178 JOHN HAY
the same kindness and indulgence for all my short-
comings that you have hitherto shown.
I am going down to-night to say farewell to our
little Washington colony at Pluckley. I am sorry
you have never been able to look upon that idyllic
scene. Don ^ is the finest type of old Tory baronet
you ever saw. His wife makes a lovely chatelaine,
and Oom Hendrik has assumed the congenial func-
tions of cellarer and chaplain. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks
Adams ^ are there also, and shed sweetness and light
over the landscape. Moreton Frewen has been there,
darkening counsel with many cheery words. It was
delightful to see him, one evening after dinner,
lauding Colonel Bryan as the greatest and most be-
neficent personality in American life since Abraham
You will understand I have no time to write a
letter. I am looking forward to many a long talk
with you in the future, with Hay unto Lodge ut-
tering speech, and Lodge unto Hay showing know-
To his old chief in the days of the Paris Legation,
John Bigelow, who wrote to congratulate him. Hay
replied : —
» Senator J. Donald Cameron.
* Mr. Brooks Adams is the youngest brother of Mr. Henry Adams,
HAY'S AMBASSADORSHIP 179
To John Bigelow
[London] September 5, 1898.
I am so tossed about and worried by these un-
expected changes in my fortunes that I need a Mr.
Speaker to tell me where I am at.
I fear you are right about the Philippines, and I
hope the Lord will be good to us poor devils who have
to take care of them. I marvel at your suggesting
that we pay for them. I should have expected no less
of your probity; but how many except those edu-
cated by you in the school of morals and diplomacy
would agree with you? Where did I pass you on the
road of life? You used to be a little my senior; ^ now
you are ages younger and stronger than I am. And
yet I am going to be Secretary of State for a little
His old professor at Brown, President James B.
Angell, who was returning from Constantinople,
where he had been Minister, wrote: "You and I are
apparently in these days walking round like official
St. Denis, with our heads under our arms. Only you
are so soon to be re-capitated, and with a 'big head'
indeed." From the highest British officials came
notes of farewell, in which the regret expressed was
1 John Bigelow, born in 1817, was twenty-one years older than Hay.
i8o JOHN HAY
personal not less than official. Lord Salisbury wrote
from Germany: " I most deeply regret, for our sakes
in England, the call that has taken you away from
our shores, though I confidently anticipate most
beneficial results, not only to the United States, but
to England and her relations with the States, from
your discharge of the most important duties you
have undertaken." Another Prime Minister, Lord
Rosebery, spoke in a similar strain: "I wish you
joy most heartily on having as Ambassador won
popularit}^ here without losing it in America, on be-
ing equally respected and regarded in both coun-
tries, on being as it were poised with a foot on both.
I wish you joy too on being able in your new posi-
tion to do something which may further the highest
interests of both ; in having the power to foster and
facilitate those relations between the two countries
which may so largely mould the future of the
A final extract is from Mr. H. H. Asquith, destined
to be Prime Minister during a life-or-death struggle
such as none of his forerunners had faced: "Both
my wife and I feel the personal and public loss of
your departure," writes the then member for East
Fife, "which robs us of much anticipated intercourse
of a kind that is becoming every year rarer to find.
But, as life goes on, one sees it to be better, and
HAY'S AMBASSADORSHIP i8i
ought to find it to be easier that our immediate en-
vironment should at the cost of its growing empti-
ness contribute to the general good. . . . We should
like to hope that the revolutions of what is called
accident may before long bring us — at least for a
moment — into the same orbit, and meanwhile be
assured that — however far apart in space we may
be — we shall in interest and sympathy and real
aflfection be always yours."
One final comment. Queen Victoria said of Hay
to Lord Pauncefote: "He is the most interesting of
all the Ambassadors I have known." The Queen's
acquaintance with American envoys went back to
Andrew Stevenson, 1837.
The last letter I find, written before Hay sailed,
is dated September 14, 1898, and addressed to White-
law Reid : —
"We are to cross each other at sea, it appears, and
I have been so worried by every wind of destiny since
I got your long and delightful letter that I have not
answered it, and now the carriage waits to take me
to the train which is to drag me to Liverpool, and I
have no time to talk to you.
