perceive that the delegates were far from being under any temptations to exaggerate the number of their constituents; they were not ignorant that, by such exaggerations, they would increase their portion of aids, both of men and money, and that whatever errors they might commit could not be rectified by an actual numeration during the war. The computation then formed was as follows:
|New Hampshire||124,069||and a half|
|Rhode Island||71,959||and a half|
|New Jersey||161,290||and a half|
|Pennsylvania||372,208||and a half|
|Delaware||37,219||and a half|
|Maryland||310,174||and a half|
Exclusive of the inhabitants of Georgia, who were not at that time represented in Congress, and of whose numbers I have no information that I can confide in.
The form of government of each state.
In the pamphlets I have now the honour of transmitting to your Excellency, viz., No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5, you will find the constitutions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina. The others I have not with me. The great outlines of them all are very similar. By the last accounts from America it appears that Massachusetts Bay had not as yet agreed upon their constitution, but had it then under consideration.
It cannot be necessary to observe to your Excellency that these new modes of government were formed by persons named and authorized by the people for that express purpose; that they were, in general, instituted with great temper and deliberation, upon such just and liberal principles, as, on the one hand, to give effectual security to civil and religious liberty, and, on the other, make ample provision for the rights of justice and the due exercise of the necessary powers of government.
The articles of confederation agreed upon by Congress, and approved by every State in the Union except Maryland, provide for the general government of the confederacy, and the ordering of all matters essential to the prosperity and preservation of the Union in peace and war. I ought also to inform your Excellency, that the reasons why Maryland has as yet withheld her assent to those articles, do not arise from any disaffection to the common cause, but merely from their not having adopted certain principles respecting the disposition of certain lands.
The union and resolution of the inhabitants to continue the war with vigour as long as may be necessary.
On this subject, I can give your Excellency certain and positive information; the storm of tyranny and oppression, which had for some years been constantly growing more black and more terrible, began to burst with violence on the people of North America in the year 1774. It was seen and felt and deprecated by all, except those who expected to gather spoils in the ruins it was designed to occasion. These were those who enjoyed, or expected emoluments from Great Britain, together with their immediate dependants and connections; such as the officers of government throughout the colonies, but with some very distinguished exceptions; those of the clergy of the Church of England almost without exception, who received annual salaries from the society established in England for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts; foreign adventurers, buyers and sellers, who, being no further attached to the country than as it afforded the means of gain, soon prepared to speculate in confiscations, and courted the notice of their sovereign by intemperate zeal for the ruin of his subjects. With these exceptions, the great body of the people moved together, and united in such firm and considerate measures for the common safety, and conducted their affairs with such regularity, order, and system as to leave no room to suppose them to be the work of only a prevailing party, as our enemies have always represented and affected to consider them.
There was, it is true, another class of persons not much less dangerous, though far more contemptible than those I first mentioned; persons who, in every revolution, like floating weeds in every storm, obey the strongest wind, and pass from side to side as that happens to change. I mean the neutrals, a pusillanimous race, who, having balanced in their minds the advantages and disadvantages, the gains and dangers of joining either side, are seduced by their fears to form a thousand pretexts for joining neither; who, to manifest their loyalty to their king, when his armies were successful, gave them every aid in their power, except drawing their swords against their country; and who, when their countrymen prevailed, were ready to render them all possible service, except taking arms against their prince.
The auxiliaries, whom the British measures and forces found in the country, consisted of persons from these classes. And although, when these first appeared in and wounded the bosom of America, she was obliged to extend her arms to repel the assaults of a foreign enemy, yet such was the union and spirit of her inhabitants, that she was soon enabled not only to put them under her feet, but on the ruins of her former governments to erect new ones in the midst of invasions from without and treacherous combinations from within. Being able to obtain no other terms of peace than unconditional obedience, she had sufficient courage to declare herself independent in the face of one of the best appointed armies Britain could ever boast of; as well as sufficient strength to limit its operations, and reduce its numbers.
It may perhaps be observed, that the first object of the war was a redress of grievances; that the present object is independence; and it may be asked whether the people are as much united with respect to the last as they were with respect to the first.
I am certain that the people of America never were so well united as they are at present, in that of their independence. Exclusive of actual observation on the spot, I think so because:
1st. The Declaration of Independence was made by Congress at a time when the great body of their constituents called for it.
2dly. Because that declaration was immediately recognized by the general assemblies and legislatures of the several States, without exception.
3dly. Because the successful army under General Burgoyne was defeated and captured by a great collection of the neighbouring militia, to whom he had offered peace and tranquillity on their remaining at home; terms which it was natural to suppose a great many of them would have accepted, had the Declaration of Independence been disagreeable to them.
4thly. Because the Congress, consisting of members annually elected, have repeatedly, expressly, and unanimously declared their determination to support it at every hazard.
5thly. Because their internal enemies have been either expelled or reduced, and their estates, to a very great amount in some of the States, confiscated and actually sold.
6thly. Because constitutions and forms of government have since been instituted and completely organized, in which the people participate, from which they have experienced essential advantages, and to which they have of consequence become greatly attached.
7thly. Because Congress unanimously refused to enter into treaty with the British commissioners on any terms short of independence; and because every State, though afterward separately solicited, refused to treat otherwise than collectively by their delegates in Congress.
8thly. Because the inhuman and very barbarous manner in which the war has been conducted by the enemy has so alienated the affections of the people from the king and government of Britain, and filled their hearts with such deep-rooted and just resentments, as render a cordial reconciliation, much less a dependence on them, utterly impossible.
9thly. Because the doctrine propagated in America by the servants of the King of Great Britain, that no faith was to be kept with Americans in arms against him, and the uniformity with which they have adhered to it, in their practice as well as professions, have destroyed all confidence, and leave the Americans no room to doubt but that, should they again become subjects of the King of Britain on certain terms, those terms would as little impede the progress of future oppression, as the capitulation of Limerick, in 1691, did with respect to Ireland.
10thly. Because the treaty with France, and consequently virtue, honour, and every obligation due to the reputation of a rising nation, whose fame is unsullied by violated compacts, forbid it.
11thly. Because it is the evident and well-known interest of North America to remain independent.
12thly. Because the history of mankind, from the earliest ages, with a loud voice calls upon those who draw their swords against a prince, deaf to the supplication of his people, to throw away the scabbard.
13thly. Because they do not consider the support of their independence as difficult. The country is very defensible and fertile; the people are all soldiers, who with reason consider their liberty and lives as the most valuable of the possessions left them, and which they are determined shall neither be wrested nor purchased from them but with blood.
14thly. Because, for the support of their independence, they have expressly, by a most solemn act, pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour; so that their bond of union, for this very purpose, thus formed of all the ties of common interest, common safety, mutual affection, general resentments, and the great obligations of virtue, honour, patriotism, and religion, may with reason be deemed equal to the importance of that great object.
Whether there is any powerful party in favour of England, and what consequences are to be apprehended from it? Whether the heads of this party suffer themselves to be seduced by the promises of the British Government?
What has been already said on the subject of the union of the people in North America will, I imagine, in a great measure, answer these questions.
If by a party in favour of England is meant a party for relinquishing the independence of the United States, and returning to the dominion of Britain, on any terms whatever, I answer, there is no such party in North America; all the open adherents of the crown of Great Britain having either voluntarily quitted or been expelled from the country.
That Britain has emissaries and masked adherents in America, industrious in their little spheres to perplex the public measures, and disturb the public tranquillity, is a fact of which I have not the most distant doubt; and it is equally true, that some of these wicked men are by a few weak ones thought to be patriots, but they cannot with any propriety be called a party, or even a faction. The chief mischief they do, is collecting and transmitting intelligence, raising false reports, and spreading calumnies of public men and measures; such characters will be found in every country so circumstanced, and America has not been negligent in providing laws for their punishment.
The obvious policy of the court of London has induced them to boast perpetually of their party in America; but where is it? of whom composed? what has it done, or is doing? are questions to which they constantly give evasive answers. Much also have they said of the numbers that have joined their arms in America. The truth is, that at Boston, Rhode Island, New York, and Philadelphia, they gleaned some of that refuse of mankind to be found and purchased by anybody in all commercial cities. It is also true, that some men of weight and influence in the country, who joined the enemy on their first successes, did draw away with them several of their immediate dependants, whom they persuaded or otherwise influenced to enlist in their service. To these may also be added the prisoners, who at different times they forced into their service by famine, and other severities too numerous as well as barbarous to be here particularized. But I have no reason to believe, that all these aids put together ever exceeded three thousand men. This business, however (except with respect to prisoners), has long been over, and before I left America, many of those deluded people had returned and implored the pardon of their country.
In America, as in all other popular governments, your Excellency knows there must and ever will be parties for and against particular measures and particular men. The enemy, adverting to this circumstance, have had address enough to ascribe differences and temporary heats arising from this source, in which they were not interested, to causes much higher, and more flattering to their importance; and this they have done with so much art, as to have imposed in some instances on the credulity of men high in reputation for sagacity and discernment.
If your Excellency will be pleased to peruse a pamphlet marked No. 6, which you will find enclosed with the other papers I herewith transmit, and entitled “Observations on the American Revolution,” you will perceive that nothing is to be apprehended from this supposed party in North America.
A statement of the revenues of the States, and of their ability to contribute to the general expense; whether they will be able long to support this burden, and increase it if necessary.
The confederated States have no fixed revenues, nor are such revenues necessary, because all the private property in the country is at the public service. The only restriction imposed by the people is, that it be taken from them with wisdom and justice: or, to be more explicit, that the sums required be proportionate to the public exigences, and assessed on the individuals in proportion to their respective abilities.
A nation can seldom be destitute of the means of continuing a war, while they remain unsubdued in the field, and cheerfully devote their all to that service. They may indeed experience great distress, but no distress being equal to that of subjection to exasperated oppressors, whose most tender mercies are cruel, the Americans had little difficulty in making their election.
A statement of the public debts.
This subject your Excellency will find fully discussed in an address of Congress to their constituents, in which they compute their debts, and mention the means they had taken to preserve the public credit. It is also herewith enclosed, and marked No. 7.
A statement of the debts of each particular State.
Although exact accounts of these debts are contained in the public printed acts of each State, yet as I neither have any of those acts or extracts from them with me, and my general knowledge on this head is very imperfect, I am deterred from giving your Excellency any information respecting it, by the very great risk I should run of misleading you on this point.
The resources to lessen these debts.
Taxes; foreign and domestic loans; sales of confiscated estates, and ungranted lands.
The possibility of their supporting their credit in all the operations of government, in the commerce of their inhabitants, and, above all, in the protection of national industry.
As to the possibility of supporting their credit in the cases mentioned, there is no doubt it is very possible. How far it is probable, is a question less easy to answer. If the taxes called for by Congress last fall be duly paid, all will be safe. But whether they have been paid or not I am wholly uninformed, except that I find in a public paper that Virginia had make good her first payment. As I daily expect to receive advices from America on this subject, I shall postpone saying any thing further on it at present; but your Excellency may rely on my communicating to you a full state of what intelligence I may have respecting it.
As to supporting their credit in commerce, it is attended with considerable though not insurmountable difficulties. They are of two kinds—the want of sufficient commodities for remittances, and the risk of transporting them. North America abounds in valuable commodities, such as fish, oil, lumber, provisions of flesh and corn, iron, tobacco, and naval stores; peltry, indigo, potash, and other articles—all of which have greatly diminished since the war. The labourers formerly employed in producing them having been often called to the field, and by other effects of the war been prevented from regularly following their usual occupations. Of some of these articles, America still produces more than is necessary for her own consumption, but the risk of transporting them to Europe renders her remittances very uncertain. The asylum, which all British armed vessels find in the ports of Portugal, enables them to cruise very conveniently and with great advantage off the western islands, and other situations proper for annoying vessels from thence to France, Spain, or the Mediterranean. Hence it is that the trade from America to St. Eustatia has of late so greatly increased, it being carried on principally in small, fast-sailing vessels that draw but little water, and that the chief remittances to Europe have been in bills of exchange instead of produce.
With respect to the protection of national industry, I take it for granted that it will always flourish where it is lucrative and not discouraged, which was the case in North America when I left it: every man being then at liberty, by the law, to cultivate the earth as he pleased, to raise what he pleased, to manufacture as he pleased, and to sell the produce of his labour to whom he pleased, and for the best prices, without any duties or impositions whatsoever. I have indeed no apprehensions whatever on this subject. I believe there are no people more industrious than those of America, and whoever recurs to their population, their former exports, and their present productions amid the horrors of fire and sword, will be convinced of it.
By what means, or what branches of commerce, will the States of America have it in their power to indemnify Spain, whenever this power may second the views and operations of the Americans?
America will indemnify Spain in two ways—by fighting the enemy of Spain, and by commerce. Your Excellency will be pleased to remark that Spain, as well as America, is now at war with Britain, and therefore that it is the interest of both to support and assist each other against the common enemy. It cannot be a question whether Britain will be more or less formidable if defeated or victorious in America; and there can be no doubt but that every nation interested in the reduction of her power will be compensated for any aids they may afford America by the immediate application of those aids to that express purpose at the expense of American blood.
Your Excellency’s well-known talents save me the necessity of observing, that it is the interest of all Europe to join in breaking down the exorbitant power of a nation which arrogantly claims the ocean as her birthright, and considers every advantage in commerce, however acquired by violence or used with cruelty, as a tribute justly due to her boasted superiority in arts and in arms.
By establishing the independence of America, the empire of Britain will be divided, and the sinews of her power cut. Americans, situated in another hemisphere, intent only on the cultivation of a country more than sufficient to satisfy their desires, will remain unconnected with European politics, and, not being interested in their objects, will not partake in their dissensions. Happy in having for their neighbours a people distinguished for love of justice and of peace, they will have nothing to fear, but may flatter themselves that they and their posterity will long enjoy all the blessings of that peace, liberty, and safety for which alone they patiently endure the calamities incident to the cruel contest they sustain.
While the war continues the commerce of America will be inconsiderable, but on the restoration of peace it will soon become very valuable and extensive. So great is the extent of country in North America yet to be cultivated, and so inviting to settlers, that labour will very long remain too dear to admit of considerable manufactures. Reason and experience tell us that, when the poor have it in their power to gain affluence by tilling the earth, they will refuse the scanty earnings which manufacturers may offer them. From this circumstance it is evident that the exports from America will consist of raw materials, which other nations will be able to manufacture for them at a cheaper rate than they can themselves. To those who consider the future and progressive population of that country, the demands it will have for the manufactures and productions of Europe, as well to satisfy their wants as to gratify their luxury, will appear immense, and far more than any one kingdom in it can supply. Instead of paying money for fish and many other articles, as heretofore, Spain will then have an opportunity of obtaining them in exchange for her cloth, silks, wines, and fruits; notwithstanding which it is proper to observe that the commerce of the American States will for ever procure them such actual wealth as to enable them punctually to repay whatever sums they may borrow.
How far it may be convenient for these States to furnish ships of war, timber, and other articles for the king’s arsenals, without delay; and, if in their power, on what terms?
I am much at a loss to determine at present, and therefore will by no means give your Excellency my conjectures for intelligence.
It is certain, that in ordinary times, America can build ships as good, and cheaper than any other people, because the materials cost them less. The ships of war now in her service, as to strength and construction, are not exceeded by any on the ocean. On this subject I will write to America for information, and give your Excellency the earliest notice of it. Naval stores, and particularly masts and spars, may certainly be had there, and of the best quality; and I doubt not but that the Americans would carry them to the Havannah or New Orleans, though I suspect, their being in a manner destitute of proper convoys for the European trade, would render them backward in bringing them to Spain, on terms equal to the risk of capture on the one hand, and the expectations of purchasers on the other.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE MILITARY STATE OF NORTH AMERICA.
The number and strength of the American troops; their present situation, and ability to oppose the enemy, especially in Georgia and Carolina.
Six months have elapsed since I left America, and I had not seen a return of the army for some time before that period. It did not, I am certain, amount to its full complement, and, in my opinion, did not in the whole exceed thirty or thirty-five thousand men; I mean regular troops.
The commander-in-chief, whose abilities, as well as integrity, merit the highest confidence, was authorized to conduct all the military operations in the United States at his discretion; subject, nevertheless, to such orders as the Congress might think proper from time to time to give. It is impossible, therefore, for me (not having received a single letter from America on these subjects since my arrival) to decide in what manner or proportions these troops are employed or stationed, though I am confident it has been done in the best manner.
All the men of proper age in America are liable to do military duty in certain cases, and, with a few exceptions, in all cases. The militia is for the most part divided into a certain number of classes, and whenever reinforcements to the main army, or any detachment of it, are wanting, they are supplied by these classes in rotation. These reinforcements, while in the field, are subject to the like regulations with the regular troops, and with them submit to the severest discipline and duty. Hence it is, that the people of America have become soldiers, and that the enemy have never been able to make a deep impression in the country, or long hold any considerable lodgments at a distance from their fleets. Georgia and South Carolina, indeed, enjoy these advantages in a less degree than the other States, their own militia not being very numerous, and speedy reinforcements from their neighbours of North Carolina and Virginia rendered difficult by the length of the way. They have, nevertheless, given proofs of their spirit by various and great exertions; and I have reason to believe, that all possible care has been taken to provide for their safety, by furnishing them with a proper body of troops under Major-General Lincoln, a very good officer, as well as a very good man.
Arms are still wanting in America, many of those imported proving unfit for use, and the number of inhabitants who were without proper arms at the beginning of the war, calling for great supplies. The army, and a considerable part of the militia, especially in the Northern States, have in general good arms.
The article of clothing has been, and still is, a very interesting one to the American army. It is impossible to describe, and, indeed, almost impossible to believe, the hardships they have endured for want of it. There have been instances, and I speak from the most undoubted authority, of considerable detachments marching barefooted over rugged tracts of ice and snow, and marking the route they took by the blood that issued from their feet; but neither these terrible extremities, nor the alluring offers of the enemy, could prevail on them to quit their standard or relax their ardour. Their condition, however, has of late been much bettered by supplies from France and Spain, and American privateers; but adequate provision has not yet been made for the ensuing winter, and I cannot conceal from your Excellency my anxiety on that head. A supply of clothing for twenty thousand men, added to what is engaged for them in France, would make that army and all America happy.
I foresee no other difficulties in providing subsisttence for the American armies in every station in which they may be placed, than those which may attend the transportation of it. But when I reflect on the obstacles of this kind which they have already met with and surmounted, I have little uneasiness about future ones. The last crops in America promised to be plentiful when I left it, but whether there would be any and what considerable overplus for exportation, was then undetermined; the damages done the wheat in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina by a fly, which infested those countries, not being to my knowledge at that time ascertained.
How many ships of war belong to Congress, is a question I cannot answer with certainty. I think there are not more than ten or twelve in the whole. Of privateers, there are a great number, but how many exactly has not been computed. In my opinion, they exceed one hundred, several of them very fine ships. The Governor of Martinique told me, that in that island alone, the American privateers had brought and sold above five thousand African slaves, which they had taken from the enemy. Nine tenths at least of all the rum and sugar used in North America, these three years past, have been obtained in the same way, and to their successes have the public been indebted for the most seasonable and valuable supplies of military stores which they have received. I left several vessels on the stocks at Philadelphia, and heard of more in other parts.
Upon the whole, his Majesty may rest perfectly assured, that the Americans are determined, though forsaken by all mankind, to maintain their independence, and to part with it only with their lives; the desolations and distresses of war being too familiar to them to excite any other passions than indignation and resentment.
That the country will supply its inhabitants with provisions, some clothing, and some articles of commerce.
That there is no party in America in favour of returning under the dominion of Britain, on any terms whatever.
That the King of France is very popular in America, being in all parts of it styled the protector of the rights of mankind, and that they will hold the treaty made with him inviolate.
That the people in America have very high ideas of the honour and integrity of the Spanish nation, and of his Catholic Majesty especially, and that this respect and esteem unite with their interest in rendering them so desirous of his friendship and alliance.
That the greatest difficulty under which America labours arises from the great depreciation of her bills of credit, owing principally to a greater sum having been emitted than was necessary for a medium of commerce, and to the impossibility of remedying it by taxes before regular governments are established.
That great attempts, seconded by the general voice of the people, have been made to retrieve the credit of those bills by taxation, the issue of which was as yet uncertain, but if unsuccessful, a recurrence to taxes in kind was still left, and would be practised, though it is an expedient which nothing but necessity can render eligible.
That if France and Spain were to unite their endeavours to conquer Britain in America, by furnishing the latter with the necessary aids of ammunition, clothing, and some money, there is reason to believe, that the House of Bourbon would find it the most certain and least expensive method of reducing the power of their irreconcilable enemy, and not only command the gratitude and perpetual attachment of America, but the general approbation of all who wish well to the tranquillity of Europe and the rights of mankind. Thus would that illustrious house erect lasting and glorious monuments to their virtues in the hearts of a whole people.
I fear your Excellency will consider the intelligence here given less full and precise than you expected. I regret that it is not in my power to render it more so, but it is not. I hope, however, that it will be thought sufficient to open a way to those further discussions which must precede the measures necessary to bind America to Spain, as well as to France, and thereby complete the division, and consequently the humiliation, of the British Empire; a work too glorious and laudable not to merit the notice of so magnanimous a prince as his Majesty, and engage the attention of a minister of such acknowledged abilities as your Excellency.
I flatter myself that the importance of the subject will apologize for my trespassing so long on your Excellency’s patience so soon after your return to Aranjues.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Madrid, 26 April, 1780.
I have at length had the pleasure of receiving your very friendly letter of the 22d February last. It has been very long on the road. Accept my thanks for your kind congratulations, and permit me to assure you that I sincerely rejoice in your having safely reached the place of your destination on a business which declares the confidence of America, and for an object in the attainment of which I am persuaded you will acquire honour to yourself and advantages to her.
The circumstances you mention as indications of the disposition of Spain undoubtedly bear the construction you give them. 1 (I found the same at Cadiz, although there were pains taken there and here to prevent any conduct towards me that might savour of an admission or knowledge of our independence. Considering the object of our treaty, I thought this extraordinary. I do not, however, ascribe it to any malevolence with respect to us, but merely to a design in that gentleman [?] or his instructors so to manage the proposed treaties here as that both Spain and America may hold themselves indebted for the attainment of their respective objects to the influence and good offices of their common ally.
The acknowledged integrity of his Catholic Majesty, and respected abilities and candour of his minister, are very flattering circumstances; and I have too much confidence in our friends, the French, to believe that they wish to keep Spain and America longer asunder, although a design of squeezing a little reputation out of the business may embarrass the measures for a junction. As the Count de Florida Blanca is, I am told, a man of abilities, he doubtless will see and probably recommend the policy of making a deep impression on the hearts of the Americans by a seasonable acknowledgment of their independence, and by affording them such immediate aids as their circumstances and the obvious interest of Spain demand. Such measures at this period would turn the respect of America for Spain into lasting attachment and in that way give strength to every treaty they may form).
Sir John Dalrymple1 is here; he came from Portugal for the benefit of his Lady’s health (as is said). He is now at Aranjues. He has seen the Imperial Embassador, the Governor of the City, Signor Campomanes, the Duke of Alva, and several others, named to him I suppose by Lord Grantham, who I find was much respected here. He will return through France to Britain. I shall go to Aranjues the day after to-morrow and will form some judgment of that gentleman’s success, by the conduct of the Court toward America.
I am much obliged by your remarks on the most proper route for letter and intelligence to and from America, and shall profit by them. You may rely on receiving the earliest accounts of whatever interesting information I may obtain, and that I shall be happy in every opportunity of evincing the esteem with which I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Madrid, 27th April, 1780.
Mr. Jay presents his most respectful compliments to his Excellency the Count de Florida Blanca, and has the honour of transmitting the enclosed extract of a letter from an American gentleman, lately arrived at Bourdeaux, to Mr. Carmichael, who is well acquainted with him, and represents him to me as worthy of credit.
Mr. Jay also transmits a copy of the Constitution of North Carolina, and will, with great pleasure, endeavour to complete his Excellency’s collection of the American forms of government.[Back to Table of Contents]
EXTRACTS OF A LETTER FROM BOURDEAUX, DATED MARCH THE 30TH, TO WM. CARMICHAEL, ESQ.
“I arrived here the 28th inst. in the Buckskins, Johns, from Baltimore, which place I left the latter end of December, but the ship having been frozen up in the Patuxent for near two months we did not leave that river till the latter end of February, and finally got to sea the 2d inst. The winter proved the severest known in America, far exceeding that of the year 1740. At Philadelphia the cold was two degrees greater than ever remembered. The snows were so great and the cold so intense as to prevent travelling in almost any manner. This calamity added to the circumstance of a Commissary General’s being either displaced or having resigned, and leaving the magazines very poorly furnished, reduced our army to very hard straights. They were ten days without bread, and in a letter which I saw from a member of Congress were these words: ‘Our army was four days on half a herring and a gill of rice a man per day.’ Our Assembly, viz, that of Maryland was sitting. The President received a letter from his Excellency, General Washington, informing him of the State of the army, and urging a speedy supply of provisions. They immediately made an Act authorizing the Executive power to seize on all stores and provisions they could find any where in the State, which was accordingly put in execution, and large supplies of all sorts were quickly collected and forwarded to camp, where as great plenty reigned before we came away as could be wished for.
“A fleet of 166 sail of transports &c, left Sandy Hook the 24th of December with 6000 troops on board, some say Genl. Clinton also, and thence conjectured that they were destined for Carolina. However that might be, it was impossible for them to keep our coast for many days, a dreadful hurricane which continued fifteen days without interruption having begun on the 1st of the year. There was no account of them the 20th of February when my last letter came from thence.
“The North Carolina and Virginia troops marched to the Southward, as also Baylor’s Light Dragoons. I understood that the army at Head Quarters1 consisted of ten battalions each of 1500 men; the times of many of the Virginia and Maryland troops had just expired but I heard with much pleasure that they were re-enlisting with alacrity. No enterprise of any note had been attempted by either army.
“Our trade is of late become securer than it hath been during the war. Philadelphia, you know, hath some privateers out, and their Letters of Marque and those from Baltimore going out always in small fleets, are not only able to resist, but to overcome any thing that they have met with of late in those seas. Eleven sail came out of Baltimore when we did. They mounted about 120 guns and carried near 2000 hogsheads of tobacco.
“We had accounts that the Spaniards had taken Pensacola and were advancing towards St. Augustine.”[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO DE NEUFVILLE & SON.1
Madrid, April 27, 1780.
I have had the pleasure of receiving your favour of the 6th inst., and am much obliged by your kind congratulations on my arrival in Europe.
The letters you mention to have written to Congress had been received before I left Philadelphia, and referred to a committee. This mark of attention was justly due to the interest you take in the American cause, and the disposition you manifest to serve it. I presume that the committee soon made a report, and that answers to your letters have been written, although perhaps the many hazards to which letters from America are exposed may have prevented their reaching you.
When the rulers of your republic recollect in what manner and on what occasion they became free, I am persuaded they cannot but wish duration to our independence, nor forbear considering it as an event no less interesting to every commercial nation in Europe than important to America. These and similar considerations, added to the injustice they daily experience from England, will, I hope, induce them to call to mind that spirit of their forefathers, which acquired a glorious participation in the empire of the ocean, and laid the foundation of the commerce, affluence, and consideration they transmitted to their posterity.
Permit me to assure you that I shall consider your correspondence as a favour, and that I am, with great respect, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Madrid, April 27, 1780.
I am much obliged by the readiness with which my bills were accepted, and am happy to find that the reports respecting the state of others are as false as they have been injurious. At Martinico the Loan Office Bills sold at a considerable discount, and indeed it was no easy matter to sell them at all. I shall take the earliest opportunity of setting them and others right about that matter.
On my return from Aranjues, where I propose to go to-morrow, I shall transmit the papers you mention, with some others equally interesting. I can easily believe that your difficulties have been great and various. They were often the subject of conversation in America, and I am sure your friends, as well as country, will rejoice in the late important success of your negotiations. The French Court, by continuing steady and true to the objects of their treaty with us, will obtain those which induced them to make it. Their conduct towards us hitherto has, I confess, attached me to the whole nation in a degree that I could not have thought myself capable of ten years ago. In my opinion Britain is to be conquered in America, and that it would be more for the interest of her enemies to confine their offensive operations to that point than enfeeble their efforts by attention to many lesser objects. Let America be supplied with money, clothes, and ammunition, and she will, by expelling her enemies and establishing independence, do more essential injury to those imperious islanders than they have sustained for centuries.
What aid this court may be pleased to afford us is not yet ascertained. I hope they will be such as may be proportioned to the common interest, their dignity, and our wants. The minister, I am told, is able, and the King honest. On this ground I place much dependence, for I can hardly suppose that either of them will omit embracing this golden opportunity of acquiring glory to themselves and honour and advantage to their nation by completing the division and ruin of the British Empire, and that by measures which will in so great a degree conciliate the affections as well as esteem of America.
Mrs. Jay has enjoyed more health within this fortnight than she has been blessed with for three months past. She presents her respects to you, and begs that your next letter to me may enclose for her one of the best prints of yourself, which we are told have been published in France, but are not yet to be had here. I believe there is no man of your age in Europe so much a favourite with the ladies.
