Jay Treaty

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John Jay

The Jay Treaty of 1795 (also known as Jay's Treaty or the Treaty of London), named after U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Jay, was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain signed on November 19, 1794 that attempted to clear up some of the lingering problems of American separation from Great Britain following the American Revolutionary War.

After being reelected to his second term as president, George Washington decided to concentrate on foreign policy issues. The most pressing issues were with the British, and to deal with them Washington sent the Supreme Court Chief Justice to London to talk with the British leadership. The Americans had a number of issues they wanted dealt with:

  • Britain was still occupying a number of forts on U.S. territory in the Great Lakes region.
  • American merchants wanted compensation for goods and ships confiscated during the War of Independence.
  • Southerners wanted compensation for the slaves the British had taken from them during the revolution.
  • Merchants also wanted the British West Indies reopened to American trade.

Jay's negotiations with the British were not particularly successful. The British agreed to vacate the western forts, and to compensate American ship owners. In compensation, the British got most-favoured-nation trading status from the Americans. The British refused to give any more compensation, however, unless the United States provided compensation for the vast amounts of Loyalist property seized after the revolution. The British also refused to allow trade between the U.S. and the Caribbean.

However the treaty failed to deal with two other issues between the nations, the impressment of sailors and the debts owed by way of compensation to Loyalists. In effect, however, it was not so much implemented as set in motion and never completed. It was ultimately overtaken by the Treaty of Ghent after the War of 1812.

The treaty was submitted to the United States Senate for ratification on June 8, 1795. The Senate passed a resolution on June 24 advising the president to amend the treaty by suspending the 12th article, which concerned trade between the U.S. and the West Indies. On August 14, the Senate ratified the treaty with the condition that the treaty contain specific language regarding the June 24th resolution. The treaty was ratified by Great Britain on October 28, 1795. Ratifications were exchanged in London on October 28, 1795 and proclaimed on February 29, 1796.

Many Americans were very displeased with this settlement, and there were public protests against Jay and his treaty. Alexander Hamilton, however, convinced Washington it was the best treaty that could be expected, and Washington agreed to sign it. This action caused Thomas Jefferson, who was inclined to favor France over England in international diplomacy, to start forming an active and open opposition group to Hamilton and his Anglophile associates. Jefferson's group began to call themselves "Republicans," later known as the Democratic-Republican Party.

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