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The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I online

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[Illustration: Walter H. Page]






_First Edition
after the printing of 377 de luxe copies_


_Among the many who have assisted in the preparation of this Biography
especial acknowledgment is made to Mr. Irwin Laughlin, First Secretary
and Counsellor of the London Embassy under Mr. Page. Mr. Page's papers
show the high regard which he entertained for Mr. Laughlin's abilities
and character, and the author similarly has found Mr. Laughlin's
assistance indispensable. Mr. Laughlin has had the goodness to read the
manuscript and make numerous suggestions, all for the purpose of
re√Ђnforcing the accuracy of the narrative. The author gratefully
remembers many long conversations with Viscount Grey of Fallodon, in
which Anglo-American relations from 1913 to 1916 were exhaustively
canvassed and many side-lights thrown upon Mr. Page's conduct of his
difficult and delicate duties. The British Foreign Office most
courteously gave the writer permission to examine a large number of
documents in its archives bearing upon Mr. Page's ambassadorship and
consented to the publication of several of the most important._






Walter H. Page _Frontispiece_

Allison Francis Page (1824-1899), father of Walter H. Page 20

Catherine Raboteau Page (1831-1897), mother of Walter H. Page 21

Walter H. Page in 1876, when he was a Fellow of Johns Hopkins
University, Baltimore, Md. 36

Basil L. Gildersleeve, Professor of Greek, Johns Hopkins
University, 1876-1915 37

Walter H. Page (1899) from a photograph taken when he was
editor of the _Atlantic Monthly_ 100

Dr. Wallace Buttrick, President of the General Education Board 101

Charles D. McIver, of Greensboro, North Carolina, a leader in
the cause of Southern Education 116

Woodrow Wilson in 1912 117

Walter H. Page, from a photograph taken a few years before he
became American Ambassador to Great Britain 292

The British Foreign Office, Downing Street 293

No. 6 Grosvenor Square, the American Embassy under Mr. Page 308

Irwin Laughlin, Secretary of the American Embassy at London,
1912-1917, Counsellor 1916-1919 309









The earliest recollections of any man have great biographical interest,
and this is especially the case with Walter Page, for not the least
dramatic aspect of his life was that it spanned the two greatest wars in
history. Page spent his last weeks in England, at Sandwich, on the coast
of Kent; every day and every night he could hear the pounding of the
great guns in France, as the Germans were making their last desperate
attempt to reach Paris or the Channel ports. His memories of his
childhood days in America were similarly the sights and sounds of war.
Page was a North Carolina boy; he has himself recorded the impression
that the Civil War left upon his mind.

"One day," he writes, "when the cotton fields were white and the elm
leaves were falling, in the soft autumn of the Southern climate wherein
the sky is fathomlessly clear, the locomotive's whistle blew a much
longer time than usual as the train approached Millworth. It did not
stop at so small a station except when there was somebody to get off or
to get on, and so long a blast meant that someone was coming. Sam and I
ran down the avenue of elms to see who it was. Sam was my Negro
companion, philosopher, and friend. I was ten years old and Sam said
that he was fourteen. There was constant talk about the war. Many men of
the neighbourhood had gone away somewhere - that was certain; but Sam and
I had a theory that the war was only a story. We had been fooled about
old granny Thomas's bringing the baby and long ago we had been fooled
also about Santa Claus. The war might be another such invention, and we
sometimes suspected that it was. But we found out the truth that day,
and for this reason it is among my clearest early recollections.

"For, when the train stopped, they put off a big box and gently laid it
in the shade of the fence. The only man at the station was the man who
had come to change the mail-bags; and he said that this was Billy
Morris's coffin and that he had been killed in a battle. He asked us to
stay with it till he could send word to Mr. Morris, who lived two miles
away. The man came back presently and leaned against the fence till old
Mr. Morris arrived, an hour or more later. The lint of cotton was on his
wagon, for he was hauling his crop to the gin when the sad news reached
him; and he came in his shirt sleeves, his wife on the wagon seat with

"All the neighbourhood gathered at the church, a funeral was preached
and there was a long prayer for our success against the invaders, and
Billy Morris was buried. I remember that I wept the more because it now
seemed to me that my doubt about the war had somehow done Billy Morris
an injustice. Old Mrs. Gregory wept more loudly than anybody else; and
she kept saying, while the service was going on, 'It'll be my John
next.' In a little while, sure enough, John Gregory's coffin was put off
the train, as Billy Morris's had been, and I regarded her as a woman
gifted with prophecy. Other coffins, too, were put off from time to
time. About the war there could no longer be a doubt. And, a little
later, its realities and horrors came nearer home to us, with swift,
deep experiences.

