Sarah Jay continued to provide information on the outcome of the election for governor of New York State, an office for which her husband John was a candidate. John Jay was a Federalist and his opponent was an Anti-Federalist. Sarah is extremely knowledgeable about the election process and details for John the arguments taking place in Otsego County over which ballots should be accepted as legal. The outcome would decide the election.
New York 10th June 1792My dear Mr. Jay,
On friday myself & the Children had the pleasure of receiving your kind letters of the last of May & first of June, since which I hope you have recd. two packets from me sent to Judge Marchant’s care by Captn. Peterson & Captn. Cahoon. I intended to send this by to-morrow’s post, but I have just heard that Captn. Peterson is again to sail on tuesday, so that I think it best to postpone it ‘till then, as I can then send you the papers & give you decisive accounts relative to the election.
At present the issue of it is doubtful, rendered so by a Quibble. If the suffrages of the people are admitted, they give you a majority of 400 Votes, but if the County of Otsego are to lose their’s, Clinton will have the majority of a small number. Yesterday was published in Childs’s paper the opinion of 8 of the principal Lawyers of the City in favor of the legality of the return of the votes. I will send you the Gazettes that contain the discussions on that question. To-morrow I am inform’d are to be published the opinions of 8 or 9 on the other side & to be signed by them. Oh how is the name of Livingston to be disgraced! Brockholst [Sarah’d brother], Edward, William S. Maturin &c. are to be of the number: those shameless men, blinded by Malice Ambition & interest have conducted themselves with such indecency during the election & daily since the Canvassing of the votes, as to open the eyes of every one respecting their views in their opposition to you. It is said, & I believe it, that Brockholst & Ned first suggested the doubts on that subject.
The Canvassers of the votes are eleven, eight of whom are partizans of Clinton, & three are in favor of you. In order, as is supposed, to Cloak themselves, they Officially asked the Opinion of [Aaron] Burr & [Rufus] King. Their Opinions have not yet been printed, but I’m inform’d by good Authority that King’s is decidedly in favor of the Old Sheriff’s being intitled to act, until a new Sheriff was commissioned to succeed. Mr. Burr (as was suppos’d) was too sore to be unbiassed, he has therefore delivered in an Opinion which like a two edged sword cuts both ways, for he declares that there was no Sheriff: which, if admitted destroys the legality of the votes & casts an Odium on the Governor for suffering so important an Office to be vacant. Should the Canvassers be hardy enough to decide against the privileges of the People, & instead of suffering them to choose a Governor, take upon themselves to give them one, it will occasion great agitation throughout the State. I am satisfyed that the sentiments of the people are with you, whether you are, or are not Governor, it appears that you are the choice of the people. . . .
Well! my dear Mr. Jay, the Canvassers have taken upon them to give the people a Governor of their election not the one the people preferred. When Governor Clinton was 108 votes a head, it was thought dangerous to examine the votes of Tioga County, it being reduced to a certainty that that County alone wd. give you a Majority independant of the Votes of Otsego. Another quibble was therefore invented, & they were likewise set aside. I am inform’d that the Recorder, Isaac Roosevelt, & Mr. Canzevort are determined to enter their protest, & likewise to publish the votes of those Counties which they think illegally thrown aside; & which if admitted would have given you a majority of a thousand votes.
The dejection, uneasiness & dissatisfaction that prevails, casts the darkest Odium upon our shameless Governor, while it makes your light shine still brighter than ever. One of the Clintonians told a gentleman of our acquaintance that he too was now convinced of the necessity of a change. Judge Hobart came last evening to Congratulate me on your triumph; I told him I really conceived it such. Peter Munro [John Jay’s nephew] is writing to you, & has promised to collect those papers which are most interesting. The hand-bill inclosed is Duer’s, but I think it best to conceal the Author’s name. Those Lawyers who had boasted their design of publishing their opinions against the votes, have taken care not to perform their promise.
Since you have so honorably lost your election, I could acquiesce in it with pleasure, did it not deprive me of the pleasure of seeing you soon & of enjoying your company for a great part of the year, but I will not dwell upon one disagreeable circumstance when so many agreeable ones concur to make me happy. Oh my dear Mr. Jay! What transport does it give me to hear the praises that are daily bestowed upon you. Much rather would I lose a Crown as you have lost the Office contended for, than gain an empire upon the terms Governor Clinton steals into his.
I find they have not yet announced in the paper the appointment of Governor. I am told that it is intended that it shd. be accompanied with the protests of Jones &c. There is such an ferment in the City that it is difficult to say what will be the consequence. I shall leave my letter unseal’d until evening shd. any thing occur in the interval that is interesting you shall be apprised of it. I am sitting in your room to write & at your table & have almost persuaded myself that I am making my communications verbally.
People are running in continually to vent their vexation. Poor Jacob Morris looks quite disconsolate. King says he thinks Clinton as lawfully Governor of Connecticut as of New York, but he knows of no redress.
Captn. Peterson is ready to sail as soon as the wind changes, I think it best therefore to close this letter & send it; I can again write to-morrow as that is Post-day if there is any thing worth writing. We are all well, & had been delighting ourselves with the prospect of seeing you soon. The Children therefore when they heard of the decision of the Canvassers exclaimed Oh! Mama then we shall not see Papa this great while. My only consolation is, that time has wings, & tho’ they will appear to me to be clogg’d, yet they will finally waft you back to us.
Till then my best beloved farewell!
Although John Jay last the election for governor of New York State in 1792, he won in the next election (1795) and served for two three-year terms during which time the state capital was moved from New York City to Albany. Subsequently Jay retired from public life to his farm in Bedford, New York, where he lived until 1829. Sadly, Sarah died in 1802 soon after they moved. Their home is now The John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, New York. A lovely farmhouse in a glorious setting, it is open to the public.
Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 210-12. The portrait of Governor George Clinton is by Ezra Ames.