A STRAIGHT DEAL
THE ANCIENT GRUDGE
To Edward and Anna Martin who give help in time of trouble Chapter I: Concerning One’s Letter Box
Publish any sort of conviction related to these morose days through which we are living and letters will shower upon you like leaves in October. No matter what your conviction be, it will shake both yeas and nays loose from various minds where they were hanging ready to fall. Never was a time when so many brains rustled with hates and panaceas that would sail wide into the air at the lightest jar. Try it and see. Say that you believe in God, or do not; say that Democracy is the key to the millennium, or the survival of the unfittest; that Labor is worse than the Kaiser, or better; that drink is a demon, or that wine ministers to the health and the cheer of man—say what you please, and the yeas and nays will pelt you. So insecurely do the plainest, oldest truths dangle in a mob of disheveled brains, that it is likely, did you assert twice two continues to equal four and we had best stick to the multiplication table, anonymous letters would come to you full of passionate abuse.
Thinking comes hard to all of us. To some it never comes at all, because their heads lack the machinery. How many of such are there among us, and how can we find them out before they do us harm? Science has a test for this. It has been applied to the army recruit, but to the civilian voter not yet. The voting moron still runs amuck in our Democracy. Our native American air is infected with alien breath. It is so thick with opinions that the light is obscured. Will the sane ones eventually prevail and heal the sick atmosphere? We must at least assume so. Else, how could we go on?
Chapter II: What the Postman Brought
During the winter of 1915 I came to think that Germany had gone dangerously but methodically mad, and that the European War vitally concerned ourselves. This conviction I put in a book. Yeas and nays pelted me. Time seems to show the yeas had it.
During May, 1918, I thought we made a mistake to hate England. I said so at the earliest opportunity. Again came the yeas and nays. You shall see some of these. They are of help. Time has not settled this question. It is as alive as ever—more alive than ever. What if the Armistice was premature? What if Germany absorb Russia and join Japan? What if the League of Nations break like a toy?
Yeas and nays are put here without the consent of their writers, whose names, of course, do not appear, and who, should they ever see this, are begged to take no offense. None is intended.
There is no intention except to persuade, if possible, a few readers, at least, that hatred of England is not wise, is not justified to-day, and has never been more than partly justified. It is based upon three foundations fairly distinct yet meeting and merging on occasions: first and worst, our school histories of the Revolution; second, certain policies and actions of England since then, generally distorted or falsified by our politicians; and lastly certain national traits in each country that the other does not share and which have hitherto produced perennial personal friction between thousands of English and American individuals of every station in life. These shall in due time be illustrated by two sets of anecdotes: one, disclosing the English traits, the other the American. I say English, and not British, advisedly, because both the Scotch and the Irish seem to be without those traits which especially grate upon us and upon which we especially grate. And now for the letters.
The first is from a soldier, an enlisted man, writing from France.
“Allow me to thank you for your article entitled ‘The Ancient Grudge.’
… Like many other young Americans there was instilled in me from early childhood a feeling of resentment against our democratic cousins across the Atlantic and I was only too ready to accept as true those stories I heard of England shirking her duty and hiding behind her colonies, etc.
It was not until I came over here and saw what she was really doing that my opinion began to change.
“When first my division arrived in France it was brigaded with and received its initial experience with the British, who proved to us how little we really knew of the war as it was and that we had yet much to learn. Soon my opinion began to change and I was regarding England as the backbone of the Allies. Yet there remained a certain something I could not forgive them. What it was you know, and have proved to me that it is not our place to judge and that we have much for which to be thankful to our great Ally.
“Assuring you that your … article has succeeded in converting one who needed conversion badly I beg to remain….”
How many American soldiers in Europe, I wonder, have looked about them, have used their sensible independent American brains (our very best characteristic), have left school histories and hearsay behind them and judged the English for themselves? A good many, it is to be hoped. What that judgment finally becomes must depend not alone upon the personal experience of each man. It must also come from that liberality of outlook which is attained only by getting outside your own place and seeing a lot of customs and people that differ from your own. A mind thus seasoned and balanced no longer leaps to an opinion about a whole nation from the sporadic conduct of individual members of it. It is to be feared that some of our soldiers may never forget or make allowance for a certain insult they received in the streets of London. But of this later. The following sentence is from a letter written by an American sailor: “I have read… ‘The Ancient Grudge’ and I wish it could be read by every man on our big ship as I know it would change a lot of their attitude toward England. I have argued with lots of them and have shown some of them where they are wrong but the Catholics and descendants of Ireland have a different argument and as my education isn’t very great, I know very little about what England did to the Catholics in Ireland.”
Ireland I shall discuss later. Ireland is no more our business to-day than the South was England’s business in 1861. That the Irish question should defeat an understanding between ourselves and England would be, to quote what a gentleman who is at once a loyal Catholic and a loyal member of the British Government said to me, “wrecking the ship for a ha’pennyworth of tar.”
The following is selected from the nays, and was written by a business man. I must not omit to say that the writers of all these letters are strangers to me.
“As one American citizen to another… permit me to give my personal view on your subject of ‘The Ancient Grudge’…
“To begin with, I think that you start with a false idea of our kinship—
with the idea that America, because she speaks the language of England, because our laws and customs are to a great extent of the same origin, because much that is good among us came from there also, is essentially of English character, bound up in some way with the success or failure of England.
“Nothing, in my opinion, could be further from the truth. We are a distinctive race—no more English, nationally, than the present King George is German—as closely related and as alike as a celluloid comb and a stick of dynamite.
“We are bound up in the success of America only. The English are bound up in the success of England only. We are as friendly as rival corporations.
We can unite in a common cause, as we have, but, once that is over, we will go our own way—which way, owing to the increase of our shipping and foreign trade, is likely to become more and more antagonistic to England’s.
“England has been a commercially unscrupulous nation for generations and it is idle to throw the blame for this or that act of a nation on an individual. Such arguments might be kept up indefinitely as regards an act of any country. A responsible nation must bear the praise or odium that attaches to any national action. If England has experienced a change of heart it has occurred since the days of the Boer Republic—as wanton a steal as Belgium, with even less excuse, and attended with sufficient brutality for all practical purposes….
“She has done us many an ill turn gratuitously and not a single good turn that was not dictated by selfish policy or jealousy of others. She has shown herself, up till yesterday at least, grasping and unscrupulous. She is no worse than the others probably—possibly even better—but it would be doing our country an ill turn to persuade its citizens that England was anything less than an active, dangerous, competitor, especially in the infancy of our foreign trade. When a business rival gives you the glad hand and asks fondly after the children, beware lest the ensuing emotions cost you money.
“No: our distrust for England has not its life and being in pernicious textbooks. To really believe that would be an insult to our intelligence—
even grudges cannot live without real food. Should England become helpless tomorrow, our animosity and distrust would die tomorrow, because we would know that she had it no longer in her power to injure us. Therein lies the feeling—the textbooks merely echo it….
“In my opinion, a navy somewhat larger than England’s would practically eliminate from America that ‘Ancient Grudge’ you deplore. It is England’s navy—her boasted and actual control of the seas—which threatens and irritates every nation on the face of the globe that has maritime aspirations. She may use it with discretion, as she has for years. It may even be at times a source of protection to others, as it has—but so long as it exists as a supreme power it is a constant source of danger and food for grudges.
“We will never be a free nation until our navy surpasses England’s. The world will never be a free world until the seas and trade routes are free to all, at all times, and without any menace, however benevolent.
“In conclusion … allow me to again state that I write as one American citizen to another with not the slightest desire to say anything that may be personally obnoxious. My own ancestors were from England. My personal relations with the Englishmen I have met have been very pleasant. I can readily believe that there are no better people living, but I feel so strongly on the subject, nationally—so bitterly opposed to a continuance of England’s sea control—so fearful that our people may be lulled into a feeling of false security, that I cannot help trying to combat, with every small means in my power, anything that seems to propagate a dangerous friendship.”
I received no dissenting letter superior to this. To the writer of it I replied that I agreed with much that he said, but that even so it did not in my opinion outweigh the reasons I had given (and shall now give more abundantly) in favor of dropping our hostile feeling toward England.
My correspondent says that we differ as a race from the English as much as a celluloid comb from a stick of dynamite. Did our soldiers find the difference as great as that? I doubt if our difference from anybody is quite as great as that. Again, my correspondent says that we are bound up in our own success only, and England is bound up in hers only. I agree.
But suppose the two successes succeed better through friendship than through enmity? We are as friendly, my correspondent says, as two rival corporations. Again I agree. Has it not been proved this long while that competing corporations prosper through friendship? Did not the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern form a combination called the Northern Securities, for the sake of mutual benefit? Under the Sherman Act the Northern Securities was dissolved; but no Sherman act forbids a Liberty Securities. Liberty, defined and assured by Law, is England’s gift to the modern world. Liberty, defined and assured by Law, is the central purpose of our Constitution. Just as identically as the Northern Pacific and Great Northern run from St. Paul to Seattle do England and the United States aim at Liberty, defined and assured by Law. As friends, the two nations can swing the world towards world stability. My correspondent would hardly have instanced the Boers in his reference to England’s misdeeds, had he reflected upon the part the Boers have played in England’s struggle with Germany.
I will point out no more of the latent weaknesses that underlie various passages in this letter, but proceed to the remaining letters that I have selected. I gave one from an enlisted man and one from a sailor; this is from a commissioned officer, in France.
“I cannot refrain from sending you a line of appreciation and thanks for giving the people at home a few facts that I am sure some do not know and throwing a light upon a much discussed topic, which I am sure will help to remove from some of their minds a foolish bigoted antipathy.”
Upon the single point of our school histories of the Revolution, some of which I had named as being guilty of distorting the facts, a correspondent writes from Nebraska:
“Some months ago… the question came to me, what about our Montgomery’s History now…. I find that everywhere it is the King who is represented as taking these measures against the American people. On page 134 is the heading, American Commerce; the new King George III; how he interfered with trade; page 135, The King proposes to tax the Colonies; page 136, ‘The best men in Parliament—such men as William Pitt and Edmund Burke—
took the side of the colonies.’ On page 138, ‘William Pitt said in Parliament, “in my opinion, this kingdom has no right to lay a tax on the colonies… I rejoice that America has resisted”’; page 150, ‘The English people would not volunteer to fight the Americans and the King had to hire nearly 30,000 Hessians to help do the work…. The Americans had not sought separation; the King—not the English people—had forced it on them….’
“I am writing this… because, as I was glad to see, you did not mince words in naming several of the worse offenders.” (He means certain school histories that I mentioned and shall mention later again.) An official from Pittsburgh wrote thus: “In common with many other people, I have had the same idea that England was not doing all she could in the war, that while her colonies were in the thick of it, she, herself, seemed to be sparing herself, but after reading this article… I will frankly and candidly confess to you that it has changed my opinion, made me a strong supporter of England, and above all made me a better American “
“It is well to remind your readers of the errors—or worse—in American school text books and to recount Britain’s achievements in the present war. But of what practical avail are these things when a man so highly placed as the present Secretary of the Navy asks a Boston audience (Tremont Temple, October 30, 1918) to believe that it was the American navy which made possible the transportation of over 2,000,000 Americans to France without the loss of a single transport on the way over? Did he not know that the greater part of those troops were not only transported, but convoyed, by British vessels, largely withdrawn for that purpose from such vital service as the supply of food to Britain’s civil population?”
The omission on the part of our Secretary of the Navy was later quietly rectified by an official publication of the British Government, wherein it appeared that some sixty per cent of our troops were transported in British ships. Our Secretary’s regrettable slight to our British allies was immediately set right by Admiral Sims, who forthwith, both in public and in private, paid full and appreciative tribute to what had been done.
It is, nevertheless, very likely that some Americans will learn here for the first time that more than half of our troops were not transported by ourselves, and could not have been transported at all but for British assistance. There are many persons who still believe what our politicians and newspapers tell them. No incident that I shall relate further on serves better to point the chief international moral at which I am driving throughout these pages, and at which I have already hinted: Never to generalize the character of a whole nation by the acts of individual members of it. That is what everybody does, ourselves, the English, the French, everybody. You can form no valid opinion of any nation’s characteristics, not even your own, until you have met hundreds of its people, men and women, and had ample opportunity to observe and know them beneath the surface. Here on the one hand we had our Secretary of the Navy. He gave our Navy the whole credit for getting our soldiers overseas.
He justified the British opinion that we are a nation of braggarts. On the other hand, in London, we had Admiral Sims, another American, a splendid antidote. He corrected the Secretary’s brag. What is the moral?
Look out how you generalize. Since we entered the war that tribe of English has increased who judge us with an open mind, discriminate between us, draw close to a just appraisal of our qualities and defects, and possibly even discern that those who fill our public positions are mostly on a lower level than those who elect them.
I proceed with two more letters, both dissenting, and both giving very typically, as it seems to me, the American feeling about England—
partially justified by instances mentioned by my correspondent, but equally mentioned by me in passages which he seems to have skipped.
“Lately I read and did not admire your article… ‘The Ancient Grudge.’
Many of your statements are absolutely true, and I recognize the fact that England’s help in this war has been invaluable. Let it go at that and hush!
“I do not defend our own Indian policy…. Wounded and disabled in our Indian wars… I know all about them and how indefensible they are…..
“England has been always our only legitimate enemy. 1776? Yes, call it ancient history and forget it if possible. 1812? That may go in the same category. But the causes of that misunderstanding were identically repeated in 1914 and ‘15.
“1861? Is that also ancient? Perhaps—but very bitter in the memory of many of us now living. The Alabama. The Confederate Commissioners (I know you will say we were wrong there—and so we may have been technically—
but John Bull bullied us into compliance when our hands were tied).
Lincoln told his Cabinet ‘one war at a time, Gentlemen’ and submitted….
“In 1898 we were a strong and powerful nation and a dangerous enemy to provoke. England recognized the fact and acted accordingly. England entered the present war to protect small nations! Heaven save the mark!
You surely read your history. Pray tell me something of England’s policy in South Africa, India, the Soudan, Persia, Abyssinia, Ireland, Egypt.
The lost provinces of Denmark. The United States when she was young and helpless. And thus, almost to-infinitum.
“Do you not know that the foundations of ninety per cent of the great British fortunes came from the loot of India? upheld and fostered by the great and unscrupulous East India Company?
“Come down to later times: to-day for instance. Here in California… I meet and associate with hundreds of Britishers. Are they American citizens? I had almost said, ‘No, not one.’ Sneering and contemptuous of America and American institutions. Continually finding fault with our government and our people. Comparing these things with England, always to our disadvantage……
“Now do you wonder we do not like England? Am I pro-German? I should laugh and so would you if you knew me.”
To this correspondent I did not reply that I wished I knew him—which I do—that, even as he, so I had frequently been galled by the rudeness and the patronizing of various specimens, high and low, of the English race.
But something I did reply, to the effect that I asked nobody to consider England flawless, or any nation a charitable institution, but merely to be fair, and to consider a cordial understanding between us greatly to our future advantage. To this he answered, in part, as follows: “I wish to thank you for your kindly reply…. Your argument is that as a matter of policy we should conciliate Great Britain. Have we fallen so low, this great and powerful nation?… Truckling to some other power because its backing, moral or physical, may some day be of use to us, even tho’ we know that in so doing we are surrendering our dearest rights, principles, and dignity!… Oh! my dear Sir, you surely do not advocate this? I inclose an editorial clipping…. Is it no shock to you when Winston Churchill shouts to High Heaven that under no circumstances will Great Britain surrender its supreme control of the seas? This in reply to President Wilson’s plea for freedom of the seas and curtailment of armaments…. But as you see, our President and our Mr. Daniels have already said, ‘Very well, we will outbuild you.’ Never again shall Great Britain stop our mail ships and search our private mails. Already has England declared an embargo against our exports in many essential lines and already are we expressing our dissatisfaction and taking means to retaliate “
Of the editorial clipping inclosed with the above, the following is a part:
“John Bull is our associate in the contest with the Kaiser. There is no doubt as to his position on that proposition. He went after the Dutch in great shape. Next to France he led the way and said, ‘Come on, Yanks; we need your help. We will put you in the first line of trenches where there will be good gunning. Yes, we will do all of that and at the same time we will borrow your money, raised by Liberty Loans, and use it for the purchase of American wheat, pork, and beef.’
“Mr. Bull kept his word. He never flinched or attempted to dodge the issue. He kept strictly in the middle of the road. His determination to down the Kaiser with American men, American money, and American food never abated for a single day during the conflict.”
This editorial has many twins throughout the country. I quote it for its value as a specimen of that sort of journalistic and political utterance amongst us, which is as seriously embarrassed by facts as a skunk by its tail. Had its author said: “The Declaration of Independence was signed by Christopher Columbus on Washington’s birthday during the siege of Vicksburg in the presence of Queen Elizabeth and Judas Iscariot,” his statement would have been equally veracious, and more striking.
As to Winston Churchill’s declaration that Great Britain will not surrender her control of the seas, I am as little shocked by that as I should be were our Secretary of the Navy to declare that in no circumstances would we give up control of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is our carotid artery, Great Britain’s navy is her jugular vein. It is her jugular vein in the mind of her people, regardless of that new apparition, the submarine. I was not shocked that Great Britain should decline Mr. Wilson’s invitation that she cut her jugular vein; it was the invitation which kindled my emotions; but these were of a less serious kind.
The last letter that I shall give is from an American citizen of English birth.
“As a boy at school in England, I was taught the history of the American Revolution as J. R. Green presents it in his Short History of the English People. The gist of this record, as you doubtless recollect, is that George III being engaged in the attempt to destroy what there then was of political freedom and representative government in England, used the American situation as a means to that end; that the English people, in so far as their voice could make itself heard, were solidly against both his English and American policy, and that the triumph of America contributed in no small measure to the salvation of those institutions by which the evolution of England towards complete democracy was made possible.
Washington was held up to us in England not merely as a great and good man, but as an heroic leader, to whose courage and wisdom the English as well as the American people were eternally indebted… .
“Pray forgive so long a letter from a stranger. It is prompted… by a sense of the illimitable importance, not only for America and Britain, but for the entire world, of these two great democratic peoples knowing each other as they really are and cooperating as only they can cooperate to establish and maintain peace on just and permanent foundations.”
Chapter III: In Front of a Bulletin Board There, then, are ten letters of the fifty which came to me in consequence of what I wrote in May, 1918, which was published in the American Magazine for the following November. Ten will do. To read the other forty would change no impression conveyed already by the ten, but would merely repeat it. With varying phraseology their writers either think we have hitherto misjudged England and that my facts are to the point, or they express the stereotyped American antipathy to England and treat my facts as we mortals mostly do when facts are embarrassing—side-step them.
What best pleased me was to find that soldiers and sailors agreed with me, and not “high-brows” only.
May, 1918, as you will remember, was a very dark hour. We had come into the war, had been in for a year; but events had not yet taken us out of the well-nigh total eclipse flung upon our character by those blighting words, “there is such a thing as being too proud to fight.” The British had been told by their General that they were fighting with their backs to the wall. Since March 23rd the tread of the Hun had been coming steadily nearer to Paris. Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry had not yet struck the true ring from our metal and put into the hands of Foch the one further weapon that he needed. French morale was burning very low and blue. Yet even in such an hour, people apparently American and apparently grown up, were talking against England, our ally. Then and thereafter, even as to-day, they talked against her as they had been talking since August, 1914, as I had heard them again and again, indoors and out, as I heard a man one forenoon in a crowd during the earlier years of the war, the miserable years before we waked from our trance of neutrality, while our chosen leaders were still misleading us.
Do you remember those unearthly years? The explosions, the plots, the spies, the Lucitania, the notes, Mr. Bryan, von Bernstorff, half our country—oh, more than half!—in different or incredulous, nothing prepared, nothing done, no step taken, Theodore Roosevelt’s and Leonard Wood’s almost the only voices warning us what was bound to happen, and to get ready for it? Do you remember the bulletin boards? Did you grow, as I did, so restless that you would step out of your office to see if anything new had happened during the last sixty minutes—would stop as you went to lunch and stop as you came back? We knew from the faces of our friends what our own faces were like. In company we pumped up liveliness, but in the street, alone with our apprehensions—do you remember? For our future’s sake may everybody remember, may nobody forget!
