The King’s Man at Washington
M. O. Hammond
BETWEEN the world of politics and the atmosphere of diplomacy a wide gulf seems fixed. The one is a reality and obvious to the common man, because in the political world the common man has a voice. It is a game he understands and it is to a great extent played in the open: the politician seeks the platform where all the world may hear him and acclaim his genius. But the diplomat works in the quiet of the chancellery. He shrouds his movements with mystery. He never tells all he knows. He transacts business with his superiors by telegraph in a mystifying code. He seeks, not the glare of the platform but the select company of a dinner party of official or social standing, and attends receptions late at night, where he lingers under the spell of pretty women and the flagrance of a thousand flowers. He believes in the dictum of Talleyrand that the dinner table is the best place for the transaction of public business.
In a word, the distinction between politics and diplomacy is that the one is national and the other international, but he would be rash who would say they are entirely separate and distinct. Politicians have direct relations each with the other in their own country. But when one nation has business with another it is through the circuitous route of diplomacy. And the diplomacy concerned in these few lines is that represented by the British Embassy at Washington, presided over at present by Right Hon. James Bryce, who recently has been negotiating a treaty of general arbitration with the United States on behalf of great Britain.
It is only on the occasion of such an accomplishment as this that the people of
a nation realize the importance of masterly service by the men who represent them at foreign seats of government. The record of diplomacy is scarred by many failures, but usually they are covered by no worse a punishment than the recall of the Minister by his Home Government. Should he score a triumph, he never has the worship that falls to the victor on a battle-field. For many years Great Britain paid comparatively slight attention to her appointments to \\ ashington, an i Canadians have made bitter complaims of what they thought were sacrifices of their interests by the representatives of Downing Street. One needs only to mention the award in the Maine Boundary and the reported willingness to hand oxer this country to the United States bodily after the Civil War and the “Alabama”’ claims case. Better days have dawned and recent treaty-making has been conducted by members of the Canadian Government themselves.
The step xvhich now seems certain of accomplishment in the making of a general treaty of arbitration between the two great English-speaking countries is the culmination of a movement that has been growing for more than a decade. It is not long since the Irish dominated the politics of the United States to such an extent that, carrying to this side of the ocean the hatred of England generated at home, they made cordial relations impossible. Noxv, Ireland is being pacific by concessions and the prospect of Home Rule, while the present Ambassador to the United States is of Irish birth and has a long and satisfactory record of administration for the Irish people.
The parties to the negotiations of 1911 have been fully alive to the delicacy of their task, for a formal alliance was impossible, from the jealousies that it would create with other nations, and the conflict it would cause with existing understandings and alliances. Long before Mr. Bryce was thought of as an ambassador, in 1899, he expressed these sentiments:
“That cordial friendship with the United States which we all desire and should all prize most highly, will be retarded, not promoted, by talk about formal alliance. The suggestion of such an alliance creates disquiet and suspicion abroad. The estabishment of permanently friendly relations with the United States will make for peace not only between England and America, but also between England and the rest of the world.” These words came from a busy onlooker after Lord Pauncefote, then British Minister to Washington, had paved the way for the present accomplishment as part of the brilliant record of service which he left behind him. But of that, more anon.
The initial establishment of diplomatic relations by Great Britain at Washington
must have been a matter of some delicacy. Here was a hot-headed young nation, fresh from the victories of a long war in which they had forever thrown off the yoke of the mother country and set out on what they believed to be the only true path of freedom. One cannot imagine the news of the arrival of George Hammond, the first envoy, in 1791, causing any great purr of satisfaction in the heart of George Washington. It is doubtful if he sent any silk stockinged aide to the wharf to invite him up, and to say that dinner was already on the table. The intercourse between them was doubtless confined to the severe formalities that customarily veil international hatreds in dip lomatic circles.
In those days Washington was no place for a white man, anyway, doubtless most of them thought; for, hounded by the exotic blacks, surrounded by pestilential swamps, and separated by many miles from any decent society, the diplomatic assignment must have been far from attractive. British Envoys came and went, however, and the list if scanned to-day has an occasional glimmer of adventure.
George Hammond’s term ended in 1795. Then came Robert Liston, 1796 to 1800; Anthony Merry, 1803 to 1806; Hon. David M. Erskine, 1806 to 1809, and after him came trouble.
