Copyright
Andrew Dickson White.

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) online

. (page 12 of 54)
Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of persons distinguished in every field. While at St.
Petersburg one meets only civil and military function-
aries, at Berlin one meets not only these, but the most
prominent men in politics, science, literature, art, and the



OFFICIAL LIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG- 1892-1894 111

higher ranges of agriculture, commerce, and manufac-
ture. At St. Petersburg, when I wished to meet such men,
who added to the peaceful glories of the empire, I went to
their houses in the university quarter; at Berlin I met
them also at court.

As to court episodes during my stay, one especially
dwells in my memory. On arriving rather early one even-
ing, I noticed a large, portly man, wearing the broad red
ribbon of the Legion of Honor, and at once saw that he
could be no other than Prince Victor Napoleon, the Bona-
parte heir to the crown of France. Though he was far
larger than the great Napoleon, and had the eyes of his
mother, Princess Clothilde, his likeness to his father,
Prince Napoleon ("Plon-Plon"), whom I had seen years
before at Paris, was very marked. Presently his brother,
who had just arrived from his regiment in the Caucasus,
came up and began conversation with him. Both seemed
greatly vexed at something. On the arrival of the
Italian ambassador, he naturally went up and spoke to
the prince, who was the grandson of King Victor Emman-
uel; but the curious thing was that the French ambassa-
dor, Count de Montebello, and the prince absolutely cut
each other. Neither seemed to have the remotest idea
that the other was in the room, and this in spite of the fact
that the Montebellos are descended from Jean Lannes, the
stable-boy whom Napoleon made a marshal of France and
Duke of Montebello, thus founding the family to which
the French ambassador belonged. The show of coolness
on the part of the imperial family evidently vexed the
French pretender. He was, indeed, allowed to enter the
room behind the imperial train ; but he was not permitted
to sit at the imperial table, being relegated to a distant
and very modest seat. I was informed that, though the
Emperor could, and did, have the prince to dine with him
in private, he felt obliged, in view of the relations between
Russia and the French Republic, to carefully avoid any
special recognition of him in public.

A far more brilliant visitor was the Ameer of Bokhara.



112 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIII

I have already spoken of the way in which he was placed
upon the throne by General Annenkoff. He now came to
visit the Czar as his suzerain, and with him came his eld-
est son and a number of his great men. The satrap him-
self was a singular combination of splendor and stoicism,
wearing a gorgeous dress covered with enormous jewels,
and observing the brilliant scenes about him with hardly
ever a word. Even when he took his place at the table
beside the Empress he was very uncommunicative. Fac-
ing the imperial table sat his great men; and their em-
barrassment was evident, one special source of it being
clearly their small acquaintance with European table
utensils. The Ameer brought to St. Petersburg splendid
presents of gold and jewels, after the Oriental fashion,
and also the heir to his throne, whom he left as a sort of
hostage to be educated at the capital.

An eminent Russian who was in very close relations
with the Ameer gave me some account of this young man.
Although he was then perhaps fourteen or fifteen years
of age, he was, as regards conduct, a mere baby, bursting
out into loud boohooing the first time he was presented
to the Emperor, and showing himself very immature in
various ways. Curiously enough, when he was taken to
the cadet school he was found to be unable to walk for any
considerable distance. He had always been made to squat
and be carried, and the first thing to be done toward
making him a Russian officer was to train him in using
his legs. He took an especial fancy to bicycles : in the park
attached to the cadet school he became very proficient
in the use of them ; and, returning to Bokhara at his first
vacation, he took with him, not only a bicycle for himself,
but another for his brother. Shortly after his home-com-
ing, the Ameer and court being assembled, he gave a
display of his powers ; but, to his great mortification, the
Ameer was disgusted : the idea that the heir to the throne
should be seen working his way in this fashion was con-
trary to all the ideas of that potentate, and he ordered the
bicycles to be at once destroyed. But on the young man 's



OFFICIAL LIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG-1892-1894 113

return to St. Petersburg he bought another ; resumed his
exercises upon it ; and will, no doubt, when he comes to the
throne, introduce that form of locomotion into the Moham-
medan regions of Northern Asia.

