Jay Pierrepont Moffat

Jay Pierrepont Moffat (January 7, 1896 – January 25, 1943) was an American diplomat, historian and statesman who, between 1917 and 1943, served the State Department in a variety of posts, including that of Ambassador to Canada during the first year of U.S. participation in World War II.[1]

Jay Pierrepont Moffat
7th United States Ambassador to Canada
In office
June 13, 1940  January 25, 1943
PresidentFranklin Delano Roosevelt
Preceded byJames H. R. Cromwell
Succeeded byRay Atherton
Personal details
BornJanuary 7, 1896
Rye, New York, United States
DiedJanuary 25, 1943 (1943-01-26) (aged 47)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Lilla Cabot Grew
(m. 1927; his death 1943)
RelationsAbbot Low Moffat (brother)
John Campbell White (brother-in-law)
ParentsReuben Burnham Moffat
Ellen Low Pierrepont
EducationGroton School
Harvard University

Early life

Moffat was born on January 7, 1896 in Rye, New York. He was the son of Reuben Burnham Moffat and Ellen Low (née Pierrepont) Moffat. His younger brother was Abbot Low Moffat (1901–1996), a member of New York State Assembly from New York County from 1929 to 1943. His sister, Elizabeth Barclay Moffat (1898–1993), was married to John Campbell White (1884–1967), the United States Ambassador to Haiti and Peru. His niece, Margaret Rutherfurd White,[2] was married to William Tapley Bennett Jr. (1917–1994),[3] the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Portugal, and NATO,[4][5] in 1945.[6][7]

Moffat was educated at the Groton School and attended Harvard University for two years, beginning in 1915.[1]


Moffat, a professional diplomat, served as the private secretary to the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1917 until 19. Following his service in the Netherlands, was as secretary of the American legation in Warsaw from 1919 until 1921, and in Tokyo from 1921 to 1923.[1]

Between 1925 and 1927, he served President Calvin Coolidge as Ceremony Officer at the White House and in 1927, at the end of his assignment, he was married to Lilla Cabot Grew, the daughter of fellow diplomat Joseph C. Grew. Moffat continued his diplomatic career in the post of secretary to the American legation in Berne, Switzerland from 1927 to 1931, and as the U.S. Consul General to Australia from 1935 to 1937.[8]

From 1937 to 1940, he again served in Washington, this time in the significant post of the Chief of the State Department's Western European Division. Finally, in June 1940, after U.S. Ambassador to Canada James H. R. Cromwell resigned after 142 days to run for the U.S. Senate,[9] President Franklin Roosevelt nominated Moffat to his first and, as it turned out, final post as U.S. ambassador. He was immediately confirmed and served until his death, two years and seven months later, in the midst of World War II.[8]

Following his death, he was succeeded as ambassador by Ray Atherton.[10] In his obituary, The New York Times remarked that "even in war, when death is knocking at such a multitude of doors, the loss of a trusted public man in the flower of his age and his powers is lamentable". In addition to his work as a diplomat, he wrote a work on Turkish history and, in 1956, his papers were donated to the Harvard University Library by his father-in-law Ambassador Joseph Grew.[11]

Personal life

In 1927,[12] at the end of his assignment at the White House, he was married to Lilla Cabot Grew (1907–1994) in Hancock, New Hampshire. She was the daughter of Joseph Clark Grew, who was then the Under Secretary of State, and later, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and Alice Perry Grew (b. 1884). Her maternal grandparents were Lilla Cabot Perry, the impressionist painter of the New England Cabots, and Thomas Sergeant Perry, the noted American scholar. Through her grandfather, she was a descendant of famed American naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry.[13] Together, Jay and Lilla were the parents of:[1]

  • Edith Alice Pierrepont Moffat (1929–2010),[14] who married Donn Braden Spenser (1922–1986), the son of Loyal James Spenser and Mrs. Earl Hagen Foster, in 1949.[15]
  • Jay Pierrepont "Peter" Moffat, Jr. (b. 1932), was served as the United States Ambassador to Chad from 1983 to 1985. He married Pamela Mary Dawson, the daughter of Giles Dawson, in 1953.[16]

Jay Pierrepont Moffat died on January 25, 1943 in Ottawa, two and-a-half weeks after his 47th birthday with complications from surgery for phlebitis.[1][17] A service was held for Moffat at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, which was attended by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Sir Suldham Redfern, who represented the Earl of Athlone, Governor General of Canada.[18]

Moffat was a lineal descendant of John Jay, negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and first US Chief Justice.


