Skip to main content
Select Source:

John Hay

John Hay

John Hay (1838-1905) was important for shaping America's open-door policy toward the Far East. He set guidelines for much of America's diplomacy in the 20th century, involving the United States in maintaining China's territorial integrity.

Rapid change characterized the United States during the years of John Hay's public service. Retarded briefly by the Civil War, dynamic forces of urbanization and industrialization began to transform both the landscape and the mood of America. Though the railroad tie and the sweatshop were as foreign to the aristocratic world of John Hay as the reaper and the grain elevator, they combined to support a new economic system that knew few boundaries, wrenching America out of its quiet isolation and into the highly competitive arena of international politics, where Hay's contribution would be made.

Hay was born on Oct. 8, 1838, in Salem, Ind. He attended Brown University (1855-1858), where he reluctantly prepared for a career in law. In 1859 he entered a Springfield, Ill., law firm, next door to the office of Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln was elected U.S. president, Hay became his assistant private secretary. After Lincoln's death, Hay took minor diplomatic posts in Paris, Vienna, and Madrid. Socially successful, he had no serious influence on foreign policy. In 1870 he returned to the United States. Between 1870 and 1896 he moved in and out of Republican politics, journalism, and business, surrounding himself with a patrician set of friends, including Boston aristocrats, intellectuals, and prominent politicians. His widely acclaimed poems and novels were overshadowed in 1890 by his Abraham Lincoln: A History, a ten volume work completed with John Nicolay.

Hay became close to presidential candidate William McKinley during his 1896 campaign. As president, McKinley appointed Hay ambassador to Great Britain, where Hay smoothed out issues concerning the Spanish-American War and subsequent annexations. He returned to become McKinley's secretary of state in 1898.

Secretary of State

As secretary of state, Hay was concerned with policy in four major areas: conducting peace negotiations after the Spanish-American War, setting policy toward the Far East, improving the United States position in Latin America, and settling the dispute with Great Britain over the Alaskan boundary.

Whereas McKinley had shaped the Spanish-American War settlement (and, later, President Theodore Roosevelt was the force behind policies in Latin America), Hay exerted considerable influence in making American policy toward the Far East and in the Canadian boundary dispute. Regarding England, Hay was considered a good friend to Britain by both the English and the Americans. Though committed to United States interests, he sought solutions in the Canadian dispute that would not endanger Anglo-American understanding.

Regarding the Far East, America watched the establishment of spheres of influence in China by European powers, Russia, and Japan with apprehension, fearing that United States trade rights might be limited by new political arrangements. In 1899 Hay asked the six governments directly involved to approve a formula guaranteeing that in their spheres of influence the rights and privileges of other nations would be respected and discriminatory port dues and railroad rates would not be levied and that Chinese officials would continue to collect tariffs. Although the six nations responded coolly, Hay announced that the open-door principle had been accepted, and the American press described the policy as a tremendous success. When an antiforeign uprising broke out in China in 1900, Hay sent a second set of notes, urging the open-door policy for all of the Chinese Empire and maintenance of the territorial integrity of China. Traditional protection of American economic interests thus was tied to the overly ambitious task of preserving the territory of China; under the guise of America's historic mission to support the cause of freedom, this would lead the United States to ever stronger commitments in the Far East.

When the assassination of McKinley made Roosevelt president, Hay increasingly gave way to presidential leadership in foreign policy. Following Roosevelt's lead concerning the building of an Isthmian canal, Hay obtained British consent to a United States canal under the Hay-Pauncefote treaties of 1900 and 1901. Though he supported Roosevelt's policy toward the new Panamanian Republic and the acquisition of the Canal Zone in 1903, Hay did little to actually shape Latin American policy.

The 1903 Alaskan-Canadian boundary dispute with Great Britain was settled amiably by commissioners, as Hay had suggested. Soon after, serious illness forced Hay to assume a virtually inactive role as secretary of state. He retained the office until his death on July 1, 1905, in Newbury, N. H.

Further Reading

Hay's correspondence is gathered in William R. Thayer, The Life and Letters of John Hay (2 vols., 1915). Tyler Dennett's biography, John Hay: From Poetry to Politics (1933), treats Hay's career colorfully and sympathetically. Scholars have generally focused their attention on Hay's role as secretary of state. An able assessment by Foster R. Dulles is in Norman A. Graebner, ed., An Uncertain Tradition: American Secretaries of State in the Twentieth Century (1961), and a general description of the diplomacy of the period is in Thomas McCormick, A Fair Field and No Favor (1967). For contrasting interpretations of the origins of the open-door policy see George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy, 1900-1950 (1951), and William A. Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959; rev. ed. 1962). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"John Hay." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"John Hay." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/john-hay

"John Hay." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/john-hay

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Hay, John Milton

John Milton Hay, 1838–1905, American author and statesman who was an important political figure from the mid-19th cent. into the early 20th cent.; b. Salem, Ind., grad. Brown. He practiced law at Springfield, Ill., where he met Abraham Lincoln. Hay accompanied Lincoln to Washington and was the president's assistant private secretary, writing some of his more grandiloquent correspondence until Lincoln's death. The next five years were spent in minor posts in the U.S. legations at Paris, Vienna, and Madrid. Then followed four years of journalism in New York City, a period during which he published Pike County Ballads (1871). Marriage to the daughter of a wealthy Cleveland banker enabled him to pursue the profession of man of letters, to travel, and to fill political posts of distinction.

