Chief Justice John Jay

President John Jay

Third President of the Continental Congress
United States of America 
December 10, 1778 to September 29, 1779

Copyright © Stan Klos, President Who? Forgotten Founders 2004 & 2008 


Earlier, on June 13th, 1781 John Jay was added by a vote of Congress to the peace the commission, headed by John Adams, and at the request of Benjamin Franklin.  Up until April 1782 Franklin had not requested Jay’s aid in the Treaty Negotiations with Great Britain.  Robert Oswald called on Franklin in Paris as an unofficial represented of the British Crown to begin the negotiations.  Franklin wrote John Jay:

I have undertaken to pay all the bills of your acceptance that have come to my knowledge, and I hope in God no more will be drawn upon us, but when funds, are first provided. In that case, your constant residence at Madrid is no longer so necessary. You may make a journey either for health or pleasure without retarding the progress of a negotiation not yet begun. Here you are greatly wanted, for messengers begin to come and go, and there is much talk of a treaty proposed, but I can neither make nor agree to propositions of peace without the assistance of my colleagues. Mr. Adams, I am afraid, cannot just now leave Holland, Mr. Jefferson is not in Europe, and Mr. Laurens is a prisoner, though abroad upon parole.

I wish, therefore, that you would resolve upon the journey and render yourself here as soon as possible. You could be of infinite service. Spain has taken four years to consider whether she should treat with us or not. Give her forty, and let us in the meantime mind our own business. I have much to communicate to you, but choose rather to do it viva voce than trust it to letters. [85]

John Jay went to Paris, where Franklin was alone. The position of the two commissioners was complicated by the fact that Congress, under the persistent urgency of Luzerne, the French minister at Philadelphia, had materially modified the instructions originally given to Mr. Adams. On 15 June, 1781, Congress instructed its commissioners

to make the most candid and confidential communications upon all subjects to the ministers of our generous ally, the king of France; to undertake nothing in their negotiations for peace and truce without their knowledge and concurrence, and ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice and opinion. [86]

Two arguments were used in support of this instruction: First, the king was explicitly pledged by his minister to support the United States "in all points relating to their prosperity", and second, that "nothing" would be yielded by Great Britain that was not extorted by the address of France. "An interesting memoir” in the French archives, among the papers under the head of "Angleterre," shows that the interests of France required that the ambition of the American colonies "should be checked and held down to fixed limits through the union of the three nations," [87] England, France and Spain.

When Jay received his instructions from the new constitutional government his response to the United States, in Congress Assembled on September 21, 1781 did not mix his distaste for the assignment:

So far as personal pride and reluctance to humiliation may render their appointment contra-agreeable, I view it is a very unimportant circumstance, and should Congress on any occasion think it for the public good to place me in a station inferior and subordinate to the one I now hold, they will find me ready to descend from the one and cheerfully undertake the duties of the other. My ambition will always be more gratified in being useful than conspicuous; for in my opinion the solid dignity of a man depends less on the height or extent of the sphere allotted to him than on the manner in which he may fulfill the duties of it.

But, sir, as an American I feel an interest in the dignity of my country, which renders it difficult for me to reconcile myself to the idea of the sovereign independent States of America submitting, in the persons of their ministers, to be absolutely governed by the advice and opinions of the servants of another sovereign, especially in a case of such national importance. [88]

Jay arrived in France in late June of 1782.  He wrote to his friend, Robert Livingston of his travels to France, his mission and about his disposition towards Benjamin Franklin:

The slow manner of travelling in a carriage through Spain, Mrs. Jay's being taken with a fever and ague the day we left Bordeaux, and the post horses at the different stages having been engaged for the Count du Nord, who had left Paris with a great retinue, preventing my arriving here until the day before yesterday.

After placing my family in a hotel, I immediately went out to Pussy and spent the remainder of the afternoon in conversing with Dr. Franklin on the subjects which had induced him to write for me. I found that he had then more reason to think my presence necessary than it seems to be at present.

Yesterday we paid a visit to the Count de Vergennes. He gave me a very friendly reception, and entered pretty fully with us into the state of the negociation. His answer to the British minister appeared tome ably drawn. It breathes great moderation, and yet is so general as to leave room for such demands as circumstances, at the time of the treaty, may render convenient.

There is reason to believe that Mr. Fox and Lord Shelburne are not perfectly united, and that Rodney's success will repress the ardor of our enemies for an immediate peace. On leaving the Count, he informed us that he was preparing despatches for America, and that our letters, if sent to him to-morrow morning, might go by the same opportunity. This short notice, together with the interruptions I meet with every moment, obliged me to be less particular than I could wish; but as Dr. Franklin also writes by this conveyance, you will doubtless receive from him full intelligence on these subjects.

My last letters also informed you that the court of Spain had commissioned the Count d'Aranda, their ambassador here, to continue with me the negociation for a treaty with our country. I have not yet seen him, and Dr. Franklin concurs with me in opinion that it is more expedient to open this business by a letter than by a visit.

I shall endeavor to get lodgings as near to Dr. Franklin as I can. He is in perfect good health, and his mind appears more vigorous than that of any man of his age I have known. He certainly is a valuable minister, and an agreeable companion. [89]

On the following day, Jay who was of French dissent and spoke the language fluently wrote this of his grandfather’s country:

What I have seen of France pleases me exceedingly. Dr. Franklin has received some late noble proofs of the king's liberality, in the liquidation of his accounts, and the terms and manner of paying the balance due on them. No people understand doing civil things so well as the French. The aids they have afforded us received additional value from the generous and gracious manner in which they were supplied; and that circumstance will have a proportionable degree of influence in cementing the connexion formed between the two countries. [90]

Before the arrival of Jay, Franklin had an informal conversation, first with William Grenville, and then with Mr. Richard Oswald,[91] who had been sent by the cabinet of Rockingham. On 6 August, Oswald presented Jay and Franklin with a commission prescribing the terms of the Enabling Act, and authorizing him

to treat with the colonies and with any or either of them, and any part of them, and with any description of men in them, and with any person whatsoever, of and concerning peace, [92]

This document led to a new complication in the American commission by developing a material difference of opinion between Jay and Franklin.  When the commission was submitted to Count Vergennes,[93] he held that it was sufficient, and advised Fitzherbert,[94] who was negotiating a separate treaty between the super powers, to that effect. Franklin believed it "would do" but Jay declined to parley under the description of "colonies" refusing anything other than an equal footing in the negotiations. Commissioner Oswald wrote in his dairies:

I accordingly returned to Paris and called on Mr. Jay. He is a man of good sense, of frank easy and polite manners. He read over the copy of the Commission and Mr. Townshend's letter accounting for its not being under seal, and then said: ‘By the quotation from the Act of Parliament in the Commission he supposed it was meant that Independence was to be treated upon : and was to be granted perhaps as the price of peace: that it ought to be no part of a Treaty: it ought to have been expressly granted by Act of Parliament, and an order for all troops to be withdrawn, previous to any proposal for Treaty: as that was not done, the King, he said, ought to do it by Proclamation and order all garrisons to be evacuated, and then close the American war by a treaty.’ He said many things of a retrospective kind, such as the happy effects a Declaration of that nature, at earlier periods, would have produced, if Great Britain had handsomely and nobly made this grant, before such deep wounds had been given to that Bias and attachment which till then subsisted all over that country in favour of G. Britain even in spite of their petitions being repeatedly rejected. That in such case they would undoubtedly have concerted such plan of Treaty as would have not only restored Peace, but would have laid a solid bottom of amity and conciliation, and such as would have obliterated from their memory, in a short time, all remembrance of preceding acts of distress and violence.[95]

Oswald adopted Jay's view, but the British cabinet did not. Jay's refusal to proceed soon stayed the peace negotiations of the other powers. Meanwhile Floridablanca had sent an envoy to France to discuss Jay’s treaty proposal.  Spain proposed a Western U.S. Boundary far from the Mississippi River which was rejected by both Jay and Franklin despite Vergennes, the French Foreign Minister, siding with the Spanish boundaries.  It became abundantly clear that France and Spain were conspiring to limit the influence on the United States in North America by stripping it of valuable land holdings.   


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During Jay's residence in Spain he had learned much of the aims and methods of the Bourbon policy.[96] He learned of this through a memoir submitted to him by Rayneval,[97] as his "personal views" against our right to the boundaries. He also discovered in an intercepted letter of Marbois,[98] secretary of legation at Philadelphia, a French position against our claim to the fisheries. The secretive depar­ture for England of Rayneval, the most skillful and trusted agent of Vergennes, convinced him that one object of Rayneval's mission was to prejudice Earl Shelburne[99] against the American claims. As a prudent counter-move to this secret mission, Jay promptly dispatched Benjamin Vaughan, an intimate friend and agent of Shelburne, to counteract Rayneval's adverse influence on American interests. [100] This was done without consultation with Franklin, who did not concur with Jay regarding to Rayneval's journey. Franklin retained his confidence in the French court and was embarrassed and constrained by his instructions. It appears from "Shelburne's" Life" that Rayneval, in his interview with Shelburne and Grantham, after discussing other questions, proceeded to speak about America; and "here Rayneval played into the hands of the English ministers, expressing a strong opinion against the American claims to the fisheries and the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio" [101]

Wharton writes of this intrigue:

… we have in the correspondence of George III a new light thrown on the action taken by Jay in consequence of this letter. ‘The day after he received Marbois' letter he dispatched,’ says Jay's biographer, ‘a secret agent to the British secretary of state, concealing his mission not only from the French Government but also from Dr. Franklin. This agent was Mr. Vaughan, an English gentleman then residing in Paris, and well affected to the American cause. He was instructed to represent to the British minister that without an acknowledgment of American independence as a preliminary to a treaty, neither confidence nor peace could be reasonably expected; that as Britain could not conquer the United States, it was her interest to conciliate them ; that England should not be deceived by the affected moderation of France, since the United States would not treat except on an equal footing ; that it was the interest of France but not of England to postpone the acknowledgment of independence to a general peace; that a hope of dividing the fisheries with France would be futile, as America would not make peace without them; that the very attempt to deprive the United States of the navigation of the Mississippi, or of that river as a boundary, would irritate and inflame America; and that such attempts, if successful, would sow the seeds of future war in the very treaty of peace.

