Guest Essayist: Brenda Hafera, Finance and Events Co-Ordinator at the Matthew J. Ryan Center For the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University

John Jay is often lost in the long shadow cast by the legacies and genius of his Federalist co-authors, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  Indeed, Jay authored only five of the eighty-five articles.  This was not because his co-authors doubted his abilities or influence, but because Jay was stricken with illness and unable to contribute further.  John Jay was a politician, patriot, Chief Justice, and a man of deep and seasoned principles.  Being so driven by principle, one of the great causes Jay undertook was to limit the institution of slavery however possible in America.  This endeavor is the subject of his “Letter to the English Anti-Slavery Society.” Read more

In 1777, Jay’s first attempt to abolish slavery in New York failed. In 1788, the state banned the importation of slaves. By 1799, the New York Manumission Society advocated for a bill, signed into law that year by then-Governor Jay, specifying that as of July 4, all children born to slave parents would be freed by a certain age. Less than a year after the Constitutional Convention, Jay addresses concerns from his British counterparts that anti-slavery progress in America is too slow.

June 1788


Our society has been favored with your letter of the 1st of May last, and are happy that efforts so honorable to the nation are making in your country to promote the cause of justice and humanity relative to the Africans. Read more