Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Jay, 15 September 1785

From John Jay

New York 15th. September 1785

Dr. Sir

I herewith enclose a Letter for Count de Vergennes, and also a Copy of it for your Perusal and Information. Although certain Circumstances have left to Mr. De Marbois a less Share in the Confidence and Attachment of our People, than it was in his Power to have acquired, yet his Conduct as Chargé des Affaires having been unexceptionable, he merited and has received Commendation for it. He is still here, and until his Departure Mr. Otto will probably postpone entering on the Business of his Place. The Idea of Chevr. de la Luzerne’s Return still prevails, and I think it would be useful that he should, because it is generally thought that his private Sentiments and Wishes are friendly to this Country. It is much in the Power of Ministers to cherish or diminish Harmony; and it is much to be wished that France may send none here who may be more disposed to blame than to approve. The Chevalier already possesses Rank and Character, and therefore is not exposed to Temptations to endeavour to raise himself by means of the first Step he may meet with whether clean or otherwise.

I am Dr. Sir &c.,

John Jay

FC (DNA: PCC, No. 121). Recorded in SJL as received 19 Oct. 1785. Enclosure: Copy and RC of Jay to Vergennes, 6 Sep. 1785, acknowledging Vergennes’ letter of 20 June 1785 informing him that “a Chargé des affaires has been named … during the Absence of Chevr. De la Luzerne.” Jay’s paragraph concerning Marbois reads: “In Justice to Mr. De Marbois, I ought to observe that the Manner in which he has filled the Place of his Majesty’s Chargé des Affaires, not only corresponds with my Ideas of Propriety, but has given great satisfaction to Congress; who have directed me to mention it to your Excellency” (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxx; Tr. in DLC; DNA: PCC, No. 121).

Marbois’ letters of 30 Aug. to Congress and to Jay announcing Otto’s appointment as chargé d’affaires were submitted to Congress on 2 Sep. and Jay was thereupon directed to report. He did so by submitting drafts of two letters to Marbois, in the first of which he wrote: “The manner in which you have filled the place of his Majesty’s Chargé des Affaires here has given them [Congress] great satisfaction, and I am ordered to mention this to Count de Vergennes” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxix, 675–8). Only a few days before TJ transmitted Jay’s letter to Vergennes, that minister had received an anonymous letter signed “Union” and dated “United States 20th August 1785” asking for Marbois’ recall (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxx; Tr in DLC). Otto arrived on 25 Aug. 1785 and called on Jay the next morning. Jay, Otto wrote Vergennes, “m’a reçu avec sa reserve ordinaire; il m’a fait plusieurs questions sur le retour de M. Franklin et sur M. Jefferson.” Otto touched land just at the moment “M. de Marbois alloit celebrer avec les Membres du Congrès et les personnes principales de l’Etat de Newyork la fête du Roi. Il avoit rassemblé dans sa maison de campagne vis à vis de Newyork sur la Longue isle une societé nombreuse; l’arrivée du paquebot de S.M., les nouvelles de france qu’on attendoit depuis longtems et surtout l’annonce de l’avancement de M. de Marbois, auquel tout le monde prenoit le plus vif interêt augmenterent la gaieté et le contentement des Convives” (Otto to Vergennes, 26 Aug. 1785; Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.U., xxx; Tr in DLC). A few days later Otto had a long conversation with Jay, who seemed much more communicative than at the first interview. Jay began by praising Luzerne, who, he thought, had acted as a sort of mediator between the two nations and who knew better than anyone else how to reconcile “l’avantage de son souverain avec la prosperité de la republique près de laquelle il etoit accredité.” Otto seized this opportunity “pour lui parler de M. Jefferson, mais il a detourné la conversation par des observations generales en me disant ‘qu’il etoit beaucoup plus aisé de negocier dans une Monarchie que dans un pays republicain …’” (Otto to Vergennes, 30 Aug. 1785; same).

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