Considering the nature of these representations, and the limits and objects of my commission and instructions, it became a difficult question how far I ought, and in what manner I could interfere. I finally judged it would not be improper to send Mr Carmichael down with instructions to make a full inquiry into the facts alleged against the Commodore, and to use my influence with this government to stop the vessel for the present, in case on such inquiry there should arise a very strong presumption, that such a step would be necessary to preserve her. Mr Carmichael did not think that a business of this kind was within the duty of his appointment, and he doubted his being able to ride post so far. This was a delicate business, and the management of it could with propriety be only committed to one, in whose prudence and circumspection much confidence might be reposed. It would have been improper for me to have undertaken it, because I could not justify exposing by my absence our negotiations for aids and a treaty to unseasonable delays.
Soon afterwards I received a very long exculpatory letter from the Commodore. This letter placed his transactions in a different point of view, and inclined me to think that the proposed interposition on my part would have been unnecessary.
I forbear burthening these despatches with copies of the various letters I have received and written on this subject, as well because, as they relate to transactions in Holland and France, with the public agents and Ministers in those countries, they are not properly within my province, as because they contain nothing of sufficient importance to make it necessary for me again to send further copies.
You will be pleased to observe, that my last letter to the Minister was dated the 9th of October, and that there is a paragraph in it soliciting his speedy attention to the affairs on which he had promised to write to me. I received no answer. Some weeks elapsed and the same silence continued.
I consulted the Ambassador of France, as to the propriety of my going to the Escurial, and endeavoring to prevail upon the Minister to proceed in our affairs, observing that the measures of Spain, with respect to us, might be important if not to this, yet to the next campaign, and that the sooner they were decided, the better enabled Congress would be to regulate their future operations. He was of opinion, that as the Minister had promised to give me notice of the time when he would be able to transact these affairs with me, it would be most prudent to wait with patience somewhat longer, and not by an appearance of too great solicitude, to give him uneasy sensations. All things considered, this advice appeared to me discreet, and I followed it.
Thus the month of October produced nothing but expectation, suspense, and disappointment.
About this time M. Gardoqui mentioned to me a singular ordinance which occasioned, and is explained in the following letter from me to the Minister, viz.
"Madrid, October 28th, 1781.
"M. Gardoqui informs me, that his Majesty was pleased in the month of March last to order, 'that when a prize taken by a French or Dutch vessel should arrive in a port of Spain, the Marine Judge of the District should reduce to writing the evidence of the capture, and deliver it to the French or Dutch consul, (as the case might be) to be by him transmitted to the Admiralty, from whence the commission of the captors issued in order that the legality of the capture might there be tried; and further, that the sentence which might there be passed should, on being duly certified to the aforesaid judge, be executed under his direction.' I am also informed, that on the 12th instant, his Majesty was pleased to extend the abovementioned order to prizes taken by American vessels of war, and sent into any of the ports of Spain.
"So far as this order affects the United States of America, I take the liberty of representing to your Excellency, that the execution of it will necessarily be attended with the following inconveniences.
"1st. The distance of America from Spain is so great, and the intercourse between the two countries rendered so precarious by the war, that many months must unavoidably elapse before the sentence of an American Court of Admiralty can be obtained and executed here.
"2dly. That by these delays all cargoes, or parts of cargoes, which may be of a perishable nature, will be lost, and the value of the vessel and rigging greatly diminished.
"3dly. That as his Majesty has not as yet been pleased to grant the United States the privilege of having consuls in his ports, it is not in their power to provide for the transmission of the evidence of captures, in the manner specified in the abovementioned order.
"4thly. That in case the prize should be claimed as a neutral vessel, the claimants must either prosecute their claim in America, or the sentence given there could not be influenced by it; and yet it is more probable, that those claimants would endeavor to avoid that expense and trouble, by applying here for an order to suspend the execution of the sentence, as well as for a trial of the merits of their claim by a Spanish tribunal. In which case the same cause would become subject to two jurisdictions, and tried by two different independent courts, in two different countries.
"This order not being published, it is possible, that my information respecting it may not be right in all its parts; though I have reason to believe from the usual accuracy of M. Gardoqui, (from whom I received this information) that I am not mistaken.
"There is at present an American prize at Bilboa, and all judicial proceedings respecting it are now at a stand.
"The importance of this subject to the United States, and in some measure to the common cause, will I hope apologize for my troubling your Excellency with these remarks, and for requesting, that the embarrassments in question may be removed, in such a manner as may be most agreeable to his Majesty.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
To this letter I never received any answer whatever. After waiting six or eight days I asked M. Gardoqui, who almost daily applied to me on the subject, what could be the reason of so much delay in a case, that admitted of so little doubt. He said he could only account for it by supposing, that the Minister had sent for the original order to prevent mistakes. I asked whether these royal orders were not regularly recorded at the time they were issued. He told me they were not.
For my own part I rather suspect that this order treated us as an independent nation, and that the Minister found it difficult to establish any general regulations respecting our prizes or commerce, without meeting with that obstacle. M. Gardoqui informed me, that one of the Judges permitted him to read it, but would not let him take a copy of it, and that it only contained an extension to American prizes, of the regulations before ordained for Dutch and French ones.
As to the prize at Bilboa, a particular order was issued in that case for selling the ship and cargo, on the captors giving security to produce, within a year, an exemplification of a sentence of an American Court of Admiralty to justify it.
On the 5th of November, M. Gardoqui communicated to me certain letters and papers from which it appeared, that the Cicero, Captain Hill, had been stopped at Bilboa, by an order of the Minister, on a charge of improper conduct towards one of the King's cutters. Upon this subject I wrote the following letter to the Count de Florida Blanca, viz.
"Madrid, November 6th, 1781.
"It gives me much concern to be informed, that the conduct of Captain Hill, of the Cicero, an American private ship of war, towards one of his Catholic Majesty's cutters, has been so represented to your Excellency, as to have given occasion to an order for detaining him at Bilboa.
"This unfortunate affair is represented to me as follows.
"That Captain Hill, with a prize he had taken, was going from Corunna to Bilboa. That in the night of the 26th of October last, he discovered an armed vessel approaching the prize. Captain Hill suspecting it to be a Jersey privateer, hailed her, and ordered her to send her boat on board. They answered in English, that their boat was out of repair. This circumstance increased his suspicions that she was an enemy, and induced him to insist on their sending a boat on board; which not being complied with, he was persuaded it was an enemy, and accordingly gave them a broadside. Upon this they sent a boat to the Cicero and convinced Captain Hill, that the vessel was a Spanish cutter.
"If this is really a true state of the fact, and I have reason to believe it is, I am persuaded, that your Excellency will not think Captain Hill's conduct was unjustifiable, or contrary to the common usage in such cases. Having a valuable prize under his care, it was his duty to protect it, and as it was impossible for him at night to discover an enemy from a friend, in any other manner than the one he used, the Captain of the cutter certainly appears to have been remiss in not sending out his boat at first as well as at last.
"Both the Cicero and her prize now lie at Bilboa, laden with valuable cargoes, and expected to sail from thence for North America on the 16th instant. The privateer alone, has one hundred and forty men on board, and should they not be permitted to sail at the time appointed, a very considerable expense must inevitably be incurred, because they would be obliged to wait for the next spring tides.
"As no American vessel can have the least temptation to violate the rights of Spain, but as on the contrary it is the well known interest, as well as disposition, of the United States to cultivate the friendship of his Catholic Majesty, I am convinced, that there was not in this case the least intention of disrespect to the Spanish flag. Permit me therefore to hope, that your Excellency will be pleased to permit the departure of these vessels by a general order, or on Captain Hill's giving security for the payment of such damages, as he may become chargeable with, on the issue of a judicial inquiry into this transaction.
"I assure your Excellency, that no citizen of America will be countenanced by the United States in any improper conduct towards his Catholic Majesty, or any of his subjects, and if I had the least reason to think, that Captain Hill was in this predicament, it would give me much more pleasure to hear of his being punished than released.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
The Count's answer to the above.
"The Count de Florida Blanca has the honor to present his compliments to Mr Jay, and to assure him, that the information he has received relative to the affair of the Cicero privateer, as set forth in his letter of the 6th instant, is not correct, the Count having received from persons of respectability and entirely worthy of credit very accurate statements. It is therefore necessary, that some suitable satisfaction should be given, in order to serve as an example to restrain the captains of the American privateers within proper bounds. This is the more necessary, as it is not the first time that we have had reason to complain of their conduct, and to demand reparation.
