In City Journal, Myron Magnet has a nice profile of founding father John Jay.
Few could fathom why 55-year-old John Jay turned down President Adamsâ€™s nomination to rejoin the Supreme Court when his two terms as New Yorkâ€™s governor ended. What would lead him, in the hale prime of life, to retire instead to the plain yellow house heâ€™d just built on a hilltop at the remote northern edge of Westchester County, two daysâ€™ ride from Manhattan, where visitors were few and the mail and newspapers came but once a week? After 27 years at the forge of the new nationâ€™s founding, why would so lavishly talented a man give up his vital role on the world stage for the quiet life of a gentleman farmer?
But just that optionâ€”the chance for every man to sit quietly under his vine and his fig tree, with none to make him afraidâ€”is what he had labored more than a quarter-century to bring about, and he felt he had achieved it.
Read the whole thing.
I’m well acquainted with Jay’s house in Katonah, New York. We commuted past it every day during one period. Karen one day put her 911T into a grassy bank after failing to negotiate a sharp curve that must once have bordered Mr. Jay’s property.
The interior of the house still demonstrated the characteristic ingenuity of mind of its former owner. Jay had designed and arranged the construction of campaign furniture-style book cases, whose individual shelves could be separated and moved independently, or stacked in more than one arrangement. The shelves were handsome and they must have been very practical for a man of learning obliged to make so many long journeys on business of state.