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would be difficult to find a more misleading piece of
work than their report. Sham scientific facts were
supplied for the purposes of the British counsel at
Paris. While I cannot believe that the authorities in
London ordered or connived at this, it is simple justice
to state, as a matter of fact, that, as afterward in the
Venezuela case, 1 so in this, British agents were guilty of
the sharpest of sharp practices. The Russian fur-seal
islands having also suffered to a considerable extent from
similar marauders, a British commission visited the
Russian islands and took testimony of the Russian
commandant in a manner grossly unfair. This comman-
dant was an honest man, with good powers of observation
and with considerable insight into the superficial facts of
seal life, but without adequate scientific training; his
knowledge of English was very imperfect, and the com-
mission apparently led him to say and sign just what
they wanted. He was somehow made to say just the things
which were needed to help the British case, and not to say
anything which could hurt it. So absurd were the mis-
statements to which he had thus been led to attach his

1 See my chapter on the Venezuela Commission for the trick attempted
by British agents in the first British Blue Book on that subject.


name that the Russian Government ordered him to come
all the way from the Russian islands on the coast of Sibe-
ria to St. Petersburg, there to be reexamined. It was an
enormous journey from the islands to Japan, from Ja-
pan to San Francisco, from San Francisco to New York,
and thence to St. Petersburg. There, with the aid of a
Russian expert, I had the satisfaction of putting questions
to him ; and, having found the larger part of his previous
alleged testimony to be completely in conflict with his
knowledge and opinions, I forwarded this new testimony
to those in charge of the American case before the Paris
tribunal, in the hope that it would place the whole matter
in its true light. With it was also presented the concur-
ring testimony taken by the American experts who had
been sent to the Behring Sea. Those experts were Drs.
Mendenhall and Merriam, scientists of the highest char-
acter, and their reports were, in every essential particu-
lar, afterward confirmed by another man of science, after
study of the whole question in the islands and on the ad-
jacent seas Dr. Jordan, president of Stanford Univer-
sity, probably the highest authority in the United States
and, perhaps, in the world regarding the questions at
issue : a pupil and friend of Agassiz, a man utterly incap-
able of making a statement regarding any point in science
which he did not fully believe, no matter what its political
bearing might be.

And now to another feature of the case. Before leaving
Washington for St. Petersburg, I had consulted with the
Secretary of State and the leading persons in charge of
our case, and on my way had talked with Count Shuva-
loff, the Russian ambassador at Berlin; and all agreed
that the interests of the United States and Russia in the
matter of protecting the seals were identical. The only
wonder was that, this fact being so clear, tfce Russian
Foreign Office constantly held back from showing any
active sympathy with the United States in our efforts to
right this wrong done to both nations.

At my first presentation to the Emperor I found him, as


already stated, of the same opinion as the Washington
cabinet and Count Shuvaloff. He was thoroughly with
us, was bitter against the Canadian marauders, agreed in
the most straightforward and earnest manner that the
interests of Russia and the United States in this question
were identical, and referred severely to the British en-
croachments upon both the nations in the northern
seas. 1

All went smoothly until I took up the subject at the
Russian Foreign Office. There I found difficulties, though
at first I did not fully understand them. The Emperor
Alexander III was dying at Livadia in the Crimea ; M. de
Giers, the minister of foreign affairs, a man of high char-
acter, was dying at Tzarskoye Selo ; and in charge of his
department was an under-secretary who had formerly,
for a short time, represented Russia at Washington and
had not been especially successful there. Associated with
him was another under-secretary, who was in charge of
the Asiatic division at the Russian Foreign Office. My
case was strong, and I was quite willing to meet Sir Rob-
ert Morier in any fair argument regarding it. I had taken
his measure on one or two occasions when he had dis-
cussed various questions in my presence ; and had not the
slightest fear that, in a fair presentation of the matter, he
could carry his point against me. At various times we met
pleasantly enough in the anterooms of the Foreign Office ;
but at that period our representative at the Russian court
was simply a minister plenipotentiary and the British
representative an ambassador, and as such he, of course,
had precedence over me, with some adventitious advan-
tages which I saw then, and others which I realized after-
ward. It was not long before it became clear that Sir
Robert Morier had enormous "influence" with the above-
named persons in charge of the Foreign Office, and, in-
deed, with Russian officials in general. They seemed not
only to stand in awe of him, but to look toward him as
"the eyes of a maiden to the hand of her mistress." I

1 See detailed account of this conversation previously given in this chapter.


now began to understand the fact which, had so long
puzzled our State Department namely, that Russia did
not make common cause with us, though we were fighting
her battles at the same time with our own. But I struggled
on, seeing the officials frequently and doing the best that
was possible.

Meantime, the arbitration tribunal was holding its ses-
sions at Paris, and the American counsel were doing their
best to secure justice for our country. The facts were on
our side, and there seemed every reason to hope for a
decision in our favor. A vital question was as to how
extensive the closed zone for the seals about our islands
should be. The United States showed that the nursing
seals were killed by the Canadian poachers at a distance of
from one to two hundred miles from the islands, and that
killing ought not to be allowed within a zone of that ra-
dius; but, on the other hand, the effort of the British
counsel was to make this zone as small as possible. They
had even contended for a zone of only ten miles radius.
But just at the nick of time Sir Robert Morier intervened
at St. Petersburg. No one but himself and the temporary
authorities of the Russian Foreign Office had, or could
have had, any knowledge of his maneuver. By the means
which his government gave him power to exercise, he in
some way secured privately, from the underlings above
referred to as in temporary charge of the Foreign Office,
an agreement with Great Britain which practically recog-
nized a closed zone of only thirty miles radius about the
Russian islands. This fact was telegraphed just at the
proper moment to the British representatives before the
tribunal; and, as one of the judges afterward told me,
it came into the case like a bomb. It came so late that
any adequate explanation of Russia's course was impos-
sible, and its introduction at that time was strenuously
objected to by our counsel; but the British lawyers thus
got the fact fully before the tribunal, and the tribunal
naturally felt that in granting us a sixty-mile radius
double that which Russia had asked of Great Britain for



a similar purpose it was making a generous provision.
The conditions were practically the same at the Ameri-
can and Russian seal islands ; yet the Russian officials in
charge of the matter seemed entirely regardless of this
fact, and, indeed, of Russian interests. After secret ne-
gotiation with Sir Robert, without the slightest hint to
the American minister of their intended sacrifice of their
' ' identical interest with the United States, ' ' they allowed
this treachery to be sprung upon us. The sixty-mile limit
was established by the tribunal, and it has proved utterly
delusive. The result of this decision of the tribunal was
that this great industry of ours was undermined, if not
utterly destroyed; and that the United States were also
mulcted to the amount of several hundred thousand dol-
lars, besides the very great expense attending the presen-
tation of her case to the tribunal.

I now come back to the main point which has caused me
to bring up this matter in these reminiscences. How was
it that Great Britain obtained this victory? To what was
it due I The answer is simple : it was due to the fact that
the whole matter at St. Petersburg was sure to be decided,
not by argument, but by * ' influence. ' ' Sir Robert Morier
had what in the Tammany vernacular is called a "pull."
His government had given him, as its representative, all
the means necessary to have his way in this and all other
questions like it; whereas the American Government had
never given its representative any such means or opportu-
nities. The British representative was an ambassador,
and had a spacious, suitable, and well-furnished house in
which he could entertain fitly and largely, and to which the
highest Russian officials thought it an honor to be invited.
The American representatives were simply ministers;
from time immemorial had never had such a house; had
generally no adequate place for entertaining; had to live
in apartments such as they might happen to find vacant in
various parts of the town sometimes in very poor quar-
ters, sometimes in better ; were obliged to furnish them at
their own expense; had, therefore, never been able to ob-


tain a tithe of that social influence, so powerful in Russia,
which was exercised by the British Embassy.

More than this, the British ambassador had adequate
means furnished him for exercising political influence.
The American representatives had not; they had been
stinted in every way. The British ambassador had a
large staff of thoroughly trained secretaries and attaches,
the very best of their kind, well educated to begin with,
thoroughly trained afterward, serving as antennae for
Great Britain in Russian society; and as the first secre-
tary of his embassy he had no less a personage than
Henry Howard, now Sir Henry Howard, minister at The
Hague, one of the brightest, best-trained, and most ex-
perienced diplomatists in Europe. The American rep-
resentative was at that time provided with only one
secretary of legation, and he, though engaging and bril-
liant, a casual appointment who remained in the coun-
try only a few months. I had, indeed, secured a hand-
some and comfortable apartment, and entertained at
dinner and otherwise the leading members of the Rus-
sian ministry and of the diplomatic corps, at a cost of
more than double my salary ; but the influence thus exer-
cised was, of course, as nothing compared to that exer-
cised by a diplomatist like Sir Robert Morier, who had
every sort of resource at his command, who had been for
perhaps forty years steadily in the service of his country,
and had learned by long experience to know the men with
whom he had to deal and the ways of getting at them. His
power in St. Petersburg was felt in a multitude of ways :
all officials at the Russian Foreign Office, from the highest
to the lowest, naturally desired to be on good terms with
him. They knew that his influence had become very great
and that it was best to have his friendship ; they loved es-
pecially to be invited to his dinners, and their families
loved to be invited to his balls. He was a power. The
question above referred to, of such importance to the
United States, was not decided by argument, but simply
by the weight of social and other influence, which counts


so enormously in matters of this kind at all European
capitals, and especially in Russia. This condition of
things has since been modified by the change of the lega-
tion into an embassy ; but, as no house has been provided,
the old difficulty remains. The United States has not the
least chance of success, and under her present shabby
system never will have, in clorely contested cases, with
any of the great powers of the earth. They provide fitly
for their representatives ; the United States does not. The
representatives of other powers, being thus provided for,
are glad to remain at their posts and to devote themselves
to getting a thorough mastery of everything connected
with diplomatic business; American representatives,
obliged, as a rule, to take up with uncomfortable quarters,
finding their position not what it ought to be as compared
with that of the representatives of other great powers, and
obliged to expend much more than their salaries, are gen-
erally glad to resign after a brief term. Especially has
this been the case in St. Petersburg. The terms of our
representatives there have generally been very short. A
few have stayed three or four years, but most have stayed
much shorter terms. In one case a representative of the
United States remained only three or four months, and in
another only six weeks. So marked was this tendency
that the Emperor once referred to it in a conversation with
one of our representatives, saying that he hoped that this
American diplomatist would remain longer than his pre-
decessors had generally done.

The action of the Russian authorities in the Behring
Sea' question, which is directly traceable to the superior
policy of Great Britain in maintaining a preponderating
diplomatic, political, and social influence at the Russian
capital, cost our government a sum which would have
bought suitable houses in several capitals, and would have
given to each American representative a proper staff of
assistants. I have presented this matter with reluctance,
though I feel iot the slightest responsibility for my part
in it. I do not think that any right-minded man can blame


me for it, any more than, in the recent South African War,
he could have blamed Lord Roberts, the British general, if
the latter had been sent to the Transvaal with insufficient
means, inadequate equipment, and an army far inferior
in numbers to that of his enemy.

I am not at all in this matter ' ' a man with a grievance ' ' ;
for I knew what American representatives had to expect,
and was not disappointed. My feeling is simply that of
an American citizen whose official life is past, and who can
look back dispassionately and tell the truth plainly.

This case is presented simply in the hope that it will do
something to arouse thinking men in public life, and es-
pecially in the Congress of the United States, to provide
at least a suitable house or apartment for the American
representative in each of the more important capitals of
the world, as all other great powers and many of the
lesser nations have done. If I can aid in bringing about
this result, I care nothing for any personal criticism which
may be brought upon me.



TO return to Sir Robert Morier. There had been
some friction between his family and that of one of
my predecessors, and this had for some time almost ended
social intercourse between his embassy and our legation;
but on my arrival I ignored this, and we established very
satisfactory personal relations. He had held important
positions in various parts of Europe, and had been closely
associated with many of the most distinguished men of his
own and other countries. Reading Grant Duff's "Mem-
oirs," I find that Morier 's bosom friend, of all men in
the world, was Jowett, the late head of Oriel College at
Oxford. But Sir Robert was at the close of his career;
his triumph in the Behring Sea matter was his last. I met
him shortly afterward at his last visit to the Winter Pal-
ace : with great effort he mounted the staircase, took his
position at the head of the diplomatic circle, and, immedi-
ately after his conversation with the Emperor, excused
himself and went home. This was the last time I ever saw
him; he returned soon afterward to England and died.
His successor, Sir Frank Lascelles, more recently my col-
league at Berlin, is a very different character. His man-
ner is winning, his experience large and interesting, his
first post having been at Paris during the Commune,
and his latest at Teheran. Our relations became, and have
ever since remained, all that I could desire. He, too,
in every post, is provided with all that is necessary for
accomplishing the purposes of Great Britain, and will



doubtless win great success for his country, though not in
exactly the same way as his predecessor.

The French ambassador was the Comte de Montebello,
evidently a man of ability, but with perhaps less of the en-
gaging qualities than one generally expects in a French
diplomatic representative. The Turkish ambassador,
Husny Pasha, like most Turkish representatives whom I
have met, had learned to make himself very agreeable ; but
his position was rather trying : he had fought in the Russo-
Turkish War and had seen his country saved from the
most abject humiliation, if not destruction, only at the last
moment, by the Berlin Conference. His main vexation
in St. Petersburg arose from the religious feeling of the
Emperor. Every great official ceremony in Russia is pref-
aced, as a rule, by a church service; hence Husny was
excluded, since he felt bound to wear the fez, and this the
Emperor would not tolerate; though there was really no
more harm in his wearing this simple head-gear in church
than in a woman wearing her bonnet or a soldier wearing
his helmet.

Interesting, too, was the Italian ambassador, Marochetti,
son of the eminent sculptor, some of whose artistic ability
he had inherited. He was fond of exercising this talent;
but it was generally understood that his recall was finally
due to the fact that his diplomatic work had suffered in

The Austrian ambassador, Count Wolkensteir, was, in
many things, the most trustworthy of counselors; more
than once, under trying circumstances, I found his advice
precious ; for he knew, apparently, in every court of Eu-
rope, the right man to approach, and the right way to
approach him, on every conceivable subject.

Of the ministers plenipotentiary the Dutch representa-
tive, Van Stoetwegen, was the best counselor I found. He
was shrewd, keen, and kindly ; but his tongue was sharp
so much so that it finally brought about his recall. He
made a remark one day which especially impressed me. I
had said to him, "I have just sent a despatch to my gov-