What the news was upon a certain forenoon memorable to me, I do not recall, and this is of no consequence; good or bad, the stream of by-passers clotted thickly to read it as the man chalked it line upon line across the bulletin board. Citizens who were in haste stepped off the curb to pass round since they could not pass through this crowd of gazers. Thus this on the sidewalk stood some fifty of us, staring at names we had never known until a little while ago, Bethincourt, Malancourt, perhaps, or Montfaucon, or Roisel; French names of small places, among whose crumbled, featureless dust I have walked since, where lived peacefully a few hundred or a few thousand that are now a thousand butchered or broken-hearted. Through me ran once again the wonder that had often chilled me since the abdication of the Czar which made certain the crumbling of Russia: after France, was our turn coming? Should our fields, too, be sown with bones, should our little towns among the orchards and the corn fall in ashes amongst which broken hearts would wander in search of some surviving stick of property? I had learned to know that a long while before the war the eyes of the Hun, the bird of prey, had been fixed upon us as a juicy morsel. He had written it, he had said it. Since August, 1914, these Pan-German schemes had been leaking out for all who chose to understand them. A great many did not so choose.
The Hun had wanted us and planned to get us, and now more than ever before, because he intended that we should pay his war bills. Let him once get by England, and his sword would cut through our fat, defenseless carcass like a knife through cheese.
A voice arrested my reverie, a voice close by in the crowd. It said, “Well, I like the French. But I’ll not cry much if England gets hers.
What’s England done in this war, anyway?”
“Her fleet’s keeping the Kaiser out of your front yard, for one thing,”
retorted another voice.
With assurance slightly wobbling and a touch of the nasal whine, the first speaker protested, “Well, look what George III done to us. Bad as any Kaiser.”
“Aw, get your facts straight!” It was said with scornful force. “Don’t you know George III was a German? Don’t you know it was Hessians—
they’re Germans—he hired to come over here and kill Americans and do his dirty work for him? And his Germans did the same dirty work the Kaiser’s are doing now. We’ve got a letter written after the battle of Long Island by a member of our family they took prisoner there. And they stripped him and they stole his things and they beat him down with the butts of their guns—after he had surrendered, mind—when he was surrendered and naked, and when he was down they beat him some more. That’s Germans for you.
Only they’ve been getting worse while the rest of the world’s been getting better. Get your facts straight, man.”
A number of us were now listening to this, and I envied the historian his ingenious promptness—I have none—and I hoped for more of this timely debate. But debate was over. The anti-Englishman faded to silence. Either he was out of facts to get straight, or lacked what is so pithily termed “come-back.” The latter, I incline to think; for come-back needs no facts, it is a self-feeder, and its entire absence in the anti-Englishman looks as if he had been a German. Germans do not come back when it goes against them, they bleat “Kamerad!”—or disappear. Perhaps this man was a spy—a poor one, to be sure—yet doing his best for his Kaiser: slinking about, peeping, listening, trying to wedge the Allies apart, doing his little bit towards making friends enemies, just as his breed has worked to set enmity between ourselves and Japan, ourselves and Mexico, France and England, France and Italy, England and Russia, between everybody and everybody else all the world over, in the sacred name and for the sacred sake of the Kaiser. Thus has his breed, since we occupied Coblenz, run to the French soldiers with lies about us and then run to us with lies about the French soldiers, overlooking in its providential stupidity the fact that we and the French would inevitably compare notes. Thus too is his breed, at the moment I write these words, infesting and poisoning the earth with a propaganda that remains as coherent and as systematically directed as ever it was before the papers began to assure us that there was nothing left of the Hohenzollern government.
Chapter IV: “My Army of Spies”
“You will desire to know,” said the Kaiser to his council at Potsdam in June, 1908, after the successful testing of the first Zeppelin, “how the hostilities will be brought about. My army of spies scattered over Great Britain and France, as it is over North and South America, will take good care of that. Even now I rule supreme in the United States, where three million voters do my bidding at the Presidential elections.”
Yes, they did his bidding; there, and elsewhere too. They did it at other elections as well. Do you remember the mayor they tried to elect in Chicago? and certain members of Congress? and certain manufacturers and bankers? They did his bidding in our newspapers, our public schools, and from the pulpit. Certain localities in one of the river counties of Iowa (for instance) were spots of German treason to the United States. The “exchange professors” that came from Berlin to Harvard and other universities were so many camouflaged spies. Certain prominent American citizens, dined and wined and flattered by the Kaiser for his purpose, women as well as men, came back here mere Kaiser-puppets, hypnotized by royalty. His bidding was done in as many ways as would fill a book.
Shopkeepers did it, servants did it, Americans among us were decorated by him for doing it. Even after the Armistice, a school textbook “got by”
the Board of Education in a western state, wherein our boys and girls were to be taught a German version—a Kaiser version—of Germany.
Somebody protested, and the board explained that it “hadn’t noticed,” and the book was held up.
We cannot, I fear, order the school histories in Germany to be edited by the Allies. German school children will grow up believing, in all prob-ability, that bombs were dropped near Nurnberg in July, 1914, that German soil was invaded, that the Fatherland fought a war of defense; they will certainly be nourished by lies in the future as they were nourished by lies in the past. But we can prevent Germans or pro-Germans writing our own school histories; we can prevent that “army of spies” of which the Kaiser boasted to his council at Potsdam in June, 1908, from continuing its activities among us now and henceforth; and we can prevent our school textbooks from playing into Germany’s hand by teaching hate of England to our boys and girls. Beside the sickening silliness which still asks, “What has England done in the war?” is a silliness still more sickening which says, “Germany is beaten. Let us forgive and forget.” That is not Christianity. There is nothing Christian about it. It is merely sentimental slush, sloppy shirking of anything that compels national alertness, or effort, or self-discipline, or self-denial; a moral cowardice that pushes away any fact which disturbs a shallow, torpid, irresponsible, self-indulgent optimism.
Our golden age of isolation is over. To attempt to return to it would be a mere pernicious day-dream. To hark back to Washington’s warning against entangling alliances is as sensible as to go by a map of the world made in 1796. We are coupled to the company of nations like a car in the middle of a train, only more inevitably and permanently, for we cannot uncouple; and if we tried to do so, we might not wreck the train, but we should assuredly wreck ourselves. I think the war has brought us one benefit certainly: that many young men return from Europe knowing this, who had no idea of it before they went, and who know also that Germany is at heart an untamed, unchanged wild beast, never to be trusted again. We must not, and shall not, boycott her in trade; but let us not go to sleep at the switch! Just as busily as she is baking pottery opposite Coblenz, labelled “made in St. Louis,” “made in Kansas City,” her “army of spies”
is at work here and everywhere to undermine those nations who have for the moment delayed her plans for world dominion. I think the number of Americans who know this has increased; but no American, wherever he lives, need travel far from home to meet fellow Americans who sing the song of slush about forgiving and forgetting.
Perhaps the man I heard talking in front of the bulletin board was one of the “army of spies,” as I like to infer from his absence of “come-back.”
But perhaps he was merely an innocent American who at school had studied, for instance, Eggleston’s history; thoughtless—but by no means harmless; for his school-taught “slant” against England, in the days we were living through then, amounted to a “slant” for Germany. He would be sorry if Germany beat France, but not if she beat England—when France and England were joined in keeping the wolf not only from their door but from ours! It matters not in the least that they were fighting our battle, not because they wanted to, but because they couldn’t help it: they were fighting it just the same. That they were compelled doesn’t matter, any more than it matters that in going to war when Belgium was invaded, England’s duty and England’s self-interest happened to coincide.
Our duty and our interest also coincided when we entered the war and joined England and France. Have we seemed to think that this diminished our glory? Have they seemed to think that it absolved them from gratitude?
Such talk as that man’s in front of the bulletin board helped Germany then, whether he meant to or not, just as much as if a spy had said it—
just as much as similar talk against England to-day, whether by spies or unheeding Americans, helps the Germany of tomorrow. The Germany of yesterday had her spies all over France and Italy, busily suggesting to rustic uninformed peasants that we had gone to France for conquest of France, and intended to keep some of her land. What is she telling them now? I don’t know. Something to her advantage and their disadvantage, you may be sure, just as she is busy suggesting to us things to her advantage and our disadvantage—jealousy and fear of the British navy, or pro-German school histories for our children, or that we can’t make dyes, or whatever you please: the only sure thing is, that the Germany of yesterday is the Germany of tomorrow. She is not changed. She will not change. The steady stream of her propaganda all over the world proves it.
No matter how often her masquerading government changes costumes, that costume is merely her device to conceal the same cunning, treacherous wild beast that in 1914, after forty years of preparation, sprang at the throat of the world. Of all the nations in the late war, she alone is pulling herself together. She is hard at work. She means to spring again just as soon as she can.
Did you read the letter written in April of 1919 by her Vice-Chancellor, Mathias Erzberger, also her minister of finance? A very able, compact masterpiece of malignant voracity, good enough to do credit to Satan.
Through that lucky flaw of stupidity which runs through apparently every German brain, and to which we chiefly owe our victory and temporary respite from the fangs of the wolf, Mathias Erzberger posted his letter.
It went wrong in the mails. If you desire to read the whole of it, the International News Bureau can either furnish it or put you on the track of it. One sentence from it shall be quoted here: “We will undertake the restoration of Russia, and in possession of such support will be ready, within ten or fifteen years, to bring France, without any difficulty, into our power. The march towards Paris will be easier than in 1914. The last step but one towards the world dominion will then be reached. The continent is ours. Afterwards will follow the last stage, the closing struggle, between the continent and the overseas.”
Who is meant by “overseas”? Is there left any honest American brain so fond and so feeble as to suppose that we are not included in that highly suggestive and significant term? I fear that some such brains are left.
Germans remain German. I was talking with an American officer just returned from Coblenz. He described the surprise of the Germans when they saw our troops march in to occupy that region of their country. They said to him: “But this is extraordinary. Where do these soldiers of yours come from? You have only 150,000 troops in Europe. All the other transports were sunk by our submarines.” “We have two million troops in Europe,”
replied the officer, “and lost by explosion a very few hundred. No transport was sunk.” “But that is impossible,” returned the burgher, “we know from our Government at Berlin that you have only 150,000 troops in Europe.”
Germans remain German. At Coblenz they were servile, cringing, fawning, ready to lick the boots of the Americans, loading them with offers of every food and drink and joy they had. Thus they began. Soon, finding that the Americans did not cut their throats, burn their houses, rape their daughters, or bayonet their babies, but were quiet, civil, disciplined, and apparently harmless, they changed. Their fawning faded away, they scowled and muttered. One day the Burgomaster at a certain place replied to some ordinary requisitions with an arrogant refusal. It was quite out of the question, he said, to comply with any such ridiculous demands. Then the Americans ceased to seem harmless. Certain steps were taken by the commanding officer, some leading citizens were collected and enlightened through the only channel whereby light penetrates a German skull. Thus, by a very slight taste of the methods by which they thought they would cow the rest of the world, these burghers were cowed instantly. They had thought the Americans afraid of them. They had taken civility for fear. Suddenly they encountered what we call the swift kick. It educated them. It always will. Nothing else will.
Mathias Erzberger will, of course, disclaim his letter. He will say it is a forgery. He will point to the protestations of German repentance and reform with which he sweated during April, 1919, and throughout the weeks preceding the delivery of the Treaty at Versailles. Perhaps he has done this already. All Germans will believe him—and some Americans.
The German method, the German madness—what a mixture! The method just grazed making Germany owner of the earth, the madness saved the earth.
With perfect recognition of Belgium’s share, of Russia’s share, of France’s, Italy’s, England’s, our own, in winning the war, I believe that the greatest and mast efficient Ally of all who contributed to Germany’s defeat was her own constant blundering madness. Americans must never forget either the one or the other, and too many are trying to forget both.
Germans remain German. An American lady of my acquaintance was about to climb from Amalfi to Ravello in company with a German lady of her acquaintance. The German lady had a German Baedeker, the American a Baedeker in English, published several years apart. The Baedeker in German recommended a path that went straight up the ascent, the Baedeker in English a path that went up more gradually around it. “Mine says this is the best way,” said the American. “Mine says straight up is the best,” said the German. “But mine is a later edition,” said the American.
“That is not it,” explained the German. “It is that we Germans are so much more clever and agile, that to us is recommended the more dangerous way while Americans are shown the safe path.”
That happened in 1910. That is Kultur. This too is Kultur: “If Silesia become Polish Then, oh God, may children perish, like beasts, in their mothers’ womb.
Then lame their Polish feet and their hands, oh God!
Let them be crippled and blind their eyes.
Smite them with dumbness and madness, both men and women.”
From a Hymn of German hate for the Poles.
Germany remains German; but when next she springs, she will make no blunders.
Chapter V: The Ancient Grudge
It was in Broad Street, Philadelphia, before we went to war, that I overheard the foolish—or propagandist—slur upon England in front of the bulletin board. After we were fighting by England’s side for our existence, you might have supposed such talk would cease. It did not. And after the Armistice, it continued. On the day we celebrated as “British Day,” a man went through the crowd in Wanamaker’s shop, asking, What had England done in the War, anyhow? Was he a German, or an Irishman, or an American in pay of Berlin?, I do not know. But this I know: perfectly good Americans still talk like that. Cowboys in camp do it. Men and women in Eastern cities, persons with at least the external trappings of educated intelligence, play into the hands of the Germany of tomorrow, do their unconscious little bit of harm to the future of freedom and civilization, by repeating that England “has always been our enemy.” Then they mention the Revolution, the War of 1812, and England’s attitude during our Civil War, just as they invariably mentioned these things in 1917 and 1918, when England was our ally in a struggle [or life, and as they will be mentioning them in 1940, I presume, if they are still alive at that time.
Now, the Civil War ended fifty-five years ago, the War of 1812 one hundred and five, and the Revolution one hundred and thirty-seven.
Suppose, while the Kaiser was butchering Belgium because she barred his way to that dinner he was going to eat in Paris in October, 1914, that France had said, “England is my hereditary enemy. Henry the Fifth and the Duke of Wellington and sundry Plantagenets fought me”; and suppose England had said, “I don’t care much for France. Joan of Arc and Napoleon and sundry other French fought me”—suppose they had sat nursing their ancient grudges like that? Well, the Kaiser would have dined in Paris according to his plan. And next, according to his plan, with the Channel ports taken he would have dined in London. And finally, according to his plan, and with the help of his “army of spies” overseas, he would have dined in New York and the White House. For German madness could not have defeated Germany’s plan of World dominion, if various nations had not got together and assisted. Other Americans there are, who do not resort to the Revolution for their grudge, but are in a commercial rage over this or that: wool, for instance. Let such Americans reflect that commercial grievances against England can be more readily adjusted than an absorption of all commerce by Germany can be adjusted. Wool and everything else will belong to Mathias Erzberger and his breed, if they carry out their intention. And the way to insure their carrying it out is to let them split us and England and all their competitors asunder by their ceaseless and ingenious propaganda, which plays upon every international prejudice, historic, commercial, or other, which is available. After August, 1914, England barred the Kaiser’s way to New York, and in 1917, we found it useful to forget about George the Third and the Alabama. In 1853 Prussia possessed one ship of war—her first.
In 1918 her submarines were prowling along our coast. For the moment they are no longer there. For a while they may not be. But do you think Germany intends that scraps of paper shall be abolished by any Treaty, even though it contain 80,000 words and a League of Nations? She will make of that Treaty a whole basket of scraps, if she can, and as soon as she can. She has said so. Her workingmen are at work, industrious and content with a quarter the pay for a longer day than anywhere else. Let those persons who cannot get over George the Third and the Alabama ponder upon this for a minute or two.
Chapter VI: Who Is Without Sin?
Much else is there that it were well they should ponder, and I am coming to it presently; but first, one suggestion. Most of us, if we dig back only fifty or sixty or seventy years, can disinter various relatives over whose doings we should prefer to glide lightly and in silence.
Do you mean to say that you have none? Nobody stained with any shade of dishonor? No grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-etc. grandfather or grandmother who ever made a scandal, broke a heart, or betrayed a trust? Every man Jack and woman Jill of the lot right back to Adam and Eve wholly good, honorable, and courageous? How fortunate to be sprung exclusively from the loins of centuries of angels—and to know all about them! Consider the hoard of virtue to which you have fallen heir!
But you know very well that this is not so; that every one of us has every kind of person for an ancestor; that all sorts of virtue and vice, of heroism and disgrace, are mingled in our blood; that inevitably amidst the huge herd of our grandsires black sheep as well as white are to be found.
As it is with men, so it is with nations. Do you imagine that any nation has a spotless history? Do you think that you can peer into our past, turn over the back pages of our record, and never come upon a single blot? Indeed you cannot. And it is better—a great deal better—that you should be aware of these blots. Such knowledge may enlighten you, may make you a better American. What we need is to be critics of ourselves, and this is exactly what we have been taught not to be.
We are quite good enough to look straight at ourselves. Owing to one thing and another we are cleaner, honester, humaner, and whiter than any people on the continent of Europe. If any nation on the continent of Europe has ever behaved with the generosity and magnanimity that we have shown to Cuba, I have yet to learn of it. They jeered at us about Cuba, did the Europeans of the continent. Their papers stuck their tongues in their cheeks. Of course our fine sentiments were all sham, they said. Of course we intended to swallow Cuba, and never had intended anything else.
And when General Leonard Wood came away from Cuba, having made Havana healthy, having brought order out of chaos on the island, and we left Cuba independent, Europe jeered on. That dear old Europe!
Again, in 1909, it was not any European nation that returned to China their share of the indemnity exacted in consequence of the Boxer troubles; we alone returned our share to China—sixteen millions. It was we who prevented levying a punitive indemnity on China. Read the whole story; there is much more. We played the gentleman, Europe played the bully. But Europe calls us “dollar chasers.” That dear old Europe! Again, if any conquering General on the continent of Europe ever behaved as Grant did to Lee at Appomattox, his name has escaped me.
Again, and lastly—though I am not attempting to tell you here the whole tale of our decencies: Whose hands came away cleanest from that Peace Conference in Paris lately? What did we ask for ourselves? Everything we asked, save some repairs of damage, was for other people. Oh, yes! we are quite good enough to keep quiet about these things. No need whatever to brag. Bragging, moreover, inclines the listener to suspect you’re not so remarkable as you sound.
But all this virtue doesn’t in the least alter the fact that we’re like everybody else in having some dirty pages in our History. These pages it is a foolish mistake to conceal. I suppose that the school histories of every nation are partly bad. I imagine that most of them implant the germ of international hatred in the boys and girls who have to study them.
Nations do not like each other, never have liked each other; and it may very well be that school textbooks help this inclination to dislike.
Certainly we know what contempt and hatred for other nations the Germans have been sedulously taught in their schools, and how utterly they believed their teaching. How much better and wiser for the whole world if all the boys and girls in all the schools everywhere were henceforth to be started in life with a just and true notion of all flags and the peoples over whom they fly! The League of Nations might not then rest upon the quicksand of distrust and antagonism which it rests upon today.
But it is our own school histories that are my present concern, and I repeat my opinion—or rather my conviction—that the way in which they have concealed the truth from us is worse than silly, it is harmful. I am not going to take up the whole list of their misrepresentations, I will put but one or two questions to you.
When you finished school, what idea had you about the War of 1812? I will tell you what mine was. I thought we had gone to war because England was stopping American ships and taking American sailors out of them for her own service. I could refer to Perry’s victory on Lake Erie and Jackson’s smashing of the British at New Orleans; the name of the frigate Constitution sent thrills through me. And we had pounded old John Bull and sent him to the right about a second time! Such was my glorious idea, and there it stopped. Did you know much more than that about it when your schooling was done? Did you know that our reasons for declaring war against Great Britain in 1812 were not so strong as they had been three and four years earlier? That during those years England had moderated her arrogance, was ready to moderate further, had placated us for her brutal performance concerning the Chesapeake, wanted peace; while we, who had been nearly unanimous for war, and with a fuller purse in 1808, were now, by our own congressional fuddling and messing, without any adequate army, and so divided in counsel that only one northern state was wholly in favor of war? Did you know that our General Hull began by invading Canada from Detroit and surrendered his whole army without firing a shot? That the British overran Michigan and parts of Ohio, and western New York, while we retreated disgracefully? That though we shone in victories of single combat on the sea and showed the English that we too knew how to sail and fight on the waves as hardily as Britannia (we won eleven out of thirteen of the frigate and sloop actions), nevertheless she caught us or blocked us up, and rioted unchecked along our coasts? You probably did know that the British burned Washington, and you accordingly hated them for this barbarous vandalism—but did you know that we had burned Toronto a year earlier?
