George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 19 November 1794

From John Jay

London 19 Nov. 1794

Dear Sir

A Letter which I wrote to you on the 29 Octr last contained the following Paragraph vizt.

“I am authorized by Lord Grenville to assure you in the most explicit Terms, that no Instructions to stimulate or promote Hostilities by the Indians against the United States, have been sent to the Kings officers in Canada—I am preparing an official Representation to him on this Subject, and he will give me an official answer to it—but as this cannot be done in Season to forward by this vessel (for Letters after this Day will be too late to go by her) his Lordship has permitted me to make this informal Communication to You, for your Satisfaction. I am to lay before him a Statement of the Evidence relative to the Interferences complained of, to the End that it may be sent to Canada, and strict Inquiry made into the Truth of the allegations and Facts in question.”

my Time and thoughts have ever since continued to be so entirely engrossed by the Treaty (which is now concluded and was this Day signed) as that it really has not been in my power to finish and present this Representation.

As to the Treaty—it must speake for itself—a hasty Letter which I have written to Mr Randolph, contains some Remarks on a few of the articles in it—that Letter is far from being so particular as I could wish—but I cannot help it—my whole Time has been employed—to do more was not possible.1

I wish I could accompany it, but I feel that I ought not to expose myself to the Severities of a Winter’s Voyage—I am exceedingly anxious to return, for altho’ I have every other Reason to be satisfied with my Situation, yet I am not at Home.

I ought not to conceal from you that the Confidence reposed in your personal Character was visible and useful throughout the Negociation.

If there is not a good Disposition in the far greater Part of the Cabinet and Nation towards us, I am exceedingly mistaken—I do not mean an ostensible and temporizing, but a real good Disposition—I wish it may have a fair Tryal. with perfect Respect Esteem and Attachment I am Dear Sir your obliged and obt Servt

John Jay


1Jay’s letter to Secretary of State Edmund Randolph of this date, accompanying the treaty, included a few general remarks: “I have no reason to believe or conjecture, that one more favorable to us, is attainable.

“Perhaps it is not very much to be regretted that all our differences are merged in this Treaty, without having been decided; disagreeable imputations are thereby avoided, and the Door of Conciliation is fairly and widely opened, by the essential Justice done, and the conveniencies granted to each other by the Parties.”

About specific provisions, Jay noted that he had “pressed” for an earlier evacuation of the northwest posts, but found that the British were “inflexible” on that point, believing the term necessary to give traders “time to conclude their adventures which were calculated on the Existing state of things.”

For the third article, about trade between the British territories in North America and the United States, Jay noted that the exemption of all duties had been “proposed and urged,” but he considered the “compromise” subjecting it to “native Duties” to be “exactly right.” Without the compromise, “the whole Article would have failed, and every expectation of an amicable Settlement been frustrated.” He also noted that “A continuance of Trade with the Indians, was a decided ultimatum.”

Jay stated that the sixth article—which made the United States responsible for those prewar debts owed to British merchants whose collection had been prevented by legal impediments, and which set up a commission to adjudicate the claims—“was a sine qua non” and “intended … to afford that Justice and Equity which judicial proceedings may on trial be found incapable of affording.”

Jay “regretted” that the seventh article, about claims for damages from ship captures and condemnations, did not offer “a more summary method” for settlement, but “every other Plan was perplexed with Difficulties which frustrated it.” Jay added that it might be wise to aid those claimants who could not “conveniently” get an agent on their own “by employing a Gentleman at the public Expence to oversee and manage the Causes.”

Jay claimed that the tenth article, prohibiting future sequestration or confiscation of individual debts due or money, would be “useful” and encourage investment because the credit of some states had “suffered by appearances of their being favorable” to sequestration.

About the twelfth article, admitting, during the continuation of the current European war and for two years thereafter, U.S. vessels under seventy tons into the ports of the British West Indies, Jay commented, “The Duration of this Article is short, but if we meet the disposition of this Country to Good Humour and Cordiality, I am much inclined to believe it will be renewed.”

The articles about “contraband, and the Question whether and how far Neutral Ships protect Enemy’s Property” had, Jay noted, caused “much Trouble and many fruitless discussions.” As now written, Jay claimed, they “secure compensation for Seizures, and leave us at liberty to decide whether they were made in such cases, as to be warranted by the existing Law of Nations.” The “Principles we contend for” were “saved in the conclusion of the 12th Article.”

The articles about privateers were taken from Britain’s treaty of commerce with France and, in part, from the U.S. treaty with Holland.

Lord Grenville had prepared an additional “Article respecting the mutual admission of evidence &ca” that “contains a Clause to abolish Alienism between the two Countries.” Jay requested “precise instruction on that Head” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain).

For the text of the treaty, see Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends , 245–64.

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