A Straight Deal
Part 2 out of 3
comparing 1776 with 1861, it was once more the Tories, the aristocrats,
the Lord Norths, who hoped for our overthrow, while the people of
England, with certain liberal leaders in Parliament, stood our friends.
Just as Pitt and Burke had spoken for us in our Revolution, so Bright and
Cobden befriended us now. The parallel ceases when you come to the
Sovereign. Queen Victoria declined to support or recognize Slave Land.
She stopped the Government and aristocratic England from forcing war upon
us, she prevented the French Emperor, Napoleon III, from recognizing the
Southern Confederacy. We shall come to this in its turn. Our Civil War
set up in England a huge vibration, subjected England to a searching test
of herself. Nothing describes this better than a letter of Henry Ward
Beecher's, written during the War, after his return from addressing the
people of England.
"My own feelings and judgment underwent a great change while I was in
England... I was chilled and shocked at the coldness towards the North
which I everywhere met, and the sympathetic prejudices in favor of the
South. And yet everybody was alike condemning slavery and praising
How could England do this, how with the same breath blow cold and hot,
how be against the North that was fighting the extension of slavery and
yet be against slavery too? Confusing at the time, it is clear to-day.
Imbedded in Lincoln's first inaugural address lies the clew: he said, "I
have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right
to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. Those who elected me did so
with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations,
and had never recanted them." Thus Lincoln, March 4, 1861. Six weeks
later, when we went-to war, we went, not "to interfere with the
institution of slavery," but (again in Lincoln's words) "to preserve,
protect, and defend" the Union. This was our slogan, this our fight,
this was repeated again and again by our soldiers and civilians, by our
public men and our private citizens. Can you see the position of those
Englishmen who condemned slavery and praised liberty? We ourselves said
we were not out to abolish slavery, we disclaimed any such object, by our
own words we cut the ground away from them.
Not until September 22d of 1862, to take effect upon January 1, 1863, did
Lincoln proclaim emancipation--thus doing what he had said twenty-two
months before "I believe I have no lawful right to do."
That interim of anguish and meditation had cleared his sight. Slowly he
had felt his way, slowly he had come to perceive that the preservation of
the Union and the abolition of slavery were so tightly wrapped together
as to merge and be one and the same thing. But even had he known this
from the start, known that the North's bottom cause, the ending of
slavery, rested on moral ground, and that moral ground outweighs and must
forever outweigh whatever of legal argument may be on the other side, he
could have done nothing. "I believe I have no lawful right." There were
thousands in the North who also thus believed. It was only an extremist
minority who disregarded the Constitution's acquiescence in slavery and
wanted emancipation proclaimed at once. Had Lincoln proclaimed it, the
North would have split in pieces, the South would have won, the Union
would have perished, and slavery would have remained. Lincoln had to wait
until the season of anguish and meditation had unblinded thousands
besides himself, and thus had placed behind him enough of the North to
struggle on to that saving of the Union and that freeing of the slave
which was consummated more than two years later by Lee's surrender to
Grant at Appomattox.
But it was during that interim of anguish and meditation that England did
us most of the harm which our memories vaguely but violently treasure.
Until the Emancipation, we gave our English friends no public, official
grounds for their sympathy, and consequently their influence over our
English enemies was hampered. Instantly after January 1, 1863, that
sympathy became the deciding voice. Our enemies could no longer say to
it, "but Lincoln says himself that he doesn't intend to abolish slavery."
Here are examples of what occurred: To William Lloyd Garrison, the
Abolitionist, an English sympathizer wrote that three thousand men of
Manchester had met there and adopted by acclamation an enthusiastic
message to Lincoln. These men said that they would rather remain unem-
ployed for twenty years than get cotton from the South at the expense of
the slave. A month later Cobden writes to Charles Sumner: "I know nothing
in my political experience so striking, an a display of spontaneous
public action, as that of the vast gathering at Exeter Hall (in London),
when, without one attraction in the form of a popular orator, the vast
building, its minor rooms and passages, and the streets adjoining, were
crowded with an enthusiastic audience. That meeting has had a powerful
effect on our newspapers and politicians. It has closed the mouths of
those who have been advocating the side of the South. And I now write to
assure you that any unfriendly act on the part of our Government--no
matter which of our aristocratic parties is in power--towards your cause
is not to be apprehended. If an attempt were made by the Government in
any way to commit us to the South, a spirit would be instantly aroused
which would drive that Government from power."
I lay emphasis at this point upon these instances (many more could be
given) because it has been the habit of most Americans to say that
England stopped being hostile to the North as soon as the North began to
win. In January, 1863, the North had not visibly begun to win. It had
suffered almost unvaried defeat so far; and the battles of Gettysburg and
Vicksburg, where the tide turned at last our way, were still six months
ahead. It was from January 1, 1863, when Lincoln planted our cause firmly
and openly on abolition ground, that the undercurrent of British sympathy
surged to the top. The true wonder is, that this undercurrent should have
been so strong all along, that those English sympathizers somehow in
their hearts should have known what we were fighting for more clearly
than we had been able to see it; ourselves. The key to this is given in
Beecher's letter--it is nowhere better given--and to it I must now
"I soon perceived that my first error was in supposing that Great Britain
was an impartial spectator. In fact, she was morally an actor in the
conflict. Such were the antagonistic influences at work in her own midst,
and the division of parties, that, in judging American affairs she could
not help lending sanction to one or the other side of her own internal
conflicts. England was not, then, a judge, sitting calmly on the bench to
decide without bias; the case brought before her was her own, in
principle, and in interest. In taking sides with the North, the common
people of Great Britain and the laboring class took sides with themselves
in their struggle for reformation; while the wealthy and the privileged
classes found a reason in their own political parties and philosophies
why they should not be too eager for the legitimate government and nation
of the United States.
"All classes who, at home, were seeking the elevation and political
enfranchisement of the common people, were with us. All who studied the
preservation of the state in its present unequal distribution of
political privileges, sided with that section in America that were doing
the same thing.
"We ought not to be surprised nor angry that men should maintain
aristocratic doctrines which they believe in fully as sincerely, and more
consistently, than we, or many amongst us do, in democratic doctrines.
