Part 3 out of 7
The congressman said: "I am a poor man, but cannot understand
how anybody can refuse to be member of the Cabinet of the President
of the United States. If such an offer was made to me, and the
conditions of our overruling Providence were that I and my family
should live in want and poverty for the rest of our lives, I would
accept without hesitation."
I had met Benjamin Harrison as we passed through Indianapolis
on business during the canvass, for the first time. I was much
impressed with him, but his austerity appeared to those who called
upon him while present upon official business. I found him one
of the most genial and agreeable of men, and this impression was
intensified when I met him at the White House. At his own table
and family dinners he was one of the most charming of hosts. He
had, unfortunately, a repellent manner and a harsh voice. In meeting
those who came to him for official favors this made him one of
the most unpopular presidents with senators and members of the
House of Representatives.
On the platform as a public speaker he had few equals. He was
most lucid and convincing, and had what few orators possess, which
was of special use to him in campaigning and touring the country
as president, the ability to make a fresh speech every day and
each a good one. It was a talent of presenting questions from
many angles, each of which illuminated his subject and captivated
his audience. It was said of him by a senator who was his friend,
and the remark is quoted by Senator Hoar, that if he spoke to
an audience of ten thousand people, he would make every one of
them his friend, but if he were introduced to each of them
afterwards, each would depart his enemy. I think that his manner,
which was so unfortunate, came from the fact that his career had been
one of battle, from his early struggles to his triumphant success.
A short time before the national convention met in 1892 Senator
Frank Hiscock came to me and said that President Harrison had
requested him to ask me to lead his forces on the floor in the
convention. I said to him that I was a loyal organization man
and did not want to quarrel with our leader, Senator Platt. Then
he told me that he had seen Platt, who remarked that no one
could help Harrison, and that I would conduct the campaign in
better spirit than any one, and so he had no objection to my
accepting the position. There was one obstacle which I wished
removed. I was devoted to Mr. Blaine and not only was one of
his political supporters but very fond of him personally. Mr. Blaine
happened to be in the city, and I immediately called upon him.
His health was then very bad.
"Mr. Blaine," I said to him, "if you are a candidate, you know
I will support you with the greatest of pleasure, but if not, then
I will accept the invitation of the president."
Mr. Blaine was most cordial. He said that he had no objections
whatever to my taking the commission, but he doubted if the
president could be renominated, and that he could not be re-elected
if nominated. Harrison had made an excellent president, but his
manner of treating people who came to him had filled the country
with bitter and powerful enemies, while his friends were very few.
Then he mentioned several other possible candidates, but evidently
doubted the success of the Republican party in the election. In
regard to himself he said: "If I should accept the nomination I
could not endure the labors of the canvass and its excitements.
It would kill me." That diagnosis of his condition was correct and
was demonstrated by the fact that he died soon after the election,
but long before he could be inaugurated if elected.
All organization leaders of the party were united against the
nomination of President Harrison. The leaders were Platt, Quay,
and Clarkson, who was also chairman of the national committee.
They were the greatest masters of organization and of its management
we ever had in politics, especially Platt and Quay. Their methods
were always secret, so I decided that the only hope of success
for President Harrison was in the greatest publicity.
The position I had accepted soon became known, and I began to
give the fullest interviews, each one an argument for the
renomination of the president. I went to Chicago a few days
in advance of the convention, was met there by correspondents
of the press, some fifty of them, and gave them a talk in a body,
which made a broadside in the morning papers, each correspondent
treating it in his own way, as his own individual interview.
This statement or, rather, argument, was intended to be read
and succeeded in being so by the delegates from everywhere who
were on their way to the convention and had to pass through
Chicago. The convention was held in Minneapolis. I received
from that city an invitation to address a gathering of New Yorkers
who had settled in the West to speak before two patriotic audiences,
and to make the address at the dedication of the great hall where
the convention was to meet.
It was evident that before these engagements had been concluded,
every delegate would have attended some of these meetings, and,
therefore, with the relationship between a speaker and his audience,
I would be practically the only man in the convention who was
personally known to every member. This relationship was an
enormous benefit in conducting the canvass.
The great organization leaders were difficult of access and carried
on their campaign through trusted members of each State delegation.
My rooms were wide open for everybody. On account of the conflicting
statements made by members of the State delegations, it was very
difficult to make an accurate and detailed list of those who were
for the president, and those who were for Mr. Blaine. It occurred
to me that it would help to call a meeting of the Harrison delegates.
Many thought it was hazardous, as it might develop a majority the
The meeting was attended, however, by every delegate, those opposed
coming out of curiosity. Taking the chair, I asked some member
of each delegation to arise and state how many votes he believed
could be relied upon from his State. Of course the statement of each
delegate was often loudly challenged by others from his State who
were present. When the result was announced it showed a majority
of three for General Harrison. A veteran campaigner begged me
to announce it as fifty, but I refused. "No," I said, "the closeness
of the vote when there is every opportunity for manipulation would
An old gentleman who stood beside me had a gold-headed ebony
cane. I seized it and rapped it on the table with such force that
it broke in two and announced that the figures showed absolute
certainty of President Harrison's renomination. I doubt if there
was a reliable majority, but the announcement of this result
brought enough of those always anxious to get on the band-wagon
to make it certain.
Soon after arriving home I received a letter from the owner of
the cane. He wrote: "I was very angry when you broke my cane.
It was a valued birthday present from my children. It is now
in a glass case in my library, and on the case is this label: 'This
cane nominated a president of the United States.'"
Mr. McKinley, then Governor of Ohio, presided at the convention.
I stood close beside him when I made my speech for Harrison's
renomination. While thoroughly prepared, the speech was in a
way extemporaneous to meet calls or objections. In the midst
of a sentence McKinley said to me in a loud voice: "You are
making a remarkably fine speech." The remark threw me off my
balance as an opposition would never have done. I lost the
continuity and came near breaking down, but happily the applause
gave me time to get again upon the track.
Among my colleagues in the New York delegation was James W. Husted.
General Husted was very ill and unable to leave his room during
the convention. He sent for me one morning and said: "I have
just had a call from Governor McKinley. He says that you have
the power to nominate him, and that Harrison cannot be nominated.
If you will direct the Harrison forces for him, he will be the next
I told Husted I was enlisted for the war and, while having a great
admiration for McKinley, it was impossible.
Soon after arriving home I received an invitation from the president
to visit him at Washington. I took the night train, arriving there
in the morning. My appointment was to lunch with him.
During the morning Stephen B. Elkins, then secretary of war,
called and asked me to take a walk. While we were walking he
told me that the president was going to offer me the secretaryship
of state, in succession to Mr. Blaine, and that I ought to accept.
He then led me to the State Department and pointed to the portraits
on the walls of the different secretaries, commencing with
Thomas Jefferson. Elkins said that to be in that list was a
greater distinction than to be on the walls of the White House,
because these men are of far greater eminence.
After luncheon the president invited me into the Blue Room, and
with a great deal of emotion said: "You are the only man who
has ever unselfishly befriended me. It was largely through your
efforts that I became president, and I am greatly indebted to you
for my renomination. I have tried my best to show my appreciation
by asking you into my Cabinet and otherwise, but you have refused
everything I have heretofore offered. I now want to give you
the best I have, which is secretary of state. It is broken bread,
because if I am not re-elected it will be only till the 4th of March,
but if I am re-elected it will be for four years more. I personally
want you in my Cabinet."
I told the president it was impossible for me to accept; that even
if I resigned my presidency of the railroad, coming directly
from that position would bring the railroad question, which was
very acute, into the canvass. He said he did not think there
was anything in that, but I realized that if he was defeated his
defeat would be charged to having made that mistake.
He then said: "Well, how about it if I am re-elected?" I told
him that I would regard the appointment the greatest of honors,
and the associations the most pleasurable of a lifetime.
"Very well," he said; "I will appoint Mr. John W. Foster, who
has been doing excellent service for the State Department, until
next 4th of March, and you can prepare to come here upon that date."
The most painful thing that was connected with the canvass at
Minneapolis before the convention was the appearance of Mr. Blaine
as a candidate. He had resigned from the Cabinet and yielded
to the pressure of his friends to become a candidate.
Notwithstanding my interview and what he had said, he sent no
word whatever to me, and personally I had no information and no
notification that his candidacy was authorized by himself. What
gave, however, much authority to the statement that he would accept
the nomination was the appearance of his son, Emmons, among those
who were endeavoring to bring it about.
There has never been a statesman in our public life, except
Henry Clay, who had such devoted friends as Mr. Blaine. While
Henry Clay never reached the presidency and was fairly defeated
in his attempt, there is no doubt that Mr. Blaine was elected in
1884, and that notwithstanding the Burchard misfortune, he would
still have been a victor except for transparent frauds in New York.
General Harrison was by far the ablest and profoundest lawyer
among our presidents. None of them equalled him as an orator.
His State papers were of a very high order. When history sums
up the men who have held the great place of president of the
United States, General Harrison will be among the foremost.
He retired from office, like many of our presidents, a comparatively
poor man. After retirement he entered at once upon the practice
of his profession of the law and almost immediately became
recognized as one of the leaders of the American bar.
XII. JAMES G. BLAINE
I have spoken in every national canvass, beginning with 1856.
It has been an interesting experience to be on the same platform
as an associate speaker with nearly every man in the country who
had a national reputation. Most of them had but one speech,
which was very long, elaborately prepared, and so divided into
sections, each complete in itself, that the orator was equipped
for an address of any length, from fifteen minutes to four hours,
by selection or consolidation of these sections. Few of them
would trust themselves to extemporaneous speaking. The most
versatile and capable of those who could was James G. Blaine.
He was always ready, courted interruptions, and was brilliantly
effective. In a few sentences he had captured his audience and
held them enthralled. No public man in our country, except,
perhaps, Henry Clay, had such devoted following.
Mr. Blaine had another extraordinary gift, which is said to belong
only to kings; he never forgot any one. Years after an introduction
he would recall where he had first met the stranger and remember
his name. This compliment made that man Blaine's devoted friend
I had an interesting experience of his readiness and versatility
when he ran for president in 1884. He asked me to introduce him
at the different stations, where he was to deliver long or short
addresses. After several of these occasions, he asked: "What's
the next station, Chauncey?" I answered: "Peekskill." "Well,"
he said, "what is there about Peekskill?" "I was born there,"
I answered. "Well," he said, rising, "I always thought that you
were born at Poughkeepsie." "No, Peekskill." Just then we were
running into the station, and, as the train stopped, I stepped
forward to introduce him to the great crowd which had gathered
there from a radius of fifty miles. He pushed me back in a very
dramatic way, and shouted: "Fellow citizens, allow me to make
the introduction here. As I have many times in the last quarter
of a century travelled up and down your beautiful Hudson River,
with its majestic scenery made famous by the genius of
Washington Irving, and upon the floating palaces not equalled
anywhere else in the world, or when the steamer has passed through
this picturesque bay and opposite your village, I have had emotions
of tenderness and loving memories, greater than those impressed
by any other town, because I have said to myself: 'There is the
birthplace of one of my best friends, Chauncey Depew.'"