"Please take everything for granted — the old
love, the old confidence, the old trust.
"You are going to do a most important piece of
work at Paris, and I know it will be well done.
i82 JOHN HAY
"As for me, you can imagine with what solemn
and anxious feeHngs I am starting for home. Never,
even in war times, did I feel anything like it. But
then I was young and now I am old."
John Hay's ambassadorship ranks in importance
next after that of Charles Francis Adams. Adams
prevented England from officially cooperating to
destroy the American Union. Hay, more than any
other individual, persuaded England, in a world
crisis from which was to issue the new adjustment of
nations and races, of Occident and of Orient, and of
civilization even, that her interests, if not actually
her salvation, called for a larger union with her
American kinsmen. His experience in London taught
him the currents of European diplomacy. It also
gave him first-hand testimony as to the personality
of the German Emperor and as to the earliest mani-
festations of Pan-Germanist ambitions. These facts,
as we shall see, had their bearings on his work in the
In what mood he took up that burden, he confides
to his brother-in-law, in the following letter. —
To Samuel Mather
Newbury, N.H., September 24, 1898,
... I find it hard to say how I feel about coming
home. I have never been so oppressed by a sense of
HAY'S AMBASSADORSHIP 183
inadequacy before. I feel as if I had been drawn into
a match with Corbett ^ and the day was drawing on,
and all my hope was to be knocked out by an early
blow which would not kill me. I did not want the
place and was greatly grieved and shocked when it
came — but of course I could not refuse to do the
best I could. It was impossible, after the President
had been so generous, to pick and choose, and say,
" I will have this and not that." But I look forward
to the next year with gloomy forebodings.
The existing vacancy of Secretary and Assistant
in the State Department requires my immediate
presence there. I am going Wednesday. Clara
brought me here for a day or two of fresh air and
quiet. I hope you did not think I uttered the idiotic
remarks attributed to me in the World and Herald.
* J. J. Corbett, who was then the world's champion prize-fighter.
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE
THE new Secretary quickly fell Into the routine
of office — although he never accepted rou-
tine without Inwardly chafing. From his house It
was but a short five minutes' walk across Lafayette
Square to the Executive Mansion or to the Depart-
ment of State. Either path he trod every morning.
On Tuesdays, the Cabinet met at the White House,
on Thursdays, the Secretary received calls from the
Diplomatic Corps at his own office. His forenoons
were filled with the regular business of the Depart-
ment, In going over correspondence, In conferring
with Mr. Adee or other subordinates, in blocking out
despatches or In revising them, and in dictating to
his secretary, Mr. Babcock. At one o'clock he
walked back across the Square to lunch at home;
and returned in the afternoon to finish the day's
business. Official receptions, dinners, and other en-
gagements, like the stream of persons who sought an
interview with him, constantly pressed upon him.
As his burden of work Increased, he became less
ready to throw Its worries off In his hours of leisure.
But his few deep friendships were unshaken. His
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 185
letters, now less frequent, are alive with the old
affection for Clarence King and Mr. Adams and the
two or three other intimates. He enjoyed such
respites as books and talks afforded, and during his
summer vacation he refreshed himself with long
draughts of reading, with Nature, with his children,
and with stray visits from old comrades.
Mr. Henry Adams remained his closest friend.
Mr. Adams himself describes, in the following ex-
tract, how far the Secretary's new official life
trenched upon their old companionship : —
"He [Adams] had nothing to do with Hay's poli-
tics at home or abroad, and never affected agree-
ment with his views or his methods, nor did Hay
care whether his friends agreed or disagreed. They
all united in trying to help each other to get along
the best way they could, and all they tried to save
was the personal relation. Even there, Adams
would have been beaten, had he not been helped by
Mrs. Hay, who saw the necessity of distraction, and
led her husband into the habit of stopping every
afternoon to take his friend off for an hour's walk,
followed by a cup of tea with Mrs. Hay afterwards,
and a chat with any one who called."