It will, however, be seen hereafter that Benjamin Vaughan, while a gentleman of great amiability and personal worth, was, when Jay sent him without Franklin's knowledge on a confidential mission to the British ministry, in the employ of that ministry as secret agent at Paris. It is due to Jay to say that he was ignorant of this fact, though he would have been notified of it had he consulted Franklin. One of the most singular incidents of this transaction is that George III, seeking double treachery in thus sending back to him his own agent in the guise of an agent join the American legation, regarded it as peculiarly subtle machination of Franklin, which it was his duty to battle by utterly discrediting Benjamin Vaughan. It should be added that Franklin's affection for Benjamin Vaughan was in no wise diminished by Vaugban's assumption, with honesty which no one who knew him would question, of this peculiar kind of mediutorship. And in Jay Franklin's confidence was unabated. He more than once said that no one could be found more suited than Jay to represent the United States abroad. 

A new commission, in the form recommended by Jay authorizing Oswald to negotiate a treaty with “the United States" of America, was at once ordered.  Lord Shelburne wrote to Oswald that they had said and done "everything which had been desired," and put the greatest confidence ever placed in men in the American commissioners. Vaughan returned "joyfully" with the new commission on September 27th, and on October 5th 1782 John Jay turned over the plan of a treaty to Oswald.  The plan included the new clauses relating to independence, the territorial boundaries and the articles on the fisheries. Oswald, in enclosing the plan to his government, wrote: "I look upon the treaty as now closed."  

When the Treaty arrived in England, the offer of Jay to the free navigation of the Mississippi was gladly accepted:

The great features of the treaty were left unchanged but the cabinet complained of Oswald for yielding everything, and gave him for an assistant Henry Strachey, Townshend's under-secretary of state. On the twentieth of October, both of the secretaries of state being present, Shelburue gave Strachey three points specially in charge: No concession of a right to dry fish on Newfoundland; a recognition of the validity of debts to British subjects contracted by citizens of the United States before the war; but, above all, adequate indemnity for the confiscated property of the loyal refugees. This last demand touched alike the sympathy and the sense of honor of England. The previous answer that the commissioners had no power to treat on the business of the loyalists was regarded as an allegation that, though they claimed to have full powers, they were not plenipotentiaries; that they were acting under thirteen separate sovereignties, which had no common head. To meet the exigence, Shelburhe proposed either an extension of Nova Scotia to the Penobscot or the Kennebec or the Saco, so that a province might be formed for the reception of the loyalists; or that a part of the money to be received from sales of the Ohio lands might be applied to their subsistence. To the ministry, it was clear that peace, if to be made at all, must be made before the coming together of parliament, which had been summoned for the twenty-fifth of November. [102]

The great success of the English at Gibraltar emboldened the British Ministry to resist the demands of France and Spain in their separate Peace negotiations. It also induced them to attempt some modification of the concessions Oswald had already made to the United States.  On October 25th John Adams arrived from Holland, where he had just successfully negotiated a treaty. He expressed to Franklin his entire approval of Jay's views and action of negotiating with Great Britain independent of French Court.  At their next meeting with Oswald, Franklin remarked to Jay in everyone’s presence "I am of your opinion, and will go on with these gentlemen without consulting the court".[103]  Jay wrote to Gouverneur Morris on not heeding the directions of the United States, in Congress Assembled on October 13, 1782:

I have received your festina lente letter, but wish it had been at least partly in cipher; you need not be informed of my reasons for the wish, as by this time you must know that seals are, on this side of the water, rather matters of decoration than of use. It gave me nevertheless great pleasure to receive that letter, it being the first from you that had reached me, the Lord knows when. I find you are industrious, and of consequence useful, so much the better for yourself, for the public, and for our friend Morris, whom I consider as the pillar of American credit.

The King of Great Britain, by letters patent under the great seal, has authorized Mr. Oswald to treat with the commissioners of the United States of America. His first commission literally pursued the enabling act, and the authority it gave him was expressed in the very terms of that act, viz, to treat with the colonies, and with any or either of them, and any part of them, and with any description of men in them, and with any person whatsoever, of and concerning peace, &c.

Had I not violated the instructions of Congress, their dignity would have been in the dust; for the French minister even took pains, not only to persuade us to treat under that commission, but to prevent the second, by telling Fitzherbert that the first was sufficient. I told the minister that we neither could nor would treat with any nation in the world on any other than on an equal footing.

We may and we may not have a peace this winter. Act as if the war would certainly continue; keep proper garrisons in your strong posts; and preserve your army sufficiently numerous, and well appointed, until every idea of hostility and surprise shall have completely vanished.  I could write you a volume, but my health admits only of short intervals of application.[104]

On November 17th Jay wrote U.S. Foreign Secretary Livingston a long letter outlining his progress in the Treaty of Paris negotiation from his arrival stating:

Although it is uncertain when I shall have an opportunity either of finishing or transmitting the long, particular letter which I am now undertaking to write, I think the matter it will contain is too interesting to rest only in my memory, or in short notes, which nobody but myself can well unfold the meaning of. I shall, therefore, write on as my health will permit, and when finished shall convey this letter by the first prudent American that may go from hence to Nantes or L'Orient. My reception here was as friendly as an American minister might expect from this polite and politic court; for I think they deceive themselves who suppose that these kind of attentions are equally paid to their private as to their public characters. [105]

Jay’s account was precise and concluded with an account from the time Mr. Oswald received a suitable Commission to negotiate a viable Treaty and his reasons for excluding France from the negotiations:

On the 27th of September, Mr. Vaughan returned here from England, with the courier that brought Mr. Oswald's new commission, and very happy were we to see it. Copies of it have already been sent to you, so that I will not lengthen this letter by inserting it here; nor will I add anything further on this head at present, than to assure you that Mr. Vaughan greatly merits our acknowledgments.

The next thing to be done was to prepare and draw up the proposed articles. They were soon completed and settled between us and Mr. Oswald, by whom they were sent to his court, with letters declaring his opinion that they ought to be accepted and agreed to; but they differed with him in opinion.

These articles, for very obvious reasons, were not communicated to the Count de Vergennes.

Mr. Oswald did not receive any opinion from his court relating to our articles until the 23d of October, when letters from the minister informed him that the extent of our boundaries, and the situation of the Tories, &c., caused some objections, and the minister's secretary was on the way here to confer with us on those subjects.

On the 24th of October, I dined at Pussy with Dr. Franklin, where I found M. Rayneval. After dinner we were in private with him a considerable time. He desired to know the state of our negociation with Mr. Oswald. We told him that difficulties had arisen about our boundaries, and that one of the minister's secretaries was coming here with papers and documents on that subject. He asked us what boundaries we claimed. We told him the river St. John to the east, and ancient Canada, as described in the proclamation, to the north. He contested our right to such an extent to the north, and entered into several arguments to show our claim to be ill founded. These arguments were chiefly drawn from the ancient French claims, and from a clause in the proclamation restraining governors from making grants in the Indian country, &c.

He inquired what we demanded as to the fisheries. We answered that we insisted on enjoying a right in common to them with Great Britain. He intimated that our views should not extend further than a coast fishery, and insinuated that pains had lately been taken in the eastern States to excite their apprehensions, and increase their demands on that head. We told him that such a right was essential to us, and thug our people would not be content to make peace without it; and Dr. Franklin explained very fully their great importance to the eastern States in particular. He then softened his manner, and observed that it was natural for France to wish better to us than to England; but as the fisheries were a great nursery for seamen, we might suppose that England would be disinclined to admit others to share in it, and that for his part he wished there might be as few obstacles to a peace as possible. He reminded us, also, that Mr. Oswald's new commission had been issued posterior to his arrival at London.

On the 26th of October Mr. Adams arrived here, and in him I have found a very able and agreeable coadjutor ... I am sensible of the impression which this letter will make upon you and upon Congress, and how it will affect the confidence they have in this court. These are critical times, and great necessity there is for prudence and secrecy.

So far, and in such matters as this court may think it their interest to support us, they certainly will, but no further, in my opinion.

They [France]are interested in separating us from Great Britain, and on that point we may, I believe, depend upon them; but it is not their interest that we should become a great and formidable people, and therefore they will not help us to become so. It is not their interest that such a treaty should be formed between us and Britain as would produce cordiality and mutual confidence. They will therefore endeavor to plant such seeds of jealousy, discontent, and discord in it as may naturally and perpetually keep our eyes fixed on France for security. This consideration must induce them to wish to render Britain formidable in our neighborhood, and to leave us as few resources of wealth and power as possible.

It is their interest to keep some point or other in contest between us and Britain to the end of the war, to prevent the possibility of our sooner agreeing, and thereby keep us employed in the war, and dependent on them for supplies. Hence they have favored and will continue to favor the British demands as to matters of boundary and the Tories.

The same views will render them desirous to continue the war in our country as long as possible, nor do I believe they will take any measures for our repossession of New York unless the certainty of its evacuation should render such an attempt advisable. The Count de Vergennes lately said that there could be no great use in expeditions to take places which must be given up to us at a peace.

Such being our situation, it appears to me advisable to keep up our army to the end of the war, even if the enemy should evacuate our country; nor does it appear to me prudent to listen to any overtures for carrying a part of it to the West Indies in case of such an event.

I think we have no rational dependence except on God and ourselves, nor can I yet be persuaded that Great Britain has either wisdom, virtue, or magnanimity enough to adopt a perfect and liberal system of conciliation. If they again thought they could conquer us, they would again attempt it.

We are nevertheless, thank God, in a better situation than we have been. As our independence is acknowledged by Britain, every obstacle to our forming treaties with neutral powers and receiving their merchant ships is at an end, so that we may carry on the war with greater advantage than before in case our negociations for peace should be fruitless.

It is not my meaning, and therefore I hope I shall not be understood to mean, that we should deviate in the least from our treaty with France; our honor and our interest are concerned in inviolably adhering to it. I mean only to say that if we lean on her love of liberty, her affection for America, or her disinterested magnanimity, we shall lean on a broken reed, that will sooner or later pierce our hands, and Geneva as well as Corsica justifies this observation.

I have written many disagreeable things in this letter, but I thought it my duty. I have also deviated from my instructions, which, though not to be justified, will, I hope, be excused on account of the singular and unforeseen circumstances which occasioned it.

Let me again recommend secrecy. [106]

Jay spoke of their perfect accord as a team acknowledging Mr. Adams's services on the eastern boundaries and Franklin's contributions on the subject of the Tories.