I left school knowing none of this—it wasn’t in my school book, and I learned it in mature years with amazement. I then learned also that England, while she was fighting with us, had her hands full fighting Bonaparte, that her war with us was a sideshow, and that this was uncommonly lucky for us—as lucky quite as those ships from France under Admiral de Grasse, without whose help Washington could never have caught Cornwallis and compelled his surrender at Yorktown, October 19, 1781. Did you know that there were more French soldiers and sailors than Americans at Yorktown? Is it well to keep these things from the young? I have not done with the War of 1812. There is a political aspect of it that I shall later touch upon—something that my school books never mentioned.
My next question is, what did you know about the Mexican War of 1846-1847, when you came out of school? The names of our victories, I presume, and of Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott; and possibly the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, whereby Mexico ceded to us the whole of Texas, New Mexico, and Upper California, and we paid her fifteen millions. No doubt you know that Santa Anna, the Mexican General, had a wooden leg. Well, there is more to know than that, and I found it out much later. I found out that General Grant, who had fought with credit as a lieutenant in the Mexican War, briefly summarized it as “iniquitous.” I gradually, through my reading as a man, learned the truth about the Mexican War which had not been taught me as a boy—that in that war we bullied a weaker power, that we made her our victim, that the whole discreditable business had the extension of slavery at the bottom of it, and that more Americans were against it than had been against the War of 1812. But how many Americans ever learn these things? Do not most of them, upon leaving school, leave history also behind them, and become farmers, or merchants, or plumbers, or firemen, or carpenters, or whatever, and read little but the morning paper for the rest of their lives?
The blackest page in our history would take a long while to read. Not a word of it did I ever see in my school textbooks. They were written on the plan that America could do no wrong. I repeat that, just as we love our friends in spite of their faults, and all the more intelligently because we know these faults, so our love of our country would be just as strong, and far more intelligent, were we honestly and wisely taught in our early years those acts and policies of hers wherein she fell below her lofty and humane ideals. Her character and her record on the whole from the beginning are fine enough to allow the shadows to throw the sunlight into relief. To have produced at three stages of our growth three such men as Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt, is quite sufficient justification for our existence
Chapter VII: Tarred with the Same Stick The blackest page in our history is our treatment of the Indian. To speak of it is a thankless task—thankless, and necessary.
This land was the Indian’s house, not ours. He was here first, nobody knows how many centuries first. We arrived, and we shoved him, and shoved him, and shoved him, back, and back, and back. Treaty after treaty we made with him, and broke. We drew circles round his freedom, smaller and smaller. We allowed him such and such territory, then took it away and gave him less and worse in exchange. Throughout a century our promises to him were a whole basket of scraps of paper. The other day I saw some Indians in California. It had once been their place. All over that region they had hunted and fished and lived according to their desires, enjoying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We came. To-day the hunting and fishing are restricted by our laws—not the Indian’s—because we wasted and almost exterminated in a very short while what had amply provided the Indian with sport and food for a very long while.
In that region we have taken, as usual, the fertile land and the running water, and have allotted land to the Indian where neither wood nor water exist, no crops will grow, no human life can be supported. I have seen the land. I have seen the Indian begging at the back door. Oh, yes, they were an “inferior race.” Oh, yes, they didn’t and couldn’t use the land to the best advantage, couldn’t build Broadway and the Union Pacific Railroad, couldn’t improve real estate. If you choose to call the whole thing “manifest destiny,” I am with you. I’ll not dispute that what we have made this continent is of greater service to mankind than the wilderness of the Indian ever could possibly have been—once conceding, as you have to concede, the inevitableness of civilization. Neither you, nor I, nor any man, can remold the sorry scheme of things entire. But we could have behaved better to the Indian. That was in our power. And we gave him a raw deal instead, not once, but again and again. We did it because we could do it without risk, because he was weaker and we could always beat him in the end. And all the while we were doing it, there was our Bill of Rights, our Declaration of Independence, founded on a new thing in the world, proclaiming to mankind the fairest hope yet born, that “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” and that these were now to be protected by law. Ah, no, look at it as you will, it is a black page, a raw deal. The officers of our frontier army know all about it, because they saw it happen. They saw the treaties broken, the thieving agents, the trespassing settlers, the outrages that goaded the deceived Indian to despair and violence, and when they were ordered out to kill him, they knew that he had struck in self-defense and was the real victim.
It is too late to do much about it now. The good people of the Indian Rights Association try to do something; but in spite of them, what little harm can still be done is being done through dishonest Indian agents and the mean machinery of politics. If you care to know more of the long, bad story, there is a book by Helen Hunt Jackson, A Century of Dishonor; it is not new. It assembles and sets forth what had been perpetrated up to the time when it was written. A second volume could be added now.
I have dwelt upon this matter here for a very definite reason, closely connected with my main purpose. It’s a favorite trick of our anti-British friends to call England a “land-grabber.” The way in which England has grabbed land right along, all over the world, is monstrous, they say.
England has stolen what belonged to whites, and blacks, and bronzes, and yellows, wherever she could lay her hands upon it, they say. England is a criminal. They repeat this with great satisfaction, this land-grabbing indictment. Most of them know little or nothing of the facts, couldn’t tell you the history of a single case. But what are the facts to the man who asks, “What has England done in this war, anyway?” The word “land-grabber” has been passed to him by German and Sinn Fein propaganda, and he merely parrots it forth. He couldn’t discuss it at all. “Look at the Boers,” he may know enough to reply, if you remind him that England’s land-grabbing was done a good while ago. Well, we shall certainly look at the Boers in due time, but just now we must look at ourselves. I suppose that the American who denounces England for her land-grabbing has forgotten, or else has never known, how we grabbed Florida from Spain.
The pittance that we paid Spain in one of the Florida transactions never went to her. The story is a plain tale of land-grabbing; and there are several other plain tales that show us to have been land-grabbers, if you will read the facts with an honest mind. I shall not tell them here. The case of the Indian is enough in the way of an instance. Our own hands are by no means clean. It is not for us to denounce England as a land-grabber.
You cannot hate statistics more than I do. But at times there is no dodging them, and this is one of the times. In 1803 we paid Napoleon Bonaparte fifteen millions for what was then called Louisiana. Napoleon had his title to this land from Spain. Spain had it from France. France had it—how? She had it because La Salle, a Frenchman, sailed down the Mississippi River. This gave him title to the land. There were people on the bank already, long before La Salle came by.
It would have surprised them to be told that the land was no longer theirs because a man had come by on the water. But nobody did tell them.
They were Indians. They had wives and children and wigwams and other possessions in the land where they had always lived; but they were red, and the man in the boat was white, and therefore they were turned into trespassers because he had sailed by in a boat. That was the title to Louisiana which we bought from Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Louisiana Purchase was a piece of land running up the Mississippi, up the Missouri, over the Divide, and down the Columbia to the Pacific.
Before we acquired it, our area was over a quarter, but not half, a million square miles. This added nearly a million square miles more. But what had we really bought? Nothing but stolen goods. The Indians were there before La Salle, from whose boat-sailing the title we bought was derived. “But,” you may object, “when whites rob reds or blacks, we call it Discovery; land-grabbing is when whites rob whites—and that is where I blame England.” For the sake of argument I concede this, and refer you to our acquisition of Texas. This operation followed some years after the Florida operation. “By request” we “annexed” most of present Texas—in 1845. That was a trick of our slaveholders. They sent people into Texas and these people swung the deal. It was virtually a theft from Mexico. A little while later, in 1848, we “paid” Mexico for California, Arizona, and Nevada. But if you read the true story of Fremont in California, and of the American plots there before the Mexican War, to undermine the government of a friendly nation, plots connived at in Washington with a view to getting California for ourselves, upon my word you will find it hard to talk of England being a land-grabber and keep a straight face.
And, were a certain book to fall into your hands, the narrative of the Alcalde of Monterey, wherein he sets down what of Fremont’s doings in California went on before his eyes, you would learn a story of treachery, brutality, and greed. All this acquisition of territory, together with the Gadsden Purchase a few years later, brought our continent to its present area—not counting Alaska or some islands later acquired—
2,970,230 square miles.
Please understand me very clearly: I am not saying that it has not been far better for the world and for civilization that we should have become the rulers of all this land, instead of its being ruled by the Indians or by Spain, or by Mexico. That is not at all the point. I am merely reminding you of the means whereby we got the land. We got it mostly by force and fraud, by driving out of it through firearms and plots people who certainly were there first and who were weaker than ourselves. Our reason was simply that we wanted it and intended to have it. That is precisely what England has done. She has by various means not one whit better or worse than ours, acquired her possessions in various parts of the world because they were necessary to her safety and welfare, just as this continent was necessary to our safety and welfare. Moreover, the pressure upon her, her necessity for self-preservation, was far more urgent than was the pressure upon us. To make you see this, I must once again resort to some statistics.
England’s area—herself and adjacent islands—is 120,832 square miles.
Her population in 1811 was eighteen and one half millions. At that same time our area was 408,895 square miles, not counting the recent Louisiana Purchase. And our population was 7,239,881. With an area less than one third of ours (excluding the huge Louisiana) England had a population more than twice as great. Therefore she was more crowded than we were—
how much more I leave you to figure out for yourself. I appeal to the fair-minded American reader who only “wants to be shown,” and I say to him, when some German or anti-British American talks to him about what a land-grabber England has been in her time to think of these things and to remember that our own past is tarred with the same stick. Let every one of us bear in mind that little sentence of the Kaiser’s, “Even now I rule supreme in the United States;” let us remember that the Armistice and the Peace Treaty do not seem to have altered German nature or German plans very noticeably, and don’t let us muddle our brains over the question of the land grabbed by the great-grandfathers of present England.
Any American who is anti-British to-day is by just so much pro-German, is helping the trouble of the world, is keeping discord alight, is doing his bit against human peace and human happiness.
There are some other little sentences of the Kaiser and his Huns of which I shall speak before I finish: we must now take up the controversy of those men in front of the bulletin board; we must investigate what lies behind that controversy. Those two men are types. One had learned nothing since he left school, the other had.
Chapter VIII: History Astigmatic
So far as I know, it was Mr. Sydney Gent Fisher, an American, who was the first to go back to the original documents, and to write from study of these documents the complete truth about England and ourselves during the Revolution. His admirable book tore off the cloak which our school histories had wrapped round the fables. He lays bare the political state of Britain at that time. What did you learn at your school of that political state? Did you ever wonder able General Howe and his manner of fighting us? Did it ever strike you that, although we were more often defeated than victorious in those engagements with him (and sometimes he even seemed to avoid pitched battles with us when the odds were all in his favor), yet somehow England did seem to reap the advantage she should be reaped from those contests, didn’t follow them, let us get away, didn’t in short make any progress to speak of in really conquering us? Perhaps you attributed this to our brave troops and our great Washington. Well, our troops were brave and Washington was great; but there was more behind—more than your school teaching ever led you to suspect, if your schooling was like mine. I imagined England as being just one whole unit of fury and tyranny directed against us and determined to stamp out the spark of liberty we had kindled. No such thing! England was violently divided in sentiment about us. Two parties, almost as opposed as our North and South have been—only it was not sectional in England—held very different views about liberty and the rights of Englishmen. The King’s party, George the Third and his upholders, were fighting to saddle autocracy upon England; the other party, that of Pitt and Burke, were resisting this, and their sentiments and political beliefs led them to sympathize with our revolt against George III. “I rejoice,” writes Horace Walpole, Dec. 5, 1777, to the Countess of Upper Ossory, “that the Americans are to be free, as they had a right to be, and as I am sure they have shown they deserve to be…. I own there are very able Englishmen left, but they happen to be on t’other side of the Atlantic.”
It was through Whig influence that General Howe did not follow up his victories over us, because they didn’t wish us to be conquered, they wished us to be able to vindicate the rights to which they held all Englishmen were entitled. These men considered us the champions of that British liberty which George III was attempting to crush. They disputed the rightfulness of the Stamp Act. When we refused to submit to the Stamp Tax in 1766, it was then that Pitt exclaimed in Parliament: “I rejoice that America has resisted…. If ever this nation should have a tyrant for a King, six millions of freemen, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would be fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.” But they were not willing. When the hour struck and the war came, so many Englishmen were on our side that they would not enlist against us, refused to fight us, and George III had to go to Germany and obtain Hessians to help him out. His war against us was lost at home, on English soil, through English disapproval of his course, almost as much as it was lost here through the indomitable Washington and the help of France. That is the actual state of the case, there is the truth. Did you hear much about this at school? Did you ever learn there that George III had a fake Parliament, largely elected by fake votes, which did not represent the English people; that this fake Parliament was autocracy’s last ditch in England; that it choked for a time the English democracy which, after the setback given it by the excesses of the French Revolution, went forward again until to-day the King of England has less power than the President of the United States? I suppose everybody in the world who knows the important steps of history knows this—except the average American. From him it has been concealed by his school histories; and generally he never learns anything about it at all, because once out of school, he seldom studies any history again. But why, you may possibly wonder, have our school histories done this? I think their various authors may consciously or unconsciously have felt that our case against England was not in truth very strong, that in fact she had been very easy with us, far easier than any other country was being with its colonies at that time. The King of France taxed his colonies, the King of Spain filled his purse, unhampered, from the pockets of Mexico and Peru and Cuba and Porto Rico—from whatever pocket into which he could put his hand, and the Dutch were doing the same without the slightest question of their right to do it. Our quarrel with the mother country and our breaking away from her in spite of the extremely light rein she was driving us with, rested in reality upon very slender justification. If ever our authors read of the meeting between Franklin, Rutledge, and Adams with General Howe, after the Battle of Long Island, I think they may have felt that we had almost no grievance at all. The plain truth of it was, we had been allowed for so long to be so nearly free that we determined to be free entirely, no matter what England conceded.
Therefore these authors of our school textbooks felt that they needed to bolster our cause up for the benefit of the young. Accordingly our boys’
and girls’ sense of independence and patriotism must be nourished by making England out a far greater oppressor than ever she really had been.
These historians dwelt as heavily as they could upon George III and his un-English autocracy, and as lightly as they could upon the English Pitt and upon all the English sympathy we had. Indeed, about this most of them didn’t say a word.
Now that policy may possibly have been desirable once—if it can ever be desirable to suppress historic truth from a whole nation. But to-day, when we have long stood on our own powerful legs and need no bolstering up of such a kind, that policy is not only silly, it is pernicious. It is pernicious because the world is heaving with frightful menaces to all the good that man knows. They would strip life of every resource gathered through centuries of struggle. Mad mobs, whole races of people who have never thought at all, or who have now hurled away all pretense of thought, aim at mere destruction of everything that is. They don’t attempt to offer any substitute. Down with religion, down with education, down with marriage, down with law, down with property: Such is their cry.
Wipe the slate blank, they say, and then we’ll see what we’ll write on it. Amid this stands Germany with her unchanged purpose to own the earth; and Japan is doing some thinking. Amid this also is the Anglo-Saxon race, the race that has brought our law, our order, our safety, our freedom into the modern world. That any school histories should hinder the members of this race from understanding each other truly and being friends, should not be tolerated.
Many years later than Mr. Sydney George Fisher’s analysis of England under George III, Mr. Charles Altschul has made an examination and given an analysis of a great number of those school textbooks wherein our boys and girls have been and are still being taught a history of our Revolution in the distorted form that I have briefly summarized. His book was published in 1917, by the George H. Doran Company, New York, and is entitled The American Revolution in our School Textbooks. Here following are some of his discoveries:
Of forty school histories used twenty years ago in sixty-eight cities, and in many more unreported, four tell the truth about King George’s pocket Parliament, and thirty-two suppress it. To-day our books are not quite so bad, but it is not very much better; and-to-day, be it added, any reforming of these textbooks by Boards of Education is likely to be prevented, wherever obstruction is possible, by every influence visible and invisible that pro-German and pro-Irish propaganda can exert.
Thousands of our American school children all over our country are still being given a version of our Revolution and the political state of England then, which is as faulty as was George III’s government, with its fake parliament, its “rotten boroughs,” its Little Sarum. Meanwhile that “army of spies” through which the Kaiser boasted that he ruled “supreme”
here, and which, though he is gone, is by no means a demobilized army, but a very busy and well-drilled and well-conducted army, is very glad that our boys and girls should be taught false history, and will do its best to see that they are not taught true history.
Mr. Charles Altschul, in his admirable enterprise, addressed himself to those who preside over our school world all over the country; he received answers from every state in the Union, and he examined ninety-three history textbooks in those passages and pages which they devoted to our Revolution. These books he grouped according to the amount of information they gave about Pitt and Burke and English sympathy with us in our quarrel with George III. These groups are five in number, and dwindle down from group one, “Textbooks which deal fully with the grievances of the colonists, give an account of general political conditions in England prior to the American Revolution, and give credit to prominent Englishmen for the services they rendered the Americans,” to group five, “Textbooks which deal fully with the grievances of the colonists, make no reference to general political conditions in England prior to the American Revolution, nor to any prominent Englishmen who devoted themselves to the cause of the Americans.” Of course, what dwindles is the amount said about our English sympathizers. In groups three and four this is so scanty as to distort the truth and send any boy or girl who studied books of these groups out of school into life with a very imperfect idea indeed of the size and importance of English opposition to the policy of George III; in group five nothing is said about this at all. The boys and girls who studied books in group five would grow up believing that England was undividedly autocratic, tyrannical, and hostile to our liberty. In his careful and conscientious classification, Mr. Altschul gives us the books in use twenty years ago (and hence responsible for the opinion of Americans now between thirty and forty years old) and books in use to-day, and hence responsible for the opinion of those American men and women who will presently be grown up and will prolong for another generation the school-taught ignorance and prejudice of their fathers and mothers. I select from Mr. Altschul’s catalogue only those books in use in 1917, when he published his volume, and of these only group five, where the facts about English sympathy with us are totally suppressed.
Barnes’ School History of the United States, by Steele. Chandler and Chitword’s Makers of American History. Chambers’ (Hansell’s) A School History of the United States. Eggleston’s A First Book in American History. Eggleston’s History of the United States and Its People. Eggleston’s New Century History of the United States. Evans’ First Lessons in Georgia History. Evans’ The Essential Facts of American History.
Estill’s Beginner’s History of Our Country. Forman’s History of the United States. Montgomery’s An Elementary American History. Montgomery’s The Beginner’s American History. White’s Beginner’s History of the United States.
If the reader has followed me from the beginning, he will recollect a letter, parts of which I quoted, from a correspondent who spoke of Montgomery’s history, giving passages in which a fair and adequate recognition of Pitt and our English sympathizers and their opposition to George III is made. This would seem to indicate a revision of the work since Mr. Altschul published his lists, and to substantiate the hope I expressed in my original article, and which I here repeat. Surely the publishers of these books will revise them! Surely any patriotic American publisher and any patriotic board of education, school principal, or educator, will watch and resist all propaganda and other sinister influence tending to perpetuate this error of these school histories!
Whatever excuse they once had, be it the explanation I have offered above, or some other, there is no excuse to-day. These books have laid the foundation from which has sprung the popular prejudice against England. It has descended from father to son. It has been further solidified by many tales for boys and girls, written by men and women who acquired their inaccurate knowledge at our schools. And it plays straight into the hands of our enemies
Chapter IX: Concerning a Complex
All of these books, history and fiction, drop into the American mind during its early springtime the seed of antagonism, establish in fact an anti-English “complex.” It is as pretty a case of complex on the wholesale as could well be found by either historian or psychologist. It is not so violent as the complex which has been planted in the German people by forty years of very adroitly and carefully planned training: they were taught to distrust and hate everybody and to consider themselves so superior to anybody that their sacred duty as they saw it in 1914 was to enslave the world in order to force upon the world the priceless benefits of their Kultur. Under the shock of war that complex dilated into a form of real hysteria or insanity. Our anti-English complex is fortunately milder than that; but none the less does it savor slightly, as any nerve specialist or psychological doctor would tell you–it savors slightly of hysteria, that hundreds of thousands of American men and women of every grade of education and ignorance should automatically exclaim whenever the right button is pressed, “England is a land-grabber,” and “What has England done in the War?”
