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Russia, and to desire a solution of the Turkish problem
by peace, but was overruled, and the solution was at-
tempted by a war most costly in blood and treasure, which
was apparently successful, but really a failure. He was
driven from his post with ignominy; and I well remem-
bered seeing a very successful cartoon in " Punch" at that
period, representing him, wearing coronet and mantle and
fast asleep, at the helm of the ship of state, which was


rolling in the trough of the sea and apparently about to

Since that time his wisdom has, I think, been recog-
nized; and I am now glad to acknowledge the fact that,
of all the many British statesmen who dealt with the
Venezuelan question, he was clearly the most just. The
line he drew seemed to me the fairest possible. He did not
attempt to grasp the mouth of the Orinoco, nor did he
meander about choice gold-fields or valuable strategic
points, seeking to include them. The Venezuelans them-
selves had shown willingness to accept his proposal; but
alleged, as their reason for not doing so, that the British
government had preached to them regarding their internal
policy so offensively that self-respect forbade them to ac-
quiesce in any part of it.

.Toward this Aberdeen line we tended more and more;
and in the sequel we heard, with very great satisfaction,
that the Arbitration Tribunal at Paris had practically
adopted this line, which we of the commission had virtu-
ally agreed upon. It need hardly be stated that, each side
having at the beginning of the arbitration claimed the
whole vast territory between the Orinoco and the Esse-
quibo, neither was quite satisfied with the award. But I
believe it to be thoroughly just, and that it forms a most
striking testimony to the value of international arbitra-
tion in such questions, as a means, not only of preserving
international peace, but of arriving at substantial justice.

Our deliberations and conclusions were, of course, kept
secret. It was of the utmost importance that nothing
should get out regarding them. Our sessions were de-
layed and greatly prolonged, partly on account of the
amount of work to be done in studying the many ques-
tions involved, and partly because we hoped that, more
and more, British opinion would tend to the submission
of the whole question to the judgment of a proper inter-
national tribunal; and that Lord Salisbury, the prime
minister, who, in his rather cynical, "Saturday-Review,"
high-Tory way, had scouted the idea of arbitration,


would at last be brought to it. Of course, every think-
ing Englishman looked with uneasiness toward the possi-
bility that a line might be laid down by the United States
which it would feel obliged to maintain, and which would
necessitate its supporting Venezuela, at all hazards,
against Great Britain.

The statesmanship of Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Olney
finally triumphed. Most fortunately for both parties,
Great Britain had at Washington a most eminent diplo-
matist, whose acquaintance I then made, but whom I af-
terward came to know, respect, and admire even more
during the Peace Conference at The Hague Sir Julian,
afterward Lord, Pauncefote. His wise counsels pre-
vailed; Lord Salisbury receded from his position; Great
Britain agreed to arbitration; and the question entered
into a new stage, which was finally ended by the award of
the Arbitration Tribunal at Paris, presided over by M.
de Martens of St. Petersburg, and having on its bench the
chief justices of the two nations and two of the most emi-
nent judges of their highest courts. It is with pride and
satisfaction that I find their award agreeing, substantially,
with the line which, after so much trouble, our own com-
mission had worked out. Arbitration having been de-
cided upon, our commission refrained from laying down
a frontier-line, but reported a mass of material, some
fourteen volumes in all, with an atlas containing about
seventy-five maps, all of which formed a most valuable con-
tribution to the material laid before the Court of Arbitra-
tion at Paris.

It was a happy solution of the whole question, and it
was a triumph of American diplomacy in the cause of
right and justice.