Among the greater displays of my final year were a
wedding and a funeral. The former was that of the Em-
peror's eldest daughter, the Grand Duchess Xenia, at
Peterhof . It was very brilliant, and was conducted after
the usual Russian fashion, its most curious features being
the leading of the couple about the altar and their drink-
ing out of the same cup.

Coming from the ceremony in the chapel, we of the dip-
lomatic corps found ourselves, at the foot of the great
staircase, in a crush. But just at the side was a large
door of plate-glass opening upon an outer gallery com-
municating with other parts of the palace; and standing
guard at this door was one of the * * Nubians ' ' whom I had
noticed, from time to time, at the Winter Palace an enor-
mous creature, very black, very glossy, with the most
brilliant costume possible. I had heard much of these
" Nubians," and had been given to understand that they
had been brought from Central Africa by special com-
mand. At great assemblages in the imperial palaces,
just before the doors were flung open for the entrance of
the Majesties and their cortege, two great black hands
were always to be seen put through the doors, ready to
open them in an instant the hands of two of these " Nu-
bians. ' ' I had built up in my mind quite a structure of ro-
mance regarding them, and now found myself in the crush
at the foot of the grand staircase near one of them. As I
looked up at him he said to me, with deferential compas-
sion, ' ' If you please, sah, would n 't you like to git out of de
crowd, sah, through dis yere doah 1 ' ' By his dialect he was
evidently one of my own compatriots, and, though in a sort
of daze at this discovery, I mechanically accepted his in-
vitation; whereupon he opened the door, let us through,
and kept back the crowd.

Splendid, too, in its way, was the funeral of the Grand



114 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIII

Duchess Catherine at the Fortress Church. It was
very impressive, almost as much so as the funeral of the
Emperor Nicholas, which I had attended at the same
place nearly forty years before. The Emperor Alexander
III, with his brothers, had followed the hearse and coffin
on foot, and his Majesty was evidently greatly fatigued.
Soon he retired to take rest, and then it was that we began
to have the first suspicion of his fatal illness. Up to that
time there had been skepticism. Very few had thought it
possible that a man of such giant frame and strength
could be seriously ill, but now there could be no doubt
of it. Standing near him, I noticed his pallor and evi-
dent fatigue, and was not surprised that he twice left
the place, in order, evidently, to secure rest. There was
need of it. In the Russian Church the rule is that all must
stand, and all of us stood from about ten in the morning
until half-past one in the afternoon; but two high offi-
cials covered with gold lace and orders, bearing tapers
hy the side of the grand duchess's coffin, toppled over
from exhaustion and were removed.

As to other spectacles, one of the most splendid was the
midnight mass on Easter eve. At my former visit I had
seen this at the Kazan Church ; now we went to the Cathe-
dral of St. Isaac. The ceremony was brilliant almost
beyond conception, as in the old days ; the music was hea-
venly ; and, as the clocks struck twelve, the cannons of the
fortress of Peter and Paul boomed forth, all the bells of
the city began chiming, and a light, appearing at the ex-
treme end of the church, seemed to run in all directions
through the vast assemblage, and presently all seemed
ablaze. Every person in the church was holding a taper,
and within a few moments all of these had been lighted.

Most beautiful of all was the music at another of these
Easter ceremonies, when the choristers, robed in white,
came forth from the sanctuary and sang hymns by the
side of the empty sepulcher under the dome.

The singing by the choirs in Eussia is, in many respects,
more beautiful than similar music in any other part of



OFFICIAL LIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG- 1892-1894 115

the world, save that of the cathedral choir of Berlin at
its best. I have heard the Sistine, Pauline, and Lateran
choirs at Rome; and they are certainly far inferior to
these Russian singers. No instrumental music is allowed,
and no voices of women. The choristers are men and
boys. There are several fine choirs in St. Petersburg,
but three are famous : that of the Emperor at the Winter
Palace Chapel, that of the Archbishop at the Cathedral
of St. Isaac, and that of the Nevski Monastery. Occa-
sionally there were concerts when all were combined, and
nothing in its way could be more perfect.

Operatic music also receives careful attention. Enor-
mous subsidies are given to secure the principal singers
of Europe at the Italian, French, and German theaters;
but the most lavish outlay is upon the national opera : it
is considered a matter of patriotism to maintain it at the
highest point possible. The Russian Opera House is an
enormous structure, and the finest piece which I saw given
there was Glinka's "Life for the Czar." Being written
by a Russian, on a patriotic subject, and from an ultra-
loyal point of view, everything had been done to mount it
in the most superb way possible : never have I seen more
wonderful scenic effects, the whole culminating in the
return of one of the old fighting czars to the Kremlin
after his struggle with the Poles. The stage was enor-
mous and the procession magnificent. The personages
in it were the counterparts, as regarded dress, of the per-
sons they represented, exact copies having been made
of the robes and ornaments of the old Muscovite boyards,
as preserved in the Kremlin Museum ; and at the close of
this procession came a long line of horses, in the most
superb trappings imaginable, attended by guards and out-
riders in liveries of barbaric splendor, and finally the
imperial coach. We were enabled to catch sight of the
Cossack guards on the front of it, when, just as the body
of the coach was coming into view, down came the cur-
tain. This was the result of a curious prohibition, en-
forced in all theaters in Russia: on no account is it



116 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIII

permitted to represent the sacred person of any emperor
upon the stage.

As to other music, very good concerts were occasionally
given, the musicians being generally from Western Eu-
rope.

Very pleasant were sundry excursions, especially dur-
ing the long summer twilight; and among these were
serenade parties given by various members of the diplo-
matic corps. In a trim steam-yacht, and carrying singers
with us, we sailed among the islands in the midnight hours,
stopping, from time to time, to greet friends occupying
cottages there.

As to excursions in the empire, I have already given,
in my chapter on Tolstoi, some account of my second visit
to Moscow; and a more complete account is reserved for
a chapter on "Sundry Excursions and Experiences."
The same may be said, also, regarding an excursion taken,
during one of my vacations, in Sweden, Norway, and Den-
mark.

In 1893, a new administration having brought into
power the party opposed to my own, I tendered to Presi-
dent Cleveland my resignation, and, in the full expectation
that it would be accepted, gave up my apartment ; but as,
instead of an acceptance, there came a very kind indica-
tion of the President's confidence, good-will, and prefer-
ence for my continuance at my post, I remained in the
service a year longer, occupying my odds and ends of
time in finishing my book. Then, feeling the need of go-
ing elsewhere to revise it, I wrote the President, thank-
ing him for his confidence and kindness, but making my
resignation final, and naming the date when it would be
absolutely necessary for me to leave Russia. A very kind
letter from him was the result ; the time I had named was
accepted; and on the 1st of November, 1894, to my espe-
cial satisfaction, I was once more free from official duty.



CHAPTER XXXIX

AS MEMBER OP THE VENEZUELA COMMISSION 1895-1896

EARLY one morning, just at the end of 1895, as I was
at work before the blazing fire in my library at the
university, the winter storms howling outside, a card was
brought in bearing the name of Mr. Hamlin, assistant
secretary of the treasury of the United States. While I
was wondering what, at that time of the year, could have
brought a man from such important duties in Washington
to the bleak hills of central New York, he entered, and
soon made known his business, which was to tender me,
on the part of President Cleveland, a position upon the
commission which had been authorized by Congress to
settle the boundary between the republic of Venezuela and
British Guiana.

The whole matter had attracted great attention, not only
in the United States, but throughout the world. The ap-
pointment of the commission was the result of a chain of
circumstances very honorable to the President, to his Sec-
retary of State, Mr. Olney, and to Congress. For years
the Venezuelan government had been endeavoring to es-
tablish a frontier between its territory and that of its pow-
erful neighbor, but without result; and meantime the
British boundary seemed to be pushed more and more into
the territory of the little Spanish-American republic.
For years, too, Venezuela had appealed to the United
States, and the United States had appealed to Great Brit-
ain. American secretaries of state and ambassadors at
the Court of St. James had " trusted," and "regretted,"

117



118 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE -XIV

and had "the honor to renew assurances of their most
distinguished consideration ' ' ; but all in vain. At last the
matter had been presented by Secretary Olney to the gov-
ernment of Lord Salisbury; and now, to Mr. Olney 's main
despatch on the subject, Lord Salisbury, after some
months ' delay, had returned an answer declining arbitra-
tion, and adding that international law did not recognize
the Monroe Doctrine. This seemed even more than cool ;
for, when one remembered that the Monroe Doctrine was
at first laid down with the approval of Great Britain, that
it was glorified in Parliament and in the British press of
1823 and the years following, and that Great Britain had
laid down policies in various parts of the earth, espe-
cially in the Mediterranean and in the far East, which she
insisted that all other powers should respect without
reference to any sanction by international law, this argu-
ment seemed almost insulting.

