Thomas Barclay.

Thirty years, Anglo-French reminiscences (1876-1906) online

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31 A 4-7


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This book is due to a request made some years
ago for a volume of memoirs. The present reminis-
cences include so much about myself that they are
in fact memoirs as regards my connection with
France and the genesis and fulfilment of the Entente.

My Anglo-German reminiscences, which cover a
longer period, my short but intensely busy stay in
America in 1903-4, my connection with the solution
of the Balkan crisis of 1908-9, and other matters not
directly affecting Anglo-French relations, with which
I have had to do, are beyond the scope of and are not
dealt with in the present volume.

I have tried throughout to preserve the more or
less colloquial style which the title of the book
implies, and have avoided as much as possible
writing a history of Anglo-French relations under
the Republic. When the archives of the two Foreign
Offices and the letters and memoirs of several foreign
ministers and diplomatists still living become avail-
able, a future generation will be better able than any
contemporary writers to understand the true meaning
of events which at present we can only interpret by

These reminiscences not only are not intended to
give a consecutive or exhaustive narrative of the
period they cover, but they relate only to the matters
with which I have been more or less in contact, and
the reader must look for nothing further. I have


tried at any rate to be accurate, and if they give a
one-man view of events, they are the views of a man
who has been very close to the stage, who has not
been deceived by the paint and decoration, and has
throughout heard too much of the " directions "
from the wings to be taken in by any artificial

I have avoided speaking of some of the actors
and giving my impressions of some of their per-
formances, but that has been because I have dis-
trusted my own judgment where personal feeling
might warp it, and in diplomacy, as in politics, it is
easier to be critical than to do better.

Occasionally the reader will meet with digressions
he may resent when getting interested in some
subject. He must think himself in a club smoking-
room with a talkative member, getting on in years,
who must tell you a thing " by the by," and remember
that he is only reading reminiscences.

I have to thank the proprietors of The limes, the
Westminster Gazette, the Standard, the Daily Telegraph,
the Manchester Guardian, the Scotsman, the Fortnightly
Review, the Contemporary Review, and the Monthly
Review, and the writers and owners of the different
letters I have reproduced — as well as the authors
and publishers where the letters have already been
published — for their kind permission to quote them.
I have also quoted largely from the now extinct Daily
Messenger, whose services, under the management of
Mr. Albert Keyzer, to the cause of Anglo-French
friendship, I wish especially to acknowledge.

T. B.

April, 1914.




Launched in Paris .



Republican Salad Days and Bismarck



Anti-English Symptoms. — Gambetta



Egypt .......



A Disciple of Cobden .



A Tariff-Mongering Era .



Storms Ahead .....



Boulanger's Bluff ....



Expansion and Unrest



From Bad to Worse



Appeal to an Ancient Friendship



The Patriotard Wave



Fashoda ......



National Wrath ....

. *S7


Mixed Impressions ....

. 165


The Dawn of Better Feeling .



A Propitious Moment and More thai


Usual about the Author



Fighting for Peace ....

. 209


The ENTENTE in Sight

. 217


The Achievement ....

. 230


An Anglo-American Interlude

■ 237


The Squaring-up ....

. 242



XXIII. A New Era— Germany ... 253

XXIV. A "Revanche" 274

XXV. Past and Present Efforts — Danger of

Drift .....••

XXVI. Stumbling Blocks

XXVII. Afterwords


I. Presidents of the Republic
II. French Prime Ministers and Ministers of
Foreign Affairs since 1870

III. French Ambassadors to London since 1870 .

IV. British Secretaries of State for Foreign

Affairs since 1870 .

V. British Ambassadors to Paris since 1870 .

VI. Summary of Arguments, British and French,

in Favour of Arbitration Treaty and

Entente ...-••

VII. Unofficial Support given to the Movement.

VIII. Text of Anglo-French Treaty of

Arbitration ....-•

IX. Letter from Lord Lyons to Lord Granville

on the Situation in 1884

X. M. Hanotaux on British Diplomacy .

XL Papers relating to the Franco-Scottish

Society and the Scots College in Paris .

