H. Page, at the time of America's entry into the war, April,
passed by the two Houses of Parliament, April 18, 1917, on America's
entry into the war</TD>
But Page had little time for such vain communings.
"All that water," as he now wrote, "has flowed
over the dam." Occasionally his mind would revert to the
dreadful period of "neutrality," but in the main his
activities, mental and physical, were devoted to the future. A
letter addressed to his son Arthur shows how quickly and how sympathetically
he was adjusting himself to the new prospect. His mind was now
occupied with ships, food, armies, warfare on submarines, and
the approaching resettlement of the world. How completely he foresaw
the part that the United States must play in the actual waging
of hostilities, and to what an extent he himself was responsible
for the policies that ultimately prevailed, appears in this letter:
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To Arthur W. Page
25 March, 1917, London.
It's very hard, not to say impossible, to write in these swiftly
moving days. Anything written to-day is out of date to-morrow---even
if it be not wrong to start with. The impression becomes stronger
here every day that we shall go into the war "with both
feet"---that the people have pushed the President over in
spite of his vision of the Great Peacemaker, and that, being
pushed over, his idea now will be to show how he led them into
a glorious war in defense of democracy. That's my reading of
the situation, and I hope I am not wrong. At any rate, ever since
the call of Congress for April 2nd, I have been telegraphing
tons of information and plans that can be of use only if we go
to war. Habitually they never acknowledge the receipt of anything
at Washington. I don't know, therefore, whether they like these
pieces of information or not. I have my staff of twenty-five
good men getting all sorts of warlike information; and I have
just organized twenty-five or thirty more---the best business
Americans in London---who are also at work. I am trying to get
the Government at Washington to send over a committee of conference---a
General, an Admiral, a Reserve Board man, etc., etc. If they
do half the things that I recommend we'll be in at the final
lickin' big, and will save our souls yet.
There's lots of human nature in this world. A note is now
sometimes heard here in undertone (Northcliffe strikes it)---that
they don't want the Americans in the war. This means that if
we come in just as the Allies finish the job we'll get credit,
in part, for the victory, which we did little to win! But that's
a minor note. The great mass of people do want us in, quick,
hard, and strong---our money and our guns and our ships.
A gift of a billion dollars(<A NAME="n165"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#165">165</A>)
to France will fix Franco-American history all right for several
centuries. Push it through. Such a gift could come to this Kingdom
also but for the British stupidity about the Irish for three
hundred years. A big loan to Great Britain at a low rate of interest
will do the work here.
My mind keeps constantly on the effect of the war and especially
of our action on our own country. Of course that is the most
important end of the thing for us. I hope that
1. It will break up and tear away our isolation;
2. It will unhorse our cranks and soft-brains.
3. It will make us less promiscuously hospitable to every
kind of immigrant;
4. It will reestablish in our minds and conscience and policy
our true historic genesis, background, kindred, and destiny---i.
e., kill the Irish and the German influence.
5. It will revive our real manhood---put the mollycoddles
in disgrace, as idiots and dandies are;
6. It will make our politics frank and manly by restoring
our true nationality;
7. It will make us again a great sea-faring people. It is
this that has given Great Britain its long lead in the world;
8. Break up our feminized education---make a boy a vigorous
animal and make our education rest on a wholesome physical basis;
9. Bring men of a higher type into our political life.
We need waking up and shaking up and invigorating as much
as the Germans need taking down.
There is no danger of "militarism" in any harmful
sense among any English race or in any democracy.
By George! all these things open an interesting outlook and
series of tasks---don't they?
My staff and I are asking everybody what the Americans can
best do to help the cause along. The views are not startling,
but they are interesting.
Jellicoe: More ships, merchant ships, any kind of ships,
and take over the patrol of the American side of the Atlantic
and release the British cruisers there.
Balfour: American credits in the United States, big
enough to keep up the rate of exchange.
Bonar Law: Same thing.
The military men: An expeditionary force, no matter
how small, for the effect of the American Flag in Europe., If
one regiment marched through London and Paris and took the Flag
to the front, that would be worth the winning of a battle.
Think of the vast increase of territory and power Great Britain
will have---her colonies drawn closer than ever, the German colonies,
or most of them, taken over by her, Bagdad hers---what a way
Germany chose to lessen the British Empire! And these gains of
territory will be made, as most of her gains have been, not by
any prearranged, set plan, but as by-products of action for some
other purpose. The only people who have made a deliberate plan
to conquer the earth---now living---are the Germans. And from
first to last the additions to the British Empire have been made
because she has been a first-class maritime power.
And that's the way she has made her trade and her money, too.
On top of this the President speculates about the danger of
the white man losing his supremacy because a few million men
get killed! The truth is every country that is playing a big
part in the war was overpopulated. There will be a considerable
productive loss because the killed men were, as a rule, the best
men; but the white man's control of the world hasn't depended
on any few million of males. This speculation is far up in the
clouds. If Russia and Germany really be liberated from social
and political and industrial autocracy, this liberation will
bring into play far more power than all the men killed in the
war could have had under the pre-war régime. I observe
this with every year of my observation---there's no substitute
The big results of the war will, after all, be the freedom
and the stimulation of men in these weary Old-World lands---in
Russia, Germany itself, and in England. In five or ten years
(or sooner, alas!) the dead will be forgotten.