John Adams wrote in his Diary of Jay’s resolve in the negotiations:

That J. insists on having an exchange of full Powers, before he enters on Conference or Treaty. Refuses to treat with D'Aranda, until he has a Copy of his Full Powers. Refused to treat with Oswald, until he had a Commission to treat with the Commissioners of the United States of America. -- F. was afraid to insist upon it. Was afraid We should be obliged to treat without. Differed with J. Refused to sign a Letter &c. Vergennes wanted him to treat with D'Aranda, without. [107]

Adams also went on to record John Jay’s jaded feelings about the French and their role in the negotiations recording in his diary on November 5, 1782:

Mr. Jay likes Frenchmen as little as Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard did. He says they are not a Moral People. They know not what it is. He don’t like any Frenchman. -- The Marquis de la Fayette is clever, but he is a Frenchman. -- Our Allies don’t play fair, he told me. They were endeavouring to deprive us of the Fishery, the Western Lands, and the Navigation of the Missisippi. They would even bargain with the English to deprive us of them. They want to play the Western Lands, Mississippi and whole Gulf of Mexico into the Hands of Spain. [108]

Adams wrote Abigail on November 8 of the Peace Commissioner’s success:

The King of Great Britain, by a Commission under the great Seal of his Kingdom, has constituted Richard Oswald Esqr. his Commissioner to treat with the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, and has given him full Powers which have been mutually exchanged. Thus G.B. has Shifted Suddenly about, and from persecuting us with unrelenting Bowells, has unconditionally and unequivocally acknowledged Us a Sovereign State and independent Nation. It is surprising that she should be the third Power to make this Acknowledgment. She has been negotiated into it, for Jay and I peremptorily refused to Speak or hear, before We were put upon an equal Foot. Franklin as usual would have taken the Advice of the C. [Comte] de V. [Vergennes] and treated, without, but nobody would join him. [109]

Finally Adams wrote Foreign Secretary Livingston this November 21st letter concerning the negotiations:

We live in critical moments. Parliament is to meet, and the King's speech will be delivered on the 26th. If the speech announces Mr. Oswald's commission, and the two houses, in their answers, thank him for issuing it, and there should be no change in the ministry, the prospect of peace will be flattering. Or, if there should be a change in the ministry, and the Duke of Portland, with Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke, should come in, it will be still more so. But if Richmond, Camden, Keppel, and Townshend should retire, and my Lord North and company come in, with or without the Earl of Shelburne, the appearances of peace will be very unpromising. My Lord North, indeed, cannot revoke the acknowledgment of our independence, and would not probably renounce the negotiations for peace, but ill-will to us is so habitual to him and his master, that he would fall in earnestly with the wing-clipping system; join in attempts to deprive us of the fisheries and the Mississippi, and to fasten upon us the Tories, and in every other measure to cramp, stint, impoverish, and enfeeble us. Shelburne is not so orthodox as he should be, but North is a much greater heretic in American politics.

It deserves much consideration what course we should take in case the old ministry should come in whole or in part. It is certain, at present, that to be obnoxious to the Americans and their ministers is a very formidable popular cry against any minister or candidate for the ministry in England, for the nation is more generally for recovering the good-will of the Americans than they ever have been. Nothing would strike such a blow to any ministry as to break off the negotiations for peace; if the old ministry come in, they will demand terms of us at first, probably, that we can never agree to.

It is now eleven or twelve days since the last result of our conferences were laid before the ministry in London. Mr. Vaughan went off on Sunday noon, the 17th, so that he is no doubt before this time with my Lord Shelburne. He is possessed of an ample budget of arguments to convince his lordship that he ought to give up all the remaining points between us. Mr. Oswald's letters will suggest the same arguments in a different light, and Mr. Strachey, if he is disposed to do it, is able to enlarge upon them all in conversation.

The fundamental point of the sovereignty of the United States being settled in England, the only question now is, whether they shall pursue a contracted or a liberal, a good-natured or an ill-natured plan towards us. If they are generous, and allow us all we ask, it will be the better for them; if stingy, the worst. That France don't wish them to be very noble to us may be true. But we should be dupes, indeed, if we did not make use of every argument with them to show them that it is their interest to be so, and they will be the greatest bubbles of all if they should suffer themselves to be derived by their passions, or by any arts, to adopt an opposite tenor of conduct.[110]

John Jay was especially concerned over the fate of the Tories in the negotiations, especially New York as the British had held the city for six long years.  There was much dissent among N.Y. patriots over the loyalist who prospered in the city during the revolution.  The New York Governor just after he was elected:

… persecuted, robbed, plundered, banished, and imprisoned, the unhappy loyalists at a great rate. His inveteracy, his rancor, and hatred to Great Britain and the Loyalists, he carried so far, that he has been heard to say, ‘that he had rather roast in hell to all eternity, than‘ consent to a dependence upon Great Britain, or ‘show mercy to a damned Tory.’ [111]

On Monday, November 25th the Commissioners heard from Stratchey and Oswald.  Adams recorded in his diary:

Dr. F., Mr. J. and myself at 11 met at Mr. Oswalds Lodgings. Mr. Stratchey told Us, he had been to London and waited personally on every one of the Kings Cabinet Council, and had communicated the last Propositions to them. They every one of them, unanimously condemned that respecting the Tories, so that that unhappy Affair stuck as he foresaw and foretold that it would.

The Affair of the Fishery too was somewhat altered. They could not admit Us to dry, on the Shores of Nova Scotia, nor to fish within three Leagues of the Coast, nor within fifteen Leagues of the Coast of Cape Breton.

The Boundary they did not approve. They thought it too extended, too vast a Country, but they would not make a difficulty.

That if these Terms were not admitted, the whole Affair must be thrown into Parliament, where every Man would be for insisting on Restitution, to the Refugees.
He talked about excepting a few by Name of the most obnoxious of the Refugees.[112]

In his diary, Adams continues recording the proposed changes to the treaty with surprising details and concludes that day’s business writing:

Mr. Jay desired to know, whether Mr. Oswald had now Power to conclude and sign with Us? Stratchey said he had absolutely. Mr. Jay desired to know if the Propositions now delivered Us were their Ultimatum. Stratchey seemed loth to answer, but at last said No. -- We agreed these were good Signs of Sincerity.[113]

Negotiations continued in good faith and on November 30, 1782 Adams recorded:

 NOVEMBER 30 SATURDAY. ST. ANDREWS DAY: We met first at Mr. Jays, then at Mr. Oswalds, examined and compared the Treaties. Mr. Stratchey had left out the limitation of Time, the 12 Months, that the Refugees were allowed to reside in America, in order to recover their Estates if they could. Dr. Franklin said this was a Surprize upon Us. Mr. Jay said so too. We never had consented to leave it out, and they insisted upon putting it in, which was done. Mr. Laurens said there ought to be a Stipulation that the British Troops should carry off no Negroes or other American Property. We all agreed. Mr. Oswald consented. Then The Treaties were signed, sealed and delivered, and We all went out to Passy to dine with Dr. Franklin. Thus far has proceeded this great Affair.[114]

Conclusion of the Treaty with United Kingdom Preliminary Articles of Peace, November 30th, 1782. - Peace was desired by all parties as the Revolutionary War waged on. However the decisive battle at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 was a turning point and peace negotiations became formalized. Once Great Britain agreed to acknowledge the United States as free, sovereign, and an independent state, sensitive issues on boundaries, fishing rights, and compensation still needed resolution. Neither side got all that it wanted, and the language was at times purposely vague. However, on November 30, 1782, a preliminary treaty of peace was reached. -- General Records of the United States Government, National Archives 

When the news of the signed Preliminary Treaty was communicated to Vergennes, he wrote to Rayneval in England that the concessions of the English exceeded all that he had believed possible; Rayneval replied: "The treaty seems to me like a dream." [115] The deed was done, Jay’s gamble of defying the orders of Congress and excluding France resulted in a remarkable Treaty for the United States.  The ever extraordinary Benjamin Franklin smoothed things over with the French Court.  He actually managed to get a new loan from France to America secured marking a somewhat official acceptance of the triumph secured by Jay and his fellow Commissioners. Alexander Hamilton wrote to Jay, after examining the Treaty:

I have been witness with pleasure to every event which has had a tendency to advance you in the esteem of your country; and I may assure you with sincerity, that it is as high as you could possibly wish. All have united in the warmest approbation of your conduct. I cannot forbear telling you this, because my situation has given me access to the truth, and I gratify my friendship for you in communicating what cannot fail to gratify your sensibility.

The peace which exceeds in the goodness of its terms, the expectations of the most sanguine does the highest honor to those who made it. It is the more agreeable, as the time was come, when thinking men began to be seriously alarmed at the internal embarrassments and exhausted state of this country. The New England people talk of making you an annual fish-offering as an acknowledgement of your exertions for the participation of the fisheries.

We have now happily concluded the great work of independence, but much remains to be done to reap the fruits of it. Our prospects are not flattering. Every day proves the inefficacy of the present confederation, yet the common danger being removed, we are receding instead of advancing in a disposition to amend its defects. The road to popularity in each state is to inspire jealousies of the power of Congress, though nothing can be more apparent than that they have no power; and that for the want of it, the resources of the country during the war could not be drawn out, and we at this moment experience all the mischiefs of a bankrupt and ruined credit. It is to be hoped that when prejudice and folly have run themselves out of breath we may return to reason and correct our errors.

After having served in the field during the war, I have been making a short apprenticeship in Congress; but the evacuation of New York approaching, I am preparing to take leave of public life to enter into the practice of the law. Your country will continue to demand your services abroad. [116]

The violation of the instructions of Congress displeased a part of that body. Mr. Madison, who voted for the instruction, wrote: "In this business Jay has taken the lead, and proceeded to a length of which you can form little idea. Adams has followed with cordiality. Franklin has been dragged into it." [117] Mr. Sparks, in his "Life of Franklin," contended that the violation of their instructions by the American commissioners in concluding and signing their treaty without the concurrence of the French government was "unjustifiable."

Map of North America, given in the Life of Shelburne: "Showing the Boundaries of the UNITED STATES, CANADA, and the SPANISH POSSESSIONS, according to the proposals of the Court of France in 1782

One only has to look at a 1780’s map of North America, given in the "Life of Shelburne," showing "the boundaries of the United States, Canada, and the Spanish possessions, according to the proposals of the court of France," to understand what John Jay achieved. If the American commissioners followed the instructions to govern themselves by the opinion of French Minister Vergennes, the Treaty would have shut out the United States from the Mississippi and the Gulf.  It would have deprived them of nearly the whole of the states of Alabama and Mississippi, the greater part of Kentucky and Tennessee, the whole of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota, as well as the navigation of the Mississippi.  