"St Lorenzo, November 8th, 1781."
REPLY TO THE ABOVE NOTE.
"Madrid, November 12th, 1781.
"I have received the letter, which your Excellency did me the honor to write on the 8th instant.
"It gives me pain to hear, that the conduct of an American vessel of war should be so reprehensible as that of the Cicero has been represented to be. It is proper that I should inform your Excellency, that the captains of all American private ships of war give bond with sureties, to fulfil the instructions they receive with their commissions; and that these instructions enjoin them to behave in a proper manner towards friendly nations.
"As the honor and interest of the United States render it highly necessary, that their officers and citizens should, upon all occasions, pay the most scrupulous regard to the rights of other nations, I must request the favor of your Excellency to communicate to me a state of the facts charged against Captain Hill, that by being transmitted immediately to America, Congress may be enabled to take such measures relative to him, as to deter others from the commission of the like offences.
"Your Excellency would also oblige me, by informing me how the satisfaction demanded of Captain Hill is to be ascertained, and to whom it is to be paid. As his remaining much longer in his present situation would be a great loss to his owners, I wish, for their sakes, that he may be released as soon as possible; and, I am persuaded, that your Excellency will not think it necessary to detain him longer than until the satisfaction in question can be ascertained and paid.
"I greatly regret that other American privateers have also given occasion to complaints. I assure your Excellency, that nothing on my part shall be wanting to prevent the like in future, and I am sure that Congress would consider themselves obliged, by your Excellency's putting it in my power to convey to them exact details of any complaints against their officers.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
Much reason has been given me to believe, that the hard proceedings against Captain Hill were not justifiable, and the Minister's declining to furnish me with a state of the facts supposed to be alleged against him speaks the same language. What intelligence the Count may have respecting this misconduct of any other of our armed vessels, I know not, nor have I heard any other insinuations of that kind, except what are contained in his note.
The Count omitted to take any notice of my last letter on this subject, and it was not before the 26th of November, that the matter was determined by the order alluded to in the following polite letter.
"My Dear Sir,
"From respect to your Excellency and to the American Congress, the King has determined that Captain Hill, on satisfying, or giving security to satisfy, the damage he has done to one of our vessels, on account of which he is detained, shall be at liberty to return to his country when he pleases. For this purpose I communicate the enclosed order to the Corregidor of Bilboa, and repeating myself to be at the service of your Excellency, I pray God to preserve you many years.
COUNT DE FLORIDA BLANCA."
The next day I sent the Count some American papers, which had just come to hand, and enclosed them with a card, in which there was this paragraph.
"Mr Jay has received the letter, which his Excellency did him the honor to write yesterday by M. Gardoqui, and is greatly obliged by the permission granted to Captain Hill to depart, as well as by the polite terms in which that circumstance is communicated to Mr Jay."
As further remonstrance on this subject would have been useless, I thought it best to appear satisfied, and not, by any expressions of discontent, to hazard new obstacles to the attainment of our more important objects.
I must now return to the old subject. Although the Count had been some weeks at the Escurial, and I had in vain waited with great patience for the letter, which the Minister had promised to write to me on leaving St Ildefonso, yet as many bills would become payable in December, and I was unprovided with funds, I thought it high time to remind the Minister of my situation.
I therefore wrote him the following letter.
"Madrid, November 16th, 1781.
"I find myself constrained to beseech your Excellency to think a little of my situation. Congress flatter themselves, that the offers they have made would certainly induce his Majesty at least to assist them with some supplies. The residue of the bills drawn upon me remain to be provided for. Those payable in the next month amount to thirtyone thousand eight hundred and nine dollars. Would it be too inconvenient for your Excellency to lend us this sum? Before January, when further bills would become payable, your Excellency may probably find leisure to give me an answer respecting our propositions. The time presses; I entreat your Excellency's answer. I can only add, that I am, with great consideration and respect, &c.
To this letter I never received any answer, and it is remarkable, that the Count's subsequent letter of the 26th of November, announcing the permission given to Captain Hill to depart, does not take the least notice of it. Whatever might be the Minister's real intentions, as to furnishing me with the funds necessary to pay the bills to become due in December, it appeared to me imprudent to neglect any means in my power to provide for the worst. I therefore apprised Dr Franklin (to whom I am under great obligations, and have given much trouble) of my hazardous situation by the following letter.
"Madrid, November 21st, 1781.
"It seems as if my chief business here was to fatigue you and our good allies with incessant solicitations on the subject of the ill timed bills drawn upon me by Congress. It is happy for me that you are a philosopher, and for our country that our allies are indeed our friends. Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.
"This Court continues to observe the most profound silence respecting our propositions.
"I cannot as yet obtain any answer to any of my applications for aids. Heretofore the Minister was too sick or too busy. At present his Secretary is much indisposed. I have requested that he would lend us for the present only as much as would satisfy the bills of December, viz. thirtyone thousand eight hundred and nine dollars; no answer. What is to be done? I must again try and borrow a little, and, as usual, recur to you. Thank God, no new bills arrive; if they did, I should refuse to accept them; only a few straggling old ones now and then appear.
"Would not the Court of France, on your representing this matter to them, enable you to put an end to this unhappy business? Thirty thousand pounds sterling would do it. I am sure the evils we should experience from the protest of these bills would cost even France a vast deal more. You see my situation; I am sure I need not press you to deliver me from it if in your power.
"I cannot yet believe, that all the assurances of this Court will vanish into air. I still flatter myself that they will afford us some supplies, though not in season. I think we might very safely offer to repay the French Court the proposed sum in America, for surely Congress would not hesitate to prefer that to the loss of their credit.
"I enclose a newspaper, which gives us reason to indulge the most pleasing expectations. God grant they may be realised. I have a letter from Mr Gerry, dated at Marblehead the 9th of October. He was then in daily expectation of hearing that Lord Cornwallis and his army were our prisoners. He describes the last harvest as very abundant, and the general state of our affairs as very promising; much more so, indeed, than ever they have been.
"I am, &c. &c.
This letter was conveyed by a courier of the French Ambassador. I did not choose, by putting it in the post office, to give this Court an opportunity of knowing that I was endeavoring to obtain a credit for the sum in question, lest that circumstance might become an additional motive with them to withhold their assistance.
In short, Sir, the whole month of November wore away without my being able to advance a single step. M. Del Campo's illness afforded a tolerable good excuse for delay during the latter part of November, and the first three weeks in December.
On the 1st of December I found myself without any answer from Dr Franklin, with many bills to pay, and not a farthing in bank. M. Cabarrus, fortunately for me, was willing as well as able to make further advances, and to him I am indebted for being relieved from the necessity I should otherwise have been under, of protesting the bills due in that month.
The Court removed from the Escurial to Madrid without having bestowed the least attention either on the propositions or different memorials on commercial matters, which I had submitted to the Minister.
It was natural to expect, that our successes in Virginia would have made a very grateful impression on this Court; but I am far from being persuaded that they considered these events as favorable to their views. Of this, some judgment may be formed from their subsequent conduct.
On the 6th of December I sent the Minister the following card, and a memorial from Mr Harrison at Cadiz, the nature of which will be best explained by a recital of it.
"Mr Jay presents his compliments to the Count de Florida Blanca, and has the honor of requesting his attention to the enclosed memorial.
"Mr Jay had the honor of calling at his Excellency's on Tuesday evening last, but had the misfortune of not finding him at home. As Mr Jay wishes to regulate his visits by his Excellency's convenience, he begs the favor of his Excellency to inform him when it would be agreeable that Mr Jay should wait on his Excellency, and have an opportunity of conversing with him on the object of Mr Jay's mission."
The answer I received to the letter, which accompanied this memorial, is as follows.
"The Count de Florida Blanca will receive Mr John Jay whenever he may please to come, in the evening at half past seven or later, in his Secretary's office in the palace, except on Saturday evening next, when he will be engaged."
This note was not dated, but I received it the 7th of December. On the same day I received a letter from General Washington, dated the 22d of October, and enclosing copies of the articles of capitulation of Yorktown, and returns of prisoners, &c.
This letter was brought to France by the frigate, which carried there the first intelligence of that important event, and yet it is remarkable that it did not reach me until after these articles had been published in the Paris and Madrid gazettes. I nevertheless immediately sent copies to the Minister.
