Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
New York Representative Perry Belmont chaired two House committees before retiring from Congress to serve as Minister to Spain.
On this date, Representative Perry Belmont
of New York was appointed Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the 49th Congress
(1885–1887). Son of famed racehorse breeder August Belmont and grandson to Commodore Matthew Perry, Belmont completed his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1876 and turned his attention to politics. First elected to the 47th Congress
(1881–1883), Belmont represented a New York district encompassing Long Island. He served on three House committees over the course of four Congresses: Expenditures in the Department of State, Expenditures on Public Buildings, which he chaired in the 48th Congress
(1883–1885), and Foreign Affairs. Belmont advocated for tariff reform to stimulate international trade. He also supported a stronger and more proactive navy to advance the country’s interests abroad.“The navies of the maritime powers are the police of the high seas,” he declared, “and every civilized nation with an ocean seaboard is in honor bound to furnish its quota for the general good.” As Chairman of Foreign Affairs, Belmont spearheaded the United States’ participation in the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. He quickly garnered the appreciation and friendship of various French statesmen, including President Marie Carnot, who dubbed him a “warm friend of France.” In 1888, Belmont famously declined the French Legion of Honor, only to later accept a higher order of the award in 1890. Inspired by the Paris Exposition, Belmont sponsored a bill, in 1888 to fund an American World’s Fair to celebrate the quadricentennial anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition
, in Chicago, Illinois. Declining to run for re-election to the 51st Congress
(1889–1891), he accepted a position as Minister to Spain. After completing his foreign service, Belmont returned to the United States. He lobbied Congress for greater government and campaign transparency. Those efforts led to the enactment of the Federal Campaign Publicity Act of 1911. At the outset of the Spanish–American War, Belmont obtained an Army commission. During the First World War, 66 year-old Belmont re-entered military service, serving as a captain in the Army’s Remount Service. At the age of 96, Perry Belmont died on May 25, 1947, in Newport, Rhode Island.