He was appointed assistant secretary of state in 1878 and moved to Washington, D.C., where he became the intimate of Henry Adams and Clarence King. In this period he published with John G. Nicolay, the monumental Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 vol., 1890), a work for which the young secretaries, while serving under Lincoln, had gathered material with his knowledge and permission. In Mar., 1897, McKinley appointed Hay ambassador to Great Britain, and there he served his country well during the trying time of the Spanish-American War.

From Sept. 20, 1898, until his death, July 1, 1905, he was secretary of state under Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In the McKinley administration he was a maker of policies, and he was also a prominent figure in the Roosevelt administration, despite his chief's posthumous description of him as a "fine figurehead." Hay was responsible for the Open Door policy (1899) with regard to China, which stressed freedom of commercial enterprise for American merchants; for U.S. involvement in the Boxer Uprising; and for the Hay-Pauncefote Treaties.

See W. R. Thayer, Life and Letters of John Hay (1915, repr. 1972); biographies by T. Dennett (1933, repr. 1961) and J. Taliaferro (2013); J. Zeitz, Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay and the War for Lincoln's Image (2014).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hay, John Milton." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hay, John Milton." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john-milton

"Hay, John Milton." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john-milton

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Hay, John Milton

Hay, John Milton (1838–1905) US secretary of state (1898–1905) under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. His ‘open-door policy’ demanded equal trading status for foreign powers in China. He negotiated the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty ensuring US control of the Panama Canal.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hay, John Milton." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hay, John Milton." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john-milton

"Hay, John Milton." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john-milton

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Hay, John

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hay, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hay, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john

"Hay, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Hay, John Milton

HAY, JOHN MILTON


John Milton Hay (18381905) was born on October 8, 1838, in Salem, Indiana, and raised on a small town on the Mississippi River. He graduated from Brown University and decided to enter law. In 1858 Hay was studying law at his uncle's law firm in Springfield, Illinois, when he made friends with an interesting neighbor, Abraham Lincoln (18091865). Already a Republican, Hay became an assistant private secretary to Lincoln and followed the president-elect to Washington, DC. Hay served with Lincoln until the president's assassination in 1865.

Hay was then appointed secretary to the legation in Paris in March 1865; he moved on to Vienna in 1867, then finishing this tour of duty from 1868 to 1870 in Madrid. Returning to the United States in 1870, Hay took a position on the editorial board of the New York Tribune. In 1871 he published a book of poems, Pike County Ballads and Other Pieces. Soon afterward he published a travel book based upon his days in Spain, Castilian Days. In 1875 Hays moved to Cleveland, Ohio, until President Rutherford B. Hayes (18771881) appointed him Assistant Secretary of State, an office he held from 1879 to 1881. In 1881 Hay returned to the New York Tribune as editor. For the next 15 years he worked at the Tribune while concurrently traveling and writing.

John Hay anonymously published an anti-labor novel, Bread-Winners in 1884, and his most famous published work, Abraham Lincoln: A History, in 1890. Written in collaboration with John G. Nicolay (18321901), the ten volume Abraham Lincoln was the standard biography on the famous president for many decades. Hay continued to write, but his career took another turn to public service in 1897 when President William McKinley (18971901) appointed Hay as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain.

Hay arrived at the Court of St. James sharing expansionist views that were held by another important politician, Theodore Roosevelt (18581919). Like Roosevelt, Hay supported the American entry into the Spanish-American War in 1898. After initially believing the Philippines should not be completely annexed by the United States, he shifted his position to support the full annexation of the islands as a means of balancing the political power in Asia with that of Japan and Russia.

President McKinley appointed John Hay to serve as Secretary of State in 1898, a position Hay maintained when McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt became president (19011909). He held this position until his death. Hay presided over two extremely important episodes in the history of the United States: the Open Door policy with China and the Panama Canal Treaty. In 1899 and 1900, Hay issued two "open door" notes that called for all foreign powers to respect the territorial rights of China. His goal was to encourage free trade in China without that country being partitioned by European or other powers. The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 presented just such an opportunity to these powers, but Hay's influence was able to keep China open.

Hay was also a firm advocate of a canal that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There were several plans afoot at the time for an inter-oceanic canal in either the Isthmus of Panama or in Nicaragua. Hay negotiated a treaty with Columbia in January 1903 to pay $10 million and an annual rental of $250,000 for a ninety-nine year lease on property in Panama. Columbia initially rejected the offer, but in November 1903 Panama, assisted by machinations by Roosevelt and Hay, successfully rose up against Columbia and established itself as a sovereign nation. Hay then signed a treaty with the new Panamanian minister similar to the one made with Columbia.

John Hay was an excellent writer and a cultured man. He preferred the more erudite social scene of the East to the midwestern frontiers of his youth. In 1904 he fell ill, and he died in Newbury, New Hampshire, on July 1, 1905.

See also: Open Door Policy, Panama Canal Treaty

FURTHER READING

Dennett, Tyler. John Hay: From Poetry to Politics. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1933.

Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1994, s.v. "Hay, John."

Garraty, John A. and Jerome L. Sternstein. Encyclopedia of American Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1996, s.v. "Hay, John."

Hay, John. Edited by Tyler Dennett. Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1939.

Van Doren, Charles, ed. Webster's American Biographies. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1984, s.v. "Hay, John."

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hay, John Milton." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hay, John Milton." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john-milton

"Hay, John Milton." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved October 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hay-john-milton

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.