The record of Francis James Jackson, who arrived in 1809, is that he was recalled at the request of the United States Government in the same year. Augustus John Foster presented his credentials as successor on July 2, 1811, but the record shows that his “services terminated June 21, 1811, by declaration of war against Great Britain.” Ah! those were stirring days. An envoy has ceased to be an envoy before he really becomes one. The days of the cable and the wireless were yet to come. Mr. Foster retraced his steps in haste in consequence of the unjust war that the young republic waged on the mother country in the hour of England’s greatest struggle with Napoleon. If he sought any revenge, he must have had it in the advance of the British troops and the burning of Washington as one of the acts of retributive justice.
After these diversions the position of the British envoy settled down to peaceful lines. Hon. Charles Bagot took up the thread in 1816 and served to 1819 ; Right Hon. Sir Stratford Canning from 1820 to 1823; Right Hon. Charles Richard Vaughan from 1825 to 1833; Henry Stephen
Fox from 1836 to 1844; Lord Ashburton came on a special mission in 1842 ; Rt. Hon. Richard Pakenham from 1844 to 1847 ; and Rt. Hon Sir Henry Lvtton Bulwer from 1849 to 1851.
The term of Lord Lvtton is one of the bright spots in the early history of the embassy. He was a literary man of reputation, and as “Owen Meredith” he is remembered with delight by thousands of readers all over the world. The Embassy in those days was in what is now known as the old Corcoran House, a massive brick structure at the corner of Pennsylvania and Connecticut Avenues, facing Lafayette Square, around which the best of Washington society then hovered. A high brick wall surrounded the garden, much of wdiich yet remains, and in this seclusion, mid a profusion of blossoming magnolia and tulip trees, the Envoy Extraordinary forgot the cares of State and wrote his cherished “Lucile.” On a nearby corner of the same Square is the. Decatur House, where lived Commodore Stephen Decatur, who fought the Pirates of Tripoli after the Revolution when the United States flag was not yet known or respected in the Barbary States, whose adventurous inhabitants made havoc on the commerce of the new Republic.
Following the Lvtton regime, came John Frennes Twistleton Crampton, but
the United States Government broke off diplomatic intercourse with him in May, 1856. His successor was Lord Napier, who served from 1857 to 1859. His departure was on a hint from the United States Government, based it is said on a belief that he was neglecting his duty, having failed to acquaint the President of an important action by the British Government affecting the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. This, period, however, was the edge of the Civil War crisis, and another account credits Lord Napier with a too great fondness for an attractive Southern widow.
Lord Lyons, who was Minister from
1859 to 1864, had the immensely difficult role to play of neutrality during the greater part of the War, when the North was constantly jealous of the friendship of the British nation for the South. A less tactful man might have brought the two countries to war when everyone’s nerves were on edge. One useful incident in allaying feeling was the visit to Washington in
1860 of the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward, at the time of his tour of Canada. The young Prince was received at the White House, and the whole affair and the relation of Queen Victoria to it did much to quiet northern hostility to England.
Sir Frederick Bruce, who served from 1865 to 1867, was a younger brother of Lord Elgin, who had visited Washington to negotiate the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 during his term as Governor of Canada. Sir Frederick was born in 1814, entered the diplomatic service in 1842 and died, while still Minister to Washington, in Boston in 1867.
A long term by Sir Edward Thornton followed, which brings us down to the more momentous and interesting regimes of the last generation.
The first of these is that of Hon. L. S. S. West, afterwards Lord Sackville, who came in 1881. His family relations were not thought to be of the best, and he was given a frigid welcome in Washington Society. However, he braved it through until October, 1888, when an incident occurred which gave him long notoriety and disturbed the relations between Britain and the United States for a considerable time. A Presidential election campaign was in progress and in the heat of it a man in California named Morey wrote to Lord
Sackville and, pretending to be a friend of Great Britain, asked the Minister which party he ought to support in the best interests of relations with the mother country. The Envoy replied in a letter marked private, unmindful of the fact as afterwards shown, that it was a trap, advising Morey to support the Democratic party. This, of course, was injudicious, for a diplomat should not take sides in an election in a country to which he is accredited. The letter was at once published, and it created no end of a storm. The Republicans were naturally incensed, while the democrats were scarcely less so, for it brought down on them a cloud of hatred from the Irish in the country.
