First Major Arbitration In Modern Diplomatic History – The Jay’s Treaty

First Major Arbitration In Modern Diplomatic History – The Jay’s Treaty

Author: Mohan Parthasarathy, School of law, SASTRA Deemed University


The treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation between his Britannic Majesty and The United States of America is commonly known as the Jay’s treaty. It was signed in the year 1795 to avert wars and to maintain peaceful trade relations between United States of America and The Great Britain. Another objective was to resolve all the unsolved issues between these two countries in accordance to the Treaty of Paris which was passed in the year 1783. However this treaty was signed with the expense of angering France.

Jay’s treaty was designed by Secretary of treasury Alexander Hamilton which was strongly supported by The U.S president George Washington. In order to avert war between both the countries United States of America decided to negotiate a treaty between both the countries. So John Jay who was the chief justice of The United States of America was sent to negotiate and to meet the fulfilments of both countries in which primary objectives of the US were achieved .This included withdrawal of British Army Units from the Northwest Territory which they refused to evacuate under The Paris peace Treaty. UK also did not want to go on harsher terms with US as they had an on-going war with France.So, they accepted many of the primary objectives which wereput forth by John Jay. The Jay’s Treaty was signed on November 19, 1974 and was sent to the United States Senate for advice which was ratified by the Senate on June 24, 1795 with a two thirds majority vote of 20-10. It was also ratified by the British government and took effect on February 29, 1796. This treaty was strongly opposed by Jeffersonians because they thought that closer economic ties with the Britishwould take away the policy of a republic nation and also will help the federalists to win in elections.


British which already had an ongoing war with France did not want  US to fall into the hands of France, wherein US focused only on remaining as a neutral nation to have a normalized trading relations with the British. In 1793 the British Navy without giving any proper information, captured hundreds of American merchant ships. This led to the congress voting for a trade ban with Britain, even though President Washington and other Federalists were supporting Britain as they wanted normalized trading relations with them.


  • The British refused to evacuate forts located on the Northwest Territory of the U.S.
  • The British were constantly impressing American sailors into their services.
  • American merchants demanded for the compensation of 250 ships which were captured by the British from 1793 to 1794.
  • Southern states of the U.S demanded for compensation from the British for slaves who were evacuated by the British Army during the revolutionary war.
  • Both the Americans and Caribbeans wanted reopening of British West Indies for various trade activities.
  • The boundary disputes with Canada were sent for arbitration, which was the starting point of many International arbitrations.


Both sides achieved a significant number of objectives. The British agreed to evacuate forts by June 1796 and they also promised that American ships will be compensated .In exchange of this, U.S gave ‘most favoured nation’ trading status to British. The United States promised that they would pay the debts that Britain owed before the war. Two joint commissions consisting members from both the countries were set up to discuss about establishing the boundary line in Northeast and Northwest. Though many of the objectives were achieved, Jay failed to put an end to the issue of compensating slaves which made the southern slaveholders angry. Jay was also unsuccessful in negotiating an end to impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy.


Article 3 of the treaty stated that people will be granted rights for a free entry in to the American continent by land or inland navigation. They were also granted rights to freely carry on trade and commercial activities between the American and Canadian states.


President Washington brought the treaty to The United States Senate for its consent. Initially, it didn’t gain popularity in the Senate.This gave Jeffersonians a great chance to gain supporters to their side who supported France over Britain as they thought British would bring down the republican values. Washington’s support proved to be a decisive one for Federalists as the Treaty was ratified by a 2/3 majority in the Senate on November 1794. This led to formation of Single Party System in the United States. Duration of this Treaty was for 10 years and there were efforts taken for replacing this Treaty in 1806. This was rejected by Jefferson and it was also considered as one of the major reasons for the war in 1812.


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