The word complex has been in our dictionary for a long while. This familiar adjective has been made by certain scientific people into a noun, and for brevity and convenience employed to denote something that almost all of us harbor in some form or other. These complexes, these lumps of ideas or impressions that match each other, that are of the same pattern, and that are also invariably tinctured with either a pleasurable or painful emotion, lie buried in our minds, unthought-of but alive, and lurk always ready to set up a ferment, whenever some new thing from outside that matches them enters the mind and hence starts them off. The “suppressed complex” I need not describe, as our English complex is by no means suppressed. Known to us all, probably, is the political complex.
Year after year we have been excited about elections and candidates and policies, preferring one party to the other. If this preference has been very marked, or even violent, you know how disinclined we are to give credit to the other party for any act or policy, no matter how excellent in itself, which, had our own party been its sponsor, we should have been heart and soul for. You know how easily we forget the good deeds of the opposite party and how easily we remember its bad deeds. That’s a good simple ordinary example of a complex. Its workings can be discerned in the experience of us all. In our present discussion it is very much to the point.
Established in the soft young minds of our school boys and girls by a series of reiterated statements about the tyranny and hostility of England towards us in the Revolution, statements which they have to remember and master by study from day to day, tinctured by the anxiety about the examination ahead, when the students must know them or fail, these incidents of school work being also tinctured by another emotion, that of patriotism, enthusiasm for Washington, for the Declaration of Independence, for Valley Forge—thus established in the regular way of all complexes, this anti-English complex is fed and watered by what we learn of the War of 1812, by what we learn of the Civil War of 1861, and by many lesser events in our history thus far. And just as a Republican will admit nothing good of a Democrat and a Democrat nothing good of a Republican because of the political complex, so does the great—the vast—majority of Americans automatically and easily remember everything against England and forget everything in her favor. Just try it any day you like. Ask any average American you are sitting next to in a train what he knows about England; and if he does remember anything and can tell it to you, it will be unfavorable nine times in ten. The mere word “England”
starts his complex off, and out comes every fact it has seized that matches his school-implanted prejudice, just as it has rejected every fact that does not match it. There is absolutely no other way to explain the American habit of speaking ill of England and well of France. Several times in the past, France has been flagrantly hostile to us. But there was Lafayette, there was Rochambeau, and the great service France did us then against England. Hence from our school histories we have a pro-French complex. Under its workings we automatically remember every good turn France has done us and automatically forget the evil turns. Again try the experiment yourself. How many Americans do you think that you will find who can recall, or who even know when you recall to them the insolent and meddlesome Citizen Genet, envoy of the French Republic, and how Washington requested his recall? Or the French privateers that a little later, about 1797-98, preyed upon our commerce? And the hatred of France which many Americans felt and expressed at that time? How many remember that the King of France, directly our Revolution was over, was more hostile to us than England?
Chapter X: Jackstraws
Jackstraws is a game which most of us have played in our youth. You empty on a table a box of miniature toy rakes, shovels, picks, axes, all sorts of tools and implements. These lie under each other and above each other in intricate confusion, not unlike cross timber in a western forest, only instead of being logs, they are about two inches long and very light. The players sit round the table and with little hooks try in turn to lift one jackstraw out of the heap, without moving any of the others. You go on until you do move one of the others, and this loses you your turn.
European diplomacy at any moment of any year reminds you, if you inspect it closely, of a game of jackstraws. Every sort and shape of intrigue is in the general heap and tangle, and the jealous nations sit round, each trying to lift out its own jackstraw. Luckily for us, we have not often been involved in these games of jackstraw hitherto; unluckily for us, we must be henceforth involved. If we kept out, our luck would be still worse.
Immediately after our Revolution, there was one of these heaps of intrigue, in which we were concerned. This was at the time of the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Paris, to which I made reference at the close of the last section. This was in 1783. Twenty years later, in 1803, occurred the heap of jackstraws that led to the Louisiana Purchase.
Twenty years later, in 1823, occurred the heap of jackstraws from which emerged the Monroe Doctrine. Each of these dates, dotted along through our early decades, marks a very important crisis in our history. It is well that they should be grouped together, because together they disclose, so to speak, a coherent pattern. This coherent pattern is England’s attitude towards ourselves. It is to be perceived, faintly yet distinctly, in 1783, and it grows clearer and ever more clear until in 1898, in the game of jackstraws played when we declared war upon Spain, the pattern is so clear that it could not be mistaken by any one who was not willfully blinded by an anti-English complex. This pattern represents a preference on England’s part for ourselves to other nations. I do not ask you to think England’s reason for this preference is that she has loved us so much; that she has loved others so much less—there is her reason. She has loved herself better than anybody. So must every nation.
So does every nation.
Let me briefly speak of the first game of jackstraws, played at Paris in 1783. Our Revolution was over. The terms of peace had to be drawn.
Franklin, Jay, Adams, and Laurens were our negotiators. The various important points were acknowledgment of our independence, settlement of boundaries, freedom of fishing in the neighborhood of the Canadian coast.
We had agreed to reach no settlement with England separately from France and Spain. They were our recent friends. England, our recent enemy, sent Richard Oswald as her peace commissioner. This private gentleman had placed his fortune at our disposal during the war, and was Franklin’s friend. Lord Shelburne wrote Franklin that if this was not satisfactory, to say so, and name any one he preferred. But Oswald was satisfactory; and David Hartley, another friend of Franklin’s and also a sympathizer with our Revolution, was added; and in these circumstances and by these men the Treaty was made. To France we broke our promise to reach no separate agreement with England. We negotiated directly with the British, and the Articles were signed without consultation with the French Government. When Vergennes, the French Minister, saw the terms, he remarked in disgust that England would seem to have bought a peace rather than made one. By the treaty we got the Northwest Territory and the basin of the Ohio River to the Mississippi. Our recent friend, the French King, was much opposed to our having so much territory. It was our recent enemy, England, who agreed that we should have it. This was the result of that game of jackstraws.
Let us remember several things: in our Revolution, France had befriended us, not because she loved us so much, but because she loved England so little. In the Treaty of Paris, England stood with us, not because she loved us so much, but because she loved France so little. We must cherish no illusions. Every nation must love itself more than it loves its neighbor. Nevertheless, in this pattern of England’s policy in 1783, where she takes her stand with us and against other nations, there is a deep significance. Our notions of law, our notions of life, our notions of religion, our notions of liberty, our notions of what a man should be and what a woman should be, are so much more akin to her notions than to those of any other nation, that they draw her toward us rather than toward any other nation. That is the lesson of the first game of jackstraws.
Next comes 1803. Upon the Louisiana Purchase, I have already touched; but not upon its diplomatic side. In those years the European game of diplomacy was truly portentous. Bonaparte had appeared, and Bonaparte was the storm centre. From the heap of jackstraws I shall lift out only that which directly concerns us and our acquisition of that enormous territory, then called Louisiana. Bonaparte had dreamed and planned an empire over here. Certain vicissitudes disenchanted him. A plan to invade England also helped to deflect his mind from establishing an outpost of his empire upon our continent. For us he had no love. Our principles were democratic, he was a colossal autocrat. He called us “the reign of chatter,” and he would have liked dearly to put out our light. Addington was then the British Prime Minister. Robert R. Livingston was our minister in Paris. In the history of Henry Adams, in Volume II at pages 52 and 53, you may find more concerning Bonaparte’s dislike of the United States. You may also find that Talleyrand expressed the view that socially and economically England and America were one and indivisible.
In Volume I of the same history, at page 439, you will see the mention which Pichon made to Talleyrand of the overtures which England was incessantly making to us. At some time during all this, rumor got abroad of Bonaparte’s projects regarding Louisiana. In the second volume of Henry Adams, at pages 23 and 24, you will find Addington remarking to our minister to Great Britain, Rufus King, that it would not do to let Bonaparte establish himself in Louisiana. Addington very plainly hints that Great Britain would back us in any such event. This backing of us by Great Britain found very cordial acceptance in the mind of Thomas Jefferson. A year before the Louisiana Purchase was consummated, and when the threat of Bonaparte was in the air, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Livingston, on April 18, 1802, that “the day France takes possession of New Orleans, we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.” In one of his many memoranda to Talleyrand, Livingston alludes to the British fleet. He also points out that France may by taking a certain course estrange the United States for ever and bind it closely to France’s great enemy. This particular address to Talleyrand is dated February 1, 1803, and may be found in the Annals of Congress, 1802-1803, at pages 1078 to 1083. I quote a sentence: “The critical moment has arrived which rivets the connexion of the United States to France, or binds a young and growing people for ages hereafter to her mortal and inveterate enemy.” After this, hints follow concerning the relative maritime power of France and Great Britain. Livingston suggests that if Great Britain invade Louisiana, who can oppose her? Once more he refers to Great Britain’s superior fleet. This interesting address concludes with the following exordium to France: “She will cheaply purchase the esteem of men and the favor of Heaven by the surrender of a distant wilderness, which can neither add to her wealth nor to her strength.”
This, as you will perceive, is quite a pointed remark. Throughout the Louisiana diplomacy, and negotiations to which this diplomacy led, Livingston’s would seem to be the master American mind and prophetic vision. But I must keep to my jackstraws. On April 17, 1803, Bonaparte’s brother, Lucien, reports a conversation held with him by Bonaparte. What purposes, what oscillations, may have been going on deep in Bonaparte’s secret mind, no one can tell. We may guess that he did not relinquish his plan about Louisiana definitely for some time after the thought had dawned upon him that it would be better if he did relinquish it. But unless he was lying to his brother Lucien on April 17, 1803, we get no mere glimpse, but a perfectly clear sight of what he had come finally to think. It was certainly worth while, he said to Lucien, to sell when you could what you were certain to lose; “for the English… are aching for a chance to capture it…. Our navy, so inferior to our neighbor’s across the Channel, will always cause our colonies to be exposed to great risks…. As to the sea, my dear fellow, you must know that there we have to lower the flag…. The English navy is, and long will be, too dominant.”
That was on April 17. On May 2, the Treaty of Cession was signed by the exultant Livingston. Bonaparte, instead of establishing an outpost of autocracy at New Orleans, sold to us not only the small piece of land which we had originally in mind, but the huge piece of land whose dimensions I have given above. We paid him fifteen millions for nearly a million square miles. The formal transfer was made on December 17 of that same year, 1803. There is my second jackstraw.
Thus, twenty years after the first time in 1783, Great Britain stood between us and the designs of another nation. To that other nation her fleet was the deciding obstacle. England did not love us so much, but she loved France so much less. For the same reasons which I have suggested before, self-interest, behind which lay her democratic kinship with our ideals, ranged her with us.
To place my third jackstraw, which follows twenty years after the second, uninterruptedly in this group, I pass over for the moment our War of 1812.
To that I will return after I have dealt with the third jackstraw, namely, the Monroe Doctrine. It was England that suggested the Monroe Doctrine to us. From the origin of this in the mind of Canning to its public announcement upon our side of the water, the pattern to which I have alluded is for the third time very clearly to be seen.
How much did your school histories tell you about the Monroe Doctrine? I confess that my notion of it came to this: President Monroe informed the kings of Europe that they must keep away from this hemisphere. Whereupon the kings obeyed him and have remained obedient ever since. Of George Canning I knew nothing. Another large game of jackstraws was being played in Europe in 1823. Certain people there had formed the Holy Alliance.
Among these, Prince Metternich the Austrian was undoubtedly the master mind. He saw that by England’s victory at Waterloo a threat to all monarchical and dynastic systems of government had been created. He also saw that our steady growth was a part of the same threat. With this in mind, in 1822, he brought about the Holy Alliance. The first Article of the Holy Alliance reads: “The high contracting Powers, being convinced that the system of representative government is as equally incompatible with the monarchical principle as the maxim of sovereignty of the people with the Divine right, engage mutually, in the most solemn manner, to use all their efforts to put an end to the system of representative governments, in whatever country it may exist in Europe, and to prevent its being introduced in those countries where it is not yet known.”
Behind these words lay a design, hardly veiled, not only against South America, but against ourselves. In a volume entitled With the Fathers, by John Bach McMaster, and also in the fifth volume of Mr. McMaster’s history, chapter 41, you will find more amply what I abbreviate here.
Canning understood the threat to us contained in the Holy Alliance. He made a suggestion to Richard Rush, our minister to England. The suggestion was of such moment, and the ultimate danger to us from the Holy Alliance was of such moment, that Rush made haste to put the matter into the hands of President Monroe. President Monroe likewise found the matter very grave, and he therefore consulted Thomas Jefferson. At that time Jefferson had retired from public life and was living quietly at his place in Virginia. That President Monroe’s communication deeply stirred him is to be seen in his reply, written October 24, 1823. Jefferson says in part: “The question presented by the letters you have sent me is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my contemplation since that of independence…. One nation most of all could disturb us…. She now offers to lead, aid and accompany us…. With her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her, then, we should most seriously cherish a cordial friendship, and nothing would tend more to unite our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause.”
Thus for the second time, Thomas Jefferson advises a friendship with Great Britain. He realizes as fully as did Bonaparte the power of her navy, and its value to us. It is striking and strange to find Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, writing in 1823 about uniting our affections and about fighting once more side by side with England.
It was the revolt of the Spanish Colonies from Spain in South America, and Canning’s fear that France might obtain dominion in America, which led him to make his suggestion to Rush. The gist of the suggestion was, that we should join with Great Britain in saying that both countries were opposed to any intervention by Europe in the western hemisphere. Over our announcement there was much delight in England. In the London Courier occurs a sentence, “The South American Republics—protected by the two nations that possess the institutions and speak the language of freedom.”
In this fragment from the London Courier, the kinship at which I have hinted as being felt by England in 1783, and in 1803, is definitely expressed. From the Holy Alliance, from the general European diplomatic game, and from England’s preference for us who spoke her language and thought her thoughts about liberty, law, what a man should be, what a woman should be, issued the Monroe Doctrine. And you will find that no matter what dynastic or ministerial interruptions have occurred to obscure this recognition of kinship with us and preference for us upon the part of the English people, such interruptions are always temporary and lie always upon the surface of English sentiment. Beneath the surface the recognition of kinship persists unchanged and invariably reasserts itself.
That is my third jackstraw. Canning spoke to Rush, Rush consulted Monroe, Monroe consulted Jefferson, and Jefferson wrote what we have seen. That, stripped of every encumbering circumstance, is the story of the Monroe Doctrine. Ever since that day the Monroe Doctrine has rested upon the broad back of the British Navy. This has been no secret to our leading historians, our authoritative writers on diplomacy, and our educated and thinking public men. But they have not generally been eager to mention it; and as to our school textbooks, none that I studied mentioned it at all.
Chapter XI: Some Family Scraps
Do not suppose because I am reminding you of these things and shall remind you of some more, that I am trying to make you hate France. I am only trying to persuade you to stop hating England. I wish to show you how much reason you have not to hate her, which your school histories pass lightly over, or pass wholly by. I want to make it plain that your anti-English complex and your pro-French complex entice your memory into retaining only evil about England and only good about France. That is why I pull out from the recorded, certified, and perfectly ascertainable past, these few large facts. They amply justify, as it seems to me, and as I think it must seem to any reader with an open mind, what I said about the pattern.
We must now touch upon the War of 1812. There is a political aspect of this war which casts upon it a light not generally shed by our school histories. Bonaparte is again the point. Nine years after our Louisiana Purchase from him, we declared war upon England. At that moment England was heavily absorbed in her struggle with Bonaparte. It is true that we had a genuine grievance against her. In searching for British sailors upon our ships, she impressed our own. This was our justification.
We made a pretty lame showing, in spite of the victories of our frigates and sloops. Our one signal triumph on land came after the Treaty of Peace had been signed at Ghent. During the years of war, it was lucky for us that England had Bonaparte upon her hands. She could not give us much attention. She was battling with the great Autocrat. We, by declaring war upon her at such a time, played into Bonaparte’s hands, and virtually, by embarrassing England, struck a blow on the side of autocracy and against our own political faith. It was a feeble blow, it did but slight harm.
And regardless of it England struck Bonaparte down. His hope that we might damage and lessen the power of her fleet that he so much respected and feared, was not realized. We made the Treaty of Ghent. The impressing of sailors from our vessels was tacitly abandoned. The next time that people were removed from vessels, it was not England who removed them, it was we ourselves, who had declared war on England for doing so, we ourselves who removed them from Canadian vessels in the Behring Sea, and from the British ship Trent. These incidents we shall reach in their proper place. As a result of the War of 1812, some English felt justified in taking from us a large slice of land, but Wellington said, “I think you have no right, from the state of the war, to demand any concession of territory from America.” This is all that need be said about our War of 1812.
Because I am trying to give only the large incidents, I have intentionally made but a mere allusion to Florida and our acquisition of that territory. It was a case again of England’s siding with us against a third power, Spain, in this instance. I have also omitted any account of our acquisition of Texas, when England was not friendly—I am not sure why: probably because of the friction between us over Oregon. But certain other minor events there are, which do require a brief reference—the boundaries of Maine, of Oregon, the Isthmian Canal, Cleveland and Venezuela, Roosevelt and Alaska; and these disputes we shall now take up together, before we deal with the very large matter of our trouble with England during the Civil War. Chronologically, of course, Venezuela and Alaska fall after the Civil War; but they belong to the same class to which Maine and Oregon belong. Together, all of these incidents and controversies form a group in which the underlying permanence of British good-will towards us is distinctly to be discerned. Sometimes, as I have said before, British anger with us obscures the friendly sentiment. But this was on the surface, and it always passed. As usual, it is only the anger that has stuck in our minds. Of the outcome of these controversies and the British temperance and restraint which brought about such outcome the popular mind retains no impression.
The boundary of Maine was found to be undefined to the extent of 12,000
square miles. Both Maine and New Brunswick claimed this, of course. Maine took her coat off to fight, so did New Brunswick. Now, we backed Maine, and voted supplies and men to her. Not so England. More soberly, she said, “Let us arbitrate.” We agreed, it was done. By the umpire Maine was awarded more than half what she claimed. And then we disputed the umpire’s decision on the ground he hadn’t given us the whole thing! Does not this remind you of some of our baseball bad manners? It was settled later, and we got, differently located, about the original award.
Did you learn in school about “fifty-four forty, or fight”? We were ready to take off our coat again. Or at least, that was the platform in 1844 on which President Polk was elected. At that time, what lay between the north line of California and the south line of Alaska, which then belonged to Russia, was called Oregon. We said it was ours. England disputed this. Each nation based its title on discovery. It wasn’t really far from an even claim. So Polk was elected, which apparently meant war; his words were bellicose. We blustered rudely. Feeling ran high in England; but she didn’t take off her coat. Her ambassador, Pakenham, stiff at first, unbent later. Under sundry missionary impulses, more Americans than British had recently settled along the Columbia River and in the Willamette Valley. People from Missouri followed. You may read of our impatient violence in Professor Dunning’s book, The British Empire and the United States. Indeed, this volume tells at length everything I am telling you briefly about these boundary disputes. The settlers wished to be under our Government. Virtually upon their preference the matter was finally adjusted. England met us with a compromise, advantageous to us and reasonable for herself. Thus, again, was her conduct moderate and pacific. If you think that this was through fear of us, I can only leave you to our western blow-hards of 1845, or to your anti-British complex. What I see in it, is another sign of that fundamental sense of kinship, that persisting unwillingness to have a real scrap with us, that stares plainly out of our whole first century—the same feeling which prevented so many English from enlisting against us in the Revolution that George III was obliged to get Hessians.