I am, dear sir, with great esteem and regard,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Aranjues, April 29, 1780.
By the address of Congress to their constituents on the subject of their finances, which I had the honour of transmitting to your Excellency, you have doubtless observed, that in September last Congress came to a resolution of emitting no more bills than, with those already emitted and in circulation, would amount to 200,000,000 of dollars that, about the same time they called upon their constituents to raise money by taxes, and assigned the first day of January last for the first payment, at which day it was supposed that the bills to be emitted would be nearly expended.
Congress perceiving that at once to stop the great channel of supplies, that had been open ever since the war, and to substitute another equally productive, was not one of those measures which operate almost insensibly without hazard or difficulty; and well knowing that if the first payment of these taxes should be delayed beyond the limited time, the treasury would be without money, and the public operations obstructed by all the evils consequent to it, they were of opinion that collateral and auxiliary measures were necessary to ensure success to the great system for retrieving and supporting the public credit. So early, therefore, as the 23d day of November last, they took this subject into their most serious consideration, and although they had the highest reason to confide in the exertions of their constituents, yet having received repeated assurances of his Majesty’s friendly disposition towards them, and being well persuaded that they could avail themselves of his Majesty’s friendship on no occasion more agreeable to him and advantageous to them, than on one so interesting to the United States, and important to the common cause, they adopted a measure which, but for these considerations, might appear extraordinary, viz., to draw bills upon me for £100,000 sterling, payable at six months’ sight.
The drawing bills previous to notice of obtaining money to satisfy them may at first view appear indelicate, but when it is considered that the whole success of this measure depended on its taking place between the 23d of November and the 1st of January last, in which period it was impossible to make the application, his Majesty’s magnanimity will I am persuaded readily excuse it.
As I shall always consider it my duty to give your Excellency all the information in my power, that may enable his Majesty from time to time to form a true judgment of the state of American affairs, it is proper, that I should inform your Excellency that Congress, having reasons to believe that a loan might be obtained in Holland, did shortly after my leaving America take measures for that purpose, and on the 23d of November last resolved to draw bills on Mr. Henry Laurens, to whom that business had been committed, for the sum of £100,000 sterling.
I greatly regret that it was not in my power to advise your Excellency of these matters sooner; but it was not until the 27th instant, at Madrid, that I received the letter which informed me of them.
As further remarks would draw this letter into greater length, than the opinion I have of your Excellency’s discernment will permit me to think necessary, I forbear longer to engage your time and attention, than to request the favour of your Excellency to lay it before his Majesty.
The eyes of America are now drawn towards him by their opinion of his virtues, and the situation of their affairs; and I flatter myself it will not be long before their hearts and affections will also be engaged by such marks of his Majesty’s friendship, as his wisdom and liberality may prompt, and their occasions render expedient.
With great respect and esteem, I have the honour to be, etc.
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
Aranjues,21 miles from Madrid, 6th May, 1780.
As I have not my papers with me, I cannot ascertain the number or dates of my letters to you since I left America. I have often done myself the pleasure of writing to you; and am in daily expectation of receiving a few lines from you.
The last accounts from America were of the 10th March, contained in two or three Boston newspapers, brought to Bilboa from Newbury. They give us reason, indeed, to expect that your namesake’s fleet has been thoroughly dispersed, and his designs on South Carolina thereby defeated. I am anxious for a confirmation of this intelligence; it would operate in Europe as much to our advantage, though perhaps not so much to our glory, as a victory. As long as you can maintain your importance, and appear neither to want friends or fear foes, you will enjoy respectability on this side of the water, and reap all the advantages resulting from it. By her power, justice, commerce, and consequence, America must expect to gain and keep friends. The equity of her cause is with many only a secondary consideration.
It is said, you have again adopted the system of regulating prices; I expect no good from it. What has been done with Vermont? It would give me pain to hear that things remained in the state I left them. Delay is a trump card that ought not to be permitted to remain in hand.
An English paper contains what they call, but I can hardly believe to be, your confiscation act. If truly printed, New York is disgraced by injustice too palpable to admit even of palliation. I feel for the honour of my country, and therefore beg the favour of you to send me a true copy of it; that if the other be false, I may, by publishing yours, remove the prejudices against you, occasioned by the former.
I wish to know who are your members in Congress. I find Livingston is one, and am glad of it. What has become of Morris? Don’t let his enemies in or out of the State run him down.
When you write to me, recollect that it is ten to one but your letter will be inspected in its way to me through the post-offices of France or Spain. Write, therefore, under this impression. When you see my old friends, remember me affectionately to them. You know who they are.
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY’S NOTES OF CONFERENCE WITH FLORIDA BLANCA.1
Aranjues, May 11, 1780.
Mr. Jay having waited on the Count de Florida Blanca, in consequence of a message received on the evening of the 10th, the latter commenced the conversation by observing that he was sorry that his ignorance of the English language prevented him from speaking with that ease and frankness with which he wished to speak in his conferences with Mr. Jay, and which corresponded with his own disposition and character.
He observed that he intended to speak on two points. The first related to the letter Mr. Jay had written to him, on the subject of bills of exchange drawn on him by Congress, that being an affair the most pressing and more immediately necessary to enter upon. He said that the last year he should have found no difficulty on that head, but that at present, although Spain had money, she was in the situation of Tantalus, who, with water in view, could not make use of it; alluding to the revenue arising from their possessions in America, which they were not able to draw from thence. That their expenses had been so great in the year 1779, particularly for the marine, as to oblige them to make large loans, which they were negotiating at present. He entered into a summary of those expenses, and particularized the enormous expense of supporting thirty-five ships of the line and frigates in French ports. He observed, that to do this they had prepared a very expensive and numerous convoy at Ferrol and other ports of Spain, loaded with provisions, naval stores, and every other article necessary for the squadron before mentioned, which convoy did not arrive at Brest until the day on which the Spanish fleet sailed from thence. That the supplies so sent had emptied their magazines at Cadiz, Ferrol, and other ports, and had frequently obliged them to buy at enormous prices the necessary stores to supply the fleet under the admirals Cardova and Gaston, on their arrival in the ports of Spain. That they had been forced to sell these stores thus sent to France, and others purchased for the same purpose at Bordeaux, Nantes, and elsewhere, at half price; and added, that their loss on this occasion could scarce be calculated. This, joined to the other expenses, and the great losses they had sustained in their marine and commerce, but chiefly in the former, and the great expenses they were at in consequence thereof, rendered it difficult for the King to do for America what he could have done easily the last year, and which he declared repeatedly, and in the strongest manner, it was his intention to do, as might be judged from his conduct heretofore; touching slightly on the succours sent us from Spain, the Havana, and Louisiana, but dwelling on his conduct in the negotiation last year with Great Britain, in which he would on no account be brought to sacrifice the interests of America.
Such being his Majesty’s disposition and intentions previous to the war, Mr. Jay might easily judge that he was not less determined at present to support their interests, whether formally connected with America by treaty or not. That, notwithstanding the losses and misfortunes sustained, the King’s resolution, courage, and fortitude induced him to continue the war, and therefore they were obliged to incur much expense in order to fill their magazines and make necessary preparations for this campaign and the next, yet that it was his Majesty’s intention to give America all the assistance in his power. That it was as much his inclination as duty to second these dispositions, and that he had received the King’s orders to confer with his colleagues thereon. He observed, however, that, although he was First Secretary of State, he must first confer with them on this subject; and from his own personal inclinations to second the King’s intentions and to serve America, he was desirous of concerting with Mr. Jay measures in such a manner as would prevent him from meeting with opposition from his colleagues, and therefore he spoke to him not as a minister, but as an individual.
In order to facilitate this, he said it was necessary to make some overtures for a contract, in case Mr. Jay was not absolutely empowered to make one; and then he pointed out the object most essential to the interests of Spain at the present conjuncture. He said that for their marine they wanted light frigates, cutters, or swift sailing-vessels of that size. That for ships-of-the-line, they could procure them themselves; that if America could furnish them with the former, they might be sent to their ports in Biscay, loaded with tobacco or other produce, and, discharging their cargoes, be left at the disposition of Spain. He also mentioned timber for vessels, but said that was an article not so immediately necessary, though it might be an object of consequence in future. He observed that he mentioned this at present in order that Mr. Jay might turn his thoughts on that subject as soon as possible, and that he would, in order to explain himself with more precision, send him, either on Saturday or Sunday next, notes containing his ideas on this subject, and adding that he hoped that the one, viz., Jay, would assist the other, meaning himself, to manage matters in such a way as to procure the means of obtaining for America present aid.
With respect to the bills of exchange which might be presented, he said that at the end of the present year, or in the beginning of the next, he would have it in his power to advance twenty-five, thirty, or forty thousand pounds sterling, and in the meantime, should these bills be presented for payment, he would take such measures as would satisfy the owners of them, viz., by engaging, in the name of his Majesty, to pay them, observing that the King’s good faith and credit were so well known that he did not imagine this would be a difficult matter. He also said that, in consequence of what Mr. Jay had written with respect to clothing for the American army, it might be in his power to send supplies of cloth, etc., which he would endeavour to do.
Mr. Jay, in answer, assured him of his high sense of the frankness and candour with which he had been so obliging as to communicate the King’s intentions and his own sentiments, and gave him the strongest assurances that he should, for his part, with the same frankness and candour, give him all the assistance and information in his power to forward his generous intentions in favour of his country, and that he might depend that in doing this he would neither deceive him in his information nor mislead him by ill-grounded expectations.
The Count then expressed his confidence in these assurances, said he had been well informed of the characters both of Mr. Jay and Mr. Carmichael (who was present at the conference), and said that he considered them as les hommes honnêtes, and that no consideration could have prevailed upon him to have treated with men who did not sustain that reputation.
The Count then proceeded to the second point, viz., with respect to the treaty in contemplation between Spain and America. He began by observing that he now spoke as a Minister, and as such that he would be as candid and frank as he had just been speaking as a private man; and that it was always his disposition to do so with those from whom he expected the same conduct. He then proceeded to observe that there was but one obstacle from which he apprehended any great difficulty in forming a treaty with America, and plainly intimated that this arose from the pretensions of America to the navigation of the Mississippi. He repeated the information which the Court had received from M. Miralles, that Congress had at one time relinquished that object; that he also knew from the same source that afterwards they had made it an essential point of the treaty. He expressed his uneasiness on this subject, and entered largely into the views of Spain with respect to the boundaries. He mentioned Cape Antonio and Cape ———, and expressed their resolution, if possible, of excluding the English entirely from the Gulf of Mexico. They wished to fix them by a treaty, which he hoped would be perpetual between the two countries. He spoke amply of the King’s anxiety, resolution, and firmness on this point, and insinuated a wish that some method might be fallen upon to remove this obstacle. He observed that the King had received all his impressions with respect to the necessity of this measure previous to his being in place, and appeared to regard it as a point from which his Majesty would never recede, repeating that still, however, he was disposed to give America all the aid in his power, consistent with the situation of his affairs, to distress the common enemy; that this point being insisted on, it would be necessary for the Court of Spain to obtain the most accurate knowledge of local circumstances, with which he supposed Mr. Jay and his constituents were more fully apprised than his Majesty’s Ministers could be. That for this purpose he had already written to the Havana and Louisiana, in order to obtain all the necessary information, which he gave reason to believe they had not yet received. He dwelt on the necessity of this information previous to any treaty, and expressed his own regret that ways and means could not be found to obviate or overcome this impediment.
Mr. Jay here took an opportunity to mention that many of the States were bounded by that river, and were highly interested in its navigation, but observed that they were equally inclined to enter into any amicable regulations which might prevent any inconveniences with respect to contraband or other objects, which might excite the uneasiness of Spain.
The Count still, however, appeared to be fully of opinion that this was an object that the King had so much at heart that he would never relinquish it, adding, however, that he hoped some middle way might be hit on which would pave the way to get over this difficulty, and desired Mr. Jay to turn his thoughts and attention to the subject, in which, he assured him, he was as well disposed to assist him as in the means of procuring the assistance and succours for America before-mentioned; always repeating the King’s favourable disposition, his inviolable regard to his promises, etc., etc. On this subject he also subjoined that whenever Mr. Jay chose to go to Madrid he desired to have previous notice of it; for in those cases he would leave his sentiments in writing for him with Mr. Carmichael; or, if he should also go to Madrid, that he would then write to Mr. Jay there, to which he might return an answer by the Parle (a post which goes to and from Madrid) to Aranjues, every twenty-four hours.
Mr. Jay expressed his full confidence in what the Count had done him the honour to communicate to him, and assured him of his satisfaction and happiness in having the good-fortune to transact a business so important to both countries, with a Minister so liberal and candid in his manner of thinking and acting.
The conference ended with much civility on the one part and on the other, and with an intimation from the Count, that he should take an opportunity of having the pleasure of Mr. Jay’s company at dinner, and of being on that friendly footing on which he wished to be with him.
What passed in the course of this conference needs no comment, though it calls for information and instructions. If Congress remains firm, as I have no reason to doubt, respecting the Mississippi, I think Spain will finally be content with equitable regulations, and I wish to know whether Congress would consider any regulations necessary to prevent contraband, as inconsistent with their ideas of free navigation. I wish that as little as possible may be left to my discretion, and that as I am determined to adhere strictly to their sentiments and directions, I may be favoured with them fully, and in season.
The Count de Florida Blanca had upon all occasions treated me with so much fairness, candour, and frankness, that between the confidence due to him and the footing I was and ought to be on with the French Ambassador, I was embarrassed exceedingly, especially as there is little reason to doubt of their being on confidential terms with each other. I was reduced to the necessity, therefore, of acting with exquisite duplicity, a conduct which I detest as immoral, and disapprove as impolitic, or of mentioning my difficulties to the Count, and obtaining his answers. I preferred the latter, and wrote the following letter to the Count de Florida Blanca:
Aranjues, May 12, 1780.
It is with the utmost reluctance, that I can prevail upon myself to draw your Excellency’s attention from the great objects that perpetually engage it. But the liberality, frankness, and candour, which distinguished your conduct towards me the last evening, have impressed me with such sentiments of correspondent delicacy, as to place me in a most disagreeable situation.
Deeply sensible of the benefits received by my country from their illustrious ally, prompted by duty and inclination to act not only with the highest integrity, but the greatest frankness towards him and his Minister, and influenced by the good opinion I have imbibed of the talents, attachment, and prudence of the Count de Montmorin, I have given him and his Court assurances that he should receive from me all that confidence, which these considerations dictate. These assurances were sincere; I have most strictly conformed to them, and as no circumstances of delicacy forbid it, I have communicated to him the information I gave your Excellency relative to American affairs, and the resolution of Congress for drawing bills upon me, these being the only transactions within my knowledge and department, which related to that proposed connection between Spain and America, for the accomplishment of which, the King of France has been pleased to interpose his kind offices with his Catholic Majesty.
But, Sir, my feelings will not allow me to permit the confidence due to one gentleman to interfere with that which may be due to another. Honour prescribes limits to each, which no consideration can tempt me to violate. You spoke to me the last evening in the character of a private gentleman, as well as of a public Minister, and in both without reserve. Let me entreat your Excellency therefore to inform me, whether I am to consider your conferences with me, either in the whole or in part, as confidential. I am apprised of the delicacy of this question. I wish I could know your sentiments without putting it. I assure you my esteem and respect are too sincere and too great not to make me regret every measure that can give you an uneasy sensation. On this occasion I am urged by justice to you as well as to myself, and that must be my apology.
Unpractised in the ways of courts, I rejoice in finding that I am to transact the business committed to me with a gentleman, who adorns his exalted station with virtues as well as talents, and looks down on that system of finesse and chicanery which, however prevalent, wisdom rejects and probity disapproves.
With sentiments of attachment and esteem, I have the honour to be, etc.
To this I received the following answer:
Aranjues, May 14, 1780.
Sensible of the favorable opinion you are pleased to entertain of my conduct, both as a minister and a private gentleman, I have the honor to assure you that, on every occasion, you shall experience nothing but frankness and candour on my part. Besides that my own principles are invariable on these points, I am certain thereby to follow the example and good intentions of the King my master.
The delicacy, which induced you to doubt, whether there would be any impropriety in communicating to the Ambassador of France the explanation we had in the course of our late conference, accords well with the idea I first formed of your character, and I am pleased with this mark of your attention. Besides, it appears to me that you may do it freely, especially as those explanations are founded on principles of equity and wisdom, for the benefit of the common cause. But if, hereafter, circumstances demand a more pointed reserve, by accidents we cannot now foresee, we shall always have time to agree upon those points which it may be necessary to keep secret.
I am, Sir, with the most sincere attachment, and the most perfect consideration, your most humble and most obedient servant,
Count de Florida Blanca.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY ON THE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI.1
Mr. Gerard had [in 1778] intimated to Congress the propriety of their taking speedy measures for drawing Spain into the general cause. He often enlarged on the policy and objects of that Court, one of which was to regain the Floridas, and to become possessed of the exclusive navigation of the Gulf of Mexico, and, of course, the Mississippi. He said he was confident that if these were ceded to her, it would not be difficult to induce her to join us; and especially as the Family Compact, and the refusal of Britain to accept her mediation, would afford a good pretext. He further insinuated, that we might reasonably expect to obtain from that court a considerable sum of money, which, considering the state of our finances, was a desirable object.
Though Congress was desirous of an alliance with Spain, and ready to take measures for the purpose, yet whom to employ became a serious question. Mr. Lee’s connections insisted that he ought to be the man; while others, who had neither a predilection for nor aversion to him, thought it inexpedient to commit that business to one respecting whom America at present entertained doubts, and who had become disagreeable to France, and, consequently, in a certain degree, to Spain. By these unfortunate circumstances nearly a year was wasted in fruitless altercation, and the opportunity of obtaining loans from Spain lost, by her having entered into war, and having occasion for all her money to defray the expense of it.
Some time prior to my appointment to Spain, suspicions of it prevailed, and both Mr. Gerard and Mr. Miralles expressed much satisfaction at the prospect of that event. On my coming to Congress in the fall of 1778, and constantly after, both Mr. Gerard and Mr. Miralles, the Spanish agent, had shown me every mark of civility and attention, though I have reason to think that both of them entertained higher opinions of my docility than were well founded.
As a member of Congress, it appeared to me very improper to make their proceedings a topic of conversation out-of-doors; and I made it an invariable rule not to speak of their debates, or of any matters before them, to any who were not members. Mr. Gerard used very frequently to spend an evening with me, and sometimes sat up very late. As the evening advanced, he often became more open, and spoke without reserve on the subject of the views of Spain, and the interest of America with respect to her. He pressed our quitting to her the Floridas and Mississippi as indispensable prerequisites to a treaty, and urged a variety of reasons to support his opinions; disclaiming, at the same time, his having any instructions on that head, and intimating that his friendship for the United States was his sole motive to declaring his opinion at any time relative to her concerns.
I soon found that he conversed in like manner with many others, and that he was seriously endeavoring to carry these points in Congress.
I was early convinced that provided we could ob-obtain independence and a speedy peace, we could not justify protracting the war, and hazarding the event of it, for the sake of conquering the Floridas, to which we had no title, or retaining the navigation of the Mississippi, which we should not want this age, and of which we might probably acquire a partial use with the consent of Spain. It was therefore my opinion that we should quit all claim to the Floridas, and grant Spain the navigation of her river below our territories, on her giving us a convenient free port on it, under regulations to be specified in a treaty, provided they would acknowledge our independence, defend it with their arms, and grant us either a proper sum of money, or an annual subsidy for a certain number of years. Such, then, was the situation of things as to induce me to think that a conduct so decided and spirited on the part of Spain would speedily bring about a peace, and that Great Britain, rather than hazard the loss of Canada, Nova Scotia, and the islands by continuing the war, would yield the Floridas to Spain, and independence to us. But when Spain afterwards declared war for objects that did not include ours, and in a manner not very civil to our independence, I became persuaded that we ought not to cede to her any of our rights, and of course that we should retain and insist upon our right to the navigation of the Mississippi.[Back to Table of Contents]
JOHN ADAMS TO JAY.
Paris, May 13th, 1780.
I had two days ago the pleasure of yours of the 26th of April, and am very happy to have at last received from your hand an account of your safe arrival in that Capital.
The Count de F. Blanca is agreed to be a man of abilities, but somehow or other, there is something in the European understanding different from that we have been more used to. Men of the greatest abilities, and the most experience, are with great difficulty brought to see, what appears to us as clear as day. It is habit, it is education, prejudice, what you will, but so it is. I can state a very short argument, that appears to me a demonstration, upon French and Spanish principles alone, that it is more for their interest to employ their naval force in America than in Europe, yet it is in vain that you state this to a minister of state; he cannot see it, or feel it, at least in its full force, and until the proper point of time is past and it is too late. So I think it may be demonstrated, that it is in the interest of France and Spain to furnish America with an handsome loan of money, or even to grant them subsidies, because a sum of money thus expended would advance the common cause, and even their particular interests, by enabling the Americans to make greater exertions, than the same sums employed in any other way. But it is in vain to reason in this manner with an European minister of state. He cannot understand you. It is not within the compass of those ideas that he has been accustomed to. I am happy, however, that at length we have a Minister at Madrid. I am persuaded that this will contribute vastly to opening the eyes both of France and Spain. I shall be obliged to you for intelligence, especially concerning your progress in your affair.
I am with much Esteem,
Dear Sir, your Servant,
John Adams.[Back to Table of Contents]
JOHN ADAMS TO JAY.
Paris, May 15th, 1780.
I shall not always stand upon ceremony nor wait for answers to letters, because useful hints may be given which would be lost if one were to wait returns of posts.
The Channel fleet is reckoned this year at from thirty to thirty-seven ships of the Line, but it is well known that they depend upon seamen to be pressed from their first West Indian fleet in order to make up this computation, without which they cannot man thirty. It is therefore of great importance that this first West India fleet should be intercepted. It will come home the latter end of June or beginning of July, certainly not before the middle of June. A ship or two of the Line with a fifty gun ship or two and five or six frigates, would have a great probability of intercepting this fleet. Is there any service upon which such a number of vessels could be better employed than in cruising pretty far in the Bay of Biscay and somewhat north of Cape Clear with this view. It is really astonishing that France and Spain should be so inattentive to the English convoys. The safest, easiest, surest way of reducing the power and the spirits of the English is to intercept their trade. It is every year exposed, yet every year escapes; by which means they get spirits to indulge their passions, money to raise millions and men to man their ships.
Pray is it not necessary to think a little of Portugal? Should not Spain, France and America too, use their influence with Portugal to shut her ports against the armed vessels of all nations at war, or else freely admit the armed vessels of all? Under her present system of neutrality as they call it, the ports of Portugal are as advantageous to England as any of her own, and more injurious to the trade of Spain and America, if not of France, while they are of no use at all to France, Spain or America. This little impotent morsel of a State ought not to do so much mischief so unjustly. If she is neutral, let her be neutral—not say she is neutral and be otherwise. Would it not be proper for Congress to evince some sensibility to the injuries the United States receive from these States, such as Denmark and Portugal? I think they should remonstrate coolly and with dignity—not go to war, nor be in a passion about it, but show that they understand their behaviour. Denmark restored Jones’s and Landais’ prizes to England without knowing why. Why would it not do to remonstrate, then prohibit any productions of Portugal from being consumed in America?
The prospect brightens in the West Indies. De Giuchen has arrived. De la Motte Piquet has defended himself very well, secured his convoys, fought the English even with inferior force and got the better. De Giuchen’s appearance dissipated all thoughts of their expedition, and threw the English Islands into great consternation. But you will see in the public prints all the news which the two Courts have received, Versailles and London. The force from Brest which sailed the 2nd and that from Cadiz, which I hope sailed as soon or sooner, will not diminish the terror and confusion of the English in America and the Islands.
J. A.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO HIS FATHER.
Madrid, 23d May, 1780.
Various have been the scenes through which I have passed since last we bid each other farewell. Some of them have been dangerous, and many of them disagreeable. Providence has, however, been pleased to bring me safe through them all to the place of my destination, and I hope will restore me to my country and friends as soon as the business committed to me shall be completed. Then I shall have the pleasure of entertaining you with the recital of many interesting matters which the risk to which all my letters are exposed forbids me to commit to paper.
I will, nevertheless, give you some little account of our journey from Cadiz to Madrid, because as the manner of travelling here differs entirely from that of our country it may afford you some amusement. The distance is between three and four hundred English miles. We were told at Cadiz that it would be necessary to take with us beds, hams, tea, sugar, chocolate, and other articles of provision, as well as kitchen utensils for dressing them, for that we should seldom find either on the road. We were further informed that these journeys were usually performed in carriages resembling a coach and drawn by six mules, the hire of which was from a hundred and thirty to a hundred and fifty dollars, and that they would carry near a thousand weight of baggage. We accordingly made the necessary provision for eating and sleeping comfortably by the way. We crossed the bay of Port St. Mary’s in very pleasant weather and in a handsome boat which the brother of the Minister of Indies was so kind as to lend us. We staid a night in that place waiting for carriages, and were very hospitably entertained by Count O’Reilly, the same who established the Spanish government at New Orleans at the end of the last war. He is a man of excellent abilities and great knowledge of men as well as of things. He has risen to be Inspector and Lieutenant-General of the armies of Spain, into which he introduced a degree of discipline to which they had long been stangers, and Captain-Governor of Andalusia, etc.
. . . . . . .
We travelled at the rate of between twenty and thirty miles a day, and the same mules brought us to Madrid that we set out with from Cadiz, at which they had arrived from Madrid only a day before we left it. We stopped but once in the course of the day. At the end of the journey they appeared to be in as much flesh and spirits as when we set out. The manner of driving them is in my opinion greatly to their disadvantage, very fast up and down hill and slow on plain ground. I had no idea of there being animals of this kind in the world so fine. I am convinced that they are stronger as well as more durable than horses, though not so handsome. One reason perhaps why the mules of this country exceed those of others, is that the generality of their horses are better. The Andalusian horses, of which you have often heard, are noble animals, handsome, sprightly, and well-tempered. It is more than probable that when I return home I shall take a couple of mules with me; I am more than satisfied that two very good mules are worth three very good horses.
The Poradas or inns are more tolerable than had been represented to us. Many of them had very good rooms, but swarming with fleas and bugs. The mules were generally lodged under the same roof, and my bedroom has frequently been divided from them by only a common partition. The innkeepers gave themselves little trouble about their guests further than to exact as much from them as possible. . . . At one tavern we dined late, and, except the Colonel, went to bed without supper. We took breakfast in the morning. Our servants, four in number, ate of the provisions they brought, except a little bread and milk, and we all slept in our own beds. When the reckoning was called it amounted to 477 reals, that is, £9 10s. 9d. York money. They charged us for fourteen beds, though our number, including servants, amounted only to eight. On observing this to them, we were told that there were many beds in the rooms in which we had slept and in others communicating with them, and that we might have used them all if we pleased. We remarked that it was impossible for eight persons to use fourteen beds; they replied, that was not their fault. There was no remedy, and I paid after taking an account of the particulars with a receipt at the foot of it, which I keep as a curiosity.
I am told that these impositions arise from this circumstance: The houses in which these Poradas are kept generally belong to great men, who for rent and license to keep tavern demand from the poor wretches much more than they can honestly get by that business, and thence they are driven to make up the deficiency by the iniquitous practices. The landlords know this, and to enjoy their high rents support their tenants against travellers and take care that the latter be losers by all disputes with innkeepers. Besides, as travellers cannot remain long enough at one place to prosecute and abide the event of such litigations, they generally put up with the first loss.
On the subject of politics, I make it a rule to write to none but Congress.
Love to all the family, I am, dear sir,
Your dutiful and affectionate son.
P. S.—I bought a very fine negro boy of fifteen years old at Martinico.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Mr. Jay presents his most respectful compliments to his Excellency, Count de Florida Blanca, and has the honour of informing his Excellency that his health is so far re-established as to enable him now to attend to the papers which his Excellency was so polite as to postpone sending him on that account; and that Mr. Jay purposes to be at Aranjues next Wednesday, unless, contrary to his expectations, his fever should return.
Madrid, 24th May, 1780.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
Madrid, May 26, 1780.
The house of Gardoqui at Bilboa are rich, in favour with the ministry, and friends to America. The Navy Board have sent to them for goods for the use of the navy, and have remitted to them only an inconsiderable part of the sum to which they will amount, desiring the residue on credit, and promising speedy payment. One of the house now here spoke to me on the subject; I advised him to complete the orders. It is of the utmost consequence that the Navy Board be punctual in their remittances. American credit is not high, and ought to be higher. I am the more anxious on this subject, as that house is exceedingly well disposed, and a disappointment would not only be injurious to them, but much more so to us. Perhaps it would be a good rule if the United States were to contract debt only with governments, and never with individuals abroad.
I received a letter last week from a Captain Hawkins at Cadiz, informing me that the Americans, who had escaped from captivity and were collected there, were fitting out a vessel for America, which they were arming, and wished to be enabled to act offensively and defensively on their way home, by having a proper commission from me for that purpose. As I had neither blank commissions nor authority to grant them, I referred him to Dr. Franklin.
