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To John Jay from Gouverneur Morris, 25 September 1783

From Gouverneur Morris

Philadelphia 25 Sepr. 1783.

Dear Sir,

I have received your Letter of the twelfth of March by Mr. Penn, sixth of April by Mr. Redford, & twenty ninth of July by Mr. Hunt, for all which I am to thank you. Let me also thank you for your Letter of the seventeenth of July.1 Personally, I shall be very happy to see you in the Spring, but I confess that I do not very clearly see how it can prove advantageous either to yourself or to your Country— If, as you have written to others, the Want of Health is among the Reasons for your Return, I cannot but doubly lament it, & I must fear that the fair Hygea2 may fly your Embraces here as there— Remember me affectionately to all my friends who may be in your Circle of Acquaintance, & particularly present my Love to Mrs. Jay—

The british employ themselves about the Evacuation of New York, but that Business goes on slowly. I am however informed from tolerable Authority that they will be gone by the Begining of November.3 If, as you suppose, the british Ministry imagine that we cannot retaliate their Restrictions, they are deceived; for their Conduct will, itself give Congress a Power which they might not otherwise, be possessed of. Indeed, my friend, nothing can do us so much Good as to convince the Eastern and Southern States how necessary it is, to give proper force to the foederal Government; and Nothing will so soon operate that Conviction as foreign Efforts to restrain the Navigation of the one, and the Commerce of the other. But for my own Part, I have no desire to retaliate commercial Restrictions. It is my fixed Opinion that a Nation can, by such Restrictions, do nothing more than injure herself. Nor is an Injury the less so because it affects more the remote Members than it does the Head of an Empire. The Sovereign may collect, and ought to have, Revenue from all his Dominions which are in Condition to afford it; but he acts weakly as well as wickedly if he cramps one Part of the Community that he may draw more easily the Blood and Juices from another Part. The late Prohibition to trade with the british Islands, unless in british Bottoms, can do us no Harm and can do them no good.4 Our Produce they must and will have, and if they employ half a Million in carrying on the Navigation at a great Expence, which we should have performed at a less Expence, for two hundred thousand, our two hundred thousand will be left for other Operations, even to speculate on their Produce and our own, so as to make them pay the Speculator a Profit on every Gallon of Rum they sell, and every Barrill of flour they buy, in our Ports. By making the Subsistence of their People in the Islands more expensive, they aid the Efforts of rival Nations to furnish the Commodities of their Islands to others, & even to their own Subjects. This Kind of Policy is so bad, that I am perswaded the british Ministers cannot seriously intend the Prohibition, altho I am equally convinced that a Regard to the national Prejudices renders it unavoidable at present. I do not therefore think we should labor to undo what is done, but leave Things awhile to their own Course. And as to a Treaty of Commerce, I think the best Way is to make no Treaty for some Time to come, and if we tell them that we will make no Treaty, they will be much more desirous of it than we ought to be.5

Congress are, as you will have heard, already removed to an interior Town, which by the bye has every Disadvantage without any advantage over this Place. Whether they will continue there, or remove to some other Village, or come hither, are Questions which I cannot resolve. It will, in my opinion, be necessary that they sit near to Philadelphia, but improper to reside within it. They ought not to be very distant from the Bank, nor ought they to be where the supreme Authority is not in them. You and I can well remember, when every kind of Insult was to be apprehended from being under the Jurisdiction of a misgoverned State. Happily, the Rulers could see no advantage resulting to themselves from any Injuries they might commit against Congress—6

Mr. Adams seems to be in Opinion with you, as to the Necessity of sending a Minster to England, as indeed he does in some other Points. He will I suppose be the Man, for sundry Reasons which I might assign, but he will, I think, have serious Cause to repent of the Appointment. Under present Circumstances, nothing could have more unfavorable Effects, than to send a Minister who should feel himself attached or opposed to any of the Parties by which that Nation is rent asunder. He should hold them in equal Indifference of Sentiment, with equal appearance of Confidence, paying to the Ins a Respect due to their Places, but which neither Ins or Outs are, or can be, entitled to on the Score of their Merit & Virtue; at least from us. As we may not easily find a Man capable of this Conduct, perhaps the best Minster is no Minister, for the Want of one will shew that we are not precipitate in a Desire of close Connection, and that, however the old mercantile Habits may have revived commercial Intercourse, the Government has a proper Jealousy and Caution. This Circumstance also must work favorably on our Politics with other Powers, and give Weight and Dignity to the Ministers we do send—7

