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convinced of our honour and right-mindedness and the genuineness of
our friendship.

I talked this over with Sir Edward Grey the other day, and after
telling me that I need fear no trouble at this end of the line, he
told me how severely he is now criticized by a "certain element"
for "bowing too low to the Americans." We then each bowed low to
the other. The yellow press and Chamberlain would give a year's
growth for a photograph of us in that posture!

I am infinitely obliged to you for your kind understanding and your
toleration of my errors.

Yours always heartily,
WALTER H. PAGE.

To the President.

P.S. The serious part of the speech - made to convince the financial
people, who are restive about Mexico, that we do not mean to forbid
legitimate investments in Central America - has had a good effect
here. I have received the thanks of many important men.

W.H.P.

_From the President_

The White House, Washington,
March 25, 1914.

MY DEAR PAGE:

Thank you for your little note of March thirteenth[52]. You may be
sure that none of us who knew you or read the speech felt anything
but admiration for it. It is very astonishing to me how some
Democrats in the Senate themselves bring these artificial
difficulties on the Administration, and it distresses me not a
little. Mr. Bryan read your speech yesterday to the Cabinet, who
greatly enjoyed it. It was at once sent to the Senate and I hope
will there be given out for publication in full.

I want you to feel constantly how I value the intelligent and
effective work you are doing in London. I do not know what I should
do without you.

The fight is on now about the tolls, but I feel perfectly confident
of winning in the matter, though there is not a little opposition
in Congress - more in the House, it strangely turns out, where a
majority of the Democrats originally voted against the exemption,
than in the Senate, where a majority of the Democrats voted for it.
The vicissitudes of politics are certainly incalculable.

With the warmest regard, in necessary haste,

Cordially and faithfully yours,
WOODROW WILSON.


HON. WALTER H. PAGE,
American Embassy,
London, England.

_To the President_

American Embassy, London,
March 2, 1914.

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:

I have read in the newspapers here that, after you had read my
poor, unfortunate speech, you remarked to callers that you regarded
it as proper. I cannot withhold this word of affectionate thanks.

I do not agree with you, heartily as I thank you. The speech
itself, in the surroundings and the atmosphere, was harmless and
was perfectly understood. But I ought not to have been betrayed
into forgetting that the subject was about to come up for fierce
discussion in Congress. . . .

Of course, I know that the whole infernal thing is cooked up to
beat you, if possible. But that is the greater reason why you must
win. I am willing to be sacrificed, if that will help - for
forgetting the impending row or for any reason you will.

I suppose we've got to go through such a struggle to pull our
Government and our people up to an understanding of our own place
in the world - a place so high and big and so powerful that all the
future belongs to us. From an economic point of view, we _are_ the
world; and from a political point of view also. How any man who
sees this can have any feeling but pity for the Old World, passes
understanding. Our rôle is to treat it most courteously and to make
it respect our character - nothing more. Time will do the rest.

I congratulate you most heartily on the character of most of your
opposition - the wild Irish (they must be sat upon some time, why
not now?), the Clark[53] crowd (characteristically making a stand
on a position of dishonour), the Hearst press, and demagogues
generally. I have confidence in the people.

This stand is necessary to set us right before the world, to enable
us to build up an influential foreign policy, to make us respected
and feared, and to make the Democratic Party the party of honour,
and to give it the best reason to live and to win.

May I make a suggestion?

The curiously tenacious hold that Anglophobia has on a certain
class of our people - might it not be worth your while to make, at
some convenient time and in some natural way, a direct attack on
it - in a letter to someone, which could be published, or in some
address, or possibly in a statement to a Senate committee, which
could be given to the press? Say how big and strong and
sure-of-the-future we are; so big that we envy nobody, and that
those who have Anglophobia or any Europe-phobia are the only
persons who "truckle" to any foreign folk or power; that in this
tolls-fight all the Continental governments are a unit; that we
respect them all, fear none, have no favours, except proper favours
among friendly nations, to ask of anybody; and that the idea of a
"trade" with England for holding off in Mexico is (if you will
excuse my French) a common gutter lie.

This may or may not be wise; but you will forgive me for venturing
to suggest it. It is _we_ who are the proud and erect and patriotic
Americans, fearing nobody; but the other fellows are fooling some
of the people in making them think that _they_ are.

Yours most gratefully,

WALTER H. PAGE.

To the President.

_From the President_
The White House, Washington,

April 2, 1914.

MY DEAR PAGE:

Please do not distress yourself about that speech. I think with you
that it was a mistake to touch upon that matter while it was right
hot, because any touch would be sure to burn the finger; but as for
the speech itself, I would be willing to subscribe to every bit of
it myself, and there can be no rational objection to it. We shall
try to cool the excited persons on this side of the water and I
think nothing further will come of it. In the meantime, pray
realize how thoroughly and entirely you are enjoying my confidence
and admiration.

