An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Jay, William

(June 16, 1789-Oct. 14, 1858). Episcopal lay anti-slavery leader. He was born in New York, the son of John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. William Jay graduated from Yale College in 1807 and then studied law. From 1818 until 1843, with one short interruption, he was judge of the court of Westchester County, New York. In the years before the Civil War, many Christians continued the campaign against slavery given impetus by the Revolution. Among them were a few white Episcopalians, most notably the Jay family of New York. William Jay contributed an article to the first issue of the Emancipator, which was published on May 1, 1833. In that same year he participated in the founding of the New York City Anti-Slavery Society. He was opposed to the plan of the American Colonization Society to send free African slaves to Africa. He also opposed Episcopal bishops who used the Bible to justify slavery. Jay was one of the founders of the American Bible Society in 1816, and this brought him into conflict with Bishop John Henry Hobart. Hobart wanted to delay emancipation, and limit the evangelicals and their American Bible Society. Hobart criticized inter-denominational societies because he thought they minimized the distinctive characteristics of the denominations and thus weakened the commitment of Episcopalians to their own church. Jay defended the evangelicals and their inter-denominational societies. He was opposed to war as a means to settle international disputes and argued for arbitration. Jay died in Bedford, New York.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.