XII. Pledge and Rules of the International

Brotherhood Alliance ....





" You must give me your answer at once ; Alge
is not strong, Blowitz is away, and our third man
must be installed at the rue Vivienne by Monday

Thus spoke John Macdonald, the then manager of
The Times, a kind and considerate man by nature,
but in business, masterful and often uncompromising.

He had wired me on the Saturday morning to meet
him at Printing House Square, and on the following
Monday night, in May, 1876, after no more notice than
the few minutes in which I had to make up my mind,
the most momentous step in my career was taken and
the whole course of my subsequent life determined.

Paris from that moment till 1909 remained the

centre of my affairs and my home.

# # * # *

I had been saturated with things French from my
childhood. My grandfather was a noted Scottish
politician, a Hellenist, a student of French litera-
ture, and a philosopher, who thought Aristotle,
Hume, and especially Voltaire, had got closer to
intellectual " common sense " than had the Edinburgh
school who labelled themselves with the term. He
was such a believer in the emancipating character of

T.Y. I B


French culture that he sent all his children to pass
some years in Paris. Access to German culture he con-
sidered less interesting to a Scotsman, but he wished
his children to know the German language as added
strength to their capabilities, and my grandmother,
who spoke French fluently, learnt also German at the
same time as my aunts at Neuwied on the Rhine.

In this highly-cultured family at Cupar-Fife,
" famed for litigation," as an ironical Cupar teacher
used to call it, 1 I passed much of my early life.

To my young imagination the very name of France
seemed to stand for all that was free, brilliant and

" What," said my old Whig grandfather, " do
political systems matter except to put one set of men
in office in the place of others ! They are all the mere
tools of the thinkers. What really matters is freedom
to think, speculate, talk, write about every conceivable

Paris was my Mecca. The French intellect, I had
been taught, was the motive-power which was driving
the machinery of the human mind throughout the

I had just passed two years at the University of
Jena, the two most delightful years of my life, for there
for the first time I had been allowed to do individual
work and research for myself instead of merely
learning the wisdom of others. Germany, moreover,
had broken loose from the old wisdom. Nobody in
1873-5 read any philosophical writer but Spencer, and

1 What Scotsman knows not the proverb " He that will to Cupar maun
to Cupar ? " The inhabitants of the " Kingdom," as Fife is called in
Scotland, are notoriously litigious folk, and Cupar is the place where the
Sheriff of Fife distributes justice to them.


little of him. Darwin had overturned the tottering
German idols. The professors were still sweeping the
wreckage into the back yard, where the bits were being
carefully collected by English university men and
carried off to Oxford to be pieced together again.
One of the " repairers " was my late uncle-in-law,
Professor Wallace of Oxford, himself a distinguished
philosopher, who wrote the famous " Prolegomena " to
an English translation of Hegel's Logic, and was one
of the worshippers of its then, in Germany, discarded
author. Prof. Eucken, by the by, had just been
"called" to Jena in succession to Kuno Fischer. I
remember the disappointment at the loss of this
somewhat histrionic lecturer, who had gone to Heidel-
berg, whither many students flitted after him.

I am tempted to go beyond the scope of this volume
and talk about a German university of forty years
ago. All I can say here is that the University of Jena
was the leading revoltee. It was the joint university of
three States, Saxe- Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Meiningen,
and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The representative of the
joint administrative interests explained to me why
Jena possessed such independence as compared with
other German universities. " One master," he said,
" is a master ; two masters are half a master ; and
three masters are none ! "

After having absorbed the new scientific spirit and
revelled in this intellectual freedom, I saw, later on,
the conventional spirit growing again under the new
order, professors of the new order treating as heretics
those of a still newer order, and even Darwinism taking
its place among the creeds.

From my great teacher, Professor Hildebrand, I

3 B 2


brought a letter of introduction to the famous
Dr. Farr.

Dr. William Farr was Superintendent of the
Statistical Department of the Registrar General's
office at Somerset House, had studied medicine in
Paris, and was a corresponding member of the
Institute of France. He was the greatest living
authority on the statistics of disease and life. The
life tables, with values of annuities and premiums for
single and joint lives, in use by the British insurance
companies, in fact, were drawn up by him.

He was a short, dark man, not unlike the late Henry
Labouchere. When I first knew him, he was in his
seventieth year. Professor Hildebrand considered
him as the creator of accurate statistics.

Dr. Farr advised me to take up the subject of
comparative criminology, and examine our tables of
criminal statistics, which he regarded as trivial and
misleading, in minute detail. I did so, and published
a long article of several columns on them in The Times.
On the strength of this article he proposed me as a
Fellow of the Statistical Society, and introduced me
to the leading statisticians as one of the fraternity.

The above-mentioned article was followed by
another, showing the fallacy of the current statistics
of drink, and then by a third, analysing the wealth of
England, in connection with the Income Tax returns,
which had been the subject of my " dissertation " for
the Doctorate at Jena.

Through Dr. Farr I made the acquaintance of that
most illuminating of books, Descartes' " Discours sur la
Methode," which he always had at hand, to dip into for
a mental bath, whenever his mind was getting fagged.

In those days, by the by, the organization of Somer-



set House was very different from what it is now.
When I called on Dr. Farr, I had to apply at the office
of the head clerk, a Mr. Williams, who danced attend-
ance on his chief as no civil servant of to-day would
be expected to do. Dr. Farr had a long room looking
out into the yard, reached through Williams' room,
and without access except through it. Those were
feudal days, in which democracy had not yet asserted
its right to a liveried attendant.

Dr. Farr was just then keen on his theory of value,
and most anxious that I should bring it to Hilde-
brand's notice, which I did. It was set out in a paper
printed in the Journal of the Statistical Society (Septem-
ber, 1876), on " the valuation of railways, telegraphs,
water companies, canals and other commercial con-
cerns, with prospective, deferred, increasing, decreasing
or terminating profits." I commend it, in spite of its
not very thrilling title, to the attention of those who
think, as Dr. Farr did, that railways must eventually
be taken over by the State. The object of his paper
was to establish a scientific basis of valuation in

view of such an emergency.

# # # # #

Another good friend of those days was my father's col-
league, A. J. Wilson, at that time the assistant financial
editor of The Times and already a distinguished
economist, who introduced me as a brother economist to
R. H. Hutton, the editor of the Spectator, for which

for a time I wrote reviews of books on economics.

# # # # #

My first review in the Spectator was on a book by
H. Dunning Macleod, " demolishing for good " John
Stuart Mill's economic fallacies ! It brought me a letter
from the dearest friend of my boyhood, Alexander



Lonie, who was assistant to T. Spencer Baynes,
editor of the then appearing ninth edition of the
Encyclopedia Britannica. He reproached me roundly
for a severity which, he said, showed I did not yet
appreciate the labour of producing a book on any
serious subject, and beseeching me to look out rather
for the merit, than the weakness, of the authors I
criticised. Alec Lonie died of consumption before he
reached his thirtieth year, but he had written a short
article on " Animism " in the Britannica which was
regarded by competent judges as a masterpiece. I
wrote a good many criticisms of books for the
Spectator, and a great many more afterwards for
Literature, when edited by Dr. Traill, but I never
forgot Alec Lonie's humane admonition.

# # # * #

My decision to accept the Paris post was not a little
influenced by the fact that an important statistical
post in Egypt, for which I had been recommended by
Dr. Farr, had been given to someone else on account
of my youth and without reference to our respective
qualifications, an unpardonable offence in the eyes of
a young man of twenty-two not yet experienced in

the ways of Governments.