Nicaragua comes next. There again they were quite angry with us on top, but controlled in the end by the persisting disposition of kinship. They had land in Nicaragua with the idea of an Isthmian Canal. This we did not like. They thought we should mind our own business. But they agreed with us in the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty that both should build and run the canal.
Vagueness about territory near by raised further trouble, and there we were in the right. England yielded. The years went on and we grew, until the time came when we decided that if there was to be any canal, no one but ourselves should have it. We asked to be let off the old treaty.
England let us off, stipulating the canal should be unfortified, and an “open door” to all. Our representative agreed to this, much to our displeasure. Indeed, I do not think he should have agreed to it. Did England hold us to it? All this happened in the lifetime of many of us, and we know that she did not hold us to it. She gave us what we asked, and she did so because she felt its justice, and that it in no way menaced her with injury. All this began in 1850 and ended, as we know, in the time of Roosevelt.
About 1887 our seal-fishing in the Behring Sea brought on an acute situation. Into the many and intricate details of this, I need not go; you can find them in any good encyclopedia, and also in Harper’s Magazine for April, 1891, and in other places. Our fishing clashed with Canada’s.
We assumed jurisdiction over the whole of the sea, which is a third as big as the Mediterranean, on the quite fantastic ground that it was an inland sea. Ignoring the law that nobody has jurisdiction outside the three-mile limit from their shores, we seized Canadian vessels sixty miles from land. In fact, we did virtually what we had gone to war with England for doing in 1812. But England did not go to war. She asked for arbitration. Throughout this, our tone was raw and indiscreet, while hers was conspicuously the opposite; we had done an unwarrantable and high-handed thing; our claim that Behring Sea was an “inclosed” sea was abandoned; the arbitration went against us, and we paid damages for the Canadian vessels.
In 1895, in the course of a century’s dispute over the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, Venezuela took prisoner some British subjects, and asked us to protect her from the consequences. Richard Olney, Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of State, informed Lord Salisbury, Prime Minister of England, that “in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States must insist on arbitration”—that is, of the disputed boundary. It was an abrupt extension of the Monroe Doctrine. It was dictating to England the manner in which she should settle a difference with another country. Salisbury declined. On December 17th Cleveland announced to England that the Monroe Doctrine applied to every stage of our national Life, and that as Great Britain had for many years refused to submit the dispute to impartial arbitration, nothing remained to us but to accept the situation. Moreover, if the disputed territory was found to belong to Venezuela, it would be the duty of the United States to resist, by every means in its power, the aggressions of Great Britain.
This was, in effect, an ultimatum. The stock market went to pieces. In general American opinion, war was coming. The situation was indeed grave.
First, we owed the Monroe Doctrine’s very existence to English backing.
Second, the Doctrine itself had been a declaration against autocracy in the shape of the Holy Alliance, and England was not autocracy. Lastly, as a nation, Venezuela seldom conducted herself or her government on the steady plan of democracy. England was exasperated. And yet England yielded. It took a little time, but arbitration settled it in the end—
at about the same time that we flatly declined to arbitrate our quarrel with Spain. History will not acquit us of groundless meddling and arrogance in this matter, while England comes out of it having again shown in the end both forbearance and good manners. Before another Venezuelan incident in 1902,I take up a burning dispute of 1903.
As Oregon had formerly been, so Alaska had later become, a grave source of friction between England and ourselves. Canada claimed boundaries in Alaska which we disputed. This had smouldered along through a number of years until the discovery of gold in the Klondike region fanned it to a somewhat menacing flame. In this instance, history is as unlikely to approve the conduct of the Canadians as to approve our bad manners towards them upon many other occasions. The matter came to a head in Roosevelt’s first administration. You will find it all in the Life of John Hay by William R. Thayer, Volume II. A commission to settle the matter had dawdled and failed. Roosevelt was tired of delays.
Commissioners again were appointed, three Americans, two Canadians, and Alverstone, Lord Chief Justice, to represent England. To his friend Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, about to sail for an English holiday, Roosevelt wrote a private letter privately to be shown to Mr. Balfour, Mr. Chamberlain, and certain other Englishmen of mark. He said: “The claim of the Canadians for access to deep water along any part of the Alaskan coast is just exactly as indefensible as if they should now suddenly claim the Island of Nantucket.” Canada had objected to our Commissioners as being not “impartial jurists of repute.” As to this, Roosevelt’s letter to Holmes ran on: “I believe that no three men in the United States could be found who would be more anxious than our own delegates to do justice to the British claim on all points where there is even a color of right on the British side. But the objection raised by certain British authorities to Lodge, Root, and Turner, especially to Lodge and Root, was that they had committed themselves on the general proposition. No man in public life in any position of prominence could have possibly avoided committing himself on the proposition, any more than Mr. Chamberlain could avoid committing himself on the ownership of the Orkneys if some Scandinavian country suddenly claimed them. If this embodied other points to which there was legitimate doubt, I believe Mr.
Chamberlain would act fairly and squarely in deciding the matter; but if he appointed a commission to settle up all these questions, I certainly should not expect him to appoint three men, if he could find them, who believed that as to the Orkneys the question was an open one. I wish to make one last effort to bring about an agreement through the Commission…. But if there is a disagreement… I shall take a position which will prevent any possibility of arbitration hereafter;… will render it necessary for Congress to give me the authority to run the line as we claim it, by our own people, without any further regard to the attitude of England and Canada. If I paid attention to mere abstract rights, that is the position I ought to take anyhow. I have not taken it because I wish to exhaust every effort to have the affair settled peacefully and with due regard to England’s honor.”
That is the way to do these things: not by a peremptory public letter, like Olney’s to Salisbury, which enrages a whole people and makes temperate action doubly difficult, but thus, by a private letter to the proper persons, very plain, very unmistakable, but which remains private, a sufficient word to the wise, and not a red rag to the mob. “To have the affair settled peacefully and with due regard to England’s honor.” Thus Roosevelt. England desired no war with us this time, any more than at the other time. The Commission went to work, and, after investigating the facts, decided in our favor.
Our list of boundary episodes finished, I must touch upon the affair with the Kaiser regarding Venezuela’s debts. She owed money to Germany, Italy, and England. The Kaiser got the ear of the Tory government under Salisbury, and between the three countries a secret pact was made to repay themselves. Venezuela is not seldom reluctant to settle her obligations, and she was slow upon this occasion. It was the Kaiser’s chance—he had been trying it already at other points—to slide into a foothold over here under the camouflage of collecting from Venezuela her just debt to him. So with warships he and his allies established what he called a pacific blockade on Venezuelan ports.
I must skip the comedy that now went on in Washington (you will find it on pages 287-288 of Mr. Thayer’s John Hay, Volume II) and come at once to Mr. Roosevelt’s final word to the Kaiser, that if there was not an offer to arbitrate within forty-eight hours, Admiral Dewey would sail for Venezuela. In thirty-six hours arbitration was agreed to. England withdrew from her share in the secret pact. Had she wanted war with us, her fleet and the Kaiser’s could have outmatched our own. She did not; and the Kaiser had still very clearly and sorely in remembrance what choice she had made between standing with him and standing with us a few years before this, upon an occasion that was also connected with Admiral Dewey. This I shall fully consider after summarizing those international episodes of our Civil War wherein England was concerned.
This completes my list of minor troubles with England that we have had since Canning suggested our Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Minor troubles, I call them, because they are all smaller than those during our Civil War.
The full record of each is an open page of history for you to read at leisure in any good library. You will find that the anti-English complex has its influence sometimes in the pages of our historians, but Professor Dunning is free from it. You will find, whatever transitory gusts of anger, jealousy, hostility, or petulance may have swept over the English people in their relations with us, these gusts end in a calm; and this calm is due to the common-sense of the race. It revealed itself in the treaty at the close of our Revolution, and it has been the ultimate controlling factor in English dealings with us ever since. And now I reach the last of my large historic matters, the Civil War, and our war with Spain.
Chapter XII: On the Ragged Edge
On November 6, 1860, Lincoln, nominee of the Republican party, which was opposed to the extension of slavery, was elected President of the United States. Forty-one days later, the legislature of South Carolina, determined to perpetuate slavery, met at Columbia, but, on account of a local epidemic, moved to Charleston. There, about noon, December 20th, it unanimously declared “that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.” Soon other slave states followed this lead, and among them all, during those final months of Buchanan’s presidency, preparedness went on, unchecked by the half-feeble, half-treacherous Federal Government. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, March 4, 1861, declared that he had no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it existed. To the seceded slave states he said: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You can have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.” This changed nothing in the slave states. It was not enough for them that slavery could keep on where it was. To spread it where it was not, had been their aim for a very long while. The next day, March 5th, Lincoln had letters from Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor. Major Anderson was besieged there by the batteries of secession, was being starved out, might hold on a month longer, needed help. Through staggering complications and embarrassments, which were presently to be outstaggered by worse ones, Lincoln by the end of March saw his path clear. “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.” The clew to the path had been in those words from the first. The flag of the Union, the little island of loyalty amid the waters of secession, was covered by the Charleston batteries. “Batteries ready to open Wednesday or Thursday.
What instructions?” Thus, on April 1st, General Beauregard, at Charleston, telegraphed to Jefferson Davis. They had all been hoping that Lincoln would give Fort Sumter to them and so save their having to take it. Not at all. The President of the United States was not going to give away property of the United States. Instead, the Governor of South Carolina received a polite message that an attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter with food only, and that if this were not interfered with, no arms or ammunition should be sent there without further notice, or in case the fort were attacked. Lincoln was leaning backwards, you might say, in his patient effort to conciliate. And accordingly our transports sailed from New York for Charleston with instructions to supply Sumter with food alone, unless they should be opposed in attempting to carry out their errand. This did not suit Jefferson Davis at all; and, to cut it short, at half-past four, on the morning of April 12, 1861, there arose into the air from the mortar battery near old Fort Johnson, on the south side of the harbor, a bomb-shell, which curved high and slow through the dawn, and fell upon Fort Sumter, thus starting four years of civil war.
One week later the Union proclaimed a blockade on the ports of Slave Land.
Bear each and all of these facts in mind, I beg, bear them in mind well, for in the light of them you can see England clearly, and will have no trouble in following the different threads of her conduct towards us during this struggle. What she did then gave to our ancient grudge against her the reddest coat of fresh paint which it had received yet—
the reddest and the most enduring since George III.
England ran true to form. It is very interesting to mark this; very interesting to watch in her government and her people the persistent and conflicting currents of sympathy and antipathy boil up again, just as they had boiled in 1776. It is equally interesting to watch our ancient grudge at work, causing us to remember and hug all the ill will she bore us, all the harm she did us, and to forget all the good. Roughly comparing 1776 with 1861, it was once more the Tories, the aristocrats, the Lord Norths, who hoped for our overthrow, while the people of England, with certain liberal leaders in Parliament, stood our friends.
Just as Pitt and Burke had spoken for us in our Revolution, so Bright and Cobden befriended us now. The parallel ceases when you come to the Sovereign. Queen Victoria declined to support or recognize Slave Land.
She stopped the Government and aristocratic England from forcing war upon us, she prevented the French Emperor, Napoleon III, from recognizing the Southern Confederacy. We shall come to this in its turn. Our Civil War set up in England a huge vibration, subjected England to a searching test of herself. Nothing describes this better than a letter of Henry Ward Beecher’s, written during the War, after his return from addressing the people of England.
“My own feelings and judgment underwent a great change while I was in England… I was chilled and shocked at the coldness towards the North which I everywhere met, and the sympathetic prejudices in favor of the South. And yet everybody was alike condemning slavery and praising liberty!”
How could England do this, how with the same breath blow cold and hot, how be against the North that was fighting the extension of slavery and yet be against slavery too? Confusing at the time, it is clear to-day.
Imbedded in Lincoln’s first inaugural address lies the clew: he said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. Those who elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them.” Thus Lincoln, March 4, 1861. Six weeks later, when we went-to war, we went, not “to interfere with the institution of slavery,” but (again in Lincoln’s words) “to preserve, protect, and defend” the Union. This was our slogan, this our fight, this was repeated again and again by our soldiers and civilians, by our public men and our private citizens. Can you see the position of those Englishmen who condemned slavery and praised liberty? We ourselves said we were not out to abolish slavery, we disclaimed any such object, by our own words we cut the ground away from them.
Not until September 22d of 1862, to take effect upon January 1, 1863, did Lincoln proclaim emancipation—thus doing what he had said twenty-two months before “I believe I have no lawful right to do.”
That interim of anguish and meditation had cleared his sight. Slowly he had felt his way, slowly he had come to perceive that the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery were so tightly wrapped together as to merge and be one and the same thing. But even had he known this from the start, known that the North’s bottom cause, the ending of slavery, rested on moral ground, and that moral ground outweighs and must forever outweigh whatever of legal argument may be on the other side, he could have done nothing. “I believe I have no lawful right.” There were thousands in the North who also thus believed. It was only an extremist minority who disregarded the Constitution’s acquiescence in slavery and wanted emancipation proclaimed at once. Had Lincoln proclaimed it, the North would have split in pieces, the South would have won, the Union would have perished, and slavery would have remained. Lincoln had to wait until the season of anguish and meditation had unblinded thousands besides himself, and thus had placed behind him enough of the North to struggle on to that saving of the Union and that freeing of the slave which was consummated more than two years later by Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox.
But it was during that interim of anguish and meditation that England did us most of the harm which our memories vaguely but violently treasure.
Until the Emancipation, we gave our English friends no public, official grounds for their sympathy, and consequently their influence over our English enemies was hampered. Instantly after January 1, 1863, that sympathy became the deciding voice. Our enemies could no longer say to it, “but Lincoln says himself that he doesn’t intend to abolish slavery.”
Here are examples of what occurred: To William Lloyd Garrison, the Abolitionist, an English sympathizer wrote that three thousand men of Manchester had met there and adopted by acclamation an enthusiastic message to Lincoln. These men said that they would rather remain unemployed for twenty years than get cotton from the South at the expense of the slave. A month later Cobden writes to Charles Sumner: “I know nothing in my political experience so striking, an a display of spontaneous public action, as that of the vast gathering at Exeter Hall (in London), when, without one attraction in the form of a popular orator, the vast building, its minor rooms and passages, and the streets adjoining, were crowded with an enthusiastic audience. That meeting has had a powerful effect on our newspapers and politicians. It has closed the mouths of those who have been advocating the side of the South. And I now write to assure you that any unfriendly act on the part of our Government—no matter which of our aristocratic parties is in power—towards your cause is not to be apprehended. If an attempt were made by the Government in any way to commit us to the South, a spirit would be instantly aroused which would drive that Government from power.”
I lay emphasis at this point upon these instances (many more could be given) because it has been the habit of most Americans to say that England stopped being hostile to the North as soon as the North began to win. In January, 1863, the North had not visibly begun to win. It had suffered almost unvaried defeat so far; and the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, where the tide turned at last our way, were still six months ahead. It was from January 1, 1863, when Lincoln planted our cause firmly and openly on abolition ground, that the undercurrent of British sympathy surged to the top. The true wonder is, that this undercurrent should have been so strong all along, that those English sympathizers somehow in their hearts should have known what we were fighting for more clearly than we had been able to see it; ourselves. The key to this is given in Beecher’s letter—it is nowhere better given—and to it I must now return.
“I soon perceived that my first error was in supposing that Great Britain was an impartial spectator. In fact, she was morally an actor in the conflict. Such were the antagonistic influences at work in her own midst, and the division of parties, that, in judging American affairs she could not help lending sanction to one or the other side of her own internal conflicts. England was not, then, a judge, sitting calmly on the bench to decide without bias; the case brought before her was her own, in principle, and in interest. In taking sides with the North, the common people of Great Britain and the laboring class took sides with themselves in their struggle for reformation; while the wealthy and the privileged classes found a reason in their own political parties and philosophies why they should not be too eager for the legitimate government and nation of the United States.
“All classes who, at home, were seeking the elevation and political enfranchisement of the common people, were with us. All who studied the preservation of the state in its present unequal distribution of political privileges, sided with that section in America that were doing the same thing.
“We ought not to be surprised nor angry that men should maintain aristocratic doctrines which they believe in fully as sincerely, and more consistently, than we, or many amongst us do, in democratic doctrines.
“We of all people ought to understand how a government can be cold or semi-hostile, while the people are friendly with us. For thirty years the American Government, in the hands, or under the influence of Southern statesmen, has been in a threatening attitude to Europe, and actually in disgraceful conflict with all the weak neighboring Powers. Texas, Mexico, Central Generics, and Cuba are witnesses. Yet the great body of our people in the Middle and Northern States are strongly opposed to all such tendencies.”
It was in a very brief visit that Beecher managed to see England as she was: a remarkable letter for its insight, and more remarkable still for its moderation, when you consider that it was written in the midst of our Civil War, while loyal Americans were not only enraged with England, but wounded to the quick as well. When a man can do this—can have passionate convictions in passionate times, and yet keep his judgment unclouded, wise, and calm, he serves his country well.
I can remember the rage and the wound. In that atmosphere I began my existence. My childhood was steeped in it. In our house the London Punch was stopped, because of its hostile ridicule. I grew to boyhood hearing from my elders how England had for years taunted us with our tolerance of slavery while we boasted of being the Land of the Free—and then, when we arose to abolish slavery, how she “jack-knived” and gave aid and comfort to the slave power when it had its fingers upon our throat. Many of that generation of my elders never wholly got over the rage and the wound.
They hated all England for the sake of less than half England. They counted their enemies but never their friends. There’s nothing unnatural about this, nothing rare. On the contrary, it’s the usual, natural, unjust thing that human nature does in times of agony. It’s the Henry Ward Beechers that are rare. In times of agony the average man and woman see nothing but their agony. When I look over some of the letters that I received from England in 1915—letters from strangers evoked by a book called The Pentecost of Calamity, wherein I had published my conviction that the cause of England was righteous, the cause of Germany hideous, and our own persistent neutrality unworthy—I’m glad I lost my temper only once, and replied caustically only once. How dreadful (wrote one of my correspondents) must it be to belong to a nation that was behaving like mine! I retorted (I’m sorry for it now) that I could all the more readily comprehend English feeling about our neutrality, because I had known what we had felt when Gladstone spoke at Newcastle and when England let the Alabama loose upon us in 1862. Where was the good in replying at all? Silence is almost always the best reply in these cases. Next came a letter from another English stranger, in which the writer announced having just read The Pentecost of Calamity. Not a word of friendliness for what I had said about the righteousness of England’s cause or my expressed unhappiness over the course which our Government had taken—
nothing but scorn for us all and the hope that we should reap our deserts when Germany defeated England and invaded us. Well? What of it? Here was a stricken person, writing in stress, in a land of desolation, mourning for the dead already, waiting for the next who should die, a poor, unstrung average person, who had not long before read that remark of our President’s made on the morrow of the Lusitania: that there is such a thing as being too proud to fight; had read during the ensuing weeks those notes wherein we stood committed by our Chief Magistrate to a verbal slinking away and sitting down under it. Can you wonder? If the mere memory of those days of our humiliation stabs me even now, I need no one to tell me (though I have been told) what England, what France, felt about us then, what it must have been like for Americans who were in England and France at that time. No: the average person in great trouble cannot rise above the trouble and survey the truth and be just. In English eyes our Government—and therefore all of us—failed in 1914—
1915—1916—failed again and again—insulted the cause of humanity when we said through our President in 1916, the third summer of the war, that we were not concerned with either the causes or the aims of that conflict. How could they remember Hoover, or Robert Bacon, or Leonard Wood, or Theodore Roosevelt then, any more than we could remember John Bright, or Richard Cobden, or the Manchester men in the days when the Alabama was sinking the merchant vessels of the Union?
We remembered Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston in the British Government, and their fellow aristocrats in British society; we remembered the aristocratic British press—The Times notably, because the most powerful—these are what we saw, felt, and remembered, because they were not with us, and were able to hurt us in the days when our friends were not yet able to help us. They made welcome the Southerners who came over in the interests of the South, they listened to the Southern propaganda. Why? Because the South was the American version of their aristocratic creed. To those who came over in the interests of the North and of the Union they turned a cold shoulder, because they represented Democracy; moreover, a Dis-United States would prove in commerce a less formidable competitor. To Captain Bullock, the able and energetic Southerner who put through in England the building and launching of those Confederate cruisers which sank our ships and destroyed our merchant marine, and to Mason and Slidell, the doors of dukes opened pleasantly; Beecher and our other emissaries mostly had to dine beneath uncoroneted roofs.
