John Jay Minister to Spain

President John Jay


Third President of the Continental Congress
United States of America 
December 10, 1778 to September 29, 1779

Copyright © Stan Klos, President Who? Forgotten Founders 2004 & 2008 


(Continued)

John Jay was faced, throughout his presidency, with few more serious problems then the collapse of the continental paper currency.  Jay wrote George Washington in April 1779:

The state of our currency is really serious. Where or by what means the progress of the depreciation will be prevented is uncertain. [67]


 Continental $5.00 Bill states “This bill entitles the Bearer to receive Five Spanish Milled Dollars,
 or the Value there-of in Gold or Silver according to a Resolution of Congress
passed at Philadelphia November 29, 1775.” - 
Copyright © Stan Klos


Date
U.S. Dollars
Spanish Milled Dollar
May 10, 1775
1
1
March 1, 1778
1.75
1
September 1, 1778
4
1
March 1, 1779
10
1
September 1, 1779
18
1
Copyright
© Stan Klos 2008


The news of General Anthony's victory at Stony Point arrived in Philadelphia in Philadelphia in late July:


General Washington to John Jay President of Congress

New Windsor, half-past nine o'clock,
July 16, 1779

To: the President of Congress.

Sir: I have the pleasure to transmit to Your Excellency the inclosed copy of a letter from Brigadier-General Wayne, which this moment came to hand. I congratulate Congress upon our success, and what makes it still more agreeable from the report of Captain Fishbourn, who brought me General Wayne's letter, the post was gained with but very inconsiderable loss on our part. As soon as I receive a particular account of the affair, I shall transmit it.
I have the honour to be, etc.,

Geo. Washington.


General Wayne to General Washington.
Stony Point, two o'clock a.m.,
July 16, 1779.

To:General Washington.

Dear General

The fort and garrison with Colonel Johnson are ours. Our officers and men behaved like men who are determined to be free.
Yours, most sincerely,

Anthony Wayne.


General Washington to John Jay, President of Congress.

New Windsor, July 20, 1779.

To: the President of Congress.

Sir: On the 16th instant I had the honour to inform Congress of a successful attack upon the enemy's post at Stony Point, on the preceding night, by Brigadier-General Wayne and the corps of light infantry under his command. The ulterior operations on which we have been engaged have hitherto put it out of my power to transmit the particulars of this interesting event. They will now be found in the inclosed report, which I have received from General Wayne. To the encomiums he has deservedly bestowed on the officers and men under his command, it gives me pleasure to add, that his own conduct throughout the whole of this arduous enterprize merits the warmest approbation of Congress. He improved upon the plan recommended by me, and executed it in a manner that does signal honour to his judgment and to his bravery. In a critical moment of the assault, he received a flesh wound in the head with a musket ball, but continued leading on his men with unshaken firmness.

I now beg leave, for the private satisfaction of Congress, to explain the motives which induced me to direct the attempt. In my former letters I have pointed out the advantages which the enemy derived from the possession of this post and the one on the opposite side, and the inconveniences resulting from it to us. To deprive them of the former, and to remove the latter, were sufficient inducements to endeavour to dispossess them. The necessity of doing something to satisfy the expectations of the people, and reconcile them to the defensive plan we are obliged to pursue, and to the apparent inactivity which our situation imposes upon us; the value of the acquisition in itself, with respect to the men, artillery, and stores, which composed the garrison; the effect it would have upon the successive operations of the campaign, and the check it would give to the immediate depredations of the enemy at the present season; all these motives concurred to determine me to the undertaking. The certain advantages of success, even if not so extensive as might be hoped, would, at all events, be very important; the probable disadvantages of a failure were comparatively inconsiderable, and, on the plan which was adopted, could amount to little more than the loss of a small number of men.

After reconnoitering the post myself, and collecting all the information I could get of its strength and situation, I found that, without hazarding a greater loss than we were able to afford, and with little likelihood of success, the attempt to carry it could only be by way of surprize. I therefore resolved on this mode, and gave my instructions to General Wayne accordingly, in hopes that Verplanck's Point might fall in consequence of the reduction of the other. Dispositions were made for the purpose, which unluckily did not succeed. The evening appointed for the attack, I directed Major-General McDougall to put two brigades under marching orders to be moved down toward Verplanck's, as soon as he should receive intelligence of the success of the attempt on this side, and requested General Wayne to let his dispatches to me pass through General McDougall, that he might have the earliest advice of the event. But by some misconception, they came directly to headquarters, which occasioned a loss of several hours. The next morning Major-General Howe was sent to take the command of those troops, with orders to advance to the vicinity of the enemy's works, and open batteries against them. I was in hopes that this might either awe them, under the impression of what had happened on the other side, to surrender, or prepare the way for an assault. But some accidental delays, in bringing on the heavy cannon and entrenching tools necessary for an operation of this kind, unavoidably retarded its execution, till the approach of the enemy's main body made it too late. General Howe, to avoid being intercepted, found himself under the necessity of relinquishing his project and returning to a place of security. I did not unite the two attacks at the same time and in the same manner, because this would have rendered the enterprise more complex, more liable to suspicion, and less likely to succeed for want of an exact co-operation, which could hardly have been expected. When I came to examine the post at Stony Point, I found it would require more men to maintain it than we could afford, without incapacitating the army for other operations. In the opinion of the engineer, corresponding with my own and that of all the general officers present, not less than fifteen hundred men would be requisite for its defense; and, from the nature of the works, which were opened toward the river, a great deal of labor and expense must have been incurred, and much time employed to make them defensible by us. The enemy, depending on their shipping to protect their rear, had constructed the works solely against an attack by land. We should have had to apprehend equally an attack by water, and must have inclosed the post. While we were doing this, the whole army must have been in the vicinity, exposed to the risk of a general action, on terms which it would not be our interest to court, and too distant to assist in carrying on the fortifications at West Point, or to support them in case of necessity. These considerations made it a unanimous sentiment to evacuate the post, remove the cannon and stores, and destroy the works, which was accomplished on the night of the 18th, one piece of heavy cannon only excepted. For want of proper tackling within reach to transport the cannon by land, we were obliged to send them to the fort by water. The movements of the enemy's vessels created some uneasiness on their account, and induced me to keep one of the pieces for their protection, which finally could not be brought off without risking more for its preservation than it was worth. We also lost a galley, which was ordered down to cover the boats. She got under way on her return the afternoon of the 18th. The enemy began a severe and continued cannonade upon her, from which having suffered some injury she was run on shore, which disabled her from proceeding. As she could not be got afloat till late in the flood-tide, and one or two of the enemy's vessels under favor of the night passed above her, she was set on fire and blown up.

Disappointed in our attempt on the other side, we may lose some of the principal advantages hoped from the undertaking. The enemy may re-establish the post at Stony Point, and still continue to interrupt that communication. Had both places been carried, though we should not have been able to occupy them ourselves, there is great reason to believe the enemy would hardly have mutilated their main body a second time, and gone through the same trouble to regain possession of posts where they had been so unfortunate. But though we may not reap all the benefits which might have followed, those we do reap are very important. The diminution of the enemy's force, by the loss of so many men, will be felt in their present circumstances. The artillery and stores will be a valuable acquisition to us, especially in our scarcity of heavy cannon for the forts. The event will have a good effect upon the minds of the people, give our troops greater confidence in themselves, and depress the spirits of the enemy proportionally. If they resolve to re-establish the post, they must keep their force collected for the purpose. This will serve to confine their ravages within a narrower compass, and to a part of the country already exhausted. They must lose part of the remainder of the campaign in rebuilding the works; and when they have left a garrison for its defense, their main body, by being lessened, must act with so much the less energy, and so much the greater caution.

They have now brought their whole force up the river, and yesterday they landed a body at Stony Point. It is supposed not impossible that General Clinton may retaliate by a stroke upon West Point; and his having stripped New York and its dependencies pretty bare, and brought up a number of small boats, are circumstances that give a color to the surmise. Though all this may very well be resolved into different motives, prudence requires that our dispositions should have immediate reference to the security of this post; and I have, therefore, drawn our force together, so that the whole may act in its defense on an emergency. To-morrow I shall remove my own quarters to the fort.

It is probable Congress will be pleased to bestow some marks of consideration upon those officers who distinguished themselves upon this occasion. Every officer and man of the corps deserves great credit; but there were particular ones, whose situation placed them foremost in danger, and made their conduct most conspicuous. Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury and Major Stewart commanded the two attacks. Lieutenants Gibbons and Knox commanded the advanced parties, or forlorn hope; and all acquitted themselves as well as possible. These officers have a claim to be more particularly noticed. In any other service promotion would be the proper reward, but in ours it would be injurious. I take the liberty to recommend in preference some honorary present, especially to the field-officers. A brevet captaincy to the other two, as it will have no operation in regimental rank, may not be amiss.
Congress will perceive that some pecuniary rewards were promised by General Wayne to his corps. This was done with my concurrence; and in addition to them, as a greater incitement to their exertions, they were also promised the benefit of whatever was taken in the fort. The artillery and stores are converted to the use of the public, but, in compliance with my engagements, it will be necessary to have them appraised, and the amount paid to the captors in money. I hope my conduct in this instance will not be disapproved. Mr. Archer, who will have the honor of delivering these dispatches, is a volunteer aid to General Wayne, and a gentleman of merit. His zeal, activity, and spirit are conspicuous on every occasion.

I have the honour to be, &c.,

Geo. Washington.

P.S. Congress may be at a loss what to do with Mr. Archer. A captain's brevet, or commission in the army at large, will be equal to his wishes; and he deserves encouragement on every account. Lest there should be any misapprehension as to what is mentioned about the manner of sending dispatches through General McDougall, I beg leave to be more explicit. I directed General Wayne, when he marched from his ground, to send his dispatches in the first instance to the officer of his baggage guard, left at the encampment from which he marched, who was to inform his messenger where I was to be found. I left word with this officer to forward the messenger to General McDougall, and I desired General McDougall to open the dispatches. The messenger, who was Captain Fishbourn, came directly on, either through misconception in General Wayne, in the officer of the guard, or in himself.
I forgot to mention that there are two standards taken, one belonging to the garrison and one to the Seventeenth regiment; these shall be sent to Congress by the first convenient opportunity.


General Wayne to General Washington.

Stony Point, July 17, 1779.

To: General Washington.

Sir: I have the honor to give you a full and particular relation of the reduction of this Point, by the light infantry under my command.

On the 15th instant, at twelve o'clock, we took our line of march from Sandy Beach, distant fourteen miles from this place; the roads being exceedingly bad and narrow, and having to pass over high mountains, through deep morasses and difficult defies, we were obliged to move in single files the greatest part of the way. At eight o'clock in the evening the van arrived at Mr. Springsteel's, within one mile and a half of the enemy, and formed into columns as fast as they came up, agreeably to the order of battle annexed; namely, Colonels Febiger's and Meigs' regiments, with Major Hull's detachment, formed the right column; Colonel Butler's regiment and Major Murfey's two companies the left. The troops remained in this position until several of the principal officers with myself had returned from reconnoitering the works. At half-past eleven o'clock, being the hour fixed on, the whole moved forward. The van of the right consisted of one hundred and fifty volunteers, properly officered, who advanced with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury; these were preceded by twenty picked men, and a vigilant and brave officer, to remove the abatis and other obstructions. The van of the left consisted of one hundred volunteers, under the command of Major Stewart, with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets, also preceded by a brave and determined officer with twenty men, for the same purpose as the other.

