Olney, Richard

Olney, Richard, 1835–1917, American cabinet member, b. Oxford, Mass. He was a successful Boston lawyer and had served briefly in the state legislature before President Cleveland appointed him to his cabinet. As Attorney General (1893–95), he obtained an injunction against the strikers in the Pullman strike of 1894; under it Eugene V. Debs was held in contempt of court. Olney also persuaded Cleveland to send in troops to break the strike, ostensibly to prevent interference with the mails, although Gov. John P. Altgeld declared troops unnecessary. From 1895 to 1897 Olney was Secretary of State. He played a vigorous part in the negotiations with the British over the Venezuela Boundary Dispute. In the course of the talks he stated flatly that the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition. This principle was later supported by Theodore Roosevelt as a corollary of the Monroe Doctrine.

See biography by H. James (1923, repr. 1971); study by G. G. Eggert (1974).

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