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

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different comments you made and he was delighted with what you had
to say concerning Lord Cowdray. We do not love him for we think
that between Cowdray and Carden a large part of our troubles in
Mexico has been made. Your description of his attitude at the
beginning and his present one pleased us much.

After I had read the confidential letter the President said "now
let me see if I have the facts." He then recited them in
consecutive order just as the English lady had written them, almost
using the same phrases, showing the well-trained mind that he has.
I then dropped the letter in the grate.

He enjoyed heartily the expression "Washington is a deep hole of
silence towards ambassadors," and again "The volume of silence that
I get is oppressive," and of course the story apropos of this last

I was with him for more than an hour and he was distinctly better
when I left. I hated to look at him in bed for I could not help
realizing what his life means to the Democratic Party, to the
Nation and almost to the world.

Of course you know that I only read your letters to him. Mr. Bryan
was my guest on Wednesday and I returned to Washington with him but
I made no mention of our correspondence and I never have. The
President seems to like our way of doing things and further than
that I do not care.

Upon my soul I do not believe the President could be better pleased
than he is with the work you are doing.

Faithfully yours,


From now on the Ambassador exerted a round-about pressure - the method of
"gradual approach" already referred to - upon the Foreign Office for
Carden's removal. An extract from a letter to the President gives a hint
concerning this method:

* * * * *

I have already worked upon Sir Edward's mind about his Minister to
Mexico as far as I could. Now that the other matter is settled and while
Carden is behaving, I go at it. Two years ago Mr. Knox made a bad
blunder in protesting against Carden's "anti-Americanism" in Cuba. Mr.
Knox sent Mr. Reid no definite facts nor even accusations to base a
protest on. The result was a failure - a bad failure. I have again asked
Mr. Bryan for all the definite reports he has heard about Carden. That
man, in my judgment, has caused nine tenths of the trouble here.

* * * * *

Naturally Page did not ask the Minister's removal directly - that would
have been an unpardonable blunder. His meetings during this period with
Sir Edward were taking place almost every day, and Carden, in one way or
another, kept coming to the front in their conversation. Sir Edward,
like Page, would sacrifice much in the cause of Anglo-American
relations; Page would occasionally express his regret that the British
Minister to Mexico was not a man who shared their enthusiasm on this
subject; in numerous other ways the impression was conveyed that the two
countries could solve the Mexican entanglement much better if a more
congenial person represented British interests in the Southern Republic.
This reasoning evidently produced the desired results. In early January,
1914, a hint was unofficially conveyed to the American Ambassador that
Carden was to be summoned to London for a "conversation" with Sir Edward
Grey, and that his return to Mexico would depend upon the outcome of
that interview. There was a likelihood that, in future, Sir Lionel
Carden would represent the British Empire in Brazil.

This news, sent in discreet cipher to Washington, delighted the
Administration. "It is fine about Carden," wrote Colonel House on
January 10th. "I knew you had done it when I saw it in the papers, but I
did not know just how. You could not have brought it about in a more
diplomatic and effectual way."

And the following came from the President:

From President Wilson

Pass Christian,

January 6, 1914.


I have your letter of December twenty-first, which I have greatly

Almost at the very time I was reading it, the report came through
the Associated Press from London that Carden was to be transferred
immediately to Brazil. If this is true, it is indeed a most
fortunate thing and I feel sure it is to be ascribed to your
tactful and yet very plain representations to Sir Edward Grey. I do
not think you realize how hard we worked to get from either Lind or
O'Shaughnessy[39] definite items of speech or conduct which we
could furnish you as material for what you had to say to the
Ministers about Carden. It simply was not obtainable. Everything
that we got was at second or third hand. That he was working
against us was too plain for denial, and yet he seems to have done
it in a very astute way which nobody could take direct hold of. I
congratulate you with all my heart on his transference.

I long, as you do, for an opportunity to do constructive work all
along the line in our foreign relations, particularly with Great
Britain and the Latin-American states, but surely, my dear fellow,
you are deceiving yourself in supposing that constructive work is
not now actually going on, and going on at your hands quite as much
as at ours. The change of attitude and the growing ability to
understand what we are thinking about and purposing on the part of
the official circle in London is directly attributable to what you
have been doing, and I feel more and more grateful every day that
you are our spokesman and interpreter there. This is the only
possible constructive work in foreign affairs, aside from definite
acts of policy. So far as the policy is concerned, you may be sure
I will strive to the utmost to obtain both a repeal of the
discrimination in the matter of tolls and a renewal of the
arbitration treaties, and I am not without hope that I can
accomplish both at this session. Indeed this is the session in
which these things must be done if they are to be done at all.

