The Jay Papers I: Mission To Spain

PrintPrintEmailEmail

… After the usual compliments the bad News relative to the surrender of Charlestown, just received, became the Topic of conversation. The Count … expressed his Sorrow on the occasion, but … seemed to think it strange that the place had not been better defended, and that more vigorous measures had not been taken to impede the Enemy’s progress … Mr. Jay replied that probably when all circumstances relative to this Affair were known, there might be reasons which would account for the conduct of the Americans on this occasion; to the Truth of which remark the Count appeared to assent. [Floridablanca] mentioned the death of Mr. Miralles [at Washington’s Morristown encampment at the end of April] and regretted his loss at this time. … He said he had recommended to his Majesty a Person to succeed him, whom he knew, that spoke English whom he expected soon, and to whom he would explain his Ideas on the Subject of the Bills, and on other matters, touching which Mr. Jay had written to him, and who would confer also with Mr. Jay on those Subjects.…

He then proceeded to speak of the Bills of exchange, in the possession of the Messrs. Joyce [a mercantile house of Bilbao], and seemed to be surprised that that House should be possessed of so many of them. He advised Mr. Jay to be cautious of those Gentlemen, saying that they were as much English in their Hearts, as the Ministry of that Country;… [Floridablanca then] spoke much of the deranged State of our Finances, and Credit, of the advantages taken of Congress by Merchants and others, who availed themselves of that circumstance, which he called cruel Extortions. …

He asked Mr. Jay, if America could not furnish Spain with Masts and Ship Timber. Mr. Jay replied that those articles might be obtained there. The Count then said that he would defer further remarks on this Head, ‘till the arrival of the Person whom he expected would succeed Mr. Miralles, and appeared desirous of leaving this subject, and, indeed, all other matters relative to American affairs, to be discussed when he came.…

Mr. Jay reminded his Excellency in a delicate manner of the Supplies of Clothing etc. etc. [for Washington’s troops] which had been promised in a former Conference, and said that if they could be sent in Autumn, they would be essentially useful. The Count assured him that measures would be taken for this purpose, with the Person so often hinted at in the course of the Conference, that probably these Goods would be embarked from Bilboa, as everything was so dear at Cadis. He also once more told Mr. Jay that at all events he might accept the Bills presented by Messieurs Joyce payable at Bilboa—Though he appeared to wish that this measure might be delayed for a fortnight if possible.…

In July there occurred an event which helped brighten Jay’s drab and discouraging routine of diplomacy and lighten the burdens of enforced residence in an uncongenial and alien land. In an unusually jolly letter, Jay passed on the good news to Sally’s father.

Madrid 14 July 1780

I give you Joy—there is a little Stranger here, who I hope will one Day have the Pleasure of calling you Grandfather. On the 9th Instant Sally was delivered of a Daughter as like her Brother as two Children can be. The Mother is in a fair Way and the Child thrives finely. It has as yet no Name nor am I certain what it will be. The old Goody [nurse] has a great Mind to save it from Limbo (a Spanish Name for a Dark Receptacle for the Souls of Infants who die unbaptized). About Eight Days ago she presented Mrs. Jay with the Pictures of [here Jay evidently intended to fill in the name of some patron saints, but mailed the letter without finding out which saints they were] Who I presume have succeeded the ancient Goddesses in presiding over Births. If these Saints had any thing to do with it we are much obliged to them, for [Sally] had a fine Time of it.

When the Child was born [the nurse] proposed, as being customary here, to give it the Name of the Saint of that Day—for they are so happy as to have at least one Saint for every Day in the Year. But as the Saints are at War with us Heretics we shall name it after some Sinner that will probably have more affection for it. Wonder on looking over the Almanack I found that the gth July was the Day of St. Carlo who was a pope, and as neither that Name or office except in the Case of pope Joan ever appertained to a Female I did not see how the old Ladys Advice could be followed in this Instance. I was nevertheless mistaken in supposing this Difficulty insuperable for in similar Cases it seems the Name of Papa which is Spanish for pope is taken, as being sufficiently feminine for the most delicate Virgin. However as the popes are as clever as the old Norman Lawyers were in drawing extensive Conclusions from weak premisses, and might possibly from such a Circumstance claim some Right to my little Girl, whom I wish not to embarrass with any Disputes with the See of Rome, I think it will be most prudent to let her take her Chance under the Name of Susanna who was a good Sort of a Woman and nobly resisted the lasivious Attacks of two Inquisitor Generals, whom the Latin Bible have in Compliment I suppose to the Presbyterians stiled Presbyters .

I am Dear Sir with sincere Regard Your most obedient Servant [J OHN J AY ]

The joy was short-lived, as Sally, with tears in her eyes, reported to her “mamma.”

Madrid, August 28th 1780