Local committees who desire to use the candidate to help the party
in their neighborhood and also their county tickets are invariably
most unreasonable and merciless in their demands upon the time
of the candidate. They know perfectly well that he has to speak
many times a day; that there is a limit to his strength and to
his vocal cords, and yet they will exact from him an effort which
would prevent his filling other engagements, if they possibly can.
This was notoriousIy the case during Mr. Blaine's trip through
the State of New York and afterwards through the country. The
strain upon him was unprecedented, and, very naturally, he at times
showed his irritation and some temper.
The local committees would do their best with the railroad company
and with Blaine's managers in New York to prolong his stay and speech
at each station. He would be scheduled according to the importance
of the place for five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes.
Before we reached Albany he asked me to accompany him to the end
of our line at Buffalo, and make the introduction as usual at the
stations. The committee would sometimes succeed in changing
the programme and make the stays longer at their several places.
Mr. Blaine's arrangement with me was that after he had decided
how long he would speak, I should fill up the time, whether it
was longer or shorter. That would often enlarge my speech, but
I was young and vigorous and had no responsibilities.
I remember one committee, where the train was scheduled for ten
minutes, succeed in having it delayed an hour, and instead of
a brief address from the platform of the car, carried the
presidential party to a stand in the central square where many
thousands had gathered. In the first place, this city was not
on Mr. Blaine's schedule, and as it was late in the afternoon,
after a fatiguing day, he therefore told the committee peremptorily
that ten minutes was his limit. Then he said to me: "Chauncey,
you will have to fill out the hour."
Mr. Blaine's wonderful magnetism, the impression he made upon every
one, and his tactful flattery of local pride, did a great deal
to remove the prejudices against him, which were being fomented by
a propaganda of a "mugwump" committee in New York. This propaganda,
as is usually the case, assailed his personal integrity.
Notwithstanding the predictions made at the time, he was nominated,
and it was subsequently repeated that he would not carry New York.
From my own experience of many years with the people of the State
and from the platform view-point, I felt confident that he would
have a majority in the election.
It was a few days before the close of the canvass, when I was
in the western part of the State, I received an urgent telegram
from Mr. Blaine to join him on the train, which was to leave
the Grand Central Station in New York early next morning for his
tour of New England. Upon arrival I was met by a messenger,
who took me at once to Mr. Blaine's car, which started a few
There was an unusual excitement in the crowd, which was speedily
explained. The best account Mr. Blaine gave me himself in saying:
"I felt decidedly that everything was well in New York. It was
against my judgment to return here. Our national committee,
however, found that a large body of Protestant clergymen wanted
to meet me and extend their support. They thought this would
offset the charges made by the 'mugwump' committee. I did not
believe that any such recognition was necessary. However, their
demands for my return and to meet this body became so importunate
that I yielded my own judgment.
"I was engaged in my room with the committee and other visitors
when I was summoned to the lobby of the hotel to meet the clergymen.
I had prepared no speech, in fact, had not thought up a reply.
When their spokesman, Reverend Doctor Burchard, began to address
me, my only hope was that he would continue long enough for me
to prepare an appropriate response. I had a very definite idea
of what he would say and so paid little attention to his speech.
In the evening the reporters began rushing in and wanted my opinion
of Doctor Burchard's statement that the main issue of the campaign
was 'Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.' If I had heard him utter
these words, I would have answered at once, and that would have
been effective, but I am still in doubt as to what to say about it
now. The situation is very difficult, and almost anything I say
is likely to bitterly offend one side or the other. Now I want you
to do all the introductions and be beside me to-day as far as
possible. I have become doubtful about everybody and you are
always sure-footed." I have treasured that compliment ever since.
As we rode through the streets of New Haven the Democrats had
placed men upon the tops of the houses on either side, and they
threw out in the air thousands of leaflets, charging Blaine with
having assented to the issue which Doctor Burchard had put out--
"Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion." They so filled the air that it
seemed a shower, and littered the streets.
A distinguished Catholic prelate said to me: "We had to resent
an insult like that, and I estimate that the remark has changed
fifty thousand votes." I know personally of about five thousand
which were changed in our State, but still Blaine lost New York
and the presidency by a majority against him of only one thousand
one hundred and forty-nine votes.
Whenever I visited Washington I always called upon Mr. Blaine.
The fascination of the statesman and his wonderful conversational
power made every visit an event to be remembered. On one occasion
he said to me: "Chauncey, I am in very low spirits to-day. I have
read over the first volume of my 'Twenty Years in Congress,' which
is just going to the printer, and destroyed it. I dictated the
whole of it, but I find that accuracy and elegance can only be had
at the end of a pen. I shall rewrite the memoirs in ink. In these
days composition by the typewriter or through the stenographer
is so common." There will be many who differ with Mr. Blaine.
XIII. WILLIAM McKINLEY
In the canvass of 1896 the Republican organization of the State
of New York decided, if possible, to have the national convention
nominate Levi P. Morton for president. Mr. Morton won popular
favor as vice-president, and the canvass for him looked hopeful.
But a new man of extraordinary force and ability came into this
campaign, and that man was Mark Hanna, of Ohio. Mr. Hanna was
one of the most successful of our business men. He had a rare
genius for organization, and possessed resourcefulness, courage,
and audacity. He was most practical and at the same time had
imagination and vision. While he had taken very little part in
public affairs, he had rather suddenly determined to make his
devoted friend, William McKinley, president of the United States.
In a little while every State in the Union felt the force of
Mr. Hanna's efforts. He applied to politics the methods by which
he had so successfully advanced his large manufacturing interests.
McKinley clubs and McKinley local organizations sprang up everywhere
under the magic of Hanna's management. When the convention met
it was plain that McKinley's nomination was assured.
The New York delegation, however, decided to present Morton's name
and submit his candidacy to a vote. I was selected to make a
nominating speech. If there is any hope, an orator on such an
occasion has inspiration. But if he knows he is beaten he cannot
put into his effort the fire necessary to impress an audience.
It is not possible to speak with force and effect unless you have
faith in your cause.
After Mr. McKinley was nominated I moved that the nomination be
made unanimous. The convention called for speech and platform
so insistently that their call had to be obeyed. The following is
an account from a newspaper of that date of my impromptu speech.
The story which is mentioned in the speech was told to me as I was
ascending the platform by Senator Proctor of Vermont.
"I am in the happy position now of making a speech for the man
who is going to be elected. (Laughter and applause.) It is
a great thing for an amateur, when his first nomination has failed,
to come in and second the man who has succeeded. New York is
here with no bitter feeling and with no disappointment. We
recognize that the waves have submerged us, but we have bobbed
up serenely. (Loud laughter.) It was a cannon from New York that
sounded first the news of McKinley's nomination. They said of
Governor Morton's father that he was a New England clergyman, who
brought up a family of ten children on three hundred dollars a year,
and was, notwithstanding, gifted in prayer. (Laughter.) It does
not make any difference how poor he may be, how out of work,
how ragged, how next door to a tramp anybody may be in the
United States to-night, he will be 'gifted in prayer' at the result
of this convention. (Cheers and laughter.)
"There is a principle dear to the American heart. It is the
principle which moves American spindles, starts the industries,
and makes the wage-earners sought for instead of seeking employment.
That principle is embodied in McKinley. His personality explains
the nomination to-day. And his personality will carry into the
presidential chair the aspirations of the voters of America, of the
families of America, of the homes of America, protection to American
industry and America for Americans." (Cheers.)
As every national convention, like every individual, has its
characteristics, the peculiar distinction of the Republican
convention of 1896 was its adoption of the gold standard of value.
An amazing and illuminating part of our political literature of
that time is the claim which various statesmen and publicists make
to the authorship of the gold plank in the platform.
Senator Foraker, who was chairman of the committee on resolutions,
devotes a considerable part of his interesting autobiography
to the discussion of this question. He is very severe upon all
those who claim to have originated the idea. I have been asked
by several statesmen to enforce their claims to its authorship.
The silver craze had not yet subsided. Bimetallism had strong
advocates and believers in our convention. I think even our
candidate was not fully convinced at that time of the wisdom
of the declaration. It went into the platform rather as a venture
than an article of faith, but to the surprise of both the journalists
and campaign orators, it turned out that the people had become
converted to the gold standard, and it proved to be the strongest
and most popular declaration of the convention.
When the campaign opened the genius of Mark Hanna soon became
evident. He organized a campaign of education such as had never
been dreamed of, much less attempted. Travelling publicity agents,
with wagonloads of pamphlets, filled the highways and the byways,
and no home was so isolated that it did not receive its share.
Columns in the newspapers, especially the country papers, were
filled with articles written by experts, and the platform was never
so rich with public speakers.
Such a campaign is irresistible. Its influence is felt by everybody;
its arguments become automatically and almost insensibly the
common language of the people. But the expense is so terrific
that it will never again be attempted. There was no corruption
or purchase of votes in Mr. Hanna's management. It was publicity
and again publicity, but it cost nearly five millions of dollars.
To reach the one hundred and ten million of people in the
United States in such a way would involve a sum so vast that
public opinion would never permit any approach to it.
Mr. McKinley's front-porch campaign was a picturesque and
captivating feature. The candidate was a handsome man and an
eloquent speaker, with a cordial and sympathetic manner which
won everybody. Delegations from all parts of the country and
representing every phase of American life appeared at Mr. McKinley's
residence. His address to them was always appropriate and his
reception made the visitors his fast friends.
I received a personal request to visit him, and on the occasion
he said to me: "In certain large agricultural sections there is
a very dangerous revolt in our party, owing to the bad conditions
among the farmers. Wheat and corn are selling below the cost
of production. I wish you would go down among them and make
speeches explaining the economic conditions which have produced
this result, and how we propose to and will remedy it."
"Mr. McKinley," I said, "my position as a railroad president,
I am afraid, would antagonize them."
"On the contrary, your very position will draw the largest
audiences and receive the greater attention."
The result proved that he was correct.