At twelve o'clock, the assault was to begin on the right and left flanks of the enemy's works, while Major Murfey amused them in front; but a deep morass covering their whole front, and at this time overflowed by the tide, together with other obstructions, rendered the approaches more difficult than was at first apprehended, so that it was about twenty minutes after twelve before the assault began. Previously to which I placed myself at the head of Febiger's regiment, or the right column, and gave the troops the most pointed orders not to fire on any account, but place their whole dependence on the bayonet, which order was literally and faithfully obeyed. Neither the deep morass, the formidable and double rows of abatis, nor the strong works in front and flank, could damp the ardour of the troops, who, in the face of a most tremendous and incessant fire of musketry, and from cannon loaded with grape-shot, forced their way at the point of the bayonet through every obstacle, both columns meeting in the centre of the enemy's works nearly at the same instant. Too much praise cannot be given to Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury (who struck the enemy's standard with his own hand) and to Major Stewart, who commanded the advanced parties, for their brave and prudent conduct.

Colonels Butler, Meigs, and Febiger conducted themselves with that coolness, bravery, and perseverance that will ever insure success.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hay was wounded in the thigh, bravely fighting at the head of his battalion. I should take up too much of Your Excellency's time were I to particularize every individual who deserves it, for his bravery on this occasion. I cannot, however, omit Major Lee, to whom I am indebted for frequent and very useful intelligence, which contributed much to the success of the enterprize, and it is with the greatest pleasure I acknowledge to you, that I was supported in the attack by all the officers and soldiers under my command, to the utmost of my wishes. The officers and privates of the artillery exerted themselves in turning the cannon against Verplanck's Point, and forced the enemy to cut the cables of their shipping, and run down the river.

I should be wanting in gratitude were I to omit mentioning Captain Fishbourn and Mr. Archer, my two aids-de-camp, who, on every occasion, showed the greatest intrepidity, and supported me into the works after I received my wound in passing the last abatis.

Enclosed are the returns of the killed and wounded of the light infantry, as also of the enemy, together with the number of prisoners taken; likewise of the ordnance and stores found in the garrison.

I forgot to inform Your Excellency that, previously to my marching, I had drawn General Muhlenberg into my rear, who, with three hundred men of his brigade, took post on the opposite side of the marsh, so as to be in readiness either to support me, or to cover a retreat, in case of accident; and I have no doubt of his faithfully and effectually executing either, had there been any occasion for him.

The humanity of our brave soldiery, who scorned to take the lives of a vanquished foe calling for mercy, reflects the highest honor on them, and accounts for the few of the enemy killed on the occasion.

I am not satisfied with the manner in which I have mentioned the conduct of Lieutenants Gibbons and Knox, the two gentlemen who led the advanced parties of twenty men each. Their distinguished bravery deserves the highest commendation. The former belongs to the Sixth Pennsylvania regiment, and lost seventeen men killed and wounded in the attack; the latter belongs to the Ninth Pennsylvania regiment, and was more fortunate in saving his men, though not less exposed.


I have the honor to be, &c.,

Anthony Wayne.

BRIGADIER-GENERAL ANTHONY WAYNE MEDAL, Taking of Stony Point, ANTONIO WAYNE DUCI EXERCITUS COMITIA AMERICANA. (The American Congress to General Anthony Wayne.) America, personified as an Indian queen, standing, and having at her feet a bow, an alligator, and the American shield, presents to General Wayne a laurel and a mural crown. Gatteaux. STONEY-POINT (sic) EXPUGNATUM. (Stony Point carried by storm) The American troops carrying Stony Point by assault, Six ships on the Hudson River, Exergue: xv jul. mdcclxxix. (15 Julii, 1779: July 15, 1779) On the platform, gatteaux.

Anthony Wayne was born at Waynesborough, Chester County, Pennsylvania, January 1, 1745. He was educated in Philadelphia. In 1774 he was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Convention, and in 1775 was appointed colonel of a regiment under General Thomas in Canada, and took part in the engagements at Three Rivers and at Ticonderoga. In 1777 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general under Washington, and fought at the Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. On the night of July 15, 1779, he surprised and took Stony Point, on the Hudson River, for which gallant deed Congress gave him a vote of thanks and a gold medal. He afterward served in the South, occupied Savannah, July 11, 1782, and Charleston, South Carolina, on the 14th of December following, and retired to his estate at the close of the war. On April 3, 1792, he was appointed major-general and commander-in-chief in the war against the western Indians, and in 1794 gained an important victory over the Miami tribe of Indians. He died at Presque Isle, now Erie, Pennsylvania, December 14, 1796. In 1809, his son, Colonel Wayne, removed his remains to the cemetery of Radnor church, near Waynesborough, where the Pennsylvania State Society of the Cincinnati caused a handsome monument to be erected to his memory. He was known during the Revolutionary War by the sobriquet of "Mad Anthony."
On July 29th, 1779, Congress passed this series of resolutions:

Resolved unanimously, That the thanks of Congress be given to His Excellency General Washington for the vigilance, wisdom, and magnanimity with which he hath conducted the military operations of these States, and which are among many other signal instances manifested in his orders for the late glorious enterprize and successful attack on the enemy's fortress on the bank of Hudson's river.

Resolved unanimously, That the thanks of Congress be presented to Brigadier-General Wayne for his brave, prudent, and soldierly conduct in the spirited and well-conducted attack of Stony Point.

Resolved unanimously, That Congress entertain a proper sense of the good conduct of the officers and soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Wayne, in the assault of the enemy's works at Stony Point, and highly commend the coolness, discipline, and firm intrepidity exhibited on that occasion.

Resolved unanimously, That Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury and Major Stewart, who by their situation in leading the two attacks had a more immediate opportunity of distinguishing themselves, have, by their personal achievements, exhibited a bright example to their brother soldiers, and merit in a particular manner the approbation and acknowledgment of the United States.

Resolved unanimously, That Congress warmly approve and applaud the cool determined spirit with which Lieutenant Gibbons and Lieutenant Knox led on the forlorn hope, braving danger and death in the cause of their country.

Resolved unanimously, That a medal, emblematical of this action, be struck: That one of gold be presented to Brigadier-General Wayne, and a silver one to Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury and Major Stewart respectively.

Resolved unanimously, That brevets of captain be given to Lieutenant Gibbons and Lieutenant Knox.

That the brevet of captain be given to Mr. Archer, the bearer of the general's letter, and volunteer aid to Brigadier-General Wayne.

That Congress approve the promises of reward made by General Wayne, with the concurrence of the commander-in-chief, to the troops under his command.

That the value of the military stores taken at Stony Point be ascertained, and divided among the gallant troops by whom it was reduced, in such manner and proportion as the commander-in-chief shall prescribe.


Monday, July 26, 1779.


LIEUTENANT-COLONEL DE FLEURY GOLD MEDAL, Taking of Stony Point,VIRTUTIS ET AUDACIÆ MONUM. ET PRÆMIUM. (Virtutis et audaciæ monumentum et præmium: A memorial and reward of courage and boldness) Lieutenant-Colonel de Fleury, as a Roman soldier, helmeted, stands amidst the ruins of a fort, holding in his right hand a sword, and in his left the staff of an enemy's flag, which he tramples under his right foot Exergue: D. (sic) DE FLEURY EQUITI GALLO PRIMO SUPER MUROS RESP. AMERIC. D.D. (D. de Fleury equiti gallo primo super muros Respublica Americana dono dedit: The American Republic presented this gift to D. de Fleury, a French knight, the first to mount the walls) DUVIVIER. AGGERES PALUDES HOSTES VICTI. (Fortifications, marshes, enemies overcome.) The fortress of Stony Point. Six vessels on the Hudson River. Exergue: STONY-PT. EXPUGN. XV JUL. MDCCLXXIX. (Stony Point expugnatum, 15 Julii, 1779: Stony Point carried by storm, July 15, 1779), Obverse.

François Louis Teisseidre de Fleury, son of François Teisseidre, Seigneur de Fleury, was born at St. Hippolyte, Languedoc, France, August 28, 1749. He entered the French army as a volunteer in the regiment of Rouergue infantry, May 15, 1768; became second-lieutenant, September 15, 1768; lieutenant second class, of rifles, June 11, 1776; first lieutenant, June 2, 1777; major of Saintonge infantry, March 19, 1780; colonel of the Pondichéry (India) regiment, January 16, 1784; maréchal-de-camp, June 30, 1791; and resigned, June 24, 1792. He was made a knight of St. Louis, December 5, 1781. The Chevalier de Fleury served in Corsica during the campaigns of 1768, 1769, and 1770. Having been commissioned a captain of engineers in 1776, he obtained a furlough and entered the American army as a volunteer, was appointed by Congress a captain of engineers, May 22, 1777, and was sent first to General Washington's army, and toward the end of the campaign to Fort Mifflin, where he was wounded. At the battle of the Brandywine, he had a horse shot under him, and was again wounded. Congress presented him with a horse, "as a testimonial of the sense they had of his merits," September 13, 1777, and promoted him to a lieutenant-colonelcy, "in consideration of the disinterested gallantry he had manifested in the service of the United States," November 26, 1777. In the assault on Stony Point, July 15, 1779, he commanded one of the attacks, was the first to enter the main works, and struck the British flag with his own hands, for which gallant deed Congress voted him a silver medal. On Friday, October 1, 1779, Congress passed the following resolution concerning Lieutenant-Colonel de Fleury: "Resolved, That Congress entertain a high sense of the zeal, activity, military genius, and gallantry of Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury, which he has exhibited on a variety of occasions during his service in the armies of these States, wherein, while he has rendered essential benefit to the American cause, he has deservedly acquired the esteem of the army and gained unfading reputation for himself." He continued in America after General Count de Rochambeau's arrival, serving under him in the campaigns of 1780, 1781, and 1782; and received a pension of four hundred livres by royal decree of May 8, 1783, in consideration of his distinguished services, especially at the siege and taking of Yorktown, October 19, 1781. He afterward served in India, commanded in chief the islands of Mauritius and of Bourbon from May to November, 1785, obtained a pension of one thousand livres, in consideration of his services, November, 1786, and returned to France in April, 1790. He held the rank of maréchal-de-camp in the army of the North, and commanded at Montmédy after General de Bouillé's flight in 1791, and at Givet and Cambray in 1791 and 1792. At the breaking out of the war he was at Valenciennes, and served under Marshals de Rochambeau and de Luckner. During the retreat from Mons his horse, which had been shot under him, fell upon him, and, while lying helpless in that position, he was ridden over by the enemy's cavalry. After a long illness he left the army, June 24, 1792, and retired to Rebais, in the Department of Seine-et-Oise. --- Chevalier de Fleury was the only foreigner to whom a medal was awarded during the Revolutionary War. 
On August 23rd, President Jay recived a letter from General Washington informing Congress of Henry Lee's capture of the British Garrison at Powles Hook:
General Washington to John Jay, President of Congress.

Head Quarters, West Point,
August 23, 1779.

To: The President of Congress.

Sir:

I have the honour to enclose to Your Excellency Major Lee's report of the surprize and capture of the garrison of Powles Hook. The Major displayed a remarkable degree of prudence, address, enterprize and bravery, upon this occasion, which does the highest honour to himself and to all the officers and men under his command. The situation of the post rendered the attempt critical and the success brilliant. It was made in consequence of information that the garrison was in a state of negligent security, which the event has justified. I am much indebted to Lord Stirling for the judicious measures he took to forward the enterprize, and to secure the retreat of the party. Lieutenant McAllister, who will have the honour of delivering these despatches, will present Congress with the standard of the garrison, which fell into his possession during the attack. Major Lee speaks of this gentleman's conduct in the handsomest terms.

