Academic journal article Military Review

All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

Academic journal article Military Review

All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

Article excerpt

ALL THE GREAT PRIZES: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

John Taliaferro, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014, 688 pages, $35.00

This biography is where we learn of the extraordinary life of an extraordinary American. John Hay was a man who seemed to live a storybook life in service to his nation. As author John Taliaferro points out in an interview, Hay is known either for his wartime service to President Lincoln as Lincoln's private secretary, or as President William McKinley's-- and later President Theodore Roosevelt's--secretary of state, but not as both.

In this rich and detailed narrative, the first of its kind since the mid 1930's, Taliaferro paints a rich and vivid picture of Hay's life and its many intersections with the great moments of the late nineteenth century. To paint this picture the author uses the subject's own words to provide an authoritative account of Hay's prolific life. Hay's writings, and that of friends and family, provide a lens through which to see many historical events. We see a jovial Lincoln in his nightclothes cracking jokes in the middle of the night to ease the tremendous stress of the Civil War. We also see Lincoln the human being in his most vulnerable times: when his beloved son, Willie, dies, and during the formulation and delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation. This book is not another story of Lincoln, although his presence is felt throughout.

The next phase of the book describes Hay's struggles to keep the Republican Party true to its most famous member. Hay's own writing provides firsthand accounts of the corruption behind the Grant administration, which he criticized invectively through his guest editorship of the New York Tribune; the elections of Gilded Age Republican and--disapprovingly --Democratic presidents; and, the constant battle within Hay to be actively involved in government without appearing to be angling for a job. …

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