I recall one meeting in particular. There were thousands present,
all farmers. In the midst of my speech one man arose and said:
"Chauncey Depew, we appreciate your coming here, and we are very
anxious to hear you. Your speech is very charming and interesting,
but I want to put this to you personally. We here are suffering
from market conditions for the products of our farms. The prices
are so low that we have difficulty in meeting the interest on
our mortgages and paying our taxes, no matter how seriously we
economize. Now you are the president of one of the greatest
railroads in the country. It is reported that you are receiving
a salary of fifty thousand dollars a year. You are here in a
private car. Don't you think that the contrast between you and
us makes it difficult for us poor farmers to give you the welcome
which we would like?"
I saw at once I had lost my audience. I then ventured upon a
statement of conditions which I have often tried and always
successfully. I said: "My friend, what you say about me is true.
Now, as to my career, I was born and brought up in a village
similar to the one which is near you here. My father gave me
my education and nothing else with which to begin life. As a
young lawyer I was looking for clients and not for office. I made
up my mind that there were no opportunities offered in the village,
but that the chances of success were in the service of corporations.
The result is that I have accomplished what you have described.
Now, my friend, I believe that you have a promising boy. I also
believe that to your pride and satisfaction he is going through
the neighboring college here, and that you intend on account
of his brightness and ability to make him a lawyer. When he is
admitted to the bar, do you expect him to try to do what I have
accomplished and make an independent position in life, or fail?"
The farmer shouted: "Chauncey, you are all right. Go ahead
and keep it up."
My arguments and presentation were no better than many another
speaker's, but, as Mr. McKinley predicted, they received an
attention and aroused a discussion, because of what the old farmer
had said, that no other campaigner could command.
Mr. McKinley sent for me again and said: "Sentiment is a
wonderful force in politics. Mr. Bryan, my opponent, has made
a remarkable speaking tour through our State. He started in the
early morning from Cleveland with a speech. His train made many
stops on the way to Cincinnati, where he arrived in the evening,
and at each place he addressed large audiences, traversing the
State from one side to the other. His endurance and versatility
have made a great impression upon our people. To meet and
overcome that impression, I have asked you to come here and
repeat Bryan's effort. You are so much older than he is--I think
we may claim nearly twice his age--that if you can do it, and
I hope you can, that sentiment will be dissipated."
I traversed Mr. Bryan's route, stopped at the same stations and
delivered speeches to similar audiences of about the same length.
On arriving in Cincinnati in the evening I was met by a committee,
the chairman of which said: "We have followed you all along from
Cleveland, where you started at seven o'clock this morning, and
it is fine. Now Mr. Bryan, when he arrived here, had no meeting.
We have seven thousand people in the Music Hall, and if you will
go there and speak five minutes it will make your trip a
I went to the Music Hall, of course had a wonderful time and wild
ovation, and spoke for an hour. The next day I was none the worse
for this twelve hours' experience.
President McKinley had spent most of his life in the House of
Representatives. He loved the associations and life of Congress.
The most erratic and uncertain of bodies is Congress to an executive
who does not understand its temper and characteristics. McKinley
was past master of this. Almost every president has been greatly
relieved when Congress adjourned, but Mr. McKinley often expressed
to me his wish that Congress would always be in session, as he
never was so happy as when he could be in daily contact with it.
His door was open at all times to a senator or a member of the
House of Representatives. If either failed to see him at least
once a week, the absentee usually received a message stating that
the president desired him to call. He was very keen in discovering
any irritation on the part of any senator or member about any
disappointment or fancied slight, and always most tactfully managed
to straighten the matter out. He was quite as attentive and as
particular with the opposition as with members of his own party.
President McKinley had a wonderful way of dealing with office-seekers
and with their friends and supporters. A phrase of his became
part of the common language of the capital. It was: "My dear
fellow, I am most anxious to oblige you, but I am so situated
that I cannot give you what you want. I will, however, try to find
you something equally as good." The anxious caller for favors,
if he or his congressman failed to get the office desired, always
carried away a flower or a bouquet given by the president, with
a complimentary remark to be remembered. It soon came to be
understood among applicants for office that a desired consulship
in England could not be granted, but one of equal rank in
South Africa was possible.
There were many good stories in the Senate of his tact in dealing
with the opposition. A Southern senator, who as a general had
made a distinguished record in the Civil War on the Confederate
side, was very resentful and would frequently remark to his friends
"that our president unfortunately is not a gentleman, and in his
ancestry is some very common blood."
Mr. McKinley persuaded some of the senator's Southern colleagues
to bring him to the White House. He expressed his regret to
the senator that he should have offended him in any way and asked
what he had done. The senator replied: "You have appointed for
the town where my sister lives a nigger, and a bad nigger at that,
for postmaster, and my sister has to go to him for her letters
and stamps." The president arranged for the transfer of this
postmaster and the appointment of a man recommended by the senator.
The senator then went to his friends and said: "Have I remarked
to you at any time that our president was not a gentleman and
had somewhere in his ancestry very common blood? If I did I recall
the statement and apologize. Mr. McKinley is a perfect gentleman."
All the measures which the president wished passed, unless they
were absolutely partisan, always received afterwards the support
of the Southern senator.
I was in the Senate during a part of his term and nearly every day
at the White House, where his reception was so cordial and his
treatment of the matter presented so sympathetic that it was
a delight to go there, instead of being, as usual, one of the
most disagreeable tasks imposed upon a senator.
He had a way of inviting one to a private conference and with
impressing you with its confidential character and the trust he
reposed in your advice and judgment which was most flattering.
Entertainments at the White House were frequent, and he managed
to make each dinner an event to be most pleasantly remembered.
I think, while he was very courteous to everybody, he was more than
usually so to me because of an incident prior to his inauguration.
A well-known journalist came to my office one day and said: "I am
just from Canton, where I have been several days with the president.
I discussed with him federal appointments--among others, the
mission to England, in which I am interested because my father is
an Englishman, and both my father and I are exceedingly anxious
to have you take the post, and Mr. McKinley authorized me to ask
you if you would accept the mission."
The embassy to England presented peculiar attraction to me, because
I knew personally the Prince of Wales and most of the leading
English statesmen and public men. The journalist said that if
I accepted he would sound the press. This he did, and the response
was most flattering from journals of all political views.
About the time of the inauguration Vice-President Hobart, who was
a cordial friend of mine, said to me: "There is something wrong
about you with the president. It is very serious, and you can
expect no recognition from the administration." I was wholly
at a loss to account for the matter and would not investigate
any further. Not long afterwards the vice-president came to me
and said: "I have found out the truth of that matter of yours
and have explained it satisfactorily to the president, who deeply
regrets that he was misled by a false report from a friend in
whom he had confidence." Soon after the president made me the
offer of the mission to Germany. I did not understand the language
and felt that I could be of little service there, and so declined.
When President McKinley was lying seriously wounded at Buffalo
from the shot of the anarchist Czolgosz, I went there to see if
anything could be done for his comfort. For some time there was
hope he would recover, and that it would be better for him to go
to Washington. I made every arrangement to take him to the capital
if the doctors decided it could be done. But suddenly, as is
always the case with wounds of that kind, a crisis arrived in
which he died.
Vice-President Roosevelt was camping in the Adirondacks. A message
reached him, and the next morning he arrived in Buffalo. The
Cabinet of Mr. McKinley decided that the vice-president should be
at once inaugurated as president. Colonel Roosevelt was a guest
at the house of Mr. Ainsley Wilcox. He invited me to witness his
inauguration, which occurred the same evening. It was a small
company gathered in the parlor of Mr. Wilcox's house. Elihu Root,
secretary of state, choking with emotion and in a voice full of tears,
made a speech which was a beautiful tribute to the dead president
and a clear statement of the necessity of immediate action to avoid
an interregnum in the government. John Raymond Hazel, United States
district judge, administered the oath, and the new president
delivered a brief and affecting answer to Mr. Root's address.
This inauguration was in pathetic and simple contrast to that
which had preceded at the Capitol at Washington. Among the few
present was Senator Mark Hanna. He had been more instrumental
than any one in the United States in the selection of Mr. McKinley
for president and his triumphant election. Mr. McKinley put
absolute trust in Hanna, and Hanna was the most powerful personality
in the country. No two men in public life were ever so admirably
fitted for each other as President McKinley and Senator Hanna.
The day before the death of the president Hanna could look forward
to four years of increasing power and usefulness with the president
who had just been re-elected. But as he walked with me from
Mr. Wilcox's house that night, he felt keenly that he never could
have any such relation with Colonel Roosevelt. He was personally
exceedingly fond of Mr. McKinley, and to his grief at the death
of his friend was added a full apprehension of his changed position
in American public life.
XlV. THEODORE ROOSEVELT
The bullet of the assassin had ended fatally, and McKinley was
no more. Theodore Roosevelt, vice-president, became president.
Few recognized at the time there had come into the presidency
of the United States one of the most remarkable, capable, and
original men who ever occupied the White House.
During the following seven years President Roosevelt not only
occupied but filled the stage of public affairs in the United States.
Even now, two years or more after his death, with the exception
of President Wilson, Roosevelt is the best known American in
the world. It is difficult to predict the future because of the
idealization which sometimes though rarely occurs in regard to
public men, but Colonel Roosevelt is rapidly taking a position
as third, with Washington and Lincoln as the other two.
My relations with Colonel Roosevelt were always most interesting.
His father, who was a cordial friend of mine, was one of the
foremost citizens of New York. In all civic duties and many
philanthropies he occupied a first place. The public activities
of the father had great influence in forming the character and
directing the ambitions of his son.
Mr. Roosevelt entered public life very early and, as with
everything with him, always in a dramatic way. One of the
interesting characters of New York City was Frederick Gibbs, who
was an active politician and a district leader. Gibbs afterwards
became the national committeeman from New York on the Republican
national committee. When he died he left a collection of pictures
which, to the astonishment of everybody, showed that he was a
liberal and discriminating patron of art.
Gibbs had a district difficult to manage, because, commencing
in the slums it ran up to Fifth Avenue. It was normally Democratic,
but he managed to keep his party alive and often to win, and
so gained the reputation that he was in league with Tammany.
He came to me one day and said: "Our organization has lost the
confidence of the 'highbrows.' They have not a great many votes,
but their names carry weight and their contributions are invaluable
in campaigns. To regain their confidence we are thinking of
nominating for member of the legislature young Theodore Roosevelt,
who has just returned from Harvard. What do you think of it?"
Of course, I advocated it very warmly. "Well," he said, "we will
have a dinner at Delmonico's. It will be composed entirely of
'highbrows.' We wish you to make the principal speech, introducing
young Roosevelt, who, of course, will respond. I will not be at
the dinner, but I will be in the pantry."
