Andrew Dickson White.

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) online

. (page 19 of 54)
Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I turned to Fra Paolo Sarpi and the good fight he fought
for Venice and humanity. To my large collection of
books on the subject, made mainly in Italy, I added
much from the old book-shops of Germany, and with
these revised my Venetian studies. An old dream of
mine had been to bring out a small book on Fra Paolo:
now I sought, more modestly, to prepare an essay. 1 The
work was good for me. Contemplation of that noblest of
the three great Italians between the Renaissance and the
Resurrection of Italy did something to lift me above sor-
row; reading his words, uttered so calmly in all the
storm and stress of his time, soothed me. Viewed from
my work-table on the island of Riigen, the world became
less dark as I thought upon this hero of three centuries

Then came the death of the Empress Frederick. Even
during her tragic struggle with Bismarck, and the unpop-
ularity which beset her during my former official term at
Berlin, she had been kind to me and mine. At my presen-
tation to her in those days, at Potsdam, when she stood by
the side of her husband, afterward the most beloved of
emperors since Marcus Aurelius, she evidently exerted
herself to make the interview pleasant to me. She talked
of American art and the Colorado pictures of Moran,
which she had seen and admired; of German art and the
Madonna painted by Knaus for the Russian Empress,
which Miss Wolfe had given the Metropolitan Museum
at New York; and in reply to my congratulations upon a

1 This essay has since been published in the "Atlantic Monthly"
of January and February, 1904.


recent successful public speech of her eldest son, a student
at Bonn, she had dwelt, in a motherly way, upon the diffi-
culties which environ a future sovereign at a great univer-
sity. In more recent days, and especially during the years
before her death, she had been, at her table in Berlin and
at her castle of Kronberg, especially courteous. There
comes back to me pleasantly a kindly retort of hers. I had
spoken to her of a portrait of George III which had in-
terested me at the old castle of Homburg nearly forty years
before. It had been sent to his daughter, the Landgravine
of Hesse-Homburg, who had evidently wished to see her
father 's face as it had really become ; for it represented the
King, not in the gold-laced uniform, not in the trim wig,
not in the jauntily tied queue of his official portraits and
statues, but as he was: in confinement, wretched and de-
mented; in a slouching gown, with a face sad beyond ex-
pression ; his long, white hair falling about it and over it ;
of all portraits in the world, save that, at Florence, of
Charles V in his old age, the saddest. So, the conversa-
tion drifting upon George III and upon the old feeling be-
tween the United States and Great Britain, now so happily
changed, I happened to say, ' ' It is a remembrance of mine,
now hard to realize, that I was brought up to abhor the
memory of George III. ' ' At this she smiled and answered,
"That was very unjust ; for I was brought up to adore the
memory of Washington." Then she spoke at length re-
garding the feeling of her father and mother toward the
United States during our Civil War, saying that again and
again she had heard her father argue to her mother, Queen
Victoria, for the Union and against slavery. She dis-
cussed current matters of world politics with the strength
of a statesman; yet nothing could be more womanly
in the highest sense. On my saying that I hoped to see
the day when Germany, Great Britain, and the United
States would stand together in guarding the peace of the
world, she threw up her hands and replied, ' * Heaven grant
it ; but you forget Japan. ' ' The funeral at Potsdam dwells
in my mind as worthy of her. There were, indeed, pomp


and splendor, but subdued, as was befitting; and while
the foreign representatives stood beside her coffin, the
Emperor spoke to me, very simply and kindly, of his
sorrow and of mine. Then, to the sound of funeral music
and muffled church bells, he, with the King of Great Britain
and members of their immediate family just behind the
funeral car, the ambassadors accompanying them, and a
long procession following, walked slowly along the broad
avenue through that beautiful forest, until, in the Church
of Peace, she was laid by the side of her husband, Em-
peror Frederick the Noble.



