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To John Jay from Peter Augustus Jay, 13 May 1798

From Peter Augustus Jay

New York 13 May 1798

Dear Papa

It is now some time since I had the pleasure of hearing from you— this I attribute to your having been at Schenectady where I perceive by the Papers you was present at the Commencement—1

Mr. Seth Marvin2 some time ago applied to me to purchase your Share of Lot No. 18 in Cheesecocks Patent (containing as he says 195 Acres) for which he offered 24/pr. Acre, but it appeared during our Conversation that he had given 30/per for the adjoining Lot. I promised to write to you on the Subject & he was to call the end of this Month to know the Result—

Maria is very anxious to go to Rye & I am no less so not having been there since Christmas— If possible I shall go with her the last of this Week— When we last heard from there Dinah was dangerously ill— her Death would be a serious Misfortune to Uncle—

I have obtained a Copy of a Calculation made by the Livingstons, by which the Chancellor is to succeed by a Majority of 940— they nevertheless refuse to bet on the event of the election at a smaller difference than ten to One—3

In my last Letter I mentioned that there had been a Meeting of Young Men, & that I was one of a Committee to draft an address to the Prest: This Meeting was called by an Individual without any previous preparation & conducted with all the Inconsideratiness of Youth— And the Committee composed of persons accidentally nominated, contained only one who had the smallest Interest among the Mechanics or lower Class of People. They all live in the same Neighborhood & are prohibited by an express Resolve from Soliciting Signatures

It was agreed that each Member should Draft an Address & it is perhaps an additional proof of their Indiscretion that mine was preferred— I was obliged to draw it in Haste & already perceive in it, when it is too late to remedy them, a Number of Defects— This Circumstance shews the Wisdom of the Advice you have often given me to cultivate Composition with more Assiduity— Great pains have been industriously & too successfully taken to prevent the Mechanics from signing it— They are led to believe that it is equivalent to an Inlistment— We have however upwards of Six hundred Subscribers &, among them all the young men of Respectability in the City—4

On Friday Evening there was another Meeting when it was agreed that Measures should be taken in Concert with General Hughes5 to acquire Military Knowledge— This may serve as a temporary Expedient to preserve our present Enthusiasms, but I have too little Opinion of youthful Constancy to expect from it any permanent Benefit—

On the same Evening the Officers of the Brigade assembled at the Request of General Hughes & with only Six Dissentients agreed to address the President— This Step appeared to me so contrary by to the Principles by which military men ought to be governed that I could not prevail on myself to join in it— To undertake in our Military Capacity to control, condemn, or even approve the Measures of the Government or any particular Branch of it, I supposed a very pernicious Example— I take it to be our Duty to obey implicitly every Command of our Rulers however inexpedient or to resign our Commissions— There was no one whom I could consult on the Occasion— But being determined ^not^ to act contrary to my own Conviction & unwilling on many Accounts to oppose the Address after the Meeting had been called, I thought it most prudent to stay away from it—6

In Philadelphia, black Cockcades are much worn as marks of Attachment to Government— a few have been introduced here & it has become a Question how far it is expedient to adopt them— Numbers of those who have hitherto been unfriendly to us, especially the more timorous who love to swim with the tide are desirous of changing Sides as far as their pride will allow them— But they cannot yet agree to wear the Badge of a Party to which they have always been Enemies— The Propriety of widening the existing Differ[ences/torn] between the Parties & in a Degree shutting the Door again[st] Converts seems to be Questionable— On the other Hand it is w[torn] that the Crisis has arrived when the friends of their Country ought to separate from its Enemies, that every Man ought to declare his Sentiments & be treated according as they are proper or otherwise— that the Badge will be a Bond of Union among those who wear it, & a Pledge which they cannot forefeit without Disgrace & finally that it will infuse fear into the disaffected— Col: Hamilton approves of the Cockade but neither he nor any Gentleman of Note puts it on & unless they do it will never become general— However trifling this Subject may appear, it may not be unimportant in its consequences—& I should therefore be very happy to Know your Sentiments respecting it—7

