Peter Augustus Jay and Mary Rutherfurd Clarkson

Peter Augustus Jay (January 24, 1776 – February 20, 1843) distinguished himself as a successful lawyer, anti-slavery advocate and philanthropist.  He was the first child of John and Sarah Livingston Jay, one of 6 children and one of two boys –  his brother William was born thirteen years after him in 1789. Three sisters survived into adulthood: Maria (b. 1782), Ann (b. 1783) and Sarah Louisa (b. 1792). A wealth of correspondence between these family members anchors many of the historical events we know today.

Peter was born at Liberty Hall in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the same year as the independence. He lived with there with his grandfather William Livingston, the Governor of New Jersey and his grandmother Susannah French while his parents were abroad from 1779 to 1784. Predictably, his grandparents and aunts doted upon him in John and Sarah Jay’s absence.

Like his father, Peter excelled at his studies and eventually attended Columbia. Immediately following his graduation in 1794, he acted as private secretary to his father in London for the Jay Treaty – he would serve in this role as his father’s closest advisor for the rest of their lives. Upon his return , the young Jay studied law and established a practice in New York City with his cousin Peter Jay Munro, carrying on a family tradition of public service.  At the age of 31, he married Mary Rutherfurd Clarkson, daughter of General Matthew Clarkson, in 1807 and they had 6 “handsome” daughters and two sons. (Photo – Portrait of Mary Rutherfurd Jay, Gift of Sharon and John Jay Du Bois)