Copyright
Andrew Dickson White.

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) online

. (page 14 of 54)
Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


as ours, to be represented simply by a minister plenipoten-
tiary, who, when calling at the Foreign Office to transact
business, might be obliged to wait for hours, and even until
the next day, while representatives from much less impor-
tant countries who ranked as ambassadors went in at once.
The change was good, but in making it Congress took no
thought of some things which ought to have been provided
for. Of these I shall speak later ; but as regards the pres-
entation, the trying feature to me was that there was a
great difference between this and any ceremonial which I
had previously experienced, whether as commissioner at
Santo Domingo and Paris, or as minister at Berlin and St.
Petersburg. At the presentation of a minister plenipoten-
tiary he goes in his own carriage to the palace at the time
appointed; is ushered into the presence of the sovereign;
delivers to him, with some simple speech, the autograph
letter from the President ; and then, after a kindly answer,
all is finished. But an ambassador does not escape so
easily. Under a fiction of international law he is regarded
as the direct representative of the sovereign power of
his country, and is treated in some sense as such. There-
fore it was that, at the time appointed, a high personage
of the court, in full uniform, appeared at my hotel accom-
panied by various other functionaries, with three court
carriages, attendants, and outriders, deputed to conduct
me to the palace. Having been escorted to the first of the



136 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XV

carriages, myself, in plain citizen's dress, on the back
seat ; my escort, in gorgeous uniform, facing me ; and my
secretaries and attaches in the other carriages, we took
up our march in solemn procession carriages, outriders,
and all through the Wilhelmstrasse and Unter den Lin-
den. On either side was a gaping crowd; at the various
corps de garde bodies of troops came out and presented
arms ; and on our arrival at the palace there was a presen-
tation of arms and beating of drums which, for the mo-
ment, somewhat abashed me. It was an ordeal more
picturesque than agreeable.

The reception by the Emperor was simple, courteous,
and kindly. Neither of us made any set speech, but we
discussed various questions, making reference to our
former meeting and the changes which had occurred since.
Among these changes I referred to the great improvement
in Berlin, whereupon he said that he could not think the
enormous growth of modern cities an advantage. My an-
swer was that my reference was to the happy change in the
architecture of Berlin rather than to its growth in popula-
tion ; that, during my first stay in the city, over forty years
before, nearly all the main buildings were of brick and
stucco, whereas there had now been a remarkable change
from stucco to stone and to a much nobler style of archi-
tecture. "We also discussed the standing of Germans in
America and their relations to the United States. On my
remarking that it was just eighteen years and one day
since the first Emperor William had received me as min-
ister in that same palace, he spoke of various things in the
history of the intervening years ; and then ensued an epi-
sode such as I had hardly expected. For just before leav-
ing New York my old friend Frederick William Holls,
after a dinner at his house on the Hudson, had given his
guests examples of the music written by Frederick the
Great, and one piece had especially interested us. It was
a duet in which Mr. Holls played one part upon the organ,
and his wife another upon the piano ; and all of us were
greatly impressed by the dignity and beauty of the whole.



AS AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY-1897-1903 137

It had been brought to light and published by the present
Emperor, and after the performance some one of the party
remarked, in a jocose way, "You should express our
thanks to his Majesty, when you meet him, for the pleasure
which this music has given us. " I thought nothing more
of the subject until, just at the close of the conversation
above referred to, it came into my mind ; and on my men-
tioning it the Emperor showed at once a special interest,
discussing the music from various points of view ; and on
my telling him that we were all surprised that it was not
amateurish, but really profound in its harmonies and
beautiful in its melodies, he dwelt upon the musical debt
of Frederick the Great to Bach and the special influence of
Bach upon him. This conversation recurred to me later,
when the Emperor, in erecting the statue to Frederick the
Great on the Avenue of Victory, placed on one side of it
the bust of Marshal Schwerin, and on the other that of
Johann Sebastian Bach, thus honoring the two men whom
he considered most important during Frederick's reign.