On the 27th of October the. United States Government demanded the recall of Lord Sackville, and on the 30th of the same month he was informed by the U .S. Secretarv of State that for reasons already known to him the President was convinced that his continuance at Washington in the official capacity of Her Majesty’s Minister was no longer acceptable, and would be consequently detrimental to the relations between the two Governments, and that his passports were therefore sent to him. “Lord Sackville accordingly left Washington,” says the official chronicle, briefly.
The effect of this disturbance on the diplomatic waters was felt for a considerable time, and it was all the more regrettable for the influence it reflected from the unsatisfactory condition of the Irish question across the sea. The result would have been much worse had it not been for the brilliant efficiency of the Minister from Great Britain who followed. This was Sir Julian, afterwards Lord Pauncefote, whose term of nearly 14 years will ever be a bright page in the annals of Britain’s diplomacy. Although he came to Washington without previous diplomatic experience, having been legal adviser to the Foreign office, he was not long in his post before he had demonstrated remarkable capacity and initiative for his task.
The likenesses of Lord Pauncefote suggest a stern old English gentleman possessing something of the dignity and unbending quality attributed to John Bull himself. While he had the dignity and the zeal of his cause, he yet was intense-
ly human, and was not only Dean of the Diplomatic Corps while he was in Washington, but was personally very popular. Lady Pauncefote and her four daughters were keenly interested in the work of diplomacy, and they lightened his burdens and promoted his cause at the various inevitable social functions.
Lord Pauncefote was fond of the common people and often strolled off by himself in the poorer sections of the city. He had a tremendous admiration for the ability, of its kind, of the average street fakir, and was often seen edging into a greasy crowd around a man selling liniment or glue for mending china, or some such trifle The amiable Ambassador— for he was the first at Washington to be given that rank—used to say he visited the realm of the fakir for the sake of hearing him talk, and that many men in Parliament had much less forensic ability than the spell-binders of the street corners.
On one occasion Sir Julian was the guest of the Gridiron Club, Washington’s famous organization of newspaper correspondents. He had a pleasant time, of course, and met the hosts as fellow men, not as correspondents. A short time afterwards, when the arbitration treaty was a prominent public topic, Sir Julian met on a street car, the correspondent of the Baltimore Sun, who spoke to the Ambassador, recalled the pleasure his visit had afforded the Gridiron Club, and proceeded te ask him about the treaty then under consideration. To his astonishment Sir Julian spoke freely about it and gave him what in journalistic parlance is called “a good story.” It was properly displayed in the Baltimore paper, telegraphed and cabled all over the world and created a great stir in diplomatic circles. The Ambassador was asked to disavow the interview, and he replied that he could disavow it, but truth compelled him to say that he “had had the conversation with an amiable person on a tramcar.”
Lord Pauncefote brought with him to Washington all the Englishman’s love of outdoor exercise. He not only was fond of athletics himself, but he encouraged it in his staff. One day this came in useful, for a mad dog seen tearing down the street in front of the Embassy caused two of the staff to vault the fence, bear down
on the dog and kill it before it could do anyone any harm.
Sometimes Lord Pauncefote’s dignity got the better of his judgment. Thus for a long time he held that his position entitled him to precedence over everybody except the President, and it was only after the venerable, diplomat had received a special hint from the Foreign Office at London that he consented to call on the Vice-President.
Apart from the charm of his personality, which after all unfortunately was appreciated by but a limited circle, Lord Pauncefote earned his title to fame by lasting work in the field of diplomacy. Coming to the United States at a time when relations were seriously strained by the blunder of Lord Saekville, he set about the cultivation of friendly feeling? between the two countries. Soon after his arrival he undertook to put an end to the vexed Alaska seal question, and negotiated with Mr. Blaine the treaty which established the Paris tribunal. This was something to achieve with a statesman of the Blaine type, for his diplomacy w'as never what would be termed of the pacific type, and the Behring sea fisheries had strained the relations of the two countries almost to the breaking point.