DARKEST of all hours during my embassy was that
which brought news of the assassination of Presi-
dent McKinley. It was on the very day after his great
speech at Buffalo had gained for him the admiration and
good will of the world. Then came a week of anxiety of
hope alternating with fear ; I not hopeful : for there came
back to me memories of President Garfield's assassination
during my former official stay in Berlin, and of our hope
against hope during his struggle for life: all brought to
naught. Late in the evening of September 14 came news of
the President's death opening a new depth of sadness;
for I had come not merely to revere him as a patriot
and admire him as a statesman, but to love him as a
man. Few days have seemed more overcast than that
Sunday when, at the little American chapel in Berlin,
our colony held a simple service of mourning, the im-
perial minister of foreign affairs and other represen-
tatives of the government having quietly come to us. The
feeling of the German people awe, sadness, and even
sympathy was real. Formerly they had disliked and
distrusted the President as the author of the protective
policy which had cost their industries so dear; but now,
after his declaration favoring reciprocity, with his full
recognition of the brotherhood of nations, and in view
of this calamity, so sudden, so distressing, there had come
a revulsion of feeling.

To see one whom I so honored, and who had formerly



been so greatly misrepresented, at last recognized as a
great and true man was, at least, a solace.

At this period came the culmination of a curious episode
in my official career. During the war in China the Chinese
minister at Berlin, Lu-Hai'-Houan, feeling himself cut off
from relations with the government to which he was ac-
credited, and, indeed, with all the other powers of Europe,
had come at various times to me, and with him, fortu-
nately, came his embassy counselor, Dr. Kreyer, whom
I had previously known at Berlin and St. Petersburg as
a thoughtful man, deeply anxious for the welfare of
China, and appreciative of the United States, where he
had received his education. The minister was a kindly
old mandarin of high rank, genial, gentle, evidently strug-
gling hard against the depression caused by the misfor-
tunes of his country, and seeking some little light, if,
perchance, any was to be obtained. In his visits to me,
and at my return visits to him, the whole condition of
things in China was freely and fully discussed, and never
have I exerted myself more to give useful advice. First,
I insisted upon the necessity of amends for the fearful
wrong done by China to other nations, and then presented
my view of the best way of developing in his country a
civilization strong enough to resist hostile forces, exterior
and interior. As to dealings with the Christian mission-
aries, against whom he showed no fanatical spirit, but
who, as he thought, had misunderstood China and done
much harm, I sought to show him that the presumption
was in their favor, but that if the Chinese Government
ultimately came to the decision that their stay in China
was incompatible with the safety of the nation, its course
was simple: that on no account was it to kill or injure
any of them or of their converts ; that while, in my view,
it would be wise to arrange for their continuance in China
under proper regulation, still, that if they must be ex-
pelled, it should be done in the most kindly and consid-
erate way, and with due indemnity for any losses to which
they might be subjected. Of course, there was no denying

BERLIN, OXFORD, ST. ANDREWS- 1901-1903 199

that, under the simplest principles of international law,
China has the right at any moment to shut its doors
against, or to expel, any people whatever whom it may
consider dangerous or injurious this power being con-
stantly exercised by all the other nations of the earth, and
by none more than by the American Government, as so
many Chinese seeking entrance to our ports have discov-
ered ; but again and again I warned him that this, if it were
ever done at all, must be done without harshness and with
proper indemnities, and that any return to the cruelties
of the past would probably end in the dividing up of
maritime China among the great powers of the world.
As to the building up of the nation, I laid stress on the
establishment of institutions for technical instruction;
and took pains to call his attention to what had been done
in the United States and by various European govern-
ments in this respect. He seemed favorably impressed
by this, but dwelt on what he considered the fanaticism of
sundry Chinese supporters of technical education against
the old Chinese classical instruction. Here I suggested
to him a system which might save what was good in the
old mode of instruction: namely, the continuance of the
best of the old classical training, but giving also high rank
to modern studies.

