Sincerely yours, WALTER H. PAGE.
[Footnote 16: Count Beckendorff.]
[Footnote 17: Afterward private secretary to Premier Lloyd George.]
[Footnote 18: A messenger in the American Embassy.]
[Footnote 19: The Rt. Hon. Reginald McKenna.]
[Footnote 20: Sir Horace Plunkett.]
[Footnote 21: It was Archibald's intercepted baggage that furnished the documents which caused Dumba's dismissal.]
[Footnote 22: Sir William Tyrrell, private secretary to Sir Edward Grey.]
CHRISTMAS IN ENGLAND, 1915
To Edward M. House London, December 7, 1915.
MY DEAR HOUSE:
I hear you are stroking down the Tammany tiger—an easier job than I have with the British lion. You can find out exactly who your tiger is, you know the house he lives in, the liquor he drinks, the company he goes with. The British lion isn't so easy to find. At times in English history he has dwelt in Downing Street—not so now. So far as our struggle with him is concerned, he's all over the Kingdom; for he is public opinion. The governing crowd in usual times and on usual subjects can here overrun public opinion—can make it, turn it, down it, dodge it. But it isn't so now—as it affects us. Every mother's son of 'em has made up his mind that Germany must and shall be starved out, and even Sir Edward's scalp isn't safe when they suspect that he wishes to be lenient in that matter. They keep trying to drive him out, on two counts: (1) he lets goods out of Germany for the United States "and thereby handicaps the fleet"; and (2) he failed in the Balkans. Sir Edward is too much of a gentleman for this business of rough-riding over all neutral rights and for bribing those Balkan bandits.
I went to see him to-day about the Hocking, etc. He asked me: "Do you know that the ships of this line are really owned, in good faith, by Americans?"
"I'll answer your question," said I, "if I may then ask you one. No, I don't know of my own knowledge. Now, do you know that they are not owned by Americans?"
He had to confess that he, of his own knowledge, didn't know.
"Then," I said, "for the relief of us both, I pray you hurry up your prize court."
When we'd got done quarrelling about ships and I started to go, he asked me how I liked Wordsworth's war poems. "The best of all war poems," said he, "because they don't glorify war but have to do with its philosophy." Then he told me that some friend of his had just got out a little volume of these war poems selected from Wordsworth; "and I'm going to send you a copy."
"Just in time," said I, "for I have a copy of 'The Life and Letters of John Hay' that I'm sending to you."
He's coming to dine with me in a night or two: he'll do anything but discuss our Note with me. And he's the only member of the Government who, I think, would like to meet our views; and he can't. To use the language of Lowell about the campaign of Governor Kent—these British are hell-bent on starving the Germans out, and neutrals have mighty few rights till that job's done.
The worst of it is that the job won't be done for a very long time. I've been making a sort of systematic round of the Cabinet to see what these fellows think about things in general at this stage of the game. Bonar Law (the Colonies) tells me that the news from the Balkans is worse than the public or the newspapers know, and that still worse news will come. Germany will have it all her own way in that quarter.
"And take Egypt and the canal?"
"I didn't say that," he replied. But he showed that he fears even that.
I could go on with a dozen of 'em; but I sat down to write you a Christmas letter, and nothing else. The best news I have for you is not news at all, but I conceive it to be one of the best hopes of the future. In spite of Irishmen past, present, and to come; in spite of Germans, whose fuss will soon be over; in spite of lawyers, who (if left alone) would bankrupt empires as their clients and think they'd won a victory; I'm going to leave things here in a year and a half so that, if wise men wish to lay a plan for keeping the peace of the world, all they need to do will be to say first to Uncle Sam: "This fellow or that must understand that he can't break loose like a wild beast." If Uncle Sam agrees (and has a real navy himself), he'll wink at John Bull, and John will follow after. You see our blackleg tail-twisters have the whole thing backward. They say we truckle to the British. My plan is to lead the British—not for us to go to them but to have them come to us. We have three white men to every two white men in their whole Empire; and, when peace comes, we'll be fairly started on the road to become as rich as the war will leave them. There are four clubs in London which have no other purpose than this; and the best review in the world exists chiefly for this purpose. All we need to do is to be courteous (we can do what we like if we do it courteously). Our manners, our politicians, and our newspapers are all that keep the English-speaking white man, under our lead, from ruling the world, without any treaty or entangling alliance whatsoever. If, when you went to Berlin to talk to your gentle and timid friend, the Emperor, about disarmament before the war—if about 200 American dreadnaughts and cruisers, with real grog on 'em, had come over to make a friendly call, in the North Sea, on the 300 English dreadnaughts and cruisers—just a friendly call, admirals on admirals—the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Save the King"—and if General Bell, from the Philippines, had happened in London just when Kitchener happened to be home from Egypt—then, there wouldn't have been this war now. Nothing need have been said—no treaty, no alliance, nothing. For then 100 or more British naval ships would have joined the Panama naval procession and any possible enemy would have seen that combined fleet clean across the Pacific.
Now this may all be a mere Christmas fancy—a mere yarn about what might have been—because we wouldn't have sent ships here in our old mood; the crew would have missed one Sunday School. But it's this kind of thing that does the trick. But this means the practice of courtesy, and we haven't acquired the habit. Two years or more ago the training ships from Annapolis with the cadets aboard anchored down the Thames and stayed several weeks and let the boys loose in England. They go on such a voyage every two years to some country, you know. The English didn't know that fact and they took the visit as a special compliment. Their old admirals were all greatly pleased, and I hear talk about that yet. We ought to have two or three of our rear-admirals here on their fleet now. Symington, of course, is a good fellow; but he's a mere commander and attache—not an admiral—in other words, not any particular compliment or courtesy to the British Navy. (As soon as the war began, a Japanese admiral turned up here and he is here now.) We sent over two army captains as military observers. The Russians sent a brigadier-general. We ought to have sent General Wood. You see the difference? There was no courtesy in our method. It would be the easiest and prettiest job in the world to swallow the whole British organization, lock, stock, and barrel—King, Primate, Cabinet, Lords, and Commons, feathers and all, and to make 'em follow our courteous lead anywhere. The President had them in this mood when the war started and for a long time after—till the Lusitania seemed to be forgotten and till the lawyers began to write his Notes. He can get 'em back, after the war ends, by several acts of courtesy—if we could get into the habit of doing such things as sending generals and admirals as compliments to them. The British Empire is ruled by a wily use of courtesies and decorations. If I had the President himself to do the correspondence, if I had three or four fine generals and admirals and a good bishop or two, a thoroughbred senator or two and now and then a Supreme Court Justice to come on proper errands and be engineered here in the right way—we could do or say anything we liked and they'd do whatever we'd say. I'd undertake to underwrite the whole English-speaking world to keep peace, under our leadership. Instead whereof, every move we now make is to follow them or to drive them. The latter is impossible, and the former is unbecoming to us.
But to return to Christmas.—I could go on writing for a week in this off-hand, slap-dash way, saying wise things flippantly. But Christmas—that's the thing now. Christmas! What bloody irony it is on this side the world! Still there will be many pleasant and touching things done. An Englishman came in to see me the other day and asked if I'd send $1,000 to Gerard to use in making the English prisoners in Germany as happy as possible on Christmas Day—only I must never tell anybody who did it. A lady came on the same errand—for the British prisoners in Turkey, and with a less but still a generous sum. The heroism, the generosity, the endurance and self-restraint and courtesy of these people would melt a pyramid to tears. Of course there are yellow dogs among 'em, here and there; but the genuine, thoroughbred English man or woman is the real thing—one of the realest things in this world. So polite are they that not a single English person has yet mentioned our Note to me—not one.
But every one I've met for two days has mentioned the sending of Von Papen and Boy-Ed home—not that they expect us to get into the war, but because they regard this action as maintaining our self-respect.
Nor do they neglect other things because of the war. I went to the annual dinner of the Scottish Corporation the other night-an organization which for 251 years has looked after Scotchmen stranded in London; and they collected $20,000 then and there. There's a good deal of Christmas in 'em yet. One fellow in a little patriotic speech said that the Government is spending twenty-five million dollars a day to whip the Germans.—"Cheap work, very cheap work. We can spend twice that if necessary. Why, gentlemen, we haven't exhausted our pocket-change yet."
Somehow I keep getting away from Christmas. It doesn't stay put. It'll be a memorable one here for its sorrows and for its grim determination—an empty chair at every English table. But nowhere in the world will it be different except in the small neutral states here and in the lands on your side the world.
How many Christmases the war may last, nobody's wise enough to know. That depends absolutely on Germany. The Allies announced their terms ten months ago, and nothing has yet happened to make them change them. That would leave the Germans with Germany and a secure peace—no obliteration or any other wild nonsense, but only a secure peace. Let 'em go back home, pay for the damage they've done, and then stay there. I do hope that the actual fighting will be ended by Christmas of next year. Of course it may end with dramatic suddenness at any time, this being the only way, perhaps, for the Kaiser to save his throne. Or it may go on for two or three years. My guess is that it'll end next year—a guess subject to revision, of course, by events that can't be foreseen.
