you will see, is very general in its terms. I have tried
to avoid entering into unnecessary details. In fact
my principal purpose in drawing up the treaty was
to avoid any contested points or anything which
would cause acrimonious discussion in the Senate.
I hope the Foreign Office will see with what sincere
friendly purpose the treaty has been drawn, and will
refrain from any changes or amendments, which,
however meritorious in themselves, might cause the
rejection of the treaty by exciting the opposition of
one-third of the Senate.
February 14, 1899.
I think it deplorable, that the British Govern-
ment insists on making the arrangement in the
Clayton-Bulwer matter depend on the successful
issue of the Canadian negotiations. The two ques-
tions have nothing to do with each other. Every in-
telligent Englishman is ready to admit that the
2i8 JOHN HAY
Canal ought to be built, that the United States alone
will build it, that it cannot be built except as a gov-
ernment enterprise, that nobody else wants to build
it, that when built it will be to the advantage of the
entire civilized world, and this being the case, it is
hard to see why the settlement of the matter ought to
depend on the lumber duty or the Alaska boundary.
It looks as if the matter will fail in this Congress.
The maritime concession will lapse in October, and
we shall be confronted with new difficulties in our
relations with Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Sir Julian's conduct in the matter has been every-
thing that we could desire. While, of course, always
mindful of the Interests of his country, he has shown
a breadth of view and a spirit of conciliation which
would have made the negotiations very easy and
very agreeable if his opinions had been shared by the
home government. I only wish he had been at the
head of the Canadian Commission.
To Joseph H. Choate
August 1 8, 1899.
. . . The Democratic press evidently thinks there Is
some political capital to be made by denouncing any
arrangement with England, and they, In common
with a large number of German newspapers, are
ready to attack any treaty with England, no matter
THE FIRST CANAL TREATY 219
how advantageous to us, as a hostile act towards
Ireland and Germany.
The Democratic Convention of Iowa has adopted
ā as you will doubtless see before this reaches you
ā resolutions in this sense, which seem too ridicu-
lous to treat seriously ; but all these senseless charges
indicate the intention of the opposition to make a
party matter of our relations with England, and to
oppose any treaty we may make with that country.
Now the irreparable mistake of our Constitution
puts it into the power of one third + I of the Senate
to meet with a categorical veto any treaty negoti-
ated by the President, even though it may have
the approval of nine tenths of the people of the na-
tion. If it be true that the Democrats as a body
are determined that we shall make no arrangement
with England, we shall have to consider whether it
is more expedient for us to make a treaty which will
fail in the Senate, or to wait for a more convenient
For my part, I should have no hesitation in making
a treaty on the basis of a lease and right of way and
taking the chances of the Senate throwing it out, if
I could foresee the effect it would have on the vastly
important elections of next year. The President has
no great desire for reelection and is ready to take the
consequences of any action he may think to the
220 JOHN HAY
advantage of the country without regard to its effect
upon himself. His words as I left him yesterday were,
"If you think best, go ahead and conclude a treaty
on those lines."
To Henry White
September 9, 1899.
I wish that I could believe that Lord Salisbury
would let the Clayton-Bulwer convention go through
independent of Canadian matters.
Whatever we do, Bryan will attack us as slaves of
England. All their state conventions put an anti-
English plank in their platform to curry favor with
the Irish (whom they want to keep) and the Ger-
mans whom they want to seduce. It is too disgust-
ing to have to deal with such sordid liars.
Our relations with Germany are perfectly civil and
courteous. They are acting badly about our meats
and cannot help bullying and swaggering. It is their
nature. But we get on with them. We are on the
best of terms about Samoa; Sternberg backed up
Tripp in everything. So that, to our amazement,
Germany and we arranged everything perfectly
harmoniously. It was rather the English Commis-
sioner who was offish. The Emperor is nervously
anxious to be on good terms with us ā on his own
terms, Hen entendu.
THE FIRST CANAL TREATY 221
September 24, 1899.
As soon as I can get a clear copy of my letter to
the Ohio Committee, I will send it to you. . . . You
will see there is nothing in it incompatible with the
most friendly relations with England. I simply re-
fute the Democratic platform's charge that we have
made "a secret alliance with England." This charge
was having a serious effect on our Germans and it
had to be denied. The fact is, a treaty of alliance is
impossible. It could never get through the Senate.