Back of the smile which came to my face when you spoke of the
impenetrable silence of the State Department toward its foreign
representatives lay thoughts of very serious concern. We must
certainly manage to keep our foreign representatives properly
informed. The real trouble is to conduct genuinely confidential
correspondence except through private letters, but surely the thing
can be changed and it will be if I can manage it.

We are deeply indebted to you for your kindness and generous
hospitality to our young folks[40] and we have learned with delight
through your letters and theirs of their happy days in England.

With deep regard and appreciation,

Cordially and faithfully yours,



American Embassy,

London, England.

Yet for the American Ambassador the experience was not one of unmixed
satisfaction. These letters have contained references to the demoralized
condition of the State Department under Mr. Bryan and the succeeding
ones will contain more; the Carden episode portrayed the stupidity and
ignorance of that Department at their worst. By commanding Carden to
cease his anti-American tactics and to support the American policy the
Foreign Office had performed an act of the utmost courtesy and
consideration to this country. By quietly "promoting" the same minister
to another sphere, several thousand miles away from Mexico and
Washington, it was now preparing to eliminate all possible causes of
friction between the two countries. The British, that is, had met the
wishes of the United States in the two great matters that were then
making serious trouble - Huerta and Carden. Yet no government, Great
Britain least of all, wishes to be placed in the position of moving its
diplomats about at the request of another Power. The whole deplorable
story appears in the following letter.

_To Edward M. House_

January 8th, 1914.


Two days ago I sent a telegram to the Department saying that I had
information from a private, _unofficial_ source that the report
that Carden would be transferred was true, and from another source
that Marling would succeed him. The Government here has given out
nothing. I know nothing from official sources. Of course the only
decent thing to do at Washington was to sit still till this
Government should see fit to make an announcement. But what do they
do? Give my telegram to the press! It appears here almost verbatim
in this morning's _Mail_. - I have to make an humiliating
explanation to the Foreign Office. This is the third time I've had
to make such an humiliating explanation to Sir Edward. It's getting
a little monotonous. He's getting tired, and so am I. They now deny
at the Foreign Office that anything has been decided about Carden,
and this meddling by us (as they look at it) will surely cause a
delay and may even cause a change of purpose.

That's the practical result of their leaking at Washington. On a
previous occasion they leaked the same way. When I telegraphed a
remonstrance, they telegraphed back to me that the leak had been
_here_! That was the end of it - except that I had to explain to Sir
Edward the best I could. And about a lesser matter, I did the same
thing a third time, in a conversation. Three times this sort of
thing has happened. - On the other hand, the King's Master of
Ceremonies called on me on the President's Birthday and requested
for His Majesty that I send His Majesty's congratulations. Just ten
days passed before a telegraphic answer came! The very hour it
came, I was myself making up an answer for the President that I was
going to send, to save our face.

Now, I'm trying with all my might to do this job. I spend all my
time, all my ingenuity, all my money at it. I have organized my
staff as a sort of Cabinet. We meet every day. We go over
everything conceivable that we may do or try to do. We do good team
work. I am not sure but I doubt whether these secretaries have
before been taken into just such a relation to their chief. They
are enthusiastic and ambitious and industrious and - _safe_. There's
no possibility of any leak. We arrange our dinners with reference
to the possibility of getting information and of carrying points.
Mrs. Page gives and accepts invitations with the same end in view.
We're on the job to the very limit of our abilities.

And I've got the Foreign Office in such a relation that they are
frank and friendly. (I can't keep 'em so, if this sort of thing
goes on.)

Now the State Department seems (as it touches us) to be utterly
chaotic - silent when it ought to respond, loquacious when it ought
to be silent. There are questions that I have put to it at this
Government's request to which I can get no answer.

It's hard to keep my staff enthusiastic under these conditions.
When I reached the Chancery this morning, they were in my room,
with all the morning papers marked, on the table, eagerly
discussing what we ought to do about this publication of my
dispatch. The enthusiasm and buoyancy were all gone out of them. By
their looks they said, "Oh! what's the use of our bestirring
ourselves to send news to Washington when they use it to embarrass
us?" - While we are thus at work, the only two communications from
the Department to-day are two letters from two of the Secretaries
about - presenting "Democratic" ladies from Texas and Oklahoma at
court! And Bryan is now lecturing in Kansas.

Since I began to write this letter, Lord Cowdray came here to the
house and stayed two and a half hours, talking about possible joint
intervention in Mexico. Possibly he came from the Foreign Office. I
don't know whether to dare send a despatch to the State Department,
telling what he told me, for fear they'd leak. And to leak
this - Good Lord! Two of the Secretaries were here to dinner, and I
asked them if I should send such a despatch. They both answered
instantly: "No, sir, don't dare: _write_ it to the President." I
said: "No, I have no right to bother the President with regular
business nor with frequent letters." To that they agreed; but the
interesting and somewhat appalling thing is, they're actually
afraid to have a confidential despatch go to the State Department.