Congress will be pleased to consider how far it may be proper to remove these obstacles, by sending me both. This leads me again to remind your Excellency of several letters I wrote you from Cadiz, respecting American seamen coming to Spain from captivity at Gibraltar and other places. As copies of these letters have been sent by different vessels, I presume some of them have reached you. It certainly is necessary that provision be made for these people, and in a regular established manner. I am very desirous of instructions on this subject.
The credit given me by Congress on Dr. Franklin is expended, and I am without other means of obtaining supplies than by private credit, which I am at a loss to satisfy. To apply to, and be maintained by, the Court, is, in my opinion, too humiliating to be for the public good; and as yet I have neither received nor heard of remittances from America. It would give me pleasure to know in what manner Congress mean I should be supplied, and whether any measures have been taken for that purpose.
I am much embarrassed for the means of conveying and receiving intelligence. Being at a great distance from the sea, all my letters to and from thence here must either be conveyed by private couriers or the public post. All my letters by the latter, whether in France or Spain, are opened. By that conveyance, therefore, it would not always be proper to write either to Congress, to Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, or others, with that freedom which would often be useful, and sometimes necessary. The salary allowed me, so far from admitting the expense of private couriers, is inadequate for the common purposes for which it was given. This is a delicate subject, and I wish it was not my duty to say any thing respecting it. This place is the dearest in Europe. The Court is never stationary, passing part of the year in no less than five different places, viz., Madrid, Pardo, Aranjues, St. Ildefonso, and the Escurial; hence considerable expenses arise. I forbear enumerating particulars, my design being only to mention this matter to Congress, not to press it upon them. I shall always live agreeably to my circumstances; and if, from their being too narrow, inconveniences result to the public, they ought to be informed of it. I hope what I have said will be viewed in this light only; so far as I am personally interested, I am content.
Mr. Harrison, a gentleman of Maryland, now here, will be the bearer of this letter to Cadiz. I therefore embrace this good and unusual opportunity of being so minute and explicit in it.
The family of Galvez is numerous and of weight. The one on the Mississippi has written favourably of the Americans to his brothers here, three of whom are in office. It would be well to cultivate this disposition whenever opportunities of doing it offer.
The resolution providing for Spanish prisoners at New York was well judged.
Dr. Franklin is more advantageously circumstanced than I am to gain and transmit to Congress intelligence of the disposition of Holland and of the Northern Powers.
From the conduct of their Ministers here, I have no reason to predict much to our advantage. They are cold, and I have received nothing more than common civility from any of them, except the Ministers of Holland and Sweden, and indeed not much more from them. Perhaps they have been rendered unusually cautious by an extract of a letter from Madrid in the Leyden paper, mentioning the precious reception Mr. Carmichael met with here, and the attentions he received from the foreign Ministers. You have probably seen it in the Courier de l’Europe.
From what I hear of the character of the Empress of Russia, I cannot but think that a prudent agent there would be very useful. They say she is sensible, proud, and ambitious. Hence I infer that such a mark of attention would be grateful, and consequently useful.
I should have given your Excellency seasonable intelligence of the Spanish fleet and armament, which lately sailed from Cadiz, as I believe to the Havana, and whose objects I suspect to be the Floridas or Jamaica, or probably both, but I omitted writing on that subject previous to the departure of the fleet, from a persuasion that any letters by the post containing such advices would not be permitted to proceed, and therefore I thought it unnecessary; nor will I now swell the pages of this letter, already very voluminous, by entering into particulars relative to it, especially as that armament will probably have begun its operations before this letter will come to your Excellency’s hands.
The reports of dissensions in Congress, which prevailed here prior to my arrival, and the causes to which they were ascribed, had filled this Court with apprehensions; and it gives me pleasure to assure you that the present appearance of union in Congress is attended here with very happy effects.
The people in this country are in almost total darkness about us. Scarce any American publications have reached them, nor are they informed of the most recent and important events in that country. The affairs of Stony Point, Paulus Hook, etc., etc., had never been heard of here, except perhaps by the great officers of state, and they could scarcely believe that the Roman Catholic religion was even tolerated there.
There are violent prejudices among them against us. Many of them have even serious doubts of our being civilized, and mention a strange story of a ship driven into Virginia by distress, about thirty years ago, that was plundered by the inhabitants, and some of the crew killed in a manner and under circumstances which, if true, certainly indicate barbarity. The King and Ministry are warm, yet I have reason to believe that the bulk of the nation is cold, toward us; they appear to me to like the English, hate the French, and to have prejudices against us.
I mention these things to show in a stronger light the necessity of punctuality in sending me from time to time all American intelligence of importance, and observing such conduct towards Spaniards in general as may tend to impress them with more favourable sentiments of us. There was a little uneasiness among the mercantile people at Cadiz respecting the capture of some Spanish vessels by privateers. I hope the former have had ample justice done them; it certainly is of great importance that they should have reason to be satisfied.
Your Excellency may observe that I have written very particularly. Both this Court and that of France have very particular information respecting the proceedings of Congress.
Want of prudence, rather than virtue, I believe to be the cause. I nevertheless think it my duty to give Congress from time to time full information of their affairs here, and shall not be restrained by the apprehension of any consequences that may result from want of secrecy there. I make it a rule to write on these subjects only to Congress, and to them very particularly.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
P. S.—Congress may think it extraordinary that Mr. Carmichael’s handwriting does not appear in this letter. He is, with my approbation, now at Aranjues, and I must do him the justice to say that he is always ready and willing to do his duty as Secretary.
J. J.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Aranjues, 4 June, 1780.
There is a distinction between ceremony and attention which is not always observed though often useful. Of the former I hope there will be little between us; of the latter much. Public as well as personal considerations dictate this conduct on my part, and I am happy to find that you mean not to be punctilious. The hints contained in your letter correspond much with my own sentiments, and I shall endeavor to diffuse them.
This Court seems to have great respect for the old adage festina lente, at least as applied to our independence. The Count D’Florida Blanca has hitherto pleased me. I have found in him a degree of frankness and candour which indicates probity. His reputation for talents is high. The acknowledgment of independence is retarded by delays which in my opinion ought not to affect it. The influence of that measure on the sentiments and conduct of our enemy, as well as the neutral nations, makes it an object very important to the common cause. Its suspension I cannot think is necessary to the adjustment of the articles of treaties; they might just as well be settled afterwards. As America is and will be independent in fact, the being so in name can be of no real moment to her individually. But Britain derives hopes from the hesitation of Spain very injurious to the common cause, and I am a little surprised that the policy of destroying these hopes does not appear more evident. If the delay proceeds from expectations that may affect the source of treaty, it is not probable they will be realized. America is to be attacked by candour, generosity, confidence, and good offices; a contrary conduct will not conciliate or persuade.
But whatever may be the cause of the mistakes on this subject, I must do them the justice to say that the general assurances given me by the Count D’Florida Blanca argue a very friendly disposition in the Court towards us, and I hope events will prove them to have been sincere. They certainly must be convinced that the power of the United States, added to that of Britain and under her direction, would enable her to give law to the Western World, and that Spanish America and the Islands would then be at her mercy. Our country is at present so well disposed to Spain, and such cordial enemies to Britain, that it would be a pity this disposition should not be cherished. Now is the time for France and Spain to gain the affections of that extensive country; such an opportunity may never offer.
France has acted wisely. I wish similar councils may prevail here. Would it not be a little extraordinary if Britain should be before Spain in acknowledging our independence? If she had wisdom left she would do it; she may yet have a lucid interval, though she has been very long out of her senses. Spain will be our neighbor; we both have territory enough to prevent our coveting each other, and I should be happy to see that perfect amity and cordial affection established between us which would ensure perpetual peace and harmony to both.
I cannot write you particulars, but nothing here appears to be certain as yet. I shall in all my letters advise Congress to rely principally on themselves; to fight out their own cause at any hazard, with spirit, and not to rely too much on the expectation of events which may never happen.
Have you received any late letters from America? Mrs. Jay received one from her sister of the 10th of April, which mentioned several having been sent home by the way of France. I hear of many letters but receive scarce any.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
P. S.—My compliments to Mr. Dana.[Back to Table of Contents]
FLORIDA BLANCA TO JAY.1
Aranjues, June 7, 1780.
His Catholic Majesty would be very glad to be able to furnish, at the present crisis, funds for the payment of the one hundred thousand pounds sterling, proposed to be addressed to Mr. Jay, in order to evince the concern which the King takes in the prosperity and relief of the United States of North America, as well as in the personal satisfaction of the above mentioned gentleman. But the demands of the present war, and the great difficulty there would be to transport hither the treasures of the King’s possessions in that part of the world, render it impracticable to furnish here the said sum in specie, as could be wished. Some expedient, however, may be found to remedy this inconvenience. For example; if the owners of the bills of exchange would be content with the security or responsibility of his Catholic Majesty, to pay the sum already mentioned in the term of two years. The King will readily agree to such an arrangement, even if it should be found necessary to add a moderate interest. This security, given by such a sovereign as the King of Spain, would induce the owners of those bills of exchange, and the creditors of Congress to consent to a measure so advantageous, and would equally serve to sustain the credit and good faith of the same body.
Mr. Jay, therefore, is entreated to reflect on the idea just stated to him, and in answer to inform us what measures he thinks suitable to this scheme, in order that they may be laid before the King, and his orders taken thereon. If the expedient in question should be adopted, it will at the same time be necessary to take measures in concert to reimburse to the King this considerable sum, as well as others already expended in favor of the United States. The first idea which offers for reciprocal convenience is, that Congress should engage to build without delay some handsome frigates and other smaller vessels of war, fixing the price of each, and the time when they will be finished.
This point once settled, it will be proper immediately to take measures to equip these vessels as fast as they are ready; to point out what articles will be necessary to send from Spain for this purpose, and in what port they will have notice to receive them. After this it is expedient to be informed, whether the Americans themselves will engage to come to the ports of Bilboa, St. Ander, Ferrol, or Cadiz, for the said articles, which they will find ready, and afterwards transport them in their own vessels of war or letters of marque to America. On this supposition it is conjectured, that it would be easy to find hands enough in America to man these new built vessels, which will sail under Spanish colors. There are certainly among the subjects of the said United States many who have made the voyage, and are acquainted with the usual route of the ships of the English East India Company, and who know perfectly well the ports and places at which they stop. This fact established, it is proposed to equip in the ports of the United States four good frigates, and some other lighter vessels, with the effects which shall be sent from hence on account of Spain. This small squadron, under Spanish colors, shall be employed to intercept the convoys of the said Company by cruising in the proper latitudes. The measures just pointed out appear to be the most proper to reimburse, in some shape, the expenses already incurred by his Catholic Majesty, and to answer for such security as has been proposed to be given in this memoir. It being always understood, that a share of the prizes taken from the English by this small squadron shall be given to the crews, and even to Congress, in proportion to the assistance which they shall furnish for the equipment of the vessel.
A speedy and decisive answer to all the points here enumerated is requested, and Mr. Jay is too enlightened not to perceive that the common cause is interested therein.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Aranjues, June 9, 1780.
The propositions which your Excellency did me the honour to send on the 7th inst., have been considered with all the attention which their great importance demands.
The evidence they contain of his Majesty’s friendly disposition towards the United States will, I am persuaded, make correspondent impressions on the citizens of America; and permit me to assure you that his Majesty’s desire of contributing to my personal satisfaction, by measures conducive to the welfare of my country, has excited my warmest acknowledgments and attachment.
The enlarged ideas my constituents entertain of the power, wealth, and resources of Spain are equal to those they have imbibed of the wisdom and probity of his Catholic Majesty, and of that noble and generous system of policy which has induced him to patronize their cause, and, by completing their separation from Great Britain, effectually to disarm the latter. Such wise and liberal designs, followed by such great and extensive consequences, would add a bright page to the annals of a reign already signalized by important events. It is, therefore, with deep regret that Congress would receive information that the aid they solicit, small when compared with their ideas of the resources of Spain, has been rendered impracticable by the expenses of a war, which, on the part of Spain, is of a recent date. Nor will their disappointment be less than their regret, when they find their credit diminished by the failure of a measure, from the success of which they expected to raise it.
The kind disposition of his Majesty to become responsible at the expiration of two years for the amount of the bills in question, and that even with interest, is a proof of his goodness, by which I am confident the United States will consider themselves greatly obliged. But when it is considered that bills of exchange, immediately on being drawn or sold, become a medium in commerce, and pass through various hands in satisfaction of various mercantile contracts; that the drawer and every endorser become responsible for their credit at every transfer; and that the object of the merchants last holding the bills, as well as of all other merchants, is money in hand or actively employed in trade, and not money lying still, at an interest greatly inferior to the usual profits to be gained in commerce; I say, on considering these things, it appears to me that, although no objection can be made to the good faith of his Majesty, which is acknowledged by all the world, yet that the last holders of the bills will prefer recovering the amount of them, with the usual damages on protests, to delay of payment for two years with interest.
Should these bills, therefore, meet with this fate, his Majesty will readily perceive its influence on the credit, operations, and feelings of the United States; on the common cause; on the hopes and spirits of the enemy. The necessity or prudence which detains his Majesty’s treasure in his American dominions is an unfortunate circumstance at a time when it might be so usefully employed. There is, nevertheless, room to hope that the great superiority of the allied fleets and armaments in the American seas will, in the course of a year or eighteen months, render its transportation safe and easy, and that the greater part of it may arrive before the bills in question would become payable. This will appear more probable, when the time necessary to sell these bills, and the time which will be consumed in their passage from America, and the time which will be employed in their journey from different ports of Europe to this place, are all added to the half a year which is allotted for the payment of them after they have been presented. I am authorized and ready to engage and pledge the faith of the United States for the punctual repayment, with interest, and within a reasonable term, of any sums of money which his Majesty may be so kind as to lend them.
As to the aids heretofore supplied to the United States, I am without information relative to the precise terms on which they were furnished, as well as their amount. When I left Congress, they appeared to me not to possess full and positive intelligence on these points. I ascribe this, not to omissions in their commissioner, who then had the direction of these affairs, but to those miscarriages and accidents to which the communication of intelligence to a distant country is liable in time of war. If it should appear proper to your Excellency, in order that I may be furnished with an accurate and full statement of these transactions, I will do myself the honour of transmitting them immediately to Congress; and, as they happened prior to my appointment, I shall request particular instructions on the subject.
With respect to the plan proposed for the repayment of such sums as Spain may lend to the United States, viz., by the latter furnishing the former with frigates, etc., etc., I beg leave to submit the following remarks to your Excellency’s consideration. In the United States there are timber, iron, masts, shipwrights, pitch, tar, and turpentine; and Spain can furnish the other requisities. But neither the timber, the iron, the masts, nor the other articles can be procured without money. The Congress are in great want of money for the immediate purposes of self-defence, for the maintenance of their armies and vessels of war, and for all the other expenses incident to military operations. The Congress, pressed by their necessities, have emitted bills of credit, till the depreciation of them forbids further emissions. They have made loans from their great and good ally, and, in aid of the system of gaining supplies by taxation and domestic loans, they have, for the reasons which I have already had the honour of explaining to your Excellency, drawn upon me the bills before mentioned. These bills will be sold in the United States for paper money, and that money will be immediately wanted for the purposes I have enumerated. If, therefore, this money was to be turned into frigates, the obvious ends of drawing those bills would not be attained. The war against the United States has raged without intermission for six years already, and it will not be in their power to pay their debts during its further continuance, nor until the return of peace and uninterrupted commerce shall furnish them with the means of doing it.
That excellent frigates and other vessels may be built in America cheaper than in Europe, I am persuaded. And I know, that Congress will cheerfully give every aid in their power to facilitate the execution of any plan of that kind which his Majesty may adopt, but, Sir, their necessities will not permit them to supply money to those purposes, and I should deceive your Excellency with delusive expectations were I to lead you to think otherwise. I would rather, that the United States should be without money than without good faith; and, therefore, neither my own principles of action, nor the respect due to his Majesty and reputation of my country, will ever suffer me (if my authority extended so far) to enter into any contracts which I had not the highest reason to believe would be fully, fairly, and punctually performed on the part of my constituents. Nor, in case his Majesty should think proper to cause frigates to be built in America, can I encourage your Excellency to expect that they could be easily manned there for cruises. The fact is, that the American frigates often find difficulties in completing their complements, principally because the seamen prefer going in privateers, which are numerous, and too useful to be discouraged.
The design of preparing an armament to intercept the English East Indiamen appears to me very judicious. The enemy draw their resources from commerce; to annoy the one, therefore, is to injure the other. Before the present war, there were several, but not a great many, Americans well acquainted with the route of the East Indiamen. But whether any number of these men could now be secretly collected is uncertain; for if by a particular selection of and inquiry for them the enemy should become apprised of the design, they would naturally take measures to frustrate it. For my part, I should suppose that many of these men are not necessary, and that the proper number may be had from France, if not from America.
The idea of the United States co-operating in the execution of this plan is flattering, and the terms proposed generous. But so far as this co-operation will depend on the building of frigates there as proposed, it cannot be effected from their want of money. Whether the American frigates could be employed in such an enterprise, that is, whether the services for which they may be already destined will admit of it, is, with other similar circumstances, necessary to be known before that question could possibly be answered. The distance from America, and the length of time necessary to ask for and receive information and instructions from thence, are such, that it would probably be more expedient that engagements for these purposes should be discussed and concluded there than here. The circumstances of the United States, while invaded, will be more fluctuating than those of Spain, and measures in which they might conveniently embark at one period may shortly after be rendered impracticable by the vicissitudes of war. It is further to be observed, that a people, rising amidst such terrible struggles, with an extensive country to defend, and that country invaded, and, as it were, on fire in several places at once, are not in good condition for foreign enterprises; but, on the contrary, that it must generally be their interest, and of course their policy, to keep their forces and strength at home, till the expulsion of their enemies shall afford them leisure and opportunities for distant and offensive operations.
Whenever this period shall arrive, his Majesty may be assured, that the United States will not remain idle, but that, impelled by resentments too deep and too just to be transitory, as well as by unshaken attachment to their friends, they will persevere with firmness and constancy in the common cause, and cheerfully unite their efforts with those of France and Spain, in compelling the common enemy to accept of reasonable terms of peace. I can, also, with great confidence, assure your Excellency that the United States will be happy in every opportunity, which may offer during the war, of joining their arms to those of Spain, and in co-operating with them in any expeditions, which circumstances may render expedient against the Floridas, or other objects. The Americans would most cheerfully fight by the side of the Spaniards, and by spilling their blood in the same cause, and on the same occasion, convince them of their ardent desire to become their faithful friends and steadfast allies.
I cannot prevail upon myself to conclude, without expressing to your Excellency my apprehension of the anxiety and painful concern with which Congress would receive intelligence of the failure of their bills, and especially after the expectations they have been induced to conceive of the successful issue of their affairs here. What conclusions the enemy would draw from the inability of Spain to advance the sum in question, even to men actually in arms against Great Britain, I forbear to mention, nor would it become me to point out the several evil consequences flowing from such an event, to those who enjoy from nature and experience more discernment than I am blessed with.
I still flatter myself that some expedients may be devised to surmount the present difficulties, and that the harvest of laurels now ripening for his Majesty in America will not be permitted to wither for want of watering.
Influenced by this hope, I shall delay transmitting any intelligence respecting this matter to Congress, till your Excellency shall be pleased to communicate to me his Majesty’s further pleasure on the subject.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JAY.
Passy, June 13th, 1780.
Yesterday, and not before, is come to hand your favour of April 14th, with the packets and despatches from Congress, etc., which you sent me by a French gentleman to Nantes.
Several of them appear to have been opened, the paper around the seals being smoked and burnt, as with the flame of a candle used to soften the wax, and the impression defaced. The curiosity of people in this time of war is unbounded. Some of them only want to see news, but others want to find (through interested views) what chance there is of a speedy peace. Mr. Ross has undertaken to forward the letters to England. I have not seen them; but he tells me they have all been opened. I am glad, however, to receive the despatches from Congress, as they communicate to me Mr. Adams’s instructions, and other particulars of which I have been long ignorant.
I am very sensible of the weight of your observation, “that a constant interchange of intelligence and attentions between the public servants at the different courts, is necessary to procure to their constituents all the advantages capable of being derived from their appointment.” I shall endeavour to perform my part with you, as well as to have the pleasure of your correspondence, as from a sense of duty. But my time is more taken up with matters extraneous to the functions of a minister, than you can possibly imagine. I have written often to the Congress to establish consuls in the ports, and ease me of what relates to maritime and mercantile affairs; but no notice has yet been taken of my request.
A number of bills of exchange, said to be drawn by order of Congress on Mr. Laurens, are arrived in Holland. A merchant there has desired to know of me, whether, if he accepts them, I will engage to reimburse him. I have no orders or advice about them from Congress; do you know to what amount they have drawn? I doubt I cannot safely meddle with them. . . .
Mrs. Jay does me much honour in desiring to have one of the prints that have been made here of her countryman. I send what is said to be the best of five or six engraved by different hands, from different paintings. The verses at the bottom are truly extravagant. But you must know that the desire of pleasing by a perpetual rise of compliments in this polite nation, has so used up all the common expressions of approbation, that they are become flat and insipid, and to use them almost implies censure. Hence music, that formerly might be sufficiently praised when it was called bonne, to go a little farther they called it excellente, then superbe, magnifique, exquise, celeste, all which, being in their turns worn out, there only remains divine; and when that is grown as insignificant as its predecessors, I think they must return to common speech and common sense; as from vying with one another in fine and costly paintings on their coaches, since I first knew the country, not being able to go farther in that way, they have returned lately to plain carriages, painted without arms or figures, in one uniform colour.
The league of neutral nations to protect their commerce is now established. Holland, offended by fresh insults from England, is arming vigorously. That nation has madly brought itself into the greatest distress, and has not a friend in the world.
With great and sincere esteem,
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,
Benjamin Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO LEWIS LITTLEPAGE.1
Madrid, 16th June, 1780.
Your favour of the 30th ult. has been delivered to me. It gives me pleasure to hear you are in a French gentleman’s family, as you will there have an opportunity of learning pronunciation as well as grammar. As you will doubtless read French books, I think it would be well to choose such as would teach you things as well as languages, and of things there are few more useful than those which lead to a knowledge of mankind. History and memoirs are of this class; of the latter, the memoirs of the late Marshal Duke D’Noialles merit attention; they respect recent and important transactions.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO FLORIDA BLANCA.
Madrid, June 22, 1780.
I received the note your Excellency did me the honour to write on the 20th instant, and I take the earliest opportunity of expressing my thanks for your Excellency’s permission to accept the bills mentioned in it, which I have accordingly done.
Agreeably to your Excellency’s recommendation in the first conference, I have turned my thoughts very seriously to the objects which were the subjects of it, relative to the bills drawn upon me; they were two.
1st. The means of paying these bills.
2dly. The proposed contract with America for light vessels, etc.
With respect to the first, it appeared to me that the principal difficulty was removed by your Excellency’s informing me, “that at the end of the present year it would be in your power to advance twenty-five,thirty, or forty thousand pounds sterling.” Hence I inferred that as much time would be taken up in the sale, negotiation, and transmission of those bills, and as so long a space as six months was assigned for their payment, after being presented, the sums which it would be in your Excellency’s power to advance at the end of the year would probably be equal to the amount of the bills which would then become payable; and that in the meantime such further means might be provided as would obviate difficulties with respect to those that might afterwards become due. When I reflected that I was a stranger to the resources of Spain, and that your Excellency’s acknowledged abilities comprehended all the objects and combinations necessary in determining what supplies they were capable of affording, and the manner and means most proper for the purpose, it appeared to me in the light of presumption to hazard to your Excellency any propositions on the subject.
2dly. On considering the proposed contract, it became important to distinguish between the building these vessels with the money of the United States, or with that of Spain. The latter was very practicable, and I gave your Excellency that opinion in my letter of the 9th instant. The former, on the contrary, appeared to me not to be within the power of the United States, and candour obliged me to make this known to your Excellency in the same letter.
I knew it to be impossible for Congress, consistent with good faith, to contract; that, notwithstanding their great want of money, the injuries of a six years’ war, and their being actually invaded, they would repay immediately the monies lent them, either in ships or otherwise. It is not uncommon for ancient and opulent nations to find it necessary to borrow money in time of war, but I believe it very seldom happens that they find it convenient to pay those debts till the return of peace. If this be the case with powerful and long-established nations, more cannot be expected from a young nation brought forth by oppression, and rising amidst every species of violence and devastation which fire, sword, and malice can furnish for their destruction.
If attentive only to obtaining payment of these bills, and thereby relieving my country from the complicated evils which must result from their being protested, I had entered into the proposed engagements for immediate repayment, by building vessels, etc.,—if I had done this, notwithstanding a full conviction that the contract so made could not be fulfilled, my conduct, however convenient in its immediate consequences, would have been highly reprehensible. This reflection, therefore, will I hope convince your Excellency of the purity of my intentions, and induce you to ascribe my objections to the contract to want of ability, and not to want of inclination, in the United States to perform it. No consideration will ever prevail upon me to practise deception, and I am happy in a persuasion that although truths may sometimes not please, yet that when delivered with decency and respect they will never offend either his Majesty or your Excellency.
Believe me, sir, the United States will not be able to pay their debts during the war, and therefore any plan whatever calculated on a contrary position must be fruitless. I am ready to pledge their faith for repaying to his Majesty, within a reasonable term after the war, and with a reasonable interest, any sums he may be so kind as to lend them. What more can I offer? What more can they do? If there be any services they can do to his Majesty, consistent with their safety and defence, they are ready and will be happy to render them. They respect the King and the nation, and at the very time they are requesting his aid, they are soliciting to be united to him by bonds of perpetual amity and alliance. Against his enemies as well as their own they are now in arms; and the supplies they ask are not for the purpose of luxury or aggrandizement, but for the sole and express purpose of annoying those enemies, and enabling France, Spain, and themselves to obtain a peace honourable and advantageous to each.
Of his Majesty’s kind disposition towards them, they had received not only professions but proofs. Hence they became inspired not only with gratitude, but with confidence in his friendship. Impelled by this confidence, and a particular concurrence of exigencies already explained to your Excellency, they drew the bills in question. The issue of this measure will be highly critical, and followed by a train of consequences very important and extensive. The single circumstance of your Excellency having permitted me to accept the first of these bills will be considered by our enemies as an unfortunate omen. By predicting from it further aids, their ideas of the resources of Spain and the resistance of America will naturally be raised, and their hopes of subduing the one, or reducing the power of the other, will naturally be diminished. They will impute these aids to a plan of the House of Bourbon, wisely concerted and firmly persisted in, to secure themselves and all Europe against the ambition of Britain, by completing the division of her empire, and they will cease to flatter themselves that America thus aided will become destitute of resources to carry on the war. On the other hand, America will derive fresh vigour from this mark of friendship, and their attachment to his Majesty become proportionably more strong. By mutual good offices, friendship between nations, as between individuals, is only to be established; and it is always a happy circumstance when it subsists between those whom nature has placed contiguous to each other. But your Excellency’s time is of too great importance to be engaged by such obvious reflections.
Permit me, Sir, still to indulge the pleasing expectation of being enabled to inform Congress, that his Majesty’s magnanimity and friendship have prompted him, though inconvenient to his own affairs, to secure the credit of their bills; and I am persuaded that the benevolence of your Excellency’s disposition will be gratified in being instrumental in a measure which would make such agreeable impressions on the hearts and minds of so great a number of steadfast friends to the Spanish monarchy.
I have the honour to be, sir, etc.
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO EGBERT BENSON.
Aranjuez, June, 1780.
When shall we again, by a cheerful fire, or under a shady tree, recapitulate our juvenile pursuits or pleasures, or look back on the extensive field of politics we once have trodden? Our plans of life have, within these few years past, been strangely changed. Our country, I hope, will be the better for the alterations. How far we, individually, may be benefited, is more questionable. Personal considerations, however, must give way to public ones, and the consciousness of having done our duty to our country and posterity, must recompense us for all the evils we experience in their cause.
I wrote to you from Martinico. I have been four months in this kingdom without receiving more than three letters from America, and those not very interesting, being of old dates, and not particular. You are among those from whom I wish often to hear, as well because I am interested in what concerns yourself, as on account of the intelligence respecting the affairs of our State, which I hope you will sometimes favour me with. Write nothing, nevertheless, that you would wish to be entirely private; your letters may be inspected before they reach me, that practice being general in the post-offices of France and Spain.
I flatter myself you sometimes visit your Fishkill friends. I know they esteem you, and always derive pleasure from your company. What arrangements have been made in your official departments? Are your taxes paid? Do the people continue firm? A few more glorious exertions will give them peace, liberty, and safety. What says Vermont?
Tell me how your mother and brothers do. Remember me to them and my other friends. God bless you, my friend.
I am sincerely yours,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
WILLIAM BINGHAM1 TO JAY.
Philad., July 1, 1780.