After presenting my embassy secretaries and attaches,
military and naval, I was conducted with them into the
presence of the Empress, who won all our hearts by her
kindly, unaffected greeting. On my recalling her entrance
into Berlin as a bride, in her great glass coach, seventeen
years before, on one of the coldest days I ever knew, she
gave amusing details of her stately progress down the Lin-
den on that occasion; and in response to my congratula-
tions upon her six fine boys and her really charming little
daughter, it was pleasant to see how

" One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,"

her eyes lighting up with pride and joy, and her conversa-
tion gladly turning to the children.

It may be added here that the present Empress seems
to have broken the unfortunate spell which for about half
a century hung over the queens and empresses of the
house of Hohenzollern. I remember well that, among the



138 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE -XV

Germans whom I knew in my Berlin-University days, all
the sins of the period, political and religious, seemed to
be traced to the influence of Queen Elizabeth, the consort
of the reigning King Frederick William IV; and that,
during my first official stay in the same capital as minis-
ter, a similar feeling was shown toward the Empress
Augusta, in spite of her most kindly qualities and her
devotion to every sort of charitable work; and that the
crown princess, afterward the Empress Frederick, in
spite of all her endowments of head and heart, was appa-
rently more unpopular than either of her two predeces-
sors. But the present Empress seems to have changed
all this, and, doubtless, mainly by her devotion to her
husband and her children, which apparently excludes
from her mind all care for the great problems of the
universe outside her family. So strong is this feeling
of kindness toward her that it was comical to see, at
one period during my stay, when she had been brought
perilously near a most unpopular course of action, that
everybody turned at once upon her agent in the matter,
saying nothing about her, but belaboring him unmerci-
fully, though he was one of the most attractive of men.

These presentations being finished, our return to the
Kaiserhof Hotel was made with the same ceremony as
that with which we had come to the palace, and happy was
I when all was over.

Of the other official visits at this time, foremost in im-
portance was that to the chancellor of the empire, Prince
Hohenlohe. Although he was then nearly eighty years old
and bent with age, his mind in discussing public matters
was entirely clear. Various later conversations with him
also come back to me one, especially, at a dinner he gave
at the chancellor's palace to President Harrison. On my
recalling the fact that we were in the room where I had
first dined with Bismarck, Prince Hohenlohe gave a series
of reminiscences of his great predecessor, some of them
throwing a strong light upon his ideas and methods. On
one occasion, at my own table, he spoke very thoughtfully



AS AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY- 1897-1903 139

on German characteristics, and one of his remarks sur-
prised me : it was that the besetting sin of the Germans is
envy (Neid) ; in which remark one may see a curious trib-
ute to the tenacity of the race, since Tacitus justified a
similar opinion. He seemed rather melancholy ; but he had
a way of saying pungent things very effectively, and one
of these attributed to him became widely known. He was
publicly advocating a hotly contested canal bill, when an
opponent said, "You will find a solid rock in the way of
this measure"; to which the chancellor rejoined, "We will
then do with the rock as Moses did : we -will smite it and
get water for our canal."

As to the next visit of importance, I was especially glad
to find at the Foreign Office the newly appointed minister,
Baron (now Count) von Biilow. During the first part of
my former stay, as minister, I had done business at the
Foreign Office with his father, and found him in every re-
spect a most congenial representative of the German
Government. It now appeared that father and son were
amazingly like each other, not only in personal manner,
but in their mode of dealing with public affairs. With the
multitude of trying questions which pressed upon me as
ambassador during nearly six years, it hardly seems pos-
sible that I should be still alive were it not for the genial,
hearty intercourse, at the Foreign Office and elsewhere,
with Count von Biilow. Sundry German papers, indeed,
attacked him as yielding to much to me, and sundry
American papers attacked me for yielding too much to
him ; but both of us exerted ourselves to do the best pos-
sible, each for his own country, and at the same time to
preserve peace and increase good feeling.

