To John Jay
Philadelphia Augt 30th 1794.
My dear Sir,
Your letter of the 23d of June from London (and duplicate) have both been received; and your safe arrival after so short a passage, gave sincere pleasure, as well on private as on public account, to all your friends in this Country; & to none in a greater degree, I can venture to assure you, than it did to myself.
As you will receive letters from the Secretary of States Office giving an official account of the public occurrences as they have arisen, & progressed, it is unnecessary for me to re-touch any of them: & yet, I cannot restrain myself from making some observations on the most recent of them, the communication of which was received this morning, only; I mean the protest of the Govr of Upper Canada (delivered by Lieutt Sheaffe) against our occupying Lands far from any of the Posts which, long ago, they ought to have surrendered; and far within the known, & until now, the acknowledged limits of the United States.1
On this irregular, & high handed proceeding of Mr Simcoe, which is no longer masked, I would rather hear what the Ministry of G. Britain will say, than pronounce my own sentimts thereon. But can that government or will it attempt, after this official act of one of their governors, to hold out ideas of friendly intentions towd the United States, & suffer such conduct to pass with impunity?2
This may be considered as the most open & daring act of the British agents in America; though it is not the most hostile, or cruel; for there does not remain a doubt in the mind of any well informed person in this country (not shut against conviction that all the difficulties we encounter with the Indians; their hostilities—the murders of helpless women & innocent children along our frontiers, results from the conduct of the Agents of Great Britain in this Country. In vain is it then for its Administration, in Britain, to disavow having given orders which will warrant such conduct, whilst their Agents go unpunished; whilst we have a thousand corroborating circumstances and indeed almost as many evidences (some of which cannot be brought forward); to prove that they are seducing from our alliances (endeavouring to remove them over the line) tribes that have hitherto been kept in peace & friendship with us, at a heavy expence, & who have no cause of complaint except pretended ones, of their creating; whilst they keep in a state of irritation the tribes who are hostile to us, & instigating those who know little of us, or we of them, to unite in the War against us; and whilst it is an undeniable fact that they are furnishing the whole with Arms, Ammunition, cloathing—& even provisions, to carry on the War—I might go further, & if they are not much belied—add men also, in disguise. Can it be expected I ask, so long as these things are known in the United States—or at least firmly believed, and suffered with impunity by G. Britain, that there ever will, or can be any cordiality between the two Countries. I answer NO! and I will undertake, without the gift of prophecy, to predict, that it will be impossible to keep this Country in a state of amity with G. Britain long, if the Posts are not surrendered. A knowledge of these being my sentiments, would have little weight I am persuaded with the British Admn; nor perhaps with the Nation, in effecting the measure: but both may rest satisfied that if they want to be in Peace with this Country & to enjoy the benefits of its trade &c. this is the road to it.3 withholding them, & the consequences we feel at present continuing, war <will be> inevitably.4
This letter is written to you in extreme haste, whilst the Papers respecting this subject are copying at the Secretary of States Office, to go by Express to New York, for a Vessel which we have just heard Sails tomorrow:5 you will readily perceive therefore I had no time for digesting—& as little for correcting it. I shall only add that you may be assured always of the sincere friendship & Affection of Your Obedient Hble Sert
ALS, UkWC-A; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; ALS (duplicate), NNC; LB, DLC:GW. The ALS has been bound into a volume in which the binding frequently obscures one or two letters. That text has been silently restored by using the ALS (letterpress) and ALS (duplicate). The duplicate evidently was transmitted with GW’s letter to Jay of 5 September.
1. Roger Hale Sheaffe (1763-1851) entered the British army as an ensign of the 5th Regiment of Foot in 1776 and eventually rose to the rank of general in 1838. During the War of 1812, Sheaffe, then a major general, acted as military commander in Canada in 1812 and 1813.
GW was referring to a letter from Sheaffe to Charles Williamson of 16 Aug., delivered at Sodus, N.Y.: "Having a special Commission and Instructions for that purpose from the Lieut. Governor of His Britannic Majesty’s Province of Upper Canada, I have come here to demand by what authority an establishment has been ordered at this place, and to require that such a design be immediately relinquished for the reasons stated in the written declaration accompanying this letter." That declaration read: "I am commanded to declare that during the inexecution of the treaty of Peace between Great Britain and the United States, and until the existing differences respecting it, shall be mutually and finally adjusted, the taking possession of any part of the Indian territory, either for the purposes of War or Sovereignty, is held to be a direct violation of His Britannic Majesty’s Rights, as they unquestionably existed before the Treaty, and has an immediate tendency to interrupt, and in its progress to destroy, that good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America." Williamson enclosed the protest in his letter to Secretary of State Edmund Randolph of 19 Aug. (DNA:RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).
2. Jay replied to this letter on 29 Oct., offering Lord Grenville’s "informal" assurance, prior to the official representation and reply on the subject, "that no Instructions to stimulate or promote Hostilities by the Indians against the united States have been sent to the Kings officers in Canada" (DLC:GW).
3. On the duplicate and the letter-book copy, the preceding clause reads "to give up the Posts is the only road to it."
4. The preceding word is "inevitable" on the duplicate and on the letter-book copy. The two words in angle brackets, an insertion, are taken from the letterpress copy as the insertion is very faint on the ALS.
5. Randolph enclosed a copy of Sheaffe’s letter in his letter to Jay of this date. Randolph dated his letter "One oclock" and stated that the express would be dispatched at "two oclock P.M." (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain).