FRIEND OF FRANCE
An Autobiographical Biography
COL. T. BENTLEY MOTT
GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, DORAN & COMPANY, INC.
Fig. 1. MYRON T. HERRICK
AMERICAN AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE FROM FEBRUARY, 1912, TO DECEMBER, 1914, AND FROM APRIL, 1921, TO HIS DEATH ON EASTER SUNDAY MORNING, MARCH 31, 1929. FROM THE PAINTING BY SIR WILLIAM ORPEN.
DURING all my service with Mr. Herrick at the American embassy at Paris it was his custom to carry me with him on many of the trips which he undertook for business or pleasure. Whenever possible he traveled by automobile. His love of motoring was intense and besides, after the war, he received unending pleasure from rolling through the immaculate fields of France and observing how time and husbandry are healing the ghastly wounds left by the terrible conflict.
The ambassador was a wonderful story-teller, and, like Lincoln, he constantly answered a question or presented an argument by narrating some incident that he remembered happening to old Sam Shoemaker when he took his cow to market, or to Andy Bingham when the preacher asked him to hand around the collection plate. These droll occurrences were almost always drawn from his own experience; he had an indifferent memory for other people's stories.
I more than once suggested that he write his memoirs, but the idea never appealed to him; moreover, he disliked writing as much as he enjoyed talking. But once he answered this suggestion in a way which I think explains his true attitude.
"A while after I came back here as ambassador," he said, "somebody got up a scheme to put a statue of me on the spot where that German bomb fell in 1914 which just missed killing me. They came around to see me about it, and after I had listened a little while I asked them this question (they were Frenchmen, of course). 'Suppose that in 1919 you hadn't given the street over there its present name---Avenue du Président- Wilson---are you perfectly sure you would want to call it that now?'
"I saw this was a poser, so I added: 'I think you had better let that statue wait until I get through here and see how you feel about it then. I expect to stay on quite a while yet, and something may very well happen between now and my departure to make you want to change your mind.'"
The incidents in Mr. Herrick's life which follow were mostly related to me during these motor trips. When he came back to Paris in January, 1929, he was still suffering from the effects of grippe and the doctors had him remain in bed as late in the morning as possible. I used to go to his room, sit with him, work and talk. I profited by these opportunities to get him to go over with me certain incidents in his life which he had related to me before, so that I could get the facts accurately. Many of these, when he first told them to me, had seemed like veritable chapters of romance---the romance of love and marriage, the romance of business, the romance of politics. Indeed this thread of romance runs through the whole of Mr. Herrick's life, from the winter day in Ohio when he thrashed the bully at his school to that April morning when his body was carried in state through the streets of Paris.
He was made of the same stuff as all the great pioneers of every age. He was a pioneer in diplomacy as well as in everything else, and one of the traits which gives him a place apart among the world's ambassadors was his willingness to take a chance and his unwillingness to be always bound by the conventions. His rugged common sense instantly seized upon the essential point of any problem, and without hesitation, without apparent meditation, he saw the thing to be done and with disarming simplicity he did it. There were no complications in his make-up. He could separate the wheat from the chaff or hit the bull's eye of a discussion more surely than any man I ever knew.
Just after war was declared in 1914, he was going over with his staff certain complicated questions that had to be decided immediately. One of his secretaries said: "Mr. Ambassador, I don't believe you can do this thing without consulting the State Department," and he stated the facts and recited the precedents.
"The only trouble about that," answered the ambassador, "is that what you tell me I mustn't do I have already done."
That was his way. Where the interests of his country were involved he showed all the old-time caution he had necessarily practised when president of the Society for Savings in Cleveland; but in matters where only his own interests were at stake, once convinced he was right, he strode forward with a simple confidence that nearly always attained its mark.
He was very fond of explaining what a hard time a rich man's son has in trying to accomplish something real in life: everything is made too easy for him, he would say, even including his education. It may well be that without the vicissitudes of his early manhood, without the discipline of his struggle for a livelihood, the natural sweetness of Mr. Herrick's nature, his love for mankind, his intense dislike of hurting any human being, might have diverted him from the rocky path of high accomplishment. He would always have been loved and lovable; but without the rough spur of adversity, he might have been halted in his climb to those heights from which the rays of his exquisite kindliness have reached to so vast a company of his fellow beings.
T. B. M. October 11, 1929.
|Getting an Education|
|Courtship and Marriage|
|His Ambition to Become a Painter|
|His Start in Politics|
|How He Became a Banker|
|Rockefeller Offers Him a Position|
|An Attempt on Mr. Herrick's Life|
|Nominating McKinley for President|
|Getting the Gold Plank into the 1896 Platform|
|The Appointment of Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy|
|McKinley's Second Term. He Offers Herrick a Post Abroad and in His Cabinet|
|How He Became Governor of Ohio and Lost His Second Election|
|The Panama Canal|
|The American Merchant Marine|
|He Goes to France as Ambassador|
|The American Hospital|
|The First American Volunteers|
|Extracts from War Letters|
|The Government Leaves Paris,|
|The Ambassador Escapes Being Killed by a German Bomb|
|Tourists' Troubles-" Anxious Letters"|
|Mr. Sharp Arrives|
|Mr. Herrick Returns to America|
|The American Relief Clearing House|
|Why He was Never Nominated for President|
|He Returns to France as Ambassador|
|The "European Mess"|
|France's Debts and Her Security|
|He Answers Criticism of America|
|Pershing and the American Army|
|Home and Official Life|
|He Buys an Embassy|
|The Republican Party. A Letter to President Harding|
|The Soviet Rule in Russia|
|American and French Systems of Government|
|Relations with His Grandson|
|America's "Moral Authority" among the Nations|
|The Ambassador Revisits His Birthplace|
|The Last Year|