Interesting was it to me, from my first to my last days
in Berlin, to watch him in the discharge of his great duties,
especially in his dealings with hostile forces in Parliament.
No contrast could be more marked than that between his
manner and that of his great predecessor, the iron chan-
cellor. To begin with, no personalities could be more un-
like. In the place of an old man, big, rumbling, heavy,



140 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XV

fiery, minatory, objurgatory, there now stood a young
man, quiet, self-possessed, easy in speech, friendly in man-
ner, ' ' sweet reasonableness ' ' apparently his main charac-
teristic, bubbling at times with humor, quick to turn a
laugh on a hostile bungler, but never cruel ; prompt in re-
turning a serious thrust, but never venomous. Many of
his speeches were masterpieces in their way of handling
opponents. An attack which Bismarck would have met
with a bludgeon, Billow parried with weapons infinitely
lighter, but in some cases really more effective. A very
good example was on an occasion when the old charge of
"Byzantinism" was flung at the present regime, to which
he replied, not by a historical excursus or political disqui-
sition, but by humorously deprecating a comparison of the
good, kindly, steady-going, hard-working old privy coun-
cilors and other state officials of Berlin with fanatics,
conspirators, and assassins who played leading parts at
Constantinople during the decline of the Eastern Empire.
In the most stormy discussions I never saw him other than
serene ; under real provocation he remained kindly ; more
than one bitter opponent he disarmed with a retort; but
there were no poisoned wounds. The German Parliament,
left to itself, can hardly be a peaceful body. The lines of
cleavage between parties are many, and some of them are
old chasms of racial dislike and abysses of religious and
social hate ; but the appearance of the young chancellor at
his desk seemed, even on the darkest days, to bring sun-
shine.

Occasionally, during my walks in the Thiergarten, I met
him on his way to Parliament ; and, no matter how press-
ing public business might be, he found time to extend his
walk and prolong our discussions. On one of these walks I
alluded to a hot debate of the day before and to his suavity

under provocation, when he answered : ' ' Old , many

years ago, gave me two counsels, and I have always tried
to mind them. These were : ' Never worry ; never lose your
temper.' "

A pet phrase among his critics is that he is a diplomatist



AS AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY-1897-1903 141

and not a statesman. Like so many antitheses, this is mis-
leading. It may be just to say that his methods are, in
general, those of a diplomatist rather than of a statesman ;
but certain it is that in various debates of my time he
showed high statesmanlike qualities, and notably at the
beginning of the war with China and in sundry later con-
tests with the agrarians and socialists. Even his much
criticized remark during the imbroglio between Turkey
and Greece, picturing Germany as laying down her flute
and retiring from the "European Concert," which to
many seemed mere persiflage, was the humorous presenta-
tion of a policy dictated by statesmanship. Nor were all
his addresses merely light and humorous ; at times, when
some deep sentiment had been stirred, he was eloquent,
rising to the height of great arguments and taking broad
views.

No one claims that he is a Richelieu, a William Pitt, or a
Cavour ; but the work of such men is not what the German
Empire just now requires. The man needed at present is
the one who can keep things going, who can minimize dif-
ferences, resist extremists, turn aside marplots, soothe doc-
trinaires, and thus give the good germs in the empire a
chance to grow. For this work it would be hard to imagine
a better man than the present chancellor. His selection
and retention by the Emperor prove that the present
monarch has inherited two of the best qualities of his illus-
trious grandfather : skill in recognizing the right man and
firmness in standing by him.

The next thing which an ambassador is expected to do,
after visiting the great representatives of the empire, is to
become acquainted with the official world in general.