So it evidently seemed to Mr. Cleveland. Probably no
man less inclined to demagogism or to a policy of adven-
ture ever existed; but as he looked over the case his
American instincts were evidently aroused. He saw then,
what is clear to everybody now, that it was the time of all
times for laying down, distinctly and decisively, the
American doctrine on the subject. He did so, and in a
message to Congress proposed that, since Great Britain
would not intrust the finding of a boundary to arbitration,
the United States should appoint commissioners to find
what the proper boundary was, and then, having ascer-
tained it, should support its sister American republic in
maintaining it.

Of course the President was attacked from all sides
most bitterly; even those called "the better element" in
the Republican and Democratic parties, who had been his
ardent supporters, now became his bitter enemies. He
was charged with "demagogism" and "jingoism," but
he kept sturdily on. Congress, including the great body
of the Republicans, supported him; the people at large
stood by him ; and, as a result, a commission to determine



AS VENEZUELA COMMISSIONER- 1895-1896 119

the boundary was appointed and began its work in Wash-
ington, the commissioners being, in the order named by
the President, David J. Brewer of Kansas, a justice of the
Supreme Court of the United States ; Chief Justice Alvey
of the District of Columbia; Andrew D. White of New
York ; C. F. Coudert, an eminent member of the New York
bar; and Daniel C. Gilman of Maryland, President of
Johns Hopkins University.

On our arrival in Washington there was much discour-
agement among us. We found ourselves in a jungle of ge-
ographical and legal questions, with no clue in sight leading
anywhither. The rights of Great Britain had been derived,
in 1815, from the Netherlands ; the rights of Venezuela had
been derived, about 1820, from Spain; but to find the
boundary separating the two in that vast territory, mainly
unsettled, between the Orinoco and the Essequibo rivers,
seemed impossible.

The original rights of the Netherlands had been derived
from Spain by the treaty of Minister in 1648 ; and on ex-
amining that enormous document, which settled weighty
questions in various parts of the world, after the life-and-
death struggle, religious, political, and military, which
had gone on for nearly eighty years, one little clause ar-
rested our attention: that, namely, in which the Span-
iards, despite their bitter hatred of the Dutch, agreed that
the latter might carry on warlike operations against ' ' cer-
tain other people" with reference to territorial rights in
America. These " certain other people" were not pre-
cisely indicated; and we hoped, by finding who they
were, to get a clue to the fundamental facts of the case.
Straightway two of our three lawyers, Mr. Justice Brewer
and Mr. Coudert, grappled on this question, one of them
taking the ground that these * i other people ' ' referred to
were the Caribbean Indians who had lived just south of
the mouth of the Orinoco, and had been friendly to the
Dutch but implacable toward the Spaniards, and that their
territory was to be considered as virtually Dutch, and,
therefore, as having passed finally to England. But the



120 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIV

other disputant insisted that it referred to the Brazilians
and had no relation to the question with which we had to
deal. During two whole sessions this ground was fought
over in a legal way by these gentlemen, with great acu-
men, the rest of us hardly putting in a word.

