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John Jay: Founding Father

John Jay: Founding Father

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by Walter Stahr

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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 the first full-length biography in almost seventy years, Walter Stahr brings Jay vividly to life, setting his astonishing career against the


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 the first full-length biography in almost seventy 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.

Editorial Reviews

author of Alexander Hamilton Ron Chernow

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, and consistently intelligent and presented with the most scrupulous accuracy.
author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Walter Isaacson

John Jay was a brilliant and fascinating statesman who, along with his friend Benjamin Franklin, helped define the values of American diplomacy. Walter Stahr writes with great insight, and this wonderful book should help restore Jay's place in the pantheon of our great Founding Fathers.
author of A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to John Ferling

John Jay, the Founding Father most ignored by historians, has long awaited a good biography. Here it is! Jay played salient roles in many crucial aspects of the founding of the nation. He served in the Continental Congress, held diplomatic posts, played a vital role in the ratification of the Constitution, sat on the Supreme Court, and was governor of New York during the intensely partisan 1790s. Now, at last, a fine biography of this exceptional man is available. Walter Stahr has written a sensitive, illuminating, and provocative life history of Jay that will be welcomed by all who are interested in the American Revolution and the establishment of the Republic.
Richard Brookhiser

For twenty five years, John Jay served his country as congressman, diplomat, chief justice, governor and polemicist, yet managed to retire beloved by everyone. Walter Stahr adds his portrait to the gallery of America's founders.

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.
Weekly Standard

Walter Stahr's excellent new biography should reestablish 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....This biography has the considerable virtue of being justly admiring without being fawning. Stahr notes Jay's propensity to be especially sharp with some of his extended relations. And while admiring Jay's longstanding opposition to slavery, he chides him for keeping slaves of his own and not freeing them expeditiously or graciously. Stahr minces no words about the virulence of Jay's anti-Catholicism, a product of the persecution of his Huguenot forebears...Walter Stahr deserves high praise for recovering the legacy of a great American statesman, and a remarkable man.
Washington Times

Walter Stahr, an independent scholar, has written a fascinating, learned and beautifully written biography about a major figure of the American Revolution, one who has been too long overlooked. Mr. Stahr deserves consideration for the Pulitzer Prize for biography. His loving description of Manhattan in Jay's time filled me, a onetime New Yorker, with nostalgia... Stahr's biography, which sometimes reads like a novel because of its episodic quality, has opened up a whole new vista of the 13 colonies on the eve of battle and the miraculous aftermath that made possible the United States of America. I look forward to reading more history from this gifted scholar.

Product Details

Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.12(d)

Meet the Author

Walter Stahr is an international lawyer for Emerging Markets Partnership in Washington, DC. He lives in Vienna, Virginia.

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John Jay: Founding Father 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stahr's wonderful and well written book on John Jay successfully retrieves Jay from near obscurity. After meeting Mr. Stahr today and discussing his book, I have selected the title 'No Other Choice' as the appropriate one for his masterful biography of this visionary and dedicated stateman. The author clearly shows how Jay reluctantly (at first)embraced democracy and willingly sacrificed himself for this new nation and did so simply because it 'was the right thing to do'. Historians may not rate him with Washington, Hamilton, Adams or Jefferson, but this books places him squarely in the same class. A must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Jay is the forgotten Founding Father and this book lifts him from the dustbin of history, brushes him off, and lets him stand next to all the big names -- Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton -- that for years have been so familiar to all Americans. This biography is written at a fast pace and takes in all of Jay's many accomplishments. You will finish it and wonder how it's possible that one man did so much and hasn't been celebrated more than he has. This is not only a great book but it's a lesson that the great often hide their light and it takes time and understanding to uncover them. Take the time to read this book and recommend it to friends. You won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Walter Stahr's new biography of founding father John Jay is a very welcome-and long overdue-addition to the literature on the American Revolution and the early years of the United States. Jay, a sober man, served his country with intelligence and integrity in more important posts than any other founding father. Stahr's thorough exploration of this complex man is fascinating and sympathetic. Well-written, this book should be snapped up by anyone interested in American history
Anonymous More than 1 year ago