In the pages of Henry Adams, and of Charles Francis Adams his brother, you can read of what they, as young men, encountered in London, and what they saw their father have to put up with there, both from English society and the English Government. Their father was our new minister to England, appointed by Lincoln. He arrived just after our Civil War had begun. I have heard his sons talk about it familiarly, and it is all to be found in their writings.
Nobody knows how to be disagreeable quite so well as the English gentleman, except the English lady. They can do it with the nicety of a medicine dropper. They can administer the precise quantum suff. in every case. In the society of English gentlemen and ladies Mr. Adams by his official position was obliged to move. They left him out as much as they could, but, being the American Minister, he couldn’t be left out altogether. At their dinners and functions he had to hear open expressions of joy at the news of Southern victories, he had to receive slights both veiled and unveiled, and all this he had to bear with equanimity. Sometimes he did leave the room; but with dignity and discretion. A false step, a “break,” might have led to a request for his recall. He knew that his constant presence, close to the English Government, was vital to our cause. Russell and Palmerston were by turns insolent and shifty, and once on the very brink of recognizing the Southern Confederacy as an independent nation. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech at Newcastle, virtually did recognize it. You will be proud of Mr. Adams if you read how he bore himself and fulfilled his appallingly delicate and difficult mission. He was an American who knew how to behave himself, and he behaved himself all the time; while the English had a way of turning their behavior on and off, like the hot water. Mr. Adams was no admirer of “shirt-sleeves” diplomacy. His diplomacy wore a coat. Our experiments in “shirt-sleeves” diplomacy fail to show that it accomplishes anything which diplomacy decently dressed would not accomplish more satisfactorily. Upon Mr. Adams fell some consequences of previous American crudities, of which I shall speak later.
Lincoln had declared a blockade on Southern ports before Mr. Adams arrived in London. Upon his arrival he found England had proclaimed her neutrality and recognized the belligerency of the South. This dismayed Mr. Adams and excited the whole North, because feeling ran too high to perceive this first act on England’s part to be really favorable to us; she could not recognize our blockade, which stopped her getting Southern cotton, unless she recognized that the South was in a state of war with us. Looked at quietly, this act of England’s helped us and hurt herself, for it deprived her of cotton.
It was not with this, but with the reception and treatment of Mr. Adams that the true hostility began. Slights to him were slaps at us, sympathy with the South was an active moral injury to our cause, even if it was mostly an undertone, politically. Then all of a sudden, something that we did ourselves changed the undertone to a loud overtone, and we just grazed England’s declaring war on us. Had she done so, then indeed it had been all up with us. This incident is the comic going-back on our own doctrine of 1812, to which I have alluded above.
On November 8, 1861, Captain Charles Wilkes of the American steam sloop San Jacinto, fired a shot across the bow of the British vessel Trent, stopped her on the high seas, and took four passengers off her, and brought them prisoners to Fort Warren, in Boston harbor. Mason and Slidell are the two we remember, Confederate envoys to France and Great Britain. Over this the whole North burst into glorious joy. Our Secretary of the Navy wrote to Wilkes his congratulations, Congress voted its thanks to him, governors and judges laureled him with oratory at banquets, he was feasted with meat and drink all over the place, and, though his years were sixty-three, ardent females probably rushed forth from throngs and kissed him with the purest intentions: heroes have no age. But presently the Trent arrived in England, and the British lion was aroused. We had violated international law, and insulted the British flag. Palmerston wrote us a letter—or Russell, I forget which wrote it—
a letter that would have left us no choice but to fight. But Queen Victoria had to sign it before it went. “My lord,” she said, “you must know that I will agree to no paper that means war with the United States.” So this didn’t go, but another in its stead, pretty stiff, naturally, yet still possible for us to swallow. Some didn’t want to swallow even this; but Lincoln, humorous and wise, said, “Gentlemen, one war at a time;” and so we made due restitution, and Messrs. Mason and Slidell went their way to France and England, free to bring about action against us there if they could manage it. Captain Wilkes must have been a good fellow. His picture suggests this. England, in her English heart, really liked what he had done, it was in its gallant flagrancy so remarkably like her own doings—though she couldn’t, naturally, permit such a performance to pass; and a few years afterwards, for his services in the cause of exploration, her Royal Geographical Society gave him a gold medal! Yes; the whole thing is comic—to-day; for us, to-day, the point of it is, that the English Queen saved us from a war with England.
Within a year, something happened that was not comic. Lord John Russell, though warned and warned, let the Alabama slip away to sea, where she proceeded to send our merchant ships to the bottom, until the Kearsarge sent her herself to the bottom. She had been built at Liverpool in the face of an English law which no quibbling could disguise to anybody except to Lord John Russell and to those who, like him, leaned to the South. Ten years later, this leaning cost England fifteen million dollars in damages.
Let us now listen to what our British friends were saying in those years before Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. His blockade had brought immediate and heavy distress upon many English workmen and their families. That had been April 19, 1861. By September, five sixths of the Lancashire cotton-spinners were out of work, or working half time. Their starvation and that of their wives and children could be stemmed by charity alone. I have talked with people who saw those thousands in their suffering. Yet those thousands bore it. They somehow looked through Lincoln’s express disavowal of any intention to interfere with slavery, and saw that at bottom our war was indeed against slavery, that slavery was behind the Southern camouflage about independence, and behind the Northern slogan about preserving the Union. They saw and they stuck.
“Rarely,” writes Charles Francis Adams, “in the history of mankind, has there been a more creditable exhibition of human sympathy.” France was likewise damaged by our blockade; and Napoleon III would have liked to recognize the South. He established, through Maximilian, an empire in Mexico, behind which lay hostility to our Democracy. He wished us defeat; but he was afraid to move without England, to whom he made a succession of indirect approaches. These nearly came to something towards the close of 1862. It was on October 7th that Gladstone spoke at Newcastle about Jefferson Davis having made a nation. Yet, after all, England didn’t budge, and thus held Napoleon back. From France in the end the South got neither ships nor recognition, in spite of his deceitful connivance and desire; Napoleon flirted a while with Slidell, but grew cold when he saw no chance of English cooperation.
Besides John Bright and Cobden, we had other English friends of influence and celebrity: John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hughes, Goldwin Smith, Leslie Stephen, Robert Gladstone, Frederic Harrison are some of them. All from the first supported us. All from the first worked and spoke for us. The Union and Emancipation Society was founded. “Your Committee,” says its final report when the war was ended, “have issued and circulated upwards of four hundred thousand books, pamphlets, and tracts… and nearly five hundred official and public meetings have been held…” The president of this Society, Mr. Potter, spent thirty thousand dollars in the cause, and at a time when times were hard and fortunes as well as cotton-spinners in distress through our blockade. Another member of the Society, Mr.
Thompson, writes of one of the public meetings: “… I addressed a crowded assembly of unemployed operatives in the town of Heywood, near Manchester, and spoke to them for two hours about the Slaveholders’
Rebellion. They were united and vociferous in the expression of their willingness to suffer all hardships consequent upon a want of cotton, if thereby the liberty of the victims of Southern despotism might be promoted. All honor to the half million of our working population in Lancashire, Cheshire, and elsewhere, who are bearing with heroic fortitude the privation which your war has entailed upon them!… Their sublime resignation, their self-forgetfulness, their observance of law, their whole-souled love of the cause of human freedom, their quick and clear perception of the merits of the question between the North and the South… are extorting the admiration of all classes of the community …”
How much of all this do you ever hear from the people who remember the Alabama?
Strictly in accord with Beecher’s vivid summary of the true England in our Civil War, are some passages of a letter from Mr. John Bigelow, who was at that time our Consul-General at Paris, and whose impressions, written to our Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, on February 6, 1863, are interesting to compare with what Beecher says in that letter, from which I have already given extracts.
“The anti-slavery meetings in England are having their effect upon the Government already… The Paris correspondent of the London Post also came to my house on Wednesday evening… He says… that there are about a dozen persons who by their position and influence over the organs of public opinion have produced all the bad feeling and treacherous conduct of England towards America. They are people who, as members of the Government in times past, have been bullied by the U. S…. They are not entirely ignorant that the class who are now trying to overthrow the Government were mainly responsible for the brutality, but they think we as a nation are disposed to bully, and they are disposed to assist in any policy that may dismember and weaken us. These scars of wounded pride, however, have been carefully concealed from the public, who therefore cannot be readily made to see why, when the President has distinctly made the issue between slave labor and free labor, that England should not go with the North. He says these dozen people who rule England hate us cordially… “
There were more than a dozen, a good many more, as we know from Charles and Henry Adams. But read once again the last paragraph of Beecher’s letter, and note how it corresponds with what Mr. Bigelow says about the feeling which our Government (for thirty years “in the hands or under the influence of Southern statesmen”) had raised against us by its bad manners to European governments. This was the harvest sown by shirt sleeves diplomacy and reaped by Mr. Adams in 1861. Only seven years before, we had gratuitously offended four countries at once. Three of our foreign ministers (two of them from the South) had met at Ostend and later at Aix in the interests of extending slavery, and there, in a joint manifesto, had ordered Spain to sell us Cuba, or we would take Cuba by force. One of the three was our minister to Spain. Spain had received him courteously as the representative of a nation with whom she was at peace.
It was like ringing the doorbell of an acquaintance, being shown into the parlor and telling him he must sell you his spoons or you would snatch them. This doesn’t incline your neighbor to like you. But, as has been said, Mr. Adams was an American who did know how to behave, and thereby served us well in our hour of need.
We remember the Alabama and our English enemies, we forget Bright, and Cobden, and all our English friends; but Lincoln did not forget them.
When a young man, a friend of Bright’s, an Englishman, had been caught here in a plot to seize a vessel and make her into another Alabama, John Bright asked mercy for him; and here are Lincoln’s words in consequence: “whereas one Rubery was convicted on or about the twelfth day of October, 1863, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, of engaging in, and giving aid and comfort to the existing rebellion against the Government of this Country, and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, and to pay a fine of ten thousand dollars; “And whereas, the said Alfred Rubery is of the immature age of twenty years, and of highly respectable parentage; “And whereas, the said Alfred Rubery is a subject of Great Britain, and his pardon is desired by John Bright, of England; “Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, these and divers other considerations me thereunto moving, and especially as a public mark of the esteem held by the United States of America for the high character and steady friendship of the said John Bright, do hereby grant a pardon to the said Alfred Rubery, the same to begin and take effect on the twentieth day of January 1864, on condition that he leave the country within thirty days from and after that date.”
Thus Lincoln, because of Bright; and because of a word from Bright to Charles Sumner about the starving cotton-spinners, Americans sent from New York three ships with flour for those faithful English friends of ours.
And then, at Geneva in 1872, England paid us for what the Alabama had done. This Court of Arbitration grew slowly; suggested first by Mr.
Thomas Batch to Lincoln, who thought the millennium wasn’t quite at hand but favored “airing the idea.” The idea was not aired easily. Cobden would have brought it up in Parliament, but illness and death overtook him. The idea found but few other friends. At last Horace Greeley “aired”
it in his paper. On October 23, 1863, Mr. Adams said to Lord John Russell, “I am directed to say that there is no fair and equitable form of conventional arbitrament or reference to which the United States will not be willing to submit.” This, some two years later, Russell recalled, saying in reply to a statement of our grievances by Adams: “It appears to Her Majesty’s Government that there are but two questions by which the claim of compensation could be tested; the one is, Have the British Government acted with due diligence, or, in other words, in good faith and honesty, in the maintenance of the neutrality they proclaimed? The other is, Have the law officers of the Crown properly understood the foreign enlistment act, when they declined, in June 1862, to advise the detention and seizure of the Alabama, and on other occasions when they were asked to detain other ships, building or fitting in British ports?
It appears to Her Majesty’s Government that neither of these questions could be put to a foreign government with any regard to the dignity and character of the British Crown and the British Nation. Her Majesty’s Government are the sole guardians of their own honor. They cannot admit that they have acted with bad faith in maintaining the neutrality they professed. The law officers of the Crown must be held to be better interpreters of a British statute than any foreign Government can be presumed to be…” He consented to a commission, but drew the line at any probing of England’s good faith.
We persisted. In 1868, Lord Westbury, Lord High Chancellor, declared in the House of Lords that “the animus with which the neutral powers acted was the only true criterion.”
This is the test which we asked should be applied. We quoted British remarks about us, Gladstone, for example, as evidence of unfriendly and insincere animus on the part of those at the head of the British Government.
Replying to our pressing the point of animus, the British Government reasserted Russell’s refusal to recognize or entertain any question of England’s good faith: “first, because it would be inconsistent with the self-respect which every government is bound to feel….” In Mr. John Bassett Moore’s History of International Arbitration, Vol. I, pages 496-497, or in papers relating to the Treaty of Washington, Vol. II, Geneva Arbitration, page 204… Part I, Introductory Statement, you will find the whole of this. What I give here suffices to show the position we ourselves and England took about the Alabama case. She backed down. Her good faith was put in issue, and she paid our direct claims. She ate “humble pie.” We had to eat humble pie in the affair of the Trent. It has been done since. It is not pleasant, but it may be beneficial.
Such is the story of the true England and the true America in 1861; the divided North with which Lincoln had to deal, the divided England where our many friends could do little to check our influential enemies, until Lincoln came out plainly against slavery. I have had to compress much, but I have omitted nothing material, of which I am aware. The facts would embarrass those who determine to assert that England was our undivided enemy during our Civil War, if facts ever embarrassed a complex. Those afflicted with the complex can keep their eyes upon the Alabama and the London Times, and avert them from Bright, and Cobden, and the cotton-spinners, and the Union and Emancipation Society, and Queen Victoria. But to any reader of this whose complex is not incurable, or who has none, I will put this question: What opinion of the brains of any Englishman would you have if he formed his idea of the United States exclusively from the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst.
Chapter XIII: Benefits Forgot
In our next war, our war with Spain in 1898, England saved us from Germany. She did it from first to last; her position was unmistakable, and every determining act of hers was as our friend. The service that she rendered us in warning Germany to keep out of it, was even greater than her suggestion of our Monroe doctrine in 1823; for in 1823 she put us on guard against meditated, but remote, assault from Europe, while in 1898
she actively averted a serious and imminent peril. As the threat of her fleet had obstructed Napoleon in 1803, and the Holy Alliance in 1823, so in 1898 it blocked the Kaiser. Late in that year, when it was all over, the disappointed and baffled Kaiser wrote to a friend of Joseph Chamberlain, “If I had had a larger fleet I would have taken Uncle Sam by the scruff of the neck.” Have you ever read what our own fleet was like in those days? Or our Army? Lucky it was for us that we had to deal only with Spain. And even the Spanish fleet would have been a much graver opponent in Manila Bay, but for Lord Cromer. On its way from Spain through the Suez Canal a formidable part of Spain’s navy stopped to coal at Port Said. There is a law about the coaling of belligerent warships in neutral ports. Lord Cromer could have construed that law just as well against us. His construction brought it about that those Spanish ships couldn’t get to Manila Bay in time to take part against Admiral Dewey.
The Spanish War revealed that our Navy could hit eight times out of a hundred, and was in other respects unprepared and utterly inadequate to cope with a first-class power. In consequence of this, and the criticisms of our Navy Department, which Admiral Sims as a young man had written, Roosevelt took the steps he did in his first term. Three ticklish times in that Spanish War England stood our friend against Germany. When it broke out, German agents approached Mr. Balfour, proposing that England join in a European combination in Spain’s favor. Mr. Balfour’s refusal is common knowledge, except to the monomaniac with his complex. Next came the action of Lord Cromer, and finally that moment in Manila Bay when England took her stand by our side and Germany saw she would have to fight us both, if she fought at all.
If you saw any German or French papers at the time of our troubles with Spain, you saw undisguised hostility. If you have talked with any American who was in Paris during that April of 1898, your impression will be more vivid still. There was an outburst of European hate for us.
Germany, France, and Austria all looked expectantly to England—and England disappointed their expectations. The British Press was as much for us as the French and German press were hostile; the London Spectator said: “We are not, and we do not pretend to be, an agreeable people, but when there is trouble in the family, we know where our hearts are.”
In those same days (somewhere about the third week in April, 1898), at the British Embassy in Washington, occurred a scene of significance and interest, which has probably been told less often than that interview between Mr. Balfour and the Kaiser’s emissary in London. The British Ambassador was standing at his window, looking out at the German Embassy, across the street. With him was a member of his diplomatic household. The two watched what was happening. One by one, the representatives of various European nations were entering the door of the German Embassy.
“Do you see them?” said the Ambassador’s companion; “they’ll all be in there soon. There. That’s the last of them.” “I didn’t notice the French Ambassador.” “Yes, he’s gone in, too.” “I’m surprised at that. I’m sorry for that. I didn’t think he would be one of them,” said the British ambassador. “Now, I’ll tell you what. They’ll all be coming over here in a little while. I want you to wait and be present.” Shortly this prediction was verified. Over from the German Embassy came the whole company on a visit to the British Ambassador, that he might add his signature to a document to which they had affixed theirs. He read it quietly. We may easily imagine its purport, since we know of the meditated European coalition against us at she time of our war with Spain. Then the British Ambassador remarked: “I have no orders from my Government to sign any such document as that. And if I did have, I should resign my post rather than sign it.” A pause: The company fell silent.
“Then what will your Excellency do?” inquired one visitor. “If you will all do me the honor of coming back tomorrow, I shall have another document ready which all of us can sign.” That is what happened to the European coalition at this end.
Some few years later, that British Ambassador came to die; and to the British Embassy repaired Theodore Roosevelt. “Would it be possible for us to arrange,” he said, “a funeral more honored and marked than the United States has ever accorded to any one not a citizen? I should like it.
And,” he suddenly added, shaking his fist at the German Embassy over the way, “I’d like to grind all their noses in the dirt.”
Confronted with the awkward fact that Britain was almost unanimously with us, from Mr. Balfour down through the British press to the British people, those nations whose ambassadors had paid so unsuccessful a call at the British Embassy had to give it up. Their coalition never came off. Such a thing couldn’t come off without England, and England said No.
Next, Lord Cromer, at Port Said, stretched out the arm of international law, and laid it upon the Spanish fleet. Belligerents may legally take coal enough at neutral ports to reach their nearest “home port.” That Spanish fleet was on its way from Spain to Manila through the Suez Canal.
It could have reached there, had Lord Cromer allowed it coal enough to make the nearest home port ahead of it—Manila. But there was a home port behind it, still nearer, namely, Barcelona. He let it take coal enough to get back to Barcelona. Thus, England again stepped in.
The third time was in Manila Bay itself, after Dewey’s victory, and while he was in occupation of the place. Once more the Kaiser tried it, not discouraged by his failure with Mr. Balfour and the British Government.
He desired the Philippines for himself; we had not yet acquired them; we were policing them, superintending the harbor, administering whatever had fallen to us from Spain’s defeat. The Kaiser sent, under Admiral Diedrich, a squadron stronger than Dewey’s.
Dewey indicated where the German was to anchor. “I am here by the order of his Majesty the German Emperor,” said Diedrich, and chose his own place to anchor. He made it quite plain in other ways that he was taking no orders from America. Dewey, so report has it, at last told him that “if he wanted a fight he could have it at the drop of the hat.” Then it was that the German called on the English Admiral, Chichester, who was likewise at hand, anchored in Manila Bay. “What would you do,” inquired Diedrich, “in the event of trouble between Admiral Dewey and myself?”
“That is a secret known only to Admiral Dewey and me,” said the Englishman. Plainer talk could hardly be. Diedrich, though a German, understood it. He returned to his flagship. What he saw next morning was the British cruiser in a new place, interposed between Dewey and himself.
Once more, he understood; and he and his squadron sailed off; and it was soon after this incident that the disappointed Kaiser wrote that, if only his fleet had been larger, he would have taken us by the scruff of the neck.
