WALTER H. PAGE APPENDIX
WWI Document Archive > Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences > Walter H. Page > APPENDIX
PAGE was not methodical in keeping diaries. His documents, however, reveal that he took many praiseworthy resolutions in this direction. They include a large number of bulky books, each labelled "Diary" and inscribed with the year whose events were to be recorded. The outlook is a promising one; but when the books are opened they reveal only fragmentary good intentions. Entries are kept up for a few days, and then the work comes to an end. These volumes contain many scraps of interesting writing, however, which are worth preserving; some of them are herewith presented in haphazard fashion, with no attempt at order in subject matter.
PETHERICK may he be immortal; for he is a man who has made of a humble task a high calling; and without knowing it he has caused a man of a high calling to degrade it to a mean level. Now Petherick is a humble Englishman, whose father many years ago enjoyed the distinction of carrying the mail pouch to and from the post office for the American Embassy in London. As father, so son. Petherick succeeded Petherick. In this remote period (the Petherick must now be 60) Governments had "despatch agents," men who distributed mail and whatnot, sent it on from capital to capital---were a sort of general "forwarding" factotums. The office is really out of date now. Telegraph companies, express companies, railway companies, the excellent mail service and the like out-despatch any conceivable agent---except Petherick. Petherick has qualities that defy change, such as an unfailing courtesy, a genuine joy in serving his fellows, the very genius of helpfulness. Well, since a governmental office once established acquires qualities of perpetuity, three United States despatch agents have survived the development of modern communication, one in London, one in New York, and the third (I think) in San Francisco. At any rate, the London agent remains.
Now in the beginning the London despatch agent was a mail messenger (as I understand) for the Embassy. He still takes the pouch to the post office, and brings it back. In ordinary times, that's all he does for the Embassy, for which his salary of about * * * is paid by the State Department---too high a salary for the labour done, but none too high for the trustworthy qualities required. If this had been all that Petherick did, he would probably have long ago gone to the scrap heap. It is one mark of a man of genius that he always makes his job. So Petherick. The American Navy came into being and parts of it come to this side of the world. Naval officers need help when they come ashore. Petherick was always on hand with despatches and mail for them, and Petherick was a handy man. Did the Captain want a cab? Petherick had one waiting. Did the Captain want rooms? Such-and-such a hotel was the proper one for him, Rooms were engaged. Did the Captain's wife need a maid? Petherick had thought of that, too. Then a Secretary from some continentaI legation wished to know a good London tailor. He sought Petherick. An American Ambassador from the continent came to London. London yielded Petherick for his guidance and his wants. Petherick became omnipresent, universally useful---an American institution in fact. A naval officer who had been in Asiatic waters was steaming westward to the Mediterranean. His wife and three babies came to London, where she was to meet her husband, who was to spend several weeks here. A telegram to Petherick: they needed to do nothing else. When the lady arrived a furnished flat, a maid and a nurse and a cook and toys awaited her. When her husband arrived, a pair of boots awaited him from the same last that his last pair had been made on, in London, five years before. At some thoughtful moment $1,000 was added to Petherick's salary by the Navy Department; and a few years ago a handsome present was made to Petherick by the United States Naval Officers all over the world.
But Petherick, with all his virtues, is merely an Englishman, and it is not usual for an Englishman to hold a $3,000 office under appointment from the United States Government. The office of despatch agent, therefore, has been nominally held by an American citizen in London. This American citizen for a good many years has been Mr. Crane, a barrister, who simply turns over the salary to Petherick; and all the world, except the Secretary of State, knows that Petherick is Petherick and there is none other but him.
Now comes the story: Mr. Bryan, looking around the world for offices for his henchmen, finds that one Crane has been despatch agent in London for many years, and he writes me a personal and confidential letter, asking if this be not a good office for some Democrat!
I tell the story to the Naval Attaché! He becomes riotous. He'll have to employ half a dozen clerks to do for the Navy ill what Petherick does well with ease, if he's removed. Life would not be worth living anyhow. I uncover Petherick to the Secretary and show him in his glory. It must be said to the Secretary's credit that he has said nothing more about it. Petherick, let us hope, will live forever. The Secretary's petty-spoils mind now works on grand plans for Peace, holy Peace, having unsuccessfully attacked poor Petherick. And Petherick knows nothing about it and never dreams of an enemy in all the world, and in all naval and diplomatic life he has only fast friends. If Mr. Bryan had removed him, he might have made a temporary friend of one Democrat from Oklahoma, and lasting enemies of all that Democrat's rivals and of the whole naval and diplomatic service.
