Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

George Bernard Butler (American, 1838-1907)
19th century
United States: New York: New York City
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 41 1/4 in x 32 1/2 in; 104.775 cm x 82.55 cm
This portrait of William M. Evarts is thought to have been done from life.
George Bernard Butler was born in New York City February 8, 1838; died near Croton Falls, New York, May 4, 1907
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


William Maxwell Evarts (1818–1901) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College, studied at Harvard Law School, and practiced law in New York City, earning a reputation as one of the country’s top lawyers. During the Civil War, Evarts was dispatched on missions to Great Britain and France, to help prevent recognition of the Confederacy and the construction of Confederate warships. After the war he helped arbitrate the Alabama claims, made against Great Britain for the Confederate warship built there. President Andrew Johnson retained Evarts as his counsel during the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. After Johnson was acquitted, he appointed Evarts attorney general. A decade later, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Evarts secretary of state.

As secretary, Evarts grappled with the decision of whether to recognize the new Mexican government led by Porfirio Díaz. Breaking with tradition, he placed several conditions on recognition, in particular the right of U.S. troops to cross the Mexican border in pursuit of raiders. When Díaz’s government condemned the conditions, Evarts extended recognition. But the increasing U.S. interest in Latin America can also be seen in Evarts’s attempt to negotiate peace among Chile, Peru, and Bolivia during the War of the Pacific.

Despite the Burlingame-Seward Treaty’s easing of restrictions on Chinese immigration, anti-immigration forces on the West Coast increased their demands and in 1880 Evarts sent a committee to China to negotiate new limits. Two years later Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act that ended Chinese immigration and stated that Chinese immigrants were not eligible for citizenship.