I may mention, in passing, one little matter which
throws light upon a certain disgraceful system to which
I have had occasion to refer at various other times in these
memoirs; and I do so now in the hope of keeping people
thinking upon one of the most wretched abuses in the
United States. I have said above that we were, of course,


obliged to maintain the strictest secrecy. To have allowed
our conclusions to get out would have thwarted the whole
purpose of the investigation; but a person who claimed
to represent one of the leading presses in Washington
seemed to think that consideration of no special impor-
tance, and came to our rooms, virtually insisting on re-
ceiving information. Having been told that it could not
be given him, he took his revenge by inserting a sensa-
tional paragraph in the papers regarding the extrava-
gance of the commission. He informed the world that we
were expending large sums of public money in costly
furniture, in rich carpets, and especially in splendid sil-
verware. The fact was that the rooms were furnished
very simply, with plain office furniture, with cheap car-
pets, and with a safe for locking up the more precious doc-
uments intrusted to us and such papers as it was impor-
tant to keep secret. The "silverware" consisted of two
very plain plated jugs for ice-water ; and I may add that
after our adjournment the furniture was so wisely sold
that very nearly the whole expenditure for it was returned
into the treasury.

These details would be utterly trivial were it not that,
with others which I have given in other places, they indi-
cate that prostitution of the press to sensation-mongering
which the American people should realize and reprove.

While I have not gone into minor details of our work, I
have thought that thus much might be interesting. Of
course, had these reminiscences been written earlier, this
sketch of the interior history of the commission would
have been omitted; but now, the award of the Paris tri-
bunal having been made, there is no reason why secrecy
should be longer maintained. Never, before that award,
did any of us, I am sure, indicate to any person what our
view as to the line between the possessions of Venezuela
and Great Britain was ; but now we may do so, and I feel
that all concerned may be congratulated on the fact that
two tribunals, each seeking to do justice, united on the
same line, and that line virtually the same which one of


the most just of British statesmen had approved many
years before.

During this Venezuela work in Washington I made ac-
quaintance with many leading men in politics ; and among
those who interested me most was Mr. Carlisle of Ken-
tucky, Secretary of the Treasury. He had been member
of Congress, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and
senator, and was justly respected and admired. Per-
haps the most peculiar tribute that I ever heard paid to a
public man was given him once in the House of Represen-
tatives by my friend Mr. Hiscock, then representative,
and afterward senator, from the State of New York.
Seated by his side in the House, and noting the rulings of
Mr. Carlisle as Speaker, I asked, "What sort of man is
this Speaker of yours?" Mr. Hiscock answered, "As you
know, he is one of the strongest of Democrats, and I am
one of the strongest of Republicans ; yet I will say this :
that my imagination is not strong enough to conceive of
his making an unfair ruling or doing an unfair thing
against the party opposed to him in this House. ' '

Mr. Carlisle's talents were of a very high order. His
speeches carried great weight ; and in the campaign which
came on later between Mr. McKinley and Mr. Bryan, he,
in my opinion, and indeed in the opinion, I think, of every
leading public man, did a most honorable thing when he
deliberately broke from his party, sacrificed, apparently,
all hopes of political preferment, and opposed the regu-
lar Democratic candidate. His speech before the work-
ing-men of Chicago on the issues of that period was cer-
tainly one of the two most important delivered during
the first McKinley campaign, the other being that of Carl

Another man whom I saw from time to time during this
period was the Vice-President, Mr. Stevenson. I first met
him at a public dinner in New York, where we sat side by
side ; but we merely talked on generalities. But the next
time I met him was at a dinner given by the Secretary of
War, and there I found that he was one of the most ad-


mirable raconteurs I had ever met. After a series of
admirable stories, one of the party said to me : ' ' He could
tell just as good stories as those for three weeks running
and never repeat himself. ' '

One of these stories by the Vice-President, if true,
threw a curious light over the relations of President
Lincoln with three men very distinguished in American
annals. It was as follows: One day, shortly before the
issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, a visitor, find-
ing Mr. Lincoln evidently in melancholy mood, said to
him, "Mr. President, I am sorry to find you not feeling
so well as at my last visit. ' ' Mr. Lincoln replied : * * Yes,
I am troubled. One day the best of our friends from
the border States come in and insist that I shall not issue
an Emancipation Proclamation, and that, if I do so, the
border States will virtually cast in their lot with the
Southern Confederacy. Another day, Charles Sumner,
Thad Stevens, and Ben Wade come in and insist that if
I do not issue such a proclamation the North will be ut-
terly discouraged and the Union wrecked, and, by the
way, these three men are coming in this very afternoon. ' '
At this moment his expression changed, his countenance
lighted up, and he said to the visitor, who was from the

West, "Mr. , did you ever go to a prairie school?"

