Digital History
Jay's Treaty
Digital History ID 195

Author:   James Monroe


Washington acted decisively to end the crisis with Britain. He sent a 3000-troop army under Anthony Wayne (1745-1796) to the Ohio country. Wayne's army overwhelmed 1000 Native Americans at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in northwestern Ohio, after destroying every Indian village on their way to the battle. Under the Treaty of Greenville (1795), Native Americans ceded much of the present-day state of Ohio in return for cash and a promise of fair treatment in land dealings.

Washington then sent Chief Justice John Jay (1745-1829) to London to seek a negotiated settlement with the British. Armed with knowledge of Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers, Jay persuaded Britain to evacuate its forts on American soil. He also got the British negotiators to agree to cease harassing American shipping (provided the ships did not carry contraband to Britain's enemies). In addition, Britain agreed to pay damages for ships it had seized and to permit the United States to trade with western Indians and carry on restricted trade with the West Indies.

Jay failed, however, to win concessions on other American grievances. The treaty said nothing about the British incitement of Native Americans, British searches for deserters on Americans ships, or compensation for slaves carried off by the British during the Revolution.

Debate over Jay's Treaty marked the full emergence of the nation's first party system. Jeffersonian Republicans denounced the treaty as craven submission to British imperial power and a sop to wealthy commercial, shipping and trading interests. Southerners were particularly vocal in their disapproval because the treaty not only ignored compensation for slaves but required them to repay prerevolutionary debts owed to British merchants while northern shippers collected damages for ships and cargoes that Britain had seized. In Boston, graffiti appeared on a wall: "Damn John Jay! Damn everyone who won't damn John Jay!! Damn everyone that won't put lights in his windows and sit up all night damning John Jay!!!"

In this letter, James Monroe, who was then serving as American Minister to France, observes that Jay's Treaty had produced deep consternation within the French government.


English papers were received here containing such accounts of your adjustment with the British administration as excited much uneasiness in the councils of this [the French] government.... At that moment however I was favored with your [letter] of the 25 of Nov[ember] intimating that the contents of the treaty could not be made known until it was ratified, that I might say it contained nothing derogatory to our existing treaties with other powers.... I proceeded therefore to make the best use in my power of the information already given.... I find you consider yourself at liberty to communicate to me the contents of the treaty, and as it is of great importance to our efforts here.... I...resume my original plan of sending a person to you...for that purpose....[I]n case I should be favored with the communication promised in cypher, it would be impossible for me to comprehend it.... It is necessary however to observe that as nothing will satisfy this government but a copy of the instrument itself, and which as our ally it thinks itself entitled to, so it will be useless for me to make to it any new communication but short of that.

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