John Jay

 

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John JayJay, JOHN, statesman; born in New York City, Dec. 12, 1745; was of Huguenot descent. Graduated at King's College (now Columbia University) in 1764, he was admitted to the bar in 1768, and formed a partnership with Robert R. Livingston. In 1774 he was a delegate in the first Continental Congress, and the same year he married a daughter of William Livingston, of New Jersey. In that Congress, though the youngest member but one, he took a conspicuous part, being the author of the Address to the People of Great Britain. His facile pen was often employed in framing documents in the Congress of 1775. Early in 1776 he left Congress and engaged in the public affairs of his own State, being a leading member of the Provincial Congress in 1776. He wrote the able address of the convention at Fishkill in December, 1776; reported a bill of rights to the New York constitutional convention in March, 1777; and was the chief author of the first constitution of the State of New York. After assisting in putting in motion the machinery of his State government, and being made a judge he entered Congress again late in 1778 and became president of that body. In September, 1779, he was sent to Spain to negotiate a loan. Mr. Jay was one of the commissioners for negotiating a treaty of peace with Great Britain. He returned to New York in 1784, and was secretary for foreign affairs from that year until the organization of the government under the national Constitution. Mr. Jay was associated with Hamilton and Madison in writing the series of articles in support of the Constitution known collectively as The Federalist. Washington appointed Jay the first chief-justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

On April 7, 1794, a motion was made in the House of Representatives that all commercial intercourse with Great Britain and her subjects be suspended, so far as respected all articles of the growth or manufacture of Great Britain or Ireland, until the surrender of the Western posts and due compensation for all losses and damages growing out of British aggressions on our neutral rights should be made. This motion, if adopted, would lead directly to war. Its adoption seemed probable, and Washington, to avert the calamitous consequences, proposed to send a special minister to England to negotiate an amicable settlement of the existing disputes. There were  grave charges of violations of the treaty of 1783 made by the two parties against each other. Washington desired to send Hamilton on the mission. Violent opposition to this was made by his political enemies, whose hatred and jealousy were intense. Fearing Hamilton might not have the confirmation of the Senate, Washington nominated Mr. Jay (April 16), which nomination was confirmed April 19. The special minister arrived in England in June, where he was received with great courtesy by the British government. He negotiated a treaty which was not wholly satisfactory to his countrymen, closing his labors on Nov. 19 ; and from 1795 to 1801 he was governor of New York, under whose administration slavery was abolished. This was his last public office. He died in Bedford, N. Y., May 17, 1829. See AMES, FISHER.

Jay's Treaty

After Mr. Jay's formal reception in London, Lord Grenville, then at the head of foreign affairs, expressed great anxiety to bring the negotiations to a successful issue. There was a wide difference of views concerning matters in dispute. The Americans complained that, contrary to the provisions of the treaty of peace (1783), a large number of negroes had been carried off by the evacuating armies; and for this loss compensation was demanded for the owners. They complained, also, of the detention of the Western posts, which was the main cause of the hostility of the Northwestern tribes. They also alleged numerous violations of their neutral rights, especially on the high seas, such as the impressment of seamen and the exclusion of American shipping from the trade of the British West Indies. There were other complaints on the part of the Americans; but the matters more immediately provocative of war were the disputed questions of neutral rights and the detention of the Western posts. Deeming it wise to adjust these two important difficulties, Jay thought it best to yield, temporarily, other considerations, or leave them for future adjustment, and he was induced to sign a treaty, Nov. 19, 1794, defective in some respects and objectionable in others. It provided for the collection of British debts in the United States contracted before the Revolution, but it did not secure indemnity to those who lost slaves. It secured indemnity for unlawful captures on the high seas, and the evacuation of the military posts on the frontiers yet held by the British. These were to be surrendered on June 1, 1796, the present residents to have the option of removing or of becoming American citizens. There was to be a mutual reciprocity of inland trade and intercourse between the North American territories of the two nations, including the navigation of the Mississippi; but it did not extend to the Hudson Bay Company, nor to the admission of American vessels into the harbors of the British North American colonies, nor to the navigation of the rivers of those colonies below the highest port of entry. These were the principal features of the first ten articles of the treaty, which were to be perpetual. Eighteen others, of the nature of a treaty of commerce, were limited to two years. They provided for the admission of American vessels into British ports in Europe and the East Indies on terms of equality with British vessels; but no terms were made concerning the East India coasting trade, or the trade between Europe and the British West Indies. There were restrictions upon the American trade to the British West Indies; and British vessels were to be admitted to American ports on terms of the most favored nations. Privateers were to give bonds to respond to any damages they might - commit against neutrals, and other regulations of that service were made. The list of contraband articles was clearly defined. No vessel attempting to enter a blockaded port was to be captured unless she had first been notified and turned away. Neither nation was to allow enlistments within its territory by any third nation at war with the other; nor were the citizens or subjects of either to be allowed to accept commissions from such third nation, or to enlist in its service, on penalty of being treated as pirates. Ships-of-war of the contracting parties were to be mutually admitted in a friendly manner into the ports of each other, such vessels to be free from any claim of search, but were to depart as speedily as might be. Other and stringent regulations were made concerning privateers. In case of rupture or war, the citizens or subjects of either nation resident in the territories of the other were to be allowed to remain and to continue their trade so long as they behaved peaceably. They might be ordered off, in case of suspicion, on twelve months' notice, or without any notice, if detected in violations of the laws. No reprisals were to be ordered by either party till satisfaction had first been demanded. Fugitives from justice charged with murder or forgery were to be mutually given up.

