The New Student's Reference Work/Jay, John

Jay, John, an American statesman and jurist and first chief-justice of the supreme court, was born at New York, Dec. 12, 1745. He graduated at King’s College, now Columbia University, and became a lawyer. He was a member of the Continental Congress of 1774–75. As one of a committee he prepared an address to the people of British America and another to the people of Great Britain, which gave him a wide reputation. Jay took a leading part in the debates of Congress and in the secret negotiations with France before the Declaration of Independence. He left Congress to sit in the convention of New York, and drew up the constitution of that state, He was sent in 1779 as minister to Spain, one object being to secure a loan. Before he had a chance to do anything, in the face of the coldest reception by the Spanish court, congress drew on him for $500,000. Rather than let the credit of the country be damaged, he accepted the bills at his own risk. He took part with Franklin and Adams in negotiating the treaty of peace at Paris in 1783; then, going back to America, became secretary for foreign affairs till the adoption of the constitution in 1789. The famous Federalist, written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, had the greatest influence in bringing about this adoption. President Washington offered Jay a choice of the offices in his gift, and Jay preferred to become chief-justice. In 1794 he concluded a treaty with Great Britain that is known as Jay’s treaty. The treaty provided for the payment of British debts and American claims arising out of the Revolutionary War, for the restriction of American trade in the West Indies and for neutrality at sea. It also contained provisions for the surrender to the United States of the northwestern military posts and for denning the eastern boundary between the United States and British America. From 1795 to 1801 he was governor of New York, and refused to be again made chief-justice. Jay was much interested in religious wrork. His favorite books were the Bible and Cicero. He died on May 17, 1829. See his Life, by William Jay, his son.