T. BENTLEY MOTT
FRIEND OF FRANCE
THE "EUROPEAN MESS"
THE sentiment at home against taking any hand in the adjustment of Europe's troubles, which became so pronounced at the close of 1923, the bitterness of the newspapers on both sides of the water, the criticism of America and the hard words thrown at France, were a source of much unhappiness to the ambassador. Knowing the difficulties which confronted the two governments, understanding the intensity of the feelings which an eager press was exciting in both nations, loving France and cherishing America, he earnestly desired to do something which might help both sides. He felt that France, bleeding and impoverished, needed and deserved our aid; but America was his own, and while he would have preferred a more sympathetic attitude on our part, he recognized the power of the sentiment then existing at home and he knew that his government had to respect it. But one thing which he could not tolerate was the accusation that we had forgotten the war and why we entered it, deserted an old friend and turned our sympathies toward her enemy. This idea revolted him, and he took an opportunity to combat it---combat it for home consumption more than through any desire to please the French.
General Gouraud had invited him to come to the dedication of a monument to French and American soldiers who had fallen during the last great battle in Champagne, and had asked him to make an address. He accepted, determined to seize this occasion to speak his mind, though be knew it would invite criticism of him from many Americans. But as he had no instructions which could be construed as preventing it, he determined to say exactly what he thought.
"We are here to-day," he began, "to lay the corner stone of a monument which will be raised in honor of the men who fought during weary years in this region and who finally triumphed---Americans as well as Frenchmen. The deeds of these soldiers will best be told by their leader and fellow-sufferer in the long and bitter struggle; but it seems to me fitting that we others who incurred no danger and yet who profit by the sacrifice of these dead men should ask ourselves, as we stand upon their battlefield: have we faithfully executed the trust which they have handed on to us?
"Many thousands of Americans fought around this front: two millions of them arrived in France eager to fight, ready to die. What brought them? How did they come to be here?
"We declared that we went to war because Germany had created an intolerable situation in the world---intolerable for us as well as for France, England, Belgium, and Italy, as intolerable morally as it promised to be materially; and victory on her part threatened not only our self-respect but our commercial and physical welfare. Like the intelligent and courageous people I believe we are, we acted while yet there was time, jumped into the fray, and helped to bring the hateful business to a successful conclusion.
"The situation in Europe this minute concerns America as profoundly---though far less tragically---as did the condition of affairs from 1914 to 1917. Our continued well-being depends largely upon the settlement of Europe's affairs, and calls for the exercise on our part of that same common sense and business judgment which decided our government in 1917 to give full play to the shocked morality of our people and the longing for self-sacrificing action which burned in their hearts.
"If we are to stand aloof from what many call this 'European mess,' when it is apparent that the balance cannot be redressed without our help, then why did we come into the war in 1917? Were we mistaken then? Were the government and people wrong in their almost unanimous decision to act? I answer, No! No such disgraceful verdict upon this case will ever be rendered by the American people. We have put our hands to the plow and we are willing to run the furrow through, for we now know that if the present problem is not solved, and justly and quickly solved, then truly America will have fought the war in vain and the victors will continue to suffer no less than the vanquished.
"This whole question rises far and away above the clamor and strife of partisan politics, and whosoever seeks to use it for political advantage sullies the memory of the dead we have come here to honor."
Mr. Herrick had just returned from a summer spent at home, he knew what was being said there, and it took rare courage for a statesman and diplomat to fling these bold words at a country which seemed decided that "the mess" in which Europe found herself was none of our concern. Some of the American papers announced that the State Department had disavowed the ambassador, some that his recall was imminent. There was no disavowal and he was not recalled. The clamor, of course, reached him, and while he would have preferred a chorus of approval to these indications of dissent, he was entirely unperturbed. He had said what he thought ought to be said, and he was glad it had reached the American public. For that was his purpose.
The editor of the Christian Science Monitor took up the cudgels most effectively for Mr. Herrick during the storm aroused by this speech, and two years afterward, when he asked for a message about Ohio, the ambassador sent Mr. Carr a letter from which I take the following extracts:
"It is difficult on my holiday to write as you suggest, on 'What Ohio means to me.' I am trying to make Ohio mean to me a summer holiday. I haven't the temerity to attempt to send you a really serious article for I well know that your readers are fed on better stuff than I can, in the circumstances, turn out. However, I feel such a sense of gratitude toward the Monitor that I am inclined, notwithstanding, to try to fill your order.
"Some two years ago, I spoke at the dedication of a monument erected in honor of the American soldiers who fought around Rheims. There were some eighteen hundred, as I recollect. It was coincident with a statement made by an American in Europe that: 'We are well out of this European mess. We have no part in it.' This prompted me to ask: 'Then why are these young Americans buried here on the Champagne battlefields if we have no part in the rehabilitation of this broken world?' I answered: 'They were sent here by the American people, and our obligation did not cease with the Armistice. We have put our hand to the plow and we are willing to follow the furrow through.' To my surprise, this unimportant speech of mine created some hot protests throughout the United States. It was then that the Monitor, in most powerful editorials, defended my contention and awakened a general discussion which I believe has proved helpful."