But as I said before—to come back to Christmas. Mrs. Page and I send you and Mrs. House our affectionate good wishes and the hope that you keep very well and very happy in your happy, prosperous hemisphere. We do, I thank you. We haven't been better for years—never before so busy, never, I think, so free from care. We get plenty to eat (such as it is in this tasteless wet zone), at a high cost, of course; we have comfortable beds and shoes (we spend all our time in these two things, you know); we have good company, enough to do (!!), no grievances nor ailments, no ill-will, no disappointments, a keen interest in some big things—all the chips are blue, you know; we don't feel ready for halos, nor for other uncomfortable honours; we deserve less than we get and are content with what the gods send. This, I take it, is all that Martin would call a comfortable mood for Christmas; and we are old enough and tough enough to have thick armour against trouble. When Worry knocks at the door, the butler tells him we're not at home.
And I see the most interesting work in the world cut out for me for the next twenty-five or thirty years—to get such courtesy into our dealings with these our kinsmen here, public and private—as will cause them to follow us in all the developments of democracy and-in keeping the peace of the world secure. I can't impress it on you strongly enough that the English-speaking folk have got to set the pace and keep this world in order. Nobody else is equal to the job. In all our dealings with the British, public and private, we allow it to be assumed that they lead: they don't. We lead. They'll follow, if we do really lead and are courteous to them. If we hold back, the Irishman rears up and says we are surrendering to the English! Suppose we go ahead and the English surrender to us, what can your Irishmen do then? Or your German? The British Navy is a pretty good sort of dog to have to trot under your wagon. If we are willing to have ten years of thoughtful good manners, I tell you Jellicoe will eat out of your hand.
Therefore, cheer up! It's not at all improbable that Ford and his cargo of cranks, if they get across the ocean, may strike a German mine in the North Sea. Then they'll die happy, as martyrs; and the rest of us will live happy, and it'll be a Merry Christmas for everybody.
Our love to Mrs. House.
Always heartily yours,
To Frank N. Doubleday and Others
London, Christmas, 1915.
DEAR D.P. & Co.
... Now, since we're talking about the war, let me deliver my opinion and leave the subject. They're killing one another all right; you needn't have any doubt about that—so many thousand every day, whether there's any battle or not. When there's "nothing to report" from France, that means the regular 5,000 casualties that happen every day. There isn't any way of getting rid of men that has been forgotten or neglected. Women and children, too, of course, starve in Serbia and Poland and are massacred in Turkey. England, though she has by very much the largest army she ever had, has the smallest of all the big armies and yet I don't know a family that had men of fighting age which hasn't lost one or more members. And the worst is to come. But you never hear a complaint. Poor Mr. Dent, for instance (two sons dead), says: "It's all right. England must be saved."
And this Kingdom alone, as you know, is spending twenty-five million dollars a day. The big loan placed in the United States would last but twenty days! if this pace of slaughter and of spending go on long enough, there won't be any men or any money left on this side the world. Yet there will be both left, of course; for somehow things never quite go to the ultimate smash that seems to come. Read the history of the French Revolution. How did the French nation survive?
It will go on, unless some unexpected dramatic military event end it, for something like another year at least—many say for two years more, and some, three years more. It'll stop, of course, whenever Germany will propose terms that the Allies can consider—or something near such terms; and it won't stop before. By blockade pressure and by fighting, the Allies are gradually wearing the Germans out. We can see here the gradual pressure of events in that direction. My guess is that they won't go into a third winter.
Well, dear gentlemen, however you may feel about it, that's enough for me. My day—every day—is divided into these parts: (1) two to three hours listening to Americans or their agents here whose cargoes are stopped, to sorrowing American parents whose boys have run away and gone into the English Army, to nurses and doctors and shell makers who wish to go to France, to bereaved English men and women whose sons are "missing": can I have them found in Germany? (2) to answering letters about these same cheerful subjects; (3) to going over cases and documents prepared about all these sorts of troubles and forty other sorts, by the eight or ten secretaries of the Embassy, and a conference with every one of them; (4) the reading of two books of telegrams, one incoming, the other outgoing, and the preparation of a lot of answers; (5) going to the Foreign Office, not every day but often, to discuss more troubles there; (6) home to dinner at 8 o'clock—at home or somewhere else, and there is more talk about the war or about the political troubles. That for a regular daily routine for pretty nearly a year and a half! As I say, if anybody is keeping the war up for my entertainment, he now has my permission to stop. No time to read, no time to write, little time to think, little or no time to see the people you most wish to see, I often don't know the day of the week or of the month: it's a sort of life in the trenches, without the immediate physical danger. Then I have my cabinet meetings, my financial reports (money we spend for four governments: I had till recently about a million dollars subject to my check); then the commission for the relief of Belgium; then the Ambassadors and Ministers of the other neutral states—our task is worse than war!
Well, praise God for sleep. I get from seven to nine hours a night, unbroken; and I don't take Armageddon to bed with me.
I don't mind telling you (nobody else) that the more I see just how great statesmen work and manage great governments—the more I see of them at close range—whether in Washington or London or Berlin or Vienna or Constantinople (for these are my Capitals), the more I admire the methods of the Long Island farmers. Boys, I swear I could take our crowd and do a better job than many of these great men do. I have to spend a lot of time to correct their moves before the other fellow finds out the mistake. For instance I know I spent $2,000 in telegrams before I could make the German Government understand the British military age, and the British Government understand the German military age, for exchanging prisoners who had lost two legs or arms or both eyes; and I've had to send a man to Berlin to get a financial report from one man on one floor of a building there and to take it to another man on the floor above. Just yesterday I was reminded that I had made eighteen requests for the same information of the British Government, when the nineteenth request for it came from Washington; and I have now telegraphed that same thing nineteen times since the war began. Of course everybody's worked to death. But something else ails a lot of 'em all the way from Constantinople to London. Leaving out common gutter lying (and there's much of it) the sheer stupidity of governments is amazing. They are all so human, so mighty human! I wouldn't be a government for any earthly consideration. I'd rather be a brindled dog and trot under the wagon.
But it has been an inexpressibly interesting experience to find all this out for myself. There's a sort of weary satisfaction in feeling that you've seen too much of them to be fooled by 'em any more. And, although most men now engaged in this game of government are mere common mortals with most of the common mortal weaknesses, now and then a really big man does stumble into the business. I have my doubts whether a really big man ever deliberately goes into it. And most of the men who the crowd for the moment thinks are big men don't really turn out so. It's a game like bull fighting. The bull is likely to kill you—pretty sure to do so if you keep at the business long enough; but in the meantime you have some exciting experiences and the applause of the audience. When you get killed, they forget you—immediately. There are two rather big men in this Government, and you wouldn't guess in three rounds who they are. But in general the war hasn't so far developed very big men in any country. Else we are yet too close to them to recognize their greatness. Joffre seems to have great stuff in him; and (I assure you) you needn't ever laugh at a Frenchman again. They are a great people. As for the British, there was never such a race. It's odd—I hear that it happens just now to be the fashion in the United States to say that the British are not doing their share. There never was a greater slander. They absolutely hold the Seven Seas. They have caught about seventy submarines and some of them are now destroying German ships in the Baltic Sea. They've sent to France by several times the largest army that any people ever sent over the sea. They are financing most of their allies and they have turned this whole island into gun and shell factories. They made a great mistake at the Dardanelles and they are slower than death to change their set methods. But no family in the land, from charcoal burners to dukes, hesitates one moment to send its sons into the army. When the news comes of their death, they never whimper. When you come right down to hard facts, the courage and the endurance of the British and the French excel anything ever before seen on this planet. All the old stories of bravery from Homer down are outdone every day by these people. I see these British at close range, full-dress and undress; and I've got to know a lot of 'em as well as we can ever come to know anybody after we get grown. There is simply no end to the silly sides of their character. But, when the real trial comes, they don't flinch; and (except the thoroughbred American) there are no such men in the world.
A seven-foot Kansas lawyer (Kansas all over him) came to see me yesterday. He came here a month ago on some legal business. He told me yesterday that he had always despised Englishmen. He's seen a few with stud-horse clothes and white spats and monocles on who had gone through Kansas to shoot in the Rocky Mountains. He couldn't understand 'em and he didn't like 'em. "So infernally uppish," said he.
"Well, what do you think of 'em now?"
"The very best people in the world," said he. I think he has a notion of enlisting!
You're still publishing books, I hear. That's a good occupation. I'd like to be doing it myself. But I can't even get time to read 'em now.
But, as you know, nobody's writing anything but war books—from Kipling to Hall Caine. Poor Kipling!—his boy's dead. I have no doubt of it. I've had all the German hospitals and prison camps searched for him in vain. These writing men and women, by the way, are as true blue and as thoroughbred as any other class. I can never forget Maurice Hewlett's brave behaviour when he thought that his flying corps son had been killed by the Germans or drowned at sea. He's no prig, but a real man. And the women are as fine as the men....
To go back to books: Of course nobody can tell what effect the war will have on the writing of them, nor what sort of new writers may come up. You may be sure that everything is stirred to its profoundest depths and will be stirred still more. Some old stagers will be laid on the shelf; that's certain. What sort of new ones will come? I asked H.G. Wells this question. He has promised to think it out and tell me. He has the power to guess some things very well. I'll put that question to Conrad when I next see him.
