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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

For July 4th, scholars urge new look at forgotten US founder John Jay, justice, diplomat, spy

Who Puts the "Jay" in Jay Treaty?

Chief negotiator and namesake of the Jay Treaty, John Jay, is a founding father most Americans know very little about; at least when compared to his peers such as Washington and Jefferson. However, his influence was vast and lasting; reaching all branches of government, and nations worldwide:

"Jay was one of three contributors to the Federalist Papers, which helped define American government. He was president of the wartime Continental Congress, then served as secretary of foreign affairs, precursor to secretary of state, after the Revolutionary War ended. He was an essential diplomat whose peace negotiations with England, leading to the Treaty of Paris, vastly expanded U.S. territory. 

For his accomplishments heading a network of informants during the revolution, actions that helped inspire James Fenimore Cooper's novel "The Spy," the CIA's website calls Jay "the first national-level American counterintelligence chief." He also helped write the New York Constitution, was a founder of the New York Manumission Society and as governor signed legislation that phased out slavery in the state (Jay himself owned slaves). 

The founders bickered colorfully among themselves, but they agreed on the virtues of Jay. Noting his centrality in the talks with England, John Adams praised him as "of more importance than any of the rest of us." Alexander Hamilton turned to Jay first when conceiving the Federalist Papers, and George Washington thought so much of him that when he was forming his original Cabinet, he offered the first position — any position — to Jay, who chose the Supreme Court."


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