Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from John Jay, 24 October 1787

From John Jay

Office for foreign Affairs 24th. October 1787

Dr Sr.

Since the 8 Ult. when I last wrote to you, I have been favored with your Letters of the 6 and 15 Augt. last, which together with the Papers mentioned in the first of them, were immediately laid before Congress. Altho the Opinion of the most judicious and well informed seems to be that France and Britain will avoid War, and unite their Councils and their Efforts to preserve Peace, yet as great Events are often produced by latent and little Circumstances, especially between Courts who distrust each other, I should not be surprized if notwithstanding their Wishes to the contrary, something should happen to frustrate their pacific Designs.

You will receive herewith enclosed, two Letters from me dated the 27 July concerning the consular convention, with a Commission to you to form one; and also a certified copy of an act of Congress of the 23 July on the Subject of the Morocco Treaty and Papers. The want of a safe and private Conveyance has until now delayed the Transmission of these Letters and this Act. I also enclose the following Papers, vizt.

1. A certified Copy of an Act of Congress of 28th. Septr. respecting Duties on goods imported by foreign consuls.

2. A certified Copy of an act of 2d. Octr. Instant, instructing you not to promote any Negociation for transferring the Debt due to France from the U. States.

3. A certified Copy of an act of 11 Octr. Instant, approving the Manner in which the prize Money due to the Crews of the bon homme Richard and Alliance has been quotaed by France, and directing the board of Treasury to distribute it accordingly.

4. A certified Copy of an act of 12 Octr. Inst., reappointing you Minister plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles, together with a Commission and Letter of Credence, and a copy of the latter for your Information.

5. A certified Copy of an act of 12 Octr. Inst. constituting the Residue of the Money appropriated the 14 Feby. 1785 for Treaties with Morocco &ca., a Fund for redeeming the american Captives at Algiers, and a Duplicate of the act of 18 July instructing you to redeem them.

6. A certified Copy of an act of the 16 Octr. Inst: directing you to have a Medal struck in honor of Chevalier Jones, and a copy of a Letter to his most Christian Majesty of the same Date on the same Subject. Congress were pleased to order that he should be the Bearer of this Letter; but I nevertheless think it proper that you should have a Copy of it.

7. Copy of a Letter of the 26 Ult. which I this Day received from the Governor of Rhode Island, requesting me to transmit to you the Papers which accompanied it, and which I now transmit accordingly.

8. A Copy of the fœderal Government proposed by the late Convention.

9. The Requisition of Congress passed the 11 Inst., and their printed Journals from the 10 May to 25 Septr. last, which with those heretofore sent will compleat your Set from the 6 Novr. 1786. I also send the newspapers from 8 Septr. to this Day.

As to the claims of certain Individuals against the State of So. Carolina, I have by order of Congress sent an Extract from your Letter on that Subject, together with a Copy of the papers relative to it, to the Governor of that State, in order that they may thereupon take such Measures as the Good Faith of the State and the Justice due to the Individuals in Question may appear to dictate.

The number of States represented in Congress almost daily diminishes, and I much fear will soon be so reduced as not to leave them in Capacity to dispatch any Business requiring nine.

Congress has been pleased to comply with the Request of Mr. Adams to return, and I enclose a Copy of their act on that Head.

As yet I am not authorized to say any thing relative to the proposed post office Convention. A Report on that Subject has lain for many Months before Congress, and still remains undecided.

What will be the fate of the new Constitution, as it is called, cannot easily be conjectured. At present the Majority seems to be in favor of it, but there will probably be a strong opposition in some of the States, particularly in this and Pensylvania.

I have the honor to be with great Esteem & Regard, Dr Sr your most obt. & hble. Servt.,