Does anybody in the United States take the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, to be a great man? His wife is a brilliant woman; and she has kept a diary ever since he became Prime Minister; and he now has passed the longest single term in English history. Mr. Dent thinks he's the biggest man alive, and Dent has some mighty good instincts.
Talk about troubles! Think of poor Northcliffe. He thinks he's saved the nation from its miserable government, and the government now openly abuses him in the House of Commons. Northcliffe puts on his brass knuckles and turns the Times building upside down and sets all the Daily Mail machine guns going, and has to go to bed to rest his nerves, while the row spreads and deepens. The Government keeps hell in the prayer-book because without it they wouldn't know what to do with Northcliffe; and Northcliffe is just as sure that he has saved England as he is sure the Duke of Wellington did.
To come back to the war. (We always do.) Since I wrote the first part of this letter, I spent an evening with a member of the Cabinet and he told me so much bad military news, which they prevent the papers from publishing or even hearing, that to-night I almost share this man's opinion that the war will last till 1918. That isn't impossible. If that happens the offer that I heard a noble old buck make to a group of ladies the other night may be accepted. This old codger is about seventy-five, ruddy and saucy yet. "My dear ladies," said he, "if the war goes on and on we shall have no young men left. A double duty will fall on the old fellows. I shall be ready, when the need comes, to take four extra wives, and I daresay there are others of my generation who are as patriotic as I am."
All of which is only my long-winded, round-about diplomatic way of wishing you every one and every one of yours and all the folk in the office, their assigns, superiors, dependents, companions in labour—all, everyone and sundry, the happiest of Christmases; and when you take stock of your manifold blessings, don't forget to be thankful for the Atlantic Ocean. That's the best asset of safety that we have.
To Mrs. Charles G. Loring
6 Grosvenor Square,
London, December 7, 1915.
This is my Christmas letter to you and Chud—a poor thing, but the best I have to give you. At least it carries my love, dear, and my wishes that every Christmas under your own roof will be happier than the preceding one. Since your starting point is on the high level of your first Christmas in your own home—that's a good wish: isn't it?
I'm beginning to think a good deal of your mother and me. Here we are left alone by every one of you—in a foreign land; and, contrary to all predictions that any of you would have made about us four or five years ago, we're faring pretty well, thank you, and not on the edge of dying of loneliness at all. I tell you, I think we're pretty brave and hardy.
We're even capable of becoming cocky and saucy to every one of you. Be careful, then.
You see if you have a war to live with you don't necessarily need children: you'll have strife enough without 'em. We'll console ourselves with such reflections as these.
And the truth is—at least about me—that there isn't time to think of what you haven't got. Of course, I'm working, as always, to soften the relations between these two governments. So far, in spite of the pretty deep latent feeling on both sides—far worse than it ought to be and far worse than I wish it were—I'm working all the time to keep things as smooth as possible. Happily, nobody can prove it, but I believe it, that there is now and there has been all along more danger of a serious misunderstanding than anybody has known. The Germans have, of course, worked in 1000 ways to cause misunderstanding between England and the United States. Then, of course, there has been constant danger in the English bull-headed insularity which sees nothing but the Englishman's immediate need, and in the English slowness. Add to these causes the American ignorance of war and of European conditions. It has been a God's mercy for us that we have so far had a man like Sir Edward Grey in his post. And in my post, while there might well have been a better man, this much at least has been lucky—that I do have a consciousness of English history and of our common origin and some sense of the inevitable destiny of the great English-speaking race—so that, when we have come to sharp corners in the road, I have known that whatever happen we must travel in the right general direction—have known that no temporary difference must be allowed to assume a permanent quality. I have thought several times that we had passed the worst possible place, and then a still worse one would appear. It does look now as if we had faced most of the worst difficulties that can come, but I am not sure what Congress may do or provoke. If we outlast Congress, we shall be safe. Now to come through this enormous war even with no worse feeling than already exists between the two countries—that'll be a big thing to have done. But it's work like the work of the English fleet. Nobody can prove that Jellicoe has been a great admiral. Yet the fleet has done the whole job more successfully than if it had had sea-fights and lost a part of their ships.
Our Note has left a great deal of bad feeling—suppressed, but existent. A part of it was inevitable and (I'd say) even necessary. But we put in a lot of things that seem to me to be merely disputatious, and we didn't write it in the best form. It corresponds to what you once called suburban: do you remember? Not thoroughbred. But we'll get over even that, especially if the Administration and the courts continue to bring the Germans to book who are insulting our dignity and destroying our property and killing Americans. If we can satisfactorily settle the Lusitania trouble, the whole outlook will be very good.
Your mother and I are hearing much interesting political talk. We dined last night with Mr. Bonar Law. Sir Edward Carson was there. To-day we lunched with Lady P.—the other side, you see. There are fundamental differences continually arising. They thought a few weeks ago that they had the Prime Minister's scalp. He proved too nimble for them. Now one person after another says to you: "Kitchener doesn't deserve the reverence the people give him." More and more folks say he's hard to work with—is domineering and selfish. Nobody seems really to know him; and there are some signs that there may be a row about him.
We've heard nothing from Harold in quite a little while. We have, you know, three of our footmen in the war. Allen was wounded at Loos—a flesh, bullet-wound. He's about well now and is soon going back. Leslie is in the trenches and a postal card came from him the other day. The third one, Philip, is a prisoner in Germany. Your mother sent him a lot of things, but we've never heard whether he received them or not. The general strain—military, political, financial—gets greater. The streets are darker than ever. The number of wounded increases rapidly. More houses are turned into hospitals. The Manchesters', next door, is a hospital now. And everybody fears worse days are to come. But they have no nerves, these English. They grit their teeth, but they go on bravely, enduring everything. We run into experiences every day that melt you, and the heroic things we hear outnumber and outdo all the stories in all the books.
I keep forgetting Xmas, Kitty, and this is my Xmas letter. You needn't put it in your stocking, but you'd really better burn it up. It would be the ruination of the world if my frank comments got loose. It's for you and Chud only. You may fill your stocking full of the best wishes you ever received—enough to fill the polar bear skin. And I send you both my love.
To Ralph W., Arthur 147., and Frank C. Page
London, Christmas, 1915.
DEAR Boys: R.W.P., A.W.P., F.C.P.
A Merry Christmas to you! Good cheer, good company, good food, good fires, good golf. I suppose (though the Lord only knows) that I'll have to be here another Christmas; but another after that? Not on your life!
I think I'm as cheerful and hopeful as I ever was, but this experience here and the war have caused my general confidence in the orderly progress of civilization somewhat to readjust itself. I think that any man who looks over the world and who knows something of the history of human society—I mean any American who really believes in democracy and in human progress—is somewhat saddened to see the exceeding slowness of that progress. In the early days of our Republic hopeful Americans held the opinion that the other countries of the world would follow our example; that is to say, would educate the people, would give the masses a chance to become real men, would make their governments and institutions serve the people, would dispense with kings and gross privileges and become free. Well, they haven't done it. France is nominally a republic, but the masses of its people are far, far backward. Switzerland is a republic, but a very small one. Denmark is a very free state, in spite of its monarchical form of government. In South America they think they have republics, but they haven't the slightest idea of the real education and freedom of the people. Practically, therefore, the United States and the self-governing British colonies are the only really free countries of much importance in the whole world—these and this Kingdom. Our example hasn't been followed. In Europe, Germany and Russia in particular have monarchs who are in absolute command. Thus on both sides the world, so far as government and the danger of war are concerned, there hasn't been very much real progress in five hundred years.
This is a little disappointing. And it means, of course, that we are likely to have periodical earthquakes like this present one till some radical change come. Republics have their faults, no doubt. But they have at least this virtue: that no country where the people really have the control of their government is likely to start out deliberately on any war of conquest—is not likely to run amuck—and will not regard its population as mere food for shell and powder.
Nor do I believe that our example of our government has, relatively to our strength and wealth and population, as much influence in the world as we had one hundred years ago. Our people have no foreign consciousness and I know that our government knows almost nothing about European affairs; nor do our people know. As regards foreign affairs our government lacks proper machinery. Take this as an illustration: The President wrote vigorous and proper notes about the Lusitania and took a firm stand with Germany. Germany has paid no attention to the Lusitania outrage. Yet (as I understand it) the people will not run the risk of war—or the Administration thinks they will not—and hence the President can do nothing to make his threat good. Therefore we stand in a ridiculous situation; and nobody cares how many notes we write. I don't know that the President could have done differently—unless, before he sent the Lusitania notes, he had called Congress together and submitted his notes to Congress. But, as the matter stands, the Germans are merely encouraged to blow up factories and practically to carry on war in the United States, because they know we can (or will) do nothing. Mere notes break nobody's skin.
We don't seem to have any machinery to bring any influence to bear on foreign governments or on foreign opinion; and, this being so, it is little wonder that the rest of the world does not follow our republican example.
