Andrew Dickson White.

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) online

. (page 3 of 54)
Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Broad Church statements in my historical lectures; their favorable recep-
tion. Sobering effect upon me of " spiritualistic " fanaticism. My increasing
reluctance to promote revolutionary changes in religion ; my preference for
evolutionary methods. Special experiences. The death-bed of a Hicksite
Quaker. My toleration ideas embodied in the Cornell University Charter ;
successful working of these. Establishment of a university chapel and
preachership ; my selections of preachers ; good effects of their sermons
upon me. Effects of sundry Eastern experiences. Mohammedan worship at
Cairo and elsewhere. The dervishes. Expulsion of young professors from
the American Missionary College at Beyrout ; noble efforts of one of them
afterward. The Positivist Conventicle in London. The " Bible for Learners."
Summing up of my experience. Worship public and private; reasonable-
ness of both. Recognition of spiritxial as well as of physical laws. Recogni-
tion of an evolution in religious beliefs. Proper attitude of thinking men.
Efforts for evolution rather than for revolution. Need of charity to all forms
of religion but of steady resistance to clerical combinations for hampering
scientific thought or controlling public education 557


INDEX . . sss





DURING four years after my return from service as
minister to Germany I devoted myself to the duties
of the presidency at Cornell, and on resigning that posi-
tion gave all time possible to study and travel, with ref-
erence to the book on which I was then engaged: "A
History of the Warfare of Science with Theology. ' '

But in 1892 came a surprise. In the reminiscences of
my political life I have given an account of a visit, with
Theodore Roosevelt, Cabot Lodge, Sherman Rogers, and
others, to President Harrison at the White House, and
of some very plain talk, on both sides, relating to what
we thought shortcomings of the administration in re-
gard to reform in the civil service. Although President
Harrison greatly impressed me at the time by the clear-
ness and strength of his utterances, my last expectation
in the world would have been of anything in the nature of
an appointment from him. High officials do not generally
think very well of people who comment unfavorably on
their doings or give them unpleasant advice; this I had
done, to the best of my ability, in addressing the President;
and great, therefore, was my astonishment when, in 1892,
he tendered me the post of minister plenipotentiary at St.

On my way I stopped in London, and saw various in-



teresting people, but especially remember a luncheon with
Lord Rothschild, with whom I had a very interesting talk
about the treatment of the Jews in Russia. He seemed to
feel deeply the persecution to which they were subjected,
speaking with much force regarding it, and insisting
that their main crime was that they were sober, thought-
ful, and thrifty ; that as to the charge that they were prey-
ing upon the agricultural population, they preyed upon it
as do the Quakers in England by owning agricultural
machines and letting them out; that as to the charge of
usury, they were much less exacting than many Chris-
tians ; and that the main effort upon public opinion there,
such as it is, should be in the direction of preventing the
making of more severe laws. He incidentally referred
to the money power of Europe as against Russia, speak-
ing of Alexander II as kind and just, but of Alexander
III as really unacquainted with the great questions con-
cerned, and under control of the church.

I confess that I am amazed, as I revise this chapter,
to learn from apparently trustworthy sources that his
bank is now making a vast loan to Russia to enable her
to renew her old treatment of Japan, China, Armenia.
Finland, Poland, the Baltic Provinces, and her Jewish
residents. I can think of nothing so sure to strengthen
the anti-Semites throughout the world.

A few days later Sir Julian Goldschmidt came to me on
the same subject, and he impressed me much more deeply
than the head of the house of Rothschild had done. There
was nothing of the ennobled millionaire about him; he
seemed to me a gentleman from the heart outward. Pre-
senting with much feeling the disabilities and hardships
of the Jews in Russia, he dwelt upon the discriminations
against them, especially in the matter of military fines;
their gradual and final exclusion from professions; and
the confiscation of their property at Moscow, where they
had been forced to leave the city and therefore to realize
on their whole estates at a few days ' notice.