We have to get away from it---or try to---a minute at a time; and the comic gods sometimes help us. Squierhas a junior officer here to hold his desk down when he's gone. He's a West Point Lieutenant with a German name. His study is ordnance. A new kind of bomb gives him the same sort of joy that a new species would have given Darwin. He was over in France---where the armies had passed to and from Paris---and one day he found an unexploded German bomb of a new sort. The thing weighed half a ton or thereabouts, and it was loaded. Somehow he got it to London---I never did hear how. He wrapped it in blankets and put it under his bed. He went out of town to study some other infernal contraption and the police found this thing under his bed. The War Office took it and began to look for him---to shoot him, the bomb-harbouring German! They soon discovered, of course, that he was one of our men and an officer in the United States Army. Then I heard of it for the first time. Here came a profuse letter of apology from the Government; they had not known the owner was one of my attachés. Pardon, pardon---a thousand apologies. But while this letter was being delivered to me one of the under-secretaries of the Government was asking one of our secretaries, "In Heaven's name, what's the Ambassador going to do about it? We have no right to molest the property of one of your attachés, but this man's room is less than 100 yards from Westminster Abbey: it might blow up half of London. We can't give the thing back to him!" They had taken it to the Duck Pond, wherever that is. About that time the Lieutenant came back. His pet bomb gone---what was I going to do about it?
The fellow actually wanted to bring it to his Office in the Embassy!
"Look here, Lieutenant, besides the possibility of blowing up this building and killing every mother's son of us, consider the scandal of the American Embassy in London blown up by a German bomb. That would go down in the school histories of the United States. Don't you see?" No, he didn't see instantly---he does so love a bomb! 1 had to threaten to disown him and let him be shot before he was content to go and tell them to unload it---he would have it, unloaded, if not loaded.
Well, I had to write half a dozen letters before the thing was done for. He thinks me a chicken-livered old coward and I know much more about him than I knew before; and we are at peace. The newspapers never got the story, but his friends about town still laugh at him for trying first to blow up Westminister Abbey and then his own Ambassador. He was at my house at dinner the other night and one of the ladies asked him: "Lieutenant, have you any darling little pet lyddite cartridges in your pocket?" Think of a young fellow who just loves bombs! Has loaded bombs for pets! How I misspent my youth!
This is among the day's stories: The British took a ship that had a cargo of 100,000 busts of Von Hindenburg---filled with copper.
Another: When Frederick Watts was painting Lord Minto he found it hard to make the portrait please him. When he was told that Lord Minto liked it and, Lady Minto didn't and that So-and-So praised it, he exclaimed: "I don't care a d---n what anyone thinks about it---except a fellow named Sargent."
And the King said (about the wedding): "I have the regulation of the dress to be worn at all functions in the Chapel Royal. I, therefore, declare that the American Ambassador may have any dress worn that he pleases!"
E. M. House went to Paris this morning, having no peace message from this Kingdom whatever. This kind of talk here now was spoken of by the Prime Minister the other day "as the twittering of a sparrow in a tumult that shakes the world."
Lady P. remarked to me to-day, as many persons do, that I am very fortunate to be Ambassador here at this particular time. Perhaps; but it isn't easy to point out precisely wherein the good fortune consists. This much is certain: it is surely a hazardous occupation now. Henry James remarked, too, that nobody could afford to miss the experience of being here---nobody who could be here. Perhaps true, again; but I confess to enough shock and horror to keep me from being so very sure of that. Yet no other phenomenon is more noticeable than the wish of every sort of an American to be here. I sometimes wonder whether the really well-balanced American does. Most of them are of the overwrought and excitable kinds.
A conservative lady, quite conscientious, was taken down to dinner by Winston Churchill. Said she, to be quite frank and fair: "Mr. Churchill, I must tell you that I don't like your politics. Yet we must get on together. You may say, if you like, that this is merely a matter of personal taste with me, as I might not like your---well, your moustache." "I see no reason, Madam, why you should come in contact with either."
My talk with Bonar Law: He was disposed to believe that if England had declared at once that she would go to war with Germany if France was attacked, there would have been no war. Well, would English opinion, before Belgium was attacked, have supported a government which made such a declaration?