If you wish to make a picture of the world as it will be when
the war ends, you must conjure up such scenes as these---human
bones along the Russian highways where the great retreat took
place and all that such a sight denotes; Poland literally starved;
Serbia, blasted and burned and starved; Armenia butchered; the
horrible tragedy of Gallipoli, where the best soldiers in the
world were sacrificed to politicians' policies; Austria and Germany
starved and whipped but liberalized---perhaps no king in either
country; Belgium---belgiumized; northern France the same and
worse; more productive Frenchmen killed in proportion to the
population perhaps than any other country will have lost; Great
Britain---most of her best men gone or maimed; colossal debts;
several Teutonic countries bankrupt; every atrocity conceivable
committed somewhere---a hell-swept great continent having endured
more suffering in three years than in the preceding three hundred.
Then, ten years later, most of this suffering a mere memory;
governments reorganized and liberalized; men made more efficient
by this strenuous three years' work; the fields got back their
bloom, and life going on much as it did before---with this chief
difference---some kings have gone and many privileges have been
abolished. The lessons are two---(1) that no government can successfully
set out and conquer the world; and (2) that the hold that privilege
holders acquire costs more to dislodge than any one could ever
have guessed. That's the sum of it. Kings and privilege mongers,
of course, have held the parts of the world separate from one
another. They fatten on provincialism, which is mistaken for
patriotism.. As they lose their grip, human sympathy has its
natural play between nations, and civilization has a chance.
With any Emperor of Germany left the war will have been half
If we (the U. S. A.) cultivate the manly qualities and throw
off our cranks and read our own history and be true to our traditions
and blood and get some political vigour; then if we emancipate
ourselves from the isolation theory and from the landlubber theory---get
into the world and build ships, ships, ships, ships, and run
them to the ends of the seas, we can dominate the world in trade
and in political thought.
You know I have moments when it occurs to me that perhaps
I'd better give whatever working years I may have to telling
this story---the story of the larger meaning of the war. There's
no bigger theme---never was one so big.
W. H. P.
On April 1st, the day before President Wilson made his great
address before Congress requesting that body to declare the existence
of a state of war with Germany, Page committed to paper a few
paragraphs which summed up his final judgment of President Wilson's
foreign policy for the preceding two and a half years.
he may act timidly.
Embassy of the United States of America,
April 1, 1917.
In these last days, before the United States is forced into
war---by the people's insistence---the preceding course of events
becomes even clearer than it was before; and it has been as clear
all the time as the nose on a man's face.
The President began by refusing to understand the meaning
of the war. To him it seemed a quarrel to settle economic rivalries
between Germany and England. He said to me last September(<A
NAME="n166"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#166">166</A>) that there
were many causes why Germany went to war. He showed a great degree
of toleration for Germany; and he was, during the whole morning
that I talked with him, complaining of England. The controversies
we had with England were, of course, mere by-products of the
conflict. But to him they seemed as important as the controversy
we had with Germany. In the beginning he had made---as far as
it was possible---neutrality a positive quality of mind. He would
not move from that position.
That was his first error of judgment. And by insisting on
this he soothed the people---sat them down in comfortable chairs
and said, "Now stay there." He really suppressed speech
The second error he made was in thinking that he could play
a great part as peacemaker---come and give a blessing to these
erring children. This was strong in his hopes and ambitions.
There was a condescension in this attitude that was offensive.
He shut himself up with these two ideas and engaged in what
he called "thought." The air currents of the world
never ventilated his mind.
This inactive position he has kept as long as public sentiment
permitted. He seems no longer to regard himself nor to speak
as a leader---only as the mouthpiece of public opinion after
opinion has run over him.
He has not breathed a spirit into the people: he has encouraged
them to supineness. He is not a leader, but rather a stubborn
And now events and the aroused people seem to have brought
the President to the necessary point of action; and even now
"One thing pleases me," Page wrote to his son Arthur,
I never lost faith in the American people. It is now clear that
I was right in feeling that they would have gladly come in any
time after the Lusitania crime, Middle West in the front,
and that the German hasn't made any real impression on the American
nation. He was made a bug-a-boo and worked for all he was worth
by Bernstorff; and that's the whole story. We are as Anglo-Saxon
as we ever were. If Hughes had had sense and courage enough to
say: 'I'm for war, war to save our honour and to save democracy,'
he would now be President. If Wilson had said that, Hughes would
have carried no important states in the Union. The suppressed
people would have risen to either of them. That's God's truth
as I believe it. The real United States is made up of you and
Frank and the Page boys at Aberdeen and of the 10,000,000 other
young fellows who are ready to do the job and who instinctively
see the whole truth of the situation. But of course what the people
would not have done under certain conditions---that water also
has flowed over the dam; and I mention it only because I have
resolutely kept my faith in the people and there has been nothing
in recent events that has shaken it."
Two letters which Page wrote on this same April 1st are interesting
in that they outline almost completely the war policy that was
finally carried out:
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To Frank N. Doubleday
Embassy of the United States of America,
April 1, 1917.
Here's the programme:
(1) Our navy in immediate action in whatever way a conference
with the British shows we can best help.
(2) A small expeditionary force to France immediately---as
large as we can quickly make ready, if only 10,000 men---as proof
that we are ready to do some fighting.
