George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 21 July 1794

From John Jay

London 21 July 1794

Dear Sir

In a Packet sent last Week to Mr Randolph, was enclosed directed to You a Book which the author, a Mr Miles of this City, requested me to forward to You.1 I was then so pressed for Time as not to have Leisure to write to you.

You will receive herewith enclosed a Note or Memoir which Messrs Lameth and Duport have given me for the purpose of laying it before you. These Gentlemen express an extreme Sollicitude & anxiety about their Families, and they doubtless have great Reason. This war has produced, and will probably continue to produce more misery to Individuals than any other in modern Times.2

among my Letters to Mr Randolph is one stating an agreemt between Ld Grenville and myself for preserving things in a pacific and unaltered State between us and the British on the Side of Canada and the Frontiers; and Mr Simcoe will soon receive orders to retire from the Miami to his former Positions.3

Some Cabinet Councils have lately been held, and it is probable that the Manner of settling their Differences with us has been among the Subjects of their Deliberations. From the Silence and Circumspection of Lord Grenville I apprehend that the Cabinet has not yet ultimately concluded on their Plan. This Delay is unpleasant, but I do not think it unnatural. The Opposition Members lately come in, have so frequently held a Language friendly to america, that it is probable they will find it necessary, in order to be consistant, to adhere to Sentiments not agreable to some of the others.4

I am led by several little Circumstances, not easily detailed or explained, to believe that the late administration looked upon a War with us as enevitable; and I am of opinion that the Instructions of the 6 Novr were influenced by that Idea.5 I do also believe that Lord Dorchester was instructed to act conformable to that Idea; and that Simcoe was governed by it. I am certain that Intelligence (which made some Impression) was conveyed to the Ministry that our army if succesful against the Indians, had orders to attack and take the posts. There is also Room to believe that the insdiscreet Reception given to the late french minister6—the unnecessary Rejoicings about french Successes, and a Variety of similar Circumstances did impress this Government with strong apprehensions of an unavoidable War with us, and did induce them to entertain a Disposition hostile to us.

I have given Ld Grenville positive assurances that no attack, pending the Negociation, will be made on the posts held by them at the Conclusion of the War; but I also told him that I thought it highly probable, that every new advanced Post, and particularly the one said to be taken by Mr Simcoe on the Miami would be attacked.7 I must do him the Justice to say, that hitherto I have found him fair and candid, and apparently free from asperity or Irritation.

So far as personal Attentions to the Envoy may be regarded as Symptoms of good will to his Country, my Prospect is favorable. These Symptoms however are never decisive—they justify Expectation, but not Reliance.

I most heartily wish the Business over, and myself at Home again. But it would not be prudent to urge and press unceasingly, lest ill Humour should result; and ill Humour will mar any Negociation. On the other Hand much Forbearance and seeming Inactivity invite Procrastination and Neglect—The Line between these Extremes is delicate—I will endeavour to find and observe it.8 with perfect Respect Esteem and Attachment I am Dear Sir your obliged & obedt Servt

John Jay

P.S. This Govt seems determined to prosecute the War with France—Lord Spencer is gone to the Emperor, instructed, as is said, to fix him in the same System.9

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain; ADf, NNC. The draft lacks the postscript. GW acknowledged receipt of this letter in his to Jay of 1-4 November.

1About the book, see William Augustus Miles to GW, 12 July.

2For this document, see Lameth and Duport to GW, c.21 July.

3Jay announced this agreement, that "during the present <ne>gociation, and untill the conclusion of it, all things ought to <re>main and be preserved in Statu quo," in his letter to Edmund Randolph of 12 July. In his letter to Randolph of 16 July, he confirmed the agreement and enclosed a letter from Lord Grenville to British minister George Hammond on the subject (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain; see also ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:479-80). For Grenville’s letter to Hammond of 15 July, see Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers, 58-60. On that same date, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, the duke of Portland, wrote Lord Dorchester outlining Grenville’s agreement with Jay and directing him to "take the most immediate and effectual measures for fulfilling the same in every particular"; Portland also enclosed a copy of that letter to John Graves Simcoe and directed him to "conduct yourself in conformity to the directions contained" therein (Cruikshank, Simcoe Papers, 2:322-23, 319). The new secretary of war, Henry Dundas, also wrote Dorchester on 5 July that he was "afraid" Dorchester’s orders for occupying the Miami fort "extend to what cannot be considered to be within the Limits of the Post at Detroit" and "may not rather provoke Hostilities, than prevent them" ("Canadian Archives. Colonial Office Records," 24:679-82).

4Jay was alluding to the Whig faction led by the duke of Portland, which Prime Minister William Pitt had just succeeded in bringing into the government. The new cabinet, announced on 11 July, included Portland and five other members of his faction (Times [London], 11 July).

5The instructions of 6 Nov. 1793 directed British warships and privateers to detain and submit to courts of admiralty any vessels carrying goods from or to French colonies (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain; see also ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:430).

6Jay was referring to the popular, not the official, reception in America of Edmond Charles Genet. On his arrival at Philadelphia in May 1793, the newspapers reported, "We are authorised to say, that Citizen Genet cannot sufficiently express his gratitude for the kind hospitality of the inhabitants of the several states through which he has passed. . . . He has every where observed among the Americans an attachment for those who like themselves at a former period, are now struggling in the cause of liberty. He has every where received the most flattering marks of attention, and both farmers and merchants have readily offered him their flour and other articles of provision at a lower price than to the agents of any other nation" (General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 17 May 1793; for reports of Genet’s reception in South Carolina, see City Gazette & Daily Advertiser [Charleston], 4 May 1793). For reports of Genet’s reception at Philadelphia, see National Gazette (Philadelphia), 22 May 1793.

7On 25 Sept., Alexander Hamilton, writing in the absence of Secretary of War Henry Knox, enclosed to Anthony Wayne a copy of Jay’s letter to Randolph of 12 July, "to desire that the agreement which it announces may be observed by you in its true spirit and in the strictest manner. . . . The Statu quo, as it <exi>sted immediately after the peace is to be inviolably observed—New encroachments being violations of it are of cours<e> not protected by the agreement. Indeed the agreement requires that they should be abandoned" (MiU-C: Anthony Wayne Letterbooks).

8At this point on the draft, Jay wrote and then struck out the following sentences: "I will faithfully do my best to bring Things to a satisfactory Settlement—If I fail my Mind shall not reproach me—if I succeed an addition will be made to those pleasing Reflections which cannot be taken from me."

9George John Spencer, 2d Earl Spencer (1758-1834), was nominated privy councillor and lord keeper of the privy seal in June, and on 17 July the British cabinet resolved to send him to Vienna as an ambassador extraordinary, "to endeavour to encourage our Austrian allies to a little more exertion and energy" (Lord Grenville to the Marquis of Hertford, 17 July, in Historical Manuscripts Commission, Manuscripts of J.B. Fortescue, Esq., Preserved at Dropmore [10 vols., London, 1892-1927], 2:601; Lord Grenville to the Marquis of Buckingham, 19 July, in Richard Plantagenet Temple Nugent Brydges Chandos Grenville, Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third [4 vols., London, 1853-55], 2:258-59). Spencer served as first lord of the admiralty from December 1794 until February 1801 and as home secretary in 1806 and 1807.

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