And this sort of impotence in influence has curious effects at home. For example, the ship-purchase bill, as it was at the last session of Congress, was an economic crime. See what has happened: We have waked up to the fact that we must have a big navy. Well, a navy is of no far-fighting value unless we have auxiliary ships and a lot of 'em. Admiral Jellicoe has 3,000 ships under his command; and he couldn't keep his fleet on the job if he didn't have them. Most of them are commandeered merchant, passenger, and fishing ships. Now we haven't merchant, passenger, and fishing ships to commandeer. We've got to build and buy auxiliary ships to our navy. This, to my mind, makes the new ship-purchase bill, or something like it, necessary. Else our navy, when it comes to the scratch, will be of no fighting value, however big it be. It's the price we've got to pay for not having built up a merchant marine. And we haven't built up a merchant marine because we've had no foreign consciousness. While our Irishmen have been leading us to twist the Lion's tail, we've been depending almost wholly on English ships—and, in late years, on German ships. You can't cross the ocean yet in a decent American ship. You see, we've declared our independence; and, so far as individual development goes, we've worked it out. But the governmental machinery for maintaining it and for making it visible to the world—we've simply neglected to build it or to shape it. Hence the President's notes hurt nobody and accomplish nothing; nor could our navy put up a real fight, for lack of colliers and supply ships. It's the same way all around the horizon. And these are the reasons we haven't made our democracy impress the world more.
A democracy is not a quick-trigger war-engine and can't be made into one. When the quick-trigger engines get to work, they forget that a democracy does not consider fighting the first duty of man. You can bend your energies to peaceful pursuits or you can bend them to war. It's hard to do both at the same time. The Germans are the only people who have done both at the same time; and even they didn't get their navy big enough for their needs.
When the infernal thing's over—that'll be a glad day; and the European world won't really know what it has cost in men and money and loss of standards till it is over....
To Walter H. Page, Jr..
London, Christmas, 1915.
For your first Christmas, I have the honour to send you my most affectionate greetings; and in wishing you all good health, I take the liberty humbly to indicate some of the favours of fortune that I am pleased to think I enjoy in common with you.
First—I hear with pleasure that you are quite well content with yourself—not because of a reasoned conviction of your own worth, which would be mere vanity and unworthy of you, but by reason of a philosophical disposition. It is too early for you to bother over problems of self-improvement—as for me it is too late; wherefore we are alike in the calm of our self-content. What others may think or say about us is a subject of the smallest concern to us. Therefore they generally speak well of us; for there is little satisfaction in speaking ill of men who care nothing for your opinion of them. Then, too, we are content to be where we happen to be—a fact that we did not order in the beginning and need not now concern ourselves about. Consider the eternal coming and going of folk. On every road many are travelling one way and an equal number are travelling the other way. It is obvious that, if they were all content to remain at the places whence they set forth, the distribution of the population would be the same. Why therefore move hither and yon at the cost of much time and labour and money, since nothing is accomplished thereby? We spare ourselves by being content to remain where we are. We thereby have the more time for reflection. Nor can we help observing with a smile that all persons who have good reasons to see us themselves make the necessary journey after they discover that we remain fixed.
Again, people about us are continually doing this service and that for some other people—running errands, mending fences, bearing messages, building, and tearing down; and they all demand equal service in return. Thus a large part of mankind keeps itself in constant motion like bubbles of water racing around a pool at the foot of a water-fall—or like rabbits hurrying into their warrens and immediately hurrying out again. Whereas, while these antics amuse and sadden us, we for the most part remain where we are. Hence our wants are few; they are generally most courteously supplied without our asking; or, if we happen to be momentarily forgotten, we can quickly secure anything in the neighbourhood by a little judicious squalling. Why, then, should we whirl as bubbles or scurry as rabbits? Our conquering self-possession gives a masterful charm to life that the victims of perpetual locomotion never seem to attain.
You have discovered, and my experience confirms yours, that a perpetual self-consciousness brings most of the misery of the world. Men see others who are richer than they; or more famous, or more fortunate—so they think; and they become envious. You have not reached the period of such empty vanity, and I have long passed it. Let us, therefore, make our mutual vows not to be disturbed by the good luck or the good graces of others, but to continue, instead, to contemplate the contented cat on the rug and the unenvious sky that hangs over all alike.
This mood will continue to keep our lives simple. Consider our diet. Could anything be simpler or better? We are not even tempted by the poisonous victuals wherewith mankind destroys itself. The very first sound law of life is to look to the belly; for it is what goes into a man that ruins him. By avoiding murderous food, we may hope to become centenarians. And why not? The golden streets will not be torn up and we need be in no indecent haste to travel even on them. The satisfactions of this life are just beginning for us; and we shall be wise to endure this world for as long a period as possible.
And sleep is good—long sleep and often; and your age and mine permit us to indulge in it without the sneers of the lark or the cock or the dawn.
I pray you, sir, therefore, accept my homage as the philosopher that you are and my assurance of that high esteem indicated by my faithful imitation of your virtues. I am,
With the most distinguished consideration, With the sincerest esteem, and With the most affectionate good wishes, Sir, Your proud, Humble, Obedient GRANDDADDY.
To Master Walter Hines Page,
On Christmas, 1915.
[Footnote 23: By William Roscoe Thayer, published in 1915.]
[Footnote 24: The Ambassador had in mind The Round Table.]
[Footnote 25: James W. Gerard, American Ambassador to Germany, and, as such, in charge of British interests in Germany.]
[Footnote 26: The German military and naval attaches, whose persistent and outrageous violation of American laws led to their dismissal by President Wilson.]
[Footnote 27: E.S. Martin, Editor of Life.]
[Footnote 28: Mr. Henry Ford at this time was getting together his famous peace ship, which was to sail to Europe "to get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas."]
[Footnote 29: J.M. Dent, the London publisher.]
[Footnote 30: $500,000,000.]
[Footnote 31: The Ambassador's Sons.]
[Footnote 32: The Ambassador's infant grandson, son of Arthur W. Page.]
A PERPLEXED AMBASSADOR
The beginning of the new year saw no improvement in German-American relations. Germany and Austria continued to violate the pledge given by Bernstorff after the sinking of the Arabic—if that shifty statement could be regarded as a "pledge." On November 7, 1915, the Austrians sank the Ancona, in the Mediterranean, drowning American citizens under conditions of particular atrocity, and submarine attacks on merchant ships, without the "warning" or attempt to save passengers and crew which Bernstorff had promised, took place nearly every day. On April 18, 1916, the Sussex was torpedoed in the English Channel, without warning and with loss of American life. This caused what seemed to be a real crisis; President Wilson sent what was practically an ultimatum to Germany, demanding that it "immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of warfare against passenger and freight carrying vessels," declaring that, unless it did so, the United States would sever diplomatic relations with the German Empire. In reply, Germany apparently backed down and gave the promise the President had demanded. However, it coupled this concession with an expression of its expectation that the United States would compel Great Britain to observe international law in the blockade. As this latter statement might be interpreted as a qualification of its surrender, the incident hardly ended satisfactorily.
To Arthur W. Page
May 22, 1916.
I stick on the back of this sheet a letter that Sydney Brooks wrote from New York (May 1st) to the Daily Mail. He formulates a question that we have many times asked ourselves and that, in one way or other, comes into everybody's mind here. Of course the common fellow in Jonesville who has given most of his time and energy to earning a living for his wife and children has no foreign consciousness, whether his Jonesville be in the United States or in England or in France or in Zanzibar. The real question is, Do these fellows in Jonesville make up the United States? or has there been such a lack of prompt leadership as to make all the Jonesville people confused? It's hard for me to judge at this distance just how far the President has led and just how far he has waited and been pushed along. Suppose he had stood on the front steps every morning before breakfast for a month after the Lusitania went down and had called to the people in the same tone that he used in his note to Germany—had sounded a bugle call—would we have felt as we now feel? What would the men in Jonesville have done then? Would they have got their old guns down from over the doors? Or do they so want peace and so think that they can have peace always that they've lost their spine? Have they really been Bryanized, Fordized, Janeaddamsized, Sundayschooled, and Chautauquaed into supine creatures to whom the United States and the ideals of the Fathers mean nothing? Who think a German is as good as an Englishman? Who have no particular aims or aspirations for our country and for democracy? When T.R. was in the White House he surely was an active fellow. He called us to exercise ourselves every morning. He bawled "Patriotism" loudly. We surely thought we were awake during those strenuous years. Were we really awake or did we only look upon him and his antics as a sort of good show? All that time Bryan was peace-a-footing and prince-of-peacing. Now did he really have the minds of the people or did T.R.?
If we've really gone to sleep and if the United States stands for nothing but personal comfort and commercialism to our own people, what a job you and the patriotic men of your generation have cut out for you!
My own conviction (which I don't set great store by) is that our isolation and prosperity have not gone so far in softening us as it seems. They've gone a good way, no doubt; but I think that even the Jonesville people yet feel their Americanism. What they need is—leadership. Their Congressmen are poor, timid, pork-barrel creatures. Their governors are in training for the Senate. The Vice-President reads no official literature of the war, "because then I might have a conviction about it and that wouldn't be neutral." And so on. If the people had a real leadership, I believe they'd wake up even in Jonesville.
Well, let's let these things go for the moment. How's the Ambassador? And the Ambassador's mother and sister? They're nice folks of whom and from whom I hear far too little. Give 'em my love. I don't want you to rear a fighting family. But these kids won't and mustn't grow up peace-cranks—not that anybody objects to peace, but I do despise and distrust a crank, a crank about anything. That's the lesson we've got to learn from these troubled times. First, let cranks alone—the other side of the street is good enough for them. Then, if they persist, I see nothing to do but to kill 'em, and that's troublesome and inconvenient.