At Paris I also had some interesting conversations, re-


garding my new post, with the Vicomte de Vogue, the
eminent academician, who has written so much that is
interesting on Russia. Both he and Struve, the Russian
minister at Washington, who had given me a letter to him,
had married into the Annenkoff family; and I found nis
knowledge of Russia, owing to this fact as well as to
his former diplomatic residence there, very suggestive.
Another interesting episode was the funeral of Renan at
the College de France, to which our minister, Mr. Coo-
lidge, took me. Eloquent tributes were paid, and the
whole ceremony was impressive after the French manner.

Dining with Mr. Coolidge, I found myself seated near
the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld, a charming Ameri-
can, the daughter of Mr. Mitchell, former senator from
Oregon. The duke seemed to be a quiet, manly young
officer, devoted to his duties in the army ; but it was hard
to realize in him the successor of the great duke, the friend
of Washington and of Louis XVI, who showed himself
so broad-minded during our War of Independence and the
French Revolution.

At Berlin I met several of my old friends at the table
of our minister, my friend of Yale days, William Walter
Phelps among these Virchow, Professor von Leyden,
Paul Meyerheim, Carl Becker, and Theodor Barth; and
at the Russian Embassy had an interesting talk with
Count Shuvaloff, more especially on the Behring Sea
question. We agreed that the interests of the United
States and Russia in the matter were identical.

On the 4th of November I arrived in St. Petersburg
after an absence of thirty-seven years. Even in that coun-
try, where everything moves so slowly, there had clearly
been changes ; the most evident of these being the railway
from the frontier. At my former visit the journey from
Berlin had required nine days and nine nights of steady
travel, mainly in a narrow post-coach ; now it was easily
done in one day and two nights in very comfortable cars.
At that first visit the entire railway system of Russia, with
the exception of the road from the capital to Gatshina,


only a few miles long, consisted of the line to Moscow;
at this second visit the system had spread very largely
over the empire, and was rapidly extending through Si-
beria and Northern China to the Pacific.

But the deadening influence of the whole Russian sys-
tem, was evident. Persons who clamor for governmental
control of American railways should visit Germany, and
above all Russia, to see how such control results. In Ger-
many its defects are evident enough ; people are made to
travel in carriages which our main lines would not think
of using, and with a lack of conveniences which with us
would provoke a revolt ; but the most amazing thing about
this administration in Russia is to see how, after all this
vast expenditure, the whole atmosphere of the country
seems to paralyze energy. During my stay at St. Peters-
burg I traveled over the line between that city and Berlin
six or eight times, and though there was usually but one
express-train a day, I never saw more than twenty or
thirty through passengers. When one bears in mind the
fact that this road is the main artery connecting one hun-
dred and twenty millions of people at one end with over
two hundred millions at the other, this seems amazing;
but still more so when one considers that in. the United
States, with a population of, say, eighty millions in all, we
have five great trunk-lines across the continent, each run-
ning large express-trains several times a day.

There was apparently little change as regards enterprise
in Russia, whatever there might be as regarded facilities
for travel. St. Petersburg had grown, of course. There
were new streets in the suburbs, and where the old ad-
miralty wharves had stood, for the space of perhaps an
eighth of a mile along the Neva, fine buildings had been
erected. But these were the only evident changes, the
renowned Nevskii Prospekt remaining as formerly a
long line of stuccoed houses on either side, almost all poor
in architecture; and the street itself the same unkempt,
shabby, commonplace thoroughfare as of old. No new
bridge had been built across the Neva for forty years.


There was still but one permanent structure spanning the
river, and the great stream of travel and traffic between
the two parts of the city was dependent mainly on the
bridges of boats, which, at the breaking of the ice in the
spring, had sometimes to be withdrawn during many

A change had indeed been brought by the emancipa-
tion of the serfs, but there was little outward sign of it.
The muzhik remained, to all appearance, what he was be-
fore: in fact, as our train drew into St. Petersburg, the
peasants, with their sheepskin caftans, cropped hair, and
stupid faces, brought back the old impressions so vividly
that I seemed not to have been absent a week. The old
atmosphere of repression was evident everywhere. I had
begun my experience of it under Nicholas I, had seen
a more liberal policy under Alexander II, but now found
a recurrence of reaction, and everywhere a pressure which
deadened all efforts at initiating a better condition of

But I soon found one change for the better. During
my former stay under Nicholas I and Alexander II, the air
was full of charges of swindling and cheatery against the
main men at court. Now next to nothing of that sort was
heard ; it was evident that Alexander III, narrow and illib-
eral though he might be, was an honest man, and deter-
mined to end the sort of thing that had disgraced the
reigns of his father and grandfather.

