Bio of James Gillespie Blaine
As found in REPRESENTATIVE MEN OF MAINE
A Collection of Biographical Sketches.
Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase
Portland, ME.
The Lakeside Press, Publisher
1893

HON. JAMES GILLESPIE BLAINE was a Pennsylvanian by birth, having been born in Brownsville, Washington County, on January 31, 1830. The Blaine name was of Highland-Scotch origin, and was quite common at one time at or near Loch Lomond. After the Jacobite risings, in 1715 and 1745, large numbers of the Scotch and Scotch-Irish came to America, a considerable number ofthem settling in Pennsylvania. James Blaine was the first of the name to settle there, which he did in 1722, locating near what is now the City of Carlisle. He had a son, Ephraim, born in 1740, who gained some notoriety, especially in connection with the Revolutionary War, in which he held a commission of Commissary-General. His son, James, went to Brownsville, where he lived for many years, and had seven children, of whom Ephraim L. Blaine was the oldest. Ephraim L. was an intellectual, an educated, and, in many respects, a brilliant man, but he was not regarded as a practical man. He was a graduate of Washington College. In 1820 he married Maria Gillespie, a granddaughter of Neal Gillespie, who came to America from the north of Ireland in 1771. The husband was a Presbyterian and the wife a Roman Catholic of the milder form.

These people were the parents of James G. Blaine, who gained such a wide reputation in the political arena of his country. The boyhood days of young Blaine were spent in the town schools. In 1842, and when twelve years of age, he went to live in the family of Hon. Thomas Ewing, of Ohio, a relative of his mother, where he remained a year in fitting himself for college. The election of his father, in the meantime, to the office of Prothonotary had caused his removal to the county seat, where Washington College was located. This furnished an excellent chance for the son to enter college, which he did, in 1843, when but thirteen years of age, graduating in 1847, with good rank in scholarship. When in college he was especially fond of the debating societies, and was an active participant in the debates. He was also a great reader and was regarded as a good writer.

On leaving college it was necessary for him to earn his own living, so he adopted teaching for a time, resolving to take up, after a while, the study of the law. His first position as teacher was in the Western Military Institute at Blue Lick Springs, Ky., where he remained three years, being both successful and popular as a teacher. There was another teacher in this school, named Harriet Stanwood from Augusta, Me. A strong affection was formed for each other, and they were married in March, 1851. In 1852 Mr. Blaine went to Philadelphia to teach in the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind and to study law during his spare hours, which he did for a time with Theodore Cuyler, Esq. In the meantime Mrs. Blaine had gone to her home at Augusta, Me., and in 1854 Mr. Blaine went there to reside. He first found work on the Kennebec Journal as a reporter, and afterwards became a joint owner and editor of the paper, which was then a weekly. About this time the Democratic and Whig parties were being broken up by the agitation on the slavery and temperance questions, and the new Republican party was being formed from those leaving the old parties. Mr. Blaine saw his opportunity, and he began to fire double-leaded editorials at the wicked Democrats and Whigs. He soon attracted attention by his warm espousal of the Republican cause and its candidates. He was a delegate to the Republican Convention that nominated Fremont in 1856. In 1857 he sold out his interest in the paper, and for about a year he edited the Portland Advertiser. In 1858 he was elected to the Maine Legislature, which was his first public office. He was re-elected the three following years, the last of which, 1861, he was Speaker of the House. In 1857 he joined the Congregational Church in Augusta and remained a member during his life.

As a member of the Legislature he attracted attention by his discussions of the current questions of the day, and the able manner in which he discharged the office of Speaker gave him a good reputation as a presiding officer. In September. 1862, he received his first election to Congress, taking his seat December 7, 1863. These were stirring times in Congress. and Mr. Blaine soon took an active part in the proceedings, gaining for himself a good reputation as debater and a working member. He was returned in 1864. More money was needed for carrying on the war, and Mr. Blaine became a strong advocate of a high protective tarifl both as a means of raising money and as protection to American industry. These and other questions he debated with great vigor, and he soon became known all over the country. In 1869 he was chosen Speaker of the House by a large majority. He held this office through three Congresses, and won a wide reputation for the distinguished ability with which he discharged its duties. It was here that he gained his greatest popularity, perhaps, which aroused the jealousy and envy of certain men in and out of his party.

In 1876 he became a candidate for the presidential nomination, and charges affecting his integrity in certain business transactions connected with the building of the Pacific and other railroads which received government aid were freely circulated, and finally made the subject of investigation in Congress, which resulted in nothing, and in which he made a strong personal defense. He failed of securing the nomination, being beaten by Rutherford B. Hayes. In this convention Robert Ingersoll characterized him as the "Plumed Knight," which title stuck to him during his life. On the zoth of July the Governor of Maine appointed him to a seat in the Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Morrill to accept the Secretaryship of the Treasury.

In 1880 Mr. Blaine was again a candidate for the presidential nomination. Roscoe Conkling and other strong political enemies worked against him, and Mr. Garfield was nominated. He became Secretary of State in Garfield's Cabinet and remained about three months after Mr. Arthur assumed the office on Mr Garfield's death. He then devoted his time to preparing his book, "Twenty Years in Congress," which had a great sale.

In June, 1884, he received the nomination of his party for President, but was defeated by Grover Cleveland, after a hot campaign, in which the personal character of both candidates was involved. He then went abroad and remained several years. He, undoubtedly, could have had the nomination in 1888, hut he urged the nomination of General Harrison. He became President Harrison's Secretary of State, March 5. 1889, and served until his resignation in the summer of 1892. He was urged to become a candidate against President Harrison in 1892, and probably could have received the nomination had he assented in season. His health, which had been delicate for two years, now began to fail, and he grew steadily worse until January 27, 1893, when, at his home at Washington, he Passed from earth. Thus ended a remarkable record - one made brilliant by great attainments and flecked with human frailties and disappointed ambitions, and finally finished amid the sorrows and regrets of the whole country.


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