Jay Treaty

Jay Treaty

The Jay Treaty, also known as the Treaty of London of 1794, [ cite book
last = Olson
first = James Stuart
coauthors = Robert Shadle
editor = James S. Olsen
others = Robert Shadle, Ross Marlay, Willam G. Ratliff, Joseph M. Rowe, Jr.
title = Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=uyqepNdgUWkC&dq=isbn:0313262578
accessdate = 2007-11-19
year = 1991
publisher = Greenwood Press
isbn = 0313262578
pages = 332
] between the United States and Great Britain averted war, solved many issues left over from the American Revolution, and opened ten years of largely peaceful trade in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars. It was highly contested by Jeffersonians but passed Congress and became a central issue in the formation of the First Party System. The treaty was signed in November 1794, but was not proclaimed in effect until February 29, 1796.

The terms were designed primarily by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton with strong support from President George Washington and chief negotiator John Jay. The treaty averted war and increased trade, which pleased both sides. Jay obtained the primary American requirements: British withdrawal from the posts that they occupied in the Northwest Territory of the United States, which they had promised to abandon in 1783. Wartime debts and the US-Canada boundary were sent to arbitration — one of the first major uses of arbitration in diplomatic history. The Americans were also granted some rights to trade with British possessions in India and the Caribbean in exchange for American limits on the export of cotton. The treaty averted possible war but immediately became one of the central issues in domestic American politics, with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison leading the opposition. They feared that closer economic ties with Britain would strengthen the Federalists. The treaty encouraged trade between the two nations for a decade, but it broke down after 1803. Efforts to agree on a replacement treaty failed in 1807, as tensions escalated to the War of 1812. [Marshall Smelser, "The Democratic Republic: 1801–1815" (1968) pp. 139, 145, 155–56.]


From the British perspective, the war with France made it imperative to improve relations with the U.S. to keep the U.S. from falling into the French orbit. From the American viewpoint, the most pressing foreign policy issues were normalizing trade relations with Britain, America's leading trading partner, and resolving issues left over from the American Revolution. As one observer explained, the British government was "well disposed to America… They have made their arrangements upon a plan that comprehends the neutrality of the United States, and are anxious that it should be preserved." [Gouverneur Morris quoted in Perkins (1955) p. 22; the British foreign minister felt, "this Country is anxious to keep the Americans in good humour." ibid. ]

In 1793–94, the British Navy captured hundreds of American neutral ships and the British in Canada were supporting Indian tribes fighting the U.S. in Ohio (territory the British gave the U.S. in 1783). Congress voted an embargo for two months. Hamilton and the Federalists favored Britain over France and sought to normalize relations. Hamilton designed the plan and Washington sent Chief Justice Jay to London to negotiate a comprehensive treaty.The American government had a number of issues it 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 250 ships confiscated during 1793–94.
*Southerners wanted compensation for the slaves the British had taken from them during the Revolution.
*Merchants wanted the British West Indies reopened to American trade.
*The boundary with Canada was too vague and needed delineation.
*The British were believed to be aggravating Native-American attacks on settlers in the West.

Treaty terms

Both sides achieved many objectives. The British agreed to vacate the six western forts by June 1796 (which was done), and to compensate American ship owners (the British paid $10,345,200 by 1802). [Wayne S. Cole, "An Interpretive History of American Foreign Relations," (1974) p. 55.] In return, the United States gave most favored nation trading status to Britain, and acquiesced in British anti-French maritime policies. The United States guaranteed the payment of private prewar debts owed by Americans to British merchants that could not be collected in U.S. courts (the U.S. paid £600,000 in 1802). Two joint boundary commissions were set up to establish correctly the boundary line in the northeast (it agreed on the Saint Croix River) and in the northwest (this one never met). Jay, a strong opponent of slavery, dropped the issue of compensation for slaves, which angered Southern slaveowners. Jay was unsuccessful in negotiating an end to the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, which later became one of the key issues that led to the War of 1812.

Aboriginal rights

Article III of the Jay Treaty declared the right of aboriginal peoples (people indigenous to Canada and/or the US) to trade and travel between the United States and Canada, which was then a territory of Great Britain. In the United States, this right was restated in section 289 of the 1952 Immigration and Naturalization Act, currently codified as 8 U.S.C. § 1359: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to affect the right of American Indians born in Canada to pass the borders of the United States, but such right shall extend only to persons who possess at least 50 per centum of blood of the American Indian race." [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/search/display.html?terms=indian&url=/uscode/html/uscode08/usc_sec_08_00001359----000-.html INA] , Cornell.]