"No," said the visitor, "I never did." "Well," said
Mr. Lincoln, "I did, and it was a very poor school, and
we were very poor folks, too poor to have regular read-
ing-books, and so we brought our Bibles and read from
them. One morning the chapter was from the Book
of Daniel, and a little boy who sat next me went all wrong
in pronouncing the names of Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego. The teacher had great difficulty in setting
him right, and before he succeeded was obliged to scold
the boy and cuff him for his stupidity. The next verse
came to me, and so the chapter went along down the class.
Presently it started on its way back, and soon after I no-
ticed that the little fellow began crying. On this I asked
him, 'What 's the matter with you!' and he answered,


'Don't you see? Them three miserable cusses are coming
back to me again.'

I also at that period made the acquaintance of Senator
Gray of Delaware, who seemed to me ideally fitted for his
position as a member of the Upper House in Congress.
Speaker Reed also made a great impression upon me as a
man of honesty, lucidity, and force. The Secretary of
State, Mr. Olney, I saw frequently, and was always im-
pressed by the sort of bulldog tenacity which had gained
his victory over Lord Salisbury in the arbitration matter.

But to give even the most hasty sketch of the members
of the Supreme Court, the cabinet, and of both houses of
Congress whom I met would require more time than is at
my disposal.

This stay in Washington I enjoyed much. Our capital
city is becoming the seat of a refined hospitality which
makes it more and more attractive. Time was, and that
not very long since, when it was looked upon as a place of
exile by diplomatists, and as repulsive by many of our
citizens ; but all that is of the past : the courtesy shown by
its inhabitants is rapidly changing its reputation.

Perhaps, of all the social enjoyments of that time, the
most attractive to me was an excursion of the American
Geographical Society to Monticello, the final residence of
President Jefferson. Years before, while visiting the Uni-
versity of Virginia at Charlottesville, I had been intensely
interested in that creation of Mr. Jefferson and in the
surroundings of his home; but the present occupant of
Monticello, having been greatly annoyed by visitors, was
understood to be reluctant to allow any stranger to enter
the mansion, and I would not intrude upon him. But now
house and grounds were freely thrown open, and upon a
delightful day. The house itself was a beautiful adapta-
tion of the architecture which had reached its best develop-
ment at the time of Jefferson's stay in France; and the
decorations, like those which I had noted years before in
some of the rooms of the university, were of an exquisite
Louis Seize character.


Jefferson 's peculiarities, also, came out in various parts
of the house. Perhaps the most singular was his bed,
occupying the whole space of an archway between two
rooms, one of which, on the left, served as a dressing-
room for him, and the other, on the right, for Mrs. Jeffer-
son; and, there being no communication between them
save by a long circuit through various rooms, it was
evident that the ex-President had made up his mind that
he would not have his intimate belongings interfered with
by any of the women of the household, not even by his-

But most attractive of all was the view through the
valleys and over the neighboring hills as we sat at our
picnic-tables on the lawn. Having read with care every
line of Jefferson's letters ever published, and some writ-
ings of his which have never been printed, my imagination
was vivid. It enabled me to see him walking through the
rooms and over the estate, receiving distinguished guests
under the portico, discussing with them at his dinner-table
the great questions of the day, and promulgating his theo-
ries, some of which were so beneficent and others so nox-

