Sir James Jay (1732–1815) was an American physician and politician. He was brother of John Jay, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. While initially a supporter of American independence, he later changed his views becoming a Loyalist and went into exile in London after the Treaty of Paris recognised independence.
Medicine and education activism
He was born in New York City, studied medicine, and became a practicing physician.
He was instrumental in obtaining the endowments for Benjamin Franklin's projected college (now the University of Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia (with William Smith, 1755) and King's (now Columbia) College, New York. For the purpose of soliciting contributions for the latter college, he visited England in 1762, where he was knighted by the king, George III, in 1763.
Jay sat as a member of the New York legislature during the early years of the American War of Independence where he was a supporter of independence. He actively promoted the Bill of Attainder and Confiscation which the legislature passed on 22 October 1779 directed at 59 loyalists. This bill was an anathema to Jay's brother John who saw it as persecuting people for their opinions.
In 1782, James connived to get himself arrested by the British so he could present a plan of reconciliation with Great Britain, as he was very suspicious of the French. He was treated as a spy, and imprisoned. Guy Carleton released him and allowed him to go to England. This led to suspicions about his loyalties among the revolutionaries. In a letter to Peter Van Schaak of 17 September 1782, John stated that “If after making so much bustle in and for America, he has, as it is surmised, improperly made his peace with Britain, I shall endeavour to forget that my father has such a son.” In 1813, James presented a “Narrative” to Congress which insisted that in Europe he worked to implement plans to attack British commerce and ports. After the Revolution, the brothers had little contact with one another.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "Jay, James". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Jay, James". Encyclopedia Americana.
- John Jay (1892). "Jay, John". In Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John. Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton
- Jack Lynch. "A Patriot, A Traitor, and a Bill of Attainder". history.org.
- Thomas Jones. History of New York during the Revolutionary War. pp. 538–540.
- "Jay, John". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1936.