Biography of John Jay - History

Biography of John Jay - History

Jay, John (1745-1829) Diplomat, President of the Continental Congress: Jay was admitted to the bar in 1768, and served as clerk of the New York-New Jersey Boundary Commission the next year. As revolutionary sentiments spread across the colonies, Jay took a somewhat conservative view, emphasizing caution and promoting compromise with Great Britain. As a member of the Continental Congress and the New York Provincial Congress, he opposed the Declaration of Independence until after it was officially issued. Having accepted the revolution, he applied himself to the Provincial Congress, particularly the Committee for the Detecting of Conspiracies and the committee assigned to draft a constitution for New York. At the Constitutional Convention, Jay helped draft the final version of the 1777 Constitution, and was elected the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York State.

Jay was president of the Continental Congress during one of its most difficult periods, with diplomatic crises, land disputes, and military difficulties. After serving as Minister to Spain, he took his family with him as he joined the American Peace Commission in Paris. In 1782, Jay became Peace Commissioner, joining Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in negotiating with the British. Once a treaty was ratified, he returned home, and was appointed Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He remained in that position until the new Constitution-created federal government appointed him the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Serving as both Chief Justice and minister to Britain, Jay negotiated the controversial Jay Treaty of 1794. The following year, he resigned his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and became Governor of New York. After a second term in office, he retired to his country estate in Bedford New York.

Biography of John Jay - History

John Jay's long and eventful life, from 1745 to 1829, encompassed the movement for American independence and the creation of a new nation — both processes in which he played a full part. His achievements were many, varied and of key importance in the birth and early years of the fledgling nation. Although he did not initially favor separation from Britain, he was nonetheless among the American commissioners who negotiated the peace with Great Britain that secured independence for the former colonies. Serving the new republic he was Secretary for Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation, a contributor to the Federalist, the first Chief Justice of the United States, negotiator of the 1794 "Jay Treaty" with Great Britain, and a two-term Governor of the State of New York. In his personal life, Jay embraced a wide range of social and cultural concerns.

His paternal grandfather, Augustus (1665-1751), established the Jay family's presence in America. Unable to remain in France when the rights of Protestants were abolished by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Augustus eventually settled in New York where, with an advantageous marriage and a thriving mercantile business, he established a strong foundation for his descendants. His son Peter, like Augustus a merchant, had ten children with his wife Mary Van Cortlandt, seven of them surviving into adulthood. John was the sixth of these seven. Shortly after John's birth, his family moved from Manhattan to Rye in order to provide a more salubrious environment for the raising of John's elder siblings, two of whom had been struck by blindness following the smallpox epidemic of 1739 and two others of whom suffered from mental handicaps.

Educated in his early years by private tutors, Jay entered the newly-founded King's College, the future Columbia University, in the late summer of 1760. There, he underwent the conventional classical education, graduating in 1764, when he became a law clerk in the office of Benjamin Kissam. On admission to the bar in 1768 Jay established a legal practice with Robert R. Livingston, Jr., scion of the "Lower Manor" branch of the Livingston family, before operating his own law office from 1771. Among other tasks during these years, Jay served as clerk of the New York-New Jersey Boundary Commission.

In the spring of 1774, Jay's life took two momentous turns. In April he married Sarah Livingston (1756-1802), the daughter of New Jersey Governor William Livingston, thus gaining important connections to a politically powerful Colonial family. In May he was swept into New York politics, largely as a result of the worsening relations with Great Britain. New York conservatives, seeking to outmaneuver more radical responses to the Intolerable Acts, nominated a "committee of 50," including Jay, to arrange the election of delegates to a Continental Congress. Throughout the revolutionary struggle, Jay followed a course of moderation, separating himself clearly from loyalists but resisting what he considered the extremism of more radical politicians. Thus, in the months before Independence he favored exploring the possibilities of rapprochement fully, helping to draft the Olive Branch Petition as a delegate to the second Continental Congress. As a delegate to the New York Convention of 1776-77, Jay had a formative influence in shaping the new state's constitution. Jay remained an important actor at the state level, becoming the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court before moving to the national arena to assume the Presidency of Congress in late 1778.

The fall of 1779 found Jay selected for a mission to Spain, where he spent a frustrating three years seeking diplomatic recognition, financial support and a treaty of alliance and commerce. He was to spend the next four years abroad in his nation's service both as commissioner to Spain and then in Paris, where he was a member of the American delegation that negotiated the peace terms ending America's War of Independence with Britain. This process culminated with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in September 1783.

He returned to the United States in July, 1784 to discover that he had, in his absence, been elected Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In that role he was confronted by difficult issues stemming from violations of the Treaty of Paris by both countries — issues that he would later revisit in negotiations with Britain in 1794 and which would be addressed again in the resulting "Jay Treaty." Beyond his dealings with Great Britain, Jay succeeded in having the French accept a revised version of the Consular Convention that Franklin had earlier negotiated he attempted to negotiate a treaty with Spain in which commercial benefits would have been exchanged for a renunciation of American access to the Mississippi for a number of years and he endeavored, with limited resources, to secure the freedom of Americans captured and held for ransom in Algiers by so-called Barbary pirates. The frustrations he suffered as Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a post he held until 1789, clearly impressed upon him the need to construct a government more powerful than that under the Articles of Confederation. Though not selected to attend the Philadelphia Convention, he was a leading proponent of the principles that the new Constitution embodied and played a critical role in its ratification.

In 1787 and 1788 Jay collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison on the Federalist, authoring essays numbers two, three, four, five and, following an illness, sixty-four, thus contributing to the political arguments and intellectual discourse that led to Constitution's ratification. Jay also played a key role in shepherding the Constitution through the New York State Ratification Convention in the face of vigorous opposition. In this battle Jay relied not only on skillful political maneuvering, he also produced a pamphlet, "An Address to the People of New York," that powerfully restated the Federalist case for the new Constitution.

In 1789, Washington appointed John Jay Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court. Though none too pleased with the rigors of riding circuit, Jay used his position to expound upon the inviolability of contracts whether in the supportive climate of New England or the hostile environment of Virginia. He was always a committed nationalist, and indeed the opinion he rendered in Chisholm v. Georgia provoked the adoption of the states rights-oriented Eleventh Amendment. Throughout his time on the bench, Jay was an outspoken presence in national politics, actively interceding, for example, in the Genet affair of 1793.

In April of 1794 Washington selected John Jay to negotiate a treaty with Great Britain aimed at resolving outstanding issues between the two nations. The resulting "Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation," commonly referred to as the "Jay Treaty," was extremely controversial. Critics charged that it failed to address British impressment of American sailors or provide compensation for those slaves that the British had taken with them during the Revolutionary war. The Treaty's unpopularity played a significant role in the development of an organized opposition to the Federalists.

On his return from London in 1795, Jay discovered that, in his absence, he had been elected the new Governor of New York, a position that he had sought three years earlier only to be frustrated, in controversial circumstances, by the incumbent, George Clinton. During his two terms as governor, Jay confronted issues ranging from Indian affairs, to the fortification of the city's harbor in advance of a suspected French attack, to the construction of a new state prison.

On his retirement from public life in 1801, Jay maintained a close interest in state and national affairs, evidenced in his correspondence with his sons, Peter Augustus, who was active in local Federalist political circles, and William, who, among other things, became an outspoken abolitionist. In his retirement Jay also pursued a number of intellectual and benevolent interests, becoming President of the American Bible Society, maintaining an interest in the anti-slavery movement and keeping up a correspondence with agricultural reformers about latest developments in that field.

Jay died on May 17, 1829, at the age of 83. His longevity enabled biographers and early historians of the founding era to draw directly upon his personal recollections of the people and events of the early years of the nation. In his later years, Jay's own correspondence with various members of the founding generation revealed a keen interest in ensuring an accurate appraisal of his own role in the momentous events of that time.

