Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Summer 2004

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 26, Number 2, Summer 2004. ISSN 0196-7134


2004 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


John Jay's papers have had a far more tortured history than they deserve-and more than seemed their destiny at his death in 1829. Then it seemed likely that his career and contributions would be studied as carefully and enthusiastically as any other Founding Father's-certainly as closely as his friends John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. His family's archive had survived the Revolution in war-torn Westchester County and New York City. His personal papers had successfully crossed the Atlantic when he returned from diplomatic missions abroad in 1784 and 1795. Jay's will placed those papers in the custody of his devoted family, and his younger son, William, published a creditable two volume "life and letters" of his father in the 1830s. As the years passed, Jay's documentary record still seemed to be blessed. His descendants, unlike those of Madison and Jefferson, did not fall on hard times, and there were no emergency sales of historical manuscripts for cash.