American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell

By Edward S. Mihalkanin | Go to book overview
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JAMES G. BLAINE (1830-1893)

Served 1881; 1889-1892

Appointed by President James Garfield

Continued in office under President Chester A. Arthur

Reappointed in 1889 by President Benjamin Harrison


James Gillespie Blaine, member of the U.S. House of Representatives (March 4, 1863-July 10, 1876), U.S. Senator (July 10, 1876-March 5, 1881), and secretary of state under Presidents James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur (March 5-December 19, 1881) and Benjamin Harrison (March 5, 1889-June 4, 1892), was born in West Brownsville, Pennsylvania, on January 31, 1830. The son of Ephraim Lyon Blaine, a successful investor in land and trading goods, and Maria Louise Gillespie, he graduated from Washington and Jefferson College (Pennsylvania) in 1847. He then taught at the Western Military Institute in Georgetown, Kentucky. In June 1850, Blaine married Harriet Stanwood; the couple raised seven children, four of whom survived him. Blaine's dislike of the South and ambition to study law caused him to return to Pennsylvania. From 1852 to 1854, he taught at the Pennsylvania Institute for the Blind in Philadelphia and studied law.

In 1854, Blaine moved to Augusta, Maine, his wife's hometown. He became part owner and editor of the Kennebec Journal, the state's most prominent Whig newspaper, and served on the editorial staff of the Portland Advertiser. Blaine's association with both newspapers provided him with an opportunity to pen editorial comments on foreign policy issues of the day. In so doing, he sharpened his firm sense of American mission, dating back to his support for the Mexican War, and acquired an internationalist outlook in advancing American interests in Latin America and Asia. He developed an interest in annexing Hawaii and criticized the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty for its failure to remove Britain from Central America. Yet, Blaine's resistance to the extension of slavery tempered his support for “manifest destiny, as demonstrated by his opposition to acquiring Cuba.

A Whig and an admirer of Henry Clay, Blaine, a delegate to the first Republican convention in 1856, was one of the founding fathers of the Republican Party. He eventually became the most prominent Republican politician in the United States between 1865 and 1900. He began his political career as a representative in the Maine legislature (1859-1862), serving as its speaker during his second and third


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American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell
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