Biography of John Jay - History

Revolutionary leader, statesman, and jurist John Jay lived in a rented residence on State Street while serving as Governor of New York State from 1795 to 1801. He also provided interesting commentary when he was in Albany on public business during the War for Independance.

John Jay was born in New York in 1745. He died in at his home in Westchester County in 1829. In 1774, he married Sara Van Brugh Livingston - daughter of the Albany-born governor of New Jersey and a descendant of Albany founder Robert Livingston. The marriage produced seven children. His daughter, Maria, married Goldsbrow Banyar, Jr. and remained in Albany long after her parents had left. He was the brother of one-time Albany minister's wife Eva Jay Munro and mentor of her son, Peter Jay Munro.

Not knowing if the legislature would remain in Albany , he first rented two rooms while his family remained in New York. But, soon, he acquired and resided at 60 State Street in a home formerly belonging to James Caldwell. In 1800, the census revealed that his household consisted eight family members and five slaves.

The Slave Manumission Act of 1799 was passed during his term of office. Although a slaveholder himself, John Jay had been a leading figure of the anti-slavery movement in New York State.

Jay rarely (if ever) came to Albany before being elected governor. In 1801, he retired to a family farm in Bedford, Westchester County. Perhaps, he never returned to the "State Capital" - dying in Westchester in May 1829.

Sources: The life of John Jay has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This profile focusing on Jay's life in Albany is derived chiefly from community-based resources. The Jay Papers project at Columbia University provides a convenient focal point. See also, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary - Unpublished Papers, 1745-1780, edited by Richard B. Morris (New York, 1975).

Portrait: by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) and John Trumbull (1756-1843) Oil on canvas, begun in 1784 completed by 1818 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

John Jay - (1745 - 1829)

Among the many thousands of the Huguenots of France who fled to England and America toward the close of the seventeenth century, to escape fiery persecutions, was Augustus Jay, a young merchant. He landed at Charleston, in South Carolina, but soon proceeded northward, and settled in the city of New York. There he married the daughter of Balthazar Bayard, one of the refugees who came with the New Rochelle colony.1 These were the grand-parents of John Jay, the venerated American patriot and statesman. He was born in the city of New York, on the 12th of December, 1745. At eight years of age he was placed in a boarding school at New Rochelle, and at fourteen he entered King's (now Columbia) College, as a student. He was an apt scholar, and gave early promises of his subsequent brilliant career. He was graduated in 1764, bearing the highest honors of the college, and commenced the study of law under Benjamin Kissam. He was admitted to the bar in 1768, and ascended rapidly to eminence in his profession. In 1774, he was married to the daughter of that sturdy patriot, William Livingston (afterward governor of New Jersey), and entered the political field, with great ardor, as the champion of popular rights. He was one of the most prominent members of the New York committee of correspondence, in the Spring of 1774, and in September following, he took u seat in the first Continental Congress. He was the youngest member of that body, being

Popular John Jay quotes

Founding Father Quote #1331

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. John Jay: 1784

Founding Father Quote #675

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. John Jay: Unknown

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Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers. John Jay: The Federalist Papers - 1787
The Federalist Papers

Geneology of John Jay

Sarah Van Burgh Livingston Jay (1756 - 1802)

Peter Augustus Jay (1776 - 1843)
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Biography for John Jay (1745 - 1829)
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Anti-Federalist Papers 1787 - 1788
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The Federalist Papers 1787 - 1788
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven were published serially in The Independent Journal and The
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Family history Edit

The Jays were a prominent merchant family in New York City, descended from Huguenots who had come to New York to escape religious persecution in France. In 1685, the Edict of Nantes had been revoked, thereby abolishing the rights of Protestants, and the French Crown proceeded to confiscate their property. Among those affected was Jay's paternal grandfather, Auguste Jay. He moved from France to Charleston, South Carolina and then New York, where he built a successful merchant empire. [2] Jay's father, Peter Jay, born in New York City in 1704, became a wealthy trader in furs, wheat, timber, and other commodities. [3]

Jay's mother was Mary Van Cortlandt, of Dutch ancestry, who had married Peter Jay in 1728 in the Dutch Church. [3] They had ten children together, seven of whom survived into adulthood. [4] Mary's father, Jacobus Van Cortlandt, was born in New Amsterdam in 1658. Cortlandt served in the New York Assembly, was twice elected as mayor of New York City, and also held a variety of judicial and military offices. Both Mary and his son Frederick Cortlandt married into the Jay family.

Jay was born on December 23, 1745 (following the Gregorian calendar, December 12 following the Julian calendar), in New York City three months later the family moved to Rye, New York. Peter Jay had retired from business following a smallpox epidemic two of his children contracted the disease and suffered blindness. [5]

Education Edit

Jay spent his childhood in Rye. He was educated there by his mother until he was eight years old, when he was sent to New Rochelle to study under Anglican priest Pierre Stoupe. [6] In 1756, after three years, he would return to homeschooling in Rye under the tutelage of his mother and George Murray.

In 1760, 14-year-old Jay entered King's College (later renamed Columbia College) in New York City. [7] [8] There he made many influential friends, including his closest, Robert Livingston, the son of a prominent New York aristocrat and Supreme Court justice. [9] Jay took the same political stand as his father, a staunch Whig. [10] Upon graduating in 1764 [11] he became a law clerk for Benjamin Kissam (1728–1782), a prominent lawyer, politician, and sought-after instructor in the law. In addition to Jay, Kissam's students included Lindley Murray. [4]

Entrance into law and politics Edit

In 1768, after reading law and being admitted to the bar of New York, Jay, with the money from the government, established a legal practice and worked there until he created his own law office in 1771. [4] He was a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence in 1774 [12] and became its secretary, which was his first public role in the revolution.

Jay represented the conservative faction that was interested in protecting property rights and in preserving the rule of law, while resisting what it regarded as British violations of American rights. [ citation needed ] This faction feared the prospect of "mob rule". He believed the British tax measures were wrong and thought Americans were morally and legally justified in resisting them, but as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, [13] Jay sided with those who wanted conciliation with Parliament. Events such as the burning of Norfolk, Virginia, by British troops in January 1776 pushed Jay to support independence. With the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, he worked tirelessly for the revolutionary cause and acted to suppress the Loyalists. Jay evolved into first a moderate, and then an ardent Patriot, because he had decided that all the colonies' efforts at reconciliation with Britain were fruitless and that the struggle for independence, which became the Revolutionary War, was inevitable. [14] In 1780, Jay was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. [15]

On April 28, 1774, Jay married Sarah Van Brugh Livingston, eldest daughter of the New Jersey Governor William Livingston and his wife. At the time of the marriage, Sarah was seventeen years old and John was twenty-eight. [16] Together they had six children: Peter Augustus, Susan, Maria, Ann, William, and Sarah Louisa. She accompanied Jay to Spain and later was with him in Paris, where they and their children resided with Benjamin Franklin at Passy. [17] Jay's brother-in-law Henry Brock Livingston was lost at sea through the disappearance of the Continental Navy ship Saratoga during the Revolutionary War. While in Paris, as a diplomat to France, Jay's father died. This event forced extra responsibility onto Jay. His brother and sister Peter and Anna, both blinded by smallpox in childhood, [18] became his responsibility. His brother Augustus suffered from mental disabilities that required Jay to provide not only financial but emotional support. His brother Fredrick was in constant financial trouble, causing Jay additional stress. Meanwhile, his brother James was in direct opposition in the political arena, joining the loyalist faction of the New York State Senate at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, which made him an embarrassment to Jay's family. [19]

Jay family homes in Rye and Bedford Edit

Two of Jay's homes, both located in Westchester County, have been designated National Historic Landmarks.

