John Jay was a politician, statesman, and the first chief justice of the Supreme Court. He was one
of the authors of The Federalist, a collection of influential papers written with JAMES MADISON and ALEXANDER HAMILTON prior to the ratification of the Constitution.
Jay was born in New York City on December 12, 1745. Unlike most of the colonists in the New World, who were English, Jay traced his ancestry to the French Huguenots, His grandfather, August Jay, immigrated to New York in the late seventeenth century to escape the persecution of non-Catholics under Louis XIV. Jay graduated from King's College, now known as Columbia University, in 1764. He was admitted to the bar in New York City in 1768.
One of Jay's earliest achievements was his participation in the settlement of the boundary line between New York and New Jersey in 1773. During the time preceding the Revolutionary War, Jay actively protested against British treatment of the colonies but did not fully advocate independence until 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was created. Jay then supported independence wholeheartedly. He was a member of the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS from 1774 to 1779, acting as its president from 1778 to 1779.
In 1776, Jay was a member of the Provincial Congress of New York and was instrumental in the formation of the constitution of that state. From 1776 to 1778, he performed the duties of New York chief justice.
"A DISTINCTIVE CHARACTER OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, THE MARK OF ITS LEGITIMACY, IS THAT IT OWES ITS EXISTENCE TO THE ACT OF THE WHOLE PEOPLE WHO CREATED IT."
Jay next embarked on a foreign service career. His first appointment was to the post of
minister plenipotentiary to Spain in 1779, where he succeeded in gaining financial assistance for the colonies.
In 1782, Jay joined BENJAMIN FRANKLIN in Paris for a series of peace negotiations with Great Britain. In 1784, Jay became secretary of foreign affairs and performed these duties until 1789. During his term, Jay participated in the ARBITRATION of various international disputes.
Jay recognized the limitations of his powers in foreign service under the existing government of the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, and this made him a strong supporter of the Constitution. He publicly displayed his views in the five papers he composed for The...