I have the honour to be, &c.,

Geo. Washington.

P.S. The report not having been received till this day, prevented a speedier transmission. Major Lee mentions twenty men lost on our side. Captain Rudolph informs me that, since the report was concluded, several of the missing had returned, which will lessen the supposed loss near one half.



Major Henry Lee to General Washington.

Paramus

August 22, 1779.

To His Excellency, General Washington.

Sir:

 Lord Stirling was pleased to communicate to Your Excellency my verbal report to his Lordship of the 19th instant. I now do myself the honour to present a particular relation of the enterprize Your Excellency was pleased to commit to my direction.

I took command of the troops employed on this occasion on the 18th. They amounted to four hundred infantry, composed of detachments from the Virginia and Maryland divisions, and one troop of dismounted dragoons.

The troops moved from the vicinity of the New Bridge about four o'clock p.m. Patrols of horse being detached to watch the communication with the North River, and parties of infantry stationed at the different avenues leading to Powles Hook. My anxiety to render the march as easy as possible, induced me to pursue the Bergen road lower than intended. After filing into the mountains, the timidity or treachery of the principal guide prolonged a short march into a march of three hours; by this means the troops were exceedingly harassed, and being obliged, through deep mountainous woods, to regain our route, some parties of the rear were unfortunately separated. This affected me most sensibly, as it not only diminished the number of men destined for the assault, but deprived me of the aid of several officers of distinguished merit.

On reaching the point of separation, I found my first disposition impracticable, both from the near approach of day and the rising of the tide. Not a moment being to spare, I paid no attention to the punctilios of honour or rank, but ordered the troops to advance in their then disposition. Lieutenant Rudolph, whom I had previously detached to reconnoitre the passages of the canal, returned to me at this point of time and reported that all was silence within the works, that he had fathomed the canal and found the passage on the centre route still admissible. This intervening intelligence was immediately communicated from front to rear, and the troops pushed on with that resolution, order, and coolness which insures success.

The forlorn hopes, led by Lieutenant McAllister, of the Maryland, and Lieutenant Rudolph, of the dragoons, marched on with trailed arms, in most profound silence. Such was the singular address of these two gentlemen, that the first notice to the garrison was the forlorns plunging into the canal. A firing immediately commenced from the block-houses and along the line of the abatis, but did not in the least check the advance of the troops. The forlorns, supported by Major Clarke, at the head of the right column, broke through all opposition, and found an entrance into the main work. So rapid was the movement of the troops, that we gained the fort before the discharge of a single piece of artillery. The centre column, conducted by Captain Forsyth, on passing the abatis, took a direction to their left. Lieutenant Armstrong led on the advance of this column. They soon possessed themselves of the officers and troops posted at the house No. 6, and fully completed every object of their destination. The rear column, under Captain Handy, moved forward in support of the whole. Thus were we completely victorious in the space of a few moments.

The appearance of daylight, my apprehension lest some accident might have befallen the boats, the numerous difficulties of the retreat, the harassed state of the troops, and the destruction of all our ammunition by passing the canal, conspired in influencing me to retire in the moment of victory. Major Clarke, with the right column, was immediately put in motion with the greater part of the prisoners. Captain Handy followed on with the remainder. Lieutenants Armstrong and Reed formed the rear guard.

Immediately on the commencement of the retreat, I sent forward Captain Forsyth to Prior's Mill to collect such men from the different columns as were most fit for action, and to take post on the heights of Bergen to cover the retreat.

On my reaching this place I was informed by Cornet Neill (who had been posted there during the night for the purpose of laying the bridge and communicating with the boats), that my messenger, directed to him previous to the attack, had not arrived, nor had he heard from Captain Peyton, who had charge of the boats.

Struck with apprehension that I should be disappointed in the route of retreat, I rode forward to the front, under Major Clarke, whom I found very near the point of embarkation, and no boats to receive them. In this very critical situation I lost no time in my decision, but ordered the troops to regain Bergen road and shove on to the New Bridge; at the same time I communicated my disappointment to Lord Stirling by express, then returned to Prior's Bridge to the rear-guard.

Oppressed by every possible misfortune, at the head of troops worn down by a rapid march of thirty miles, through mountains, swamps, and deep morasses, without the least refreshment during the whole march, ammunition destroyed, incumbered with prisoners, and a retreat of fourteen miles to make good, on a route admissible of interception at several points, by a moving in our rear, and another (from the intelligence I had received from the captured officers) in all probability well advanced on our right; a retreat naturally impossible to our left; under all these distressing circumstances, my sole dependence was in the persevering gallantry of the officers and obstinate courage of the troops. In this I was fully satisfied by the shouts of the soldiery, who gave every proof of unimpaired vigour the moment that the enemy's approach was announced.

Having gained the point of intersection opposite Weehawken, Captain Handy was directed to move with his division on the mountain road, in order to facilitate the retreat. Captain Catlett, of the Virginia regiment, fortunately joined me at this moment, at the head of fifty men, with good ammunition. I immediately halted this officer, and having detached two parties, the one on the Bergen road in the rear of Major Clarke, the other on the banks of the North River, I moved with the party under the command of the captain on the centre route. By these precautions a sudden approach of the enemy was fully prevented. I am very much indebted to this officer, and the gentlemen under him, for their alacrity and vigilance on this occasion.

On the rear's approach to the Fort Lee road, we met a detachment under the command of Colonel Ball, which Lord Stirling had pushed forward, on the first notice of our situation, to support the retreat. The colonel moved on, and occupied a position which effectually covered us.

Some little time after this, a body of the enemy (alluded to in the intelligence I mentioned to have received from the officers while in the fort) made their appearance, issuing out of the woods on our right, and moving through the fields directly to the road. They immediately commenced a fire upon my rear. Lieutenant Reed threw himself, with a party, into a stone house which commanded the road. These two officers were directed mutually to support each other, and give time for the troops to pass the English Neighbourhood Creek, at the liberty pole. On the enemy's observing this disposition, they immediately retired by the same route they had approached, and gained the woods. The precipitation with which they retired, preventing the possibility of Colonel Ball's falling in with them, saved the whole.

The body which moved in our rear, having excessively fatigued themselves by the rapidity of their march, thought prudent to halt before they came in contact with us.
Thus, Sir, was every attempt to cut off our rear completely baffled. The troops arrived safe at the New Bridge, with all the prisoners, about one o'clock p.m. on the nineteenth.

I should commit the highest injustice was I not to assure Your Excellency that my endeavours were fully seconded by every officer in his station; nor can any discrimination justly be made but what arose from opportunity. The troops vied with each other in patience under their many sufferings, and conducted themselves in every vicissitude of fortune with a resolution which reflects the highest honour on them.

During the whole action not a single musket was fired on our side—the bayonet was our sole dependence.

Having gained the fort, such was the order of the troops, and attention of the officers, that the soldiers were prevented from plundering, although in the midst of every sort.
American humanity has been again signally manifested. Self-preservation strongly dictated, on the retreat, the putting the prisoners to death, and British cruelty fully justified it, notwithstanding which, not a man was wantonly hurt.

During the progress of the troops in the works, from the different reports of my officers, I conclude not more than fifty of the enemy were killed, and a few wounded. Among the killed is one officer, supposed (from his description) to be a captain in Colonel Buskirk's regiment. Our loss, on this occasion, is very trifling. I have not yet had a report from the detachment of the Virginians; but as I conclude their loss to be proportionate to the loss of the other troops, I can venture to pronounce that the loss of the whole, in killed, wounded, and missing, will not exceed twenty. As soon as the report comes to hand, I will transmit to headquarters an accurate return. I herewith enclose a return of the prisoners taken from the enemy.

At every point of the enterprize I stood highly indebted to Major Clarke for his zeal, activity, and example. Captains Handy and Forsyth have claim to my particular thanks for the support I experienced from them on every occasion. The Captains Reed, McLane, Smith, Crump, and Wilmot, behaved with the greatest zeal and intrepidity. I must acknowledge myself very much indebted to Major Burnet and Captain Peyton, of the dragoons, for their counsel and indefatigability in the previous preparations to the attack. The premature withdrawal of the boats was owing to the non-arrival of my despatches; and, though a most mortifying circumstance, can be called nothing more than unfortunate. Lieutenant Vanderville, who was to have commanded one of the forlorns, but was thrown out by alteration of the disposition of battle, conducted himself perfectly soldier-like. The whole of the officers behaved with the greatest propriety; and, as I said before, no discrimination can justly be made, but what arose from opportunity.

The Lieutenants McAllister, Armstrong, Reed, and Rudolph distinguished themselves remarkably. Too much praise cannot be given to those gentlemen for their prowess and example. Captain Bradford, of the train, who volunteered it with me, for the purpose of taking direction of the artillery, deserves my warmest thanks for his zeal and activity. I am personally indebted to Captain Rudolph and Dr. Irvine, of the dragoons, who attended me during the expedition, for their many services.

I beg leave to present Your Excellency with the flag of the fort by the hands of Mr. McAllister, the gentleman into whose possession it fell.

It is needless for me to explain my reasons for the instantaneous evacuation of the fort. Your Excellency's knowledge of the post will suggest fully the propriety of it. The event confirms it.

Among the many unfortunate circumstances which crossed our wishes, none was more so than the accidental absence of Colonel Buskirk and the greatest part of his regiment. They had set out on an expedition up the North River the very night of the attack. A company of vigilant Hessians had taken their place in the fort, which rendered the secrecy of approach more precarious, and, at the same time, diminished the object of the enterprize by a reduction of the number of the garrison. Major Sutherland fortunately saved himself by a soldier counterfeiting his person. This imposition was not discovered until too late.

I intended to have burned the barracks, but on finding a number of sick soldiers and women with young children in them, humanity forbade the execution of my intention. The key of the magazine could not be found, nor could it be broken open in the little time we had to spare, many attempts having been made to that purpose by the Lieutenants McAllister and Reed. It was completely impracticable to bring off any pieces of artillery. I consulted Captain Bradford on the point, who confirmed me in my opinion. The circumstance of spiking them being trivial it was omitted altogether.
After most of the troops had retired from the works, and were passed and passing the canal, a fire of musketry commenced from a few stragglers, who had collected in an old work, on the right of the main fort. Their fire being ineffectual, and the object trifling, I determined not to break in upon the order of retreat, but continued passing the defile in front. I cannot conclude this relation without expressing my wannest thanks to Lord Stirling, for the full patronage I received from him in every stage of the enterprize. I must also return my thanks to the cavalry, for their vigilant execution of the duties assigned them.

Captain Rudolph waits on Your Excellency with these despatches. I beg leave to refer to this officer for any further explanation that may be required.

I have the honour to be, Sir, with the most perfect respect,

Your Excellency's most obedient and humble servant,

Henry Lee, Jr.