"We of all people ought to understand how a government can be cold or
semi-hostile, while the people are friendly with us. For thirty years the
American Government, in the hands, or under the influence of Southern
statesmen, has been in a threatening attitude to Europe, and actually in
disgraceful conflict with all the weak neighboring Powers. Texas, Mexico,
Central Generics, and Cuba are witnesses. Yet the great body of our people
in the Middle and Northern States are strongly opposed to all such
It was in a very brief visit that Beecher managed to see England as she
was: a remarkable letter for its insight, and more remarkable still for
its moderation, when you consider that it was written in the midst of our
Civil War, while loyal Americans were not only enraged with England, but
wounded to the quick as well. When a man can do this--can have passionate
convictions in passionate times, and yet keep his judgment unclouded,
wise, and calm, he serves his country well.
I can remember the rage and the wound. In that atmosphere I began my
existence. My childhood was steeped in it. In our house the London Punch
was stopped, because of its hostile ridicule. I grew to boyhood hearing
from my elders how England had for years taunted us with our tolerance of
slavery while we boasted of being the Land of the Free--and then, when we
arose to abolish slavery, how she "jack-knived" and gave aid and comfort
to the slave power when it had its fingers upon our throat. Many of that
generation of my elders never wholly got over the rage and the wound.
They hated all England for the sake of less than half England. They
counted their enemies but never their friends. There's nothing unnatural
about this, nothing rare. On the contrary, it's the usual, natural,
unjust thing that human nature does in times of agony. It's the Henry
Ward Beechers that are rare. In times of agony the average man and woman
see nothing but their agony. When I look over some of the letters that I
received from England in 1915--letters from strangers evoked by a book
called The Pentecost of Calamity, wherein I had published my conviction
that the cause of England was righteous, the cause of Germany hideous,
and our own persistent neutrality unworthy--I'm glad I lost my temper
only once, and replied caustically only once. How dreadful (wrote one of
my correspondents) must it be to belong to a nation that was behaving
like mine! I retorted (I'm sorry for it now) that I could all the more
readily comprehend English feeling about our neutrality, because I had
known what we had felt when Gladstone spoke at Newcastle and when England
let the Alabama loose upon us in 1862. Where was the good in replying at
all? Silence is almost always the best reply in these cases. Next came a
letter from another English stranger, in which the writer announced
having just read The Pentecost of Calamity. Not a word of friendliness
for what I had said about the righteousness of England's cause or my
expressed unhappiness over the course which our Government had taken--
nothing but scorn for us all and the hope that we should reap our deserts
when Germany defeated England and invaded us. Well? What of it? Here was
a stricken person, writing in stress, in a land of desolation, mourning
for the dead already, waiting for the next who should die, a poor,
unstrung average person, who had not long before read that remark of our
President's made on the morrow of the Lusitania: that there is such a
thing as being too proud to fight; had read during the ensuing weeks
those notes wherein we stood committed by our Chief Magistrate to a
verbal slinking away and sitting down under it. Can you wonder? If the
mere memory of those days of our humiliation stabs me even now, I need no
one to tell me (though I have been told) what England, what France, felt
about us then, what it must have been like for Americans who were in
England and France at that time. No: the average person in great trouble
cannot rise above the trouble and survey the truth and be just. In
English eyes our Government--and therefore all of us--failed in 1914--
1915--1916--failed again and again--insulted the cause of humanity when
we said through our President in 1916, the third summer of the war, that
we were not concerned with either the causes or the aims of that
conflict. How could they remember Hoover, or Robert Bacon, or Leonard
Wood, or Theodore Roosevelt then, any more than we could remember John
Bright, or Richard Cobden, or the Manchester men in the days when the
Alabama was sinking the merchant vessels of the Union?
We remembered Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston in the British
Government, and their fellow aristocrats in British society; we
remembered the aristocratic British press--The Times notably, because the
most powerful--these are what we saw, felt, and remembered, because they
were not with us, and were able to hurt us in the days when our friends
were not yet able to help us. They made welcome the Southerners who came
over in the interests of the South, they listened to the Southern
propaganda. Why? Because the South was the American version of their
aristocratic creed. To those who came over in the interests of the North
and of the Union they turned a cold shoulder, because they represented
Democracy; moreover, a Dis-United States would prove in commerce a less
formidable competitor. To Captain Bullock, the able and energetic
Southerner who put through in England the building and launching of those
Confederate cruisers which sank our ships and destroyed our merchant
marine, and to Mason and Slidell, the doors of dukes opened pleasantly;
Beecher and our other emissaries mostly had to dine beneath uncoroneted
In the pages of Henry Adams, and of Charles Francis Adams his brother,
you can read of what they, as young men, encountered in London, and what
they saw their father have to put up with there, both from English
society and the English Government. Their father was our new minister to
England, appointed by Lincoln. He arrived just after our Civil War had
begun. I have heard his sons talk about it familiarly, and it is all to
be found in their writings.
Nobody knows how to be disagreeable quite so well as the English
gentleman, except the English lady. They can do it with the nicety of a
medicine dropper. They can administer the precise quantum suff. in every
case. In the society of English gentlemen and ladies Mr. Adams by his
official position was obliged to move. They left him out as much as they
could, but, being the American Minister, he couldn't be left out
altogether. At their dinners and functions he had to hear open
expressions of joy at the news of Southern victories, he had to receive
slights both veiled and unveiled, and all this he had to bear with
equanimity. Sometimes he did leave the room; but with dignity and
discretion. A false step, a "break," might have led to a request for
his recall. He knew that his constant presence, close to the English
Government, was vital to our cause. Russell and Palmerston were by turns
insolent and shifty, and once on the very brink of recognizing the
Southern Confederacy as an independent nation. Gladstone, Chancellor of
the Exchequer, in a speech at Newcastle, virtually did recognize it. You
will be proud of Mr. Adams if you read how he bore himself and fulfilled
his appallingly delicate and difficult mission. He was an American who
knew how to behave himself, and he behaved himself all the time; while
the English had a way of turning their behavior on and off, like the hot
water. Mr. Adams was no admirer of "shirt-sleeves" diplomacy. His
diplomacy wore a coat. Our experiments in "shirt-sleeves" diplomacy
fail to show that it accomplishes anything which diplomacy decently
dressed would not accomplish more satisfactorily. Upon Mr. Adams fell
some consequences of previous American crudities, of which I shall speak
Lincoln had declared a blockade on Southern ports before Mr. Adams
arrived in London. Upon his arrival he found England had proclaimed her
neutrality and recognized the belligerency of the South. This dismayed
Mr. Adams and excited the whole North, because feeling ran too high to
perceive this first act on England's part to be really favorable to us;
she could not recognize our blockade, which stopped her getting Southern
cotton, unless she recognized that the South was in a state of war with
us. Looked at quietly, this act of England's helped us and hurt herself,
for it deprived her of cotton.
