Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

James G. Blaine (1881): Secretary of State

One of the most prominent politicians of the nineteenth century, James G. Blaine was born in West Brownsville, Pennsylvania, in 1830 and graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in 1847 at the age of seventeen. After a brief teaching career in Kentucky and Philadelphia, Blaine moved his family to Augusta, Maine, in 1854.

While in Maine, Blaine became one of the founders of the Republican Party as editor of the Kennebec Journal and later the Portland Advertiser. Blaine won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1862 and emerged as a rising star in the Republican Party leadership. The "Magnetic Man" became Speaker of the House after three terms (1869-1875).

Blaine entered the Senate in 1876 and unsuccessfully sought his party's nomination for President that same year. He garnered a full term in the Senate in 1877 and served until 1881. Upon losing the Republican Party presidential nomination to James A. Garfield, Blaine accepted the nomination for secretary of state in March 1881. After Garfield's assassination in September 1881, Blaine served only three more months in the administration of Chester Arthur.

Blaine finally received the Republican Party nomination for President in 1884 but lost to Grover Cleveland in a very close and bitterly contested election. After Cleveland's defeat at the hands of Benjamin Harrison, Blaine once again served as secretary of state (1889-1892), resigning short of his term to run again for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. Failing to unseat Harrison, Blaine declined physically and died in January 1893 in Washington.