Your letter about Cowdray and Murray was very illuminating and will
be very serviceable to me. I have come to see that the real
knowledge of the relations between countries in matters of public
policy is to be gained at country houses and dinner tables, and not
in diplomatic correspondence; in brief, that when we know the men
and the currents of opinion, we know more than foreign ministers
can tell us; and your letters give me, in a thoroughly dignified
way, just the sidelights that are necessary to illuminate the
picture. I am heartily obliged to you.

All unite with me in the warmest regards as always.

In haste,

Faithfully yours,

WOODROW WILSON.

HON. WALTER H. PAGE,
American Embassy,
London, England.

A note of a conversation with Sir Edward Grey touches the same point:
"April 1, 1914. Sir Edward Grey recalled to me to-day that he had waited
for the President to take up the Canal tolls controversy at his
convenience. 'When he took it up at his own time to suit his own plans,
he took it up in the most admirable way possible.' This whole story is
too good to be lost. If the repeal of the tolls clause passes the
Senate, I propose to make a speech in the House of Commons on 'The
Proper Way for Great Governments to Deal with One Another,' and use this
experience.

"Sir Edward also spoke of being somewhat 'depressed' by the fierce
opposition to the President on the tolls question - the extent of
Anglophobia in the United States.

"Here is a place for a campaign of education - Chautaqua and whatnot.

"The amount of Anglophobia _is_ great. But I doubt if it be as great as
it seems; for it is organized and is very vociferous. If you collected
together or thoroughly organized all the people in the United States who
have birthmarks on their faces, you'd be 'depressed' by the number of
them."

Nothing could have more eloquently proved the truth of this last remark
than the history of this Panama bill itself. After all the politicians
in the House and Senate had filled pages of the _Congressional Record_
with denunciations of Great Britain - most of it intended for the
entertainment of Irish-Americans and German-Americans in the
constituencies - the two Houses proceeded to the really serious business
of voting. The House quickly passed the bill by 216 to 71, and the
Senate by 50 to 35. Apparently the amount of Anglophobia was not
portentous, when it came to putting this emotion to the test of counting
heads. The bill went at once to the President, was signed - and the
dishonour was atoned for.

Mr. and Mrs. Page were attending a ball in Buckingham Palace when the
great news reached London. The gathering represented all that was most
distinguished in the official and diplomatic life of the British
capital. The word was rapidly passed from guest to guest, and the
American Ambassador and his wife soon found themselves the centre of a
company which could hardly restrain itself in expressing its admiration
for the United States. Never in the history of the country had American
prestige stood so high as on that night. The King and the Prime Minister
were especially affected by this display of fair-dealing in Washington.
The slight commercial advantage which Great Britain had obtained was not
the thought that was uppermost in everybody's mind. The thing that
really moved these assembled statesmen and diplomats was the fact that
something new had appeared in the history of legislative chambers. A
great nation had committed an outrageous wrong - that was something that
had happened many times before in all countries. But the unprecedented
thing was that this same nation had exposed its fault boldly to the
world - had lifted up its hands and cried, "We have sinned!" and then had
publicly undone its error. Proud as Page had always been of his country,
that moment was perhaps the most triumphant in his life. The action of
Congress emphasized all that he had been saying of the ideals of the
United States, and gave point to his arguments that justice and honour
and right, and not temporary selfish interest, should control the
foreign policy of any nation which really claimed to be enlightened. The
general feeling of Great Britain was perhaps best expressed by the
remark made to Mrs. Page, on this occasion, by Lady D - - :

"The United States has set a high standard for all nations to live up
to. I don't believe that there is any other nation that would have done
it."

One significant feature of this great episode was the act of Congress in
accepting the President's statement that the repeal of the Panama
discrimination was a necessary preliminary to the success of American
foreign policy. Mr. Wilson's declaration, that, unless this legislation
should be repealed, he would not "know how to deal with other matters of
even greater delicacy and nearer consequence" had puzzled Congress and
the country. The debates show the keenest curiosity as to what the
President had in mind. The newspapers turned the matter over and over,
without obtaining any clew to the mystery. Some thought that the
President had planned to intervene in Mexico, and that the tolls
legislation was the consideration demanded by Great Britain for a free
hand in this matter. But this correspondence has already demolished that
theory. Others thought that Japan was in some way involved - but that
explanation also failed to satisfy.

