The station of the Harlem Railroad in the city of New York was at that time at Fourth Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street, and that of the Hudson River Railroad at Chambers Street, near the North River.
In a few years William H. Vanderbilt purchased the ground for the Harlem Railroad Company, where is now located the Grand Central Terminal, and by the acquisition by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad of the Harlem Railroad the trains of the New York Central were brought around into the Grand Central Station.
In 1867, two years after Mr. Vanderbilt had acquired the Hudson River Railroad, he secured the control of the New York Central, which ran from Albany to Buffalo. This control was continued through the Lake Shore on one side of the lakes and the Michigan Central on the other to Chicago. Subsequently the Vanderbilt System was extended to Cincinnati and St. Louis. It was thus in immediate connection with the West and Northwest centering in Chicago, and the Southwest at Cincinnati and St. Louis. By close connection and affiliation with the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company, the Vanderbilt system was extended beyond to Mississippi. I became director in the New York Central in 1874 and in the Chicago and Northwestern in 1877.
It has been my good fortune to meet with more or less intimacy many of the remarkable men in every department of life, but I think Commodore Vanderbilt was the most original. I had been well acquainted for some years both with the commodore and his son, William H. When I became attorney my relations were more intimate than those usually existing. I was in daily consultation with the commodore during the ten years prior to his death, and with his son from 1866 to 1885, when he died.
The commodore was constantly, because of his wealth and power, importuned by people who wished to interest him in their schemes. Most of the great and progressive enterprises of his time were presented to him. He would listen patiently, ask a few questions, and in a short time grasp the whole subject. Then with wonderful quickness and unerring judgment he would render his decision. No one knew by what process he arrived at these conclusions. They seemed to be the results as much of inspiration as of insight.
The Civil War closed in 1865, and one of its lessons had been the necessity for more railroads. The country had discovered that without transportation its vast and fertile territories could neither be populated nor made productive. Every mile of railroad carried settlers, opened farms and increased the national resources and wealth. The economical and critical conditions of the country, owing to the expansion of the currency and banking conditions, facilitated and encouraged vast schemes of railroad construction. This and a wild speculation resulted in the panic of 1873. Nearly the whole country went bankrupt. The recovery was rapid, and the constructive talent of the Republic saw that the restoration of credit and prosperity must be led by railway solvency. In August, 1874, Commodore Vanderbilt invited the representatives of the other and competitive lines to a conference at Saratoga. Owing, however, to the jealousies and hostilities of the period, only the New York Central, the Pennsylvania, and the Erie railways were represented.
The eastern railway situation was then dominated by Commodore Vanderbilt, Colonel Thomas A. Scott, of the Pennsylvania, and John W. Garrett, of the Baltimore and Ohio. Both Scott and Garrett were original men and empire builders. There was neither governmental nor State regulation. The head of a railway system had practically unlimited power in the operation of his road. The people were so anxious for the construction of railways that they offered every possible inducement to capital. The result was a great deal of unprofitable construction and immense losses to the promoters.
These able men saw that there was no possibility of railway construction, operation, and efficiency, with a continuance of unrestricted competition. It has taken from 1874 until 1920 to educate the railway men, the shippers, and the government to a realization of the fact that transportation facilities required for the public necessities can only be had by the freest operations and the strictest government regulations; that the solution of the problem is a system so automatic that public arbitration shall decide the justice of the demands of labor, and rates be advanced to meet the decision, and that public authority also shall take into consideration the other factors of increased expenses and adequate facilities for the railroads, and that maintenance and the highest efficiency must be preserved and also necessary extensions. To satisfy and attract capital there must be the assurance of a reasonable return upon the investment.
The meeting called by Commodore Vanderbilt in 1874, at Saratoga, was an epoch-making event. We must remember the railway management of the country was in the absolute control of about four men, two of whom were also largest owners of the lines they managed. Fierce competition and cutting of rates brought on utter demoralization among shippers, who could not calculate on the cost of transportation, and great favoritism to localities and individuals by irresponsible freight agents who controlled the rates. Under these influences railway earnings were fluctuating and uncertain. Improvements were delayed and the people on the weaker lines threatened with bankruptcy.
Public opinion, however, believed this wild competition to be the only remedy for admitted railway evils. As an illustration of the change of public opinion and the better understanding of the railway problems, this occurred in the month of October, 1920. A committee of shippers and producers representing the farmers, manufacturers, and business men along a great railway system came to see the manager of the railroad and said to him: "We have been all wrong in the past. Our effort has always been for lower rates, regardless of the necessities of the railways. We have tried to get them by seeking bids from competing lines for our shipments and by appealing to the Interstate Commerce Commission. The expenses of the railroads have been increased by demands of labor, by constantly rising prices and cost of rails, cars, terminals, and facilities, but we have been against allowing the railroads to meet this increased cost of operation by adequate advances in rates. We now see that this course was starving the railroads, and we are suffering for want of cars and locomotives to move our traffic and terminals to care for it. We are also suffering because the old treatment of the railroads has frightened capital so that the roads cannot get money to maintain their lines and make necessary improvements to meet the demands of business. We know now that rates make very little difference, because they can be absorbed in our business. What we must have is facilities to transport our products, and we want to help the railroads to get money and credit, and again we emphasize our whole trouble is want of cars, locomotives, and terminal facilities."
Happily, public opinion was reflected in the last Congress in the passage of the Cummins-Esch bill, which is the most enlightened and adaptable legislation of the last quarter of a century.
To return to the conference at Saratoga, the New York Central, the Pennsylvania, and the Erie came to the conclusion that they must have the co-operation of the Baltimore and Ohio. As Mr. Garrett, president and controlling owner of that road, would not come to the conference, the members decided that the emergency was so great that they must go to him. This was probably the most disagreeable thing Commodore Vanderbilt ever did. The marvellous success of his wonderful life had been won by fighting and defeating competitors. The peril was so great that they went as associates, and the visit interested the whole country and so enlarged Mr. Garrett's opinion of his power that he rejected their offer and said he would act independently. A railway war immediately followed, and in a short time bankruptcy threatened all lines, and none more than the Baltimore and Ohio.
The trunk lines then got together and entered into an agreement to stabilize rates and carry them into effect. They appointed as commissioner Mr. Albert Fink, one of the ablest railway men of that time. Mr. Fink's administration was successful, but the rivalries and jealousies of the lines and the frequent breaking of agreements were too much for one man.
The presidents and general managers of all the railroads east of Chicago then met and formed an association, and this association was a legislative body without any legal authority to enforce its decrees. It had, however, two effects: the disputes which arose were publicly discussed, and the merits of each side so completely demonstrated that the decision of the association came to be accepted as just and right. Then the verdict of the association had behind it the whole investment and banking community and the press. The weight of this was sufficient to compel obedience to its decisions by the most rebellious member. No executive could continue to hold his position while endeavoring to break up the association.
It is one of the most gratifying events of my life that my associates in this great and powerful association elected me their president, and I continued in office until the Supreme Court in a momentous decision declared that the railroads came under the provision of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law and dissolved these associations in the East, West, and South.
It was a liberal education of the railway problems to meet the men who became members of this association. Most of them left an indelible impression upon the railway conditions of the time and of the railway policies of the future. All were executives of great ability and several rare constructive geniuses.
In our system there was John Newell, president of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, a most capable and efficient manager. Henry B. Ledyard, president of the Michigan Central, was admirably trained for the great responsibilities which he administered so well. There was William Bliss, president of the Boston and Albany, who had built up a line to be one of the strongest of the New England group.
Melville E. Ingalls, president of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, had combined various weak and bankrupt roads and made them an efficient organization. He had also rehabilitated and put in useful working and paying condition the Chesapeake and Ohio.
Ingalls told me a very good story of himself. He had left the village in Maine, where he was born, and after graduation from college and admission to the bar had settled in Boston. To protect the interests of his clients he had moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and rescued railroad properties in which they were interested. When his success was complete and he had under his control a large and successfully working railway system, he made a visit to his birthplace.
One evening he went down to the store where the village congress was assembled, sitting on the barrels and the counter. They welcomed him very cordially, and then an inquisitive farmer said to him: "Melville, it is reported around here that you are getting a salary of nigh unto ten thousand dollars a year."
Mr. Ingalls, who was getting several times that amount, modestly admitted the ten, which was a prodigious sum in that rural neighborhood. Whereupon the old farmer voiced the local sentiment by saying: "Well, Melville that shows what cheek and circumstances can do for a man."
