Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Jay, John

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JAY, JOHN, an American statesman; born in New York City, Dec. 12, 1745; graduated at King's College (now Columbia University) in 1764; admitted to the bar in 1768. Elected to the 1st Continental Congress in 1774, and re-elected in 1775, he prepared addresses to the people of Great Britain and Canada, and to his own countrymen; drafted the constitution of New York State in 1777, and was appointed chief-justice of the State; was returned to Congress in 1778 and elected its president, and in the following year was sent as minister to Spain. In 1782 he was added by Congress to the peace commissioners, and it was mainly by his efforts that the treaty was brought to a conclusion on terms so satisfactory to the United States. In 1784-1789 he was secretary for foreign affairs. On the adoption of the National Constitution in 1789 he wrote in its favor in the “Federalist”; and after the organization of the Federal Government, Washingfton having offered him his choice of the offices in his gift, he selected that of chief-justice of the Supreme Court. In 1794 he concluded with Lord Grenville the convention familiarly known as “Jay's treaty,” which provided for the recovery by British subjects of pre-revolutionary debts and by Americans of losses incurred by illegal capture by British cruisers, and the determination of the E. frontier of what is now the State of Maine; the British were to surrender the W. posts held by them in 1786, and there was to be reciprocity of inland trade between the United States and British North America. The treaty, though favorable to the United States, was passionately denounced by the Democrats as a surrender of American rights and a betrayal of France; but it was ratified by Washington in August, 1795. Jay was governor of New York from 1795 to 1801. Then, though offered his former post of chief-justice, he retired from public life, and passed the remainder of his days at his estate of Bedford, Westchester co., N. Y., where he died, May 17, 1829.