You have doubtless heard already of the Death of Mr James Jones & the Papers will inform you of all the Circumstances of that unfortunate event—8 My Love to Maria & Nancy— I am your very Affect: Son

Peter Augustus Jay

Govr. Jay

ALS, NNC (EJ: 06067). Addressed: “His Excellency / Governor Jay/Albany”. Stamped: “… May/ 14”. Endorsed: “P.A. Jay / 13 May / and. 25 May / 1798 / wrote pr post 25 May—”. Dft, NNC (EJ: 11347). No letter from JJ to PAJ of 25 May has been found, but much of JJ’s letter of 17 May, below, appears to reply to this letter.

1JJ attended the commencement for Union College in Schenectady on 2 May 1798. See Albany Centinel, 8 May; Commercial Advertiser (New York), 12 May 1798.

2Col. Seth Marvin of Orange County, New York.

3For JJ’s victory over Robert R. Livingston in the gubernatorial election of 1798, see the editorial note “John Jay Wins Reelection as Governor in 1798,” above.

4For an account of the meeting of the Young Men of the City of New York on 5 May 1798 and the appointment of PAJ to a committee to prepare an address to the president, and for notices of the circulation of the address for signatures, see Commercial Advertiser (New York), 7 and 8 May; and the New-York Gazette, 10 and 11 May 1798. PAJ’s discussion of the quality of his address may have been prompted by a newspaper piece criticizing it as excessively long and poorly worded; and proposing an alternative text that appeared in the New-York Gazette of 12 May. Nevertheless, it was his that was adopted, signed and delivered to JA. On the early meetings of the group, see the Commercial Advertiser (New York), 7, 10 and 18 May; Daily Advertiser (New York), 7 and 22 May; and New-York Gazette, 14, 15, and 24 May 1798. For published copies of the address and JA’s reply of 26 May, both of which were read to the assembled Young Men’s group on 31 May, see the Commercial Advertiser (New York), 31 May; New-York Gazette, 1 June; Daily Advertiser (New York), 2 June; Argus, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser (New York), 4 June; Spectator (New York), 6 June; Philadelphia Gazette, 12 June; Columbian Centinel (Boston); and Virginia Herald (Fredericksburg), 20 June 1798.

Such groups and their addresses of support originated in Philadelphia and spread to other cities, including Boston and Baltimore, and Reading, Pa.; all the addresses and JA’s replies were widely published. In New York the Young Men’s group also sought military training and practiced military exercises first at the Battery and subsequently on the green of Columbia College. That all did not go smoothly at first is indicated by an admonition for greater disciple and punctuality published by a committee of the Young Men’s group. The Young Men also planned and paraded as a group in a Fourth of July celebration held at the Battery. See Philadelphia Gazette, 20 June; Federal Gazette (Baltimore), 25 June; and New-York Gazette, 18 and 28 June 1798. For JJ’s comments on the Young Men’s group, see JJ to PAJ, 17 May 1798, below.

5James M. Hughes commanded the Brigade for the City and County of New York.

6For JJ’s agreement with PAJ that the military should not make political addresses to the president or otherwise involve itself in politics, see his letter to PAJ of 17 May 1798, below. For more on JJ’s views of the state militia, see the editorial note “Militia Matters in New York State,” above.

7Federalists supporting defense efforts against France often wore black cockades, while French supporters traditionally wore tricolor ones. For references to the use of the black cockades by Philadelphia’s Young Men’s group and discussions of the desirability of promoting use of the black cockade, see Albany Centinel, 15 May; Mirror (Concord, N.H.), 22 May; New-York Gazette, 28 June 1798. According to PAJ, the New York Young Men’s group voted that only those undergoing military training should wear the black cockade. See PAJ to JJ, 7 June 1798, ALS, NNC (EJ: 06068); Dft, NNC (EJ: 10052). Ultimately, a black cockade with an eagle in the center was adopted as an insignia for the U.S. army, and also later worn by the New York state militia. See PGW: RS description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds., The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series (4 vols.; Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99) description ends , 3: 192, 261; PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols.; New York, 1961–87) description ends , 22: 246, 361; 24: 127; “An Act further to amend the Laws relative to the Militia of this State,” 30 Mar. 1799, N.Y. State Laws, 22nd sess., 2nd meeting (1799) description begins [New York State], Laws of the state of New-York. Passed at the twenty-second session, second meeting, of the Legislature, begun and held at the city of Albany, the second day of January, 1799 (Albany, 1799; Early Am. Imprints, series 1, no. 35926) description ends , 747. For JJ’s comments on the cockades, see his letter to PAJ of 17 May 1798, below.