As to Mr Harrison's Memorial, no answer has been given it to this day. Nor indeed have any of the representations I have hitherto made to the Ministers relative to commercial grievances procured the least redress. Even the hard case of the Dover cutter still remains unfinished, notwithstanding my repeated and pressing applications on behalf of the poor captors. It is now more than a year since the Minister promised me that the cutter should be immediately appraised, and the value paid to the captors, one of whom afterwards came here, and after waiting two or three months returned to Cadiz, without having received any other money than what I gave him to purchase his daily bread.
As the Minister could not see me on Saturday evening, it was not till Monday evening the 10th of December that I had an opportunity to converse with him.
He began the conversation by observing, that I had been very unfortunate, and had much reason to complain of delays, but that they had been unavoidable. That M. Del Campo had been appointed near three months ago to treat and confer with me; that shortly after the Court removed from St Ildefonso that gentleman's health began to decline; and that his indisposition had hitherto prevented his attending to that or any other business, but that he hoped by the time the Court should return from Aranjues (to which the King was then about to make a little excursion) he would be able to proceed on it, and that he should have the necessary instructions for the purpose.
I told the Count, that these delays had given me great concern, and that I was very solicitous to be enabled to give Congress some positive and explicit information, on the business alluded to. He replied, that I must now confer on those subjects with M. Del Campo, for that for his part his time and attention were so constantly engaged by other matters, that he could not possibly attend to this, especially while at Madrid, when he always enjoyed much less leisure than at the Sitios. He then proceeded to congratulate me on our late successes in Virginia; he assured me, that the King rejoiced sincerely in those events, and that he himself was happy to see our affairs assume so promising an aspect. I was about to descend to particulars, and to remind the Count of the various memorials, &c. which still remained to be considered and despatched, when he mentioned he was engaged for the rest of the evening in pressing affairs. This intimation put an end to the conference.
It is somewhat singular, that M. Del Campo should have been appointed near three months past to treat and confer with me, and yet I should be left all that time without any information of it. It shows, that the King is ready to do what may depend upon him, but that his Ministers find it convenient to interpose delays without necessity, and without even the appearance of it.
After the King's return from Aranjues, I took an opportunity of asking M. Del Campo when I might promise myself the pleasure of commencing our conferences. He replied, that his health was not as yet sufficiently re-established to permit him to do business. The fact however was otherwise.
On the 27th of December, I again waited on him for the same purpose. He told me it was very uncertain when our conferences could commence, and that he must first converse with the Count on the subject. I asked him whether he had not received his instructions. He answered, that he had not, for that they were not as yet completed, nor indeed as he believed as yet begun.
In this state things remained during the whole time the Court continued at Madrid. Above a month since the date of my letter to Dr Franklin about our bills had elapsed without an answer, nor had any prospect of obtaining aids here opened. I therefore wrote him the following letter.
"Madrid, December 31st, 1781.
"My Dear Sir,
"I learn from the Marquis d'Yranda, that my letter of the 21st ultimo has reached you. The want of a good opportunity has for some time past prevented my writing to you so particularly as I could have wished.
"Things remain here exactly in statu quo, except that your aid daily becomes more necessary, and will soon be indispensable. These are matters that require no explanation. I have received two letters, dated the 22d and 26th of November, from Mr Adams, on the subject of certain instructions, passed the 16th of August, which he had lately received, and of which I was ignorant until the arrival of these letters. I think them wise. A courier from France arrived here two days ago; by his return I hope to write you particularly, &c.
"I am, &c.
On the 11th of January, I wrote the following letter to the Doctor, by the Ambassador's courier.
"Madrid, January 11th, 1782.
"The last letter I had the pleasure of writing to you was dated the 31st ultimo, and referred to a former one of the 21st of November last, in which I stated my difficulties on account of the bills, the improbability of my obtaining any relief here, and consequently the necessity I was under of recurring to your interposition to save them from protest.
"I have not as yet been favored with your answer. I can readily conceive, that this affair has added not a little to your embarrassments, and therefore I lament, not complain of the delay. I borrowed from M. Cabarrus about thirty thousand dollars. He is not perfectly easy, and I have no prospect of borrowing more from him or others, at least without assurances of speedy repayment, which I am not in capacity to give. The Court indeed owes me, on their old promise of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, a balance of about twentyfive thousand six hundred and fifteen dollars, but I have no reason to rely on receiving it soon, if at all.
"I also begin severely to feel the want of my back salary. It is in vain for me to expect it from America, and unless you can supply it, it will be necessary for me immediately to disencumber myself of most of my expenses, and confine myself to mere necessaries, until a change may take place for the better. This circumstance conspires with those of a more public nature, to make me very solicitous to know what you can, or cannot do for me.
"As to the affairs of the negotiation, they have not advanced since Major Franks left me. The Minister is too sick, or too busy, to attend to American affairs. He refers me to M. Del Campo, who has been named for the purpose, and when I apply to him, he tells me, that his instructions are not yet completed, and that he cannot tell when they will be.
"I am, &c.
I must, however, do the Minister the justice to say, that for some little time then past, and during the whole month of January, I have good reason to believe, that he was greatly and constantly engaged in pressing business, for on speaking several times during that period to the Ambassador of France, about the delays I experienced, and the propriety of pressing the Minister to pay some attention to our affairs, he repeatedly told me, that he knew the Minister to be then extremely hurried, and advised me not to make any application to him for the present.
On the 26th of January, 1782, agreeably to a previous appointment, I had a long conference with the Ambassador of France. I entered into a detail of the various pretexts and delays, which the Minister had used to avoid coming to any decision on our affairs, and made some remarks on their keeping me suspended at present, between the Count's incapacity to do business, and M. Del Campo's want of instructions.
I reminded the Ambassador that the fate of the bills drawn upon me was a serious subject, and if protested might eventually prove injurious to France and Spain, as well as America, and that though France had already done much for us, yet that it still remained a question of policy whether it would not be more expedient for her to advance about thirty thousand pounds sterling to save these bills, than risk the expensive evils which the loss of our credit might occasion even to her. The Ambassador seemed to admit this, but was apprehensive that the great and pressing demands for money caused by the great armaments, which France was preparing to send to different parts of the world, would render such an advance very inconvenient, if not impracticable.
I recapitulated in the course of the conference the various ill consequences, which might result from protesting these bills. Among others, I hinted at the necessity I should be under of assigning to the world in those protests, the true reasons which had occasioned them, viz. that I had placed too great confidence in the assurances of his Catholic Majesty. The Ambassador objected to this as highly imprudent, and as naturally tending to embroil the two countries, which was by all means to be avoided, even though I could make good the assertion. I then enumerated the various assurances I had at different times received from the Minister, adding, that whatever might be the consequence, I should think it my duty to pay a higher regard to the honor of the United States, than to the feelings of a Court by whose finesse that honor had been drawn into question.
There was also another circumstance, to which I desired him to turn his attention, viz. that as our independence had not been acknowledged here, the holders of the bills might commence actions against me on them; and that it was easy to foresee the embarrassments, which would result to all parties from such a measure. The Ambassador saw this matter in the same point of view.
It appeared to me useful to take a general view of the conduct of Spain towards us ever since my arrival, and to observe the natural tendency it had to encourage our enemies, impress doubts on the minds of our friends, and abate the desire of Congress to form intimate connexions with Spain; and that this latter consequence might become interesting also to France, by reason of the strict alliance subsisting between the two kingdoms.
I begged the favor of him to give me his candid advice what would be most proper for me to do. He confessed that he was perplexed, and at a loss what to advise me to; he hoped that the Dutch loan would enable Dr Franklin to make the advances in question, and that though he could not promise anything from his Court, yet that he would write and do his best. He advised me to give the Doctor a full statement of our affairs here; but that I had already done, by giving him the perusal of my letters to Congress of the 3d of October, &c.
He said he had written to the Count de Vergennes about the delays and embarrassments I had met with, and that he received for answer, "that Spain knew her own business and interest, and that France had no right to press her on such points."
The Ambassador advised me by all means to continue patient and moderate, and to cherish the appearance of our being well with this Court. I observed to him that one protested bill would dissipate all these appearances. He said that was very true; that he saw difficulties on every side, and that he really pitied my situation, for that these various perplexities must keep me constantly in a kind of purgatory. I told him if he would say mass for me in good earnest, I should soon be relieved from it; he renewed his promise to write, and we parted.
The next day, viz. 27th of January, I received the following letter from Dr Franklin.
"Passy, January 15th, 1782.
