History Colloquium with University of Northwestern's Jonathan Den Hartog


As part of its ongoing History Colloquium Series, the Kinder Forum on Constitutional Democracy invited University of Northwestern Associate Professor Jonathan Den Hartog to the MU campus on Friday, February 20, to deliver a talk on John Jay in retirement. Drawing on material from a current article project, Prof. Den Hartog focused, in his presentation, on how Jay’s influence on national culture continued to be felt even after he left public life in 1801 (and even as the Federalist Party began to see its power diminish). Jay’s post-retirement participation in political society stemmed in large part, Den Hartog argued, from his concern that growing partisan discord might lead to the rise of demagogues within party circles and, in turn, a decrease in active political participation. Over the course of his lecture Prof. Den Hartog examined how Jay weighed in on some of the most important issues facing the nation in the early nineteenth century, publicly voicing his opposition to the War of 1812, for example, and calling for Congress to more determinedly wield its power to regulate slavery’s expansion in the wake of the 1820 Missouri Compromise. In addition, Den Hartog described how Jay became more religiously outspoken and combative in his retirement years, lobbying for a greater interaction between religious belief and political involvement. Jay’s post-retirement interests likewise revealed themselves in his voluntarism, Prof. Den Hartog noted, as the former Supreme Court Chief Justice lent his time and voice to championing the efforts of the American Bible Society as well as various anti-slavery organizations.

Jonathan Den Hartog is Associate Professor of History at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, MN. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from University of Notre Dame, where his research focused on the intersection of politics, constitutionalism, and religion during the American Revolution and in the early American republic. His book, Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religion Struggle in the New American Nation, was recently published by University of Virginia Press. He has also published articles and reviews in the Journal of Church & State, Early American Studies, and Reviews in American History, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Gilder-Lehrman Institution of American History. His current research investigates the politics and thought of John Jay, the First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.