But he must make acquaintance with these under his
own roof. On his arrival he is expected to visit the Em-
peror and the princes of his family, the imperial chancel-
lor, and the minister of foreign affairs, but all others are
expected to visit him ; hence the most pressing duty on my
arrival was to secure a house, and, during three months
following, all the time that I could possibly spare, and



142 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XV

much that I ought not to have spared, was given to excur-
sions into all parts of the city to find it. No house, no am-
bassador. A minister plenipotentiary can live during his
first year in a hotel or in a very modest apartment ; an am-
bassador cannot. He must have a spacious house fully
furnished before he can really begin his duties; for, as
above stated, one of the first of these duties is to make the
acquaintance of the official world, the ministers of the
crown, the diplomatic corps, the members of the Imperial
Parliament, the members of the Prussian legislature, the
foremost men in the army and navy, and the leaders in
public life generally, and to this end he must give three
very large receptions, at which all those personages visit
him. This is a matter of which the court itself takes
charge, so far as inviting and presenting the guests is con-
cerned, high court officials being sent to stand by the side
of the ambassador and ambassadress and make the intro-
ductions to them ; but, as preliminary to all this, the first
thing is to secure a residence fit for such receptions and
for entertainments in connection with them.

Under the rules of European nations generally, these
receptions must be held at the ambassador's permanent
residence ; but, unfortunately, such a thing as a large fur-
nished apartment suitable for a foreign representative is
rarely to be found in Berlin. In London and Paris such
apartments are frequently offered, but in Berlin hardly
ever. Every other nation which sends an ambassador to
Berlin and the same is true as regards the other large
capitals of Europe owns a suitable house, or at least
holds a long lease of a commodious apartment; but, al-
though President Cleveland especially recommended pro-
vision for such residence in one of his messages, nothing
has yet been done by the American Congress, and the con-
sequence is that every ambassador has to lose a great
amount of valuable time, effort, and money in securing
proper quarters, while his country loses much of its proper
prestige and dignity by constant changes in the location of
its embassy, and by the fact that the American representa-



AS AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY 1897-1903 143

tive is not infrequently obliged to take up his residence in
unfit apartments and in an unsuitable part of the town.

After looking at dozens of houses, the choice was nar-
rowed down to two; but, as one was nearly three miles
from the center of the city, selection was made of the large
apartment which I occupied during nearly four years,
and which was bought from under my feet by one of
the smallest governments in Europe as the residence for
its minister. Immediately after my lease was signed there
began a new series of troubles. Everything must be ready
for the three receptions by the eighth day of January ; and,
being at the mercy of my landlord, I was at a great disad-
vantage. Though paying large rent for the apartment, I
was obliged, at my own expense, to put it thoroughly in
order, introducing electric light, perfecting heating appa-
ratus, getting walls and floors in order, and doing a world
of work which, under other circumstances, would have
been done by the proprietor himself. As to furnishing, a
peculiar difficulty arose. Berlin furnishers, as a rule, have
only samples in stock, and a long time is required for com-
pleting sets. My former experience, when, as minister, I
had been obliged to go through a similar ordeal, had shown
me that the Berlin makers could never be relied upon to
get the apartment furnished in time ; and therefore it was
that, having secured what was possible in Berlin, I was
obliged to make large purchases at Dresden, London, and
Paris, and to have the furniture from the last-named city
hurried on to Berlin in special wadded cars, with atten-
dants to put it in place. It was a labor and care to which
no representative of the United States or of any other
power ought to be subjected. The vexations and difficul-
ties seemed unending ; but at last carpenters, paper-hang-
ers, electric-light men, furniture men, carpet-layers, uphol-
sterers, and the like were driven from the house just five
minutes before the chancellor of the empire arrived to
open the first of these three official receptions. Happily
they all went off well, and thereby began my acquaintance
with the leaders in various departments of official life.



144 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XV

On my settling down to the business of the embassy, it
appeared that the changes in public sentiment since my
former stay as minister, eighteen years before, were great
indeed. At that time German feeling was decidedly
friendly to the United States. The Germans had sided
with us in our Civil War, and we had come out victorious ;
we had sided with them in their war of 1870-1871, and
they had come out victorious. But all this was now
changed. German feeling toward us had become gener-
ally adverse and, in some parts of the empire, bitterly hos-
tile. The main cause of this was doubtless our protective
policy. Our McKinley tariff, which was considered almost
ruinous to German manufactures, had been succeeded by
the Dingley tariff, which went still further ; and as Ger-
many, in the last forty years, had developed an amazing
growth of manufactures, much bitterness resulted.