 
MAJOR HENRY LEE GOLD MEDAL, Surprise of Paulus Hook, HENRICO LEE LEGIONIS EQUIT. PRÆFECTO. COMITIA AMERICANA. (Henrico Lee legionis equitum præfecto Comitia Americana: The American Congress to Henry Lee, major of cavalry) Bust of Major Lee, facing the right. On edge of bust, J. WRIGHT. Within a crown of laurel: NON OBSTANTIB FLUMINIBUS VALLIS ASTUTIA & VIRTUTE BELLICA PARVA MANU HOSTES VICIT VICTOSQ. ARMIS HUMANITATE DEVINXIT. IN MEM PUGN AD PAULUS HOOK DIE XIX. AUG. 1779. (Non obstantibus fluminibus vallis astutia et virtute bellica parva manu hastes vicit victosque armis humanitate devinxit. In memoria pugni ad Paulus Hook, die 19 Augusti, 1779: Notwithstanding rivers and ramparts, he conquered, with a handful of men, the enemy by skill and valor, and attached by his humanity those vanquished by his arms. In commemoration of the Battle of Paulus Hook, August 19, 1719) OBVERSE
In September the passed the following resolutions:

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress be given to His Excellency General Washington, for ordering with so much wisdom the late attack on the enemy's fort and works at Powles Hook.

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress be given to Major-General Lord Stirling for the judicious measures taken by him to forward the enterprize and to secure the retreat of the party.

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress be given to Major Lee for the remarkable prudence, address and bravery displayed by him on the occasion; and that they approve the humanity shown in circumstances prompting to severity, as honourable to the arms of the United States, and correspondent to the noble principles on which they were assumed.

Resolved, That Congress entertain a high sense of the discipline, fortitude, and spirit manifested by the officers and soldiers under the command of Major Lee in the march, action and retreat; and while with singular satisfaction they acknowledge the merit of these gallant men, they feel an additional pleasure by considering them as part of an army, in which very many brave officers and soldiers have proved, by their cheerful performance of every duty under every difficulty, that they ardently wish to give the truly glorious examples they now receive.

Resolved, That Congress justly esteem the military caution so happily combined with daring activity by Lieutenants McAllister and Rudolph in leading on the forlorn hope.

Resolved, That a medal of gold, emblematical of this affair, be struck, under the direction of the Board of Treasury, and presented to Major Lee.
Resolved, That the brevet, and the pay and subsistence of captain, be given to Lieutenant McAllister and to Lieutenant Rudolph respectively.

Resolved, That the sum of 15,000 dollars be put into the hands of Major Lee, to be by him distributed among the non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the detachment he commanded at the attack and surprize of Powles Hook, in such manner as the commander-in-chief shall direct.


The original die of the obverse of this medal is in the Mint at Philadelphia, but the original die of the reverse was lost. A new one was engraved for the Mint by Mr. Wm. Barber. 
Henry Lee was born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia, January 29, 1756. He was graduated at Princeton College, New Jersey, in 1773; was appointed captain in 1777, and major in 1778. He surprised Paulus Hook, August 19, 1779, and received for the "prudence, address, and bravery" displayed by him on that occasion the thanks of Congress and a gold medal; he became lieutenant-colonel, November 6, 1780, and joined the southern army under General Greene, greatly distinguished himself in various engagements, and resigned in 1782. In 1786 he was chosen one of the delegates to Congress from Virginia; was governor of that State, 1791-1794; member of Congress, 1799; and on the death of Washington was selected to pronounce his eulogium, in which he embodied the memorable words: "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." He wrote, in 1809, "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States." He died on Cumberland Island, Georgia, March 25, 1818. He was known during the Revolutionary War by the sobriquet of "Light Horse Harry."   
Joseph Wright was born in Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1756. He studied painting in England and France, and, after his return to America, painted a portrait of General Washington. He was appointed first draughtsman and die sinker to the United States Mint, and made the dies of a medal, the bust on the obverse of which was considered to be the best medallic profile likeness of Washington. He also made the medal voted by Congress to Major Lee. He died in Philadelphia in 1793.
In September, Congress was so concerned with the dollar devaluation to the $18 to 1 Spanish Milled Dollar that they requested Jay to draw up a letter to explain their resolutions for ceasing further emissions of bills of credit. The following letter was presented to Congress which they unanimously approved ordering a special printing and translation into German. This letter is printed here in full as it provides an historic summary of the financial status of the United States during its fourth year of the new nation’s military campaign against Great Britain.  It would be four more long years until the Preliminary Treaty of Peace was signed in Paris by John Jay in 1782.

"Friends and Fellow-Citizens!

-In governments raised on the generous principles of equal liberty, where the rulers of the state are the servants of the people, and not the masters of those from whom they derive authority; it is their duty to inform their fellow-citizens of the state of their affairs, and by evincing the propriety of public measures, lead them to unite the influence of inclination to the force of legal obligation in rendering them successful. This duty ceases not, even in times of the most perfect peace, order and tranquillity, when the safety of the commonwealth is neither endangered by force or seduction from abroad, or by faction, treachery or misguided ambition from within. At this season, therefore, we find ourselves in a particular manner impressed with a sense of it, and can no longer forbear calling your attention to a subject much misrepresented, and respect­ing which, dangerous, as well as erroneous opinions have been held and propagat-ed:--we mean your finances.

The ungrateful despotism and inordinate lust of domination, which marked the unnatural designs of the British king and his venal parliament, to enslave the people of America, reduced you to the necessity of either asserting your rights by arms, or ingloriously passing under the yoke. You nobly preferred war. Armies were then to be raised, paid and supplied: money became necessary for these purposes. Of your own there was but little; and of no nation in the world could you then borrow. The little that was spread among you could be collected only by taxes, and to this end regular governments were essential; of these you were also destitute. So circumstanced, you had no other resource but the natural value and wealth of your fertile country. Bills were issued on the credit of this bank, and your faith was pledged for their redemp­tion. After a considerable number of these had circulated, loans were solicited, and offices for the purpose established. Thus a national debt was unavoidably created, and the amount of it is as follows:

Bills emitted and circulating, 159,948,880 dollars; monies borrowed before the 1st of March, 1778, the interest of which is payable in France, 7,545,196 67--90ths; monies borrowed since the first of March, 1778, the interest of which is payable here, 26,188,909; money due abroad, not exactly known, the balances not having been transmitted, supposed to be about 4,000,000 dollars. For your further satisfaction we shall order a particular account of the several emissions, with the times limited for their redemption, and also of the several loans, the interest allowed on each, and the terms assigned for their payment, to be prepared and published.

The taxes have as yet brought into the treasury no more than 3,027,560, so that all the monies supplied to Congress by the people of America, amount to no more than 36,761,665 67--90 dollars, that being the sum of the loans and taxes received. Judge, then, of the necessity of emissions, and learn from whom and from whence that neces­sity arose.
We are also to inform you, that on the first day of September inst. we resolved "that we would, on no account whatever, emit more bills of credit than to make the whole amount of such bills 200,000,000 of dollars," and as the sum emitted and in circula­tion amounted to 159,948,880 dollars, and the sum of 40,051,120 dollars remained to complete the 200,000,000 abovementioned, we on the 3d day of September, inst. further resolved, "that we would emit such part only of the said sum of 40,051,120 dol­lars as should be absolutely necessary for public exigencies before adequate supplies could otherwise be obtained, relying for such supplies on the exertions of the several states."

Exclusive of the great and ordinary expenses incident to the war, the depreciation of the currency has so swelled the prices of every necessary article, and of consequence made such additions to the usual amount of expenditures, that very considerable sup­plies must be immediately provided by loans and taxes; and we unanimously declare it to be essential to the welfare of these states, that the taxes already called for be paid into the continental treasury by the time recommended for that purpose. It is also highly proper that you should extend your views beyond that period, and prepare in season, as well for bringing your respective quotas of troops into the field early the next campaign, as for providing the supplies necessary in the course of it. We shall take care to apprize you, from time to time, of the state of the treasury, and to rec­ommend the proper measures for supplying it. To keep your battalions full, to encour­age loans, and to assess your taxes with prudence, collect them with firmness, and pay them with punctuality, is all that will be requisite on your part. Further ways and means of providing for the public exigencies are now under consideration, and will soon be laid before you.

Having thus given you a short and plain state of your debt, and pointed out the neces­sity of punctuality in furnishing the supplies already required, we shall proceed to make a few remarks on the depreciation of the currency, to which we entreat your attention.

The depreciation of bills of credit is always either natural or artificial, or both. The lat­ter is our case. The moment the sum in circulation exceeded what was necessary as a medium in commerce, it began and continued to depreciate in proportion as the amount of the surplus increased; and that proportion would hold good until the sum emitted should become so great as nearly to equal the value of the capital or stock, on the credit of which the bills were issued. Supposing, therefore, that 30,000,000 was necessary for a circulating medium, and that 160,000,000 had issued, the natural depreciation is but little more than as five to one: but the actual depreciation exceeds that proportion, and that excess is artificial. The natural depreciation is to be removed only by lessening the quantity of money in circulation. It will regain its primitive value whenever it shall be reduced to the sum necessary for a medium of commerce. This is only to be effected by loans and taxes.

The artificial depreciation is a more serious subject, and merits minute investigation. A distrust (however occasioned) entertained by the mass of the people, either in the ability or inclination of the United States to redeem their bills, is the cause of it. Let us enquire how far reason will justify a distrust in the ability of the United States.

The ability of the United States must depend on two things; first the success of the present revolution; and secondly, on the sufficiency of the natural wealth, value and resources of the country.

That the time has been when honest men might, without being chargeable with timid­ity, have doubted the success of the present revolution, we admit: but that period is passed. The independence of America is now as fixed as fate, and the petulant efforts of Britain to break it down are as vain and fruitless as the raging of the waves which beat against their cliffs. Let those who are still afflicted with these doubts consider the character and condition of our enemies. Let them remember that we are contending against a kingdom crumbling into pieces; a nation without public virtue; and a peo­ple sold to, and betrayed by, their own representatives; against a prince governed by his passions, and a ministry without confidence or wisdom; against armies half paid and generals half trusted; against a government equal only to plans of plunder, con­flagration and murder; a government, by the most impious violations of the rights of religion, justice, humanity, and mankind, courting the vengeance of Heaven and revolting from the protection of Providence. Against the fury of these enemies you made successful resistance, when single, alone and friendless, in the days of weakness and infancy, before your hands had been taught to war or your fingers to fight. And can there be any reason to apprehend that the divine disposer of human events, after having separated us from the house of bondage, and led us safe through a sea of blood, towards the land of liberty and promise, will leave the work of our political redemption unfinished, and either permit us to perish in a wilderness of difficulties, or suffer us to be carried back in chains to that country of oppression, from whose tyran­ny he hath mercifully delivered us with a stretched out arm?
In close alliance with one of the most powerful nations in Europe which has gener­ously made our cause her own, in amity with many ethers, and enjoying the good will of all, what danger have we to fear from Britain? Instead of acquiring accessions of territory by conquest, the limits of her empire daily contract: her fleets no longer rule the ocean, nor are her armies invincible by land. How many of her standards, wrest­ed from the hands of her champions, are among your trophies, and have graced the triumphs of your troops? and how great is the number of those, who, sent to bind you in fetters, have become your captives, and received their lives from your hands? In short, whoever considers that these states are daily increasing in power; that their armies have become veteran; that their governments, founded in freedom, are estab­lished; that their fertile country and their affectionate ally furnish them with ample sup­plies; that the Spanish monarch, well prepared for war, with fleets and armies ready for combat, and a treasury overflowing with wealth, has entered the lists against Britain; that the other European nations, often insulted by her pride, and alarmed by the strides of her ambition, have left her to her fate; that Ireland, wearied with her oppressions, is panting for liberty, and even Scotland displeased and uneasy at her edicts: whoever considers these things, instead of doubting the issue of the war, will rejoice in the glorious, the sure and certain prospect of success.

