Facts and Events
James Gillespie Blaine (January 31, 1830January 27, 1893) was an American statesman and Republican politician who represented Maine in the United States House of Representatives from 1863 to 1876, serving as Speaker of the House from 1869 to 1875, and then in the United States Senate from 1876 to 1881. He twice served as United States Secretary of State (1881, 1889–1892) and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for President in 1876 and 1880 before being nominated in 1884. In the general election, he was narrowly defeated by Democrat Grover Cleveland. Blaine was one of the late 19th century's leading Republicans and champion of the moderate reformist faction of the party known as the "Half-Breeds".
Blaine was born in the western Pennsylvania town of West Brownsville and after college moved to Maine where he became a newspaper editor. Nicknamed "the Magnetic Man," he was a charismatic speaker in an era that prized oratory. He began his political career as an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union war effort in the American Civil War. In Reconstruction, Blaine was a supporter of black suffrage, but opposed some of the more coercive measures of the Radical Republicans. Initially a protectionist, he later worked for a reduction in the tariff and an expansion of American trade with foreign countries. Railroad promotion and construction were important issues in his time, and as a result of his interest and support Blaine was widely suspected of corruption in the awarding of railroad charters; these allegations plagued his 1884 presidential candidacy.
As Secretary of State, Blaine was a transitional figure, marking the end of an isolationist era in foreign policy and foreshadowing the rise of the American Century that would begin with the Spanish-American War. His efforts at expanding the United States' trade and influence began the shift to a more active American foreign policy. Blaine was a pioneer of tariff reciprocity and urged greater involvement in Latin American affairs. An expansionist, Blaine's policies would lead in less than a decade to the establishment of the United States' acquisition of Pacific colonies and dominance of the Caribbean.