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For the Member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts, see Richard Olney II; for the food and wine writer, see Richard Olney .

Richard Olney (September 15, 1835April 8, 1917) was an Americanmarker statesman. He served as both United States Attorney General and Secretary of State under President Grover Cleveland. Olney was the uncle of Massachusetts Congressman Richard Olney.

Olney was born in Oxford, Massachusettsmarker, and studied at Brown Universitymarker (Class of 1856), and Harvard Law Schoolmarker (Class of 1858). In 1859 he began practicing law in Bostonmarker, and attained a high position at the bar. He served as a member of the Board of Selectmen of West Roxbury, Massachusettsmarker and in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1874.

In 1861 Olny married Agnes Park Thomas of Boston, Massachusetts.

In March 1893, Olney became U.S. Attorney General. During the Pullman strike in 1894, he instructed the district attorney to secure from the Federal Courts writs of injunction restraining the strikers from acts of violence; thus setting a precedent for "government by injunction." He also advised the use of Federal troops to quell the disturbances in the city, on the ground that the government must prevent interference with its mails and with the general railway transportation between the states.

Upon the death of Secretary of State Walter Q. Gresham, Olney succeeded him on June 10, 1895. He quickly elevated U.S. foreign diplomatic posts to the title of Embassy, thus making it official that the U.S. would be regarded as an equal of the world's greater nations (up until that time, the United States had had only Legations, which diplomatic protocol dictated be treated as inferior to Embassies). He became specially prominent in the controversy with United Kingdommarker concerning the boundary dispute between the British and Venezuelanmarker governments, and in his correspondence with Lord Salisbury gave an extended interpretation to the Monroe Doctrine which went considerably beyond previous statements on the subject.

In 1897, at the expiration of Cleveland's term, Olney returned to the practice of the law.

In March of 1913 Olney turned down President Wilson's offer to be the US Ambassador to Great Britain, and later when in May of 1914, President Wilson offered Olney the Appointment as Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, he declined that appointment. Olney was unwilling to take on new responsibilities at his advanced age .


  • George B. Young, "Intervention Under the Monroe Doctrine: The Olney Corollary," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Jun., 1942), pp. 247-280 in JSTOR
  • The New York Times, RICHARD OLNEY DIES; VETERAN STATESMAN; Attorney General and Secretary of State in Cleveland's Second Term Expires in Boston at 81. UPHELD MONROE DOCTRINE His Demand Upon Great Britain Led to Her Arbitration of the Venezuelan Boundary Dispute. His Settlement of Mora Claim. Introduced by Cleveland. The 'Silent Statesman.' Offered Ambassadorship. Page 13, (April 10, 1917).
  • The New York Times, WILSON SEEKS HEAD OF RESERVE BOARD; Olney Declines and Secretary Houston Now Is Talked Of as Governor, Page 14, (May 6, 1914).
  • The New York Times, OLNEY REFUSES OFFER OF LONDON EMBASSY; Tells President Wilson He Is Too Old to Establish a Residence Abroad, Page 2, (March 16, 1913).

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