As long as I stay here no action shall be taken con-
trary to my conviction that the one indispensable
feature of our foreign policy should be a friendly un-
derstanding with England. But an alliance must
remain, in the present state of things, an unattainable
Have you seen Bourke Cockran's fool letter to the
President demanding that we shall side with the Boers
against England? I declined to answer it, except by
acknowledging receipt, and he then printed it. All
the Irish, and many Germans, take the same atti-
tude. But of course we shall do nothing of the kind.
I hope, if it comes to blows, that England will make
quick work of Uncle Paul. Sooner or later, her
influence must be dominant there, and the sooner
222 JOHN HAY
To Joseph H. Choate
January 15, 1900.
. . . Mr. Hepburn has introduced a bill for the im-
mediate construction of the Canal, which, if it passes
the House, Mr. Morgan is quite sanguine he can
carry through the Senate. This bill is in many re-
spects highly objectionable, especially as it abso-
lutely ignores the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and, in
fact, in many features, is an absolute violation of it.
I think we should be in a most unenviable attitude
before the world if that bill should pass in its present
form. My own position would be one of very especial
awkwardness and would raise very serious questions
as to what would personally be required of me. I
think we ought to make an effort to arrange the
matter through diplomatic channels, so that at least
the Administration would have its skirts clear of any
complicity in a violent and one-sided abrogation of
the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty.
Two or three facts seem evident enough. The
Canal is going to be built, probably by the Nicaragua
route. Nothing in the nature of the Clayton-Bulwer
prohibition will finally prevent the building of the
Canal. As soon as Congress is convinced that the
people of the country demand the construction of
the Canal, it will be done. It will be a great bene-
THE FIRST CANAL TREATY 223
faction to the entire civilized world. It is hard to say
whether we or England will profit by it most. It
would be a deplorable result of all our labor and
thought on the subject if, by persisting in postponing
the consideration of this matter until all the Cana-
dian questions are closed up, England should be
made to appear in the attitude of attempting to veto
a work of such world-wide importance, and the worst
of all for international relations is that the veto would
not be effective.
The Secretary and the Ambassador signed their
treaty on February 5, 1900, but it had a rough pas-
sage in the Senate. Eager Senators began at once to
find flaws in the treaty and to offer amendments.
The Secretary wrote to Senator Lodge : "I hope you
may see your way to opposing any change in the
treaty in Committee [on Foreign Relations]. I
would far rather see it defeated by a minority than
so changed as virtually to defeat it, by a majority."
(February 7, 1900.)
To Whitelaw Reid
February 7, 1900.
... It is disheartening to think that what the
country has wanted and striven for during forty
years, and at last has attained without an atom of
224 JOHN HAY
compensation, should be thrown away through mere
spite. It is as if you should offer Yale College a mil-
lion dollars and the trustees should refuse the gift on
the ground that they wanted a million and a half.
To Senator C. K. Davis ^
February 8, 1900.
It may be of interest to you and the Committee
to know that the Ministers from Nicaragua, Costa
Rica, and Guatemala have expressed their gratifica-
tion at the conclusion of the Canal Treaty and are
particularly pleased with the article about fortifica-
tions which, they say, will make our dealings with
them, in relation to the Canal, more agreeable and
easy ā their natural susceptibilities having been
considered, and their apprehensions allayed by that
To Mr. Choate in London, Hay wrote on February
6: "We signed our treaty and got it into the Senate
yesterday. And to-day there is the usual hubbub of
comment, of praise and dispraise. Senator Hoar, you
will regret to hear, thinks that we have been unmind-
ful of the honor of our eountry and the glory of the
flag, and various other gentlemen think that we are
^ Cushman K. Davis, Senator from Minnesota, chairman of the
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
THE FIRST CANAL TREATY 225
derelict in our duty in having got a whole loaf and not
having demanded two."
An unidentified correspondent sent him a letter of
criticism which called out this appealing reply : ā
February 12, 1900.
Et tu! Cannot you leave a few things to the Presi-
dent and the Senate, who are charged with them
by the Constitution?
