Philadelphia Facts: The Old Supreme Court

August 1, 2012

Where did Chief Justice John Jay preside over the U.S. Supreme Court? Answer: Old City Hall at 5th and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. From 1791-1800 the Supreme Court was convened in the Metropolis of America's founding while the new Federal City was being built on the banks of the Potomac River. To accommodate the Court, Philadelphia shared its City Hall on the east flank of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). Initially the Supreme Court was comprised of Chief Justice Jay and five Associate Justices, the finest legal minds in America, but the Court enjoyed neither the prestige nor the power that it does today. Yet while in Philadelphia the first Court had it's own building, which is more than what awaited it in the Federal City. There it was housed in a basement room of the new Capitol.

John Jay was both a committed Christian and a national leader. He served not only as President of the Continental Congress, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Chief Justice of the United States; he served in the vestry of his local church and in national religious organizations. Jay did not see religion and politics as isolated: he used religious rhetoric in his political papers and employed political skills in religious arenas. Jay would, I believe, be very pleased to see a new John Jay Institute formed, to raise up a new generation of leaders, grounded in the Christian faith and our American legal and political system."
Walter Stahr, Esq.
Author, John Jay: Founding Father