"Mr Grand tells me, that he hears from Madrid, you are uneasy at my long silence. I have had much vexation and perplexity lately with the affair of the goods in Holland, and I have so many urgent correspondences to keep up, that some of them at times necessarily suffer. I purpose writing fully to you next post. In the meantime I send the enclosed for your meditation. The ill-timed bills, as you justly term them, do us infinite prejudice; but we must not be discouraged.
"I am ever, with the greatest esteem, &c.
The paper abovementioned to be enclosed, is in these words.
COUNT DE VERGENNES TO B. FRANKLIN.
"Versailles, December 31st, 1781.
"I have received the letter you did me the honor to write me the 27th instant. I shall not enter into an examination of the successive variations and augmentations of your demands on me for funds to meet your payments. I shall merely remark, that whenever you shall consider yourself fully authorised to dispose of the proceeds of the Dutch loan, on behalf of Congress, I will propose to M. de Fleury to supply you with the million required, as soon as it shall have been paid into the royal treasury. But I think it my duty, Sir, to inform you, that if Mr Morris issues drafts on this same million, I shall not be able to provide for the payment of them, and shall leave them to be protested. I ought also to inform you, that there will be nothing more supplied than the million abovementioned, and if the drafts, which you have already accepted, exceed that sum, it must be for you to contrive the means of meeting them. I shall make an exception only in favor of those of Mr Morris, provided they shall not exceed the remainder of the Dutch loan, after deducting the million, which shall be placed at your disposal, and the expenses of the loan.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
"P. S. I remit to you herewith the letter of Mr Grand."
Although this letter of Dr Franklin does not in express terms promise me the aid I had desired, yet the general tenor of it, together with the grant of the million mentioned by the Count de Vergennes, led me to suppose, that on the receipt of it he would be able to make me the necessary advances. Under this idea I returned the following answer to the Doctor's letter.
"Madrid, January 30th, 1782.
"My dear Sir,
"I had yesterday the satisfaction of receiving your favor of the 15th instant. You will find by a letter, which I wrote you on the 11th instant, that I imputed your silence to its true cause, being well persuaded, that the same attention you have always paid to the public affairs in general, would not be withheld from those, which call for it in this kingdom.
"I am happy to find, that you have a prospect of terminating the difficulties, which the bills drawn upon me have occasioned, and though I cannot but observe, that Count de Vergennes' letter is peculiarly explicit and precise, yet I must confess, I should not have been surprised if it had been conceived in terms still less soft. Would it not be well to transmit a copy of it to Congress? France has done, and is still doing so much for us, that gratitude, as well as policy, demands from us the utmost moderation and delicacy in our applications for aids; and considering the very singular plan of drawing bills at a venture, I think we have no less reason to admire the patience, than to be satisfied with the liberality of our good and generous allies.
"M. de Neufville had given me a hint of the embarrassments occasioned by the affair of our goods in Holland.
"It seems as if trouble finds its way to you from every quarter. Our credit in Holland leans upon you on the one hand, and in Spain on the other. Thus you continue, like the key-stone of an arch, pressed by both sides and yet sustaining each. How grateful ought we to be to France for enabling you to do it.
"Mr Joshua Johnson, in a letter dated the 18th instant, mentions the arrival at Nantes, of the brig Betsey from Philadelphia, that she brought letters for me, and that the captain put them in the post-office. None of them have as yet reached me.
"I have received too many unequivocal proofs of your kind attention, to render a punctilious return of line for line necessary to convince me of it. Let such ideas, therefore, be banished, and be assured that matters of ceremony and etiquette can never affect the esteem and affectionate regard with which I am, &c. &c.
Not having heard anything further from M. Del Campo respecting his instructions, I wrote him on that subject as follows.
"Madrid, February 1st, 1782.
"Mr Jay presents his compliments to M. Del Campo, and requests to be informed whether he has as yet received the instructions necessary to enable him to execute his appointment relative to the affairs of the United States at this Court.
"Mr Jay begs leave again to mention his being ready and anxious to enter, with M. Del Campo, into the discussion of these affairs at any time and place that may be agreeable to him."
On the 5th of February, I received the following answer.
"M. Del Campo has the honor to address his compliments to Mr Jay, and to transmit him several bundles of letters, which he has just received. He regrets that he is obliged to inform Mr Jay, that the Count, by reason of the delicate state of his health, and other difficulties, has not yet been able to arrange the instructions under consideration. The Pardo, February 3d, 1782."
The packets mentioned in the above note were the first public letters I have had the honor of receiving from you.
I afterwards found that these despatches were brought to Cadiz from Philadelphia by the brig Hope. How they came into M. Del Campo's hands I am not informed. On the same day (February 5th, 1782,) I received a letter from Dr Franklin, which almost entirely dissipated my hopes of aid from him. The following extract from it, contains every part of it except a few paragraphs that have no relation to our affairs here.
"Passy, January 19th, 1782.
"In mine of the 15th, I mentioned my intention of writing fully to you by this day's post. But understanding since, that a courier will soon go from Versailles, I rather choose that conveyance.
"I received duly your letter of November 21st, but it found me in a very perplexed situation. I had great payments to make for the extravagant and very inconvenient purchase in Holland, together with large acceptances by Mr Adams, of bills drawn on Mr Laurens and himself, and I had no certainty of providing the money. I had also a quarrel upon my hands with Messrs de Neufville and others, owners of two vessels hired by Gillon to carry the goods he had contracted to carry in his own ship. I had worried this friendly and generous Court with often repeated after-clap demands, occasioned by these unadvised, (as well as ill advised) and, therefore, unexpected drafts, and was ashamed to show my face to the Minister. In these circumstances, I knew not what answer to make you. I could not encourage you to expect the relief desired, and, having still some secret hope, I was unwilling to discourage you, and thereby occasion a protest of bills, which possibly I might find means of enabling you to pay. Thus I delayed writing perhaps too long.
"But to this moment, I have obtained no assurance of having it in my power to aid you, though no endeavors on my part have been wanting. We have been assisted with near twenty millions since the beginning of last year, besides a fleet and army; and yet I am obliged to worry them with my solicitations for more, which makes us appear insatiable.
"This letter will not go before Tuesday. Perhaps by that time I may be able to say explicitly yes or no.
"I am very sensible of your unhappy situation, and I believe you feel as much for me.
"You mention my proposing to repay the sum you want in America. I tried that last year. I drew a bill on Congress for a considerable sum to be advanced me here, and paid there in provisions for the French troops. My bill was not honored.
"I was in hopes the loan in Holland, if it succeeded, being for ten millions, would have made us all easy. It was long uncertain. It is now completed. But, unfortunately, it has most of it been eaten up by advances here. You see by the letter of which I sent you a copy, upon what terms I obtain another million of it. That (if I get it) will enable me to pay the thirty thousand dollars you have borrowed, for we must not let your friend suffer. What I am to do afterwards God knows.
"I am much surprised at the dilatory and reserved conduct of your Court. I know not to what amount you have obtained aids from it, but if they are not considerable, it were to be wished you had never been sent there, as the slight they have put upon our offered friendship is very disreputable to us, and, of course, hurtful to our affairs elsewhere. I think they are short-sighted, and do not look very far into futurity, or they would seize with avidity so excellent an opportunity of securing a neighbor's friendship, which may hereafter be of great consequence to their American affairs.
"If I were in Congress I should advise your being instructed to thank them for past favors, and take your leave. As I am situated, I do not presume to give you such advice, nor could you take it if I should. But I conceive there would be nothing amiss in your mentioning in a short memoir, the length of time elapsed since the date of the secret article, and since your arrival, to urge their determination upon it, and pressing them to give you an explicit, definitive, immediate answer, whether they would enter into treaty with us or not, and in case of refusal, solicit your recall, that you may not continue from year to year at a great expense, in a constant state of uncertainty with regard to so important a matter. I do not see how they can decently refuse such an answer. But their silence, after the demand made, should in my opinion be understood as a refusal, and we should act accordingly. I think I see a very good use that might be made of it, which I will not venture to explain in this letter.
"I know not how the account of your salary stands, but I would have you draw upon me for a quarter at present, which shall be paid, and it will be a great pleasure to me if I shall be able to pay up all your arrears.
"Mr Laurens being now at liberty perhaps may soon come here, and be ready to join us if there should be any negotiations for peace. In England they are mad for a separate one with us, that they may more effectually take revenge on France and Spain. I have had several overtures hinted to me lately from different quarters, but I am deaf. The thing is impossible. We can never agree to desert our first and our faithful friend on any consideration whatever. We should become infamous by such abominable baseness.