As to "Sea Power" and the Monroe Doctrine, we
did not act without consulting the best living au-
thorities on those subjects.
Do you really think the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty
preferable to the one now before the Senate? There
is no third issue, except dishonor. Elkins and Petti-
grew say " Dishonor be damned." I hardly think you
Please do not answer this ā but think about it
To Joseph H. Choate
March 7, 1900. ā
We have a clear majority, I think, in favor of all j
of them, but as the Fathers, in their wisdom, saw fit
to ordain that the kickers should rule forever, the
chances are always two to one against any govern-
ment measure passing.
226 JOHN HAY
It is a curious state of things. The howling luna-
tics, like Mason and Allen and Pettigrew, are always
on hand, while our friends are cumbered with other
cares and most of the time away. "W" has been
divorcing his wife; Morgan is fighting for his life in
Alabama; Cullom, ditto in Illinois; even when Provi-
dence takes a hand in the game, our folks are re-
strained, by "Senatorial Courtesy," " from accepting
His favors." Last week "X" had delirium tremens ;
Bacon broke his ribs; Pettigrew had the grippe, and
Hale ran off to New York on " private business," and
the whole Senate stopped work until they got around
again. I have never struck a subject so full of psycho-
logical interest as the official mind of a Senator.
." During the next month Hay watched, with alter-
nate resentment, sarcasm, and regret, the Senate at
work spoiling, as he thought, the treaty by amend-
ments. At last, when the amended measure passed,
he sent his resignation to the President.
To President McKinley
Department of State,
Washington, March 13, 1900.
Dear ]\1r. President: ā
The action of the Senate indicates views so widely
divergent from mine in matters affecting, as I think,
the national welfare and honor, that I fear my power
THE FIRST CANAL TREATY 227
to serve you in business requiring the concurrence
of that body is at an end. I cannot help fearing also
that the newspaper attacks upon the State Depart-
ment, which have so strongly influenced the Senate,
may be an injury to you, if I remain in the Cabinet.
I therefore hand you my resignation as Secretary
I need not say with what profound regret I shall
sever our official relations. I shall carry into private
life the deepest sense of obligation, not only for all
your personal kindness, but for the confidence and
the powerful support you have given to all efforts to
improve the service, to extend the influence and the
commerce of the country, and to promote in every
way its prosperity.
(Signed) John Hay.
McKinley to Hay
Washington, March 13, 1900.
Dear Mr. Secretary Hay, ā
I return your resignation. Had I known the con-
tents of the letter which you handed me this morning,
I would have declined to receive or consider it.
Nothing could be more unfortunate than to have
you retire from the Cabinet. The personal loss would
228 JOHN HAY
be great, but the public loss even greater. Your ad-
ministration of the State Department has had my
warm approval. As in all matters you have taken
my counsel, I will cheerfully bear whatever criticism
or condemnation may come. Your record consti-
tutes one of the most important and interesting
pages of our diplomatic history. We must bear the
atmosphere of the hour. It will pass away. We must
continue working on the lines of duty and honor.
Conscious of high purpose and honorable effort, we
cannot yield our posts however the storm may rage.
With hearty assurance of appreciation and con-
fidence I am
(Signed) William McKinley.
Hon. John Hay,
Sec. of State.
The Secretary's desire to resign was not prompted
by personal pique, but by chagrin at seeing a project
of incalculable benefit rejected by a body, not merely
incompetent, but so immovably hostile that he feared
it would be useless for him to struggle against it
further. He always dreaded also lest through any
act of his, or through personal animosity against
him, the prestige of the President himself should
suffer. His lack of robust health made him over-
THE FIRST CANAL TREATY 229
sensitive and probably increased his constitutional
tendency to periodic fits of depression. Nevertheless,
upon the President's immediate return of his resig-
nation, coupled with words of warm appreciation and
confidence in him, he went ahead manfully.
He writes his son Adelbert on March 17, 1900: ā
"... I am horribly busy, and am having, now in
my old age, my first experience of filthy newspaper
abuse. I have made some mistakes, but they have
not got onto them. The things they blackguard me
for are the ones where I am absolutely sure I am
right. But all this will pass away."
