Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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John Jay


Mr. Jay returned to the United States, in July, 1784, and immediately entered upon the duties of chief of the foreign department of the government, to which he was chosen before his arrival. He occupied that station until the new organization of government under the Federal Constitution, when he was appointed the first chief justice of the United States. He was a zealous advocate of the Constitution, with his pen,2 and in the verbal debates in the State convention called to consider it. In 1794, Mr. Jay was appointed an envoy extraordinary to negotiate a commercial treaty, and settle some disputes between the United States and Great Britain. The treaty was not satisfactory to a great portion of his countrymen, and as it also offended France and the "French party" here, intense excitement prevailed throughout the country. Yet he was sustained, and on his return home, in 1795, he found the office of governor of leis native State awaiting him. He was chief magistrate of New York until 1801, when he withdrew from public life to enjoy repose it his beautiful seat at Bedford, in Westchester county, although he was then only fifty-six years of age. He succeeded Elias Boudinot as president of the American Bible Society, and he was a generous patron of every moral and religious enterprise. Greatly beloved by all his friends, and respected for his many virtues by his political enemies, that patriarch of the Republic went peacefully to his rest, on the 17th of May, 1829, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.

1 See sketch of Jacob Leisler.

2 He was a colleague with Madison and Hamilton, in writing the series of papers known, in the collected form as The Federalist. In that labor be was interrupted, for some time, on account of a severe wound in the head, from a stone, hurled during a riot in New York, known as The Doctors' Mob.

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Last modified December 24, 2004