"With great and sincere esteem, I am ever, &c.,
You will easily perceive, Sir, that my situation now became very unpleasant; largely indebted to M. Cabarrus, and without funds, as well as almost without the hopes of speedily procuring any, either to satisfy him or pay the swarm of bills that would be payable in the next month.
M. Cabarrus had offered to advance, or rather to supply me with any sum of money, that the Minister would authorise him to furnish, on the same terms on which he procured money for the government. The answer I received to this proposition was, that the government had occasion for all the money that M. Cabarrus could possibly collect. He also repeatedly offered to advance the money wanted for the month of March, if the Minister or the Ambassador of France would become responsible for the repayment of it, with interest, within a reasonable time, sometimes mentioning seven months, and at others extending it to ten or twelve. The Ambassador did not conceive himself authorised to enter into any such engagement, and the Minister remained silent; M. Cabarrus began to grow uneasy, and a day was appointed between us to confer on this subject. Some intervening business, however, prevented his attendance, and on the 10th of February he wrote me the following letter.
"Madrid, February 10th, 1782.
"I was summoned yesterday to the Pardo, which prevented me from paying you my respects as I had intended. Not knowing whether I shall be able to do it before Tuesday, I write to inform you, that it will be necessary for me to know on what I am to depend in regard to the reimbursement you were to make me by drafts on Paris. You are aware, that I have actually advanced seven hundred and fifty thousand reals vellon. Independently of this sum, on the 14th of March, which we are now approaching, nearly thirtyfive thousand dollars of your bills will become due. I will not conceal from you, that although this double advance is neither beyond my means nor my disposition, yet the former is entirely absorbed by the necessities of the government, so that I shall be the more desirous, that you would enable me to meet these engagements, as I shall always find a difficulty in disposing of your paper. I speak to you frankly, since I shall always endeavor, as I have heretofore done, to serve you in the same spirit.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
By way of answer to this letter, I instructed Mr Carmichael to inform M. Cabarrus of the exact state I was in, with respect to my expectations of aid both here and from France, for I did not choose to commit a matter of this kind in writing to M. Cabarrus's discretion. I could not give him positive assurances of being speedily repaid, either by a credit on Dr Franklin, or by money to be obtained here, but I submitted to his consideration the improbability, that this or the French Court would permit these bills to be protested, and assured him, that Dr Franklin was using his best endeavors in our favor, and had so far succeeded as to encourage me to expect, that he would soon be able at least to replace the sum, which M. Cabarrus had already advanced to me.
The next day, viz. the 11th of February, I waited upon the Ambassador of France. I represented to him in the strongest terms the critical situation of our credit, and communicated to him the contents, both of Dr Franklin and M. Cabarrus' letters.
I requested him to speak seriously and pressingly to the Minister on the subject, and to remind him, that M. Cabarrus' offer was of such a nature as to remove any objection, that could arise from the low state of the public funds. The Ambassador was just then setting out for the Pardo. He promised to speak to the Minister accordingly, and that his Secretary, the Chevalier de Bourgoing, (who has been very friendly, and given himself much trouble on this occasion) should inform me of the result in the evening.
I received in the evening the following letter from the Chevalier de Bourgoing, viz.
"The dreadful weather today prevents me from coming to inform you orally, what M. de Montmorin has to communicate to you in pursuance of his interview of this morning. I give you the result briefly.
"The Minister being informed of your embarrassment feels for you sincerely, and would be glad to remedy it. He will make every effort, but as the actual necessities of the government are pressing, he cannot answer for his success. He assures Mr Jay, that if the misfortune he apprehends should take place, Mr Jay may be perfectly easy in regard to personal consequences, as the Minister will take care that no inconvenience shall follow it.
"I have thought that these few lines would serve to calm your apprehensions, until M. de Montmorin shall have an opportunity to give you further information.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
I returned by the bearer of the above letter the following answer.
"Mr Jay presents his compliments to the Chevalier de Bourgoing. The Minister's answer to the Ambassador is polite and cautious, and if sincere (which time can only ascertain) will demand Mr Jay's thanks and acknowledgments.
"The Minister is mistaken if he supposes that Mr Jay views personal consequences as of any other importance, than as they may affect the political interests of the two countries; and when considered in that light, they merit a degree of attention to which mere personal considerations could not entitle them.
"Mr Jay requests the favor of the Chevalier to present his cordial acknowledgments to the Ambassador for his friendly interposition on this occasion, and to assure him that Mr Jay will never cease to be influenced by the gratitude, which every American owes to the first friend and steadfast ally of the United States. Madrid, February 11th, 1782."
I also wrote this evening to Dr Franklin, and I insert the following extracts from the letter, because they contain matters proper for you to know.
"Madrid, February 11th, 1782.
I have been so engaged these two days, as not to have had time to reply fully to yours of the 19th ult.
"I flattered myself that the loan in Holland would have afforded funds for all our bills and present demands, and am sorry to hear that this is not the case. Could not that loan be extended to a further sum?
"The conduct of this Court bears few marks of wisdom. The fact is, they have little money, less credit, and very moderate talents.
"My ideas correspond exactly with yours respecting the propriety of presenting such a memoir as you propose. The Ambassador of France, however, is decided against it, and it appears to me imprudent to disregard his opposition.
"I have not as yet received a single letter by or from the Marquis de Lafayette.
"I am, &c.
On the 15th of February, the first advices of the surrender of Fort St Philip arrived, and the Ambassador of France having been informed at the Pardo, that M. Del Campo's instructions would be completed by the end of the week, I thought both these circumstances rendered it proper that I should pay the Minister a visit. I accordingly went to the Pardo the next evening. The Minister was too much indisposed (as was said) to see company. He sent me an apology, and a request that I would speak to M. Del Campo, who was then in the Secretary's office. I did so.
I found M. Del Campo surrounded by suitors. He received me with great and unusual civility, and carried me into his private apartment. I told him, that as he was evidently very busy, I could not think of sitting down, and wished only to detain him a few minutes. He said, that he was indeed much engaged, but that we might nevertheless take a cup of chocolate together. I mentioned to him in a summary way, the amount of the bills which remained to be paid, and the promises made by the Minister to the Ambassador on that subject, desiring that he would be so obliging as to give that business all the despatch in his power. He replied, that the urgent demands of government rendered advances of money very inconvenient. That the Minister had not mentioned to him anything on that head, but that he would speak to him about it. I told him, that as the greater part of these bills would be payable in March, I was anxious to see the arrangements for paying them speedily made. That my hopes were chiefly confined to this Court, for that France having this year supplied us with near twenty millions, besides a fleet and army, it would be unreasonable to ask for more. To this he remarked, that France received from us with one hand (in the way of commerce) what she paid out with the other, whereas Spain was called upon for supplies without enjoying any such advantage. I told him, if he had been more at leisure it would have given me pleasure to have entered with him into the discussion of that point; I nevertheless observed, that Spain was indebted to the American war for the recovery of West Florida, and the possession of Minorca, and that the time would come and was approaching when Spain would derive essential benefit from our trade and independence. That he overrated the value of our commerce to France, which at present did not compensate for the expenses she sustained on our account.
I mentioned to him M. Cabarrus' offer in very precise terms, and told him, I was glad to hear from the Ambassador, that his instructions were nearly completed. He avoided saying, whether they were or not, but answered, generally, that he hoped things would soon be settled to the satisfaction of all parties; that it would always give him pleasure to treat with me; that he was much my friend; that he esteemed my private character, and many such like compliments improper as well us unnecessary for me to commit to paper. He promised to speak to the Minister, and to write me his answer. I desired him to present my congratulations to the Count, and to inform him how much I regretted the indisposition, which prevented his seeing company that evening.
All this looked very fair, but experience had taught me that professions were sometimes insincere. On the 18th of February, I communicated the substance of this conference to the Ambassador of France, requesting him to remind the Minister of his promise, and to press the importance of his performing it. The Ambassador promised to take every proper opportunity of doing it. On the 24th of February your letter by the Marquis de Lafayette arrived safe.
On the 25th of February I received the following letter from M. Cabarrus, viz.
"Madrid, February 25th, 1782.
"I have the honor to remit you herewith three accounts, relative to the payments made for you, viz.
