January 01, 1783
Gen. McDougall, Col. Brooks of the Massachusetts and Col. Ogden of the Jersey Line are now here with a Petition to Congress from the Army for Pay. The Army are now disciplined and their wants as to food and Cloathing are relieved but they are not paid. Their back Accounts are not settled. If settled the Ballances are not secured by competent funds. No Provision is made for the Half-Pay promised them. Some Persons and indeed some States pretend to dispute their Claim to it. (THE ARMY HAVE SWORDS IN THEIR HANDS.1 YOU KNOW ENOUGH OF THE HISTORY OF MANKIND TO KNOW MUCH MORE THAN I HAVE SAID AND POSSIBLY MUCH MORE THAN THEY THEMSELVES YET THINK OF.) I will add however that I am glad to see Things in their present Train. Depend on it good will arise from the Situation to which we are hastening. And this you may rely on that my Efforts will not be wanting. I pledge myself to you on the present occasion and ALTHOUGH I THINK IT PROBABLE THAT MUCH OF CONVULSION WILL ENSUE, YET IT MUST TERMINATE IN GIVING TO GOVERNMENT THAT POWER WITHOUT WHICH GOVERNMENT IS BUT A NAME. GOVERNMENT IN AMERICA IS NOT POSSESSED OF IT (BUT THE PEOPLE ARE WELL PREPARED. WEARIED WITH THE WAR, THEIR ACQUIESCENCE MAY BE DEPENDED ON WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY AND YOU AND I, MY FRIEND, KNOW BY EXPERIENCE THAT WHEN A FEW MEN OF SENSE AND SPIRIT GET TOGETHER AND DECLARE THAT THEY ARE THE AUTHORITY, SUCH FEW AS ARE OF A DIFFERENT OPINION MAY EASILY BE CONVINCED OF THEIR MISTAKE BY THAT POWERFUL ARGUMENT THE HALTER. IT IS, HOWEVER, A MOST MELANCHOLY CONSIDERATION THAT A PEOPLE SHOULD REQUIRE SO MUCH OF EXPERIENCE BEFORE THEY WILL BE WISE. IT IS STILL MORE PAINFUL TO THINK THAT THIS EXPERIENCE IS ALWAYS BOUGHT SO DEAR. ON THE WISDOM OF THE PRESENT MOMENT DEPENDS MORE THAN IS EASILY IMAGINED, AND WHEN I LOOK ROUND FOR THE ACTORS—LET US CHANGE THE SUBJECT.)
1. Capitalized matter was in cipher.
John Jay: Unpublished Papers. Edited by Richard B. Morris et al. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. 2:485-86