The only sad part of this visit was to note the destruc-
tion, by the fire not long before, of the columns in front
of the rotunda of the university. I especially mourned
over the calcined remains of their capitals, for into these
Jefferson had really wrought his own heart. With a pas-
sion for the modern adaptation of classic architecture, he
had poured the very essence of his artistic feelings into
them. He longed to see every stroke which his foreign
sculptors made upon them. Daily, according to the chroni-
cle of the time, he rode over to see how they progressed,
and, between his visits, frequently observed them through
his telescope; and now all their work was but calcined
limestone. Fortunately, the burning of the old historical
buildings aroused public spirit ; large sums of money were
poured into the university treasury ; and the work was in
process which, it is to be hoped, will restore the former

II. 9


beauty of the colonnade and largely increase the buildings
and resources of the institution.

During my work upon the commission I learned to re-
spect more and more the calm, steady, imperturbable char-
acter of Mr. Cleveland. Of course the sensational press
howled continually, and the press which was considered
especially enlightened and which had steadily supported
him up to this period, was hardly less bitter ; but he per-
severed. During the period taken by the commission for
its work, both the American and British peoples had time
for calm thought. Lord Salisbury, especially, had time
to think better of it ; and when he at last receded from his
former haughty position and accepted arbitration, Mr.
Cleveland and the State Department gained one of the
most honorable victories in the history of American di-



ON the 1st of April, 1897, President McKinley nomi-
nated me ambassador to Berlin ; and, the appointment
having been duly confirmed by the Senate, I visited Wash-
ington to obtain instructions and make preparations. One
of the most important of these preparations was the se-
curing of a second secretary for the embassy. A long list
of applicants for this position had appeared, several with
strong backing from party magnates, cabinet officers, and
senators ; but, though all of them seemed excellent young
men, very few had as yet any experience likely to be ser-
viceable, and a look over the list suggested many misgiv-
ings. There was especially needed just then at Berlin a
second secretary prepared to aid in disentangling sundry
important questions already before the embassy. The
first secretary, whom no person thought of displacing, was
ideally fitted for his place in fact, was fitted for any post
in the diplomatic service; but a second secretary was
needed to take, as an expert, a mass of work on questions
relating to commerce and manufactures which were just
then arising between the two nations in shapes new and
even threatening.

While the whole matter was under advisement, there
appeared a young man from Ohio, with no backing of any
sort save his record. He had distinguished himself at one
of our universities as a student in political economy and
international law ; had then taken a fellowship in the same
field at another university; and had finally gone to Ger-



many and there taken his degree, his graduating thesis
being on "The Commercial and Diplomatic Relations be-
tween the United States and Germany." In preparing
this he had been allowed to work up a mass of material in
our embassy archives, and had afterward expanded his
thesis into a book which had gained him credit. As the
most serious questions between the two countries were
commercial, he seemed a godsend ; and, going to the Presi-
dent, I stated the matter fully. Though the young man
was as far as possible from having any ' ' pull ' ' in the State
from which he came, was not at all known either to the
President or the Secretary of State or assistant secretary
of state, all of whom came from Ohio, and was equally
unknown to either of the Ohio senators or to any repre-
sentative, and though nothing whatever was known of his
party affiliations, the President, on hearing a statement of
the case, ignored all pressure in favor of rival candidates,
sent in his nomination to the Senate, and it was duly con-

The next thing was the appointment of a military attache.
The position is by no means a sinecure. Our government
must always feel the importance of receiving the latest in-
formation as to the armies and navies of the great powers
of the world ; and therefore it is that, very wisely, it has
attached military and naval experts to various leading
embassies. It is important that these be not only thor-
oughly instructed and far-seeing, but gentlemen in the
truest sense of the word; and I therefore presented a
graduate of West Point who, having conducted an expedi-
tion in Alaska and served with his regiment on the Western
plains most creditably, had done duty as military attache
with me during my mission at St. Petersburg, and had
proved himself, in every respect, admirable. Though he
had no other supporter at the national capital, the Secre-
tary of War, Governor Alger, granted my request, and he
was appointed.

