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From John Jay to the Committee for Foreign Affairs, 30 November 1780

To the Committee for Foreign Affairs

Madrid 30th. November 1780.


I have had the Honor of receiving from you a Letter of the 16th. of June, and another the 12th. of July, 1780, with the several Papers mentioned in them.1 With respect to the Subjects of the first, you will find them fully discussed in my Letter to His Excellency the President of Congress, which will accompany this:2 The description of the Bills will I hope, answer good purposes.

How far the resolution which immediately follows the one respecting Mr. Dohrman, can be fully executed is hard to determine.3 Had I funds necessary for the Purpose, I should meet with few difficulties: The measure is a wise one, and my attention to it, shall be unremitted: In a future Letter I shall say more on this Subject; as yet, nothing has had time to ripen.

I must request your Attention to the necessity of putting your Correspondence with the public Servants in Europe on a better footing: I am now at the expense of sending Colonel Livingston to the Sea side with my dispatches with Orders to wait for American Vessels and deliver them to the Captain with his own Hand. I receive no Letters by the Post, but with marks of inspection, and after much delay: Some that I write never come to hand, and I know of letters having arrived from America for me which I have never seen, and never expect to see: I know of but one Man at the Sea ports whom I can confide in, vizt; Mr. Harrison at Cadiz. I cannot even find a Courier that I can depend on: Is it not Time for America, like other Nations to provide against these inconveniences by proper regulations and Establishments? Would it not be well to have American Agents or Consuls in one or more of the ports of France and Spain? Public despatches might be sent by Packet Boats, or other Vessels to these Agents, and should on no account, be Delivered to any other person; the Agents might be ordered to send them to the Courts to which they may be directed; by a trusty American. One of the Officers of the Ship, for example; and he should be ordered to wait for, and return with the Dispatches of the Minister.

Would it not also be proper to provide for the safe conduct ^of Letters^ to Congress after their arrival in America? I have reason not only to suspect, but to believe, that certain persons in America, are attentive to these matters, and care should be taken to keep American Letters out of their way.

This is an important Subject, and merits Attention: For my own part, I find several Persons here, who have more Intelligence from America than myself; and it is the more mortifying when considered that they are probably often indebted for their Information to the Contents of Letters directed to me.4 I have the Honor to be, &c.

(Signed) John Jay.

LbkCs, DNA: PCC, item 110, 2: 327–29 (EJ: 4141); NNC: JJ Lbk. 1; CSmH. Dft, dated November 1780, NNC (EJ: 7746).

1See the committee’s letters of 16 June and 12 July, above. In the Dft, JJ recorded, then excised, his receipt of the following documents: “A Copy of the Resolution of Congress of 19 May last in Cypher”; “A Duplicate of your Letter of 16 June 1780”; “Quadruplicate Copy of the Resolutions of Congress of 23 & 29 Nov. 1779”; “Description of the Bills of Exchange”; and “Copy Resolution of Congress of 21 June last respecting Mr Dohrman.”

2See JJ to the President of Congress, 30 Nov. (first letter), below.

4On this subject, see also JJ’s second letter to the President of Congress of this date.

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