Congress accepted the President's statement trustfully and blindly, and
passed the asked-for legislation. Up to the present moment this passage
in the Presidential message has been unexplained. Page's papers,
however, disclose what seems to be a satisfactory solution to the
mystery. They show that the President and Colonel House and Page were at
this time engaged in a negotiation of the utmost importance. At the very
time that the tolls bill was under discussion Colonel House was making
arrangements for a visit to Great Britain, France, and Germany, the
purpose of which was to bring these nations to some kind of an
understanding that would prevent a European war. This evidently was the
great business that could not be disclosed at the time and for which the
repeal of the tolls legislation was the necessary preliminary.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 44: The Committee to celebrate the centennial of the signing
of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. The plan to make
this an elaborate commemoration of a 100 years' peace between the
English-speaking peoples was upset by the outbreak of the World War.]

[Footnote 45: This was the designation Mr. Bryan's admirers sometimes
gave him.]

[Footnote 46: The reference is to President Roosevelt's speech at the
Guildhall in June, 1910.]

[Footnote 47: This refers to the declination of the British Government
to be represented at the San Francisco world exhibition, held in 1915.]

[Footnote 48: John Bassett Moore, at that time the very able counsellor
of the State Department.]

[Footnote 49: Mr. Root's masterly speech on Panama tolls was made in the
United States Senate, January 21, 1913.]

[Footnote 50: Ante: page 202.]

[Footnote 51: This is the fact that is too frequently lost sight of in
current discussions of the melting pot. In the _Atlantic Monthly_ for
August, 1920, Mr. William S. Rossiter, for many years chief clerk of the
United States Census and a statistician of high standing, shows that, of
the 95,000,000 white people of the United States, 55,000,000 trace their
origin to England, Scotland, and Wales.]

[Footnote 52: The Ambassador's letter is dated March 18th.]

[Footnote 53: Mr. Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives,
was one of the most blatant opponents of Panama repeal.]




CHAPTER IX

AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT THE EUROPEAN WAR


Page's mind, from the day of his arrival in England, had been filled
with that portent which was the most outstanding fact in European life.
Could nothing be done to prevent the dangers threatened by European
militarism? Was there no way of forestalling the war which seemed every
day to be approaching nearer? The dates of the following letters,
August, 1913, show that this was one of the first ideas which Page
presented to the new Administration.

_To Edward M. House_
Aug. 28, 1913.

MY DEAR HOUSE:

. . . Everything is lovely and the goose hangs high. We're having a
fine time. Only, only, only - I do wish to do something constructive
and lasting. Here are great navies and armies and great withdrawals
of men from industry - an enormous waste. Here are kings and courts
and gold lace and ceremonies which, without producing anything,
require great cost to keep them going. Here are all the privileges
and taxes that this state of things implies - every one a hindrance
to human progress. We are free from most of these. We have more
people and more capable people and many times more territory than
both England and Germany; and we have more potential wealth than
all Europe. They know that. They'd like to find a way to escape.
The Hague programmes, for the most part, just lead them around a
circle in the dark back to the place where they started. Somebody
needs to _do_ something. If we could find some friendly use for
these navies and armies and kings and things - in the service of
humanity - they'd follow us. We ought to find a way to use them in
cleaning up the tropics under our leadership and under our code of
ethics - that everything must be done for the good of the tropical
peoples and that nobody may annex a foot of land. They want a job.
Then they'd quit sitting on their haunches, growling at one
another.

I wonder if we couldn't serve notice that the land-stealing game is
forever ended and that the cleaning up of backward lands is now in
order - for the people that live there; and then invite Europe's
help to make the tropics as healthful as the Panama Zone?

There's no future in Europe's vision - no long look ahead. They give
all their thought to the immediate danger. Consider this Balkan
War; all European energy was spent merely to keep the Great Powers
at peace. The two wars in the Balkans have simply impoverished the
people - left the world that much worse than it was before. Nobody
has considered the well-being or the future of those peoples nor of
their land. The Great Powers are mere threats to one another,
content to check, one the other! There can come no help to the
progress of the world from this sort of action - no step forward.

Work on a world-plan. Nothing but blue chips, you know. Is it not
possible that Mexico may give an entering wedge for this kind of
thing?

Heartily yours,
WALTER H. PAGE.

In a memorandum, written about the same time, Mr. Page explains his
idea in more detail:

Was there ever greater need than there is now of a first-class mind
unselfishly working on world problems? The ablest ruling minds are
engaged on domestic tasks. There is no world-girdling intelligence
at work in government. On the continent of Europe, the Kaiser is
probably the foremost man. Yet he cannot think far beyond the
provincial views of the Germans. In England, Sir Edward Grey is the
largest-visioned statesman. All the Europeans are spending their
thought and money in watching and checkmating one another and in
maintaining their armed and balanced _status quo_.

A way must be found out of this stagnant watching. Else a way will
have to be fought out of it; and a great European war would set the
Old World, perhaps the whole world, back a long way; and
thereafter, the present armed watching would recur; we should have
gained nothing. It seems impossible to talk the Great Powers out of
their fear of one another or to "Hague" them out of it. They'll
never be persuaded to disarm. The only way left seems to be to find
some common and useful work for these great armies to do. Then,
perhaps, they'll work themselves out of their jealous position.
Isn't this sound psychology?