"One day my father took me to the camp and parade ground ten miles away,
near the capital. The General and the Governor sat on horses and the
soldiers marched by them and the band played. They were going to the
front. There surely must be a war at the front, I told Sam that night.
Still more coffins were brought home, too, as the months and the years
passed; and the women of the neighbourhood used to come and spend whole
days with my mother, sewing for the soldiers. So precious became woollen
cloth that every rag was saved and the threads were unravelled to be
spun and woven into new fabrics. And they baked bread and roasted
chickens and sheep and pigs and made cakes, all to go to the soldiers at
the front[1]."

The quality that is uppermost in the Page stock, both in the past and in
the present generation, is that of the builder and the pioneer. The
ancestor of the North Carolina Pages was a Lewis Page, who, in the
latter part of the eighteenth century, left the original American home
in Virginia, and started life anew in what was then regarded as the less
civilized country to the south. Several explanations have survived as to
the cause of his departure, one being that his interest in the rising
tide of Methodism had made him uncongenial to his Church of England
relatives; in the absence of definite knowledge, however, it may safely
be assumed that the impelling motive was that love of seeking out new
things, of constructing a new home in the wilderness, which has never
forsaken his descendants. His son, Anderson Page, manifesting this same
love of change, went farther south into Wake County, and acquired a
plantation of a thousand acres about twelve miles north of Raleigh. He
cultivated this estate with slaves, sending his abundant crops of cotton
and tobacco to Petersburg, Virginia, a traffic that made him
sufficiently prosperous to give several of his sons a college education.
The son who is chiefly interesting at the present time, Allison Francis
Page, the father of the future Ambassador, did not enjoy this
opportunity. This fact in itself gives an insight into his character.
While his brothers were grappling with Latin and Greek and theology - one
of them became a Methodist preacher of the hortatory type for which the
South is famous - we catch glimpses of the older man battling with the
logs in the Cape Fear River, or penetrating the virgin pine forest,
felling trees and converting its raw material to the uses of a growing
civilization. Like many of the Page breed, this Page was a giant in size
and in strength, as sound morally and physically as the mighty forests
in which a considerable part of his life was spent, brave, determined,
aggressive, domineering almost to the point of intolerance, deeply
religious and abstemious - a mixture of the frontiersman and the Old
Testament prophet. Walter Page dedicated one of his books[2] to his
father, in words that accurately sum up his character and career. "To
the honoured memory of my father, whose work was work that built up the
commonwealth." Indeed, Frank Page - for this is the name by which he was
generally known - spent his whole life in these constructive labours. He
founded two towns in North Carolina, Cary and Aberdeen; in the City of
Raleigh he constructed hotels and other buildings; his enterprising and
restless spirit opened up Moore County - which includes the Pinehurst
region; he scattered his logging camps and his sawmills all over the
face of the earth; and he constructed a railroad through the pine woods
that made him a rich man.

Though he was not especially versed in the learning of the schools,
Walter Page's father had a mind that was keen and far-reaching. He was a
pioneer in politics as he was in the practical concerns of life. Though
he was the son of slave-holding progenitors and even owned slaves
himself, he was not a believer in slavery. The country that he primarily
loved was not Moore County or North Carolina, but the United States of
America. In politics he was a Whig, which meant that, in the years
preceding the Civil War, he was opposed to the extension of slavery and
did not regard the election of Abraham Lincoln as a sufficient
provocation for the secession of the Southern States. It is therefore
not surprising that Walter Page, in the midst of the London turmoil of
1916, should have found his thoughts reverting to his father as he
remembered him in Civil War days. That gaunt figure of America's time of
agony proved an inspiration and hope in the anxieties that assailed the
Ambassador. "When our Civil War began," wrote Page to Col. Edward M.
House - the date was November 24, 1916, one of the darkest days for the
Allied cause - "every man who had a large and firm grip on economic facts
foresaw how it would end - not when but how. Young as I was, I recall a
conversation between my father and the most distinguished judge of his
day in North Carolina. They put down on one side the number of men in
the Confederate States, the number of ships, the number of manufactures,
as nearly as they knew, the number of skilled workmen, the number of
guns, the aggregate of wealth and of possible production. On the other
side they put down the best estimate they could make of all these
things in the Northern States. The Northern States made two (or I
shouldn't wonder if it were three) times as good a showing in men and
resources as the Confederacy had. 'Judge,' said my father, 'this is the
most foolhardy enterprise that man ever undertook.' But Yancey of
Alabama was about that time making five-hour speeches to thousands of
people all over the South, declaring that one Southerner could whip five
Yankees, and the awful slaughter began and darkened our childhood and
put all our best men where they would see the sun no more. Our people
had at last to accept worse terms than they could have got at the
beginning. This World War, even more than our Civil War, is an economic
struggle. Put down on either side the same items that my father and the
judge put down and add the items up. You will see the inevitable