From the age of three months old until he attended Kings College in 1760, Jay was raised in Rye, [20] on a farm acquired by his father Peter in 1745 that overlooked Long Island Sound. [21] After negotiating the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War, Jay returned to his childhood home to celebrate with his family and friends in July 1784. [22] Jay inherited this property upon the death of his older brother Peter in 1813 after Jay had already established himself at Katonah. He conveyed the Rye property to his eldest son, Peter Augustus Jay, in 1822.

What remains of the original 400-acre (1.6 km 2 ) property is a 23-acre (93,000 m 2 ) parcel called the Jay Estate. In the center rises the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House, built by Peter Augustus Jay over the footprint of his father's ancestral home, "The Locusts" pieces of the original 18th century farmhouse were incorporated into the 19th century structure. Stewardship of the site and several of its buildings for educational use was entrusted in 1990 by the New York State Board of Regents to the Jay Heritage Center. [23] [24] In 2013, the non-profit Jay Heritage Center was also awarded stewardship and management of the site's landscape which includes a meadow and gardens. [25] [26]

As an adult, Jay inherited land from his grandparents and built Bedford House, located near Katonah, New York where he moved in 1801 with his wife Sarah to pursue retirement. This property passed down to their younger son William Jay and his descendants. It was acquired by New York State in 1958 and named "The John Jay Homestead." Today this 62 acre park is preserved as the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site. [27]

Both homes in Rye and Katonah are open to the public for tours and programs.

Record on slavery Edit

—John Jay, February 27, 1792

In spite of being a founder of the New York Manumission Society, Jay is recorded as owning five slaves in the 1790 and 1800 U.S. censuses, and one slave in the 1810 census. Rather than advocating immediate emancipation, he continued to purchase enslaved people and to manumit them once he considered their work to "have afforded a reasonable retribution.” [28] Abolitionism following the American Revolution contained some Quaker and Methodist principles of Christian brotherly love, but was also influenced by concerns about the growth of the black population within the United States and the 'degradation' of blacks under slavery. [29] [30]

In 1774 Jay drafted the 'Address to the People of Great Britain', [31] which compared American chattel slavery to British tyranny. [32] Such comparisons between American slavery and British policy had been made regularly by American Patriots starting with James Otis, but took little account of the far harsher reality of chattel slavery. [33] Jay was the founder and president of the New York Manumission Society in 1785, which organized boycotts against newspapers and merchants involved in the slave trade, and provided legal counsel to free blacks. [34]

The Society helped enact the 1799 law for gradual emancipation of slaves in New York, which Jay signed into law as governor. "An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery" provided that, from July 4 of that year, all children born to slave parents would be free (subject to lengthy apprenticeships) and that slave exports would be prohibited. These same children would be required to serve the mother's owner until age 28 for males and age 25 for females, years beyond the typical period of indenture. It did not provide government payment of compensation to slave owners, but failed to free people who were already enslaved as of 1799. The act provided legal protection and assistance for free blacks kidnapped for the purposes of being sold into slavery. [35] All slaves were emancipated by July 4, 1827. [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]

In the close 1792 election, Jay's antislavery work was thought to hurt his election chances in upstate New York Dutch areas, where slavery was still practiced. [41] In 1794, in the process of negotiating the Jay Treaty with the British, Jay angered many Southern slave-owners when he dropped their demands for compensation for slaves who had been freed and transported by the British to other areas after the Revolution. [42]

Religion Edit

Jay was a member of the Church of England, and later of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America after the American Revolution. Since 1785, Jay had been a warden of Trinity Church, New York. As Congress's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he supported the proposal after the Revolution that the Archbishop of Canterbury approve the ordination of bishops for the Episcopal Church in the United States. [43] He argued unsuccessfully in the provincial convention for a prohibition against Catholics holding office. [44] While considering New York's Constitution, Jay also suggested erecting "a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics." [45]

Jay, who served as vice-president (1816–21) and president (1821–27) of the American Bible Society, [46] believed that the most effective way of ensuring world peace was through propagation of the Christian gospel. In a letter addressed to Pennsylvania House of Representatives member John Murray, dated October 12, 1816, Jay wrote, "Real Christians will abstain from violating the rights of others, and therefore will not provoke war. Almost all nations have peace or war at the will and pleasure of rulers whom they do not elect, and who are not always wise or virtuous. Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers." [47] He also expressed a belief that the moral precepts of Christianity were necessary for good government, saying, "No human society has ever been able to maintain both order and freedom, both cohesiveness and liberty apart from the moral precepts of the Christian Religion. Should our Republic ever forget this fundamental precept of governance, we will then, be surely doomed." [48]

Having established a reputation as a reasonable moderate in New York, Jay was elected to serve as delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses which debated whether the colonies should declare independence. Jay was originally in favor of rapprochement. He helped write the Olive Branch Petition which urged the British government to reconcile with the colonies. As the necessity and inevitability of war became evident, Jay threw his support behind the revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Jay's views became more radical as events unfolded he became an ardent separatist and attempted to move New York towards that cause.

In 1774, upon the conclusion of the Continental Congress, Jay elected to return to New York. [50] There he served on New York City's Committee of Sixty, [51] where he attempted to enforce a non-importation agreement passed by the First Continental Congress. [50] Jay was elected to the third New York Provincial Congress, where he drafted the Constitution of New York, 1777 [52] his duties as a New York Congressman prevented him from voting on or signing the Declaration of Independence. [50] Jay served for several months on the New York Committee to Detect and Defeat Conspiracies, which monitored and combated Loyalist activity. [53] New York's Provincial Congress elected Jay the Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature on May 8, 1777, [50] [54] which he served on for two years. [50]

The Continental Congress turned to Jay, a political adversary of the previous president Henry Laurens, only three days after Jay became a delegate and elected him President of the Continental Congress. In previous congresses, Jay had moved from a position of seeking conciliation with Britain to advocating separation sooner than Laurens. Eight states voted for Jay and four for Laurens. Jay served as President of the Continental Congress from December 10, 1778, to September 28, 1779. It was a largely ceremonial position without real power, and indicated the resolve of the majority and the commitment of the Continental Congress. [55]

Minister to Spain Edit

On September 27, 1779, Jay was appointed Minister to Spain. His mission was to get financial aid, commercial treaties and recognition of American independence. The royal court of Spain refused to officially receive Jay as the Minister of the United States, [56] as it refused to recognize American independence until 1783, fearing that such recognition could spark revolution in their own colonies. Jay, however, convinced Spain to loan $170,000 to the U.S. government. [57] He departed Spain on May 20, 1782. [56]

Peace Commissioner Edit

On June 23, 1782, Jay reached Paris, where negotiations to end the American Revolutionary War would take place. [58] Benjamin Franklin was the most experienced diplomat of the group, and thus Jay wished to lodge near him, in order to learn from him. [59] The United States agreed to negotiate with Britain separately, then with France. [60] In July 1782, the Earl of Shelburne offered the Americans independence, but Jay rejected the offer on the grounds that it did not recognize American independence during the negotiations Jay's dissent halted negotiations until the fall. [60] The final treaty dictated that the United States would have Newfoundland fishing rights, Britain would acknowledge the United States as independent and would withdraw its troops in exchange for the United States ending the seizure of Loyalist property and honoring private debts. [60] [61] The treaty granted the United States independence, but left many border regions in dispute, and many of its provisions were not enforced. [60] John Adams credited Jay with having the central role in the negotiations noting he was "of more importance than any of the rest of us." [62]

Jay's peacemaking skills were further applauded by New York Mayor James Duane on October 4, 1784. At that time, Jay was summoned from his family seat in Rye to receive "the Freedom" of New York City as a tribute to his successful negotiations. [63]