Tell these things to the next man you hear talking about George III or the Alabama. You may meet him in front of a bulletin board, or in a drawing-room. He is amongst us everywhere, in the street and in the house. He may be a paid propagandist or merely a silly ignorant puppet.
But whatever he is, he will not find much to say in response, unless it be vain, sterile chatter. True come-back will fail him as it failed that man by the bulletin board who asked, “What is England doing, anyhow?” and his neighbor answered, “Her fleet’s keeping the Kaiser out of your front yard.”
Chapter XIV: England the Slacker!
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
Let us have these disregarded facts also. From the shelves of history I have pulled down and displayed the facts which our school textbooks have suppressed; I have told the events wherein England has stood our timely friend throughout a century; events which our implanted prejudice leads us to ignore, or to forget; events which show that any one who says England is our hereditary enemy might just about as well say twice two is five.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
They go on asking it. The propagandists, the prompted puppets, the paid parrots of the press, go on saying these eight senseless words because they are easy to say, since the man who can answer them is generally not there: to every man who is a responsible master of facts we have—well, how many?—irresponsible shouters in this country. What is your experience? How often is it your luck—as it was mine in front of the bulletin board—to see a fraud or a fool promptly and satisfactorily put in his place? Make up your mind that wherever you hear any person whatsoever, male or female, clean or unclean, dressed in jeans, or dressed in silks and laces, inquire what England “did in the war, anyhow?
“such person either shirks knowledge, or else is a fraud or a fool. Tell them what the man said in the street about the Kaiser and our front yard, but don’t stop there. Tell them that in May, 1918, England was sending men of fifty and boys of eighteen and a half to the front; that in August, 1918, every third male available between those years was fighting, that eight and a half million men for army and navy were raised by the British Empire, of which Ireland’s share was two and three tenths per cent, Wales three and seven tenths, Scotland’s eight and three tenths, and England’s more than sixty per cent; and that this, taken proportionately to our greater population would have amounted to about thirteen million Americans, When the war started, the British Empire maintained three soldiers out of every 2600 of the population; her entire army, regular establishment, reserve and territorial forces, amounted to seven hundred thousand men. Our casualties were three hundred and twenty-two thousand, one hundred and eighty-two. The casualties in the British Army were three million, forty-nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy-one—a million more than we sent—and of these six hundred and fifty-eight thousand, seven hundred and four, were killed. Of her Navy, thirty-three thousand three hundred and sixty-one were killed, six thousand four hundred and five wounded and missing; of her merchant marine fourteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one were killed; a total of forty-eight thousand killed—or ten per cent of all in active service.
Some of those of the merchant marine who escaped drowning through torpedoes and mines went back to sea after being torpedoed five, six, and seven times.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
Through four frightful years she fought with splendor, she suffered with splendor, she held on with splendor. The second battle of Ypres is but one drop in the sea of her epic courage; yet it would fill full a canto of a poem. So spent was Britain’s single line, so worn and thin, that after all the men available were brought, gaps remained. No more ammunition was coming to these men, the last rounds had been served. Wet through, heavy with mud, they were shelled for three days to prevent sleep. Many came at last to sleep standing; and being jogged awake when officers of the line passed down the trenches, would salute and instantly be asleep again. On the fourth day, with the Kaiser come to watch them crumble, three lines of Huns, wave after wave of Germany’s picked troops, fell and broke upon this single line of British—and it held. The Kaiser, had he known of the exhausted ammunition and the mounded dead, could have walked unarmed to the Channel. But he never knew.
Surgeons being scantier than men at Ypres, one with a compound fracture of the thigh had himself propped up, and thus all day worked on the wounded at the front. He knew it meant death for him. The day over, he let them carry him to the rear, and there, from blood-poisoning, he died.
Thus through four frightful years, the British met their duty and their death.
There is the great story of the little penny steamers of the Thames—a story lost amid the gigantic whole. Who will tell it right? Who will make this drop of perfect valor shine in prose or verse for future eyes to see? Imagine a Hoboken ferry boat, because her country needed her, starting for San Francisco around Cape Horn, and getting there. Some ten or eleven penny steamers under their own steam started from the Thames down the Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, past Gibraltar, and through the submarined Mediterranean for the River Tigris. Boats of shallow draught were urgently needed on the River Tigris. Four or five reached their destination. Where are the rest?
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
During 1917-1918 Britain’s armies held the enemy in three continents and on six fronts, and cooperated with her Allies on two more fronts. Her dead, those six hundred and fifty-eight thousand dead, lay by the Tigris, the Zambesi, the AEgean, and across the world to Flanders’ fields. Between March 21st and April 17th, 1918, the Huns in their drive used 127
divisions, and of these 102 were concentrated against the British. That was in Flanders. Britain, at the same time she was fighting in Flanders, had also at various times shared in the fighting in Russia, Kiaochau, New Guinea, Samoa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, the Sudan, Cameroons, Togoland, East Africa, South West Africa, Saloniki, Aden, Persia, and the northwest frontier of India. Britain cleared twelve hundred thousand square miles of the enemy in German colonies. While fighting in Mesopotamia, her soldiers were reconstructing at the same time. They reclaimed and cultivated more than 1100 square miles of land there, which produced in consequence enough food to save two million tons of shipping annually for the Allies. In Palestine and Mesopotamia alone, British troops in 1917 took 23,590 prisoners. In 1918, in Palestine from September 18th to October 7th, they took 79,000 prisoners.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
With “French’s contemptible little army” she saved France at the start—
but I’ll skip that—except to mention that one division lost 10,000 out of 12,000 men, and 350 out of 400 officers. At Zeebrugge and Ostend—do not forget the Vindictive—she dealt with submarines in April and May, 1918—but I’ll skip that; I cannot set down all that she did, either at the start, or nearing the finish, or at any particular moment during those four years and three months that she was helping to hold Germany off from the throat of the world; it would make a very thick book. But I am giving you enough, I think, wherewith to answer the ignorant, and the frauds, and the fools. Tell them that from 1916 to 1918 Great Britain increased her tillage area by four million acres: wheat 39 per cent, barley 11, oats 35, potatoes 50—in spite of the shortage of labor. She used wounded soldiers, college boys and girls, boy scouts, refugees, and she produced the biggest grain crop in fifty years. She started fourteen hundred thousand new war gardens; most of those who worked them had worked already a long day in a munition factory. These devoted workers increased the potato crop in 1917 by three million tons—and thus released British provision ships to carry our soldiers across. In that Boston speech which one of my correspondents referred to, our Secretary of the Navy did not mention this. Mention it yourself. And tell them about the boy scouts and the women. Fifteen thousand of the boy scouts joined the colors, and over fifty thousand of the younger members served in various ways at home.
Of England’s women seven million were engaged in work on munitions and other necessaries and apparatus of war. The terrible test of that second battle of Ypres, to which I have made brief allusion above, wrought an industrial revolution in the manufacture of shells. The energy of production rose at a rate which may be indicated by two or three comparisons: In 1917 as many heavy howitzer shells were turned out in a single day as in the whole first year of the war, as many medium shells in five days, and as many field-gun shells in eight days. Or in other words, 45 times as many field-gun shells, 73 times as many medium, and 365 times as many heavy howitzer shells, were turned out in 1917 as in the first year of the war. These shells were manufactured in buildings totaling fifteen miles in length, forty feet in breadth, with more than ten thousand machine tools driven by seventeen miles of shafting with an energy of twenty-five thousand horse-power and a weekly output of over ten thousand tons’ weight of projectiles—all this largely worked by the women of England. While the fleet had increased its personnel from 136,000 to about 400,000, and 2,000,000 men by July, 1915, had voluntarily enlisted in the army before England gave up her birthright and accepted compulsory service, the women of England left their ordinary lives to fabricate the necessaries of war. They worked at home while their husbands, brothers, and sons fought and died on six battle fronts abroad—six hundred and fifty-eight thousand died, remember; do you remember the number of Americans killed in action?—less than thirty-six thousand;—those English women worked on, seven millions of them at least, on milk carts, motor-busses, elevators, steam engines, and in making ammunition. Never before had any woman worked on more than 150 of the 500 different processes that go to the making of munitions. They now handled T. N. T., and fulminate of mercury, more deadly still; helped build guns, gun carriages, and three-and-a-half ton army cannons; worked overhead traveling cranes for moving the boilers of battleships: turned lathes, made every part of an aeroplane. And who were these seven million women? The eldest daughter of a duke and the daughter of a general won distinction in advanced munition work. The only daughter of an old Army family broke down after a year’s work in a base hospital in France, was ordered six months’ rest at home, but after two months entered a munition factory as an ordinary employee and after nine months’ work had lost but five minutes working time. The mother of seven enlisted sons went into munitions not to be behind them in serving England, and one of them wrote her she was probably killing more Germans than any of the family. The stewardess of a torpedoed passenger ship was among the few survivors.
Reaching land, she got a job at a capstan lathe. Those were the seven million women of England—daughters of dukes, torpedoed stewardesses, and everything between.
Seven hundred thousand of these were engaged on munition work proper.
They did from 60 to 70 per cent of all the machine work on shells, fuses, and trench warfare supplies, and 1450 of them were trained mechanics to the Royal Flying Corps. They were employed upon practically every operation in factory, in foundry, in laboratory, and chemical works, of which they were physically capable; in making of gauges, forging billets, making fuses, cartridges, bullets—”look what they can do,” said a foreman, “ladies from homes where they sat about and were waited upon.”
They also made optical glass; drilled and tapped in the shipyards; renewed electric wires and fittings, wound armatures; lacquered guards for lamps and radiator fronts; repaired junction and section boxes, fire control instruments, automatic searchlights. “We can hardly believe our eyes,” said another foreman, “when we see the heavy stuff brought to and from the shops in motor lorries driven by girls. Before the war it was all carted by horses and men. The girls do the job all right, though, and the only thing they ever complain about is that their toes get cold.”
They worked without hesitation from twelve to fourteen hours a day, or a night, for seven days a week, and with the voluntary sacrifice of public holidays.
That is not all, or nearly all, that the women of England did—I skip their welfare work, recreation work, nursing—but it is enough wherewith to answer the ignorant, or the fraud, or the fool.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
On August 8, 1914, Lord Kitchener asked for 100,000 volunteers. He had them within fourteen days. In the first week of September 170,000 men enrolled, 30,000 in a single day. Eleven months later, two million had enlisted. Ten months later, five million and forty-one thousand had voluntarily enrolled in the Army and Navy.
In 1914 Britain had in her Royal Naval Air Service 64 aeroplanes and 800
airmen. In 1917 she had many thousand aeroplanes and 42,000 airmen. In her Royal Flying Corps she had in 1914, 66 planes and 100 men; in 1917, several thousand planes and men by tens of thousands. In the first nine months of 1917 British airmen brought down 876 enemy machines and drove down 759 out of control. From July, 1917, to June, 1918, 4102 enemy machines were destroyed or brought down with a loss of 1213 machines.
Besides financing her own war costs she had by October, 1917, loaned eight hundred million dollars to the Dominions and five billion five hundred million to the Allies. She raised five billion in thirty days. In the first eight months of 1918 she contributed to the various forms of war loan at the average rate of one hundred and twenty-four million, eight hundred thousand a week.
Is that enough? Enough to show what England did in the War? No, it is not enough for such people as continue to ask what she did. Nothing would suffice these persons. During the earlier stages of the War it was possible that the question could be asked honestly—though never intelligently—because the facts and figures were not at that time always accessible. They were still piling up, they were scattered about, mention of them was incidental and fugitive, they could be missed by anybody who was not diligently alert to find them. To-day it is quite otherwise. The facts and figures have been compiled, arranged, published in accessible and convenient form; therefore to-day, the man or woman who persists in asking what England did in the war is not honest but dishonest or mentally spotted, and does not want to be answered. They don’t want to know. The question is merely a camouflage of their spite, and were every item given of the gigantic and magnificent contribution that England made to the defeat of the Kaiser and all his works, it would not stop their evil mouths. Not for them am I here setting forth a part of what England did; it is for the convenience of the honest American, who does want to know, that my collection of facts is made from the various sources which he may not have the time or the means to look up for himself. For his benefit I add some particulars concerning the British Navy which kept the Kaiser out of our front yard.
Admiral Mahan said in his book—and he was an American of whose knowledge and wisdom Congress seems to have known nothing and cared less—”Why do English innate political conceptions of popular representative government, of the balance of law and liberty, prevail in North America from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific? Because the command of the sea at the decisive era belonged to Great Britain.” We have seen that the decisive era was when Napoleon’s mouth watered for Louisiana, and when England took her stand behind the Monroe Doctrine.
Admiral Sims said in the second installment of his narrative The Victory at Sea, published in The World’s Work for October, 1919, at page 619: “… Let us suppose for a moment that an earthquake, or some other great natural disturbance, had engulfed the British fleet at Scapa Flow. The world would then have been at Germany’s mercy and all the destroyers the Allies could have put upon the sea would have availed them nothing, for the German battleships and battle cruisers could have sunk them or driven them into their ports. Then Allied commerce would have been the prey, not only of the submarines, which could have operated with the utmost freedom, but of the German surface craft as well. In a few weeks the British food supplies would have been exhausted. There would have been an early end to the soldiers and munitions which Britain was constantly sending to France. The United States could have sent no forces to the Western front, and the result would have been the surrender which the Allies themselves, in the spring of 1917, regarded as a not remote possibility. America would then have been compelled to face the German power alone, and to face it long before we had had an opportunity to assemble our resources and equip our armies. The world was preserved from all these calamities because the destroyer and the convoy solved the problem of the submarines, and because back of these agencies of victory lay Admiral Beatty’s squadrons, holding at arm’s length the German surface ships while these comparatively fragile craft were saving the liberties of the world.”
Yes. The High Seas Fleet of Germany, costing her one billion five hundred million dollars, was bottled up. Five million five hundred thousand tons of German shipping and one million tons of Austrian shipping were driven off the seas or captured; oversea trade and oversea colonies were cut off. Two million oversea Huns of fighting age were hindered from joining the enemy. Ocean commerce and communication were stopped for the Huns and secured to the Allies. In 1916, 2100 mines were swept up and 89 mine sweepers lost. These mine sweepers and patrol boats numbered 12 in 1914, and 3300 by 1918. To patrol the seas British ships had to steam eight million miles in a single month. During the four years of the war they transported oversea more than thirteen million men (losing but 2700
through enemy action) as well as transporting two million horses and mules, five hundred thousand vehicles, twenty-five million tons of explosives, fifty-one million tons of oil and fuel, one hundred and thirty million tons of food and other materials for the use of the Allies. In one month three hundred and fifty-five thousand men were carried from England to France.
It was after our present Secretary of the Navy, in his speech in Boston to which allusion has been made, had given our navy all and the British navy none of the credit of conveying our soldiers overseas, that Admiral Sims repaired the singular oblivion of the Secretary. We Americans should know the truth, he said. We had not been too accurately informed. We did not seem to have been told by anybody, for instance, that of the five thousand anti-submarine craft operating day and night in the infested waters, we had 160, or 3 per cent; that of the million and a half troops which had gone over from here in a few months, Great Britain brought over two thirds and escorted half.
“I would like American papers to pay particular attention to the fact that there are about 5000 anti-submarine craft in the ocean to-day, cutting out mines, escorting troop ships, and making it possible for us to go ahead and win this war. They can do this because the British Grand Fleet is so powerful that the German High Seas Fleet has to stay at home.
The British Grand Fleet is the foundation stone of the cause of the whole of the Allies.”
Thus Admiral Sims.
That is part of what England did in the war.
Note.—The author expresses thanks and acknowledgment to Pearson’s Magazine for permission to use the passages quoted from the articles by Admiral Sims.
Chapter XV: Rude Britannia, Crude Columbia It may have been ten years ago, it may have been fifteen—and just how long it was before the war makes no matter—that I received an invitation to join a society for the promotion of more friendly relations between the United States and England.
“No, indeed,” I said to myself.
Even as I read the note, hostility rose in me. Refusal sprang to my lips before my reason had acted at all. I remembered George III. I remembered the Civil War. The ancient grudge, the anti-English complex, had been instantly set fermenting in me. Nothing could better disclose its lurking persistence than my virtually automatic exclamation, “No, indeed!” I knew something about England’s friendly acts, about Venezuela, and Manila Bay, and Edmund Burke, and John Bright, and the Queen, and the Lancashire cotton spinners. And more than this historic knowledge, I knew living English people, men and women, among whom I counted dear and even beloved friends. I knew also, just as well as Admiral Mahan knew, and other Americans by the hundreds of thousands have known and know at this moment, that all the best we have and are—law, ethics, love of liberty—
all of it came from England, grew in England first, ripened from the seed of which we are merely one great harvest, planted here by England. And yet I instantly exclaimed, “No, indeed! “
Well, having been inflicted with the anti-English complex myself, I understand it all the better in others, and am begging them to counteract it as I have done. You will recollect that I said at the outset of these observations that, as I saw it, our prejudice was founded upon three causes fairly separate, although they often melted together. With two of these causes I have now dealt—the school histories, and certain acts and policies of England’s throughout our relations with her. The third cause, I said, was certain traits of the English and ourselves which have produced personal friction. An American does or says something which angers an Englishman, who thereupon goes about thinking and saying, “Those insufferable Yankees!” An Englishman does or says something which angers an American, who thereupon goes about thinking and saying, “To Hell with England!” Each makes the well-nigh universal—but none the less perfectly ridiculous—blunder of damning a whole people because one of them has rubbed him the wrong way. Nothing could show up more forcibly and vividly this human weakness for generalizing from insufficient data, than the incident in London streets which I promised to tell you in full when we should reach the time for it. The time is now.
In a hospital at no great distance from San Francisco, a wounded American soldier said to one who sat beside him, that never would he go to Europe to fight anybody again—except the English. Them he would like to fight; and to the astonished visitor he told his reason. He, it appeared, was one of our Americans who marched through London streets on that day when the eyes of London looked for the first time upon the Yankees at last arrived to bear a hand to England and her Allies. From the mob came a certain taunt: “You silly ass.”
It was, as you will observe, an unflattering interpretation of our national initials, U. S. A. Of course it was enough to make a proper American doughboy entirely “hot under the collar.” To this reading of our national initials our national readiness retorted in kind at an early date: A. E. F. meant After England Failed. But why, months and months afterwards, when everything was over, did that foolish doughboy in the hospital hug this lone thing to his memory? It was the act of an unthinking few. Didn’t he notice what the rest of London was doing that day? Didn’t he remember that she flew the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes together from every symbolic pinnacle of creed and government that rose above her continent of streets and dwellings to the sky?
Couldn’t he feel that England, his old enemy and old mother, bowed and stricken and struggling, was opening her arms to him wide? She’s a person who hides her tears even from herself; but it seems to me that, with a drop of imagination and half a drop of thought, he might have discovered a year and a half after a few street roughs had insulted him, that they were not all England. With two drops of thought it might even have ultimately struck him that here we came, late, very late, indeed, only just in time, from a country untouched, unafflicted, unbombed, safe, because of England’s ships, to tired, broken, bleeding England; and that the sight of us, so jaunty, so fresh, so innocent of suffering and bereavement, should have been for a thoughtless moment galling to unthinking brains?
I am perfectly sure that if such considerations as these were laid before any American soldier who still smarted under that taunt in London streets, his good American sense, which is our best possession, would grasp and accept the thing in its true proportions. He wouldn’t want to blot an Empire out because a handful of muckers called him names. Of this I am perfectly sure, because in Paris streets it was my happy lot four months after the Armistice to talk with many American soldiers, among whom some felt sore about the French. Not one of these but saw with his good American sense, directly I pointed certain facts out to him, that his hostile generalization had been unjust. But, to quote the oft-quoted Mr. Kipling, that is another story.
An American regiment just arrived in France was encamped for purposes of training and experience next a British regiment come back from the front to rest. The streets of the two camps were adjacent, and the Tommies walked out to watch the Yankees pegging down their tents.
“Aw,” they said, “wot a shyme you’ve brought nobody along to tuck you in.”
