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Blaine, James Gillespie (1830–1893)

Blaine, James Gillespie (1830–1893)

James Gillespie Blaine (31 January 1830–27 January 1893) was a U.S. representative and senator who served twice as secretary of state. Blaine's second stint as secretary of state (1889–1892), under President Benjamin Harrison, stood in marked contrast to his earlier service under James Garfield (1881). (He resigned when Garfield was assassinated.) Harrison, a more dynamic leader than Garfield, forged many of his own foreign policy initiatives, thereby restraining Blaine's inclinations. In addition, Blaine himself had changed since the early 1880s: A combination of wisdom and ill health, both perhaps the products of advanced age, moderated Blaine's earlier impetuosity while teaching him tact, a skill needed by all diplomats. Although committed to advancing U.S. economic interests in Latin America, he also supported the incipient Pan American movement. And while hoping to obtain coaling stations for the U.S. Navy and the building of a Panama Canal, he also encouraged reciprocal trade treaties with Latin America. Blaine would also preside over the first meeting of the Pan American nations in 1890. Blaine did not bear responsibility for supposed U.S. involvement in Chile's 1891 revolution, which alienated the victorious government of Vice-Admiral Manuel Montt. Similarly, Blaine was not involved in the Baltimore incident of 1891, a crisis that owed its origin to the failure of Chilean authorities to prevent and punish the maltreatment and murder of some U.S. sailors on liberty in Valparaíso. In fact, the highly nationalistic President Harrison was the author of the tough U.S. stance vis-à-vis Chile—a diplomatic confrontation that almost led to war—because Blaine's ill health sidelined the secretary during the resolution of the crisis. Personal tragedy, the death of two of his children plus the worsening of the Bright's Disease from which he suffered, prevented Blaine from exercising his responsibilities. He died within six months of resigning his office in June 1892.

See alsoBaltimore Incident; Panama Canal; Pan-Americanism; United States-Latin American Relations; Valparaíso.


Healy, David. James G. Blaine and Latin America. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2001.

Sater, William F. Chile and the United States: Empires in Conflict. Athens: University of Georgia, 1990.

                                        William F. Sater

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