Besides this, our country was enabled, by its vast extent
of arable land, as well as by its cheap conveyance and skil-
ful handling of freights, to sweep into the German markets
agricultural products of various sorts, especially meats,
and to undersell the native German producers. This natu-
rally vexed the landed proprietors, so that we finally had
against us two of the great influential classes in the em-
pire : the manufacturers and the landowners.

But this was not all. These real difficulties were greatly
increased by fictitious causes of ill feeling. Sensational
articles, letters, telegrams, caricatures, and the like, sent
from America to Germany and from Germany to America,
had become more and more exasperating, until, at the time
of my arrival, there were in all Germany but two news-
papers of real importance friendly to the United States.
These two journals courageously stood up for fairness
and justice, but all the others were more or less hostile,
and some bitterly so. The one which, on account of its
zeal in securing news, I read every morning was of the
worst. During the Spanish War it was especially virulent,
being full of statements and arguments to show that cor-
ruption was the main characteristic of our government,



AS AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY -1897-1903 145

cowardice of our army and navy, and hypocrisy of our
people. Very edifying were its quasi-philosophical arti-
cles; and one of these, showing the superiority of the
Spanish women to their American sisters, especially as
regards education, was a work of genius. The love of
Spanish women for bull-fights was neatly glossed over,
and various absurd charges against American women
were put in the balance against it. A few sensational
presses on our side were perhaps worse. Various news-
papers in America repaid Teutonic hostility by copious
insults directed at everything German, and this aroused
the Germans yet more. One journal, very influential
among the aristocratic and religious public of Northern
Germany, regularly published letters of considerable lit-
erary merit from its American correspondent, in which
every scandal which could be raked out of the gutters of
the cities, every crime in the remotest villages, and all
follies of individuals everywhere, were kneaded together
into statements showing that our country was the lowest
in the scale of human civilization. The tu-quoque argu-
ment might have been used by an American with much
effect; for just about this period there were dragging
along, in the Berlin and other city journals, accounts of
German trials for fraud and worse, surpassing, in some
respects, anything within my memory of American tri-
bunals. The quantity of fig-leaves required in some of
these trials was enormous; and, despite all precautions,
some details which escaped into the press might well bring
a blush to the most hardened American offender. It was
both vexatious and comical to see the smug, Pharisaical
way in which many journals ignored all these things, and
held up their hands in horror at American shortcomings.
Some trials, too, which at various times revealed the bru-
tality of sundry military officers toward soldiers, were
heartrending ; and especially one or two duels, which oc-
curred during my stay, presented features calculated to
shock the toughest American rough-rider. But all this
seemed not for a moment to withdraw the attention of our

11. 10



146 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XV

Teutonic censors from American folly and wickedness.
One of the main charges constantly made was that in
America there was a "Deutschen Hetze." Very many
German papers had really persuaded themselves, and ap-
parently had convinced a large part of the German people,
that throughout our country there existed a hate, deep and
acrid, of everything German and especially of German-
Americans. The ingenuity of some German papers in
supporting this thesis was wonderful. On one occasion
a petty squabble in a Roman Catholic theological school
in the United States between the more liberal element
and a reactionary German priest, in which the latter
came to grief, was displayed as an evidence that the
American people were determined to drive out all Ger-
man professors and to abjure German science. The doings
of every scapegrace in an American university, of every
silly woman in Chicago, of every blackguard in New York,
of every snob at Newport, of every desperado in the Rocky
Mountains, of every club loafer anywhere, were served up
as typical examples of American life. The municipal gov-
ernments of our country, and especially that of New York,
were an exhaustless quarry from which specimens of every
kind of scoundrelism were drawn and used in building up
an ideal structure of American life ; corruption, lawless-
ness, and barbarism being its most salient features.

Nor was this confined to the more ignorant. Men who
stood high in the universities, men of the greatest amia-
bility, who in former days had been the warmest friends



Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 54)