The Jay Papers I: Mission To Spain


Join with me, my dear mamma and sisters in grateful acknowledgements to that supreme Being whose indulgent care lias preserved your friends through every danger, and permitted them to arrive in health in a most delightful Island, furnished with every thing necessary for health and almost every thing that can contribute to pleasure. On the 18th inst. early in the morning I was agreeably surprised to find that we were sailing [close] along the [most] verdant, romantic country I ever beheld. In that instant every disagreeable sensation arising from unpleasing circumstances during our voyage, gave place to the more mild and delightful emotions of gratitude.

At breakfast we were visited by some of the planters who live near the shore, and from them we learnt that Mr. [William] Bingham [of Philadelphia, agent for the Continental Congress in the West Indies] was still at St. Pierre; when we arrived opposite to that City Mr. Jay wrote him a letter, and my brother waited upon him; upon which Mr. Bingham very politely returned with the Colonel and insisted upon our resideing with him during our stay at Martinique; and never was I more charmed with any thing of the kind than with the polite friendly reception we met with from that gentleman. The two families most dear to me would be delighted with this Island. The neatness that prevails here cannot be exceeded and frankly I confess I never saw it equalled.

How mistaken was I as to the character of our allies! The Admiral Le Motte Piquet has granted to Mr. Gerard’s request a Frigate to convey us to France, and we shall sail from this place the 28th inst. …

And now I must bid adieu to my best beloved friends. Think not any more that I have forgotten you.…

May the Almighty guard, protect and bless, my ever dear, my ever valued friends. Embrace my little blessing [young Peter Augustus]. My heart is too sensibly affected to proceed, and to discontinue is like parting a new. Adieu!


A brief description of Martinique and of the second leg of the journey, from Martinique to Spain, is furnished by Jay in a letter to Robert R. Livingston written shortly after his arrival in Cadiz. Now that he was actually in Spain, he thought it prudent to adopt a slightly more complicated code for his correspondence with his friend.

Cadiz, 19th February 1780

Dear Robert

… We left Martinico the 28th December in the Aurora a French Frigate commanded by [Admiral La Motte-Picquet] a very genteel agreeable Man. He went by the Way of St. Thomas to avoid Danger [from the British fleet]; and arrived here the 22d of last Month. If when you have nothing else to do, you should consult your Map, you will percieve that we had a very uncommon short Passage. The Aurora is a dull Sailor, but we were favored with Winds constantly fair, and I may add strong. The Marquis was bound to Toulon, from whence we expected to have gone to Paris, and from thence over the Pyrenees to Madrid. But on touching here for Intelligence, we learned that Admiral [Sir George] Rodney had saved us the necessity of going that round about Way to Madrid, he having gained an undoubted Superiority in the Mediterranean. This Point being settled, I immediately made the necessary Communications to the Spanish Ministry, from whom I am now in daily Expectation of recieving Dispatches.

The Cypher I sent you has become useless, and must be omitted. Take the following, vizt. the second part of Boyers Dictionary, in which the English is placed before the French. It is not paged. You will therefore number the Pages, marking the first page with No. 1, and so on. In each page there are three Columns—let c denote the first, a the second, and b third. Count the number of words from the Top, to the one you mean to use, inclusive, and add seven to it. Thus, for Instance, the word abject is the third word, in the third Column, of the second Page; and is to be written in Cypher as follows—2-b-10. The Dictionary I have was printed in London in the Year 1771 and is called the thirteenth Edition with large additions.

… Be particular in informing me whether this Letter comes to your Hands free from Marks of Inspection. I shall put a Wafer under the Seal; compare the Impression with those you have formerly recieved from me. If you should have Reason to suspect that all is not fair, I will on being informed of it send you another Cypher. Be cautious what you write in the common Way, as I am persuaded few Letters would reach me thro the Post Offices of France or Spain uninspected.