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John Jay: Founding Father [Kindle Edition]

Walter Stahr
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $5.99


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Book Description

John Jay was a central figure in the early history of the American Republic. A New York lawyer, born in 1745, Jay served his country with the greatest distinction, and was one of the most influential of its Founding Fathers. In this first full-length biography of John Jay in almost 70 years, Walter Stahr brings Jay vividly to life, setting his astonishing career against the background of the American Revolution.

Drawing on substantial new material, Walter Stahr has written a full and highly readable portrait of both the public and private man. It is the story not only of John Jay himself, the most prominent native-born New Yorker of the eighteenth century, but also of his engaging and intelligent wife, Sarah, who accompanied her husband on his wartime diplomatic missions. This lively and compelling biography presents Jay in the light he deserves: as a major Founding Father, a true national hero, and a leading architect of America's future.

Praise for the print edition of JOHN JAY:

“Walter Stahr’s even-handed account, the first big biography of Jay in decades, is riveting on the matter of negotiating tactics, as practiced by Adams, Jay and Franklin.”
— The Economist

“Walter Stahr writes with great insight, and this wonderful book should restore Jay’s place in the pantheon of our great Founding Fathers.”
—Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and Steve Jobs

“Stahr’s Jay is a welcome and worthy biography.”
— The Sunday Times (London)

“Walter Stahr, an independent scholar, has written a fascinating, learned and beautifully written biography of a major figure of the American Revolution, one who has been too long overlooked. Mr. Stahr deserves consideration for the Pulitzer Prize for biography.”
— Washington Times

“Mr. Stahr is a superlative biographer, reporting the criticisms made of his subject and then showing why, in most cases, Jay knew better than his contemporary critics or later historians.”
— New York Sun

“Until Walter Stahr’s splendid new biography appeared, the most recent biography of Jay was Frank Monaghan’s John Jay: Defender of Liberty against Kings and Peoples (1935), published some seven decades ago.”
— Journal of American History

“Walter Stahr’s excellent new biography should re-establish Jay’s standing as one of America’s great statesmen. It portrays Jay’s life with a balance and command of the material worthy of the subject.”
— Weekly Standard

“Stahr . . . captures both his subject’s seriousness and his thoughtful, affectionate side as son, husband, father and friend. In humanizing Jay, Stahr makes him an appealing figure accessible to a large readership and places Jay once again in the company of America’s greatest statesmen, where he unquestionably belongs.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Stahr has succeeded splendidly in his aim of recovering the reputation of John Jay as a major founder. His biography is a reliable and clearly written account [and] makes a persuasive case for including Jay among the first rank of Revolutionary leaders.”
— Gordon S. Wood in The New York Review of Books

“Walter Stahr has not only given us a meticulous study of the life of John Jay, but one very much written in the spirit of the man. It is thorough, fair, consistently intelligent, and presented with the most scrupulous accuracy.”
— Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton

Walter Stahr was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Southern California, and attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, Stanford University and Harvard Law School. After a twenty-five year career as a lawyer he returned to his first love, American history, to research and write a biography of John Jay. Stahr lives, with his wife Masami and two children, in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Newport Beach, California. His website is

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The greatest founders--such as Washington and Jefferson--have kept even the greatest of the second tier of the nation's founding generation in the shadows. But now John Jay (1745-1829), arguably the most important of this second group, has found an admiring, skilled student in Stahr, an international lawyer in Washington. D.C. Since the last biography of Jay appeared 60 years ago, a mountain of new knowledge about the early nation has piled up, and Stahr uses it all with confidence and critical detachment. Jay had a remarkable career. He was president of the Continental Congress, secretary of foreign affairs, a negotiator of the treaty that won the United States its independence in 1783, one of three authors of The Federalist Papers, first chief justice of the Supreme Court and governor of his native New York. Very few men exceeded Jay in importance and influence. Yet he presents a problem for any biographer: he was a conservative man of unfailingly sober disposition who left his mark more in significant deeds than in memorable words and commanding decisions. Stahr, however, captures both his subject's seriousness and his thoughtful, affectionate side as son, husband, father and friend. In humanizing Jay, Stahr makes him an appealing figure accessible to a large readership and places Jay once again in the company of America's greatest statesmen, where he unquestionably belongs. B&w illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

John Jay's writings lacked Jefferson's passionate eloquence in defense of liberty; his demeanor did not radiate the gravitas of Washington; he apparently did not share Madison's zest for and grasp of political theory. Yet, as this well-done biography illustrates, Jay was a vital figure in the founding of our republic, and he deserves an ample share of credit for the nurturing of our nation in its infancy. Stahr, an international lawyer, has written a fast-paced narrative account of Jay's life that stresses his deep religious connections, strength of moral character, and dedication to duty. By nature, Jay was conservative, and he was a reluctant revolutionary with the usual Federalist fears about unrestrained democracy. As an attorney and as first chief justice of the Supreme Court, he understood implicitly the need for the rule of law to prevail over the tendency to seek salvation from "great" men. He was a gifted diplomat whose negotiations in Europe helped our vulnerable nation to avoid conflicts with European powers, and he was an effective governor of New York. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 953 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Diversion Books (November 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009438N30
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,636 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unrecognized Glory October 5, 2005
While one cannot seriously dent the opinion of the public on who contributed the most to the founding of our republic: and thus the auras of Washington, Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson reign supreme, one cannot seriously dismiss John Jay. Jay served in all but one of the branches of our early federal government and secured the final treaty which ended the Revolutionary War. Tne boundary issue with English owned Canada was also settled through his diplomacy. Tne borders of Maine and Minnesota being points of contention.