I recall an incident connected with one of the ablest of the executives in our system. One day we had a conference of rival interests, and many executives were there in the effort to secure an adjustment. For this purpose we had an arbitrator. After a most exhausting day in the battle of wits and experience for advantages, I arrived home used up, but after a half-hour's sleep I awoke refreshed and, consulting my diary, found I was down for a speech at a banquet at Delmonico's that night.
I arrived late, the intervening time being devoted to intensive and rapid preparation. I was called early. The speech attracted attention and occupied a column in the morning's papers. I was in bed at eleven o'clock and had between seven and eight hours' refreshing sleep.
On arriving at our meeting-place the next morning, one of the best-known presidents took me aside and said: "Chauncey, by making speeches such as you did last night you are losing the confidence of the people. They say you cannot prepare such speeches and give proper attention to your business."
"Well," I said to him, "my friend, did I lose anything before the arbitrator yesterday?"
He answered very angrily: "No, you gained entirely too much."
"Well," I then said, "I am very fresh this morning. But what did you do last night?"
He answered that he was so exhausted that he went to Delmonico's and ordered the best dinner possible. Then he went on to say: "A friend told me a little game was going on up-stairs, and in a close room filled with tobacco smoke I played poker until two o'clock and drank several high-balls. The result is, I think we better postpone this meeting, for I do not feel like doing anything to-day."
"My dear friend," I said, "you will get the credit of giving your whole time to business, while I am by doing what refreshes my mind discredited, because it gets in the papers. I shall keep my method regardless of consequences."
He kept his, and although much younger than myself died years ago.
George B. Roberts, president of the Pennsylvania, was a very wise executive and of all-around ability. Frank Thompson, vice-president and afterwards president of the same road, was one of the ablest operating officers of his time and a most delightful personality. Mr. A. J. Cassatt was a great engineer and possessed rare foresight and vision. He brought the Pennsylvania into New York City through a tunnel under the Hudson River, continued the tunnel across the city to the East River and then under the river to connect with the Long Island, which he had acquired for his system.
D. W. Caldwell, president of the New York, Chicago, and St. Louis, added to railway ability wit and humor. He told a good story on Mr. George Roberts. Caldwell was at one time division superintendent under President Roberts. He had obtained permission to build a new station-house, in whose plan and equipment he was deeply interested. It was Mr. Roberts's habit, by way of showing his subordinates that he was fully aware of their doings, to either add or take away something from their projects.
Caldwell prepared a station-house according to his ideas, and, to prevent Roberts from making any essential changes he added an unnecessary bay window to the front of the passengers' room. Roberts carefully examined the plans and said: "Remove that bay window," and then approved the plan, and Caldwell had what he wanted.
Caldwell used to tell of another occasion when on a Western line he had over him a very severe and harsh disciplinarian as president. This president was a violent prohibitionist and had heard that Caldwell was a bonvivant. He sent for Caldwell to discipline or discharge him. After a long and tiresome journey Caldwell arrived at the president's house. His first greeting was: "Mr. Caldwell, do you drink?"
Caldwell, wholly unsuspicious, answered: "Thank you, Mr. President, I am awfully tired and will take a little rye."
Mr. E. B. Thomas, president of the Lehigh Valley, was a valuable member of the association. The Baltimore and Ohio, as usual, had its president, Mr. Charles F. Mayer, accompanied by an able staff. The Erie was represented by one of the most capable and genial of its many presidents, Mr. John King.
King was a capital story-teller, and among them I remember this one: At one time he was general manager of the Baltimore and Ohio under John W. Garrett. In order to raise money for his projected extensions, Garrett had gone to Europe. The times were financially very difficult. Johns Hopkins, the famous philanthropist, died. His immortal monument is the Johns Hopkins University and Medical School. Everybody in Baltimore attended the funeral. Among the leading persons present was another John King, a banker, who was Hopkins's executor. A messenger-boy rushed in with a cable for John King, and handed it to John King, the executor, who sat at the head of the mourners. He read it and then passed it along so that each one could read it until it reached John King, of the Baltimore and Ohio, who sat at the foot of the line. The cable read as follows: "Present my sympathies to the family and my high appreciation of Mr. Johns Hopkins, and borrow from the executor all you can at five per cent. Garrett."
Commodore Vanderbilt was succeeded in the presidency by his son, William H. Vanderbilt, who was then past forty years old and had been a successful farmer on Staten Island. He was active in neighborhood affairs and in politics. This brought him in close contact with the people and was of invaluable benefit to him when he became president of a great railroad corporation. He also acquired familiarity in railway management as a director of one on Staten Island.
Mr. William H. Vanderbilt was a man of great ability, and his education made him in many ways an abler man than his father for the new conditions he had to meet. But, like many a capable son of a famous father, he did not receive the credit which was due him because of the overshadowing reputation of the commodore. Nevertheless, on several occasions he exhibited the highest executive qualities.
One of the great questions of the time was the duty of railroads to the cities in which they terminated, and the decision of the roads south of New York to have lower rates to Philadelphia and Baltimore. New York felt so secure in the strength of its unrivalled harbor and superior shipping facilities that the merchants and financiers were not alarmed. Very soon, however, there was such a diversion of freight from New York as to threaten very seriously its export trade and the superiority of its port. The commercial leaders of the city called upon Mr. Vanderbilt, who after the conference said to them: "I will act in perfect harmony with you and will see that the New York Central Railroad protects New York City regardless of the effect upon its finances." The city representatives said: "That is very fine, and we will stand together."
Mr. Vanderbilt immediately issued a statement that the rates to the seaboard should be the same to all ports, and that the New York Central would meet the lowest rates to any port by putting the same in effect on its own lines. The result was the greatest railroad war since railroads began to compete. Rates fell fifty per cent, and it was a question of the survival of the fittest. Commerce returned to New York, and the competing railroads, to avoid bankruptcy, got together and formed the Trunk Line Association.
New York City has not always remembered how intimately bound is its prosperity with that of the great railroad whose terminal is within its city limits. Mr. Vanderbilt found that the railroad and its management were fiercely assailed in the press, in the legislature, and in municipal councils. He became convinced that no matter how wise or just or fair the railroad might be in the interests of every community and every business which were so dependent upon its transportation, the public would not submit to any great line being owned by one man. The Vanderbilt promptness in arriving at a decision was immediately shown. He called upon Mr. Pierpont Morgan, and through him a syndicate, which Morgan formed, took and sold the greater part of Mr. Vanderbilt's New York Central stock. The result was that the New York Central from that time was owned by the public. It is a tribute to the justice and fairness of the Vanderbilt management that though the management has been submitted every year since to a stockholders' vote, there has practically never been any opposition to a continuance of the Vanderbilt policy and management.
Among the most important of the many problems during Mr. Vanderbilt's presidency was the question of railway commissions, both in national and State governments. In my professional capacity of general counsel, and in common with representatives of other railroads, I delivered argumentative addresses against them. The discussions converted me, and I became convinced of their necessity. The rapidly growing importance of railway transportation had created the public opinion that railway management should be under the control and supervision of some public body; that all passengers or shippers, or those whose land was taken for construction and development, should have an appeal from the decision of the railway managers to the government through a government commission.
As soon as I was convinced that commissions were necessary for the protection of both the public and the railroads, I presented this view to Mr. Vanderbilt. The idea was contrary to his education, training, and opinion. It seemed to me that it was either a commission or government ownership, and that the commission, if strengthened as a judicial body, would be as much of a protection to the bond and stock holders and the investing public as to the general public and the employees. Mr. Vanderbilt, always open-minded, adopted this view and supported the commission system and favored legislation in its behalf.
In 1883 Mr. Vanderbilt decided, on account of illness, to retire from the presidency, and Mr. James H. Rutter was elected his successor. Mr. Rutter was the ablest freight manager in the country, but his health gave way under the exactions of executive duties, and I acted largely for him during his years of service. He died early in 1885, and I was elected president.
The war with the West Shore had been on for several years, with disastrous results to both companies. The Ontario and Western, which had large terminal facilities near Jersey City on the west side of the Hudson, ran for fifty miles along the river before turning into the interior. At its reorganization it had ten millions of cash in the treasury. With this as a basis, its directors decided to organize a new railroad, to be called the West Shore, and parallel the New York Central through its entire length to Buffalo. As the New York Central efficiently served this whole territory, the only business the West Shore could get must be taken away from the Central. To attract this business it offered at all stations lower rates. To retain and hold its business the New York Central met those rates at all points so that financially the West Shore went into the hands of a receiver.
The New York Central was sustained because of its superior facilities and connections and established roadway and equipment. But all new and necessary construction was abandoned, maintenance was neglected, and equipment run down under forced reduction of expenses.