8James Jones, brother of Dr. John Jones, was killed in a duel by JJ’s estranged brother-in-law, Henry Brockholst Livingston, after confronting Brockholst over his publication of a mocking article in the Argus, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser (New York), of 11 May falsely alleging that Jones, a man nearly 60 years old, had attended the meeting of Young Men. See “A Fair Statement,” Commercial Advertiser (New York), 11 May; Greenleaf’s New York Journal and Spectator (both New York), 12 May; Time Piece (New York), 14 May; Centinel of Freedom (Newark), 15 May; New-Jersey Journal (Elizabethtown), 15 May; Guardian; or New-Brunswick Advertiser, 15 May; American Mercury (Hartford), 17 May; “A Fair Statement of the late unfortunate Rencontre at New York,” Boston Price-Current, 17 May; Albany Centinel, 18 May; Salem Gazette, 18 May; and Oriental Trumpet (Portland), 23 May 1798. Brief notices appeared in the Massachusetts Mercury (Boston), 15 May; Newport Mercury, 15 May; Bee (New London), 16 May; Minerva (Dedham), 17 May; Chelsea Courier (Norwich), 17 May; Columbian Museum (Savannah), 18 May; Vermont Gazette (Bennington), 18 May; and Oracle of the Day (Portsmouth), 19 May 1798, and subsequently in several other newspapers. The statement by Jones’s friends ran in the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia), 14 May 1798.

Here in the Dft, PAJ excised the following paragraph: “I am sorry to observe among the last appointments in the Militia several of the violent oppositionists— These men are grateful only to ^ the^ Colonels who recommended them & exert all the influence derived from their Commissions to injure the hand that bestowed them— The Adjutant you have appointed to Col: Boyd’s Regt: deliv I am told delivered an Oration last night to the Tammany Socy. containing Principles wh. wd. have been thought inflammatory, even during the time of our most democratical fervor—”

The above paragraph refers to the Anniversary Festival the Tammany Society or Columbian Order held on Saturday 12 May at the Great Wigwam on Nassau Street, corner of George Street. There a “Long Talk” was delivered by George I. Eaker, and various highly political toasts were given. Eaker’s appointment by the New York Council of Appointment as adjutant of the Second Regiment commanded by Lieut. Col. William Boyd, appears in a published notice dated 17 May in the Argus, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser (New York), of 21 May 1798. PAJ’s appointment as a lieutenant of the Third Regiment appears on the same list. See also Hastings and Noble, Military Minutes description begins Hugh Hastings and Henry H. Noble, eds., Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York, 1783–1821 (4 vols.; Albany, 1901) description ends , 449.

For the announcement and reports of the Tammany Society meeting in New York newspapers, see Argus, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser (New York), 12 and 16 May, Commercial Advertiser (New York), 16 May, Daily Advertiser (New York), 17 May, New-York Gazette and General Advertiser, 17 May, Time Piece (New York), 18 May, and Greenleaf’s New York Journal, 19 May 1798. For a Federalist criticism of the toasts given at the meeting, see “A Man,” in New-York Gazette, 22 May 1798. George I. Eaker (c. 1774–1804) was a New York Republican lawyer and orator who fatally shot AH’s son Philip Hamilton in a duel in November 1801. PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols.; New York, 1961–87) description ends , 25: 435–38.

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