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John Jay (1745–1829)
Founding Father
King’s College 1764

Jay was a political theorist, jurist and diplomat who initially resisted separation from Great Britain and then became a central figure in the creation of the American nation. Best known as the first chief justice of the United States, he was also secretary of foreign affairs of the Confederation, a leader in the fight for the ratification of the Constitution in New York, and George Washington's prime negotiator in the struggle with Britain that resulted in the 1794 treaty that bears his name. In addition to his prominent national and international roles, Jay served two terms as governor of New York State and helped establish the “whiggish” Protestant Episcopal Church in America in the immediate wake of the Revolution. A founder of the New York Manumission Society, he introduced legislation prohibiting slavery in New York State in 1777 and continued antislavery activities throughout his life.

Jay entered King’s College in 1760 and graduated with top honors in 1764. (His older brother, Dr. Peter Jay, had helped raise funds in England and Scotland for the newly launched King’s College.) As a contributor to The Federalist in 1787–88, he collaborated with fellow Columbian Alexander Hamilton, as he had three years earlier in effecting the safe transition of the tory King’s College into a thoroughly republicanized Columbia College in 1784.

Read more about Jay in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Explore Columbia libraries' recently launched Web site, The Papers of John Jay, 1745–1829, an image database of scanned letters, legal papers, diplomatic correspondence, and other materials.

Alexander Hamilton and John Jay joined James Madison in writing The Federalist, essays considered the defining discourse on American government.

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