Burton Jesse Hendrick.

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

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taking care of them - this government and this people are. I do not
recall when one nation ever did another whole nation just such a
hospitable service as this. You can't see that work going on and
remain unmoved. An old woman who has an income of $15 a week
decided that she could live on $7.50. She buys milk with the other
$7.50 and goes to meet every train at one of the big stations with
a basket filled with baby bottles, and she gives milk to every
hungry-looking baby she sees. Our American committeeman, Hoover,
saw her in trouble the other day and asked her what was the matter.
She explained that the police would no longer admit her to the
platform because she didn't belong to any relief committee. He took
her to headquarters and said: "Do you see this good old lady? She
puts you and me and everybody else to shame - do you understand?"
The old lady now gets to the platform. Hoover himself gave $5,000
for helping stranded Americans and he goes to the trains to meet
them, while the war has stopped his big business and his big
income. This is a sample of the noble American end of the story.

These are the saving class of people to whom life becomes a bore
unless they can help somebody. There's just such a fellow in
Brussels - you may have heard of him, for his name is Whitlock.
Stories of his showing himself a man come out of that closed-up
city every week. To a really big man, it doesn't matter whether his
post is a little post, or a big post but, if I were President, I'd
give Whitlock a big post. There's another fellow somewhere in
Germany - a consul - of whom I never heard till the other day. But
people have taken to coming in my office - English ladies - who wish
to thank "you and your great government" for the courage and
courtesy of this consul[69]. Stories about him will follow.
Herrick, too, in Paris, somehow causes Americans and English and
even Guatemalans who come along to go out of their way to say what
he has done for them. Now there is a quality in the old woman with
the baby bottles, and in the consul and in Whitlock and Hoover and
Herrick and this English nation which adopts the Belgians - a
quality that is invincible. When folk like these come down the
road, I respectfully do obeisance to them. And - it's this kind of
folk that the Germans have run up against. I thank Heaven I'm of
their race and blood.

The whole world is bound to be changed as a result of this war. If
Germany should win, our Monroe Doctrine would at once be shot in
two, and we should have to get "out of the sun." The military party
is a party of conquest - absolutely. If England wins, as of course
she will, it'll be a bigger and a stronger England, with no strong
enemy in the world, with her Empire knit closer than ever - India,
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt; under
obligations to and in alliance with Russia! England will not need
our friendship as much as she now needs it; and there may come
governments here that will show they do not. In any event, you see,
the world will be changed. It's changed already: witness
Bernstorff[70] and MГјnsterberg[71] playing the part once played by
Irish agitators!

All of which means that it is high time we were constructing a
foreign service. First of all, Congress ought to make it possible
to have half a dozen or more permanent foreign
under-secretaries - men who, after service in the Department, could
go out as Ministers and Ambassadors; it ought generously to
reorganize the whole thing. It ought to have a competent study made
of the foreign offices of other governments. Of course it ought to
get room to work in. Then it ought at once to give its Ambassadors
and Ministers homes and dignified treatment. We've got to play a
part in the world whether we wish to or not. Think of these things.

The blindest great force in this world to-day is the Prussian War
Party - blind and stupid. - Well, and the most weary man in London
just at this hour is

Your humble servant,

but he'll be all right in the morning.

_To Arthur W. Page_


. . . I recall one night when we were dining at Sir John Jellicoe's, he
told me that the Admiralty never slept - that he had a telephone by
his bed every night.

"Did it ever ring?" I asked.

"No; but it will."

You begin to see pretty clearly how English history has been made
and makes itself. This afternoon Lady S - - told your mother of her
three sons, one on a warship in the North Sea, another with the
army in France, and a third in training to go. "How brave you all
are!" said your mother, and her answer was: "They belong to their
country; we can't do anything else." One of the daughters-in-law of
the late Lord Salisbury came to see me to find out if I could make
an inquiry about her son who was reported "missing" after the
battle of Mons. She was dry-eyed, calm, self-restrained - very
grateful for the effort I promised to make; but a Spartan woman
would have envied her self-possession. It turned out that her son
was dead.

You hear experiences like these almost every day. These are the
kinds of women and the kinds of men that have made the British
Empire and the English race. You needn't talk of decadence. All
their great qualities are in them here and now. I believe that half
the young men who came to Katharine's[73] dances last winter and
who used to drop in at the house once in a while are dead in France
already. They went as a matter of course. This is the reason they
are going to win. Now these things impress you, as they come to you
day by day.