It was not with this, but with the reception and treatment of Mr. Adams
that the true hostility began. Slights to him were slaps at us, sympathy
with the South was an active moral injury to our cause, even if it was
mostly an undertone, politically. Then all of a sudden, something that we
did ourselves changed the undertone to a loud overtone, and we just
grazed England's declaring war on us. Had she done so, then indeed it had
been all up with us. This incident is the comic going-back on our own
doctrine of 1812, to which I have alluded above.
On November 8, 1861, Captain Charles Wilkes of the American steam sloop
San Jacinto, fired a shot across the bow of the British vessel Trent,
stopped her on the high seas, and took four passengers off her, and
brought them prisoners to Fort Warren, in Boston harbor. Mason and
Slidell are the two we remember, Confederate envoys to France and Great
Britain. Over this the whole North burst into glorious joy. Our Secretary
of the Navy wrote to Wilkes his congratulations, Congress voted its
thanks to him, governors and judges laureled him with oratory at
banquets, he was feasted with meat and drink all over the place, and,
though his years were sixty-three, ardent females probably rushed forth
from throngs and kissed him with the purest intentions: heroes have no
age. But presently the Trent arrived in England, and the British lion was
aroused. We had violated international law, and insulted the British
flag. Palmerston wrote us a letter--or Russell, I forget which wrote it--
a letter that would have left us no choice but to fight. But Queen
Victoria had to sign it before it went. "My lord," she said, "you must
know that I will agree to no paper that means war with the United
States." So this didn't go, but another in its stead, pretty stiff,
naturally, yet still possible for us to swallow. Some didn't want to
swallow even this; but Lincoln, humorous and wise, said, "Gentlemen, one
war at a time;" and so we made due restitution, and Messrs. Mason and
Slidell went their way to France and England, free to bring about action
against us there if they could manage it. Captain Wilkes must have been a
good fellow. His picture suggests this. England, in her English heart,
really liked what he had done, it was in its gallant flagrancy so
remarkably like her own doings--though she couldn't, naturally, permit
such a performance to pass; and a few years afterwards, for his services
in the cause of exploration, her Royal Geographical Society gave him a
gold medal! Yes; the whole thing is comic--to-day; for us, to-day, the
point of it is, that the English Queen saved us from a war with England.
Within a year, something happened that was not comic. Lord John Russell,
though warned and warned, let the Alabama slip away to sea, where she
proceeded to send our merchant ships to the bottom, until the Kearsarge
sent her herself to the bottom. She had been built at Liverpool in the
face of an English law which no quibbling could disguise to anybody
except to Lord John Russell and to those who, like him, leaned to the
South. Ten years later, this leaning cost England fifteen million dollars
Let us now listen to what our British friends were saying in those years
before Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. His blockade had
brought immediate and heavy distress upon many English workmen and their
families. That had been April 19, 1861. By September, five sixths of the
Lancashire cotton-spinners were out of work, or working half time. Their
starvation and that of their wives and children could be stemmed by
charity alone. I have talked with people who saw those thousands in their
suffering. Yet those thousands bore it. They somehow looked through
Lincoln's express disavowal of any intention to interfere with slavery,
and saw that at bottom our war was indeed against slavery, that slavery
was behind the Southern camouflage about independence, and behind the
Northern slogan about preserving the Union. They saw and they stuck.
"Rarely," writes Charles Francis Adams, "in the history of mankind, has
there been a more creditable exhibition of human sympathy." France was
likewise damaged by our blockade; and Napoleon III would have liked to
recognize the South. He established, through Maximilian, an empire in
Mexico, behind which lay hostility to our Democracy. He wished us defeat;
but he was afraid to move without England, to whom he made a succession
of indirect approaches. These nearly came to something towards the close
of 1862. It was on October 7th that Gladstone spoke at Newcastle about
Jefferson Davis having made a nation. Yet, after all, England didn't
budge, and thus held Napoleon back. From France in the end the South got
neither ships nor recognition, in spite of his deceitful connivance and
desire; Napoleon flirted a while with Slidell, but grew cold when he saw
no chance of English cooperation.
Besides John Bright and Cobden, we had other English friends of influence
and celebrity: John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hughes, Goldwin Smith, Leslie
Stephen, Robert Gladstone, Frederic Harrison are some of them. All from
the first supported us. All from the first worked and spoke for us. The
Union and Emancipation Society was founded. "Your Committee," says its
final report when the war was ended, "have issued and circulated upwards
of four hundred thousand books, pamphlets, and tracts... and nearly five
hundred official and public meetings have been held..." The president of
this Society, Mr. Potter, spent thirty thousand dollars in the cause, and
at a time when times were hard and fortunes as well as cotton-spinners in
distress through our blockade. Another member of the Society, Mr.
