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Guide to the John Jay Papers
 MS 330

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Library staff. Finding aid by Christine George

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on March 21, 2019
Finding aid is written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Jay, John, 1745-1829
Title: John Jay papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1664-1823 (Bulk 1769-1800)
Abstract: John Jay took on many important roles during the United States' early years, including statesman, foreign diplomat, Chief Justice, and governor of New York. This collection contains materials from his time in those positions as well as materials from his family which pre-date the American Revolution.
Quantity: 2.5 Linear Feet (8 boxes, 4 reels of microfilm)
Language: The John Jay Papers are written in English.
Call Phrase: MS 330

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Biographical Note

John Jay Chronology
December 12, 1745 Jay was born
1764 Jay graduated from Kings College (Columbia University)
1774 Jay married Sarah Livingston, daughter of New Jersey govenor William Livingston
1774-1776 Jay served as delegate to the Continental Congress
1777 Jay served as New York's Chief Justice
1778 Jay was elected president of the Continental Congress
1779 Jay was appointed Minister to Spain
1784 Jay was elected Minister of Foreign Affairs
1785 Jay founded the New-York Manumission Society
1787-1788 Jay authored the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixty-fourth essays of the Federalist Papers
1789 President George Washington appointed Jay first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
1794 Jay negotiated treaty with Great Britian that is known as "Jay's Treaty"
1795 Jay resigned from the Supreme Court
Jay was elected govenor of New York
May 17, 1829 Jay died

There are a variety of reasons why John Jay is a historical figure of note. He was a Founding Father, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a politician, and a diplomat, to name only a few. Jay was born on December 12, 1745 in New York City to Peter Jay and his wife, Mary Van Cortlandt. Jay was the sixth out of seven surviving children. Of those seven children, two were left blind by smallpox.

Jay was educated at Kings College (later renamed Columbia University) in 1760. Upon his graduation in 1764 he became a law clerk and was admitted to the bar in 1768. During this period, Jay served on the New York-New Jersey Border Commission. After his admission to the bar, Jay joined with Robert R. Livingston Jr. to form a law firm. He later went on to his own practice in 1771.

In 1774 Jay married New Jersey governor William Livingston's daughter Sarah. That same year Jay also got involved with politics in New York that would eventually escalate into the American Revolution. As far as the Revolution went, Jay began as a moderate. He was involved in New York's Committee of 50 and the Continental Congress where he served as a delegate from 1774-1776. Jay was also a member of the New York Constitutional Convention and served as First Chief Justice of New York in 1777. In 1778 he was a delegate and later elected to President of the Continental Congress. Jay's diplomacy went international when he was appointed Minster to Spain in 1779, Minister to treat the peace with Great Britain in 1782, and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1784.

In 1787 and 1788, Jay's attention returned to domestic matters. Joining in with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Jay contributed to what became known as the Federalist Papers. Jay authored essays two, three, four, five, and sixty-four. (He suffered from an illness that limited his involvement after the fifth essay.) This collection of essays was meant to persuade the newly minted Americans to accepted the Constitution, which would replace the Article of Confederation, which were the first governing document for the United States. Jay was quite influential in getting New York to ratify the Constitution.

Jay's role changed again in 1798 when President George Washington appointed him as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the country. At the time, there was nothing to stop the Chief Justice from actively participating in the country's politics. Proving this, Jay ran for governor of New York in 1792, only to lose to George Clinton. In 1794, Jay was appointed an envoy to Britain to negotiate issues, such as border disputes, that caused continuing tension between the two countries. Among the terms of the treaty, the British would leave their forts on the United States' western border, and the United States granted Most Favored Nation trading status to the British. However, there were issues that were left unaddressed, such as impressment, which upset the American public. Although public was not in favor of Jay's Treaty, the Senate ultimately ratified it.

Upon Jay's return to the United States in 1795, he discovered that he had been elected governor of New York. After resigning as Chief Justice, Jay served two terms as governor of New York, and addressed issues such as fortifying the cities against possible attack and Indian relations. Jay retired in 1801. President Thomas Jefferson attempted to get Jay to return to the Supreme Court bench, but Jay refused.

Once out of politics, Jay continued to pursue some of his other interests. One of which was his religion. Jay was a practicing Anglican and served as warden of Trinity Church in New York. He became president of the American Bible Society. Another interest was the anti-slavery movement, which seems contradictory since Jay owned slaves. Jay's interest in abolishing slavery dated back to legislation he presented in New York in 1777 to free all slaves in New York. In 1785 he founded the New-York Manumission Society. In 1799 Jay helped pass a bill entitled "An Act for the Gradual Prohibition of Slavery" which led to the eventual emancipation of all slaves in New York.

