Jay's Treaty: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Jay's Treaty was an agreement between the U.S. and Great Britain that kept the peace between those two countries in 1794. Come learn about the treaty, what problems it solved and why President Washington enforced it even though it wasn't popular.

What Was Jay's Treaty?

You've just played a soccer match against your toughest rivals. They played unfairly, but your team still won. Afterward, you line up and shake hands because you're all good sportsmen. But even though you shake hands with the other team, you still won't trust them the next time you play.

Like your relationship with the other soccer team, the relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain wasn't friendly after the Revolutionary War. British troops were supposed to leave the northern U.S. forts, but they were still there. Great Britain was selling a lot of things in the U.S. but wouldn't let the U.S. sell their things in Great Britain, and they were also taking supplies off American ships and capturing American sailors, forcing them to serve on British ships.

Jay's Treaty was an agreement made in 1794 between the U.S. and Great Britain that settled some of these problems and kept the peace.

Both Sides Agree to Jay's Treaty

When you watch sports on TV, you might root for one team while your friend roots for the other team. After the Revolutionary War ended, Great Britain was still at war -- this time with France. Some people in the U.S. were on France's side, and some were on Great Britain's side.

In order to keep the U.S. out of that war and other fighting in Europe, President Washington sent John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, to England. It was his job to get both the U.S. and Great Britain to settle their disagreements with a treaty.

John Jay
John Jay

To accomplish this, though, John Jay would have to work hard to negotiate. Have you ever negotiated with one or your siblings or friends? Maybe you wanted them to do chores for you, and in exchange you offered up their favorite candy. John Jay didn't have anything like 'candy' to offer during his negotiation, though - he didn't have much of anything that would convince Great Britain to give the U.S. what it wanted in the treaty.

Jay's main bargaining tool was telling the British that the U.S. would join other countries and use force to protect its ships and supplies. But Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, went behind Jay's back and told the British that the U.S. wasn't really going to join with other countries or use any force.

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

Jay's Treaty Is Passed

Because Jay didn't have a lot to bargain with after that, Jay's Treaty was great for the British but wasn't much of a deal for the United States. But it did let the U.S. sell more goods in some parts of Great Britain. The British also agreed to leave the northern forts, which they were supposed to do anyway.

Copy of the treaty
Copy of the treaty

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