Unrestricted passage:The Jay Treaty applies to His Majesty's Subjects, and to the Citizens of the United States, and the Indians dwelling on either side of the said boundary line.

It allows people to pass and repass freely by land or inland navigation, across the border on the Continent of America and to navigate all the lakes, rivers and waters thereof, and freely to carry on trade and commerce.

Note: ARTICLE XXVIII of the Jay Treaty states “It is agreed that the first ten articles of this treaty shall be permanent, and that the subsequent articles, except the twelfth, shall be limited in their duration to twelveyears”

Approval and dissent

Washington submitted the treaty to the United States Senate for ratification in June 1795. The treaty was unpopular at first, and gave the Jeffersonians a platform to rally new supporters. As Paul Varg explains, "The Jay Treaty was a reasonable give-and-take compromise of the issues between the two countries. What rendered it so assailable was not the compromise spelled out between the two nations but the fact that it was not a compromise between the two political parties at home. Embodying the views of the Federalists, the treaty repudiated the foreign policy of the opposing party." [Varg, 1963 p. 95.] The Jeffersonians were opposed to Britain, preferring support for France in the French Revolutionary Wars, and arguing the treaty with France from 1778 was still in effect. They looked at Britain as the center of aristocracy and the main threat to America's republican values. Therefore they denounced Hamilton and Jay (and even Washington) as monarchists who betrayed American values. They organized public protests against Jay and his treaty; one of their rallying cries went: "Damn John Jay! Damn everyone that won't damn John Jay! Damn every one that won't put lights in his window and sit up all night damning John Jay!" [William Weeks, "Building the Continental Empire", p. 23.]

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison strongly opposed the Treaty — they favored France — thus setting up foreign policy as a major dispute between the new Federalist and Republican parties. Furthermore they had a counterproposal designed to establish "a direct system of commercial hostility with Great Britain," even at the risk of war. The Jeffersonians raised public opinion to fever pitch by accusing the British of promoting Indian atrocities on the frontier. [Elkins and McKitrick, p. 405.] The fierce debates over the Treaty in 1794–95, according to one historian, "transformed the Republican movement into a Republican party." To fight the treaty the Jeffersonians "established coordination in activity between leaders at the capital, and leaders, actives and popular followings in the states, counties and towns." [ William Nisbet Chambers. "Political Parties in a New Nation: The American Experience, 1776–1809" (1963), p. 80.] Jay's failure to obtain compensation for "lost" slaves galvanized the South into opposition. [Sean Wilentz, "The Rise of American Democracy" (2006) 67–68.]

The Federalists fought back and Congress rejected the Jefferson-Madison counterproposals. Washington threw his enormous prestige behind the treaty, and Federalists rallied public opinion more effectively than the opponents. [Estes 2001.] Hamilton convinced President Washington it was the best treaty that could be expected. Washington, who insisted the U.S. must remain neutral in the European wars then raging, signed it and his prestige carried the day in Congress. The Federalists made a strong, systematic appeal to public opinion which rallied their own supporters and shifted the debate. Washington and Hamilton outmaneuvered Madison as opposition leader. [Estes pp. 398–99.] Hamilton, now out of the government, was the dominant figure who helped secure its approval by the needed 2/3 vote. The Senate passed a resolution in June, advising the president to amend the treaty by suspending the 12th article, which concerned trade between the U.S. and the West Indies. In mid-August, the Senate ratified the treaty 20-10, with the condition that the treaty contain specific language regarding the June 24 resolution. President Washington signed it in late August. The Treaty was proclaimed in effect on February 29, 1796 and in the series of close votes after another bitter fight the House funded the Treaty in April 1796. [http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/Im-Ju/Jay-s-Treaty.html Jay’s Treaty] , American Foreign Relations.]

James Madison, then a member of the House of Representatives, argued that the treaty could not, under Constitutional law, take effect without approval of the House, since it regulated commerce and exercised legislative powers granted to Congress. The debate which followed was an early example of originalism, in which Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," ironically, lost. [Rakove, pgs 355-365]

After defeat in Congress, the Jeffersonian Republicans fought and lost the 1796 presidential election on the issue.

When Jefferson became president in 1801 he did not repudiate the treaty, and instead kept the Federalist minister in London Rufus King to negotiate a successful resolution to outstanding issues regarding cash payments and boundaries. The amity broke down finally in 1805, as relations turned hostile, leading to the War of 1812. In 1815, the Jay treaty was replaced by the Treaty of Ghent.