(3) A large expeditionary force as soon as the men can be
organized and equipped. They can be trained into an effective
army in France in about one fourth of the time that they could
be trained anywhere else.
(4) A large loan to the Allies at a low rate of interest.
(5) Ships, ships, ships---troop ships, food ships, munition
ships, auxiliary ships to the navy, wooden ships, steel ships,
little ships, big ships, ships, ships, ships without number or
(6) A clear-cut expression of the moral issue involved in
the war. Every social and political ideal that we stand for is
at stake. If we value democracy in the world, this is the chance
to further it or---to bring it into utter disrepute. After Russia
must come Germany and Austria; and then the King-business will
pretty nearly be put out of commission.
(7) We must go to war in dead earnest. We must sign the Allies'
agreement not to make a separate peace, and we must stay in to
the end. Then the end will be very greatly hastened.
It's been four years ago to-day since I was first asked to
come here. God knows I've done my poor best to save our country
and to help. It'll be four years in the middle of May since I
sailed. I shall still do my best. I'll not be able to start back
by May 15th, but I have a feeling, if we do our whole duty in
the United States, that the end may not be very many months off.
And how long off it may be may depend to a considerable degree
on our action.
We are faring very well on army rations. None of us will live
to see another time when so many big things are at stake nor
another time when our country can play so large or important
a part in saying the world. Hold up your end. I'm doing my best
I think of you engaged in the peaceful work of instructing
the people, and I think of the garden and crocuses and the smell
of early spring in the air and the earth and push on; I'll be
with you before we grow much older or get much grayer; and a
great and prosperous and peaceful time will lie before us. Pity
me and hold up your end for real American participation. Get
together? Yes; but the way to get together is to get in!
W. H. P.
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To David F. Houston(<A
Embassy of the United States of America,
April 1, 1917.
The Administration can save itself from becoming a black blot
on American history only by vigorous action---acts such as these:
Putting our navy to work---vigorous work---wherever and however
is wisest. I have received the Government's promise to send an
Admiral here at once for a conference. We must work out with
the British Navy a programme whereby we can best help; and we
must carry it without hesitancy or delay.
Sending over an expeditionary military force immediately---a
small one, but as large as we can, as an earnest of a larger
one to come. This immediate small one will have a good moral
effect; and we need all the moral reinstatement that we can get
in the estimation of the world; our moral stock is lower than,
I fear, any of you at home can possibly realize. As for a larger
expeditionary force later---even that ought to be sent quite
early. It can and must spend some time in training in France,
whatever its training beforehand may have been. All the military
men agree that soldiers in France back of the line can be trained
in at least half the time that they can be trained anywhere else.
The officers at once take their turn in the trenches, and the
progress that they and their men make in close proximity to the
fighting is one of the remarkable discoveries of the war. The
British Army was so trained and all the colonial forces. Two
or three or four hundred thousand Americans could be sent over
as soon almost as they are organized and equipped---provided
transports and a continuous supply of food and munition ships
can be got. They can be trained into fighting men---into an effective
army---in about one third of the time that would be required
I suppose, of course, we shall make at once a large loan to
the Allies at a low rate of interest. That is most important,
but that alone will not save us. We must also fight.
All the ships we can get---build, requisition, or confiscate---are
Navy, army, money, ships---these are the first things, but
by no means all. We must make some expression of a conviction
that there is a moral question of right and wrong involved in
this war---a question of humanity, a question of democracy. So
far we have (officially) spoken only of the wrongs done to our
ships and citizens. Deep wrongs have been done to all our moral
ideas, to our ideals. We have sunk very low in European opinion
because we do not seem to know even yet that a German victory
would be less desirable than (say) a Zulu victory of the world.
We must go in with the Allies, not begin a mere single fight
against submarines. We must sign the pact of London---not make
a separate peace.
We mustn't longer spin dreams about peace, nor leagues to
enforce peace, nor the Freedom of the Seas. These things are
mere intellectual diversions of minds out of contact with realities.
Every political and social ideal we have is at stake. If we make
them secure, we'll save Europe from destruction and save ourselves,
I pray for vigour and decision and clear-cut resolute action.
(1) The Navy-full strength, no "grapejuice" action.
(2) An immediate expeditionary force.
(3) A larger expeditionary force very soon.
(4) A large loan at a low interest.
(5) Ships, ships, ships.
(6) A clear-cut expression of the moral issue. Thus (and only
thus) can we swing into a new era, with a world born again.
Yours in strictest confidence,
W. H. P.
A memorandum, written on April 3rd, the day after President
Wilson advised Congress to declare a state of war with Germany:
<P ALIGN=CENTER>The Day
me earnestly. He'll think about that.
When I went to see Mr. Balfour to-day he shook my hand warmly
and said: "It's a great day for the world." And so
has everybody said, in one way or another, that I have met to-day.
The President's speech did not appear in the morning papers---only
a very brief summary in one or two of them; but the meaning of
it was clear. The fact that the House of Representatives organized
itself in one day and that the President addressed Congress on
the evening of that day told the story. The noon papers had the
President's speech in full; and everybody applauds.
My "Cabinet" meeting this morning was unusually
interesting; and the whole group has never before been so delighted.