Thompson, writes of one of the public meetings: "... I addressed a
crowded assembly of unemployed operatives in the town of Heywood, near
Manchester, and spoke to them for two hours about the Slaveholders'
Rebellion. They were united and vociferous in the expression of their
willingness to suffer all hardships consequent upon a want of cotton, if
thereby the liberty of the victims of Southern despotism might be
promoted. All honor to the half million of our working population in
Lancashire, Cheshire, and elsewhere, who are bearing with heroic
fortitude the privation which your war has entailed upon them!... Their
sublime resignation, their self-forgetfulness, their observance of law,
their whole-souled love of the cause of human freedom, their quick and
clear perception of the merits of the question between the North and the
South... are extorting the admiration of all classes of the community
How much of all this do you ever hear from the people who remember the
Strictly in accord with Beecher's vivid summary of the true England in
our Civil War, are some passages of a letter from Mr. John Bigelow, who
was at that time our Consul-General at Paris, and whose impressions,
written to our Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, on February 6, 1863, are
interesting to compare with what Beecher says in that letter, from which
I have already given extracts.
"The anti-slavery meetings in England are having their effect upon the
Government already... The Paris correspondent of the London Post also
came to my house on Wednesday evening... He says... that there are
about a dozen persons who by their position and influence over the organs
of public opinion have produced all the bad feeling and treacherous con-
duct of England towards America. They are people who, as members of
the Government in times past, have been bullied by the U. S.... They are
not entirely ignorant that the class who are now trying to overthrow the
Government were mainly responsible for the brutality, but they think we
as a nation are disposed to bully, and they are disposed to assist in any
policy that may dismember and weaken us. These scars of wounded pride,
however, have been carefully concealed from the public, who therefore
cannot be readily made to see why, when the President has distinctly made
the issue between slave labor and free labor, that England should not go
with the North. He says these dozen people who rule England hate us
There were more than a dozen, a good many more, as we know from Charles
and Henry Adams. But read once again the last paragraph of Beecher's
letter, and note how it corresponds with what Mr. Bigelow says about the
feeling which our Government (for thirty years "in the hands or under the
influence of Southern statesmen") had raised against us by its bad
manners to European governments. This was the harvest sown by shirt
sleeves diplomacy and reaped by Mr. Adams in 1861. Only seven years
before, we had gratuitously offended four countries at once. Three of our
foreign ministers (two of them from the South) had met at Ostend and
later at Aix in the interests of extending slavery, and there, in a joint
manifesto, had ordered Spain to sell us Cuba, or we would take Cuba by
force. One of the three was our minister to Spain. Spain had received him
courteously as the representative of a nation with whom she was at peace.
It was like ringing the doorbell of an acquaintance, being shown into the
parlor and telling him he must sell you his spoons or you would snatch
them. This doesn't incline your neighbor to like you. But, as has been
said, Mr. Adams was an American who did know how to behave, and thereby
served us well in our hour of need.
We remember the Alabama and our English enemies, we forget Bright, and
Cobden, and all our English friends; but Lincoln did not forget them.
When a young man, a friend of Bright's, an Englishman, had been caught
here in a plot to seize a vessel and make her into another Alabama, John
Bright asked mercy for him; and here are Lincoln's words in consequence:
"whereas one Rubery was convicted on or about the twelfth day of October,
1863, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of
California, of engaging in, and giving aid and comfort to the existing
rebellion against the Government of this Country, and sentenced to ten
years' imprisonment, and to pay a fine of ten thousand dollars;
"And whereas, the said Alfred Rubery is of the immature age of twenty
years, and of highly respectable parentage;
"And whereas, the said Alfred Rubery is a subject of Great Britain, and
his pardon is desired by John Bright, of England;
"Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the
United States of America, these and divers other considerations me
thereunto moving, and especially as a public mark of the esteem held by
the United States of America for the high character and steady friendship
of the said John Bright, do hereby grant a pardon to the said Alfred
Rubery, the same to begin and take effect on the twentieth day of January
1864, on condition that he leave the country within thirty days from and
after that date."
Thus Lincoln, because of Bright; and because of a word from Bright to
Charles Sumner about the starving cotton-spinners, Americans sent from
New York three ships with flour for those faithful English friends of
And then, at Geneva in 1872, England paid us for what the Alabama had
done. This Court of Arbitration grew slowly; suggested first by Mr.
Thomas Batch to Lincoln, who thought the millennium wasn't quite at hand
but favored "airing the idea." The idea was not aired easily. Cobden
would have brought it up in Parliament, but illness and death overtook
him. The idea found but few other friends. At last Horace Greeley "aired"
it in his paper. On October 23, 1863, Mr. Adams said to Lord John
Russell, "I am directed to say that there is no fair and equitable form
of conventional arbitrament or reference to which the United States will
not be willing to submit." This, some two years later, Russell recalled,
saying in reply to a statement of our grievances by Adams: "It appears to
Her Majesty's Government that there are but two questions by which the
claim of compensation could be tested; the one is, Have the British
Government acted with due diligence, or, in other words, in good faith
and honesty, in the maintenance of the neutrality they proclaimed? The
other is, Have the law officers of the Crown properly understood the
foreign enlistment act, when they declined, in June 1862, to advise the
detention and seizure of the Alabama, and on other occasions when they
were asked to detain other ships, building or fitting in British ports?
It appears to Her Majesty's Government that neither of these questions
could be put to a foreign government with any regard to the dignity and
character of the British Crown and the British Nation. Her Majesty's
Government are the sole guardians of their own honor. They cannot admit
that they have acted with bad faith in maintaining the neutrality they
professed. The law officers of the Crown must be held to be better
interpreters of a British statute than any foreign Government can be
presumed to be..." He consented to a commission, but drew the line at
any probing of England's good faith.
We persisted. In 1868, Lord Westbury, Lord High Chancellor, declared in
the House of Lords that "the animus with which the neutral powers acted
was the only true criterion."
This is the test which we asked should be applied. We quoted British
remarks about us, Gladstone, for example, as evidence of unfriendly and
insincere animus on the part of those at the head of the British
Replying to our pressing the point of animus, the British Government
reasserted Russell's refusal to recognize or entertain any question of
England's good faith: "first, because it would be inconsistent with the
self-respect which every government is bound to feel...." In Mr. John
Bassett Moore's History of International Arbitration, Vol. I, pages
496-497, or in papers relating to the Treaty of Washington, Vol. II,
Geneva Arbitration, page 204... Part I, Introductory Statement, you will
find the whole of this. What I give here suffices to show the position we
ourselves and England took about the Alabama case. She backed down. Her
good faith was put in issue, and she paid our direct claims. She ate
"humble pie." We had to eat humble pie in the affair of the Trent. It
has been done since. It is not pleasant, but it may be beneficial.