John Jay died on May 17, 1829.

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Scope and Content

The John Jay Papers cover a significant period of American History, from 1664-1820. The bulk of the papers are from Jay and his work as a statesman, foreign diplomat, and two-term governor of New York. There are a variety of materials from Jay including correspondence, dispatches, official documents, legal papers, and notes. Some of these materials are from significant projects or moments—the New York - New Jersey Line War, Jay's Treaty, Spanish and French negotiations, and Federalist #64. The earlier material which pre-dates the American Revolution as well as Jay's birth seems to be from his relatives, both the Jay and Van Cortlandt families.

At some point, this collection was arranged and put on microfilm. Because of this, the arrangement was set prior to the creation of this finding aid. The series should be interpreted broadly as a means of encompassing as much as possible. There are descriptions of each series to highlight what may not be apparent from series and folder titles.

It should be noted that there are materials within this collection that, for whatever reason, are not on microfilm. Any material in the collection that does not appear on the microfilm can be easily identified because it does not have a reel number listed after the folder title.

All material that is on microfilm must be viewed in that format. For the materials that do appear on the microfilm, the reel number is included as well as the ordered number the original processer gave the information after the folder title. When consulting the microfilm, please be aware that on Reel 1, #3 there is no "S," and on Reel 3 there is no #9 or #13.

Arrangement Note

The John Jay Papers were arranged at some point by an unknown individual and preserved on microfilm. This finding aid attempts to work with the pre-set arrangement. The series should be taken broadly. Each series has its own scope and content note which describes the series and notable items within the series that may not be readily apparent by the series' title.

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Revolutionary War Era History and Correspondence
  2. Series II: Negotiations with Britian
  3. Series III: Governing New York
  4. Series IV: Documents Concerning Law and Government
  5. Series V: Documents Concerning Scholastic, Professional, Religious, and Community Organizations
  6. Series VI: Law Papers
  7. Series VII: New York-New Jersey Boundary Dispute
  8. Series VIII: Assorted Correspondence, Documents, and Notes

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Bayley, Richard, 1745-1801
  • Livingston, William, 1723-1790
  • Lupardus, William
  • Remsen, Henry, 1736-1792
  • Schenck, John

Document Type

  • Correspondence.
  • Dispatches
  • Invoices
  • Legal documents

Subject Organizations

  • American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews
  • Great Britain. Royal Commission for Settling the Boundary Line between the Colonies of New-York and New-Jersey
  • Great Britain. Royal Mint
  • Humane Society of the City of New-York
  • Hunter (Sloop)
  • New York Hospital
  • New York Society for the Suppression of Vice
  • Trinity Church (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Diplomats
  • Lawyers
  • Philanthropists
  • Practice of law -- New York (State)
  • Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, with the United States of America (1794 November 19)
  • Yellow Fever -- New York (State) -- New York.

Subject Places

  • France -- Relations -- United States
  • New Jersey -- Boundaries -- New York (State)
  • New York (State) -- Boundaries -- New Jersey.
  • Spain -- Relations -- United States
  • United States -- Relations -- France.
  • United States -- Relations -- Spain.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

All material that is on microfilm must be viewed in that format.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the John Jay Papers, MS 330, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

For related material at the New-York Historical Society, see John Jay Papers 1787-1812, shelved at BV Jay, John. The bound volumes contain the holograph draft of Federalist #64 as well as architectural drawings for the Jay Family estate in Bedford, New York. The New-York Historical Society also holds the Jay Family Papers.

More John Jay archival materials from many repositories across the country are available through Columbia University's digitized John Jay Papers project, including digitized copies of a large number documents available from the New-York Historical Society (


General Note

The John Jay Papers are availabe on microfilm for researchers at the New-York Historical Society. Whatever material that is on microfilm must be viewed in that format.

Columbia University provides a digitized version of many of John Jay's papers at The John Jay Papers is an image database and indexing tool comprised of thousands of pages scanned from photocopies of original documents gathered by the John Jay publication project staff during the 1960s and 1970s. The database is fully searchable and includes more than 750 documents from the New-York Historical Society's manuscript collections related to John Jay.