Jay was a statesman and a great writer. His contributions to the Federalist Papers, albeit they are limited, served as a guidance to future government. He served at the state level as governor of New York and helped to create political parties, although he struggled with his aversion to factionalism. As a member of the Constitutional Congress, Jay maintained vital relationships with friends in England whom he needed to make the American experiment work.

During his era, the right to navigate the Mississippi was an important issue in America and especially to the commerce driven economy created by Hamilton. Like Jefferson, Jay envisioned a larger America. He wanted us to expand and evolve. Therefore he wasted no effort in taking the Mississippi away from Spain, France, and England. Jay clearly viewed the United States in terms of an opportunity for expansion.

As a man, Jay was a committed Christian. He founded many churches and lived out his life in Christian fellowship. His wife was clearly the greatest of the founding mothers. The letters between Jay and his wife were full of love and undying admiration, but also full of ideas. Unlike Abigail Adams, she was not a prude, a story-teller or a whiner.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Stahr's book on John Jay is absolutely first-rate. Surprisingly, Stahr mentions that it has been almost 70 years since someone has done a full biography on Jay. This makes the book all that more appreciated.

In short, although Jay was not as important and revered and talked about as Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, he clearly played a major part in launching this nation for over 25 years, so much so, that one wonders how he slipped under the radar screen. Here goes....He was a member of the Continental Congress in 1774 and 1775, and was President of it in 1779. He lead the peace negotiation in 1782-3 at Paris which resulted in a very favorable treay for the US. From 1784 till 1790 he was Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Confederacy, but more importantly, during this most fragile period in our history when most of the members failed to attend and rotated out after one year, he gave continuity and competency to the new national government. He was the most important figure in getting a very reluctant New York State to approve the new Constitution. He was the nation's first Supreme Court Chief Justice. He was governor of New York State for two terms. There's more.

Furthermore, everyone in his times and now agrees that he handled all these tasks with competency to a fault, being admired by friends and opponents alike. Like Hamilton, he was a person who got things done, but, unlike Hamilton, he seemed to get along with everyone.

The writing and research are great. One gets not only a feeling for who Jay was as a person, but also what his place in history is. It's not a profound book or a book that comes to new conclusions and insights, but a book that exposes Jay's life for what he did and what he was worth.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conscientious, scholarly, and accessible. April 2, 2006
John Jay [1745-1829] has long deserved a full-length scholarly biography and here he receives one that does honor to subject and author alike. First-time author Walter Stahr, a practicing attorney specializing in international law, has done prodigious work in the original sources and the scholarly literature and presents his findings capably and responsibly. He blends rigorous scholarship with clear and direct prose. His work deserves a wide and grateful audience. I have one caveat. Having worked on John Jay myself, I respectfully dissent from Mr. Stahr's argument that historians have neglected Jay because of his religious and political conservatism. I think, rather, that there are three major reasons for the previous neglect of Jay. First, until the great body of his papers found a home at Columbia University, thanks to the labors of Richard B. Morris, the sources needed for a fuller understanding of Jay and his career were not readily available, and the availability of sources often shapes the kinds and varieties of scholarship that historians and biographers can undertake. Second, by one of those unfortunate historical accidents, Jay was not a signer of either the Declaration of Independence [indeed, he was a reluctant revolutionary until 4 July 1776] or the Constitution of the United States. Signers and Framers tend to get more attention from later writers than those who were neither signers nor framers. Third, not only Jay but all members of the early [pre-1801] Supreme Court have been eclipsed by the titanic figure of John Marshall. In any event, Stahr's biography should spark a reconsideration of Jay's life and career and a re-evaluation of his place in the establishment of the United States.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Stahr's narrative is easy flowing and enjoyable
Stahr's narrative is easy flowing and enjoyable. He informs us about a founding father that too little people know too little of today.
Published 1 day ago by KenC
4.0 out of 5 stars John Jay
excellent book on a little known, but prominent founder. not extremely exciting to read but important for those interested in the revolution and the early American republic.
Published 3 months ago by Jay Perkins
5.0 out of 5 stars It deserves greater attention
This is an easy read and well presented. It is one of the better books I have found about the life of John Jay.
Published 4 months ago by Carl E. Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked founding father
John Jay seems to be most often remembered as the first Chief Justice of the United States, a rather limited perspective that understates the Jay biography. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Barry Abisch
4.0 out of 5 stars Jay the Forgotten Father
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Schuyler, Greene, Hamilton, and Hancock are just a few names that will surface in nearly any book about the American Revolution. Read more
Published 5 months ago by J.B. Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Balanced Read.
Well worth the time. Understanding the life and times of a overlooked founding father adds to the appreciation of that generation and their accomplishment against long odds.
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A facinating and fastidious man with very high principles
The author goes into a little too much detail in some of the aspects of John Jay's work, but overall the book gives a good report of how the United States of America developed its... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Robert Betts
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent history
I imagine it is difficult to write a biography of a man who, while so prominent in his own time, has almost disappeared from the national historical canvas. Read more
Published 11 months ago by JWN
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Man
This is not only a book about one of our founding fathers, but is a book about American history, filling in a lot of the details. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Robert H. Congelliere
5.0 out of 5 stars The unsung Founding Father
He's mentioned in every Founding Father's biography; he was a President of the First Continental Congress; he helped negotiate the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, and the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by darwin1971
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More About the Author

Walter Stahr was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Southern California, and attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, Stanford University, the Kennedy School of Government, and Harvard Law School. After a twenty-five year career as a lawyer, working in Washington and the Far East, Walter returned to his first love, American history, to research and write a biography of John Jay. His second book, on William Henry Seward, was published in 2012, and he is now at work on a third book, a biography of Edwin McMasters Stanton. Walter Stahr's wife, Masami, teaches mathematics at the Phillips Exeter Academy, where Walter serves as coach of the mock trial team. The Stahrs live in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Newport Beach, California. Walter Stahr's website is

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