With great difficulty & repeated solicitations I procured permission from Congress to return here, and arrived in the frigate Confedaracy the beginning of May. Previous to my departure, I addressed you several letters from Martinico which I hope you have received. It has given me peculiar pleasure to hear of your safe arrival at Cadiz, and of the favorable reception you are like to meet with at the court of Madrid.
The sentiments of the people of this country I found surprisingly altered since I left it; they were no longer governed by that pure, disinterested patriotism, which distinguished the Infancy of the contest; private Interest seemed to predominate over every Consideration that regarded the public weal. It was necessary that they should experience some signal misfortune to rouse them into activity. The loss of Charleston and its important garrison has in a great measure had that effect, and I am happy to see the spirit of the people begin to rise on the discovery of their danger and actual situation. But what was near to prove of very fatal consequence was the state of our finances, which by not being properly organized and established on a solid footing, were incorporated to the purpose of furnishing the necessary supplies for the Army. At an alarming moment when the treasury was exhausted and the Army suffering and threatening to disband for the want of provisions, the virtue of individuals was roused, which warded off the impending blow. A bank was established on private credit under the Auspices of gentlemen of the first fortune in this City. It was to raise the sum of three hundred thousand pounds in specie, or its Value, for supplying the Army with provisions for a certain time. The subscription was filled up in a few days and much larger sums might have been procured.
The direction of this bank is committed to the Care of gentlemen of known abilities and integrity and inspectors of equal reputation are appointed by the subscribers for supertending its affairs. The purchases will be made on the most advantageous terms, and the public will soon discover the immense difference that will arrise in their favor by the supplies of the Army furnished by such men or by a band of commissaries, quarter masters, et id genus omne. If the same public spirited establishments take place in every State, we shall derive the greatest and most essential advantages from them.
The flame of patriotism has not confined itself altogether to our sex. The ladies caught the enlivening warmth. A subscription was set on foot by them for the purpose of relieving the Army and very liberal sums have been collected.
Altho’ the loss of Charleston is a very serious matter, yet I am in great hopes that we shall more than counterballance its bad effect by our success before the campaign is over. But the reliance is in a great measure founded on the exertions of the French forces, which are daily expected here to our Assistance. Until they arrive, we must remain altogether on the defensive, and endeavor to prevent the enemy from penetrating into the country and carrying devastation throughout it.
General Gates is appointed to the command of the Southern Army and I believe will soon be able to collect a very respectable force, as the States of North Carolina and Virginia are alarmed and making great preparations and exertions. Our allies will be engaged in a very Active Campaign in the West Indies, which I hope will be successful and attended with decisive consequences. Twelve Spanish ships of the line and a large body of troops have arrived at Martinico, which reinforcement is to cooperate with the French in the reduction of the British Islands.
Your friends in the Jersies are all well. They have lately been alarmed at the incursions of the enemy, who have been laying waste the country about Elizabeth Town and Springfield; however, they have generally retreated with considerable loss, the militia having poured in upon them from all quarters. Genl. Clinton after having garrisoned Charleston returned with a large Body of Troops to New York, and it is thought from his present movements has a design upon West Point; however, there is little reason to apprehend danger from that quarter, as it is well supplied with men and they are throwing in provisions daily.
An unlucky accident lately happened to Gouverneur Morris. In attempting to drive a pair of wild horses in a phaeton, he was thrown out and in the fall his left leg caught in the wheel and was greatly shattered. He was under the necessity of having it amputated below the knee and is now in a fair way of recovery.
I hope Mrs. Jay passes her time agreeably at Madrid. It will be some time, I imagine, before she will be reconciled to the etiquette of so formal a Court. Please to present my respects to her, as well as my compliments to Col. Livingston.
I am, with great regard and esteem, &c.,
Your obedient humble Servant
William Bingham.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY’S NOTES OF CONFERENCE WITH FLORIDA BLANCA.1
Madrid, July 5, 1780.
Mr. Jay waited on the Count de Florida Blanca agreeably to an appointment made by the latter to meet at his house at half-past eight this evening.
After the usual compliments, the bad news relative to the surrender of Charleston, just received, became the topic of conversation. The Count mentioned the channels through which he had received it, viz., by an express despatched by the Spanish Ambassador at Lisbon, in consequence of intelligence which Governor Johnson had received and published in that city, and by letters from the Count d’Aranda,2 with the accounts printed at London of the affair. He expressed his sorrow on the occasion, but observed that the Count d’Aranda flattered him that the arrival of the Chevalier de Ternay in that part of the world would totally change the face of affairs, particularly as there would be eight vessels of the line, and more than five thousand troops instead of three thousand, and three vessels of the line, which he had been informed were demanded by General Washington.
He seemed to think it strange that the place had not been better defended, and that more vigourous measures had not been taken to impede the enemy’s progress, and observed that, if the town was not in a condition to stand a siege, it would have been better to have withdrawn the troops and stores and reserved them for the defence of the country. Mr. Jay replied that, probably, when all circumstances relative to this affair were known, there might be reasons which would account for the conduct of the Americans on this occasion; to the truth of which remark the Count appeared to assent. He then mentioned the death of M. Mirales,1 and regretted his loss at this time. He said he had recommended to his Majesty a person to succeed him, whom we knew, that spoke English, whom he expected soon, and to whom he would explain his ideas on the subject of the bills, and on other matters touching which Mr. Jay had written to him, and who would confer also with Mr. Jay on those subjects.
Mr. Jay mentioned that, if it was agreeable to his Excellency to permit M. Del Campo (a confidential secretary of the Count, who speaks English, and who translated all the letters to and from the Count) to be present, he should be able to explain his sentiments more fully and clearly. Though the Count did not object to this proposal, he appeared disinclined to it, and said that, with the assistance of Mr. Carmichael, then present, they could understand each other very well.
He then proceeded to speak of the bills of exchange in the possession of the Messrs. Joyce,2 and seemed to be surprised that that house should be posssessed of so many of them. He advised Mr. Jay to be cautious of those gentlemen, saying that they were as much English in their hearts as the Ministry of that country; that he had known them long; that he thought their conduct extraordinary in being so urgent for the acceptance of these bills. Mr. Jay then informed his Excellency that he had paid those gentlemen a visit in order to obtain further time, and that they had consented to wait until Monday next. The Count mentioned a fortnight or three weeks as necessary, in order that he might have an opportunity of seeing the person he had sent for, and making some arrangements with him. He said that it would be more agreeable to his Majesty to pay those bills at Cadiz, Bilboa, or Amsterdam, than here; lamented the precipitancy with which Congress had entered into this measure, saying that, if they had previously addressed the King on the subject, ways and means might have been found, either to transport from their possessions in America specie for the service of Congress, or to have enabled them to have drawn bills of exchange at a shorter sight, which would have prevented the loss of one third of the money to which Congress had subjected themselves, by the terms on which the present bills were sold. Mr. Jay assured his Excellency that, by letters he had received from America, from members of Congress and others, he was informed that the terms were judged so unfavourable to the buyers, that the bills drawn on him sold heavily from that circumstance solely, and not from any doubt of their credit and payment.
This did not, however, appear to convince his Excellency, who spoke much of the deranged state of our finances and credit; of the advantages taken of Congress by merchants and others, who availed themselves of that circumstance, which he called cruel extortions, frequently expressing the King’s wishes and his own to render America all the service in their power in this crisis of their affairs; but observed that it was impossible to obtain much money in Europe while France, England, and Spain were making use of every resource to obtain it for the enormous expenses of the war, and while the channel through which the European merchants received supplies of specie was stopped, viz., the arrival of the usual quantity from America. This induced him to mention the arrival at Cadiz of three millions of piastres, all of which was on account of the merchants, and again to dwell on what he had before said of the possibility of transmitting specie to the States from the Spanish possessions abroad, and of the effect that this would have in re-establishing the credit of our money. Mr. Jay observed, in reply, that if a supply of specie could be sent to America, and his Excellency thought that measure more convenient and advisable than bills, the Congress would, in his opinion, readily suspend drawing on receiving that information; to which the Count answered that, when the person he had sent for arrived, this matter might be further discussed.
Mr. Jay then proceeded to observe that, by papers which he had transmitted to his Excellency, he would see that Congress had adopted a system to redeem and destroy the former emissions, and to emit other bills to be paid in Europe with interest in a certain term of years, and in fully establishing this system, it would be probably in their power, not only to sustain the credit of their money, but to contribute, in some measure, to assist Spain in the way proposed by his Excellency, viz., in building of frigates, etc., etc. He added that as his Majesty’s treasure was detained in America, and as much expense would be incurred by the armaments employed by Spain there, bills on the Havana in favour of the United States might be more convenient to Spain, and equally contribute to the end proposed. The Count did not seem to disapprove of the idea, but did not enlarge upon it. He asked Mr. Jay if America could not furnish Spain with masts and ship timber. Mr. Jay replied that those articles might be obtained there. The Count then said that he would defer further remarks on this head till the arrival of the person whom he expected would succeed M. Mirales, and appeared desirous of leaving this subject, and, indeed, all other matters relative to American affairs, to be discussed when he came.
In the further course of conversation, he recurred to the subject of the bills in question, and told Mr. Jay, if an immediate acceptance of them was insisted on, that he might accept them payable at Bilboa, but rather seemed to wish that their acceptance might be delayed till the coming of the above-mentioned person. Mr. Jay expatiated on the impression which the acceptance of these bills and every other mark of friendship would make in America at this particular crisis, and the Count, in a very feeling and warm manner, assured him that his desire to serve the States increased in consequence of their distresses. By his whole conversation he endeavoured to show how much he interested himself in the prosperity of our affairs, more than once desiring Mr. Jay not to be discouraged, for that with time and patience all would go well; expatiating on the King’s character, his religious observation of, and adherence to, his promises, and his own desire of having Mr. Jay’s entire confidence. Mr. Jay seized this opportunity of assuring him of his full reliance on the King’s justice and honour, and his particular and entire confidence in his Excellency, asserting to him that all his letters to Congress breathed these sentiments. The Count appeared much pleased with this declaration, and, seeming to speak without reserve, hinted his hopes that the combined fleets would soon be in condition to give the law to that of England in the seas of Europe, repeating that measures would be taken, on the arrival of the person expected, to provide for the payment of the bills of exchange, and that other arrangements would be made with the same person, which would contribute to relieve, as much as it was in his Majesty’s power, the present distresses of America, of which he frequently spoke very feelingly in the course of this conversation.
Mr. Jay reminded his Excellency, in a delicate manner, of the supplies of clothing, etc., etc., which had been promised in a former conference, and said that if they could be sent in autumn they would be essentially useful. The Count assured him that measures would be taken for this purpose, with the person so often hinted at in the course of the conference; that probably these goods would be embarked from Bilboa, as every thing was so dear at Cadiz. He also once more told Mr. Jay that at all events he might accept the bills presented by Messrs. Joyce, payable at Bilboa, though he appeared to wish that this measure might be delayed for a fortnight if possible. The conference ended with compliments and assurances on the one part and the other, the Count endeavouring to persuade Mr. Jay of his Majesty’s desire to assist the States, and Mr. Jay assuring him of his reliance on his Excellency, and of the good effects which such proofs of his Majesty’s friendship would have in America at the present juncture.
In this conference not a single nail would drive. Every thing was to be postponed till the arrival of the person intended to succeed M. Mirales.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Madrid, July 10, 1780.
As a late and particular letter from me to your Excellency is now on the way to America, and as I purpose to write again very fully by the successor of M. Mirales, I decline saying much in this letter, which I shall send by a circuitous and hazardous route.1
I have accepted bills to the amount of between eleven and twelve thousand dollars. They arrive slowly, and I am very glad of it. No news of Mr. Laurens; I regret his absence. I hope the terms for the sale of the bills on me will not be lowered. Remittances have really become necessary. Distressed American seamen cost a great deal. The house of Le Couteulx has advanced money for them at Cadiz.
I had yesterday an application from the director of a hospital at St. Andeira, desiring to be informed whether I would be responsible for the ordinary expenses of receiving and curing a New England master of a vessel, who had escaped from captivity pennyless, having one of his legs so injured by iron fetters as to be in danger of losing it. These are calls of humanity, and I entreat Congress to enable me to obey them, and to establish specific regulations for the conduct of these affairs.
The surrender of Charleston is the subject of much speculation and many unfavourable conjectures. I have received no public letters since I left America, except one from the Committee, enclosing the resolutions for drawing bills on me.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
KITTY LIVINGSTON TO MRS. JAY.
July 10, 1780.
We have not, my dear friends, had the happiness of hearing from you for a long time. My dear sister’s letter (and its the last one we have received) was dated at Cadiz, the 4th of March; thrice welcome was it, as it informed us of your arrival once more on terra firma, and that we had no longer to dread for you the dangers of the ocean. Thanks is forever due from all your family to the Supreme Being for his merciful interposition in the preservation of those so dear to them. May you long continue thus favoured by his power.
The letters you mention having written are not come to hand, nor any letters from Mr. Jay to Congress since your arrival at Madrid, where we now suppose you to be in scenes very different from any thing you have been accustomed to. Do you know that I am trading on your stock of firmness; and if you are not possessed of as much as I suppose you to be I shall become bankrupt, having several wagers depending that you will not paint nor go to plays on Sundays. The Chevalier [Luzerne] is not to be convinced that he has lost his bet to me, till Mr. Carmichael informs him you do not paint. Mr. Witherspoon informed me that he was questioned by many at Martinique if you did not.1 Mr. Bingham makes very honorable mention of you and Mr. Jay to your friends at Philadelphia. I consider myself very unfortunate in leaving town but a day or two before that gentleman arrived. By his return we received your journal; the letter written to mama after it I received long before I left Philadelphia.
In our last distresses from the invasion of the British troops, Mr. and Mrs. Morris sent for me to come and reside with them.1 It was exceeding friendly and kind, and it is no small alleviation to our infelicities when we have such friends as can feel for us. They have at present a delightful situation at Spingsberry. Mr. Morris has repaired and enlarged the buildings and converted the greenhouse into a dining room which far exceeds their expectations in beauty and convenience. I flatter myself with the pleasure of paying them a visit in the fall or in the winter; at present I decline accepting their invitation. . . .
Brother Jack has received a summons to his duty on board the Saratoga2 (as senior midshipman), the ship being shortly to sail on a cruise. I hope the sea will rid him of the fever and ague that has long been his Companion. Sam Clarkson has a place on the same ship. David is returned very discontented, having disagreed with all the officers on board the Confederacy. Poor Billy Morris is still in captivity. Joe De Peyster neither sent him out as he engaged, nor returned himself. . . .
Tell the Colonel that General Phillips that he saw at the northward is paying his address to Kitty Van Horne [in New York]. My love to him and Mr. Jay, and believe me to be
Most affectionately Yours,
Kate Livingston.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Madrid, 17 July, 1780.
. . . . . . . .
The papers enclosed with this will make known to you the exact state of affairs at this Court. I have been permitted to accept bills to the amount of between ten and twelve thousand dollars, and as the Court, and particularly Count D’Florida Blanca, seems well disposed towards us, I hope this unpleasant measure will terminate well. These papers should have been sent you before, but I have been long waiting for Count Montmorin’s courier, by whom I would rather transmit them than by the post, for reasons which you will be at no loss to conjecture.
I find myself constrained to request the favour of you to lodge here, for Mr. Carmichael and myself, a further credit to enable us to receive what may be due on account of our salaries; we shall otherwise soon be in a very disagreeable situation. To take up money from individuals would not be eligible or reputable, and it would not be prudent to trouble government, already a little sore about the bills, with further requisitions at present. If the servants of Congress here must live awhile on the credit they may seek and find with others, I think it more decent to recur to their ally. France, I know, has already done great things for us, and is still making glorious exertions. I am also sensible of your difficulties and regret them, though I am happy in reflecting that since they must exist they have fallen into the hands of one whose abilities and influence enable him to sustain and surmount them, and at a Court which does not appear inclined to do things by halves.
It is necessary you should be informed the papers enclosed are known to Count Montmorin, and are therefore probably no secrets. I am on good terms with the Count, whom I esteem as a man of abilities and a friend to our country. As France had interested herself so deeply in our cause, and had been requested to interpose her friendly offices for us here, I could not think of withholding from him all the confidence which these considerations dictate, especially as no personal objections forbid it. To have conducted the negotiation with unnecessary secrecy and equivocating cunning was irreconcilable with my principles of action, and with every idea I have of wisdom and policy. In a word, France and America are, and I hope always will be, allies; and it is the duty of each party to cultivate mutual confidence and cordiality. For my own part, while their conduct continues fair, firm, and friendly, I shall remain strongly attached to their interest and grateful for their benefit.
Mrs. Jay is much pleased with, and thanks you for, the print you were so kind as to send her; it is a striking likeness. I find that in France great men, like their predecessors of old, have their bards. Your strictures are very just, though a little severe. While there are young Telemachuses and fascinating Calypsos in the world, fancies and pens and hearts will sometimes run riot in spite of the Mentors now and then to be met with. . . .
I am, dear sir, with very sincere regard,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Madrid, 17 July, 1780.
On the 4th of June last I had the pleasure of writing you a letter acknowledging the receipt of yours of the 15th of May, since which none of your favours have reached me.
I have just been reading the capitulation of Charleston. I suspect they wanted provisions. The reputation of the garrison will suffer till the reasons of their conduct are explained. I wish a good one may be in their power; they are severely censured here. What the consequences of the event may be cannot easily be conjectured. I should not be surprised if they should eventually be in our favour.1 It is difficult, while invaded in the centre, to defend extremities which have little natural strength.
I wish Ternay’s squadron may touch at Halifax. The capture of that place would reduce the English navy in American seas to extreme difficulties. The affair at Charleston has an unfavourable aspect on the expedition against New York.
After the conclusion of this campaign I think you will have something to do. In my opinion, all the powers at war wish for peace. The pride of the King of England will be the great obstacle, and it may happen that in attempting to save his dignity he may lose his crown.
I am, dear sir,
With great regard and esteem,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO DE NEUFVILLE & SON.1
Madrid, July 29, 1780.
Your favour of the 13th instant was delivered to me last evening. I admire the generous principles, which lead you to take so decided and friendly a part in favour of America. I have too great confidence in the honour, justice, and gratitude of Congress to suspect that they will permit you to be sufferers by your exertions in their favour. On the contrary, I am persuaded they will entertain a proper sense of your disinterested attachment, and with pleasure take every opportunity of acknowledging it.
Mr. Laurens’ absence is much to be regretted; his endeavours, aided by your assistance, would probably have prevented the embarrassments which have taken place. I have not as yet received any advices of his having sailed, and your information of his not having left America in May is true. By a letter from a gentleman at Cadiz of the 21st instant I learn that a vessel from North Carolina had arrived in forty-nine days, and left Mr. Laurens there on his way to Philadelphia. I am at a loss to account for this, having no intelligence from America on the subject. Perhaps his design was to sail from Philadelphia. If so, we may still look out for him. Prudence, however, demands that every possible step be taken to alleviate the inconveniences arising from his absence. If my power extended to this case I should, without hesitation, authorize you in a proper manner to make a loan in Holland, and be much obliged to you for undertaking it. But my instructions do not reach so far; all I can do is to advise as an individual, and as a public servant to represent in a true light to Congress your benevolent efforts to preserve their credit. If Dr. Franklin has such instructions as you suppose, and his circumstances will admit of it, I can at present see no objections to his taking some such measures as you propose until Mr. Laurens’ arrival; but of this, he alone can properly judge. I shall write to him on the subject, and you may rely on my doing every thing in my power. I assure you I feel myself, as an American, so much obliged by your generous zeal to serve my country, that I shall be happy in being instrumental to render the issue of it as agreeable and honourable to you as the principles on which you act are meritorious and noble.
I flatter myself that the unfavourable influence which the capture of Charleston has on the public will be of short duration. When they reflect that America has nobly sustained a six years’ war, fought hard battles with various success, and lost and regained several of their cities, they will find it ridiculous to believe that the fate of the Thirteen States is involved in that of one or two towns. The like impressions were made when New York, Philadelphia, and Ticonderoga fell into the enemy’s hands; and those impressions were again removed by the battle of Trenton, the evacuation of Philadelphia, the battle of Monmouth, the defeat and capture of General Burgoyne and his army, and other victories on our side. Many of these great events happened when America had no ally, and when Britain had no other objects to divide her force. It is not reasonable, therefore, to imagine that the power of Britain has been augmented by the accession of two formidable enemies, or that the power of America has been diminished in proportion as the number of her friends increased.
Depend upon it, that as the spirit of America has always risen with the successes of her enemies, they will not, on this occasion, throw away their arms and ingloriously pass under the yoke of a nation whose conduct towards her has been marked by injustice and oppression in peace, and by malice and wanton barbarity in war.
With sentiments of sincere regard and esteem, I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON TO JAY.
Philadelphia, 26th August, 1780.
I received yours of the 23d May from Madrid, with duplicates thereof, and the letters you wrote from Cadiz and Martinique.
Your remembrance of the pleasurable days of our youth, and the scenes in which we mutually bore our parts, together with the attractions which this country still has for you, afford me the most pleasing hope that neither time nor absence will weaken a friendship which has so long stood the test of both. This indeed I expected from the steadiness of your temper; but I must confess that I had little hopes that your early return would afford me a prospect of deriving that consolation from it in the decline of life, to which I looked even while it directed the pursuits and animated the pleasures of youth.
You mistake your own heart when you say you are unambitious; and without the assurance contained in your letter, I should have believed that the love of glory would have always kept you in the line in which you now are, more especially as the general satisfaction that your appointment and conduct since has given, renders it the wish of everybody less interested in your return than I am, to keep you abroad.
I have not been able to procure at this place the key to the cipher that you directed me to, though I believe I have it at home; besides that, it is very intricate and troublesome; I shall therefore be obliged to confine what I have to say to mere common occurrences. I enclose you a cipher which is very simple, and not to be deciphered while the key is concealed, as the same figure represents a variety of letters. In order that you may know whether it comes safely to hand, I have in this letter used the precaution mentioned in yours.
Nothing astonishes me more than the confidence with which the British ministry and their dependants assert, that America sighs to return to their government, since the fact is that we never were more determined in opposition, nor if we except the derangement of our finances (which the loan of half a million would re-establish, if remitted in specie or merchandise), were we ever so capable of resistance. Our crops are uncommonly fine, and the militia of every State north and east of Delaware, is armed, disciplined, and inured to the duties of a camp. The southern militia are now at school, and I have no doubt will improve by the lessons they receive from the enemy. Our friend Smith, who has probably contributed to this ministerial madness, uninstructed by his repeated disappointments from the beginning of the war, is said to have advised Kniphausen to erect the royal standard in the Jerseys before General Clinton returned from Charleston, persuaded that our troops, and particularly the militia, would flock to it, and thus he have the honour of reducing the country, without sharing it with Clinton. He accordingly came over with great parade, with his whole force, scattering exaggerated accounts in printed handbills of the loss of Charleston, which, instead of discouraging, only animated the militia. They were all in motion upon the first alarm, and though opposed only by them and less than a thousand continental troops, he was disgracefully driven out with the loss of 500 men killed, wounded, and taken, after having penetrated ten miles from the shore, and done us no other injury than the burning of a few houses, and the abuse and murder of some women; since which they have been more cautious and less sanguine. Adieu; remember my compliments to the colonel and Mr. Carmichael. I am, dear John,
Most sincerely yours,
Robert R. Livingston.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY’S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR AT MADRID.1
St. Ildefonso, August 27, 1780.
Mr. Jay waited on the Count de Montmorin this morning at nine o’clock, agreeably to appointment the day before. The former commenced the conversation by observing that in his first conferences with the Minister of Spain, at Aranjues, the Minister divided the subject into two parts, and spoke largely on that of the bills drawn on Mr. Jay, and on the treaty proposed to be entered into between Spain and America. Mr. Jay recapitulated the minister’s assurances relative to the former, and informed the Ambassador that the result of this conference was a promise of the Minister to send him written notes on both points, a few days afterwards. That with respect to the notes relative to the treaty, Mr. Jay had not received them as yet. That on the other point, he had received notes, which, as well as his answer, he had shown to the Ambassador. That on the 5th of July he had another conference with the Minister at Madrid, in which he had endeavoured to turn the conversation to the several objects of his business and mission here, but that the Minister postponed the discussion of them, until a person for whom he had sent, with a view to succeed M. Mirales, should arrive, when all the necessary arrangements should be made. He indeed told Mr. Jay that if the Messrs. Joyce were pressing, he might accept their bills, payable at Bilboa, and throughout the whole conference had given Mr. Jay warm and repeated assurances, not only of the King’s good faith and friendly disposition towards America, but of his own personal attachment to her interest, on both of which, as well as in his candour and promises, he desired him to place the greatest reliance.
Mr. Jay proceeded further to inform the Ambassador that, being exceedingly pressed by Messrs. Joyce and others, holders of the bills, for a decisive answer, which they had required to have on the Monday last past, he had signified the same to the Minister by three letters, requesting his directions, to none of which he received any answers. . . .
The Ambassador told Mr. Jay that he ought to ask an audience of the Minister. To this Mr. Jay replied that he could not hope to have an answer to this request, as he had not been able to procure one to the different applications he had already made. The Ambassador said that he would willingly speak to the Minister, but that he feared he should not be able to enter fully into the subject with him until Wednesday, both the Minister and himself having their time employed on objects, which at present, and for some time past, had engrossed much of their attention. He then asked Mr. Jay if he had written to Congress to stop drawing bills on him. Mr. Jay replied that he could not with propriety give such information to Congress, after the general and repeated assurances made him by the Count de Florida Blanca ever since his arrival here, and particularly the Minister’s declaration that he should be able to furnish him with thirty or forty thousand pounds sterling, at the end of the present or commencement of the next year, and that in the meantime other arrangements might be taken to pay such bills as might become due after that period. He added that if the Count had candidly told him that he could not furnish him with money to pay the bills, he should then immediately have informed Congress of it, who would have taken, of course, the proper measures on the occasion, but that should he now send a true account of all that had passed between the Count de Florida Blanca and himself thereon, he could not answer for the disagreeable effects such intelligence would produce. The Count seemed to think the Spanish Minister would pay the bills that had been already presented. . . .
The conference ended with a promise of the Count de Montmorin that he would endeavour to speak to the Count de Florida Blanca on the subject, but that he was afraid he should not be able to do it fully until Wednesday next. . . .
On Wednesday afternoon, 30th of August, I waited on the Ambassador, to know the result of the conversation he had promised to have with the Minister on our affairs. He did not appear very glad to see me. I asked him whether he had seen the Minister and conversed with him on our affairs. He said he had seen the Minister, but that as Count d’Estaing was present, he had only some general and cursory conversation with him, and slipping away from that topic, went on to observe that I would do well to write another letter to the Minister, mentioning the number of letters I had already written, my arrival here, and my desire of a conference with him. I told the Ambassador, that while four letters on the subject remained unanswered, it could not be necessary to write a fifth. That these letters had been written with great politeness and circumspection; that the last was written the day of my arrival at St. Ildefonso; that I had also gone to the Minister’s house to pay my respects to him, and on being told that he was sick, had left a card; and that, notwithstanding these marks of attention and respect, I still continued unanswered and unnoticed. I observed to him further, that this conduct accorded ill with the Minister’s assurances; that unless I had met with more tenderness from the holders of the bills, they would have been returned noted for non-acceptance; that if such an event should at last take place, after the repeated promises and declarations of the Minister, there would of necessity be an end to the confidence of America in the Court of Spain.
He replied, that he hoped things would take a more favourable turn; that to his knowledge the Minister had been of late much occupied and perplexed with business; that I ought not to be affected with the inattention of his conduct; that I should continue to conduct the business smoothly, having always in view the importance of Spain, and remembering that we were as yet only rising States, not firmly established, or generally acknowledged, etc., and that he would by all means advise me to write the Minister another letter, praying an audience.
I answered that the object of my coming to Spain was to make propositions not supplications, and that I should forbear troubling the Minister with further letters, till he should be more disposed to attend to them. That I considered America as being, and to continue, independent in fact, and that her becoming so in name was of no further importance than as it concerned the common cause, in the success of which all the parties were interested; and that I did not imagine Congress would agree to purchase from Spain the acknowledgment of an undeniable fact at the price she demanded for it; that I intended to abide patiently the fate of the bills, and should transmit to Congress an account of all matters relative to them; that I should then write the Minister another letter on the subject of the treaty, and if that should be treated with like neglect, or if I should be informed that his Catholic Majesty declined going into that measure, I should then consider my business at an end, and proceed to take the necessary measures for returning to America; that I knew my constituents were sincerely desirous of a treaty with Spain, and that their respect for the House of Bourbon, the desire of France signified in the Secret Article, and the favourable opinion they had imbibed of the Spanish nation, were the strongest inducements they had to wish it; that the policy of multiplying treaties with European nations was with me questionable, and might be so with others; that for my own part, I was inclined to think it the interest of America to rest content with the treaty with France, and, by avoiding alliances with other nations, remain free from the influence of their disputes and politics; that the situation of the United States, in my opinion, dictated this policy; that I knew it to be their interest, and of course their disposition, to be at peace with all the world; and that I knew, too, it would be in their power, and I hoped in their inclination, always to defend themselves.