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Container List

Series I: Revolutionary War Era History and Correspondence, 1779-1794, undated

Scope and Content

This series contains a variety of material covering the period of the American Revolution. It contains both manuscripts and correspondences. The manuscripts are an excerpt (the first six chapters) of a history of the American Revolution, written by David Ramsay (1749-1815), and a memoir. The correspondence includes official dispatches that were sent to and used by Jay during negotiations. There is also correspondence between Silas Deane, an early American politician involved with the Continental Congress and who was an envoy to France during this period, and Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Benjamin Talmadge, and J. Wadsworth. Trumbull has the unique distinction of being the governor of Connecticut both before and after the American Revolution, having been the only sitting governor to support the Revolution. Talmadge (also spelled Tallmadge) fought in the American Revolution and is known for having organized the Culper Spy Ring. He later served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeremiah Wadsworth served as commissary for the American Army during the Revolution, and was the wealthiest man in Connecticut after the American Revolution.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 History of American Revolution (Reel 1- #1)
Box: 1 Folder : 2 History of American Revolution (Reel 1 - #1)
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Instructions and Resolutions of Congress (Reel 1 - #2)
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Official Dispatches and Other Papers Connected to the Negotiations in Spain and France (Reel 1 - #3)
Box: 1 Folder : 5 The Independence of America Advantageous to France. A French Memoire (Reel 1 - #4)
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Correspondence of Silas Deane with Turnbull, Talmadge, and Wadsworth (Reel 1 - #5)
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Instructions and Dispatches to John Jay (Reel 1 - #6)

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Series II: Negotiations with Britain, 1794-1798

Scope and Content

This series contains documents relating to the negotiations with Great Britain that resulted in Jay's Treaty (also known as the Treaty of London of 1794). The treaty was meant to resolve remaining issues between the United States and Great Britain after the Treaty of Paris of 1783 which ended the Revolutionary War. Although the treaty was not universally popular within the United States and it did not resolve all the issues the negotiators had originally set out to fix, it did manage to keep the peace between the two countries until the War of 1812. Going beyond the treaty negotiations, there is a question written to Jay concerning boundaries that resulted from the treaty and Jay's answer. Also within this series is George Hammond's correspondence, which had been forwarded to Jay. Hammond was the first British envoy to the United States, serving from 1791-1795.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Papers Connected with the British Treaty (Reel 2 - #7)
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Interrogations to Him and Reply re St. Croix River, Etc.
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Papers Respecting British Spoilations and Interference with Indians, and the Correspondence with Mr. Hammond (Reel 1 - #8)
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Papers Respecting British Spoilations and Interference with Indians, and the Correspondence with Mr. Hammond (Reel 2 - #8)

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Series III: Governing New York, 1796-1798

Scope and Content

The materials within this series are from Jay's years as governor of New York. Topics include a yellow fever outbreak, state debt, and protection of New York City. Also included in this series are materials from a 1797 incident with a British war ship, the Hunter, which shows the American reaction to the British naval practice of impressment, or the forcible enlistment of men to a ship's crew. A crew member claimed to be American and brought a false imprisonment suit against the ship's captain while the ship was docked in New York Harbor for repairs.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Report on the Subject of the Yellow Fever Made to the Governor of New York by Richard Bayley (Reel 2 - #9)
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Copy of the Letter Addressed to the Speaker of the Assembly of the State of New York in Winter of 1797 by Edward Livingston on the Debt of New York to the United States (Reel 2 - #10)
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Proceedings against the Captain of the British Sloop of War "Hunter," New York (Reel 2 - #11)
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Papers Relating to the Defense of the City of New York (Reel 2 - #12)

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Series IV: Documents Concerning the Law and Government, 1664-1783, undated

Scope and Content

This series spans a particularly long period of time and contains a variety of documents. In some of these documents, there is a direct tie to either the Jay family or the Van Cortlandt family (Jay's in-laws). Within this series are documents pertaining to a land dispute between Hemsen and the Corporation of New York. Other documents of note are a number of copies of affidavits, swearing to British brutality towards wounded American militia on May 1, 1778; official documents concerning the state of the colony of New York; articles of surrender from 1664; documents concerning Nine Partner land in Duchess County; notes on land; material concerning Trinity Church; and documents from lawyers.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Long Island Papers, Chiefly in the Case of Hendrick Hemsen against the Corporation of New York (Reel 2 - #13)
1674-1774, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Assorted Documents (Reel 2 - #14)
1664-1783, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Assorted Documents (Reel 2 - #15)
1664-1775, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Assorted Documents (Reel 2 - #16)
1714-1750, undated