Soon after this, in 1895, came the crisis precipitated by President Cleveland’s belligerent message on the Venezuelan boundary, which brought the two countries nearer to war than they had been since 1812. This was indeed a trying hour for the British Ambassador. The United States Minister in London essayed to smooth matters over, but with little success. Lord Pauncefote then tried his hand, but even he was handicapped by lack of sympathv with his pacific methods on the part of members of his Embassy staff. Finally, through his tact, patience and wisdom, the dispute was left to arbitration. war was averted, and the Ambassador had earned the gratitude of the entire Anglo-Saxon race.
Later, Lord Pauncefote and Secretary Olnèy negotiated the general arbitration treaty, which up to a few weeks ago held the record in the advance of the principle of arbitration in modern times. It was hailed with delight by every friend of peace and civilization in the world. 11 was, however, never ratified by the United
States Senate and remains in the pigeonhole of the Senate Executive Clerk, covered with dust and buried under amendments. Such a treaty was but a few years ahead of its time, and the cause has been merely that much delayed. Having failed to secure the adoption of this treaty, Lord Pauncefote became an eager advocate of the Czar’s plan for an international meeting in behalf of universal peace, and wisely dominated the Conference at The Hague.
His final claim to popularity in the United States was his conduct of a delicate situation during the period of the Spanish-American war. During this crucial time he truly represented the sentiment of his country in the friendship he manifested for the cause of the United Stetes when practically the rest of the world was either hostile or indifferent. He was literally the only friend of the United States among the representatives of the great powers at Washington at that time. Coupled with this is his service in adjusting the relations with Great Britain at the time that the United States wanted to own and carry on the Isthmian Canal.
When Lord Pauncefote died in May, 1902, he was still in office, his term having been twice extended beyond the age limit, because of his excellent services.
He was everywhere praised for the soundness, safeness and sanity of his judgment, and Secretary Play said of him: “His Majesty’s Government has lost a most able and faithful servant and this country a valued friend.”
When it was announced that the successor to Lord Pauncefote was to be Hon. M. H., afterwards Rt. Hon. Sir Michael, Herbert there were high hopes of a continuation of the recent good record. Herbert had married an American wife and was in close intimacy with society in the Eastern cities. The Ambassador, however, was in poor health, in fact already the hand of death was upon him, and he died in office in September, 1903, without any special record of achievement.
Although Sir Michael Herbert left behind him the reputation of being “a most accomplished dinner giver,” and a friendship with President Roosevelt enjoyed by few other diplomats, Sir Mortimer Durand, his successor, a much abler man, was to suffer by his deficiencies in social relations with the President. Sir Mortimer came to Washington after a long residence in the Orient, his father having been prominent in the India Civil Service for 40 years. The younger Durand got his start there, accompanied Lord Roberts on his Afghan campaign in 1879, as political secretary, and in 1893 he undertook a special mission to the wily Ameer of Afghanistan
been done to show that the hopes of 1907 have not been disappointed. He was famed as a statesman, the first Ambassador from Britain to Washington of Cabinet rank ; a scholar, for Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had declared him “the best all-round, the most accomplished man in the House of Commons;” a writer, and indeed the author of the best book ever published on the United States Government, namely, “The American Commonwealth;” a man wdio knew the Republic from end to end by personal contact, as well as nearly all the rest of the world ; and was the first white man to stand on the top of Mount Ararat ; an Irishman by birth and a beloved administrator of the country that had sent so many Anglomaniacs to the United States; a friend of the British colonies and dominions and possessing a wide knowledge of them through travel and personal acquaintance. Finally, a man of whom the British Premier, “C.-B.” already quoted, had said: “Bryce had been everywhere, he has read almost everything and he knows everybody.”
Mr. Bryce had behind him a long career in the public service, having entered Parliament in 1880 as member for Tower Hamlets in London, where if the rude East Enders did not follow him in his academic thought, they at least respected him. For years he represented Aberdeen, a constituency that makes the proud boast that it had not one illiterate voter. He was President of the Board of Trade from 1892 to 1895, and for a time was Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He had the courage to oppose the South African War, but cannot be accused of lack of interest in the over-seas dominions, for he was one of the founders of the Ini' perial Federation League. In 1905 he became Chief Secretary for Ireland, and that unhappy Island never had a more painstaking Secretary, nor one on such good terms with the Nationalists.
