Sunday, February 6, 2011

January 4, 1776

On Jan. 4, 1776, John Jay wrote to his brother Sir James Jay, who was in England. Given the tensions between England and the United Colonies, John Jay thought their correspondence should contain little regarding American politics:

"As to Politick's I can say little, nor do I desire that Your Letters should say anything on that Subject. Thus much I can say in general that Everything with us is in a good Way, and, tho' We desire Reconciliation, are well prepared for contrary Measures. This is an unnatural Quarrel, & God only knows why the British Empire should be torn to Pieces by unjust Attempts to subjugate us. Some say a great Number of Foreign Troops are coming over, but I think it somewhat uncertain whose Battles they will fight."

The Foreign Troops: Jay's letter indicates that Americans were already contemplating how to persuade German mercenaries to desert the British service by offering clemency, land and liberty.

In 1782, Congress authorized the acceptance of German prisoners who volunteer for the Continental service, noting "the Commander in Chief [George Washington] has for several years made trial of the fidelity of some of the German prisoners, who were formed into a separate Corps, and highly approves their past conduct." Charles Henry Metzger, The Prisoner in the American Revolution (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1971), 3; Gaillard Hunt, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1789: Vol. XXII: January 1-August 9, 1782 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing House, 1914), 275.

Sir James Jay: George III knighted James Jay in 1763, in recognition of his fundraising efforts for King's College in New York. Sir James remained in England until 1778.

John Jay: At different times during the Revolution, Jay served in the New York Provincial Congress and the Continental Congress (the First and the Second). In 1779, Congress appointed Jay ambassador (minister plenipotentiary) to Spain, a post in which he also served after the War of American Independence. Jay wrote five of The Federalist papers, the essays that appeared in American newspapers explaining and defending the proposed Constitution of the United States. Jay served as the Chief Justice of the United States. Jay was an opponent of slavery; his efforts to free slaves in the state of New York finally met with success, as New York implemented a plan of gradual emancipation.

Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. III: January 1-May15, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1978), 29.
Post a Comment