If we are seeking an ancestral explanation for that moral ruggedness,
that quick perception of the difference between right and wrong, that
unobscured vision into men and events, and that deep devotion to America
and to democracy which formed the fibre of Walter Page's being, we
evidently need look no further than his father. But the son had
qualities which the older man did not possess - an enthusiasm for
literature and learning, a love of the beautiful in Nature and in art,
above all a gentleness of temperament and of manner. These qualities he
held in common with his mother. On his father's side Page was undiluted
English; on his mother's he was French and English. Her father was John
Samuel Raboteau, the descendant of Huguenot refugees who had fled from
France on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; her mother was Esther
Barclay, a member of a family which gave the name of Barclaysville to a
small town half way between Raleigh and Fayetteville, North Carolina.
It is a member of this tribe to whom Page once referred as the "vigorous
Barclay who held her receptions to notable men in her bedroom during the
years of her bedridden condition." She was the proprietor of the "Half
Way House," a tavern located between Fayetteville and Raleigh; and in
her old age she kept royal state, in the fashion which Page describes,
for such as were socially entitled to this consideration. The most vivid
impression which her present-day descendants retain is that of her
fervent devotion to the Southern cause. She carried the spirit of
secession to such an extreme that she had the gate to her yard painted
to give a complete presentment of the Confederate Flag. Walter Page's
mother, the granddaughter of this determined and rebellious lady, had
also her positive quality, but in a somewhat more subdued form. She did
not die until 1897, and so the recollection of her is fresh and vivid.
As a mature woman she was undemonstrative and soft spoken; a Methodist
of old-fashioned Wesleyan type, she dressed with a Quaker-like
simplicity, her brown hair brushed flatly down upon a finely shaped head
and her garments destitute of ruffles or ornamentation. The home which
she directed was a home without playing cards or dancing or smoking or
wine-bibbing or other worldly frivolities, yet the memories of her
presence which Catherine Page has left are not at all austere. Duty was
with her the prime consideration of life, and fundamental morals the
first conceptions which she instilled in her children's growing minds,
yet she had a quiet sense of humour and a real love of fun.

She had also strong likes and dislikes, and was not especially
hospitable to men and women who fell under her disapproval. A small
North Carolina town, in the years preceding and following the Civil
War, was not a fruitful soil for cultivating an interest in things
intellectual, yet those who remember Walter Page's mother remember her
always with a book in her hand. She would read at her knitting and at
her miscellaneous household duties, which were rather arduous in the
straitened days that followed the war, and the books she read were
always substantial ones. Perhaps because her son Walter was in delicate
health, perhaps because his early tastes and temperament were not unlike
her own, perhaps because he was her oldest surviving child, the fact
remains that, of a family of eight, he was generally regarded as the
child with whom she was especially sympathetic. The picture of mother
and son in those early days is an altogether charming one. Page's mother
was only twenty-four when he was born; she retained her youth for many
years after that event, and during his early childhood, in appearance
and manner, she was little more than a girl. When Walter was a small
boy, he and his mother used to take long walks in the woods, sometimes
spending the entire day, fishing along the brooks, hunting wild flowers,
now and then pausing while the mother read pages of Dickens or of Scott.
These experiences Page never forgot. Nearly all his letters to his
mother - to whom, even in his busiest days in New York, he wrote
constantly - have been accidentally destroyed, but a few scraps indicate
the close spiritual bond that existed between the two. Always he seemed
to think of his mother as young. Through his entire life, in whatever
part of the world he might be, and however important was the work in
which he might be engaged, Page never failed to write her a long and
affectionate letter at Christmas.

"Well, I've gossiped a night or two" - such is the conclusion of his
Christmas letter of 1893, when Page was thirty-eight, with a growing
family of his own - "till I've filled the paper - all such little news and
less nonsense as most gossip and most letters are made of. But it is for
you to read between the lines. That's where the love lies, dear mother.
I wish you were here Christmas; we should welcome you as nobody else in
the world can be welcomed. But wherever you are and though all the rest
have the joy of seeing you, which is denied to me, never a Christmas
comes but I feel as near you as I did years and years ago when we were
young. (In those years _big_ fish bit in old Wiley Bancom's pond by the
railroad: they must have been two inches long!) - I would give a year's
growth to have the pleasure of having you here. You may be sure that
every one of my children along with me will look with an added reverence
toward the picture on the wall that greets me every morning, when we
have our little Christmas frolics - the picture that little Katharine
points to and says 'That's my grandmudder.' - The years, as they come,
every one, deepen my gratitude to you, as I better and better understand
the significance of life and every one adds to an affection that was
never small. God bless you.


