John Barrett (diplomat)

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John Barrett
1898-03-03 John Barrett, Bangkok.jpg
John Barrett (1898)
7th United States Minister to Colombia
In office
November 27, 1905 – September 24, 1906
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byWilliam W. Russell
Succeeded byThomas C. Dawson
2nd United States Minister to Panama
In office
July 22, 1904 – May 13, 1905
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byWilliam I. Buchanan
Succeeded byCharles E. Magoon
21st United States Minister to Argentina
In office
December 21, 1903 – April 27, 1904
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byWilliam P. Lord
Succeeded byArthur M. Beaupre
United States Consul General to Siam
In office
February 14, 1894 – April 26, 1898
PresidentGrover Cleveland
William McKinley
Preceded bySempronius H. Boyd
Succeeded byHamilton King
Personal details
Born(1866-11-28)November 28, 1866
Grafton, Vermont
DiedOctober 17, 1938(1938-10-17) (aged 71)
Bellows Falls, Vermont
Spouse(s)Mary Tanner Candy
Alma materB.A., Dartmouth College
OccupationAmerican diplomat

John Barrett (November 28, 1866 – October 17, 1938) was a United States diplomat and one of the most influential early directors general of the Pan American Union. On his death, the New York Times commented that he had "done more than any other person of his generation to promote closer relations among the American republics".


Barrett was born in Grafton, Vermont on November 28, 1866. He graduated from Worcester Academy in 1883, then studied at both Vanderbilt University and Dartmouth College, eventually graduating from the latter with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1889. From 1889 to 1894, he worked as a journalist on the west coast (especially Tacoma, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco). While working as a journalist, he so impressed President Grover Cleveland during a meeting that he was appointed as the United States U.S. Minister to Siam (now Thailand). He served in that country for four years working to improve trade relations before returning to life as a journalist, working as a war correspondent during the Spanish–American War and then as a diplomatic adviser to Admiral George Dewey. (He would write a biography of Dewey in 1899.) Finally, he was appointed as a delegate to the second Pan-American Conference in 1901 through the following year.

In 1903, he was appointed as the Minister to Argentina, and though he only served in that position for one year, President Theodore Roosevelt later remarked that he had begun a "new United States-Argentine era". He was then appointed as Minister to Panama and then to Colombia.

John Barrett (1866-1938) portrait.jpg

In 1907, he was appointed at the first Director General of the Bureau of American Republics, an international organization that was renamed as the Pan American Union in 1910 (and subsequently reorganized in 1948 as the Organization of American States). He served in this capacity for fourteen years. During that period, he also founded the Pan-American Society of the United States, was Secretary General of 1916's Pan-American Scientific Congress, and presided over the Pan-American Commercial Congresses of 1911 and 1919.

In 1924, he briefly entered politics by running for the United States Senate as a Republican, but withdrew from the race before the election.

In his life, Barrett received honorary doctorates from Tulane University, the University of Southern California, the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, and the National University of Panama. He also received state decorations from Venezuela and China.

He died of pneumonia in 1938.


  • "Dr. Barrett, Envoy to Four Nations, Dies". The Washington Post. 1938-10-18. p. X5.
  • "John Barrett, 71, Trade Developer". The New York Times. 1938-10-18. p. 25.
  • Mellander, Gustavo A. (1971) The United States in Panamanian Politics: The Intriguing Formative Years. Danville, Ill.: Interstate Publishers, OCLC 138568
  • Mellander, Gustavo A.; Nelly Maldonado Mellander (1999). Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN 1-56328-155-4. OCLC 42970390.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sempronius H. Boyd
United States Minister to Siam
Succeeded by
Hamilton King
Preceded by
William Paine Lord
United States Minister to Argentina
21 December 1903 – 27 April 1904
Succeeded by
Arthur M. Beaupre
Preceded by
William I. Buchanan
United States Minister to Panama
July 22, 1904 – May 13, 1905
Succeeded by
Charles E. Magoon
Preceded by
William W. Russell
United States Minister to Colombia
27 November 1905 – 24 September 1906
Succeeded by
Thomas C. Dawson
Preceded by
Director General
of the Pan-American Union
Succeeded by
Leo S. Rowe