George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 25 February 1795

From John Jay


London 25 Feby 1795

Dear Sir

Your very friendly Letter of the 1 Novr last, gratified me not a little. The Insurrection had caused disagreable Sensations in this Country, the objects and Efforts of the Jacobin Societies in america were known here, and the hate of our Government was considered as being involved in that of the Insurrection. The manner in which it has terminated has given sincere Satisfaction to this Government, to whom all disorganizing Innovations give alarm—their confidence in your wisdom Decision and Energy has been confirmed by the Event.

The Institution and Influence of such Societies among us, had given ⟨m⟩e much concern; and I was happy in percieving that the Suppression of the Insurrection, together with the character and fall of similar ones in France, would probably operate the Extinction of these mischievous associations in america.

Your Remarks relative to my negociations are just and kind—I assure You, nothing on my part has been wanting to render the Conclusion of them as consonant as was possible to your Expectations & wishes.

Perfectly apprized both of my Duty and Responsibility, I determined not to permit my Judgment to be influenced by any Considerations but those of public Good, under the Direction of my Instructions. I knew and know that no attainable Settlement or Treaty would give universal Satisfaction; and I am far from expecting that the one I have signed, will not administer occasion for calumny and Detraction. These are Evils which they who serve the People will always meet with. Demagogues will constantly flatter the Passions and Prejudices of the multitude; and will never cease to employ improper arts against those who will not be their Instruments. I have known many Demagogues, but I have never known one honest man among them. These are among the Evils which are incident to human Life, and none of them shall enduce me to decline or abandon Pursuits, in which I may concieve it to be my Duty to embark or persevere. All creatures will act according to their nature, and it would be absurd to expect that a man who is not upright will act like one that is. The Time will come when all Books and Histories and Errors will be consumed, and when from their ashes Truth only will rise and prevail and be immortal.

I observe from Mr Randolph’s Letters that certain articles of the Treaty will be considered as more objectionable than they appear to me.1 Before answers to his Letters could arrive, it’s Fate will be decided—If it should be ratified, additional articles may be negociated, and Defects supplied, and Explanations made. If it should not be ratified—I presume explicit Instructions will be immediately sent to me on the points in question; and I will do my best Endeavours to adjust them accordingly.

You will herewith recieve a large Packet containing Papers & Letters—the former from Sr John Sinclair—The printed paper enclosed with this Letter I transmit by the Desire of Sir John Dalrymple.2 You will also find herewith enclosed a copy of an unofficial Letter to me from Lord Grenville, and a copy of the memorial mentioned in it. I have added a printed Report respecting Sierra Leone—the Information it contains may be new and agreable to You.3

among my Dispatches to Mr Randolph by this Ship, is a copy of a Letter I have recieved from Mr Monroe at Paris, and of two which I have written to him. The Expediency of correcting the mistakes which the french Convention seem to have embibed will doubtless strike You.4 From the last of my two Letters to Mr Munro you will remark that Col. Trumbull is going to Stutgard with my Consent—his presence there is necessary about some plates which an Eng[r]aver there has nearly finished for him.5

Be pleased to present my best compliments to Mrs Washington, and be assured of the perfect Respect Esteem and Attachment with which I am Dear Sir your obliged and affte Servt

John Jay

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, NNC: Jay Papers; copy (extract), NHi: Henry O’Reilly Collection. The extract includes the first four paragraphs of the letter.

1In Edmund Randolph’s letter to Jay of 3 Dec., he expressed two concerns about Jay’s reports of the treaty negotiations: “that the reasoning about the negroes will not be satisfactory” and that “If the British are to retain the posts until 1796, and have free access to the Indians within our limits in the mean time, have we not reason to apprehend, that they will contrive to perpetuate their ascendancy over them?” (NHi: Jay Papers).