The dinner was a phenomenal success. About three hundred in
dress suits, white vests, and white neckties were discussing the
situation, saying: "Where did these stories and slanders originate
in regard to our district , about its being an annex of Tammany
and with Tammany affiliations? We are the district, and we all
know each other."
Young Roosevelt, when he rose to speak, looked about eighteen
years old, though he was twenty-three. His speech was carefully
prepared, and he read it from a manuscript. It was remarkable
in the emphatic way in which he first stated the evils in the city,
State, and national governments, and how he would correct them
if he ever had the opportunity. It is a curious realization of
youthful aspirations that every one of those opportunities came
to him, and in each of them he made history and permanent fame.
The term of office of Frank Black, Governor of the State of
New York, was about expiring. Black was a man of great ability
and courage. The people had voted nine millions of dollars to
improve the Erie Canal. There were persistent rumors of fraud
in the work. Governor Black ordered an investigation through an
able committee which he appointed. The committee discovered
that about a million dollars had been wasted or stolen. Black
at once took measures to recover the money if possible and to
prosecute the guilty. The opposition took advantage of this to
create the impression in the public mind of the corruption of the
Republican administration. The acute question was: "Should
Governor Black be renominated?"
Colonel Roosevelt had just returned from Cuba, where he had won
great reputation in command of the Rough Riders, and he and his
command were in camp on Long Island.
Senator Platt, the State leader, was accustomed to consult me, and
his confidence in my judgment was the greater from the fact that
he knew that I wanted nothing, while most of the people who
surrounded the leader were recipients of his favor, and either
the holders of offices or expecting some consideration. He asked
me to come and see him at Manhattan Beach. As usual, he entered
at once upon the question in hand by saying: "I am very much
troubled about the governorship. Frank Black has made an excellent
governor and did the right thing in ordering an investigation of
the Canal frauds, but the result of the investigation has been that
in discovering frauds the Democrats have been able to create
a popular impression that the whole State administration is guilty.
The political situation is very critical in any way. Benjamin Odell,
the chairman of our State committee, urges the nomination of
Colonel Roosevelt. As you know, Roosevelt is no friend of mine, and
I don't think very well of the suggestion. Now, what do you think?"
I instantly replied: "Mr. Platt, I always look at a public question
from the view of the platform. I have been addressing audiences
ever since I became a voter, and my judgment of public opinion
and the views of the people are governed by how they take or will
take and act upon the questions presented. Now, if you nominate
Governor Black and I am addressing a large audience--and I certainly
will--the heckler in the audience will arise and interrupt me,
saying: 'Chauncey, we agree with what you say about the Grand
Old Party and all that, but how about the Canal steal?' I have
to explain that the amount stolen was only a million, and that
would be fatal. If Colonel Roosevelt is nominated, I can say to
the heckler with indignation and enthusiasm: 'I am mighty glad
you asked that question. We have nominated for governor a man
who has demonstrated in public office and on the battlefield that
he is a fighter for the right, and always victorious. If he is
selected, you know and we all know from his demonstrated
characteristics, courage and ability, that every thief will be
caught and punished, and every dollar that can be found restored
to the public treasury.' Then I will follow the colonel leading his
Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and ask the band to play the
Platt said very impulsively: "Roosevelt will be nominated."
When the State convention met to nominate a State ticket, I was
selected to present the name of Colonel Roosevelt as a candidate
for governor. I have done that a great many times in conventions,
but have never had such a response. As I went on reciting the
achievements of Roosevelt, his career, his accomplishments, and
his great promise, the convention went wild with enthusiasm.
It was plain that no mistake had been made in selecting him as
During the campaign he made one of the most picturesque canvasses
the State has ever experienced. He was accompanied in his travels
by a large staff of orators, but easily dominated the situation
and carried the audience with him. He was greatly amused at a
meeting where one of his Rough Riders, who was in the company,
insisted upon making a speech. The Rough Rider said: "My friends
and fellow citizens, my colonel was a great soldier. He will make
a great governor. He always put us boys in battle where we would be
killed if there was a chance, and that is what he will do with you."
Roosevelt as governor was, as always, most original. New York
was an organization State, with Mr. Platt as leader, and with
county leaders of unusual ability and strength. Governors had
been accustomed to rely upon the organization both for advice
and support. Roosevelt could not bear any kind of control. He
sought advice in every direction and then made up his mind. This
brought him often in conflict with local leaders and sometimes
with the general organization.
On one occasion the State chairman, who was always accustomed
to be in Albany during the closing day of the legislature, to prevent
in the haste and confusion, characteristic of legislation at this
time, the passage of bad or unpopular measures, bade the governor
good-by at midnight, as the legislature was to adjourn the following
day with the understanding that lawmaking was practically over.
A large real-estate delegation arrived the next morning, with
the usual desire to relieve real-estate from taxation by putting
it somewhere else. They came with a proposition to place new
burdens upon public utilities. It was too late to formulate and
introduce a measure on a question so important, but there was
a bill which had been in the legislature most of the session and
never received serious consideration. The governor sent an
emergency message to the legislature, which had remaining only
one hour of life to pass that bill.
Next day the tremendous interest in public utilities was
panic-stricken because the bill was so crude that it amounted
to confiscation. The governor, when applied to, said: "Yes,
I know that the bill is very crude and unfit to become a law, but
legislation on this subject is absolutely necessary. I will do
this: I have thirty days before I must make up my mind to sign
the bill, or let it become a law without my signature. Within
that thirty days I will call the legislature together again. Then
you can prepare and submit to me a proper bill, and if we can
agree upon it, I will present it to the legislature. If the
legislature passes that measure I will sign it, but if it does
not, I will let the present measure, bad as it is, become a law."
The result of the threat was that a very good and timely act was
presented in regard to the taxation of public utilities, a measure
which largely increased municipal and State revenues. I know
of no governor in my time who would have had the originality and
the audacity to accomplish what he desired by such drastic operation.
Roosevelt's administration was high-minded and patriotic. But by
his exercise of independent judgment and frequently by doing
things without consulting the leaders, State or local, he became
exceedingly unpopular with the organization. It was evident that
it would be very difficult to renominate him. It was also evident
that on account of his popularity with the people, if he failed
in the renomination, the party would be beaten. So it was unanimously
decided to put him on the national ticket as vice-president.
The governor resisted this with all his passionate energy. He
liked the governorship. He thought there were many things which
he could do in another term, and he believed and so stated that
the vice-presidency was a tomb. He thought that nobody could be
resurrected when once buried in that sarcophagus.
The national Republican convention of 1900 was a ratification
meeting. President McKinley's administration had been exceedingly
popular. The convention met practically to indorse McKinley's
public acts and renominate him for another term. The only doubtful
question was the vice-presidency. There was a general accord
of sentiment in favor of Governor Roosevelt, which was only
blocked by his persistent refusal.
Roosevelt and I were both delegates at large, and that position
gave him greater opportunity to emphasize his disinclination.
A very intimate friend of his called upon me and begged that
I would use all my influence to prevent the colonel's nomination.
This friend said to me: "The governor's situation, officially and
personally, makes it impossible for him to go to Washington. On
the official side are his unfinished legislation and the new
legislation greatly needed by the State, which will add enormously
to his reputation and pave the way for his future. He has very
little means. As governor his salary is ample. The Executive Mansion
is free, with many contributory advantages, and the schools of
Albany admirable for the education of his six children. While in
Washington the salary of vice-president is wholly inadequate to
support the dignity of the position, and it is the end of a young
man of a most promising career."
I knew what the friend did not know, and it was that Mr. Roosevelt
could not be governor again. I was so warmly attached to him and
so anxious for his future that I felt it was my duty to force his
nomination if possible.
Governor Odell was chairman of the delegation for all convention
purposes, but in the distribution of honors I was made the presiding
officer at its meetings. The delegation met to consider the
vice-presidency. Several very eloquent speeches were made in
favor of Mr. Roosevelt, but in an emphatic address he declined
the nomination. He then received a unanimous vote, but again
declined. A delegate then arose and suggested that he reconsider
his determination, and several others joined most earnestly in
this request. Roosevelt was deeply affected, but, nevertheless,
I knew there was a member of the delegation who had canvassed it
to secure the honor in case Roosevelt became impossible, and that
the next motion would be the nomination of this aspirant. So I
abruptly declared the meeting adjourned. I did this in the hope
that during the night, with the pressure brought to bear upon him,
the colonel would change his mind. In the morning Mr. Roosevelt
surrendered his convictions and agreed to accept the nomination.
In every convention there is a large number of men prominent in
their several delegations who wish to secure general attention
and publicity. As there were no disputes as to either candidate
or platform, these gentlemen all became anxious to make speeches
favoring the candidates, McKinley and Roosevelt. There were so
many of these speeches which, of course, were largely repetitions,
that the convention became wearied and impatient. The last few
were not heard at all on account of the confusion and impatience
of the delegates. While one orator was droning away, a delegation
from a Western State came over to me and said: "We in the extreme
West have never heard you speak, and won't you oblige us by
taking the platform?"
I answered: "The audience will not stand another address."
Roosevelt, who sat right in front of me, then remarked: "Yes, they
will from you. These speeches have pretty nearly killed the ticket,
and if it keeps up, the election is over, and McKinley and I are
dead." He then seized me and almost threw me on the platform.
The novelty of the situation, which was grasped by the delegates,
commanded attention. I recalled what Mr. Lincoln had once said
to me, defending his frequent use of anecdotes, and this is what
he said: "Plain people, take them as you find them, are more
easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous
illustration than in any other way."
I had heard a new story, a rare thing, and began with the narration
of it. Alongside the chairman sat Senator Thurston. He was
a fine speaker, very ornate and highly rhetorical. He never
indulged in humor or unbent his dignity and formality. I heard
him say in a sepulchral voice to the chairman: "Great God, sir,
the dignity and solemnity of this most important and historical
occasion is to be ruined by a story." Happily the story was a
success and gave the wearied audience two opportunities to hear
my speech. Their laughter was internal relief, and it was giving
the external relief of changing their positions for new and more
My friend, John M. Thurston, came to Philadelphia with a most
elaborate and excellent oration. Sitting in the audience on three
different occasions, I heard it with as much pleasure the last
time as I had the first.
When Mr. Roosevelt as vice-president came to preside over the
Senate, it was soon evident that he would not be a success. His
talents were executive and administrative. The position of the
presiding officer of the United States Senate is at once easy and
difficult. The Senate desires impartiality, equable temper, and
knowledge of parliamentary law from its presiding officer. But it
will not submit to any attempt on the part of the presiding officer
to direct or advise it, and will instantly resent any arbitrary
ruling. Of course, Mr. Roosevelt presided only at a few meetings
before the final adjournment. When Congress met again he was
President of the United States.