The Ambassador was at a stand; after a little pause, he said he hoped my mission would have a more agreeable issue. He asked me if I was content with the conduct of France. I answered, most certainly; for that she was spending her blood as well as treasure for us. This answer was too general for him. He renewed the question, by asking whether I was content with the conduct of France relative to our proposed treaty with Spain. I answered that, as far as it had come to my knowledge, I was. This required an explanation, and I gave it to him, by observing that, by the Secret Article, Spain was at liberty to accede to our treaty with France whenever she pleased, and with such alterations as both parties might agree to; that Congress had appointed me to propose this accession now, and had authorized me to enter into the necessary discussions and arguments; that, to give their application the better prospect of success, they had directed me to request the favourable interposition of the King of France with the King of Spain; that I had done it by letter to Count de Vergennes, who, in answer, had assured me of the King’s disposition to comply with the request of Congress; and informed me that instructions analogous to this disposition should be given to the Ambassador at Madrid; that it gave me pleasure to acknowledge that his conduct towards me had always been polite and friendly, but that I still remained ignorant whether any and what progress had been made in the mediation. He seemed not to have expected this; but observed that all he could do was to be ready to do me any friendly office in his power, for that he did not see how his mediation could be proper, except in cases where points of the treaty were discussed, and could not be agreed upon. To this I replied that these were only secondary objects of the expected mediation, and that the primary one was to prevail upon the King of Spain to commence the negotiation, and enter upon these discussions; but that I remained uninformed of what he might have done on that subject. The Ambassador made no direct reply to these remarks, but again proceded to repeat his advice that I should try one more letter to the Minister. I told him I had, after much consideration, made up my mind on that subject, and that it appeared to me inexpedient to follow his advice in this instance; and that when he should see the letters I had already written, he would probably be of the same opinion. I promised to show him the letters the next day, and took my leave. How far the tone of this conversation may be judged to have been prudent, I know not. It was not assumed, however, but after previous and mature deliberation. I reflected that we had lost Charleston, that reports ran hard against us, and therefore that this was no time to clothe one’s self with humility. . . .[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY’S ACCOUNT OF CONFERENCES WITH GARDOQUI AND DEL CAMPO.1
September 3-15, 1780.
M. Gardoqui began the conversation by assurances of his personal attachment to our cause and country, which gave occasion to mutual and complimentary professions too unimportant to repeat. I told him that the holders of the bills, after having shown me great forbearance and delicacy, were at length perfectly tired; that the house of Casa Mayor had sent their bills after me, but that as I was not to expect the honour of a conference with the Minister until Tuesday evening, at soonest, I had requested time till Wednesday to give my answer. I therefore begged the favour of him to mention this to the Minister, and obtain his directions what I should do. He asked to what amount Congress had resolved to draw. I told him. He observed, that the Court ought previously to have been applied to. In answer to which I recapitulated the reasons before given to the Minister. He dwelt largely on the necessities of the State, and I expatiated on the extensive ideas entertained of Spanish opulence in America. He assured me they were mistaken, and spoke of the difficulties occasioned by the detention of their treasures abroad. He then remarked, that we offered no consideration for the money we solicited. I replied, that we offered the same consideration that other nations did who borrowed money, viz., the repayment of the principal with interest. He asked me if we had nothing further to offer, and mentioned ship timber. I said we had ship-timber, but that as it belonged to individuals, the public could not get it otherwise than by purchase, and that it could answer no purpose to borrow money with one hand and instantly repay it with the other, for that a repayment in money, or in ship timber, was the same thing in fact, and differed only in name. Besides, that if Spain wanted timber from America, it would be better, in case he went there, that he should be charged with that business, than that it should be under the direction of Congress, for that public works were always more expensive than private. He agreed in this. He again asked me whether I could think of nothing else to offer. I told him no. Whether there was nothing on the side of the Mississippi that I could offer. I told him nothing that I could think of except land, and that I did not think it would be worth the King’s while to buy a hundred thousand pounds worth of land there, considering the immense territories he already possessed. He inquired whether I thought Congress would draw for the whole sum. I answered that it was in my opinion not improbable, for that they would consider the acceptance of ten or twelve thousand dollars as a prelude to further aids, naturally supposing, that if the King afforded us any supplies at all, they would be such as would correspond with his dignity, and not be limited to that little pittance. He desired me to meet him the next day at M. Del Campo’s, which I promised to do.
In the evening M. Gardoqui again paid me a visit, and pointedly proposed my offering the navigation of the Mississippi as a consideration for aids. I told him that object could not come in question in a treaty for a loan of one hundred thousand pounds, and Spain should consider, that to render alliances permanent, they should be so formed as to render it the interest of both parties to observe them; that the Americans, almost to a man, believed that God Almighty had made that river a highway for the people of the upper country to go to the sea by; that this country was extensive and fertile; that the General, many officers, and others of distinction and influence in America, were deeply interested in it; that it would rapidly settle, and that the inhabitants would not readily be convinced of the justice of being obliged, either to live without foreign commodities, and lose the surplus of their productions, or be obliged to transport both over rugged mountains and through an immense wilderness, to and from the sea, when they daily saw a fine river flowing before their doors, and offering to save them all that trouble and expense, and that without injury to Spain. He observed, that the present generation would not want this navigation, and that we should leave future ones to manage their own affairs, etc.
The next day, that is, the 4th of September, I met M. Gardoqui at M. Del Campo’s. After some unconnected conversation, I observed to M. Del Campo, that as all the papers between the Minister and myself had passed through his hands, it was unnecessary to give him any information, except what related to the present state of the bills drawn upon me, which I proceeded to state in a short, but particular manner. He replied by making several strictures on the impropriety of drawing bills without previous notice and consent. He remarked, that they might with more propriety have been drawn on France, with whom we were allied, and who were richer than they; that the King must first take care of his own people, before he could supply us; that Spain had been brought into the war by our quarrel, but received no advantage from us; that they had been told of our readiness to assist in taking Pensacola, etc., but instead of aids, he had heard of nothing but demands from us; that our situation was represented as being deplorable, and that the enemy talked of the submission of some of the States, and of negotiations being on foot for that purpose.
Whether this style proceeded from natural arrogance, or was intended to affect my temper, I cannot say; in either case, I thought it most prudent to take no notice of it, but proceed calmly and cautiously, and the more so as this was the first time I had ever conversed with this man. I told him in substance, though more at large, that the assurances given Congress of the friendly disposition of Spain by M. Mirales and others had been confided in, and had induced Congress to expect the aids in question. That if this application could be called a demand, it was still the first they had made to my knowledge; that men in arms against the enemies of Spain were serving her as well as themselves, and therefore might without impropriety request her aid; that our separation from Britain was an object important to Spain, and that the success with which we had opposed her whole force for six years showed what the power of both, if under one direction, might be capable of; that I knew nothing of Spain’s having been drawn into the war by or for us, and that this was not to be found among the reasons she had alleged for it; that an attack on Pensacola could not be expected to be made by troops actually employed in repelling the enemy’s assaults from their own doors, and that the principles of self-defence would not permit or justify it; that Spain had much to expect in future from our commerce, and that we should be able as well as willing to pay our debts; that the tales told of our despondency and submission resulted from the policy of the enemy, not from fact, and I believed no more of their private negotiations between America and Britain than I did of there being private negotiations between Spain and Britain for a separate peace, which the Minister assured me was not the case; that if on the arrival of the bills I had been told plainly that no money could be advanced, further drafts would soon have been prevented; but that a contrary conduct having been adopted, other expectations had been excited; that as to France, she had done, and was still doing much for us, and that her being our ally did not confer propriety upon every request that we could make to her. He still pressed this point, and complained that the greater part of the money heretofore advanced by Spain had been laid out in France. He saw that France was deriving great commercial advantages from us, but that our commerce never would be an object with Spain, because all her productions would find a better market in her own colonies. He desired a note of the bills which had arrived, and then made some reflections on the proposal of a treaty. We agreed perfectly well that mutual interest should be the basis of it, and I added, that the good opinion entertained of the King and nation by America was also a pleasing circumstance. He said, however that might be, America did not seem inclined to gratify Spain in the only point in which she was deeply interested. Here followed much common-place reasoning about the navigation of the Mississippi, of which your Excellency has heretofore heard too much to require a repetition. He spoke also much of the difficulties of Spain as to money matters, saying that their treasures in America could at present be of no use to them, as they had given orders that none should be sent home during the war, even if it continued these ten years; and this was done in order, by stopping the usual current of specie into Europe, to embarrass the measures which Great Britain must take to obtain her necessary supplies. . . .
On the 13th of September, M. Gardoqui delivered me the following verbal message from Count de Florida Blanca: “That the exigencies of the State would not permit his Majesty to provide for the payment of more of the bills drawn upon me than had been already accepted.” I expressed my regret that this had not been told me at first, and told him it appeared a little extraordinary that the Minister should employ himself and me three months in making and answering propositions relative to a loan, which it was not in his power to make. . . .
As the Count’s message was a verbal one, and might hereafter be denied or explained away as convenience might dictate, I thought it important to establish it, and for that and other reasons which need no explanation, I wrote the Count the following letter.
St. Ildefonso, September 14, 1780.
The information I received yesterday from your Excellency by M. Gardoqui, has drawn the affair of the bills of exchange to a conclusion. He told me, that the exigencies of the State would not permit his Majesty to provide for the payment of more of those bills than were already accepted, amounting to about fourteen thousand dollars.
As it is important that every nation at war should know exactly the state of their resources, and as America has been induced to consider the friendship of his Catholic Majesty as among the number of hers, I must request the favour of your Excellency, to tell me frankly whether the United States may expect any, and what aids from Spain. The general assurances of amity, which that country has received from this, together with what has passed between your Excellency and myself relative to clothing for our troops, and supplies of specie in America, will I hope be considered as authorizing this question; and the more so, as M. Gardoqui, to whose arrival your Excellency postponed the discussion of these matters, informs me he is not instructed to say any thing to me on these, or indeed any other subjects.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
The next day, the 15th of September, M. Gardoqui delivered to me a paper by way of answer to my letter of yesterday to the Minister. It is in these words:
St. Ildefonso, September 15, 1780.
The following answer has been dictated to me in his Excellency’s name by Don Bernardo del Campo, to be delivered to the honorable John Jay.
That it is not his Majesty’s intention to stop assisting the States, whenever means can be found to do it, but that it will be impossible to supply them with money in Europe, there being none to spare, for that which ought to have come this year from America, has neither come, nor is it known when it will, and that which would have facilitated a far advanced negotiation is likely to produce no effect, in a great measure, through the undermining of some persons of rank in France.
The States not giving timely advice, nor having taken his Majesty’s previous consent, he could not arrange his affairs beforehand, in order to assure the acceptance and payment of the bills they have drawn, for which reasons, and that Congress has not to this day given any tokens of a recompense, his Majesty might have just cause of disgust, but notwithstanding he does not, nor will change his ideas, and will always retain those of humanity, friendship, and compassion, that he has had towards the colonies. That consequently, if Mr. Jay or his constituents should find money upon credit, to the sum of one hundred or one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, that his Majesty will be answerable for the said sum, payable in the space of three years; that his Majesty will besides exert all that is possible to assist them with clothing and other things, and, finally, in order that his Majesty may extend his further dispositions, it is precisely necessary that they should give sure and effective tokens of a good correspondence, proposing reciprocal measures of a compensation that may establish a solid friendship and confidence, without reducing it to words and protests of mere compliment.
This being the substance, I would futher suggest to Mr. Jay’s consideration, that the continuance of assisting the States by answering the sum expressed in a manner much more public than that of paying the money privately, shows plainly the sincerity of his Majesty, although the States have not to this day proposed any equivalent to the assistance already given, and to the expenses occasioned by a war, which had its true origin from them, to all which must be added, (though by the way no credit is given to it,) that there are hints of some understanding between the colonies and England.
It is to be observed, that this paper when first delivered was not signed, and suspecting that this omission might not be accidental, I mentioned it to M. Gardoqui a day or two afterwards. After some hesitation, and doubts of its being necessary, he signed it. I made no remarks at all to M. Gardoqui on any part of this paper except the last article, which I treated with great indignation. . . .
Three days afterwards, I had a long and satisfactory conversation with the French Ambassador, in which he was very unreserved, candid, and confidential. He read to me part of a letter he intended to send to Count de Vergennes on our affairs, and justice calls upon me to say that we are obliged to him for it.1[Back to Table of Contents]
MRS. GENERAL MONTGOMERY TO MRS. JAY.
New Jersey, September 6, 1780.
The singular satisfaction I hoped for in a correspondance with you is almost lost, since at the splendid Court of Madrid you have forgot the promise made. I however take too much pleasure in the idea to give it up without having by a line reminded you of it, and at the same time of a very sincere friend who loves you with affection, & who will continue to do so whether you write or not.
As every thing from you will be new so any thing from your own Country will be interesting tho’ never so trivial in itself. I write to you from the battery (?) where I have found the whole family as happy as the Birth of a fine girl can make them—my Sister well and the Chancellor blessed. As this girl is designed for your Boy, whom I admire extremely, I can only pray that she may live to cement our familys in a still closer union. I saw your father well and very fat a few days since; your mama is gone to live at Elizabeth Town with her Family.
Yesterday when informed from Camp of the Death of your Cozin William Alexander Livingston who received his Death from a Mr. Steeks in a Duel, there was buried at the same time in like circumstances a Mr. Peyton from Virginia. You may judge how fashionable dueling is grown when we have had five in one week and one of them so singular that I cannot forbear mentioning it. It happened between two Frenchmen who were to stand at a certain Distance and march up and fire when they pleas’d. One fired and missed; the other reserving fire till he had placed his Pistol on his antagonist’s forehead, who had just time to say, Oh mon Dieu, pardonna moy, at the same time bowing whilst the Pistol went off with no other mischief but singeing a few of his hairs.
Tell Harry to beware of engaging in a quarrel with the Dons in Spain—this dueling is a very foolish way of putting ones self out of the world. Mr. Jay at Fishkill is not as well as he has been I am told, tho all with him are so. Sir James is at Philadelphia and I hear solicitous to go to France.
Pray are you very distant from Lisbon and do you never see any one from that place? I have a Brother at the English ——— I feel the utmost tenderness for each individual of my lost Soldier’s Family; and whilst life and memory are left me his loved Idea must ever retain my whole heart and fill it with regret that my every hope of happiness is no more. This is a subject that always obtrudes itself let me begin with what I will and unfits me for every other Duty. Then I am lost to all but this; but as I am not fond of appearing like a memento to my friends I generally have the strength of mind to quit my imployment before I have given them a turn of thought, that might perhaps throw them into the vapors. You have a Soul superior I know to this; you look forward doubtless to events like my misfortune with the eye of a Philosopher, and the mind of a Christian. May you never have occasion to exert either & for such a loss till age has blunted those fine feelings which when it happens in early life drives the sensible Soul to despair. Make my Compliments to Mr. Jay, Col. Livingston, and Mr. Morris. Mrs. Livingston sends her love to you & bids me tell you a hundred fine things of her daughter—but at present I can only say that I am
With much Esteem
J. Montgomery.1[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
St. Ildefonso, 8th September, 1780.
. . . . . . . .
I have received but one, and that an unimportant public letter, since I left Philadelphia. You cannot conceive how little information and how few letters reach me from our country. Whenever you write to me, send your letters either to the French embassador or under cover to Marquis D’Yranda. The post is the most precarious of all conveyances. No letters suspected to be for or from me pass safe by it; many are suppressed and the remainder suspected.
Our affairs here go on heavily. The treaty is impeded by the affair of the Mississippi and the fate of my bills is not yet decided. I have been permitted indeed to accept to the amount of about $11,000, and this circumstance gives me more hopes for the rest than any thing else. The fact is there is little corn in Egypt—this entre nous.
Cumberland is here still. His hopes and fears (?) are secret. He went from here a few days ago and is soon expected back again. To what policy are we to ascribe this? I am told we have nothing to fear; it may be so, but my faith is seldom very extensive. If we have nothing else to fear we have always danger to apprehend from such a spy—so situated, so surrounded by inquisitive, communicative, and, some say, friendly Irishmen. In short, I wish you could hear me think. I must leave time to inform you of many things which at present must not be written.
Be so kind as to deliver the enclosed letters, and believe me to be with sincere regard and esteem,
Dear sir, Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
St. Ildefonso, September 16, 1780.
This letter and several copies of it are to be sent by the next post to Bilboa, Cadiz, Nantes, etc. The object of it is to inform you that it is necessary immediately to cease drawing bills upon me for the present.
Your Excellency may soon expect a full detail of particulars, you will then receive an answer to every question that may be raised upon this letter.
His Catholic Majesty has been pleased to offer his responsibility to facilitate a loan of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for us, payable in three years, and to promise us some clothing. This need not be kept secret. I have written several letters to your Excellency, but have received only one from the Committee since I left America. It covered the resolutions respecting these bills.
The Philadelphia bank, the ladies’ subscriptions, and other indications of union and public spirit have a fine effect here.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO EGBERT BENSON.
St. Ildefonso, 17th September, 1780.
I have written many letters to my friends in the State of New York since I left America, but have not yet received a single line from any of them. Is not this a little hard? Am I to suppose that all your letters have miscarried, or that your attention has been too much engaged by affairs at home to extend to an old friend abroad? Whatever is the cause I assure you I regret it. While America continues the theatre of the war, it is natural to desire intelligence of what may be passing on it. This satisfaction I seldom enjoy though I often ought.
As few private opportunities offer of conveying letters to the other side, I frequently write by the post. This letter will go that way. It must therefore be proportionately reserved. Indeed I make it a rule to write on the subject of politics only to Congress, and though various other subjects present themselves, yet as it is not the fashion in this country either to let one’s tongue or pen run very freely, I think it best not to be singular. Your government ought by this time to have received many of my letters and, I may add, have answered some of them. Has your legislature thought of their western country? I incline to think it time. By no means sleep over Vermont. Our people would not apply the maxim, obsta principiis, at first; further delays will be equally unwise especially considering the resolutions of Congress on that subject. I am told you have made R. Morris, Chief-Justice; this is well. I had my apprehensions about this matter. In my opinion Duer should not be forgotten; he is capable of serving the State, and it would be bad policy to let any useful man leave it who can be retained with advantage in it.
The State of New York is never out of my mind nor heart, and I am often disposed to write much respecting its affairs, but I have so little information respecting its present political objects and operations that I am afraid to attempt it. An excellent law might be made out of the Pennsylvania one for the gradual abolition of slavery. Till America comes into this measure, her prayers to Heaven for liberty will be impious. This is a strong expression, but it is just. Were I in your legislature, I would prepare a bill for the purpose with great care, and I would never leave moving it till it became a law or I ceased to be a member. I believe God governs this world, and I believe it to be a maxim in his as in our court, that those who ask for equity ought to do it. Remember me to my old friends.
I am very much yours,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO T. MATLACK.
St. Ildefonso, 17th September, 1780.
Accept my thanks for your favour of the 21st April, which was delivered to me the 27th August. Knowledge is essential to the duration of liberty, and Pennsylvania is wise in making them both the objects of public care. I have read your oration with pleasure. The subject is a fine one, the field large, and you have interspersed it with useful remarks and entertaining reflections. I put it into the hands of the Count D’Estaing and the French ambassador. They both said civil things of it.
The society1 have done me much honour by placing me on the list of their members. I shall endeavour to evince the sense I have of it, by now and then sending them whatever I may find here worth their attention.
I congratulate you on the glorious spirit spreading from your city through America. Your bank is the subject of much conversation and encomium, and the patriotism of the ladies renders them very celebrated. Such marks of union and public spirit are worth a victory. To be respectable abroad we must be respectable at home, and the best way to gain friends is to be formidable to our enemies. But you know these things as well as I do, and I am persuaded your endeavours will not be wanting to place our country in both these points of light. Dr. Foulke may rely on my omitting no opportunity of being useful to him; we must take care of young Americans. Much depends on the rising generation, and no pains should be spared to render them equal to the task that devolves upon them.
Be assured that it will give me pleasure to continue this correspondence, and that I am, sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO KITTY LIVINGSTON.
St. Ildefonso, 18th September, 1780.
You are really a charming correspondent as well as a charming every thing else. We have had more letters from you than from all our other friends in America put together. I need not tell you, therefore, that I am proportionately the more obliged to you, and you will easily conceive how much pleasure it gives me to be obliged by one who has so great a share in my esteem and regard.
Sally is at Madrid. She intended to write you a long letter, and I dare say has done so. I won’t repeat what I am sure she must have told you. I often wish you were with us for our sake, and as often am content that you are not for yours. We go on tolerably well, flattering ourselves that we shall not long be absent, and anticipating the pleasures we are to enjoy on our return. . . .
How does my dear little boy do? I hope he goes on well. Tell me a good deal of those matters which you may readily suppose I have a curiosity to know, and the more you say of yourself the better I shall like your letters. I expected Judy would have written us a wedding letter, but I presume she has been too much engaged by a nearer correspondent to think of those on this side the ocean. Present my congratulations and best wishes to the doves. Billy, I suppose, continues as unusual as ever. How does Susan do? Give us the history of your late retreat from Elizabethtown. I fancy you began to think there was some weight in my objections to your being there. I am a little afraid that you had given up the house at Persippany; if so, you have been puzzled.
Do you hear from Fishkill? I have not since I have been here. I wish you would endeavour to get and send me some news of the family there; they are either too lazy or their letters very unfortunate. My love to the whole household of Liberty Hall.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO COUNT DE VERGENNES.
St. Ildefonso, September 22, 1780.
I have never taken up my pen with so much reluctance as I now do, although my design is to write a letter to your Excellency. But, Sir, there are few sensations more painful than those which they experience who, already covered with benefits, are impelled by cruel necessity to ask for more. Such is my present situation, and hence proceeds my regret.
My uniform and unreserved communications to the Count Montmorin, who has my fullest confidence, precludes the necessity and consequently the propriety of a minute detail of American affairs here.
Your Excellency will recollect the resolution of Congress for drawing bills on me, as well as the reasons assigned for that measure. In my first conference with the Minister on that subject, he enlarged on the necessities of the State, but nevertheless told me he should be able, at the end of the present or beginning of the next year, to advance thirty or forty thousand pounds sterling, and that further arrangements respecting the residue should then be made.
I afterwards received and answered propositions for the reimbursement of this money; and from time to time was permitted to accept such of the bills as were most pressing.
Things remained in this state till the 5th of July, when, after many warm assurances of friendship and good-will, the further discussion of these matters was postponed by the Minister until the arrival of a person intended to succeed M. Mirales, the late Spanish agent at Philadelphia, and I was told that they should then be arranged and adjusted.
Several weeks elapsed after the time assigned for his arrival had expired. The holders of the bills became importunate, and insisting on my accepting or refusing them.
I wrote several letters to the Minister, requesting his directions, but was not favoured with an answer to any of them.
On the 3d instant, after fruitless endeavours to see the Minister, I received the following note from him by the hands of M. Gardoqui:
“The Count de Florida Blanca sends his compliments to Mr. Jay, and advises him to become acquainted with the bearer of this letter, who is the person that has been expected from day to day.”
This gentleman made many remarks tending to show the propriety of America’s offering some specific consideration for this money, and hinted at the navigation of the Mississippi, ship timber, vessels, tobacco, etc., etc. I replied that the only consideration Congress could offer was that which all other nations at war, who borrowed money, offered, viz., to repay the principal with a reasonable interest after the war; that I should deceive him, were I to enter into contracts to pay it sooner; that the proposition of paying it during the war, in ship timber, tobacco, or other articles, did not lessen the difficulty, for that these things were worth and cost money in America as well as in Europe; and that as to the Mississippi, it could not come in question as a consideration for one hundred thousand pounds. The conversation was concluded by his desiring me to meet him at M. Del Campo’s the next morning. M. Gardoqui then, and since, behaved with temper, candour, and politeness.
The next day we saw M. Del Campo. He was liberal in his censures on the measure of drawing the bills in question on Spain. He informed me that the King must first take care of his own people before he gave supplies to others; that Spain, instead of deriving advantage from America, heard of nothing but demands. That if Congress wanted money, they should have drawn on France, with whom they were in alliance, and who had all the profit of their trade; that we ought to have distinguished between our allies and those who only wished us well, and that applications for aid might be proper to the one, which were not so to the other; that our affairs were in a ruinous condition, and that it was even said some of the States were holding secret negotiations for peace with the enemy, etc., etc., etc. My replies were such as the subject naturally suggested, and as prudence dictated; there are seasons when men mean not to be convinced, and when argument becomes mere matter of form. On such occasions, we have little more in our power than moderation and temper. I gave M. Del Campo credit for his frankness, and wish I could with propriety have extended it to his delicacy.
A day or two afterwards, viz., the 6th instant, I was permitted to accept bills to the amount of one thousand one hundred and ten dollars.
On the 13th, M. Gardoqui, by order of the Minister, told me that the exigencies of the State would not permit the King to provide for the payment of more of the bills than had been already accepted, amounting to about fourteen thousand dollars. This gave occasion to my letter to the Minister of the 14th, and to his answer of the 15th, which was dictated by him to M. Del Campo, and by M. Del Campo to M. Gardoqui, copies of both of which your Excellency will receive from Count Montmorin. The Minister’s answer made a conference between us expedient. I requested that favour the 15th instant, and have been informed that the Count de Florida Blanca will endeavour to see me on Saturday evening next.
I forbear remarks on this singular conduct. I wish it could be explained in a manner compatible with the reputation Spain enjoys in North America. I much fear partial resentments, which ought not to affect America, have been permitted to have an undue degree of influence, and that the Minister forgot, in his zeal for a certain scheme of finance, that it was unjust to wound opponents through the sides of their friends. But whatever may have been the cause, the effect, unless removed, will be destructive, and France only can at present afford the means of doing it.
When I consider, on the one hand, that France was our first, and is still our best, and almost only friend; that she became our ally on terms of equality, neither taking, nor attempting to take ungenerous advantages of our situation; that she has clothed and armed our troops, and is at this moment assisting us with her fleets, her armies, her treasure, and her blood; gratitude and generosity forbid me to solicit a further tax on her magnanimity. But, on the other hand, when I reflect that the loss of American credit would be a loss to the common cause, and an eventual injury to France; that such an event would be a matter of triumph to our common enemy, and of pain to our friends; that the honour of Congress, suspended on the fate of these bills, now hangs as it were by a hair, and that our enemies here and elsewhere are doing all in their power to cut it; when I consider, that America would feel more sensibly the loss of reputation in this instance, than the loss of battles in many others; I say, Sir, when I consider these things, I find it to be my duty to request your Excellency to interpose the amity of France, and that his Majesty will be pleased to add this strong link to the chain of benefits, by which he has already bound the affections of America to his family and people.
I ought to inform your Excellency, that bills for about fifty thousand dollars remain unaccepted. The greater part of these are in the hands of merchants, who waited my answer with a degree of patience, I could not have expected; some of them ever since the month of June last. Further delays, therefore, were not to be asked or obtained, and I was reduced to the necessity, either of promising to accept them, or permit the credit of Congress to perish with them. I could not long hesitate. I promised to accept them. Fortunately, these bills have hitherto come on slowly, though, it is probable, that the assurances of Spain, which I have communicated to Congress, may quicken their pace. A period, however, will soon be put to their drawing, as I have written to them by several conveyances immediately to stop.
I ought also to inform your Excellency, that a promise made me in June last of some clothing for our troops has been renewed, and that his Majesty has been pleased to offer us his responsibility to facilitate a loan of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I shall endeavour to make the most of this offer, and your Excellency may rest assured that I shall gladly embrace every measure, which may be calculated to lessen the weight with which the American cause presses on the finances of France.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
NOTES OF CONFERENCE BETWEEN JAY AND FLORIDA BLANCA.1
St. Ildefonso, September 23, 1780.
After the usual civilities, the Count began the conference by informing Mr. Jay that the Court had received intelligence from the Havana, of Congress having so far complied with the request made to them to permit the exportation of provisions for the use of his Majesty’s fleets and armies there, as to give license for shipping three thousand barrels of flour, circumstances not admitting of further supplies at that time; that this business was conducted by Mr. Robert Morris in a manner with which he was well pleased; that Congress had also, in order to promote the success of the Spanish operations against Pensacola, etc., agreed to make a diversion to the southward, to detach a considerable body of regular troops and militia to South Carolina under General Gates; that his Majesty was well pleased with, and highly sensible of, these marks of their friendly disposition, and had directed him to desire Mr. Jay to convey his thanks to them on the occasion.