FRANCE'S DEBTS AND HER SECURITY
MR. HERRICK'S sentiments regarding France's debt to the United States might be stated in this way: As an individual he wanted to see the question treated with that generosity which he had always shown in his personal dealings with people who owed him money; as a business man he considered that it was to our own interest to fix the amount at a figure which France could pay; as a politician he recognized that any President who went too far in cutting down this sum would have a most difficult time and would probably invite disaster to his party; as a diplomat he stoutly defended, both officially and in private conversations, the attitude taken by his government.
Like almost everybody else, he felt that the question of debts between Allies ought to have been settled at the Peace Conference. Inextricable difficulties had resulted from leaving it to future discussion by parliaments and the press, thus opening the door for the play of partisan politics and appeals to ignorant prejudice. The matter was difficult enough without these complications. Once he put it this way: "If a number of men accustomed to deal with the daily business problems of debtor, creditor, and reorganization could have assembled around the same table, this affair could have been arranged in no time. Probably everybody would have found the settlement unsatisfactory at first, but it would have been a settlement, and we would have gained eight or ten years. By now the whole unhappy business would have been forgotten.
Above all, as far as America is concerned, the assertion that we were hard creditors would not have been so often repeated as to fix that idea in the minds of a vast number of other people besides Frenchmen. This has injured our moral authority in Europe most unfortunately and unjustly. We are every bit as good people now as we were ten years ago when everybody was proclaiming our virtues; but they don't talk about us that way as much as they used to, and it hurts. I am sorry, but it isn't all our fault.
"That we do not deserve these accusations of being hard-fisted is apparent to any man who takes the trouble to examine the facts and has the business capacity to comprehend them. Bankers the world over understand them and some newspaper writers do. Witness the leading article in Le Temps of July 18, 1926. But most politicians and most newspapers treat the question from the point of view of their own interests, and unfortunately what they say attracts more attention than do dull columns of figures.
"I studied the question for myself in 1926. Some of my conclusions I felt at that time would be unfortunate for France if spread abroad in America, for they show most clearly to my mind that in effect we are only asking France to pay us the sums we loaned her since hostilities ended. All the money our government raised for our own needs and to lend to the Allies during and after the war has got to be paid by our own people, and nobody is going to wipe out a dollar of their obligation. They may be rich and able to stand it, but that in no way makes it their duty to do so or justifies the accusation that we are exacting his last penny from an impoverished friend for money spent to win the war. As a banking proposition, we are only asking to be paid back, roughly, the equivalent of the sum we advanced France after the war, to enable her to buy food, cotton, copper, steel, tobacco, and other raw materials for her factories, plus the amount represented by the war stocks she wanted and we sold her.
"I will give you two figures as an indication that what I say is a fair statement. Of the total debt of four billion dollars as settled in the Mellon-Béranger agreement, France owes us 1,655 millions for money loaned her after the war closed. The. present value of the settlement at the interest rate agreed upon is 1,681 millions. Therefore, it is evident that, as a cold financial fact, the Mellon-Béranger agreement requires France to pay only the equivalent of what she received from us, in money or war stocks, after the war ended."
In 1925 Mr. Herrick advised that negotiations for the debt settlement be reopened, even though there seemed small hope of coming to an agreement at that time, "because, first, it would tend to prevent the French people from thinking we were Shylocks, and second, because it would prevent the impression from becoming fixed in America that France intends to repudiate her debt. If matters are allowed to drift, I fear, on the one hand, that our moral authority in Europe will become damaged, and on the other, that public opinion at home will become harder in regard to France." It was these considerations which induced him to try to pave the way for an invitation from France for our debt-funding commission to send representatives to that country for the purpose of examining her financial situation.
As to France's security from future attack by Germany, Mr. Herrick often said he believed it not only something to which she had a right but that it was a matter in which we had a material interest and a moral obligation.
"A sufficiently strong France is necessary to a balanced Europe and a world of peace. I was here when Germany summoned Belgium to allow her to pass and when she invaded that helpless little country. I was here when the first rumblings of the coming storm were heard; I know of my own personal knowledge that France no more started the war than America did; I was not only an eye-witness of events that occurred but a well-placed observer of both popular and official sentiment; I saw that France was not ready for the war, was surprised by the war, and was afraid of the war. Her whole political system made aggressive war an impossibility for her, and nothing but invasion could cause her to fight."
He never got over these first vivid impressions, and they were fortified by what he saw and learned from 1921 to 1929. He has talked to me by the hour about these things and what I set down is a condensed but faithful expression of what he has told me. He used to laugh about being called a sentimentalist. "Thank God, I have got my share of sentiment," he would say, "especially about right and wrong, honesty and dishonesty. I had a hard youth, and during a long business career I was all the time struggling with the practical things of life; if being sentimental carried me through, and brought me such successes as have come to me, maybe sentimentalism has its practical value after all.