We also talked over the beginning of a better develop-
ment of the Chinese army and navy, of better systems
of taxation, and of the nations from which good examples
and competent instruction might be drawn in these various
fields. Curious was his suggestion of a possible amalga-
mation of Chinese moral views with the religious creeds
of the western world. He observed that Christianity
seemed to be weak, mainly, on the moral side, and he sug-
gested, at some length, a combination of the Christian re-
ligion with the Confucian morality. Interesting was it
to hear him, as a Confucian, dwell on the services which
might thus be rendered to civilization. There was a sim-
ple, kindly shrewdness in the man, and a personal dig-
nity which was proof against the terrible misfortunes


which had beset his country. Again and again he visited
me, always wishing to discuss some new phase of the
questions at issue. I could only hope that, as he was about
to return to China, some of the ideas brought out in our
conversations might prove fruitful. One result of the rela-
tion thus formed was that when Prince Chun, the brother
of the Emperor of China, came to make apology before
the throne of the Emperor William, he called upon me.
Unfortunately I was out, but, returning his visit, I met him,
and, what was more to the purpose, the dignitaries of his
suite, some of whom interested me much ; and I was glad
of a chance, through them, to impress some of the ideas
brought out in my previous conversations with the min-
ister. I cannot say that I indulged in any strong hopes
as regards the prince himself; but, noting the counselors
who surrounded him, and their handling of the questions
at issue, I formed more hope for the conservation of
China as a great and beneficent power than I had ever had

To this succeeded an episode of a very different sort.
For some time Mr. Andrew Carnegie had done me the
honor to listen to advice of mine regarding some of his
intended benefactions in Scotland, the United States, and
elsewhere. I saw and felt the great possibilities for good
involved when so noble a heart, so shrewd a head, so gen-
erous a hand had command of one of the most colossal
fortunes ever at the disposal of a human being; and the
bright purposes and plans revealed in his letters shone
through the clouds of that mournful summer. So it was
that, on my journey to America, made necessary by the
sudden death of my son, I accepted Mr. Carnegie's in-
vitation to visit him at his castle of Skibo in the extreme
north of Scotland. Very striking, during the two days'
journey from London to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh
to Bonar, were the evidences of mourning for President
McKinley in every city, village, and hamlet. It seemed
natural that, in the large towns and on great public build-
ings, flags at half-mast and in mourning should show a

BERLIN, OXFORD, ST. ANDREWS -1901-1903 201

sense of the calamity which had befallen a sister nation ;
but what appealed to me most were the draped and half-
masted flags on the towers of the little country churches
and cottages. Never before in the history of any two
countries had such evidences of brotherly feeling been
shown. Thank God! brotherly feeling had conquered

The visit to Mr. Carnegie helped to give a new current
to my thoughts. The attractions of his wonderful domain,
forty thousand acres, with every variety of scenery,
ocean, forest, moor, and mountain, the household with its
quaint Scotch usages the piper in full tartan solemnly
going his rounds at dawn, and the music of the organ
swelling, morning and evening, through the castle from
the great hall all helped to give me new strength. There
was also good company: Frederic Harrison, thoughtful
and brilliant, whom I had before known only by his books
and a brief correspondence ; Archdeacon Sinclair of Lon-
don, worthy, by his scholarly accomplishments, of his
descent from the friend of Washington; and others who
did much to aid our hosts in making life at the castle
beautiful. Going thence to America, I found time to co-
operate with my old friend, President Gilman, in securing
data for Mr. Carnegie, especially at Washington, in view
of his plan of a national institution for the higher scientific

It was a sad home-coming; but these occupations and
especially a visit to New Haven at the bicentennial cele-
bration of Yale aided to cheer me. This last was indeed
a noteworthy commemoration. There had come to me, in
connection with it, perhaps the greatest honor of my life :
an invitation to deliver one of the main addresses ; but it
had been received at the time of my deepest depression,
and I had declined it, but with no less gratitude that the au-
thorities of my Alma Mater had thought me worthy of
that service. In so doing, I sacrificed much; for there
was one subject which, under other circumstances, I would
gladly have developed at such a time and before such an


audience. But as I listened to the admirable address given
by my old college mate, Mr. Justice Brewer, when the
honors of the university were conferred upon the Presi-
dent, the Secretary of State, and so many distinguished
representatives from all parts of the world, it was a satis-
faction to me, after all, that I could enjoy it quietly, with
no sense of responsibility, and could, indeed, rest and be