Treaty of Paris: Treaty of Paris Signed by John Adams,
Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay Commissioners of the
United States in Congress Assembled on
September 3, 1783 -- Courtesy of the National Archives [118]

John Jay was truly the sage who produced the most formidable Treaty of Paris as Preliminary was a simple byword of the provisional articles, as nothing more could be obtained from the cabinet of Fox and North in 1783.  The Treaty was signed on the 3rd day of September, 1783 by John JayJohn Adams and Benjamin Franklin as Peace Commissioners of the United States of America.

After the execution of the treaty, Jay remained in France settling his Spanish accounts. Robert Livingston had resigned as Foreign Secretary and there was little communication from Congress or direction from President Boudinot and later, Mifflin who ratified the treaty in a January 14, 1784 Proclamation. John Jay returned to New York on July, 24th, 1784 not knowing Congress elected him the new Foreign Secretary.  

The USCA Moves the Seat of Government to New York To Accommodate John Jay

The United States in Congress Assembled (USCA) Journals report that Congress elected John Jay as Secretary for Foreign Affairs on May 7th, 1784, while Jay was still in France:   

“Thereupon, Congress proceeded to the election, and being this day informed by a letter of the 9 of March last, from the hon. Dr. Franklin, that the hon. Mr. J. Jay, proposed to embark for America, in the month of April, and this information corresponding with the intelligence communicated to Congress by Mr. Jay himself, in his letters of last year, Mr. Jay was put in nomination; and, the ballots being taken, The hon Mr. John Jay was elected Secretary for foreign affairs, having been previously nominated by Mr. [Elbridge] Gerry.”

John Jay was officially informed of this elected office for the first time upon his return to the United States on July 24, 1784, when he received a letter from USCA Secretary Charles Thomson that stated:

I have the pleasure to inform you that on the 7th of May Congress elected you Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I do not know how you will be pleased with the appointment, but this I am sure of—that your country stands in need of your abilities in that office. I feel sensibly that it is not only time, but highly necessary for us to think and act like a sovereign, as well as a free, people; and I wish this sentiment were more deeply impressed on the members of every State in the Union. The opportunities you will have of corresponding not only with the executives but with the several legislatures, in discharging the duties of your office, will I trust greatly contribute to raise and promote this spirit; and this is a reason why I wish you were here to enter on the business. 

Jay did not accept the position.  On August 12th, writing from his home in Rye, New York, he responded to Charles Thomson’s letter:

Your obliging Letter of the 29 July reached me two Days ago—accept my thanks for your friendly Congratulations on my arrival, and those paid Mrs. the Terms of approbation in which you mention my appointment is among the number of the ^make one of the^ very few Compliments ^on^ which I value. The acceptance of it ^that Place^ is a Subject on which I wish ^hope soon^ to converse with you ^in the Course of a few weeks (Papers of John Jay; Jay to Charles Thomson, New York, August 12, 1784)

Six days later, he wrote a personal letter to the former Foreign Secretary, Robert Livingston, explaining:

When I resigned my appointments in Europe, I purposed to return to the practice of the law; what effect the unexpected offer of Congress (of which I was ignorant until after my arrival here) may have on that design as yet remains undecided. How far either of us have been, or may be, under the influence of ambition are questions which, however clear to ourselves, must necessarily be less so to others. (Papers of John Jay; Jay to Robert R. Livingston, New York, August 18, 1784)

Instead of accepting the position of US Foreign Secretary, Jay was appointed by the New York State Legislature on October 26th, as a Delegate to the USCA.  The USCA Journals report the acceptance of Jay’s credentials, along with those of the other New York Delegates:

Mr. Egbert Benson, a delegate for the State of New York, attended, and produced the credentials of his appointment, which were read. The People of the State of New York, by the Grace of God, Free and Independent: To all to whom these presents shall come, send Greeting: Know Ye that We having inspected the Records Remaining in the Secretary's Office of our said State do find there a certain Commission in the Words following to Wit, "The people of the "State of New York, By the Grace of God Free and Independent: To "all to whom these presents shall come send Greeting: Whereas our "Senate and Assembly have on the twenty sixth day of October in "this present year Nominated and Appointed the Honorable John "Jay, Egbert Benson, Walter Livingston, John Lansing Junior and "Zephaniah Platt Esquires Delegates to Represent our said State in "the United States of America in Congress Assembled for one year from "the first Monday in November next: … Witness our Trusty and Well beloved George Clinton Esquire Governor of our said State General and Commander in chief of all the Militia and Admiral of the Navy of the same at our City of New York, the said fourth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty four, and of our Independence the Ninth.  (USCA Journals, dated December 2, 1784)

More importantly, writing from his family’s home in Rye, NY, after learning of his USCA Delegate appointment,  Jay wrote Charles Thomson  declining the Office of Foreign Secretary “for now” stating:

“I must decline accepting the Place offered me, at least until the Sense of Congress can be known on two or three points. We will talk them over at large when we meet— I will hint them at present—as I have a Family it is necessary in my opinion, that my Residence should be stationary—and I think it both reasonable & important that the Persons to serve under me in the Office, should be of my appointment.”  (Papers of John Jay; Jay to Charles Thomson, New York, August 12, 1784)

The Editors of The Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay write:

No sooner had the family landed than John Jay received the news that Congress had elected him to fill the vacant post of secretary for foreign affairs.  His experience in dealing with the governments of France, Great Britain, and Spain made him an excellent choice.

Yet John did not immediately accept the appointment.  In the next months he negotiated with Congress for an operating budget, more autonomy in choosing his clerks, and the promise that Congress would meet in New York. -     Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay: Correspondence by or to the First Chief Justice of the United States and His Wife ed. Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North, Janet M. Wedge, p. 167

New York also called on Jay’s legal abilities during this period in its defense of it western land rights against Massachusetts claims. On November 12th, he was named New York’s agent to defend the State’s western land holdings.

John Jay took his seat as a NY Delegate in Trenton on December 6th and two days later he presented his New York land agent credentials to the USCA.  Delegate Jay’s letter to John Adams, seven days later, indicated he was quite busy as a Delegate while the USCA was still debating the Seat of Government’s location(s) and other important measures that had yet to mature:

One of these Days I shall devote a Leisure Hour to forming a Cypher, and will send it to You by the first good Conveyance that may afterwards offer. At present I am engaged on many Committees, so that my Attendance on them and on Congress keeps me fully employed. I observe with Pleasure that in this Congress there appears to be good Talents & good Dispositions. None of their more important Measures are as yet matured, but I flatter myself they will act wisely. (Letters of Delegates to Congress, ed. Paul H. Smith, John Jay to John Adams, Dec. 13, 1784)

George Pellew, author of John Jay: American Statesman (1898), writes:

For some months Jay withheld his acceptance, as he was unwilling, for reasons of private business, to be detained at Trenton, where Congress had been in session and was to reassemble in September, and also because he was reluctant to assume such responsibility without the privilege of selecting his own clerks, a power which Congress had heretofore reserved to itself.  Meantime he was elected a delegate to Congress by the state legislature; but on December 21st, Congress having decided to adjourn to New York, and yielding in the matter of the appointments of his subordinates, Jay accepted the secretaryship, and resigned his seat on the floor. (p. 230)

On December 20th, the USCA finally took-up the matter of both a permanent and temporary Seat of Government for the United States:

Resolved, That it is expedient the Congress proceed to take measures for procuring suitable buildings to be erected for their accommodation.  On motion of Mr. [David] Howell, seconded by Mr. [John] Jay,

Resolved, That it is expedient the Congress proceed to take measures for procuring suitable buildings to be erected for their accommodation.  And that a sum not exceeding dollars be and they are hereby appropriated for the payment of the expence of erecting such buildings.

Resolved that said buildings shall be erected at

Resolved, (by nine states,) That a sum not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars be appropriated for the payment of the expence of erecting such buildings; provided always, that hotels or dwelling-houses for the members of Congress representing the different states, shall not be understood as included in the above appropriation.

Resolved, That it is inexpedient for Congress at this time to erect more than one federal town public buildings for their accommodation at more than one place. And that a sum not exceeding dollars be and they are hereby appropriated for the payment of the expence of erecting such buildings.  (USCA Journals, December 20, 1784)

The USCA Journals indicate that on December 21st, Delegate John Jay seconded Charles Cotesworth Pinckney's successful motion “Resolved, That it is expedient Congress should determine on a place at which they will continue to sit, until public buildings for their proper accommodations in a foederal town shall be erected” (USCA Journals, December 21, 1784). With this resolution and with the knowledge that a majority of the delegate would choose New York as the temporary Seat of Government, John Jay resigned his seat as a NY Delegate.  He then took the oath of office as Secretary for Foreign Affairs before Justice Isaac Smith of the New Jersey Supreme Court (Red Book, 9:86, MdAA).  

Certification of John Jay’s Oath as Secretary for Foreign Affairs
 [Trenton, 21 December 1784]By The United States in Congress Assembled—May 7th, 1784. Congress proceeded to the election,& being this day informed by a Letter of the 9th March last from the Hon Doctor Franklin1 that Mr. J. Jay proposed to embark for America in the month of April and this information corresponding with the intelligence communicated to Congress by Mr. Jay himself in his Letters of last year, Mr. Jay was put in nomination and the ballots being taken
Mr. John Jay was elected Secretary for Foreign Affairs having been previously nominated by Mr. Gerry.
Be it remembered that on twenty first day of december in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty four at Trenton in the State of New Jersey personally appeared before me Isaac Smith one of the Justices of the supreme Court of said StateJohn Jay Esquire and took an Oath which I administered to him in the words following Viz.
“I John Jay do acknowledge the Thirteen United States of America namely, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina & Georgia, to be free, independent and sovereign States, and declare that the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to George the third King of Great Britain, and I renounce, refuse, and abjure any allegiance or obedience to him; and I do Swear that I will, to the utmost of my power support, maintain, and defend the said United States against the said King George the third, and his heirs & successors, and his or their abettors, assistants and adherents; and will Serve the said United States in the Office of [653page icon] Secretary for Foreign Affairs, which I now hold, and in any other Office which I may hereafter hold by their appointment, or under their authority, with fidelity and honor, and according to the best of my Skill and understanding. So help me God.
John Jay
Sworn the Day and Year within written before meIsaac Smith   (Papers of John Jay; Certification of John Jay’s Oath as Secretary for Foreign Affairs)

The following day, with still no vote naming New York as the temporary Seat of Government Foreign Secretary Jay sent the following official dispatch, his first, to the French Chargé d'Affaires the Marquis de Barbé-Marbois:

Office of Foreign Affairs   Trenton
22 Decr. 1784
 Having accepted the Place of Secy for foreign Affairs, it becomes my duty to inform You that Congress will adjourn Tomorrow to meet at the City of NYork on Tuesday the 11 Day of Jany. next. I have the Honor to be Sir Your most obt. & hble Servt
John Jay 
To: Monsr. De Marbois Chargé des Affaires of his most Christian Majesty Philada. (Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783—’89, 1:105)

Jay wrote a similar letter to the Netherlands' Ambassador on the 21st:

On December 23rd, the matter of relocation the Seat of Government was finally brought to a vote in Congress.  A motion was made by Mr. Houston and seconded by Mr. Howell to continue assembling in Trenton.  The resolution failed 2 yes and 6 no with Massachusetts Delegates divided and New Hampshire voting yes but with only one delegate present, its vote was not counted because the Articles of Confederation required two delegates to be present for a vote to count.