"My affection for France has been naturally increased by the friendliness of everybody here toward me. It is pleasant being a sort of adopted hero. But I think I adopted them before they adopted me. Except for the war, I would not feel toward France as I do, and Frenchmen would not feel toward me as I think they do. The war did it. Germany's decision to take forcibly what did not belong to her, her ruthlessness in carrying out her plans, the methods she pursued, not only in France and Belgium but in our own country, outraged me as a man and as a diplomat. I did not wait till 1917 to decide that we ought to oppose her with something more than words; and until we went into the fight I suffered intensely. The repetition of what happened in 1914 should be made impossible forever.
"France is still fearful of German aggression, seriously and pitifully so, and I would like to see her, through her own efforts combined with those of her friends, relieved of this nightmare. We refused to guarantee her by treaty against this danger and I think we were right; just as I think Mr. Wilson made a mistake in promising it. But if any other way could be found to give her easement I would like to see the United States do their share. There may be some sentiment in this attitude, but there is business sense in it also. France is not and never can be our rival in any problem that much concerns us. She is one of the assets of civilization. Her disappearance or weakening would be a calamity to us in many ways. Why should we not see this in time?
"I know of course that the war is long over, that we are at peace with Germany and that it is a good thing not to revive old quarrels. But the fact remains that we fought Germany after contemplating her crimes and accepting her insults during two long, ignominious years. That was time enough in which to form an opinion. We did not fight France, or ever have the smallest reason for doing so. That makes a difference, I think."
Another time he expressed this idea: "The Germans carefully planned the invasion of France through Belgium, chose their own moment and started the war. It was chiefly through our decision to stop her that she failed. Now, if the German people, after they gained their freedom from the military despotism which ruled them (and which as a matter of fact we effected for them), had ever expressed regret for the bad faith and useless cruelties of their old government, had clearly shown their desire to make amends for a course they disapproved of, I would be the first to say let by-gones be by-gones, and I would urge the French to wipe off the slate and make a fresh start. But how can any sensible man do this in the face of the German people's attitude under the new liberty of their republic and during eight long years? I do not see how France can disarm until the Germans have shown that they disapprove of what the military autocracy did in 1914 and that they have no intention of allowing its repetition."
Then he added, "What a pity it all is! How lacking in common sense as well as vision the Germans have shown themselves to be! Just imagine what a difference it would have made, not only for France but for everybody, if they had come right out for the full and faithful execution of the Treaty, frankly disarmed and shown a willingness to pay for the destruction they had wrought! The sympathy and respect of the whole world would have been with them, and if France had tried to squeeze them, she would have been the one to suffer. What have all these years of trying to escape from the obligations of the Treaty brought them? Chiefly a feeling of grave suspicion on the part of us all, a fear that if Germany is allowed to get all her strength back she will try to use it as she did in 1914. I believe that this thought exists in the minds of British and American statesmen just as it haunts the French; only we are far away and France is next door. I think Germany ought to be big enough to feel sorry and to show it. When that time comes all Europe can disarm down to bed-rock necessities, and America also."'
HE ANSWERS CRITICISM OF AMERICA
IF MR. HERRICK was willing to take a risk in saying what went counter to prevailing public sentiment and official fears at home, he was also ready to read a lesson to his friends in France when he thought they needed it. There is no doubt whatever that he enjoyed being popular. He liked the French and it was delightful to him to find himself surrounded by their affection. His warm heart responded to this universal sentiment, whose sincerity no one has ever questioned. His name, and to a great extent his face, was known in every village and his arrival was often the occasion for some little scene of grateful remembrance. Even in Corsica in 1928, when we went into a curio shop in Ajaccio, the old proprietor guessed who he was, and almost fell on his knees to him when I said, "Yes, he is Monsieur Meeron 'Errick."
During all the winter of 1925 an acrimonious discussion of our attitude toward the debts had gone on and in the spring of 1926 it seemed to have reached a climax. The word "Shylock" was on every page and the abuse reached a point which seriously concerned the ambassador. He bad been asked to go to St. Nazaire to inaugurate a monument commemorating the landing of the first American troops in France. He decided that the time was a good one to recall to Frenchmen a few things they appeared to have forgotten. After relating the history of the monument, the work of Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, be paid this tribute to our men:
"With a great artist's insight, she has here depicted the American soldier borne on the powerful wings of a nation's changeless purpose, landing sword in hand upon these shores of France. There is religion in his attitude as well as warlike prowess. He looks---as later on he proved himself---fearless, confident, and kind. What his coming meant to friend and foe, history has amply related. No flaw has ever been discovered by the most malignant in the purpose which brought him or his conduct on arrival. He was matched against a mighty foe and proved himself his equal; he served beside the most gallant and they gave him their constant admiration."