As to Mr Dana, He I know means well, but I think it would be very wise for him to leave St. Petersburgh, as he went thither Incog: or if he should not, it would be very wise for Congress to recal him. We have Nothing to do with the Empress of all the Russias. We cannot conveniently carry on any Traffic with her Dominions, for various Reasons which might be assigned, such (as for Instance) that we produce Commodities similar to hers, and very few to exchange with her. None indeed of Consequence but Rice. That the Distance is too great. That the Poverty both of her Subjects and our own requires an advance of Capital to each &ca.— If her Ladyship should drive the Turk out of Europe, and demolish the Algerines & other piratical Gentry, she will have done us much Good, for her own Sake, and we may then find it convenient to meet the Commodities of the Levant at some Entrepot, such as Marseilles, Barcelona, Mahon, or Gibralter. But it is hardly possible that the other Powers will permit Russia to possess so wide a Door into the Mediteranean. I may be deceived, but I think England herself would oppose it. As an American, it is my hearty Wish, that she and the Emperor may effect their Schemes for it will be a Source of great Wealth to us, both immediate and future.8 Adieu beleive me yours

Gouv Morris

His Excellency John Jay Esqr.

ALS, NNC (EJ: 6973). Endorsed: “ . . . Recd 8 Decr. 1783 / and 10 Feb. 1784”. Dft, NNC: Gouverneur Morris Papers (EJ: 11393).

1Only JJ’s letter of 17 July has been found. See above.

2The goddess of health. OED Online.

3The evacuation occurred on 25 Nov.

4On 12 Sept. Congress received a large number of dispatches from the American peace commissioners, among them JA’s letter of 14 July and the commissioners’ letter to RRL of 27 July, each of which enclosed a copy of the British Order in Council of 2 July. Congress referred the dispatches to a committee consisting of James Duane, Thomas Fitzsimons, Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Higginson, and John Rutledge, which recommended that a second committee be appointed to prepare an address informing the states about the reimposition of restrictions on commerce by European nations. See LDC description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds., Letters of Delegates to the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (26 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1976–98) description ends , 20: 701–3. Out of concern that it would arouse state fears about centralized control of commerce, the committee refused to recommend a unified course of action, and a poorly attended Congress took no meaningful action on the report. By 1785 ten states had indicated their willingness to authorize Congress to regulate commerce, but no agreement was reached on a uniform system of retaliation. See PRM description begins E. James Ferguson et al., eds., The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784 (9 vols.; Pittsburgh, Pa., 1973–99) description ends , 8: 542–50.

5On the status of commercial negotiations, see “Negotiating a Trade Agreement” (editorial note) on pp. 373–86.

6On the relocation of Congress from Philadelphia to Princeton as a result of the mutiny in June 1783, and its subsequent decisions to move to Annapolis, Trenton, and New York City, see PRM description begins E. James Ferguson et al., eds., The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784 (9 vols.; Pittsburgh, Pa., 1973–99) description ends , 8: 662–68.

7For other instances in which Morris expressed opposition to the appointment of a minister to Britain on grounds that her attitude was not sufficiently conciliatory to warrant it, see PRM description begins E. James Ferguson et al., eds., The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784 (9 vols.; Pittsburgh, Pa., 1973–99) description ends , 9: 25–26, 74–75. JA was appointed minister to Britain on 24 Feb. 1785 and arrived in London several months later. See Adams, Diary description begins Lyman H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (4 vols.; Cambridge, Mass., 1961) description ends , 3: 177n–178n, 180n–181n.

8For JJ’s views on commerce with Russia, see his letter to Gouverneur Morris of 24 Sept. 1783, above.

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