Mr. Jay expressed his satisfaction at this intelligence, and promised to take the earliest opportunity of conveying to Congress the sense his Majesty entertained of their friendship, manifested by these measures. He told the Count it gave him pleasure to hear the business of the Spanish supplies was committed to Mr. Robert Morris, and assured him that the fullest confidence might be reposed in that gentleman’s abilities and integrity. He requested his Excellency again to assure his Majesty that he might rely on the good disposition of Congress, and of their evincing it in every way, which the situation of their affairs and the interests of the common cause might render practicable and expedient. The Count told Mr. Jay that he had proposed to the French Ambassador to send to Congress, for the use of their army, clothing for ten regiments lately taken in the convoy bound from Britain to Jamaica, and in which the two Crowns were equally interested; that the Ambassador approved the proposition, but had not yet given his final answer. He then observed that a negotiation for peace between Britain and Spain appeared at present more distant than ever; that the former had offered his Majesty every thing he could desire to induce him to a separate peace; but that the King, adhering to the same resolutions in favour of America, which had influenced his conduct in his mediation for a general peace and since, had rejected them, and that Congress might rely on his Majesty’s determination never to give up or forsake America, but on the contrary continue affording her all the aids in his power.
He told Mr. Jay that the Court of London, dis appointed in their expectations of detaching Spain, had it in contemplation again to send Commissioners to America to treat with Congress on the subject of an accommodation with them; that this measure was at present under the consideration of the Privy Council, and that there was reason to suppose it would be adopted. He observed that the English had hitherto discovered much finesse and little true policy; that first they endeavoured by their intrigues in France, to separate that kingdom and America, but not succeeding there, they sent Commissioners to America; that the last year they attempted to detach France, and this year Spain, and that being unsuccessful in both they would again attempt America; that the best way of defeating their designs was mutual confidence in each other. He remarked that America could not rely on any promise of Britain, and asked, if she was once detached from France and Spain, who could compel an observance of them? Mr. Jay thanked the Count for this communication, and assured him that Congress would not only adhere to their engagements from motives of interest, but from a regard to their honour, and the faith of treaties; that the opinion of Congress on this subject corresponded with that of his Excellency, and that their conduct, with respect to the former English Commissioners, gave conclusive evidence of their sentiments on the subject. Mr. Jay promised in case he received any intelligence relative to this matter, his Excellency might depend on its being communicated immediately to him.
The Count appeared satisfied with this, and again repeated his former assurances of the King’s good disposition towards America, etc., etc.
Mr. Jay informed his Excellency that the subject on which he was desirous of conversing with him, arose from the paper he had received from M. Gardoqui the 15th instant, containing his Excellency’s answer to Mr. Jay’s letter of the 14th.
Mr. Jay then requested the Count to communicate to his Majesty his thanks for the offer he had been pleased to make, of his responsibility in order to facilitate a loan of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and also for the promise of clothing, etc., etc., and to assure him that the gratitude of the States would always be proportionate to the obligations conferred upon them; he observed to the Count that he intended to attempt this loan in Spain, France, and Holland, and begged to be informed in what manner he should evidence the responsibility of his Majesty to the persons who might be disposed to lend the money, for that in this and other similar cases he meant to be guided by his Excellency’s directions. The Count replied that as this matter fell within the department of M. Musquir, the Minister of Finance, he would consult him upon it on Tuesday evening next, and immediately thereafter inform Mr. Jay of the result. He then apologized and expressed his regret for not being able to furnish the money he had expected to supply (alluding evidently to the thirty or forty thousand pounds which, in the conference at Aranjues, the 11th day of May last, he said he expected to be able to supply by the end of this or beginning of next year). He said he had been disappointed in the remittances expected from America, for he was advised that two ships which he had expected would arrive from thence with treasure in December or January next would not come, and that this and other circumstances rendered it impossible for him to advance us any money in Europe. But that he would, nevertheless, agreeably to the King’s intentions, give us all the assistance in his power.
Mr. Jay desired to be informed whether any steps were necessary for him to take for forwarding the clothing at Cadiz to America. The Count answered that he waited the French Ambassador’s answer on the subject, and that he had as yet no inventory of them, but that he would again speak to the Ambassador, and make arrangements for sending them on to America as soon as possible.
Mr. Jay then proceeded to regret that the pleasure he derived from these instances of his Majesty’s friendship to the United States was mingled with pain from being informed by the above-mentioned paper, that the King conceived he might have just cause to be disgusted with them.
Because, 1st, they had drawn the bills of exchange without his previous consent; and, 2dly, because they had not given any tokens of a recompense. Mr. Jay reminded his Excellency that these bills were drawn upon himself, and not on Spain, and although that Congress might have hoped, for reasons already assigned, to have been enabled to pay them by a loan from his Majesty, yet that every other usual measure was left open for that purpose. That an application to Spain for such a loan could give no just cause of offence, for that if it had not been convenient to her to make it, all that she had to do was to have told him so, and he was then at liberty to take such measures for procuring it elsewhere as he might think proper. The Count replied that what Mr. Jay observed was true, but that certainly the bills were drawn with an expectation of their being paid by Spain, and that this might probably have been done if previous notice of the measure had been given. That he always intended to have done something towards their payment, but had been prevented by disappointments, and the exigencies of the State. Mr. Jay continued to observe that the second cause assigned for this disgust, viz., that Congress had given no tokens of a recompense must have arisen from a mistake. He reminded his Excellency that he had never requested a donation from Spain, but that, on the contrary, he had repeatedly offered to pledge the faith of the United States for the repayment with interest, within a reasonable time after the war, of whatever sum his Majesty might be so kind as to lend them. To these remarks the Count said only that interest for the money would have been no object with them; that they would gladly have lent it to us without interest, and repeated his regret at the disappointment which had prevented them. He appeared rather uneasy and desirous of waiving the subject.
Mr. Jay next called the Count’s attention to a part of the paper in question, which informed him “that there were hints (though no credit was given to it) of some understanding between America and the Court of London.” He observed that this subject was both delicate and important; that so far as this understanding related to Congress, or the governments of either of the States, he was sure that this insinuation was entirely groundless; that there might possibly be intriguing individuals who might have given cause to such suspicions; that if there were such men or bodies of men it would be for the good of the common cause that they should be detected and their designs frustrated. He therefore requested that if his Excellency had any evidence on this subject he would be pleased to communicate it, and thereby enable him to give Congress an opportunity of taking such measures as circumstances might render proper. The Count said he had nothing specific or particular as yet to communicate; that he was pursuing measures for further discoveries, and that he would mention to Mr. Jay whatever information might result from them.
Mr. Jay resumed his animadversions on the paper in question by observing that it assured him it was necessary “that Congress should give sure and effective tokens of a good correspondence, proposing reciprocal measures of a compensation, etc., in order that his Majesty might extend his further dispositions towards them.” That for his part he could conceive of no higher tokens, which one nation could give to another of friendship and good-will, than their commissioning and sending a person for the express purpose of requesting his Majesty to enter into treaties of amity and alliance with them, and that on terms of reciprocity of interest and mutual advantage. To this the Count replied that to this day he was ignorant of these terms, and that no particular propositions had been made him. Mr. Jay then reminded him of his letters from Cadiz, and of the conference on the subject at Aranjues on the 2d day of June last, in the latter of which, after conferring on the subject of aids, and of the treaty, his Excellency had promised to reduce his sentiments on both to writing, and send him notes on each; that as to the first, Mr. Jay had received the notes, but not on the last; that he had been in constant expectation of receiving them, and that delicacy forbade pressing his Excellency on that matter, or offering any thing further till he should have leisure to complete them.
He said he thought he had given them to Mr. Jay or Mr. Carmichael, which both of them assured him he had not. Of this the Count appeared after a little time satisfied, when Mr. Jay resumed the subject by remarking that the order of conducting that business appeared to him to be this: that as a right was reserved by the Secret Article to his Majesty to accede to the treaty between France and America whenever he thought proper, and that the latter would go into a discussion of any alteration the King might propose that should be founded on reciprocity of interest, the first question was, whether his Majesty would accede to it as it was, or whether he would propose any and what alterations.
The Count here interrupted Mr. Jay by saying that the interest of France and Spain with respect to America were so distinct as necessarily to render different treaties necessary. Mr. Jay answered, that admitting this to be the case, the treaty with France might be made the basis, and then go on mutatis mutandis. The Count proceeded to say that it would not conduce to the general pacification to hurry on the treaty; that finding Congress were not disposed to cessions, without which the King would not make a treaty, he thought it best, by mutual services and acts of friendship, to continue making way for more condescensions on both sides, and not excite animosities and warmth by discussing points which the King would never yield. That, therefore, Mr. Jay might take time to write to Congress on the subject, and obtain their instructions.
He said that previous to Mr. Jay’s or M. Gerard’s arrival at Madrid, M. Mirales had informed him that Congress would yield the navigation of the Mississippi, but that M. Gerard informed him that Congress had changed their resolution on that subject; that he had mentioned these obstacles to Mr. Jay and Mr. Carmichael, and it was probable that having done this, he had neglected or forgotten to give Mr. Jay the notes in question. Mr. Jay here reminded his Excellency that the conference between them of the 2d day of June last turned among other points on these obstacles, and that they had then mutually expressed hopes that regulations calculated to remove them in a manner satisfactory to both parties might be adopted, and that the conferences respecting them were concluded by his Excellency’s promising to give Mr. Jay notes of his sentiments on the proposed treaty. The Count admitted this, and made several observations tending to show the importance of this object to Spain, and its determination to adhere to it, saying, with some degree of warmth, that unless Spain could exclude all nations from the Gulf of Mexico, they might as well admit all; that the King would never relinquish it; that the Minister regarded it as the principal object to be obtained by the war, and that obtained, he should be perfectly easy whether or no Spain procured any other cession; that he considered it far more important than the acquisition of Gibraltar, and that if they did not get it, it was a matter of indifference to him whether the English possessed Mobile or not; that he chose always to speak his sentiments plainly and candidly on those occasions, for which reason he generally acted differently from other politicians, in always choosing to commit himself to paper, and appealing to the knowledge of the French Ambassador and others, who had done business with him, for the proofs of this being the principle of his conduct. He concluded by saying he would give his sentiments in writing on this subject to Mr. Jay.
Mr. Jay made no reply to the Count’s remarks on the navigation, but observed that, being little acquainted with the practice of politicians, he was happy in having to treat with a Minister of his Excellency’s principles. He added that there were many points necessary to be adjusted in order to a treaty; that they might proceed to agree upon as many as they could, and with respect to the others he should state them clearly to Congress, and attend their further instructions.
Mr. Jay then again turned the conference to the paper before-mentioned, by observing to the Count that it appeared from it that the King also expected from Congress equivalents to the supplies formerly afforded, and also the expenses of the war, which it alleged had its origin from them; that as to the first he could only repeat what he had before said, that a general account of them was necessary; that he neither knew the amount of them, nor the terms on which they were granted; that it was a transaction previous to his appointment; that on being furnished with the necessary information he would transmit it to Congress, and wait their instructions; that an expectation of an equivalent to the expenses sustained by Spain in the war was inadmissible on every principle. He read the passage in question, and remarked that America could no more be justly chargeable with the expenses of the war sustained by Spain, than Spain could be justly chargeable with the expenses of the war sustained by America. The Count replied, that Mr. Jay had mistaken his meaning, and that he urged it merely to show that as the States were deriving considerable advantages from very expensive operations on the part of Spain, that consideration should incline them to more condescension towards the latter.
Mr. Jay assured his Excellency that he knew it to be the disposition of Congress to contribute all in their power to the success of the common cause, and that they would on every occasion give proofs of it, and among others that he was confident they would permit his Majesty to export from thence, during the war, ship-timber and masts for the royal navy, and would readily consent to such measures as might be proper and necessary for facilitating it. He further observed that, having been informed by M. Gardoqui that his Majesty would like to take and finish a seventy-four gun ship now on the stocks in one of the eastern ports, on which it was said no work was doing, he would with pleasure write to Congress and propose their transferring her to his Majesty’s at prime cost; that this previous step was necessary, as Congress might perhaps intend that vessel for particular services, but he was confident they would otherwise be happy in indulging his Majesty’s inclinations. The Count appeared pleased with this. He said that with respect to timber they stood most in need at present of yards, and should be glad to obtain a supply of them from Congress; that as to the ship, he wished to be informed exactly of her present state, and the materials wanted to complete and equip her, which he observed might be sent from the Havana, and whether a crew of Americans could be had to navigate her there. Mr. Jay replied, that though he was sure that Congress would readily give their aid in these and other matters interesting to Spain, yet he could not forbear reminding his Excellency, as a friend, that public business done under the direction of public bodies was always more expensive than when done by individuals. That, therefore, he would submit it to his consideration whether it would not be more advisable to commit the management of these affairs to the agent intended to succeed M. Mirales, who, by being on the spot, would have opportunities of acting on exact information, and in a manner more consistent with the views of his Excellency. The Count agreed in this opinion, and promised to communicate to Mr. Jay his further intentions on this subject.
Mr. Jay informed the Minister that as his further stay there would now be unnecessary, and business called him to Madrid, he purposed to return there on Monday next. The Count concurred and the conference ended.
Congress will permit me to observe that many things in this conference are important, and demand instructions. I forbear to point them out, because they are obvious; and I take the liberty of giving this hint from a knowledge of the delays attending the proceedings of large bodies.1
I returned to Madrid on the day appointed; and whether to accept or not to accept the bills became a very serious question. After reviewing all the reasons for and against it, which are numerous, and which Congress will readily perceive without a particular enumeration, I determined to put a good face on the business, and accept all that should be presented, which I have accordingly done, and am daily doing. What the event will be I cannot pretend to decide. All that I can say is, that my endeavours shall not be wanting to render it successful. The responsibility of the King will not produce much, and the difficulty of borrowing money has been increased, by the number of agents sent to Europe for that purpose by several of the different States, who I am told have imprudently bidden on each other.
M. Gardoqui returned to Madrid a few days after I did, and brought me word from the Minister, that instructions should be sent to their Ambassadors in Holland and France, to assure in due form the responsibility of the King to such persons as might there incline to lend us money on the credit of it, and that the Minister would do the same here. He told me further that the Minister hoped I would not be discouraged, nor consider things only on the dark side, for that it was still his intention to afford America every aid in his power. All this I ascribe to the exertions of America, and I am confident that it will always be necessary for the United States to be formidable at home, if they expect to be respectable anywhere.
For my own part, I shall be disappointed if I find Courts moving on any other principle than political ones, and, indeed, not always on those. Caprice, whim, the interests and passions of individuals, must and will always have greater or less degrees of influence. America stands very high here, at present. I rejoice at it, though I must confess I much fear that such violent exertions may be followed by languor and relaxation. What the plan of this Court is with respect to us, or whether they have any, is with me very doubtful. If they have rejected all the overtures of Britain, why is Mr. Cumberland still here? And why are expresses passing between Madrid and London through Portugal? If Spain is determined that we shall be independent, why not openly declare us so, and thereby diminish the hopes and endeavours of Britain to prevent it? She seems to be desirous of holding the balance, of being in some sort a mediatrix, and of courting the offers of each by her supposed importance to both. The drawing of bills on me was considered as a desperate measure, prompted by our imbecility, and was a bad card to play at a time we were endeavouring to form a treaty, and when prudence demanded that the importance of Spain to us should not have been brought forward, or placed in such a glaring point of view.
One good consequence, however, has resulted from it. The cordiality of Spain has been tried by it. For I know of a certainty, that it was in her power easily to have made the loan we asked. Indeed, we shall always be deceived, if we believe that any nation in the world has, or will have, a disinterested regard for us, especially absolute monarchies, where the temporary views or passions of the Prince, his Ministers, his women, or his favourites, not the voice of the people, direct the helm of State. Besides, from the manner in which the war is carrying on, it would seem as if it was the design of France and Spain that the longest purse, not the longest sword, should decide it. Whether such be really their intention, or how far it may be politic, I cannot pretend to determine. This, however, is certain, that it would be putting the affair on a hard issue for us. It is also certain, that some respect is due to appearances and probable events, and we should be cautious how we spend our money, our men, or our public spirit, uselessly.
In my opinion, we should endeavour to be as indedent on the charity of our friends, as on the mercy of our enemies. Jacob took advantage even of his brother’s hunger, and extorted from him a higher price than the value of the Mississippi even for a single dinner. The way not to be in Esau’s condition, is to be prepared to meet with Jacob’s.
From what I can learn of the King’s character, I am persuaded that a present from Congress of a handsome fast-sailing packet-boat would be very acceptable, and consequently very useful.
I am informed, and believe, that a loan from individuals in France is impracticable. Here nothing can be done in that way. What may be expected from the like attempts in Holland, I am unable to say.
I have received no answer to my letter to Count de Vergennes; the Ambassador informs me that the Count has written him on the subject, and the following is an extract from his letter.
“I doubt whether I shall be able to render Mr. Jay the service he requests of me, independently of what the Ministry has furnished the Americans in the course of the year. Dr. Franklin is urgent for a million extra, to meet the drafts of Congress to the 31st of December. I am sensible how important it is to prevent them from being returned protested, but the difficulty is to find the means. I shall do my best in this exigency, but am not sure of success; beyond this, it would be impossible for me to go.”
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JAY.
Passy, October 2, 1780.
I received duly and in good order the several letters you have written to me of August 16th, 19th, September 8th, and 22d. The papers that accompanied them of your writing gave me the pleasure of seeing the affairs of our country in such good hands, and the prospect, from your youth, of its having the service of so able a minister for a great number of years. But the little success that has attended your late applications for money mortified me exceedingly; and the storm of bills which I found coming upon us both, has terrified and vexed me to such a degree that I have been deprived of sleep, and so much indisposed by continual anxiety, as to be rendered almost incapable of writing.
At length I got over a reluctance that was almost invincible, and made another application to the government here for more money. I drew up and presented a state of debts and newly-expected demands, and requested its aid to extricate me. Judging from your letters that you were not likely to obtain any thing considerable from your court, I put down in my estimate the 25,000 dollars drawn upon you, with the same sum drawn upon me, as what would probably come to me for payment. I have now the pleasure to acquaint you that my memorial was received in the kindest and most friendly manner, and though the court here is not without its embarrassments on account of money, I was told to make myself easy, for that I should be assisted with what was necessary. Mr. Searle arriving about this time, and assuring me there had been a plentiful harvest, and great crops of all kinds; that the Congress had demanded of the several States contributions in produce, which would be cheerfully given; that they would therefore have plenty of provisions to dispose of; and I being much pleased with the generous behaviour just experienced, presented another paper, proposing, in order to ease the government here, which had been so willing to ease us, that the Congress might furnish their army in America with provisions in part of payment for the services lent us. This proposition, I was told, was well taken; but it being considered that the States having the enemy in their country, and obliged to make great expenses for the present campaign, the furnishing so much provisions as the French army might need, might straiten and be inconvenient to the Congress, his majesty did not at this time think it right to accept the offer. You will not wonder at my loving this good prince: he will win the hearts of all America.
If you are not so fortunate in Spain, continue however the even good temper you have hitherto manifested. Spain owes us nothing; therefore, whatever friendship she shows us in lending money or furnishing clothes, etc., though not equal to our wants and wishes, is however tant de gagne; those who have begun to assist us, are more likely to continue than to decline, and we are still so much obliged as their aids amount to. But I hope and am confident, that court will be wiser than to take advantage of our distress, and insist on our making sacrifices by an agreement, which the circumstances of such distress would hereafter weaken, and the very proposition can only give disgust at present. Poor as we are, yet as I know we shall be rich, I would rather agree with them to buy at a great price the whole of their right on the Mississippi, than sell a drop of its waters. A neighbour might as well ask me to sell my street door.
I wish you could obtain an account of what they have supplied us with already in money and goods.
Mr. Grand, informing me that one of the bills drawn on you having been sent from hence to Madrid, was come back unaccepted, I have directed him to pay it; and he has at my request, undertaken to write to the Marquis D’Yranda, to assist you with money to answer such bills as you are not otherwise enabled to pay, and to draw on him for the amount, which drafts I shall answer here as far as 25,000 dollars. If you expect more, acquaint me. But pray write to Congress as I do, to forbear this practice, which is so extremely hazardous, and may, some time or other, prove very mischievous to their credit and affairs. I have undertaken, too, for all the bills drawn on Mr. Laurens, that have yet appeared. He was to have sailed three days after Mr. Searle, that is, the 18th July. Mr. Searle begins to be in pain for him, having no good opinion of the little vessel he was to embark in.
We have letters from America to the 7th August. The spirit of our people was never higher. Vast exertions making preparatory for some important action. Great harmony and affection between the troops of the two nations. The new money in good credit, etc.
I will write to you again shortly, and to Mr. Carmichael. I shall now be able to pay up your salaries complete for the year; but as demands unforeseen are continually coming upon me, I still retain the expectations you have given me of being reimbursed out of the first remittances you receive.
If you find any inclination to hug me for the good news of this letter, I constitute and appoint Mrs. Jay my attorney, to receive in my behalf your embraces. With great and sincere esteem,
I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,
Benjamin Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
INSTRUCTIONS FROM CONGRESS TO JAY.
In Congress, October 4th, 1780.
On the report of a committee to whom were referred certain instructions to the delegates of Virginia by their constituents, and a letter of the 26th of May, from the Honorable John Jay, Congress unanimously agreed to the following instructions to the Honorable John Jay, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, at the Court of Madrid.
That the said Minister adhere to his former instructions, respecting the right of the United States of America to the free navigation of the river Mississippi into and from the sea; which right, if an express acknowledgment of it cannot be obtained from Spain, is not by any stipulation on the part of America to be relinquished. To render the treaty to be concluded between the two nations permanent, nothing can more effectually contribute, than a proper attention, not only to the present but the future reciprocal interests of the contracting powers.
The river Mississippi being the boundary of several States in the union, and their citizens, while connected with Great Britain, and since the revolution, having been accustomed to the free use thereof, in common with the subjects of Spain, and no instance of complaint or dispute having resulted from it, there is no reason to fear, that the future mutual use of the river by the subjects of the two nations, actuated by friendly dispositions, will occasion any interruption of that harmony which it is the desire of America, as well as of Spain, should be perpetual. That if the unlimited freedom of the navigation of the river Mississippi, with a free port or ports below the 31st degree of north latitude, accessible to merchant ships, cannot be obtained from Spain, the said Minister in that case be at liberty to enter into such equitable regulations as may appear a necessary security against contraband; provided the right of the United States to the free navigation of the river be not relinquished, and a free port or ports as above described be stipulated to them.
That with respect to the boundary alluded to in his letter of the 26th of May last, the said Minister be, and hereby is instructed, to adhere strictly to the boundaries of the United States as already fixed by Congress. Spain having by the treaty of Paris ceded to Great Britain all the country to the northeastward of the Mississippi, the people inhabiting these States, while connected with Great Britain, and also since the revolution, have settled themselves at divers places to the westward near the Mississippi, are friendly to the revolution, and being citizens of these United States, and subject to the laws of those to which they respectively belong, Congress cannot assign them over as subjects to any other power.
That the said Minister be further informed that in case Spain shall eventually be in possession of East and West Florida, at the termination of the war, it is of the greatest importance to these United States to have the use of the waters running out of Georgia through West Florida into the Bay of Mexico, for the purpose of navigation; and that he be instructed to endeavor to obtain the same, subject to such regulations as may be agreed on between the contracting parties; and that as a compensation for this, he be and hereby is empowered to guarantee the possession of the said Floridas to the Crown of Spain.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS TO JAY.
Philadelphia, Oct. 6, 1780.
I am honoured with your kind favour of the 28th of May with the prints which your lady has been pleased to present to Mrs. Huntington.
Be assured, Sir, it gave me much pleasure to find yourself and family safe arrived at Madrid after a dangerous and tedious passage; and that it is peculiarly acceptable to Mrs. Huntington to receive those prints from so amiable a personage as was pleased to bestow them.
Congress have been pleased to signify their desire that I should continue in the Chair another year, but the burden and fatigue of the business, to which you are no stranger, makes me doubtful whether I can endure it much longer.
Mrs. Huntington joins with me in compliments to yourself and lady. Wishing health and happiness may attend your person and family, and your embassy be crowned with honour and desired success.
I am most sincerely yours,
Saml. Huntington.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO LE COULTEUX & CO.1
Madrid, October 15, 1780.
I have been honoured with your favour of the 3d instant, and am much obliged by your attention to the letter it enclosed. You were not mistaken in supposing that the handwriting was mine. That letter was enclosed in one for Mr. Harrison, and sent under cover to you.
It gives me concern to find that you have so much trouble with American seamen, and I much lament that it is not in my power to comply with the terms on which alone you incline to continue it. I have written more than once to Congress on the subject, and submitted to their consideration the propriety of establishing proper regulations for the conduct of that business, but as yet I have received none. I presume that their attention has been so engaged by other matters of higher and more pressing importance, as not to have had leisure for making these arrangements. The refusal of American captains to give passages to their unfortunate countrymen is certainly unkind. I shall communicate to Congress, and I hope proper measures will be taken to remove that obstacle. At any rate, however, I cannot leave these unhappy captives friendless, in a strange country. The unfeeling treatment of the captains rather stimulates than represses my commiseration, and, therefore, gentlemen, as it is not convenient to you to proceed in your care of them, but on terms not in my power to comply with, I find myself reduced to the necessity of requesting that favour from others. For this purpose I have written to Mr. Harrison of your city, and proposed his undertaking it, and have desired him, in case he consented, to mention it to you. On that event I must beg the favour of you to give him such information and advice as may be useful to him in the management of those affairs. Be pleased also to liquidate your accounts with him; they shall be paid without further delay.
The attention and kind offices you have regularly paid to Americans, and the personal civilities that myself and family experienced from you, while at Cadiz, will always continue to excite my warmest acknowledgments, and lead me to omit no opportunity of convincing you of the esteem and regard with which I am, gentlemen, etc.
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.1
Madrid, 25th October, 1780.
Your very agreeable and friendly letters I have received, and shall take an early opportunity of answering fully. I have no reason as yet to think a loan here will be practicable. Bills on me arrive daily. Be pleased to send me a credit for residue of our salaries. America rises in the general estimation here.
Tell Mr. Deane I have received four of his letters and written three to him. He may expect to hear from me again soon.
Prince Masserano sets out for France early in the morning. I had intended to devote this afternoon and evening to writing by him, but have been prevented by company. It is now late at night, and I can say little. I am much indebted to the politeness of this nobleman, and except at his table, have eaten no Spanish bread that I have not paid for since my arrival in this city. This circumstance will, I flatter myself, recommend him to your particular attention, which I have reason to think would be very acceptable, for the respect and esteem which he frequently expresses for you. The Duke of Crillon who accompanies the Prince has also been polite to us, and I fancy they will both receive pleasure from finding me sensible of their attentions. The Princess appears to me to have much merit. I regret her absence, and the more so, perhaps, as it will not be supplied. She is a lady of much observation and discernment. God bless you, my dear sir.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO JAMES LOVELL.
Madrid, 27th October, 1780.
Your letter of the 11th July gave me much pleasure; there is a degree of ease and cordiality in it which, as a mere letter of business, it did not require. I am the more obliged to you for it.
It is true that I might write to Congress very often, indeed by every vessel, and there are many of them, but how are my letters to get to the seaside? By the post? They would be all inspected, and many suppressed. There is scarce a man in any of the ports, except Mr. Harrison, at Cadiz, with whom I would trust them; so that if under different covers I could get them there, the danger would not end. To write often, and write nothing material, would be useless; and when you see my public letter by this opportunity, you will perceive that to be well understood I must write a great deal. I would throw stones, too, with all my heart, if I thought they would hit only the committee without injuring the members of it. Till now I have received but one letter from them, and that not worth a farthing, though it conveyed a draft for one hundred thousand pounds sterling on the bank of hope. One good private correspondent would be worth twenty standing committees, made of the wisest heads in America, for the purpose of intelligence. What with clever wives, or pleasant walks, or too tired, or too busy, or do you do it, very little is done, much postponed, and more neglected.
If you, who are naturally industrious and love your country, would frequently take up your pen and your ciphers, and tell me how the wheel of politics runs, and what measures it is from time to time turning out, I should be better informed, and Congress better served. I now get more intelligence of your affairs from the French Ambassador than from all the members of Congress put together.
I had written thus far when I received a letter from Mr. Le Coulteux, at Cadiz, enclosing a letter of the 16th of September, written at St. Ildefonso from me to Congress. It had been enclosed in one to Mr. Harrison, and that again put under cover to Mr. Le Coulteux, and under these two covers was put into the post-office. Now mark its fate. The director of the post-office at Cadiz showed it to Mr. Le Coulteux, naked and stripped of its two covers, of which he made no mention. He said it came from Bayonne, but Le Coulteux, knowing my handwriting, paid the postage and returned it to me.
This is only one among the many instances of the fate to which my letters are subjected. To avoid it I must now be at the expense of sending Colonel Livingston to the seaside with my despatches.
I am, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Madrid, 30th October, 1780.
The pleasure given me by your letter of the 2d instant may more easily be conceived than expressed. I am greatly obliged by your attention to my embarrassments. In my last on that subject which you received, was a copy of my letter to Count de Vergennes, from which it appeared that the sum I should have occasion for would probably be considerable, and far exceeding 25,000 dollars. Bills to the amount of 100,000 dollars have arrived. A loan cannot be effected here. What the Court will do is as yet uncertain, and will long continue so. I should have replied to your letter before, but as I daily expected to hear from Count de Vergennes, I waited, with a view of mentioning the import to you. The enclosed copy of a note I received from Count Montmorin contains all the advices I have on that head. My situation continues unpleasant, and though my endeavours are not wanting to better it, future events are too uncertain to be relied upon. To be active, prudent, and patient is in my power; but whether I shall reap as well as sow and water, God only knows.