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Edit

Jay served as the second Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 1784 to 1789, when in September, Congress passed a law giving certain additional domestic responsibilities to the new Department and changing its name to the Department of State. Jay served as acting Secretary of State until March 22, 1790. Jay sought to establish a strong and durable American foreign policy: to seek the recognition of the young independent nation by powerful and established foreign European powers to establish a stable American currency and credit supported at first by financial loans from European banks to pay back America's creditors and to quickly pay off the country's heavy War-debt to secure the infant nation's territorial boundaries under the most-advantageous terms possible and against possible incursions by the Indians, Spanish, the French and the English to solve regional difficulties among the colonies themselves to secure Newfoundland fishing rights to establish a robust maritime trade for American goods with new economic trading partners to protect American trading vessels against piracy to preserve America's reputation at home and abroad and to hold the country together politically under the fledgling Articles of Confederation. [64]

Jay believed his responsibility was not matched by a commensurate level of authority, so he joined Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in advocating for a stronger government than the one dictated by the Articles of Confederation. [4] [67] He argued in his "Address to the People of the State of New-York, on the Subject of the Federal Constitution" that the Articles of Confederation were too weak and an ineffective form of government, contending:

The Congress under the Articles of Confederation may make war, but are not empowered to raise men or money to carry it on—they may make peace, but without power to see the terms of it observed—they may form alliances, but without ability to comply with the stipulations on their part—they may enter into treaties of commerce, but without power to [e]nforce them at home or abroad . —In short, they may consult, and deliberate, and recommend, and make requisitions, and they who please may regard them. [68]

Jay did not attend the Constitutional Convention but joined Hamilton and Madison in aggressively arguing in favor of the creation of a new and more powerful, centralized but balanced system of government. Writing under the shared pseudonym of "Publius," [69] they articulated this vision in The Federalist Papers, a series of eighty-five articles written to persuade New York state convention members to ratify the proposed Constitution of the United States. [70] Jay wrote the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixty-fourth articles. The second through the fifth are on the topic "Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence." The sixty-fourth discusses the role of the Senate in making foreign treaties. [71]

In September 1789, Jay declined George Washington's offer of the position of Secretary of State (which was technically a new position but would have continued Jay's service as Secretary of Foreign Affairs). Washington responded by offering him the new title, which Washington stated "must be regarded as the keystone of our political fabric," as Chief Justice of the United States, which Jay accepted. Washington officially nominated Jay on September 24, 1789, the same day he signed the Judiciary Act of 1789 (which created the position of Chief Justice) into law. [67] Jay was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate on September 26, 1789 Washington signed and sealed Jay's commission the same day. Jay swore his oath of office on October 19, 1789. [72] Washington also nominated John Rutledge, William Cushing, Robert Harrison, James Wilson, and John Blair Jr. as Associate Judges. [73] Harrison declined the appointment, however, and Washington appointed James Iredell to fill the final seat on the Court. [74] Jay would later serve with Thomas Johnson, [75] who took Rutledge's seat, [76] and William Paterson, who took Johnson's seat. [76] While Chief Justice, Jay was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1790. [77] Jay served as Circuit Justice for the Eastern Circuit from the Spring of 1790, until the Spring of 1792. [78] He served as Circuit Justice for the Middle Circuit from the Spring of 1793, until the Spring of 1794. [78]

The Court's business through its first three years primarily involved the establishment of rules and procedure reading of commissions and admission of attorneys to the bar and the Justices' duties in "riding circuit," or presiding over cases in the circuit courts of the various federal judicial districts. No convention then precluded the involvement of Supreme Court Justices in political affairs, and Jay used his light workload as a Justice to participate freely in the business of Washington's administration.

Jay used his circuit riding to spread word throughout the states of Washington's commitment to neutrality and published reports of French minister Edmond-Charles Genet's campaign to win American support for France. However, Jay also established an early precedent for the Court's independence in 1790, when Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrote to Jay requesting the Court's endorsement of legislation that would assume the debts of the states. Jay replied that the Court's business was restricted to ruling on the constitutionality of cases being tried before it and refused to allow it to take a position for or against the legislation. [79]

Cases Edit

—John Jay in the court opinion of Chisholm v. Georgia [80]

The Court heard only four cases during Jay's Chief Justiceship.

Its first case did not occur until early in the Court's third term, with West v. Barnes (1791). The Court had an early opportunity to establish the principle of judicial review in the United States with the case, which involved a Rhode Island state statute permitting the lodging of a debt payment in paper currency. Instead of grappling with the constitutionality of the law, however, the Court unanimously decided the case on procedural grounds, strictly interpreting statutory requirements. [73]

In Hayburn's Case (1792), the Jay Court made no decision other than to continue the case later, and in the meantime, Congress changed the law. The case was about whether a federal statute could require the courts to decide whether petitioning veterans of the American Revolution qualified for pensions, a non-judicial function. The Jay Court wrote a letter to President Washington to say that determining whether petitioners qualified was an "act . not of a judicial nature" [81] and that because the statute allowed the legislative branch and the executive branch to revise the court's ruling, the statute violated the separation of powers of the US Constitution. [81] [82] [83]

In Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), the Jay Court had to decide if the state of Georgia was subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the federal government. [84] In a 4–1 ruling (Iredell dissented, and Rutledge did not participate), the Jay Court ruled in favor of Loyalists of two South Carolina whose land had been seized by Georgia. That ruling sparked debate, as it implied that old debts must be paid to Loyalists. [73] The ruling was overturned when the Eleventh Amendment was ratified, which stated that a state could not be sued by a citizen of another state or foreign country. [4] [73] The case was brought again to the Supreme Court in Georgia v. Brailsford, and the Court reversed its decision. [85] [86] However, Jay's original Chisholm decision established that states were subject to judicial review. [84] [87]

In Georgia v. Brailsford (1794), the Court upheld jury instructions stating "you [jurors] have . a right to take upon yourselves to . determine the law as well as the fact in controversy." Jay noted for the jury the "good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide," but that amounted to no more than a presumption that the judges were correct about the law. Ultimately, "both objects [the law and the facts] are lawfully within your power of decision." [88] [89]

In 1792, Jay was the Federalist candidate for governor of New York, but he was defeated by Democratic-Republican George Clinton. Jay received more votes than George Clinton but, on technicalities, the votes of Otsego, Tioga and Clinton counties were disqualified and, therefore, not counted, giving George Clinton a slight plurality. [90] The State constitution said that the cast votes shall be delivered to the secretary of state "by the sheriff or his deputy" but, for example, the Otsego County Sheriff's term had expired, so that legally, at the time of the election, the office of Sheriff was vacant and the votes could not be brought to the State capital. Clinton partisans in the State legislature, the State courts, and Federal offices were determined not to accept any argument that this would, in practice, violate the constitutional right to vote of the voters in these counties. Consequently, these votes were disqualified. [91]

Relations with Britain verged on war in 1794. British exports dominated the U.S. market, and American exports were blocked by British trade restrictions and tariffs. Britain still occupied northern forts that it had agreed to abandon in the Treaty of Paris. Britain's impressment of American sailors and seizure of naval and military supplies bound to French ports on neutral American ships also created conflict. [92] Madison proposed a trade war, "A direct system of commercial hostility with Great Britain," assuming that Britain was so weakened by its war with France that it would agree to American terms and not declare war. [93]

Washington rejected that policy and sent Jay as a special envoy to Great Britain to negotiate a new treaty Jay remained Chief Justice. Washington had Alexander Hamilton write instructions for Jay that were to guide him in the negotiations. [94] In March 1795, the resulting treaty, known as the Jay Treaty, was brought to Philadelphia. [94] When Hamilton, in an attempt to maintain good relations, informed Britain that the United States would not join the Danish and Swedish governments to defend their neutral status, Jay lost most of his leverage. The treaty ended Britain's control of their northwestern forts [95] and granted the U.S. "most favored nation" status. [92] The U.S. agreed to restricted commercial access to the British West Indies. [92]