He then went on to answer the criticism of our country which at that moment was at its height:
"A few years ago we were hailed throughout Europe as leaders in the realm of idealism, pioneers in its application to world affairs; we have lately been proclaimed as materialists whose influence in the family of nations rests upon our financial power. But I often ask myself, I ask you now, if the last statement be true have we thereby forfeited all claims upon the other? I think not. The essential characteristics of a vigorous nation untouched by any catastrophe do not so quickly change. If we were rash idealists in 1917, have we lost that attribute to-day? If rank materialists now, is it possible that a few years of praise from without and prosperity within have been able to effect this harsh reversal of our character? I find these exaggerations repulsive intellectually and harmful practically.
"As a nation we have always been introspective, constantly critical of our own faults, eager to know the judgments of others, keenly sensitive to praise or blame. There are people who have taken advantage of these peculiarities of our psychology to sow doubt in our own as well as in others' minds regarding our intentions when we entered the war. Reversing all history and starting with the assumption that we are forever solely animated by a careful regard for our pocketbooks, they would make it appear that not only now but ten years ago material considerations were the determining factor in the decisions which we took at that time. Every American should take pains to scotch this lie. The American's capacity for willing self-sacrifice in any cause he holds dear was not suddenly born in 1917; it has been his dominant characteristic for at least two hundred years. It is as much alive in our people to-day as it was when we declared war, and we all know full well that during the three horrible years which preceded that date it was neither dead nor sleeping.
"Very soon after the great European struggle commenced our people began to comprehend what was happening on this side of the water. Through the blaze of passion and the clouds of deception, the every-day American soon perceived what was at stake upon the battlefields of France; he saw that human liberty and elementary justice were hanging in the balance, and from the very start he had but one fixed idea and that was to take off his coat in his good own homely, fashion and enjoy the satisfaction of striking a blow in defense of common decency. That he would also be coming to the rescue of an old and valued friend added the force of gratitude to indignation. Whether it was to his personal interest or not he little cared; whether his country would be weakened or fortified by it, he bothered not to consider; a fight was on that stirred every fine instinct inherited from his sturdy ancestors, and all his soul was in the conflict.
"It is high time, then, that a fiction which arose through the gratitude of our Allies and became fixed by repetition, be cleared from the European mind---I mean the fiction that our unwilling people had to be adroitly inflamed to self-forgetfulness and lashed into action by much repeated insult before they could be made ready to stand behind a government long since anxious to act. It is not true; and it is unfair to that American idealism of which my countrymen are sanely proud, unfair to our sturdy sense of right and wrong, a slur upon all the dead who fell in the Revolution and the Civil War as well as those of yesterday, to allow this dangerous theory to go unanswered.
"It is hard enough for any country to understand a nearby neighbor; it is more difficult still for Europeans to comprehend far-off America. We have at various times encountered their cold indifference, suffered from their lack of esteem, appreciated their enthusiasm, been happy in their praise, refused to resent their abuse. We acknowledge many of the mistakes laid at our door, but we have a right to inquire whether they were made with the desire to injure or humiliate other nations; we acknowledge that our faults may be numerous, but I find that as yet no one has suffered from them but ourselves. Americans now ask only that those who wish to judge us, if they cannot come and study us at home, at least take the trouble to search the history of our international conduct in the last one hundred and fifty years. If during all that time they find we have been selfish, mean, or grasping; a bad neighbor or a lukewarm friend; if we have cringed before the strong or ravished the weak, then confidence in our purposes is misplaced and the faith we demand in our intentions must be refused; then indeed the American soldiers who landed at St. Nazaire, at Lorient and Bordeaux, had better have stayed at home, and the host which stood ready to follow them were wasting their time in wishing to meddle in the family quarrels of another continent.
"I do not believe that the verdict of history will be rendered in this sense; I do not believe this verdict will find that our attitude toward other countries since our entry into the family of nations has been marked by humility when we were weak or by arrogance when we were strong. We look all other peoples to-day squarely and frankly in the face; proud of an unblemished record of fair dealing with all nations in the past, and calmly determined to continue this course in the future, we say to them, as Byron said to Tom Moore:
Here's a sigh to those that love me
And a smile to those who hate,
And whatever sky's above me
Here's a heart for every fate.'"
PERSHING AND THE AMERICAN ARMY
A STRONG friendship grew up between Mr. Herrick and General Pershing. He greatly admired the general, and this was natural, apart from the ambassador's feeling that the country owed him a vast debt; for the two men were made of the same stuff. So widely apart in their trades, so separated in the work each was called upon to do for his government, they had had the same experiences as country boys and youthful school teachers and they met on the common ground of straightforward simplicity, dislike of pose, and a splendid courage.