When John Hay went to his desk as Secretary of
State, on October i, 1898,^ he found many important
* He was sworn in on September 30.
i86 JOHN HAY
matters pressing for an issue. With most of these,
his year and a half in London had made him ac-
quainted. He had the advantage of knowing the
leaders of public life in Washington and in England,
and he was generally regarded as a man, not only of
singular personal attractiveness, but also of keen in-
telligence and of unblemished uprightness. If he had
little taste for the routine work of office, still he per-
formed it conscientiously. His health, never robust,
became more and more precarious under the strain
put upon it by questions of vast moment, by opposi-
tion which he thought factious, and by a tragic sor-
row. More than once he was on the verge of break-
ing down; but he held, duty-true, to his task, until
he had spent his last ounce of strength in the service.
Then he died.
The public, little aware of his trials, and observing
chiefly the carrying out of brilliant policies, enjoyed
a comfortable sense of security that while he was
Secretary of State the national honor and safety
Throughout his long term in the State Depart-
ment John Hay relied especially upon two invaluable
helpers. The first of these, a friend since their youth,
was Mr. Alvey A. Adee, who had been in the Depart-
ment for more than twenty years. As Second Assist-
ant Secretary of State, Mr. Adee was then, as he is
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 187
to-day, the only permanent official of high rank under
the executive. Administrations came and went,
Adee stayed on. Presidents ignorant of diplomacy
and international law felt reasonably safe in ap-
pointing as their chief secretaries gentlemen as igno-
rant as themselves, because they knew that Adee
was there to guard against blunders. He was the
master of both the language and the practices of
diplomacy. He could draw up note, memorandum,
protocol, or instructions, not merely in just the right
words, but with the indefinable tone of courtesy or
coolness which the occasion required. His knowledge
of American diplomatic history was unrivaled. His
capacity for work, like his cheerfulness, never ran
out. Though it took sometimes six and a half hours
to ''shovel through" the morning's mail, and fifty-
five minutes to sign the official correspondence, he
could still close a letter to his absent chief with the
salutation, " Fatiguedly but always chipperly yours."
Hay called him ''semper paratus Adee.'' An invalu-
Service of a very different kind, but equally im-
portant, was rendered by Mr. Henry White, First
Secretary of the American Embassy in London.
While long experience taught him the technique of
diplomacy, his personal qualities made him a wel-
come companion with the various groups which con-
i88 JOHN HAY
stituted British society, and especially with the
shapers of British statecraft. Informal relations
often count most in diplomacy. The proposal which
has been talked over confidentially in the library
after dinner stands a better chance of being ac-
cepted than if it is first presented with official punc-
tilio at the Foreign Office. London being at that
time the center of world-diplomacy, Mr. White's
intimacy with British statesmen enabled him to
keep Secretary Hay informed, not only as to their
views, but as to international affairs. Thanks to
him. Hay did not lose touch with acquaintances he
had himself made during his ambassadorship; and
more than once he employed Mr. White to sound pri-
vately the British Ministers before beginning even a
tentative negotiation. Discreet, sympathetic, trust-
worthy, and untiring, Mr. Henry White helped the
Secretary of State to plan and to act with the con-
sciousness that what he did might affect conditions
the world over.
One of the first annoyances which beset Secretary
Hay was the rapacity of office-seekers. When they
did not attack him themselves, they worked through
their Senators. To say no to the local statesman of
Pumpkin Four Corners, who aspired to be consul-
general in London, was easy; but to deny his Senator
might alienate one whose hostile vote would kill an
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 189
important treaty. In vain did Hay protest that his
predecessor, Judge Day, had swept the shelf dean; in
vain did he declare that there were fifty applicants
for every vacancy: the swarm gave him no respite.
And if Senators slackened, Congressmen redoubled
At first, the Secretary saw the ludicrousness of
this system and discharged its drudgery with a smile ;
but later, when his health made even pin-pricks
unendurable, he turned the business over to Assist-
ant Secretary Loomis.
The following notes to a distinguished Senator
show Hay in his playful mood : —
March 31, 1900.
The only vacant Consulate in the service is Iqui-
que. Do I understand that the great Commonwealth
you so nobly represent, wishes to fill it? It brings in
to the pampered occupant something like $800 a
April 2, 1900.