This point being established, the next question is, whether the natural wealth, value
and resources of the country, will be equal to the payment of the debt? Let us suppose for the sake of argument, that at the conclusion of the war, the emis­sions should amount to 200,000,000; that exclusive of supplies from taxes, which will not be inconsiderable, the loans should amount to 100,000,000, then the whole national debt of the United States would be 300,000,000. There are at present 3,000,000 of inhabitants in the 13 states: 300,000,000 of dollars, divided among 3,000,000 of people, would give to each person 100 dollars; and is there an individ­ual in America unable, in the course of 18 or 20 years, to pay it again? Suppose the whole debt assessed, as it ought to be, on the inhabitants in proportion to their respec­tive estates, what would then be the share of the poorer people? Perhaps not 10 dol­lars. Besides, as this debt will not be payable immediately, but probably 20 years allot­ted for it, the number of inhabitants by that time in America will be far more than double their present amount. It is well known that the inhabitants of this country increased almost in the ratio of compound interest. By natural population they dou­bled every 20 years, and how great may be the host of emigrants from other countries cannot be ascertained. We have the highest reason to believe the number will be immense. Suppose that only 10,000 should arrive the first year after the war, what will those 10,000 with their families count in 20 years time?--probably double the number. This observation applies with proportionable force to the emigrants of every succes­sive year. Thus you see great part of your debt will be payable not merely by the pres­ent number of inhabitants, but by that number swelled and increased by the natural population of the present inhabitants, by multitudes of emigrants daily arriving from other countries, and by the natural population of those successive emigrants, so that every person's share of the debt will be constantly diminishing by others coming in to pay a proportion of it.  

These are advantages which none but young countries enjoy. The number of inhab­itants in every country in Europe remains nearly the same from one century to anoth­er. No country will produce more people than it can subsist, and every country, if free and cultivated, will produce as many as it can maintain. Hence we may form some idea of the future population of these states. Extensive wildernesses, now scarcely known or explored, remain yet to be cultivated, and vast lakes and rivers, whose waters have for ages rolled in silence and obscurity to the ocean, are yet to hear the din of industry, become subservient to commerce, and boast delightful villas, gilded spires, and spacious cities rising on their banks.

Thus much for the number of persons to pay the debt. The next point is their ability. They who enquire how many millions of acres are contained only in the settled part of North America, and how much each acre is worth, will acquire very enlarged, and yet very inadequate ideas of the value of this country. But those who will carry their enquiries further, and learn that we heretofore paid an annual tax to Britain of 3,000,000 sterling in the way of trade, and still grew rich; that our commerce was then confined to her; that we were obliged to carry our commodities to her market, and consequently to sell them at her price; that we were compelled to purchase foreign commodities at her stores, and on her terms, and were forbid to establish any manu­factories incompatible with her views of gain; that in future the whole world will be open to us, and we shall be at liberty to purchase from those who will sell on the best terms, and to sell to those who will give the best prices; that as the country increases in number of inhabitants and cultivation, the productions of the earth will be propor­tionably increased, and the riches of the whole proportionably greater. Whoever exam­ines the force of these and similar observations, must smile at the ignorance of those who doubt the ability of the United States to redeem their bills.

Let it also be remembered that paper money is the only kind of money which cannot "make unto itself wings and fly away." It remains with us, it will not forsake us, it is always ready and at hand for the purpose of commerce or taxes, and every industri­ous man can find it. On the contrary, should Great Britain, like Nineveh (and for the same reason) yet find mercy and escape the storm ready to burst upon her, she will find her national debt in a very different situation; her territory diminished, her people wasted, her commerce ruined, her monopolies gone, she must provide for the discharge of her immense debt by taxes to be paid in specie, in gold or silver perhaps now buried in the mines of Mexico or Peru, or still concealed in the brooks and rivulets of Africa or Indostan.

Having shewn that there is no reason to doubt the ability of the United States to pay their debt, let us next enquire whether as much can be said for their inclination.

Under this head three things are to be attended to:

1st. Whether and in what manner the faith of the United States has been pledged for the redemption of their bills:

2d. Whether they have put themselves in a political capacity to redeem them; and,

3d. Whether, admitting the two former propositions, there is any reason to apprehend
a wanton violation of the public faith.

1st. It must be evident to every man who reads the journals of Congress, or looks at the face of one of their bills, that Congress have pledged the faith of their constituents for the redemption of them. And it must be equally evident, not only that they had authority to do so, but that their constituents have actually ratified their acts by receiv­ing their bills, passing laws establishing their currency, and punishing those who coun­terfeit them. So that it may with truth be said that the people have pledged their faith for the redemption of them, not only collectively by their representatives, but individu­ally.

2d. Whether the United States have put themselves in a political capacity to redeem
their bills, is a question which calls for more full discussion. Our enemies, as well foreign as domestic, have labored to raise doubts on this head. They argue that the confederation of the states remains yet to be perfected; that the union may be dissolved, Congress be abolished, and each state, resuming its delegated powers, proceed in future to hold and exercise all the rights of sovereignty appertain­ing to an independent state. In such an event, say they, the continental bills of credit, created and supported by the union, would die with it. This position being assumed, they next proceed to assert this event to be probable, and in proof of it, urge our divi­sions, our parties, our separate interests, distinct manners, former prejudices, and many other arguments equally plausible and equally fallacious. Examine this matter.

For every purpose essential to the defence of these states in the progress of the pres­ent war, and necessary to the attainment of the objects of it, these states now are as fully, legally, and absolutely confederated as it is possible for them to be. Read the cre­dentials of the different delegates who composed the Congress in 1774, 1775, and part of 1776. You will find that they establish an union for the express purpose of oppos­ing the oppressions of Britain, and obtaining redress of grievances. On the 4th of July,1776, your representatives in Congress, perceiving that nothing less than uncondi­tional submission would satisfy our enemies, did, in the name of the people of the thir­teen United Colonies, declare them to be free and independent states, and "for the SUPPORT of that declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, did mutually pledge to each other their LIVES, their FORTUNES, and their SACRED HONOR." Was ever confederation more formal, more solemn, or explic­it? It has been expressly assented to and ratified by every state in the union. Accordingly, for the direct SUPPORT of this declaration, that is, for the support of the independence of these states, armies have been raised, and bills of credit emitted and loans made to pay and supply them. The redemption, therefore, of these bills, the pay­ment of these debts, and the settlement of the accounts of the several states for expen­ditures or services for the common benefit, and in this common cause, are among the objects of this confederation; and consequently, while all or any of its objects remain unattained, it cannot, so far as it may respect such objects, be dissolved, consistent with the laws of God or man.

But we are persuaded, and our enemies will find that our union is not to end here. They are mistaken when they suppose us kept together only by a sense of present danger. It is a fact which they only will dispute, that the people of these states were never so cordially united as at this day. By having been obliged to mix with each other, former prejudices have worn off, and their several manners become blended. A sense of common permanent interest, mutual affection (having been brethren in affliction,) the ties of consanguinity daily extending, constant reciprocity of good offices, similar­ity in language, in governments, and therefore in manners, the importance, weight and splendor of the union, all conspire in forming a strong chain of connexion, which must forever bind us together. The United Provinces of the Netherlands and the United Cantons of Switzerland became free and independent under circumstances very like ours: their independence has been long established, and yet their confederacies con­tinue in full vigor. What reason can be assigned why our union should be less last­ing? or why should the people of these states be supposed less wise than the inhabi­tants of those? You are not uninformed that a plan for a perpetual confederation has been prepared and that twelve of the thirteen states have already acceded to it. But enough has been said to shew that for every purpose of the present war, and all things incident to it, there does at present exist a perfect solemn confederation, and there­fore that the states now are and always will be in political capacity to redeem their bills, pay their debts and settle their accounts.
3d. Whether, admitting the ability and political capacity of the United States to redeem their bills, there is any reason to apprehend a wanton violation of the public faith?
It is with great regret and reluctance that we can prevail upon ourselves to take the least notice of a question which involves in if, a doubt so injurious to the honor and dignity of America.

The enemy, aware that the strength of America lay in the union of her citizens, and the wisdom and integrity of those to whom they committed the direction of their affairs, have taken unwearied pains to disunite and alarm the people, to depreciate the abilities and virtue of their rulers, and to impair the confidence reposed in them by their constituents. To this end, repeated attempts have been made to draw an absurd and fanciful line of distinction between the Congress and the people, and to create an opinion and a belief that their interests and views were different and opposed. Hence the ridiculous tales, the invidious insinuations, and the whimsical suspicions that have been forged and propagated by disguised emissaries and traitors in the garb of patriots. Hence has proceeded the notable discovery that as the Congress made the money they also can destroy it; and that it will exist no longer than they find it convenient to permit it. It is not surprising that in a free country, where the tongues and pens of such people are and must be licensed, such political heresies should be inculcated and diffused, but it is really astonishing that the mind of a single virtuous citizen in America should be influenced by them. It certainly cannot be necessary to remind you that your representatives here are chosen from among yourselves; that youare or ought to be acquainted with their several characters; that they are sent ere to speak your sentiments, and that it is constantly in your power to remove such as do not. You surely are convinced that it is no more in their power to annihilate your money than your independence, and that any act of theirs for either of those purposes would be null and void. 

We should pay an ill compliment to the understanding and honor of every true American, were we to adduce many arguments to shew the baseness or bad policy of violating our national faith, or omitting to pursue the measures necessary to preserve it. A bankrupt faithless republic would be a novelty in the political world, and appear among reputable nations like a common prostitute among chaste and respectable matrons. The pride of America revolts from the idea: her citizens know for what purposes these emissions were made, and have repeatedly plighted their faith for the redemption of them; they are to be found in every man's possession, and every man is interested in their being redeemed: they must therefore entertain a high opinion of American credulity, who suppose the people capable of believing, on due reflection, that all America will, against the faith, the honor and the interest of all America, be ever prevailed upon to countenance, support or permit so ruinous, so disgraceful a measure. We are convinced that the efforts and arts of our enemies will not be wanting to draw us into this humiliating and contemptible situation. Impelled by malice, and the suggestions of chagrin and disappointment, at not being able to bend our necks to their yoke, they will endeavor to force or seduce us to commit this unpardonable sin, in order to subject us to the punishment due to it, and that we may thenceforth be a reproach and a bye word among the nations. Apprized of these consequences, knowing the value of national character, and impressed with a due sense of the immutable laws of justice and honor, it is impossible that America should think without horror of such an execrable deed. If then neither our ability or inclination to discharge the public debt are justly ques­tionable, let our conduct correspond with tiffs confidence, and let us rescue our cred­it from its present imputations. Had the attention of America to this object been unremitted, had taxes been seasonably imposed and collected, had proper loans been made, had laws been passed and executed for punishing those who maliciously endeavoured to injure the public credit; had these and many other things equally nec­essary been done, and had our currency, notwithstanding all these efforts, declined to its present degree of depreciation, our case would indeed have been deplorable. But as these exertions have not been made, we may yet experience the good effects which naturally result from them. Our former negligences therefore should now animate us with hope, and teach us not to despair of removing by vigilance and application the evils which supineness and inattention have produced.  