"Just imagine," the ambassador once remarked, "what it would have meant to us if Pershing had not been the man he was. Think, if the President's choice had fallen upon some general whose personal ambition had infected his patriotism, who had less character, less common sense. I am no judge of his technical military attainments but I do know the task he had in being obliged to create a whole vast mechanism and fight at the same time. Picking out untried men for a myriad of difficult jobs was alone enough to kill an ordinary man with responsibility. Nobody else, anywhere, had such a problem to face. And suppose he had failed at any point and had had to be replaced; not only the history of the war, at least our part in it, might have been changed, but all the prestige that has been permanently acquired by what our army accomplished might never have come to us."
The general was sent to France in October, 1921, to place the Congressional Medal of Honor on the Unknown Soldier's tomb, and at a dinner offered him the ambassador declared that "General Pershing is the very symbol of America and in praising him I also praise my own beloved land. He is unsullied with ambition but devoid of fear; strong for his own rights, but respectful of the claims of others; the custodian of power rather than its slave or its instrument; seeking to be just; striving to be right; unswerving in the exercise of this power when executing this justice. I think this is the history of General Pershing's mandate in France, as it is the living spirit of America's purpose."
At the ceremony, when the medal was placed on the tomb under the Arc de Triomphe, the ambassador said:
"By this act it was intended to affirm the feelings of admiration of the people of the United States for the men of France who died defending their country against an unprovoked invasion, and our government has sent its most eminent soldier across the seas to place upon this tomb the symbol of our reverence.
"I think we would miss the full moral significance of this day if we did not seek from the past an inspiration for the future, and, as Lincoln said, consecrate ourselves to the unfinished work which these men so nobly advanced. . . ."
During the celebration at Chaumont in honor of the general, Mr. Herrick again declared:
"Time is affording us a fuller appreciation of the magnitude of the task before General Pershing and his little group of pioneer officers when they came here in the autumn of 1917. They had at that time barely two divisions in the field, but they brought with them the traditions of Washington and Grant, and they found in the undismayed courage of all France matter to stir their spirits and galvanize their energy. As Carnot had organized victory for the young French democracy, so Pershing was to organize victory for embattled America.... When a year had passed he had nine divisions engaged in the second battle of the Marne, nine divisions in the St. Mihiel offensive, and thirty divisions fighting in the Argonne and elsewhere. Out-gathering strength had stood the battle test in a way which showed the enemy that we were as determined to do our part as were our allies.
"I mention this achievement as a proof of the power of Democracy aroused in arms. I say it in all humility, overwhelmed as I am when I think of France's fourteen hundred thousand dead and her numberless living victims."
He had something else to say about Pershing's men in his speech at the dedication of the monument to the Lafayette Escadrille in 1928, which goes farther than mere praise and reaches out into the field of world politics:
"I sometimes wonder whether our people fully realize all they owe to the men of Pershing's army. Had his soldiers merely done their duty, it would not have been enough; had our physical resources and weight of numbers alone determined the common victory, it might have been sufficient for our allies but it would have been utterly unsatisfactory to ourselves. It was essential for our honor and our future tranquillity that the whole world comprehend that the American was the equal of any other fighting man; that while rich, we were not soft; that while peaceful, we could also be warlike; that while our wealth had not been gained by the sword, we were fully able to defend it with the sword; that with our kindliness there also went a strong right arm. . . . Had any result less conclusive been attained, had the history of our men in 1918 been marked by any single case of faltering, we could not hold our heads so high to-day. And that is why we thank them---thank them not only for defending their country and the right, but for giving to the prosperous happiness our people now enjoy, the ineffable distinction of a high reward honorably won."
Another time, at St. Aignan, he spoke of our soldiers who had died in hospital there. Half a million had passed through the depots in that region and the kind people of the neighboring villages had raised a monument to them:
"Among the many cruelties of war, there is none more poignant than the fate of men who died as those you buried here, far from home, in heartbreaking loneliness, waiting for a pitiful end. The eight hundred and fifty brave fellows who sought a different death from that they found amidst these quiet fields deserve a pity and a praise beyond even that accorded their comrades; and to you, kind people of this little village, who have thought to honor them, I beg to express the thanks of every mother in America whose place you took beside their lonely sons. Their boys were many thousand miles away; no faintest picture of the land they were defending could animate their families' weary hours; even to follow them as they marched and fought was denied to their imaginings; indeed, for millions of Americans, their sons, were already lost when the ship that bore them to this distant shore had sunk below the Atlantic's crest.
"It is well to recall this anguish of people sustained only by an unfaltering trust in a holy cause and girt with grim readiness for any sacrifice. That they could risk so much for it and place no thought of self in the balance against their spiritual convictions has brought them honor from all the nations of the earth. Surely such a glory has not been granted in vain, nor shall it ever be truthfully said that we sowed in righteousness to reap in corruption."
The combination of hastily trained but ardent soldiers under a leader such as Pershing was a subject Mr. Herrick often recurred to, and he liked to emphasize their share in assuring America's position in the world. Nothing was more agreeable to him than to hear Pershing praised, and in 1928, when I returned from America and told him of a magnificent compliment which Mr. Root had paid the general during a visit I made him in New York, Mr. Herrick was as much pleased as if it had been said about himself. "Did you tell Pershing?" he asked. "It does a fellow good to hear things like that from a man like Root."
