John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, patriot, diplomat, founder, abolitionist, negotiator, and signer of the Treaty of Paris of 1783. He served as the second governor of New York and the first Chief Justice of the United States. He directed US foreign policy through much of the 1780s and was an important leader of the Federalist Party after the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788.
Jay was born into a wealthy family of New York merchants and government officials of French Huguenot and Dutch descent. He became a lawyer and joined the New York Correspondence Committee, organizing American opposition to British policies such as the Intolerable Acts in the lead-up to the American Revolution. Jay was elected to the First Continental Congress, where he signed the Continental Association, and to the Second Continental Congress, where he served as president. From 1779 to 1782, Jay served as ambassador to Spain; he persuaded Spain to provide financial aid to the fledgling United States. He also acted as negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized American independence. After the war ended, Jay served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, directing United States foreign policy under the Articles of Government of Confederacy. He also served as first interim secretary of state.
A proponent of strong, centralized government, Jay worked to ratify the United States Constitution in New York in 1788. He co-authored The Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, and wrote five of the eighty-five essays. After the establishment of the new federal government, Jay was named by President George Washington the first Chief Justice of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1795. The Jay Court experienced a light workload, deciding just four cases in six years. In 1794, while serving as chief justice, Jay negotiated Jay's highly controversial Treaty with Great Britain. Jay received a handful of electoral votes in three of the first four presidential elections, but he never made a serious run for the presidency.
Jay served as governor of New York from 1795 to 1801. Although he successfully passed legislation of gradual emancipation as governor of the state, he continued to enslave five people until 1800. In the last days of President John Adams' administration, Jay was confirmed by the Senate for another term as chief justice, but declined the position and retired to his farm in Westchester County, New York.
John Jay at MetaLibri