John Jay

Dft (NK-Iselin). FC (DNA: PCC, No. 121); with minor variations in spelling and punctuation. Recorded in SJL as received 19 Dec. 1787. The unnumbered enclosures were: Jay to TJ, 27 July 1787 (two letters and enclosure), qq.v.; resolution of Congress ratifying the treaty with Morocco (see Jay to TJ, 24 July 1787, note); resolution of Congress, 5 Oct. 1787, authorizing John Adams to return to America “at any time after the 24th. of February … 1788” (printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 612 – 3). The enclosures as numbered by Jay were: (1) Resolution of Congress, 28 Sep. 1787, agreeing with Jay’s report concerning Sir John Temple’s request to be informed whether it was proper for him to pay the duties demanded on “a small Box of Tea, and a piece of Silk for Lady Temple’s use” under New York law, inasmuch as “there was no Treaty of Commerce subsisting between his Britannic Majesty and these States,” wherein Jay set forth the opinion that “consuls are not by the Laws or Usage of Nations considered or treated as public Ministers, and therefore they are not entitled to the exemptions in question either here or elsewhere” (same, p. 549 – 52). (2) Resolution of Congress, 2 Oct. 1787, agreeing to a report of the Commissioners of the Treasury, to whom had been referred TJ’s letter of 26 Sep. 1786, recommending that for a number of reasons “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” (same, p. 589 – 93). (3) Resolution of Congress, 11 Oct. 1787, confirming the quotas assigned by the Court of Versailles to the ships under Jones’ command and directing the Commissioners of the Treasury to distribute as soon as may be the funds paid by Jones “into the hands of the honorable Thos. Jefferson” (same, p. 663). (4) Resolution of Congress, 12 Oct. 1787, reappointing TJ as minister for three additional years (MHi, in clerk’s hand, attested by Thomson; printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 665); Commission to TJ, 12 Oct. 1787, to take effect on 10 Mch. 1788 (MHi, engrossed, signed by Arthur St. Clair and John Jay, attested by Charles Thomson, with U.S. seal impressed on serrated paper over wax; FC in DNA: PCC, No. 80, iii; printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 688); and Letter of Credence, 12 Oct. 1787 (MHi, clerk’s copy, signed by Arthur St. Clair and John Jay, but without attest or seal—this being the copy sent for TJ’s information, the original, signed, sealed, and attested copy being enclosed for presentation to the King—and endorsed by TJ “Letter of credence”; FC in DNA: PCC, No. 80, iii; printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 689). In MHi there is a memorandum in TJ’s hand reading as follows: “Letter of Credence for my commission from 1788–1791. I think my former letter of credence was indefinite, and therefore that it is unnecessary to deliver this and improper.” At the time he wrote this memo, TJ clearly intended it to explain the presence of the official Letter of Credence among his papers, but that copy has not been found; whether its absence is to be explained by some subsequent disappearance or by an actual presentation is not known, but the former is more probable. (5) Resolution of Congress, 12 Oct. 1787, stipulating that “the Balance of the appropriation for the Barbary Treaties” not hitherto used for that object be applied for the redemption of American captives in Algiers “subject to the direction of the Minister of the United States at the Court of Versailles”; and that the resolution of 14 Feb. 1785 and such of that of 18 July 1787 as directs provision to be made for this object, be repealed (DLC: TJ Papers, 34:5775, attested by Charles Thomson, and marked in margin: “secret”; another copy, also attested by Thomson, endorsed by TJ “Barbary captives,” in DLC: TJ Papers, 34: 5293; printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 664). (6) Resolution of Congress, 16 Oct. 1787, unanimously agreed to, “That a medal of gold be struck and presented to the Chevalier John Paul Jones in commemoration of the valour and brilliant services of that Officer … And that the Honorable Mr. Jefferson … have the same executed with the proper devices”; together with a resolution that a letter be written to the king of France informing him that this medal has been bestowed (the original resolution read at this point that Jones had been promoted “to the rank of Rear Admiral”) as much in consideration of the king’s marks of approbation to him as from a sense of his merit, and stating that, “as it is his earnest desire to acquire greater knowledge in his profession, it would be acceptable to Congress that his Majesty would be pleased to permit him to embark with his fleets of evolution” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 689 – 90; the copies sent to TJ evidently have not survived in his papers, but there is a text in French in DLC: John Paul Jones Papers). (7) The copy of the letter from the Governor of Rhode Island to Jay, 26 Sep. has not been found, but see TJ to Jay, 5 Feb. 1788. (8) The copy of the Constitution was probably one of the official edition (see Washington to TJ, 18 Sep. 1787, note). (9) The report of the Commissioners of the Treasury stating the requisition of Congress for 1787 (the copy sent by Jay was evidently one of the printed broadsides distributed to the states; see JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxxiii, 761, No. 596; text printed in same, p. 650 – 5).

Although Jay waited almost a month to send a copy of the proposed Federal Constitution to TJ and then did so without comment, he had sent a copy as early as 3 Oct. 1787 to Adams, saying: “I enclose a copy of the federal government recommended by the Convention, and which has already passed from Congress to the states. What will be its Fate in some of them is a little uncertain; for although generally approved, an Opposition is to be expected, and in some places will certainly be made to its Adoption” (DNA: PCC, No. 121).

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