Born in 1838 in Indiana, I served my country as a statesman and a diplomat. Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt tapped me as their Secretary of State and then U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. I am humbled by what some called me - “the greatest prime minister this republic has ever known.”
As a young whippersnapper during the Civil War, I also served as the private Secretary to President Lincoln. Sadly, to say the least, I was at his bedside when he passed to the ages. Author and journalist were also on my resume. I edited copy for the New York Tribune for a half-dozen years, and wrote four books.
Washingtonians who are familiar with the Hay-Adams Hotel just north of the White House will hopefully know me as the first half of that name (I used to joke with Henry, my close friend, that his nickname was “Hay”). We each owned Romanesque homes at the corner there of 16th and H Streets, and hosted lively parties. We drank and danced with the likes of Roosevelt and Mark Twain. They called our ring of friendship the "Five of Hearts."
I know history can be boring but there’s a romantic side of my life. I don’t like to talk about it but since all the parties have long since joined me, we all agreed it’s ok. When I was a married man, I fell in love with Elizabeth Cameron, the wife of Pennsylvania Senator Donald Cameron.
My rank, positions and privileges gave me windows into a lot of important events in the Gilded Age. I knew a lot of world leaders, which helped several administrations in the diplomatic arena.
After a good life, I passed away in 1905. I still keep up, however, with the political scene in the nation’s capital. I see where some power players are taking it on the chin in the new book -- This Town -- by Mark Leibovich.
If this book has tarnished your reputation, my advice would be to not worry too much about. Generations later, books like “This Town” become footnotes. Besides, parlaying service into personal wealth, elitism, shit-eating grins, hypocrisy and mudslinging have always been part and parcel of life in Washington.
If you want to know more about my life and times, Brian Lamb will interview John Taliaferro, my biographer, tonight on C-SPAN. Lamb will pull no punches, but I think his steely-eyed grilling is always fair.
Oh, I almost forgot! I’m John Hay.