From Ohio History Central
Portrait of John Milton Hay.
Ohioan John Milton Hay was a prominent politician and author during the late nineteenth century.
Hay was born on October 8, 1838, in Salem, Indiana. He enrolled in Brown University and graduated in 1858. Hay studied law with an attorney in Springfield, Illinois, and became licensed to practice law in 1861.
While living in Springfield, Hay became good friends with Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, Hay became the president-elect's personal secretary. Shortly before Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, the president appointed Hay to the United States embassy in France. Hay spent the next several years performing various diplomatic assignments in France, Austria, and Spain. He resigned from government service in 1870.
During the early 1870s, Hay became an editor for the New York Tribune. He also published a volume of poetry and a personal recollection of his time in Spain. He moved from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1875. He remained in Ohio until 1879, when President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Hay assistant secretary of state.
Hay served only briefly as assistant secretary of state and resigned this position in 1881. He spent the next fifteen years in Washington, DC, publishing a number of books. His most famous work was a co-authored biography of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1897, President William McKinley appointed Hay to be the United States ambassador to Great Britain. The following year, McKinley appointed Hay as Secretary of State. Hay took the lead in negotiating an end to the Spanish-American War. He implemented the "Open Door Policy," which called for free trade for Western powers with China. During his term in office, Hay negotiated the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, which granted the United States control of the Panama Canal Zone and the authority to construct the Panama Canal.
Hay died on July 1, 1905.