Mr. Bonar Law thinks that President Wilson ought to have protested about Belgium.
He didn't agree with me that much good human material goes to waste in this Kingdom for lack of opportunity. (That's the Conservative in him.)
Friday, April 30, 1915.
Sir Edward Grey came to tea to talk with Mr. House and me---little talk of the main subject (peace), which is not yet ripe by a great deal. Sir Edward said the Germans had poisoned wells in South Africa. They have lately used deadly gases in France. The key to their mind says Sir Edward, is this---they attribute to other folk what they are thinking of doing themselves.
While Sir Edward was here John Sargent came in and brought Katharine the charcoal portrait of her that he had made---his present to her for her and Chud to give to W. A. W. P.<refMrs. Page.</ref> and me. A very graceful and beautiful thing for him to do.
April 30, 1915.
Concerning Peace: The German civil authorities want peace and so does one faction of the military party. But how can they save their face? They have made their people believe that they are at once the persecuted and the victorious. If they stop, how can they explain their stopping? The people might rend them. The ingenious loophole discovered by House is mere moonshine, viz., the freedom of the seas in war. That is a one-sided proposition unless they couple with it the freedom of the land in war also, which is nonsense. Nothing can be done, then, until some unfavourable military event brings a new mind to the Germans. Peace talk, therefore, is yet mere moonshine. House has been to Berlin, from London, thence to Paris, then back to London again---from Nowhere (as far as peace is concerned) to Nowhere again.
May 3, 1915.
Why doesn't the President make himself more accessible? Dismiss X and get a bigger man? Take his cabinet members really into his confidence? Everybody who comes here makes these complaints of him!
We dined to-night at Vs. Professor M. was there, etc. He says we've got to have polygamy in Europe after the war to keep the race up.
Friday, May 21, 1915.
Last night the Italian Parliament voted to give the Government war-powers; and this means immediate war on the side of the Allies. There are now eight nation fighting against Germany, Austria, and Turkey; viz., Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro. And it looks much as if the United States will be forced in by Germany.
The British Government is wrestling with a very grave internal disruption---to make a Coalition Government. The only portfolios that seem absolutely secure are the Prime Minister's and the Foreign Secretary's (Sir Edward Grey's)---for which latter, many thanks. The two-fold trouble is---(1) a difference between Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty) and Lord Fisher---about the Dardanelles campaign and (I dare say) other things, and (2) Lord Kitchener's failure to secure ammunition---"to organize the industries of the Kingdom." Some even declare K. of K. (they now say Kitchener of Kaos) is a general colossal failure. But the prevailing opinion is that his raising of the new army has been good work but that he has failed with the task of procuring munitions. As for Churchill, he's too restless and erratic and dictatorial and fussy and he runs about too much. I talked with him at dinner last night at his mother's. He slips far down in his chair and swears and be-dams and by-Gods his assertions. But his energy does interest one. An impromptu meeting in the Stock Exchange to-day voted confidence in K. of K. and burned up a copy of the Daily Mail, which this morning had a severe editorial about him.
Washington, having sent a severe note to Germany, is now upbraided for not sending another to England, to match and pair it. That's largely German influence, but also the Chicago packers and the cotton men. These latter have easy grievances, like the Irish. The delays of the British Government are exasperating, but they are really not so bad now I as they have been. Still, the President can be influenced by the criticism that he must hit one side every time he hits the other, else he's not neutral! I am working by every device to help the situation and to prevent another note. I proposed to-day to Sir Edward Grey that his Government make an immediate advance payment on the cotton that it proposes to buy.
Unless Joffre be a man of genius---of which there are some indications---and unless French also possibly have some claim to this distinction and perhaps the Grand Duke Nikolas, there doesn't yet seem to be a great man brought forth by the war. In civil life, Sir Edward Grey comes to a high measure. As we yet see it from this English corner of the world, no other statesman now ranks with him.
March 20, 1916.