Such is the story of the true England and the true America in 1861; the
divided North with which Lincoln had to deal, the divided England where
our many friends could do little to check our influential enemies, until
Lincoln came out plainly against slavery. I have had to compress much,
but I have omitted nothing material, of which I am aware. The facts would
embarrass those who determine to assert that England was our undivided
enemy during our Civil War, if facts ever embarrassed a complex. Those
afflicted with the complex can keep their eyes upon the Alabama and the
London Times, and avert them from Bright, and Cobden, and the
cotton-spinners, and the Union and Emancipation Society, and Queen
Victoria. But to any reader of this whose complex is not incurable, or
who has none, I will put this question: What opinion of the brains of any
Englishman would you have if he formed his idea of the United States
exclusively from the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst.
Chapter XIII: Benefits Forgot
In our next war, our war with Spain in 1898, England saved us from
Germany. She did it from first to last; her position was unmistakable,
and every determining act of hers was as our friend. The service that she
rendered us in warning Germany to keep out of it, was even greater than
her suggestion of our Monroe doctrine in 1823; for in 1823 she put us on
guard against meditated, but remote, assault from Europe, while in 1898
she actively averted a serious and imminent peril. As the threat of her
fleet had obstructed Napoleon in 1803, and the Holy Alliance in 1823, so
in 1898 it blocked the Kaiser. Late in that year, when it was all over,
the disappointed and baffled Kaiser wrote to a friend of Joseph
Chamberlain, "If I had had a larger fleet I would have taken Uncle Sam by
the scruff of the neck." Have you ever read what our own fleet was like
in those days? Or our Army? Lucky it was for us that we had to deal only
with Spain. And even the Spanish fleet would have been a much graver
opponent in Manila Bay, but for Lord Cromer. On its way from Spain
through the Suez Canal a formidable part of Spain's navy stopped to coal
at Port Said. There is a law about the coaling of belligerent warships in
neutral ports. Lord Cromer could have construed that law just as well
against us. His construction brought it about that those Spanish ships
couldn't get to Manila Bay in time to take part against Admiral Dewey.
The Spanish War revealed that our Navy could hit eight times out of a
hundred, and was in other respects unprepared and utterly inadequate to
cope with a first-class power. In consequence of this, and the criticisms
of our Navy Department, which Admiral Sims as a young man had written,
Roosevelt took the steps he did in his first term. Three ticklish times
in that Spanish War England stood our friend against Germany. When it
broke out, German agents approached Mr. Balfour, proposing that England
join in a European combination in Spain's favor. Mr. Balfour's refusal is
common knowledge, except to the monomaniac with his complex. Next came
the action of Lord Cromer, and finally that moment in Manila Bay when
England took her stand by our side and Germany saw she would have to
fight us both, if she fought at all.
If you saw any German or French papers at the time of our troubles with
Spain, you saw undisguised hostility. If you have talked with any
American who was in Paris during that April of 1898, your impression will
be more vivid still. There was an outburst of European hate for us.
Germany, France, and Austria all looked expectantly to England--and
England disappointed their expectations. The British Press was as much
for us as the French and German press were hostile; the London Spectator
said: "We are not, and we do not pretend to be, an agreeable people, but
when there is trouble in the family, we know where our hearts are."
In those same days (somewhere about the third week in April, 1898), at
the British Embassy in Washington, occurred a scene of significance and
interest, which has probably been told less often than that interview
between Mr. Balfour and the Kaiser's emissary in London. The British
Ambassador was standing at his window, looking out at the German Embassy,
across the street. With him was a member of his diplomatic household. The
two watched what was happening. One by one, the representatives of
various European nations were entering the door of the German Embassy.
"Do you see them?" said the Ambassador's companion; "they'll all be in
there soon. There. That's the last of them." "I didn't notice the French
Ambassador." "Yes, he's gone in, too." "I'm surprised at that. I'm sorry
for that. I didn't think he would be one of them," said the British
ambassador. "Now, I'll tell you what. They'll all be coming over here in
a little while. I want you to wait and be present." Shortly this
prediction was verified. Over from the German Embassy came the whole
company on a visit to the British Ambassador, that he might add his
signature to a document to which they had affixed theirs. He read it
quietly. We may easily imagine its purport, since we know of the
meditated European coalition against us at she time of our war with
Spain. Then the British Ambassador remarked: "I have no orders from my
Government to sign any such document as that. And if I did have, I should
resign my post rather than sign it." A pause: The company fell silent.
"Then what will your Excellency do?" inquired one visitor. "If you will
all do me the honor of coming back to-morrow, I shall have another
document ready which all of us can sign." That is what happened to the
European coalition at this end.
Some few years later, that British Ambassador came to die; and to the
British Embassy repaired Theodore Roosevelt. "Would it be possible for us
to arrange," he said, "a funeral more honored and marked than the United
States has ever accorded to any one not a citizen? I should like it.
And," he suddenly added, shaking his fist at the German Embassy over the
way, "I'd like to grind all their noses in the dirt."
Confronted with the awkward fact that Britain was almost unanimously with
us, from Mr. Balfour down through the British press to the British
people, those nations whose ambassadors had paid so unsuccessful a call
at the British Embassy had to give it up. Their coalition never came
off. Such a thing couldn't come off without England, and England said No.
Next, Lord Cromer, at Port Said, stretched out the arm of international
law, and laid it upon the Spanish fleet. Belligerents may legally take
coal enough at neutral ports to reach their nearest "home port." That
Spanish fleet was on its way from Spain to Manila through the Suez Canal.
It could have reached there, had Lord Cromer allowed it coal enough to
make the nearest home port ahead of it--Manila. But there was a home port
behind it, still nearer, namely, Barcelona. He let it take coal enough to
get back to Barcelona. Thus, England again stepped in.