A candidate for Iquique has turned up. . . . Un-
less you have a man with a better claim on that
$800 salary, I think this low-priced Phoenix may take
190 JOHN HAY
April 5, 1900.
I have your letter of yesterday. Of course, if you
want Iquique for Mr. C, you shall have it, but are
you sure he would want to go? The place is not in
Mexico, as you seem to think, but in Chile, and I
imagine would best be described by Goldsmith's
line : —
"Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow."
The Secretary was pestered by requests for favors
other than offices. Thus a Congressman of fashion-
able pretensions writes that his relatives, who are at
Dresden, desire to be presented to the King and
Queen of Saxony. Whereupon the American Secre-
tary of State is obliged, besides sending a polite reply
to the fashionable Congressman, to communicate
with the American Ambassador in Berlin to instruct
the American Consul in Dresden to request the
Royal Chamberlain there to include the names of
the ladies of the fashionable Congressman in his list
of invitations to the next Court reception.
No less edifying is the demand of Senator Hanna,
when established at Aix-les-Bains for the benefit of
his health, that Secretary Hay shall authorize the
American Consul at Nuremberg — who appears to
have been appointed to that office because he was
the Senator's private physician — to take leave of
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 191
absence, hasten to Aix-les-Bains, and watch the ef-
fect of the waters on Mr. Hanna's impaired system.
We are not informed whether the Senator or the
United States Treasury paid the travehng expenses
of the doctor; we suspect, however, that it paid for
the cablegram to Nuremberg and presumably the
doctor's salary while he was absent on private busi-
ness. Such practices would cause no remark in a
monarchy; in a republic they are among the ironies
Quite as comic was the temporary embarrassment
caused by the illegible handwriting of a candidate
for the Persian Ministry. In informing him that the
post was vacant. Secretary Hay asked him to "wire
his reply." When received his telegram read that he
would gladly accept the Peruvian Ministry. As this
was already filled, Mr. Hay, perplexed, sought an
explanation, and learned that the gentleman had
written " Persian " so badly that the operator read it
My place here is horribly unpleasant [Mr. Hay
wrote to Whitelaw Reid, on November 13, 1898].
The work is constant and unceasing. It takes nine
hours' work to clear my desk every day and there
is no refuge at home. The worst is the constant
solicitations for office, which I cannot even enter-
192 JOHN HAY
tain; the strain of mind and nerves in explaining
why things can't be done, and the consciousness
that the seekers and their "influence" think I am
lying. . . .
As to appointments under the State Depart-
ment it is clear that I am to have nothing to say.
I could not appoint even my Private Secretary, as
Mr. Sherman wanted me to appoint his; nor my
confidential clerk, as a friend of the President's from
Canton had the place. When I came to look at the
Consular Service, I found that not only was every
place filled before Judge Day left, but every vacancy
which can possibly occur during my incumbency has
been provided for by a memorandum on file. The
other day the Consul at Berlin died. The President
had made up his mind to promote Frank Mason —
the best Consul in the service; but before the other
man's funeral, nearly every State in the Union had
claimed the place by wire. For another unimportant
place, which cannot pay expenses, there are sixteen
unfortunate applications by Senators. The President
is not to blame. The pressure is so cruel that he
must use these offices to save his life.
This lament goes up over and over again to the
end of Hay*s service. I add one more specimen be-
cause of its striking simile.
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 193
To Professor G. P. Fisher
July 2, 1902.
... I have made no appointments in the foreign
service since I entered the State Department and the
President himself, with all possible good-will, is
hardly ever able to make an appointment upon his
own judgment and discretion. All other branches
of the Civil Service are so rigidly provided for that
the foreign service is like the topmost rock which you
sometimes see in old pictures of the Deluge. The
pressure for a place in it is almost indescribable.
The question of Hay's successor in London stimu-
lated a vigorous campaign of aspirants and their
supporters. Probably the most persistent was Mr.
Reid himself, who had never hesitated, during
twenty years or more, when a high office loomed on
the horizon, to remind the Republican leaders that,
as the stalwart editor of the New York Tribune, he
deserved well of the Republic. And he abounded in
friends. One of these told Hay, on their homeward
voyage, that Reid was the man for ambassador, add-
ing that "he did more than any other man to nom-
inate and elect McKinley. I suppose he got this
interesting, if true, information from headquarters,"
Hay wTote one of his intimates; "strange that it
194 JOHN HAY
never occurred to him that I was in position to know
something about the facts, and about Reid also."