* # # # #

Anyhow I came to France with joy. Here new ideas
got a hearing, here all the leaders — the very institu-
tions were young. The country was still a vast political
Seminar — and I was enthusiastic about everything
that resembled in freedom of discussion the Seminar
in which my mind had learnt how to use its limbs.

I spoke French fairly well, having passed a year in
the College Jean-Bart at Dunkirk in 1867-8, 1 and any

1 In 1912 I had the privilege of distributing the prizes and delivering


little diffidence I still had was soon lost in the intel-
lectual omniscience The 'Times correspondents in those
days affected to possess and were credited with
possessing whether they possessed it or not.

Young as I was I soon got into touch with the
problems which were agitating France.

With a sort of feverish desire to miss nothing, I
went off almost daily to Versailles to listen to the
debates in parliament, although my department was
rather the economic, commercial, and financial side
of things in France than her politics.

Dr. Farr had given me letters of introduction to all
the great French economists of that time — Levasseur,
Michel Chevalier, Maurice Block, Joseph Gamier,
Wolowski, etc. Of all these distinguished men I made
the acquaintance except Wolowski, who was then
already on his death-bed.

# * * * #

M. Levasseur gave me an appointment for 7.45 in
the morning. This distinguished economist was an
indefatigable, nay, inexorable worker, and allowed no
one to disturb him after 8.30 a.m., when he began his
daily toil in earnest. Professor Levasseur confined

the annual oration at the famous old college. I chose as the subject
" Moral education in school," one of the greatest problems of modern

Two of my fellow pupils of the " Jean-Bart " were the brothers Furby.
Alcide died a few years ago, but the other brother, Charles, is now Avocat-
Giniral of the Court of Cassation. We met again some thirty years ago
through journalism, which he abandoned like myself for the law. Furby
pere had been a political refugee in Edinburgh under the Empire. Though
amnestied he remained in Scotland, and was French tutor to the Duke of
Edinburgh in his time. Another Jean-Bartois is Dr. Dundas Grant, the
well-known laryngologist. Furby, Grant and I meet from time to time
and talk of old days as " old boys " are wont to do.

Dunkirk is also the headquarters of an active branch of the F.I.G., under
the active and sympathetic chairmanship of Juge de Paix Lebel (seep. 301).


his conversation with me to some great atlas, I think
it was, on which he was engaged, and when the clock
struck eight he rose, shook hands and told me he
would always be glad to see me at the same hour. I
often saw this exceedingly busy man again, but only
at evening parties, and even then he seemed to subject
himself to time limits, such as, I imagine, five minutes
for a member of the Academie francaise, three minutes
for a fellow member of the Academy of Moral and
Political Sciences ; for the rest, a scale of conversation
of which he carefully took charge to prevent any over-
stepping of a precise and well-considered proportion,
descending to a courtly shake of the hand to the

simple man in the street.

* * # # *

Michel Chevalier received me at his house in the
Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, where his distinguished
son-in-law, Professor Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, still lives,
within the heures ouvrables it is true, but, like Professor
Levasseur, he gave me a rapid expose of his views on
certain current matters economic, and then rising,
shook hands. He at any rate returned my call, and
I called on him again to obtain his views on some
pending measure, but he was too full of his views on
something else to give me any enlightenment on any
topic of any interest to The Times.

With this first experience of eminent Frenchmen I
was disappointed, and it was some time before I
presented another letter of introduction. One day,
however, I received from my late friend, Mr. Richard
Heath, who was then writing his life of Edgar Quinet,
a letter to Professor Garcin de Tassy, the Oriental
scholar, a fine old gentleman with the grand manners


of an expiring age, who was not an economist, not
even an economist of time or courtesy. He invited
me d Vanglaise to dinner, and I accepted his abundant
hospitality as often as my journalist duties per-

<JF ^P -Jf -Jr "Jr

Emboldened by this result, which had brought me
into contact with a number of interesting Frenchmen,
I presented another of Dr. Farr's letters.