The third time was in Manila Bay itself, after Dewey's victory, and while
he was in occupation of the place. Once more the Kaiser tried it, not
discouraged by his failure with Mr. Balfour and the British Government.
He desired the Philippines for himself; we had not yet acquired them; we
were policing them, superintending the harbor, administering whatever had
fallen to us from Spain's defeat. The Kaiser sent, under Admiral
Diedrich, a squadron stronger than Dewey's.
Dewey indicated where the German was to anchor. "I am here by the order
of his Majesty the German Emperor," said Diedrich, and chose his own
place to anchor. He made it quite plain in other ways that he was taking
no orders from America. Dewey, so report has it, at last told him that
"if he wanted a fight he could have it at the drop of the hat." Then it
was that the German called on the English Admiral, Chichester, who was
likewise at hand, anchored in Manila Bay. "What would you do," inquired
Diedrich, "in the event of trouble between Admiral Dewey and myself?"
"That is a secret known only to Admiral Dewey and me," said the
Englishman. Plainer talk could hardly be. Diedrich, though a German,
understood it. He returned to his flagship. What he saw next morning was
the British cruiser in a new place, interposed between Dewey and himself.
Once more, he understood; and he and his squadron sailed off; and it was
soon after this incident that the disappointed Kaiser wrote that, if only
his fleet had been larger, he would have taken us by the scruff of the
Tell these things to the next man you hear talking about George III or
the Alabama. You may meet him in front of a bulletin board, or in a
drawing-room. He is amongst us everywhere, in the street and in the
house. He may be a paid propagandist or merely a silly ignorant puppet.
But whatever he is, he will not find much to say in response, unless it
be vain, sterile chatter. True come-back will fail him as it failed that
man by the bulletin board who asked, "What is England doing, anyhow?" and
his neighbor answered, "Her fleet's keeping the Kaiser out of your front
Chapter XIV: England the Slacker!
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
Let us have these disregarded facts also. From the shelves of history I
have pulled down and displayed the facts which our school textbooks have
suppressed; I have told the events wherein England has stood our timely
friend throughout a century; events which our implanted prejudice leads
us to ignore, or to forget; events which show that any one who says
England is our hereditary enemy might just about as well say twice two is
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
They go on asking it. The propagandists, the prompted puppets, the paid
parrots of the press, go on saying these eight senseless words because
they are easy to say, since the man who can answer them is generally not
there: to every man who is a responsible master of facts we have--well,
how many?--irresponsible shouters in this country. What is your
experience? How often is it your luck--as it was mine in front of the
bulletin board--to see a fraud or a fool promptly and satisfactorily put
in his place? Make up your mind that wherever you hear any person
whatsoever, male or female, clean or unclean, dressed in jeans, or
dressed in silks and laces, inquire what England "did in the war, anyhow?
"such person either shirks knowledge, or else is a fraud or a fool. Tell
them what the man said in the street about the Kaiser and our front yard,
but don't stop there. Tell them that in May, 1918, England was sending
men of fifty and boys of eighteen and a half to the front; that in
August, 1918, every third male available between those years was
fighting, that eight and a half million men for army and navy were raised
by the British Empire, of which Ireland's share was two and three tenths
per cent, Wales three and seven tenths, Scotland's eight and three
tenths, and England's more than sixty per cent; and that this, taken
proportionately to our greater population would have amounted to about
thirteen million Americans, When the war started, the British Empire
maintained three soldiers out of every 2600 of the population; her entire
army, regular establishment, reserve and territorial forces, amounted to
seven hundred thousand men. Our casualties were three hundred and
twenty-two thousand, one hundred and eighty-two. The casualties in the
British Army were three million, forty-nine thousand, nine hundred and
seventy-one--a million more than we sent--and of these six hundred and
fifty-eight thousand, seven hundred and four, were killed. Of her Navy,
thirty-three thousand three hundred and sixty-one were killed, six
thousand four hundred and five wounded and missing; of her merchant
marine fourteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one were killed; a total
of forty-eight thousand killed--or ten per cent of all in active service.
Some of those of the merchant marine who escaped drowning through
torpedoes and mines went back to sea after being torpedoed five, six, and
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
Through four frightful years she fought with splendor, she suffered with
splendor, she held on with splendor. The second battle of Ypres is but
one drop in the sea of her epic courage; yet it would fill full a canto
of a poem. So spent was Britain's single line, so worn and thin, that
after all the men available were brought, gaps remained. No more
ammunition was coming to these men, the last rounds had been served. Wet
through, heavy with mud, they were shelled for three days to prevent
sleep. Many came at last to sleep standing; and being jogged awake when
officers of the line passed down the trenches, would salute and instantly
be asleep again. On the fourth day, with the Kaiser come to watch them
crumble, three lines of Huns, wave after wave of Germany's picked troops,
fell and broke upon this single line of British--and it held. The Kaiser,
had he known of the exhausted ammunition and the mounded dead, could have
walked unarmed to the Channel. But he never knew.
Surgeons being scantier than men at Ypres, one with a compound fracture
of the thigh had himself propped up, and thus all day worked on the
wounded at the front. He knew it meant death for him. The day over, he
let them carry him to the rear, and there, from blood-poisoning, he died.
Thus through four frightful years, the British met their duty and their
There is the great story of the little penny steamers of the Thames--a
story lost amid the gigantic whole. Who will tell it right? Who will make
this drop of perfect valor shine in prose or verse for future eyes to
see? Imagine a Hoboken ferry boat, because her country needed her,
starting for San Francisco around Cape Horn, and getting there. Some ten
or eleven penny steamers under their own steam started from the Thames
down the Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, past Gibraltar, and through
the submarined Mediterranean for the River Tigris. Boats of shallow
draught were urgently needed on the River Tigris. Four or five reached
their destination. Where are the rest?