I spoke of the suggestive, constructive work we have already
done in making reports on various war preparations and activities
of this kingdom. "Now we have greater need than ever, every
man to do constructive work---to think of plans to serve. We
are in this excellent strategical position in the capital of
the greatest belligerent---a position which I thank my stars,
the President, and all the powers that be for giving us. We can
each strive to justify our existence."
Few visitors called; but enthusiastic letters have begun to
Nearly the whole afternoon was spent with Mr. Balfour and
Lord Robert Cecil. Mr. Balfour had a long list of subjects. Could
we help in (1)---(2)---(3)?--- Every once m a while he stopped
his enumeration of subjects long enough to tell me how the action
of the United States had moved him.
To Lord Robert I said: "I pray you, give the Black List
a decent burial: It's dead now, but through no act of yours.
It insulted every American because you did not see that it was
insulting: that's the discouraging fact to me." He thanked
These jottings give only a faint impression of the change which
the American action wrought in Page. The strain which he had undergone
for twenty-nine months had been intense; it had had the most unfortunate
effect upon his health; and the sudden lifting might have produced
that reaction for the worse which is not unusual after critical
experiences of this kind. But the gratification which Page felt
in the fact that the American spirit had justified his confidence
gave him almost a certain exuberance of contentment. Londoners
who saw him at that time describe him as acting like a man from
whose shoulders a tremendous weight had suddenly been removed.
For more than two years Page had been compelled, officially at
least, to assume a "neutrality" with which he had never
had the slightest sympathy, but the necessity for this mask now
no longer existed. A well-known Englishman happened to meet Page
leaving his house in Grosvenor Square the day after the Declaration
of War. He stopped and shook the Ambassador's hand.
"Thank God," the Englishman said, "that there
is one hypocrite less in London to-day."
"What do you mean?" asked Page.
"I mean you. Pretending all this time that you were neutral!
That isn't necessary any longer."
"You are right!" the Ambassador answered as he walked
on with a laugh and a wave of the hand.
A few days after the Washington Declaration, the American Luncheon
Club held a feast in honour of the event. This organization had
a membership of representative American business men in London,
but its behaviour during the war had not been based upon Mr. Wilson's
idea of neutrality. Indeed its tables had so constantly rung with
denunciations of the Lusitania notes that all members of
the American Embassy, from Page down, had found it necessary to
refrain from attending its proceedings. When Page arose to address
his compatriots on this occasion, therefore, he began with the
significant words, "I am glad to be back with you again,"
and the mingled laughter and cheers with which this remark
was received indicated that his hearers had caught the point.
The change took place not only in Page, but in London and the
whole of Great Britain. An England that had been saying harsh
things of the United States for nearly two years now suddenly
changed its attitude. Both houses of Parliament held commemorative
sessions in honour of America's participation; in the Commons
Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Asquith, and other leaders welcomed their
new allies, and in the Upper Chamber Lord Curzon, Lord Bryce,
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others similarly voiced their
admiration. The Stars and Stripes almost instantaneously broke
out on private dwellings, shops, hotels, and theatres; street
hucksters did a thriving business selling rosettes of the American
colours, which even the most stodgy Englishmen did not disdain
to wear in their buttonholes; wherever there was a band or an
orchestra, the Star Spangled Banner acquired a sudden popularity;
and the day even came when the American and the British flags
flew side by side over the Houses of Parliament---the first occasion
in history that any other than the British standard had received
this honour. The editorial outgivings of the British press on
America's entrance form a literature all their own. The theatres
and the music halls, which had found in "notes" and
"nootrality" an endless theme of entertainment for their
patrons, now sounded Americanism as their most popular refrain.
Churches and cathedrals gave special services in honour of American
intervention, and the King and the President began to figure side
by the side in the prayer book. The estimation in which President
Wilson was held changed overnight. All the phrases that had so
grieved Englishmen were instantaneously forgotten. The President's
address before Congress was praised as one of the most eloquent
and statesmanlike utterances in history. Special editions of this
heartening document had a rapid sale; it was read in school houses,
churches, and at public gatherings, and it became a most influential
force in uplifting the hopes of the Allies and inspiring them
to renewed activities. Americans everywhere, in the streets, at
dinner tables, and in general social intercourse, could feel the
new atmosphere of respect and admiration which had suddenly become
their country's portion. The first American troops that passed
through London---a company of engineers, an especially fine body
of men---aroused a popular enthusiasm which was almost unprecedented
in a capital not celebrated for its emotional displays. Page himself
records one particularly touching indication of the feeling for
Americans which was now universal. "The increasing number
of Americans who come through England," he wrote, "most
of them on their way to France, but some of them also to serve
in England, give much pleasure to the British public---nurses,
doctors, railway engineers, sawmill units, etc. The sight of every
American uniform pleases London. The other morning a group of
American nurses gathered with the usual crowd in front of Buckingham
Palace while the Guards band played inside the gates. Man after
man as they passed them and saw their uniforms lifted their hats."