(September i8, 1898.)
To Reid himself, Hay wrote somewhat guardedly
in a letter, parts of which I have already quoted.
To Whitelaw Reid
Washington, November 13, 1898.
About my successor, I have not the slightest in-
timation who he is to be. New York, I suppose,
could have anybody she asked for with any unani-
mity ; but the pleasing habit of your great State is
a multiplicity of interests. There is a considerable
push for [General Horace] Porter, which, curiously
enough, is supported by all New England, in the
hope of getting [General William F.] Draper sent to
Paris. [General Stewart L.] Woodford has some
friends; quite a number of the best people want
Pierpont Morgan — a much larger number want
Choate. Piatt does not seem to be very active; he
opposes everybody who is named, you and Choate
especially. He hates Porter also, but is evidently not
afraid of him — with reason, I think, though some
of your colleagues think Porter would be the best
solution. Outside of New York there are numerous
suggestions, but none of them I think are fruitful.
Roger Wolcott [Governor of Massachusetts] would
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 195
be formidable, if it were not that his own State wants
Porter's place for Draper. From the West [Senator
Edward O.] Wolcott [of Colorado] and Marshall
Field and [Robert T.] Lincoln have been named. I
have not a prophecy worth giving as to the result.
As to my conversations with the President, they have
been brief, and of course you will not expect me to
repeat them. My wishes will cut no figure. The
President will do what seems to him best. He is
sincerely attached to you.
When Mr. Reid, absorbed in drawing up the
treaty at Paris, read this letter, he hardly found in it
cause for elation. On his return, he went at once to
Washington to get his bearings. The next letter
from Hay suggests an embarrassing interview.
To Whitelaw Reid
December 26, 1898.
After you had gone Saturday, I felt with some re-
morse that I may have seemed to you less confiden-
tial than has been my lifelong habit to be with you.
There are two explanations of it which I owe to
First, I hate to be the occasion of strife among
friends. If I had not mentioned in detail the impor-
tant personal influences which have been urging the
196 JOHN HAY
President during the last month or two, men who
have been intimately associated with you socially
and politically, you would have regarded the action
as lacking in friendship and in candor. They do not
so regard it — they speak of you with the same re-
gard and affection as ever. But you naturally would
take a different view of their action. It was for this
reason I did not go into details; and,
Secondly, so long as I am in this place, — • which
cannot be for long, — although I came to it most un-
willingly, I am bound in common decency to a loyal
observance of every obligation to the President and
cannot discuss either his actions or his motives even
to my dearest friends.
When you spoke of your surprise that I should
quote Mr. Quigg ^ as representing anything, I did
not reply that the reason I mentioned him was
that he had apparently convinced Seckendorff and
Nicholson that he was working for you and expected
to bring the machine around in that sense.
My experience in life has been that a man com-
monly resents the failures of his friends rather more
than the malice of his enemies, but you are not made
of common stuff, and I shall continue to hope that
no cloud shall ever come between us. Your friend-
^ Lemuel E. Quigg, New York politician; M. G. Seckendorff, then
Washington correspondent of the New York Tribune ; Donald Nichol-
son, member of the Tribune's editorial staff.
ENTER HAY SECRETARY OF STATE 197
ship has been one of the greatest pleasures of my
life, and in the short space which remains to me, I
trust I shall retain it.
The struggle of the candidates went on, however,
for two months longer. Then, on January 10, 1899,
Secretary Hay notified to the British Ambassador
the appointment by the President of the Honorable
Joseph H. Choate. " I am sure," he added, "you will
agree with me that no more acceptable choice could
have been made."
General Porter contined to hold his post at Paris ;
General Draper lingered a little longer at Rome;
but more than six years elapsed before Mr. Reid
installed himself amid the splendors of Dorchester
House as the accredited exemplar of the American
On entering the State Department, Secretary Hay
was confronted by many grave international ques-
tions. The Peace Commissioners had received their
general instructions when he took office, but during