This Day in History… February 29, 1796

Jay Treaty Resolves Issues Between US and UK

US #1046 from the Liberty Series.

On February 29, 1796, the Jay Treaty went into effect, resolving some lingering issues between America and Great Britain following the Revolutionary War.

While the Treaty of Paris helped end the Revolutionary War and settle some issues between the US and Great Britain, tensions still remained between the two nations.  The three main issues were the influx of British exports in the US (while American exports were blocked by Britain’s tariffs and trade restrictions), the British continued to occupy northern forts that they had agreed to abandon and the British capture of American sailors and ships bound for enemy ports.

In 1793, a war broke out between Britain and France.  This war helped to widen the rift between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who had already been at odds over other issues.  Hamilton wished to avoid international conflict and stay neutral.  Jefferson thought that neutrality violated the 1778 alliance with King Louis XVI.  Washington sided with Hamilton and signed a neutrality proclamation on April 22, 1793.

US #2052 – Bicentennial stamp for the Treaty of Paris.

Although the United States remained neutral in the European conflict, relations with England gradually worsened.  Not only had British troops refused to give up forts along the Mississippi River (in violation of the Treaty of 1783), they were causing Indian uprisings in the West.  British warships were harassing American cargo vessels as well.  To try to repair the wounded relations, Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to England to work out a treaty.

US #1046 – Classic First Day Cover.

In the treaty, the British agreed to evacuate forts in the Ohio River Valley, now part of the United States.  The British Navy had also captured hundreds of American trading ships in the previous years and agreed to pay the ships’ owners.  In exchange, the US established a strong trading relationship with Great Britain, which led to ten years of peaceful trade. 

The US also received “most favored nation” status.  However, many issues were left unsettled, but both nations agreed to resolve them through arbitration.  This was one of the first significant uses of arbitration in modern diplomatic history and would serve as an example for future negotiations.  Jay and negotiators from England signed the Jay Treaty on November 19, 1794. 

US #1046 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

President Washington supported the agreement and sent it to Congress.  There, the two political factions again disagreed on how to proceed. Hamilton’s Federalists supported the treaty because it allowed for further trade with England.  Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans disliked it because they felt that it would harm France.  In the end, the treaty was ratified by a 2/3 vote in the Senate on June 24, 1795, in spite of strong opposition.  The treaty officially went into effect on February 29, 1796. 

The treaty was effective for 10 years, but negotiators failed to agree on a replacement treaty in 1806.  Eventually, tensions arose once again, leading to the War of 1812.

Click here to read the Jay Treaty.

Happy Leap Day! 

Want to add a bit of Leap Day fun to your collection?  How about a US First Day Cover with a February 29 cancel?   The Conestoga Wagon stamp from the popular Transportation Series was issued on February 29, 1988. 

US #2252 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

US #2252 – Classic First Day Cover.

US #2252 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

Plus here are some worldwide stamps issued on Leap Day:

Item #UN77-78 were issued on Leap Day in 1960.

Palau #190a were issued on Leap Day in 1988.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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