<IMG SRC="thumbnails/Page21tn.jpg" WIDTH="116"
HEIGHT="144" ALIGN="BOTTOM" BORDER="0" ></TD>
<P ALIGN=CENTER><IMG SRC="thumbnails/Page22tn.jpg" WIDTH="108"
HEIGHT="144" ALIGN="BOTTOM" BORDER="0" ></TD>
Rt. Hon. David Lloyd George. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1908
1915, Minister of Munitions, 1915-1916, Prime Minister of Great
Britain since 1916.</TD>
Rt. Hon. Arthur James Balfour (now the Earl of Balfour) Secretary
of State for Foreign Affairs, 1916-1919</TD>
The Ambassador's mail likewise underwent
a complete transformation. His correspondence of the preceding
two years, enormous in its extent, had contained much that would
have disturbed a man who could easily get excited over trifles,
but this aspect of his work never caused Page the slightest unhappiness.
Almost every crank in England who disliked the American policy
had seemed to feel it his duty to express his opinions to the
American Ambassador. These letters, at times sorrowful, at others
abusive, even occasionally threatening, varying in their style
from cultivated English to the grossest illiteracy, now written
in red ink to emphasize their bitterness, now printed in large
block letters to preserve their anonymity, aroused in Page only
a temporary amusement. But the letters that began to pour in upon
him after our Declaration, many of them from the highest placed
men and women in the Kingdom, brought out more vividly than anything
else the changed position of his country. Sonnets and verses rained
upon the Embassy, most of them pretty bad as poetry, but all of
them commendable for their admiring and friendly spirit. Of all
these letters those that came from the steadfast friends of America
perhaps gave Page the greatest satisfaction. "You will have
been pleased at the universal tribute paid to the spirit as well
as to the lofty and impressive terms of the President's speech,"
wrote Lord Bryce. "Nothing finer in our time, few things
so fine." But probably the letter which gave Page the greatest
pleasure was that which came from the statesman whose courtesy
and broad outlook had eased the Ambassador's task in the old neutrality
days. In 1916, Sir Edward Grey-now become Viscount Grey of Fallodon---had
resigned office, forced out, Page says in one of his letters,
mainly because he had refused to push the blockade to a point
where it might produce a break with the United States. He had
spent the larger part of the time since that event at his country
place in Northumberland, along the streams and the forests which
had always given him his greatest pleasure, attempting to recover
something of the health that he had lost in the ten years which
he had spent as head of the British Foreign Office and bearing
with characteristic cheerfulness and fortitude the tragedy of
a gradually failing eyesight. The American Declaration of War
now came to Lord Grey as the complete justification of his policy.
The mainspring of that policy, as already explained, had been
a determination to keep the friendship of the United States, and
so shape events that the support of this country would ultimately
be cast on the side of the Allies. And now the great occasion
for which he had prepared had come, and in Grey's mind this signified
more than a help to England in soldiers and ships; it meant bringing
together the two branches of a common race for the promotion of
<P ALIGN=CENTER>From Viscount Grey of Fallodon
Rosehall Post Office,
April 8, 1917.
DEAR MR. PAGE:
This is a line that needs no answer to express my congratulations
on President Wilson's address. I can't express adequately all
that I feel. Great gratitude and great hope are in my heart.
I hope now that some great and abiding good to the world will
yet be wrought out of all this welter of evil. Recent events
in Russia, too, stimulate this hope: they are a good in themselves,
but not the power for good in this war that a great and firmly
established free country like the United States can be. The President's
address and the way it has been followed up in your country is
a splendid instance of great action finely inspired. I glow with
GREY OF FALLODON
One Englishman who was especially touched by the action of
the United States was His Majesty the King. Few men had watched
the course of America during the war with more intelligent interest
than the head of the British royal house. Page had had many interviews
with King George at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor, and his
notes contain many appreciative remarks on the King's high character
and conscientious devotion to his duties. That Page in general
did not believe in kings and emperors as institutions his letters
reveal; yet even so profound a Republican as he recognized sterling
character, whether in a crowned head or in a humble citizen, and
he had seen enough of King George to respect him.. Moreover, the
peculiar limitations of the British monarchy certainly gave it
an unusual position and even saved it from much of the criticism
that was fairly lavished upon such nations as Germany and Austria.
Page especially admired King George's frankness in recognizing
these limitations and his readiness to accommodate himself to
the British Constitution. On most occasions, when these two men
met, their intercourse was certainly friendly or at least not
formidable. After all formalities had been exchanged, the King
would frequently draw the Ambassador aside; the two would retire
to the smoking room, and there, over their cigars, discuss a variety
of matters---submarines, international politics, the Irish question
and the like. His Majesty was not averse even to bringing up the
advantages of the democratic and the monarchical system. The King
and Ambassador would chat, as Page himself would say, like "two
human beings"; King George is an emphatic and vivacious talker,
fond of emphasizing his remarks by pounding the table; he has
the liveliest sense of humour, and enjoys nothing quite so much
as a good story. Page found that, on the subject of the Germans,
the King entertained especially robust views. "They are my
kinsmen," he would say, "but I am ashamed of them."