At the beginning of the third session I ventured a re-
monstrance, saying that it was a historical, and not a legal,
question ; that it could not possibly be settled by legal ar-
gument; that the first thing to know was why the clause
was inserted in the treaty, and that the next thing was to
find, from the whole history leading up to it, who those
1 1 other persons ' ' thus vaguely referred to and left by the
Spaniards to the tender mercies of the Dutch might be;
and I insisted that this, being a historical question, must
be solved by historical experts. The commission acknow-
ledged the justice of this; and on my nomination we
called to our aid Mr. George Lincoln Burr, professor of
history in Cornell University. It is not at all the very
close friendship which has existed for so many years
between us which prompts the assertion that, of all
historical scholars I have ever known, he is among the
very foremost, by his powers of research, his tenacity of
memory, his almost preternatural accuracy, his ability to
keep the whole field of investigation in his mind, and his
fidelity to truth and justice. He was set at the problem,
and given access to the libraries of Congress and of the
State Department, as also to the large collections of books
and maps which had been placed at the disposal of the com-
mission. Of these the most important were those of Har-
vard University and the University of Wisconsin. Curi-
ous as it may seem, this latter institution, far in the interior
of our country, possesses a large and most valuable col-
lection of maps relating to the colonization history of
South America. Within two weeks Professor Burr re-
ported, and never did a report give more satisfaction.
He had unraveled, historically, the whole mystery, and
found that, the government of Brazil having played false
to both Spaniards and Dutch, Spain had allowed the



AS VENEZUELA COMMISSIONER- 1895-1896 121

Netherlands to take vengeance for the vexations of both.
We also had the exceedingly valuable services, as to maps
and early colonization history, of Mr. Justin Winsor,
librarian of Harvard University, eminent both as histo-
rian and geographer, and of Professor Jameson of Brown
University, who had also distinguished himself in these
fields. Besides these, Mr. Marcus Baker of the United
States Coast Survey aided us, from day to day, in map-
ping out any territories that we wished especially to study.

All this work was indispensable. At the very beginning
of our sessions there had been laid before us the first of a
series of British Blue Books on the whole subject; and,
with all my admiration for the better things in British
history, politics, and life, candor compels me to say that it
was anything but creditable to the men immediately re-
sponsible for it. It made several statements that were ab-
solutely baseless, and sought to rest them upon authorities
which, when examined, were found not to bear in the slight-
est degree the interpretation put upon them. I must con-
fess that nothing, save, perhaps, the conduct of British
"experts" regarding the Behring Sea question, has ever
come so near shaking my faith in l ' British fair play. ' ' Nor
were the American commissioners alone in judging this
document severely. Critics broke forth, even in the Lon-
don "Times," denouncing it, until it was supplanted by
another, which was fair and just.

I, of course, impute nothing to the leading British states-
men who had charge of the whole Venezuelan question.
The culprits were, undoubtedly, sundry underlings whose
zeal outran their honesty. They apparently thought that
in the United States, which they probably considered as
new, raw, and too much engaged in dollar-hunting to pro-
duce scholars, their citations from authorities more or less
difficult of access would fail to be critically examined.
But their conduct was soon exposed, and even their prin-
cipals joined in repudiating some of their fundamental
statements. Professor Burr was sent abroad, and at The
Hague was able to draw treasures from the library



122 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIV

and archives regarding the old Dutch occupation and to
send a mass of important material for our delibera-
tions. In London also he soon showed his qualities, and
these were acknowledged even by some leading British
geographers. The latter had at first seemed inclined to
indulge in what a German might call " tendency" geogra-
phy; but the clearness, earnestness, and honesty of our
agent soon gained their respect, and, after that, the inves-
tigators of both sides worked harmoniously together.
While the distinguished lawyers above named had main
charge of the legal questions, President Gilman, who had
in his early life been professor of physical and general
geography at Yale, was given charge of the whole matter
of map-seeking and -making; and to me, with the others,
was left the duty of studying and reporting upon the ma-
terial as brought in. Taking up my residence at Wash-
ington, I applied myself earnestly to reading through
masses of books, correspondence, and other documents,
and studied maps until I felt as if I had lived in the
country concerned and was personally acquainted with
the Dutch governors on the Cuyuni and the Spanish
monks on the Orinoco. As a result lines more or less
tentative were prepared by each of us, Judge Brewer
and myself agreeing very closely, and the others not being
very distant from us at any important point. One former
prime minister of Great Britain I learned, during this
investigation, to respect greatly, Lord Aberdeen, whom
I well remembered as discredited and driven from power
during my stay in Russia at the time of the Crimean War.
He was wise enough in those days to disbelieve in war with



Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 54)