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John Jay: Founding Father Hardcover – February 10, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 482 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; First Edition edition (February 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852854448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852854447
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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, Stahr returned to his first love, American history, to research and write a biography of John Jay. His second book, a biography of William Henry Seward, was published in 2012, and he is now at work on a third book, a biography of Edwin McMasters Stanton. Starting in the fall of 2014, Stahr will teach history at Chapman University in Orange, California, and his wife, Dr. Masami Miyauchi Stahr, will teach mathematics at St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano. Walter Stahr's blog and other information are in his website,

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Stahr is a great writer and he writes in an easy and accessible manner that will appeal to a broad audience.
J.B. Hughes
Walter Stahr's 2006 biography of John Jay is a well researched and well written description of the life and contributions of an underappreciated Founding Father.
Leonard J. Wilson
Jay also served as a President of the Continental Congress, so in a very limited way, he was the chief executive of the early United States.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David H. Schmick on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Howard Schulman on June 25, 2005
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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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Bernstein on April 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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