But, as I was saying, bless the babies. I can't begin to tell you how very much I long to see them, to make their acquaintance, to chuckle 'em and punch 'em and see 'em laugh, and to see just what sort of kids they be.
I've written you how in my opinion there's no country in the world fit for a modern gentleman and man-of-character to live in except (1) the United States and (2) this island. And this island is chiefly valuable for the breed of men—the right stock. They become more valuable to the world after they go away from home. But the right blood's here. This island's breed is the best there is. An Englishman or a Scotchman is the best ancestor in this world, many as his shortcomings are. Some Englishman asked me one night in what, I thought, the Englishman appeared at his best. I said, "As an ancestor to Americans!" And this is the fundamental reason why we (two peoples) belong close together. Reasons that flow from these are such as follows: (1) The race is the sea-mastering race and the navy-managing race and the ocean-carrying race; (2) the race is the literary race, (3) the exploring and settling and colonizing race, (4) the race to whom fair play appeals, and (5) that insists on individual development.
Your mother having read these two days 1,734 pages of memoirs of the Coke family, one of whose members wrote the great law commentaries, another carried pro-American votes in Parliament in our Revolutionary times, refused peerages, defied kings and—begad! here they are now, living in the same great house and saying and doing what they darn please—we know this generation of 'em!—well, your mother having read these two big volumes about the old ones and told me 175 good stories out of these books, bless her soul! she's gone to sleep in a big chair on the other side of the table. Well she may, she walked for two hours this morning over hills and cliffs and through pine woods and along the beach. I guess I'd better wake her up and get her to go to bed—as the properer thing to do at this time o'night, viz. 11. My golf this afternoon was too bad to confess. But I must say that a 650 and a 730 yard hole argues the audacity of some fellow and the despair of many more. Nature made a lot of obstructions there and Man made more. It must be seven or eight miles around that course! It's almost a three hour task to follow my slow ball around it. I suggested we play with howitzers instead of clubs. Good night!
To Frank N. Doubleday and Others
Royal Bath and East Cliff Hotel, Bournemouth, May 29, 1916.
DEAR D.P. & Co.:
I always have it in mind to write you letters; but there's no chance in my trenches in London; and, since I have not been out of London for nearly two years—since the war began—only an occasional half day and a night—till now—naturally I've concocted no letter. I've been down here a week—a week of sunshine, praise God—and people are not after me every ten minutes, or Governments either; and my most admirable and efficient staff (now grown to one hundred people) permit few letters and telegrams to reach me. There never was a little rest more grateful. The quiet sea out my window shows no sign of crawling submarines; and, in general, it's as quiet and peaceful here as in Garden City itself.
I'm on the home-stretch now in all my thoughts and plans. Three of my four years are gone, and the fourth will quickly pass. That's not only the limit of my leave, but it's quite enough for me. I shouldn't care to live through another such experience, if the chance should ever come to me. It has changed my whole life and my whole outlook on life; and, perhaps, you'd like to hear some impressions that it has made upon me.
The first impression—perhaps the strongest—is a loss of permanent interest in Europe, especially all Europe outside of this Kingdom. I have never had the illusion that Europe had many things that we needed to learn. The chief lesson that it has had, in my judgment, is the lesson of the art of living—the comforts and the courtesies of life, the refinements and the pleasures of conversation and of courteous conduct. The upper classes have this to teach us; and we need and can learn much from them. But this seems to me all—or practically all. What we care most for are individual character, individual development, and a fair chance for every human being. Character, of course, the English have—immense character, colossal character. But even they have not the dimmest conception of what we mean by a fair chance for every human being—not the slightest. In one thousand years they may learn it from us. Now on the continent, the only important Nation that has any character worth mentioning is the French. Of course the little nations—some of them—have character, such as Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, etc. But these are all. The others are simply rotten. In giving a free chance to every human creature, we've nothing to learn from anybody. In character, I bow down to the English and Scotch; I respect the Frenchman highly and admire his good taste. But, for our needs and from our point of view, the English can teach us only two great lessons—character and the art of living (if you are rich).
The idea that we were brought up on, therefore, that Europe is the home of civilization in general—nonsense! It's a periodical slaughter-pen, with all the vices that this implies. I'd as lief live in the Chicago stock-yards. There they kill beeves and pigs. Here they kill men and (incidentally) women and children. I should no more think of encouraging or being happy over a child of mine becoming a European of any Nation than I should be happy over his fall from Grace in any other way.
Our form of government and our scheme of society—God knows they need improving—are yet so immeasurably superior, as systems, to anything on this side the world that no comparison need be made.
My first strong impression, then, is not that Europe is "effete"—that isn't it. It is mediaeval—far back toward the Dark Ages, much of it yet uncivilized, held back by inertia when not held back by worse things. The caste system is a constant burden almost as heavy as war itself and often quite as cruel.
The next impression I have is, that, during the thousand years that will be required for Europe to attain real (modern) civilization, wars will come as wars have always come in the past. The different countries and peoples and governments will not and cannot learn the lesson of federation and cooeperation so long as a large mass of their people have no voice and no knowledge except of their particular business. Compare the miles of railway in proportion to population with the same proportion in the United States—or the telephones, or the use of the mails, or of bank checks; or make any other practical measure you like. Every time, you'll come back to the discouraging fact that the masses in Europe are driven as cattle. So long as this is true, of course, they'll be driven periodically into wars. So many countries, so many races, so many languages all within so small an area as Europe positively invite deadly differences. If railroads had been invented before each people had developed its own separate language, Europe could somehow have been coordinated, linked up, federated, made to look at life somewhat in the same way. As it is, wars will be bred here periodically for about another thousand years. The devil of this state of things is that they may not always be able to keep their wars at home.
For me, then, except England and the smaller exceptions that I have mentioned, Europe will cut no big figure in my life. In all the humanities, we are a thousand years ahead of any people here. So also in the adaptabilities and the conveniences of life, in its versatilities and in its enjoyments. Most folk are stolid and sad or dull on this side of the world. Else how could they take their kings and silly ceremonies seriously?
Now to more immediate and definite impressions. I have for a year had the conviction that we ought to get into the war—into the economic war—for the following among many reasons.
1. That's the only way to shorten it. We could cause Germany's credit (such as she has) instantly to collapse, and we could hasten her hard times at home which would induce a surrender.
2. That's the only way we can have any real or important influence in adjusting whatever arrangements can be made to secure peace.
3. That's the best way we can inspire complete respect for us in the minds of other nations and thereby, perhaps, save ourselves from some wars in the future.
4. That's the best way we can assert our own character—our Americanism, and forever get rid of all kinds of hyphens.
5. That's the only way we shall ever get a real and sensible preparedness, which will be of enormous educational value even if no military use should ever be made of our preparation.
6. That's the only way American consciousness will ever get back to the self-sacrificing and patriotic point of view of the Fathers of the Republic.
7. That's the best way to emancipate ourselves from cranks.
8. That's the only way we'll ever awaken in our whole people a foreign consciousness that will enable us to assert our natural influence in the world—political, financial, social, commercial—the best way to make the rest of the world our customers and friends and followers.
All the foregoing I have fired at the Great White Chief for a year by telegraph and by mail; and I have never fired it anywhere else till now. Be very quiet, then. No man with whom I have talked or whose writings I have read seems to me to have an adequate conception of the colossal changes that the war is bringing and will bring. Of course, I do not mean to imply that I have any adequate conception. Nobody can yet grasp it. The loss of (say) ten million men from production of work or wares or children; what a changed world that fact alone will make! The presence in all Europe of (perhaps) fifteen or twenty million more women than men will upset the whole balance of society as regards the sexes. The loss of most of the accumulated capital of Europe and the vast burdens of debt for the future to pay will change the financial relations of the whole world. From these two great losses—men and money—God knows the many kinds of changes that will come. Women are doing and will continue to do many kinds of work hitherto done by men.
Of course there are some great gains. Many a flabby or abject fellow will come out of the war a real man: he'll be nobody's slave thereafter. The criminal luxury of the rich will not assert itself again for a time. The unparalleled addition to the world's heroic deeds will be to the good of mankind, as the unparalleled suffering has eclipsed all records. The survivors will be in an heroic mood for the rest of their lives. In general, life will start on a new plane and a lot of old stupid habits and old party quarrels and class prejudices will disappear. To get Europe going again will call for new resolution and a new sort of effort. Nobody can yet see what far-reaching effects it will have on government.
If I could make the English and Scotch over, I could greatly improve them. I'd cut out the Englishman's arrogance and key him up to a quicker gait. Lord! he's a slow beast. But he's worked out the germ and the beginning of all real freedom, and he has character. He knows how to conserve and to use wealth. He's a great John Bull, after all. And as for commanding the sea, for war or trade, you may properly bow down to him and pay him homage. The war will, I think, quicken him up. It will lessen his arrogance—to us, at least. I think it will make him stronger and humbler. And, whatever his virtues and his faults, he's the only Great Power we can go hand in hand with....