These matters, to many people apparently trivial, are
here alluded to because it is so often charged that political


considerations outweigh all others in such appointments,
and because this charge was frequently made against
President McKinley. The simple fact is that, with the mul-
titude of nominations to be made, the appointing power
cannot have personal knowledge of the applicants, and
must ask the advice of persons who have known them and
can, to some extent, be held responsible for them. In both
the cases above referred to, political pressure of the strong-
est in favor of other candidates went for nothing against
the ascertained interest of the public service.

The Secretary of State at this time was Mr. John Sher-
man. I had known him somewhat during his career as
senator and Secretary of the Treasury, and had for his
character, abilities, and services the most profound re-
spect. I now saw him often. He had become somewhat
infirm, but his mind seemed still clear ; whether at the State
Department or in social circles his reminiscences of public
men and affairs were always interesting, and one of these
confirmed an opinion I have expressed in another chapter.
One night, at a dinner-party, the discussion having fallen
upon President Andrew Johnson, and some slighting re-
marks having been made regarding him by one of our
company, Mr. Sherman, who had been one of President
Johnson's strongest opponents, declared him a man of pa-
triotic motives as well as of great ability, and insisted that
the Republican party had made a great mistake in attempt-
ing to impeach him. In the course of the conversation one
of the foremost members of the House of Representatives,
a man of the highest standing and character, stated that he
had himself, when a young man, aided Mr. Johnson as sec-
retary, and that he was convinced that the ex-President
could write very little more than his signature. We had all
heard the old story that after he had become of age his
newly wedded wife had taught him the alphabet, but it was
known to very few that he remained to the last so imper-
fectly equipped.

Of conversations with many other leading men of that
period at Washington I remember that, at the house of my


friend Dr. Hill, afterward assistant secretary of state, men-
tion being made of the Blaine campaign, an eminent justice
of the Supreme Court said that Mr. Blaine always insisted
to the end of his life that he had lost the Presidency on
account of the Rev. Dr. Burchard's famous alliteration,
' ' Rum, Romanism, and rebellion, ' * and that the whole was
really a Democratic trick. Neither the judge nor any other
person present believed that Mr. Blaine 's opinion in this
matter was well founded.

An important part of my business during this visit was
to confer with the proper persons at Washington, includ-
ing the German ambassador, Baron von Thielmann, re-
garding sundry troublesome questions between the United
States and Germany. The addition to the American tariff
of a duty against the sugar imports from every other coun-
try equivalent to the sugar bounty allowed manufactures
in that country had led to special difficulties. It had been
claimed by Germany that this additional duty was contrary
to the most-favored-nation clause in our treaties ; and, un-
fortunately, the decisions on our side had been conflicting,
Mr. Gresham, Secretary of State under Mr. Cleveland, hav-
ing allowed that the German contention was right, and his
successor, Mr. Olney, having presented an elaborate argu-
ment to show that it was wrong. On this point, conversa-
tions, not only with the Secretary of State and the German
ambassador, but with leading members of the committees
of Congress having the tariff in charge, and especially with
Mr. Allison and Mr. Aldrich of the Senate and Governor
Dingley of the House, showed me that the case was com-
plicated, the various interests somewhat excited against
each other, and that my work in dealing with them was to
be trying.

There were also several other questions no less difficult,
those relating to the exportation of American products to
Germany and the troubles already brewing in Samoa being
especially prominent ; so that it was with anything but an
easy feeling that, on the 29th of May, I sailed from New


On the 12th of June I presented the President's letter
of credence to the Emperor William II. The more impor-
tant of my new relations to the sovereign had given me no
misgivings; for during my stay in Berlin as minister,
eighteen years before, I had found him very courteous, he
being then the heir apparent ; but with the ceremonial part
it was otherwise, and to that I looked forward almost with

For, since my stay in Berlin, the legation had been raised
to an embassy. It had been justly thought by various
patriotic members of Congress that it was incompatible,
either with the dignity or the interests of so great a nation

Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 54)