I had very friendly personal relations with the managers and officers of the West Shore, and immediately presented to them a plan for the absorption of their line, instead of continuing the struggle until absolute exhaustion. Mr. Vanderbilt approved of the plan, as did the financial interests represented by Mr. Pierpont Morgan.
By the reorganization and consolidation of the two companies the New York Central began gradually to establish its efficiency and to work on necessary improvements. As evidence of the growth of the railway business of the country, the New York Central proper has added since the reorganization an enormous amount of increased trackage, and has practically rebuilt, as a necessary second line, the West Shore and used fully its very large terminal facilities on the Jersey side of the Hudson.
During his active life Mr. Vanderbilt was very often importuned to buy a New York daily newspaper. He was personally bitterly assailed and his property put in peril by attacks in the press. He always rejected the proposition to buy one. "If," he said, "I owned a newspaper, I would have all the others united in attacking me, and they would ruin me, but by being utterly out of the journalistic field, I find that taking the press as a whole I am fairly well treated. I do not believe any great interest dealing with the public can afford to have an organ."
Colonel Scott, of the Pennsylvania, thought otherwise, but the result of his experiment demonstrated the accuracy of Mr. Vanderbilt's judgment. Scott selected as editor of the New York World one of the most brilliant journalistic writers of his time, William H. Hurlburt. When it became known, however, that the World belonged to Colonel Scott, Hurlburt's genius could not save it. The circulation ran down to a minimum, the advertising followed suit, and the paper was losing enormously every month. Mr. Joseph Pulitzer, with the rare insight and foresight which distinguished him, saw what could be made of the World, with its privileges in the Associated Press, and so he paid Scott the amount he had originally invested, and took over and made a phenomenal success of this bankrupt and apparently hopeless enterprise.
I tried during my presidency to make the New York Central popular with the public without impairing its efficiency. The proof of the success of this was that without any effort on my part and against my published wishes the New York delegation in the national Republican convention in 1888, with unprecedented unanimity presented me as New York's candidate for president. I retired from the contest because of the intense hostility to railroad men in the Western States. Those States could not understand how this hostility, which they had to railroads and everybody connected with them, had disappeared in the great State of New York.
During my presidency the labor question was very acute and strikes, one after another, common. The universal method of meeting the demands of labor at that time was to have a committee of employees or a leader present the grievances to the division superintendent or the superintendent of motive power. These officers were arbitrary and hostile, as the demands, if acceded to, led to an increase of expenses which would make them unpopular with the management. They had a difficult position. The employees often came to the conclusion that the only way for them to compel the attention of the higher officers and directors was to strike.
Against the judgment of my associates in the railway management I decided to open my doors to any individual or committee of the company. At first I was overwhelmed with petty grievances, but when the men understood that their cases would be immediately heard and acted upon, they decided among themselves not to bring to me any matters unless they regarded them of vital importance. In this way many of the former irritations, which led ultimately to serious results, no longer appeared.
I had no trouble with labor unions, and found their representatives in heart-to-heart talks very generally reasonable. Mr. Arthur, chief of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, had many of the qualities of a statesman. He built up his organization to be the strongest of its kind among the labor unions. I enjoyed his confidence and friendship for many years.
There never was but one strike on the New York Central during my administration, and that one occurred while I was absent in Europe. Its origin and sequel were somewhat dramatic. I had nearly broken down by overwork, and the directors advised me to take an absolute rest and a trip abroad.
I sent word over the line that I wanted everything settled before leaving, and to go without care. A large committee appeared in my office a few mornings after. To my surprise there was a representative from every branch of the service, passenger and freight conductors, brakemen, shopmen, yardmen, switchmen, and so forth. These had always come through their local unions. I rapidly took up and adjusted what each one of the representatives of his order claimed, and then a man said: "I represent the locomotive engineers."
My response was: "You have no business here, and I will have nothing to do with you. I will see no one of the locomotive engineers, except their accredited chief officer."
"Well," he said, "Mr. President, there is a new condition on the road, a new order of labor called the Knights of Labor. We are going to absorb all the other unions and have only one. The only obstacle in the way is the locomotive engineers, who refuse to give up their brotherhood and come in with us, but if you will recognize us only, that will force them to join. Now, the Brotherhood intends to present a demand very soon, and if you will recognize our order, the Knights of Labor, and not the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, we will take care of what they demand and all others from every department for two years, and you can take your trip to Europe in perfect peace of mind. If you do not do this there will be trouble."
I declined to deal with them as representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Then their spokesman said: "As this is so serious to you, we will give you to-night to think it over and come back in the morning."
I immediately sent for the superintendent of motive power and directed him to have posted by telegraph in every roundhouse that the request of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, of which this committee had told me, had been granted. The next morning the committee returned, and their leader said: "Well, Mr. President, you have beaten us and we are going home."
Then I appealed to them, saying: "I am a pretty badly broken-up man. The doctors tell me that if I can have three months without care I will be as good as ever. You must admit that I have at all times been absolutely square with you and tried to adjust fairly the matters you have brought to me. Now, will you take care of me while I am absent?"
They answered unanimously: "Mr. President, we will, and you can be confident there will be no trouble on the New York Central while you are away."
I sailed with my mind free from anxiety, hopeful and happy, leaving word to send me no cables or letters. After a visit to the Passion Play at Ober-Ammergau in Upper Bavaria, I went into the Austrian Tyrol. One night, at a hotel in Innsbruck, Mr. Graves, a very enterprising reporter of a New York paper, suddenly burst into my room and said: "I have been chasing you all over Europe for an interview on the strike on the New York Central." This was my first information of the strike.
As soon as I had left New York and was on the ocean, the young and ambitious officers who were at the head of the operations of the railroad and disapproved of my method of dealing with the employees, discharged every member of the committee who had called upon me. Of course, this was immediately followed by a sympathetic outburst in their behalf, and the sympathizers were also discharged. Then the whole road was tied up by a universal strike. After millions had been lost in revenue by the railroad and in wages by the men, the strike was settled, as usual, by a compromise, but it gave to the Knights of Labor the control, except as to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. The early settlement of the strike was largely due to the loyalty and courage of the Brotherhood.
During my presidency I was much criticised by the public, but never by the directors of the company, because of my activities in politics and on the platform. For some time, when the duties of my office became most onerous, and I was in the habit of working all day and far into the night, I discovered that this concentrated attention to my railroad problems and intense and continuous application to their solution was not only impairing my efficiency but my health. As I was not a sport, and never had time for games or horses, I decided to try a theory, which was that one's daily duties occupied certain cells of the brain while the others remained idle; that the active cells became tired by overwork while others lost their power in a measure by idleness; that if, after a reasonable use of the working cells, you would engage in some other intellectual occupation, it would furnish as much relief or recreation as outdoor exercise of any kind. I had a natural facility for quick and easy preparation for public speaking, and so adopted that as my recreation. The result proved entirely successful.
After a hard day's work, on coming home late in the afternoon, I accustomed myself to take a short nap of about fifteen minutes. Then I would look over my tablets to see if any engagement was on to speak in the evening, and, if so, the preparation of the speech might be easy, or, if difficult, cause me to be late at dinner. These speeches were made several times a week, and mainly at banquets on closing of the sessions of conventions of trade organizations of the country. The reciprocal favors and friendship of these delegates transferred to the New York Central a large amount of competitive business.
While I was active in politics I issued strict orders that every employee should have the same liberty, and that any attempt on the part of their superior officers to influence or direct the political action of a subordinate would be cause for dismissal. This became so well known that the following incident, which was not uncommon, will show the result.
As I was taking the train the morning after having made a political speech at Utica, the yardmaster, an Irishman, greeted me very cordially and then said: "We were all up to hear ye last night, boss, but this year we are agin ye."
The position which this activity gave me in my own party, and the fact that, unlike most employers, I protected the employees in their liberty and political action, gave me immense help in protecting the company from raids and raiders.
We had a restaurant in the station at Utica which had deteriorated. The situation was called to my attention in order to have the evils corrected by the receipt of the following letter from an indignant passenger: "Dear Mr. President: You are the finest after-dinner speaker in the world. I would give a great deal to hear the speech you would make after you had dined in the restaurant in your station at Utica."
After thirteen years of service as president I was elected chairman of the board of directors. Mr. Samuel R. Callaway succeeded me as president, and on his resignation was succeeded by Mr. William H. Newman, and upon his resignation Mr. W. C. Brown became president. Following Mr. Brown, Mr. Alfred H. Smith was elected and is still in office. All these officers were able and did excellent service, but I want to pay special tribute to Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith is one of the ablest operating officers of his time. When the United States Government took over the railroads he was made regional director of the government for railroads in this territory. He received the highest commendation from the government and from the owners of the railroads for the admirable way in which he had maintained them and their efficiency during the government control.
