VIP John Hay

John Hay (October 8, 1838 - July 1, 1905)

John Hay served as Secretary of State from 1898-1905, during the terms of presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. In that position he supported the "open door" policy in China and is credited with preventing the dissolution of the Chinese empire in 1900. He also secured by treaty the right for the US to construct and defend the Panama canal and obtained a settlement of the Alaska-Canada border controversy.

Hay was private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln from 1861-1865 and ambassador to Great Britain from 1897-1898. He was also a journalist with the New York Tribune from 1870-1875, a successful writer of verse and fiction, and co-author with John G. Nicolay of Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 vol, 1890).

As a young man, Hay was influenced by Fitz Hugh Ludlow's book The Hasheesh Eater, and wrote* that while a student at Brown University, "I used to eat hasheesh and dream dreams." A classmate recalled that 'The night when Johnny Hay took hasheesh' marked an epoch for the dwellers in Hope College." Today, the library at Brown University is named for Hay.

About 10 years later, Hay met Mark Twain, who describes him in his recently published autobiographical papers:

A quarter of a century ago I was visiting John Hay, now Secretary of State, at Whitelaw Reid's house in New York. . .That Sunday morning, twenty-five years ago, Hay and I had been chatting and laughing an carrying-on almost like our earlier selves of '67, when the door opened and Mrs. Hay, gravely clad, gloved, bonneted, and just from church, and fragrant with the odors of Presbyterian sanctity, stood it in. . .She came forward smileless, with disapproval written all over her face, said most coldly, "Good morning Mr. Clemens," and passed on and out. . .[Hay] said pathetically, and apologetically, "She is very strict about Sunday."

I had known John Hay a good many years, I had known him when he was an obscure young editorial writer on the [New York] Tribune in Horace Greeley's time, earning three or four times the salary he got, considering the high character of the work which came from his pen. In those earlier days he was a picture to look at, for beauty of feature, perfection of form and grace of carriage and movement. He had a charm about him of a sort quite unusual to my western ignorance and inexperience--a charm of manner, intonation, apparently native and unstudied elocution, and all that. . .He was joyous and cordial, a most pleasant comrade.

John Hay was not afraid of Horace Greeley. . .the only man who ever served Horace Greeley on the [New York] Tribune of whom that can be said. In the past few years, since Hay has been occupying the post of Secretary of State with a succession of foreign difficulties on his hands such as have not fallen to the share of any previous occupant of that chair, perhaps, when we consider the magnitude of the matters involved, we have seen that the courage of his youth is his possession still, and that he is not any more scarable by kings and emperors and their fleets than he was by Horace Greeley.

In 1882, the John Hay cigar was born, and the brand continues with the artwork shown. Hay's novel The Bread-winners (1883) contains the line, "During all the long conversation that had followed, he had been conscious of a sort of dual operation of his mind, like that familiar to the eaters of hasheesh."

Hay was depicted in the 2012 movie Lincoln, directed by Stephen Spielberg.

*SOURCE: Donald Dulchinos, Pioneer of Inner Space: The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Hasheesh Eater (Autonomedia, Brooklyn 1998), p. 8

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