Jay's Treaty 8 Stat. 116 (1795)

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JAY's TREATY 8 Stat. 116 (1795)

Although obligated by the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War to evacuate its military posts in the Northwest Territory, the British government held the posts, established new ones, and, in 1793, began a policy of encouraging Indian depredations against American settlers in the territory. At the same time, the British fleet, then at war with France, began seizing American ships that called at French ports.

In April 1794, President george washington appointed Chief Justice john jay envoy extraordinary to Britain to negotiate for neutral shipping rights and evacuation of the Northwest Territory. The treaty Jay negotiated in London and signed in November 1794 provided for both; but it also made many concessions to the British, especially at the expense of Western settlers. Several questions were left to be decided by joint commissions, which would require appropriated funds for their operation.

The congressional debate on Jay's Treaty raised constitutional issues that endure to the present day. Republicans in the House of Representatives, led by albert gallatin, objected to a treaty with the force of supreme law that required appropriation of money but from the making of which the House was excluded. They attempted to hold the treaty power hostage to the spending power.

After the treaty was ratified, during the debate on the appropriation, Gallatin induced the House to request from the President documents related to the negotiations. Washington refused to comply, invoking executive privilege in order that "the boundaries fixed by the Constitution between the different departments should be preserved."

Dennis J. Mahoney


Combs, Jerald A. 1970 The Jay Treaty: Political Battleground of the Founding Fathers. Berkeley: University of California Press.