On the surrender of the railroads by the government, Mr. Smith was welcomed back by his directors to the presidency of the New York Central. The splendid condition of the Central and its allied lines is largely due to him. During his service as regional director the difficult task of the presidency of the New York Central was very ably performed by Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. Though the youngest among the executive officers of the railroads of the country, he was at the same time one of the best.
Among the efficient officers who have served the New York Central during the time I have been with the company, I remember many on account of their worth and individuality. H. Walter Webb came into the railway service from an active business career. With rare intelligence and industry he rapidly rose in the organization and was a very capable and efficient officer. There was Theo. Voorhees, the general superintendent, an unusually young man for such a responsible position. He was a graduate of Troy Polytechnical School and a very able operating officer. Having gone directly from the college to a responsible position, he naturally did not understand or know how to handle men until after long experience. He showed that want of experience in a very drastic way in the strike of 1892 and its settlement. Being very arbitrary, he had his own standards. For instance, I was appealed to by many old brakemen and conductors whom he had discharged. I mention one particularly, who had been on the road for twenty-five years. Voorhees's answer to me was: "These old employees are devoted to Toucey, my predecessor, and for efficient work I must have loyalty to me."
I reversed his order and told him I would begin to discharge, if necessary, the latest appointments, including himself, keeping the older men in the service who had proved their loyalty to the company by the performance of their duties.
Mr. Voorhees became afterwards vice-president and then president of the Philadelphia and Reading. With experience added to his splendid equipment and unusual ability he became one of the best executives in the country.
Mr. John M. Toucey, who had come up from the bottom to be general superintendent and general manager, was a hard student. His close contact with his fellow employees gave him wonderful control over men. He supplemented his practical experience by hard study and was very well educated. Though self-taught, he had no confidence in the graduates of the professional schools.
In selecting an assistant, one of them told me that Toucey subjected him to a rigid examination and then said: "What is your railroad career?"
"I began at the bottom," answered the assistant, "and have filled every office on my old road up to division superintendent, which I have held for so many years."
"That is very fine," said Toucey, "but are you a graduate of the Troy Technical School?"
"Of the Stevens Tech.?"
"Of Massachusetts Tech.?"
"Then you are engaged," said Toucey.
Mr. Toucey was well up-to-date, and differed from a superintendent on another road in which I was a director. The suburban business of that line had increased very rapidly, but there were not enough trains or cars to accommodate the passengers. The overcrowding caused many serious discomforts. I had the superintendent called before the board of directors, and said to him: "Why don't you immediately put on more trains and cars?"
"Why, Mr. Depew," he answered, "what would be the use? They are settling so fast along the line that the people would fill them up and overcrowd them just as before."
I was going over the line on an important tour at one time with G. H. Burroughs, superintendent of the Western Division. We were on his pony engine, with seats at the front, alongside the boiler, so that we could look directly on the track. Burroughs sat on one side and I on the other. He kept on commenting aloud by way of dictating to his stenographer, who sat behind him, and praise and criticism followed rapidly. I heard him utter in his monotonous way: "Switch misplaced, we will all be in hell in a minute," and then a second afterwards continue: "We jumped the switch and are on the track again. Discharge that switchman."
Major Zenas Priest was for fifty years a division superintendent. It was a delightful experience to go with him over his division. He knew everybody along the line, was general confidant in their family troubles and arbiter in neighborhood disputes. He knew personally every employee and his characteristics and domestic situation. The wives were generally helping him to keep their husbands from making trouble. To show his control and efficiency, he was always predicting labor troubles and demonstrating that the reason they did not occur was because of the way in which he handled the situation.
Mr. C. M. Bissell was a very efficient superintendent, and for a long time in charge of the Harlem Railroad. He told me this incident. We decided to put in effect as a check upon the conductors a system by which a conductor, when a fare was paid on the train, must tear from a book a receipt which he gave to the passenger, and mark the amount on the stub from which the receipt was torn. Soon after a committee of conductors called upon Mr. Bissell and asked for an increase of pay. "Why," Bissell asked, "boys, why do you ask for that now?"
After a rather embarrassing pause the oldest conductor said: "Mr. Bissell, you have been a conductor yourself."
This half century and six years during which I have been in the service of the New York Central Railroad has been a time of unusual pleasure and remarkably free from friction or trouble. In this intimate association with the railroad managers of the United States I have found the choicest friendships and the most enduring. The railroad manager is rarely a large stockholder, but he is a most devoted and efficient officer of his company. He gives to its service, for the public, the employees, the investors, and the company, all that there is in him. In too many instances, because these officers do not get relief from their labor by variation of their work, they die exhausted before their time.
The story graphically told by one of the oldest and ablest of railroad men, Mr. Marvin Hughitt, for a long time president and now chairman of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, illustrates what the railroad does for the country. Twenty-five years ago the Northwestern extended its lines through Northern Iowa. Mr. Hughitt drove over the proposed extension on a buckboard. The country was sparsely settled because the farmers could not get their products to market, and the land was selling at six dollars per acre.
In a quarter of a century prosperous villages and cities had grown up along the line, and farms were selling at over three hundred dollars per acre. While this enormous profit from six dollars per acre to over three hundred has come to the settlers who held on to their farms because of the possibilities produced by the railroad, the people whose capital built the road must remain satisfied with a moderate return by way of dividend and interest, and without any enhancement of their capital, but those investors should be protected by the State and the people to whom their capital expenditures have been such an enormous benefit.
XIX. RECOLLECTIONS FROM ABROAD
I know of nothing more delightful for a well-read American than to visit the scenes in Great Britain with which he has become familiar in his reading. No matter how rapidly he may travel, if he goes over the places made memorable by Sir Walter Scott in the "Waverley Novels," and in his poems, he will have had impressions, thrills, and educational results which will be a pleasure for the rest of his life. The same is true of an ardent admirer of Dickens or of Thackeray, in following the footsteps of their heroes and heroines. I gained a liberal education and lived over again the reading and studies of a lifetime in my visits to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I also had much the same experience of vivifying and spiritualizing my library in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Holland.
London is always most hospitable and socially the most delightful of cities. While Mr. Gladstone was prime minister and more in the eyes of the world than any statesman of any country, a dinner was given to him with the special object of having me meet him. The ladies and gentlemen at the dinner were all people of note. Among them were two American bishops. The arrangement made by the host and hostess was that when the ladies left the dining-room I should take the place made vacant alongside Mr. Gladstone, but one of the American bishops, who in his younger days was a famous athlete, made a flying leap for that chair and no sooner landed than he at once proposed to Mr. Gladstone this startling question: "As the bishop of the old Catholic Church in Germany does not recognize the authority of the pope, how can he receive absolution?"—and some other abstruse theological questions. This at once aroused Mr. Gladstone, who, when once started, was stopped with difficulty, and there was no pause until the host announced that the gentlemen should join the ladies. I made it a point at the next dinner given for me to meet Mr. Gladstone that there should be no American bishops present.
At another time, upon arriving at my hotel in London from New York, I found a note from Lord Rosebery saying that Mr. Gladstone was dining with Lady Rosebery and himself that evening, and there would be no other guests, and inviting me to come. I arrived early and found Mr. Gladstone already there. While the custom in London society then was for the guests to be late, Mr. Gladstone was always from fifteen minutes to half an hour in advance of the time set by his invitation. He greeted me with great cordiality, and at once what were known as the Gladstone tentacles were fastened on me for information. It was a peculiarity with the grand old man that he extracted from a stranger practically all the man knew, and the information was immediately assimilated in his wonderful mind. He became undoubtedly the best-informed man on more subjects than anybody in the world.
Mr. Gladstone said to me: "It has been raining here for forty days. What is the average rainfall in the United States and in New York?" If there was any subject about which I knew less than another, it was the meteorological conditions in America. He then continued with great glee: "Our friend, Lord Rosebery, has everything and knows everything, so it is almost impossible to find for him something new. Great books are common, but I have succeeded in my explorations among antiquarian shops in discovering the most idiotic book that ever was written. It was by an old lord mayor of London, who filled a volume with his experiences in an excursion on the Thames, which is the daily experience of every Englishman." To the disappointment of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Rosebery also had that book. The evening was a memorable one for me.
