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It gave me pleasure to receive from Dr. Edwards your letter of the 7th ult., and to converse with him on the subjects alluded to in it. My letters to you and others on your side of the water have, since my return, been few, and not very interesting. The risks to which letters are exposed in times like these, rendered me more reserved than I should otherwise have been.
You have doubtless by this time heard that Mr. Benson has been chosen the third commissioner for ascertaining the river St. Croix, intended by the treaty of peace. He is now on that business ; a better appointment could not have been made. Whatever the decision may be, both parties will, I am persuaded, have reason to be satisfied with it.
You are now placed, as you well observe, in a situation delicate and important. Your reflections on it are just and proper. The interest I take in what concerns you induces me to enlarge a little upon them.
To settle and agree on the principles which ought to govern in the capture cases, as well as the application of them to those cases, will require great care, consideration, and impartiality. The majority of the commissioners being Americans, the honour of our country will be increased or diminished by their decisions. I flatter myself they will be such as to merit the approbation of distant and disinterested generations in both countries.
It is natural that the claimants should, and they doubtless -will be, sanguine in their expectations. Some of them may be difficult to satisfy, and perhaps become clamorous. Firmness, therefore, as well as integrity and caution, will be requisite to explore and persevere in the path of justice. They who, in following her footsteps, tread upon popular prejudices, or crush the schemes of individuals, must expect clamours and resentment. The best way to prevent being perplexed by considerations of that kind is to dismiss them all, and never to permit the mind to dwell upon them for a moment. I suspect it is with men in these cases, as it is said to be with women in certain others, they who hesitate are in danger of being lost.
Although a judge may possess the best talents, and the purest intentions, yet let him keep a jealous eye over his sensibilities and attachments, lest they imperceptibly give to error too near a resemblance to truth. Nay, let him even watch over that jealousy, for the apprehension of being thought partial to one side, has a tendency to incline a delicate mind towards the other.
I am, dear sir,
Very sincerely your friend,
- New York
- The Life John Jay With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers. by His Son, William Jay in Two Volumes. Vol. II., 1833.