John Jay


Public life

Occupation 1


Occupation 2

Advocate of American navy


Jay's Treaty


NA/Mid-Atlantic region


Maritime Republic (1751-1815)








Diplomat and first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court�

In 1786 [Jay] agreed with Spanish minister Diego de Gardoqui that the United States would give up the right to navigate the Mississippi for thirty years in exchange for a Spanish trade treaty and a mutual guarantee of each other's territory in the Western Hemisphere. Such a commercial treaty would lock in the beneficial terms on which the United States was already conducting its trade with Spain while the mutual guarantee of territory might exert pressure against British occupation of several Great Lakes posts on American territory. When Jay broached the possibility of this treaty to Congress, southerners were so outraged at Jay's willingness to abandon the Mississippi that they blocked any further negotiations. Many southerners and westerners distrusted Jay ever after�

Former secretary of state Jefferson and House leader Madison, along with many of their friends in Congress who were coming to be known as Republicans, had long advocated commercial retaliation against Great Britain. They supported trade restrictions not only to force the British to respect American neutral rights but also to make them abandon the occupied forts on the Great Lakes and open their West Indies to American shipping on terms similar to those that had existed when America had been part of the British Empire�

Jay immediately sided with Hamilton in advising Congress against the commercial retaliation that Jefferson and Madison proposed. Instead, he favored a conciliatory manner and a compromising stance. The threat that war would inevitably occur if no agreement could be found was implicit. The Jay Treaty that he negotiated was only a partial success. The British did agree to evacuate the Great Lakes posts. They also promised to open their West Indies to American ships, although on terms so onerous that the Senate ultimately rejected that article. The British also promised to compensate American shipowners for some of the most egregious of British seizures. But Jay could not get British recognition of America's claims to neutral rights. Moreover, by agreeing not to interfere with British trade for ten years, Jay gave away the right of commercial retaliation, the one lever with which the Republicans thought they could extort a proper respect for neutral rights and other concessions from the British�

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Date: 1794
Date: 1794