Mass. has been breeding ground for secretaries of state

WASHINGTON _ So here’s a trivia question: how many secretaries of state have political roots in Massachusetts? (Not including Senator John F. Kerry, who is expected to win speedy confirmation to be America’s top diplomat).

There was future president John Quincy Adams, from 1817 to 1825, whose signature diplomatic achievement was the Monroe Doctrine, a foundation of American foriegn policy.

The famous orator Senator Daniel Webster, who served as secretary of state from 1841 to 1843, established the definitive eastern border between the Unites States and Canada, along the Maine-New Brunswick frontier.


And who could forget Levi Lincoln of Hingham? He helped draft the Massachusetts Constitution, served as Thomas Jefferson’s attorney general and was also acting secretary of state for two months in 1801, while James Madison made his way to Washington to fill the post. Despite that short stint, Lincoln advised Jefferson on the Louisiana Purchase.

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A number of others from the Bay State became America’s top diplomat in the 19th century.

There was Dorchester native, Bay State governor, and one-time Harvard president Edward Everett, who filled out Webster’s term upon his death in 1852. One of Everett’s most historic speeches, however, is nearly forgotten to history. He spoke for two hours at Gettysburg in 1863 -- right before Abraham Lincoln’s much shorter and far better remembered Gettysburg Address.

Some of the even more obscure include William F. Wharton, who was acting secretary of state twice in the early 1890s; he is so forgotten that he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. Richard Olney of Oxford, who was secretary of state from 1895 to 1897 following a stint as attorney general, elevated US foreign diplomatic posts to embassies.

The only secretary of state with political roots in Massachusetts in the 20th century was Christian Herter, a former congressman and Massachusetts governor who was President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state from 1959 to 1961.


So that brings the total to seven. Kerry is preparing to be number eight.

If he is confirmed he will also become the fifth chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get the cabinet post -- after Henry Clay, John Forsyth; John Sherman; and future president James Buchanan.

But Kerry will be the only sitting chairman to get the post.

Bender can be reached at Bender can be reached @GlobeBender