I am sure I have the best secret service that could be got by any neutral. I am often amazed at its efficiency. It is good because it is not a secret---certainly not a spy service at all. It is all above-board and it is all done by men of high honour and good character---I mean the Embassy staff. Counting the attachés there are about twenty good men, every one of whom moves in a somewhat different circle from any other one. Every one cultivates his group of English folk, in and out of official life, and his group in the diplomatic corps. There isn't a week but every man of them sees his particular sources of information---at their offices, at the Embassy, at luncheon, at dinner, at the clubs---everywhere. We all take every possible occasion to serve our friends and they serve us. The result is, I verily believe, that we hear more than any other group in London. These young fellows are all keen as razors. They know when to be silent, too; and they are trusted as they deserve to be. Of course I see them, singly or in pairs, every day in the regular conduct of the work of the Embassy; and once a week we all meet together and go over everything that properly comes before so large a "cabinet" meeting. Thus some of us are on confidential terms with somebody in every department of the Government, with somebody in every other Embassy and Legation, with all the newspapers and correspondents---even with the censors. And the wives of those that are married are abler than their husbands. They are most attractive young women---welcome everywhere---and indefatigable. Mrs. Page has them spend one afternoon a week with her, rolling bandages; and that regular meeting always yields something else. They come to my house Thursday afternoons, too, when people always drop in to tea---visitors from other countries, resident Americans, English---everybody---sometimes one hundred.
Nobody in this company is a "Spy "---God forbid!I I know no more honourable or attractive group of ladies and gentlemen. Yet can conceive of no organization of spies who could find out as many things. And the loyalty of them all! Somebody now and then prefaces a revelation with the declaration, "This is in strict confidence---absolutely nobody is to hear it." The answer is--- "Yes, only, you know, I have no secrets from the Ambassador: no member of his staff can ever have."----Of course, we get some fun along with our tragedies. If I can find time, for instance, I am going to write out for House's amusement a verbatim report of every conversation that he held in London. It has all come to me---from what he said to the King down; and it all tallies with what House himself told me. He went over it all himself to me the other day at luncheon.---I not only believe---I am sure---that in this way I do get a correct judgment of public feeling and public opinion, from Cabinet Ministers to stock-brokers.
December 11, 1916.
The new Government is quite as friendly to us in its intentions as the old, and much more energetic. The old Government was a spent force. Mr. Balfour is an agreeable man to deal with, with a will to keep our sympathy, unless the dire need of ships forces him to unpleasantness. The Prime Minister is---American in his ways. Lord Robert has the old Cecil in him, and he's going to maintain the blockade at any cost that he can justify to himself and to public opinion, and the public opinion is with him, They are all eager to have American approval---much more eager, I think, than a large section of public opinion, which has almost ceased to care what Americans think or do. The more we talk about peace, the more they think about war. There is no vindictiveness in the English. They do not care to do hurt to the German people: they regard them as misguided and misled. But no power on earth can stop the British till the German military caste is broken---that leadership which attacked Belgium and France and would destroy England. Balfour, Lloyd George, the people, the army and the navy are at one in this matter, every labouring man, everybody, except a little handful of Quakers and professors and Noel Buxton. I think I know and see all the peace men. They feel that they can talk to me with safety. They send me their pamphlets and documents. I think that all of them have now become warlike but three, and one of them is a woman. If you meet a woman you know on the street and express a sympathy on the loss of her second son, she will say to you, "Yes, he died in defence of his country. My third son will go next week. They all die to save us." Doubtless she sheds tears in private. But her eyes are dry in public. She has discarded her luxuries to put money in the war loan. Say "Peace" to her? She would insult you.
May 10, 1917.
We dined at Lambeth Palace. There was Lord Morley, whom I had not seen since his long illness---much reduced in flesh, and quite feeble and old-looking. But his mind and speech were most alert. He spoke of Cobden favouring the Confederate States because the constitution of the Confederacy provided for free trade. But one day Bright informed Cobden that he was making the mistake of his life. Thereafter Cobden came over to the Union side. This, Morley heard direct from Bright.
The Archbishop spoke in high praise of Charnwood's Lincoln---was surprised at its excellence, etc.
Geoffrey Robinson asked who wrote the Quarterly articles in favour of the Confederacy all through the war ---was it Lord Salisbury? Nobody knew.
The widow of the former Archbishop Benson was there ---the mother of all the Bensons, Hugh, A. C., etc., etc.---a remarkable old lady, who talked much in admiration of Balfour.
The Bishop of----Winchester(?)---was curious to know whether the people in the United States really understood the Irish question---the two-nation, two-religion aspect of the case. I had to say no!
