George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 30 April 1794

From John Jay

New York 30 April 1794

Dear Sir

I was this day honored with your’s of yesterday. There is nothing I more ardently wish for than Retirement, and Liesure to attend to my Books and papers: but parental Duties not permitting it, I must acquiesce, & thank God for the many Blessings I enjoy. If the Judiciary was on its proper Footing, there is no public Station that I should prefer to the one in which you have placed me—it accords with my Turn of Mind, my Education & my Habits.1

I expect to sail in the Course of a Fortnight, and if my Prayers & Endeavours avail, my absence will not be of long Duration.2

The Gentleman to whom your Letter is addressed, is not in Town—To obviate Delay and accidents, I sent it to his Brother, who will doubtless forward it immediately, either by a direct Conveyance or by the Post.3

From the Confidence you repose in me I derive the most pleasing Emotions, and I thank you for them. Life is uncertain. whether I take your Letter with me or leave it here, it would in Case of my Death be inspected by others, who however virtuous, might be indiscreet. After much Reflection, I conclude it will be most prudent to commit it to you; without retaining any Copy or Memorandum except in my Memory, where the numerous proofs of your kind Attention to me are carefully preserved. with perfect Respect Esteem & Attachment I am Dear Sir Your oblidged and affectte Servt

John Jay

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, Jay Papers.

1In his letter of 29 April, GW offered Jay, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the position of U.S. minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain. John Jay and his wife, Sarah Van Brugh Livingston (1756–1802), had five children who survived infancy: Peter Augustus (1776–1843), Maria (1782–1856), Ann (“Nancy”; 1783–1856), William (1789–1858), and Sarah Louisa (1792–1818).

2On Jay’s departure on 12 May for Great Britain, where he was to serve as envoy extraordinary, see n.2 of Edmund Randolph’s first letter to GW of 19 April.

3GW’s letter to Robert R. Livingston of 29 April may have been forwarded to his brother Edward Livingston (1764–1836), who at this time was an attorney in New York City. He represented New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1795–1801, and was mayor of New York City, 1801–3, before moving to New Orleans in 1804. He represented Louisiana in the House of Representatives, 1823–29, and in the Senate, 1829–31, was Andrew Jackson’s secretary of state, 1831–33, and served as U.S. minister to France, 1833–35.

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