The treaty did not resolve American grievances about neutral shipping rights and impressment, [42] and the Democratic-Republicans denounced it, but Jay, as Chief Justice, decided not to take part in the debates. [96] The continued British impressment of American sailors would be a cause of the War of 1812. [97] The failure to receive compensation for slaves which were freed by the British and transported away during the Revolutionary War "was a major reason for the bitter Southern opposition". [98] Jefferson and Madison, fearing that a commercial alliance with aristocratic Britain might undercut republicanism, led the opposition. However, Washington put his prestige behind the treaty, and Hamilton and the Federalists mobilized public opinion. [99] The Senate ratified the treaty by a 20–10 vote, exactly by the two-thirds majority required. [92] [95]

Democratic-Republicans were incensed at what they perceived as a betrayal of American interests, and Jay was denounced by protesters with such graffiti as "Damn John Jay! Damn everyone who won't damn John Jay!! Damn everyone that won't put lights in his windows and sit up all night damning John Jay. " One newspaper editor wrote, "John Jay, ah! the arch traitor – seize him, drown him, burn him, flay him alive." [100] Jay himself quipped that he could travel at night from Boston to Philadelphia solely by the light of his burning effigies. [101]

While in Britain, Jay was elected in May 1795, as the second governor of New York (succeeding George Clinton) as a Federalist. He resigned from the Supreme Court service on June 29, 1795, and served six years as governor until 1801.

As governor, he received a proposal from Hamilton to gerrymander New York for the presidential election of 1796 he marked the letter "Proposing a measure for party purposes which it would not become me to adopt", and filed it without replying. [102] President John Adams then renominated him to the Supreme Court the Senate quickly confirmed him, but he declined, citing his own poor health [67] and the court's lack of "the energy, weight and dignity which are essential to its affording due support to the national government." [103] After Jay's rejection of the position, Adams successfully nominated John Marshall as Chief Justice.

While governor, Jay ran in the 1796 presidential election, winning five electoral votes, and in the 1800 election he won one vote cast to prevent a tie between the two main Federalist candidates.

In 1801, Jay declined both the Federalist renomination for governor and a Senate-confirmed nomination to resume his former office as Chief Justice of the United States and retired to the life of a farmer in Westchester County, New York. Soon after his retirement, his wife died. [104] Jay remained in good health, continued to farm and, with one notable exception, stayed out of politics. [105] In 1819, he wrote a letter condemning Missouri's bid for admission to the union as a slave state, saying that slavery "ought not to be introduced nor permitted in any of the new states." [106]

Midway through Jay's retirement in 1814, both he and his son Peter Augustus Jay were elected members of the American Antiquarian Society. [107]

On the night of May 14, 1829, Jay was stricken with palsy, probably caused by a stroke. He lived for three days, dying in Bedford, New York, on May 17. [108] Jay had chosen to be buried in Rye, where he lived as a boy. In 1807, he had transferred the remains of his wife Sarah Livingston and those of his colonial ancestors from the family vault in the Bowery in Manhattan to Rye, establishing a private cemetery. Today, the Jay Cemetery is an integral part of the Boston Post Road Historic District, adjacent to the historic Jay Estate. The Cemetery is maintained by the Jay descendants and closed to the public. It is the oldest active cemetery associated with a figure from the American Revolution.

In place names Edit

Geographic locations Edit

Several geographical locations within his home state of New York were named for him, including the colonial Fort Jay on Governors Island and John Jay Park in Manhattan which was designed in part by his great, great granddaughter Mary Rutherfurd Jay. Other places named for him include the towns of Jay in Maine, New York, and Vermont Jay County, Indiana. [109] Mount John Jay, also known as Boundary Peak 18, a summit on the border between Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, is also named for him, [110] [111] as is Jay Peak in northern Vermont. [112]

Schools and universities Edit

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, formerly known as the College of Police Science at City University of New York, was renamed for Jay in 1964.

At Columbia University, exceptional undergraduates are designated John Jay Scholars, and one of that university's undergraduate dormitories is known as John Jay Hall.

In suburban Pittsburgh, the John Jay Center houses the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science at Robert Morris University.

High schools named after Jay include:

The John Jay Institute, located outside Philadelphia, is the only independent faith-based organization in America exclusively dedicated to preparing principled leaders for public service. Their website is

Postage Edit

In Jay's hometown of Rye, New York, the Rye Post Office issued a special cancellation stamp on September 5, 1936. To further commemorate Jay, a group led by Congresswoman Caroline Love Goodwin O'Day commissioned painter Guy Pene du Bois to create a mural for the post office's lobby, with federal funding from the Works Progress Administration. Titled John Jay at His Home, the mural was completed in 1938.

On December 12, 1958, the United States Postal Service released a 15¢ Liberty Issue postage stamp honoring Jay. [113]

Papers Edit

The Selected Papers of John Jay is an ongoing endeavor by scholars at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library to organize, transcribe and publish a wide range of politically and culturally important letters authored by and written to Jay that demonstrate the depth and breadth of his contributions as a nation builder. More than 13,000 documents from over 75 university and historical collections have been compiled and photographed to date.

In popular media Edit

Literature Edit

John Jay's childhood home in Rye, "The Locusts", was immortalized by novelist James Fenimore Cooper in his first successful novel The Spy this book about counterespionage during the Revolutionary War was based on a tale that Jay told Cooper from his own experience as a spymaster in Westchester County. [114] [115]

Film and television Edit

Jay was portrayed by Tim Moyer in the 1984 TV miniseries George Washington. In its 1986 sequel miniseries, George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation, he was portrayed by Nicholas Kepros.

Notable descendants Edit

Jay had six children, including Peter Augustus Jay and abolitionist William Jay. In later generations, Jay's descendants included physician John Clarkson Jay (1808–1891), lawyer and diplomat John Jay (1817–1894), Colonel William Jay (1841–1915), diplomat Peter Augustus Jay (1877–1933), writer John Jay Chapman (1862–1933), banker Pierre Jay (1870–1949), horticulturalist Mary Rutherfurd Jay (1872–1953), and academic John Jay Iselin (1933–2008). Jay was also a direct ancestor of Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909–1944), a resistance fighter against Nazism.

John Jay

John Jay was born in New York City and educated at King’s Collegelater graduating in 1764. He became a lawyer in 1768 and soon became one of the most respected lawyers in the colonies. Jay represented the point of view of the American merchants in protesting the British restrictions on the commercial activities of colonies. He was thus elected to the Continental Congress in 1774 and again the next year. Jay drafted the first constitution of the state of New York, and was appointed the chief justice of New York in 1777.

When the American Revolution began, Jay was made a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence, the Continental Congress, and the New York Provincial Congress. He was president of the Continental Congress until that body sent him to Spain to obtain a loan and an endorsement of American independence, which was a failure.

In Paris, Jay was one of the commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain in 1782, ending the American Revolution. In 1784, after the peace was signed, he returned home to find that Congress had named him secretary of foreign affairs. In Collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison about the weakness of the Confederation, he became a strong proponent of a stronger national government. He collaborated with them to write a series of articles called the Federalist Papers, which urged the ratification of the Constitution.