This was to Professor Gamier, a handsome old man
with a magnificent head of grey hair, who was the
hon. secretary of the " Societe d'Economie politique."
He invited me to one of its monthly dinners that

At this dinner I made the acquaintance of a Deputy
who, being the son of a Scotsman, admitted me at
once to his intimacy. " Cela se fait toujours entre
Ecossais ! " The father, as a young Glasgow engineer,
had been sent in the early years of the century by
" Iron Manby," President of the Society of Engineers,
to teach the engineers of the Creuzot works how to
cast large blocks of iron for the construction of bridges.
After completing his engagement, like a true Scotsman
he looked around him to see in what way he could take
advantage of his environment, and with the co-opera-
tion of M. Dosne, M. Thiers' father-in-law, of M. Thiers
himself, of M. Barante, M. Fould and others, he founded
the Charenton Ironworks. Meanwhile he observed the
great progress of gas-lighting, which had been adopted
with commercial success in North Britain, and deter-
mined to give it a trial in Paris. Thus it was that
in the thirties the enterprising owner of a cafe on the
Boulevard Poissonniere, the Cafe des Boulevards,
allowed our Scotsman to instal a small gas-generating



plant in its basement. Hundreds of strollers, attracted

by what then seemed intense brilliancy compared with

the poor old colza-oil lamps, crowded into the cafe.

Bref, capitalists were invited to join in the venture,

and the Gas Company of Paris was founded with the

enterprising Scotsman at its head. It flourished

and he became a very rich man. Some years later

he married a young French lady, daughter of M.

Cazenave, a judge of the Court of Cassation, and son

of one of the few members of the Convention who

voted against the execution of Louis XVI. The two

children of the marriage were left orphans while very

young, and were brought up by guardians. The elder

one, a daughter, married M. Pelouze, the scientific

chemist of the company ; the other child was Daniel

Wilson, my new friend.

* * # # #

Whatever the sins of Daniel Wilson — and whether
he was a scapegoat, the victim of the conspiracy
against his father-in-law, M. Grevy, or not — he was
always a good friend to me, and I was certainly far
too poor and too insignificant to make it worth his
while to cultivate me for any object but the purest
of friendship. I never saw but one fault in him — it
was that he was often obliging to people who did not ,
deserve his kindness. Wilson in 1876, when I first
made his acquaintance, was one of the most promising
men in France, comparatively rich, a dispassionate
and effective business-like speaker, and an inde-
fatigable worker. M. Grevy singled him out for his
particular affection. " Mon petit Daniel," as he called
him, afterwards married Mile. Grevy. I was at the
wedding as one of Wilson's friends. This friendship
with Wilson brought me into close contact with the



Grevy family, and for years I was a frequent guest
at the Thursday lunches, to which the President was
in the habit of inviting his more intimate political
friends. It was at these lunches that I laid the
foundation of those political associations which after-
wards enabled me to secure support for the Entente,

where it might otherwise have been difficult.

# # # * *

I cannot pass over the name of Mme. Pelouze,
Wilson's sister, without mentioning the delicate
charm, the tact, and political insight of a lady who
was truly one of the grandes dames of the Republic.
At Tours, in the early days, she had been the rallying
point of the Grevy party against the Gambettists. It
was she who had taken Daniel to task over his
extravagant and wild life as a young richard towards
the end of the Empire, who had bought the beautiful
palace of Chenonceaux on the Indre, had captured the
constituency of Loches and sent her brother to Paris
as its Deputy. No habitue of the gatherings under the
dim-red light in her large, cosy smoking-room, with
the clever men and women she collected round her,
can pass the old place at 17, rue de l'Universite
without a pang of sadness in his recollection of the
sweet woman who was afterwards financially ruined,
whose exquisite Chenonceaux was sold by the mort-
gagees, and who died, after a long illness, exiled from

Online LibraryThomas BarclayThirty years, Anglo-French reminiscences (1876-1906) → online text (page 1 of 29)