John Jay

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John Jay
Former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: September 26, 1789 – June 29, 1795
Nominator George Washington
Predecessor None
Successor John Rutledge
2nd Governor of New York
From: July 1, 1795 – June 30, 1801
Predecessor George Clinton
Successor George Clinton
2nd United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs
From: May 7, 1784 – March 22, 1790
President None
Predecessor Robert Livingston
Successor Thomas Jefferson (as Secretary of State)
Religion Episcopalian

John Jay (1745-1829) was a Founding Father who urged ratification of the U.S. Constitution, although he was unable to attend the Constitutional Convention. Jay wrote a few of the Federalist Papers and later served on the U.S. Supreme Court as the first Chief Justice.

A devout Christian, John Jay is called the "father of American conservatism."

John Jay was one of the heavy-hitters in the early days of the United States, a "founding father" who was a member of the Continental Congress and the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Jay was a lawyer from New York whose service in drawing up the state constitution led to his appointment as a delegate and, later, president of the Continental Congress. He held the post of American Minister to Spain in 1779 before joining Ben Franklin and John Adams in Paris for the peace negotiations with Great Britain (1783). Upon his return to the U.S. Jay discovered that he had been appointed as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. To explain the new U.S. Constitution, he teamed with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to author a series of essays collected as The Federalist Papers (although it was published anonymously, it is generally accepted that Jay wrote five of the 85 essays). President George Washington appointed Jay as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and he was easily approved in 1789. In 1794 and 1795 Jay's diplomatic skills were again called upon for peace negotiations with Great Britain to resolve continuing conflicts in and around U.S. territories (Jay's Treaty, signed in 1795). When Jay returned from peace negotiations in Europe, he discovered that Hamilton had engineered a victory for him in the gubernatorial election of New York; Jay resigned from the Supreme Court and served two terms as New York's governor (1795-1801). He was offered a spot on the Supreme Court by President Adams, but Jay declined and retired from public life.

The Jay Court

The Jay Court had little business through its first three years.[1]

In Chisholm v. Georgia, the Jay Court had to answer the question: "Was the state of Georgia subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the federal government?"[2] In a 4-1 ruling (Iredell dissented), the Jay Court ruled in favor of two South Carolinan Loyalists who had had their land seized by Georgia. The ruling, which was unpopular amongst the populace, was overturned by the Senate with the Eleventh Amendment (it dictated that the judiciary could not rule on cases where a state was being sued by a citizen of another state or foreign country).[3][1] The case was brought again to the Supreme Court in Georgia v. Brailsford, and the Court reversed its decision.[4][5] However, Jay's original Chisholm decision established that states were subject to judicial review.[2][6]

[T]he people are the sovereign of this country, and consequently that fellow citizens and joint sovereigns cannot be degraded by appearing with each other in their own courts to have their controversies determined. The people have reason to prize and rejoice in such valuable privileges, and they ought not to forget that nothing but the free course of constitutional law and government can ensure the continuance and enjoyment of them. For the reasons before given, I am clearly of opinion that a State is suable by citizens of another State.

In Hayburn's Case, the Jay Court ruled that courts could not comply with a federal statute that required the courts to decide whether individual petitioning American Revolution veterans qualified for pensions. The Jay Court ruled that determining whether petitioners qualified was an "act ... not of a judicial nature".[8] and that because the statute allowed the legislature and the Executive Branch to revise the courts ruling, the statute violated the separation of powers as dictated by the United States Constitution.[8][9][10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Jay Court ... 1789-1793 (English) (HTML). The Supreme Court Historical Society. Retrieved on 2008-08-21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793) (English) (HTML). The Oyez Project. Retrieved on 2008-08-21.
  3. A Brief Biography of John Jay (English) (HTML). The Papers of John Jay. Columbia University (2002).
  4. Georgia v. Brailsford, Powell & Hopton, 3 U.S. 3 Dall. 1 1 (1794) (English) (HTML). Oyez & Justia. Retrieved on 2008-08-21.
  5. John Jay (1745 - 1829) (English) (HTML). The Free Library. Farlex. Retrieved on 2008-08-21.
  6. Johnson (2000)
  7. CHISHOLM V. GEORGIA, 2 U. S. 419 (1793) (Court Opinion) (English) (HTML). Justia & Oyez. Retrieved on 2008-08-21.
  8. 8.0 8.1 HAYBURN'S CASE, 2 U. S. 409 (1792) (English) (HTML). Justia and Oyez. Retrieved on 2008-08-22.
  9. Robert J Pushaw Jr. [Georgetown Law Journal Why the Supreme Court never gets any "Dear John" letters: Advisory opinions in historical perspective] (English) (HTML). Georgetown Law Journal. Bnet. Retrieved on 2008-08-22.
  10. HAYBURN'S CASE (English) (HTML). Retrieved on 2008-08-22.