They made other similar remarks; commented unfavorably upon the alignment; “You were a bit late in coming,” they said. Of course our boys had answers, and to these the Tommies had further answers, and this encounter of wits very naturally led to a result which could not possibly have been happier. I don’t know what the Tommies expected the Yankees to do. I suppose they were as ignorant of our nature as we of theirs, and that they entertained preconceived notions. They suddenly found that we were, once again to quote Mr. Kipling, “bachelors in barricks most remarkable like” themselves. An American first sergeant hit a British first sergeant. Instantly a thousand men were milling. For thirty minutes they kept at it. Warriors reeled together and fell and rose and got it in the neck and the jaw and the eye and the nose—and all the while the British and American officers, splendidly discreet, saw none of it.
British soldiers were carried back to their streets, still fighting, bunged Yankees staggered everywhere—but not an officer saw any of it.
Black eyes the next day, and other tokens, very plainly showed who had been at this party. Thereafter a much better feeling prevailed between Tommies and Yanks.
A more peaceful contact produced excellent consequences at an encampment of Americans in England. The Americans had brought over an idea, apparently, that the English were “easy.” They tried it on in sundry ways, but ended by the discovery that, while engaged upon this enterprise, they had been in sundry ways quite completely “done”
themselves. This gave them a respect for their English cousins which they had never felt before.
Here is another tale, similar in moral. This occurred at Brest, in France. In the Y hut sat an English lady, one of the hostesses. To her came a young American marine with whom she already had some acquaintance.
This led him to ask for her advice. He said to her that as his permission was of only seventy-two hours, he wanted to be as economical of his time as he could and see everything best worth while for him to see during his leave. Would she, therefore, tell him what things in Paris were the most interesting and in what order he had best take them? She replied with another suggestion; why not, she said, ask for permission for England?
This would give him two weeks instead of seventy-two hours. At this he burst out violently that he would not set foot in England; that he never wanted to have anything to do with England or with the English: “Why, I am a marine!” he exclaimed, “and we marines would sooner knock down any English sailor than speak to him.”
The English lady, naturally, did not then tell him her nationality. She now realized that he had supposed her to be American, because she had frequently been in America and had talked to him as no stranger to the country could. She, of course, did not urge his going to England; she advised him what to see in France. He took his leave of seventy-two hours and when he returned was very grateful for the advice she had given him.
She saw him often after this, and he grew to rely very much upon her friendly counsel. Finally, when the time came for her to go away from Brest, she told him that she was English. And then she said something like this to him:
“Now, you told me you had never been in England and had never known an English person in your life, and yet you had all these ideas against us because somebody had taught you wrong. It is not at all your fault. You are only nineteen years old and you cannot read about us, because you have no chance; but at least you do know one English person now, and that English person begs you, when you do have a chance to read and inform yourself of the truth, to find out what England really has been, and what she has really done in this war.”
The end of the story is that the boy, who had become devoted to her, did as she suggested. To-day she receives letters from him which show that nothing is left of his anti-English complex. It is another instance of how clearly our native American mind, if only the facts are given it, thinks, judges, and concludes.
It is for those of my countrymen who will never have this chance, never meet some one who can guide them to the facts”, that I tell these things.
Let them “cut out the dope.” At this very moment that I write—November 24, 1919—the dope is being fed freely to all who are ready, whether through ignorance or through interested motives, to swallow it. The ancient grudge is being played up strong over the whole country in the interest of Irish independence.
Ian Hay in his two books so timely and so excellent, Getting Together and The Oppressed English, could not be as unreserved, naturally, as I can be about those traits in my own countrymen which have, in the past at any rate, retarded English cordiality towards Americans. Of these I shall speak as plainly as I know how. But also, being an American and therefore by birth more indiscreet than Ian Hay, I shall speak as plainly as I know how of those traits in the English which have helped to keep warm our ancient grudge. Thus I may render both countries forever uninhabitable to me, but shall at least take with me into exile a character for strict, if disastrous, impartiality.
I begin with an American who was traveling in an English train. It stopped somewhere, and out of the window he saw some buildings which interested him.
“Can you tell me what those are?” he asked an Englishman, a stranger, who sat in the other corner of the compartment.
“Better ask the guard,” said the Englishman.
Since that brief dialogue, this American does not think well of the English.
Now, two interpretations of the Englishman’s answer are possible. One is, that he didn’t himself know, and said so in his English way. English talk is often very short, much shorter than ours. That is because they all understand each other, are much closer knit than we are. Behind them are generations of “doing it” in the same established way, a way that their long experience of life has hammered out for their own convenience, and which they like. We’re not nearly so closely knit together here, save in certain spots, especially the old spots. In Boston they understand each other with very few words said. So they do in Charleston. But these spots of condensed and hoarded understanding lie far apart, are never confluent, and also differ in their details; while the whole of England is confluent, and the details have been slowly worked out through centuries of getting on together, and are accepted and observed exactly like the rules of a game.
In America, if the American didn’t know, he would have answered, “I don’t know. I think you’ll have to ask the conductor,” or at any rate, his reply would have been longer than the Englishman’s. But I am not going to accept the idea that the Englishman didn’t know and said so in his brief usual way. It’s equally possible that he did know. Then, you naturally ask, why in the name of common civility did he give such an answer to the American?
I believe that I can tell you. He didn’t know that my friend was an American, he thought he was an Englishman who had broken the rules of the game. We do have some rules here in America, only we have not nearly so many, they’re much more stretchable, and it’s not all of us who have learned them. But nevertheless a good many have.
Suppose you were traveling in a train here, and the man next you, whose face you had never seen before, and with whom you had not yet exchanged a syllable, said: “What’s your pet name for your wife?”
Wouldn’t your immediate inclination be to say, “What damned business is that of yours?” or words to that general effect?
But again, you most naturally object, there was nothing personal in my friend’s question about the buildings. No; but that is not it. At the bottom, both questions are an invasion of the same deep-seated thing—the right to privacy. In America, what with the newspaper reporters and this and that and the other, the territory of a man’s privacy has been lessened and lessened until very little of it remains; but most of us still do draw the line somewhere; we may not all draw it at the same place, but we do draw a line. The difference, then, between ourselves and the English in this respect is simply, that with them the territory of a man’s privacy covers more ground, and different ground as well. An Englishman doesn’t expect strangers to ask him questions of a guidebook sort. For all such questions his English system provides perfectly definite persons to answer. If you want to know where the ticket office is, or where to take your baggage, or what time the train goes, or what platform it starts from, or what towns it stops at, and what churches or other buildings of interest are to be seen in those towns, there are porters and guards and Bradshaws and guidebooks to tell you, and it’s they whom you are expected to consult, not any fellow-traveler who happens to be at hand. If you ask him, you break the rules. Had my friend said: “I am an American. Would you mind telling me what those buildings are?” all would have gone well. The Englishman would have recognized (not fifty years ago, but certainly to-day) that it wasn’t a question of rules between them, and would have at once explained—either that he didn’t know, or that the buildings were such and such.
Do not, I beg, suppose for a moment that I am holding up the English way as better than our own—or worse. I am not making comparisons; I am trying to show differences. Very likely there are many points wherein we think the English might do well to borrow from us; and it is quite as likely that the English think we might here and there take a leaf from their book to our advantage. But I am not theorizing, I am not seeking to show that we manage life better or that they manage life better; the only moral that I seek to draw from these anecdotes is, that we should each understand and hence make allowance for the other fellow’s way. You will admit, I am sure, be you American or English, that everybody has a right to his own way? The proverb “When in Rome you must do as Rome does”
covers it, and would save trouble if we always obeyed it. The people who forget it most are they that go to Rome for the first time; and I shall give you both English and American examples of this presently. It is good to ascertain before you go to Rome, if you can, what Rome does do.
Have you never been mistaken for a waiter, or something of that sort?
Perhaps you will have heard the anecdote about one of our ambassadors to England. All ambassadors, save ours, wear on formal occasions a distinguishing uniform, just as our army and navy officers do; it is convenient, practical, and saves trouble. But we have declared it menial, or despotic, or un-American, or something equally silly, and hence our ambassadors must wear evening dress resembling closely the attire of those who are handing the supper or answering the doorbell. An Englishman saw Mr. Choate at some diplomatic function, standing about in this evening costume, and said:
“Call me a cab.”
“You are a cab,” said Mr. Choate, obediently.
Thus did he make known to the Englishman that he was not a waiter.
Similarly in crowded hotel dining-rooms or crowded railroad stations have agitated ladies clutched my arm and said: “I want a table for three,” or “When does the train go to Poughkeepsie? “
Just as we in America have regular people to attend to these things, so do they in England; and as the English respect each other’s right to privacy very much more than we do, they resent invasions of it very much more than we do. But, let me say again, they are likely to mind it only in somebody they think knows the rules. With those who don’t know them it is different. I say this with all the more certainty because of a fairly recent afternoon spent in an English garden with English friends. The question of pronunciation came up. Now you will readily see that with them and their compactness, their great public schools, their two great Universities, and their great London, the one eternal focus of them all, both the chance of diversity in social customs and the tolerance of it must be far less than in our huge unfocused country. With us, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, is each a centre. Here you can pronounce the word calm, for example, in one way or another, and it merely indicates where you come from. Departure in England from certain established pronunciations has another effect.
“Of course,” said one of my friends, “one knows where to place anybody who says ‘girl’” (pronouncing it as it is spelled).
“That’s frightful,” said I, “because I say ‘girl’.”
“Oh, but you are an American. It doesn’t apply.”
But had I been English, it would have been something like coming to dinner without your collar.
That is why I think that, had my friend in the train begun his question about the buildings by saying that he was an American, the answer would have been different. Not all the English yet, but many more than there were fifty or even twenty years ago, have ceased to apply their rules to us.
About 1874 a friend of mine from New York was taken to a London Club.
Into the room where he was came the Prince of Wales, who took out a cigar, felt for and found no matches, looked about, and there was a silence. My friend thereupon produced matches, struck one, and offered it to the Prince, who bowed, thanked him, lighted his cigar, and presently went away.
Then an Englishman observed to my friend: “It’s not the thing for a commoner to offer a light to the Prince.”
“I’m not a commoner, I’m an American,” said my friend with perfect good nature.
Whatever their rule may be to-day about the Prince and matches, as to us they have come to accept my friend’s pertinent distinction: they don’t expect us to keep or even to know their own set of rules.
Indeed, they surpass us in this, they make more allowances for us than we for them. They don’t criticize Americans for not being English. Americans still constantly do criticize the English for not being Americans. Now, the measure in which you don’t allow for the customs of another country is the measure of your own provincialism. I have heard some of our own soldiers express dislike of the English because of their coldness. The English are not cold; they are silent upon certain matters. But it is all there. Do you remember that sailor at Zeebrugge carrying the unconscious body of a comrade to safety, not sure yet if he were alive or dead, and stroking that comrade’s head as he went, saying over and over, “Did you think I would leave yer?” We are more demonstrative, we spell things out which it is the way of the English to leave between the lines. But it is all there! Behind that unconciliating wall of shyness and reserve, beats and hides the warm, loyal British heart, the most constant heart in the world.
“It isn’t done.”
That phrase applies to many things in England besides offering a light to the Prince, or asking a fellow traveler what those buildings are; and I think that the Englishman’s notion of his right to privacy lies at the bottom of quite a number of these things. You may lay some of them to snobbishness, to caste, to shyness, they may have various secondary origins; but I prefer to cover them all with the broader term, the right to privacy, because it seems philosophically to account for them and explain them.
In May, 1915, an Oxford professor was in New York. A few years before this I had read a book of his which had delighted me. I met him at lunch, I had not known him before. Even as we shook hands, I blurted out to him my admiration for his book.
That was the whole of his reply. It made me laugh at myself, for I should have known better. I had often been in England and could have told anybody that you mustn’t too abruptly or obviously refer to what the other fellow does, still less to what you do yourself. “It isn’t done.”
It’s a sort of indecent exposure. It’s one of the invasions of the right to privacy.
In America, not everywhere but in many places, a man upon entering a club and seeing a friend across the room, will not hesitate to call out to him, “Hullo, Jack!” or “Hullo, George!” or whatever. In England “it isn’t done.” The greeting would be conveyed by a short nod or a glance.
To call out a man’s name across a room full of people, some of whom may be total strangers, invades his privacy and theirs. Have you noticed how, in our Pullman parlor cars, a party sitting together, generally young women, will shriek their conversation in a voice that bores like a gimlet through the whole place? That is an invasion of privacy. In England “it isn’t done.” We shouldn’t stand it in a theatre, but in parlor cars we do stand it. It is a good instance to show that the Englishman’s right to privacy is larger than ours, and thus that his liberty is larger than ours.
Before leaving this point, which to my thinking is the cause of many frictions and misunderstandings between ourselves and the English, I mustn’t omit to give instances of divergence, where an Englishman will speak of matters upon which we are silent, and is silent upon subjects of which we will speak.
You may present a letter of introduction to an Englishman, and he wishes to be civil, to help you to have a good time. It is quite possible he may say something like this:
“I think you had better know my sister Sophy. You mayn’t like her. But her dinners are rather amusing. Of course the food’s ghastly because she’s the stingiest woman in London.”
On the other hand, many Americans (though less willing than the French) are willing to discuss creed, immortality, faith. There is nothing from which the Englishman more peremptorily recoils, although he hates well nigh as deeply all abstract discussion, or to be clever, or to have you be clever. An American friend of mine had grown tired of an Englishman who had been finding fault with one American thing after another. So he suddenly said:
“Will you tell me why you English when you enter your pews on Sunday always immediately smell your hats? “
The Englishman stiffened. “I refuse to discuss religious subjects with you,” he said.
To be ponderous over this anecdote grieves me—but you may not know that orthodox Englishmen usually don’t kneel, as we do, after reaching their pews; they stand for a moment, covering their faces with their well-brushed hats: with each nation the observance is the same, it is in the manner of the observing that we differ.
Much is said about our “common language,” and its being a reason for our understanding each other. Yes; but it is also almost as much a cause for our misunderstanding each other. It is both a help and a trap. If we Americans spoke something so wholly different from English as French is, comparisons couldn’t be made; and somebody has remarked that comparisons are odious.
“Why do you call your luggage baggage?” says the Englishman—or used to say.
“Why do you call your baggage luggage?” says the American—or used to say.
“Why don’t you say treacle?” inquires the Englishman.
“Because we call it molasses,” answers the American.
“How absurd to speak of a car when you mean a carriage!” exclaims the Englishman.
“We don’t mean a carriage, we mean a car,” retorts the American.
You, my reader, may have heard (or perhaps even held) foolish conversations like that; and you will readily perceive that if we didn’t say “car” when we spoke of the vehicle you get into when you board a train, but called it a voiture, or something else quite “foreign,” the Englishman would not feel that we had taken a sort of liberty with his mother-tongue. A deep point lies here: for most English the world is divided into three peoples, English, foreigners, and Americans; and for most of us likewise it is divided into Americans, foreigners, and English. Now a “foreigner” can call molasses whatever he pleases; we do not feel that he has taken any liberty with our mother-tongue; his tongue has a different mother; he can’t help that; he’s not to be criticized for that. But we and the English speak a tongue that has the same mother.
This identity in pedigree has led and still leads to countless family discords. I’ve not a doubt that divergences in vocabulary and in accent were the fount and origin of some swollen noses, some battered eyes, when our Yankees mixed with the Tommies. Each would be certain to think that the other couldn’t “talk straight”—and each would be certain to say so.
I shall not here spin out a list of different names for the same things now current in English and American usage: molasses and treacle will suffice for an example; you will be able easily to think of others, and there are many such that occur in everyday speech. Almost more tricky are those words which both peoples use alike, but with different meanings. I shall spin no list of these either; one example there is which I cannot name, of two words constantly used in both countries, each word quite proper in one country, while in the other it is more than improper.
Thirty years ago I explained this one evening to a young Englishman who was here for a while. Two or three days later, he thanked me fervently for the warning: it had saved him, during a game of tennis, from a frightful shock, when his partner, a charming girl, meaning to tell him to cheer up, had used the word that is so harmless with us and in England so far beyond the pale of polite society.
Quite as much as words, accent also leads to dissension. I have heard many an American speak of the English accent as “affected”; and our accent displeases the English. Now what Englishman, or what American, ever criticizes a Frenchman for not pronouncing our language as we do?
His tongue has a different mother!
I know not how in the course of the years all these divergences should have come about, and none of us need care. There they are. As a matter of fact, both England and America are mottled with varying accents literate and illiterate; equally true it is that each nation has its notion of the other’s way of speaking—we’re known by our shrill nasal twang, they by their broad vowels and hesitation; and quite as true is it that not all Americans and not all English do in their enunciation conform to these types.
One May afternoon in 1919 I stopped at Salisbury to see that beautiful cathedral and its serene and gracious close. “Star-scattered on the grass,” and beneath the noble trees, lay New Zealand soldiers, solitary or in little groups, gazing, drowsing, talking at ease. Later, at the inn I was shown to a small table, where sat already a young Englishman in evening dress, at his dinner. As I sat down opposite him, I bowed, and he returned it. Presently we were talking. When I said that I was stopping expressly to see the cathedral, and how like a trance it was to find a scene so utterly English full of New Zealanders lying all about, he looked puzzled. It was at this, or immediately after this, that I explained to him my nationality.
“I shouldn’t have known it,” he remarked, after an instant’s pause.
I pressed him for his reason, which he gave; somewhat reluctantly, I think, but with excellent good-will. Of course it was the same old mother-tongue!
“You mean,” I said, “that I haven’t happened to say ‘I guess,’ and that I don’t, perhaps, talk through my nose? But we don’t all do that. We do all sorts of things.”
He stuck to it. “You talk like us.”
“Well, I’m sure I don’t mean to talk like anybody!” I sighed.
This diverted him, and brought us closer.
“And see here,” I continued, “I knew you were English, although you’ve not dropped a single h.”
“Oh, but,” he said, “dropping h’s—that’s—that’s not—”
“I know it isn’t,” I said. “Neither is talking through your nose. And we don’t all say ‘Amurrican.’”
But he stuck to it. “All the same there is an American voice. The train yesterday was full of it. Officers. Unmistakable.” And he shook his head.
After this we got on better than ever; and as he went his way, he gave me some advice about the hotel. I should do well to avoid the reading room.
The hotel went in rather too much for being old-fashioned. Ran it into the ground. Tiresome. Good-night.
Presently I shall disclose more plainly to you the moral of my Salisbury anecdote.
Is it their discretion, do you think, that closes the lips of the French when they visit our shores? Not from the French do you hear prompt aspersions as to our differences from them. They observe that proverb about being in Rome: they may not be able to do as Rome does, but they do not inquire why Rome isn’t like Paris. If you ask them how they like our hotels or our trains, they may possibly reply that they prefer their own, but they will hardly volunteer this opinion. But the American in England and the Englishman in America go about volunteering opinions. Are the French more discreet? I believe that they are; but I wonder if there is not also something else at the bottom of it. You and I will say things about our cousins to our aunt. Our aunt would not allow outsiders to say those things. Is it this, the-members-of-the-family principle, which makes us less discreet than the French? Is it this, too, which leads us by a seeming paradox to resent criticism more when it comes from England?
I know not how it may be with you; but with me, when I pick up the paper and read that the Germans are calling us pig-dogs again, I am merely amused. When I read French or Italian abuse of us, I am sorry, to be sure; but when some English paper jumps on us, I hate it, even when I know that what it says isn’t true. So here, if I am right in my members-of-the-family hypothesis, you have the English and ourselves feeling free to be disagreeable to each other because we are relations, and yet feeling especially resentful because it’s a relation who is being disagreeable. I merely put the point to you, I lay no dogma down concerning members of the family; but I am perfectly sure that discretion is a quality more common to the French than to ourselves or our relations: I mean something a little more than discretion, I mean esprit de conduits, for which it is hard to find a translation.
Upon my first two points, the right to privacy and the mother-tongue, I have lingered long, feeling these to be not only of prime importance and wide application, but also to be quite beyond my power to make lucid in short compass. I trust that they have been made lucid. I must now get on to further anecdotes, illustrating other and less subtle causes of misunderstanding; and I feel somewhat like the author of Don Juan when he exclaims that he almost wishes he had ne’er begun that very remarkable poem. I renounce all pretense to the French virtue of discretion.
Evening dress has been the s