Beyond ‘Lincoln,’ the little-known John Hay

Joseph Cross plays the statesman and diplomat John Hay in the epic ‘Lincoln’

By Nestor Palugod Enriquez

The youngest character in the film “Lincoln” belongs to John Hay. The young White House intern was Lincoln’s personal secretary from 1861 to 1865. He carried the copy of the famous Gettysburg Address and was present when Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford Theatre in 1865. He was possibly a witness to another presidential murder: William McKinley being shot to death by an anarchist in Buffalo. He served as Secretary of State under McKinley and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War.

“No war in history has accomplished so much in so short a time with so little loss,” he said then, famously declaring it “a splendid little war.”

He continued to serve as Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt. He ardently supported the Manifest Destiny of America, the nineteenth-century doctrine that states the U.S. had a mission to expand westward across the North American continent, spreading its form of democracy, freedom and culture. Mr. Hay advised the Peace Commissioners of President McKinley’s final decision to demand the surrender of the Philippine archipelago. The United States agreed to purchase the Philippines from Spain for $20 million.

Camp John Hay of Baguio City was established on October 25, 1903 and named in his honor. The base was used for rest and recreation for the U.S. military personnel and their dependents in the Philippines.

CJH was Little America. I brought my preschool kids – who are all U.S. dependents –there in the late 1970s, and they thought it was part of the United States. The 690-hectare property was finally turned over to the Philippines 1991 upon the expiration of the Philippine-U.S. Bases Agreement. The mountain resort still carries John Hay’s name to this day.

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