John Milton Hay (October 8, 1838 – July 1, 1905) was an American statesman, diplomat, author, journalist, and private secretary and assistant to Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's death, Hay continued in politics, eventually serving as Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President William McKinley, and then Secretary of State under McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
John Hay in Southern Victory
John Hay served as a secretary to President Abraham Lincoln during the War of Secession (1861-2) and later, as President James G. Blaine's ambassador to the Confederate States in Richmond. Many Confederates were aware of Hay's past links to Lincoln, making him an object of suspicion. Others wondered if his appointment was done out of disrespect for the Confederacy. In 1881, when the Confederate States opted to buy the Mexican provinces of Sonora and Chihuahua, Hay presented CS President James Longstreet with US President Blaine's threat of war should the sale go ahead.
When the Second Mexican War began not long afterwards, Hay returned to the United States. In late 1881, Hay was one of several prominent Republican leaders to attend a caucus called by Abraham Lincoln in Chicago. He was one of those who resisted Lincoln's proposal that the party replace hostility toward the Confederate States with workers' rights as the central plank of the party's platform. Indeed, when Lincoln asked Hay "Et tu, John?", Hay simply replied "Et ego, Mr. Lincoln."
In April 1882, Hay, along with General-in-Chief of the United States Army, William Rosecrans, returned to Richmond and met with both CS General Thomas Jackson and CS minister to the USA, Judah P. Benjamin. When Hay presented Blaine's peace proposal, Jackson interrupted him, allowing Benjamin to lay down the Confederacy's own ultimatum. Although Hay reacted to the demands with horror and protest, he understood that the USA was in no position to bargain. He then asked to be excused so as to cable them to Blaine.
John Hay in The Guns of the South
After Confederate General Robert E. Lee's troops stormed Washington City and captured the White House, Lee negotiated a cease fire with President Abraham Lincoln in the President's private office. After they reached an agreement they stepped out into the outer reception room. There they saw a number of Lee's staff officers and a couple of young men in civilian clothes. President Lincoln introduced John Hay and John Nicolay to Lee as his secretaries. Hay stated he was pleased to meet the General, but would have preferred to do so under different circumstances. When Lee's aide Walter Taylor objected to this, Lee stopped him stating Hay should be free to speak his mind especially with his cause overthrown.
Frederick W. Seward
|United States Assistant Secretary of State
Robert R. Hitt
William R. Day
|United States Secretary of State