John Jay (person)
- See also Wikipedia's article about "John Jay".
John Jay KC 1764 was an influential figure in the early United States. He served as president of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. With Alexander Hamilton, he thereafter authored the Federalist Papers, arguing for a stronger national government, which heavily influenced the creation of the current United States Constitution. Although he is best known thereafter for being the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jay also served as Secretary of State, signing the treaty with Britain that bears his name, and as Governor of New York.
Still, his father didn't understand his career track, writing at the time Jay ("our Johnny") was in college, "[h]e seems sedate and intent on gaining knowledge, but seems inclined toward the law rather than the ministry".
Jay, with Hamilton, also proved a loyal alumnus, playing a role in the reopening of King's College as Columbia College in 1784. Supporting the college was a family tradition; John's older brother Dr. Peter Jay had helped raise funds in Britain that had contributed to the creation of King's College several decades before.
John Jay Gets Busted by RA, Hauled Before PrezCooper
The incident related below refers to one of the few incidents which blemished Jay's reputation as "a youth remarkably sedate." According to Jay family tradition, "a few weeks before he was to take his degree" in the spring of 1764, Jay was present in College Hall when some of his fellow students "either through a silly spirit of mischief, or in revenge for some fault imputed to the steward, began to break the table". Myles Cooper, Samuel Johnson’s successor as President of King’s, came to investigate. Cooper lined up the students and interrogated each in turn. None admitted any knowledge of the identity of the vandals until Cooper came to Jay. When asked who the culprits were, Jay replied: "I do not choose to tell you, sir." Cooper, the story went, "expostulated and threatened, but in vain".
When the students were called before a faculty committee, Jay presented their defense. Like all other students, Jay had been required to sign a promise of obedience to the college statutes, but he contended that his refusal to identify the students who had destroyed the table did not violate that oath "and that the president had no right to exact from him any thing not required by the statutes". The faculty disagreed, and Jay and his companions were "suspended and rusticated".
Jay was allowed to return to King’s in time to receive his degree on May 22, 1764. Cooper, Jay's son recorded, "by the kindness of his reception, suffered him to perceive that he had not by his conduct forfeited any part of his good opinion." William Jay pointed out, with even greater satisfaction, that JJ had "retained among his papers to the day of his death a copy of the statutes, from which it appears that the conduct for which he was suspended was not even indirectly forbidden by them." Jay's copy of those regulations, signed by him and Myles Cooper, bears out that interpretation.
King's College Alumni presents a somewhat different portrait of this incident: "In young Jay's veins there was no British blood...and as a result of his untimely insistence upon this fact in President Cooper's presence, he was rusticated shortly before graduation".