"One of the 4th of October last, signed by the former house of Cabarrus and Aguirre, for payment of which I have credited you 46,447 reals vellon. A second, signed by me the 7th of November following, settled by 135,715-10 reals vellon, carried to your credit. A third signed also by me, dated the 19th inst, and balanced by 667,170-17 reals vellon, which I have credited you with. In support of these accounts, I transmit you the original vouchers, and beg you to proceed to the verification of both, to assure me of their reception and correctness. I flatter myself that you will take measures for my speedy reimbursement, and I ask with the more urgency, as I have a pressing necessity for this sum, on the payment of which I have relied. I have the honor to be, &c.
This letter needs no comments; it breathes the fears and precautions of a creditor, striving to make the most of a failing debtor, and therefore I considered this letter as inauspicious. I returned a verbal answer, that an examination of these accounts must precede a settlement of them, and that as to a speedy payment of the balance due to him, he knew my exact situation.
A day or two before the date of this letter, M. Cabarrus had a conference with the Minister on these subjects, and according to M. Cabarrus' representations, the Minister then declared, that he would pay the balance due on the one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and no more; that the King was dissatisfied at America's having made no returns to his good offices, either in ships or flour, &c. &c.; that he had mentioned to me a year ago his desire of having the men-of-war building in New England, but had not yet received an answer, &c.
It appeared to me very extraordinary, that the Minister should promise the Ambassador to do his best, and yet tell M. Cabarrus that he would do nothing, and yet so I believe were the facts.
The next morning, viz. 26th of February, I paid the Ambassador an early visit, and mentioned these circumstances to him minutely. I expressed my apprehensions, that the pretended discontents of the King belonged to the same system of delays and pretexts, with which we had been so long amused; and which in this instance were probably dictated by a desire of avoiding inconvenient advances.
I reminded him, that Dr Franklin had given me expectations of his being able to replace the money I had borrowed of M. Cabarrus, and that this sum, added to the balance to be paid by the Court, would reduce the remainder of the money wanted to less than twenty thousand pounds sterling; and that it would appear a little surprising in the eyes of Europe as well as America, that our credit should be permitted either by France or Spain to suffer essential injury for the want of such a sum. I requested him to advise me what to do. He said that he knew not what advice to give me; that he saw no resources anywhere; that he should dismiss a courier on Saturday next, and that he would again write to the Count de Vergennes on the subject. I observed to him, that the answer if favorable would probably come too late, as a great number of the bills would become payable about the 14th of March. He replied, that if the Court should resolve to supply the money, he should soon be informed of it.
We had some conversation about the Marquis de Lafayette. The Ambassador spoke well of him, and as a proof of the confidence of Congress in the attachment of that nobleman, I mentioned my having received orders to correspond with him.
I then drew the conversation to our affairs in Holland, and the prospects of an alliance with the Dutch. He said those prospects were less fair than ever; for that though Mr Wentworth had been sent there by England on pretence of settling a cartel, yet that his real business was to negotiate a separate peace. I observed that in my opinion England would be the first nation to acknowledge our independence, (for there are many reasons that induce me to think that France does not in fact wish to see us treated as independent by other nations until after a peace, lest we should become less manageable in proportion as our dependence upon her shall diminish.) I threw out this opinion to see how it would strike him. He made a short pause, and then asked me if I had heard that Lord Germain had resigned? I told him I had, and as he chose to wave the subject I did not resume it, lest he should from my pressing it suspect that I meant more than a casual remark. The conversation then turned upon our affairs here. I remarked, that the friends of Spain in America must greatly diminish, that the manner we were treated by this Court was far from conciliatory, and that it would perhaps have been better as things have turned out, if America had not sent a Minister here. He gave into this opinion, but added, we must be contented here now during the war; that Spain was necessary; that she was to be treated like a mistress. He also said, that if I had been landed in France instead of Spain, I should not probably have come to Madrid so soon as I did, and was going to explain himself, when the entry of his servants with breakfast interrupted us.
Having made it a rule to give Dr Franklin frequent and minute information of my situation, I wrote him the following letter by the Ambassador's courier.
"Madrid, March 1st, 1782.
"My dear Sir,
"I have lately received a very friendly letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, covering some despatches from Mr Livingston. I find that the objects of his voyage are interesting to us, and that it is the desire of Congress, that we should correspond with him. My answer to his letter is herewith enclosed. Peruse and dispose of it.
"I have given him a summary account of my situation here; he will doubtless be willing and perhaps able to afford you assistance relative to the difficulties it imposes upon you.
"The Minister has ordered the balance due (about twentysix thousand dollars,) on the one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, to be paid to M. Cabarrus on my account, and has through him informed me that no more is to be expected.
"M. Cabarrus is exceedingly anxious about the money we owe him, and which the twentysix thousand dollars he is to receive will not pay.
"He declines making further advances. The Ambassador of France can afford me no resources. M. Cabarrus is ready to supply what we may want, on the promise of either France or Spain to repay him in ten or twelve months.
"The Ambassador will write (by a courier to France, who sets out tomorrow) on these subjects to the Court. All that remains in my power is to endeavor to keep the public creditors quiet until his or your final answer shall arrive. That this Court should permit our credit to be ruined for the want of about twentyfive thousand pounds sterling, does not greatly surprise me; but I should be astonished if the Minister of France should act the same part, for I have a high opinion of his wisdom.
"I am, &c.
I forbear inserting my letter to the Marquis, because this and my former letters render it unnecessary. I solicited his immediate attention to the state of our bills, &c.
As there could be no doubt, but that the Minister mentioned to M. Cabarrus the King's discontents, by way of apology for not granting further supplies, and with design that they should be represented to me in that light, I thought it prudent to write to the Minister on the subject, although in other circumstances it might have been more proper for me to have omitted taking notice of such an indirect communication. I wrote him as follows.
"Madrid, March 2d, 1782.
"M. Gardoqui informed me yesterday, that he had received an order to pay to M. Cabarrus on my account twentysix thousand dollars, being somewhat more than the balance due on the one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and for which be pleased to accept my thanks and acknowledgments.
"As the residue of the bills drawn upon me by Congress does not amount to a great sum, and as M. Cabarrus had generously offered to furnish it, provided your Excellency would give him assurances of its being repaid in ten or twelve months, I had flattered myself, that his Majesty's friendship for my country would have induced him, by this further proof of his goodness, to save the necessity I shall otherwise be under to protest them, and thereby ruin the credit of Congress at so critical a period.
"It is with great pain I hear his Majesty is displeased with the silence of Congress respecting returns, on their part, to the friendship of Spain, and particularly in not having offered to comply with the propositions made by your Excellency, relative to the ships building in New England, &c. &c.
"Permit me to observe to your Excellency, that the long and constant expectation of M. Gardoqui's arrival in America, with full powers on these subjects, naturally induced Congress to postpone coming to any resolution on them, until they should have the pleasure of seeing him. They were well apprised of my ignorance respecting such matters, and, therefore, could not with any propriety refer to my discretion the entering into engagements on subjects, with which I was wholly unacquainted. I am authorised to assure your Excellency of the readiness of Congress to make every return in their power to the kindness of his Majesty, and there is reason to hope, that by the end of the next campaign, their abilities may be more proportionate to their wishes than they have hitherto been.
"Your Excellency will also be pleased to recollect, that the propositions of Congress respecting the Mississippi evince a strong desire to oblige his Majesty, and that reason has been given me to hope, that their compliance in that instance would be followed by new proofs of his Majesty's good disposition towards us.
"I must candidly confess to your Excellency, that I now find myself entirely without resources.
"The Ambassador of France can afford me no assistance, and my only remaining hope arises from that reliance on his Majesty's friendship and magnanimity, which your Excellency has so often encouraged me to entertain and confide in.
"I have the honor to be, &c. &c.
This letter, if I may use the expression, might have been higher mounted, and the strange conduct of this Court would have justified my writing in a different style, but I feared that offence might have been taken, though, perhaps, for no other purpose than to cover a refusal to aid us with a plausible pretext.
Although I had little confidence in M. Del Campo's late professions of friendship, yet, as the present occasion afforded an opportunity of trying their sincerity, and as men ill-disposed towards us are sometimes pushed into acts of friendship, merely by an opinion of their being thought friendly, I enclosed the above letter in the following note to him.
"Madrid, March 2d, 1782.
"Mr Jay presents his compliments to M. Del Campo, and takes the liberty of enclosing a letter to his Excellency, the Count de Florida Blanca, which he requests the favor of him to deliver.
"M. Del Campo may not, perhaps, in future have an opportunity of rendering a more welcome and interesting proof of his friendship for America than at present; and Mr Jay will esteem his country and himself greatly obliged by M. Del Campo's friendly attention and interposition on this occasion."
