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The Selected Papers of John Jay: Volume 2: 1780-1782
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The Selected Papers of John Jay: Volume 2: 1780-1782 (Hardback)

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Volume 2 of The Selected Letters of John Jay opens in January 1780 with John Jay's arrival in Spain on his first diplomatic mission abroad. It ends in June 1782 with his departure for France to join Benjamin Franklin as one of the American commissioners to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain. Jay was accompanied by his wife, Sarah Livingston Jay, his brother-in-law and private secretary, Henry Brockholst Livingston, and his young nephew, Peter Jay Munro, and by his official secretary William Carmichael. The travellers' personal letters supplement the public correspondence with American, Spanish, and French officials and financiers. The documents provide a case study of the perils of negotiating from a position of political, military, and, especially, financial weakness, and delineate the conflicts that plagued Spanish-American relations for decades. They also demonstrate the additional strains on Jay's household caused by social isolation, insufficient funds, separation from their often endangered families, and routine detention and inspection of their mail.

Jay's mission was to seek Spanish recognition of American independence, a treaty of alliance, and financial aid. Thwarted by Spain's refusal to acknowledge American independence or to receive any American diplomat as representative of an independent nation, he soon despaired of real progress in his treaty negotiations. The ministry was unsympathetic, the military situation was unpropitious, and America could offer little in exchange for Spanish aid. What Spain wanted most, exclusive control of the Mississippi Valley and the Gulf of Mexico, required American abandonment of western land claims and insistence on the right to navigate the Mississippi River, concessions congressional instructions forbade. Further undermining Jay's negotiating position were the "cursed bills" Congress drew on him in anticipation of loans it hoped Jay would obtain, but which Spain was unwilling and unable to grant. Jay became ever more critical of Spain's ""jealous and absolute"" government, which had ""little money, less wisdom, no credit, nor any right to it.""

Although Jay secured some Spanish funding, American credit was rescued primarily by further aid from France. Jay appreciated French assistance but, mindful of France's obligations to its Spanish ally, became increasingly wary of subordinating American interests to French direction. Jay's Spanish experience set the stage for his independent stance during the peace negotiations and magnified his determination to create a stronger, more unified nation that would be treated with respect abroad.

Access to people, places, and events in the volume is facilitated by detailed annotation, illustrations, and a comprehensive index.

Both John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay are deceased. Independent researcher Landa M. Freeman, lives in Guilford, Connecticut. Louise V. North, also an independent researcher, lives in Yorktown Heights, New York. Janet M. Wedge is a writing consultant and adjunct professor of English composition at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. She lives in Ossining, New York.

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