Elkins and McKitrick note that in conventional diplomatic terms, as a "piece of adversary bargaining", Jay "got much the worst of the 'bargain'. Such a view has to a great degree persisted ever since." [Elkins and McKitrick] They conclude that although Jay got nowhere on the matter of neutral rights, he did get "his other "sine qua nons" ["sic"] "; he got none of things that were "desirable, but not indispensable." [Elkins and McKitrick, p. 410.] They add "Jay's record on the 'soft' [Term borrowed from Richard Hofstadter for matters important in principle or symbolism; contrast to "hard" for matters of immediate material importance] was open to many objections; on the 'hard' side, it was a substantial success, which included the prevention of war with Great Britain." [Elkins and McKitrick, p. 412.]

Historian Marshall Smelser argues that the treaty effectively postponed war with Britain, or at least postponed it until the country was strong enough to handle it. [Marshall Smelser, "The Democratic Republic, 1801–1815" (1968).]

Bradford Perkins argued in 1955 that the treaty was the first establishment of a special relationship between Britain and America, with a second installment under Lord Salisbury. In his view, the treaty worked for ten years to secure peace between Britain and America: "The decade may be characterized as the period of "The First Rapprochement." As Perkins concludes, "For about ten years there was peace on the frontier, joint recognition of the value of commercial intercourse, and even, by comparison with both preceding and succeeding epochs, a muting of strife over ship seizures and impressment. Two controversies with France… pushed the English-speaking powers even more closely together." [ Perkins p. vii] Starting at swords' point in 1794 the Jay treaty reversed the tensions, Perkins concludes: "Through a decade of world war and peace, successive governments on both sides of the Atlantic were able to bring about and preserve a cordiality which often approached genuine friendship." [Perkins p. 1.]

Perkins suggests that (saving perhaps the opening of trade with British India), "Jay did fail to win anything the Americans were not obviously entitled to, liberation of territory recognized as theirs since 1782, and compensation for seizures that even Britain admitted were illegal." He also speculates that a "more astute negotiator than the Chief Justice" would have gotten better terms than he did. [Perkins: "The First Rapprochement" p. 3.] He also quoted the opinion of the "great historian" Henry Adams that the treaty was a "bad one":

"No one would venture on its merits to defend it now. There has been no time since 1810 when the United States would not prefer war to peace on such terms":

On the other hand Perkins gives more weight than other historians to valuable concessions regarding trade in India and the concession on the West Indies trade. In addition, reports Perkins, the Royal Navy treated American commerce with "relative leniency" during the wars, and many impressed seamen were returned to America. Furthermore, Spain, seeing an informal British-American alliance shaping up, became more favorable regarding American usage of the Mississippi River and signed Pinckney's Treaty which the Americans wanted. When Jefferson took office he gained renewal of the commercial articles that had greatly benefited American shipping. [Perkins, "Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations I: The Creation of a Republican Empire". (1995) pp. 99, 100, 124.]

Elkins and McKitrick find this more positive view open to "one big difficulty": it would require that the British have negotiated in the same spirit. Unlike Perkins, they find "little indication of this"; preferring to view the British not as future-oriented, but, having had no indication that America required attention, wishing to take it off the long list of things that did. [Elkins and McKitrick, pp. 396–402.]

Joseph Ellis finds the terms of the treaty "one-sided in Britain's favor", but asserts a consensus of historians that it was [Joseph Ellis, "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation" (2000) pp. 136–7.]

"a shrewd bargain for the United States. It bet, in effect, on England rather than France as the hegemonic European power of the future, which proved prophetic. It recognized the massive dependence of the American economy on trade with England. In a sense it was a precocious preview of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), for it linked American security and economic development to the British fleet, which provided a protective shield of incalculable value throughout the nineteenth century. Mostly, it postponed war with England until America was economically and politically more capable of fighting one."



