John Jay Papers
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To John Jay from the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of New York, 2 October 1784

From the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty
of the City of New York

[New York, 2 October 1784]

To the honorable John Jay Esquire late ^one of the^
Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America
for negociating a Peace.—

Sir

Be pleased to accept the Congratulations of the Mayor Aldermen and Commonalty of the City of New York on your safe Return to the Place of your Nativity.

The Revolution, which hath secured our Liberties and Independence, will not be more celebrated for the illustrious Events which have marked its Progress, than for the Roll of Statesmen and Heroes by whose Wisdom and Valour, under the Divine Favour, it hath been established on the most solid Basis.

Among these worthy Patriots, you, Sir, are highly distinguished—in our ^own^ Convention—in our first Seat of Justice—as a Member and as President of the United States in Congress assembled—and as a Minister plenepotentiary both in Spain and France—you have executed the important Trusts committed to you with Wisdom, Firmness and Integrity and have acquired universal Applause.

While you thus possess the national Confidence and Esteem for a series of eminent Services, We your fellow Citizens feel a singular Pleasure in embracing this Opportunity to present you with the Freedom of your native City as a public Testimony of the respectful Sentiments we entertain towards you, and as a Pledge of ^our^ Affection, and of our sincere Wishes for your Happiness.—1

D, NNC (EJ: 9838). MCCNYC description begins Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784–1831 (19 vols.; New York, 1917) description ends , 1: 85; incomplete and misdated 24 July 1784 in HPJ description begins Henry P. Johnston, ed., The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay (4 vols.; New York, 1890–93) description ends , 3: 126–27; WJ description begins William Jay, ed., The Life of John Jay: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers (2 vols.; New York, 1833) description ends , 1: 184; also published in French in Courier de l’Amerique on 12 Oct. 1784.

1Mayor James Duane proclaimed JJ “to be a Freeman of his native City . . . In Testimony whereof We have caused the public Seal of the said City to be hereunto affixed and these Presents to be enclosed in a Golden Box.” MCCNYC description begins Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784–1831 (19 vols.; New York, 1917) description ends , 1: 85–86.

On 11 Sept. 1784 Mayor James Duane and the City’s Common Council ordered that “five respectful Addresses from this Corporation be presented with the freedom of this City in Gold Boxes, one to his Excellency, the Governor [George Clinton], one to his Excellency General Washington—one to the honble John Jay Esqr, one to the honble the Marquis Delafayette, & one to Major General Baron Steuben— And that Mr Mayor & Mr Recorder [Richard Varick (1753–1831)] prepare & report the Addresses & that Ald[erma]n [William W.] Gilbert, Mr [Samuel] Johnson & Mr [Daniel] Phoenix direct the making of the Gold Boxes accordingly.” MCCNYC description begins Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784–1831 (19 vols.; New York, 1917) description ends , 1: 73. Copies of the address to JJ and his reply (below) were printed in various newspapers, including the Independent Journal (New York), 9 Oct., the Pennsylvania Packet, 19 Oct., and the Massachusetts Spy: Or, Worcester Gazette, 21 Oct. 1784.

According to auction records the gold hinged box was made by Samuel Johnson (1726–96), and engraved with the seal of the city by Peter Rushton Maverick (1755–1811). It measured 3¾” l., 2⅛” w., and ¾” tall and was inscribed in script: “Presented by the Corporation of the City of New York with the Freedom of the City.” See Sotheby’s auction catalog, 26 and 27 June 1991; Antiques and the Arts Online (http://antiquesandthearts.com), 30 Jan. 2001, with illustration of the box.

Only the “freedom boxes” presented to JJ and Baron von Steuben survive. On the similar freedom of the city and box presented to Washington, see PGW: Confederation Series, 2: 187, 188–90n2, 486–87n2; and PGW: Digital Edition.

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