After a most charming time and dinner, while Lord Rosebery went off to meet an engagement to speak at a meeting of colonial representatives, Lady Rosebery took Mr. Gladstone and myself to the opera at Covent Garden. There was a critical debate on in the House of Commons, and the whips were running in to inform him of the progress of the battle and to get instructions from the great leader.
During the entr'actes Mr. Gladstone most interestingly talked of his sixty years' experience of the opera. He knew all the great operas of that period, and criticised with wonderful skill the composers and their characteristics. He gave a word picture of all the great artists who had appeared on the English stage and the merits and demerits of each. A stranger listening to him would have said that a veteran musical critic, who had devoted his life to that and nothing else, was reminiscing. He said that thirty years before the manager of Covent Garden had raised the pitch, that this had become so difficult that most of the artists, to reach it, used the tremolo, and that the tremolo had taken away from him the exquisite pleasure which he formerly had in listening to an opera.
Mr. Gladstone was at that time the unquestionable master of the House of Commons and its foremost orator. I unfortunately never heard him at his best, but whether the question was of greater or lesser importance, the appearance of Mr. Gladstone at once lifted it above ordinary discussion to high debate.
Mr. Gladstone asked many questions about large fortunes in the United States, was curious about the methods of their accumulation, and whether they survived in succeeding generations. He wanted to know all about the reputed richest man among them. I told him I did not know the amount of his wealth, but that it was at least one hundred millions of dollars.
"How invested?" he asked.
I answered: "All in fluid securities which could be turned into cash in a short time."
He became excited at that and said: "Such a man is dangerous not only to his own country but to the world. With that amount of ready money he could upset the exchanges and paralyze the borrowing power of nations."
"But," I said, "you have enormous fortunes," and mentioned the Duke of Westminster.
"I know every pound of Westminster's wealth," he said. "It is in lands which he cannot sell, and burdened with settlements of generations and obligations which cannot be avoided."
"How about the Rothschilds?" I asked.
"Their fortunes," he answered, "are divided among the firms in London, Paris, Vienna, and Frankfort, and it would be impossible for them to be combined and used to unsettle the markets of the world. But Mr. —— could do this and prevent governments from meeting their obligations."
Mr. Gladstone had no hostility to great fortunes, however large, unless so invested as to be immediately available by a single man for speculation. But fortunes larger than that of one hundred millions have since been acquired, and their management is so conservative that they are brakes and safeguards against unreasoning panics. The majority of them have been used for public benefit. The most conspicuous instances are the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, and the Frick Creation.
Henry Labouchere told me a delightful story of Mr. Gladstone's first meeting with Robert T. Lincoln, when he arrived in London as American minister. Mr. Lincoln became in a short time after his arrival one of the most popular of the distinguished list of American representatives to Great Britain. He was especially noted for the charm of his conversation. Labouchere said that Mr. Gladstone told him that he was very anxious to meet Mr. Lincoln, both because he was the new minister from the United States and because of his great father, President Lincoln. Labouchere arranged for a dinner at his house, which was an hour in the country from Mr. Gladstone's city residence. Mrs. Gladstone made Mr. Labouchere promise, as a condition for permitting her husband to go, that Mr. Gladstone should be back inside of his home at ten o'clock.
The dinner had no sooner started than some question arose which not only interested but excited Mr. Gladstone. He at once entered upon an eloquent monologue on the subject. There was no possibility of interruption by any one, and Mr. Lincoln had no chance whatever to interpose a remark. When the clock was nearing eleven Labouchere interrupted this torrent of talk by saying: "Mr. Gladstone, it is now eleven; it is an hour's ride to London, and I promised Mrs. Gladstone to have you back at ten." When they were seated in the carriage Labouchere said to Mr. Gladstone: "Well, you have passed an evening with Mr. Lincoln; what do you think of him?" He replied: "Mr. Lincoln is a charming personality, but he does not seem to have much conversation."
Among the very able men whom I met in London was Joseph Chamberlain. When I first met him he was one of Mr. Gladstone's trusted lieutenants. He was a capital speaker, a close and incisive debater, and a shrewd politician. When he broke with Mr. Gladstone, he retained his hold on his constituency and continued to be a leader in the opposite party.
Mr. Chamberlain told me that in a critical debate in the House of Commons, when the government was in danger, Mr. Gladstone, who alone could save the situation, suddenly disappeared. Every known resort of his was searched to find him. Mr. Chamberlain, recollecting Mr. Gladstone's interest in a certain subject, drove to the house of the lady whose authority on that subject Mr. Gladstone highly respected. He found him submitting to the lady for her criticism and correction some of Watts's hymns, which he had translated into Italian.
The British Government sent Mr. Chamberlain to America, and he had many public receptions given him by our mercantile and other bodies. On account of his separating from Mr. Gladstone on Home Rule, he met with a great deal of hostility here from the Irish. I was present at a public dinner where the interruptions and hostile demonstrations were very pronounced. But Mr. Chamberlain won his audience by his skill and fighting qualities.
I gave him a dinner at my house and had a number of representative men to meet him. He made the occasion exceedingly interesting by presenting views of domestic conditions in England and international ones with this country, which were quite new to us.
Mr. Chamberlain was a guest on the Teutonic at the famous review of the British navy celebrating Queen Victoria's jubilee, where I had the pleasure of again meeting him. He had recently married Miss Endicott, the charming daughter of our secretary of war, and everybody appreciated that it was a British statesman's honeymoon.
He gave me a dinner in London, at which were present a large company, and two subjects came under very acute discussion. There had been a recent marriage in high English society, where there were wonderful pedigree and relationships on both sides, but no money. It finally developed, however, that under family settlements the young couple might have fifteen hundred pounds a year, or seven thousand five hundred dollars. The decision was unanimous that they could get along very well and maintain their position on this sum and be able to reciprocate reasonably the attentions they would receive. Nothing could better illustrate the terrific increase in the cost of living than the contrast between then and now.
Some one of the guests at the dinner said that the Americans by the introduction of slang were ruining the English language. Mr. James Russell Lowell had come evidently prepared for this controversy. He said that American slang was the common language of that part of England from which the Pilgrims sailed, and that it had been preserved in certain parts of the United States, notably northern New England. He then produced an old book, a sort of dictionary of that period, and proved his case. It was a surprise to everybody to know that American slang was really classic English, and still spoken in the remoter parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, though no longer in use in England.
The period of Mr. Gladstone's reign as prime minister was one of the most interesting for an American visitor who had the privilege of knowing him and the eminent men who formed his Cabinet. The ladies of the Cabinet entertained lavishly and superbly. A great favorite at these social gatherings was Miss Margot Tennant, afterwards Mrs. Asquith. Her youth, her wit, her originality and audacity made every function a success which was graced by her presence.
The bitterness towards Mr. Gladstone of the opposition party surpassed anything I have met in American politics, except during the Civil War. At dinners and receptions given me by my friends of the Tory party I was supposed as an American to be friendly to Mr. Gladstone and Home Rule. I do not know whether this was the reason or whether it was usual, but on such occasions the denunciation of Mr. Gladstone as a traitor and the hope of living to see him executed was very frequent.
I remember one important public man who was largely interested and a good deal of a power in Canadian and American railroads. He asked a friend of mine to arrange for me to meet him. I found him a most agreeable man and very accurately informed on the railway situation in Canada and the United States. He was preparing for a visit, and so wanted me to fill any gaps there might be in his knowledge of the situation.
Apropos of the political situation at the time, he suddenly asked me what was the attitude of the people of the United States towards Mr. Gladstone and his Home Rule bill. I told him they were practically unanimous in favor of the bill, and that Mr. Gladstone was the most popular Englishman in the United States. He at once flew into a violent rage, the rarest thing in the world for an Englishman, and lost control of his temper to such a degree that I thought the easiest way to dam the flood of his denunciation was to plead another engagement and retire from the field. I met him frequently afterwards, especially when he came to the United States, but carefully avoided his pet animosity.
One year, in the height of the crisis of Mr. Gladstone's effort to pass the Home Rule bill, a member of his Cabinet said to me: "We of the Cabinet are by no means unanimous in believing in Mr. Gladstone's effort, but he is the greatest power in our country. The people implicitly believe in him and we are helping all we can."
