John Jay (12th December 1745 – 17th May 1829) was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a founding father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–95).
Jay was born into a wealthy family of merchants and government officials in New York City. Throughout his childhood, he received a private education before studying law at King’s College. After passing the New York bar exam, he established his own legal practice. He soon became a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence, where he became involved with a conservative political faction that, fearing “mob rule”, sought to protect property rights and maintain the “rule of law” while resisting British violations of human rights.
Jay served as the President of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1779. During and after the American Revolution, Jay was a minister (ambassador) to Spain and France, helping to fashion United States foreign policy, and to secure favorable peace terms from Great Britain (with Jay’s Treaty of 1794) and the First French Republic.
Jay, a proponent of strong, centralized government, also co-wrote the Federalist Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. As a leader of the new Federalist Party, Jay was the Governor of New York State from 1795 to 1801, and he became the state’s leading opponent of slavery. His first two attempts to emancipate the slaves in New York failed in 1777 and in 1785, but his third attempt succeeded in 1799. The 1799 act, a gradual emancipation act that he signed into law, eventually brought about the emancipation of all slaves there before his death in 1829.