  • Secretary to the Legation at The Hague (1917–1919)
  • Secretary to the Legation in Poland (1919–1921)
  • Secretary to the Legation in Japan (1921–1923)
  • Ceremony Officer at the White House (1925–1927)
  • Secretary to the Legation in Switzerland (1927–1931)
  • Chief of the Western European Division of the State Department (1932–1935)
  • Consul General at Legation in Sydney, Australia (1935–1937)
  • Chief of the Division of European Affairs at the State Department (1937–1940)
  • United States Ambassador to Canada (1940–1943)


  1. "JAY P. MOFFAT, 46, ENVOY TO CANADA; U.S. Minister at Ottawa Dies While Apparently Recovering: From an Operation A | DIPLOMAT FOR 25 YEARS | Head of State Department's European Division When He Was Named to Last Post". The New York Times. January 25, 1943. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  2. Fenzi, Jewell. "The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Program Foreign Service Spouse Series MARGARET WHITE BENNETT" (PDF). adst.org. Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  3. Lueck, Thomas J. (1 December 1994). "William Tapley Bennett Jr., 77, Envoy to Dominican Republic". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. Smith, J. Y. (1 December 1994). "W.T. BENNETT, AMBASSADOR FOR LBJ, DIES". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  5. "William Tapley Bennett, Jr. Papers". russelldoc.galib.uga.edu. Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  6. "Margaret R. White Prospective Bride; Their Engagements Are Announced". The New York Times. 12 March 1945. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  7. "MARGARET R. WHITE MARRIED IN JERSEY; Daughter of Ex-Ambassador to Peru Becomes Bride of Lieut. William T. Bennett Jr. WEARS IVORY SATIN GOWN Rev. Robert Bosher Performs Ceremony in Bernardsville Church--Reception Held". The New York Times. 24 June 1945. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  8. "Jay Pierrepont Moffat - People - Department History". history.state.gov. Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs United States Department of State. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  9. "MOFFAT WELCOMED ON REACHING OTTAWA; New U.S. Minister Is Wary of Comment on the War". The New York Times. 13 June 1940. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  10. "ATHERTON NAMED ENVOY TO CANADA; President Nominates Acting Head of European Division in Department of State BURDETT TO NEW ZEALAND Iraq Post Raised to Ministry and Given to Loy Henderson -- All Three Career Men". The New York Times. 25 June 1943. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  11. "Moffat, Jay Pierrepont, 1896-1943. Jay Pierrepont Moffat diplomatic papers, 1917-1943: Guide". oasis.lib.harvard.edu. Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  12. "LILLA C. GREW TO WED; Ambassador's Daughter Engaged to J. P. Moffat, Diplomat". The New York Times. 7 June 1927. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  13. Dietrich, Kris (2015). Taboo Genocide: Holodomor 1933 & the Extermination of Ukraine. Xlibris Corporation. p. 957. ISBN 9781499056082. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  14. "Daughter to Mrs. Jay P. Moffat". The New York Times. 15 October 1929. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  15. "MISS EDITH MOFFAT PROSPECTIVE BRIDE; Ex-Student at Scripps College Fiancee of Donn B. Spenser, a Senior at Pomona". The New York Times. 4 September 1949. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  16. "J. P. MOFFAT MARRIES; Son of Late Envoy Takes as Bride Pamela M. Dawson". The New York Times. 30 December 1953. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  17. "Jay Pierrepont Moffat". The New York Times. January 26, 1943. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  18. "SERVICE AT OTTAWA FOR JAY P. MOFFAT; High Officials Attend Rites for American Minister". The New York Times. January 27, 1943. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
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