It is well known that one after another broke away from him in time. The same Cabinet minister continued: "Mr. Gladstone has gone to the extreme limit in concessions made in his Home Rule bill, and he can carry the English, Scotch, and Welsh members. But every time the Irish seem to be satisfied, they make a new demand and a greater one. Unless this stops and the present bill is accepted, the whole scheme will break down. Many of the Irish members are supported by contributions from America. Their occupation is politics. If Home Rule should be adopted the serious people of Ireland, whose economic interests are at stake, might come to the front and take all representative offices themselves. We have come to the conclusion that enough of the Irish members to defeat the bill do not want Home Rule on any conditions. I know it is a custom when you arrive home every year that your friends meet you down the Bay and give you a reception. Then you give an interview of your impressions over here, and that interview is printed as widely in this country as in the United States. Now I wish you would do this: At the reception put in your own way what I have told you, and especially emphasize that Mr. Gladstone is imperilling his political career and whole future for the sake of what he believes would be justice to Ireland. He cannot go any further and hold his English, Scotch, and Welsh constituencies. He believes that he can pass the present bill and start Ireland on a career of Home Rule if he can receive the support of the Irish members. The Americans who believe in Mr. Gladstone and are all honest Home Rulers will think this is an indirect message from himself, and it would be if it were prudent for Mr. Gladstone to send the message."
On my return to New York I did as requested. The story was published and commented on everywhere, and whether it was due to American insistence or not, I do not know, but shortly after Mr. Gladstone succeeded in carrying his Home Rule bill through the House of Commons, but it was defeated by the Conservatives in the House of Lords.
His Irish policy is a tribute to Mr. Gladstone's judgment and foresight, because in the light and conditions of to-day it is perfectly plain that if the Gladstone measure had been adopted at that time, the Irish question would not now be the most difficult and dangerous in British politics.
I had many talks with Mr. Parnell and made many speeches in his behalf and later for Mr. Redmond. I asked him on one occasion if the Irish desired complete independence and the formation of an independent government. He answered: "No, we want Home Rule, but to retain our connection in a way with the British Empire. The military, naval, and civil service of the British Empire gives great opportunities for our young men. Ireland in proportion to its population is more largely represented in these departments of the British Government than either England, Scotland, or Wales."
Incidental to the division in Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet, which had not at this time broken out, was the great vogue which a story of mine had. I was dining with Earl Spencer. He had been lord lieutenant of Ireland and was very popular. His wife especially had been as great a success as the vice-regent. He was called the Red Earl because of his flowing auburn beard. He was a very serious man, devoted to the public service and exceedingly capable. He almost adored Gladstone and grieved over the growing opposition in the Cabinet.
The guests at the dinner were all Gladstonians and lamenting these differences and full of apprehension they might result in a split in the party. The earl asked me if we ever had such conditions in the United States. I answered: "Yes." Mr. Blaine, at that time at the head of President Harrison's Cabinet as secretary of state, had very serious differences with his chief, and the people wondered why he remained. Mr. Blaine told me this story apropos of the situation: The author of a play invited a friend of his to witness the first production and sent him a complimentary ticket. During the first act there were signs of disapproval, which during the second act broke out into a riot. An excited man sitting alongside the guest of the playwright said: "Stranger, are you blind or deaf, or do you approve of the play?" The guest replied: "My friend, my sentiments and opinion in regard to this play do not differ from yours and the rest, but I am here on a free ticket. If you will wait a little while till I go out and buy a ticket, I will come back and help you raise hell."
The most brilliant member of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet and one of the most accomplished, versatile, and eloquent men in Great Britain was Lord Rosebery. I saw much of him when he was foreign minister and also after he became prime minister. Lord Rosebery was not only a great debater on political questions, he was also the most scholarly orator of his country on educational, literary, and patriotic subjects. He gathered about him always the people whom a stranger pre-eminently desired to meet.
I recall one of my week-end visits to his home at Mentmore, which is one of the most delightful of my reminiscences abroad. He had taken down there the leaders of his party. The dinner lasted, the guests all being men, except Lady Rosebery, who presided, until after twelve o'clock. Every one privileged to be there felt that those four hours had passed more quickly and entertainingly than any in their experience.
It was a beautiful moonlight night and the very best of English weather, and we adjourned to the terrace. There were recalled personal experiences, incidents of travel from men who had been all over the world and in critical situations in many lands, diplomatic secrets revealing crises seriously threatening European wars, and how these had been averted, alliances made and territories acquired, adventures of thrilling interest and personal episodes surpassing fiction. The company reluctantly separated when the rising sun admonished them that the night had passed.
It has been my good fortune to be the guest of eminent men in many lands and on occasions of memorable interest, but the rarest privilege for any one was to be the guest of Lord Rosebery, either at his city house or one of his country residences. The wonderful charm of the host, his tact with his guests, his talent for drawing people out and making them appear at their best, linger in their memories as red-letter days and nights of their lives.
All Americans took great interest in the career of Lord Randolph Churchill. His wife was one of the most beautiful and popular women in English society, and an American. I knew her father, Leonard Jerome, very well. He was a successful banker and a highly educated and cultured gentleman. His brother, William Jerome, was for a long time the best story-teller and one of the wittiest of New Yorkers.
Lord Randolph Churchill advanced very rapidly in British politics and became not only one of the most brilliant debaters but one of the leaders of the House of Commons. On one of my visits abroad I received an invitation from the Churchills to visit them at their country place. When I arrived I found that they occupied a castle built in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and in which few modern alterations had been made. It was historically a very unique and interesting structure. Additions had been made to it by succeeding generations, each being another house with its own methods of ingress and egress. Lord Randolph said: "I welcome you to my ancestral home, which I have rented for three months."
Though this temporary residence was very ancient, yet its hospitalities were dispensed by one of the most up-to-date and progressive couples in the kingdom. In the intimacy of a house-party, not too large, one could enjoy the versatility, the charm, the wide information, the keen political acumen of this accomplished and magnetic British statesman. It was unfortunate for his country that from overwork he broke down so early in life.
No one during his period could surpass Baron Alfred Rothschild as host. His dinners in town, followed by exquisite musicales, were the social events of every season. He was, however, most attractive at his superb place in the country. A week-end with him there met the best traditions of English hospitality. In the party were sure to be men and women of distinction, and just the ones whom an American had read about and was anxious to meet.
Baron Rothschild was a famous musician and an ardent lover of music. He had at his country place a wonderfully trained orchestra of expert musicians. In the theatre he gave concerts for the enjoyment of his guests, and led the orchestra himself. Among the company was sure to be one or more of the most famous artists from the opera at Covent Garden, and from these experts his own leadership and the performance of his perfectly trained company received unstinted praise and applause. Baron Rothschild had the art so necessary for the enjoyment of his guests of getting together the right people. He never risked the harmony of his house by inviting antagonists.
Lord Rothschild, the head of the house, differed entirely from his amiable and accomplished brother. While he also entertained, his mind was engrossed in business and affairs. I had a conference with him at the time of the Spanish-American War, which might have been of historical importance. He asked me to come and see him in the Rothschild banking-house, where the traditions of a century are preserved and unchanged. He said to me: "We have been for a long time the bankers of Spain. We feel the responsibility for their securities, which we have placed upon the market. The United States is so all-powerful in its resources and spirit that it can crush Spain. This we desire to avert. Spain, though weak and poor compared to the United States, has nevertheless the proudest people in the world, and it is a question of Spanish pride we have to deal with."
In answering him I said: "Lord Rothschild, it seems to me that if you had any proposition you should take it to Mr. John Hay, our accomplished minister."
"No," he said; "then it would become a matter of diplomacy and publicity. Now the Spanish Government is willing to comply with every demand the United States can make. The government is willing to grant absolute independence to Cuba, or what it would prefer, a self-governing colony, with relations like that of Canada to Great Britain. Spain is willing to give to the United States Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands, but she must know beforehand if these terms will be accepted before making the offer because if an offer so great as this and involving such a loss of territory and prestige should be rejected by the United States there would be a revolution in Spain which might overthrow not only the government but the monarchy. What would be regarded as an insult would be resented by every Spaniard to the bitter end. That is why I have asked you to come and wish you to submit this proposition to your president. Of course, I remain in a position, if there should be any publicity about it, to deny the whole thing."
The proposition unfortunately came too late, and Mr. McKinley could not stop the war. It was well known in Washington that he was exceedingly averse to hostilities and believed the difficulties could be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy, but the people were aroused to such an extent that they were determined not only to free Cuba but to punish those who were oppressing the Cubans.
One incident which received little publicity at the time was in all probability the match which fired the magazine. One of the ablest and most level-headed members of the Senate was Senator Redfield Proctor, of Vermont. The solidity of his character and acquirements and his known sense and conservatism made him a power in Congress, and he had the confidence of the people. He visited Cuba and wrote a report in which he detailed as an eyewitness the atrocities which the government and the soldiers were perpetrating. He read this report to Mr. McKinley and Senator Hanna. They both said: "Senator Proctor, if you read that to the Senate, our negotiations end and war is inevitable."