As to my own personal history, there came at this time
an event which could not but please me : the Royal Acad-
emy of Sciences at Berlin chose me as one of its foreign
honorary members. It was a tribute of the sort for which
I cared most, especially because it brought me into closer
relations with leaders in science and literature whom I
had so long admired.

To finish the chronicle of that period, I may add that,
on my return from America, being invited to Potsdam for
the purpose, I gave the Emperor the very hearty message
which the President had sent him, and that, during this
interview and the family dinner which followed it, he
spoke most appreciatively and intelligently of the Presi-
dent, of the recent victory for good government in the
city of New York, of the skill shown by Americans in
great works of public utility, and especially of the re-
markable advances in the development of our navy.

One part of this conversation had a lighter cast. At
the close of that portion of the communication from the
President which referred to various public affairs came
a characteristic touch in the shape of an invitation to
hunt in the Rocky Mountain regions: it was the simple
message of one healthy, hearty, vigorous hunter to an-
other, and was to the effect that the President especially
envied the Emperor for having shot a whale, but that if
his Majesty would come to America he should have the
best possible opportunity to add to his trophies a Rocky
Mountain lion, and that he would thus be the first monarch
to kill a lion since Tiglath-Pileser, whose exploit is shown
on the old monuments of Assyria. The hearty way in


which the message was received showed that it would
have been gladly accepted had that been possible.

On New Year 's day of 1902 began the sixth year of my
official stay at Berlin. At his reception of the ambas-
sadors the Emperor was very cordial, spoke most heartily
regarding President Roosevelt, and asked me to forward
his request that the President's daughter might be al-
lowed to christen the imperial yacht then building in
America. In due time this request was granted, and as
the special representative of the sovereign at its launch-
ing he named his brother Prince Henry. No man in the
empire could have been more fitly chosen. His career as
chief admiral of the German navy had prepared him to
profit by such a journey, and his winning manners assured
him a hearty welcome.

My more serious duties were now relieved by sundry
festivities, and of these was a dinner on the night of the
prince's departure from Berlin, given to the American
Embassy by the Emperor, who justly hoped and believed
that the proposed expedition would strengthen good feel-
ing between the two countries. After dinner we all sat
in the smoking-room of the old Schloss until midnight,
and various pleasant features of the conversation dwell
in my memory particularly the Emperor's discussions
of Mark Twain and other American humorists; but per-
haps the most curious was his amusement over a cutting
from an American newspaper a printed recipe for an
American concoction known as " Hohenzollern punch,"
said to be in readiness for the prince on his arrival. The
number of intoxicants, and the ingenuity of their combina-
tion, as his Majesty read the list aloud, were amazing;
it was a terrific brew, which only a very tough seaman
could expect to survive.

But as we all took leave of the prince at the station
afterward, there were in my heart and mind serious mis-
givings. I knew well that, though the great mass of the
American people were sure to give him a hearty welcome,
there were scattered along his route many fanatics, and,


most virulent of all, those who had just then been angered
by the doings of sundry Prussian underlings in Poland.
I must confess to uneasiness during his whole stay in
America, and among the bright days of my life was that
on which the news came that he was on board a German
liner and on his return.

