Few leaders of the new American nation had more influence than John Jay (1745-1829), or could match his contributions in all three branches of government, at both state and national levels. A leading representative of New York in the Continental Congress, Jay became one of the American commissioners who negotiated peace with Great Britain. He served the new republic as secretary for foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation, as a contributor to the Federalist papers, as the first chief justice of the United States, as negotiator of the 1794 "Jay Treaty" with Great Britain, and as a two-term governor of the state of New York. In his personal life, Jay embraced a wide range of religious, social, and cultural concerns, including the abolition of slavery.
This volume launches a new annotated seven-volume edition of selected correspondence of John Jay. The work consists of a wide-ranging selection of the most significant and interesting public and private documents and letters, written or received by Jay. The edition is designed to revise and complete work begun in the 1950s by the eminent Columbia University professor Richard B. Morris, who supplemented the major collection of original Jay Papers at Columbia with copies of Jay documents secured from archives throughout the world, and with his staff published two volumes covering the era of the American Revolution.The new project is administered by the Rare Books and Manuscript Room of Columbia University Libraries.
The Selected Papers of John Jay, 1760-1779 begins with Jay's education and training as a socially elite, Anglican, King's College-educated lawyer. Although such a path led many into Loyalism, it brought Jay, and such friends and correspondents as Robert R. Livingston, Gouverneur Morris, and Alexander Hamilton, into the front ranks of New York's moderate revolutionary leaders. Jay's marriage to Sarah (Sally) Van Brugh Livingston in 1774 tied him to the influential Patriot family headed by William Livingston. Jay soon found himself a leader of New York's revolutionary committees and a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he sought reconciliation with Great Britain but promoted war preparedness, and applied his much-admired writing skills to drafting major congressional reports and addresses. With his state facing invasion, he returned to New York to help organize the new state government and to combat "plots, conspiracies, and chimeras dire" as a member of committees dealing with loyalty and security issues, including the notorious Hickey Plot. He then helped to organize Hudson River defense and to draft the state constitution of 1777. In 1778 Jay returned to Congress, where he supported New York's claims to Vermont and served as president until he was appointed minister to Spain in September 1779. The volume closes with John and Sally Jay's eventful voyage to Europe, including a brief layover at Martinique after their ship was dismasted and rendered virtually rudderless.
The publication of this volume has been supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.