It has been already observed, that in order to prevent the further natural depreciation of our bills, we have resolved to stop the press, and to call upon you for supplies by loans and taxes. You are in capacity to afford them, and are bound by the strongest ties to do it. Leave us not therefore without supplies, nor let in that flood of evils which would follow from such a neglect. It would be an event most grateful to our enemies, and depend upon it they will redouble their artifices and industry to compass it. Be therefore upon your guard, and examine well the policy of every measure and the evi­dence of every report that may be proposed or mentioned to you before you adopt the one or believe the other. Recollect that it is the price of the liberty, the peace and the safety of yourselves and posterity, that now is required; that peace, liberty and safety, for the attainment and security of which, you have so often and so solemnly declared your readiness to sacrifice your lives and fortunes. The war, though drawing fast to a successful issue, still rages. Disdain to leave the whole business of your defence to your ally. Be mindful that the brightest prospects may be clouded, and that prudence bids us be prepared for every event. Provide, therefore, for continuing your armies in the field till victory and peace shall lead them home, and avoid the reproach of permit­ting the currency to depreciate in your hands, when by yielding a part to taxes and loans, the whole might have been appreciated and preserved. Humanity as well as jus­tice makes this demand upon you, the complaints of ruined widows, and the cries of fatherless children, whose whole support has been placed in your hands and melted away, have doubtless reached you: take care that they ascend no higher. Rouse, there­fore, strive who shall do most for his country; re-kindle that flame of patriotism which at the mention of disgrace and slavery blazed throughout America, and animated all her citizens. Determine to finish the contest as you began it, honestly and gloriously. Let it never be said that America had no sooner become independent than she became insolvent, or that her infant glories and growing fame were obscured and tar­nished by broken contracts and violated faith, in the very hour when all the nations of the earth were admiring and almost adoring the splendor of her rising.

By the unanimous order of Congress,

John Jay, President.

Philadelphia, September 13th, 1779 [68]

With this letter John Jay presidency neared its end and his efforts turned to establishing a treaty with Spain.

Jay, was very hopeful on a Treaty with Spain as Charles Gravier, the French foreign minister convinced him the Spanish could be drawn into the war against Great Britain as an American ally. The fact was that France, although now an ally to the United States did not have the means to fund the war so they sought the U.S. alliance with Spain.  Spain’s terms, however, were stringent as Floridablanca, the Spanish foreign minister sought the full control of the Mississippi River and all of Florida to be ceded to Spain.  Additionally, France wanted Canada and in order to accomplish a French-Spanish-American Alliance the Unites States would have to agree to these terms.  Although Jay seemed sympathetic, the new President Samuel Huntington and others were not receptive as the terms conflicted greatly with Great Britain’s peace negotiations.  John Jay would later write in his autobiography:

… was early convinced that, provided we could obtain independence and a speedy peace, we could not justify protracting the war and hazarding the event of it for the sake of conquering the Floridas, to which we bad no title, or retaining the navigation of the Mississippi, which we should not want this age, and of which we might probably acquire a partial use with the consent of Spain. It was therefore my opinion that we should quit all claim to the Floridas, and grant Spain the navigation of her river below our territories on her giving us a convenient free port on it, under regulations to be specified in a treaty, provided they would acknowledge our independence, defend it with their arms, and grant us either a proper sum of money or an annual subsidy for a certain number of years. Such, then, was the situation of things as to induce me to think that a conduct so decided and spirited on the part of Spain would speedily bring about a peace, and that Great Britain, rather than hazard the loss of Canada, Nova Scotia, and the islands by continuing the war, would yield the Floridas to Spain and independence to us.[69]

There was much debate over this position in Congress, sides were drawn and suspicions of European treachery were the topics permeating the alliance terms in potential treaties. In August 1779 the new foreign Minister brought news that Spain had entered the War with Great Britain for their own reasons.  Specifically, Spain sought the return of Gibraltar and Minorca from the British, who had occupied them in 1704. Jay wrote in his autobiography:

But when Spain afterwards declared war for objects that did not include ours, and in a manner not very civil to our independence, I became persuaded that we ought not to cede to her any of our rights, and of course that we should retain and insist upon our right to the navigation of the Mississippi.[70]

Congress now sought the appointment of a Minister Plenipotentiary of Spain and a Peace Commissioner to bargain with England.  The conservatives wanted Jay while the Adams-Lees faction sought Arthur Lee.  Former Commissioner Lee’s reputation, however, was still damaged over the earlier political struggle with Deane. On September 17, 1779 Congress elected Jay over Lee as Minister to Spain and John Adams as the Peace Commissioner.  His Presidency, less than a year old, now came to a close.

The Journals of the Continental Congress of Jay's Presidency are summarized as fol­lows: [71]

1778 - December 10 Elects John Jay president of Congress; endorses Gerard's proposal for encouraging privateering. December 14 Resolves to emit additional $10,000,000 in Continental currency. December 16 Resolves to contract the supply of Continental currency, to accept presidential expenses as a public charge and to ask the states to raise $15,000,000 in taxes; confirms General Arthur St. Clair's court martial acquittal. December 18 Directs Washington to attend Congress in keeping with his suggestion for "a personal conference." December 22 Hears Silas Deane "read his written information" concerning his agency in Europe. December 23 Continues Silas Deane hearing; continues hearing into McKean-Thompson dispute. December 24 Receives General Washington; continues hearing into McKean-Thompson dispute; accepts General Thompson's "apology. " December 25 Observes Christmas. December 26 Adopts loan office regulations for exchanging Continental bills. December 29 Adopts Gerard's proposal for protecting American grown masts; appoints three additional Continental Brigadiers. December 31 Continues Silas Deane hearing; adopts additional fiscal resolves. January 1
1779 – January 1 Defers planned Franco-American attack on Canada. January 2 Adopts additional fiscal resolves to curb depreciation. January 5 Receives Gerard's protest against Thomas Paine's published letters concealing supplies from France. January 6 Conducts inquiry into Gerard's charges against Thomas Paine. January 7 Adopts Gerard's charges against Thomas Paine; dismisses Paine from his position as Secretary to the Committee for Foreign Affairs. January 8 Receives Henry Laurens' admission that he had informed Thomas Paine of Congress' confidential proceedings against him. January 9 Orders Henry Laurens to submit written statement of his "suspicion of fraudulent proceedings" by Robert Morris. January 11 Receives Henry Laurens' charges against Robert Morris. January 12 Disavows charges published by Thomas Paine concerning supplies received from France. January 14 Resolves to reassure France that the United States "will not conclude either truce or peace . . . without [her] formal consent." January 15 Receives Francis Lewis' statement on Henry Laurens' charges against Robert Morris. January 19 Hears Henry Laurens' explanation concerning his charges against Robert Morris. January 20 Appoints committee to conduct foreign affairs inquiry. January 21 Appoints committee to "examine into principles of the powers of the . . . Committee on Appeals" and the refusal of Pennsylvania to honor the committee's decree in the case of the Active. January 22 Resolves to request Virginia, North Carolina and the Comte d'Estaing to provide assistance for Georgia and South Carolina. January 23 Adopts resolves to improve recruitment of Continental troops and to augment the authority of the commander in chief. January 26 Appoints committee to investigate Pennsylvania's charges against General Benedict Arnold, Continental Commander of Philadelphia. January 28 Debates Gerard's contention that Congress should compensate France for aid rendered by d'Estaing to the southern states, in accordance with article four of the Treaty of Alliance. January 30 Approves General Washington's request for leave to return to camp.

February 1 Debates Pennsylvania complaint against Matthew Clarkson. February 2 Orders reinforcements for South Carolina and Georgia. February 3 Confers with Gerard on supplying French fleet; resolves to emit additional $5 million in Continental currency; resolves to borrow $20 million in loan office certificates. February 5 Resolves to request French aid for South Carolina defense. February 8 Recommends embargo exemptions for relief of Rhode Island and Massachusetts; withdraws request for French aid for South Carolina; discourages French request for provisions for Martinique. February 9 Recommends relief for owners of Portuguese vessel illegally seized by American privateer; augments treasury staff to speed settlement of army accounts. February 11 Exonerates Robert Morris of accusations made by Henry Laurens. February 15 Meets with Gerard on Spanish offer to mediate peace and need to formulate American negotiating demands. February 16 Orders inquiry into Pennsylvania's charges against Benedict Arnold. February 18 Reorganizes Inspector General's Department and Ordnance Department. February 19 Resolves to emit additional $5 million in Continental currency. February 22 Receives William Lee's proposal for a commercial treaty with the United Provinces; Delaware ratifies Articles of Confederation. February 23 Debates negotiating instructions should Spain arrange peace talks with Great Britain. February 25 Accepts resignation of Major General Thomas Mifflin; augments defense of the northern frontiers. February 26 Authorizes embargo exemptions for the relief of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  

March 1 Debates peace terms (boundaries). March 4 Debates peace terms (bound­aries). March 5 Authorizes Washington to negotiate a cartel for a general exchange of prisoners. March 6 Adopts Declaration on Continental Authority over Admiralty Appeals. March 9 Urges states to accelerate recruitment and revises bounty provisions. March 10 Debates peace terms (boundaries). March 11 Debates peace terms (status of Nova Scotia); creates corps of engineers. March 15 Debates peace terms (bound­aries). March 16 Debates peace terms (boundaries); authorizes reorganization of the corps of waggoners. March 17 Debates peace terms (boundaries). March 19 Adopts peace terms concerning boundaries. March 20 Adopts Fast Day proclamation. March 22 Debates peace terms (fisheries). March 23 Reorganizes clothing department. March 24 Reprimands Matthew Clarkson for affronts to the civil authorities of Pennsylvania; debates peace terms (fisheries and navigation of the Mississippi). March 27 Resolves to report the yeas and nays in the published journals. March 29 Adopts measures for the defense of South Carolina and Georgia. March 30 Debates peace terms (fisheries). March 31 Resolves to publish the journals of Congress weekly. 

April 1 Endorses New York’s plan for reprisals against the Seneca Indians; resolves to emit additional $5 million in Continental currency. April 2 Adjourns for Good Friday. April 3 Adopts resolutions for restoring harmony with Pennsylvania officials incensed over Congressional response to their prosecution of Benedict Arnold. April 6 Opens debate on the recall of American commissioners abroad. April 7 Adopts plan to encourage rebellion in Nova Scotia; debates recall of American commissioners abroad. April 8 Authorizes prisoner exchange in the southern department. April 9 Debates recall of American commissioners abroad. April 13 Endorses plan for creation of a corps of French volunteers in South Carolina. April 14 Reaffirms authority of state officials to issue safe conduct passes. April 15 Debates recall of American commis­sioners abroad. April 19 Accepts resignation of Major General Philip Schuyler; author­izes additional brigade for Rhode Island defense. April 20 Debates recall of American commissioners abroad. April 21 Debates recall of American commissioners abroad. April 22 Rejects motion to recall Benjamin Franklin. April 26 Debates recall of American commissioners abroad. April 27 Appropriates 2,000 guineas in specie for Washington's secret service. April 30 Debates recall of Arthur Lee.