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
During 1917-1918 Britain's armies held the enemy in three continents and
on six fronts, and cooperated with her Allies on two more fronts. Her
dead, those six hundred and fifty-eight thousand dead, lay by the Tigris,
the Zambesi, the AEgean, and across the world to Flanders' fields. Between
March 21st and April 17th, 1918, the Huns in their drive used 127
divisions, and of these 102 were concentrated against the British. That
was in Flanders. Britain, at the same time she was fighting in Flanders,
had also at various times shared in the fighting in Russia, Kiaochau, New
Guinea, Samoa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, the Sudan, Cameroons,
Togoland, East Africa, South West Africa, Saloniki, Aden, Persia, and
the northwest frontier of India. Britain cleared twelve hundred thousand
square miles of the enemy in German colonies. While fighting in
Mesopotamia, her soldiers were reconstructing at the same time. They
reclaimed and cultivated more than 1100 square miles of land there, which
produced in consequence enough food to save two million tons of shipping
annually for the Allies. In Palestine and Mesopotamia alone, British
troops in 1917 took 23,590 prisoners. In 1918, in Palestine from
September 18th to October 7th, they took 79,000 prisoners.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
With "French's contemptible little army" she saved France at the start--
but I'll skip that--except to mention that one division lost 10,000 out
of 12,000 men, and 350 out of 400 officers. At Zeebrugge and Ostend--do
not forget the Vindictive--she dealt with submarines in April and May,
1918--but I'll skip that; I cannot set down all that she did, either at
the start, or nearing the finish, or at any particular moment during
those four years and three months that she was helping to hold Germany
off from the throat of the world; it would make a very thick book. But I
am giving you enough, I think, wherewith to answer the ignorant, and the
frauds, and the fools. Tell them that from 1916 to 1918 Great Britain
increased her tillage area by four million acres: wheat 39 per cent,
barley 11, oats 35, potatoes 50--in spite of the shortage of labor. She
used wounded soldiers, college boys and girls, boy scouts, refugees, and
she produced the biggest grain crop in fifty years. She started fourteen
hundred thousand new war gardens; most of those who worked them had
worked already a long day in a munition factory. These devoted workers
increased the potato crop in 1917 by three million tons--and thus
released British provision ships to carry our soldiers across. In that
Boston speech which one of my correspondents referred to, our Secretary
of the Navy did not mention this. Mention it yourself. And tell them
about the boy scouts and the women. Fifteen thousand of the boy scouts
joined the colors, and over fifty thousand of the younger members served
in various ways at home.
Of England's women seven million were engaged in work on munitions and
other necessaries and apparatus of war. The terrible test of that second
battle of Ypres, to which I have made brief allusion above, wrought an
industrial revolution in the manufacture of shells. The energy of
production rose at a rate which may be indicated by two or three
comparisons: In 1917 as many heavy howitzer shells were turned out in a
single day as in the whole first year of the war, as many medium shells
in five days, and as many field-gun shells in eight days. Or in other
words, 45 times as many field-gun shells, 73 times as many medium, and
365 times as many heavy howitzer shells, were turned out in 1917 as in
the first year of the war. These shells were manufactured in buildings
totaling fifteen miles in length, forty feet in breadth, with more than
ten thousand machine tools driven by seventeen miles of shafting with an
energy of twenty-five thousand horse-power and a weekly output of over
ten thousand tons' weight of projectiles--all this largely worked by the
women of England. While the fleet had increased its personnel from
136,000 to about 400,000, and 2,000,000 men by July, 1915, had
voluntarily enlisted in the army before England gave up her birthright
and accepted compulsory service, the women of England left their ordinary
lives to fabricate the necessaries of war. They worked at home while
their husbands, brothers, and sons fought and died on six battle fronts
abroad--six hundred and fifty-eight thousand died, remember; do you
remember the number of Americans killed in action?--less than thirty-six
thousand;--those English women worked on, seven millions of them at
least, on milk carts, motor-busses, elevators, steam engines, and in
making ammunition. Never before had any woman worked on more than 150 of
the 500 different processes that go to the making of munitions. They now
handled T. N. T., and fulminate of mercury, more deadly still; helped
build guns, gun carriages, and three-and-a-half ton army cannons; worked
overhead traveling cranes for moving the boilers of battleships: turned
lathes, made every part of an aeroplane. And who were these seven million
women? The eldest daughter of a duke and the daughter of a general won
distinction in advanced munition work. The only daughter of an old Army
family broke down after a year's work in a base hospital in France, was
ordered six months' rest at home, but after two months entered a munition
factory as an ordinary employee and after nine months' work had lost but
five minutes working time. The mother of seven enlisted sons went into
munitions not to be behind them in serving England, and one of them wrote
her she was probably killing more Germans than any of the family. The
stewardess of a torpedoed passenger ship was among the few survivors.
Reaching land, she got a job at a capstan lathe. Those were the seven
million women of England--daughters of dukes, torpedoed stewardesses,
and everything between.
Seven hundred thousand of these were engaged on munition work proper.
They did from 60 to 70 per cent of all the machine work on shells, fuses,
and trench warfare supplies, and 1450 of them were trained mechanics to
the Royal Flying Corps. They were employed upon practically every
operation in factory, in foundry, in laboratory, and chemical works, of
which they were physically capable; in making of gauges, forging billets,
making fuses, cartridges, bullets--"look what they can do," said a
foreman, "ladies from homes where they sat about and were waited upon."
They also made optical glass; drilled and tapped in the shipyards;
renewed electric wires and fittings, wound armatures; lacquered guards
for lamps and radiator fronts; repaired junction and section boxes, fire
control instruments, automatic searchlights. "We can hardly believe our
eyes," said another foreman, "when we see the heavy stuff brought to and
from the shops in motor lorries driven by girls. Before the war it was
all carted by horses and men. The girls do the job all right, though, and
the only thing they ever complain about is that their toes get cold."
They worked without hesitation from twelve to fourteen hours a day, or a
night, for seven days a week, and with the voluntary sacrifice of public
That is not all, or nearly all, that the women of England did--I skip
their welfare work, recreation work, nursing--but it is enough wherewith
to answer the ignorant, or the fraud, or the fool.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
On August 8, 1914, Lord Kitchener asked for 100,000 volunteers. He had
them within fourteen days. In the first week of September 170,000 men
enrolled, 30,000 in a single day. Eleven months later, two million had
enlisted. Ten months later, five million and forty-one thousand had
voluntarily enrolled in the Army and Navy.
