Representing New York at the Continental Congress
Born: December 12, 1745
Education King's (Columbia) College (Lawyer, Judge)
Work: Member of the New York Committee of Correspondence, 1774; Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1774-76; Member of the New York Constitutional Convention, First Chief Justice of New York, 1777; Delegate and elected President of Continental Congress, 1778; Minister to Spain, 1779, Minister to treat the peace with Great Britain, 1782; Secretary of Foreign Affairs, 1784; Contributor to The Federalist, 1788; First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789; Negotiator of Jay Treaty with Great Britain, 1794; Elected Governor of New York, 1797-1801.
Died: May 17, 1829
John Jay showed promise of an extraordinary life at a very young age indeed. He attended an exclusive boarding school in New Rochelle, New York at age eight, and proceeded to King's College (now Columbia University) at age fourteen. He graduated with highest honors in 1764 and proceeded to the study of law under Benjamin Kissam. He was admitted to the Bar of New York in 1768. In early 1774 he was one of the most prominent members of the New York Committee of Correspondence.
In September of that year he attended the First Continental Congress as the second youngest member, at age twenty eight. His authorship of the Address to the People of Great Britain, published by the first Continental Congress perhaps belied his resolute opinion for reconciliation with Gr. Britain. He retired from the Congress in 1776 rather than sign the Declaration of Independence. He became deeply involved in the development of a new state government for New York. In 1777 he attended the New York constitutional convention, and was selected to draft that constitution. He then served a the first Chief Justice of the state. He also served as a member of the state Council of Safety, acting as the sole council when the Legislature was not in session. He was again elected to the Continental Congress in 1778 and was voted president of that body upon arrival.
In 1779 Jay was appointed Minister to Spain in order to seek recognition of Colonial Independence, financial aid, and commercial treaties. In 1782 Jay, along with Adams, Franklin, and Laurens signed the treaty of peace with Great Britain. When he returned to Congress, he had already been appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
In 1787 Jay authored three of the articles now collectively called The Federalist, in which he, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton argued effectively in support of the ratification of the new Federal Constitution. In 1789, Washington appointed him Chief Justice to the Supreme Court under the new federal constitution. In 1794 he was appointed an envoy extraordinary to Great Britain, in order to seek a resolution to continuing conflicts on the western border, and in commercial relations. The result of this was the Jay Treaty, which proved very unpopular with the public, but was nonetheless approved of by the Washington administration. Upon his return home Jay found that, in his absence, he had been elected Governor of New York. Fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton had secured his election in an effort to strengthen the party in New York. Jay withstood a great deal of party maneuvering and political trickery, earning respect form his friends and enemies alike. He was a very popular Governor who fought for many political reforms including judicial reform, penal reform and the abolition of slavery. He undertook extensive road and canal projects to improve the economy of his state. He retired from public life in 1801. President John Adams tried to appoint him to the Supreme Court again that year, but owing to the illness of his wife, Jay declined the office. Jay died on May 17, 1829 having survived his wife and both of his partners in The Federalist.
Content for these pages provided by Thomas Kindig.