There isn't any formal social life now - no dinners, no parties. A
few friends dine with a few friends now and then very quietly. The
ladies of fashion are hospital nurses and Red Cross workers, or
they are collecting socks and blankets for the soldiers. One such
woman told your mother to-day that she went to one of the
recruiting camps every day and taught the young fellows what
colloquial French she could. Every man, woman, and child seems to
be doing something. In the ordinary daily life, we see few of them:
everybody is at work somewhere.

We live in a world of mystery: nothing can surprise us. The rumour
is that a servant in one of the great families sent word to the
Germans where the three English cruisers[74] were that German
submarines blew up the other day. Not a German in the Kingdom can
earn a penny. We're giving thousands of them money at the German
Embassy to keep them alive. Our Austrian Embassy runs a soup
kitchen where it feeds a lot of Austrians. Your mother went around
there the other day and they showed that they thought they owe
their daily bread to her. One day she went to one of the big houses
where the English receive and distribute the thousands of Belgians
who come here, poor creatures, to be taken care of. One old woman
asked your mother in French if she were a princess. The lady that
was with your mother answered, "Une Grande Dame." That seemed to do
as well.

This government doesn't now let anybody carry any food away. But
to-day they consented on condition I'd receive the food (for the
Belgians) and consign it to Whitlock. This is their way of keeping
it out of German hands - have the Stars and Stripes, so to speak, to
cover every bag of flour and of salt. That's only one of 1,000
queer activities that I engage in. I have a German princess's[75]
jewels in our safe - $100,000 worth of them in my keeping; I have an
old English nobleman's check for $40,000 to be sent to men who have
been building a house for his daughter in Dresden - to be sent as
soon as the German Government agrees not to arrest the lady for
debt. I have sent Miss Latimer[76] over to France to bring an
Austrian baby eight months old whose mother will take it to the
United States and bring it up an American citizen! The mother can't
go and get it for fear the French might detain her; I've got the
English Government's permission for the family to go to the United
States. Harold[77] is in Belgium, trying to get a group of English
ladies home who went there to nurse wounded English and Belgians
and whom the Germans threaten to kidnap and transport to German
hospitals - every day a dozen new kinds of jobs.

London is weird and muffled and dark and, in the West End,
deserted. Half the lamps are not lighted, and the upper half of the
globes of the street lights are painted black - so the Zeppelin
raiders may not see them. You've no idea what a strange feeling it
gives one. The papers have next to no news. The 23rd day of the
great battle is reported very much in the same words as the 3rd day
was. Yet nobody talks of much else. The censor erases most of the
matter the correspondents write. We're in a sort of dumb as well as
dark world. And yet, of course, we know much more here than they
know in any other European capital.

_To the President_


Dear Mr. President:

When England, France, and Russia agreed the other day not to make
peace separately, that cooked the Kaiser's goose. They'll wear him
out. Since England thus has Frenchmen and Russians bound, the
Allies are strength-cued at their only weak place. That done,
England is now going in deliberately, methodically, patiently to do
the task. Even a fortnight ago, the people of this Kingdom didn't
realize all that the war means to them. But the fever is rising
now. The wounded are coming back, the dead are mourned, and the
agony of hearing only that such-and-such a man is missing - these
are having a prodigious effect. The men I meet now say in a
matter-of-fact way: "Oh, yes! we'll get 'em, of course; the only
question is, how long it will take us and how many of us it will
cost. But no matter, we'll get 'em."

Old ladies and gentlemen of the high, titled world now begin by
driving to my house almost every morning while I am at breakfast.
With many apologies for calling so soon and with the fear that they
interrupt me, they ask if I can make an inquiry in Germany for "my
son," or "my nephew" - "he's among the missing." They never weep;
their voices do not falter; they are brave and proud and
self-restrained. It seems a sort of matter-of-course to them.
Sometimes when they get home, they write me polite notes thanking
me for receiving them. This morning the first man was Sir Dighton
Probyn of Queen Alexandra's household - so dignified and courteous
that you'd hardly have guessed his errand. And at intervals they
come all day. Not a tear have I seen yet. They take it as a part of
the price of greatness and of empire. You guess at their grief only
by their reticence. They use as few words as possible and then
courteously take themselves away. It isn't an accident that these
people own a fifth of the world. Utterly unwarlike, they outlast
anybody else when war comes. You don't get a sense of fighting
here - only of endurance and of high resolve. Fighting is a sort of
incident in the struggle to keep their world from German
domination. . . .

_To Edward M. House_
October 11, 1914.


There is absolutely nothing to write. It's war, war, war all the
time; no change of subject; and, if you changed with your tongue,
you couldn't change in your thought; war, war, war - "for God's sake
find out if my son is dead or a prisoner"; rumours - they say that
two French generals were shot for not supporting French, and then
they say only one; and people come who have helped take the wounded
French from the field and they won't even talk, it is so horrible;
and a lady says that her own son (wounded) told her that when a man
raised up in the trench to fire, the stench was so awful that it
made him sick for an hour; and the poor Belgians come here by the
tens of thousands, and special trains bring the English wounded;
and the newspapers tell little or nothing - every day's reports like
the preceding days'; and yet nobody talks about anything else.

