Peter A. Jay

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Portrait of Peter Augustus Jay painted by John Wesley Jarvis

Peter Augustus Jay (January 24, 1776 – February 20, 1843) was the eldest son of Founding Father and first United States Chief Justice, John Jay. Peter was one of 6 children born to John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, and one of two boys (brother William was born in 1789) with four sisters: Susan (born and died in 1780); Maria (b. 1782), Ann (b. 1783) and Sarah Louisa (b. 1792).


Peter Augustus Jay was born at "Liberty Hall," in 1776, at the home of his grandparents', the Livingstons, in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Like his father, he graduated from King's College, the precursor of Columbia University. Notably following his graduation in 1794, Peter Augustus acted as private secretary to his father in London for the Jay Treaty.[1] The young Jay studied law and established a practice in New York City with his cousin Peter Jay Munro, carrying on a family tradition of public service. He married Mary Rutherfurd Clarkson, daughter of General Matthew Clarkson, in 1807[2][3] and they had 8 children.

From 1812 to 1817, Peter Augustus Jay helped found the Bank for Savings (thereby contributing to the establishment of the New York State savings bank system). In 1814, Jay and his father were both elected members of the American Antiquarian Society.[4] As a Federalist, he was a member from New York City of the New York State Assembly in 1816, during which time he was active in arranging the financing for the construction of the Erie Canal. He ran many times for Congress, but was always defeated by the Democratic-Republican candidates. From 1819 to 1821, he was Recorder of New York City. He was a delegate from Westchester Co. to the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1821. He helped found the New York Law Institute in 1828, which today is the oldest law library in New York City. Jay was President of New York Hospital (1827–1833), Chairman of the Board of Trustees, King's College and President of the New York Historical Society (1840–1842).[5] For a time he was also a Westchester County Judge.[6]

Peter Augustus Jay and Manumission[edit]

Jay shared his father's commitment to social justice and actively pursued greater rights for African Americans. In his commitment to reform, he served as President of the New York Manumission Society in 1816 and President of the New York Public School Society which was anti-slavery and concerned with greater humanitarianism towards the poor.[7] Jay is best known for giving a speech in 1821 at the New York State Constitutional Convention as a delegate arguing that the right to vote should be extended to free African Americans. Despite his impassioned argument, Jay's motion for extending suffrage was overruled.[8]

1838 Peter Augustus Jay House[edit]

The Jay Estate in Rye, NY

Peter Augustus legally received the Jay Property in Rye from his father in 1822 though original account records show that he and his wife Mary were handling household expenses as for the Rye estate as early as 1814. Under his father's aegis, Peter Augustus installed European styled stone ha-has on the property and planted elm trees. His father John Jay died in 1829. In 1836, Peter Augustus contracted with a builder, Edwin Bishop, to take down the failing farmhouse that had been barraged by the British during the Revolutionary War. Reusing structural elements from "The Locusts" where his father grew up as a boy, Peter Augustus Jay helped create the Greek Revival mansion that stands there today. Unfortunately his wife Mary would not live to see the house completed, as she died in Madeira on December 24, 1838. Peter Augustus Jay died in 1843 and the Rye house passed to his son, John Clarkson Jay.[9]

The 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House is a National Historic Landmark as well as a Save America's Treasures Project; NHL designation is the highest recognition conferred by the US government for a historic site—out of more than 80,000 places on the National Register, only about 2,430 are NHLs. The Jay mansion is currently being preserved and restored by the non-profit organization, the Jay Heritage Center, for use as an educational center with programs in American History. In November 2008, it became the first NHL structure in Westchester County and the oldest NHL in New York State to be fitted with a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Peter Augustus Jay and John Jay's leadership roles in the abolition of slavery are regularly examined in a program at the Jay Heritage Center called "Striving for Freedom." It is because of this legacy of social justice that the Jay site was added to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.


His son John Clarkson Jay was a physician and noted conchologist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jay p. 14
  2. ^ Wells p. 37
  3. ^ Wells p. 56
  4. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  5. ^ Kelby p. 83
  6. ^ The New York Civil List compiled in 1858 (pages 58, 191 and 428)
  7. ^ Cutler p. 72
  8. ^ Jay p. 108
  9. ^ Wells p. 42


  • Jay, John "Memorials of Peter A. Jay" 1905. G.J. Thieme
  • Kelby, Robert Hendre "The New York Historical Society 1804-1904" 1905. Published for the Society
  • Wells, Laura Jay "The Jay Family of La Rochelle and New York" 1938. Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America
  • Lamb, Mrs. Martha J. and Harrison, Mrs. Burton "The History of the City of New York,Its Origin, Rise and Progress" 1877. A.S. Barnes
  • Cutler, William W. "Status, Values and the Education of the Poor: The Trustees of the New York Public School Society, 1805-1853" American Quarterly, Vol.24, No.1, (Mar.,1972) pp 69–85. The Johns Hopkins University Press

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Riker
Recorder of New York City
Succeeded by
Richard Riker