No to State, Yes to Supreme Court: Justice John Jay sworn in 1789 October 19th

John Jay – Took his oaths on October 19, 1789, before Richard Morris, the Chief Justice of the State of New York. In 1789, after Jay declined George Washington’s offer of the position of Secretary of State, the president offered him the new opportunity of becoming Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, which Jay accepted.


The business of the Supreme Court through the first three years mainly involved the establishment and application of rules and procedure, such as the admission of attorneys to the bar and reading of commissions. The Justices’ also had duties in riding circuit, or presiding over various cases in the different circuit courts of the many federal judicial districts.

John Jay also created an early precedent for the independence of the Supreme Court in 1790, when the Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrote to Jay asking for the Supreme Court’s endorsement of a piece of legislation that could assume the debts of the states. John Jay replied that the Supreme Court’s business was restricted just to ruling on the constitutionality of court cases being tried before it and because of this, he refused to allow the court to take a position regarding the legislation.

 Jay as America’s first Chief Justice in 1790 in his first charge to a Federal grand jury (a document on exhibit at Columbia University): ”How far it may be still distant from the Degree of Perfection to which it may possibly be carried Time only can decide. It is a consolation to reflect that the good Sense of the People will be enabled by Experience to discover and correct its Imperfections.”

Just is indiscriminately due to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.

To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.

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