Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Jay to William Short, 5 July 1787

John Jay to William Short

New York 5th: July 1787.


Mr. Walton delivered to me immediately on His arrival, your Letter of the 21 March with the Medals, &c. mentioned in it; and I was last week favored with your subsequent one of the 4th: May last, with the other Medals and the Papers sent with it. Accept my Thanks for your Attention in transmitting the Speeches of the King of France and his minister to the notables. Such Intelligence is interesting. It seems from the arret respecting the Bounty and Duty on Fish, that the absolute Prohibition of foreign Fish is in Contemplation—a Circumstance of much Importance to the United States. “Local Circumstances” will however always operate in our Favor, and if wisely improved must in Time more than rival any Fishery not so circumstanced even tho’ aided by Bounties.

The Business of Finance appears to occupy the attention of France and Britain as well as America; and doubtless with much Reason. I wish we made more progress in it; but among other Reasons, the sitting of the Convention at Phila. has called so many members from Congress, that a sufficient number of States are not represented to enable them to advance in that or any other Business which requires the Presence of nine States. Hence it happened that I have not yet been enabled to write to Mr. Jefferson on a certain Subject mentioned in his Letters, and on which I reported agreeably to his Ideas. I regret this Delay especially as it is uncertain how much longer it may continue.

The Letter of Mr: Calonne should certainly be registred. The Honor of Government appears to dictate it; and it would not be wise to disappoint Expectations so excited. From these and particularly from the other Considerations which you suggest, there is Reason doubtless to expect that the Letter will take Effect. So soon as a proper number of States shall be represented in Congress, I hope they will take up my Report respecting the number of medals to be struck, and how distributed. I concur in Sentiment with Mr. Jefferson on this Subject. I have the Honor to be Sir, your mo. obt. & very huble Servant,

John Jay

Dft (NK-Iselin); at foot of text: “Wm. Short Esqr. Secy. to the <Honble Thos. Jefferson> am: Legation at the Court of France”; endorsed. FC (DNA: PCC, No. 121).

The certain subject on which Jay reported to Congress was the proposal to transfer the American debt to France to a group of Holland bankers. Jay’s remark that he had reported agreeably to his ideas is not to be taken to mean that Jay’s opinion or report coincided with TJ’s, but merely that he had transmitted TJ’s letter of 26 Sep. 1786 as TJ desired. This was done on 18 Jan. and on 2 Feb. Congress referred TJ’s letter to the Commissioners of the Treasury to report; their report, submitted 19 Feb., recommended for a variety of reasons that “it would be proper without delay to instruct the Minister of the United States at the Court of France not to give any sanction to any negociation which may be proposed for transferring the debt due from the United States, to any State or company of Individuals who may be disposed to purchase the same.” This was approved by Congress, but not until 2 Oct. 1787 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxii, 12; xxxiii, 589–92).

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