The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hay, John Milton
HAY, John Milton, American statesman: b. Salem, Ind., 8 Oct. 1838; d. near Newbury, N. H., 1 July 1905. He was graduated from Brown University in 1858, and soon after leaving college entered the office of his uncle, Milton Hay, a former partner of Abraham Lincoln, in Springfield, Ill., to study law. In 1861 he was admitted to the bar, but did not practise; he took an active part in the campaign preceding Lincoln's first election and went with Lincoln to Washington as one of the President's private secretaries. During the Civil War period he was also Lincoln's adjutant and aide-de-camp, and served in the field for some time under Generals Hunter and Gillmore. He was brevetted lieutenant and lieutenant-colonel.
After the death of Lincoln he went to Paris as secretary of legation, remaining there till 1867, when he returned to the United States. In the summer of the same year he became chargé-d'affaires at Vienna. After holding this post for a year, during which he had some opportunities for European travels, he resigned and returned to the United States, but was sent almost immediately to Madrid as first secretary of legation, where he remained till 1870.
During his service abroad he gained a valuable knowledge not only of the language and literature of the chief European nations, but also of foreign diplomacy and politics. On his return to the United States he took up journalism, was for a time on the editorial staff of the New York Tribune, and published, mostly in its columns, his ‘Pike County Ballads.’ After about five years of service on the Tribune he married a daughter of Amasa Stone of Cleveland and went to that city to live. He devoted himself mainly to literary work, and occasionally took part in politics, writing and speaking in presidential campaigns. In 1879 he accepted an offer from President Hayes to become first assistant Secretary of State under Mr. Evarts. He held this position till the end of the Hayes administration in March 1881; then he took charge of the Tribune during Whitelaw Reid's absence in Europe, and conducted it with marked success through the trying period of Garfield's assassination and death. The period 1881-97 was devoted to the business interests of his wife's family, to travel and especially to the writing, with T. G. Nicolay, of their monumental biography of Abraham Lincoln. During these years he also found more leisure to devote to other literary work the result of which in the form of poems and a few prose articles was published in various magazines.
In March 1897 President McKinley appointed him United States Minister to England, and the selection was declared by all without distinction of party to be most suitable. In London he was well received, did much, to bring about friendly understanding between England and the United States and to keep relations between the two countries on a most friendly basis during the difficult era of the war with Spain. His London experience was also most valuable training for the important position to which he was appointed in August 1898, when he became Secretary of State. Very few of those who had been at the head of the State Department had dealt with so many important questions as Secretary Hay, and probably none had been more thoroughly trained diplomats. At the time of the Boxer outbreak in China be was successful in obtaining justice for the Chinese, and preserving the integrity of the Chinese Empire, in 1899 he directed the United States Ambassadors at London, Berlin and Saint Petersburg to propose that each of these governments make a declaration in favor of the “open door” policy in China. They were invited to give assurances: first, that there would be no interference with any treaty port or vested interest; second, that the existing Chinese customs tariff would be continued without discrimination and administered by Chinese officials; third, that there would be no discrimination in harbor dues and railroad rates. France, Italy and Japan were afterward included in the negotiations. No treaties were exchanged, but all the governments approached pledged themselves by definite promises to the “open door” policy. He also negotiated and signed the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty (q.v.), and several reciprocity treaties, including one with Cuba; gave support to The Hague Conference (q.v.), and induced the Powers demanding indemnity from Venezuela to refer the question to The Hague tribunal; and, in 1903, signed within 48 hours of each other a treaty with the Colombian government granting right of way for the Panama Canal, and a treaty with Great Britain providing for the submission of the Alaskan boundary question to arbitration. During McKinley's first administration, also, Secretary Hay's position was of a peculiar significance, because, owing to the death in November 1899 of Vice-President Hobart, Hay would have become McKinley's successor had the President died or resigned before the end of the term. A similar condition existed after McKinley's assassination and death, when, by Roosevelt's succession to the Presidency, the Vice-Presidency became vacant again. Immediately upon Roosevelt's succession, the latter urged Hay to continue as Secretary of State, which he also did after his re-election. During the last few years of his service in the State Department John Hay's health was in a very precarious state and he continued in office only out of a deep sense of duty and in response to a general demand. He held honorary degrees of LL.D. from Western Reserve, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard. He is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland. In November 1910 the John Hay Library, built in his memory out of funds contributed by Andrew Carnegie and 28 other friends and admirers, was opened at his alma mater. Brown University, Providence.
Early in life he showed a deep interest in literature, an interest which he maintained from then on. He wrote a number of poems while still at college, among them the class poem which was considered quite above the average. His busy life, however, left comparatively little leisure to devote to literary work and his list of publications, therefore, is not very long. It includes ‘Pike County Ballads’ (Boston 1871); ‘Castilian Days’ (Boston 1871), one of the best books on Spain in the English language; ‘The Bread Winners’ (published anonymously, New York 1884); ‘Poems’ (Boston 1913); ‘The Complete Poetical Works of John Hay’ (Boston 1916). His addresses were published after his death at ‘Addresses of John Hay’ (New York 1906). In collaboration with J. G. Nicolay (q.v.) he wrote ‘Abraham Lincoln: A History’ (10 vols., New York 1890). It first appeared in serial form in the Century Magazine and is considered the most comprehensive and authoritative biography of Lincoln. Together with the same he edited ‘Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, etc.’ (2 vols., New York 1894). Consult Brown University, Providence, R. I., ‘The Dedication of the John Hay Library, Nov. 11, 1910’ (Providence 1911); Chapman, A. S., ‘Boyhood of John Hay’ (in Century Magazine, Vol. LXXVIII, (n. s. Vol. LVI), p. 444, New York 1909); Howells, W. D., ‘Hay in Literature’ (in North American Review, Vol. CLXXXI, p. 343, New York 1905); Hunt, G., ‘The Department of State of the United States; Its History and Functions’ (New Haven 1914); Sears, L., ‘John Hay, Author and Statesman’ (New York 1914); Stedman, E. C., ‘John Hay’ (in ‘Poems,’ Boston 1908); Thayer, W. R., ‘The Life and Letters of John Hay’ (2 vols., Boston 1915); Ticknor, C., ed., ‘A Poet in Exile; Early Letters of John Hay’ (Boston 1910); United States, State Department, ‘History of the Department of State of the United States, etc.’ (Washington 1901); id., ‘Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, etc.’ (Washington 1898-1905).