masc chair and bottleWith President’s Day coming here’s a look at some of the people who proved pivotal to the administrations of the Presidents of the United States. Many of those Secretaries may not be household names here in the 21st Century but they would definitely stand out on any staff. Here is an examination of sixteen such figures in chronological order.

Figures like James G Blaine, William Seward, and Henry Kissinger are so well-known that they are not included on this list.

Timothy Pickering1. TIMOTHY PICKERING (1795-1800)

Served under: Presidents George Washington and John Adams

Noted for: Conspiring with Alexander Hamilton to undermine some of the policies of the Washington and Adams administrations. When Adams discovered this he ordered Pickering to resign, but Pickering refused, forcing Adams to fire him. Pickering remains the only Secretary of State to officially be fired by the President.

Henry Clay2. HENRY CLAY (1825-1829)

Served under: President John Quincy Adams

Noted for: Fighting a duel with Senator John Randolph, one of Clay’s critics who felt he had struck a “corrupt bargain” with Adams to get this prized cabinet position. Also for completing the first commerce treaties between the young United States and the various nations in Scandinavia and Latin America.

John Forsyth3. JOHN FORSYTH (1834-1841)

Served under: Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren

Noted for: Obtaining long-disputed reparations from France for U.S. commercial losses suffered during the Napoleonic Wars. Also for threatening to resign early in Van Buren’s administration before his relationship with the new president improved.

Daniel Webster4. DANIEL WEBSTER (1841-1843 and 1850-1852)

Served under: Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Millard Filmore

Noted for: Negotiating a treaty which set the boundaries between Maine and New Brunswick, encouraging a popular uprising in Hungary and for dying in office in 1852. But mostly for his distinguished Senate career and for his fictional role in the story The Devil and Daniel Webster.

William Marcy5. WILLIAM MARCY (1853-1857)

Served under: President Franklin Pierce

Noted for: Overseeing the Gadsden Purchase which saw the U.S. pay Mexico $10 million (in 1850s money) for the southernmost parts of Arizona and New Mexico, thus completing the still-valid outline of the 48 contiguous states and negating the future arguments of the racist pigs in La Raza. Also for encouraging President Pierce to look into purchasing Cuba from Spain.

Lewis Cass6. LEWIS CASS (1857-1860)

Served under: President James Buchanan

Noted for: His foresight in taking the fanatics of the Southern Secessionist Movement more seriously than President Buchanan did. Cass repeatedly urged the President to put the nation on a war footing to deal with the Civil War that was looming but Buchanan ignored him. Relations between Cass and Buchanan became so strained over this issue that in the end Cass resigned in disgust. 

Hamilton Fish7. HAMILTON FISH (1869-1877)

Served under: President Ulysses S Grant

Noted for: Negotiating the Treaty of Washington, which led to international arbitrators awarding the U.S. damages from Great Britain for Civil War maritime losses inflicted by Confederate State raiders constructed in England. Fish also helped avert war with Spain in the 1870s by persuading President Grant to keep America neutral in Cuba’s war for independence from Spain.

William Evarts8. WILLIAM EVARTS (1877-1881)

Served under: President Rutherford B Hayes

Noted for: Expanding American trade overseas and for representing the United States at the Third International Monetary Conference in Paris. The conference sought to deal with the plummeting value of silver and with the confusion that often accompanied international trade among nations which each used different currency systems.

Frelinghuysen9. FREDERICK FRELINGHUYSEN (1881-1885)

Served under: President Chester A Arthur

Noted for: Overseeing the U.S. participation in the International Red Cross Conference and in the Berlin Conference for the African Congo. The Senate refused to ratify a treaty that Frelinghuysen concluded with Nicaragua for joint control of a proposed canal across Central America years before the Panama Canal project.

Thomas Bayard10. THOMAS BAYARD (1885-1889)

Served under: President Grover Cleveland

Noted for: Negotiating with Germany over the Samoan Islands and with Great Britain over the North Atlantic Fisheries dispute between the U.S. and Canada. In 1893 Bayard became America’s very first Ambassador to Great Britain. Until then U.S. diplomatic personnel in Great Britain had been referred to as Ministers.   

John Hay11. JOHN HAY (1898-1905)

Served under: Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt

Noted for: The “Open Door Policy” which sought to discourage Japanese aggression which frequently threatened to close Chinese ports to commerce with any nations outside the Far East. After China’s Boxer Rebellion in 1900 the Chinese government paid the nations whose citizens had been slain by the Boxers $333 million in compensation. Most of America’s $25 million share of those funds went toward scholarships for Chinese students in the United States.

Elihu Root12. ELIHU ROOT (1905-1909)

Served under: President Theodore Roosevelt

Noted for: Working to improve relations with Latin American nations as well as with the traditional European powers. In addition Root negotiated an agreement with Japan regarding the U.S. and Japan limiting their naval installations in the Pacific.

Philander Knox13. PHILANDER KNOX (1909-1913)

Served under: President William Howard Taft

Noted for: Overseeing a massive reorganization of the State Department, adding separate Divisions for Western Europe Affairs, Near Eastern Affairs and Latin American Affairs. He also added the position of Director of the Consular Service. 

Robert Lansing14. ROBERT LANSING (1915-1920)

Served under: President Woodrow Wilson

Noted for: Negotiating the purchase of what is now the U.S. Virgin Islands from Denmark and for his early attempts to persuade President Wilson that the United States should enter the First World War on the side of the Allied Powers.

1Charles Evans Hughes5. CHARLES EVANS HUGHES (1921-1925)

Served under: Presidents Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge

Noted for: Organizing and chairing the Washington Conference for the Limitation of Armaments, which saw the U.S., Great Britain, France, Japan and Italy agree to limit their fleets of battleships, cruisers and carriers. Hughes is better remembered for his service on the United States Supreme Court and for unsuccessfully running for president against Woodrow Wilson.

Frank Kellogg16. FRANK KELLOGG (1925-1929)

Served under: President Calvin Coolidge

Noted for: Negotiating the Kellogg- Briand Pact with French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand. This pact saw 15 nations agree to renounce war as a means of settling international disputes. In the end an additional 47 countries signed on to the pact. Kellogg and Briand were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929. As proof that even back then the Nobel Peace Prize was a complete joke NONE of the nations who signed the pact actually refrained from using war as a means of settling international disputes. 



© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  


Filed under Neglected History


  1. Someone

    You know, maybe we should bring back the pistol duel. That would certainly make a lot of people think twice before mouthing off something really insulting or untrue.

  2. Allana

    Amazing! They made a lot of history. : D.

  3. Ebonscape

    I really love the details you find about these people.

  4. Lenore

    Very interesting and I learned a lot!

  5. H Lang

    I love how fun you make these educational posts!

  6. ontheroadwitheric

    Great blog! You have the best political and history blog on the net!

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