John Randolph Clay

John Randolph Clay
America's First Career Diplomat

George Irvin Oeste

608 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512805161 | Buy from De Gruyter $79.95 | €69.95 | £70.50
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An Anniversary Collection volume
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This is the biography of a nineteenth-century gentleman whose career in the diplomatic service of his country contributed greatly to the worldwide expansion of American trade and commerce. John Randolph Clay (1808-1885), son of a Philadelphia Congressman, was named in honor of John Randolph, his father's friend and political associate, with whom he lived after his father's death. In 1830, John Randolph, appointed Minister to Russia, secured the appointment of Clay as Secretary of Legation. Randolph soon returned home, seriously ill, leaving Clay as Charge d'Affaires. Although youthful and inexperienced, Clay acquitted himself well, continuing in diplomatic posts in Russia and Austria for seventeen years.

From 1847 to 1860, Clay was the diplomatic representative of the United States in Peru. He worked tirelessly, whether applying pressure for the payment of claims, protecting the business and personal interests of Americans, or insisting on the rights of our citizens to participate in the guano trade. He negotiated treaties of commerce, maritime rights, and whaling rights with the Peruvian government. His greatest triumph came in avoiding a rupture with Peru at the time of the Lobos Islands controversy.

During the thirty years in which he served his country in foreign lands, Clay saw the coming of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. He met or was on terms of personal friendship with many of the great men of the age: Prince Metternich, Louis Phillipe, Count Nesselrode, and the Peruvian dictator-president Castilla. He was equally at ease amid the splendors of court life in St. Petersburg or Vienna or in the shabby palace of the Peruvian president in the ancient city of Lima. His story, fascinating in itself, is also the story of the growth of the United States diplomatic service.

George I. Oeste was Professor of American and Latin American Studies at Allentown College.

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