The ambassador also considered that General Pershing was the indirect cause of saving his grandson's life, and such an association of ideas left its agreeable impress. It was in 1921. The city of Paris had offered the general a brilliant reception at the Hôtel de Ville and Mr. Herrick attended it. He could not resist the temptation of taking young Parmely to see this ceremony and he was let off from school in the afternoon for that purpose. As they reached the embassy on returning, a terrific explosion took place upstairs. Some Sacco-Vanzetti sympathizer had sent Mr. Herrick, through the mail, an infernal machine done up in a package marked "Perfume." Blanchard, the ambassador's valet, had opened the box, the bomb exploded and wrecked the whole room. If Mr. Herrick had not taken the boy to see General Pershing "in all his uniform" he would almost certainly have been with Blanchard, as he always was at that hour. Like all children, he loved to open packages and Blanchard would surely have let him cut the string which set off the mechanism. He would undoubtedly have been killed.
Walter Blanchard had served during the whole war in the British army and he knew all about hand grenades and the sound they make when armed. As he cut the string he heard this familiar click, and without wasting a second, he dashed to the bathroom and threw the box in the corner; but he did not have time to shut the door before the bomb exploded and he was wounded.
In writing to his son Mr. Herrick gave some additional details of the evening:
"About 8 o'clock Agnes reminded me that we were dining out. It seemed to me it would be wise to keep this engagement for two reasons: it would take us out of the house, which was full of smoke, police, detectives, etc.; furthermore, it would show in the morning papers to you that we were not injured. The next thought was for the little boy, who had gone to bed. Agnes feared he might be disturbed. I went up, and he was perfectly calm, about to go to sleep. He asked me to explain to him some of the details of which, he said, no one seemed to have any time to tell him! After I had given him some explanations, he was willing to go to sleep. Before he dropped off he said, 'Papa, it won't happen again.' Then he asked, 'Papa, are you insured?' I felt after that we could go out to dinner without any anxiety on his account."
This attempt to kill Mr. Herrick caused wide indignation, and he received such a large number of letters that he was obliged to put the following notice in the papers:
"Since October 19th, when an attempt was made on my life with a bomb, I have received telegrams and cables, copies of resolutions of societies, letters by messengers, and letters by mail from all over France and from other countries, expressing indignation at this attack and congratulating me and my family upon our escape from death.
"It has been as yet materially impossible to answer, as my heart prompts me to do, all of these communications; but in the meantime I am sure that the thoughtful friends who sent these messages of sympathy will accept, through the courtesy of the press, my appreciation of the help they have brought me. For it is helpful to any man in public life to feel that people approve of what he does; and when this support is expressed with the touch of personal affection which runs through all these communications, one would be callous indeed not to be deeply moved."
For years after this the Red elements of Paris continued to assail Mr. Herrick because Sacco and Vanzetti had not been released from prison. It was in vain that he caused it to be explained that the federal authorities possessed no power to intervene in the case, even had they wished to do so, and that it would be useless for him to make any representations to our government on such a matter, supposing he were thus disposed. Demonstrations in front of the embassy were stopped by the police, but delegations headed by important radical members of Parliament insisted upon being received by the ambassador and arguing the case. I have never in my life seen him as furious as on one of these occasions. "Your friends begin by trying to murder me," he exclaimed, "and then you come here and ask my help to free two assassins whose sympathizers have made this attempt on my life. And you don't even begin by offering excuses for this dastardly act. Sacco and Vanzetti at least had a trial, but you don't even give me that chance."
In 1927 when the two men were executed a mob swept Paris. Fortunately the police prevented their reaching the embassy. But for months a platoon of fifty policemen were stationed night and day before its doors. Then interest in the case seemed to die out.
Most men who have attained a conspicuous place in life and are known to be both generous and wealthy find their mail charged with letters begging for help of some sort. These were not absent from Mr. Herrick's correspondence, but it is an extraordinary fact that for every begging letter he received there were many expressing thanks for something he had done. It is noticeable that those which the ambassador has preserved with special care were written either by children or the very humble. A few examples must suffice. In 1922 he inaugurated a municipal library which Americans had given to a poor quarter of Paris, and shortly afterward he received a letter which is so exquisite an example of how the French people regarded him that I cannot refuse space for all of it:
We are a very humble French couple, my wife and I, living at Belleville.(1) For a long time we have had an ardent desire to express to you our deep gratitude for your speeches, so filled with affection for our country, and for your acts, so consistent with your speeches.
When we read in the newspapers that you were going to inaugurate in the Rue Fessart a library donated through the usual generosity of your compatriots, we thought that the opportunity for which we had been waiting so long had come, and my wife, too ill to accompany me, sent me off with the mission to go there and cry out to you, "Long live America, long live Ambassador Myron T. Herrick!"