I see nothing to do but to suggest to the President to put
somebody in the Department who will stay there and give intelligent
attention to the diplomatic telegrams and letters - some
conscientious assistant or clerk. For I hear mutterings, somewhat
like these mutterings of mine, from some of the continental
embassies. - The whole thing is disorganizing and demoralizing
beyond description.

All these and more are _my_ troubles. I'll take care of them. But
remember what I am going to write on the next sheet. For here may
come a trouble for _you:_

Mrs. Page has learned something more about Secretary Bryan's
proposed visit here in the spring. He's coming to talk his peace
plan which, you know, is a sort of grape-juice arbitration - a
distinct step backward from a real arbitration treaty. Well, if he
comes with _that_, when you come to talk about reducing armaments,
you'll wish you'd never been born. Get your ingenuity together,
then, and prevent that visit[41].

Not the least funny thing in the world is - Senator X turned up
to-day. As he danced around the room begging everybody's pardon
(nobody knew what for) he complimented everybody in sight,
explained the forged letter, dilated on state politics, set the
Irish question on the right end, cleared Bacon[42] of all hostility
to me, declined tea because he had insomnia and explained just how
it works to keep you awake, danced more and declared himself happy
and bowed himself out - well pleased. He's as funny a cuss as I've
seen in many a day. Lord Cowdray, who was telling Mexican woes to
Katharine in the corner, looked up and asked, "Who's the little
dancing gentleman?" Suppose X had known he was dancing for - Lord
Cowdray's amusement, what do y' suppose he'd've thought? There are
some strange combinations in our house on Mrs. Page's days at home.
Cowdray has, I am sure, lost (that is, failed to make) a hundred
million dollars that he had within easy reach by this Wilson
Doctrine, but he's game. He doesn't lie awake. He's a dead-game
sport, and he knows he's knocked out in that quarter and he doesn't
squeal. His experiences will serve us many a good turn in the
future - as a warning. I rather like him. He eats out of my hand in
the afternoon and has one of his papers jump on me in the morning.
Some time in the twenty-four hours, he must attain about the normal
temperature - say about noon. He admires the President
greatly - sincerely. Force meets force, you see. With the President
behind me I could really enjoy Cowdray centuries after X had danced
himself into oblivion.

By the way, Cowdray said to me to-day: "Whatever the United States
and Great Britain agree on the world must do." He's right. (1) The
President must come here, perhaps in his second term; (2) these two
Governments must enter a compact for peace and for gradual
disarmament. Then we can go about our business for (say) a hundred


In spite of the continued pressure of the United States and the passive
support of its anti-Huerta policy by Great Britain, the Mexican usurper
refused to resign. President Wilson now began to espouse the interests
of Villa and Carranza. His letters to Page indicate that he took these
men at their own valuation, believed that they were sincere patriots
working for the cause of "democracy" and "constitutionalism" and that
their triumph would usher in a day of enlightenment and progress for
Mexico. It was the opinion of the Foreign Office that Villa and Carranza
were worse men than Huerta and that any recognition of their
revolutionary activities would represent no moral gain.

_From President Wilson_

The White House, Washington,
May 18, 1914.


. . . As to the attitude of mind on that side of the water toward the
Constitutionalists, it is based upon prejudices which cannot be
sustained by the facts. I am enclosing a copy of an interview by a
Mr. Reid[43] which appeared in one of the afternoon papers recently
and which sums up as well as they could be summed up my own
conclusions with regard to the issues and the personnel of the
pending contest in Mexico. I can verify it from a hundred different
sources, most of them sources not in the least touched by
predilections for such men as our friends in London have supposed
Carranza and Villa to be.

Cordially and faithfully yours,

U.S. Embassy,
London, England.

The White House, Washington,
June 1, 1914.


. . . The fundamental thing is that they (British critics of Villa)
are all radically mistaken. There has been less disorder and less
danger to life where the Constitutionalists have gained control
than there has been where Huerta is in control. I should think that
if they are getting correct advices from Tampico, people in England
would be very much enlightened by what has happened there. Before
the Constitutionalists took the place there was constant danger to
the oil properties and to foreign residents. Now there is no danger
and the men who felt obliged to leave the oil wells to their
Mexican employees are returning, to find, by the way, that their
Mexican employees guarded them most faithfully without wages, and
in some instances almost without food. I am told that the
Constitutionalists cheered the American flag when they entered

I believe that Mexico City will be much quieter and a much safer
place to live in after the Constitutionalists get there than it is
now. The men who are approaching and are sure to reach it are much
less savage and much more capable of government than Huerta.

