Some Diplomatic Accomplishments

Despite the atmosphere of corruption surrounding diplomacy, some members of the foreign services developed special competence and achieved distinguished careers. Prominent among them was Eugene Schuyler, who first served as consul in Moscow in 1867 and later held other posts in Europe, before ending his service as the American representative in Cairo in 1890. Another was William Lindsay Scruggs, who served as Minister to Colombia in 1873 and Minister to Venezuela in 1889. George P. Marsh served the United States for 33 years as Minister to Turkey (1849-53), special emissary in Athens and Tehran (1850s), and Minister to Italy (1861). He died in Rome in 1882. Two diplomats who developed impressive reputations as regional specialists—Henry White in Europe and William W. Rockhill in East Asia—began careers that extended well into the 20th century.

Despite the general lethargy characterizing foreign policy during this period, several Secretaries of State were proactive. James G. Blaine of Maine, for example, had long been interested in the development of more cordial relations and the expansion of trade with the American republics. In 1889, he inaugurated the modern Pan American movement with the convocation of an inter-American conference in Washington.

Perhaps the most notable development was the elevation of the Monroe Doctrine into an unquestioned article of faith in American foreign policy. In 1895, Secretary of State Richard Olney asserted that as a result of the Monroe Doctrine, “To-day the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” Why was this so? Because, Olney stated, in addition to all other grounds, “its infinite resources combined with its isolated position render it master of the situation and practically invulnerable as against any or all other powers.”