When a new government was formed under the Constitution, Jay became the first chief justice of the United States, as appointed by President George Washington. In 1794, when war with Great Britain threatened over unsettled controversies in the Treaty of Paris, he was sent to London to settle many problems remaining from the Revolution. An agreement, known as Jay's Treaty, was drawn up, providing that the British would withdraw from areas they still held in the Northwest Territory and that the United States would pay debts contracted by its citizens before the Revolution. It also established joint commissions to settle disputed parts of the boundary between the United States and Canada. Thomas Jefferson and others assailed Jay for having failed to secure Britain's promise to stop interfering with United States ships at sea.

John Jay: Founding Father

A necessary corrective for the neglect which this founder of the United States has suffered. Not without flaws, the greatest of which is the constant imposition of Stahl’s opinions disguised as those of his sources, this is nonetheless good history, good biography, and a good read.

“Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an op “A few years more will put us all in the dust and it will then be of more importance to me to have governed myself than to have governed the state.” JJ

A necessary corrective for the neglect which this founder of the United States has suffered. Not without flaws, the greatest of which is the constant imposition of Stahl’s opinions disguised as those of his sources, this is nonetheless good history, good biography, and a good read.

“Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of deliberating upon, and choosing the forms of government under which they should live.” JJ

Because he was a hard worker but not a self-promoter, Jay has faded from the enormous recognition and popularity he enjoyed during his lifetime.

It was “very inconsistent as well as unjust and perhaps impious” for men to “pray and fight for their own freedom” and yet to “keep others in slavery.” But “the wise and the good never form the majority of any large society, and it seldom happens that their measures are uniformly adopted.” JJ

Jay helped to form in early 1785 the New York Manumission Society. Yet he owned slaves.

“If the means of defense are in our power and we do not make use of them, what excuse shall we make to our children and our Creator?” JJ

Quibbles: Stahl faithfully lists one footnote at the close of each paragraph, with no indication which of the facts, opinions, and reflections contained are his own. “… marching east from Oswego, along the line of the Mohawk River, about a hundred miles east of Albany.” No, Oswego is 100 miles west of Albany. “William Hickey, was handed over to the army, tried, convicted, and hanged on questionable evidence.” On the contrary, the evidence against Thomas Hickey was irrefutable, perhaps the reason he not the others were hanged in front of the army and citizens.

“Perhaps the best brief summary of Jay’s life and temper was by his son, Peter Augustus [Jay], who placed these words on his father’s tombstone:”
In memory of John Jay, eminent among those who asserted the liberty and established the independence of his country, which he long served in the most important offices, legislative, executive, judicial and diplomatic, and distinguished in them all by his ability, firmness, patriotism, and integrity. He was in his life and death an example of the virtues, the faith and the hopes of a Christian. . more

Jay is often considered a footnote in history for the passing amateur scholar, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His life is not often chronicled this biography doesn&apost unearth any juicy anecdotes or stories. But as a negotiator, diplomat, and judge, we would hope for those temperaments in a person who accomplished what John Jay did.

Just as Washington&aposs and Adams&aposs fingerprints are all over the executive and legislative branches, Jay&aposs are all over the judicial system in the Un Jay is often considered a footnote in history for the passing amateur scholar, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His life is not often chronicled this biography doesn't unearth any juicy anecdotes or stories. But as a negotiator, diplomat, and judge, we would hope for those temperaments in a person who accomplished what John Jay did.

Just as Washington's and Adams's fingerprints are all over the executive and legislative branches, Jay's are all over the judicial system in the United States. His Chief Justiceship set a number of precedents that still dominate the court. His influence led to the groundbreaking inclusion of the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution. He was a powerful governor of New York. His negotiation of the Treaty of Paris set geographical precedents still in place today.

Stahr focuses on the legal aspects of John Jay's life. But both author and subject were lawyers, and it is for his groundbreaking legal work that we continue to remember Jay. . more

Summary: A full-length biography of this lesser-known founder, drawing on new material tracing his numerous contributions to the beginnings of the United States.

If you gathered the founders of the United States for a photograph, he would probably be standing in the back, and we might wonder, who is he? "He" is John Jay. He played critical roles in numerous deliberations, participated in critical negotiations, and held important offices. But he was never president, or a military hero. What John J Summary: A full-length biography of this lesser-known founder, drawing on new material tracing his numerous contributions to the beginnings of the United States.

If you gathered the founders of the United States for a photograph, he would probably be standing in the back, and we might wonder, who is he? "He" is John Jay. He played critical roles in numerous deliberations, participated in critical negotiations, and held important offices. But he was never president, or a military hero. What John Jay was, was the consummate public servant.

Walter Stahr recounts the life of Jay from his beginnings as the son of a New York merchant, raised in a religious home on a farm in nearby Rye, in a faith from which he never departed. Graduating from King's College in 1764 with honors, he becomes a law clerk to pursue a career in law. After completing his clerkship, during a time of unrest as tensions over the Stamp Act developed, he and Robert Livingston team up to form a law firm in 1768. Some of his earliest work involved working on a commission to resolve boundary questions between New York and New Jersey, foreshadowing the work that would engage him throughout his life.

As resistance turns into revolution and eventually results in independence and American victory, Jay played a key role and Stahr narrates the specifics of each of the roles he played. He played the principal role in writing the constitution of New York state, a model for early state constitutions. He played a critical role in the negotiations in the Paris Peace Treaty, setting boundaries, particularly in what would become Minnesota, that defined the country's northern borders. Under the Articles of Confederation, he served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the infant country, helping establish her relations with the world. He was one of the framers of the Constitution, and worked hard behind the scenes for its ratification. He averted a renewed outbreak of war with Great Britain in 1794 that would have been disastrous for the infant country, negotiating what became justly known as the Jay Treaty. He served as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, establishing the precedent of judicial review of legislation, and refusing to decide abstract questions. He concluded his career of public service as governor of New York, presiding over the move of the seat of government to Albany.

Stahr portrays a man of rectitude and hard work whose service over a thirty year period played a critical role in creating a country. His lawyerly skill with finding the right words to establish good agreements and his even-handedness allowed him to turn conflicts into compromises and agreements. In retirement, he worked with his son in founding the American Bible Society. Throughout his life, and in his declining years, his trust in the providence of God sustained him.

This account goes into significant depth in the episodes of Jays life, tracing the back and forth and frustrations of negotiations, including two relatively futile years in Spain. What I would propose is that Stahr's book offers us a portrait of America's first public servant, who excelled by negotiating good agreements, establishing good legal documents, understanding the details and structure of good government, and by shaping good political and judicial institutions. Such figures may not be political rock stars, but they are essential to good government in every era. It may do us well to pay attention to people like Jay. . more

This is a fine biography of one of this country&aposs Founders--John Jay. I have read biographies of many of the Founder--from Sam Adams to John Adams to James Madison to George Washington to Thomas Jefferson and so on. But I had never run across a portrayal of John Jay. When you think about it, this is rather strange. Look at his record: member of the Continental Congress and later its President, a key figure in peace negotiations on the continent, Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Congress unde This is a fine biography of one of this country's Founders--John Jay. I have read biographies of many of the Founder--from Sam Adams to John Adams to James Madison to George Washington to Thomas Jefferson and so on. But I had never run across a portrayal of John Jay. When you think about it, this is rather strange. Look at his record: member of the Continental Congress and later its President, a key figure in peace negotiations on the continent, Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, he worked with others to have the Constitution ratified in New York (even though the odds seemed long)--including being on of the triumvirate who wrote the Federalist Papers (although his contributions were fewer in number than those of Madison and Alexander Hamilton), he served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as Governor of New York, and as a diplomat to develop a treaty of peace with the British Empire, and so on. . . .. Whew!

One of the strengths of this volume is a pretty straightforward depiction of Jay. He is not treated as superhuman but as a talented political figure who strove to realize his vision of the United States. He was able to accomplish much, being able to work with others well (there were quite a few cantankerous founders).

