Jay's appointment was made possible, when on the same day (September 24, 1789), Congress passed the first Judiciary Act under the new Constitution of the United States, which established six seats on the Supreme Court of the United States and a network of inferior courts to round out the judicial branch of government. President George Washington responded to this by immediately nominating John Jay as Chief Justice and naming John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson to be associate justices.
Though Jay was a conscientious and dedicated Chief Justice, his most notable achievement during his years on the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the Court, but rather his role as principal negotiator with the at-the-time hated "Jay Treaty." Jay's efforts, though highly controversial, helped secure a much-needed peace with Great Britain, postponing a war that the nascent United States could ill afford to fight. That peace would last until 1812.
When Jay left the Court, he found himself elected governor of New York, where he fought for penal and judicial reform as well as the abolition of slavery. Jay declined a reappointment to the Supreme Court in 1800, citing the health of his wife. He retired from active politics and died in 1829.
John Jay's contributions to the formation of the United States are noteworthy and deserving of our respect. These words, summing up the legacy of the American Revolution and the cause of popular government in America, echo through the centuries in a way that remain as relevant today as ever before...
"The people are Sovereign. ... at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects... with none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty."