The entertainments given by wealthy Russian nobles to the diplomatic corps were by no means so frequent or so lavish as of old. Two reasons were assigned for this, one being the abolition of the serf system, which had impoverished the nobility, and the other the fact that the Emperor Alexander III had set the fashion of paying less attention to foreigners than had formerly been the custom.
The main hospitalities, so far as the Emperor and Empress were concerned, were the great festivities at the Winter Palace, beginning on the Russian New Year's day, which was twelve days later than ours. The scene was most brilliant. The vast halls were filled with civil and military officials from all parts of the empire, in the most gorgeous costumes, an especially striking effect being produced by the caftans, or long coats, of the various Cossack regiments, the armor and helmets of the Imperial Guards, and the old Russian costumes of the ladies. All of the latter, on this occasion, from the Empress down, wore these costumes: there was great variety in these; but their main features were the kakoshniks, or ornamental crowns, and the tunics in bright colors.
The next of these great ceremonies at the Winter Palace was the blessing of the waters upon the 8th of January. The diplomatic corps and other guests were allowed to take their places at the palace windows looking out over the Neva, and thence could see the entire procession, which, having gone down the ambassadors' staircase, appeared at a temple which had been erected over an opening in the ice of the river. The Emperor, the grand dukes, and the Archbishop of St. Petersburg, with his suffragan bishops, all took part in this ceremonial; and the music, which was selected from the anthems of Bortniansky, was very solemn and impressive.
During the winter came court balls, and, above all, the "palm balls." The latter were, in point of brilliancy, probably beyond anything in any court of modern times. After a reception, during which the Emperor and Empress passed along the diplomatic circle, speaking to the various members, dancing began, and was continued until about midnight; then the doors were flung open into other vast halls, which had been changed into palm-groves. The palms for this purpose are very large and beautiful, four series of them being kept in the conservatories for this special purpose, each series being used one winter and then allowed to rest for three winters before it is brought out again. Under these palms the supper-tables are placed, and from fifteen hundred to two thousand people sit at these as the guests of the Czar and Czarina. These entertainments seem carried to the extreme of luxury, their only defect being their splendid monotony: only civil, military, and diplomatic officials are present, and a new-comer finds much difficulty in remembering their names. There are said to be four hundred Princes Galitzin in the empire, and I personally knew three Counts Tolstoi who did not know each other; but the great drawback is the fact that all these entertainments are exactly alike, always the same thing: merely civil and military functionaries and their families; and for strangers no occupation save to dance, play cards, talk futilities, or simply stare.
The Berlin court, though by no means so brilliant at first sight and far smaller,—since the most I ever saw in any gathering in the Imperial Schloss at the German capital was about fifteen hundred,—was really much more attractive, its greater interest arising from the presence of persons distinguished in every field. While at St. Petersburg one meets only civil and military functionaries, at Berlin one meets not only these, but the most prominent men in politics, science, literature, art, and the higher ranges of agriculture, commerce, and manufacture. At St. Petersburg, when I wished to meet such men, who added to the peaceful glories of the empire, I went to their houses in the university quarter; at Berlin I met them also at court.
As to court episodes during my stay, one especially dwells in my memory. On arriving rather early one evening, I noticed a large, portly man, wearing the broad red ribbon of the Legion of Honor, and at once saw that he could be no other than Prince Victor Napoleon, the Bonaparte heir to the crown of France. Though he was far larger than the great Napoleon, and had the eyes of his mother, Princess Clothilde, his likeness to his father, Prince Napoleon ("Plon-Plon"), whom I had seen years before at Paris, was very marked. Presently his brother, who had just arrived from his regiment in the Caucasus, came up and began conversation with him. Both seemed greatly vexed at something. On the arrival of the Italian ambassador, he naturally went up and spoke to the prince, who was the grandson of King Victor Emmanuel; but the curious thing was that the French ambassador, Count de Montebello, and the prince absolutely cut each other. Neither seemed to have the remotest idea that the other was in the room, and this in spite of the fact that the Montebellos are descended from Jean Lannes, the stable-boy whom Napoleon made a marshal of France and Duke of Montebello, thus founding the family to which the French ambassador belonged. The show of coolness on the part of the imperial family evidently vexed the French pretender. He was, indeed, allowed to enter the room behind the imperial train; but he was not permitted to sit at the imperial table, being relegated to a distant and very modest seat. I was informed that, though the Emperor could, and did, have the prince to dine with him in private, he felt obliged, in view of the relations between Russia and the French Republic, to carefully avoid any special recognition of him in public.
A far more brilliant visitor was the Ameer of Bokhara. I have already spoken of the way in which he was placed upon the throne by General Annenkof. He now came to visit the Czar as his suzerain, and with him came his eldest son and a number of his great men. The satrap himself was a singular combination of splendor and stoicism, wearing a gorgeous dress covered with enormous jewels, and observing the brilliant scenes about him with hardly ever a word. Even when he took his place at the table beside the Empress he was very uncommunicative. Facing the imperial table sat his great men; and their embarrassment was evident, one special source of it being clearly their small acquaintance with European table utensils. The Ameer brought to St. Petersburg splendid presents of gold and jewels, after the Oriental fashion, and also the heir to his throne, whom he left as a sort of hostage to be educated at the capital.
An eminent Russian who was in very close relations with the Ameer gave me some account of this young man. Although he was then perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age, he was, as regards conduct, a mere baby, bursting out into loud boohooing the first time he was presented to the Emperor, and showing himself very immature in various ways. Curiously enough, when he was taken to the cadet school he was found to be unable to walk for any considerable distance. He had always been made to squat and be carried, and the first thing to be done toward making him a Russian officer was to train him in using his legs. He took an especial fancy to bicycles: in the park attached to the cadet school he became very proficient in the use of them; and, returning to Bokhara at his first vacation, he took with him, not only a bicycle for himself, but another for his brother. Shortly after his home-coming, the Ameer and court being assembled, he gave a display of his powers; but, to his great mortification, the Ameer was disgusted: the idea that the heir to the throne should be seen working his way in this fashion was contrary to all the ideas of that potentate, and he ordered the bicycles to be at once destroyed. But on the young man's return to St. Petersburg he bought another; resumed his exercises upon it; and will, no doubt, when he comes to the throne, introduce that form of locomotion into the Mohammedan regions of Northern Asia.
Among the greater displays of my final year were a wedding and a funeral. The former was that of the Emperor's eldest daughter, the Grand Duchess Xenia, at Peterhof. It was very brilliant, and was conducted after the usual Russian fashion, its most curious features being the leading of the couple about the altar and their drinking out of the same cup.
Coming from the ceremony in the chapel, we of the diplomatic corps found ourselves, at the foot of the great staircase, in a crush. But just at the side was a large door of plate-glass opening upon an outer gallery communicating with other parts of the palace; and standing guard at this door was one of the "Nubians" whom I had noticed, from time to time, at the Winter Palace—an enormous creature, very black, very glossy, with the most brilliant costume possible. I had heard much of these "Nubians," and had been given to understand that they had been brought from Central Africa by special command. At great assemblages in the imperial palaces, just before the doors were flung open for the entrance of the Majesties and their cortege, two great black hands were always to be seen put through the doors, ready to open them in an instant—the hands of two of these "Nubians." I had built up in my mind quite a structure of romance regarding them, and now found myself in the crush at the foot of the grand staircase near one of them. As I looked up at him he said to me, with deferential compassion, "If you please, sah, would n't you like to git out of de crowd, sah, through dis yere doah?" By his dialect he was evidently one of my own compatriots, and, though in a sort of daze at this discovery, I mechanically accepted his invitation; whereupon he opened the door, let us through, and kept back the crowd.
Splendid, too, in its way, was the funeral of the Grand Duchess Catherine at the Fortress Church. It was very impressive, almost as much so as the funeral of the Emperor Nicholas, which I had attended at the same place nearly forty years before. The Emperor Alexander III, with his brothers, had followed the hearse and coffin on foot, and his Majesty was evidently greatly fatigued. Soon he retired to take rest, and then it was that we began to have the first suspicion of his fatal illness. Up to that time there had been skepticism. Very few had thought it possible that a man of such giant frame and strength could be seriously ill, but now there could be no doubt of it. Standing near him, I noticed his pallor and evident fatigue, and was not surprised that he twice left the place, in order, evidently, to secure rest. There was need of it. In the Russian Church the rule is that all must stand, and all of us stood from about ten in the morning until half-past one in the afternoon; but two high officials covered with gold lace and orders, bearing tapers by the side of the grand duchess's coffin, toppled over from exhaustion and were removed.
As to other spectacles, one of the most splendid was the midnight mass on Easter eve. At my former visit I had seen this at the Kazan Church; now we went to the Cathedral of St. Isaac. The ceremony was brilliant almost beyond conception, as in the old days; the music was heavenly; and, as the clocks struck twelve, the cannons of the fortress of Peter and Paul boomed forth, all the bells of the city began chiming, and a light, appearing at the extreme end of the church, seemed to run in all directions through the vast assemblage, and presently all seemed ablaze. Every person in the church was holding a taper, and within a few moments all of these had been lighted.
Most beautiful of all was the music at another of these Easter ceremonies, when the choristers, robed in white, came forth from the sanctuary and sang hymns by the side of the empty sepulcher under the dome.
The singing by the choirs in Russia is, in many respects, more beautiful than similar music in any other part of the world, save that of the cathedral choir of Berlin at its best. I have heard the Sistine, Pauline, and Lateran choirs at Rome; and they are certainly far inferior to these Russian singers. No instrumental music is allowed and no voices of women. The choristers are men and boys. There are several fine choirs in St. Petersburg, but three are famous: that of the Emperor at the Winter Palace Chapel, that of the Archbishop at the Cathedral of St. Isaac, and that of the Nevski Monastery. Occasionally there were concerts when all were combined, and nothing in its way could be more perfect.
Operatic music also receives careful attention. Enormous subsidies are given to secure the principal singers of Europe at the Italian, French, and German theaters; but the most lavish outlay is upon the national opera: it is considered a matter of patriotism to maintain it at the highest point possible. The Russian Opera House is an enormous structure, and the finest piece which I saw given there was Glinka's "Life for the Czar." Being written by a Russian, on a patriotic subject, and from an ultra-loyal point of view, everything had been done to mount it in the most superb way possible: never have I seen more wonderful scenic effects, the whole culminating in the return of one of the old fighting czars to the Kremlin after his struggle with the Poles. The stage was enormous and the procession magnificent. The personages in it were the counterparts, as regarded dress, of the persons they represented, exact copies having been made of the robes and ornaments of the old Muscovite boyards, as preserved in the Kremlin Museum; and at the close of this procession came a long line of horses, in the most superb trappings imaginable, attended by guards and outriders in liveries of barbaric splendor, and finally the imperial coach. We were enabled to catch sight of the Cossack guards on the front of it, when, just as the body of the coach was coming into view, down came the curtain. This was the result of a curious prohibition, enforced in all theaters in Russia: on no account is it permitted to represent the sacred person of any emperor upon the stage.
As to other music, very good concerts were occasionally given, the musicians being generally from Western Europe.
Very pleasant were sundry excursions, especially during the long summer twilight; and among these were serenade parties given by various members of the diplomatic corps. In a trim steam-yacht, and carrying singers with us, we sailed among the islands in the midnight hours, stopping, from time to time, to greet friends occupying cottages there.
As to excursions in the empire, I have already given, in my chapter on Tolstoi, some account of my second visit to Moscow; and a more complete account is reserved for a chapter on "Sundry Excursions and Experiences." The same may be said, also, regarding an excursion taken, during one of my vacations, in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
In 1893, a new administration having brought into power the party opposed to my own, I tendered to President Cleveland my resignation, and, in the full expectation that it would be accepted, gave up my apartment; but as, instead of an acceptance, there came a very kind indication of the President's confidence, good-will, and preference for my continuance at my post, I remained in the service a year longer, occupying my odds and ends of time in finishing my book. Then, feeling the need of going elsewhere to revise it, I wrote the President, thanking him for his confidence and kindness, but making my resignation final, and naming the date when it would be absolutely necessary for me to leave Russia. A very kind letter from him was the result; the time I had named was accepted; and on the 1st of November, 1894, to my especial satisfaction, I was once more free from official duty.
AS MEMBER OF THE VENEZUELA COMMISSION—1895-1896
Early one morning, just at the end of 1895, as I was at work before the blazing fire in my library at the university, the winter storms howling outside, a card was brought in bearing the name of Mr. Hamlin, assistant secretary of the treasury of the United States. While I was wondering what, at that time of the year, could have brought a man from such important duties in Washington to the bleak hills of central New York, he entered, and soon made known his business, which was to tender me, on the part of President Cleveland, a position upon the commission which had been authorized by Congress to settle the boundary between the republic of Venezuela and British Guiana.
The whole matter had attracted great attention, not only in the United States, but throughout the world. The appointment of the commission was the result of a chain of circumstances very honorable to the President, to his Secretary of State, Mr. Olney, and to Congress. For years the Venezuelan government had been endeavoring to establish a frontier between its territory and that of its powerful neighbor, but without result; and meantime the British boundary seemed to be pushed more and more into the territory of the little Spanish-American republic. For years, too, Venezuela had appealed to the United States, and the United States had appealed to Great Britain. American secretaries of state and ambassadors at the Court of St. James had "trusted," and "regretted," and had "the honor to renew assurances of their most distinguished consideration"; but all in vain. At last the matter had been presented by Secretary Olney to the government of Lord Salisbury; and now, to Mr. Olney's main despatch on the subject, Lord Salisbury, after some months' delay, had returned an answer declining arbitration, and adding that international law did not recognize the Monroe Doctrine. This seemed even more than cool; for, when one remembered that the Monroe Doctrine was at first laid down with the approval of Great Britain, that it was glorified in Parliament and in the British press of 1823 and the years following, and that Great Britain had laid down policies in various parts of the earth, especially in the Mediterranean and in the far East, which she insisted that all other powers should respect without reference to any sanction by international law, this argument seemed almost insulting.
So it evidently seemed to Mr. Cleveland. Probably no man less inclined to demagogism or to a policy of adventure ever existed; but as he looked over the case his American instincts were evidently aroused. He saw then, what is clear to everybody now, that it was the time of all times for laying down, distinctly and decisively, the American doctrine on the subject. He did so, and in a message to Congress proposed that, since Great Britain would not intrust the finding of a boundary to arbitration, the United States should appoint commissioners to find what the proper boundary was, and then, having ascertained it, should support its sister American republic in maintaining it.
Of course the President was attacked from all sides most bitterly; even those called "the better element" in the Republican and Democratic parties, who had been his ardent supporters, now became his bitter enemies. He was charged with "demagogism" and "jingoism," but he kept sturdily on. Congress, including the great body of the Republicans, supported him; the people at large stood by him; and, as a result, a commission to determine the boundary was appointed and began its work in Washington, the commissioners being, in the order named by the President, David J. Brewer of Kansas, a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; Chief Justice Alvey of the District of Columbia; Andrew D. White of New York; F. R. Coudert, an eminent member of the New York bar; and Daniel C. Gilman of Maryland, President of Johns Hopkins University.
On our arrival in Washington there was much discouragement among us. We found ourselves in a jungle of geographical and legal questions, with no clue in sight leading anywhither. The rights of Great Britain had been derived in 1815, from the Netherlands; the rights of Venezuela had been derived, about 1820, from Spain; but to find the boundary separating the two in that vast territory, mainly unsettled, between the Orinoco and the Essequibo rivers, seemed impossible.
The original rights of the Netherlands had been derived from Spain by the treaty of Munster in 1648; and on examining that enormous document, which settled weighty questions in various parts of the world, after the life-and-death struggle, religious, political, and military, which had gone on for nearly eighty years, one little clause arrested our attention: that, namely, in which the Spaniards, despite their bitter hatred of the Dutch, agreed that the latter might carry on warlike operations against "certain other people" with reference to territorial rights in America. These "certain other people" were not precisely indicated; and we hoped, by finding who they were, to get a clue to the fundamental facts of the case. Straightway two of our three lawyers, Mr. Justice Brewer and Mr. Coudert, grappled on this question, one of them taking the ground that these "other people" referred to were the Caribbean Indians who had lived just south of the mouth of the Orinoco, and had been friendly to the Dutch but implacable toward the Spaniards, and that their territory was to be considered as virtually Dutch, and, therefore, as having passed finally to England. But the other disputant insisted that it referred to the Brazilians and had no relation to the question with which we had to deal. During two whole sessions this ground was fought over in a legal way by these gentlemen, with great acumen, the rest of us hardly putting in a word.
At the beginning of the third session I ventured a remonstrance, saying that it was a historical, and not a legal, question; that it could not possibly be settled by legal argument; that the first thing to know was why the clause was inserted in the treaty, and that the next thing was to find, from the whole history leading up to it, who those "other persons" thus vaguely referred to and left by the Spaniards to the tender mercies of the Dutch might be; and I insisted that this, being a historical question, must be solved by historical experts. The commission acknowledged the justice of this; and on my nomination we called to our aid Mr. George Lincoln Burr, professor of history in Cornell University. It is not at all the very close friendship which has existed for so many years between us which prompts the assertion that, of all historical scholars I have ever known, he is among the very foremost, by his powers of research, his tenacity of memory, his almost preternatural accuracy, his ability to keep the whole field of investigation in his mind, and his fidelity to truth and justice. He was set at the problem, and given access to the libraries of Congress and of the State Department, as also to the large collections of books and maps which had been placed at the disposal of the commission. Of these the most important were those of Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin. Curious as it may seem, this latter institution, far in the interior of our country, possesses a large and most valuable collection of maps relating to the colonization history of South America. Within two weeks Professor Burr reported, and never did a report give more satisfaction. He had unraveled, historically, the whole mystery, and found that, the government of Brazil having played false to both Spaniards and Dutch, Spain had allowed the Netherlands to take vengeance for the vexations of both. We also had the exceedingly valuable services, as to maps and early colonization history, of Mr. Justin Winsor, librarian of Harvard University, eminent both as historian and geographer, and of Professor Jameson of Brown University, who had also distinguished himself in these fields. Besides these, Mr. Marcus Baker of the United States Coast Survey aided us, from day to day, in mapping out any territories that we wished especially to study.
All this work was indispensable. At the very beginning of our sessions there had been laid before us the first of a series of British Blue Books on the whole subject; and, with all my admiration for the better things in British history, politics, and life, candor compels me to say that it was anything but creditable to the men immediately responsible for it. It made several statements that were absolutely baseless, and sought to rest them upon authorities which, when examined, were found not to bear in the slightest degree the interpretation put upon them. I must confess that nothing, save, perhaps, the conduct of British "experts" regarding the Behring Sea question, has ever come so near shaking my faith in "British fair play." Nor were the American commissioners alone in judging this document severely. Critics broke forth, even in the London "Times," denouncing it, until it was supplanted by another, which was fair and just.
I, of course, impute nothing to the leading British statesmen who had charge of the whole Venezuelan question. The culprits were, undoubtedly, sundry underlings whose zeal outran their honesty. They apparently thought that in the United States, which they probably considered as new, raw, and too much engaged in dollar-hunting to produce scholars, their citations from authorities more or less difficult of access would fail to be critically examined. But their conduct was soon exposed, and even their principals joined in repudiating some of their fundamental statements. Professor Burr was sent abroad, and at The Hague was able to draw treasures from the library and archives regarding the old Dutch occupation and to send a mass of important material for our deliberations. In London also he soon showed his qualities, and these were acknowledged even by some leading British geographers. The latter had at first seemed inclined to indulge in what a German might call "tendency" geography; but the clearness, earnestness, and honesty of our agent soon gained their respect, and, after that, the investigators of both sides worked harmoniously together. While the distinguished lawyers above named had main charge of the legal questions, President Gilman, who had in his early life been professor of physical and general geography at Yale, was given charge of the whole matter of map-seeking and -making; and to me, with the others, was left the duty of studying and reporting upon the material as brought in. Taking up my residence at Washington, I applied myself earnestly to reading through masses of books, correspondence, and other documents, and studied maps until I felt as if I had lived in the country concerned and was personally acquainted with the Dutch governors on the Cuyuni and the Spanish monks on the Orinoco. As a result lines more or less tentative were prepared by each of us, Judge Brewer and myself agreeing very closely, and the others not being very distant from us at any important point. One former prime minister of Great Britain I learned, during this investigation, to respect greatly,—Lord Aberdeen, whom I well remembered as discredited and driven from power during my stay in Russia at the time of the Crimean War. He was wise enough in those days to disbelieve in war with Russia, and to desire a solution of the Turkish problem by peace, but was overruled, and the solution was attempted by a war most costly in blood and treasure, which was apparently successful, but really a failure. He was driven from his post with ignominy; and I well remembered seeing a very successful cartoon in "Punch" at that period, representing him, wearing coronet and mantle and fast asleep, at the helm of the ship of state, which was rolling in the trough of the sea and apparently about to founder.
Since that time his wisdom has, I think, been recognized; and I am now glad to acknowledge the fact that, of all the many British statesmen who dealt with the Venezuelan question, he was clearly the most just. The line he drew seemed to me the fairest possible. He did not attempt to grasp the mouth of the Orinoco, nor did he meander about choice gold-fields or valuable strategic points, seeking to include them. The Venezuelans themselves had shown willingness to accept his proposal; but alleged, as their reason for not doing so, that the British government had preached to them regarding their internal policy so offensively that self-respect forbade them to acquiesce in any part of it.
Toward this Aberdeen line we tended more and more; and in the sequel we heard, with very great satisfaction, that the Arbitration Tribunal at Paris had practically adopted this line, which we of the commission had virtually agreed upon. It need hardly be stated that, each side having at the beginning of the arbitration claimed the whole vast territory between the Orinoco and the Essequibo, neither was quite satisfied with the award. But I believe it to be thoroughly just, and that it forms a most striking testimony to the value of international arbitration in such questions, as a means, not only of preserving international peace, but of arriving at substantial justice.
Our deliberations and conclusions were, of course, kept secret. It was of the utmost importance that nothing should get out regarding them. Our sessions were delayed and greatly prolonged, partly on account of the amount of work to be done in studying the many questions involved, and partly because we hoped that, more and more, British opinion would tend to the submission of the whole question to the judgment of a proper international tribunal; and that Lord Salisbury, the prime minister, who, in his rather cynical, "Saturday-Review," high-Tory way, had scouted the idea of arbitration, would at last be brought to it. Of course, every thinking Englishman looked with uneasiness toward the possibility that a line might be laid down by the United States which it would feel obliged to maintain, and which would necessitate its supporting Venezuela, at all hazards, against Great Britain.
The statesmanship of Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Olney finally triumphed. Most fortunately for both parties, Great Britain had at Washington a most eminent diplomatist, whose acquaintance I then made, but whom I afterward came to know, respect, and admire even more during the Peace Conference at The Hague—Sir Julian, afterward Lord, Pauncefote. His wise counsels prevailed; Lord Salisbury receded from his position; Great Britain agreed to arbitration; and the question entered into a new stage, which was finally ended by the award of the Arbitration Tribunal at Paris, presided over by M. de Martens of St. Petersburg, and having on its bench the chief justices of the two nations and two of the most eminent judges of their highest courts. It is with pride and satisfaction that I find their award agreeing, substantially, with the line which, after so much trouble, our own commission had worked out. Arbitration having been decided upon, our commission refrained from laying down a frontier-line, but reported a mass of material, some fourteen volumes in all, with an atlas containing about seventy-five maps, all of which formed a most valuable contribution to the material laid before the Court of Arbitration at Paris.
It was a happy solution of the whole question, and it was a triumph of American diplomacy in the cause of right and justice.
I may mention, in passing, one little matter which throws light upon a certain disgraceful system to which I have had occasion to refer at various other times in these memoirs; and I do so now in the hope of keeping people thinking upon one of the most wretched abuses in the United States. I have said above that we were, of course, obliged to maintain the strictest secrecy. To have allowed our conclusions to get out would have thwarted the whole purpose of the investigation; but a person who claimed to represent one of the leading presses in Washington seemed to think that consideration of no special importance, and came to our rooms, virtually insisting on receiving information. Having been told that it could not be given him, he took his revenge by inserting a sensational paragraph in the papers regarding the extravagance of the commission. He informed the world that we were expending large sums of public money in costly furniture, in rich carpets, and especially in splendid silverware. The fact was that the rooms were furnished very simply, with plain office furniture, with cheap carpets, and with a safe for locking up the more precious documents intrusted to us and such papers as it was important to keep secret. The "silverware" consisted of two very plain plated jugs for ice-water; and I may add that after our adjournment the furniture was so wisely sold that very nearly the whole expenditure for it was returned into the treasury.
These details would be utterly trivial were it not that, with others which I have given in other places, they indicate that prostitution of the press to sensation-mongering which the American people should realize and reprove.
While I have not gone into minor details of our work, I have thought that thus much might be interesting. Of course, had these reminiscences been written earlier, this sketch of the interior history of the commission would have been omitted; but now, the award of the Paris tribunal having been made, there is no reason why secrecy should be longer maintained. Never, before that award, did any of us, I am sure, indicate to any person what our view as to the line between the possessions of Venezuela and Great Britain was; but now we may do so, and I feel that all concerned may be congratulated on the fact that two tribunals, each seeking to do justice, united on the same line, and that line virtually the same which one of the most just of British statesmen had approved many years before.
During this Venezuela work in Washington I made acquaintance with many leading men in politics; and among those who interested me most was Mr. Carlisle of Kentucky, Secretary of the Treasury. He had been member of Congress, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and senator, and was justly respected and admired. Perhaps the most peculiar tribute that I ever heard paid to a public man was given him once in the House of Representatives by my friend Mr. Hiscock, then representative, and afterward senator, from the State of New York. Seated by his side in the House, and noting the rulings of Mr. Carlisle as Speaker, I asked, "What sort of man is this Speaker of yours?" Mr. Hiscock answered, "As you know, he is one of the strongest of Democrats, and I am one of the strongest of Republicans; yet I will say this: that my imagination is not strong enough to conceive of his making an unfair ruling or doing an unfair thing against the party opposed to him in this House."
Mr. Carlisle's talents were of a very high order. His speeches carried great weight; and in the campaign which came on later between Mr. McKinley and Mr. Bryan, he, in my opinion, and indeed in the opinion, I think, of every leading public man, did a most honorable thing when he deliberately broke from his party, sacrificed, apparently, all hopes of political preferment, and opposed the regular Democratic candidate. His speech before the working-men of Chicago on the issues of that period was certainly one of the two most important delivered during the first McKinley campaign, the other being that of Carl Schurz.
Another man whom I saw from time to time during this period was the Vice-President, Mr. Stevenson. I first met him at a public dinner in New York, where we sat side by side; but we merely talked on generalities. But the next time I met him was at a dinner given by the Secretary of War, and there I found that he was one of the most admirable raconteurs I had ever met. After a series of admirable stories, one of the party said to me: "He could tell just as good stories as those for three weeks running and never repeat himself."
One of these stories by the Vice-President, if true, threw a curious light over the relations of President Lincoln with three men very distinguished in American annals. It was as follows: One day, shortly before the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, a visitor, finding Mr. Lincoln evidently in melancholy mood, said to him, "Mr. President, I am sorry to find you not feeling so well as at my last visit." Mr. Lincoln replied: "Yes, I am troubled. One day the best of our friends from the border States come in and insist that I shall not issue an Emancipation Proclamation, and that, if I do so, the border States will virtually cast in their lot with the Southern Confederacy. Another day, Charles Sumner, Thad Stevens, and Ben Wade come in and insist that if I do not issue such a proclamation the North will be utterly discouraged and the Union wrecked,—and, by the way, these three men are coming in this very afternoon." At this moment his expression changed, his countenance lighted up, and he said to the visitor, who was from the West, "Mr. ——, did you ever go to a prairie school?" "No," said the visitor, "I never did." "Well," said Mr. Lincoln, "I did, and it was a very poor school, and we were very poor folks,—too poor to have regular reading-books, and so we brought our Bibles and read from them. One morning the chapter was from the Book of Daniel, and a little boy who sat next me went all wrong in pronouncing the names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The teacher had great difficulty in setting him right, and before he succeeded was obliged to scold the boy and cuff him for his stupidity. The nest verse came to me, and so the chapter went along down the class. Presently it started on its way back, and soon after I noticed that the little fellow began crying. On this I asked him, 'What's the matter with you?' and he answered, 'Don't you see? Them three miserable cusses are coming back to me again.'"
I also at that period made the acquaintance of Senator Gray of Delaware, who seemed to me ideally fitted for his position as a member of the Upper House in Congress. Speaker Reed also made a great impression upon me as a man of honesty, lucidity, and force. The Secretary of State, Mr. Olney, I saw frequently, and was always impressed by the sort of bulldog tenacity which had gained his victory over Lord Salisbury in the arbitration matter.
But to give even the most hasty sketch of the members of the Supreme Court, the cabinet, and of both houses of Congress whom I met would require more time than is at my disposal.
This stay in Washington I enjoyed much. Our capital city is becoming the seat of a refined hospitality which makes it more and more attractive. Time was, and that not very long since, when it was looked upon as a place of exile by diplomatists, and as repulsive by many of our citizens; but all that is of the past: the courtesy shown by its inhabitants is rapidly changing its reputation.
Perhaps, of all the social enjoyments of that time, the most attractive to me was an excursion of the American Geographical Society to Monticello, the final residence of President Jefferson. Years before, while visiting the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, I had been intensely interested in that creation of Mr. Jefferson and in the surroundings of his home; but the present occupant of Monticello, having been greatly annoyed by visitors, was understood to be reluctant to allow any stranger to enter the mansion, and I would not intrude upon him. But now house and grounds were freely thrown open, and upon a delightful day. The house itself was a beautiful adaptation of the architecture which had reached its best development at the time of Jefferson's stay in France; and the decorations, like those which I had noted years before in some of the rooms of the university, were of an exquisite Louis Seize character.
Jefferson's peculiarities, also, came out in various parts of the house. Perhaps the most singular was his bed, occupying the whole space of an archway between two rooms, one of which, on the left, served as a dressing-room for him, and the other, on the right, for Mrs. Jefferson; and, there being no communication between them save by a long circuit through various rooms, it was evident that the ex-President had made up his mind that he would not have his intimate belongings interfered with by any of the women of the household, not even by his wife.
But most attractive of all was the view through the valleys and over the neighboring hills as we sat at our picnic-tables on the lawn. Having read with care every line of Jefferson's letters ever published, and some writings of his which have never been printed, my imagination was vivid. It enabled me to see him walking through the rooms and over the estate, receiving distinguished guests under the portico, discussing with them at his dinner-table the great questions of the day, and promulgating his theories, some of which were so beneficent and others so noxious.
The only sad part of this visit was to note the destruction, by the fire not long before, of the columns in front of the rotunda of the university. I especially mourned over the calcined remains of their capitals, for into these Jefferson had really wrought his own heart. With a passion for the modern adaptation of classic architecture, he had poured the very essence of his artistic feelings into them. He longed to see every stroke which his foreign sculptors made upon them. Daily, according to the chronicle of the time, he rode over to see how they progressed, and, between his visits, frequently observed them through his telescope; and now all their work was but calcined limestone. Fortunately, the burning of the old historical buildings aroused public spirit; large sums of money were poured into the university treasury; and the work was in process which, it is to be hoped, will restore the former beauty of the colonnade and largely increase the buildings and resources of the institution.
During my work upon the commission I learned to respect more and more the calm, steady, imperturbable character of Mr. Cleveland. Of course the sensational press howled continually, and the press which was considered especially enlightened and which had steadily supported him up to this period, was hardly less bitter; but he persevered. During the period taken by the commission for its work, both the American and British peoples had time for calm thought. Lord Salisbury, especially, had time to think better of it; and when he at last receded from his former haughty position and accepted arbitration, Mr. Cleveland and the State Department gained one of the most honorable victories in the history of American diplomacy.
AS AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY—1897-1903
On the 1st of April, 1897, President McKinley nominated me ambassador to Berlin; and, the appointment having been duly confirmed by the Senate, I visited Washington to obtain instructions and make preparations. One of the most important of these preparations was the securing of a second secretary for the embassy. A long list of applicants for this position had appeared, several with strong backing from party magnates, cabinet officers, and senators; but, though all of them seemed excellent young men, very few had as yet any experience likely to be serviceable, and a look over the list suggested many misgivings. There was especially needed just then at Berlin a second secretary prepared to aid in disentangling sundry important questions already before the embassy. The first secretary, whom no person thought of displacing, was ideally fitted for his place—in fact, was fitted for any post in the diplomatic service; but a second secretary was needed to take, as an expert, a mass of work on questions relating to commerce and manufactures which were just then arising between the two nations in shapes new and even threatening.
While the whole matter was under advisement, there appeared a young man from Ohio, with no backing of any sort save his record. He had distinguished himself at one of our universities as a student in political economy and international law; had then taken a fellowship in the same field at another university; and had finally gone to Germany and there taken his degree, his graduating thesis being on "The Commercial and Diplomatic Relations between the United States and Germany." In preparing this he had been allowed to work up a mass of material in our embassy archives, and had afterward expanded his thesis into a book which had gained him credit. As the most serious questions between the two countries were commercial, he seemed a godsend; and, going to the President, I stated the matter fully. Though the young man was as far as possible from having any "pull" in the State from which he came, was not at all known either to the President or the Secretary of State or assistant secretary of state, all of whom came from Ohio, and was equally unknown to either of the Ohio senators or to any representative, and though nothing whatever was known of his party affiliations, the President, on hearing a statement of the case, ignored all pressure in favor of rival candidates, sent in his nomination to the Senate, and it was duly confirmed.
The next thing was the appointment of a military attache. The position is by no means a sinecure. Our government must always feel the importance of receiving the latest information as to the armies and navies of the great powers of the world; and therefore it is that, very wisely, it has attached military and naval experts to various leading embassies. It is important that these be not only thoroughly instructed and far-seeing, but gentlemen in the truest sense of the word; and I therefore presented a graduate of West Point who, having conducted an expedition in Alaska and served with his regiment on the Western plains most creditably, had done duty as military attache with me during my mission at St. Petersburg, and had proved himself, in every respect, admirable. Though he had no other supporter at the national capital, the Secretary of War, Governor Alger, granted my request, and he was appointed.
These matters, to many people apparently trivial, are here alluded to because it is so often charged that political considerations outweigh all others in such appointments, and because this charge was frequently made against President McKinley. The simple fact is that, with the multitude of nominations to be made, the appointing power cannot have personal knowledge of the applicants, and must ask the advice of persons who have known them and can, to some extent, be held responsible for them. In both the cases above referred to, political pressure of the strongest in favor of other candidates went for nothing against the ascertained interest of the public service.
The Secretary of State at this time was Mr. John Sherman. I had known him somewhat during his career as senator and Secretary of the Treasury, and had for his character, abilities, and services the most profound respect. I now saw him often. He had become somewhat infirm, but his mind seemed still clear; whether at the State Department or in social circles his reminiscences of public men and affairs were always interesting, and one of these confirmed an opinion I have expressed in another chapter. One night, at a dinner-party, the discussion having fallen upon President Andrew Johnson, and some slighting remarks having been made regarding him by one of our company, Mr. Sherman, who had been one of President Johnson's strongest opponents, declared him a man of patriotic motives as well as of great ability, and insisted that the Republican party had made a great mistake in attempting to impeach him. In the course of the conversation one of the foremost members of the House of Representatives, a man of the highest standing and character, stated that he had himself, when a young man, aided Mr. Johnson as secretary, and that he was convinced that the ex-President could write very little more than his signature. We had all heard the old story that after he had become of age his newly wedded wife had taught him the alphabet, but it was known to very few that he remained to the last so imperfectly equipped.
Of conversations with many other leading men of that period at Washington I remember that, at the house of my friend Dr. Hill, afterward assistant secretary of state, mention being made of the Blaine campaign, an eminent justice of the Supreme Court said that Mr. Blaine always insisted to the end of his life that he had lost the Presidency on account of the Rev. Dr. Burchard's famous alliteration, "Rum, Romanism, and rebellion," and that the whole was really a Democratic trick. Neither the judge nor any other person present believed that Mr. Blaine's opinion in this matter was well founded.
An important part of my business during this visit was to confer with the proper persons at Washington, including the German ambassador, Baron von Thielmann, regarding sundry troublesome questions between the United States and Germany. The addition to the American tariff of a duty against the sugar imports from every other country equivalent to the sugar bounty allowed manufactures in that country had led to special difficulties. It had been claimed by Germany that this additional duty was contrary to the most-favored-nation clause in our treaties; and, unfortunately, the decisions on our side had been conflicting, Mr. Gresham, Secretary of State under Mr. Cleveland, having allowed that the German contention was right, and his successor, Mr. Olney, having presented an elaborate argument to show that it was wrong. On this point, conversations, not only with the Secretary of State and the German ambassador, but with leading members of the committees of Congress having the tariff in charge, and especially with Mr. Allison and Mr. Aldrich of the Senate and Governor Dingley of the House, showed me that the case was complicated, the various interests somewhat excited against each other, and that my work in dealing with them was to be trying.
There were also several other questions no less difficult, those relating to the exportation of American products to Germany and the troubles already brewing in Samoa being especially prominent; so that it was with anything but an easy feeling that, on the 29th of May, I sailed from New York.
On the 12th of June I presented the President's letter of credence to the Emperor William II. The more important of my new relations to the sovereign had given me no misgivings; for during my stay in Berlin as minister, eighteen years before, I had found him very courteous, he being then the heir apparent; but with the ceremonial part it was otherwise, and to that I looked forward almost with dismay.
For, since my stay in Berlin, the legation had been raised to an embassy. It had been justly thought by various patriotic members of Congress that it was incompatible, either with the dignity or the interests of so great a nation as ours, to be represented simply by a minister plenipotentiary, who, when calling at the Foreign Office to transact business, might be obliged to wait for hours, and even until the next day, while representatives from much less important countries who ranked as ambassadors went in at once. The change was good, but in making it Congress took no thought of some things which ought to have been provided for. Of these I shall speak later; but as regards the presentation, the trying feature to me was that there was a great difference between this and any ceremonial which I had previously experienced, whether as commissioner at Santo Domingo and Paris, or as minister at Berlin and St. Petersburg. At the presentation of a minister plenipotentiary he goes in his own carriage to the palace at the time appointed; is ushered into the presence of the sovereign; delivers to him, with some simple speech, the autograph letter from the President; and then, after a kindly answer, all is finished. But an ambassador does not escape so easily. Under a fiction of international law he is regarded as the direct representative of the sovereign power of his country, and is treated in some sense as such. Therefore it was that, at the time appointed, a high personage of the court, in full uniform, appeared at my hotel accompanied by various other functionaries, with three court carriages, attendants, and outriders, deputed to conduct me to the palace. Having been escorted to the first of the carriages,—myself, in plain citizen's dress, on the back seat; my escort, in gorgeous uniform, facing me; and my secretaries and attaches in the other carriages,—we took up our march in solemn procession—carriages, outriders, and all—through the Wilhelmstrasse and Unter den Linden. On either side was a gaping crowd; at the various corps de garde bodies of troops came out and presented arms; and on our arrival at the palace there was a presentation of arms and beating of drums which, for the moment, somewhat abashed me. It was an ordeal more picturesque than agreeable.
The reception by the Emperor was simple, courteous, and kindly. Neither of us made any set speech, but we discussed various questions, making reference to our former meeting and the changes which had occurred since. Among these changes I referred to the great improvement in Berlin, whereupon he said that he could not think the enormous growth of modern cities an advantage. My answer was that my reference was to the happy change in the architecture of Berlin rather than to its growth in population; that, during my first stay in the city, over forty years before, nearly all the main buildings were of brick and stucco, whereas there had now been a remarkable change from stucco to stone and to a much nobler style of architecture. We also discussed the standing of Germans in America and their relations to the United States. On my remarking that it was just eighteen years and one day since the first Emperor William had received me as minister in that same palace, he spoke of various things in the history of the intervening years; and then ensued an episode such as I had hardly expected. For just before leaving New York my old friend Frederick William Holls, after a dinner at his house on the Hudson, had given his guests examples of the music written by Frederick the Great, and one piece had especially interested us. It was a duet in which Mr. Holls played one part upon the organ, and his wife another upon the piano; and all of us were greatly impressed by the dignity and beauty of the whole. It had been brought to light and published by the present Emperor, and after the performance some one of the party remarked, in a jocose way, "You should express our thanks to his Majesty, when you meet him, for the pleasure which this music has given us." I thought nothing more of the subject until, just at the close of the conversation above referred to, it came into my mind; and on my mentioning it the Emperor showed at once a special interest, discussing the music from various points of view; and on my telling him that we were all surprised that it was not amateurish, but really profound in its harmonies and beautiful in its melodies, he dwelt upon the musical debt of Frederick the Great to Bach and the special influence of Bach upon him. This conversation recurred to me later, when the Emperor, in erecting the statue to Frederick the Great on the Avenue of Victory, placed on one side of it the bust of Marshal Schwerin, and on the other that of Johann Sebastian Bach, thus honoring the two men whom he considered most important during Frederick's reign.
After presenting my embassy secretaries and attaches, military and naval, I was conducted with them into the presence of the Empress, who won all our hearts by her kindly, unaffected greeting. On my recalling her entrance into Berlin as a bride, in her great glass coach, seventeen years before, on one of the coldest days I ever knew, she gave amusing details of her stately progress down the Linden on that occasion; and in response to my congratulations upon her six fine boys and her really charming little daughter, it was pleasant to see how
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,"
her eyes lighting up with pride and joy, and her conversation gladly turning to the children.
It may be added here that the present Empress seems to have broken the unfortunate spell which for about half a century hung over the queens and empresses of the house of Hohenzollern. I remember well that, among the Germans whom I knew in my Berlin-University days, all the sins of the period, political and religious, seemed to be traced to the influence of Queen Elizabeth, the consort of the reigning King Frederick William IV; and that, during my first official stay in the same capital as minister, a similar feeling was shown toward the Empress Augusta, in spite of her most kindly qualities and her devotion to every sort of charitable work; and that the crown princess, afterward the Empress Frederick, in spite of all her endowments of head and heart, was apparently more unpopular than either of her two predecessors. But the present Empress seems to have changed all this, and, doubtless, mainly by her devotion to her husband and her children, which apparently excludes from her mind all care for the great problems of the universe outside her family. So strong is this feeling of kindness toward her that it was comical to see, at one period during my stay, when she had been brought perilously near a most unpopular course of action, that everybody turned at once upon her agent in the matter, saying nothing about her, but belaboring him unmercifully, though he was one of the most attractive of men.
These presentations being finished, our return to the Kaiserhof Hotel was made with the same ceremony as that with which we had come to the palace, and happy was I when all was over.
Of the other official visits at this time, foremost in importance was that to the chancellor of the empire, Prince Hohenlohe. Although he was then nearly eighty years old and bent with age, his mind in discussing public matters was entirely clear. Various later conversations with him also come back to me—one, especially, at a dinner he gave at the chancellor's palace to President Harrison. On my recalling the fact that we were in the room where I had first dined with Bismarck, Prince Hohenlohe gave a series of reminiscences of his great predecessor, some of them throwing a strong light upon his ideas and methods. On one occasion, at my own table, he spoke very thoughtfully on German characteristics, and one of his remarks surprised me: it was that the besetting sin of the Germans is envy (Neid); in which remark one may see a curious tribute to the tenacity of the race, since Tacitus justified a similar opinion. He seemed rather melancholy; but he had a way of saying pungent things very effectively, and one of these attributed to him became widely known. He was publicly advocating a hotly contested canal bill, when an opponent said, "You will find a solid rock in the way of this measure"; to which the chancellor rejoined, "We will then do with the rock as Moses did: we will smite it and get water for our canal."
As to the next visit of importance, I was especially glad to find at the Foreign Office the newly appointed minister, Baron (now Count) von Bulow. During the first part of my former stay, as minister, I had done business at the Foreign Office with his father, and found him in every respect a most congenial representative of the German Government. It now appeared that father and son were amazingly like each other, not only in personal manner, but in their mode of dealing with public affairs. With the multitude of trying questions which pressed upon me as ambassador during nearly six years, it hardly seems possible that I should be still alive were it not for the genial, hearty intercourse, at the Foreign Office and elsewhere, with Count von Bulow. Sundry German papers, indeed, attacked him as yielding to much to me, and sundry American papers attacked me for yielding too much to him; but both of us exerted ourselves to do the best possible, each for his own country, and at the same time to preserve peace and increase good feeling.
Interesting was it to me, from my first to my last days in Berlin, to watch him in the discharge of his great duties, especially in his dealings with hostile forces in Parliament. No contrast could be more marked than that between his manner and that of his great predecessor, the iron chancellor. To begin with, no personalities could be more unlike. In the place of an old man, big, rumbling, heavy, fiery, minatory, objurgatory, there now stood a young man, quiet, self-possessed, easy in speech, friendly in manner, "sweet reasonableness" apparently his main characteristic, bubbling at times with humor, quick to turn a laugh on a hostile bungler, but never cruel; prompt in returning a serious thrust, but never venomous. Many of his speeches were masterpieces in their way of handling opponents. An attack which Bismarck would have met with a bludgeon, Bulow parried with weapons infinitely lighter, but in some cases really more effective. A very good example was on an occasion when the old charge of "Byzantinism" was flung at the present regime, to which he replied, not by a historical excursus or political disquisition, but by humorously deprecating a comparison of the good, kindly, steady-going, hard-working old privy councilors and other state officials of Berlin with fanatics, conspirators, and assassins who played leading parts at Constantinople during the decline of the Eastern Empire. In the most stormy discussions I never saw him other than serene; under real provocation he remained kindly; more than one bitter opponent he disarmed with a retort; but there were no poisoned wounds. The German Parliament, left to itself, can hardly be a peaceful body. The lines of cleavage between parties are many, and some of them are old chasms of racial dislike and abysses of religious and social hate; but the appearance of the young chancellor at his desk seemed, even on the darkest days, to bring sunshine.
Occasionally, during my walks in the Thiergarten, I met him on his way to Parliament; and, no matter how pressing public business might be, he found time to extend his walk and prolong our discussions. On one of these walks I alluded to a hot debate of the day before and to his suavity under provocation, when he answered: "Old ——, many years ago, gave me two counsels, and I have always tried to mind them. These were: 'Never worry; never lose your temper.'"
A pet phrase among his critics is that he is a diplomatist and not a statesman. Like so many antitheses, this is misleading. It may be just to say that his methods are, in general, those of a diplomatist rather than of a statesman; but certain it is that in various debates of my time he showed high statesmanlike qualities, and notably at the beginning of the war with China and in sundry later contests with the agrarians and socialists. Even his much criticized remark during the imbroglio between Turkey and Greece, picturing Germany as laying down her flute and retiring from the "European Concert," which to many seemed mere persiflage, was the humorous presentation of a policy dictated by statesmanship. Nor were all his addresses merely light and humorous; at times, when some deep sentiment had been stirred, he was eloquent, rising to the height of great arguments and taking broad views.
No one claims that he is a Richelieu, a William Pitt, or a Cavour; but the work of such men is not what the German Empire just now requires. The man needed at present is the one who can keep things GOING, who can minimize differences, resist extremists, turn aside marplots, soothe doctrinaires, and thus give the good germs in the empire a chance to grow. For this work it would be hard to imagine a better man than the present chancellor. His selection and retention by the Emperor prove that the present monarch has inherited two of the best qualities of his illustrious grandfather: skill in recognizing the right man and firmness in standing by him.
The next thing which an ambassador is expected to do, after visiting the great representatives of the empire, is to become acquainted with the official world in general.
But he must make acquaintance with these under his own roof. On his arrival he is expected to visit the Emperor and the princes of his family, the imperial chancellor, and the minister of foreign affairs, but all others are expected to visit him; hence the most pressing duty on my arrival was to secure a house, and, during three months following, all the time that I could possibly spare, and much that I ought not to have spared, was given to excursions into all parts of the city to find it. No house, no ambassador. A minister plenipotentiary can live during his first year in a hotel or in a very modest apartment; an ambassador cannot. He must have a spacious house fully furnished before he can really begin his duties; for, as above stated, one of the first of these duties is to make the acquaintance of the official world,—the ministers of the crown, the diplomatic corps, the members of the Imperial Parliament, the members of the Prussian legislature, the foremost men in the army and navy, and the leaders in public life generally,—and to this end he must give three very large receptions, at which all those personages visit him. This is a matter of which the court itself takes charge, so far as inviting and presenting the guests is concerned, high court officials being sent to stand by the side of the ambassador and ambassadress and make the introductions to them; but, as preliminary to all this, the first thing is to secure a residence fit for such receptions and for entertainments in connection with them.
Under the rules of European nations generally, these receptions must be held at the ambassador's permanent residence; but, unfortunately, such a thing as a large furnished apartment suitable for a foreign representative is rarely to be found in Berlin. In London and Paris such apartments are frequently offered, but in Berlin hardly ever. Every other nation which sends an ambassador to Berlin—and the same is true as regards the other large capitals of Europe—owns a suitable house, or at least holds a long lease of a commodious apartment; but, although President Cleveland especially recommended provision for such residence in one of his messages, nothing has yet been done by the American Congress, and the consequence is that every ambassador has to lose a great amount of valuable time, effort, and money in securing proper quarters, while his country loses much of its proper prestige and dignity by constant changes in the location of its embassy, and by the fact that the American representative is not infrequently obliged to take up his residence in unfit apartments and in an unsuitable part of the town.
After looking at dozens of houses, the choice was narrowed down to two; but, as one was nearly three miles from the center of the city, selection was made of the large apartment which I occupied during nearly four years, and which was bought from under my feet by one of the smallest governments in Europe as the residence for its minister. Immediately after my lease was signed there began a new series of troubles. Everything must be ready for the three receptions by the eighth day of January; and, being at the mercy of my landlord, I was at a great disadvantage. Though paying large rent for the apartment, I was obliged, at my own expense, to put it thoroughly in order, introducing electric light, perfecting heating apparatus, getting walls and floors in order, and doing a world of work which, under other circumstances, would have been done by the proprietor himself. As to furnishing, a peculiar difficulty arose. Berlin furnishers, as a rule, have only samples in stock, and a long time is required for completing sets. My former experience, when, as minister, I had been obliged to go through a similar ordeal, had shown me that the Berlin makers could never be relied upon to get the apartment furnished in time; and therefore it was that, having secured what was possible in Berlin, I was obliged to make large purchases at Dresden, London, and Paris, and to have the furniture from the last-named city hurried on to Berlin in special wadded cars, with attendants to put it in place. It was a labor and care to which no representative of the United States or of any other power ought to be subjected. The vexations and difficulties seemed unending; but at last carpenters, paper-hangers, electric-light men, furniture men, carpet-layers, upholsterers, and the like were driven from the house just five minutes before the chancellor of the empire arrived to open the first of these three official receptions. Happily they all went off well, and thereby began my acquaintance with the leaders in various departments of official life.
On my settling down to the business of the embassy, it appeared that the changes in public sentiment since my former stay as minister, eighteen years before, were great indeed. At that time German feeling was decidedly friendly to the United States. The Germans had sided with us in our Civil War, and we had come out victorious; we had sided with them in their war of 1870-1871, and they had come out victorious. But all this was now changed. German feeling toward us had become generally adverse and, in some parts of the empire, bitterly hostile. The main cause of this was doubtless our protective policy. Our McKinley tariff, which was considered almost ruinous to German manufactures, had been succeeded by the Dingley tariff, which went still further; and as Germany, in the last forty years, had developed an amazing growth of manufactures, much bitterness resulted.
Besides this, our country was enabled, by its vast extent of arable land, as well as by its cheap conveyance and skilful handling of freights, to sweep into the German markets agricultural products of various sorts, especially meats, and to undersell the native German producers. This naturally vexed the landed proprietors, so that we finally had against us two of the great influential classes in the empire: the manufacturers and the landowners.
But this was not all. These real difficulties were greatly increased by fictitious causes of ill feeling. Sensational articles, letters, telegrams, caricatures, and the like, sent from America to Germany and from Germany to America, had become more and more exasperating, until, at the time of my arrival, there were in all Germany but two newspapers of real importance friendly to the United States. These two journals courageously stood up for fairness and justice, but all the others were more or less hostile, and some bitterly so. The one which, on account of its zeal in securing news, I read every morning was of the worst. During the Spanish War it was especially virulent, being full of statements and arguments to show that corruption was the main characteristic of our government, cowardice of our army and navy, and hypocrisy of our people. Very edifying were its quasi-philosophical articles; and one of these, showing the superiority of the Spanish women to their American sisters, especially as regards education, was a work of genius. The love of Spanish women for bull-fights was neatly glossed over, and various absurd charges against American women were put in the balance against it. A few sensational presses on our side were perhaps worse. Various newspapers in America repaid Teutonic hostility by copious insults directed at everything German, and this aroused the Germans yet more. One journal, very influential among the aristocratic and religious public of Northern Germany, regularly published letters of considerable literary merit from its American correspondent, in which every scandal which could be raked out of the gutters of the cities, every crime in the remotest villages, and all follies of individuals everywhere, were kneaded together into statements showing that our country was the lowest in the scale of human civilization. The tu-quoque argument might have been used by an American with much effect; for just about this period there were dragging along, in the Berlin and other city journals, accounts of German trials for fraud and worse, surpassing, in some respects, anything within my memory of American tribunals. The quantity of fig-leaves required in some of these trials was enormous; and, despite all precautions, some details which escaped into the press might well bring a blush to the most hardened American offender. It was both vexatious and comical to see the smug, Pharisaical way in which many journals ignored all these things, and held up their hands in horror at American shortcomings. Some trials, too, which at various times revealed the brutality of sundry military officers toward soldiers, were heartrending; and especially one or two duels, which occurred during my stay, presented features calculated to shock the toughest American rough-rider. But all this seemed not for a moment to withdraw the attention of our Teutonic censors from American folly and wickedness. One of the main charges constantly made was that in America there was a "Deutschen Hetze." Very many German papers had really persuaded themselves, and apparently had convinced a large part of the German people, that throughout our country there existed a hate, deep and acrid, of everything German and especially of German-Americans. The ingenuity of some German papers in supporting this thesis was wonderful. On one occasion a petty squabble in a Roman Catholic theological school in the United States between the more liberal element and a reactionary German priest, in which the latter came to grief, was displayed as an evidence that the American people were determined to drive out all German professors and to abjure German science. The doings of every scapegrace in an American university, of every silly woman in Chicago, of every blackguard in New York, of every snob at Newport, of every desperado in the Rocky Mountains, of every club loafer anywhere, were served up as typical examples of American life. The municipal governments of our country, and especially that of New York, were an exhaustless quarry from which specimens of every kind of scoundrelism were drawn and used in building up an ideal structure of American life; corruption, lawlessness, and barbarism being its most salient features.
Nor was this confined to the more ignorant. Men who stood high in the universities, men of the greatest amiability, who in former days had been the warmest friends of America, had now become our bitter opponents, and some of their expressions seemed to point to eventual war.
Yet I doubt whether we have any right to complain of such attacks and misrepresentations. As a matter of fact, no nation washes so much of its dirty linen in the face of the whole world as does our own; and, what is worse, there is washed in our country, with much noise and perversity, a great deal of linen which is not dirty. Many demagogues and some "reformers" are always doing this. There is in America a certain class of excellent people who see nothing but the scum on the surface of the pot; nothing but the worst things thrown to the surface in the ebullition of American life. Or they may be compared to people who, with a Persian carpet before them, persist in looking at its seamy side, and finding nothing but odds and ends, imperfect joints, unsatisfactory combinations of color; the real pattern entirely escaping them. The shrill utterances of such men rise above the low hum of steady good work, and are taken in Germany as exact statements of the main facts in our national life.
Let me repeat here one example which I have given more than once elsewhere. Several years since, an effort was made to impeach the President of the United States. The current was strong, and most party leaders thought it best to go with it. Three senators of the United States sturdily refused, their leader being William Pitt Fessenden of Maine, who, believing the impeachment an attempt to introduce Spanish-American politics into our country, resolutely opposed it. The State convention of his party called upon him to vote for it, the national convention of the party took the same ground, his relatives and friends besought him to yield, but he stood firmly against the measure, and finally, by his example and his vote, defeated it. It was an example of Spartan fortitude, of Roman heroism, worthy to be chronicled by Plutarch. How was it chronicled? I happened to be traveling in Germany at the time, and naturally watched closely for the result of the impeachment proceedings. One morning I took up a German paper containing the news and read, "The impeachment has been defeated; three senators were bribed," and at the head of the list of bribed senators was the name of Fessenden! The time will come when his statue will commemorate his great example; let us hope that the time will also come when party spirit will not be allowed to disgrace our country by sending out to the world such monstrous calumnies.
As to attacks upon the United States, it is only fair to say that German publicists and newspaper writers were under much provocation. Some of the American correspondents then in Germany showed wonderful skill in malignant invention. My predecessors in the embassy had suffered much from this cause. One of them, whom I had known from his young manhood as a gentleman of refined tastes and quiet habits, utterly incapable of rudeness of any sort, was accused, in a sensational letter published in various American journals, of having become so noisy and boisterous at court that the Emperor was obliged to rebuke him. Various hints of a foul and scandalous character were sent over and published. I escaped more easily, but there were two or three examples which were both vexatious and amusing.
Shortly after my arrival at my post, letters and newspaper articles began coming deploring the conduct of the Germans toward me, expressing deep sympathy with me, exhorting me to "stand firm," declaring that the American people were behind me, etc., etc., all of which puzzled me greatly until I found that some correspondent had sent over a telegram to the effect that the feeling against America had become so bitter that the Emperor himself had been obliged to intervene and command the officials of his empire to present themselves at my official reception; and with this statement was coupled a declaration that I had made the most earnest remonstrance to the Imperial Government against such treatment. The simple fact was that the notice was in the stereotyped form always used when an ambassador arrives. On every such occasion the proper authorities notify all the persons concerned, giving the time of his receptions, and this was simply what was done in my case. On another occasion, telegrams were sent over to American papers stating that the first secretary of the embassy and myself, on visiting Parliament to hear an important debate, had been grossly insulted by various members. The fact was that we had been received by everybody with the utmost kindness; that various members had saluted us in the most friendly manner from the floor or had come into the diplomatic gallery to welcome us; and that there was not the slightest shadow of reason for the statement. As an example of the genius shown in some of these telegrams, another may be mentioned. A very charming American lady, niece of a member of Mr. McKinley's cabinet, having arrived on the Norwegian coast, her children were taken on board the yacht of the Emperor, who was then cruising in those regions; and later, on their arrival at Berlin, they with their father and mother were asked by him to the palace to meet his own wife and children. A few days afterward a telegram was published in America to the effect that the Emperor, in speaking to Mrs. White and myself regarding the children, had said that he was especially surprised, because he had always understood that American children were badly brought up and had very bad manners. The simple fact was that, while he spoke of the children with praise, the rest of the story was merely a sensational invention. One of the marvels of American life is the toleration by decent fathers and mothers of sensational newspapers in their households. Of all the demoralizing influences upon our people, and especially upon our young people, they are the most steadily and pervasively degrading. Horace Greeley once published a tractate entitled, "New Themes for the Clergy," and I would suggest the evil influence of sensation newsmongering as a most fruitful theme for the exhortations of all American clergymen to their flocks, whether Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant. May we not hope, also, that Mr. Pulitzer's new College of Journalism will give careful attention to this subject?