Now and then the subject of its settlement is mentioned - Belgium
and Serbia, of course, to be saved and as far as possible
indemnified; Russia to have the Slav-Austrian States and
Constantinople; France to have Alsace-Lorraine, of course; and
Poland to go to Russia; Schleswig-Holstein and the Kiel Canal no
longer to be German; all the South-German States to become Austrian
and none of the German States to be under Prussian rule; the
Hohenzollerns to be eliminated; the German fleet, or what is left
of it, to become Great Britain's; and the German colonies to be
used to satisfy such of the Allies as clamour for more than they

Meantime this invincible race is doing this revolutionary task
marvellously - volunteering; trying to buy arms in the United
States (a Pittsburgh manufacturer is now here trying to close a
bargain with the War Office!)[78]; knitting socks and mufflers;
taking in all the poor Belgians; stopping all possible expenditure;
darkening London at night; doing every conceivable thing to win as
if they had been waging this war always and meant to do nothing
else for the rest of their lives-and not the slightest doubt about
the result and apparently indifferent how long it lasts or how much
it costs.

Every aspect of it gets on your nerves. I can't keep from wondering
how the world will seem after it is over - Germany (that is, Prussia
and its system) cut out like a cancer; England owning still more of
the earth; Belgium - all the men dead; France bankrupt; Russia
admitted to the society of nations; the British Empire entering on
a new lease of life; no great navy but one; no great army but the
Russian; nearly all governments in Europe bankrupt; Germany gone
from the sea - in ten years it will be difficult to recall clearly
the Europe of the last ten years. And the future of the world more
than ever in our hands!

We here don't know what you think or what you know at home; we
haven't yet any time to read United States newspapers, which come
very, very late; nobody writes us real letters (or the censor gets
'em, perhaps!); and so the war, the war, the war is the one thing
that holds our minds.

We have taken a house for the Chancery[79] - almost the size of my
house in Grosvenor Square - for the same sum as rent that the
landlord proposed hereafter to charge us for the old hole where
we've been for twenty-nine years. For the first time Uncle Sam has
a decent place in London. We've five times as much room and ten
times as much work. Now - just this last week or two - I get off
Sundays: that's doing well. And I don't now often go back at night.
So, you see, we've much to be thankful for. - Shall we insure
against Zeppelins? That's what everybody's asking. I told the
Spanish Ambassador yesterday that I am going to ask the German
Government for instructions about insuring their Embassy here!

Write and send some news. I saw an American to-day who says he's
going home to-morrow. "Cable me," said I, "if you find the
continent where it used to be."

Faithfully yours,


P.S. It is strange how little we know what you know on your side
and just what you think, what relative value you put on this and
what on that. There's a new sort of loneliness sprung up because of
the universal absorption in the war.

And I hear all sorts of contradictory rumours about the effect of
the German crusade in the United States. Oh well, the world has got
to choose whether it will have English or German domination in
Europe; that's the single big question at issue. For my part I'll
risk the English and then make a fresh start ourselves to outstrip
them in the spread of well-being; in the elevation of mankind of
all classes; in the broadening of democracy and democratic rule
(which is the sheet-anchor of all men's hopes just as bureaucracy
and militarism are the destruction of all men's hopes); in the
spread of humane feeling and action; in the growth of human
kindness; in the tender treatment of women and children and the
old; in literature, in art; in the abatement of suffering; in great
changes in economic conditions which discourage poverty; and in
science which gives us new leases on life and new tools and wider
visions. These are _our_ world tasks, with England as our friendly
rival and helper. God bless us.


_To Arthur W. Page_
London, November 6, 1914.


Those excellent photographs, those excellent apples, those
excellent cigars - thanks. I'm thinking of sending Kitty[80] over
again. They all spell and smell and taste of home - of the U.S.A.
Even the messenger herself seems Unitedstatesy, and that's a good
quality, I assure you. She's told us less news than you'd think she
might for so long a journey and so long a visit; but that's the way
with us all. And, I dare say, if it were all put together it would
make a pretty big news-budget. And luckily for us (I often think we
are among the luckiest families in the world) all she says is quite
cheerful. It's a wonderful report she makes of County Line[81] - the
country, the place, the house, and its inhabitants. Maybe, praise
God, I'll see it myself some day - it and them.