In Randolph’s letter to Jay of 15 Dec., he expanded at length on his objections to the British position about the return of slaves taken by them during the Revolutionary War; reiterated GW’s “repugnance” to an extension of time for the British return of the forts; expressed apprehension that the provisions designed to protect neutral commerce by granting compensation in cases of illegal seizure “will not reach the mischief”; and pointed to “the delicacy of undertaking to pay the damages sustained by British Creditors by lawful impediments.” Randolph also discussed in detail the proposed commercial treaty, noting in particular that “The fifth Article wants reciprocity” (NHi: Jay Papers; for the material in cipher, DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801).

2The papers from John Sinclair have not been identified.

Sir John Dalrymple (1726–1810) was a baron of the exchequer. GW’s library included a Letter from Sir John Dalrymple, Baronet, one of the Barons of Exchequer in Scotland, to the Lords of Admiralty [Edinburgh, 1795], which probably was the printed paper enclosed here (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 64). Dalrymple transmitted copies of the printed paper with his letters to Jay of 1 and 6 Feb., which also discuss Tobias Lear’s interest in Dalrymple’s experiments with yeast (NNC: Jay Papers).

3Here Jay struck out the following sentence in the ADf: “I think it best to send you these Copies, that Mr Hammond may not be the first to give you any Information in my power to convey, and that you may be prepared to direct the answer to the Representation he is to present, and because I told Lord Grenville that I would transmit them to you unofficially, as I had recd them.”

Lord Grenville’s letter to Jay of 10 Feb. enclosed a memorial of 28 Nov. 1794 to Grenville from Zachary Macaulay, acting governor of Sierra Leone, and John Tilley, agent for the merchant proprietors of Bunce Island. Grenville added that George Hammond would be directed “to make a Representation on the Subject” and expressed hope “that this occasion may be chosen for making a striking Example. the Evil is an encreasing one, & I have sometimes thought that an order to some of our officers, to try some of these people as Pirates, might be useful, in order to apprize the Citizens of the U:S: of the Law of nations on that Subject.” The memorial complained that when a French fleet attacked those British outposts in September 1794, “certain American Subjects trading to this Coast, did voluntarily join themselves to the French Fleet, and were aiding & abetting in attacking and destroying the property of British Subjects.” (DLC:GW).

Jay evidently enclosed Substance of the Report Delivered by the Court of Directors of the Sierra Leone Company, to the General Court of Proprietors, On Thursday the 27th March, 1794 (London, 1794), which was in GW’s library at his death (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 182).

4Jay’s dispatch to Randolph of 22 Feb. enclosed a copy of Jay’s letter to James Monroe of 19 Feb. and a duplicate of Jay’s dispatch to Randolph of 5 Feb., which enclosed Monroe’s letter to Jay of 17 Jan. and Jay’s letter to Monroe of 5 February. Monroe’s letter noted that accounts in British newspapers of Jay’s “adjustment with the British Administration” had aroused “much uneasiness” in the French government. He was sending a messenger to receive information about the treaty so that he could better assure the French. Jay replied that the United States had “an unquestionable right to make any pacific Arrangements” that did not “contradict or impugn their prior Engagement with other States.” He offered assurances that the new treaty “was consistant with our Treaty with France,” quoting a passage that declared that nothing in the new treaty should “operate contrary to former and existing Public Treaties with other Sovereigns or States.” However, as the treaty had not yet been ratified and might be changed, Jay was unwilling that any part of it be made public, and he could not give a copy of the treaty to Monroe “without the permission” of the U.S. government. Jay’s letter of 19 Feb. informed Monroe that Jay’s secretary, John Trumbull, traveling through Paris on private business, would give him information about the treaty “in perfect confidence that You will not impart it to any person whatever” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain).

5John Trumbull was visiting Stuttgart to examine the progress made by Johann Gotthard von Müller, who was engraving Trumbull’s painting “The Battle of Bunker Hill” (Trumbull, Autobiography description begins Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters of John Trumbull, from 1756 to 1841. New York, 1841. description ends , 179–80). For Trumbull’s plans for the engraving, see GW to Lafayette, 21 Nov. 1791 (second letter), and n.1 to that document.

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