May 1 Debates recall of Arthur Lee. May 3 Rejects motion to recall Arthur Lee (tie vote). May 4 Appoints committee to meet with Delaware Native American delegation. May 5 Resolves to emit additional $10 million in Continental currency. May 6 Observes day of fast. May 7 Denies Bermuda petition for provisions embargo exemption; orders Virginia and North Carolina reinforcements to South Carolina. May 8 Debates peace terms (fisheries). May 10 Authorizes Washington to concert combined Franco American operations. May 11 Appoints General Duportail commandant of the corps of engineers. May 12 Debates peace terms (fisheries). May 13 Debates peace terms (fisheries). May 14 Meriwether Smith charges Henry Laurens with injuring the honor of Congress. May 15 Henry Laurens denounces attack by Meriwether Smith. May 17 Directs Native American affairs commissioners (northern department) to consult with Washington on all Native American treaty negotiations. May 18 Authorizes embargo exemption for provisions for Bermuda. May 19 Increases states' 1779 quotas an additional $45 million. May 20 Receives Virginia proposal for ratifying Articles of Confederation by less than unanimous consent; debates recall of Ralph Izard. May 21 Receives Maryland delegate instructions on Articles of Confederation; receives Connecticut delegate instructions on ratifying confedera­tion without the state of Maryland. May 24 Debates Deane-Lee controversy; authorizes retaliation for cruelties committed by British forces against French subjects in Virginia. May 25-26 Confers (by committee) with Delaware Native American delegation. May 26 Allows Pennsylvania President Reed to address Congress on American fiscal crisis; adopts address to the inhabitants of America on meeting finance and manpower quotas. May 27 Debates peace terms (fisheries). May 29 Debates New York proposals for settlement of Vermont issue. 

June 1 Resolves to send a committee to Vermont. June 3 Debates peace terms (fisheries). June 4 Resolves to emit additional $10 million. June 5 Adopts plan to fund Beaumarchais' claims. June 7 Adopts vote of confidence in quartermaster and commissary generals (refuses to accept Commissary Jeremiah Wadsworth's resignation); appoints committee to consider powers of foreign consuls. June 8 Recalls Ralph Izard and William Lee, American commissioners abroad. June 10 Debates Arthur Lee's recall. June 11 Resolves to borrow $20 million domestically at 6 percent interest. June 12 Exonerates Dr. John Morgan. June 14 Debates price regulation proposals. June 15 Directs Washington to investigate charges against Dr. William Shippen, Jr.; prepares request for supplies from king of France. June 16 Denounces seizure of New York officials by inhabitants of the New Hampshire Grants. June 17 Debates peace terms; reaffirms French alliance provisions prohibiting negotiation of separate peace. June 19 Debates peace terms (fisheries). June 21 Reverses plan to enlist German deserters; de bates financial reform. June 23 Debates financial reform. June 24 Debates peace terms (fisheries). June 25 Debates financial reform. June 28 Rejects quartermaster appeal for relief from state taxes.

July 1 Debates peace terms (fisheries). July 2 Sets procedures for exchanging withdrawn emissions of Continental currency. July 6 Approves export of provisions for French fleet; debates peace terms (fisheries). July 7 Debates financial reform. July 9 Orders investi­gation of commissary and quartermaster purchasing practices. July 12 Confers with French Minister Gerard; receives report from two members of Vermont Committee. July 13 Receives report from other two members of Vermont Committee. July 14 Debates substance of conference with French minister. July 15 Orders retaliation for British mistreatment of naval prisoners. July 16 Receives Arthur Lee's response to charges by Silas Deane. July 17 Resolves to emit additional $15 million; threatens retaliation for British mistreatment of Captain Gustavus Conyngham; debates peace terms (fisheries). July 19 Directs Marine Committee to prepare plan of retaliation for recent raids on Connecticut. July 21 Recommends compensation for Portuguese vessel illegally seized by American privateer. July 22 Debates peace terms (fisheries). July 23 Adopts plan for the protection of Continental property within the states. July 24 Debates peace terms (fisheries). July 26 Commends victors for capture of British post at Stony Point. July 27 Orders Virginia reinforcements to South Carolina. July 28 Debates financial reform. July 29 Debates peace terms (fisheries). July 30 Adopts ordinance for reorganizing the treas­ury. July 31 Debates peace terms (fisheries).  

August 2 Exonerates Jean Holker on charges of profiteering and reaffirms Continental protection for French consuls and other officials. August 3 Debates peace terms (French alliance provision against separate peace). August 5 Debates peace terms (re. Spanish subsidy, Florida and navigation of the Mississippi). August 6 Authorizes payment of Silas Deane's expenses and releases him from obligation to remain in America. August 7 Debates peace terms (re. Spanish interests in North America). August 10 Requests North Carolina reinforcements for South Carolina. August 13 Debates instructions for minister plenipotentiary to negotiate peace. August 14 Debates instructions for minister plenipotentiary to negotiate peace. August 17 Urges states to provide half pay for Continental officers. August 18 Augments pay and allowances for Continental officers. August 21 Requests states to extend provisions embargo to January 1, 1780. August 25 Urges states to lift restrictions on interstate inland trade. August 26 Appoints committee for creating a supreme court for admiralty appeals. August 28 Debates financial reform. August 31 Receives Henry Laurens' complaint against Secretary Thomson for disrespectful behavior. 

September 1 Resolves that "on no account whatever" will Congress emit more than $200 million Continental currency. September 3 Receives notice that Minister Gerard will return to France. September 4 Observes death of William Henry Drayton. September 7 Receives notification of Spanish entry into the war against Britain; adopts farewell response to Gerard. September 9 Adopts letter of thanks to king of France; debates terms of prospective alliance with Spain. September 10 Issues appeal to states for clothing; debates relations with Spain. September 11 Debates relations with Spain. September 14 Reads memorials of Indiana and Vandalia land companies. September 16 Debates ways and means proposals. September 17 Conducts farewell audience for Gerard; resolves to emit additional $15 million; debates relations with Spain; debates ways and means proposals. September 18 Debates relations with Spain. September 20 Orders military and naval reinforcements for southern department; debates relations with Spain. September 21 Debates ways and means proposals. September 22 Debates New Hampshire Grants claims. September 23 Debates New Hampshire Grants claims, de bates relations with Spain. September 24 Requests authorization from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York to mediate New Hampshire Grants claims; commends victors for attack on Paulus Hook; debates  relations with Spain. September 25 Debates relations with Spain and conduct of peace negotiations. September 26 Nominates minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of peace and of alliance with Spain. September 27 Elects John Jay Minister to Spain and John Adams to negotiate peace.  

On 27 September 1778, Jay resigned his office as President and was appointed Minister to Spain. Congress voted Jay thanks, three days later, for serving as President sending this letter:

 Sir, Philadelphia 1st October 1779 It is with real pleasure I do myself the honour of transmitting the enclos'd resolution containing the thanks of Congress and testimony of their Approbation of your conduct in the Chair and in the execution of public business as President of the great Council of these United States. [72]

On October 5, 1779 John Jay wrote Governor George Clinton transmitting “Draft of a Bill for carrying into Effect the Resolutions of Congress relative to our Disputes with Vermont & with each other.” [73] John Jay thought that the acts passed by the three states should be similar and it was best to keep the description of the powers contained in the attached resolutions. This was an important issue as many New Yorkers had substantial landholdings in Vermont, which were jeopardized by Vermont's assertion of independence. On October 15th, Jay wrote President Samuel Huntington:

Governor Livingston having consented that his Son whom Congress have honored with the Commission of Lt. Colonel, should go with me to Spain, I join with him in requesting the Favor of Congress to grant him their Permission. [74]

Congress agreed to Jay’s request and granted Henry Brockholst Livingston, his brother-in-law a twelve-month leave of absence from the Continental Army to continue in Jay's employ as his secretary. 



By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 8th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.

On October 17th, President Samuel Huntington transmitted Congress’ instruction to Jay on negotiating with Spain:

That if his Catholic Majesty shall accede to the said treaties and in concurrence with France and the united states of America continue the present war with Great Britain for the purpose expressed in the treaties aforesaid, he shall not thereby be precluded from securing to himself the Floridas; on the contrary if he shall obtain the Floridas from great Britain, these united states will guaranty the same to his catholic Majesty; provided always that the united states shall enjoy the free navigation of the river Mississippi into and from the sea.

You are therefore to communicate to his most Christian Majesty the desire of Congress to enter into a treaty of alliance and of Amity and commerce with his Catholic Majesty and to request his favourable interposition for that purpose; At the same time you are to make such proposals to his Catholic Majesty as in your judgment, from circumstances will be proper for obtaining for the united states of America equal advantages with those, which are secured to them by the treaties with his most Christian Majesty, observing always the resolution aforesaid as the ultimatum of these united states. You are particularly to endeavour to obtain some convenient port or ports below the 31st degree of north latitude on the river Mississippi free for all merchant vessels, goods, wares and merchandizes belonging to the inhabitants of these states.

The distressed state of our finances & the great depreciation of our paper money incline Congress to hope that his Catholic Majesty, if he shall conclude a treaty with these states, will be induced to lend them money; You are therefore to represent to him the great distress of these states on that account, and to solicit a loan of five million of dollars upon the best terms in your power not exceeding six per centum per annum, effectually to enable them to co-operate with the allies against the common enemy. But before you make any propositions to his Catholic Majesty for a loan, you are to endeavour to obtain a subsidy in consideration of the guaranty aforesaid.

You are to use your utmost endeavours for obtaining permission for the citizens and inhabitants of these States to lade and take on board their vessels Salt at the island of Salt Tortuga; and also to cut, load and bring away Logwood and Mohogony in and from the bay of Hondurus and its rivers and to build on the shores storehouses and Magazines for the woodcutters and their families in the extent ceded to his Britannic Majesty by the seventeenth Article of the definitive treaty concluded at Paris the tenth day of February 1763 or in as great extent as can be obtained. [75]

On October 25th, Jay wrote Clinton again about the Successes General Sullivan had against the six Indian nations.  Land, through its sale, was a great source of revenue for the States.  In this letter Jay warns the Governor of New York that certain Delegates may insist that it belongs to the federal government so New York should establish posts in that country and treat it as their own.[76]  Jay also wrote on the 25th apologizing to Livingston for not seeing him before he left for Spain and providing him with a Cipher Code for future[77] diplomatic letters.

He sailed with Mrs. Jay, on October 20th, in the American frigate "Confederacy," which, was unable to reach Southern Spain due to damage incurred by a storm.   Now in Martinico, (Dominican Republic) Jay wrote President Huntington on December 20th that he was stranded and may have to take a French ship to Spain.  Arrangements to board the French frigate "Aurora," was made several days which brought the party to Cadiz in Southwest Spain on January 22, 1780. 

Commissioner John Jay was received with personal courtesy, but found no disposition from the crown to recognize American independence.  King Charles III refused to see Jay, who was accompanied by Gerard, as this audience alone could have implied Spain’s recognition of U.S. Independence. On February 24, 1780 Jay finally received a letter from the Spanish Foreign Minister:

Having received by the hands of Don Joseph de Galvez, the letter which your excellency sent by Mr. Carmichael, and having communicated the contents to his Majesty, I have it in command to inform you, that his Majesty highly approves the choice, which the American Congress have made of you to the trust mentioned in your letter, as well on account of the high estimation in which his Majesty holds the members who made the choice, as the information he has received of your probity, talents, and abilities. His Majesty also received with pleasure the information of the desire which the Colonies have to form a connexion with Spain, of whose good disposition they have already received strong proofs. Nevertheless, his Majesty thinks it necessary in the first place, that the manner, the forms, and the mutual correspondence should be settled, upon which that Union must be founded, which the United States of America desire to establish with this monarchy. For this purpose there is no obstacle to your Excellency's coming to this Court, in order to explain your intentions and those of the Congress, and to hear those of his Majesty, and by that means settling a basis upon which a perfect friendship may be established, and also its extent and consequences.