There is an orphan asylum founded by some preceding Archbishop, by the sea. The danger of bombardment raised the question of safety. The Archbishop ordered all the children (40) to be sent to Lambeth Palace. We dined in a small dining room: "The children, " Mrs. Davidson explained, "have the big dining room." Each child has a lady as patroness or protector who "adopts" her, i.e., sees that she is looked after, etc. Some of the ladies who now do this were themselves orphans!
At prayers as usual at 10 o'clock in the chapel where prayers have been held every night---for how many centuries?
At lunch to-day at Mr. Asquith's---Lord Lansdowne there; took much interest in the Knapp farm work while I briefly explained.
Lord Morley said to Mrs. Page he had become almost a Tolstoyan---Human progress hasn't done much for mankind's happiness, etc. Look at the war---by a "progressive" nation. Now the mistake here is born of a class society, a society that rests on privilege. "Progress, " has done everything (1) in liberating men's minds and spirits in the United States. This is the real gain; (2) in arraying all the world against Germany.
Tuesday, January 22, 1918.
Some days bring a bunch of interesting things or men. Then there sometimes come relatively dull days---not often, however. To-day came:
General Tasker H. Bliss, Chief-of-Staff, now 64---the wisest (so I judge) of our military men, a rather wonderful old chap. He's on his way to Paris as a member of the Supreme War Council at Versailles. The big question he has struck is: Shall American troops be put into the British and French lines, in small groups, to fill up the gaps in those armies? The British have persuaded him that it is a military necessity. If it were less than a necessity, it would, of course, be wrong---i.e., it would cut across our national pride, force our men under another flag, etc. It is not proposed to deprive Pershing of his command nor even of his army. The plan is to bring over troops that would not otherwise now come and to lend these to the British and French armies, and to let Pershing go on with his army as if this hadn't been done. Bliss is inclined to grant this request on condition the British bring these men over, equip and feed them, etc. He came in to ask me to send a telegram for him to-morrow to the President, making this recommendation. But on reflection he decided to wait till he had seen and heard the French also, who desire the same thing as the British.
General Bliss is staying with Major Warburton; and Warburton gave me some interesting glimpses of him. A telegram came for the General. Warburton thought that he was out of the house and he decided to take it himself to the General's room. He opened the door. There sat the General by the fire talking to himself, wrapped in thought. Warburton walked to the middle of the room. The old man didn't see him. He decided not to disturb him, for he was rehearsing what he proposed to say to the Secretary of State for War or to the Prime Minister---getting his ears as well as his mind used to it. Warburton put the telegram on the table near the General, went out, and wasn't discovered.
Several nights, he sat by the fire with Warburton and began to talk, again rehearsing to himself some important conclusions that he had reached. Every once in a while he'd look up at Warburton and say: "Now, what do you think of that?"
That's an amazing good way to get your thought clear and your plans well laid out. I've done it myself.
I went home and Kipling and Carrie were at lunch with us. Kipling said: "I'll tell you, your coming into the war made a new earth for me." He is on a committee to see that British graves are properly marked and he talked much about it. I could not help thinking that in the back of his mind there was all the time thought of his own dead boy, John.
Then in the afternoon Major Drain brought the copy of a contract between the United States Government and the British to build together 1500 tanks ($7,500,000). We took it to the Foreign Office and Mr. Balfour and I signed it. Drain thinks that the tanks are capable of much development and he wishes our army after the war to keep on studying and experimenting with and improving such machines of destruction. Nobody knows what may come of it.
Then I dined at W. W. Astor's (Jr.) There were Balfour, Lord Salisbury, General and Lady Robertson, Mrs. Lyttleton and Philip Kerr.
During the afternoon Captain Amundsen, Arctic explorer came in, on his way from Norway to France as the guest of our Government, whereafter he will go to the United States and talk to Scandinavian people there.
That's a pretty good kind of a full day.
April, 19, 1918.
Bell, and Mrs. Bell during the air raid took their little girl (Evangeline, aged three) to the cellar. They told her they went to the cellar to hear the big fire crackers. After a bomb fell that shook all Chelsea, Evangeline clapped her hands in glee. "Oh, mummy, what a big fire cracker!"
- ↑ Colonel (now Major General) George O. Squier, Military Attaché at the American Embassy.
- ↑ The wedding of Mr. Page's daughter at the Chapel Royal.
- ↑ Editor of the London Times.
- ↑ Mrs. Kipling.
- ↑ Mr. Edward Bell, Second Secretary of the American Embassy.
WWI Document Archive > Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences > Walter H. Page > APPENDIX