A week elapsed without my receiving any answer either from the Minister or M. Del Campo. The time when our bills would be due was drawing very nigh. My expectations of aid from France were at best uncertain, and every consideration urged me not to leave anything in my power undone here, to avoid the catastrophe I had so much reason to apprehend. I therefore concluded to wait on the Minister, and in a plain and pointed manner enter into a detail of the reasons given us to expect supplies from this Court, and the impolicy of withholding them.
For this purpose I went to the Pardo on the 9th of March.
The Minister received me with great cordiality; he was in uncommon good spirits. He entered largely into the nature of his indisposition; the effect of the weather upon his nerves, and how much he found himself the better for the last three fine days; and after we had conversed awhile about the conquest of Minorca, and the importance of it, he said he supposed that I wished also to speak to him on the subject of our affairs.
I told him that was really the case, for that the bills, which remained to be paid, and the want of funds for the purpose, gave me great uneasiness. He interrupted me by remarking, that he had ordered the balance due on the one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to be paid. That the public exigencies had even rendered this payment inconvenient, but that he was an honest man, a man of his word, and, therefore, as he had promised me that sum, he was determined that I should not be disappointed. That as to further aids he could promise nothing positively, that he would do his best, and shrugging his shoulders, intimated that he was not Minister of Finance.
I observed, that the sum now wanted was not very considerable, and that M. Cabarrus' offer rendered the advancing of it very easy. He was in a very good humor; and after a few hesitations, he told me cheerfully and smilingly, that when I found myself very hard pressed, I should desire M. Cabarrus to wait upon him.
This I considered as an implied consent to comply with M. Cabarrus' offer, in case such a step should become absolutely necessary to save our bills; and I imagined he chose to delay it as long as possible, in hopes that the French Ambassador might in the meantime interpose his credit, as he had before done on a similar occasion. I was content that the matter should rest there, and would not hazard losing what I thought I had gained by requiring more at present.
I thanked him for this mark of favor, and then turned the conversation to Major Franks' arrival, and my anxiety to communicate some certain intelligence to Congress relative to the proposed treaty, and what they might expect on that head.
The Count went into a detail of excuses for the delays which had ensued since our leaving St Ildefonso. His indisposition and that of M. Del Campo, his forgetting to give M. Del Campo the papers, and M. Del Campo's neglecting to ask for them, were the chief topics from which these excuses were drawn. He said the Ambassador of France had talked to him about the matter eight days ago; and he promised me that the conferences should begin at Aranjues, to which place the Court would soon remove. He authorised me to communicate this to Congress, adding, that pressing business obliged him to postpone it till then, though I might now begin to speak on the subject to M. Del Campo if I pleased.
I remarked, that I had so often disappointed Congress by giving them reason soon to expect M. Gardoqui, that I wished to be enabled to give them accurate information on that point. He replied, that a variety of particular circumstances had intervened to prevent his departure, but that he certainly should go unless he made personal objections to it, and that I might tell Congress so.
I rose to take my leave. He repeated what he had before said respecting my sending M. Cabarrus to him, and assured me of his disposition to do what he could for us. I again thanked him, and we parted in great good humor.
It is remarkable, that during the course of this conference, which was free and diffusive, the Minister did not mention a syllable of the King's discontents, nor hint the least dissatisfaction at the conduct of Congress towards this Court. I cautiously avoided making any harsh strictures on the delays I constantly met with, and though the Minister's excuses for them were frivolous and merely ostensible, yet it could have answered no good purpose to have declared that opinion of them, especially at so delicate a period of our affairs.
As many bills to a considerable amount would be payable on the 14th of March, I thought it high time that the Minister should declare his intentions at least a day or two before, and therefore I desired M. Cabarrus to wait upon the Minister, and confer with him on the subject. M. Cabarrus accordingly went to the Pardo on the evening of the 11th of March. He saw the Minister, and mentioned the purpose of his visit. The Minister said, I must have misunderstood him; that it was not until the last extremity that I was to send him, and he desired M. Cabarrus to inform him when that should arrive. M. Cabarrus repeated to me his former offers, and assured me that nothing on his part should be wanting.
The Madrid Gazette of the 12th of March contained a paragraph, of which you ought not to be ignorant. I shall therefore copy it verbatim, and add a translation as literal as I can make it.
"By a letter from the Commandant General of the army of operations at the Havanna, and Governor of Louisiana, his Majesty has advices, that a detachment of sixtyfive militia men and sixty Indians of the nations Otaguos, Sotu, and Putuami, under the command of Don Eugenio Purre, a captain of militia, accompanied by Don Carlos Tayon, a sub-lieutenant of militia, by Don Luis Chevalier, a man well versed in the language of the Indians, and by their great chiefs Eleturno and Naquigen, who marched the 2d of January, 1781, from the town of St Luis of the Illinois, had possessed themselves of the Post of St Joseph, which the English occupied at two hundred and twenty leagues distance from that of the abovementioned St Luis, having suffered in so extensive a march, and so rigorous a season, the greatest inconveniences from cold and hunger, exposed to continual risks from the country being possessed by savage nations, and having to pass over parts covered with snow, and each one being obliged to carry provisions for his own subsistence, and various merchandises, which were necessary to content, in case of need, the barbarous nations through whom they were obliged to cross. The commander, by seasonable negotiations and precautions, prevented a considerable body of Indians, who were at the devotion of the English, from opposing this expedition; for it would otherwise have been difficult to have accomplished the taking of the said post. They made prisoners of the few English they found in it, the others having perhaps retired in consequence of some prior notice. Don Eugenio Purre took possession in the name of the King of that place and its dependencies, and of the river of the Illinois; in consequence whereof the standard of his Majesty was there displayed during the whole time. He took the English one, and delivered it on his arrival at St Luis to Don Francisco Cruyat, the commandant of that post.
"The destruction of the magazine of provisions and goods, which the English had there (the greater part of which was divided among our Indians and those who lived at St Joseph, as had been offered them in case they did not oppose our troops) was not the only advantage resulting from the success of this expedition, for thereby it became impossible for the English to execute their plan of attacking the fort of St Luis of the Illinois; and it also served to intimidate these savage nations, and oblige them to promise to remain neuter, which they do at present."
When you consider the ostensible object of this expedition, the distance of it, the formalities with which the place, the country, and the river were taken possession of in the name of his Catholic Majesty, I am persuaded it will not be necessary for me to swell this letter with remarks, that would occur to a reader of far less penetration than yourself.
I will therefore return to our bills.
The 14th of March arrived, the bills then due were presented, and I prevailed upon the holders of them to wait till the next day at noon for my answer. As the last extremity in the most literal sense had now arrived, I presumed that the Minister would not think me too hasty in requesting his determination. I wrote him the following letter, and sent it by the post, which passes every evening between Madrid and the Court.
"Madrid, March 14th, 1782.
"Bills to a considerable amount have been presented to me this afternoon for payment. The holders of them consent to wait until tomorrow noon for my positive and final answer.
"Your Excellency is too well apprised of everything that can be said on this subject, to render it necessary for me to multiply observations upon it.
"I have no reason to expect aid from France, and I request the favor of your Excellency to inform me explicitly whether I may flatter myself with any, and what relief from the friendly interposition of his Majesty.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
I thought it advisable to send a copy of the above letter to the Ambassador of France with the following note.
"Mr Jay presents his compliments to his Excellency, the Ambassador of France, and has the honor of transmitting herewith enclosed a copy of a letter he has written this evening to the Count de Florida Blanca.
"The Ambassador will perceive from this letter in what a critical situation Mr Jay finds himself. He requests the favor of the Ambassador's advice, and will do himself the honor of waiting upon him in the morning to receive it.
"Madrid, Thursday Evening, March 14th, 1782."
On this day, being Thursday, on which day in every week M. Cabarrus had for some time past kept an open table, M. Del Campo was unexpectedly one of the guests, having visited M. Cabarrus but once before on those days. Mr Carmichael was present. Some earnest and private conversation passed between M. Del Campo and M. Cabarrus. In the afternoon Mr Carmichael, by my desire, pressed M. Cabarrus to write to the Minister, that on the morrow our bills must be either paid or protested. M. Cabarrus replied, that he had already given that information to M. Del Campo, and that he would not risk that gentleman's displeasure by repeating it to the Minister, for it would look as if he doubted M. Del Campo's attention to it. Mr Carmichael informed me at the same time, that M. Cabarrus' manner appeared changed and somewhat embarrassed.
