Jay, John, 1745-1829

Alternative names
Birth 1745-12-12
Death 1829-05-17

Biographical notes:

Statesman and jurist.

From the description of Letter, 1813 Jan. 1. (Filson Historical Society, The). WorldCat record id: 49243562

Governor of New York State; U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme Court.

From the description of Letter, 1797 October 27 : Albany, to John Trumbull, London. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 50806321

From the description of Letter, 1778 January 2 : Poughkeepsie, to Marinus Willet. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 50804646

Statesman and New York State Governor.

From the description of Papers, 1787-1812. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 58758792

First Chief Justice of the United States.

From the description of Letter, 1792 July 25. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 86164560

Statesman, jurist, and governor of New York.

From the description of John Jay papers, 1664-1820. (New York University, Group Batchload). WorldCat record id: 58779471

BIOGHIST REQUIRED American Chief Justice, diplomat.

From the guide to the John Jay Papers, 1668-[ca. 1862], (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, )

John Jay was appointed the Minister plenipotentiary with Spain in December 1779, and arrived in Spain in January 1780 to negotiate diplomatic recognition and financial aid for America and a treaty for alliance and commerce. The negotiations that began in January 1780, reached an impasse in mid-1780 due to a disagreement with about the navigation on the Mississippi river. After prolonged negotiations, Jay left Madrid for Paris on May 21, 1782 to take up his post as peace commissioner. In Paris he negotiated the western and southern boundaries claimed by the United States.

From the description of Letters from the Honorable John Jay Esq. Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the Court of Spain, 1779, Dec. 24 --1782, Nov. 14. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 84649348

Prominent American statesman during the Revolution and Constitutional period of the late 18th and early 19th century: served as U.S. Secretary of State, Justice of Supreme Court, and Governor of New York State.

From the description of Letter : Philadelphia, to Philip Schuyler, 1778 December 8. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 540607389

From the description of Letter : Philadelphia, to Philip Schuyler, 1779 March 21. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 540669341

From the description of Letter : Cadiz, [Spain], to Philip Schuyler, 1780 February 19. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 540607433

Delegate of the U.S. Continental Congress of New York, diplomat, and jurist.

From the description of Correspondence of John Jay, 1776-1794. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83295949

Governor of New York, Chief Justice of United States.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to James Monroe, 1795 Feb. 19. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270487888

New York attorney, U.S. Continental Congressman, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York.

From the description of Letter : New York, to Edward Rutledge, 1787 Feb. 25. (The South Carolina Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 32144758

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, was born and educated in New York. He was a lawyer and member of two Continental Congresses.

From the description of The history of a pimple : manuscript, [1800]. (Peking University Library). WorldCat record id: 54742646

American Chief Justice, diplomat.

From the description of John Jay papers, 1668-[ca. 1862]. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 312369323

John Jay served as U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation. One of the authors of the Federalist papers, he was Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and was afterwards governor of New York State (1795-1801).

From the description of Miscellaneous manuscripts, 1786-1787. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 190846322

John Jay (1745-1829) was a lawyer and statesman. During his active political career, he served as President of the Continental Congress, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York.

From the description of Papers, 1779-1798. (American Antiquarian Society). WorldCat record id: 191259458

  • December 12, 1745: Jay was born
  • 1764: Jay graduated from Kings College (Columbia University)
  • 1774: Jay married Sarah Livingston, daughter of New Jersey govenor William Livingston
  • 1774 - 1776 : Jay served as delegate to the Continental Congress
  • 1777: Jay served as New York's Chief Justice
  • 1778: Jay was elected president of the Continental Congress
  • 1779: Jay was appointed Minister to Spain
  • 1784: Jay was elected Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 1785: Jay founded the New-York Manumission Society
  • 1787 - 1788 : Jay authored the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixty-fourth essays of the Federalist Papers
  • 1789: President George Washington appointed Jay first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
  • 1794: Jay negotiated treaty with Great Britian that is known as "Jay's Treaty"
  • 1795: Jay was elected govenor of New York Jay resigned from the Supreme Court
  • May 17, 1829: Jay died

There are a variety of reasons why John Jay is a historical figure of note. He was a Founding Father, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a politician, and a diplomat, to name only a few. Jay was born on December 12, 1745 in New York City to Peter Jay and his wife, Mary Van Cortlandt. Jay was the sixth out of seven surviving children. Of those seven children, two were left blind by smallpox.

Jay was educated at Kings College (later renamed Columbia University) in 1760. Upon his graduation in 1764 he became a law clerk and was admitted to the bar in 1768. During this period, Jay served on the New York-New Jersey Border Commission. After his admission to the bar, Jay joined with Robert R. Livingston Jr. to form a law firm. He later went on to his own practice in 1771.

In 1774 Jay married New Jersey governor William Livingston’s daughter Sarah. That same year Jay also got involved with politics in New York that would eventually escalate into the American Revolution. As far as the Revolution went, Jay began as a moderate. He was involved in New York’s Committee of 50 and the Continental Congress where he served as a delegate from 1774-1776. Jay was also a member of the New York Constitutional Convention and served as First Chief Justice of New York in 1777. In 1778 he was a delegate and later elected to President of the Continental Congress. Jay’s diplomacy went international when he was appointed Minster to Spain in 1779, Minister to treat the peace with Great Britain in 1782, and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1784.

In 1787 and 1788, Jay’s attention returned to domestic matters. Joining in with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Jay contributed to what became known as the Federalist Papers . Jay authored essays two, three, four, five, and sixty-four. (He suffered from an illness that limited his involvement after the fifth essay.) This collection of essays was meant to persuade the newly minted Americans to accepted the Constitution, which would replace the Article of Confederation, which were the first governing document for the United States. Jay was quite influential in getting New York to ratify the Constitution.

Jay’s role changed again in 1798 when President George Washington appointed him as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the country. At the time, there was nothing to stop the Chief Justice from actively participating in the country’s politics. Proving this, Jay ran for governor of New York in 1792, only to lose to George Clinton. In 1794, Jay was appointed an envoy to Britain to negotiate issues, such as border disputes, that caused continuing tension between the two countries. Among the terms of the treaty, the British would leave their forts on the United States’ western border, and the United States granted Most Favored Nation trading status to the British. However, there were issues that were left unaddressed, such as impressment, which upset the American public. Although public was not in favor of Jay’s Treaty, the Senate ultimately ratified it.

Upon Jay’s return to the United States in 1795, he discovered that he had been elected governor of New York. After resigning as Chief Justice, Jay served two terms as governor of New York, and addressed issues such as fortifying the cities against possible attack and Indian relations. Jay retired in 1801. President Thomas Jefferson attempted to get Jay to return to the Supreme Court bench, but Jay refused.

Once out of politics, Jay continued to pursue some of his other interests. One of which was his religion. Jay was a practicing Anglican and served as warden of Trinity Church in New York. He became president of the American Bible Society. Another interest was the anti-slavery movement, which seems contradictory since Jay owned slaves. Jay's interest in abolishing slavery dated back to legislation he presented in New York in 1777 to free all slaves in New York. In 1785 he founded the New-York Manumission Society. In 1799 Jay helped pass a bill entitled “An Act for the Gradual Prohibition of Slavery” which led to the eventual emancipation of all slaves in New York.

John Jay died on May 17, 1829.

From the guide to the John Jay Papers, 1664-1823 (Bulk 1769-1800), (@ 2011 New-York Historical Society)


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