These kinds of things have been going on now nearly two years, and not till these ten days down here have I had time or chance or a free mind to think them over; and now there's nothing in particular to think—nothing but just to go on, doing these 40,000 things (and they take a new turn every day) the best I can, without the slightest regard to consequences. I've long ago passed the place where, having acted squarely according to my best judgment, I can afford to pay the slightest attention to what anybody thinks. I see men thrown on the scrap heap every day. Many of them deserve it, but a good many do not. In the abnormal state of mind that everybody has, there are inevitable innocent misunderstandings, which are as fatal as criminal mistakes. The diplomatic service is peculiarly exposed to misunderstandings: and, take the whole diplomatic service of all nations as shown up by this great strain, it hasn't stood the test very well. I haven't the respect for it that I had when I started. Yet, God knows, I have a keen sympathy for it. I've seen some of 'em displaced; some of 'em lie down; some of 'em die.
As I've got closer and closer to big men, as a rule they shrink up. They are very much like the rest of us—many of 'em more so. Human nature is stripped in these times of most of its disguises, and men have to stand and be judged as a rule by their real qualities. Among all the men in high place here, Sir Edward Grey stands out in my mind bigger, not smaller, than he stood in the beginning. He's a square, honourable gentleman, if there is one in this world. And it is he, of course, with whom I have had all my troubles. It's been a truly great experience to work and to quarrel with such a man. We've kept the best friendship—a constantly ripening one. There are others like him—only smaller.
Yet they are all in turn set upon by the press or public opinion and hounded like criminals. They try (somebody tries) to drive 'em out of office every once in a while. If there's anything I'm afraid of, it's the newspapers. The correspondents are as thick as flies in summer—all hunting sensations—especially the yellow American press. I play the game with these fellows always squarely, sometimes I fear indiscreetly. But what is discretion? That's the hardest question of all. We have regular meetings. I tell 'em everything I can—always on the condition that I'm kept out of the papers. If they'll never mention me, I'll do everything possible for them. Absolute silence of the newspapers (as far as I can affect it) is the first rule of safety. So far as I know, we've done fairly well; but always in proportion to silence. I don't want any publicity. I don't want any glory. I don't want any office. I don't want nothin'—but to do this job squarely, to get out of this scrape, to go off somewhere in the sunshine and to see if I can slip back into my old self and see the world sane again. Yet I'm immensely proud that I have had the chance to do some good—to keep our record straight—as far as I can, and to be of what service I can to these heroic people.
Out of it all, one conviction and one purpose grows and becomes clearer. The world isn't yet half-organized. In the United States we've lived in a good deal of a fool's paradise. The world isn't half so safe a place as we supposed. Until steamships and telegraphs brought the nations all close together, of course we could enjoy our isolation. We can't do so any longer. One mad fool in Berlin has turned the whole earth topsy-turvy. We'd forgotten what our forefathers learned—the deadly dangers of real monarchs and of castes and classes. There are a lot of 'em left in the world yet. We've grown rich and-weak; we've let cranks and old women shape our ideas. We've let our politicians remain provincial and ignorant.
And believe me, dear D.P. & Co. with affectionate greeting to every one of you and to every one of yours, collectively and singly,
Memorandum written after attending the service at St. Paul's in memory of Lord Kitchener.
American Embassy, London.
There were two Kitcheners, as every informed person knows—(1) the popular hero and (2) the Cabinet Minister with whom it was impossible for his associates to get along. He made his administrative career as an autocrat dealing with dependent and inferior peoples. This experience fixed his habits and made it impossible for him to do team work or to delegate work or even to inform his associates of what he had done or was doing. While, therefore, his name raised a great army, he was in many ways a hindrance in the Cabinet. First one thing and then another was taken out of his hands—ordnance, munitions, war plans. When he went to Gallipoli, some persons predicted that he would never come back. There was a hot meeting of the Cabinet at which he was asked to go to Russia, to make a sort of return visit for the visit that important Russians had made here, and to link up Russia's military plans with the plans of the Western Allies. He is said to have remarked that he was going only because he had been ordered to go. There was a hope and a feeling again that he might not come back till after the war.
Now just how much truth there is in all this, one has to guess; but undoubtedly a good deal. He did much in raising the army, but his name did more. What an extraordinary situation! The great hero of the Nation an impossible man to work with. The Cabinet could not tell the truth about him: the people would not believe it and would make the Cabinet suffer. Moreover, such a row would have given comfort to the enemy. Kitchener, on his part, could not afford to have an open quarrel. The only solution was to induce him to go away for a long time. Both sides saw that. Such thoughts were in everybody's mind while the impressive funeral service was said and sung in St. Paul's. The Great Hero, who had failed, was celebrated of course as a Great Hero—quite truly and yet far from true. For him his death came at a lucky time: his work was done.
There is even a rumour, which I don't for a moment believe, that he is alive on the Orkney Islands and prefers to disappear there till the war ends. This is fantastic, and it was doubtless suggested by the story that he did disappear for several years while he was a young officer.
I could not help noticing, when I saw all the Cabinet together at the Cathedral, how much older many of them look than they looked two years ago. Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Asquith, Mr. Balfour, who is really an old man, Lloyd George—each of these seems ten years older. And so does the King. The men in responsible places who are not broken by the war will be bent. General French, since his retirement to command of the forces in England, seems much older. So common is this quick aging that Lady Jellicoe, who went to Scotland to see her husband after the big naval battle, wrote to Mrs. Page in a sort of rhapsody and with evident surprise that the Admiral really did not seem older! The weight of this thing is so prodigious that it is changing all men who have to do with it. Men and women (who do not wear mourning) mention the death of their sons in a way that a stranger might mistake for indifference. And it has a curious effect on marriages. Apparently every young fellow who gets a week's leave from the trenches comes home and marries and, of course, goes straight back—especially the young officers. You see weddings all day as you pass the favourite churches; and already the land is full of young widows.
To Edwin A. Alderman
Embassy of the U.S.A., London,
June 22, 1916.
MY DEAR ED ALDERMAN:
I shall not forget how good you were to take time to write me a word about the meeting of the Board—the Board: there's no other one in that class—at Hampton, and I did most heartily appreciate the knowledge that you all remembered me. Alas! it's a long, long time ago when we all met—so long ago that to me it seems a part of a former incarnation. These three years—especially these two years of the war—have changed my whole outlook on life and foreshortened all that came before. I know I shall never link back to many things (and alas! too, to many people) that once seemed important and surely were interesting. Life in these trenches (five warring or quarrelling governments mining and sapping under me and shooting over me)—two years of universal ambassadorship in this hell are enough—enough I say, even for a man who doesn't run away from responsibilities or weary of toil. And God knows how it has changed me and is changing me: I sometimes wonder, as a merely intellectual and quite impersonal curiosity.
Strangely enough I keep pretty well—very well, in fact. Perhaps I've learned how to live more wisely than I knew in the old days; perhaps again, I owe it to my old grandfather who lived (and enjoyed) ninety-four years. I have walked ten miles to-day and I sit down as the clock strikes eleven (P.M.) to write this letter.
You will recall more clearly than I certain horrible, catastrophic, universal-ruin passages in Revelation—monsters swallowing the universe, blood and fire and clouds and an eternal crash, rolling ruin enveloping all things—well, all that's come. There are, perhaps, ten million men dead of this war and, perhaps, one hundred million persons to whom death would be a blessing. Add to these as many millions more whose views of life are so distorted that blank idiocy would be a better mental outlook, and you'll get a hint (and only a hint) of what the continent has already become—a bankrupt slaughter-house inhabited by unmated women. We have talked of "problems" in our day. We never had a problem; for the worst task we ever saw was a mere blithe pastime compared with what these women and the few men that will remain here must face. The hills about Verdun are not blown to pieces worse than the whole social structure and intellectual and spiritual life of Europe. I wonder that anybody is sane.
Now we have swung into a period and a state of mind wherein all this seems normal. A lady said to me at a dinner party (think of a dinner party at all!), "Oh, how I shall miss the war when it ends! Life without it will surely be dull and tame. What can we talk about? Will the old subjects ever interest us again?" I said, "Let's you and me try and see." So we talked about books—not war books—old country houses that we both knew, gardens and gold and what not; and in fifteen minutes we swung back to the war before we were aware.
I get out of it, as the days rush by, certain fundamental convictions, which seem to me not only true—true beyond any possible cavil—truer than any other political things are true—and far more important than any other contemporary facts whatsoever in any branch of endeavour, but better worth while than anything else that men now living may try to further:
1. The cure for democracy is more democracy. The danger to the world lies in autocrats and autocracies and privileged classes; and these things have everywhere been dangerous and always will be. There's no security in any part of the world where people cannot think of a government without a king, and there never will be. You cannot conceive of a democracy that will unprovoked set out on a career of conquest. If all our religious missionary zeal and cash could be turned into convincing Europe of this simple and obvious fact, the longest step would be taken for human advancement that has been taken since 1776. If Carnegie, or, after he is gone, his Peace People could see this, his Trust might possibly do some good.