To understand Ha3^'s almost morbid depression at
the failure of his treaty, we must remember that he
regarded the securing of that compact as of supreme
importance, both for the carrying out of Amer-
ica's Imperial destiny, and for the binding together
of England and the United States. To his mind
the great fact to be striven for was the friendly an-
nulment by England of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty.
He had succeeded in persuading England to do this;
the matters of detail over which the Senate and his
other critics quarreled seemed to him unessential.
To jeopard the great project for the sake of mere
minor considerations, was wanton. Not obstinacy,
therefore, nor self-inflation caused him to condemn
the opponents of the treaty.
230 JOHN HAY
We can see, however, that they were wiser than
he. If the United States were to build, own, and
direct the Canal ā and that was Hay's desire ā no
treaty should be ratified which left any doubt as to
their rights ; and such a pledge as that which bound
them not to fortify the Canal ought not to be made.
Perhaps Hay, although he did not actually define
it to himself, assumed that all those "non-essen-
tials" would be adjusted later, when experience in
the actual working of the Canal should show what
THE BOXER ORDEAL AND THE OPEN DOOR
THE winter and spring of 1900 crowded new
business upon him. The situation in China,
which had grown more and more angry since the
Germans pounced upon Kiao-chau in 1897, now
threatened an outburst. The Boer War in South
Africa indirectly affected American poHtics by giving
Irish and German-Americans an excuse for heckhng
England at a time when the McKinley Administra-
tion was trying to arrange with the English Govern-
ment a friendly settlement of long-standing disputes.
The insurrection of the Filipinos; the status of Cuba;
the excitement of the Central American Republics
at the prospect of an Isthmian canal; secret negotia-
tions for the purchase of the Danish West Indies, and
the campaign for the nomination of presidential
candidates, were among the business on the Secre-
tary's docket. I cannot do more here than quote a
few passages from his letters showing his position on
some of these matters.
This extract refers to the Boers, whose baffling
resistance to enormously superior British forces was
not properly admired by the Secretary.
232 JOHN HAY
To Henry Adams
June 15, 1900.
What do you think now of our poor dear British?
Was there ever seen anything Uke it since Xenophon?
The sHm Boers flanked out of Bloemfontein, Croon-
stadt, the Vaal, Johannesburg, and Pretoria, not to
mention Laing's Nek and other places, and not los-
ing a man or a mule, a gun or a cart. It looks now as
if Oom Paul will get to Lydenburg with his whole
army intact ā bar Cronje ā having put hors de
combat a force fully equal to his own, with every
ounce of his material saved.
I have the greatest admiration for the Boers'
smartness, but it is their bravery that our idiotic
public is snivelling over. If they were only as brave
as they are slim, the war would have ended long ago
by their extermination. We do occasionally kill a
Filipino, but what man has ever yet seen a dead
Boer? Your friend Bryan . . . says the Boer War is
an issue in our campaign ā I suppose because the
British are 16 to i.
The serious thing is the discovery ā now past
doubt ā that the British have lost all skill in fight-
ing ; and the whole world knows it, and is regulating
itself accordingly. It is a portentous fact, altogether
deplorable in my opinion; for their influence on the
THE BOXER ORDEAL 233
whole made for peace and civilization. If Russia
and Germany arrange things, the balance is lost for
The abuse which the Administration, and particu-
larly the Secretary of State, suffered for its friendli-
ness toward England caused Hay anxiety. With a
hostile Senate on one side and an irresponsible but
perniciously active horde of demagogues on the
other, he feared that his projects would be hopelessly
shattered. While he betrayed neither resentment nor
trepidation to the enemy, he spoke out almost with
ferocity to his few confidents.
Uninformed historical writers have recently re-
vived an old rumor to the effect that the United
States made, in Hay's time, a secret alliance with
England. After his denial which follows, this silly
assertion ought to be allowed to stay dead.
To Senator McMillan
July 3, 1900.
The Administration has observed the laws of neu-
trality strictly, . . . You ask me if there is a secret
alliance between Great Britain and the United
States. You know, of course, that there can be no
secret alliance between this country and any other.
The Senate of the United States must be a party to
234 JOHN HAY
It, if any such exists. None exists. None has been
suggested on either side. None has been thought
To J. W. Foster
June 23, 1900.