ernment declaring my skepticism as to the probability of
any war in Europe for a considerable time to come. When
I arrived in Berlin eleven years ago all the knowing people
said that a general European war must break out within
a few months : in the spring they said it must come in the
autumn ; and in the autumn they said it must come in the
spring. All these years have passed and there is still no
sign of war. We hear the same prophecies daily, but I
learned long since not to believe in them. War may come,
but it seems to me more and more unlikely. ' ' He answered,
' ' I think you are right. I advise my own government in the
same sense. The fact is that war in these days is not what
it once was; it is infinitely more dangerous from every
point of view, and it becomes more and more so every day.
Formerly a clowned head, when he thought himself ag-
grieved, or felt that he would enjoy a campaign, plunged
into war gaily. If he succeeded, all was well ; if not, he
hauled off to repair damages, very much as a pugilist
would do after receiving a black eye in a fist fight, and
in a short time the losses were repaired and all went on as
before. In these days the case is different : it is no longer
a simple contest in the open, with the possibility of a black
eye or, at most, of a severe bruise ; it has become a matter
of life and death to whole nations. Instead of being like
a fist fight, it is like a combat between a lot of champions
armed with poisoned daggers, and in a dark room ; if once
the struggle begins, no one knows how many will be drawn
into it or who will be alive at the end of it ; the probabili-
ties are that all will be injured terribly and several fatally.
War in these days means the cropping up of a multitude
of questions dangerous not only to statesmen but to mon-
archs, and even to society itself. Monarchs and statesmen
know this well ; and, no matter how truculent they may at
times appear, they really dread war above all things."

One of my colleagues at St. Petersburg was interesting
in a very different way from any of the others. This was
Pasitch, the Servian minister. He was a man of fine pres-
ence and, judging from his conversation, of acute mind.


He had some years before been sentenced to death for
treason, but since that had been prime minister. Later
he was again put on trial for his life at Belgrade, charged
with being a partner in the conspiracy which resulted in
the second attempt against the life of King Milan. His
speech before his judges, recently published, was an effort
worthy of a statesman, and carried the conviction to my
mind that he was not guilty. 1

The representatives of the extreme Orient were both
interesting personages, but the same difference prevailed
there as elsewhere : the Chinese was a mandarin, able to
speak only through an interpreter; the Japanese was
trained in Western science, and able to speak fluently
both Russian and French. His successor, whom I met at
the Peace Conference of The Hague, spoke English ad-

Among the secretaries and attaches, several were very
interesting; and of these was the first British secretary,
Henry Howard, now Sir Henry Howard, minister at The
Hague. He and his American wife were among the most
delightful of associates. Another in this category was the
Bavarian secretary, Baron Guttenberg, whom I often met
later at Berlin. When I spoke to him about a visit I had
made to Wiirzburg, and the desecration of the magnificent
old Romanesque cathedral there by plastering its whole
interior over with nude angels, and substituting for the
splendid old mediaeval carving Louis Quinze woodwork in
white and gold, he said: "Yes; you are right; and it was
a bishop of my family who did it."

As to Russian statesmen, I had the benefit of the fairly
friendly spirit which has usually been shown toward the
American representative in Russia by all in authority,
from the Emperor down. I do not mean by this that the
contentions of the American Embassy are always met by
speedy concessions, for among the most trying of all
things in diplomatic dealings with that country are the

1 He was found guilty, but escaped death by a bitter humiliation :
it was left for others to bring about Milan's assassination.


long delays in all business ; but a spirit is shown which, in
the long run, serves the purpose of our representative as
regards most questions.

It seems necessary here to give a special warning
against putting any trust in the epigram which has long
done duty as a piece of politico-ethnological wisdom:
"Scratch a Russian and you will find a Tartar." It
would be quite as correct to say, "Scratch an American
and you will find an Indian. ' ' The simple fact is that the
Russian officials with whom foreigners have to do are men
of experience, and, as a rule, much like those whom one
finds in similar positions in other parts of Europe. A
foreign representative has to meet on business, not merely
the Russian minister of foreign affairs and the heads of
departments in the Foreign Office, but various other mem-
bers of the imperial cabinet, especially the ministers of
finance, of war, of the navy, of the interior, of justice, as
well as the chief municipal authorities of St. Petersburg ;
arid I can say that many of these gentlemen, both as men
and as officials, are the peers of men in similar positions
in most other countries which I have known. Though
they were at times tenacious in questions between their
own people and ours, and though they held political

Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 54)