2. As the world stands, the United States and Great Britain must work together and stand together to keep the predatory nations in order. A League to Enforce Peace and the President's idea of disentangling alliances are all in the right direction, but vague and general and cumbersome, a sort of bastard children of Neutrality. The thing, the only thing is—a perfect understanding between the English-speaking peoples. That's necessary, and that's all that's necessary. We must boldly take the lead in that. I frankly tell my friends here that the English have got to throw away their damned arrogance and their insularity and that we Americans have got to throw away our provincial ignorance ("What is abroad to us?"), hang our Irish agitators and shoot our hyphenates and bring up our children with reverence for English history and in the awe of English literature. This is the only job now in the world worth the whole zeal and energy of all first-class, thoroughbred English-speaking men. We must lead. We are natural leaders. The English must be driven to lead. Item: We must get their lads into our universities, ours into theirs. They don't know how to do it, except the little driblet of Rhodes men. Think this out, remembering what fools we've been about exchange professors with Germany! How much good could Fons Smith do in a thousand years, on such an errand as he went on to Berlin? And the English don't know how to do it. They are childish (in some things) beyond belief. An Oxford or Cambridge man never thinks of going back to his university except about twice a lifetime when his college formally asks him to come and dine. Then he dines as docilely as a scared Freshman. I am a D.C.L. of Oxford. I know a lot of their faculty. They are hospitality itself. But I've never yet found out one important fact about the university. They never tell me. I've been down at Cambridge time and again and stayed with the Master of one of the colleges. I can no more get at what they do and how they do it than I could get at the real meaning of a service in a Buddhist Temple. I have spent a good deal of time with Lord Rayleigh, who is the Chancellor of Cambridge University. He never goes there. If he were to enter the town, all the men in the university would have to stop their work, get on their parade-day gowns, line-up by precedent and rank and go to meet him and go through days of ceremony and incantations. I think the old man has been there once in five years. Now this mediaevalism must go—or be modified. You fellers who have universities must work a real alliance—a big job here. But to go on.
The best informed English opinion is ripe for a complete working understanding with us. We've got to work up our end—get rid of our ignorance of foreign affairs, our shirt-sleeve, complaining kind of diplomacy, our sport of twisting the lion's tail and such things and fall to and bring the English out. It's the one race in this world that's got the guts.
Hear this in confirmation: I suppose 1,000 English women have been to see me—as a last hope—to ask me to have inquiries made in Germany about their "missing" sons or husbands, generally sons. They are of every class and rank and kind, from marchioness to scrubwoman. Every one tells her story with the same dignity of grief, the same marvellous self-restraint, the same courtesy and deference and sorrowful pride. Not one has whimpered—but one. And it turned out that she was a Belgian. It's the breed. Spartan mothers were theatrical and pinchbeck compared to these women.
I know a lady of title, very well to do, who for a year got up at 5:30 and drove herself in her own automobile from her home in London to Woolwich where she worked all day long in a shell factory as a volunteer and got home at 8 o'clock at night. At the end of a year they wanted her to work in a London place where they keep the records of the Woolwich work. "Think of it," said she, as she shook her enormous diamond ear-rings as I sat next to her at dinner one Sunday night not long ago, "think of it—what an easy time I now have. I don't have to start till half-past seven and I get home at half-past six!"
I could fill forty pages with stories like these. This very Sunday I went to see a bedridden old lady who sent me word that she had something to tell me. Here it was: An English flying man's machine got out of order and he had to descend in German territory. The Germans captured him and his machine. They ordered him to take two of their flying men in his machine to show them a particular place in the English lines. He declined. "Very well, we'll shoot you, then." At last he consented. The three started. The Englishman quietly strapped himself in. There were no straps for the two Germans. The Englishman looped-the-loop. The Germans fell out. The Englishman flew back home. "My son has been to see me from France. He told me that. He knows the man"—thus said the old lady and thanked me for coming to hear it! She didn't know that the story has been printed.
But the real question is, "How are you?" Do you keep strong? Able, without weariness, to keep up your good work? I heartily hope so, old man. Take good care of yourself—very.
My love to Mrs. Alderman. Please don't quote me—yet. I have to be very silent publicly about everything. After March 4th, I shall again be free.
Yours always faithfully,
[Footnote 33: A playful reference to the Ambassador's infant grandson, Walter H. Page, Jr.]
[Footnote 34: Drowned on the Hampshire, June 5, 1916, off the coast of Scotland.]
[Footnote 35: President of the University of Virginia.]
[Footnote 36: Hampton Institute, at Hampton, Va.]
[Footnote 37: C. Alphonso Smith, Professor of English, U.S. Naval Academy; Roosevelt Professor at Berlin, 1910-11.]
WASHINGTON IN THE SUMMER OF 1916
In July Page received a cablegram summoning him to Washington. This message did not explain why his presence was desired, nor on this point was Page ever definitely enlightened, though there were more or less vague statements that a "change of atmosphere" might better enable the Ambassador to understand the problems which were then engrossing the State Department.
The President had now only a single aim in view. From the date of the so-called Sussex "pledge," May 4, 1916, until the resumption of submarine warfare on February 1, 1917, Mr. Wilson devoted all his energies to bringing the warring powers together and establishing peace. More than one motive was inspiring the president in this determination. That this policy accorded with his own idealistic tendencies is true, and that he aspired to a position in history as the great "peace maker" is probably the fact, but he had also more immediate and practical purposes in mind. Above all, Mr. Wilson was bent on keeping the United States out of the war; he knew that there was only one certain way of preserving peace in this country, and that was by bringing the war itself to an end. "An early peace is all that can prevent the Germans from driving us at last into the war," Page wrote at about this time; and this single sentence gives the key to the President's activities for the succeeding nine months. The negotiations over the Sussex had taught Mr. Wilson this truth. He understood that the pledge which the German Government had made was only a conditional one; that the submarine campaign had been suspended only for the purpose of giving the United States a breathing spell during which it could persuade Great Britain and France to make peace.
"I repeat my proposal," Bernstorff cabled his government on April 26, "to suspend the submarine war at least for the period of negotiations. This would remove all danger of a breach [with the United States] and also enable Wilson to continue his labours in his great plan of bringing about a peace based upon the freedom of the seas—i.e., that for the future trade shall be free from all interference in time of war. According to the assurances which Wilson, through House, has given me, he would in that case take in hand measures directly against England. He is, however, of the opinion that it would be easier to bring about peace than to cause England to abandon the blockade. This last could only be brought about by war and it is well known that the means of war are lacking here. A prohibition of exports as a weapon against the blockade is not possible as the prevailing prosperity would suffer by it.
"The inquiries made by House have led Wilson to believe that our enemies would not be unwilling to consider peace. In view of the present condition of affairs, I repeat that there is only one possible course, namely, that Your Excellency [Von Jagow] empower me to declare that we will enter into negotiations with the United States touching the conduct of the submarine war while the negotiations are proceeding. This would give us the advantage that the submarine war, being over Mr. Wilson's head, like the sword of Damocles, would compel him at once to take in hand the task of mediation."
This dispatch seems sufficiently to explain all the happenings of the summer and winter of 1916-1917. It was sent to Berlin on April 26th; the German Government gave the Sussex "pledge" on May 4th, eight days afterward. In this reply Germany declared that she would now expect Mr. Wilson to bring pressure upon Great Britain to secure a mitigation or suspension of the British blockade, and to this Mr. Wilson promptly and energetically replied that he regarded the German promise as an unconditional one and that the Government of the United States "cannot for a moment entertain, much less discuss, a suggestion that respect by German naval authorities for the rights of citizens of the United States upon the high seas should in any way or in the slightest degree be made contingent upon the conduct of any other government affecting the rights of neutrals and non-combatants. Responsibility in such matters is single not joint; absolute not relative."
This reply gave satisfaction to both the United States and the countries of the Allies, and Page himself regarded it as a master stroke. "The more I think of it," he wrote on May 17th, "the better the strategy of the President appears, in his latest (and last) note to Germany. They laid a trap for him and he caught them in their own trap. The Germans had tried to 'put it up' to the President to commit the first unfriendly act. He now 'puts it up' to them. And this is at last bound to end the controversy if they sink another ship unlawfully. The French see this clearly and so do the best English, and it has produced a most favourable impression. The future? The German angling for peace will prove futile. They'll have another fit of fury. Whether they will again become reckless or commit 'mistakes' with their submarines will depend partly on their fury, partly on their fear to make a breach with the United States, but mainly on the state of their submarine fleet. How many have the English caught and destroyed? That's the main question, after all. The English view may not be fair to them. But nobody here believes that they will long abstain from the luxury of crime."
It is thus apparent that when the Germans practically demanded, as a price of their abstention from indiscriminate submarine warfare, that Mr. Wilson should move against Great Britain in the matter of the blockade, they realized the futility of any such step, and that what they really expected to obtain was the presidential mediation for peace. President Wilson at once began to move in this direction. On May 27th, three weeks after the Sussex "pledge," he made an address in Washington before the League to Enforce Peace, which was intended to lay the basis for his approaching negotiations. It was in this speech that he made the statement that the United States was "not concerned with the causes and the objects" of the war. "The obscure fountains from which its stupendous flood has burst forth we are not interested to search for or to explain." This was another of those unfortunate sentences which made the President such an unsympathetic figure in the estimation of the Allies and seemed to indicate to them that he had no appreciation of the nature of the struggle. Though this attitude of non-partisanship, of equal balance between the accusations of the Allies and Germany, was intended to make the President acceptable as a mediator, the practical result was exactly the reverse, for Allied statesmen turned from Wilson as soon as those sentences appeared in print. The fact that this same oration specified the "freedom of the seas" as one of the foundation rocks of the proposed new settlement only accentuated this unfavourable attitude.