It was then moved by Mr. Hardy and Seconded by Mr. Spaight that the Seat of government be moved to Philadelphia.  Although the vote was 5 yes and 4 no, the resolution was lost because it did not receive the required seven States. New Hampshire and Connecticut, which both had only one delegate, also voted no.

It was then moved by Mr. Ellery and Seconded by Mr. Howell that the Seat of government be moved to Newport, Rhode Island. The vote only garnished one yes and it was from Rhode Island so the measure was lost.

Finally, it was moved by Mr. Howell and Seconded by Mr. Spaight that Congress meet in the City of New York.  The vote was 7 yes and 1 no (Pennsylvania) with the Georgia delegation divided and New Hampshire, with only one delegate, also voting yes.  John Jay had counted his votes well.

Delegate Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts wrote:

 It is fortunate that we arrived here as we did, for otherwise congress would by this time have been in Philadelphia and the treasury in such hands as you and I could not approve. There was a stronger party formed against us than I remember to have seen, but I think it will subside and matters be in good train again. We have carried two great points to-day by passing an ordinance, 1st. to appoint three commissioners to lay out a district on the branch of either side of the Delaware, within eight miles of this place, to purchase the soil and enter into contracts for erecting suitable buildings.

2dly. To adjourn to New-York and reside there until suitable buildings are prepared. This I consider a fortunate affair in every respect but one. It is so disagreeable to our worthy secretary [Charles Thomson] that there is reason to apprehend he will resign his appointment. We have been so happy also as to remove some objections on the part of Mr. Jay to the acceptance of his office, and he yesterday took the oaths and entered on the business of his department. (Letters of Delegates to Congress, ed. Paul H. Smith, Elbridge Gerry to James Warren, Dec. 23, 1784)

At this point, “That my Residence should be stationary,” was a sure thing in Secretary Jay’s mind because he knew there was no money to construct a new federal capital on the Banks of the Delaware, as echoed in Delegate Holten’s letter to John Hancock:  

I have the honor of informing your Excely., that yesterday the agents of Massts. & N. York, agreed upon the men to constitute a federal Court, to settle the dispute between the two states ... I would also acquaint you, that Congress adjourned yesterday to the 11th of Januy. next, then to meet at the City of N. York; & previous to their adjournment, they determined to have a federal town & buildings erected near the R. Delaware, within the distance of 16 miles, either on the side of Pennsa. or N. Jersey, not far from this place, & appropriated 100,000 do1lars for that purpose, but how the money is to be procured, I am not able to say. (Letters of Delegates to Congress, ed. Paul H. Smith, Samuel Holten to John Hancock, Dec. 25, 1784)

On December 24th, 1784, USCA Journals record:

Resolved, That Congress entertain a due sense of the attention of the legislature of the State of New Jersey, in providing accommodations for their reception; and also of the exertions of the inhabitants of Trenton, in accomplishing the intentions of their legislature.  …  Adjourned to meet at the City of New York, on the 11 day of January next.

While serving as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Jay helped found the New York’s African Free School, which grew to fifty-six students who he continued to support financially.  Although Jay owned slaves his explanation for this seemingly contradictory practice was:   “I purchase slaves and manumit them at proper ages and when their faithful services shall have afforded a reasonable retribution.”[129]

National Collegiate Honor’s Council Partners in the Park Independence Hall Class of 2017 students at Federal Hall National Historic Park with Ranger holding the 1789 Acts of Congress opened to the 12 Amendment Joint Resolution of Congress issued September 25th, 1789.  The only amendment in the "Bill of Rights" that was not ratified is Article the Firstwhich is still pending before Congress. Cintly is holding an Arthur St. Clair signed Northwest Territory document, Imani is holding the First Bicameral Congressional Act establishing the U.S. Department of State and Rachael is holding a 1788 John Jay letter sent to the Governor of Connecticut, Samuel Huntington,  transmitting a treaty with France. – Primary Sources courtesy of
Jay's passion for foreign affairs is evident in his correspondence with Washington and Jefferson. Upon the formation of the 1787 Constitution John Jay joined Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in contributing to the "Federalist" papers.  He also published an address to the inhabitants of New York in favor of the new constitution. Jay wrote five Federalist papers in support of the 2nd Constitution, four on foreign affairs and one on the powers of the U.S. Senate signing the works Publicus.  His essay on The Powers of the Senate appeared in the New York Packet on Friday, March 7, 1788:

“To the People of the State of New York:

IT IS a just and not a new observation, that enemies to particular persons, and opponents to particular measures, seldom confine their censures to such things only in either as are worthy of blame. Unless on this principle, it is difficult to explain the motives of their conduct, who condemn the proposed Constitution in the aggregate, and treat with severity some of the most unexceptionable articles in it.


The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should not be delegated but in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest security that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good. The convention appears to have been attentive to both these points: they have directed the President to be chosen by select bodies of electors, to be deputed by the people for that express purpose; and they have committed the appointment of senators to the State legislatures. This mode has, in such cases, vastly the advantage of elections by the people in their collective capacity, where the activity of party zeal, taking the advantage of the supineness, the ignorance, and the hopes and fears of the unwary and interested, often places men in office by the votes of a small proportion of the electors.

As the select assemblies for choosing the President, as well as the State legislatures who appoint the senators, will in general be composed of the most enlightened and respectable citizens, there is reason to presume that their attention and their votes will be directed to those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence. The Constitution manifests very particular attention to this object. By excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle. If the observation be well founded, that wise kings will always be served by able ministers, it is fair to argue, that as an assembly of select electors possess, in a greater degree than kings, the means of extensive and accurate information relative to men and characters, so will their appointments bear at least equal marks of discretion and discernment. The inference which naturally results from these considerations is this, that the President and senators so chosen will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence. With such men the power of making treaties may be safely lodged.

Although the absolute necessity of system, in the conduct of any business, is universally known and acknowledged, yet the high importance of it in national affairs has not yet become sufficiently impressed on the public mind. They who wish to commit the power under consideration to a popular assembly, composed of members constantly coming and going in quick succession, seem not to recollect that such a body must necessarily be inadequate to the attainment of those great objects, which require to be steadily contemplated in all their relations and circumstances, and which can only be approached and achieved by measures which not only talents, but also exact information, and often much time, are necessary to concert and to execute. It was wise, therefore, in the convention to provide, not only that the power of making treaties should be committed to able and honest men, but also that they should continue in place a sufficient time to become perfectly acquainted with our national concerns, and to form and introduce a a system for the management of them. The duration prescribed is such as will give them an opportunity of greatly extending their political information, and of rendering their accumulating experience more and more beneficial to their country. Nor has the convention discovered less prudence in providing for the frequent elections of senators in such a way as to obviate the inconvenience of periodically transferring those great affairs entirely to new men; for by leaving a considerable residue of the old ones in place, uniformity and order, as well as a constant succession of official information will be preserved.

There are a few who will not admit that the affairs of trade and navigation should be regulated by a system cautiously formed and steadily pursued; and that both our treaties and our laws should correspond with and be made to promote it. It is of much consequence that this correspondence and conformity be carefully maintained; and they who assent to the truth of this position will see and confess that it is well provided for by making concurrence of the Senate necessary both to treaties and to laws.

It seldom happens in the negotiation of treaties, of whatever nature, but that perfect SECRECY and immediate DESPATCH are sometimes requisite. These are cases where the most useful intelligence may be obtained, if the persons possessing it can be relieved from apprehensions of discovery. Those apprehensions will operate on those persons whether they are actuated by mercenary or friendly motives; and there doubtless are many of both descriptions, who would rely on the secrecy of the President, but who would not confide in that of the Senate, and still less in that of a large popular Assembly. The convention have done well, therefore, in so disposing of the power of making treaties, that although the President must, informing them, act by the advice and consent of the Senate, yet he will be able to manage the business of intelligence in such a manner as prudence may suggest.

They who have turned their attention to the affairs of men, must have perceived that there are tides in them; tides very irregular in their duration, strength, and direction, and seldom found to run twice exactly in the same manner or measure. To discern and to profit by these tides in national affairs is the business of those who preside over them; and they who have had much experience on this head inform us, that there frequently are occasions when days, nay, even when hours, are precious. The loss of a battle, the death of a prince, the removal of a minister, or other circumstances intervening to change the present posture and aspect of affairs, may turn the most favorable tide into a course opposite to our wishes. As in the field, so in the cabinet, there are moments to be seized as they pass, and they who preside in either should be left in capacity to improve them. So often and so essentially have we heretofore suffered from the want of secrecy and despatch, that the Constitution would have been inexcusably defective, if no attention had been paid to those objects. Those matters which in negotiations usually require the most secrecy and the most despatch, are those preparatory and auxiliary measures which are not otherwise important in a national view, than as they tend to facilitate the attainment of the objects of the negotiation. For these, the President will find no difficulty to provide; and should any circumstance occur which requires the advice and consent of the Senate, he may at any time convene them. Thus we see that the Constitution provides that our negotiations for treaties shall have every advantage which can be derived from talents, information, integrity, and deliberate investigations, on the one hand, and from secrecy and despatch on the other.

But to this plan, as to most others that have ever appeared, objections are contrived and urged.

Some are displeased with it, not on account of any errors or defects in it, but because, as the treaties, when made, are to have the force of laws, they should be made only by men invested with legislative authority. These gentlemen seem not to consider that the judgments of our courts, and the commissions constitutionally given by our governor, are as valid and as binding on all persons whom they concern, as the laws passed by our legislature. All constitutional acts of power, whether in the executive or in the judicial department, have as much legal validity and obligation as if they proceeded from the legislature; and therefore, whatever name be given to the power of making treaties, or however obligatory they may be when made, certain it is, that the people may, with much propriety, commit the power to a distinct body from the legislature, the executive, or the judicial. It surely does not follow, that because they have given the power of making laws to the legislature, that therefore they should likewise give them the power to do every other act of sovereignty by which the citizens are to be bound and affected.