As to public questions then demanding attention, the first which I now recall was a bit of international comedy, serving as a prelude to more important matters, and worth mentioning here only as showing a misconception very absurd, yet not without dangers.
One morning, as I had just sat down to my office work, there was ushered in, with due ceremony, a young gentleman of light color, Parisian to the tips of his fingers,—in accent, manner, and garb,—who was announced as the charge d'affaires of Haiti. He was evidently under deep concern, and was soon in the midst of a somewhat impassioned statement of his business.
It appeared that his government, like so many which had preceded it, after a joyous career of proclamations, revolutions, throat-cutting, confiscation, paper money, and loans, public and private, had at last met a check, and that in this instance the check had come in the shape of a German frigate which had dropped into the harbor of Port-au-Prince, run out its guns, and demanded redress of injuries and payment of debts to Germany and German subjects; and the charge, after dwelling upon the enormity of such a demand, pointed out the duty of the United States to oblige Germany to desist,—in short, to assert the Monroe Doctrine as he understood it.
The young diplomatist's statement interested me much; it brought back vividly to my mind the days when, as a commissioner from the United States, I landed at Port-au-Prince, observed the wreck and ruin caused by a recent revolution, experienced the beauties of a paper-money system carried out so logically that a market-basket full of currency was needed to buy a market-basket full of vegetables, visited the tombs of the presidents from which the bodies of their occupants had been torn and scattered, saw the ring to which President Salnave had recently been tied when the supporters of his successor had murdered him, and mused over the ruins of the presidential mansion, which had been torn in pieces by bombs from a patriotic vessel. My heart naturally warmed toward the representative of so much glory, and it seemed sad to quench his oratorical fire and fervor with a cold statement of fact. But my duty was plain: I assured him that neither the President whose name the famous "Doctrine" bears, nor the Secretary of State who devised it, nor the American people behind them, had any idea of protecting our sister republics in such conduct as that of which the Germans complained; and I concluded by fervently exhorting him to advise his government and people simply to—pay their debts.
It gave me pleasure to learn, somewhat later, that this very prosaic solution of the difficulty had been adopted.
I make haste to add that nothing which may be said here or elsewhere in these recollections regarding sundry equatorial governments has any reference to our sister republics of South America really worthy of the name. No countries were in my time more admirably represented at Berlin than the Argentine Republic, Chile, and Brazil. The first-named sent as its minister the most eminent living authority on international law; the second, a gentleman deeply respected for character and ability, whose household was one of the most beautiful and attractive I have ever known; and the third, a statesman and scholar worthy of the best traditions of his country.
As to more complicated international matters with which my embassy had to deal, the first to assume a virulent form was that of the Samoan Islands.
During the previous twenty-five years the United States, Germany, and Great Britain had seemed to develop equal claims in Samoa. There had been clashes from time to time, in which good sense had generally prevailed; but in one case a cyclone which destroyed the German and American vessels of war in the main port of the islands seemed providential in preventing a worse form of trouble.
But now the chronic difficulties became acute. In the consuls of the three powers what Bismarck used to call the furor consularis was developed to the highest degree. Yet this was not the worst. Under the Berlin agreement, made some years before, there was a German president of the municipality of Apia with ill-defined powers, and an American chief justice with powers in some respects enormous, and each of these naturally magnified his office at the expense of the other. To complete the elements of discord, there were two great native parties, each supporting its candidate for kingship; and behind these, little spoken of, but really at the bottom of the main trouble, were missionaries,—English Wesleyans on one side, and French Roman Catholics on the other,—each desiring to save the souls of the natives, no matter at what sacrifice of their bodies.
This tea-pot soon began to boil violently. The old king having died, the question arose as to the succession. The power of appointing the successor having been in the most clear and definite terms bestowed by the treaty upon the chief justice, he named for the position Malietoa Tanu, a young chieftain who had been induced to call himself a Protestant; but on the other side was Mataafa, an old chief who years before had made much trouble, had been especially obnoxious to the Germans, and had been banished, but had been recently allowed to return on his taking oath that he would abstain from all political action, and would be true to his allegiance to the Malietoan kings. He had been induced to call himself a Catholic.
But hardly had he returned when, having apparently been absolved from his oath, he became the leader of a political party and insisted on his right to the kingship.
The result was a petty civil war which cost many lives. Nor was this all. A drunken Swiss having one day amused himself by breaking the windows of the American chief justice's court and no effective punishment having been administered by the German president of Apia, the Yankee chief justice took the matter into his own hands, and this Little Pedlington business set in motion sensation-mongers throughout the world. They exerted themselves to persuade the universe that war might, and indeed ought to, result between the three great nations concerned. On the arrival of the American Admiral Kautz, he simply and naturally supported the decree which the chief justice had made, in strict accordance with the treaty of Berlin, and was finally obliged to fire upon the insurgents. Now came a newspaper carnival: screams of wrath from the sensation press of Germany and yells of defiance from the sensation press of the United States.
It was fortunate, indeed, that at this period the American Secretary of State was Mr. John Hay and the German minister of foreign affairs Count von Bulow. Both at Washington and Berlin the light of plain common sense was gradually let into this jungle of half truths and whole falsehoods; the appointment of an excellent special commission, who supplanted all the officials in the islands by new men, solved various preliminary problems, so that finally a treaty was made between the three nations concerned which swept away the old vicious system, partitioned the islands between the United States and Germany, giving Great Britain indemnity elsewhere, and settled all the questions involved, as we may hope, forever.
Among my duties and pleasures during this period was attendance upon important debates in the Imperial Parliament. That body presents many features suggestive of thought. The arrangement under which the Senate, representing the various states of the empire, and the House, representing the people as a whole, sit face to face in joint deliberation, strikes an American as especially curious; but it seems to work well, and has one advantage in bringing the most eminent servants of the various states into direct personal relations with the rank and file from the country at large. The German Parliament has various good points. Some one has asserted that the United States Senate is as much better than the British House of Lords as the British House of Commons is better than the American House of Representatives. There is much to be said for this contention, and there are some points in which the German Parliament also struck me as an improvement upon our Lower House: they do less than we in committee, and more in the main assemblage; German members are more attentive to the work in hand, and spread-eagleism and speeches to the galleries which are tolerated at Washington are not tolerated at Berlin. On the other hand, the members at Berlin, not being paid for their services, absent themselves in such numbers that the lack of a sufficient deliberating body has been found, at times, a serious evil.
As to men prominent in debate, allusion has already been made to the chancellor, and various ministers of the crown might be added, of whom I should give the foremost place to the minister of the interior, Count Posadowski. His discussions of all matters touching his department, and, indeed, of some well outside it, were masterly. Save, perhaps, our own Senator John Sherman, I have never heard so USEFUL a speaker on fundamental questions of public business. As to the representatives, there were many well worth listening to; but the two who attracted most attention were Richter, the head of the "Progressist," or, as we should call it, the radical fraction, and Bebel, the main representative of the Socialists. Richter I had heard more than once in my old days, and had been impressed by his extensive knowledge of imperial finance, his wit and humor, his skill in making his points, and his strength in enforcing them. He was among the few still remaining after my long absence, and it was clear to me that he had not deteriorated,—that he had, indeed, mellowed in a way which made him even more interesting than formerly. As to Bebel, though generally disappointing at first, he was quite sure, in every speech, to raise some point which put the conservatives on their mettle. His strongest characteristic seems to be his earnestness: the earnestness of a man who has himself known what the hardest struggle for existence is, and what it means to suffer for his opinions. His weakest point seems to be a tendency to exaggeration which provokes distrust; but, despite this, he has been a potent force as an irritant in drawing attention to the needs of the working-classes, and so in promoting that steady uplifting of their condition and prospects which is one of the most striking achievements of modern Germany.