But - but - I don't know when and can't guess out of this vast fog of
war and doom. The worst of it is nobody knows just what is
happening. I have, for an example, known for a week of the blowing
up of a British dreadnaught[82] - thousands of people know it
privately - and yet it isn't published! Such secrecy makes you fear
there may be other and even worse secrets. But I don't really
believe there are. What I am trying to say is, so far as news (and
many other things) go, we are under a military rule.

It's beginning to wear on us badly. It presses down, presses down,
presses down in an indescribable way. All the people you see have
lost sons or brothers; mourning becomes visible over a wider area
all the time; people talk of nothing else; all the books are about
the war; ordinary social life is suspended - people are visibly
growing older. And there are some aspects of it that are
incomprehensible. For instance, a group of American and English
military men and correspondents were talking with me yesterday - men
who have been on both sides - in Germany and Belgium and in
France - and they say that the Germans in France alone have had
750,000 men killed. The Allies have lost 400,000 to 500,000. This
in France only. Take the other fighting lines and there must
already be a total of 2,000,000 killed. Nothing like that has ever
happened before in the history of the world. A flood or a fire or a
wreck which has killed 500 has often shocked all mankind. Yet we
know of this enormous slaughter and (in a way) are not greatly
moved. I don't know of a better measure of the brutalizing effect
of war - it's bringing us to take a new and more inhuman standard to
measure events by.

As for any political or economic reckoning - that's beyond any man's
ability yet. I see strings of incomprehensible figures that some
economist or other now and then puts in the papers, summing up the
loss in pounds sterling. But that means nothing because we have no
proper measure of it. If a man lose $10 or $10,000 we can grasp
that. But when nations shoot away so many million pounds sterling
every day - that means nothing to me. I do know that there's going
to be no money on this side the world for a long time to buy
American securities. The whole world is going to be hard up in
consequence of the bankruptcy of these nations, the inestimable
destruction of property, and the loss of productive men. I fancy
that such a change will come in the economic and financial
readjustment of the world as nobody can yet guess at. - Are
Americans studying these things? It is not only South-American
trade; it is all sorts of manufacturers; it is financial
influence - if we can quit spending and wasting, and husband our
earnings. There's no telling the enormous advantages we shall gain
if we are wise.

The extent to which the German people have permitted themselves to
be fooled is beyond belief. As a little instance of it, I enclose a
copy of a letter that Lord Bryce gave me, written by an English
woman who did good social work in her early life - a woman of
sense - and who married a German merchant and has spent her married
life in Germany. She is a wholly sincere person. This letter she
wrote to a friend in England and - she believes every word of it. If
she believes it, the great mass of the Germans believe similar
things. I have heard of a number of such letters - sincere, as this
one is. It gives a better insight into the average German mind than
a hundred speeches by the Emperor.

This German and Austrian diplomatic business involves an enormous
amount of work. I've now sent one man to Vienna and another to
Berlin to straighten out almost hopeless tangles and lies about
prisoners and such things and to see if they won't agree to swap
more civilians detained in each country. On top of these, yesterday
came the Turkish Embassy! Alas, we shall never see old Tewfik[83]
again! This business begins briskly to-day with the detention of
every Turkish consul in the British Empire. Lord! I dread the
missionaries; and I know they're coming now. This makes four
embassies. We put up a sign, "The American Embassy," on every one
of them. Work? We're worked to death. Two nights ago I didn't get
time to read a letter or even a telegram that had come that day
till 11 o'clock at night. For on top of all these Embassies, I've
had to become Commissary-General to feed 6,000,000 starving people
in Belgium; and practically all the food must come from the United
States. You can't buy food for export in any country in Europe. The
devastation of Belgium defeats the Germans. - I don't mean in battle
but I mean in the after-judgment of mankind. They cannot recover
from that half as soon as they may recover from the economic losses
of the war. The reducing of those people to starvation - that will
stick to damn them in history, whatever they win or whatever they

When's it going to end? Everybody who ought to know says at the
earliest next year - next summer. Many say in two years. As for me,
I don't know. I don't see how it can end soon. Neither can lick the
other to a frazzle and neither can afford to give up till it is
completely licked. This way of living in trenches and fighting a
month at a time in one place is a new thing in warfare. Many a man
shoots a cannon all day for a month without seeing a single enemy.
There are many wounded men back here who say they haven't seen a
single German. When the trenches become so full of dead men that
the living can't stay there longer, they move back to other
trenches. So it goes on. Each side has several more million men to
lose. What the end will be - I mean when it will come, I don't see
how to guess. The Allies are obliged to win; they have more food
and more money, and in the long run, more men. But the German

Online LibraryBurton Jesse HendrickThe Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I → online text (page 25 of 32)