The Spy

Hear the true tale of a Statesman turned Spymaster whose stories inspired the breakthrough bestseller for one of America’s renowned novelists. All this and more on this special episode of Faith and Liberty Rediscovered with Alan Crippen.


The famous names of James Fenimore Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis are now linked by a classic novel turned blockbuster movie. The author and actor are each best known for bringing the epic romance, The Last of the Mohicans, to life. But, you may be interested to discover that these famous three-name personalities are connected to another man…with a simple name. The work that made James Fenimore Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis famous may have never come to be without the contribution of the American founder John Jay. 

John Jay was a leader whose knowledge of the Bible and expertise in law along with his love for liberty made him an American patriot and central actor in the First and Second Continental Congresses. In fact, during the First Congress Jay’s appeal to the British people for liberty and justice on behalf of the American colonies would later be referenced by Thomas Jefferson. The sage of Monticello described Jay’s “Address to the People of Great Britain”  as “a production certainly of the finest pen in America”. Although attempts at peaceful diplomatic conciliation were ultimately rejected by the Parliament and the Crown, Jay’s efforts to avoid the bloodshed of war are legendary. 

Jay’s overt contributions to the cause of Independence were in leadership, statecraft, and diplomacy. But, make no mistake about the power of his pen. For example, late in 1776 and just months after independence was declared, the Continental Army had suffered multiple defeats including the loss and evacuation of New York City. Washington’s leadership was challenged and his rag-tag army was on the run across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Things looked bleak for the cause. Yet in these dire circumstances, Jay’s faith in the cause was unwavering. He delivered a sermon-like message to the legislature of New York to bolster their spirits and rally their resolve with reference to a story from the Hebrew Bible saying, “If then, God hath given us freedom, are we responsible to him for that, as well as other talents? If it be our birthright, let us not sell it for a mess of pottage, nor suffer it to be torn from us by the hand of violence! If the means of defence are in our power and we do not make use of them, what excuse shall we make to our children and our Creator?” Jay’s words were like shots of adrenaline to the beleaguered patriots. Washington rallied his army to a counterattack by crossing the Delaware River and making the famed victory at the Battle of Trenton.

Such were his public leadership efforts. But, there were covert and clandestine actions too. Things got even more interesting. You see, John Jay was also a spymaster and coordinated both espionage and counterespionage activities in New York.  That’s right, the future Chief Justice of the United States, Governor of New York, and later president of American Bible Society…ran a spy ring during the Revolutionary War. 

And this brings us back to James Fenimore Cooper. You see, five years before he wrote his renowned book, “The Last of the Mohicans”, Cooper published his breakthrough best-selling novel, “The Spy”. The storyline of this novel was based on declassified information obtained from Jay in a personal interview with Cooper. As it turns out, Jay’s son Judge William Jay was a personal friend of Cooper’s and arranged an interview for the budding author at the Jay homestead in Bedford, NY. “The Spy” was a hit, Cooper’s career was launched, and as they say, the rest is history. 

Faith and Liberty Rediscovered features conversations that investigate the people behind historically significant events in American history while also exploring the direct connection between faith and liberty in America from its founding to today. All from the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center which is located in the heart of our nation’s birthplace: On Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Together, We’ll bring history to life in a fun and accessible way by leveraging relevant segments, guests, and exploring topics that allow us to discover our Nation’s history in a fresh and new format. Be sure to subscribe in the podcast platform of your choice.

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