The Jay Papers I: Mission To Spain


Had I wrote to my dear mamma a fortnight ago while my whole heart overflowed with joy and gratitude for the birth of a lovely daughter, I am sure every line must have conveyed pleasure to the best of parents, who well knows the affection of a mother. Every circumstance united in rendering that event delightful to us—excluded the society of our most intimate friends, behold us in a country, whose customs, language and religion are the very reverse of our own; without connections, without friends; judge then if Heaven could have bestowed a more acceptable present—nor was the present deficient in any thing that was necessary to endear it to us: rather let me say that every wish of my heart was amply answered in the precious gift—in her charming countenance I beheld at once the softened resemblance of her father and absent brother, her little form was perfect symmetry; and nature, by warding off those disorders that generally attack infants, seemed to promise a healthy constitution added to those circumstances, her very name increased my pleasure.… When I used to look at her every idea less pleasant vanished in a moment, scenes of continued and future bliss still rose to view, and while I clasped her to my bosom my happiness appeared compleat. Alasl mamma how frail are all sublunary enjoyments! But I must endeavor to recollect myself.

On Monday the aand day after the birth of my little innocent, we perceived that she had a fever, but were not apprehensive of danger until the next day when it was attended with a fit. On Wednesday the convulsions increased, and on Thursday she was the whole day in one continued fit, nor could she close her little eye-lids till Fryday morning the 4th of August at 4 o’Clock, when wearied with pain, the little sufferer found rest in—Excuse my tears—you too mamma have wept on similar occasions. Maternal tenderness causes them to flow, and reason, though it moderates distress, cannot intirely restrain our grief, nor do I think it should be wished. For why should Heaven (in every purpose wise) have endowed it’s lovely messenger with so many graces, but to captivate our hearts and excite them by a contemplation on the beloved object of our affection, to rise above those expectations that rather amuse than improve, and extend our views even to those regions of bliss where she has arrived before us—while my mind continues in its present frame: I look upon the tributes my child has paid to nature as the commencement of her immortality, and endeavor to acquiesce in the dispensations of the all-wise disposer of events; and if my heart continues in proper subjection to the divine will, then will she not have sickened, not have dyed in vain.

… Mr. Jay is at present absent, the Court being at St. Ildefonso between 13 and 14 leagues from hence: and I own I never feel so intirely myself as when in his company, for ‘tis then that the silent encouragement I receive from his steady, modest virtue, operates most powerfully upon my mind: and I may add upon my conduct; for what can I fear, or how can I repine, when I behold him who is equally interested, composed in danger, resigned in affliction, and even possessing a chearful disposition in every circumstance- excuse me my dear mamma, excuse my officious pen, perhaps too ready to obey the dictates of my heart, but he really is virtue’s own self.…

I am with the sincerest affection, ever yours S ARAH J AY

During the hot summer of 1780, Jay faced, in addition to his private grief, a horde of creditors of the Congress claiming their pound of flesh. Jay waited with mounting impatience for action from Spain. On August 15, 18, and 25 he wrote Floridablanca reminding him of his acute embarrassment. There was no answer. When Jay called, he was told the Minister was sick, although others had seen Floridablanca that morning. As Jay himself told the Congress, “it appeared to me proper to mention my embarrassments to the French ambassador, who had always been friendly, and ask his advice and aid on the subject.” To the Comte de Montmorin, therefore, he related the long and sorry chronicle of his shabby treatment at Floridablanca’s hands; then he asked the Frenchman’s advice about what he should do.

St. Ildefonso, 27th August 1780

… The Ambassador told Mr. Jay that he ought to ask an Audience of the Minister. To this Mr. Jay replied that he could not hope to have an answer to this request, as he had not been able to procure one to the different applications he had already made.… [The Comte de Montmorin] then asked Mr. Jay, if he had written to Congress, to stop drawing Bills on him. Mr. Jay replied, that he could not with propriety give such information to Congress … particularly [after] the Minister’s declaration that he would be able to furnish him with thirty or forty thousand pounds Sterling at the end of the present or commencement of the next Year, and that in the mean time other arrangements might be taken to pay such Bills as might become due after that Period; He added that if [Floridablanca] had candidly told him that he could not furnish him with Money to pay the Bills, he should then immediately have informed Congress of it, who would have taken of course the proper measures on the Occasion.… [Montmorin] seemed to think the Spanish Minister would pay the Bills that had been already presented.…

The Conference ended with a promise of the Count de Montmorin that he would endeavour to speak to the Count de Florida Bianca on the Subject, but that he was afraid he should not be able to do it fully until Wednesday next.

W M. C ARMICHAEL , Secretary .