This then was clearly the "atmosphere" which prevailed in Washington at the time that Page was summoned home. But Page's letters of this period indicate how little sympathy he entertained for such negotiations. "It is quite apparent," he had recently written to Colonel House, "that nobody in Washington understands the war. Come over and find out." Extracts from a letter which he wrote to his brother, Mr. Henry A. Page, of Aberdeen, North Carolina, are especially interesting when placed side by side with the President's statements of this particular time. These passages show that a two years' close observation of the Prussians in action had not changed Page's opinion of their motives or of their methods; in 1916, as in 1914, Page could see in this struggle nothing but a colossal buccaneering expedition on the part of Germany. "As I look at it," he wrote, "our dilly-dallying is likely to get us into war. The Germans want somebody to rob—to pay their great military bills. They've robbed Belgium and are still robbing it of every penny they can lay their hands on. They robbed Poland and Serbia—two very poor countries which didn't have much. They set out to rob France and have so far been stopped from getting to Paris. If they got to Paris there wouldn't be thirty cents' worth of movable property there in a week, and they'd levy fines of millions of francs a day. Their military scheme and teaching and open purpose is to make somebody pay for their vast military outlay of the last forty years. They must do that or go bankrupt. Now it looks as if they would go bankrupt. But in a little while they may be able to bombard New York and demand billions of dollars to refrain from destroying the city. That's the richest place left to spoil.
"Now they say that—quite openly and quite frankly. Now if we keep 'neutral' to a highwayman—what do we get for our pains? That's the mistake we are making. If we had sent Bernstorff home the day after the Lusitania was sunk and recalled Gerard and begun to train an army we'd have had no more trouble with them. But since they have found out that they can keep us discussing things forever and a day, they will keep us discussing things till they are ready. We are very simple; and we'll get shot for it yet....
"The prestige and fear of the United States has gone down, down, down-disappeared; and we are regarded as 'discussors,' incapable of action, scared to death of war. That's all the invitation that robbers, whose chief business is war, want—all the invitation they need. These devils are out for robbery—and you don't seem to believe it in the United States: that's the queer thing. This neutrality business makes us an easy mark. As soon as they took a town in Belgium, they asked for all the money in the town, all the food, all the movable property; and they've levied a tax every month since on every town and made the town government borrow the money to pay it. If a child in a town makes a disrespectful remark, they fine the town an extra $1,000. They haven't got enough so far to keep them going flush; and they won't unless they get Paris—which they can't do now. If they got London, they'd be rich; they wouldn't leave a shilling and they'd make all the rich English get all the money they own abroad. This is the reason that Frenchmen and Englishmen prefer to be killed by the 100,000. In the country over which their army has passed a crow would die of starvation and no human being has ten cents of real money. The Belgian Commission is spending more than 100 million dollars a year to keep the Belgians alive—only because they are robbed every day. They have a rich country and could support themselves but for these robbers. That's the meaning of the whole thing. And yet we treat them as if they were honourable people. It's only a question of time and of power when they will attack us, or the Canal, or South America. Everybody on this side the world knows that. And they are 'yielding' to keep us out of this war so that England will not help us when they (the Germans) get ready to attack America.
"There is the strangest infatuation in the United States with Peace—the strangest illusion about our safety without preparation."
Several letters to Colonel House show the state of the British mind on the subject of the President's peace proposals:
To Edward M. House
Royal Bath and East Cliff Hotel, Bournemouth, 23 May, 1916.
The motor trip that the Houses, the Wallaces, and the Pages took about a year ago was the last trip (three days) that I had had out of London; and I'd got pretty tired. The China case having been settled (and settled as we wanted it), I thought it a good time to try to get away for a week. So here Mrs. Page and I are—very much to my benefit. I've spent a beautiful week out of doors, on this seashore; and I have only about ten per cent. of the fatal diseases that I had a week ago. That is to say, I'm as sound as a dollar and feel like a fighting cock.
Sir Edward was fine about the China case. He never disputed the principle of the inviolability of American ships on the high seas; but the Admiralty maintained that some of these men are officers in the German Army and are now receiving officers' pay. I think that that is probably true. Nevertheless, the Admiralty had bungled the case badly and Sir Edward simply rode over them. They have a fine quarrel among themselves and we got all we wanted and asked for.
Of course, I can't make out the Germans but I am afraid some huge deviltry is yet coming. When the English say that the Germans must give up their militarism, I doubt if the Germans yet know what they mean. They talk about conquered territory—Belgium, Poland, and the rest. It hasn't entered their heads that they've got to give up their armies and their military system. When this does get into their heads, if it ever do, I think they may so swell with rage at this "insult" that they may break loose in one last desperate effort, ignoring the United States, defying the universe, running amuck. Of course it would be foolhardy to predict this, but the fear of it keeps coming into my mind. The fear is the more persistent because, if the worst comes to them, the military caste and perhaps the dynasty itself will prefer to die in one last terrific onslaught rather than to make a peace on terms which will require the practical extinction of their supreme power. This, I conceive, is the really great danger that yet awaits the world—if the Allies hold together till defeat and famine drive the Germans to the utmost desperation.
In the meantime, the Allies still holding together as they are, there's no peace yet in the British and French minds. They're after the militarism of Prussia—not territory or other gains; and they seem likely to get it, as much by the blockade as by victories on land. Do you remember how in the Franco-Prussian War, Bismarck refused to deal with the French Emperor? He demanded that representatives of the French people should deal with him. He got what he asked for and that was the last of the French Emperor. Neither the French nor the English have forgotten that. You will recall that the Germans starved Paris into submission. Neither the French nor the English have forgotten that. These two leaves out of the Germans' own book of forty-five years ago—these two and no more—may be forced on the Germans themselves. They are both quite legitimate, too. You can read a recollection of both these events between the lines of the interviews that Sir Edward and Mr. Balfour recently gave to American newspapers.
There is nothing but admiration here for the strategy of the President's last note to Germany. That was the cleverest play made by anybody since the war began—clever beyond praise. Now he's "got 'em." But nobody here doubts that they will say, sooner or later, that the United States, not having forced the breaking of the British blockade, has not kept its bargain—that's what they'll say—and it is in order again to run amuck. This is what the English think—provided the Germans have enough submarines left to keep up real damage. By that time, too, it will be clear to the Germans that the President can't bring peace so long as only one side wishes peace. The Germans seem to have counted much on the Irish uprising, which came to pass at all only because of the customary English stupid bungling; and the net result has been only to put the mass of the Irish on their mettle to show that they are not Sinn Feiners. The final upshot will be to strengthen the British Army. God surely is good to this bungling British Government. Wind and wave and the will of High Heaven seem to work for them. I begin to understand their stupidity and their arrogance. If your enemies are such fools in psychological tactics and Heaven is with you, why take the trouble to be alert? And why be modest? Whatever the reason, these English are now more cocky and confident than they've been before since the war began. They are beginning to see results. The only question seems to be to hold the Allies together, and they seem to be doing that. In fact, the battle of Verdun has cemented them. They now have visible proof that the German Army is on the wane. And they have trustworthy evidence that the blockade is telling severely on the Germans. Nobody, I think, expects to thrash 'em to a frazzle; but the almost universal opinion here is that the hold of militarism will be shaken loose. And the German High Canal Navy—what's to become of that? Von Tirpitz is down and out, but there are thousands of Germans, I hear, who complain of their naval inactivity. But God only knows the future—I don't. I think that I do well if I keep track of the present....
My kindest regards to Mrs. House,
Yours very heartily, W.H.P.
To Edward M. House
London, 25 May, 1916.
No utterance by anybody has so stirred the people of this kingdom for many months as Sir Edward Grey's impromptu speech last night in the House of Commons about Peace, when he called the German Chancellor a first-class liar. I sent you to-day a clipping from one of the morning papers. Every paper I pick up compliments Sir Edward. Everyone says, "We must fight to a finish." The more sensational press intimates that any Englishman who uses the word "peace" ought to be shot. You have never seen such a rally as that which has taken place in response to Sir Edward's cry. In the first place, as you know, he is the most gentle of all the Cabinet, the last man to get on a "war-rampage," the least belligerent and rambunctious of the whole lot. When he felt moved to say that there can be no peace till the German military despotism is broken, everybody from one end of the Kingdom to the other seems to have thrown up his hat and applauded. Except the half-dozen peace-cranks in the House (Bryan sort of men) you can't find a man, woman, child, or dog that isn't fired with the determination to see the war through. The continued talk about peace which is reported directly and indirectly from Germany—coming from Switzerland, from Rome, from Washington—has made the English and the French very angry: no, "angry" isn't quite the right word. It has made them very determined. They feel insulted by the impudence of the Germans, who, since they know they are bound to lose, seem to be turning heaven and earth to induce neutrals to take their view of peace. People are asking here, "If they are victorious, why doesn't their fleet come out of the canal and take the seas, and again open their commerce? Why do they whimper about the blockade when they will not even risk a warship to break it?" You'll recall how the talk here used to be that the English wouldn't wake up. You wouldn't know 'em now. Your bulldog has got his grip and even thunder doesn't disturb him.