* * * * *

Such were the father and mother of Walter Hines Page; they were married
at Fayetteville, North Carolina, July 5, 1849; two children who preceded
Walter died in infancy. The latter was born at Cary, August 15, 1855.
Cary was a small village which Frank Page had created; in honour of the
founder it was for several years known as Page's Station; the father
himself changed the name to Cary, as a tribute to a temperance orator
who caused something of a commotion in the neighbourhood in the early
seventies. Cary was not then much of a town and has not since become
one; but it was placed amid the scene of important historical events.
Page's home was almost the last stopping place of Sherman's army on its
march through Georgia and the Carolinas, and the Confederacy came to an
end, with Johnston's surrender of the last Confederate Army, at Durham,
only fifteen miles from Page's home. Walter, a boy of ten, his brother
Robert, aged six, and the negro "companion" Tance - who figures as Sam in
the extract quoted above - stood at the second-story window and watched
Sherman's soldiers pass their house, in hot pursuit of General "Joe"
Wheeler's cavalry. The thing that most astonished the children was the
vast size of the army, which took all day to file by their home. They
had never realized that either of the fighting forces could embrace such
great numbers of men. Nor did the behaviour of the invading troops
especially endear them to their unwilling hosts. Part of the cavalry
encamped in the Page yard; their horses ate the bark off the mimosa
trees; an army corps built its campfires under the great oaks, and cut
their emblems on the trunks; the officers took possession of the house,
a colonel making his headquarters in the parlour. Several looting
cavalrymen ran their swords through the beds, probably looking for
hidden silver; the hearth was torn up in the same feverish quest; angry
at their failure, they emptied sacks of flour and scattered their
contents in the bedrooms and on the stairs; for days the flour,
intermingled with feathers from the bayonetted beds, formed a carpet all
over the house. It is therefore perhaps not strange that the feelings
which Walter entertained for Sherman's "bummers," despite his father's
Whig principles, were those of most Southern communities. One day a
kindly Northern soldier, sympathizing with the boy because of the small
rations left for the local population, invited him to join the
officers' mess at dinner. Walter drew proudly back.

"I'll starve before I'll eat with the Yankees," he said.

* * * * *

"I slept that night on a trundle bed by my mother's," Page wrote years
afterward, describing these early scenes, "for her room was the only
room left for the family, and we had all lived there since the day
before. The dining room and the kitchen were now superfluous, because
there was nothing more to cook or to eat. . . . A week or more after the
army corps had gone, I drove with my father to the capital one day, and
almost every mile of the journey we saw a blue coat or a gray coat lying
by the road, with bones or hair protruding - the unburied and the
forgotten of either army. Thus I had come to know what war was, and
death by violence was among the first deep impressions made on my mind.
My emotions must have been violently dealt with and my sensibilities
blunted - or sharpened? Who shall say? The wounded and the starved
straggled home from hospitals and from prisons. There was old Mr.
Sanford, the shoemaker, come back again, with a body so thin and a step
so uncertain that I expected to see him fall to pieces. Mr. Larkin and
Joe Tatum went on crutches; and I saw a man at the post-office one day
whose cheek and ear had been torn away by a shell. Even when Sam and I
sat on the river-bank fishing, and ought to have been silent lest the
fish swim away, we told over in low tones the stories that we had heard
of wounds and of deaths and of battles.

"But there was the cheerful gentleness of my mother to draw my thoughts
to different things. I can even now recall many special little plans
that she made to keep my mind from battles. She hid the military cap
that I had worn. She bought from me my military buttons and put them
away. She would call me in and tell me pleasant stories of her own
childhood. She would put down her work to make puzzles with me, and she
read gentle books to me and kept away from me all the stories of the war
and of death that she could. Whatever hardships befell her (and they
must have been many) she kept a tender manner of resignation and of
cheerful patience.

"After a while the neighbourhood came to life again. There were more
widows, more sonless mothers, more empty sleeves and wooden legs than
anybody there had ever seen before. But the mimosa bloomed, the cotton
was planted again, and the peach trees blossomed; and the barnyard and
the stable again became full of life. For, when the army marched away,
they, too, were as silent as an old battlefield. The last hen had been
caught under the corn-crib by a 'Yankee' soldier, who had torn his coat
in this brave raid. Aunt Maria told Sam that all Yankees were chicken
thieves whether they 'brung freedom or no.'

"Every year the cotton bloomed and ripened and opened white to the sun;
for the ripening of the cotton and the running of the river and the
turning of the mills make the thread not of my story only but of the
story of our Southern land - of its institutions, of its misfortunes and
of its place in the economy of the world; and they will make the main
threads of its story, I am sure, so long as the sun shines on our white

Online LibraryBurton Jesse HendrickThe Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I → online text (page 1 of 32)