Senators and members soon found that there was a change at the
White House. No two men were ever so radically different in every
respect as McKinley and Roosevelt. Roosevelt loved to see the
people in a mass and rarely cared for private or confidential
interviews. He was most hospitable and constantly bringing visitors
to luncheon when the morning meetings in the executive offices had
closed, and he had not had a full opportunity to hear or see them.
Senator Hanna was accustomed to have a few of his colleagues of
the Senate dine with him frequently, in order to consult on more
effective action upon pending measures. President Roosevelt,
who knew everything that was going on, often burst into Hanna's
house after dinner and with the utmost frankness submitted the
problems which had arisen at the White House, and upon which he
wished advice or, if not advice, support--more frequently support.
Any one who attended the morning conferences, where he saw senators
and members of the House, and the public, was quite sure to be
entertained. I remember on one occasion I had been requested by
several friends of his, men of influence and prominence in New York,
to ask for the appointment of minister to a foreign government for
a journalist of some eminence. When I entered the Cabinet room
it was crowded, and the president knew that I was far from well,
so he at once called my name, asked how I was and what I wanted.
I told him that I had to leave Washington that day on the advice
of my doctor for a rest, and what I wanted was to present the name
of a gentleman for appointment as a minister, if I could see
him for five minutes.
The president exclaimed: "We have no secrets here. Tell it
right out." I then stated the case. He asked who was behind
the applicant. I told him. Then he said, "Yes, that's all right,"
to each one until I mentioned also the staff of the gentleman's
newspaper, which was one of the most prominent and powerful in
the country but a merciless critic of the president. He shouted
at once: "That settles it. Nothing which that paper wishes will
receive any consideration from me." Singularly enough, the paper
subsequently became one of his ardent advocates and supporters.
On another occasion I was entering his private office as another
senator was coming out of the Cabinet room, which was filled.
He called out: "Senator Depew, do you know that man going out?"
I answered: "Yes, he is a colleague of mine in the Senate."
"Well," he shouted, "he is a crook." His judgment subsequently
Mr. Roosevelt and his wife were all their lives in the social life
of the old families of New York who were admitted leaders. They
carried to the White House the culture and conventions of what
is called the best society of the great capitals of the world.
This experience and education came to a couple who were most
democratic in their views. They loved to see people and met and
entertained every one with delightful hospitality.
Roosevelt was a marvel of many-sidedness. Besides being an
executive as governor of a great State and administrator as
civil-service commissioner and police commissioner of New York,
he was an author of popular books and a field naturalist of rare
acquirements. He was also a wonderful athlete. I often had
occasion to see him upon urgent matters, and was summoned to his
gymnasium, where he was having a boxing match with a well-known
pugilist, and getting the better of his antagonist, or else
launching at his fencing master. The athletics would cease, to
be resumed as soon as he had in his quick and direct way disposed
of what I presented.
Horseback riding was a favorite exercise with him, and his experience
on his Western ranch and in the army had made him one of the best
riders in the world. The foreign diplomats in Washington, with
their education that their first duty was to be in close touch with
the chief magistrate, whether czar, queen, king, or president,
found their training unequal to keeping close to President Roosevelt,
except one, and he told me with great pleasure that though a poor
rider he joined the president in his horseback morning excursions.
Sometimes, he said, when they came to a very steep, high, and
rough hill the president would shout, "Let us climb to the top,"
and the diplomat would struggle over the stones, the underbrush
and gullies, and return to his horse with torn garments after
sliding down the hill. At another time, when on the banks of
the Potomac, where the waters were raging rapids the president
said, "We will go to that island in the middle of the river," and
immediately plunge in. The diplomat followed and reached the
island after wading and swimming, and with great difficulty returned
with sufficient strength to reach home. He had an attack of
pneumonia from this unusual exposure, but thereafter was the envy
and admiration of his colleagues and increased the confidence of
his own government by this intimacy with the president.
The president's dinners and luncheons were unique because of his
universal acquaintance with literary and scientific people. There
were generally some of them present. His infectious enthusiasm
and hearty cordiality drew out the best points of each guest.
I was present at a large dinner one evening when an instance
occurred which greatly amused him. There were some forty guests.
When they were seated, the president noticed four vacant chairs.
He sent one of his aides to ascertain the trouble. The aide
discovered an elderly senator standing with his wife, and another
senator and a lady looking very disconsolate. The aged senator
refused to take out a lady as his card directed or leave his wife
to a colleague. He said to the president's aide, who told him
that dinner was waiting and what he had to do: "When I eat I eat
with my wife, or I don't eat at all." The old gentleman had his way.
The president had one story which he told often and with much glee.
While he was on the ranch the neighbors had caught a horse thief
and hung him. They soon discovered that they had made a mistake
and hung the wrong man. The most diplomatic among the ranchers
was selected to take the body home and break the news gently to
his wife. The cowboy ambassador asked the wife: "Are you the
wife of -----?" She answered "Yes." "Well," said the ambassador,
"you are mistaken. You are his widow. I have his body in the
wagon. You need not feel bad about it, because we hung him
thinking he was the horse thief. We soon after found that he was
innocent. The joke is on us."
Mr. Roosevelt was intensely human and rarely tried to conceal
his feelings. He was to address the New York State Fair at
Syracuse. The management invited me as a United States Senator
from New York to be present. There were at least twenty thousand
on the fair ground, and Mr. Roosevelt read his speech, which he
had elaborately prepared, detailing his scheme for harmonizing
the relations between labor and capital. The speech was long and
very able and intended for publication all over the country. But
his audience, who were farmers, were not much interested in the
subject. Besides, they had been wearied wandering around the
grounds and doing the exhibits, waiting for the meeting to begin.
I know of nothing so wearisome to mind and body as to spend hours
going through the exhibits of a great fair. When the president
finished, the audience began calling for me. I was known practically
to every one of them from my long career on the platform.
Knowing Roosevelt as I did, I was determined not to speak, but
the fair management and the audience would not be denied. I paid
the proper compliments to the president, and then, knowing that
humor was the only possible thing with such a tired crowd, I had
a rollicking good time with them. They entered into the spirit of
the fun and responded in a most uproarious way. I heard Roosevelt
turn to the president of the fair and say very angrily: "You
promised me, sir, that there would be no other speaker."
When I met the president that evening at a large dinner given
by Senator Frank Hiscock, he greeted me with the utmost cordiality.
He was in fine form, and early in the dinner took entire charge
of the discussion. For three hours he talked most interestingly,
and no one else contributed a word. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed
the evening, and not the least the president himself.
I used to wonder how he found time, with his great activities and
engagements, to read so much. Publishers frequently send me
new books. If I thought they would interest him I mentioned
the work to him, but invariably he had already read it.
When my first term as senator expired and the question of my
re-election was before the legislature, President Roosevelt gave
me his most cordial and hearty support.
Events to his credit as president, which will be monuments in
history, are extraordinary in number and importance. To mention
only a few: He placed the Monroe Doctrine before European
governments upon an impregnable basis by his defiance to the
German Kaiser, when he refused to accept arbitration and was
determined to make war on Venezuela. The president cabled:
"Admiral Dewey with the Atlantic Fleet sails to-morrow." And
the Kaiser accepted arbitration. Raissuli, the Moroccan bandit,
who had seized and held for ransom an American citizen named
Perdicaris, gave up his captive on receipt of this cable:
"Perdicaris alive or Raissuli dead." He settled the war between
Russia and Japan and won the Nobel prize for peace.
Roosevelt built the Panama Canal when other efforts had failed
for five hundred years. As senator from his own State, I was in
constant consultation with him while he was urging legislation
necessary to secure the concession for the construction of the
canal. The difficulties to be overcome in both Houses seemed
insurmountable, and would have been so except for the marvellous
resourcefulness and power of the president.
When the Republican convention met in 1908, I was again delegate
at large. It was a Roosevelt convention and crazy to have him
renominated. It believed that he could overcome the popular
feeling against a third term. Roosevelt did not think so. He
believed that in order to make a third term palatable there must
be an interval of another and different administration. When
the convention found that his decision was unalterably not to
accept the nomination himself, it was prepared to accept any one
he might advise. He selected his secretary of war and most
intimate friend, William Howard Taft. Taft had a delightful
personality, and won distinction upon the bench, and had proved
an admirable administrator as governor of the Philippine Islands.
After Mr. Taft's election the president, in order that the new
president and his administration might not be embarrassed by his
presence and prestige, went on a two years' trip abroad.
During that trip he was more in the popular mind at home and
abroad than almost any one in the world. If he reviewed the German
army with the Kaiser, the press was full of the common characteristics
and differences between the two men and of the unprecedented
event of the guest giving advice to the Kaiser.
When he visited England he told in a public speech of his experience
in Egypt, and recommended to the English Government that, if they
expected to continue to govern Egypt, to begin to govern it.
All France was aghast and then hilarious when, in an address before
the faculties of Sorbonne, he struck at once at the weak point of
the future and power of France, and that was race suicide.
XV. UNITED STATES SENATE
My twelve years in the Senate were among the happiest of my life.
The Senate has long enjoyed the reputation of being the best club
in the world, but it is more than that. My old friend,
Senator Bacon, of Georgia, often said that he preferred the
position of senator to that of either President or Chief Justice
of the United States. There is independence in a term of six years
which is of enormous value to the legislative work of the senator.
The member of the House, who is compelled to go before his
district every two years, must spend most of his time looking
after his re-election. Then the Senate, being a smaller body,
the associations are very close and intimate. I do not intend
to go into discussion of the measures which occupied the attention
of the Senate during my time. They are a part of the history
of the world. The value of a work of this kind, if it has any
value, is in personal incidents.
One of the most delightful associations of a lifetime personally
and politically, was that with Vice-President James S. Sherman.
During the twenty-two years he was in the House of Representatives
he rarely was in the City of New York without coming to see me.
He became the best parliamentarian in Congress, and was generally
called to the chair when the House met in committee of the whole.
He was intimately familiar with every political movement in
Washington, and he had a rare talent for discriminatory description,
both of events and analysis of the leading characters in the
Washington drama. He was one of the wisest of the advisers of
the organization of his party, both national and State.
When President Roosevelt had selected Mr. Taft as his successor
he made no indication as to the vice-presidency. Of course, the
nomination of Mr. Taft under such conditions was a foregone
conclusion, and when the convention met it was practically
unanimous for Roosevelt's choice. Who was the best man to nominate
for vice-president in order to strengthen the ticket embarassed
the managers of the Taft campaign. The Republican congressmen
who were at the convention were practically unanimous for Sherman,
and their leader was Uncle Joe Cannon. We from New York found
the Taft managers discussing candidates from every doubtful State.
