George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 1 March 1789

From John Jay

New York 1 March 1789

Dear Sir

Reflecting that our wishes to see you here, would probably soon be gratified, it occurred to me that if you inclined to have of the Spanish Breed of Horses, it would be but little Trouble for one of your Servants to bring up some mares to put to my Horse.1 I take the Liberty therefore of mentioning this Circumstance—the mares on arriving here, shall be immediately sent to my Farm, where proper Care will be taken of them. The Horse is one of the largest, but not one of the finest of that kind—being in my opinion not more than a third Rate. His Colts however exceed my Expectations, and are very promising.

It is still doub[t]ful whether Senators will be appointed for this State—but our accounts from the Country afford Reason to hope that a greater number of fœderal characters will be sent to the lower House, than was expected.2 our attorney General, Mr Benson, a very worthy man will probably be one of them.3. With the greatest Respect & Esteem I am Dear Sir your affte & hble Servt

John Jay


At this time Jay was secretary for foreign affairs for the Continental Congress. He remained in his post as acting secretary of state under the new government until Thomas Jefferson arrived in New York in March 1790 to take up his duties as secretary.

1The horse was probably the Spanish stallion presented to Jay in 1786 by Charles III of Spain. In 1785 Jay requested a permit from Don Diego de Gardoqui, the Spanish representative in the United States, to import from Spain a horse for breeding, and on 28 Feb. 1786 Gardoqui replied that when he requested the permit from the Spanish ministry, “his Majesty instead of Granting the Permit ordered a Horse to be sent to me for you” (DNA:PCC, item 97). Although Jay secured permission from Congress to accept the stallion, he received considerable public criticism because discussions on negotiations with Spain on the Mississippi River were still before the Continental Congress. In June 1790 three mares belonging to GW were sent north to be put to Jay’s horse (Tobias Lear to Captain Hollis, 26 July 1790, DLC:GW).

2In March 1789 the antifederalist assembly and the federalist senate of the New York legislature were still wrangling over the method of selection of presidential electors and United States senators, since most of the modes of selection proposed were disadvantageous to one party or the other. The question of the senate elections was not resolved until July 1789 when the legislature approved a bill providing that in case the two houses could not agree, the assembly would select one of the state senate’s candidates and the senate would choose one of the persons nominated by the assembly. The council of revision vetoed the bill, but in the end a compromise solution was secured. Philip Schuyler and Rufus King, both Federalists, were elected to the United States Senate (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, at the First Meeting of Their Thirteenth Session, Begun and Holden at the City of Albany, the Sixth Day of July, 1789 [Albany, N.Y.], 8–12, 15–17, 20–21, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records description begins Microfilm Collection of Early State Records prepared by the Library of Congress in association with the University of North Carolina, 1949. description ends ).

3Egbert Benson (1746–1833), a New York lawyer, served in the New York provincial council and the council of safety and as attorney general of the state from 1777. He was a member of the Continental Congress and attended the Annapolis Convention in 1786. Benson was a strong supporter of the Constitution during the struggle for ratification in New York. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1789 to 1793.

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