Item of the Day: Feature’s of Mr. Jay’s Treaty (1795)

Full Title: Features of Mr. Jay’s Treaty. To which is annexed, A View of the Commerce of the United States. As it stands at present, and as it is fixed by Mr. Jay’s Treaty. Philadelphia: Printed for Mathew Carey, by Lang and Ustick, Oct. 20, 1795.




I. The origin and progress of the negociation [sic]for the Treaty, are not calculated to excite confidence.

1. THE administration of our government have, seemingly at least, manifested a policy favourable to Great Britain, and adverse to France.

2. But the house of representatives of Congress, impressed with the general ill conduct of Great Britain toward America, were adopting measures, of a mild, though retaliating nature, to obtain redress and indemnification. The injuries complained of were, principally, 1st. The detention of the western posts—2dly. The delay in compensating for the negroes carried off at the close of the war—and 3dly, The spoliations committed on our commerce. The remedies proposed, were, principally, 1st. The commercial regulations of Mr. Madison—2dly. The non-intercourse proposition of Mr. Clarke—3dly. The sequestration motion of Mr. Dayton—4thly. An embargo—and 5thly, Military preparations.

3. Every plan of the legislature was, however, suspended, or rather annihilated, by the interposition of the executive authority; and Mr. Jay, the chief Justice of the United States, was taken from his judicial feat, to negociate [sic] with Great Britain, under the influence of the prevailing sentiment of the people, for the redress of our wrongs. Query—Are not his commission and the execution of it, at variance? Is any one of our wrongs actually redressed? Is not an atonement to Great Britain, for the injuries which she pretends to have suffered, a preliminary stipulation?

4. The political dogma of Mr. Jay are well know; his predilection, in relation to France and Great Britain, has not been disguised; and even on the topic of American complaints, his reports, while in the office of secretary of foreign affairs, and his adjudications while in the office of chief justice, were not calculated to point him out as the single citizen of America, fitted for the service in which he was employed. Query—Do not personal feelings too often dictate and govern the public conduct of its ministers? But whatever may have been his personal disqualifications, they are absorbed in the more important consideration of the apparent violence committed by Mr. Jay’s appointment, on the essential principles of the constitution. That tipic, however, has already been discussed, and we may pass to the manner of negociating the treaty in England, which was at once obscure and illusory. We heard of Mr. Jay’s diplomatic honours; of the royal and ministerial courtesy which was shewn to him, and the convivial boards to which he was invited: but, no more! Mr. Jay, enveloped by a dangerous confidence in the intuitive faculties of his own mind, or the inexhaustible fund of his diplomatic information, neither possessed nor wished for external aid; while the British negociator, besides how own acquirements, entered on the points of negociation, fraught with all the auxiliary sagacity of his brother ministers, and with all the practical knowledge of the most enlightened merchants of a commercial nation. The result corresponds with that inauspicious state of things. Mr. Jay was driven from the ground of an injured, to the ground of an agressing, party; he made atonement for imaginary wrongs, before he was allowed justice for real ones; he converted the resentments of the American citizens (under the impressions of which he was avowedly sent to England) into amity and concord; and seems to have been so anxious to rivet a commercial chain about the neck of America, that he even forgot, or disregarded, a principal item of her own produce, (cotton) in order to make a sweeping sacrifice to the insatiable appetite of his maritime antagonist. But the idea of the treaty, given by Mr. Pitt in answer to Mr. Fox, who, before he had seen, applauded it as an act of liberality and justice towards America, was the first authoritative alarm to our interests and our feelings. “When the treaty is laid before the parliament (said the minister) you will best judge whether any improper concession has been made to America!”

5. The treaty being sent here for ratification, the President and the Senate pursue the mysterious plan in which it was negociated. it has been intimated, that till the meeting of the Senate, the instrument was not communicated even to the most confidential officers of the government: and the first resolution taken by the Senate, was to stop the lips and ears of its members against every possibility of giving or receiving information. Every man, like Mr. Jay, was presumed to be inspired. In the course of the discussion, however, some occurrences flashed from beneath the veil of secrecy; and it is conjectured that the whole treaty was, at one time, in jeopardy. But the rhetoric of a minister (not remarkable for the volubility of his tongue) who was brought post-haste from the country; the danger of exposing the odium and disgrace the distinguished American characters, who would be affected by a total rejection of the treaty; and the feeble, but operative, vote of a member transported from the languor and imbecility of a sick room to decide in the Senate a great national question, whose merits he had not heard discussed; triumphed over principle, argument and decorum!

6. But still the treaty remains unratified; for, unless the British government shall assent to suspend the obnoxious twelfth article, (in favour of which, however, many patriotic members declared their readiness to vote) the whole is destroyed by the terms of the ratification: and if the British government shall agree to add an article allowing the suspension, the whole must return for the reconsideration of the Senate. But the forms of mystery are still preserved by our government; and attempts to deceive the people have been made abroad upon a vain presumption, that the treaty could remain a secret, till it became obligatory as a law. . . .



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Filed under 1790's, Commerce, Early Republic, Federalists, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

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