We finally convinced them that New York was the most important, but
they had gone so far with State candidates that it became a serious
question how to get rid of them without offending their States.
The method adopted by one of the leading managers was both adroit
and hazardous. He would call up a candidate on the telephone and
say to him: "The friends of Mr. Taft are very favorable to you for
vice-president. Will you accept the nomination?" The candidate
would hesitate and begin to explain his ambitions, his career and
its possibilities, and the matter which he would have to consider.
Before the prospective candidate had finished, the manager would
say, "Very sorry, deeply regret," and put up the telephone.
When the nomination was made these gentlemen who might have
succeeded would come around to the manager and say impatiently
and indignantly: "I was all right. Why did you cut me off?"
However, those gentlemen have had their compensation. Whenever you
meet one of them he will say to you: "I was offered the
vice-presidency with Taft but was so situated that I could not accept."
One evening during the convention a wind and rain storm drove
everybody indoors. The great lobby of Congress Hall was crowded,
and most of them were delegates. Suddenly there was a loud call
for a speech, and some husky and athletic citizen seized and
lifted me on to a chair. After a story and a joke, which put the
crowd into a receptive mood, I made what was practically a
nominating speech for Sherman. The response was intense and
unanimous. When I came down from a high flight as to the ability
and popularity to the human qualities of "Sunny Jim," I found
"Sunny Jim" such a taking characterization, and it was echoed
and re-echoed. I do not claim that speech nominated Sherman,
only that nearly everybody who was present became a most vociferous
advocate for Sherman for vice-president.
The position of vice-president is one of the most difficult in our
government. Unless the president requests his advice or assistance,
he has no public function except presiding over the Senate. No
president ever called the vice-president into his councils.
McKinley came nearest to it during his administration, with Hobart,
but did not keep it up.
President Harding has made a precedent for the future by inviting
Vice-President Coolidge to attend all Cabinet meetings. The
vice-president has accepted and meets regularly with the Cabinet.
Sherman had one advantage over other vice-presidents in having
been for nearly a quarter of a century a leader in Congress. Few,
if any, who ever held that office have been so popular with the
Senate and so tactful and influential when they undertook the very
difficult task of influencing the action of a Senate, very jealous
of its prerogatives and easily made resentful and hostile.
Among my colleagues in the Senate were several remarkable men.
They had great ability, extraordinary capacity for legislation,
and, though not great orators, possessed the rare faculty of
pressing their points home in short and effective speeches. Among
them was Senator Frye, of Maine. He was for many years chairman
of the great committee on commerce. Whatever we had of a merchant
marine was largely due to his persistent efforts. He saved the
government scores of millions in that most difficult task of pruning
the River and Harbor Bill. He possessed the absolute confidence
of both parties, and was the only senator who could generally carry
the Senate with him for or against a measure. While wise and
the possessor of the largest measure of common sense, yet he was
one of the most simple-minded of men. I mean by this that he had
no guile and suspected none in others. Whatever was uppermost
in his mind came out. These characteristics made him one of the
most delightful of companions and one of the most harmonious
men to work with on a committee.
Clement A. Griscom, the most prominent American ship owner and
director, was very fond of Senator Frye. Griscom entertained
delightfully at his country home near Philadelphia. He told me
that at one time Senator Frye was his guest over a week-end.
To meet the senator at dinner on Saturday evening, he had invited
great bankers, lawyers, and captains of industry of Philadelphia.
Their conversation ran from enterprises and combinations involving
successful industries and exploitations to individual fortunes
and how they were accumulated. The atmosphere was heavy with
millions and billions. Suddenly Griscom turned to Senator Frye
and said: "I know that our successful friends here would not only
be glad to hear but would learn much if you would tell us of your
career." "It is not much to tell," said Senator Frye, "especially
after these stories which are like chapters from the 'Arabian Nights.'
I was very successful as a young lawyer and rising to a leading
practice and head of the bar of my State when I was offered
an election to the House of Representatives. I felt that it would
be a permanent career and that there was no money in it. I
consulted my wife and told her that it meant giving up all prospects
of accumulating a fortune or independence even, but it was my
ambition, and I believed I could perform valuable service to
the public, and that as a career its general usefulness would far
surpass any success at the bar. My wife agreed with me cordially
and said that she would economize on her part to any extent required.
"So," the senator continued, "I have been nearly thirty years in
Congress, part of this time in the House and the rest in the Senate.
I have been able on my salary to meet our modest requirements
and educate our children. I have never been in debt but once. Of
course, we had to calculate closely and set aside sufficient
to meet our extra expenses in Washington and our ordinary one
at home. We came out a little ahead every year but one. That
year the president very unexpectedly called an extra session,
and for the first time in twenty years I was in debt to our landlord
Griscom told me that this simple narrative of a statesman of
national reputation seemed to make the monumental achievements
of his millionaire guests of little account.
Senator Frye's genial personality and vivid conversation made
him a welcome guest at all entertainments in Washington. There
was a lady at the capital at that time who entertained a great deal
and was very popular on her own account, but she always began
the conversation with the gentleman who took her out by narrating
how she won her husband. I said one day to Senator Frye: "There
will be a notable gathering at So-and-So's dinner to-night. Are
you going?" He answered: "Yes, I will be there; but it has been
my lot to escort to dinner this lady"--naming her--"thirteen times
this winter. She has told me thirteen times the story of her
courtship. If it is my luck to be assigned to her to-night, and
she starts that story, I shall leave the table and the house
and go home."
Senator Aldrich, of Rhode Island, was once called by Senator Quay
the schoolmaster of the Senate. As the head of the finance
committee he had commanding influence, and with his skill in
legislation and intimate knowledge of the rules he was the leader
whenever he chose to lead. This he always did when the policy
he desired or the measure he was promoting had a majority, and
the opposition resorted to obstructive tactics. As there is no
restriction on debate in the Senate, or was none at my time, the
only way the minority could defeat the majority was by talking
the bill to death. I never knew this method to be used successfully
but once, because in the trial of endurance the greater number
wins. The only successful talk against time was by Senator Carter,
of Montana. Carter was a capital debater. He was invaluable at
periods when the discussion had become very bitter and personal.
Then in his most suave way he would soothe the angry elements
and bring the Senate back to a calm consideration of the question.
When he arose on such occasions, the usual remark among those
who still kept their heads was: "Carter will now bring out his
oil can and pour oil upon the troubled waters"--and it usually
Senator George F. Hoar, of Massachusetts, seemed to be a revival
of what we pictured in imagination as the statesmen who framed
the Constitution of the United States, or the senators who sat
with Webster, Clay, and Calhoun. He was a man of lofty ideals
and devotion to public service. He gave to each subject on which
he spoke an elevation and dignity that lifted it out of ordinary
senatorial discussions. He had met and knew intimately most
of the historical characters in our public life for fifty years,
and was one of the most entertaining and instructive conversationalists
whom I ever met.
On the other hand, Senator Benjamin Tillman, of South Carolina,
who was an ardent admirer of Senator Hoar, was his opposite in
every way. Tillman and I became very good friends, though at
first he was exceedingly hostile. He hated everything which
I represented. With all his roughness, and at the beginning
his brutality, he had a singular streak of sentiment.
I addressed the first dinner of the Gridiron Club at its organization
and have been their guest many times since. The Gridiron Club
is an association of the newspaper correspondents at Washington,
and their dinners several times a year are looked forward to with
the utmost interest and enjoyed by everybody privileged to attend.
The Gridiron Club planned an excursion to Charleston, S. C., that
city having extended to them an invitation. They invited me to
go with them and also Senator Tillman. Tillman refused to be
introduced to me because I was chairman of the board of directors
of the New York Central Railroad, and he hated my associations
and associates. We had a wonderful welcome from the most hospitable
of cities, the most beautifully located City of Charleston. On
the many excursions, luncheons, and gatherings, I was put forward
to do the speaking, which amounted to several efforts a day during
our three days' visit. The Gridiron stunt for Charleston was very
audacious. There were many speakers, of course, including
Senator Tillman, who hated Charleston and the Charlestonians,
because he regarded them as aristocrats and told them so. There
were many invited to speak who left their dinners untasted while
they devoted themselves to looking over their manuscripts, and
whose names were read in the list at the end of the dinner, but
their speeches were never called for.
On our way home we stopped for luncheon at a place outside of
Charleston. During the luncheon an earthquake shook the table
and rattled the plates. I was called upon to make the farewell
address for the Gridiron Club to the State of South Carolina.
Of course the earthquake and its possibilities gave an opportunity
for pathos as well as humor, and Tillman was deeply affected.
When we were on the train he came to me and with great emotion
grasped my hand and said: "Chauncey Depew, I was mistaken about
you. You are a damn good fellow." And we were good friends
until he died.
I asked Tillman to what he owed his phenomenal rise and strength
in the conservative State of South Carolina. He answered: "We
in our State were governed by a class during the colonial period
and afterwards until the end of the Civil War. They owned large
plantations, hundreds of thousands of negroes, were educated
for public life, represented our State admirably, and did great
service to the country. They were aristocrats and paid little
attention to us poor farmers, who constituted the majority of
the people. The only difference between us was that they had
been colonels or generals in the Revolutionary War, or delegates
to the Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention, while
we had been privates, corporals, or sergeants. They generally
owned a thousand slaves, and we had from ten to thirty. I made
up my mind that we should have a share of the honors, and they
laughed at me. I organized the majority and put the old families
out of business, and we became and are the rulers of the State."
Among the most brilliant debaters of any legislative body were
Senators Joseph W. Bailey, of Texas, and John C. Spooner, of
Wisconsin. They would have adorned and given distinction to any
legislative body in the world. Senator Albert J. Beveridge, of
Indiana, and Senator Joseph B. Foraker, of Ohio, were speakers
of a very high type. The Senate still has the statesmanship,
eloquence, scholarship, vision, and culture of Senator Lodge,
One of the wonders of the Senate was Senator W. M. Crane, of
Massachusetts. He never made a speech. I do not remember that
he ever made a motion. Yet he was the most influential member
of that body. His wisdom, tact, sound judgment, encyclopaedic
knowledge of public affairs and of public men made him an authority.
Senator Hanna, who was a business man pure and simple, and wholly
unfamiliar with legislative ways, developed into a speaker of
remarkable force and influence. At the same time, on the social
side, with his frequent entertainments, he did more for the measures
in which he was interested. They were mainly, of course, of a
financial and economic character.