* Bemis, Samuel Flagg. "Jay's Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy" (1923) remains the standard narrative of how treaty was written
* Charles, Joseph. "The Jay Treaty: The Origins of the American Party System," in "William and Mary Quarterly", 3rd Ser., Vol. 12, No. 4. (Oct., 1955), pp. 581-630.
* Combs, Jerald. A. "The Jay Treaty: Political Background of Founding Fathers" (1970) (ISBN 0-520-01573-8) Focusing on the domestic and ideological aspects, Combs dislikes Hamilton's quest for national power and a "heroic state" dominating the Western Hemisphere, but concludes the Federalists "followed the proper policy" because the treaty preserved peace with Britain
*Elkins, Stanley M. and Eric McKitrick, "The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800." (1994), ch. 9
* Estes, Todd, "The Art of Presidential Leadership: George Washington and the Jay Treaty," "Virginia Magazine of History and Biography", 2001, vol 109, no. 2.
* Estes, Todd, "Shaping the Politics of Public Opinion: Federalists and the Jay Treaty Debate." "Journal of the Early Republic" (2000) 20(3): 393-422. ISSN 0275-1275;
* Estes, Todd. "The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, And the Evolution of Early American Political Culture" (2006)
* Farrell, James M. "Fisher Ames and Political Judgment: Reason, Passion, and Vehement Style in the Jay Treaty Speech," "Quarterly Journal of Speech" 1990 76(4): 415-434.
* Fewster, Joseph M. "The Jay Treaty and British Ship Seizures: the Martinique Cases." "William and Mary Quarterly" 1988 45(3): 426-452. ISSN 0043-5597 22:09,
* Perkins, Bradford. "The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795–1805" 1955.
* Perkins, Bradford. "Lord Hawkesbury and the Jay-Grenville Negotiations," "The Mississippi Valley Historical Review," Vol. 40, No. 2. (Sep., 1953), pp. 291-304.
* Rakove, Jack N. "Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution." Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1997. ISBN 0-394-57858-9
* Varg, Paul A; "Foreign Policies of the Founding Fathers." 1963.
* American Indian Law Alliance. "Border Crossing Rights."

ee also

* List of treaties
* Timeline of United States diplomatic history

External links

* [http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/jay.html Jay's Treaty and Related Resources at the Library of Congress]
* [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/diplomacy/britain/jaymenu.htm Avalon Project - Jay Treaty of 1794 (Relevant Documents)]
* [http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/lwsch/journals/bciclr/24_2/04_TXT.htm "Native American Free Passage Rights Under the 1794 Jay Treaty: Survival Under United States Statutory Law and Canadian Common Law" in "Boston College International and Comparative Law Journal," Vol. 24:2, 2001, pp. 313-340.]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jay Treaty — ▪ United States Great Britain [1794]       (Nov. 19, 1794), agreement that assuaged antagonisms between the United States and Great Britain, established a base upon which America could build a sound national economy, and assured its commercial… …   Universalium

  • Jay-Vertrag — Der Jay Vertrag vom 19. November 1794 wurde zwischen dem Königreich Großbritannien und den USA geschlossen und bereinigte aktuelle und aus dem amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg resultierende Spannungen und Streitfragen zwischen beiden Ländern.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jay, John — born Dec. 12, 1745, New York, N.Y. died May 17, 1829, New Bedford, N.Y., U.S. U.S. jurist, first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He practiced law in New York City. Though he initially deplored the growing conflict between …   Universalium

  • Treaty of Paris (1783) — The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, and approved by the Congress of the Confederation on January 14, 1784, formally ended the American Revolutionary War between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the thirteen United States of America …   Wikipedia

  • Treaty of London — The Treaty of London may refer to: Treaty of London (1359), which ceded western France to England, repudiated by the Estates General in Paris on 19 May 1359 Treaty of London (1518), a non aggression pact between the major European nations Treaty… …   Wikipedia

  • Treaty of Saginaw — The territorial effects of the Treaty of Saginaw. The Treaty of Saginaw, also known as the Treaty with the Chippewa, was made between Gen. Lewis Cass and Chief John Okemos, Chief Wasso and other Native American tribes of the Great Lakes region… …   Wikipedia

  • Treaty of Fort McIntosh — The Treaty of Fort McIntosh was a treaty between the United States government and representatives of the Wyandotte, Delaware, Chippewa and Ottawa nations of Native Americans. The treaty was signed at Fort McIntosh (present Beaver, Pennsylvania)… …   Wikipedia

  • Jay's Treaty — U.S. Hist. the agreement in 1794 between England and the U.S. by which limited trade relations were established, England agreed to give up its forts in the northwestern frontier, and a joint commission was set up to settle border disputes. Also,… …   Universalium

  • Jay's Treaty — U.S. Hist. the agreement in 1794 between England and the U.S. by which limited trade relations were established, England agreed to give up its forts in the northwestern frontier, and a joint commission was set up to settle border disputes. Also,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Jay's Treaty — Jay s′ Trea′ty n. amh. a treaty (1794) between the U.S. and Great Britain that resolved lingering disputes • Etymology: after John Jay …   From formal English to slang