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Table of Contents
Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in two series.
Scope and Contents
The collection contains mostly John Jay II's letters and other documents related to his anti-slavery activities. Besides letters, the collection also has John Jay II's drafts for lectures, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and circulars on abolition and related subjects. There are also some financial documents and miscellaneous notes and photographs.
A portion of this collection (9 document boxes) remains unprocessed. The majority of this material is from the 1880s and 1890s.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Many boxes in the processed portion of the collection contained mold and have been professionally cleaned. All materials in Boxes 1-3, 5, 7-9, 11-15 have been cleaned. Materials in Boxes 4, 6, and 10 did not contain mold. Although all materials can be used in the reading room, patrons that are sensitive to mold may still experience a reaction to materials that have been cleaned in Boxes 1-3, 5, 7-9, 11-15.
There are nine boxes in this collection that remain unprocessed; these boxes are currently unavailable as the material may contain mold.
This collection has no restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Portions of this collection (Boxes 1-15) were processed by Mary Freeman (GSAS 2018) and Hong Deng Gao (GSAS 2021) in 2017-2018.
Finding Aid written by Mary Freeman (GSAS 2018) and Hong Deng Gao (GSAS 2021) in 2018.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
John Jay II (1817-1894) was the grandson of John Jay and a graduate of Columbia College in 1836. He followed the example of his grandfather and his father, William Jay, becoming an active abolitionist. William Jay was a judge and an abolitionist who became the president of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society in 1835.
In 1834, while he was still a student at Columbia, John Jay II became a manager of the New-York Young Men's Anti-Slavery Society, which advocated for the immediate abolition of slavery. In the same year, New York was roiled by anti-abolitionist riots. Jay was among those who defended the home of Arthur Tappan, president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, from the mob.
While Jay found few among his fellow Columbians who also supported the antislavery cause, he embarked on a long career of abolitionist activism. As a lawyer, he defended fugitive slaves in New York City in the 1840s and 50s. He also protested racism in the Episcopal Church. Columbia, since its founding, had close ties with that religious denomination, and Jay came into direct conflict with several alumni. Jay also attempted to combat discrimination at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. When James Parker Barnett was summarily expelled from P&S in 1850 after it was discovered that he was of African descent, Jay took on his case. Jay filed a petition in the Supreme Court of New York for a writ of mandamus in an effort to compel P&S to readmit Barnett. This writ was eventually ruled invalid in a later contest.
During the Civil War, John Jay II served as the president of the Union League Club in New York. In this role, Jay strove to cultivate unity and patriotic support of the Union war effort, especially among members of the city's wealthy business community.
Colonel William Jay (1841-1915) was the eldest son of John Jay II and Eleanor Kingsland Field Jay (1819-1909). William Jay served as an aide-de-camp for the Union Army during the American Civil War. After the war, he followed his father into the legal profession. He married Lucy Oelrichs Jay (1854-1931) in 1878.