His Majesty thinks, that until these points are settled, as he hopes they will be, it is not proper for your Excellency to assume a formal character, which must depend on a public acknowledgment and future treaty. But your Excellency may be assured of the sincerity and good dispositions of his Majesty towards the United States, and of his earnest desire to remove every difficulty, for the mutual happiness of them and of this monarchy. This has been intimated to Mr Carmichael, who can communicate the same to your Excellency, to whom I beg leave to make a tender of my service, being,   COUNT DE FLORIDA BLANC A.[78]

This was a haughty letter and Jay reported to the President of Congress on March 3rd:

I shall proceed immediately to Madrid. There are many reasons (hereafter to be explained,) which induce me to suspect that France is determined to manage between us, so as to make us debtors to their influence and good correspondence with Spain for every concussion on her part, and to make Spain hold herself obligated to their influence and good correspondence with us for every concession on our part. Though this may puzzle the business, I think it also promotes it. M. Gerard has often endeavored to persuade me, that a certain resolution of Congress would, if persisted in, ruin the business, which however he did not appear much inclined to believe, but, on the contrary, that if every other matter was adjusted you would not part on that point. I assured him that ground had, in my opinion, been taken with too much deliberation now to be quitted, and that expectations of that kind would certainly deceive those who trusted them. And, indeed, as affairs are now circumstanced, it would, in rny opinion, be better for America to have no treaty with Spain, than to purchase one on such servile terms. There was a time when it might have been proper to have given that country something for their making common cause with us, but that day is now past. Spain is at war with Britain.[79]

Upon Jay’s arrival in Madrid he would receive a letter from the Minister on April 4th stating in part:

on the subject of the affairs of the United States of North America and their mutual interest with respect to Spain, it is judged indispensable at Madrid that the Catholic king should be exactly informed of the civil and military state of the American provinces, and of their resources to continue the present war, not only for the defense of their own liberty, but also with respect to the aid and succors they may be able to afford Spain in its operations in case hereafter this crown should become the ally of America. [80]

Jays reply to this letter was masterful and complete.  The author struggled with the decision of whether or not to reprint Jay’s reply here as the letter gives an exceptional accounting of the United States in 1780 as perceived by the former President of the Continental Congress. In the end his response would have expanded this chapter by ten pages so only these 14 points have been included:

I am certain that the people of America never were so well united as they are at present, in that of their independence. Exclusive of actual observation on the spot, I think so because,


1st. The Declaration of Independence was made by Congress at a time when the great body of their constituents called for it.

2dly. Because that declaration was immediately recognised by the general assemblies and legislatures of the several States, without exception.

3dly. Because the successful army under General Burgoyne  was defeated and captured by a great collection of the neighbouring militia, to whom he had offered peace and tranquillity on their remaining at home; terms which it was natural to suppose a great many of them would have accepted, had the Declaration of Independence been disagreeable to them.

4thly. Because the Congress, consisting of members annually elected, have repeatedly, expressly, and unanimously declared their determination to support it at every hazard.

5thly. Because their internal enemies have been either expelled or reduced, and their estates, to a very great amount in some of the States, confiscated and actually sold.

6thly. Because constitutions and forms of government have since been instituted and completely organized, in which the people participate, from which they have experienced essential advantages, and to which they have of consequence become greatly attached.

7thly. Because Congress unanimously refused to enter into treaty with the British commissioners on any terms short of independence; and because every State, though afterward separately solicited, refused to treat otherwise than collectively by their delegates in Congress.

8thly. Because the inhuman and very barbarous manner in which the war has been conducted by the enemy, has so alienated the affections of the people from the king and government of Britain, and filled their hearts with such deep-rooted and just resentments, as render a cordial reconciliation, much less a dependence on them, utterly impossible.

9thly. Because the doctrine propagated in America by the servants of the King of Great Britain, that no faith was to be kept with Americans in arms against him, and the uniformity with which they have adhered to it, in their practice as well as professions, have destroyed all confidence, and leave the Americans no room to doubt but that, should they again become subjects of the King of Britain pn certain terms, those terms would as little impede the progress of future oppression, as the capitulation of Limerick, in 1691, did with respect to Ireland.

10thly. Because the treaty with France, and consequently virtue, honour, and every obligation due to the reputation of a rising nation, whose fame is unsullied by violated compacts, forbid it.

11thly. Because it is the evident and well-known interest of North America to remain independent.

12thly. Because the history of mankind, from the earliest ages, with a loud voice calls upon those who draw their swords against a prince, deaf to the supplication of his people, to throw away the scabbard.

13thly. Because they do not consider the support of their independence as difficult. The country is very defensible and fertile; the people are all soldiers, who with reason consider their liberty and lives as the most valuable of the possessions left them, and which they are determined shall neither be vested nor purchased from them but with blood.

14thly. Because, for the support of their independence, they have expressly, by a most solemn act, pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour; so that their bond of union, for this very purpose, thus formed of all the ties of common interest, common safety, mutual affection, general resentments, and the great obligations of virtue. [81]

Shortly after this letter was delivered, Jay learned that Congress, in their desperation for money placed him in an embarrassing situation by drawing bills on his mission for half a million dollars (100,000 pounds).  Congress just assumed that Jay would obtain a subsidy from Spain before the bills would come due. In a May 1st letter to the Spanish Foreign Secretary Jay explains that Congress called on the states to aid in paying the $200 million in circulation.  Congress also relied, he continued, on the goodwill and interest of Spain to draw bills on Minister of Spain for 100,000 pounds sterling payable in six months. Jay sent his regrets not being able to advise Spain of this sooner. [82]

Jay’s Ministry went from dreadful to appalling over the next few months losing his three week old baby girl, having his Secretary/brother-in-law conspire against him in negotiations, learning his correspondence had been secretly opened by the Spanish Ministry and receiving import instructions from Congress long after the Spanish Ministry received the same news from their speedy New World diplomatic couriers. The Ministry knew months before John Jay, who was negotiating a Spanish treaty that the bargaining chip of U.S. claims on the Mississippi River was abandoned by Congress on February 1781.  They knew months in advance of Jay that the Articles of Confederation were finally ratified and the United States had a 13 state ratified constitution.  Jay would write in his long diplomatic report back to President Samuel Huntington
:
My only difficulty arose from this single question: Whether I could prudently risk acting on a presumption either that Spain did not already or would not soon be acquainted with the contents of this instruction. If such a presumption had been admissible, I should, without the least hesitation, have played the game a little further, keeping this instruction in my hand as a trump card, to prevent a separate peace between Spain and Britain, in case such an event should otherwise prove inevitable. [83]

Included in this report to President Huntington was Jay’s proposed Treaty with Spain that was requested by Floridablanca in early September:

PROPOSITIONS.

I. There shall forever subsist an inviolable and universal peace and friendship between his Catholic majesty and the United States and the subjects and citizens of both.

II. That every privilege, exemption, and favor with respect to commerce, navigation, and personal rights which now are, or hereafter may be granted by either to any the most favored nation, be also granted by them to each other.

III. That they mutually extend to the vessels, merchants, and inhabitants of each other all that protection which is usual and prosper between friendly and allied nations.
IV. That the vessels, merchants, or other subjects of his Catholic majesty and the United States shall not resort to or be permitted (except in cases which humanity allows to distress) to enter into any of those ports or dominions of the other from which the most favored nation shall be excluded.

V. That the following commerce be prohibited and declared contraband between the subjects of his Catholic majesty and the United States, viz:
All such as his Catholic majesty may think proper to specify.
Remarks: On this proposition Mr. Jay can offer nothing but an assurance of his being ready to concur in every reasonable regulation that may be proposed.

VI. The United States shall relinquish to his Catholic majesty, and in future forbear to use, or attempt to use, the navigation of the river Mississippi from the thirty-first degree of north latitude--that is, from the point where it leaves the United States--down to the ocean.

Remarks: The impression made upon the United States by the magnanimity of his majesty's conduct towards them; the assistance they hope to receive from the further exertions of the same magnanimity; the deep wound which an alliance with so great a monarch would give to the hopes and efforts of the enemy; the strong support it would afford to their independence; the favorable influence which the example of such a king would have on other nations, and the many other great and extensive good consequences which would result at this interesting period from his majesty's taking so noble and decided a part in their favor, have all conspired in prevailing upon Congress to offer to relinquish in his favor the enjoyment of this territorial and national privilege, the importance of which to their constituents can only be estimated by the value they set upon his majesty's friendship.

By this proposition the United States offer to forego all the advantages and conveniences which nature has given to the country bordering on the upper parts of that river by ceasing to export their own and receiving in return the commodities of other countries by that only channel, thereby greatly reducing the value of that country, retarding its settlement, and diminishing the benefits which the United States would reap from its cultivation.

Mr. Jay thinks it his duty frankly to confess that the difficulty of reconciling this measure to the feelings of their constituents has appeared to Congress in a serious light and they now expect to do it only by placing in the opposite scale the gratitude due to his Catholic majesty, and the great and various advantages which the United States will derive from the acknowledgment and generous support of their independence by the Spanish monarchy at a time when the vicissitudes, dangers, and difficulties of a distressing war with a powerful, obstinate, and vindictive nation renders the friendship and avowed protection of his Catholic majesty in a very particular manner interesting to them. The offer of this proposition, therefore, being dictated by these expectations and this combination of circumstances, must necessarily be limited by the duration of them, and consequently that if the acceptance of it should, together with the proposed alliance, be postponed to a general peace, the United States will cease to consider themselves bound by any propositions or offers which he may now make in their behalf.

Nor can Mr. Jay omit mentioning the hopes and expectations of Congress that his majesty's generosity and greatness of mind will prompt him to alleviate as much as possible the disadvantages to which this proposition subjects the United States, by either granting them a free port, under certain restrictions, in the vicinity, or by such other marks of his liberality and justice as may give him additional claims to the affection and attachment of the United States.

VII. That his Catholic majesty shall guaranty to the United States all their respective territories.

VIII. That the United States shall guaranty to his Catholic majesty all his dominions in North America. Lastly. As the aforegoing propositions appear to Mr. Jay the most essential, he omits proposing those lesser and subordinate ones--which seem to follow of course. He therefore concludes this subject with a general offer and propositions to make and admit all such articles as in the course of this negociation shall appear conducive to the great objects of the proposed treaty.

Remarks. Nothing on Mr. Jay's part shall be wanting to expedite the happy conclusion of this business by adhering constantly to the dictates of candor, frankness, and unsuspecting confidence.  [84]

Perplexingly Spain did not respond let along offer a counter proposal to Jay’s treaty propositions. Jay remained in Madrid until May of 1782 trying to negotiate a treaty and exact loans from Spain.  The English had lost the war with Battle of Yorktown and the ratification of the Constitution of 1777 that finally created the Perpetual Union of the United States.  The U.S. was a new nation that became the central power of North America and Spain foolishly passed on accepting full claims on the Mississippi in exchange for simply recognizing the United States of America as a free and independent nation.   Jay making the grant of the rights of the Mississippi conditional on the recognition treaty would benefit U.S. interests’ in many future presidential administrations.


Continued John Jay

Peace Commissioner & Chief Justice





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