As early as eight o'clock, therefore, I tried to gain admittance to the library hall; but alas, the door was hermetically closed; you had to know the magic password, that is to say, show an official invitation. So, for three quarters of an hour I paced sadly up and down on the sidewalk opposite, despairing of being able to accomplish my mission. By what subterfuge I succeeded in beguiling the door-keeper to let me slip into the hall does not matter. At any rate, I was able to hear your speech, which touched my French heart. Then the officials duly thanked you and the ceremony was over.
I, however, still had my mission to accomplish. Thereupon I had the daring to push my way through the throng of your fair compatriots, approach you, and cry out: "Long live America! Long live the American Ambassador! " And you were kind enough to smile at me and shake my hand. Then I went home. I said to my wife, "Look at this hand! Ambassador Herrick has clasped it." My wife kissed my hand! We are happy!
We are happy because we are good French people, loving our country, loving those who love it, loving those who, like you, know and say that it is not we who wanted the war, that it is not we who are responsible for all the blood spilled and for all the tears shed; that it is not the French mothers, often with an only son, who were willing to expose him to the dangers of battle; that at no price did we want the war because we felt that we were the weaker, because alas! we were the weaker! and that notwithstanding the heroism of our soldiers, we would have been defeated at the first battle of the Marne without the Russians and the English, and that we would have been defeated at the second battle of the Marne without you, the Americans!
I thank you once more, Mr. Ambassador. The French people so calumniated, and often by their own countrymen, are deeply grateful to young and free America for having saved them, and I conclude in repeating: Long live America! Long live Ambassador Myron T. Herrick!
[signed]: A FRENCHMAN
I approve what my husband says.
[signed]: A FRENCH WOMAN.
The ambassador was asked almost every day of the year to preside at a banquet, lend his name to a committee, dedicate a monument, subscribe to a fund or be present at some reunion; and always with the expectation that he would "make a few remarks."
"If you notice me cackling to-day," he would say after some corner-stone ceremony, "it's because I've laid an egg." And he had to cackle very often. He went to as many of these affairs as he could; when it was impossible to go himself, he sent a member of his staff to represent him; sometimes to make a speech in his name or carry a message.
Among all of the organizations intended to raise money for the relief of the stricken, none was more dear to him than the one known as the Fatherless Children of France. He always attended its annual meeting, for whatever had to do with suffering children excited an instant response in his breast.
As an example of how these societies felt toward him, I shall quote a part of the annual report read at the meeting of the Fraternité Franco-Américaine in May, 1929. After mentioning that the orphans of French soldiers killed in the war had received thirty million dollars from the United States, the report goes on to say:
"What is chiefly in our hearts this moment is the sorrow of not seeing here one who, amid all the noble tasks he had set himself, brought an indefatigable ardor to a society which is the very symbol of what was most dear to him: helpful cooperation between America and France. Mr. Herrick was our best friend. As soon as he learned to know us, he supported us with all the force of his generous and beautiful nature. He loved the little children of France, and in our veneration of his memory there is an infinite gratitude.
"Each year on reaching Havre his first words were for the band of our children who always went to greet him; at Suresnes, on Memorial Day, he never failed to say some words of tender kindness to them. He was fond of us, also, because he knew that we carried to every tiny village of France a knowledge of the delicate generosity and the tireless solicitude of his own dear compatriots for people in distress."
American holidays were days of severe occupation for the ambassador. Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, etc., etc., involved not only a banquet and a speech, but visits to our cemeteries, to the Unknown Soldier's grave, to the Tomb of Lafayette, in addition to services at church. To these must be added a great number of other occasions on which Americans felt they had a right to his presence. He responded year after year, always cheerfully, usually with unfeigned pleasure.
In 1924 he received a letter from a group of students in Trenton, N. J., telling him that they had elected him as their "guardian" and asking him for "a message." His reply, addressed to Mr. S. D. Green, ends with a story about Mr. Rockefeller which has a most characteristic flavor:
"There is nothing in all the world so interesting to me as a young man or woman just starting in life, with his or her way to make, little appreciating that they constitute a very considerable part of their nation's greatest natural resources, and that what they and those of their time think and do will largely determine the trend of their country. Such a thought is intensified in a land like France, where one generation of young men has been blotted out of existence by the war, a loss to the nation so great as to be beyond estimate. From time to time I pass bands of little children on their way to school, and I notice sad-faced French men and women who turn and look wistfully after them. I seem to read their thoughts while their eyes follow these precious, happy children; for can their hearts be elsewhere than with the hundreds of thousands of their very own who lie dead in the fields of France? I read in their eyes the unspoken question, Will the youth of to-day grow to comprehend the greater task that is to be theirs, the defending and saving of their beloved France?