One of the characters of the Senate, and one of the upheavals
of the Populist movement was Senator Jeff. Davis, of Arkansas.
Davis was loudly, vociferously, and clamorously a friend of the
people. Precisely what he did to benefit the people was never
very clear, but if we must take his word for it, he was the only
friend the people had. Among his efforts to help the people was
to denounce big business of all kinds and anything which gave large
employment or had great capital. I think that in his own mind
the ideal state would have been made of small landowners and
an occasional lawyer. He himself was a lawyer.
One day he attacked me, as I was sitting there listening to him,
in a most vicious way, as the representative of big corporations,
especially railroads, and one of the leading men in the worst
city in the world, New York, and as the associate of bankers and
capitalists. When he finished Senator Crane went over to his seat
and told him that he had made a great mistake, warned him that
he had gone so far that I might be dangerous to him personally,
but in addition to that, with my ridicule and humor, I would make
him the laughing-stock of the Senate and of the country. Jeff,
greatly alarmed, waddled over to my seat and said: "Senator Depew,
I hope you did not take seriously what I said. I did not mean
anything against you. I won't do it again, but I thought that you
would not care, because it won't hurt you, and it does help me
out in Arkansas." I replied: "Jeff, old man, if it helps you,
do it as often as you like." Needless to say, he did not repeat.
I have always been deeply interested in the preservation of the
forests and a warm advocate of forest preservers. I made a study
of the situation of the Appalachian Mountains, where the lumberman
was doing his worst, and millions of acres of fertile soil from the
denuded hills were being swept by the floods into the ocean every
year. I made a report from my committee for the purchase of this
preserve, affecting, as it did, eight States, and supported it
in a speech. Senator Eugene HaIe, a Senate leader of controlling
influence, had been generally opposed to this legislation. He
became interested, and, when I had finished my speech, came over
to me and said: "I never gave much attention to this subject.
You have convinced me and this bill should be passed at once,
and I will make the motion." Several senators from the States
affected asked for delay in order that they might deliver speeches
for local consumption. The psychological moment passed and that
legislation could not be revived until ten years afterwards, and
then in a seriously modified form.
I worked very hard for the American mercantile marine. A subsidy
of four million dollars a year in mail contracts would have been
sufficient, in addition to the earnings of the ships, to have given
us lines to South and Central America, Australia, and Asia.
Shakespeare's famous statement that a rose by any other name
would smell as sweet has exceptions. In the psychology of the
American mind the word subsidy is fatal to any measure. After
the most careful investigation, while I was in the Senate, I
verified this statement, that a mail subsidy of four millions
a year would give to the United States a mercantile marine which
would open new trade routes for our commerce. This contribution
would enable the ship-owners to meet the losses which made it
impossible for them to compete with the ships of other countries,
some having subsidies and all under cheaper expenses of operation.
It would not all be a contribution because part of it was a
legitimate charge for carrying the mails. The word subsidy,
however, could be relied upon to start a flood of fiery oratory,
charging that the people of the United States were to be taxed
to pour money into the pockets of speculators in New York and
financial crooks in Wall Street.
We have now created a mercantile marine through the Shipping Board
which is the wonder and amazement of the world. It has cost about
five hundred millions. Part of it is junk already, and a part
available is run at immense loss, owing to discriminatory laws.
Recently a bill was presented to Congress for something like sixty
millions of dollars to make up the losses in the operations of our
mercantile marine for the year. While a subsidy of four millions
under private management would have been a success but was vetoed
as a crime, the sixty millions are hailed as a patriotic contribution
to public necessity.
A river and harbor bill of from thirty to fifty millions of dollars
was eagerly anticipated and enthusiastically supported. It was
known to be a give and take, a swap and exchange, where a few
indispensable improvements had to carry a large number of dredgings
of streams, creeks, and bayous, which never could be made navigable.
Many millions a year were thrown away in these river and harbor
bills, but four millions a year to restore the American mercantile
marine aroused a flood of indignant eloquence, fierce protest,
and wild denunciation of capitalists, who would build and own
ships, and it was always fatal to the mercantile marine.
Happily the war has, among its benefits, demonstrated to the
interior and mountain States that a merchant marine is as necessary
to the United States as its navy, and that we cannot hope to expand
and retain our trade unless we have the ships.
I remember one year when the river and harbor bill came up for
passage on the day before final adjournment. The hour had been
fixed by both Houses, and, therefore, could not be extended by
one House. The administration was afraid of the bill because of
the many indefensible extravagances there were in it. At the
same time, it had so many political possibilities that the president
was afraid to veto it. Senator Carter was always a loyal
administration man, and so he was put forward to talk the bill
to death. He kept it up without yielding the floor for thirteen
hours, and until the hour of adjournment made action upon the
I sat there all night long, watching this remarkable effort. The
usual obstructor soon uses up all his own material and then sends
pages of irrelevant matter to the desk for the clerk to read, or
he reads himself from the pages of the Record, or from books,
but Carter stuck to his text. He was a man of wit and humor.
Many items in the river and harbor bill furnished him with an
opportunity of showing how creeks and trout streams were to be
turned by the magic of the money of the Treasury into navigable
rivers, and inaccessible ponds were to be dredged into harbors
to float the navies of the world.
The speech was very rich in anecdotes and delightful in its success
by an adroit attack of tempting a supporter of the measure into
aiding the filibuster by indignantly denying the charge which
Carter had made against him. By this method Carter would get
a rest by the folly of his opponent. The Senate was full and
the galleries were crowded during the whole night, and when the
gavel of the vice-president announced that no further debate was
admissible and the time for adjournment had arrived, and began
to make his farewell speech, Carter took his seat amidst the wreck
of millions and the hopes of the exploiters, and the Treasury
of the United States had been saved by an unexpected champion.
The country does not appreciate the tremendous power of the
committees, as legislative business constantly increases with
almost geometrical progression. The legislation of the country
is handled almost entirely in committees. It requires a possible
revolution to overcome the hostility of a committee, even if the
House and the country are otherwise minded. Some men whose names
do not appear at all in the Congressional Record, and seldom in
the newspapers, have a certain talent for drudgery and detail
which is very rare, and when added to shrewdness and knowledge
of human nature makes such a senator or representative a force
to be reckoned with on committees. Such a man is able to hold
up almost anything.
I found during my Washington life the enormous importance of its
social side. Here are several hundred men in the two Houses of
Congress, far above the average in intelligence, force of character,
and ability to accomplish things. Otherwise they would not have
been elected. They are very isolated and enjoy far beyond those
who have the opportunity of club life, social attentions. At dinner
the real character of the guest comes out, and he is most responsive
to these attentions. Mrs. Depew and I gave a great many dinners,
to our intense enjoyment and, I might say, education. By this
method I learned to know in a way more intimate than otherwise
would have been possible many of the most interesting characters
I have ever met.
Something must be done, and that speedily, to bridge the widening
chasm between the Executive and the Congress. Our experience
with President Wilson has demonstrated this. As a self-centred
autocrat, confident of himself and suspicious of others, hostile to
advice or discussion, he became the absolute master of the Congress
while his party was in the majority.
The Congress, instead of being a co-ordinate branch, was really
in session only to accept, adopt, and put into laws the imperious
will of the president. When, however, the majority changed, there
being no confidence between the executive and the legislative
branch of the government, the necessary procedure was almost
paralyzed. The president was unyielding and the Congress insisted
upon the recognition of its constitutional rights. Even if the
president is, as McKinley was, in close and frequent touch with
the Senate and the House of Representatives, the relation is
temporary and unequal, and not what it ought to be, automatic.
Happily we have started a budget system; but the Cabinet should
have seats on the floor of the Houses, and authority to answer
questions and participate in debates. Unless our system was
radically changed, we could not adopt the English plan of selecting
the members of the Cabinet entirely from the Senate and the House.
But we could have an administration always in close touch with
the Congress if the Cabinet members were in attendance when matters
affecting their several departments were under discussion and action.
I heard Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, who was one of the shrewdest and
ablest legislators of our generation, say that if business methods
were applied to the business of the government in a way in which
he could do it, there would be a saving of three hundred millions
of dollars a year. We are, since the Great War, facing
appropriations of five or six billions of dollars a year. I think
the saving of three hundred millions suggested by Senator Aldrich
could be increased in proportion to the vast increase in appropriations.
There has been much discussion about restricting unlimited debates
in the Senate and adopting a rigid closure rule. My own recollection
is that during my twelve years unlimited discussion defeated no
good measure, but talked many bad ones to death. There is a curious
feature in legislative discussion, and that is the way in which
senators who have accustomed themselves to speak every day on
each question apparently increase their vocabulary as their ideas
evaporate. Two senators in my time, who could be relied upon
to talk smoothly as the placid waters of a running brook for an
hour or more every day, had the singular faculty of apparently
saying much of importance while really developing no ideas.
In order to understand them, while the Senate would become empty
by its members going to their committee rooms, I would be a patient
listener. I finally gave that up because, though endowed with
reasonable intelligence and an intense desire for knowledge,
I never could grasp what they were driving at.
XVI. AMBASSADORS AND MINISTERS
The United States has always been admirably represented at the
Court of St. James. I consider it as a rare privilege and a
delightful memory that I have known well these distinguished
ambassadors and ministers who served during my time. I was not
in England while Charles Francis Adams was a minister, but his
work during the Civil War created intense interest in America.
It is admitted that he prevented Great Britain from taking such
action as would have prolonged the war and endangered the purpose
which Mr. Lincoln was trying to accomplish, namely, the preservation
of the Union. His curt answer to Lord John Russell, "This means
war," changed the policy of the British Government.
James Russell Lowell met every requirement of the position, but,
more than that, his works had been read and admired in England
before his appointment. Literary England welcomed him with open
arms, and official England soon became impressed with his diplomatic
ability. He was one of the finest after-dinner speakers, and that
brought him in contact with the best of English public life. He
told me an amusing instance. As soon as he was appointed, everybody
who expected to meet him sent to the book stores and purchased
his works. Among them, of course, was the "Biglow Papers." One
lady asked him if he had brought Mrs. Biglow with him.
The secretary of the embassy, William J. Hoppin, was a very
accomplished gentleman. He had been president of the Union
League Club, and I knew him very well. I called one day at
the embassy with an American living in Europe to ask for a favor
for this fellow countryman. The embassy was overwhelmed with
Americans asking favors, so Hoppin, without looking at me or
waiting for the request, at once brought out his formula for sliding
his visitors on an inclined plane into the street. He said: "Every
American--and there are thousands of them--who comes to London
visits the embassy. They all want to be invited to Buckingham
Palace or to have cards to the House of Lords or the House of
Commons. Our privileges in that respect are very few, so few that
we can satisfy hardly anybody. Why Americans, when there is so
much to see in this old country from which our ancestry came, and
with whose literature we are so familiar, should want to try to get
into Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament is incomprehensible.