... What can be done in the present diseased state
of the public mind? There is such a mad-dog hatred
of England prevalent among newspapers and poli-
ticians that anything we should now do in China to
take care of our imperiled interests, would be set
down to "subservience to Great Britain." France
is Russia's harlot ā to her own grievous damage.
Germany we could probably get on our side by suffi-
cient concessions, and perhaps, with England, Ger-
many, and Japan, we might manage to save our
skins. But such a proceeding would make all our
fools throw fits in the market-place ā and the fools
We had great trouble to prevent the convention
from declaring in favor of the Boers and of the annex-
ation of Canada. Every morning I receive letters
cursing me for doing nothing, and others cursing me
for being "the tool of England against our good
friend Russia." All I have ever done with England is
to have wrung great concessions out of her with no
compensation. And yet, these idiots say I 'm not an
THE BOXER ORDEAL 235
American because I don't say, "To hell with the
Queen," at every breath.
Cassini has gone to Europe ; Cambon was to have
sailed last week, but has stayed over for a few days;
Holleben is absolutely without initiative, and in
mortal terror of his Kaiser. Pauncefote has appar-
ently no power to act, nor even to talk. And even if
he had, every Senator I see says, "For God's sake,
don't let it appear we have any understanding with
England." How can I make bricks without straw?
That we should be compelled to refuse the assistance
of the greatest power in the world, in carrying out
our own policy, because all Irishmen are Democrats
and some Germans are fools ā is enough to drive a
man mad. Yet we shall do what we can.
To Senator M. A. Hanna
August 2, 1900.
I am sorry to hear what you say about the Cana-
dian boundary question. . . . The matter was not
carried on by me privately and alone as the Sun
says. Every step of the negotiations was considered
by the Cabinet and approved. And the entire Joint
High Commission ā that is the American side of it
ā recommended what was done as the best possible
temporary settlement of the case. All the present
row is being made by the New York Sim.
236 JOHN HAY
P.S. The whole thing is, Paul Dana [Editor of the
Sun] wants to get me out of the Cabinet. It is his
fourth attempt. If you will help him, I shall be
greatly obliged. I am not stuck on my job.
In the middle of the summer, there suddenly
flared up in China a tragedy which fastened the
world's attention. The Boxers, a Chinese associa-
tion whose aim it was to rid China of foreigners,
started, with the apparent collusion of high officials,
a campaign of extermination. On June 14 they as-
sailed the foreign Legations at Peking, and during
the next eight weeks they blocked the relief of the
beleaguered Occidentals, who defended themselves
with unflagging endurance and valor in the British
compound. These numbered in all only about five
hundred persons, including the women and children.
Their ammunition was scanty, their provisions in-
About June 20 the outside world ceased to have
news of them. An appalling silence brooded over the
Legations week after week. On June 15 Secretary
Hay, little suspecting that the crisis had already
come, telegraphed to General Conger, the American
Minister: "Do you need more force? Communicate
with the Admiral and report." No answer. In vain
did Mr. Hay try to get tidings through Mr. Wu, the
THE BOXER ORDEAL 237
Chinese Minister in Washington. Foreign Govern-
ments were equally unsuccessful. Then Mr. Hay
appealed to Li Hung Chang, the Chinese Viceroy of
greatest influence, to send the following message
through the Boxer lines to Conger in the Legations :
"July II. Communicate tidings bearer." Days
passed, but brought no reply. The world began to
believe the rumors which had been circulating for
weeks, that the Boxers had captured the Legations,
and slaughtered all the foreigners.
At last on July 20, Secretary Hay received a
despatch, dated July 16: "For one month we have
been besieged in British Legation under continued
shot and shell from Chinese troops. Quick relief only
can prevent general massacre. ā Conger."
Although this despatch came in the State Depart-
ment's cipher, many persons doubted its genuine-
ness, for they argued that if the Boxers had taken
the Legation, they might have discovered the cipher
book also. Accordingly, Secretary Hay hit upon a
clever device, and telegraphed on July 21: "Des-
patch received. Authenticity doubted. Answer this
giving your sister's name. Report attitude and posi-
tion of Chinese Government." In due course a reply
came, with the name of Mr. Conger's sister, which
it was hardly probable that the wiliest Boxer could