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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: Southern Phase, 1778-1781
Correspondence Between Washington and John Jay, August and September 1779

In the following exchange of letters between Washington and John Jay, the two men assess the international situation as it concerns Great Britian. According to the letters, what are their views of the current international scene? What evidence do these letters provide to suggest that the War for Independence had become a global war?

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John Jay to Washington, August 25, 1779

Britain refused the mediation of Spain at a Time when their Spirits were elated by their Successes in the West Indies, and the southern States; and by the accounts they received of Discord in Congress, Discontent among the People, and a Prospect of the Evils with which we were threatened by the Depreciation of our Currency. Deceived by these illusory Gleams of Hope, they permitted their Counsels to be guided by their Pride. What Reason they may have to expect Succor from other Powers, is as yet a Secret. Mr. Gerard is decided in his opinion, that they will obtain none. The Conduct of France in establishing Peace between Russia and the Porte has won the Heart of the Empress; and the Influence of Versailles at Constantinople, will probably give Duration to her Gratitude. The Emperor and Prussia are under similar obligations. The latter wishes us well, and the Finances of the former are too much exhausted to support the Expences of War without Subsidies from Britain, who at present cannot afford them. There is no Reason to suspect that the Peace of Germany will soon be interrupted. Britain may hire some Troops there, but it is not probable she will be able to do more. Portugal and the Dutch, while directed by their Interest, will not rashly raise their Hands to support a Nation, which like a Tower in an Earthquake, sliding from its Base, will crush every slender Prop that may be raised to prevent its Fall.

Washington to Jay, September 7, 1779

It really appears impossible to reconcile the conduct Britain is pursuing, to any system of prudence or policy. For the reasons you assign, appearances are against her deriving aid from other powers; and if it is truly the case, that she has rejected the mediation of Spain, without having made allies, it will exceed all past instances of her infatuation. Notwithstanding appearances, I can hardly bring myself fully to believe that it is the case; or that there is so general a combination against the interests of Britain among the European powers, as will permit them to endanger the political ballance. I think it probable enough, that the conduct of France in the affairs of the Porte and Russia will make an impression on the Empress; but I doubt whether it will be sufficient to counterballance the powerful motives she has to support England; and the Porte has been perhaps too much weakened in the last war with Russia to be overfond of renewing it. The Emperor is also the natural ally of England notwithstanding the connexions of Blood between his family and that of France; and he may prefer reasons of National policy to those of private attachment. Tis true his finances may not be in the best state, though one campaign could hardly have exhausted them, but as Holland looks up to him for her chief protection, if he should be inclined to favor England, it may give her Councils a decided biass the same way. She can easily supply what is wanting in the Article of money; and by this aid, give sinews to that confederacy. Denmark is also the natural ally of England; and though there has lately been a family bickering, her political interest may outweigh private animosity. Her marine assistance would be considerable. Portugal too, though timid and cautious at present, if she was to see connexions formed by England able to give her countenance and security, would probably declare for her interests. Russia, Denmark. The Emperor, Holland, Portugal and England would form a respectable counterpoise to the opposite scale.

Though all the maritime powers of Europe were interested in the independence of this Country, as it tended to diminish the overgrown power of Britain, yet they may be unwilling to see too great a preponderacy on the side of her rivals; and when the question changes itself from the separation of America to the ruin of England as a Naval power, I should not be surprised at a proportionable change in the sentiments of some of those States which have been heretofore unconcerned Spectators or inclining to our side. I suggest these things rather as possible than probable; it is even to be expected that the decisive blow will be struck, before the interposition of the Allies England may acquire can have effect. But still as possible events, they ought to have their influence and prevent our relaxing in any measures necessary for our safety, on the supposition of a speedy peace or removal of the War from the present Theatre in America.

The account which Mr. Wharton received, of the reinforcement that came with Adml. Arbuthnot, corresponds pretty well, with respect to number, with the best information I have been able to obtain upon the subject. Some recent advices make it about Three thousand, and say that these Troops are rather in a sickly condition. It is generally said, that they are Recruits; but whether there is so great a proportion of them Scotch as his intelligence mentions, is not ascertained by any accounts I have received. . . .
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