Photo of the Week
—– December 19, 2022 —–
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
Letter from George Washington, September 7, 1795
Letter from George Washington to Nine Suffolk County Residents Who Had Expressed Opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795. (Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
This rare document turned up in the Southold home of Mary Dayton, whose ancestors were among New York state’s first judges. The letter, dated September 7, 1795, was addressed to Ms. Dayton’s great-great-great grandfather, Jared Landon of Cutchogue, and eight other Suffolk County residents who had expressed opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795: David Hedges of Bridgehampton, Benjamin Huntting of Southampton, Abraham Miller of East Hampton, Benjamin Horton Jr. of Southold, Nicoll Floyd of Mastic, John Howard of Shelter Island, Josiah Reeve of Mattituck, and David Warren of Jamesport. Although we are unsure whether George Washington or a staffer actually penned the letter, it was issued from the president’s office. The letter reads:
“Gentlemen, I have received your letter of Aug 6 expressing your Sentiments on the Treaty lately negotiated between the United States and Great Britain. It is now generally known that the Treaty has received my Assent on the Condition proposed by the Senate; this was not given until after most mature deliberations. Not withstanding the Diversity of Opinion which has been manifested is much to be regretted, I cannot but hope that experience will show that the public interest required the Course which has been pursued. With due respect, I am Gentlemen, Your Obedient Geo. Washington.”
There was anger over Britain’s refusal to withdraw troops from the northwestern frontier, refusal to enter into commercial agreements, and mistreatment of crews on American ships. President Washington had sent Supreme Court Justice John Jay to negotiate with Britain, and Jay returned with a treaty in which some concessions had been gained, but not nearly as many as the American public had hoped for. The nine Suffolk County residents had sent a letter to Washington expressing doubts about the Jay Treaty that the young United States had recently signed with Great Britain.
Many Long Islanders had been imprisoned or forced to flee to Connecticut during the British occupation, and when they returned, many found that their possessions had been plundered and their homes wrecked by fire or cannonballs. In addition, Washington had been informed that David Hedges had spent seven years in a British lockup in Southampton. The President therefore took special pains to respond personally to these men of Suffolk County.
Suggested Reading: The Diary of George Washington From 1789 to 1791; Embracing the Opening of the First Congress, and His Tours Through New England, Long Island, and the Southern States, 1860.
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