Probably most Englishmen, in the early days of the war, preferred
that the United States should not engage in hostilities; even
after the Lusitania, the majority in all likelihood held
this view. There are indications, however, that King George favoured
American participation. A few days after the Lusitania sinking,
Page had an audience for the purpose of presenting a medal sent
by certain societies in New Orleans. Neither man was thinking
much about medals that morning. The thoughts uppermost in their
minds, as in the minds of most Americans and Englishmen, were
the Lusitania and the action that the United States was
likely to take concerning it. After the formalities of presentation,
the King asked Page to sit down and talked with him for more than
half an hour. "He said that Germany was evidently trying
to force the United States into the war; that he had no doubt
we would soon be in it and that, for his part, he would welcome
us heartily. The King also said he had reliable information from
Germany, that the Emperor had wished to return a conciliatory
answer to our Lusitania note, but that Admiral von Tirpitz
had prevented it, even going so far as to 'threaten' the Kaiser.
It appears that the Admiral insisted that the submarine was the
only weapon the Germans could use with effect against England
and that they could not afford to give it up. He was violent and
the Kaiser finally yielded."(<A NAME="n168"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#168">168</A>)
The statement from the King at that crisis, that he would "heartily
welcome the United States into the war," was interpreted
by the Ambassador as amounting practically to an invitation---and
certainly as expressing a wish that such an intervention should
That the American participation would rejoice King George could
therefore be taken for granted. Soon after this event, the Ambassador
and Mrs. Page were invited to spend the night at Windsor.
"I arrived during the middle of the afternoon," writes
Page, "and he sent for me to talk with him in his office.
"'I've a good story on you,' said he. 'You Americans have
a queer use of the word "some," to express mere bigness
or emphasis. We are taking that use of the word from you over
here. Well, an American and an Englishman were riding in the same
railway compartment. The American read his paper diligently---all
the details of a big battle. When he got done, he put the paper
down and said:
"'Some fight!' 'And some don't!' said the Englishman.
"And the King roared. 'A good one on you!'
"'The trouble with that joke, sir,' I ventured to reply,
'is that it's out of date.'
"He was in a very gay mood, surely because of our entry
into the war. After the dinner---there were no guests except Mrs.
Page and me, the members of his household, of course, being present---he
became even familiar in the smoking room. He talked about himself
and his position as king. 'Knowing the difficulties of a limited
monarch, I thank heaven I am spared being an absolute one.'
"He went on to enumerate the large number of things he
was obliged to do, for example, to sign the death warrant of every
condemned man---and the little real power that he had---not at
all in a tone of complaint, but as a merely impersonal explanation.
"Just how much power---perhaps 'influence' is a better,
word---the King has, depends on his personality. The influence
of the throne---and of him on the throne, being a wholly thoughtful,
industrious, and conscientious man---is very great---greatest
of all in keeping the vested interests of the aristocratic social
"Earlier than this visit to Windsor he sent for me to
go to Buckingham Palace very soon after we declared war. He went
over the whole course of events---and asked me many questions.
After I had risen and said 'good-bye' and was about to bow myself
out the door, he ran toward me and waving his hand cried out,
'Ah!---Ah!---we knew where you stood all the time.'
"When General Pershing came along on his way to France,
the King summoned us to luncheon. The luncheon was eaten (here,
as everywhere, strict war rations are observed) to a flow of general
talk, with the Queen, Princess Mary, and one of the young Princes.
When they had gone from the luncheon room, the King, General Pershing,
and I stood smoking by the window; and the King at once launched
into talk about guns, rifles, ammunition, and the American place
in the battle line. Would our place be with the British or with
the French or between the two?
"General Pershing made a diplomatic reply. So far as he
knew the President hadn't yet made a final decision, but there
was a feeling that, since we were helping the British at sea,
perhaps we ought to help the French on land.
"Then the King expressed the earnest hope that our guns
and ammunition would match either the British or the French. Else
if we happened to run out of ammunition we could not borrow from
anybody. He thought it most unfortunate that the British and French
guns and rifles were of different calibres."
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To Arthur W. Page
April 28, 1917.
. . . Well, the British have given us a very good welcome
into the war. They are not very skillful at such a task: they
do not know how to say "Welcome" very vociferously.
But they have said it to the very best of their ability. My speeches
(which I send you, with some comment) were very well received
indeed. Simple and obvious as they were, they meant a good deal
I cannot conceal nor can I express my gratification that we
are in the war. I shall always wonder but never find out what
influence I had in driving the President over. All I know is
that my letters and telegrams for nearly two years---especially
for the last twelve months---have put before him every reason
that anybody has expressed why we should come in---in season
and out of season. And there is no new reason---only more reason
of the same old sort---why we should have come in now than there
was why we should have come in a year ago. I suspect that the
pressure of the press and of public opinion really became too
strong for him. And, of course, the Peace-Dream blew up---was
torpedoed, mined, shot, captured, and killed. I trust, too, much
enlightenment will be furnished by the two Commissions now in
Washington.(<A NAME="n169"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#169">169</A>)
Yet it's comical to think of the attitude of the poor old Department
last September and its attitude now. But thank God for it! Every
day now brings a confession of the blank idiocy of its former
course and its long argument! Never mind that, so long as we
are now right.
I have such a sense of relief that I almost feel that my job
is now done. Yet, I dare say, my most important work is still
The more I try to reach some sort of rational judgment about
the war, the more I find myself at sea. It does look as if the
very crisis is near. And there can be no doubt now---not even,
I hope, in the United States---about the necessity of a clear
and decisive victory, nor about punishment. All the devastation
of Northern France, which outbarbarizes barbarism, all the ships
sunk, including hospital ships, must be paid for; that's all.