There is a very admirable cattle show at Reading. I have a few
tickets and will give them to you, gentlemen, gladly. You will
find the show exceedingly interesting."
I took the tickets, but if there is anything of which I am not a
qualified judge, it is prize cattle. That night, at a large dinner
given by a well-known English host, my friend Hoppin was present,
and at once greeted me with warm cordiality. Of course, he had
no recollections of the morning meeting. Our host, as usual when
a new American is present, wanted to know if I had any fresh
American stories, and I told with some exaggeration and embroidery
the story of the Reading cattle show. Dear old Hoppin was
considerably embarrassed at the chafing he received, but took it
in good part, and thereafter the embassy was entirely at my service.
Mr. Edward J. Phelps was an extraordinary success. He was a great
lawyer, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the
United States told me that there was no one who appeared before
that Court whose arguments were more satisfactory and convincing
than those of Mr. Phelps. He had the rare distinction of being a
frequent guest at the Benchers' dinners in London. One of the
English judges told me that at a Benchers' dinner the judges were
discussing a novel point which had arisen in one of the cases
recently before them. He said that in the discussion in which
Mr. Phelps was asked to participate, the view which the United States
minister presented was so forcible that the decision, which had
been practically agreed upon, was changed to meet Mr. Phelps's
view. I was at several of Mr. Phelps's dinners. They were
remarkable gatherings of the best in almost every department of
At one of his dinners I had a delightful talk with Browning,
the poet. Browning told me that as a young man he was several
times a guest at the famous breakfasts of the poet and banker,
Samuel Rogers. Rogers, he said, was most arbitrary at these
breakfasts with his guests, and rebuked him severely for venturing
beyond the limits within which he thought a young poet should
Mr. Browning said that nothing gratified him so much as the
popularity of his works in the United States. He was especially
pleased and also embarrassed by our Browning societies, of which
there seemed to be a great many over here. They sent him papers
which were read by members of the societies, interpreting his poems.
These American friends discovered meanings which had never occurred
to him, and were to him an entirely novel view of his own
productions. He also mentioned that every one sent him presents
and souvenirs, all of them as appreciations and some as suggestions
and help. Among these were several cases of American wine. He
appreciated the purpose of the gifts, but the fluid did not
appeal to him.
He told me he was a guest at one time at the dinners given to
the Shah of Persia. This monarch was a barbarian, but the
British Foreign Office had asked and extended to him every possible
courtesy, because of the struggle then going on as to whether
Great Britain or France or Russia should have the better part of
Persia. France and Russia had entertained him with lavish
military displays and other governmental functions, which a
democratic country like Great Britain could not duplicate. So
the Foreign Office asked all who had great houses in London or
in the country, and were lavish entertainers, to do everything they
could for the Shah.
Browning was present at a great dinner given for the Shah at
Stafford House, the home of the Duke of Sutherland, and the finest
palace in London. Every guest was asked, in order to impress
the Shah, to come in all the decorations to which they were entitled.
The result was that the peers came in their robes, which they
otherwise would not have thought of wearing on such an occasion,
and all others in the costumes of honor significant of their rank.
Browning said he had received a degree at Oxford and that entitled
him to a scarlet cloak. He was so outranked, because the guests
were placed according to rank, that he sat at the foot of the
table. The Shah said to his host: "Who is that distinguished
gentleman in the scarlet cloak at the other end of the table?"
The host answered: "That is one of our greatest poets." "That
is no place for a poet," remarked the Shah; "bring him up here
and let him sit next to me." So at the royal command the poet
took the seat of honor. The Shah said to Browning: "I am mighty
glad to have you near me, for I am a poet myself."
It was at this dinner that Browning heard the Shah say to the
Prince of Wales, who sat at the right of the Shah: "This is a
wonderful palace. Is it royal?" The Prince answered: "No, it
belongs to one of our great noblemen, the Duke of Sutherland."
"Well," said the Shah, "let me give you a point. When one of my
noblemen or subjects gets rich enough to own a palace like this,
I cut off his head and take his fortune."
A very beautiful English lady told me that she was at
Ferdinand Rothschild's, where the Shah was being entertained.
In order to minimize his acquisitive talents, the wonderful treasures
of Mr. Rothschild's house had been hidden. The Shah asked for
an introduction to this lady and said to her: "You are the most
beautiful woman I have seen since I have been in England. I must
take you home with me." "But," she said, "Your Majesty, I am
married." "Well," he replied, "bring your husband along. When
we get to Teheran, my capital, I will take care of him."
Mr. Phelps's talent as a speaker was quite unknown to his countrymen
before he went abroad. While he was a minister he made several
notable addresses, which aroused a great deal of interest and
admiration in Great Britain. He was equally happy in formal
orations and in the field of after-dinner speeches. Mrs. Phelps
had such a phenomenal success socially that, when her husband
was recalled and they left England, the ladies of both the great
parties united, and through Lady Rosebery, the leader of the
Liberal, and Lady Salisbury, of the Conservative, women, paid her
a very unusual and complimentary tribute.
During John Hay's term as United States minister to Great Britain
my visits to England were very delightful. Hay was one of the
most charming men in public life of his period. He had won great
success in journalism, as an author, and in public service. At
his house in London one would meet almost everybody worth while
in English literary, public, and social life.
In the hours of conversation with him, when I was posting him on
the latest developments in America, his comments upon the leading
characters of the time were most racy and witty. Many of them
would have embalmed a statesman, if the epigram had been preserved,
like a fly in amber. He had officially a very difficult task
during the Spanish War. The sympathies of all European governments
were with Spain. This was especially true of the Kaiser and the
German Government. It was Mr. Hay's task to keep Great Britain
neutral and prevent her joining the general alliance to help Spain,
which some of the continental governments were fomenting.
Happily, Mr. Balfour, the British foreign minister, was cordially
and openly our friend. He prevented this combination against
the United States.
During part of my term as a senator John Hay was secretary of state.
To visit his office and have a discussion on current affairs was
an event to be remembered. He made a prediction, which was the
result of his own difficulties with the Senate, that on account of
the two-thirds majority necessary for the ratification of a treaty,
no important treaty sent to the Senate by the president would ever
again be ratified. Happily this gloomy view has not turned out
to be entirely correct.
Mr. Hay saved China, in the settlement of the indemnities arising
out of the Boxer trouble, from the greed of the great powers of
Europe. One of his greatest achievements was in proclaiming the
open door for China and securing the acquiescence of the great
powers. It was a bluff on his part, because he never could have
had the active support of the United States, but he made his
proposition with a confidence which carried the belief that he
had no doubt on that subject. He was fortunately dealing with
governments who did not understand the United States and do not
now. With them, when a foreign minister makes a serious statement
of policy, it is understood that he has behind him the whole
military, naval, and financial support of his government. But with
us it is a long road and a very rocky one, before action so serious,
with consequences so great, can receive the approval of the
war-making power in Congress.
I called on Hay one morning just as Cassini, the Russian ambassador,
was leaving. Cassini was one of the shrewdest and ablest of
diplomats in the Russian service. It was said that for twelve
years he had got the better of all the delegations at Pekin and
controlled that extraordinary ruler of China, the dowager queen.
Cassini told me that from his intimate associations with her he
had formed the opinion that she was quite equal to Catherine of
Russia, whom he regarded as the greatest woman sovereign who
Hay said to me: "I have just had a very long and very remarkable
discussion with Cassini. He is a revelation in the way of secret
diplomacy. He brought to me the voluminous instructions to him
of his government on our open-door policy. After we had gone
over them carefully, he closed his portfolio and, pushing it aside,
said: 'Now, Mr. Secretary, listen to Cassini.' He immediately
presented an exactly opposite policy from the one in the
instructions, and a policy entirely favorable to us, and said:
'That is what my government will do.'" It was a great loss to
Russian diplomacy when he died so early.
As senator I did all in my power to bring about the appointment
of Whitelaw Reid as ambassador to Great Britain. He and I had
been friends ever since his beginning in journalism in New York
many years before. Reid was then the owner and editor of the
New York Tribune, and one of the most brilliant journalists in the
country. He was also an excellent public speaker. His long and
intimate contact with public affairs and intimacy with public men
ideally fitted him for the appointment. He had already served
with great credit as ambassador to France.
The compensation of our representatives abroad always has been
and still is entirely inadequate to enable them to maintain, in
comparison with the representatives of other governments, the
dignity of their own country. All the other great powers at
the principal capitals maintain fine residences for their ambassadors,
which also is the embassy. Our Congress, except within the last
few years, has always refused to make this provision. The salary
which we pay is scarcely ever more than one-third the amount paid
by European governments in similar service.
I worked hard while in the Senate to improve this situation because
of my intimate knowledge of the question. When I first began
the effort I found there was very strong belief that the whole
foreign service was an unnecessary expense. When Mr. Roosevelt
first became president, and I had to see him frequently about
diplomatic appointments, I learned that this was his view. He said
to me: "This foreign business of the government, now that the
cable is perfected, can be carried on between our State Department
and the chancellery of any government in the world. Nevertheless,
I am in favor of keeping up the diplomatic service. All the old
nations have various methods of rewarding distinguished public
servants. The only one we have is the diplomatic service. So when
I appoint a man ambassador or minister, I believe that I am giving
him a decoration, and the reason I change ambassadors and ministers
is that I want as many as possible to possess it."
The longer Mr. Roosevelt remained president, and the closer he
came to our foreign relations, the more he appreciated the value
of the personal contact and intimate knowledge on the spot of
an American ambassador or minister.
Mr. Reid entertained more lavishly and hospitably than any
ambassador in England ever had, both at his London house and at
his estate in the country. He appreciated the growing necessity
to the peace of the world and the progress of civilization of
closer union of English-speaking peoples. At his beautiful and
delightful entertainments Americans came in contact with Englishmen
under conditions most favorable for the appreciation by each of
the other. The charm of Mr. and Mrs. Whitelaw Reid's hospitality
was so genuine, so cordial, and so universal, that to be their
guest was an event for Americans visiting England. There is no
capital in the world where hospitality counts for so much as in
London, and no country where the house-party brings people together
under such favorable conditions. Both the city and the country
homes of Mr. and Mrs. Reid were universities of international
good-feeling. Mr. Reid, on the official side, admirably represented
his country and had the most intimate relations with the governing
powers of Great Britain.
I recall with the keenest pleasure how much my old friend,
Joseph H. Choate, did to make each one of my visits to London