To produce a new situation, the vast energy that now spends itself
in maintaining armies and navies must find a new outlet. Something
new must be found for them to do, some great unselfish task that
they can do together.

Nobody can lead in such a new era but the United States.

May there not come such a chance in Mexico - to clean out bandits,
yellow fever, malaria, hookworm - all to make the country
healthful, safe for life and investment, and for orderly
self-government at last? What we did in Cuba might thus be made the
beginning of a new epoch in history - conquest for the sole benefit
of the conquered, worked out by a sanitary reformation. The new
sanitation will reclaim all tropical lands; but the work must be
first done by military power - probably from the outside.

May not the existing military power of Europe conceivably be
diverted, gradually, to this use? One step at a time, as political
and financial occasions arise? As presently in Mexico?

This present order must change. It holds the Old World still. It
keeps all parts of the world apart, in spite of the friendly
cohesive forces of trade and travel. It keeps back self-government
and the progress of man.

And the tropics cry out for sanitation, which is at first an
essentially military task.

A strange idea this may have seemed in August, 1913, a year before the
outbreak of the European war; yet the scheme is not dissimilar to the
"mandatory" principle, adopted by the Versailles Peace Conference as the
only practical method of dealing with backward peoples. In this work, as
in everything that would help mankind on its weary way to a more
efficient and more democratic civilization, Page regarded the United
States, Great Britain, and the British Dominions as inevitable partners.
Anything that would bring these two nations into a closer coöperation he
looked upon as a step making for human advancement. He believed that any
opportunity of sweeping away misconceptions and prejudices and of
impressing upon the two peoples their common mission should be eagerly
seized by the statesmen of the two countries. And circumstances at this
particular moment, Page believed, presented a large opportunity of this
kind. It is one of the minor ironies of modern history that the United
States and Great Britain should have selected 1914 as a year for a great
peace celebration. That year marked the one hundredth anniversary of the
signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, and in 1913
comprehensive plans had already been formed for observing this
impressive centennial. The plan was to make it more than the mere
observance of a hundred years of peaceful intercourse; it was the
intention to use the occasion to emphasize the fundamental identity of
American and British ideals and to lay the foundation of a permanent
understanding and friendship. The erection of a monument to Abraham
Lincoln at Westminster - a plan that has since been realized - was one
detail of this programme. Another was the restoration of Sulgrave Manor,
the English country seat of the Washingtons, and its preservation as a
place where the peoples of both countries could share their common
traditions. Page now dared to hope that President Wilson might associate
himself with this great purpose to the extent of coming to England and
accepting this gift in the name of the American nation. Such a
Presidential visit, he believed, would exercise a mighty influence in
forestalling a threatening European war. The ultimate purpose, that is,
was world peace - precisely the same motive that led President Wilson, in
1919, to make a European pilgrimage.

This idea was no passing fancy with Page: it was with him a favourite
topic of conversation. Such a presidential visit, he believed, would
accomplish more than any other influences in dissipating the clouds that
were darkening the European landscape. He would elaborate the idea at
length in discussions with his intimates.

"What I want," he would say, "is to have the President of the United
States and the King of England stand up side by side and let the world
take a good look at them!"

_To Edward M. House_

August 25, 1913.

. . . I wrote him (President Wilson) my plan - a mere outline. He'll
only smile now. But when the tariff and the currency and Mexico are
off his hands, and when he can be invited to come and deliver an
oration on George Washington next year at the presentation of the
old Washington homestead here, he may be "pushed over." You do the
pushing. Mrs. Page has invited the young White House couple to
visit us on their honeymoon[54]. Encourage that and that may
encourage the larger plan later. Nothing else would give such a
friendly turn to the whole world as the President's coming here.
The old Earth would sit up and rub its eyes and take notice to whom
it belongs. This visit might prevent an English-German war and an
American-Japanese war, by this mere show of friendliness. It would
be one of the greatest occasions of our time. Even at my little
speeches, they "whoop it up!" What would they do over the
President's!

But at that time Washington was too busy with its domestic programme to
consider such a proposal seriously. "Your two letters," wrote Colonel
House in reply, "have come to me and lifted me out of the rut of things
and given me a glimpse of a fair land. What you are thinking of and what
you want this Administration to do is beyond the power of
accomplishment for the moment. My desk is covered with matters of no
lasting importance, but which come to me as a part of the day's work,
and which must be done if I am to help lift the load that is pressing
upon the President. It tells me better than anything else what he has to



Online LibraryBurton Jesse HendrickThe Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I → online text (page 20 of 32)