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Series V: Documents Concerning Scholastic, Professional, Religious, and Community Organizations, 1714-1822, undated

Scope and Content

Within this series are materials concerning organizations with which either Jay or his family was involved. These organizations include: Trinity Church, New York Hospital, the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Humane Society, and the Society for Meliorating the Conditions of the Jews. The materials regarding these societies and organizations include correspondence and notes. The British Mint and Van Schellyne papers consist of legal papers. Also of interest in this series are rules from Columbia College's library (in the variety organization folder) and the votes from the 1792 and 1795 New York governor's election.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Papers Relating to Trinity Church (Reel 3 - #2)
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Trinity Church Property (Reel 3 - #3)
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Papers Relating to the New York Hospital (Reel 3 - #4)
1809-1811, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Papers from a Variety of Organizations (Reel 3 - #5)
1809-1822, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Papers Relating to the British Mint (Reel 3 - #6)
1794, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Van Schellyne Papers (Reel 3 - #10)
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Abstract of Title of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church to the Manor of Fordham (Reel 3 - #11)
Box: 4 Folder : 8 Return of Votes for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York (Reel 3 - #12)
1792, 1795

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Series VI: Law Papers , 1709-1754, undated

Scope and Content

Within this series are court documents and proceedings that pre-date the American Revolution. Of note is the Case of Schenck and Lupardus, which concerns an inheritance. Folder 3 contains a number of bills of cost, providing information for what legal services cost in the early to mid-eighteenth century

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Case of Schenck and Lupardus (Reel 3 - #7)
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Old Law Papers (Reel 3 - #8)
1709-1754, undated
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Old Law Papers (Reel 3 - #8)
1730-1746, undated

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Series VII: New York-New Jersey Boundary Dispute , 1769

Scope and Content

For the first half of the eighteenth century, New York and New Jersey were engaged in the New York - New Jersey Line War (also known as the N.J. Line War). This involved a series of skirmishes to determine the northern border of New Jersey, including a final skirmish in 1765 that was carried out with fists (not weapons because it was the Sabbath). In order to avoid further fighting, King George III appointed a royal commission in 1769 to determine once and for all what the border would be. Jay was a member of that commission. This series contains official documents, indentures, reports, surveys, drawings, and handwritten notes. There are also interrogatory answers from those from New York and New Jersey.This series is found on reel 3 and 4 of the microfilm. The split occurs in Box 6, Folder 4 with John Labriski's Answer.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 1 New York - New Jersey Boundary Papers (Reel 3 - #14)
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Papers re New York - New Jersey Boundary (Reel 3 - #14)
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Papers Re New York- New Jersey Boundary (Reel 3 - #14)
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Papers re New York - New Jersey Boundary (Reel 3, Reel 4 - #14)
Box: 7 Folder : 1 Boundary Papers New York - New Jersey (Reel 4 - #14)
Box: 7 Folder : 2 Re New York - New Jersey Boundary (Reel 4 - #14)
Box: 7 Folder : 3 Boundary Papers New York - New Jersey (Reel 4 - #14)
Box: 7 Folder : 4 Boundary Papers New York - New Jersey (Reel 4 - #14)

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Series VIII: Assorted Correspondence, Documents, and Notes , 1712-1863, undated

Scope and Content

This series contains an array of materials. There is correspondence from Jay as well as correspondence from his family. There are also ephemera items as well as a stay of execution from 1799 when Jay was governor of New York. Of particular interest is the draft of Federalist #64. Along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Jay wrote a number of essays meant to persuade Americans to adopt the Constitution. At the time, the essays were published under the name Publius. Before his death, Alexander Hamilton wrote a list out identifying the number essay with its author. He indicated that Jay had written #64. Later, Madison claimed to have written it. In 1863, Jay's grandson, another John Jay, was going through family belongings and found a draft of #64 tied up in old copies of the   Independent Journal, which was a newspaper in which the essays had originally been printed. Wanting to set the record straight, John Jay, grandson, sent the draft to the New-York Historical Society. The draft itself is now a part of the bound volume collection under BV Jay, John, but this series contains photostat copies of the draft.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 1 Correspondence from John Jay and the Jay Family (Reel 4 - # 1-10)
Box: 8 Folder : 2 Notes Concerning Federalist #64
1863, undated
Box: 8 Folder : 3 Correspondence, Official Documents, and Ephemera from John Jay
1784-1799, undated

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