John Jay: 10 Most Significant Achievements
In addition to being a prominent Founding Father, John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States of America. A leading expert on foreign policy, the New-York born lawyer went on to become one of the greatest statesmen in the nation’s history. Below, worldhistoryedu.com provides 10 major accomplishments of John Jay.
Quick Facts: Chief Justice John Jay
Date of Birth: December 12, 1745
Place of birth: New York City, Province of New York, British America
Date of Death: May 17, 1829
Cause of Death: Stroke
Place of Death: New York, U.S.
Parents: Peter Jay and Mary Van Cortlandt
Education: Columbia University
Religion: Protestant Episcopal Church
Wife: Sarah Livingston (married in 1774)
Children: Peter Augustus, Maria, Susan, Ann, Sarah Louisa, and William
Political Party: Federalist
Most known for: 1st Chief Justice of the United States; One of the Founding Fathers of the United States; One of the signers of the Treaty of Paris of 1783
Successor: John Rutledge
Other Offices held: 2nd Governor of New York (1795-1801); Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1784-1789); Ambassador to Spain (1779-1782); 6th President of the Continental Congress (1778-1779); Delegate (from New York) to the Second Continental Congress (1778-1779); Delegate to the First Continental Congress (1774)
Major Accomplishments of John Jay
- Prior to his admission into the New York bar in 1768, John Jay was under the wings of famous lawyer Benjamin Kissam. Three years later, he went on to open his own law office. He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence – a group of Patriot leaders (from the Thirteen Colonies) that were at the forefront of affairs during the early days of the Revolution. As a lawyer, he fought very hard for clients whose property rights had been infringed upon by British officials.
- John Jay was among a growing crop of American lawyers that opposed Britain’s Intolerable Acts of 1774 and excessive tax measures. He called on Americans to rise up and resist with all their hearts and might those policies imposed on them. Up until Britain’s attack on Norfolk, Virginia, John Jay hoped to amicably iron out the issues with the British Parliament. Subsequently, Jay and his fellow delegates to the First Continental Congress started pushing for America’s independence. As a Patriot, he debated passionately against Loyalists, whose goal was to remain under the British Crown.
READ MORE: Stamp Act of 1765
- In 1785, John Jay founded the New York Manumission Society, which argued in favor of the gradual emancipation of slaves. He was also central in the passage of the 1799 law in New York that pushed for the realization of the Manumission Society’s goals. Effective July 4, 1799, the ‘Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery’ freed all children born to enslaved parents. It also banned the export of slaves outside the state. Even though, the act made no provision for the compensation of slave owners, it did receive quite a good support.
NOTE: The act also came to the rescue of freed blacks that were kidnapped and exported outside New York. In spite of his earlier trade and owner of slaves, Jay’s work during his time as governor of New York laid the foundation of the abolitionist movement in the North.
- As a delegate to the First Continental Congress, Jay was involved in writing the Olive Branch Petition, a solemn plea from the colonies to the British Parliament to end its oppressive and intolerable policies. After it became apparently clear that Britain was not going to reverse its policies, Jay switched to supporting the delegates that wanted to break free from the British Empire. He thus supported the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, which would in turn lead to the American Revolutionary War. Back in New York, Jay continued to call on leading New York businesses to boycott British goods.
- Jay was appointed by Congress to serve as Minister to Spain on September 27, 1779. In his position as the ambassador to Spain, he helped the budding nation acquire vital financial aid from Spain. Jay also helped convince the Spanish to recognize America’s independence. In his three year stay in Spain, he successfully secured loans worth $170,000 for the United States.
- John Jay was a member of the American team that negotiated the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The treaty was used to end hostilities between the United States and Britain. The American delegation, which included Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, negotiated with Britain and then subsequently with France. Jay insisted on Britain recognizing the independence of America. In addition to the Newfoundland fishing rights that America received, the negotiators agreed that Britain would remove all its soldiers on American territory. In return, the U.S. would give back seized properties and lands that belonged to Loyalists.
- A staunch member of the Federalists, Jay and two other Founding Fathers – Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – co-authored The Federalist Papers. Jay authored five out of the 85 essays that basically called for a strong and centralized federal government underpinned by a strengthened Articles of Confederation. Jay was part of the group that believed that the Articles of Confederation had to be propped up in order to keep America united. He therefore called for a new federal constitution to be ratified.
- From 1784 to 1789, John Jay served as the nation’s second Secretary of Foreign Affairs. In that role, he was responsible for coming out with a very solid and robust American foreign policy that encouraged European powers to recognize America’s independence. Jay also had to quickly work on the currency and credit support issues the fledgling nation faced. His department, whose name became the Department of State in 1789, was also responsible for ironing out issues pertaining to territorial boundaries, maritime trade, and the payment of America’s debt that had increased considerably due to the Revolutionary War. Jay voiced his support for the Articles of Confederation which kept the country united and strong amidst the piracy attacks against American merchants and trading lanes. Up until March 22, 1790, Jay stayed as the acting Secretary of State.
- After turning down the position of Secretary of State, Jay accepted President George Washington’s nomination for Chief Justice of the United States. The nomination, which occurred on September 24, 1789, was backed by the Judiciary Act of 1789 (the Senate passed the act on July 17 and the House passed it on September 17, 1789). Along with five other associate justice nominations, Jay’s nomination was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate on September 26, 1789. About a month later, he was sworn into office. His leadership helped usher in a very important precedent for the Supreme Court’s objectivity and independence in dealing with issues. During his tenure as Chief Justice, the Supreme Court heard four cases. Those cases were: West v. Barnes (1791); Hayburn’s Case (1792); Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) and; Georgia v. Brailsford (1794).
- During the presidency of George Washington, tensions flared up again with Great Britain. The Americans were annoyed by Britain’s continued trade restrictions on its exports. Britain also refused vacating the Northwest forts and posts as agreed in the Treaty of Paris 1783. In 1794, President Washington tasked John Jay to head to Europe to negotiate an amicable treaty with Britain that would compel Britain to halt its harassment and seizure of naval and military exports to France. Guided by written instructions from Alexander Hamilton, Jay successfully negotiated with Britain, striking what would later be known as the Jay Treaty of 1794. Britain agreed to vacate those occupied forts and lift the trade restrictions on American exports. In spite of strong opposition from the Democratic-Republicans, the Jay Treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate in a 20-to-10 vote on June 24, 1795. About a couple of years later, the Jay Treaty came to be more appreciated by the general public as more and more Americans prospered from those lands formerly occupied by the British.