John Milton Hay (October 8, 1838 – July 1, 1905) was an American statesman and official whose career in government stretched over almost half a century. Beginning as a private secretary and assistant to Abraham Lincoln, Hay's highest office was United States Secretary of State under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Hay was also an author and biographer, and wrote poetry and other literature throughout much of his life.
Born in Indiana to an anti-slavery family that moved to Warsaw, Illinois when he was young, Hay showed great potential, and his family sent him to Brown University. After graduation in 1858, Hay read law in his uncle's office in Springfield, Illinois, adjacent to that of Lincoln. Hay worked for Lincoln's successful presidential campaign and became one of his private secretaries at the White House. Throughout the American Civil War, Hay was close to Lincoln and stood by his deathbed after the President was shot at Ford's Theatre. In addition to his other literary works, Hay co-authored with John George Nicolay a multi-volume biography of Lincoln that helped shape the assassinated president's historical image.
After Lincoln's death, Hay spent several years at diplomatic posts in Europe, then worked for the New-York Tribune under Horace Greeley and Whitelaw Reid. Hay remained active in politics, and from 1879 to 1881 served as Assistant Secretary of State. Afterward, he remained in the private sector, until President McKinley, for whom he had been a major backer, made him Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1897. Hay became Secretary of State the following year.
Hay served for almost seven years as Secretary of State, under President McKinley, and after McKinley's assassination, under Theodore Roosevelt. Hay was responsible for negotiating the Open Door Policy, which kept China open to trade with all countries on an equal basis, with international powers. By negotiating the Hay–Pauncefote Treaty with the United Kingdom, the (ultimately unratified) Hay–Herrán Treaty with Colombia, and finally the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty with the newly independent Republic of Panama, Hay also cleared the way for the building of the Panama Canal.
First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power
Warren Zimmermann, First Great Triumph
John Hay, Mark Twain, and the Rise of American Imperialism
Mark Zwonitzer, The Statesman and the Storyteller
The Man and Life Connecting Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Henry James, and Theodore Roosevelt
Philip McFarland, John Hay, Friend of Giants