The Correspondence between Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine, 1882-1893

The Correspondence between Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine, 1882-1893

The Correspondence between Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine, 1882-1893

The Correspondence between Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine, 1882-1893

Excerpt

Confidential correspondence between the highest ranking executive officials of a nation is always prized by the historian. When there is involved, as in the case of President Harrison and Secretary Blaine, a transition from the most cordial friendship to a cold rivalry approaching enmity, such correspondence possesses one of the basic elements utilized immemorially by the dramatist. The relations between Harrison and Blaine were in many ways analogous to those between Tyler and Webster, Polk and Buchanan, Lincoln and Seward, Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson and Bryan, and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Alfred E. Smith.

Before he became secretary of state in 1889, Blaine had won fame and had attracted a personal following equaled by few other American statesmen. Gracious, lovable, and magnetic, an appeal by him could rally many supporters. Veteran member of Congress; Speaker of its House of Representatives; journalistic historian, whose Twenty Years in Congress (1884-1886) became a "best seller"; presidential nominee in 1884 and barely missing this high office; intimate counselor of President Garfield and appointed by him to head his Cabinet; and, in the eyes of many, the one most responsible for Harrison's nomination and election in 1888 -- such were his assets when Harrison invited him to become the secretary of state.

The great prestige which Blaine had had for many years made it difficult, and finally impossible, for him and Harrison to work together. Blaine's poor health became a serious liability. His long service in journalism and politics, where words must often be dashed off hurriedly with vigor and enthusiakm but without a studious and judipous weighing of the accuracy and fairness of each word, could not fail to leave its mark upon his diplomatic notes and addresses. Before an important state paper was drawn up, Harrison usually dis-

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