The president requested the senator to delay reporting to the Senate. The excitement and interest in that body were never more unanimous and intense. I doubt if any senator could have resisted this rare opportunity not only to be the centre of the stage but to occupy the whole platform. Senator Proctor made his report and the country was aflame.
One summer I arrived in London and was suffering from a fearful attack of muscular rheumatism. I knew perfectly well that I had brought it on myself by overwork. I had suffered several attacks before, but this one was so acute that I consulted Sir Henry Thompson, at that time the acknowledged head of the British medical profession. He made a thorough examination and with most satisfactory result as to every organ. "With your perfect constitution," he said, "this attack is abnormal. Now tell me of your day and every day at home. Begin with breakfast."
"I breakfast at a quarter of eight," I said.
"Then," continued the doctor, "give me the whole day."
"I arrive at my office," I said, "at nine. Being president of a great railway company, there is a large correspondence to be disposed of. I see the heads of the different departments and get in touch with every branch of the business. Then I meet committees of chambers of commerce or shippers, or of employees who have a grievance, and all this will occupy me until five o'clock, when I go home. I take a very short lunch, often at my desk, to save time. On arriving home I take a nap of ten or fifteen minutes, and then look over my engagements for the evening. If it is a speech, which will probably happen four evenings in a week, I prepare in the next hour and then deliver it at some public banquet or hall. If I have accepted a formal address or, as we call them in America, orations, it is ground out on odd evenings, Sunday afternoon and night."
The doctor turned to me abruptly and said: "You ought to be dead. Now, you have the most perfect constitution and less impaired than any I have examined at your time of life. If you will follow the directions which I give you, you can be perfectly well and sound at the age of one hundred. If you continue your present life until seventy, you will have a nervous breakdown, and thereafter become a nuisance to yourself and everybody else. I advise absolute rest at a remote place in Switzerland. There you will receive no newspapers, and you will hear nothing from the outside world. You will meet there only English who are seeking health, and they will not speak to you. Devote your day to walking over the mountains, adding to your tramp as your strength increases, and lie for hours on the bank of a quiet stream there, and be intensely interested as you throw pebbles into it to see how wide you can make the circles from the spot where the pebble strikes the water."
I thought I understood my temperament better than the doctor, and that any rest for me was not solitude but entire change of occupation. So I remained in London and lunched and dined out every day for several weeks, with a week-end over every Sunday. In other ways, however, I adopted the doctor's directions and not only returned home cured, but have been free from rheumatism ever since.
I was in London at both the queen's fiftieth anniversary of her reign and her jubilee. The reverence and love the English people had for Queen Victoria was a wonderful exhibition of her wisdom as a sovereign and of her charm and character as a woman. The sixty years of her reign were a wonderful epoch in the growth of her empire and in its relations to the world.
Once I said to a member of the Cabinet, who, as minister of foreign affairs had been brought in close contact with the queen: "I am very much impressed with the regard which the people have for Queen Victoria. What is her special function in your scheme of government?"
"She is invaluable," he answered, "to every prime minister and the Cabinet. The prime minister, after the close of the debate in the House of Commons every night, writes the queen a full report of what has occurred at that session. This has been going on for more than half a century. The queen reads these accounts carefully and has a most retentive memory. If these communications of the prime ministers were ever available to the public, they would present a remarkable contrast of the minds and the methods of different prime ministers and especially those two extreme opposites, Gladstone and Disraeli. The queen did not like Gladstone, because she said he always preached, but she had an intense admiration for Disraeli, who threw into his nightly memoranda all his skill not only as a statesman, but a novelist. The queen also has been consulted during all these years on every crisis, domestic or foreign, and every matter of Cabinet importance. The result is that she is an encyclopaedia. Very often there will be a dispute with some of the great powers or lesser ones, which is rapidly growing to serious proportions. We can find no report of its beginning. The queen, however, will remember just when the difficulty began, and why it was pushed aside and not settled, and who were the principal actors in the negotiations. With that data we often arrive at a satisfactory settlement."
I remember one garden-party at Buckingham Palace. The day was perfect and the attendance phenomenally large and distinguished. While there were places on the grounds where a luncheon was served, the guests neglected these places and gathered about a large tent where the royalties had their refreshments. It was an intense curiosity, not so much to see their sovereign eat and drink, as to improve the opportunity to reverently gaze upon her at close range. The queen called various people whom she knew from this circle of onlookers for a familiar talk.
When the luncheon was served the attendant produced an immense napkin, which she spread over herself, almost from her neck to the bottom of her dress. A charming English lady, who stood beside me, said: "I know you are laughing at the economy of our Queen."
"On the contrary," I said, "I am admiring an example of carefulness and thrift which, if it could be universally known, would be of as great benefit in the United States as in Great Britain."
"Well," she continued, "I do wish that the dear old lady was not quite so careful."
At a period when the lives of the continental rulers were in great peril from revolutionists and assassins, the queen on both her fiftieth anniversary and her jubilee rode in an open carriage through many miles of London streets, with millions of spectators on either side pressing closely upon the procession, and there was never a thought that she was in the slightest danger. She was fearless herself, but she had on the triple armor of the overmastering love and veneration of the whole people. Americans remembered that in the crisis of our Civil War it was the influence of the queen, more than any other, which prevented Great Britain recognizing the Southern Confederacy.
Among the incidents of her jubilee was the greatest naval demonstration ever known. The fleets of Great Britain were summoned from all parts of the globe and anchored in a long and imposing line in the English Channel. Mr. Ismay, at that time the head of the White Star Line, took the Teutonic, which had just been built and was not yet in regular commission, as his private yacht. He had on board a notable company, representing the best, both of men and women, of English life. He was the most generous of hosts, and every care taken for the individual comfort of his guests. In the intimacy for several days of such an excursion we all became very well acquainted. There were speeches at the dinners and dances afterwards on the deck for the younger people. The war-ships were illuminated at night by electric lights, and the launch of the Teutonic took us down one lane and up another through the long lines of these formidable defenders of Great Britain.
One day there was great excitement when a war-ship steamed into our midst and it was announced that it was the German emperor's. Even as early as that he excited in the English mind both curiosity and apprehension. One of the frequent questions put to me, both then and for years afterwards at English dinners, was: "What do you think of the German emperor?"
Shortly after his arrival he came on to the Teutonic with the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII. The prince knew many of the company and was most cordial all around. The emperor was absorbed in an investigation of this new ship and her possibilities both in the mercantile marine and as a cruiser. I heard him say to the captain: "How are you armed?" The captain told him that among his equipment he had a new invention, a quick-firing gun. The emperor was immediately greatly excited. He examined the gun and questioned its qualities and possibilities until he was master of every detail. Then he turned to one of his officers and gave a quick order that the gun should be immediately investigated and all that were required should be provided for Germany.
I heard a picturesque story from a member of the court, of Queen Victoria's interest in all public affairs. There was then, as there is generally in European relations, some talk of war. The queen was staying at her castle at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. He said she drove alone down to the shore one night and sat there a long time looking at this great fleet, which was the main protection of her empire and her people. It would be interesting if one could know what were her thoughts, her fears, and her hopes.
The queen was constantly assisting the government in the maintenance of friendly relations with foreign powers by entertaining their representatives at Windsor Castle. When General Grant, after he retired from the presidency, made his trip around the world, the question which disturbed our American minister, when General Grant arrived in London, was how he could be properly received and recognized. Of course, under our usage, he had become a private citizen, and was no more entitled to official recognition than any other citizen. This was well known in the diplomatic circles. When the ambassadors and ministers of foreign countries in London were appealed to, they unanimously said that as they represented their sovereigns they could not yield precedence to General Grant, but he must sit at the foot of the table. The Prince of Wales solved this question with his usual tact and wisdom. Under the recognized usage at any entertainment, the Prince of Wales can select some person as his special guest to sit at his right, and, therefore, precede everybody else. The prince made this suggestion to our minister and performed this courteous act at all functions given to General Grant. Queen Victoria supplemented this by extending the same invitation to General and Mrs. Grant to dine and spend the night with her at Windsor Castle, which was extended only to visiting royalty.
I remember that the Army of the Potomac was holding its annual meeting and commemoration at one of our cities when the cable announced that General Grant was being entertained by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. The conventions of diplomacy, which requires all communications to pass through the ambassador of one's country to the foreign minister of another country before it can reach the sovereign were not known to these old soldiers, so they cabled a warm message to General Grant, care of Queen Victoria, Windsor Castle, England.