There'll be famine in Europe whenever it end. Not only must these
destructions be paid for, but the Hohenzollerns and all they
stand for must go. Trust your Frenchman for that, if nobody else!
If Europe had the food wasted in the United States, it would
make the difference between sustenance and famine. By the way,
the submarine has made every nation a danger zone except those
few that have self-feeding continents, such as ours. It can bring
famine to any other kind of a country.
You are now out in the country again---good. Give Mollie my
love and help her with the garden. I envy you the fresh green
things to eat. Little Mollie, kiss her for granddaddy. The Ambassador,
I suppose, waxes even sturdier, and I'm glad to hear that A.
W. P., Jr., is picking up. Get him fed right at all costs. If
Frank stays at home and Ralph and his family come up, you'll
all have a fine summer. We've the very first hint of summer we've
had, and it's cheerful to see the sky and to feel the sunshine.
W. H. P.
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To Frank N. Doubleday
London, May 3, 1917.
I aim this at you. It may hit a German submarine. But we've
got to take our chances in these days of risk. Your letter from
the tropics---a letter from you from any place is as scarce as
peace !---gave me a pleasant thrill and reminder of a previous
state of existence, a long way back in the past. I wonder if,
on your side the ocean you are living at the rate of a century
a year, as we are here? Here in bountiful England we are living
on rations. I spent a night with the King a fortnight ago, and
he gave us only so much bread, one egg apiece, and---lemonade.
We are to begin bread tickets next week. All this is perfectly
healthful and wholesome and as much as I ever eat. But the hard
part of it is that it's necessary. We haven't more than six weeks'
food supply and the submarines sunk eighty-eight ships---237,000
tons-last week. These English do not publish these harrowing
facts, and nobody knows them but a few official people. And they
are destroying the submarines at a most beggarly slow rate. They
work far out at sea---100 to 200 miles---and it's as hard to
find them as it would be to find whales. The simple truth is
we are in a dangerous plight. If they could stop this submarine
warfare, the war would pretty quickly be won, for the Germans
are in a far worse plight for food and materials and they are
getting much the worst of it on land. The war would be won this
summer or autumn if the submarine could be put out of business.
If it isn't, the Germans may use this success to keep their spirits
up and go on till next year.
We (the United States) have about 40 destroyers. We are sending
over 6! I'm doing my best to persuade the Government at Washington
to send every one we have. But, since the British conceal the
facts from their own press and the people and from all the world,
the full pressure of the situation is hard to exert on Washington.
Our Admiral (Sims) and I are trying our best, and we are spending
enough on cables to build a destroyer. All this, you must, of
course, regard as a dark secret; but it's a devilish black secret.
I don't mean that there's any danger of losing the war. Even
if the British armies have to have their food cut down and people
here go hungry, they'll win; but the winning may be a long time
off. Nothing but their continued success can keep the Germans
going. Their people are war-weary and hungry. Austria is knocked
out and is starving. Turkey is done up but can go on living on
nothing, but not fighting much more. When peace comes, there'll
be a general famine, on the continent at least, and no ships
to haul food. This side of the world will have to start life
all over again---with insufficient men to carry things on and
innumerable maimed men who'll have (more or less) to be cared
for. The horror of the whole thing nobody realizes. We've all
got used to it here; and nobody clearly remembers just what the
world was like in peace times; those times were so far away.
All this I write not to fill you with horrors but to prove that
I speak the literal truth when I say that it seems a hundred
years since I had before heard from you.
Just how all this affects a man, no man can accurately tell.
Of how much use I'll be when I can get home, I don't know. Sometimes
I think that I shall be of vastly greater use than ever. Plans
and publishing ambitions pop up in my mind at times which look
good and promising. I see books and series of books. I see most
useful magazine stuff. Then, before I can think anything out
to a clear plan or conclusion, the ever-increasing official duties
and responsibilities here knock everything else out of my head,
perhaps for a whole month. It's a literal fact that many a month
I do not have an hour to do with as I please nor to think about
what I please, from the time I wake up till I go to bed. In spite
of twenty-four secretaries (the best fellows that ever were and
the best staff that my Embassy ever had in the world) more and
more work comes to me. I thank Heaven we no longer have the interests
of Germany, Austria, and Turkey to look after; but with our coming
into the war, work in general has increased enormously. I have
to spend very much more time with the different departments of
the British Government on war plans and such like things. They
have welcomed us in very handsomely; and one form of their welcome
is consulting with me about---navy plans, war plans, loans of
billions, ships, censorship, secret service---everything you
ever heard of. At first it seemed a little comical for the admirals
and generals and the Governor of the Bank of England to come
and ask for advice. But when I gave it and it worked out well,
I went on and, after all, the thing's easier than it looks. With
a little practice you can give these fellows several points in
the game and play a pretty good hand. They don't know half as
much as you might suppose they'd know. All these years of lecturing
the State Department and the President got my hand in! The whole
game is far easier than any small business. You always play with
blue chips better than you play with white ones.
This country and these people are not the country and the
people they were three years ago. They are very different. They
are much more democratic, far less cocksure, far less haughty,
far humbler. The man at the head of the army rose from the ranks.
