John Jay Papers
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From John Jay to Conrad Alexandre Gérard, 13 January 1779

To Conrad Alexander Gérard

Philadelphia 13th. Jany: 1779


It is with real Satisfaction that I execute the Order of Congress for transmitting to You the enclosed Copy of an Act of the 12th Inst: on a Subject rendered important, by affecting the dignity of Congress, the Honor of their great Ally, and the Interest of both Nations—1

The explicit disavowal and high disapprobation of Congress, relative to the Publications referred to in this Act, will, I flatter myself, be no less satisfactory to his most Christian Majesty, than pleasing to the People of these States— Nor have I the least doubt but that every Attempt to injure the Reputation of either, or impair their mutual confidence, will meet with the Indignation and Resentment of both— I have the Honor to be Sir, with Great Respect & Esteem, Your most Obedt. & Hble Servant,

John Jay

The Honble The Sieur Gerard the Minister Plenipotentiary of France—

Copy of a Resolution of Congress

[Philadelphia], January 12, 1779

Congress took into consideration the publication in the Pensylvania Packet of the 2d. and 5th. instant under the title of common sense to the public on M. Deane’s affair, of which M. Thomas Paine Secretary to the Committee for foreign affairs has acknowledged himself to be the author; and also the memorials of the Minister Plenipotentiary of France of the 5th. and 10th. instant respecting the said publications, and Thereupon.

Resolved unanimously that in answer to the Memorials of the honorable Sr. Gérard Minister Plenipotentiary of his most Christian Majesty of the 5th. and 10th. instant, the President be directed to assure the said Minister that Congress do fully in the clearest and most explicit manner disavow the publications refered to in the said Memorials; and as they are convinced by indisputable evidence that the supplies shipped in the Amphitrite, Seine and Mercury were not a present, and that his most Christian Majesty the great and generous Ally of these United States did not preface his alliance with any supplies whatever Sent to America; So they have not authorized the writer of the said publications, to make any such assertions as are contained therein, but on the contrary do highly disapprove of the same.

Extract from the Minutes
Cha. Thomson Secy.—

LS, FrPMAE: CP-EU, Supplément, vol. 1 (EJ: 5101); LbkC, DNA: PCC, item 14, 12 (EJ: 1201). C, in the hand of Charles Thomson, with enclosed resolution of 12 Jan. 1779 and French translation, FrPMAE: CP-EU, vol. 7 (EJ: 5064); printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, 16 Jan. and 7 Sept. 1779, the Pennsylvania Evening Post of 16 Jan., and subsequently in several other newspapers. See also JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1904–37) description ends , 13: 54–55.

1Arthur Lee criticized the “acrimonious and uncandid spirit” of this letter in a letter dated 21 May 1779, which Thomas Paine had published in the Pennsylvania Packet of 31 Aug. 1779. To this Paine added, “It is very extraordinary that Mr. Jay should write such a letter, because it contains the same illiberal reflections which Congress as a body rejected from their resolve of Jan. 12th,” and he stated that “Congress have since declined to give countenance to Mr. Jay’s letter, for though he had a public authority for writing a letter to Mr. Gerard, he had no authority for the reflections he used; besides which, the letter would be perfectly laughable, were every circumstance known which happened at that particular time, and would likewise show how exceeding delicate and cautious a President of Congress ought to be when he means to act officially in cases he is not sufficiently acquainted with.” A response to Paine’s statement appeared in the Packet of 7 Sept., extracting all the relevant portions of the journals, identifying Paine as the author of the strictures on JJ, and informing the public that “the letter in question was publicly read in full Congress, and without a single dissenting voice ordered to be published.” Paine replied in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 14 Sept. (see the editorial note entitled “John Jay’s Presidency of the Continental Congress” on p. 551; and Deane Papers description begins The Deane Papers, 1774–1790 (5 vols.; New-York Historical Society, Collections, vols. 19–23; New York, 1887–91) description ends , 4: 83–87, 91–98).

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