John Jay was born on December 12, 1745 in New York City. He was a descendant of early Huguenot and patrician Dutch settlers, who grew up in a comfortable home. He graduated from King's college in 1764 and four years later he began his career as a lawyer. John Jay married Sarah Van Brugh Livingston on April 28, 1774.
John Jay was a distinguished statesman and was known as a respected political figure due to his judgement, fairness, and ability to make decisions that he felt were right but were not always popular. After being accepted as a lawyer, Jay later became a New York delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. There he served as president from 1778 to 1779. Following his term as president, Jay was appointed as U.S minister to Spain.
After he returned to the United States, he was informed that he had been chosen as secretary of foreign affairs. While working with the European congresses Jay came to realize that the U.S needed a stronger central government. Along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Jay wrote letters to newspapers to urge the ratification of the constitution.
In 1789 John Jay was appointed chief justice of the United States by President George Washington. While he was chief justice he traveled to Great Britain to attempt to negotiate settlements of the issues between the two nations. In 1794 George Washington made his last desperate attemt to avoid war when he decided to send John Jay to London. The Jeffersonians were not pleased with this decision. They feared that such a well-known federalist and Britain-lover would "sell out" his country. After his arrival in London, Jay further alarmed the Jeffersonians when at the presentation ceremony he kissed the queen's hand. An American Journal wrote about the so-called betrayal of John Jay to his country, "Hear the voice of truth, hear and believe! John Jay, ah! the arch traitor--seize him, drown him, hang him, burn him, flay him alive! Men of America, he betrayed you with a kiss!"
Upon his return to the United States, Jay resigned from his position as chief justice to serve as governor of New York and served two terms. In 1801 he refused further public office and retired to his Bedford, N.Y home, where he died on May 17, 1829. He was one of the last of the revolutionary patriarchs. Many of the procedures adopted by John Jay in his lifetime are still used in todays judicial body.