I have often been told of the former supplies, and asked how they were to be reimbursed. My answer has uniformly been, that I knew neither their amount nor terms, and that I wished to be furnished with an account of both, etc., etc. As yet I have not been able to obtain it.
Some mistake must have given occasion to any of the bills drawn on me being returned without acceptance. The fact is, that though I often delayed (with the consent of the holders), yet I never refused to accept any of them.
I have written several letters to Congress, requesting them to forbear drawing further bills till proper funds should be established for their payment. Mere contingent assurances, or flattering inferences drawn from flattering expressions, ought never to be considered as a sufficient foundation for serious measures.
Cornwallis, it seems, has cropped some of Gates’ laurels; and Mr. Laurens is in the Tower. European politicians will, I suppose, though often deceived in the same way, again think America on her knees in the dust. Had Ternay been supported, the campaign would have had a different termination. Much money and spirit has been wasted by this disappointment Of the latter, indeed, we shall never be in want, and I should be happy if the like could be said of the former. The conduct of France towards us has been friendly; and though I cannot forbear to think she has been too inattentive to this object, my gratitude towards her is not impaired by it. I regret it as a misfortune, not blame it as a designed omission.
I wrote to you last week, and now enclose a duplicate of another letter. You may rely on my reimbursing you the advances on account of our salaries, out of the first remittances I receive.
I have often congratulated my country and myself on your being at present in France. I once expected to have seen you there, and to have profited by the lessons which time and much experience have taught you. Miracles have ceased, and my constitution does not promise length of days, or I should probably desire you, when you ascend, to drop me your mantle. That you may long retain it is one of the prayers of
Your friend and servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Madrid, 5th November, 1780.
Three of your letters have reached me; the last was of the 12th July. Some of mine to you were worth little, and their miscarriage was of no consequence; there was one from Madrid, which I wish may come to your hands; it was interesting.
Where are you?—what are you doing? Achilles made no figure at the spinning-wheel. The State of New York I take to be your field; if prudently cultivated, it will yield much. Letters, though the best, are poor substitutes for conversation; but we must be content. I wish to hear many things of and from you.
Mrs. Jay is in tolerable health; she has had a fine little daughter, but she is gone home, and I am resigned. I have it in charge from Mrs. Jay to say many friendly things to you. Drawing bills on me was impolitic in many respects. The navigation, etc., is strongly insisted on. Many fair promises of aids, delays unavoidable or designed, the Court undecided and waiting events; the British courting them. Why was not Ternay supported? Depend on yourselves principally. The French Ambassador here has excellent intelligence from your city. I know but little of what passes among you, and shall be obliged to you for such traits of public and private matters as you may think interesting. I have had some letters from Deane; he is much displeased with what he thinks the duplicity of certain persons, who in particular I don’t know; he is endeavouring to establish here a bargain with Mirales about masts, and talks of coming here;—how did you and he part?
Should this find you at Philadelphia, remember me to my friends there. I know you, and therefore am, and will be cordially,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO ROBERT MORRIS.
Madrid, 19th November, 1780.
I have lately received a letter from Francis Child, a lad whom I had taken by the hand after his father’s death, and put apprentice to Mr. Dunlap, your printer. He complains that Dunlap refuses to give him the clothes stipulated in the indentures, and requests that I will save him from nakedness. You will oblige me by giving him twenty-five hard dollars, or the amount of it in paper. If you can conveniently discover how he behaves and is likely to turn out, I beg you will inform me; for, as his father had a warm and steady attachment to me, I feel myself interested in the welfare of the son, who it seems was his favourite.
My friend, you are not a little indebted to me on the score of letters. Only one has reached me. I am content to go on writing two or three for one, but really you must let us hear sometimes of you and Mrs. Morris. There are some hearts which, like feathers, stick to every thing they touch, and quit each with equal ease. Mine is not one of this kind; it adheres to few, but it takes strong hold; you must, therefore, write to me; and if you would make your letter very agreeable, dwell on the objects you will find at or near the hills, and within your own walls. Mrs. Jay writes by this opportunity to Mrs. Morris, whom she loves and esteems for many reasons unnecessary to repeat to you.
Should the following cipher reach you safe, we may afterward write with less reserve. Entick’s Spelling Dictionary, printed in 1777, paged backwards. The last page in the book is numbered 468. Let this be page the first, and mark the first page (which is the title-page) 468. Count the words from the top, distinguishing the columns by a [.] over the first figure for the first column, and a [.] over the second figure for the second column. For instance, the word absent is the fifth word in the first column of the 434th page, and is to be thus written: 5.434.
Remember me to your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Mease, and your other usual guests near the hills. I wish I had a few such honest, open-hearted companions here. God bless you.
I am, dear sir, very sincerely, your friend, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO EGBERT BENSON, ESQ.
Madrid, November, 1780.
There seems to be a spell in the pens of my friends in New York. Except Livingston, I have not had a line from either of them since I left America; not even from either of my brothers, nor from you, who also are several letters in my debt. I have a favour to ask of you; it is that you would make a visit to my father, and send me a minute account of his health, and that of the family. Make a half dozen copies of your letter, and send them either to some friend at Boston, or to Mr. Robert Morris, at Philadelphia, to be forwarded in different vessels. Don’t neglect to do me this friendly office. You can easily conceive how painful it is to be so long in ignorance and suspense about the situation and welfare of persons so near and dear to me as many of those are to whom I allude. Tell me also how your mother and brothers do; and believe me to be, as I have long been, your
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Madrid, November 25, 1780.
As there is reason to believe that you are still in Congress, I refer you for the political state of affairs here to my public letters, which you will find long and particular.
I am a little apprehensive, as the great exertions of America during the last campaign have not produced correspondent events, that either relaxation or divisions may succeed. They are both to be dreaded, and therefore, if possible, to be avoided. The defensive part which Mr. d’Ternay was obliged to act for want of reinforcements may have made impressions to the disadvantage of our allies. On this subject I have good authority to assure you that the commanding officer of the French fleet in the Islands had orders to afford him aid on his application. Whether such application was made, or, if made, why not complied with, I am uninformed. I have also good reason to believe that plans in favour of America are now under consideration at Versailles. What they will be, or whether they will ever be adopted, I cannot pretend to say. At any rate, it appears to me of great importance that no distrust of our allies appear; and though prudence may teach us to rely chiefly on ourselves, yet it ought to be remembered that one of the most certain methods of destroying friendship is to entertain suspicions of its sincerity. The greatest attention is doubtless paid to the Marquis de Lafayette and other French officers; their representations will have great weight in France.
I was happy to find your name among those of the committee sent to camp. This was a wise measure. The most severe economy in the expenditure of public money will, I hope, be observed. The credit of the United States has, both at home and abroad, been so heavily and perhaps imprudently laden that care should be taken lest the strength should become inadequate to its burdens.
The loss of Charleston had a wonderful effect here, and the ill consequences resulting from it had no sooner been removed by the subsequent glorious efforts of America, than the defeat of General Gates again turned the tide against us; and the more so as the small and unequal number of troops by whom that victory is said to have been achieved gave occasion to remarks much to our disadvantage. I am impatient to see the Congress account of that disaster; it has not yet made its appearance, and Cornwallis’ letter still remains uncontradicted, except by ship news, which, in such cases, is seldom greatly regarded.
Gibraltar continues closely besieged, and unless soon relieved (which is not very improbable), will be greatly straitened. This is an expensive expedition, and the object of it may, in my opinion, be more easily and speedily gained in America than in Spain.
I received a letter this morning from Holland informing me that Mr. Laurens was still closely confined, but that his health was much mended. I hope you are looking out for a proper object of retaliation. The honour as well as the interest of the States demand it, and I am persuaded such a proper and spirited step would have a favourable influence on our affairs in Europe, especially if done in a manner consistent with the dignity and justice of Congress. There is reason to fear that all his papers fell into the enemy’s hands. Copies of letters (found among them) from Mr. d’Neufville to Congress were sent to the Stadtholder, and occasioned much noise, but that gentleman and his party avowing them firmly, it soon subsided.
The Dutch, I believe, will remain pacific. They have too much in the funds to risk; and some of them seem surprised that Congress should be at a loss for money while the produce of the country continues greatly to exceed the consumption of its inhabitants.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Madrid, November 30, 1780.
Your Excellency will receive herewith enclosed certain papers from Morocco, viz.: . . .
These papers ought to have been sent with my letters of May last, but recollecting, as I was about to put them up, that if the originals should be lost on the passage it might be difficult to obtain others, I thought it most prudent to detain them to be copied, and wait for some other opportunity of getting them to the sea; none has, however, since occurred, and I did not think them of sufficient importance to render it necessary that either Mr. Carmichael or Colonel Livingston should carry them to one of the seaports.
It is proper that your Excellency should be informed that on the 8th instant I had a conference with the Minister at the Escurial, in which I received many good words and friendly assurances, but time only can decide how they will terminate. I received a letter yesterday from Mr. Harrison, of the 24th instant, and then no orders had arrived about the clothing. These delays may seem singular, but they are not uncommon. Mr. Cumberland1 is still here. The French and English fleets are at sea.
Although appearances are not very flattering at present, I hope they will in time become more so. Patience, prudence, and perseverance sometimes effect much. It is in my opinion very important that no dissatisfaction be expressed in America at the conduct of Spain. Complaint and disgust can answer no good purpose, but may be productive of many disagreeable consequences. A cautious silence is the more necessary, as I am confident that there are persons in America who would make a merit of collecting and transmitting the sentiments of Congress, or members of Congress, on subjects interesting to the views and objects of persons in power here.
Colonel Livingston would have returned this fall at the expiration of the term expressed in his leave of absence, had I not taken the liberty of advising him to remain, and taken upon myself to adjust this matter with Congress. As he is employed and industrious in obtaining knowledge which may enable him to be useful in future to his country, I must join with him in requesting that Congress will be so kind as to extend his leave of absence to such further period as may be agreeable to them.
The enclosed paper, marked No. 6, is a copy of a state of the revenues and expenditures of Spain, in the year 1778. It was formed by a secretary to one of the embassies, and a copy of it was given to Mr. Carmichael. I received it the last day of July, and had no safe opportunity of sending it before. What credit may be due to this account I cannot determine, and I have reason to think that there are few men in the kingdom who can. This government, disposed to concealment and mystery in most matters, will not probably permit an accurate knowledge of their revenues to be easily attained. This account is perhaps as near the truth as any other. The gentleman, it is said, took much pains in forming it, and it also met with the approbation of some foreign Ministers; but how far those Ministers were judges of the subject I am uninformed. The remarks subjoined to this account are Mr. Carmichael’s, and were added to the copy I received from him.
I send copies of several letters which passed between Messrs. de Neufville and Son, of Amsterdam, and myself, relative to the bills drawn on Mr. Laurens. The conduct of that House has been so friendly and disinterested that I think Congress should be particularly informed of it, and by taking proper notice of it induce others to follow the example.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO THE COMMITTEE OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS.
Madrid, November 30, 1780.
I have had the honour of receiving from you a letter of the 16th of June, and another the 12th of July, 1780, with the several papers mentioned in them. With respect to the subjects of the first, you will find them fully discussed in my letter to the President of Congress, which will accompany this. The description of the bills will, I hope, answer good purposes.
How far the resolution, which immediately follows the one respecting Mr. Dohrman, can be fully executed, is hard to determine. Had I funds necessary for the purpose, I should meet with few difficulties. The measure is a wise one, and my attention to it shall be unremitted. In a future letter I shall say more on this subject; as yet nothing has had time to ripen.
I must request your attention to the necessity of putting your correspondence with the public servants in Europe on a better footing. I am now at the expense of sending Colonel Livingston to the seaside with my despatches, with orders to wait for American vessels, and deliver them to the captain with his own hands. I receive no letters by the post, but with marks of inspection, and after much delay. Some that I write never come to hand, and I know of letters having arrived from America for me, which I have never seen, and never expect to see. I know of but one man at the seaports whom I can confide in, viz., Mr. Harrison, at Cadiz. I cannot even find a courier that I can depend on. Is it not time for America, like other nations, to provide against these inconveniences by proper regulations and establishments? Would it not be well to have American agents or consuls in one or more of the ports of France and Spain? Public despatches might be sent by packet-boats, or other vessels, to these agents, and should on no account be delivered to any other person; the agents might be ordered to send them to the Courts to which they may be directed by a trusty American—one of the officers of the ship, for example; and he should be ordered to wait for, and return with, the despatches of the Minister.
Would it not also be proper to provide for the safe-conduct of letters to Congress after their arrival in America? I have reason not only to suspect, but to believe, that certain persons in America are attentive to these matters, and care should be taken to keep American letters out of their way.
This is an important subject and merits attention. For my own part I find several persons here who have more intelligence from America than myself; and it is the more mortifying when considered that they are probably often indebted for their information to the contents of letters directed to me.
I have the honour to be, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO SILAS DEANE.
Madrid, 26th December, 1780.
At length your first letter, contrary to my expectations, has arrived, and my attention to it shall not be wanting. I have also received your favour of the 18th September; since which more of my letters than one have, I hope, reached you, this being the fourth.
I have read, considered, and reconsidered the facts and reflections you communicate, and am persuaded that the consequences you draw, though in a certain degree just, are not quite so extensive as you seem to suppose. I am not free from similar apprehensions, but they are not so strong as yours. But however well founded they may be, they ought only to increase our prudence. If I had leisure, it would give me pleasure to go largely into this subject; at present I cannot, because matters of more immediate importance engage me.
That you have been hardly treated I know, and shall never hesitate to say; but I cannot think the cases of the gentlemen are similar, or prove the points to which you apply them. You was blamed, not for omitting finally to settle your accounts in France, but for not being in capacity to show (when in America) what those accounts were; and I don’t know that those gentlemen were or will be chargeable with the like incapacity. I mention this only to show the distinction between the cases.
How far the distinction is important, or how far that incapacity could justify the treatment it occasioned, are other questions. For my own part I think it could not justify it. It will also remain a question how far your measures were prudent. I think some of them were, and some not; but this inquiry requires many considerations, and combinations, and circumstances, which I must defer for the present. The discoveries you allude to respecting secret practices surprise me exceedingly; I have no such suspicions: perhaps you may give more weight to circumstances than they may merit. The inquiry nevertheless is very important, and while any doubts remain, the pursuit should be continued. Justice demands that we should not even in our opinions injure men who may be innocent; and prudence also demands that we permit not a good heart to impose on a good head,—a case by no means uncommon.
I wish there were twenty other motives than those you mention for your passing to Spain, exclusive of the satisfaction it will give me to see you. The matters you mention are highly interesting in a public and a private view. They cannot be so well handled in letters as conversation. Whether it will be in my power to meet you I cannot predict, and therefore cannot promise. It would be agreeable, but I have hitherto found so many matters not to be neglected constantly demanding my attention, that I cannot flatter myself with being more disengaged till the greater objects of my coming here shall be either attained or become unattainable. If I should nevertheless be able, I will; if not, I hope you will come on.
The attachment you express for your country, notwithstanding your complaints of her ingratitude, does you much honour. The injustice of resenting on a whole people the mistakes or transgressions of a few is obvious; but there are comparatively not many who, under similar circumstances, either think right or act so. Truth is seldom so immersed in darkness as not to be capable of being brought to light if attempted in season; and as the mass of the people mean well, they will finally do justice, though their mistakes and passions sometimes delay it. Persevere therefore, do good to your country, and evince the rectitude of your conduct while in her service. I believe you honest, and I think you injured. The considerations will always prompt me to every friendly office in my power to render. I must again advise you to collect, review, and ascertain precisely the evidence you may have or can obtain of the duplicity of the persons you allude to, whoever they may be. I see this business in many important lights, and the time may come when you may rejoice in all the trouble you may now be at about it. Nay, all this evidence, provided it should appear material, ought to be committed to paper, and not permitted to diminish or die in or with your memory; put it in the power of your friends to vindicate your reputation when you may be no more. It will be of particular importance to your son, to whom you cannot leave a better inheritance than a good, nor a worse one than a bad or doubtful, reputation. Remember too that time is spending, men forgetting or dying, papers wasting, etc., and therefore the sooner you reduce these matters to a certainty the better.
Mrs. Jay and the Colonel desire to be particularly remembered to you. This will go under cover to Dr. Franklin. Be pleased to assure him of my regard and esteem, of which also believe you have no little share.
I am, dear sir, very sincerely yours, etc.,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
1781.[Back to Table of Contents]
JAY TO ELBRIDGE GERRY.
Madrid, 9th January, 1781.
I should have much wondered what could have detained my letter, mentioned in yours of September last, so long from you, had not my correspondence been strangely interrupted ever since my arrival.
Your Constitution gives me much satisfaction. It appears to me to be, upon the whole, wisely formed and well digested. I find that it describes your State as being in New England, as well as in America. Perhaps it would be better if these distinctions were permitted to die away.
Your predictions respecting the fate of Lord Cornwallis have, thank God! been verified. It is a glorious, joyful, and important event. Britain feels the force of that stroke, and other nations begin to doubt less of the continuance of our independence. Further successes must prepare the way for peace; and I hope that victory will stimulate instead of relaxing our exertions.
Although myself and family have most severely suffered by the Continental money, I am resigned to its fate. Provided we preserve our liberty and independence, I shall be content. Under their auspices, in a fruitful country, and by patient industry, a competence may always be acquired, and I shall never cease to prefer a little with freedom, to opulence without it.
Your account of the plenty which abounds in our country is very flattering, and ought to excite our gratitude to the Hand that gives it. While our governments tax wisely, reward merit, and punish offenders, we shall have little to fear. The public has been too much a prey to peculation. Economy and strict accounts ought to be, and continue, among the first objects of our attention.
I have not heard any thing for a long time respecting our disputed lines. In my opinion, few things demand more immediate care than this subject; and I differ from those who think that such matters had better be postponed till after the war. At present, a sense of common danger guarantees our union. We have neither time nor inclination to dispute among ourselves. Peace will give us leisure, and leisure often finds improper occasions for employment. I most sincerely wish that no disputes may survive the war; and that, on the return of peace, we may congratulate each other on our deliverance and prospects of uninterrupted felicity, without finding ourselves exposed to differences and litigations, which never fail to make impressions injurious to that cordiality and confidence which both our interest and our duty call upon us to cultivate and cherish.
Mrs. Jay charges me to present her compliments to you. I am, dear sir, with great and sincere esteem, your most obedient and very humble servant,
John Jay.[Back to Table of Contents]
INSTRUCTIONS FROM CONGRESS TO JAY.
In Congress, February 15th, 1781.
Congress having since their instructions to you of the 29th of September, 1779, and 4th of October, 1780, relative to the claim of the United States to the free navigation of the river Mississippi, and to a free port or ports below the thirty-first degree of north latitude, resumed the consideration of that subject, and being desirous to manifest to all the world, and particularly to his Catholic Majesty, the moderation of their views, the high value they place on the friendship of his Catholic Majesty, and their disposition to remove every reasonable obstacle to his accession to the alliance subsisting between his Most Christian Majesty and these United States, in order to unite the more closely in their measures and operations three powers who have so great a unity of interests, and thereby to compel the common enemy to a speedy, just, and honorable peace; have resolved, and you are hereby instructed to recede from the instructions above referred to, so far as they insist on the free navigation of that part of the river Mississippi, which lies below the thirtyfirst degree of north latitude, and on a free port or ports below the same; provided such cession shall be unalterably insisted upon by Spain; and provided the free navigation of the said river, above the said degree of north latitude, shall be acknowledged and guarantied by his Catholic Majesty to the citizens of the United States in common with his own subjects. It is the order of Congress, at the same time, that you exert every possible effort to obtain from his Catholic Majesty the use of the river aforesaid, with a free port or ports below the said thirtyfirst degree of north latitude for the citizens of the United States, under such regulations and restrictions only, as may be a necessary safeguard against illicit commerce.
I am, etc.
end of volume I.
[1 ]This letter, indicating the time when Jay made choice of the legal profession, is the earliest of any special personal interest found among his papers. He was then in his nineteenth year, a student in the Senior Class at King’s, now Columbia, College, where he graduated with the highest honors in 1764. His father, Peter Jay, member of a well-known Huguenot family in New York City and a successful merchant there, appears to have followed his youthful course with keen interest and at a later date sympathized with and encouraged him in his public attitude. The Jay homestead was, at this time, at Rye, N. Y., the family having removed from the city in 1746.
[1 ]Upon graduation in May, of this year, Jay entered the law office of Benjamin Kissam, Esq., a prominent member of the bar at New York, and was himself admitted to practice in 1768. John Adams, as he passed through the city on his way to Philadelphia in August, 1774, wrote in his diary, commenting on men and measures: “Mr. Jay is a young gentleman of about twenty-six; Mr. Scott says, a hard student and a good speaker.”
[1 ]See preceding letter and note.
[2 ]On the following day, April 26th, Kissam wrote again to Jay: “We were last night strangely deluded with a mistaken account of the Repeal of the Stamp Act, and all the Bells have been ringing since Break of Day. Upon inquiry we find that the intelligence amounts to no more than that the Bill had passed the House of Commons on the 28 of Feb.y and was to be sent up to the Lords on the 3d March. There is indeed a Letter dated at Falmouth on the 5th of March which says the Stamp Act is repealed, but this can be no more than its having passed the House of Commons, which we find they commonly call a Repeal.”
[1 ]This and the letter following were exchanged between Jay and Kissam while the latter was temporarily absent from New York on professional business.
[1 ]Dr. Samuel Kissam, then at Paramaribo, South America, where, as he wrote to Jay in 1771, he found business prospects flattering.
[1 ]The “young Lady” in question, whom Jay married, April 28, 1774, was Sarah Van Brugh Livingston, daughter of William Livingston, subsequently Governor of New Jersey, etc. See Miss Philipse’s letter to Mrs. Jay, July 1, 1774. A portrait and sketch of Mrs. Jay appear in Mrs. Ellett’s “Queens of American Society.”
[1 ]Jay’s public career begins with his participation in the meetings held by citizens of New York during the alarm and excitement consequent on the passage of the Boston Port Bill, March 31, 1774. At the first meeting, May 16, 1774, a committee of fifty, with Isaac Low as chairman, was nominated to correspond with the other colonies “upon all matters of moment,” and on the 19th “a great concourse of the inhabitants” assembled at the Coffee House and confirmed the nominations. Of this committee, known as the Committee of Correspondence, Jay was a member. On the 23d it met in the forenoon and appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Messrs. McDougall, Low, Duane, and Jay, to report “at 8 o’clock P.M.” the draft of an answer to a communication from the Boston Committee of Correspondence. The citizens of Boston had held a meeting May 13th, and voted “That it is the opinion of this town that if the other Colonies come into a joint resolution to stop all importations from Great Britain, and exportations to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the Act for blocking up this harbour be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties.” The answer from New York appears above, it being the draft of the sub-committee, of which Jay, as stated, was a member. Its historical importance lies in the fact that while suggestions for holding a general congress of the colonies to consult on common rights had previously been made in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the proposition to the same effect from New York was framed in such pointed terms as to hasten action in the matter and, with a similar call from Virginia, to lead to the assemblage of the famous Congress in September following. This New York draft was possibly from Jay’s own pen.
Jay took an active part in the proceedings of the General Committee. At the meeting of July 19th, for example, he moved, “That a committee be appointed to take the distresses of the poor of the town of Boston, and ways and means for their relief, into consideration, and make their report with all convenient speed.” Such a committee was named with Jay as a member, and donations for Boston secured. The Committee of Correspondence was succeeded, November 22d, by another composed of sixty members, called the Committee of Inspection, which in turn was succeeded, May 1, 1775, by still another General Committee of one hundred. Jay was elected to both, but, as appears from the succeeding note, p. 17, he was to be preoccupied much of the time with the duties of a more important station.
[1 ]See letter, ante, from Peter Jay to Wm. Livingston, January 31, 1774.
[1 ]During the spring and summer of 1774 the several colonies, through their Assemblies or Committees of Correspondence, resolved upon holding a General Congress of Delegates to take common action against the alarming encroachment of Parliamentary authority. The Boston Port Bill, like the Stamp Act, had aroused indignation and distrust, and a crisis threatened. Delegates being elected to the proposed Congress, that body met at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774, and on October 20th adopted the well-known Articles of “Association” interdicting all trade with Great Britain, that were to be followed later by still stronger bonds of union. Important addresses were also issued. The delegates representing New York City and County were Messrs. Philip Livingston, John Alsop, Isaac Low, James Duane, and John Jay. They were unanimously elected by the freeholders, freemen, and other taxpayers of the city, July 28th, upon the platform of a “non-importation agreement,” as the most efficacious means of compelling a redress of grievances. See note p. 13.
It was during the session of this Congress that Jay first became known beyond the limits of his own constituency as a writer of marked ability. He was the author of the above “Address” to the people of England, which Jefferson, among others, admired and praised. Lee, of Virginia, and Livingston, of New Jersey, were his colleagues on the committee appointed to prepare the document. See “Life of Jay,” vol. i., p. 30, and vol. ii., pp. 380-384. Jay also served on the committees “to state the rights of the colonies,” to prepare a letter to the colony agents in London, etc.
[1 ]Letter in answer to an “Address from the Committee of Mechanicks of New York, presented to the Delegates who represented the City at the General Congress.” Printed in Force’s “American Archives.”
[1 ]Before its adjournment the Congress of 1774, referred to in note, p. 17, made provision for the meeting of another similar body on May 10, 1775. In New York a Provincial Convention was called for the special purpose of electing delegates to the new Congress, and on April 22, 1775, Mr. Jay was again chosen, with Messrs. Philip Livingston, James Duane, John Alsop, Simon Boerum, William Floyd, Henry Wisner, Philip Schuyler, George Clinton, Lewis Morris, Francis Lewis, and Robert R. Livingston, Jr., representing the different counties of the Province, as his colleagues. This Congress of 1775, which met, as before, at Philadelphia, became the continuous body known as the Continental Congress of the Revolution, the individual members changing from time to time. Jay’s first connection with it lasted until May 25, 1776, a little over a year. During that time he was closely absorbed with his public duties and served on many important committees, as the published proceedings of the Congress show. On May 26th he was appointed with Samuel Adams and Silas Deane, to prepare and report a letter to the people of Canada, which was approved, on the 29th, in the form given above. Jay’s biographer credits him with its authorship (vol. i., p. 34), as he does with the authorship of the “Address to the People of Ireland,” a document similar in style and having the same object as that to the Canadians. It appears in Force’s “American Archives.” Jay was also one of the committee to prepare the declaration issued by Congress July 6th, “setting forth the causes and necessity” of taking up arms against the mother country. Two days later the “Petition to the King” was signed by the delegates, the document being drawn up by Mr. Dickenson; the measure, however, originated with Jay, and was successfully urged by him against strong opposition. In regard to this, see “Life,” etc., vol. i., p. 36.
[1 ]The reference here is to the destruction, November 23, 1775, of the Tory Rivington’s press in New York by a party of light horsemen from Connecticut under Captain Sears. The party also seized Bishop Seabury, “Lord” Underhill, Mayor of Westchester borough, and Judge Fowler, who had protested against the proceedings of the Continental Congress, and carried them off, with a portion of Rivington’s type, to New Haven.
[1 ]Alexander McDougall, of New York City, at this date colonel of the First New York Continental Regiment and later brigadier and major-general in the army.
[1 ]“Young Hamilton,” as Jay speaks of him at this date, then in his nineteenth year.
[2 ]Delegate from New York in Continental Congress; subsequently Chancellor, etc.
[1 ]John Jay’s next younger brother, who had been with him on the N. Y. Committee of One Hundred in 1775, and who was associated with the local committee in Westchester Co. in 1776; afterwards member of the N. Y. Assembly to the close of the war.
[1 ]In a letter of the 25th February, Jay writes to Livingston:
“Your letter of the 15th inst. informs me that you continue indisposed and that you are nursing yourself at home. I am sorry for both. The first alarms me on account of your health and the second forbodes your being long sick. Amusement and exercise ought to be your objects; at home you can have little of either. Domestic concerns, variety of business, and twenty things going wrong for want of that care and attention which a sick man should not think of, agitate your mind and prevent that even flow of spirits and that calm throughout the whole man so necessary to invite the return of health. This would be my case were I in your situation. If it be yours get rid of it. The spring advances fast and as soon as the roads will permit you, go to the camp, to Philadelphia, in short anywhere, so that you are but moving. You must, however, leave off riding post—no more sixty or seventy miles a day. Travel like a citizen of the world who thinks himself at home at every inn, and leaves it as you would your house when you are about to take an airing. If I can with any tolerable propriety leave the Congress I will accompany you, and as I have often done, save your horse from many a sweat.”