"I would add from my own experience that for the boy or girl who strikes out for himself or herself, thrift, economy, and avoidance of debt are among the first essentials. Boys and girls who are not born with a gold spoon in their mouths and have their own way to make are really born into slavery, and the first great effort should be to purchase his or her freedom. Rigid economy with regard to the surplus of one's earnings, above the cost of living, deposited from time to time in a savings bank, puts one well on the way to the purchase of this freedom. The earlier it is accomplished, the greater can be one's contribution to one's own development and happiness and to the world generally. Fear of what the future may hold, fear of that proverbial rainy day, is unnerving and detrimental to the successful accomplishment of the day's work. To feel that one is free and independent, and able to meet one's bills although sick, forfends against illness and makes for efficiency.
"The Society for Savings, with which I have been connected for many years, built and occupied its new building in 1890, and there was found, in the course of the moving, a pass book which had belonged to Mr. John D. Rockefeller. This account had been opened in Mr. Rockefeller's youth when he was a clerk on a small salary, and there had been a slow but steady accumulation of funds during a number of years until the sum of nine hundred and fifty-seven dollars had been attained. This account naturally attracted our attention, and, as I chanced to meet Mr. Rockefeller about this time, I asked him if he remembered it. He replied: 'Yes, indeed; I recall the long, painful process of accumulating that capital; also the balance when I closed the account.' He then quoted the exact figures. 'That sum,' he added, was saved from my salary.'
"He then turned to Mrs. Rockefeller and said, 'My dear, we must try and save up some more money and re-open that Mr. Herrick's bank, for it's a good thing to have account in a little money laid aside for an emergency.'"
The New York Bond Club gave a luncheon for Mr. Herrick in 1926 and Mr. Medley G. B. Whelpley in addressing him said:
"As citizens, we have come to regard you as a far-visioned statesman, and yet all of us here know you to be an extraordinarily able and successful banker as well. Indeed it is likely that our guest's unusual effectiveness in public life has been materially enhanced by his continuous participation in business activities. For many years an officer of the Cleveland Society for Savings, in 1921 he became chairman of the board. He has been president of the American Bankers' Association and continues to serve on the boards of several of our leading industrial corporations and life insurance companies.
"In the field of public service, he has found time to serve as a member of the City Council of Cleveland, was six times delegate to the Republican national convention, was a presidential elector, and was governor of the State of Ohio from 1903 to 1905.
"During the war he established the American Ambulance Hospital, organized the American Relief Clearing House at Paris and its counterpart in America, became chairman of the American Committee for Devastated France, chairman of the Executive Committee of America's Gift to France, chairman of the American Agencies for Relief in France, and chairman of the Mayor's War Relief Committee in Cleveland.
"Representing American interests and defending American rights, he has given us a magnificent example of serving loyally his own country and yet winning and holding permanently the friendship of another people."
This drew from Mr. Herrick a speech in which he expressed his ideas as to the relations between banking and diplomacy:
". . . Banking and business experience help tremendously in any other vocation, and especially in diplomacy. This thought has come to my mind many times in recent years while I have been engaged with others in trying to solve some of the difficult problems over there. The application of simple business formulae is a tremendous asset for an intellectual idealist to possess, and such an experience will serve to pull him through in many cases where he would otherwise fail.
"For the past six years, I have been an observer, as you know, in the Council of Ambassadors, and I think I may tell you a little of the happenings there, but not enough to do any real harm. By reason of this experience I have altered many of my preconceived ideas about the League of Nations. This change is largely due to my early training as a lawyer and banker, where everything must stand the test of being workable. It was one of my earliest observations, in listening to the multitude of questions which came before this Council, that the League of Nations had perhaps overlooked the prime essential of creating a sound financial and economic foundation upon which to build its great ideal. I have become year by year more confirmed in my opinion that this was a vital condition, since a strictly political organization cannot otherwise unite nations with any assurance of ultimate success.
"When the war finished, the leading statesmen of that period, full of optimism and confidence, proceeded to restore the broken world. Who would have believed that so many years would pass without these post-war problems being solved? Even now there are moments when we stand confused and as impotent as children! Much progress, however, has been made, and I am full of hope that the end is not far off.
"I began my attendance at this Council with a feeling of regret that we were not connected with the League of Nations. Now I can say frankly that I have been surprised to find my opinions changing as to the desirability of our being, even with the Senate reservations, a member of the League, thus giving us a voice in affairs in Europe. This experience has served to convince me that I had no accurate conception of what our relations to Europe really were, for not more than one per cent. of the questions that have come before the Council relate to the United States or are questions in which we should take a voting part. In fact, to have been obliged to vote on all the matters that arose there, regardless of our interest in them, would have resulted in irritations and entanglements which would have been most objectionable. . . . I am convinced that the moral authority our nation possesses if handled properly---and it does not require genius, but merely common sense---is a power far beyond our comprehension, and that, due to our isolation, our abundant resources, and the fact that we are what we are, and mean to do right, is of greater value than being a member of the League of Nations, even with the Senate amendments."
HIS SON PARMELY
MYRON T. HERRICK
1. A poor industrial quarter of Paris.
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