The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






John Jay

John Jay (December 12, 1745May 17, 1829) was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat and jurist. He is noted for serving with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in France and writing part of the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. He also is remembered as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, serving from 1789 to 1794.

Jay was born in New York City.

In 1792 he was sent by George Washington to London to negotiate a new treaty with the British. The treaty he returned with, known as Jay's Treaty deeply displeased many in the US. Jay became so unpopular that he once commented that he could travel from Boston to Philadelphia solely by the light of his burning effigies. When no alternative treaties could be negotiated, Jay's treaty was accepted as tolerable, and was signed by Washington.

In 1794, Jay was sent on another diplomatic mission, this time to France. While in France, he was elected governor of New York State. He resigned from the Court, and served as governor of New York until 1800. President John Adams then renominated him to the court; the Senate quickly confirmed him, but he declined, citing his own poor health and the court's lack of "the energy, weight, and dignity which are essential to its affording due support to the national government."

Jay was also the fifth President of the Continental Congress, and thus the leader of the United States, from December 10, 1778, until September 27, 1779. He was preceded in office by Henry Laurens and succeeded by Samuel Huntington.

Jay did not attend the Constitutional Convention, but contributed five essays to what later became the Federalist Papers.

The Town of Jay is named after him.


  • "The people who own the country ought to govern it." (reportedly "one of his favorite maxims")[1]

Preceded by:
Henry Laurens
President of the Continental Congress
Succeeded by:
Samuel Huntington
Preceded by:
Chief Justice of the United States
Succeeded by:
John Rutledge

Last updated: 02-07-2005 04:00:27
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01