These, I need not tell you, are not fancies of mine but conclusions
I have drawn from facts which are at last becoming very plain and
palpable, at least to us on this side of the water. If they are not
becoming plain in Great Britain, it is because their papers are not
serving them with the truth. Our own papers were prejudiced enough
in all conscience against Villa and Carranza and everything that
was happening in the north of Mexico, but at last the light is
dawning on them in spite of themselves and they are beginning to
see things as they really are. I would be as nervous and impatient
as your friends in London are if I feared the same things that they
fear, but I do not. I am convinced that even Zapata would restrain
his followers and leave, at any rate, all foreigners and all
foreign property untouched if he were the first to enter Mexico

Cordially and faithfully yours,

American Embassy,
London, England.

On this issue, however, the President and his Ambassador to Great
Britain permanently disagreed. The events which took place in April,
1914 - the insult to the American flag at Tampico, the bombardment and
capture of Vera Cruz by American forces - made stronger Page's
conviction, already set forth in this correspondence, that there was
only one solution of the Mexican problem.

_To Edward M. House_

April 27, 1914.


. . . And, as for war with Mexico - I confess I've had a continually
growing fear of it for six months. I've no confidence in the
Mexican leaders - none of 'em. We shall have to Cuba-ize the
country, which means thrashing 'em first - I fear, I fear, I fear;
and I feel sorry for us all, the President in particular. It's
inexpressibly hard fortune for him. I can't tell you with what
eager fear we look for despatches every day and twice a day hurry
to get the newspapers. All England believes we've got to fight it

Well, the English are with us, you see. Admiral Cradock, I
understand, does not approve our policy, but he stands firmly with
us whatever we do. The word to stand firmly with us has, I am very
sure, been passed along the whole line - naval, newspaper,
financial, diplomatic. Carden won't give us any more trouble
during the rest of his stay in Mexico. The yellow press's abuse of
the President and me has actually helped us here.

Heartily yours,


[Footnote 38: This was another manifestation of British friendliness.
When the American excitement was most acute, it became known that
British capitalists had secured oil concessions in Colombia. At the
demand of the British Government they gave them up.]

[Footnote 39: Mr. Nelson O'Shaughnessy, Chargé d'Affaires in Mexico.]

[Footnote 40: Mr. and Mrs. Francis B. Sayre.]

[Footnote 41: Colonel House succeeded in preventing it.]

[Footnote 42: Senator Augustus O. Bacon, of Georgia who was reported to
nourish ill-feeling toward Page for his authorship of "The Southerner."]

[Footnote 43: Probably an error for John Reed, at that time a newspaper
correspondent in Mexico - afterward well known as a champion of the
Bolshevist régime in Russia.]



In the early part of January, 1914, Colonel House wrote Page, asking
whether he would consider favourably an offer to enter President
Wilson's Cabinet, as Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. David F. Houston, who
was then most acceptably filling that position, was also an authority on
banking and finance; the plan was to make him governor of the new
Federal Reserve Board, then in process of formation, and to transfer
Page to the vacant place in the Cabinet. The proposal was not carried
through, but Page's reply took the form of a review of his
ambassadorship up to date, of his vexations, his embarrassments, his
successes, and especially of the very important task which still lay
before him. There were certain reasons, it will appear, why he would
have liked to leave London; and there was one impelling reason why he
preferred to stay. From the day of his arrival in England, Page had been
humiliated, and his work had been constantly impeded, by the almost
studied neglect with which Washington treated its diplomatic service.
The fact that the American Government provided no official residence for
its Ambassador, and no adequate financial allowance for maintaining the
office, had made his position almost an intolerable one. All Page's
predecessors for twenty-five years had been rich men who could advance
the cost of the Embassy from their own private purses; to meet these
expenses, however, Page had been obliged to encroach on the savings of a
lifetime, and such liberality on his part necessarily had its

_To Edward M. House_

London, England,
February 13, 1914.


. . . Of course I am open to the criticism of having taken the place
at all. But I was both uninformed and misinformed about the cost as
well as about the frightful handicap of having no Embassy. It's a
kind of scandal in London and it has its serious effect. Everybody
talks about it all the time: "Will you explain to me why it is that
your great Government has no Embassy: it's very odd!" "What a
frugal Government you have!" "It's a damned mean outfit, your
American Government." Mrs. Page collapses many an evening when she
gets to her room. "If they'd only quit talking about it!" The other
Ambassadors, now that we're coming to know them fairly well,

Online LibraryBurton Jesse HendrickThe Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I → online text (page 17 of 32)