Others, though content that treaties should be made in the mode proposed, are averse to their being the SUPREME laws of the land. They insist, and profess to believe, that treaties like acts of assembly, should be repealable at pleasure. This idea seems to be new and peculiar to this country, but new errors, as well as new truths, often appear. These gentlemen would do well to reflect that a treaty is only another name for a bargain, and that it would be impossible to find a nation who would make any bargain with us, which should be binding on them ABSOLUTELY, but on us only so long and so far as we may think proper to be bound by it. They who make laws may, without doubt, amend or repeal them; and it will not be disputed that they who make treaties may alter or cancel them; but still let us not forget that treaties are made, not by only one of the contracting parties, but by both; and consequently, that as the consent of both was essential to their formation at first, so must it ever afterwards be to alter or cancel them. The proposed Constitution, therefore, has not in the least extended the obligation of treaties. They are just as binding, and just as far beyond the lawful reach of legislative acts now, as they will be at any future period, or under any form of government.

However useful jealousy may be in republics, yet when like bile in the natural, it abounds too much in the body politic, the eyes of both become very liable to be deceived by the delusive appearances which that malady casts on surrounding objects. From this cause, probably, proceed the fears and apprehensions of some, that the President and Senate may make treaties without an equal eye to the interests of all the States. Others suspect that two thirds will oppress the remaining third, and ask whether those gentlemen are made sufficiently responsible for their conduct; whether, if they act corruptly, they can be punished; and if they make disadvantageous treaties, how are we to get rid of those treaties?

As all the States are equally represented in the Senate, and by men the most able and the most willing to promote the interests of their constituents, they will all have an equal degree of influence in that body, especially while they continue to be careful in appointing proper persons, and to insist on their punctual attendance. In proportion as the United States assume a national form and a national character, so will the good of the whole be more and more an object of attention, and the government must be a weak one indeed, if it should forget that the good of the whole can only be promoted by advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole. It will not be in the power of the President and Senate to make any treaties by which they and their families and estates will not be equally bound and affected with the rest of the community; and, having no private interests distinct from that of the nation, they will be under no temptations to neglect the latter.

As to corruption, the case is not supposable. He must either have been very unfortunate in his intercourse with the world, or possess a heart very susceptible of such impressions, who can think it probable that the President and two thirds of the Senate will ever be capable of such unworthy conduct. The idea is too gross and too invidious to be entertained. But in such a case, if it should ever happen, the treaty so obtained from us would, like all other fraudulent contracts, be null and void by the law of nations.

With respect to their responsibility, it is difficult to conceive how it could be increased. Every consideration that can influence the human mind, such as honor, oaths, reputations, conscience, the love of country, and family affections and attachments, afford security for their fidelity. In short, as the Constitution has taken the utmost care that they shall be men of talents and integrity, we have reason to be persuaded that the treaties they make will be as advantageous as, all circumstances considered, could be made; and so far as the fear of punishment and disgrace can operate, that motive to good behavior is amply afforded by the article on the subject of impeachments.


Most importantly, John Jay was an active member of the New York constitution convention in White Plains. Jay and Hamilton lead the struggle against Governor Clinton and his anti-federalist supporters.  They managed a vote of 30 to 27 ratifying the constitution 30 "in full confidence" that certain amendments, would be adopted.  Jay was then appointed by the N.Y. Delegates to write the circular letter that secured the unanimous assent of the convention for the second U.S. Constitution.

Upon the creation of the second constitutional Federal government, John Jay was asked to remain as Secretary of Foreign Affairs but resigned with President Washington asking Jay to accept "... whatever office he might prefer."  

Three months later the Articles of Confederation’s office of Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs were reestablished by the 1st Federal Bicameral Congress and signed into law by George Washington on July 27, 1789. The new US Constitution law was titled, An Act for Establishing an Executive Department, to be Denominated The Department of Foreign Affairs.  John Jay was asked by President Washington and agreed to remain at the post of Secretary of Foreign Affairs until his replacement was nominated, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and took the oath of office. 

An Act for Establishing an Executive Department, to be Denominated The Department of Foreign Affairs - July 27, 1789 image courtesy of
On September 15, 1789, before a new Secretary was appointed, Washington signed into law An Act to provide for the safe-keeping of the Acts, Records and Seal of the United States, and for other purposes was passed. This law changed the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of State and added several domestic powers and responsibilities to both the office of secretary and the department. The name of the office was also changed from "Secretary of Foreign Affairs" to "Secretary of State." Consequently, John Jay became the acting Secretary of State on September 15th, 1789. 

An Act to provide for the safe-keeping of the Acts, Records and Seal of the United States, and for other purposes - September 15, 1789 image courtesy of

On September 24, 1789 John Jay was nominated by President Washington as the United States Chief Justice. The Senate confirmed the appointment on September 26, 1789, and on that same day, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, then Minister to France, as Secretary of State. Jefferson had joined John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Paris in 1784 to negotiate commercial treaties with European powers. The following year, he succeeded Franklin as Minister to France. Jefferson did not return to the United States to assume his duties until March 22, 1790. 

During this period, September 26, 1789, to March 21, 1790, Chief Justice John Jay served as the acting United States Secretary of State. John Jay's acting office, however, was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate nor did Jay take the oath of office to serve as Secretary of State. Therefore, Thomas Jefferson was the first U.S. Secretary of State, swearing the oath of office on March 22nd, 1790.   

As the First Chief Justice, John Jay established the operating procedures of the Supreme Court setting numerous legal precedents. One case of note occurred in 1792 when Alexander Chisholm, became the South Carolina executor of the Robert Farquhar Estate and sued the state of Georgia to collect payments due for goods supplied to the State during the Revolutionary War.  Georgia failed to appear in Federal Court claiming State Sovereignty.   Jay's court asserted that the State of Georgia under Article 3, Section 2 of the 2nd Constitution abrogated the States' sovereign immunity. 

This case was won by the Farquhar Estate and granted the federal courts the affirmative power to hear disputes between private citizens and States.  The state's sovereignty, in this particular case, was deemed subordinate to the new United States Constitution. Five years later the States would ratify the 11th Amendment which stated "The Judicial powers of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State" protecting themselves from lawsuits from citizens of other States and nations.

A war between Britain and France brought forced Jay’s Court to set two more important precedents. President George Washington along with his cabinet was working diligently to keep the United States neutral in the war. He decided to send John Jay and the Supreme Court 29 questions on international law and treaties seeking their advice. The Justices denied his request noting that the U.S. Constitution, did not permit the sharing of executive powers and duties or the issuing advisory opinions.  To this day, the Supreme Court does not give advice only speaking on the specific cases that properly come before it.

George Washington, however, partially received what he desired with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Glass v. Sloop Betsey, in 1794.  The Court did defend neutral rights and national dignity of the United States when French privateers were bringing captured ships into American ports defying the Presidents neutrality Proclamation. There French consuls decided, in this particular case, that their Navy’s captured Swedish-owned ship would be kept as lawful prize when it was escorted into Baltimore Harbor. The district court in Maryland ruled that it could not even hear such cases but the government appealed the matter to the Supreme Court. The Justices ruled that foreign consuls would not decide American claims and the United States became more respectable in the eyes of the European nations.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 required the Supreme Court Justices to journey twice a year to the furthest reaches of the United States to preside over circuit courts.  The primitive Stagecoaches jarred the Justices as they traveled from city to city. Additionally the roads north of Boston and primary South of Richmond were often poorly maintained.  Finding this Circuit duty "in a degree intolerable," Jay threatened resignation but the President and Congress enaxted a new law in 1793 requiring only one circuit trip a year for each of the Justices.

In 1792 Jay, unhappy in his position of Chief Justice, was a candidate for the governorship of New York and lost.     Two years later Jay was nominated by Washington as the special envoy to Great Britain to avert a second War. James Madison was urging the President to wage a trade embargo with Great Britain, already engaged in a war with France, to gain concessions in their weakened state. Madison believed the current war left England too impoverished to conduct impressments.  Great Britain, he believed, would acquiesce to U.S. demands of fair trade and honor the 1783 Treaty of Paris boundaries, trade routes and relax its Revolutionary War debt claims against the States and their citizens.

Washington disagreed, wanted to avert war and Jay was sent, at Alexander Hamilton's recommendation, to negotiate a second treaty with England. Specifically the U.S. would seek the opening of new Caribbean trade routes, establishment of fair trade practices, seek a resolution on the Revolutionary War debts and exact a settlement on border disputes.  In return the United States would agree to remain neutral in the War between the two super powers.  

Chief Justice Jay accepted the assignment and traveled to Great Britain. In the parlay, Jay and the British negotiators agreed that disputes over wartime debts and the American–Canadian boundary were to be sent to arbitration. The US was granted limited rights to trade with British possessions in India and colonies in the Caribbean in exchange for some limits on the American export of cotton.  In a series of meetings, Jay and  Lord Greenville concluded the negotiations on November 19th, 1794.  

Hamilton and Washington considered the treaty John Jay negotiated an exceptional diplomatic achievement. The Jeffersonians, however, were solidly behind the French and launched a propaganda campaign, led by James Madison, maligning the agreement that resulting in Americans labeling it as "Jay's Treaty.”   Chief Justice John Jay decided his office prevented him from publicly defending the treaty. He sought the help of fellow Federalists leaders noting the treaty was so unpopular that he could travel from Boston to Philadelphia by the glow of his burning effigies. 

Autograph document in the hand of Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution of 1787 signer, Senator Robert Morris, for receipt of $750.00 owed to Chief Justice John Jay.  The receipt is also signed by Sarah Jay. "Recd. December 6th, 1794 of Robert Morris seven hundred and thirty two Dollars Mr. Jay's account part of the monies due for lands sold and contracted for in the new patents in Orange County. 732 Dolls.    Sarah Jay"

Alexander Hamilton exacted the entire weight of the Federalist Party to refute Jefferson's Republican Party's anti-treaty publicity campaign. The public attacks continued and were so severe that only the firmness of Washington's character and the might of his administration that public opinion slowly began to swing back to the the neutrality policy.  

