John Jay Essay
Jay was born on December 12, 1745 to one of New York’s most influential families. Self-confident, he was marked from the beginning as a person of uncommon intellectual ability. He graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1764 and was admitted to the New York bar four years later. In 1773, as secretary of the Royal Mixed Commission, Jay observed the settlement of a boundary dispute between New Jersey and New York through arbitration. The success of the arbitration technique evidently made a lasting impression on him. Twenty-one years later, he recommended arbitration as a way of resolving differences between the United States and Great Britain.
Jay’s active involvement in the First Continental Congress ended his private law practice and drew him into full-time public service. Afraid of unleashing the prejudices of the masses, Jay opposed independence, but once the decision was made, he loyally supported the American Revolution. After helping to draft New York’s new constitution and serving for a few months as the state of New York’sfirst chief justice, Jay was elected president of the Second Continental Congress on December 10, 1778.
Jay served as minister to Spain from 1780 to 1782, then joined in the peace talks in Paris. His insistence that the American commissioners be regarded as representatives of the United States, not of the “Colonies,” delayed the negotiations and may have cost the United States possession of Canada, which the British might have been willing to surrender in exchange for an early end to the war. Jay also shared responsibility with John Adams for suing for peace without consultation with France. After the treaty ending the war (the Treaty of Paris) was signed in September 1783, Jay returned to New York.
Jay had planned to resume his private law practice on his return. Instead, the Continental Congress, in his absence abroad, had elected him secretary of foreign affairs. The position