The Prime Minister is a poor Welsh schoolteacher's son, without
early education. The man who controls all British shipping began
life as a shipping "clark," at ten shillings a week.
Yet the Lords and Ladies, too, have shown that they were made
of the real stuff. This experience is making England over again.
There never was a more interesting thing to watch and to be part
There are about twenty American organizations here---big,
little, rag-tag, and bobtail. When we declared war, every one
of 'em proceeded to prepare for some sort of celebration. There
would have been an epidemic of Fourth-of-July oratory all over
the town-before we'd done anything---Americans spouting over
the edges and killing Kruger with their mouths. I got representatives
of 'em all together and proposed that we hold our tongues till
we'd won the war---then we can take London. And to give one occasion
when we might all assemble and dedicate ourselves to this present
grim business, I arranged for an American Dedicatory Service
at St. Paul's Cathedral. The royal family came, the Government
came, the Allied diplomats came, my Lords and Ladies came, one
hundred wounded American (Canadian) soldiers came---the pick
of the Kingdom; my Navy and Army staff went in full uniform,
the Stars and Stripes hung before the altar, a double brass band
played the Star Spangled Banner and the Battle Hymn of the Republic,
and an American bishop (Brent) preached a red-hot American sermon,
the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered the benediction; and (for
the first time in English history) a foreign flag (the Stars
and Stripes) flew over the Houses of Parliament. It was the biggest
occasion, so they say, that St. Paul's ever had. And there's
been no spilling of American oratory since! If you had published
a shilling edition of the words and music of the Star Spangled
Banner and the Battle Hymn you could have sent a cargo of 'em
here and sold them. There isn't paper enough in this Kingdom
to get out an edition here.
Give my love to all the Doubledays and to all the fellows
in the shop, and (I wonder if you will) try your hand at another
letter. You write very legibly these days!
WALTER H. PAGE.
"Curiously enough," Page wrote about this time, "these
most exciting days of the war are among the most barren of exciting
topics for private correspondence. The 'atmosphere' here is unchanging---to
us---and the British are turning their best side to us continuously.
They are increasingly appreciative, and they see more and more
clearly that our coming into the war is all that saved them from
a virtual defeat---I mean the public sees this more and more clearly,
for, of course, the Government has known it from the beginning.
I even find a sort of morbid fear lest they do not sufficiently
show their appreciation. The Archbishop last night asked me in
an apprehensive tone whether the American Government and public
felt that the British did not sufficiently show their gratitude.
I told him that we did not come into the war to win compliments
but to whip the enemy, and that we wanted all the help the British
can give: that's the main thing; and that thereafter of course
we liked appreciation, but that expressions of appreciation had
not been lacking. Mr. Balfour and Sir Edward Carson also spoke
to me yesterday much in the same tone as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"Try to think out any line of action that one will, or
any future sequence or events or any plan touching the war, one
runs into the question whether the British are doing the best
that could be done or are merely plugging away. They are, as a
people, slow and unimaginative, given to over-much self-criticism;
but they eternally hold on to a task or to a policy. Yet the question
forever arises whether they show imagination, to say nothing of
genius, and whether the waste of a slow, plodding policy is the
necessary price of victory.
"Of course such a question is easy to ask and it is easy
to give dogmatic answers. But it isn't easy to give an answer
based on facts. Our General Lassiter,(<A NAME="n170"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#170">170</A>)
for instance---a man of sound judgment---has in general been less
hopeful of the military situation in France than most of the British
officers. But he is just now returned from the front, much cheered
and encouraged. 'Lassiter,' I asked, 'have the British in France
or has any man among them what we call genius, or even wide vision;
or are they merely plodding along at a mechanical task?' His answer
was, 'We don't see genius till it has done its job. It is a mechanical
task---yes, that's the nature of the struggle---and they surely
do it with intelligence and spirit. There is waste. There is waste
in all wars. But I come back much more encouraged.'
"The same sort of questions and answers are asked and
given continuously about naval action. Every discussion of the
possibility of attacking the German naval bases ends without a
plan. So also with preventing the submarines from coming out.
These subjects have been continuously under discussion by a long
series of men who have studied them; and the total effect so far
has been to leave them among the impossible tasks. So far as I
can ascertain all naval men among the Allies agree that these
things can't be done.
"Here again---Is this a merely routine professional opinion---a
merely traditional opinion---or is it a lack of imagination? The
question will not down. Yet it is impossible to get facts to combat
it. What are the limits of the practicable?
"Mr. Balfour told me yesterday his personal conviction
about the German colonies, which, he said, he had not discussed
with his associates in the Cabinet. His firm opinion is that they
ought not to be returned to the Germans, first for the sake of
humanity. 'The natives---the Africans especially---have been so
barbarously treated and so immorally that it would be inhuman
to permit the Germans to rule and degrade them further. But Heaven
forbid that we should still further enlarge the British Empire.
As a practical matter I do not care to do that. Besides, we should
incur the criticism of fighting in order to get more territory,
and that was not and is not our aim. If the United States will
help us, my wish is that these German Colonies that we have taken,
especially in Africa, should be "internationalized."
There are great difficulties in such a plan, but they are not
insuperable if the great Powers of the Allies will agree upon
it.' And much more to the same effect. The parts of Asiatic Turkey
that the British have taken, he thought, might be treated in the