[1 ]In the early stages of the discussion on the expediency of formally separating from the mother country, Jay, with the majority of his colleagues in Congress and the leaders of the day, took a conservative position. The above paper was doubtless intended, with many others printed at the time, to forestall precipitate action on so vital a question. Whether it was published in the form here given does not appear, but a longer communication signed “Seek Truth,” following the same line of argument and containing the same or like extracts from the records of Congress, is to be found in Force’s “American Archives,” 4th Ser., vol. v., p. 1011, suggesting the possibility that it may have been Jay’s own elaboration of this first draft preserved among his papers. As the situation changed and a Declaration of Independence became the one necessary and saving step, few men labored more zealously to make it an accomplished fact than Jay. See his resolutions in N. Y. Convention, July 9, 1776.
[1 ]Marinus Willett, lately captain in McDougall’s regiment, and subsequently lieutenant-colonel in the New York Continental Line; mayor of New York, 1807.
[1 ]Jay, who had been an almost constant attendant on Congress for a year, was now for many months to be associated with the public bodies and affairs of his own Province. On the third Tuesday of April, 1776, he was elected member of the New York Congress, and on May 25th he took his seat in that body. His seat in the Continental Congress was not vacated by this change, and he probably would have returned to Philadelphia but for the important matters to come before the New York Congress requiring his presence there. The recommendation of the Continental Congress to the several colonies to adopt new and constitutional forms of government especially required careful deliberation, and the New York Congress directed him not to leave them “without further orders.” Jay’s letters show that he was heartily in favor of a change in the provincial government, but as the House had not been instructed on this issue, it called for the election of a new body, which took the name of the New York Convention—Jay being returned as a member from New York City. The Convention met at White Plains, July 9th, and a committee subsequently appointed to report on the proposed measure. The exigencies of the campaign for that year, however, delayed action on the adoption of a new form of government, until March-April of the following year, as appears from the note to the Livingston-Morris letter of April 26, 1777. Jay, meantime, was buried in the work of important committees.
[1 ]Duane was one of the delegates from New York in the Continental Congress. In the first sentence of the above letter he refers to one of May 16th, in which he wrote to Jay as follows:
“Yesterday, my dear Friend, was an important day productive of the Resolutions of which I enclose you a copy. I shall not enter into particulars: the Resolution itself first passed and then a Committee was appointed to fit it with a preamble. Compare them with each other and it will probably lead you into Reflections which I dare not point out. I hope you will relieve me soon as I am impatient to visit my Friends: I look upon Business here to be in such a train that I can well be spared.” The resolution referred to change of colonial governments already mentioned.
[1 ]In a letter of May 25th, Duane informs Jay that Maryland dissents from the recommendation of Congress to institute new governments in the colonies, and that there is division of sentiment in Pennsylvania. Respecting the latter Duane writes: “The General Assembly of Pensylvania is averse to any Change. The people of this Town [Phila.] assembled last Monday in the State house yard & agreed to a set of Resolutions in favour of a Change. Another body are signing a Remonstrance against the acts of that meeting and in support of the Assembly. The Committee for the County of Philadelphia have unanimously supported the Assembly & protested against any Change. It is supposed the other Counties will follow their example & take a part in the dispute. Is it not to be feared that this point of Dissention will spread itself into the adjoining Colonies? But I intend to make no Reflections—the facts I have hinted at will be published.” Duane adds that he is awaiting the return of one of the absent delegates from New York to visit his own family: “It is more than 9 months since I have seen my children & I have spent but about ten days in that time with Mrs. Duane.”
[1 ]For the proceedings against Gilbert Forbes, a gunsmith in New York, charged with conspiring against the person of the Commander-in-Chief, see “Am. Archives,” 4th Series, vol. vi., p. 1178. Livingston, Jay, and G. Morris were a secret committee appointed by the Convention to ferret out the plot.
[1 ]Edward Rutledge, delegate from Charleston, S. C. In a letter of June 8th, he wrote to Jay:
“The Congress sat till 7 o’clock this evening in consequence of a motion of R. H. Lee’s rendering ourselves free & independant State. The sensible part of the House opposed the Motion—they had no objection to forming a Scheme of a Treaty which they would send to France by proper Persons & uniting this Continent by a Confedracy; they saw no Wisdom in a Declaration of Independence, nor any other Purpose to be enforced by it, but placing ourselves in the Power of those with whom we mean to treat, giving our Enemy Notice of our Intentions before we had taken any steps to execute them. . . . The event, however, was that the Question was postponed; it is to be renewed on Monday when I mean to move that it should be postponed for 3 Weeks or Months. In the mean Time the plan of Confederation & the Scheme of Treaty may go on. I don’t know whether I shall succeed in this Motion; I think not, it is at least Doubtful. However I must do what is right in my own Eyes, & Consequences must take Care of themselves. I wish you had been here—the whole Argument was sustained on one side by R. Livingston, Wilson, Dickenson & myself, & by the Power of all N. England, Virginia & Georgia at the other.” See note p. 52.
[1 ]This question of military appointments occasioned anxiety among officers and others in all the States. Congress had lately nominated officers for a New York battalion, which the Convention of that State believed to be an assumption of power. Jay wrote the Convention’s reply, printed in its proceedings, in which he said: “The third reason given for depriving us in this instance of the right of nomination, is the good of the service and the danger of delay. The necessity of the case, has in all ages and nations of the world been a fruitful, though dangerous, source of power. It has often sown tares in the fair fields of liberty, and like a malignant blast, destroyed the fruits of patriotism and public spirit. The whole history of mankind bears testimony against the propriety of considering this principle as the parent of civil rights; and a people jealous of their liberties will ever reprobate it. We believe Congress went into this measure with pure intentions, and with no other wish than that of serving their country; and we entertain too high an opinion of their virtue and integrity to apologize for a plainness of speech becoming freemen, and which we know can give offence only to that counterfeit and adulterated dignity which swells the pride of those who, instead of lending, borrow consequence from their offices. And, sir, we beg leave to assure Congress, that though we shall always complain of and oppose their resolutions when they injure our rights, we shall ever be ready to risk our lives and fortunes in supporting the American cause.”
[1 ]On July 9, 1776, the day the newly elected Convention of New York, mentioned on p. 59, assembled at White Plains, it received through the delegates at Congress a copy of the Declaration of Independence for approval. This was read and then referred to a Committee, of which Mr. Jay was chairman. At the afternoon session of the same day the Committee reported the above resolutions which were unanimously adopted. Referring to this action Jay’s biographer says, vol. i., p. 45: “Thus, although Mr. Jay was, by his recall from Congress, deprived of the honour of affixing his signature to the Declaration of Independence, he had the satisfaction of drafting the pledge given by his native State to support it; and this pledge, in his own handwriting, is preserved among the records of New York.”
[1 ]Report made to the Secret Committee of the New York Convention about August 7, 1776. This was one of the more important of several committees on which Jay served during that critical period. It was appointed, July 16th, specially to obstruct the channel of the Hudson and annoy the enemy’s shipping, and was also authorized “to impress carriages, teams, sloops and horses, and to call out detachments of the militia.” Jay was commissioned to secure cannon at Salisbury, Connecticut, for Fort Montgomery in the Highlands.
[1 ]John Morin Scott, a leading lawyer in New York before the war, a warm advocate of the American cause, and at this date Brigadier General of State troops; subsequently Secretary of State of New York. During the battle of Long Island, fought August 27, 1776, his brigade was ordered over from New York, but took no part in the action.
[1 ]Upon the advance of the British into Westchester County in October, 1776, Jay’s father withrew with his family from the homestead at Rye and settled at Fishkill.
[1 ]More important than the Secret Committee, referred to in note on p. 75, was the committee “for inquiring into, detecting, and defeating all conspiracies which may be formed in this State against the liberties of America.” This was appointed by the New York Convention, after much debate, on September 21, 1776, the report in its favor being offered by Mr. Duer. The Committee, consisting of one member from each county, elected by the Convention, stood as follows: William Duer, Chairman; Zephaniah Platt, Pierre Van Cortlandt, Nathaniel Sackett, John Jay, Charles De Witt, and Leonard Gansevoort. On November 9th Jay was made Chairman, vice Duer, and apparently continued as such until the dissolution of the Committee, February 27, 1777, when a new body known as the “Commissioners for detecting conspiracies,” &c., was appointed. Mr. Jay did not serve on the latter. A portion of the minutes of the first Committee, in Jay’s handwriting, is preserved in the New York Historical Society Library. See “Life of Jay,” vol. i., pp. 48, 49.
[1 ]On November 29, 1775, the Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of Messrs. Harrison, Franklin, Johnson, Dickinson, and Jay to conduct a correspondence with friends of America in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world. It was known as the Secret Committee, and the results following from its correspondence were highly important. Deane was their principal agent abroad during 1776, several of whose letters appear in Force’s “Archives” for that year. The original of the above, addressed to Jay in person, is among his papers.
[1 ]The misfortunes and defeats experienced by the American troops in the campaign of 1776 produced so much despondency that the Continental Congress and some of the State bodies issued spirited and encouraging addresses to the people, which, with the victories at Trenton and Princeton, wonderfully revived faith and confidence. Among the addresses was the above from the New York Convention, Jay being the author of it. The Continental Congress so far adopted it as its own as to recommend its “serious perusal” by all the people of America, and ordered it to be translated into the German language.
[1 ]Reference is made here to the secret correspondence between Silas Deane and the committee of Congress mentioned in note, p. 97. Deane wrote his letters with invisible ink, which the committee were to decipher through some chemical preparation. To mislead the enemy in case of the interception of the letters, Deane would write a brief and unimportant note over an assumed name on the upper portion of the sheet of paper on which the hidden communication was entered. Timothy Jones, in Morris’ letter above, was one of Deane’s fictitious signatures. See “Life of Jay,” vol. i., p. 64.
[1 ]The first Constitution of the State of New York, with which Jay’s name is closely associated, was adopted April 20, 1777. Unfortunately no record of the deliberations of the committee that framed it is known to exist, and the debate upon its adoption in the Convention was but meagrely reported, while the only material bearing upon any of its features found among Jay’s papers consists of the above letter from Livingston and Morris, Jay’s reply following, and the letter from Duane of May 28, 1777. The main facts in the history of the Constitution are well known. A committee to draft the instrument, in accordance with a general recommendation from the Continental Congress (see note, p. 58), was appointed as early as August 1, 1776, but events delayed the submission of its report until March 11, 1777. This committee, a majority of whom were prominent lawyers, was composed of Messrs. Jay, Hobart, Smith, Duer, Morris, Livingston, Broome, Scott, Abraham and Robert Yates, Wisner, DeWitt, and Townhsend. According to Jay’s biographer, Chancellor Kent, and others, the first draft of the Constitution was presented in Jay’s handwriting, and reflected the committee’s mature deliberations. That he devoted much attention to it himself and stamped it largely with his own views is evident from the debate in the Convention and his letter of April 29, 1777. During the debate changes were made and amendments adopted. Jay, for example, moved the substitution of the ballot for the previous viva-voce method of electing representatives; he also proposed the Council of Appointment for the nomination of civil officers. Morris, Livingston, Scott, and others figure in the proceedings.
[1 ]See note to preceding letter.
[1 ]A letter in the “Calendar of New York Historical MSS.,” vol. i., pp. 678, 679, March 24, 1777, contains this reference:
“Mr. Jay is exceedingly unhappy about the 27th paragraph of the form of Government which puts the appointmt. of the clerks of courts in the power of the respective Judges. . . . He alleges that ’t is putting in their power to provide for Sons, Brothers, creatures, Dependants, &c—That it will prevent obtaining Evidence against the most wicked Judge should such be appointed. Corrupt bargains may be made for appointments to those offices,” etc.
[1 ]Such a recommendation was introduced by Gouverneur Morris and passed, but subsequently omitted. It was in the form of a call upon “the future Legislatures of the State to take the most effectual measures, consistent with the public safety and private property of individuals, for abolishing domestic slavery within the same, so that in future ages every human being who breathes the air of this State shall enjoy the privileges of a freeman.” Jay, who, on account of his mother’s illness, was absent from the Legislature during the last days of the debate, does not appear to have been aware of the clause offered by Morris. It was during Jay’s term as governor, however, that slavery was finally abolished in New York.
[2 ]Abraham Yates, of Albany, member of the New York Convention.
[1 ]William Duer, of Charlotte County, lately member of the New York Convention, and now delegate in Congress.
[1 ]Leonard Gansevoort, of Albany County, member of the New York Convention.
[1 ]Although Jay had declined to stand as a candidate in this first gubernatorial election in New York, he received a considerable number of votes, as appears from the following note on p. 164 “Civil List, State of New York, 1886”: “A fragment of the canvass of 1777 shows the returns from Albany, Cumberland, Dutchess, Tryon, Ulster, Westchester as follows: George Clinton, 865; John Morin Scott, 386; Philip Schuyler, 1,012; John Jay, 367; Philip Livingston, 5; Robert R. Livingston, 7. The votes from Orange and other Southern counties gave the election to Clinton. The returns were made to the Council of Safety, July 9, and the Governor was sworn in on the 30th at Kingston.”
[1 ]Before it dissolved in May, 1777, the New York Convention appointed a Council of Safety to provide for the military necessities of the State until the meeting of the first Legislature in September. Jay was a member of this Council. Its published proceedings show that the suppression of toryism, the mustering of the militia, and the general defence of the State were the principal matters absorbing its attention.
[1 ]Evacuation of Ticonderoga by Gen. St. Clair on the approach of Burgoyne, July 4, 1777.
[1 ]The above letter is credited by his biographer to Mr. Jay, vol. i., p. 71. Jay seems to have conducted a large part of the correspondence for the Council of Safety; its proceedings contain or refer to drafts of letters by him to Washington, Clinton, Schuyler, Trumbull, and others.
[1 ]Upon the adoption of the State Constitution, April 20, ’77 (see note p. 126), the New York Convention appointed a committee, distinct from the Council of Safety, to establish the authority of the new government in all its branches. As the situation required the organization of the judiciary without delay, the convention itself proceeded. on May 3d, to name the officers, and elected, among others, John Jay, as Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court. He received nineteen votes, against fifteen cast for John Morin Scott. The Supreme Court was not formally opened until September 9th following, at Kingston, when Jay delivered the above charge to the grand jury, a body described at the time as “composed of the most respectable characters in the County, no less than twenty-two of whom attended and were sworn.” The charge was published at the jury’s request.
[1 ]Colonel Robert Troup, aide-de-camp to General Gates. Subsequently Judge United States District Court of New York.
[1 ]A Westchester County loyalist and an officer in Oliver De Lancey’s corps recruited in New York and Long Island. Surprised and captured by a party of Americans in the fall of 1777, he was taken to and confined at Hartford. See his answer following.
[1 ]See note to preceding letter.
[1 ]A well-known loyalist, one of Jay’s friends before the war, now a prisoner on parole. See “Life of Van Schaack,” by his son.
[1 ]This “appointment” was Jay’s election to the presidency of the Continental Congress, December 10, 1778. Under the New York Constitution the Chief Justice was debarred from holding any other office except that of delegate to Congress on “a special occasion.” The irritating Vermont controversy presented such an occasion, and on November 4th the New York Legislature elected Jay a delegate without vacating his judicial office. Three days after taking his seat in Congress he was elected president of that body, succeeding Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, who had resigned.
[1 ]Respecting the proposed Canada expedition see Washington to Jay, April 14, 1779.
[1 ]In a letter to Congress of January 28, 1779, Robert Morris called attention to “insinuations” thrown out against his integrity as a member of the Secret Committee of Congress, and demanded an investigation of his conduct and accounts. He was completely vindicated.
[1 ]Mrs. Jay’s sister. The report of the burning of Gov. Livingston’s house proved not to be true. His daughter Susan, it appears, bravely stood her ground in the mansion and succeeded in inducing the British officers to spare it. Hearing of this, Jay wrote a few days later in a note to his wife: “I wish to know the particulars of Susan’s convention with Lord Cathcart. It is said she had the advantage of him in the treaty, and displayed much fortitude as well as address on the occasion. Pray how did John Lawrence fare? We hear he was in the house and was made a prisoner? Did they release or carry him off?”
[1 ]This letter from Judge Benson is of interest, not only as referring to the Vermont controversy, but as throwing light on the current expedients for raising war taxes, making loans, and meeting the depreciation of the currency. It is to be read in connection with Jay’s letter to Governor Clinton, following.
[1 ]Compare Jay’s letter to Governor Clinton of September 25, 1779. To understand all the allusions to the Vermont controversy in these letters, as well as in Benson’s preceding, reference must be made to the literature on the subject in the histories of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and in the proceedings of the Continental Congress.
[1 ]The above letter was prepared by Mr. Jay, at the request of Congress, September 8, 1779, to accompany the resolutions of that body of the 1st and 3d inst., “for stopping the further emission of bills of credit.”
[1 ]Sir James Jay, elder brother of John, knighted by George III. in 1763, on the occasion of the presentation of an address from the governors of King’s (Columbia) College.
[1 ]This letter refers to another important step in Jay’s official career as noticed in the Preface. On or about September 28, 1779, Congress appointed him “minister plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce and of alliance” between the United States and Spain. He resigned the presidency of Congress on the 28th, and was succeeded in that office by Samuel Huntington, of Connecticut. The “act of Congress” referred to above included the usual resolutions complimentary to the retiring president. See letters following from Livingston, Washington, and Pendleton.
[1 ]Jay’s instructions, preserved among his own papers, differ from the form as given in Sparks’ “Diplomatic Correspondence,” vol. vii., p. 169, in containing the additional clause at the end respecting trade with the Tortugas and Honduras, and being of later date.
[1 ]Upon receiving his instructions as Minister to Spain, Jay embarked from Chester, below Philadelphia, October 26, 1779, on the Continental frigate Confederacy, 36 guns, Captain Seth Harding, bound for some port in France. He was to proceed to Madrid by way of Paris. His party consisted of Mrs. Jay, her brother, Lieut.-Col. Brockholst Livingston, as Jay’s private secretary, and Hon. William Carmichael, of Maryland, as Secretary of the Legation. The French Minister, M. Gerard, who had been relieved by Luzerne, was also a passenger with them, returning to France. The above letter, with others following, contain some details of the trying experiences endured by the party before reaching the Continent. Obliged by storm and accidents to sail to Martinique, in the West Indies, they re-embarked from that port in a French ship and arrived at Cadiz, January 22, 1780. It was not until April that Jay was fairly established at Madrid.
[1 ]Minister of Foreign Affairs at the French Court.
[1 ]Jay understood from the French Minister, M. Gerard, that Galvez was the proper court official at Madrid to whom his despatches should be addressed. This proved to be a mistake, Count de Florida Blanca, with whom he subsequently communicated, being the secretary charged with colonial affairs.
[1 ]Jay’s Secretary of Legation.
[1 ]Spanish Secretary of State for the Indies.
[1 ]French Minister at the Court of Spain.
[2 ]See letter from Florida Blanca, of March 9, 1780.
[1 ]The portions of the letter in parentheses are erased in Jay’s original draft, and do not appear in the copy printed in Adams’ “Writings.”
[1 ]See Sparks’ “Diplomatic Correspondence,” vol. vii., pp. 266-67; also Lord Rochford’s project to prevent the war, p. 268.
[1 ]Reference is made here to the Morristown, N. J., encampment, winter of 1779-80, when the sufferings of the troops were more intense than at Valley Forge in 1777-78. The following extract from a letter to Jay from Kitty Livingston, his sister-in-law, dated, Phila., Dec. 26, ’79, gives interesting details:
“Genl. Washington’s quarters are at the widow Ford’s house on the road from Morris[town] to Persippiney. Genl. Green’s at Arnold’s, Genl. Knox at Mr. Duyckings, Lord Sterling at Baskenridge, Genl. Smallwood at Mr. Kembles, Genl. Sullivan at Chatham, two Jersey Brigades at Elizabethtown. The Virginia Brigades have passed thro’ town on the way to Charlestown [S. C.] with Colo. Washington’s Squadron. We have never had so many troops in winter quarters as at present, and they are exceedingly well situated—good water & fuel all around them. As the Genl. does not meet Mrs. Washington here she sets out early to-morrow for camp. We had yesterday a Christmas dinner in compliment to her at the Chevaliers [Luzerne]. Next Thursday he gives a ball to thirty Ladies; to-morrow evening we have a Second at Mrs. Holkers. His Excellency intends having concerts once a week at his house—he entertains very generally and with Elegance. I have seen him wear a suit of cloathes of the Countess du la Luzerne’s work, which does that Lady great honor. Last Thursday the assemblies commenced, & there are private dances, one a week; to-morrow Evening there is one at the City tavern. Dr. Cadwallader’s death has prevented the young Ladies returning as soon as they intended; they are expected soon with Mrs. Dickinson to keep house at the Genl’s in Second Street. The Genl. has a Son. Mrs. Peters has lost her mother. There has been a death in many families of my most intimate acquaintance. . . . Col. Laurens having resigned his appointment to France the choice of another is now in agitation. Several gentlemen are nominated—Mr. Govr. Morris among the number; he continues here tho’ out of Congress. Mr. Penn is returned to Congress & with him a Mr. Jones in the place of Mr. Hewes [of North Carolina] who died shortly after you left America. I had very good reason to suppose the Lady in the bush had made a conquest of him. He had—poor man—amassed a great fortune in the Southern clime, but paid the price of his health & life without any enjoyment of it.”
[1 ]A firm at Amsterdam, which shipped goods and military stores to America during the war.
[1 ]The history of Jay’s Spanish Mission appears in full in vols. vii. and viii. of Sparks’ “Diplomatic Correspondence.” In the present work those portions alone are republished which refer immediately to the points at issue, or which throw Jay’s politic management of American interests into relief. The above notes are extracted from his elaborate report to Congress of his attempts at negotiation at the Spanish Court down to May 26, 1780.—See “Diplomatic Correspondence,” vol. vii., pp. 220-282. Other reports followed.
Under his instructions and the friendly attitude of France, Jay hoped, first, to secure a treaty of alliance and commerce with Spain, and, second, to obtain from that power the loan of a substantial sum of money and military supplies. After experiencing for more than two years what Sparks describes as “innumerable embarrassments, vexatious delays, cold treatment, and a provoking indifference that would have exhausted the patience, if not ruffled the temper of most men,” he met with no success in the former object and very little in the latter. “The Spanish Court,” continues Sparks, “seemed nowise inclined to recognize the independence of the United States, or to show them any substantial marks of friendship, and yet there was evidently a willingness to keep on terms, and be prepared to act according to the issue of events. Tardy promises of money were made by the Minister, which he was reluctant to fulfil, and it was with extreme difficulty at last, that Mr. Jay succeeded in procuring from his Catholic Majesty the pitiful loan of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He was never received in his public capacity, nor in any other character, than that of a private gentleman empowered to act as Agent for the United States.” Jay, moreover, was hampered by the action of Congress. Assuming that Spain would grant the desired loan that body authorized its creditors to draw bills upon Jay before the money was forthcoming and far in excess of the small sums he was able to obtain from time to time. On this point see “Life of Jay,” vol. i., pp. 107-110.
[1 ]The above is an extract from what is described in his “Life,” vol. i., p. 95, as “Jay’s History of his Spanish Mission”—a paper he appears not to have completed. Its reference to the navigation of the Mississippi gives it an interest here in connection with Florida Blanca’s first mention of the subject in conference with Jay, as reported in preceding document.
[1 ]This is the closing portion of Jay’s official communication to Congress, mentioned in note to “Jay’s Notes of Conference” etc., May 11th ante.
[1 ]On November 6, 1780, Jay transmitted to Congress his second elaborate report of proceedings at Madrid, which appears in “Diplomatic Correspondence,” vol. iii., pp. 306-389, the first report being referred to in note under date of May 11, 1780. In the November report, he introduces “Notes” of further conferences with Florida Blanca or his representatives. The above letter followed an unimportant interview held June 2d. Other conferences, which resulted in little more than the expressions of “assurances” on the part of Spain, were held on July 5th and September 22d.
[1 ]Littlepage, a young gentleman from Virginia placed by his uncle under Jay’s care in Spain. Some years later he attempted to injure his patron’s reputation by false accusations. See correspondence between them in Jay’s “Life,” vol. i., pp. 204-228.
[1 ]Agent of Continental Congress at Martinique.
[1 ]See notes to letters of May 11 and June 7, 1780.
[2 ]Spanish Minister at the French court.
[1 ]Representative of the Spanish court at Philadelphia.
[2 ]Mercantile house at Bilboa.
[1 ]Jay’s caution in transmitting official letters to America is shown in this endorsement of one of his parcels: “By Captain De Sansure, who is to sink it in case of capture, and in time of action to give such directions to the officers that, in case of his death, they may see it done.”
[1 ]Mrs. Jay, writing from Madrid, December 1, 1780, replies to this letter: “The bets depending between you and the Chevalier I hope are considerable, since you are certainly entitled to the stake, for I have not used any false coloring, nor have I amused myself with plays or any other diversions on Sundays.”
Mrs. Robert Morris also wrote from Philadelphia, July 12, 1781, to Mrs. Jay: “Kitty and myself often avail ourselves of the pleasure memory affords us, in the recollection of the many happy days spent to-gether in this city. The Chevalier de la Luzerne, M. de Marbois, and Mr. Holker, expect great pleasure at your remembrance of them, and request your acceptance of their best wishes. The Chevalier acquiesces in the loss of his bet, presented Kitty with a handsome dress cap, accompanied with a note acknowledging your firmness. Mr. Gov. Morris’s friends here and, indeed, all who know him, were exceedingly shocked at his irreparable misfortune—the loss of his leg. . . . I never knew an individual more sympathized with.”
[1 ]Robert Morris, in a note to Jay, dated Philadelphia, July 6, 1780, writes: “Kitty stayed the winter with us, and went into the Jersies in May or beginning of June. Mrs. Livingston about that time moved with the family to Elizabethtown, and was there when Mr. Knyphausen came out the other day. At first the family were treated politely, but after a while they found it necessary to leave that place, being threatened hard by the Brutish, as our soldiers now call the British.”
[2 ]Another sister, Susan Livingston, mentioned in Jay’s letter of February 27, 1779, writes to Mrs. Jay, October 21, 1780, as follows: “We have received intelligence upon which we think we may rely that Johnny is returned from a cruise as far as Chester in Delaware, and that the Saratoga in her last voyage has taken three prizes, all letters of marque of considerable force, and laden partly with rum and partly with sugar. As the officers and men are entitled to one half the prizes, and a midshipman has three shares, it is supposed that Johnny’s share will amount to near twenty thousand pounds. It is the second time the Saratoga has sailed; the first time she convoyed Mr. Laurens off the coast and returned with a prize of 225 puncheons of rum. By a newspaper I see Mr. Laurens was afterwards captured, and his dispatches likewise, and both sent to England. . . . Next month I expect the favor of a visit from Nanny and Cornelia Van Horne. I shall endeavour to persuade Nanny to desert his Majesty’s banners and to turn Rebel and join us. If I succeed I shall merit the united thanks of the officers of the American army for gaining so fine a girl to our party.”
[1 ]In regard to the fall of Charleston, William C. Houston, delegate from New Jersey in the Continental Congress, wrote as follows to Jay, under date of July 10, 1780:
“Every person who has attended to the course of our Revolution will know the meaning of what seems a paradox, ‘that our misfortunes are our safety.’ They are certainly, under God, the source of it. Our captive soldiers will as usual be poisoned, starved, and insulted; will be scourged into the service of the enemy; the citizens will suffer pillagings, violences, and conflagrations; a fruitful country will be desolated; but the loss of Charleston will, to all appearance, promote the general cause. It has awakened a spirit unknown since the year 1776, a spirit which is fast pervading the mass of the community, a spirit which enlivens and increases daily. I am more afraid of an unfavorable effect of this disaster on your side of the water, and hope you will take the proper means for preventing any ill impressions it might otherwise have.”
[1 ]Further communications with this firm at Amsterdam appear in vol vii. of “Diplomatic Correspondence.”
[1 ]The vacillation and delays of the Spanish Minister prompted Jay to present his case to Count Montmorin. “It appeared to me proper,” he writes, “to mention my embarrassments to the French Ambassador, who had always been friendly, and ask his advice and aid on the subject. The next day I had a conference with him, and the following are the notes of it”—as above.
[1 ]On September 3, 1780, and subsequent days, Jay held conferences with M. Gardoqui, member of a wealthy firm at Bilbao, and M. Del Campo, Secretary to Florida Blanca, both of whom acted as the Secretary’s representatives. The interviews again proved unsatisfactory.
[1 ]See Jay’s letter to Vergennes, dated September 22, 1780, in which he reviews the situation at the Spanish Court, and appeals to France for financial aid.
[1 ]Mrs. Janet Montgomery was the daughter of Judge Robert R. Livingston. In 1773 she married General Richard Montgomery, who fell in the assault upon Quebec, December 31, 1775.
[1 ]The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.
[1 ]Respecting previous conferences, see notes to letters of May 11 and June 7, 1780, ante.
[1 ]As previously stated, the account of this conference and Jay’s criticisms form a part of his second report to Congress, dated November 6, 1780.
[1 ]A mercantile firm at Cadiz which had agreed to return destitute American seamen to their country.
[1 ]From Hale’s “Franklin in France,” Part I., p. 416.
[1 ]One of Lord Germaine’s secretaries.