Diplomatic Growth During Years of Security

Absence of external challenges following the American  Civil War reduced diplomatic activity, but resulted in a period of increasing professionalism in foreign affairs. The number of diplomatic posts grew slowly. The professional Civil Service, established in 1883, was used to staff the State Department, but not diplomatic posts abroad.
This period saw major expansion of U.S. trade, territory, and overseas involvement, especially in Asia and Latin America.

Americans under Commodore Matthew C. Perry first landed in Japan on July 14, 1853.

Americans under Commodore Matthew C. Perry first landed in Japan on July 14, 1853.

Following the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War in 1898, U.S. diplomats concluded treaties that afforded the United States new international powers.  The United States gained a naval base on the shore of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba , which it still has.  The United States, through the Platt Amendment received the right to intervene in Cuban affairs as well as full control over the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. That was also the year in which the United States annexed the Hawaiian Islands.

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, the United States’ first African-American diplomat, served as minister resident and consul general in Haiti from 1869 to 1877.

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, the United States’ first African-American diplomat, served as minister resident and consul general in Haiti from 1869 to 1877.

After years of negotiations and false starts, and after helping Panama break away from Colombia, the United States concluded a treaty with Panama in 1903 to build the Panama Canal, thus increasing U.S. involvement in both Latin America and the Pacific. Secretary of State John Hay and the Department of State played a prominent role in the canal project.

Drawn in 1903, this “Topographic, Diagramatic, and Illustrative Map of the Panama Canal” illustrates the project for U.S. readers. The top panel depicts the excavations done by the two French companies that began construction. The middle panel shows a profile of the project. The excavations remaining to be done, shown in black, were to be completed by the United States. The bird’s-eye scene on the lower panel demonstrates how the completed passage was to look.

Drawn in 1903, this “Topographic, Diagramatic, and Illustrative Map of the Panama Canal” illustrates the project for U.S. readers. The top panel depicts the excavations done by the two French companies that began construction. The middle panel shows a profile of the project. The excavations remaining to be done, shown in black, were to be completed by the United States. The bird’s-eye scene on the lower panel demonstrates how the completed passage was to look.

Despite the expansion of trade and annexation of overseas territories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, isolationism grew. Some xenophobic Americans even regarded their representatives abroad as subversive; “working our ruin,” one congressman said, “by creating a desire for foreign customs and foreign follies.” These suspicions had roots before the Civil War and would return later in the McCarthy period.

A Japanese painter depicts a procession of official Americans in Yokohama, 1861, soon after the establishment of U.S. relations with Japan.

A Japanese painter depicts a procession of official Americans in Yokohama, 1861, soon after the establishment of U.S. relations with Japan. From the collection of retired Ambassador William Leonhart. Courtesy of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

FRANCIS BRET HARTE (1836-1902)

Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902)

A number of distinguished U.S. authors including James Russell Lowell, Washington Irving, Stephen Vincent Benét, James Fenimore Cooper, and Nathaniel Hawthorne held diplomatic or consular posts.
Bret Harte, the author of “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” “The Outcasts of Poker Flat,” and “Tennessee’s Partner,” classic stories of the American West in the gold rush and frontier mining camp days, went to Washington in I 876 to seek employment as an overseas consul. He hoped to earn enough to support himself and his family and still have time to write.

Harte was sent to Krefeld, Germany, in 1878 thinking he was to be the consul, but discovered that he was only a commercial agent in a larger consular district. As there were no travel allowances, per diem, or dependent allotments for consular employees, his family remained behind and never joined him during his consular career. He suffered continually from the damp climate of Krefeld and was delighted to be appointed as consul in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1 880. Glasgow was an important post with a large export trade, from which Harte sent the State Department extensive reports on all sorts of subjects. However, he also traveled frequently to London to lecture and write. Finally, in I 885 he was replaced, as some said, for “inattention to duty.” He returned to live in London for the next 17 years, until his death in 1902.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black, 1860-1861

Jeremiah S. Black
Secretary of State
1860-1861

William Henry Seward, 1861-1869

William H. Seward
Secretary of State
1861-1869

Elihu Benjamin Washburne, 1869

Elihu B. Washburne
Secretary of State
1869

Hamilton Fish, 1869-1877

Hamilton Fish
Secretary of State
1869-1877

William Maxwell Evarts, 1877-1881

William M. Evarts
Secretary of State
1877-1881

James Gillespie Blaine, 1881

James G. Blaine
Secretary of State
1881

Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, 1881-1885

Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen
Secretary of State
1881-1885

Thomas Francis Bayard, 1885-1889

Thomas Francis Bayard
Secretary of State
1885-1889

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