Law and Famous Trials

U.S. Supreme Court

Who was the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?

President George Washington appointed John Jay (1745–1829) to the post, along with five associate justices: James Wilson, John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, and James Iredell. Jay’s was an impressive resume by the time of his appointment: He had been a member of the Continental Congress, over which he presided as president in 1778 and 1779; served as U.S. minister to Spain (1779, during the American Revolution); and joined American statesman Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) and the rest of the American peace commission in Paris (in 1782) to draw up the treaty ending the war with Britain. Once the new republic was established, Jay remained at the fore: he became President Washington’s secretary of foreign affairs (1784–89) and, along with Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804) and James Madison (1751–1836), authored the Federalist (1787–88), which explained the Constitution for the benefit of the states as they considered ratification.


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