Having made the usual visit to the Foreign Office upon
my arrival, I was accompanied three days later by the
proper officials, Prince Soltykoff and M. de Koniar, on
a special train to Gatchina, and there received by the
Emperor. I found him though much more reserved than
his father agreeable and straightforward. As he was
averse to set speeches, we began at once a discussion on
various questions interesting the two nations, and espe-
cially those arising out of the Behring Sea fisheries. He
seemed to enter fully into the American view ; character-
izing the marauders in that sea as "ces poachers Id"


using the English word, although our conversation was in
French; and on my saying that the Russian and Ameri-
can interests in that question were identical, he not only
acquiesced, but spoke at considerable length, and ear-
nestly, in the same sense.

He alluded especially to the Chicago Exposition, spoke
in praise of its general conception and plan, said that
though in certain classes of objects of art it might not
equal some of the European expositions, it would doubt-
less in very many specialties surpass all others ; and on
my expressing the hope that Russia would be fully repre-
sented, he responded heartily, declaring that to be his own

Among the various subjects noted was one which was
rather curious. In the anteroom I had found the Greek
Archbishop of Warsaw arrayed in a purple robe and hat
the latter adorned with an exceedingly lustrous cross of
diamonds, and, engaging in conversation with him, had
learned that he had a few years before visited China as
a missionary ; his talk was that of a very intelligent man ;
and on my saying that one of our former American
bishops, Dr. Boone, in preparing a Chinese edition of the
Scriptures had found great difficulty in deciding upon a
proper equivalent for the word "God," the archbishop
answered, "That is quite natural, for the reason that the
Chinese have really no conception of such a Being."

Toward the close of my interview with the Emperor,
then, I referred to the archbishop, and congratulated the
monarch on having so accomplished and devoted a prelate
in his church. At this he said, "You speak Russian,
then?" to which I answered in the negative. "But," he
said, "how then could you talk with the archbishop?"
I answered, ' ' He spoke in French. ' ' The Emperor seemed
greatly surprised at this, and well he might be, for the
ecclesiastics in Russia seem the only exceptions to the rule
that Russians speak French and other foreign languages
better and more generally than do any other people.

This interview concluded, I was taken through a long


series of apartments filled with tapestries, porcelain, carv-
ings, portraits, and the like, to be received by the Empress.
She was slight in figure, graceful, with a most kindly face
and manner, and she put me at ease immediately, ad-
dressing me in English, and detaining me much longer
than I had expected. She, too, spoke of the Chicago Ex-
position, saying that she had ordered some things of her
own sent to it. She also referred very pleasantly to the
Rev. Dr. Talmage of Brooklyn, who had come over on
one of the ships which brought supplies to the famine-
stricken ; and she dwelt upon sundry similarities and dis-
similarities between our own country and Russia, discuss-
ing various matters of local interest, and was in every
way cordial and kindly.

The impression made by the Emperor upon me at that
time was deepened during my whole stay. He was evi-
dently a strong character, but within very unfortunate
limits upright, devoted to his family, with a strong sense
of his duty to his people and of his accountability to the
Almighty. But more and more it became evident that his
political and religious theories were narrow, and that the
assassination of his father had thrown him back into the
hands of reactionists. At court and elsewhere I often
found myself looking at him and expressing my thoughts
inwardly much as follows : ' ' You are honest, true-hearted,
with a deep sense of duty ; but what a world of harm you
are destined to do ! With your immense physical frame
and giant strength, you will last fifty years longer; you
will try by main force to hold back the whole tide of Rus-
sian thought ; and after you will come the deluge. ' ' There
was nothing to indicate the fact that he was just at the
close of his life.