This is a work well worth reading to gain insight into one of the major Founders of the United States. . more

"All parties have their demagogues, and demagogues will never be patriots."

Previously, I viewed John Jay as an accomplice to the better known early American leaders who framed the Constitution, crafted the Treaty of Paris, and wrote the Federalist Papers. Since reading this biography, I recognize and agree with Stahr, that Jay certainly deserves his recognition of being a Founding Father.

Jay, like many in his day, were pretty complicated characters, and at times seemed like a walking contradicti "All parties have their demagogues, and demagogues will never be patriots."

Previously, I viewed John Jay as an accomplice to the better known early American leaders who framed the Constitution, crafted the Treaty of Paris, and wrote the Federalist Papers. Since reading this biography, I recognize and agree with Stahr, that Jay certainly deserves his recognition of being a Founding Father.

Jay, like many in his day, were pretty complicated characters, and at times seemed like a walking contradiction. He held out longer than most others with trying to stay loyal to Britain, writing letters to multiple people professing opposing views on the topic. He was also opposed to slavery, but still owned slaves after supporting the founding of the US abolitionist movement. And he wanted to have good relations with Native Americans, but was guilty of allowing settlers take advantage of Native Americans in Western New York, while he was governor.

For all his flaws though, Jay was essential in establishing our nation through his Legislative, Judicial, Executive, and diplomatic public service. As far as I am aware, he is one of the only individuals to have served in all 3 branches on a Federal level, as well as at the state level (New York). He put country above his party and was diligent in maintaining the checks and balances of our government (likely because of his experience in all 3 branches).

Stahr does a good job researching his subject, as well as avoiding the usual flaw of biographers with their primary role being apologist first, and a researcher as secondary. That being said, there are more than a few chapters that could've used a more thorough editing process. For example, as important as the Jay Treaty was, going into it line by line became a little tiresome.

I would recommend this book to those who are interested in broadening their understanding of America's Founding Fathers, as Jay was certainly important. That being said, if you have not already read the works of Chernow, McCollough, Ellis, etc., I would recommend those prior to this. . more

I ran into John Jay based on a previous book. Many of us may remember the name from a US History class we took years ago. It turns out, books about him are quite rare.

I liked the book because it amplified my understanding of several areas of early US History, that are traditionally glossed over or ignored completely in traditional history classes. Also, it was interesting to see the personal confidence and trust many of the traditional heroes of the revolution and early years of the republic had I ran into John Jay based on a previous book. Many of us may remember the name from a US History class we took years ago. It turns out, books about him are quite rare.

I liked the book because it amplified my understanding of several areas of early US History, that are traditionally glossed over or ignored completely in traditional history classes. Also, it was interesting to see the personal confidence and trust many of the traditional heroes of the revolution and early years of the republic had in him.

The book at time had a little difficulty with chronology, but this seemed more related to public and personal narratives, that were occurring at the same time. A good read for us armchair historians. . more

Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Schuyler, Greene, Hamilton, and Hancock are just a few names that will surface in nearly any book about the American Revolution. And why shouldn’t they? These men each played a distinct role to help lay the foundation for the blessings of liberty that we currently enjoy. However, there is one name that will often appear on a list of influential fathers but will rarely be elaborated on: John Jay. Most know the role that he played as the first Chief Justice Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Schuyler, Greene, Hamilton, and Hancock are just a few names that will surface in nearly any book about the American Revolution. And why shouldn’t they? These men each played a distinct role to help lay the foundation for the blessings of liberty that we currently enjoy. However, there is one name that will often appear on a list of influential fathers but will rarely be elaborated on: John Jay. Most know the role that he played as the first Chief Justice of the United States but we often forget the important role that he played nearly every step of the great American Revolution. His wisdom, gravity, piety, and kind disposition won him respect among his peers and ultimately among the nation that he served. For 75 years there has hardly been a solid work on John Jay until now. In Walter Stahr’s “John Jay” he carefully and respectfully tries to impart to the reader a fresh vision of one of the great minds that helped put this country on a solid track toward independence and prosperity. Stahr’s work is relatively new but it was long overdue, and I think it will serve as a force of scholarship in the field of early American history. Here are some of the reasons why I think this work would be an excellent addition to anyone who is serious about investigating the founding fathers and their influence.

It is easy to gloss over Jay and not because he is not important or essential but because his life is not marked by anything unusual. Jefferson for example is a colorful man with many shades of contradiction while Washington seems to be a riddle to the reader. John Adams was pugnacious as well as controversial while Franklin is known for political acumen and flirtatious trysts with women half his age. Jay is something of a straight arrow that lives a very ordinary life yet, Jay left a huge footprint on the political landscape of the American Revolution. Born to a tradesman in New York City Jay showed a quick, nimble mind from an early age. He entered King’s College at the age of 14 and finished his studies at the age of 18. By the time he was 22 years old he had finished his masters and was on his way to becoming one of New York’s up and coming lawyers. He may have lived a distinguished life were it not for his path colliding with the American Revolution and this was what transformed Jay among others from an ordinary citizen of the British Empire into a pioneering founder of the nation. Jay did all that was in his power to avoid any break between the colonies and their “mother country” but when it came time to call independence Jay was there and stood behind the decision whole-heartedly. Jay was among many things a patriot of his native homeland and while he was soft towards the British he knew when to stand up against them.

Over his long career Jay served the nation in a variety of capacities including: as delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Drafter of his State Constitution, Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, Peace Commissioner to France and Spain, Peace Commissioner to Great Britain, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Contributor to the famous “Federalist Papers,” Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Governor of New York. Because he wore so many hats Jay had his hand in influencing the many government leaders he came in contact with. He was a temperate man who tended to be cautious about everything and everyone, and his policies were typically “middle of the road.” His pragmatic and realistic nature endeared him to most people in Congress, and he was the kind of man who was able to get things done because of it. He was a real family man who practiced his faith very devoutly. In our time, there is always question about the founding fathers in regards to their faith and the general consensus is that most were not solid believers in organized religion or the authority of the Bible. It so happens that Jay was one of our founders that happened to be very strong in the way he practiced his faith and was an adamant believer in the power of the Bible. He not only practiced his faith in theory but practiced it in real-life through active civic engagement, devotion to family as well as friends, and piety in his ecclesiastical relationships.

Stahr is a great writer and he writes in an easy and accessible manner that will appeal to a broad audience. He has a solid bibliography and it is clear that he has done his homework. In terms of the subject matter itself it would appear that he tends to be even-handed for the most part. Stahr exhibits a clear admiration for his subject matter this is not necessarily a negative attribute. Caring for one’s subject matter allows an individual to write in a very passionate and meaningful way. However, the downside is that he is sometimes too soft on Jay. Like anyone Jay had his share of conflicts and I am sure that he was often at least a small part of the problem. When Stahr speaks about these conflicts it seems that he rarely implicates Jay as part of the problem and tends to place more of the responsibility on the other parties. I certainly expect that he would paint his subject in the best possible light, yet at times I felt that I did not really gain a solid sense on the Jay’s shortcomings. I do not expect Jay to be painted as devilish or evil, but I do think that a great feature of biography is learning our subject's failures. Jay was not a man of great ardor which allowed him to reach across aisles that others were not always able to do so. However, I am not saying that Stahr that was not objective but rather that I felt this was an area that was not developed properly. I still think that that book was excellent and well worth the long investment involved in reading it.