One of the most delightful bits of humor in my recollections of journalistic enterprise was an editorial by a Mr. Alden, one of the editors of the New York Times. Mr. Alden described with great particularity, as if giving the details of the occurrence, that the messenger-boy arrived at Windsor Castle during the night and rang the front door-bell; that Her Majesty called out of the window in quite American style, "Who is there?" and the messenger-boy shouted, "Cable for General Grant. Is he staying at this house?" I can only give a suggestion of Alden's fun, which shook the whole country.
One of the court officers said to me during the jubilee: "Royalties are here from every country, and among those who have come over is Liliuokalani, Queen of the Hawaiian Islands. She is as insistent of her royal rights as the Emperor of Germany. We have consented that she should be a guest at a dinner of our queen and spend the night at Windsor Castle. We have settled her place among the royalties in the procession through London and offered her the hussars as her guard of honor. She insists, however, that she shall have the same as the other kings, a company of the guards. Having recognized her, we are obliged to yield." The same officer told me that at the dinner the dusky queen said to Queen Victoria: "Your Majesty, I am a blood relative of yours."
"How so?" was the queen's astonished answer.
"Why," said Liliuokalani, "my grandfather ate your Captain Cook."
One of the most interesting of the many distinguished men who were either guests on the Teutonic or visited us was Admiral Lord Charles Beresford. He was a typical sailor of the highest class and very versatile. He made a good speech, either social or political, and was a delightful companion on all occasions. He had remarkable adventures all over the world, and was a word painter of artistic power. He knew America well and was very sympathetic with our ideals. I met him many times in many relations and always with increasing regard and esteem.
I was entertained by Lord Beresford once in the most original way. He had a country place about an hour from London and invited me to come down on a Sunday afternoon and meet some friends. It was a delightful garden-party on an ideal English summer day. He pressed me to stay for dinner, saying: "There will be a few friends coming, whom I am anxious for you to know."
The friends kept coming, and after a while Lady Beresford said to him: "We have set all the tables we have and the dining-room and the adjoining room can hold. How many have you invited?"
The admiral answered: "I cannot remember, but if we delay the dinner until a quarter of nine, I am sure they will all be here."
When we sat down we numbered over fifty. Lord Charles's abounding and irresistible hospitality had included everybody whom he had met the day before.
The butler came to Lord Charles shortly after we sat down and said: "My lord, it is Sunday night, and the shops are all closed. We can add nothing to what we have in the house, and the soup has given out."
"Well," said this admirable strategist, "commence with those for whom you have no soup with the fish. When the fish gives out, start right on with the next course, and so to the close of the dinner. In that way everybody will get something."
After a while the butler again approached the admiral and said: "My lord, the champagne is all gone."
"Well," said Lord Charles, "start in on cider."
It was a merry company, and they all caught on to the situation. The result was one of the most hilarious, enjoyable, and original entertainments of my life. It lasted late, and everybody with absolute sincerity declared he or she had had the best time ever.
I was asked to meet Lord John Fisher, in a way a rival of Lord Beresford. Both were exceedingly able and brilliant officers and men of achievement, but they were absolutely unlike; one had all the characteristics of the Celt and the other of the Saxon.
One of the most interesting things in Lord Fisher's talk, especially in view of later developments, was his description of the discoveries and annexations to the British Empire, made by the British navy. In regard to this he said: "The British navy had been acquiring positions of strategic importance to the safety and growth of the empire from time immemorial, and some fool of a prime minister on a pure matter of sentiment is always giving away to our possible enemies one or the other of these advantageous positions." He referred especially to Heligoland, the gift of which to Germany had taken place not long before. If Heligoland, fortified like Gibraltar, had remained in the possession of the British Government, Germany would not have ventured upon the late war.
Lord Fisher exemplified what I have often met with in men who have won eminent distinction in some career, whose great desire was to have fame in another and entirely different one. Apparently he wished his friends and those he met to believe that he was the best storyteller in the world; that he had the largest stock of original anecdotes and told them better than anybody else. I found that he was exceedingly impatient and irritable when any one else started the inevitable "that reminds me," and he was intolerant with the story the other was trying to tell. But I discovered, also, that most of his stories, though told with great enthusiasm, were very familiar, or, as we Americans would say, "chestnuts."
During my summer vacations I spent two weeks or more at Homburg, the German watering-place. It was at that time the most interesting resort on the continent. The Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, was always there, and his sister, the Dowager Empress of Germany, had her castle within a few miles. It was said that there was a quorum of both Houses of Parliament in Homburg while the prince was there, but his presence also drew representatives from every department of English life, the bench and the bar, writers of eminence of both sexes, distinguished artists, and people famous on both the dramatic and the operatic stage. The prince, with keen discrimination, had these interesting people always about him. There were also social leaders, whose entertainments were famous in London, who did their best to add to the pleasure of the visit of the prince. I met him frequently and was often his guest at his luncheons and dinners. He fell in at once in the Homburg way.
The routine of the cure was to be at the springs every morning at seven o'clock, to take a glass of water, walk half an hour with some agreeable companion, and repeat this until three glasses had been consumed. Then breakfast, and after that the great bathing-house at eleven o'clock. The bathing-house was a meeting-place for everybody. Another meeting-place was the open-air concerts in the afternoon. In the evening came the formal dinners and some entertainment afterwards.
Both for luncheon and dinner the prince always had quite a large company. He was a host of great charm, tact, and character. He had a talent of drawing out the best there was in those about his table, and especially of making the occasion very agreeable for a stranger. Any one at his entertainments always carried away either in the people he met or the things that were said, or both, permanent recollections.
I do not think the prince bothered about domestic questions. He was very observant of the limitations and restrictions which the English Government imposes upon royalty. He was, however, very keen upon his country's foreign relations. In the peace of Europe he was an important factor, being so closely allied with the imperial houses of Germany and Russia. There is no doubt that he prevented the German Emperor from acquiring a dangerous control over the Czar. He was very fixed and determined to maintain and increase friendly relations between the United States and Great Britain. He succeeded, after many varied and long-continued efforts, in doing away with the prejudices and hostilities of the French towards the English, an accomplishment of infinite value to his country in these later years.
I was told that the prince required very little sleep, that he retired to bed late and was an early riser. I was awakened one night by his equerry calling me up, saying the prince was on the terrace of the Kursaal and wanted to see me. The lights were all out, everybody had gone, and he was sitting alone at a table illuminated by a single candle. What he desired was to discuss American affairs and become more familiar with our public men, our ideals, our policies, and especially any causes which could possibly be removed of irritation between his own country and ours. This discussion lasted till daylight.
Meeting him on the street one day, he stopped and asked me to step aside into an opening there was in the hedge. He seemed laboring under considerable excitement, and said: "Why do the people in the United States want to break up the British Empire?"
I knew he referred to the Home Rule bill for Ireland, which was then agitating Parliament and the country, and also the frequent demonstrations in its favor which were occurring in the United States.
I said to him: "Sir, I do not believe there is a single American who has any thought of breaking up the British Empire. We are wedded to the federal principle of independent States, which are sovereign in their local affairs and home matters, but on everything you call imperial the United States is supreme. To vindicate this principle we fought a Civil War, in which we lost more lives, spent more money, destroyed more property, and incurred more debt than any contest of modern time. The success of the government has been so complete that the States which were in rebellion and their people are quite as loyal to the general government as those who fought to preserve it. The prosperity of the country, with this question settled, has exceeded the bounds of imagination. So Americans think of your trouble with Ireland in terms of our federated States and believe that all your difficulties could be adjusted in the same way."
We had a long discussion in which he asked innumerable questions, and never referred to the subject again. I heard afterwards among my English friends that he who had been most hostile was becoming a Home Ruler.
At another time he wanted to know why our government had treated the British ambassador, Lord Sackville West, so badly and ruined his career. The Sackville West incident was already forgotten, though it was the liveliest question of its time.
Cleveland was president and a candidate for re-election. Sackville West was the British ambassador. A little company of shrewd Republican politicians in California thought if they could get an admission that the British Government was interfering in our election in favor of Cleveland, it would be a fine asset in the campaign, and so they wrote to Lord Sackville West, telling him they were Englishmen who had become naturalized American citizens. In voting they were anxious to vote for the side which would be best for their native land; would he kindly and very confidentially advise them whether to support the Democratic or the Republican ticket. Sackville West swallowed the bait without investigation, and wrote them a letter advising them to vote the Democratic ticket.
There never had been such consternation in diplomatic circles in Washington. Of course, Mr. Cleveland and his supporters had to get out from under the situation as quickly and gracefully as possible.