At a later period I was presented to the heir to the
throne, now the Emperor Nicholas II. He seemed a
kindly young man; but one of his remarks amazed and
disappointed me. During the previous year the famine,
which had become chronic in large parts of Russia, had
taken an acute form, and in its train had come typhus


and cholera. It was, in fact, the same wide-spread and
deadly combination of starvation and disease which simi-
lar causes produced so often in Western- Europe during
the middle ages. From the United States had come large
contributions of money and grain; and as, during the
year after my arrival, there had been a recurrence of the
famine, about forty thousand rubles more had been sent
me from Philadelphia for distribution. I therefore spoke
on the general subject to him, referring to the fact that
he was president of the Imperial Relief Commission. He
answered that since the crops of the last year there was
no longer any suffering ; that there was no famine worthy
of mention; and that he was no longer giving attention
to the subject. This was said in an offhand, easy-going
way which appalled me. The simple fact was that the
famine, though not so wide-spread, was more trying than
during the year before; for it found the peasant popu-
lation in Finland and in the central districts of the empire
even less prepared to meet it. They had, during the pre-
vious winter, very generally eaten their draught-animals
and burned everything not absolutely necessary for their
own shelter; from Finland specimens of bread made
largely of ferns had been brought me which it would seem
a shame to give to horses or cattle; and yet his imperial
highness the heir to the throne evidently knew nothing
of all this.

In explanation, I was afterward told by a person who
had known him intimately from his childhood, that, though
courteous, his main characteristic was an absolute indif-
ference to most persons and things about him, and that
he never showed a spark of ambition of any sort. This
was confirmed by what I afterward saw of him at court.
He seemed to stand about listlessly, speaking in a good-
natured way to this or that person when it was easier than
not to do so; but, on the whole, indifferent to all which
went on about him.

After his accession to the throne, one of the best judges
in Europe, who had many opportunities to observe him


closely, said to me, "He knows nothing of his empire or
of his people ; he never goes out of his house, if he can
help it." This explains in some degree the insufficiency
of his programme for the Peace Conference at The
Hague and for the Japanese War, which, as I revise these
lines, is bringing fearful disaster and disgrace upon

The representative of a foreign power in any European
capital must be presented to the principal members of
the reigning family, and so I paid my respects to the
grand dukes and duchesses. The first and most interest-
ing of these to me was the old Grand Duke Michael the
last surviving son of the first Nicholas. He was generally,
and doubtless rightly, regarded as, next to his elder brother,
Alexander II, the flower of the flock; and his reputation
was evidently much enhanced by comparison with his bro-
ther next above him in age, the Grand Duke Nicholas. It
was generally charged that the conduct of the latter during
the Turkish campaign was not only unpatriotic, but in-
human. An army officer once speaking to me regarding
the suffering of his soldiers at that time for want of shoes,
I asked him where the shoes were, and he answered: "In
the pockets of the Grand Duke Nicholas."

Michael was evidently different from his brother not
haughty and careless toward all other created beings ; but
kindly, and with a strong sense of duty. One thing
touched me. I said to him that the last time I had seen
him was when he reached St. Petersburg from the seat of
the Crimean War in the spring of 1855, and drove from
the railway to the palace in company with his brother
Nicholas. Instantly the tears came into his eyes and
flowed down his cheeks. He answered: "Yes, that was
sad indeed. My father" meaning the first Emperor
Nicholas "telegraphed us that our mother was in very
poor health, longed to see us, and insisted on our coming
to her bedside. On our way home we learned of his

Of the younger generation of grand dukes, the bro-


thers of Alexander III, the greatest impression was made
upon me by Vladimir. He was apparently the strongest
of all the sons of Alexander II, being of the great Roman-
off breed big, strong, muscular, like his brother the
Emperor. He chatted pleasantly; and I remember that
he referred to Mr. James Gordon Bennett whom he had
met on a yachting cruise as "my friend."

