John Jay and the F-Word

Today’s post was written by Monique Politowski, an archives technician who works on the NARA/Ancestry digitization partnership project in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were infamous for their use of the f-word, federalism. While John Jay’s infamy grew from his role in the Treaty of Paris (1783) (National Archives Identifier 299805), we should also acknowledge that he threw the f-word around as well.

Before I joined NARA, I worked at The Papers of John Jay (a National Historical Publications & Records Commission project) at Columbia University.  I noticed that John Jay was a neglected founder.  He had made meaningful and vital contributions to the foundation on which our nation still stands.  Therefore, as we approach the anniversaries of the numerous Federalist Papers and a presidential election year, I find it necessary to reflect on the principles that our founders believed in.

Jay, Hamilton, and Madison were the authors of the notorious Federalist Papers.  Their collaboration was prompted by the weaknesses and shortcomings they witnessed in the new American government.  John Jay observed the government’s flaws first hand as Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1784-1789).   As the author of essays 2, 3, 4, 5, and 64, Jay called for a government more powerful than under the Articles of Confederation.  He wanted the United Sates to have a strong centralized government that could successfully negotiate commercial treaties with other nations. Most of the papers on federalism written by Jay and his colleagues may be located through each founder’s NHPRC project, but NARA’s holdings at Archives I in Washington D.C., also contain some of Jay’s documents during this period:

Perhaps if we reacquaint ourselves with the works John Jay and the other founders, we could learn how to use the f-word properly in the present.