One feature of that evening is perhaps more worthy
of record. After the departure of the prince, the Em-
peror's conversation took a more serious turn, and as we
walked toward his carriage he said, "My brother's mis-
sion has no political character whatever, save in one con-
tingency: If the efforts made in certain parts of Europe
to show that the German Government sought to bring
about a European combination against the United States
during your Spanish war are persisted in, I have author-
ized him to lay before the President certain papers which
will put that slander at rest forever." As it turned out,
there was little need of this, since the course both of the
Emperor and his government was otherwise amply vin-

The main matter of public business during the first
months of the year was the Russian occupation of Man-
churia, regarding which our government took a very
earnest part, instructing me to press the matter upon the
attention of the German Government, and to follow it up
with especial care. Besides this, it was my duty to urge
a fitting representation of Germany at the approaching
St. Louis Exposition. Regarding this there were dif-
ficulties. The Germans very generally avowed themselves
exposition-weary (Ausstellungsmude) ; and no wonder,
for exposition had succeeded exposition, now in this coun-
try, now in that, and then in various American cities, each
anxious to outdo the other, until all foreign governments
were well-nigh tired out. But the St. Louis Exposition
encountered an adverse feeling much more serious than
any caused by fatigue, the American system of high pro-
tection having led the Germans to distrust all our expo-
sitions, whether at New Orleans, Chicago, Buffalo, or St.


Louis, and to feel that there was really nothing in these
for Germany ; that, in fact, German manufacturing inter-
ests would be better served by avoiding them than by
taking part in them. Still, by earnest presentation of
the matter at the Foreign Office and to the Emperor, I was
able to secure a promise that German art should be well

In March, a lull having come in public business as well
as in social duty, I started on my usual excursion to Italy,
its most interesting feature being my sixth stay in Venice.
Ten days in that fascinating city were almost entirely
devoted to increasing my knowledge of Fra Paolo Sarpi.
Various previous visits had familiarized me with the main
events in his wonderful career; but I now met with two
pieces of especially good fortune. First, I made the ac-
quaintance of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Robertson, an ar-
dent admirer of Father Paul, and author of an excellent
biography of him ; and, next, I was able to add to my own
material a mass of rare books and manuscripts relating
to the great Venetian. Most interesting was my visit, in
company with Dr. Robertson, to the remains of Father
Paul's old monastery, where we found what no one, up
to our time, seems to have discovered the little door
which the Venetian Senate caused to be made in the walls
of the monastery garden, at Father Paul 's request, in order
that he might reach his gondola at once, and not be again
exposed to assassins like those sent by Pope Paul V,
who had attacked him and left him, to all appearances
dead, in the little street near the monastery.

Returning to Berlin, the usual round of duty was re-
sumed; but there seems nothing worthy to be chronicled,
save possibly the visit of the Shah of Persia and the.
Crown Prince of Siam. Both were seen in all their glory
at the gala opera given in their honor; but the Persian
ruler appeared to little advantage, for he was obliged to
retire before the close of the representation. He was evi-
dently prematurely old and worn out. The feature of this
social function which especially dwells in my memory was


a very interesting talk with the Emperor regarding the
kindness shown his brother by the American people, at
the close of which he presented me to his guest, the Crown
Princess of Saxony. She was especially kindly and
pleasing, discussing various topics with heartiness and
simplicity ; and it was a vast surprise to me when, a few
months later, she became the heroine of perhaps the most
astonishing escapade in the modern history of royalty.

As to matters of business, there came one which es-
pecially rejoiced me. Mr. Carnegie having established
the institution for research which bears his name at
Washington, with an endowment of ten million dollars,
and named me among the trustees, my old friend Dr. Gil-
man had later been chosen President of the new institu-
tion, and now arrived in Berlin to study the best that
Germans were doing as regards research in science. Our
excursions to various institutions interested me greatly;
both the men we met and things we saw were full of in-
struction to us, and of all public duties I have had to
discharge, I recall none with more profit and pleasure.
One thing in this matter struck me as never before the
quiet wisdom and foresight with which the various Ger-
man governments prepare to profit by the best which
science can be made to yield them in every field.

Upon these duties followed others of a very different
sort. On the 19th of June died King Albert of Saxony,
and in view of his high character and of the many kind-
nesses he had shown to Americans, I was instructed to
attend his funeral at Dresden as a special representative
of the President. The whole ceremonial was interesting ;

Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 54)