The U.S. Senate finally agreed to consider ratifying the treaty and passed a resolution in June 1795, advising the president to amend the treaty by suspending the 12th article, which concerned trade between the U.S. and the West Indies. In mid-August, the Senate ratified the treaty 20–10, with the condition that the treaty contain specific language regarding the June 24 resolution. President Washington signed ten days later. The Treaty was proclaimed in effect on February 29, 1796 and in a series of close votes, after another bitter fight against the Washington and led by James Madison, the House funded the Treaty in April 1796.

This enabled the fledgling nation to avert a war with Great Britain until 1812 when the United States was on a much stronger political and economic footing. Lord Sheffield of Great Britain, who viewed the treaty as a "Complete Surrender by England,” wrote on the eve of the War of 1812:
 "We have now a complete opportunity of getting rid of that most impolitic treaty of 1794, when Lord Grenville was so perfectly duped by Jay." [131]
Five days before his return from England, Jay, who no longer wished to remain the Supreme Court Chief Justice of The United States, was elected governor of New York. He stayed on the court until the summer of 1795 resigning on June 29, 1795.

John Jay, June 29th, 1795, letter to George Washington resigning as Chief Justice of the United States - Collection

My Dear Sir,

The enclosed contains my Resignation of the office Chief Justice -- I cannot quit it without again appraising to you my acknowledgement for the Honour you conferred upon me by that appointment, and for the repeated mark of confidence & attention for which I am indebted to You.

It gives me pleasure to recollect and reflect on these circumstances to undergo the most sincere wishes for your health and Happiness and to assure you of this prefect Respect, Esteem and attachment which I am

Dear Sir obligated & Affectionate Friend and Servant

John Jay [132]

The President of the United States 

John Jay preferred the duties of Governor to the burdens of Chief Justice and was re-elected in April 1798. At the close of his second term as governor, in 1801 he was offered the position of Chief Justice by President John Adams. Jay, now 56, declined and decided to retire from public service as statesman and key Founding Father. Daniel Webster said of Jay

When the spotless ermine of the judicial robe fell on John Jay, it touched nothing less spotless than itself. [133]

John Jay passed the remainder of his life on his estate its Westchester County, New York, a property which had descended to him through his mother, Mary Van Cortlandt. It is located forty-five miles north of New York City about midway between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. The Bedford house, as the colonial house is called, is placed on a hill that provides a panoramic view rolling hills situated between the two sun glistening bodies of water.   For 28 years John Jay would remain on his estate as a farmer.

Copyright © 2008 Stan Klos and Forgotten Founders, Inc.
John Jays’s Bedford House is now a New York State Park 

John Jay’s political and personal success was partly due to his marriage on April 28, 1774 to Sarah Vail Brugh Livingston, eldest daughter of Governor William Livingston. Sarah was a well-educated young lady who accompanied her husband to Spain, and later was with him in Paris. Sarah was a society celebrity in Paris but despite her popularity missed New York and the family estate. John Adams's daughter wrote: 

Every person who knew her here bestows many encomiums on Mrs. Jay. Madame de Lafayette said she was well acquainted with her, and very fond of her, adding that Mrs. Jay and she thought alike, that pleasure might be found abroad, but happiness only at home in the society of one's family anal friends.[134]

During the week of Washington's inauguration Mrs. Jay arranged many of the original Presidential dinners and receptions. President Washington dined with the Jays, privately, on his inaugural day. A few days later Mrs. Washington was entertained at Liberty Hall by Governor Livingston, Mrs. Livingston, and Sarah Jay who arranged the festivities. During the summer season of 1789 hospitalities were frequently exchanged between the president and the Jays who both resided in New York City.

The life of John Jay has been written by his son and told also by Henry B. Renwick (New York, 1841). See "The Life and Times of John Jay," by William Whitlock (New York, 1887).  John Jay spent the last years of his life in comfort and cared for by his eldest daughter.  Jay’s health was poor in the last two years of his life and he was unable to walk without assistance. He died in his home on May. 17, 1829  being 84 years old.  He is buried in a plainly marked plot at John Jay Cemetery, Westchester County, Route 1, Rye, New York.  

Copyright © 2008 Stan Klos and Forgotten Founders, Inc.
Front entrance hall of John Jays home

[1] George Pellew, John Jay, Houghton, Mifflin and Company Boston:1890, page 6
[2] Ibid, page 9
[3] Definitive Treaty of Peace and Alliance between Great Britain France and Spain, concluded at Paris, February 10th 1763
[4] Ibid, page 11
[5] Peter Jay  to John Jay, 1763 n.d. , The Papers of John Jay, Kissam, Benjamin, Original Manuscript, Columbia University, Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Division.
[6] Ibid, January 16, 1764
[7] Benjamin Kissam to John Jay, August 15, 1766, The Papers of John Jay, Kissam, Benjamin, Original Manuscript, Columbia University, Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Division.
[8] Ibid, John Jay to Robert Livingston, May 1, 1765, Original Manuscript Repository  at Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
[9] Ibid, An account with Christopher Tappen, concerning various court costs incurred by the partnership of Jay & Livingston, 1768-1772, Original Manuscript., October 31, 1791
[10]Ibid,  Nov. 6, 1760
[11] George Pellew, John Jay, Houghton, Mifflin and Company Boston:1890, page 25
[12] Ibid, page 21
[13] Louise V. North,  The "Amiable" Children of John and Sarah Livingston Jay,
Columbia's Legacy: Friends and Enemies in the New Nation Conference at Columbia University and The New-York Historical Society, Dec. 10, 2004
[14] Peter Force,  American Archives: Containing A Documentary History Of The United States Of America Series 4, Six Volumes and Series 5, NY Committee of 51 to Committee of Correspondence, Boston, May 23, 1774
[15] Thomas Jones and Edward Floyd De Lancey, History of New York During the Revolutionary War: And of the Leading Events, New York Historical Society: 1879, page 459
[16] Ibid, 450
[17] Advertisement, New York Committee of Correspondence, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
[18] John Adams, John Adams diary 22, 4 September - 9 November 1774. Stitched sheets in marbled paper covers (35 pages, 13 additional blank pages). Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, page 21. 
[19] Journals of the Continental Congress, Articles of Association, October 20, 1774.
[20] Ibid
[21]  Abraham Yates, Notes of the 1st and 2nd Continental Congresses, The Papers of John Jay, Kissam, Benjamin, Original Manuscript, Columbia University, Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Division. Jay ID:  2732
[22] Ibid, Jay’s Notes on his appointments to committees, Jay ID:  12955
[23] John Adams, John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Page 4
[24] Jefferson, Thomas, July 27, 1821, Autobiography Draft Fragment, Original Manuscript, The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, page 517
[25] Journals of the Continental Congress, Petition to King George, October 26, 1774.
[26] Ibid
[27] Donald L. Smith, John Jay A Founder of a State and Nation, Teachers College Press, Columbia University 1968, page 16.
[28] George Pellew, John Jay, page 42.
[29] Peter Force, American Archives: Minutes of the Provincial Convention of New-York, City of New-York, April, 20, 1775.
[30] Ibid
[31] Fredrick Jay wrote John Jay on May 11, 1775 that Election of members of Westchester County committee, President Myles Cooper driven from King's College by a mob in disguise, Original Manuscript, Columbia University, Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Division
[32] John Adams,  John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
[33] Ibid
[34] John Adams and Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Little Brown: 1856, page 80
[35] William Henry Michael, History of the Department of State of the United States, United States Department of State: 1901, page 93
[36] Charles Oscar Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, 1778-1883 The Johns Hopkins Press: 1912, page 12
[37] John Adams,  John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
[38] John Jay to Sarah Jay,  December 23, 1775 , The Papers of John Jay, Original Manuscript, Columbia University, Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Division. Jay ID:  5305
[39] Ibid
[40] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Chronology 1778-1779
[41] Ibid, John Jay to James Day January 4, 1776.
[42] Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, January 4, 1776, Original Manuscript, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
[43] John Adams and Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Little Brown: 1856, page 207
[44] George Pellew, John Jay, page 54
[45] William Jay, The Life of John Jay: With Selections from His Correspondence, J. & J. Harper: 1883 page 5
[46] Ibid
[47] Henry Russell Drowne, A Sketch of Fraunces Tavern and Those Connected with Its History, Fraunces Tavern: New York 1919, page 8.
[48] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, John Jay to Robert R. Livingston, July 1, 1776.
[49] Ibid, Robert R. Livingston to John Jay, July 9, 1776
[50] Dawson, Henry Barton, Westchester County, New York, During the American Revolution, New York State: 1886, page 196.
[51] George Pellew, John Jay, page 75
[52]  New York State Constitution of 1777
[53] Opt Cit, page 88
[54] William Jay, The Life of John Jay: pages 23 and 24
[55] Philip John Schuyler (November 20, 1733 - November 18, 1804) was a Major General in the American Revolution and later a United States Senator from New York.  Alexander Hamilton, who was later Secretary of the Treasury, married his daughter Elizabeth.
[56] Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington: Being His Correspondence, Addresses By George Washington, Harper and Brothers, Publisher, New York: 1847, page 378
[57] George Clinton, Hugh Hastings, and James Austin Holden, Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777-1795, State of New York: 1900, page 360
[58] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789,  James Duane to Governor Clinton, December 10, 1778
[59] Jennings B. Sanders, Presidency of the Continental Congress 1774-89 A Study in American Institutional History, University of Chicago Press, 1930.
[60] Opt Cit, William Carmichael  to Charles Carroll of Carrollton on January 16, 1779
[61] Journals of the Continental Congress, Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer to Almighty God,  March 20, 1779
[62] Ibid, Broadside by Hall and Sellers: Philadelphia, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections.
[63] John Jay,  to Benjamin Lincoln, Original Manuscript, April 2. 1779, Stanley L. Klos Collection,
[64] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Notes On George Washington’s April 14, 1779 letter
[65] Ibid
[66] Ibid, John Jay to the Marquis de Lafayette, January 3, 1779
[67] Ibid, John Jay to George Washington   April 1779
[68] Journals of the Continental Congress, September 13, 1779.
[69] Francis Wharton,   The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States,  Published by an Act of Congress date August 13, 1888, Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 1889, Page 556
[70] Ibid
[71] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Chronology 1778-1779
[72] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, Samuel Huntington to John Jay, October 1, 1779.
[73] Ibid, John Jay to George Clinton, October 5, 1779.
[74] Ibid, John Jay to Samuel Huntington, October 15, 1779.
[75] Ibid, Samuel Huntington to John Jay, October 17, 1779.
[76] John Jay   to George Clinton, Original Manuscript, October 25, 1779, Jay, Peter to John Jay, 1763 n.d. , The Papers of John Jay, Kissam, Benjamin, Original Manuscript, Columbia University, Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Division.
[77] Ibid, John Jay to Robert Livingston, October 25, 1779
[78] Jared Sparks, The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Department of State, 1830, page 211.
[79] Ibid, pages 217-218
[80] Francis Wharton, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, page 710
[81] Jay, William, The Life of John Jay, pages 450-453
[82] Jay, John to Floridablanca, Jose Monino y Redondo, conde de, 1780 May 01, The Papers of John Jay, Original Manuscript Library of Congress, Jay Papers ID:  10263
[83] Wharton, Francis, ed, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, United States Congress1888,  John Jay to the President of the United States in Congress Assembled.
[84] Ibid, John Jay to Count de Florida Blanca, September 22, 1781
[85] Ibid, Benjamin Franklin to John Jay, Passy, April 22, 1782
[86] Journals of the United States in Congress Assembled, 15 June, 1781
[87] James Grant Wilson  and John Fiske , Appleton's Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography,  D. Appleton and company: 1888,  page 409
[88] Francis Wharton,  ed, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States John Jay to the President of the United States in Congress Assembled.
[89] Ibid, Jay to Livingston, June 25, 1782
[90] Ibid, Jay to Montmorin, June 26, 1782
[91] Richard Oswald was born in Scotland in 1705 and is best remembered as the British peace commissioner in Paris in 1782. He had an extensive career as a merchan and counselor to the British Ministry on trade regulations and the conduction of the Revolutionary War in America.
[92] Jared Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence   Gray & Bowen,  Published 1832, page 245
[93] Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes (December 20th, 1717—13 February 13th, 1787) was a French statesman and diplomat. He served as Foreign Minister during the reign of Louis XVI, notbably during the American War of Independence.
[94] Alleyne Fitzherbert, 1st Baron St Helens (born Derby 1 March 1753, died London 19 February 1839) was a British diplomat assigned to Brussels until August 1782.  Lord Shelburne appointed him plenipotentiary to negotiate a peace with France, Spain, and   the United States. On January 20, 1783 the preliminaries of peace Spain and France were duly signed. The peace with the American colonies, which was agreed to in November was not brought to a conclusion under Fitzherbert's charge but he maintained the treat with France in Spain made the Treaty of Paris possible with the United States.
[95] Edward Everett Hale,  Franklin in France, Roberts Brothers, Boston: 1888, pages 93-93
[96] Charles III of Spain, House of Bourbon, Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty, Born: 20 January 1716 and Died: 14 December 1788
[97] Joseph Matthais Gérard de Rayneval (1736-1812) was the under-secretary of state to Comte de Vergennes. In 1776, he produced a memo of the strategic situation, "Reflections on the Situation in America."  In 1782, he was sent on several secret missions to England, to make peace feelers.John Jay earned of the French duplilcity, leading him to begin separate negotiations with the British.
[98] François Barbé-Marbois, (31 January 1745—12 February 1837) who in 1779 was made secretary of the French legation to the United States. When the minister Chevalier de la Luzerne returned to France in 1783, Barbé-Marbois remained in America as chargé d'affaires.
[99] William Petty-FitzMaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, KG, PC (2 May 1737 – 7 May 1805).  He was known as The Earl of Shelburne between 1761 and 1784.  During the Treaty of Paris he was the first Bristish Home Secretary in 1782 and then Prime Minister 1782 – 1783.
[100] Smith, Donald L., John Jay A Founder of a State and Nation, page 87
[101] John Jay, The Peace Negotiations of 1782 and 1783: An Address Delivered Before the New York Historical Society.  Kessinger Publishing: 2006
[102] George Bancroft, History of the United States: From the Discovery of the American Continent,
Little, Brown, And Company, Boston: 1875 pages 583-583
[103] William Temple Franklin, William Duane, Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin, Derby & Jackson, New York: 1859, page 556.
[104] Francis Wharton ed, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, John Jay to Gouverneur Morris,  October 13, 1782
[105] Ibid, John Jay to Robert Livingston, November  17, 1782.
[106] Ibid
[107] John Adams, John Adams diary 35, 26 October - 17 November 1782. Folded sheets, first leaf serves as cover (22 pages). Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Page 2
[108] Ibid, page 10
[109] John Adams, Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 November 1782. 4 pages. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society
[110] Wharton, Francis, ed, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, John Adams to Robert Livingston, November 21, 1782.
[111] Thomas Jones,  Floyd De Lancey, History of New York During the Revolutionary War: And of the Leading Events, New York Historical Society: 1879, pages 329-300
[112] John Adams, John Adams diary 37, 22 - 30 November 1782. Stitched sheets without covers (23 pages, 1 additional blank page). Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, page 3.
[113] Ibid, page 7
[114] Ibid, page 17
[115] James Grant Wilson,  and John Fiske, Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography; D. Appleton and company, 1888, page 410
[116] Paul H. Smith, ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, July 25. 1783
[117] James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, J. & H. G. Langley, 1841, page 518
[118] Treaty of Paris, original Manuscript, September 3, 1783, National Archives of the United States
[119] Journals of the United States in Congress Assembled, Jays Election as Foreign Secretary, May 7, 1784.
[120] Paul H. Smith, ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress , Charles Thomson to John Jay, JUNE 18, 1784
[121] James Grant Wilson,  The Memorial History of the City of New-York, J.B. Lippincott & Co, Philadelphia:1858,  page 359
[122] Journals of the United States in Congress Assembled, August 19, 1784.
[123] William Jay, The Life of John Jay, page 158
[124] Ibid
[125] Ibid, page 160
[126] George Pellew, John Jay, page 230
[127] Paul H. Smith,  ed. Letters of Delegates to Congress, Elbridge Gerry to James Warren, Dec. 23, 1784
[128] John Jay, New York Packet, Friday, March 7, 1788 The Federalist. No. Lxiv
[129] George Pellew, John Jay, page 294
[130] John Baker-Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield (21 December 1735–30 May 1821) was an English politician who came from a Yorkshire family. In 1781 he was created a Peer of Ireland as Baron Sheffield, of Dunamore in the County of Meath, and in 1783 was further created Baron Sheffield, of Roscommon in the County of Roscommon.  He was a great authority on farming, and in 1803, he was appointed President of the Board of Agriculture.
[131] Thomas Francis Moran,  The Formation and Development of the Constitution,
George Barrie: 1904, page 290.
[132] John Jay,  Resignation as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Original Manuscript, June 29, 1795 Library of Congress
[133] Webster, Daniel,  Speech at Public Dinner at New York, March 10, 1831, The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors By Charles Wells Moulton..
[134] James Grant Wilson, and John Fiske, Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, page 411.