Early Opposition—The treaty was concluded at London on Nov. 19, 1794. It reached the President in March, 1795, after the adjournment of Congress. The Senate was convened, in special session, to consider it, early in June, 1795. After a debate for a fortnight, in secret session, a vote of 20 to 10—precisely a constitutional majority—advised (June 24) the ratification of the treaty, excepting the article which related to the renunciation by the Americans of the privilege of transportation of sugar, molasses, coffee, cocoa, and cotton in the West India trade. Cotton was then just promising to be of vast importance in the carrying-trade, and such an article was wholly inadmissible. The President had determined, before the meeting of the Senate, to ratify the treaty; and when it was laid before the cabinet all agreed with him excepting the Secretary of State (Edmund Randolph, of Virginia) , who raised the point that by the ratification, before an obnoxious British Order in Council concerning neutrals should be repealed, the British claim to the right of search and impressment would be conceded by the Americans. Hamilton, who had been consulted, advised the ratification, but to withhold the exchange of ratifications until that order should be repealed. The Senate had removed the seal of secrecy from their proceedings, but had forbidden any publication of the treaty itself. Statements concerning the provisions of the treaty soon appeared. The Democratic societies and newspapers had resolved to oppose and attack the treaty whatever might be its provisions. They had opposed the mission to negotiate it. After it was received Randolph revealed enough of its character to give a foundation for many attacks upon it in the newspapers. It was denounced as a pusillanimous surrender of American rights. In order to pre-vent misrepresentations, and to elicit the expressions of the people, Washington caused the whole treaty to be published. A mad, seditious cry went over the land from the opposition. In several cities mobs threatened personal violence to the supporters of the treaty. Hamilton was stoned at a public meeting in New York, while speaking in the open air. The British minister at Philadelphia was insulted ; and in Charleston the British flag was trailed in the dust of the streets. Jay was denounced as a traitor; and in Virginia disunion was recommended as a cure for political evils. The Democratic societies and orators put forth claims for sympathy for France. " She has a government congenial to our own. Citizens, your security depends on France. Let us unite with her and stand or fall together!" shouted opposition orators throughout the country. The Democrats adorned their hats with the French cockade. Jay was burned in effigy in many places, and longings for the guillotine were freely expressed in public assemblies.

When the President had proclaimed the treaty as the law of the land, he, according to promise, sent a copy of it, March 2, 1796, to the House. Its appearance was the beginning of a violent debate in that body, which turned upon the question whether the House possessed discretionary power to carry the treaty into execution or not at its pleasure. The debate arose on a motion of Edward Livingston, of New York, calling upon the President for his instructions to Jay and other papers relating to the treaty. After about thirty speeches, in a debate of three weeks, which grew warmer and warmer the longer it lasted, the resolution was adopted, March 24, by a vote of 62 to 37. The President consulted his cabinet, and they unanimously decided that the House had no right to make such a call, as they were not a part of the treaty-making power. They also decided that it was not expedient for the President to furnish the papers, for the call should be considered as an unfounded claim of power on the part of the House to interfere with the privileges of the President and Senate. The President, therefore, declined to comply with the request of the House, giving his reasons in a special message. Resolutions asserting the majesty of the House were introduced (April 6), and were supported by Madison. These resolutions were adopted by a vote of 57 to 35, and the subject of the " British treaty" was e staple topic of debate for some time after. wards. Finally, April 30, the House passed a resolution-51 to 48-that it way expedient to pass laws for carrying the treaty into effect.

The discussions of the treaty were soon transferred from public meetings and the newspapers to the arena of State legislatures. Governor Shelby, in his speech to the Kentucky legislature, attacked the treaty. The House seemed to agree with him (Nov. 4, 1794), but the Senate evaded any decided committal. The house of delegates of Virginia adopted, by a vote of 100 to 50, a resolution approving the conduct of their Senators in voting (Nov. 20) against the treaty. A counter-resolution declaring their undiminished confidence in the President was lost-59 to 79; but another resolution disclaiming any imputation of the President's motives was passed-78 to 62. The legislature of Maryland resolved that they felt a deep concern at efforts to detach from the President the " well-earned confidence of his fellow-citizens," and declared their " unabated reliance in his judgment, integrity, and patriotism." The Senate of Pennsylvania made a similar declaration. The legislature of New Hampshire expressed, Dec. 5, 1795, their " abhorrence of those disturbers of the peace " who had endeavored to render abortive measures so well calculated to advance the happiness of the country. The North Carolina legislature, by a decided majority, adopted a series of resolutions, Dec. 8, reprobating the treaty and thanking their Senators for having opposed it. In the legislature of South Carolina resolutions were introduced declaring the treaty "highly injurious to the general interests of the United States "; when the friends of the treaty, finding themselves in a minority, declared the legislature had no business to interfere with the duties of the President and Senate of the United States, and refused to vote, the resolutions were adopted unanimously. The House did not venture to send up these resolutions to the Senate.

A resolution declaring the treaty unconstitutional was defeated. The legislature of Delaware passed, Jan. 14, 1796, a resolution of approval. Gov. Samuel Adams, of Massachusetts, spoke of the treaty as " pregnant with evil," suggested a conflict of authority between the President and Senate and the House of Representatives, and transmitted to the general court the resolutions of Virginia on the subject of amendments to the Constitution. The Massachusetts Senate declared their concurrence in the belief of the governor that the national government was in " honest hands," and the house suggested "a respectful submission on the part of the people to the constituted authorities as the surest means of enjoying and perpetuating the invaluable blessings of our free and representative government." The general court of Rhode Island expressed their confidence in the general government. So, also, did the legislature of New York.

 

 

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