Another of these big Romanoff grand dukes was Alexis,
the grand admiral. He referred to his recollections of
the United States with apparent pleasure, in spite of the
wretched Catacazy imbroglio which hindered President
Grant from showing him any hospitality at the White
House, and which so vexed his father the Emperor Alex-
ander II.

The ladies of the imperial family were very agreeable.
A remark of one of them a beautiful and cultivated
woman, born a princess of one of the Saxon duchies
surprised me ; for, when I happened to mention Dresden,
she told me that her great desire had been to visit that
capital of her own country, but that she had never been
able to do so. She spoke of German literature, and as I
mentioned receiving a letter the day before from Professor
Georg Ebers, the historical novelist, she said: "You are
happy indeed that you can meet such people ; how I should
like to know Ebers ! ' ' Such are the limitations of royalty.

Meantime, I made visits to my colleagues of the diplo-
matic corps, and found them interesting and agreeable
as it is the business of diplomatists to be. The dean was
the German ambassador, General von Schweinitz, a man
ideally fit for such a position of wide experience, high
character, and evidently strong and firm, though kindly.
When ambassador at Vienna he had married the daughter
of his colleague, the American minister, Mr. John Jay, an
old friend and colleague of mine in the American Histori-
cal Association; and so came very pleasant relations be-
tween us. His plain, strong sense was of use to me in
more than one difficult question.

The British ambassador was Sir Robert Morier. He,

AS MINISTER TO RUSSIA- 1892 -1894 13

too, was a strong character, though lacking apparently in
some of General von Schweinitz's more kindly qualities.
He was big, roughish, and at times so brusque that he
might almost be called brutal. When bullying was needed
it was generally understood that he could do it con amore.
A story was told of him which, whether exact or not,
seemed to fit his character well. He had been, for a time,
minister to Portugal ; and, during one of his controversies
with the Portuguese minister of foreign affairs, the latter,
becoming exasperated, said to him : * l Sir, it is evident that
you were not born a Portuguese cavalier." Thereupon
Morier replied : * * No, thank God, I was not : if I had been,
I would have killed myself on the breast of my mother. ' '

And here, perhaps, is the most suitable place for men-
tioning a victory which Morier enabled Great Britain to
obtain over the United States. It might be a humiliating
story for me to tell, had not the fault so evidently arisen
from the shortcomings of others. The time has come to
reveal this piece of history, and I do so in the hope that it
may aid in bettering the condition in which the Congress
of the United States has, thus far, left its diplomatic ser-

As already stated, the most important question with
which I had to deal was that which had arisen in the
Behring Sea. The United States possessed there a great
and flourishing fur-seal industry, which was managed with
care and was a source of large revenue to our government.
The killing of the seals under the direction of those who
had charge of the matter was done with the utmost care
and discrimination on the Pribyloff Islands, to which these
animals resorted in great numbers during the summer. It
was not at all cruel, and was so conducted that the seal
herd was fully maintained rather than diminished. But
it is among the peculiarities of the seals that, each au-
tumn, they migrate southward, returning each spring in
large numbers along the Alaskan coast, and also that,
while at the islands, the nursing mothers make long ex-,
cursions to fishing-banks at distances of from one to two


hundred miles. The return of these seal herds, and these
food excursions, were taken advantage of by Canadian
marauders, who slaughtered the animals, in the water,
without regard to age or sex, in a way most cruel and
wasteful ; so that the seal herds were greatly diminished
and in a fair way to extermination. Our government
tried to prevent this and seized sundry marauding ves-
sels; whereupon Great Britain felt obliged, evidently
from political motives, to take up the cause of these Cana-
dian poachers and to stand steadily by them. As a last
resort, the government of the United States left the mat-
ter to arbitration, and in due time the tribunal began its
sessions at Paris. Meantime, a British commission was,
in 1891-1892, ordered to prepare the natural-history ma-
terial for the British case before the tribunal; and it

Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 54)