The Congressional Evolution of the United States of America 

Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents 
Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776

September 5, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 26, 1774
May 20, 1775
May 24, 1775
May 25, 1775
July 1, 1776

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies & States of America

George Washington: June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783

Continental Congress of the United States Presidents 
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781

July 2, 1776
October 29, 1777
November 1, 1777
December 9, 1778
December 10, 1778
September 28, 1779
September 29, 1779
February 28, 1781

Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to March 3, 1789

March 1, 1781
July 6, 1781
July 10, 1781
Declined Office
July 10, 1781
November 4, 1781
November 5, 1781
November 3, 1782
November 4, 1782
November 2, 1783
November 3, 1783
June 3, 1784
November 30, 1784
November 22, 1785
November 23, 1785
June 5, 1786
June 6, 1786
February 1, 1787
February 2, 1787
January 21, 1788
January 22, 1788
January 21, 1789

Presidents of the United States of America

D-Democratic Party, F-Federalist Party, I-Independent, R-Republican Party, R* Republican Party of Jefferson & W-Whig Party 

 (1881 - 1881)
*Confederate States  of America

Chart Comparing Presidential Powers Click Here

United Colonies and States First Ladies

United Colonies Continental Congress
18th Century Term
09/05/74 – 10/22/74
Mary Williams Middleton (1741- 1761) Deceased
Henry Middleton
05/20/ 75 - 05/24/75
05/25/75 – 07/01/76
United States Continental Congress
07/02/76 – 10/29/77
Eleanor Ball Laurens (1731- 1770) Deceased
Henry Laurens
11/01/77 – 12/09/78
Sarah Livingston Jay (1756-1802)
12/ 10/78 – 09/28/78
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
09/29/79 – 02/28/81
United States in Congress Assembled
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
03/01/81 – 07/06/81
07/10/81 – 11/04/81
Jane Contee Hanson (1726-1812)
11/05/81 - 11/03/82
11/03/82 - 11/02/83
Sarah Morris Mifflin (1747-1790)
11/03/83 - 11/02/84
11/20/84 - 11/19/85
11/23/85 – 06/06/86
Rebecca Call Gorham (1744-1812)
06/06/86 - 02/01/87
02/02/87 - 01/21/88
01/22/88 - 01/29/89

Constitution of 1787
First Ladies
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Martha Wayles Jefferson Deceased
September 6, 1782  (Aged 33)
March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817
March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
December 22, 1828 (aged 61)
February 5, 1819 (aged 35)
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
April 4, 1841 – September 10, 1842
June 26, 1844 – March 4, 1845
March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
February 22, 1862 – May 10, 1865
April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
January 12, 1880 (Aged 43)
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
March 4, 1889 – October 25, 1892
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
March 4, 1913 – August 6, 1914
December 18, 1915 – March 4, 1921
March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009
January 20, 2009 to date

Capitals of the United Colonies and States of America

Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
September 27, 1777
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
October 6, 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
Dec. 6,1790 to May 14, 1800       
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present

Book a primary source exhibit and a professional speaker for your next event by contacting today. Our Clients include many Fortune 500 companies, associations, non-profits, colleges, universities, national conventions, PR and advertising agencies. As a leading national exhibitor of primary sources, many of our clients have benefited from our historic displays that are designed to entertain and educate your target audience. Contact us to learn how you can join our "roster" of satisfied clientele today!

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Primary Source Exhibits

727-771-1776 | Exhibit Inquiries

202-239-1774 | Office

202-239-0037 FAX 

Dr. Naomi and Stanley Yavneh Klos, Principals

Primary Source exhibits are available for display in your community. The costs range from $1,000 to $35,000 depending on length of time on loan and the rarity of artifacts chosen. 


U.S. Dollar Presidential Coin Mr. Klos vs Secretary Paulson - Click Here

The United Colonies of North America Continental Congress Presidents (1774-1776)
The United States of America Continental Congress Presidents (1776-1781)
The United States of America in Congress Assembled Presidents (1781-1789)
The United States of America Presidents and Commanders-in-Chiefs (1789-Present)

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