Of course, it goes without saying that Jay's most important role was serving as the First Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and his appointment to said position reflects well on the ability of George Washington to spot the right man for the right job. Jay was so cautious and moderate in many positions that he was right man to set necessary precedent for that role albeit, it would be John Marshall who would accomplish the most in setting precedent for the job of Chief Justice. However, where he is often neglected is in regards to his work in negotiating a peace settlement with the British. He tended to be pragmatic but when it came time to sit down and hash out a peace agreement Jay did not mind doing everything he could to make sure that America got the most out of the deal. He drove a hard bargain but he was the right man for the job. He was the missing piece of the puzzle when one considers that he was the middle point between Adams and Franklin. His even nature made his more palatable to the English than Adams, yet his rigid and formal nature was easier on british tastes than Dr. Frankin. He was very active in writing, editing, and submitting both the first and second drafts of the treaty that secured independence. After the war it was essential to promote a more filial relationship with the British Empire and Dr. Stahr argues that it was Jay's treaty that paved the way for future relations with the British. He was an excellent ambassador who not only exhibited poise, candor, and good humor but who made sure that he did all within his power to get as much as possible for his native country.

What am I walking away with as I completed my journey with Jay? I think that Dr. Bernstein was correct when he said that the founding fathers did not have a cohesive vision for what they hoped America would look like. As I read this book, I realized that Jay’s vision of America with a robust and powerful central authority is in many ways still at play. I don’t imagine that the nationalists of the time ever thought we would be wiretapped in our own homes yet the kind of government they envisioned was broad, brooding, and strong. The reality is that as I get to know these men I come to find that they each had competing views of America’s future and the America we have inherited is in part the one they gave us. That is not a popular view but it seems to be so. Take for example: Dr. Ferling discusses how Madison and Hamilton were concerned about the growing sense of egalitarianism and the democratization of the American public before the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Nevertheless, this was exactly the sort of society that Jefferson and Patrick Henry were hoping to see. My point is that Jay was a strong nationalist and while I respect his amazing talents and contributions I recognize that his support for a strident, far-reaching government would be something that I could never support today. That being said, I have a great deal of respect for Justice Jay and without him we might not have some of the blessings of liberty we enjoy today.

I give this book: 1 star = Research. 1 star = writing. 1 star = bibliography. 1 star = readability. The final star I reserve due to the previously mentioned critique and because there were spots where the book hit some boring lulls. . more

John Jay

Washington expressed the hope that his ratification of the Jay Treaty would provide America with peace and the time to become a prosperous and powerful nation.

Historic Site

John Jay Homestead

John Jay's house can still be visited today in Katonah, New York.

An important Federalist figure during the early days of the American republic, John Jay was also a close political ally of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Jay's career in public service was varied, including involvement in the campaign for the Constitution, serving as the nation's first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and as Governor of New York.

In addition, Jay negotiated a treaty with Great Britain in 1794 that while settling some outstanding issues left from the Revolution, also mobilized opposition to Washington's administration and strengthened support for the Democratic-Republican political movement led by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Born in 1745, Jay attended King's College in New York before entering the legal profession. During the tumultuous events of the American Revolution, Jay generally followed a moderate course. Along with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, he negotiated the Treaty of Paris in 1783 which ended the conflict between Great Britain and the new United States of America. Under the Articles of Confederation, Jay served as the Secretary for Foreign Affairs between 1784 and 1789, and then became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position he held until 1795. He favored a stronger federal government and wrote some of the Federalist Papers alongside Hamilton and Madison in support of the new Constitution.

In 1786, when the United States possessed a weak government functioning under the Articles of Confederation, Jay warned Washington that the population "will be led, by the insecurity of property, the losing of confidence in their rulers, and the want of public faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of liberty imaginary and delusive" and would embrace "almost any change that may promise them quiet and security." 1 Washington responded in agreement, writing Jay, "Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own." 2

Issues left over from the end of the American Revolution, including the continuing presence of British troops in the Old Northwest, the lack of American payments to British creditors for debts incurred during the Revolution, and British seizures of American vessels trading as neutrals with revolutionary France caused significant strife between England and the United States in the later years of Washington's presidency. To settle matters, Washington sent Jay to London in May of 1794 to work out a solution that would avoid armed conflict between the two nations. The resulting agreement, popularly known as Jay's Treaty, secured the exit of British troops from the Old Northwest and granted Britain most-favored-nation status ensuring that the best trade deal any other nation received from the United States would also be applied to British goods.

Jeanne and David Heidler discuss the important relationship between John Jay and George Washington.

The treaty said nothing, however, about issues such as the impressment of American sailors, British targeting of neutral American shipping, and the compensation of slaveholders for the slaves the British took when they left in 1783. Many Americans saw the treaty as pro-British and while various efforts to block the adoption of the treaty failed, it became an issue around which the opponents of the Federalists mobilized their support to win majorities in Congress and the presidency in 1800.

Jay remained above the fray resulting from his treaty. He became Governor of New York in 1795, organized the New York Manumission Society, and helped pass a gradual emancipation law in 1799 that led to the eventual end of slavery in New York in 1827. Jay left the governorship of New York in 1801 to go into retirement, and passed away in 1829.

Kevin Grimm, Ph.D
Beloit College

1. John Jay to George Washington, 27 June 1786. The Papers of George Washington, Digital Edition.

2. George Washington to John Jay, 15 August 1786. The Papers of George Washington, Digital Edition.

Federalists Reconsidered, eds. Doron Ben-Atar and Barbara B. Oberg. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History, Second Seagull Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008.

The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic, eds. Horn, James, Jan Ellen Lewis, and Peter S. Onuf. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002.

Weisberger, Bernard A. America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800. New York: William Morrow, 2000.

The papers of John Jay

The Papers of John Jay is an image database and indexing tool comprising some 13,000 documents (more than 30,000 page images) scanned chiefly from photocopies of original documents. Most of the source material was assembled by Columbia University's John Jay publication project staff during the 1960s and 1970s under the direction of the late Professor Richard B. Morris. These photocopies were originally intended to be used as source texts for documents to be included in a planned four-volume letterpress series entitled The Selected Unpublished Papers of John Jay, of which only two volumes were published.

In 2005, the new, seven-volume letterpress and online edition of The Selected Papers of John Jay was launched under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth M. Nuxoll and is being published by the University of Virginia Press as part of its Rotunda American Founding Era Collection. The new Selected Papers project not only uses the online Jay material available on this website as source texts, but also provides links from document transcriptions in the letterpress and digital editions to the scanned page images posted here. More information on the Selected Papers project…

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John Jay College of Criminal Justice was born in the mid-1950s. The catalyst for the school came from growing concerns on the part of civic leaders and the New York City Police Department over increased complexity of police work in the administration and operation of the department, and the ongoing relations between police and the community.

South Hall Building

In response, a Police Science Program was established in 1954 at the then Baruch School of Business and Public Administration of City College. This program emphasized a strong liberal arts curriculum as the basis of a sound police education. Over the next decade, the program grew substantially, attracting large numbers of students.

In 1964, a committee convened by the Board of Higher Education recommended the establishment of an independent, degree-granting school of police science. The College of Police Science (COPS) of the City University of New York was subsequently founded and admitted its first class in September 1965. Within a year, the school was renamed John Jay College of Criminal Justice to reflect broader education objectives in criminal justice, development of leadership and emphasis on professional achievement in public service

The school's namesake, John Jay, was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and one of the founding fathers of the United States. Jay was a native of New York City and served as governor of New York State.

Today, John Jay is one of the nation’s premier criminal justice and liberal arts institutions. The college brings together Pulitzer Prize-winning faculty and undergraduate/graduate students in diverse liberal arts disciplines to engage with issues of justice and diversity.

John Roberts

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts grew up in Long Beach, Indiana, and attended Harvard Law School. He served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for two years before being confirmed as Chief Justice of the United States in 2005. In June 2015, Roberts ruled on two landmark legislative cases: He reaffirmed the legality of Obamacare, by siding with the liberal wing of the Court, along with swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy. However, he held to his conservative views on the issue of gay marriage and voted against the Court&aposs decision that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.