It was from this task that he was called to Washington, and everyone agreed that the choice was logical and inevitable. To his task at Washington he has brought the same qualities of intensive cultivation of the mind, the same alertness of thought, speech and action, the same keenness of observation, and the same happy manner of meeting the world’s best
during his service as Under Foreign Secretary. Subsequently he w*as Minister to Persia and to Spain. With such a record and such a temperament he was scarcely the man to “catch on” with PresidentRoosevelt.
The situation in Washington was complicated by the inroads that the German Ambassador, Speck von Sternberg, had made in the Rooseveltconfidences. The very day “Speck” reached the country he hastened to Oyster Bay and was soon engrossed with the President in the enthusiasms of rifle shooting. He soon, of course, got into the “tennis Cabinet,” was constantly in the company of the President, and naturally had some influence with him. On the other hand, President Roosevelt saw little of the British Ambassador. This was bad enough, in the feverish state of Anglo-German opinion. To add to the complications, there was an “eternal feminine” in the person of Lady Susan Townlev, wife of the Embassy Counsellor, an ambitious woman who was accused of setting up a court of her own and of writing letters home to England containing slighting references to the Durands.
Friends of the Durands, on the other hand, after his return to England, claimed that the Ambassador made himself unpopular in Washington by too great insistence on the rights of his Home Government in his relations with the United States authorities. One of the affronts with which he was charged was that he refused to bring pressure to bear on Japan, Britain’s ally, at the time of the Portsmouth Peace conference. Whatever the cause—and personally he was declared to be a man of dignified, simple, straight-forwam diplomacy and of great personal charm—Sir Mortimer Durand’s term suddenly terminated by his resignation, equivalent to a recall, about the first of the year 1907.
This brings our chronicle down to the term of the present Ambassador at Washington, Rt. Hon. James Bryce, who took office in April of that year. Never has an envoy from Great Britain come to Washington hailed with so much satisfaction by the people among whom he was to mingle and to labor. Here was a man that seemed to possess all the qualifications, and though it is too early yet to estimate his achievements, enough has
men that carried him to the front in his native land. The result is seen in the conspicuous place he holds in the social and political world of the United States. He is constantly in demand as a speaker. He goes about the country as a man of forty or fifty instead of 73. Yesterday he addressed a peace society, to-day a meeting of a thousand men in a colored Y.M.C.A., to-morrow we hear of him at a Canadian Club in Ottawa, or Toronto, next week he is in Boston before a literary organization talking of some phase of English literature. To such a man, although Nature, already prodigal enough, has denied him the supreme gifts of the orator, speaking comes easily. His mind is saturated with information on a hun-
dred topics, and given time and strength, he can do much in the diffusion of information and the inspiration for right thinking.
Mr. Bryce has been constantly active in the various branches of his diplomatic work. He had to do with the adjudication of the long-standing fisheries dispute between the United States and Canada and Newfoundland, which reached a happy conclusion at The Hague last year and at Washington in the supplementary conferences in January. His greatest effort, however, has been in forwarding the general treaty of arbitration between Britain and the United States, which, at the moment of writing, seems probable of realization during the present year. Such an achievement is only possible through the efforts of sane humanitarian statesmen like Mr. Bryce and Sir Edward Grey for
Great Britain, and President Taft for the Republic, who in this treaty seeks to implement suggestions which originated with him and found an immediate response in the country to which they were directed.
We have spoken thus far chiefly of the political side of the British Embassy. The social side is more prominent in the daily life of the Capital.
Here, in the city of Washington, is one large centre in the United States where the people who are rich and nothing .else have trouble in obtaining recognition. The new congressman comes to town with all the glow of a political triumph, and his wife expects to take society by storm. Alas, for her confidence! There are several thousand
ahead of her, just as important, and she has to wait her turn.
The home of the embassy is a large brick building at the corner of Connecticut avenue and N street, Washington. Large high-ceiled rooms, decorated by men sent specially from England, a spacious hall and grand staircase, looking up to a painting of Queen Victoria in her coronation robes, give character and solidity suggesting the country here represented. One room with a desk in the centre, littered with papers and books, at once locates the working place of the literary worker, the man of the world, who reigns here as ambassador, and who from human sympathy and intellectual understanding has his fingers on the pulse of the United States ,of the Empire he represents, and indeed of the whole world.