On the morning of the 15th of March, I waited on the Ambassador. He promised to speak to the Minister that morning to obtain his final answer, and if possible to render it favorable. On his return from the Pardo, he wrote me the following letter.
"March 15th, 1782.
"I have just come from the Pardo. The Count de Florida Blanca had not received your letter of yesterday, but I supplied the deficiency by explaining to him your critical and difficult situation. He told me that you might accept the drafts to the amount of fifty thousand dollars, provided M. Cabarrus remains in the same disposition he has displayed hitherto, relative to the time he would wait for the reimbursement of the sums he has advanced, for this purpose. You can, therefore, make an arrangement with M. Cabarrus for the acceptance of the bills to the amount of forty or fifty thousand dollars, and show him this note as his security.
"I hope that this sum will relieve you from your present embarrassment, and give you time to adopt measures for meeting the bills, which shall hereafter become due.
"Although this information is not so fully satisfactory as I could wish, I take pleasure in communicating it to you, with assurances of my sincere and inviolable attachment.
THE COUNT DE MONTMORIN."
You will doubtless think with me it was very extraordinary, that the Minister should not have received my letter sent him yesterday by the Court courier. Why and by whose means it was kept back can only be conjectured. Had not the Ambassador's application supplied the want of it, a pretext for the Minister's silence would thence have arisen. The letter did not in fact miscarry, for the Minister afterwards received it. The Minister's caution in making his becoming engaged for the advances in question to depend on M. Cabarrus' persisting in the same dispositions he had lately declared, relative to the time he would be content to wait for a reimbursement, is somewhat singular, considering that his offers on that head had been repeatedly and explicitly communicated to the Minister, and to the Ambassador of France, both by him and by me. Immediately on receiving the Ambassador's letter, I gave it to Mr Carmichael with instructions to show it to M. Cabarrus, and bring me back his answer without delay, for I was then expecting the notary and others with bills.
Mr Carmichael returned and informed me, that he had communicated the letter to M. Cabarrus, and that instead of abiding by his former offer, to be content with the Minister's engaging to see him repaid in ten or twelve months, he insisted on being repaid in four months, in four equal monthly payments, and those payments secured by orders on the rents of the general post-office; and that M. Cabarrus promised either to write or speak to the Minister about it.
A new application to the Minister became necessary, and consequently further time and indulgence from the holders of the bills was to be solicited.
I told the notary, that I was in treaty with M. Cabarrus for the supplies I wanted, and that one or two articles remained to be adjusted, which could not be done till the next day.
I therefore requested him to suspend the protest for twentyfour hours more, and to apply to the holders of the bills for permission, adding that near twenty of them belonged to M. Cabarrus, and that from the friendly conduct of several of the others I had reason to flatter myself, that they would readily consent. He seemed surprised at what I said respecting my expectations from M. Cabarrus, and with a degree of indignation told me, that M. Cabarrus was more pressing than any of the others, and had already sent him two messages to conclude the matter with me without delay, that he had received one of the messages the day before, and the other that morning. He nevertheless cheerfully undertook to obtain permission from the holders of the bills to wait till the next afternoon, and succeeded in it.
The next morning, viz. the 16th of March, I waited upon the Ambassador. I mentioned to him these several facts, and told him, that my hopes from M. Cabarrus were at an end, for that exclusive of other circumstances it was not probable that, considering his lucrative connexions with government, he would risk treating the promise of the Minister, made in consequence of his own offer, with so little respect, as to demand such formal and unusual securities for the performance of it, unless there had been some previous concert, or indirect management in the case. The Ambassador declined assenting to this opinion. He promised to see the Minister, with whom he was that day to dine, and to send me his positive and final answer by four o'clock in the afternoon.
Having prepared the draft of a protest, I thought it would not be amiss to show it to the Ambassador. He returned it to me without making any other remark, than that it was rather pointed.
From the Ambassador's I went to M. Cabarrus'; he had not been at the Pardo, and was then at a meeting of merchants, to whose consideration his plan of a bank had been referred.
The Ambassador went to the Pardo and mentioned the matter to the Minister, who replied briefly, "that affair is already arranged with M. Cabarrus," but the Chevalier de Bourgoing, having been desired to bring back a decided answer, applied to M. Del Campo on the subject, who told him, "that they could not possibly comply with M. Cabarrus' terms; that he had written so that morning to M. Cabarrus by a private courier, and that in the evening the Minister would repeat it to him officially." On the Chevalier's mentioning this to the Ambassador, he was clearly of opinion that I had not any resource left, and, therefore, that the bills must be protested, and that the Chevalier should tell me so. I showed the protest, as translated into Spanish by M. Gardoqui, to the Chevalier. The original in English is as follows.
"Mr Jay says, that when he accepted the bills hereunto annexed, he had good reason to expect to be supplied with the funds necessary to pay them. That he has been disappointed in the expectations he was encouraged to entertain on this subject, and that his endeavors to obtain moneys for the purpose both here and elsewhere have been unsuccessful, although the bills which remain to be paid by him, together with all his other engagements, do not exceed twentyfive thousand pounds sterling. That these disappointments being unexpected, he cannot, for want of time, have recourse to Congress, and, therefore, finds himself reduced to the mortifying necessity of permitting them to be protested."
The Chevalier approved of the protest, but the notary on reading it observed, that the sum was really so trifling, that he thought it would do better to strike it out. The Chevalier was struck with this remark, and advised me with some earnestness to make no mention of the sum, for, said he, "it will appear very extraordinary, that you should be obliged to protest the bills of Congress for the want of such a sum, and people will naturally turn their eyes towards France, and ask how it happened that your good allies did not assist you; it will look as if we had deserted you."
I replied, that since the bills must be protested, I was content that my true situation should be known. I admitted his inferences to be just, and naturally flowing from the facts, adding, that as France knew my situation and had withheld relief, she had so far deserted us; but that I was, nevertheless, mindful of the many proofs we had received of her friendship, and should not cease to be grateful for the ninetynine acts of friendship she had done us, merely because she had refused to do the hundredth.
In short, I directed the notary to recite this protest verbatim.
This protest was drawn at my leisure, and with much consideration. It operated as I expected, and I am persuaded you will see the reason of each sentence in it without the aid of my comments. I will only remark, that I was at first induced to insert, and afterwards to refuse striking out the sum, lest from leaving it uncertain, the public might have had room to conjecture, or individuals to insinuate, that I had imprudently run into such rash and expensive engagements, as to render it improper for Spain or France to afford me the necessary supplies.
Nor did it appear to me that both of them should have reason to be ashamed of permitting our credit to be impeached and injured for such an unimportant sum. Both Courts were blamed, and we not only acquitted, but pitied by the public.
I ought to inform you, that the sum which I really wanted did not amount to twentyfive thousand pounds, but as some straggling bills frequently made their appearance, and it could not be foreseen how much those which might still be behind would amount to, I thought it advisable to make a considerable allowance on that score; for in case I should have asked for less than might afterwards have proved indispensable, I should, doubtless, have been put to great difficulties in obtaining a supply for the deficiency.
In justice to the bankers who held the protested bills, I must say that they in general appeared disposed to show me every reasonable indulgence. The house of Joyes and Sons, though considered as anti-American, were particularly civil. They offered to take such of the bills as had been remitted to them on themselves, provided I would only pass my word for the payment of them within a few weeks; but as I had no assurance of funds, I could not risk it. Besides, unless all the bills due could have been suspended on the like terms, it could have answered no purpose, because the difference of protesting a few bills more or less was unimportant. The conduct of Don Ignacias Salaia, the notary, was so particularly and singularly generous, that I cannot forbear mentioning it. Though without expectations, and uninfluenced by promises from me, he behaved as if the case had been his own, and proved the sincerity of his professions by doing everything in his power to serve me. On perceiving how much he was engaged in my favor, I did not choose to lessen the appearance of its being disinterested by promises of rewards. But after the bills were protested, and he could be of no further use, I sent him a gold piece of sixteen dollars, as an acknowledgment for the trouble I had given him. He returned it with an assurance, that he wished to serve me from other motives, and the next day waited upon me to thank me for that mark of attention, and again to assure me that his best services were always at my command.
When the bills were protested, and M. Cabarrus' conduct mentioned in his presence, the poor fellow literally shed tears. I was much affected by the warmth and generosity of this man's heart, and should not have readily pardoned myself, had I neglected to bear this testimony to the goodness of it.