In 1914 Britain had in her Royal Naval Air Service 64 aeroplanes and 800
airmen. In 1917 she had many thousand aeroplanes and 42,000 airmen. In
her Royal Flying Corps she had in 1914, 66 planes and 100 men; in 1917,
several thousand planes and men by tens of thousands. In the first nine
months of 1917 British airmen brought down 876 enemy machines and drove
down 759 out of control. From July, 1917, to June, 1918, 4102 enemy
machines were destroyed or brought down with a loss of 1213 machines.
Besides financing her own war costs she had by October, 1917, loaned
eight hundred million dollars to the Dominions and five billion five
hundred million to the Allies. She raised five billion in thirty days. In
the first eight months of 1918 she contributed to the various forms of
war loan at the average rate of one hundred and twenty-four million,
eight hundred thousand a week.
Is that enough? Enough to show what England did in the War? No, it is not
enough for such people as continue to ask what she did. Nothing would
suffice these persons. During the earlier stages of the War it was
possible that the question could be asked honestly--though never
intelligently--because the facts and figures were not at that time always
accessible. They were still piling up, they were scattered about, mention
of them was incidental and fugitive, they could be missed by anybody who
was not diligently alert to find them. To-day it is quite otherwise. The
facts and figures have been compiled, arranged, published in accessible
and convenient form; therefore to-day, the man or woman who persists in
asking what England did in the war is not honest but dishonest or
mentally spotted, and does not want to be answered. They don't want to
know. The question is merely a camouflage of their spite, and were every
item given of the gigantic and magnificent contribution that England made
to the defeat of the Kaiser and all his works, it would not stop their
evil mouths. Not for them am I here setting forth a part of what England
did; it is for the convenience of the honest American, who does want to
know, that my collection of facts is made from the various sources which
he may not have the time or the means to look up for himself. For his
benefit I add some particulars concerning the British Navy which kept the
Kaiser out of our front yard.
Admiral Mahan said in his book--and he was an American of whose knowledge
and wisdom Congress seems to have known nothing and cared less--"Why do
English innate political conceptions of popular representative
government, of the balance of law and liberty, prevail in North America
from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the
Pacific? Because the command of the sea at the decisive era belonged to
Great Britain." We have seen that the decisive era was when Napoleon's
mouth watered for Louisiana, and when England took her stand behind the
Admiral Sims said in the second installment of his narrative The Victory
at Sea, published in The World's Work for October, 1919, at page 619:
"... Let us suppose for a moment that an earthquake, or some other great
natural disturbance, had engulfed the British fleet at Scapa Flow. The
world would then have been at Germany's mercy and all the destroyers the
Allies could have put upon the sea would have availed them nothing, for
the German battleships and battle cruisers could have sunk them or driven
them into their ports. Then Allied commerce would have been the prey, not
only of the submarines, which could have operated with the utmost
freedom, but of the German surface craft as well. In a few weeks the
British food supplies would have been exhausted. There would have been an
early end to the soldiers and munitions which Britain was constantly
sending to France. The United States could have sent no forces to the
Western front, and the result would have been the surrender which the
Allies themselves, in the spring of 1917, regarded as a not remote
possibility. America would then have been compelled to face the German
power alone, and to face it long before we had had an opportunity to
assemble our resources and equip our armies. The world was preserved from
all these calamities because the destroyer and the convoy solved the
problem of the submarines, and because back of these agencies of victory
lay Admiral Beatty's squadrons, holding at arm's length the German
surface ships while these comparatively fragile craft were saving the
liberties of the world."
Yes. The High Seas Fleet of Germany, costing her one billion five hundred
million dollars, was bottled up. Five million five hundred thousand tons
of German shipping and one million tons of Austrian shipping were driven
off the seas or captured; oversea trade and oversea colonies were cut
off. Two million oversea Huns of fighting age were hindered from joining
the enemy. Ocean commerce and communication were stopped for the Huns and
secured to the Allies. In 1916, 2100 mines were swept up and 89 mine
sweepers lost. These mine sweepers and patrol boats numbered 12 in 1914,
and 3300 by 1918. To patrol the seas British ships had to steam eight
million miles in a single month. During the four years of the war they
transported oversea more than thirteen million men (losing but 2700
through enemy action) as well as transporting two million horses and
mules, five hundred thousand vehicles, twenty-five million tons of
explosives, fifty-one million tons of oil and fuel, one hundred and
thirty million tons of food and other materials for the use of the
Allies. In one month three hundred and fifty-five thousand men were
carried from England to France.
It was after our present Secretary of the Navy, in his speech in Boston
to which allusion has been made, had given our navy all and the British
navy none of the credit of conveying our soldiers overseas, that Admiral
Sims repaired the singular oblivion of the Secretary. We Americans should
know the truth, he said. We had not been too accurately informed. We did
not seem to have been told by anybody, for instance, that of the five
thousand anti-submarine craft operating day and night in the infested
waters, we had 160, or 3 per cent; that of the million and a half troops
which had gone over from here in a few months, Great Britain brought over
two thirds and escorted half.
"I would like American papers to pay particular attention to the fact
that there are about 5000 anti-submarine craft in the ocean to-day,
cutting out mines, escorting troop ships, and making it possible for us
to go ahead and win this war. They can do this because the British Grand
Fleet is so powerful that the German High Seas Fleet has to stay at home.
The British Grand Fleet is the foundation stone of the cause of the whole
of the Allies."
Thus Admiral Sims.
That is part of what England did in the war.
Note.--The author expresses thanks and acknowledgment to Pearson's
Magazine for permission to use the passages quoted from the articles by
Chapter XV: Rude Britannia, Crude Columbia
It may have been ten years ago, it may have been fifteen--and just how
long it was before the war makes no matter--that I received an invitation
to join a society for the promotion of more friendly relations between
the United States and England.
"No, indeed," I said to myself.
Even as I read the note, hostility rose in me. Refusal sprang to my lips
before my reason had acted at all. I remembered George III. I remembered
the Civil War. The ancient grudge, the anti-English complex, had been
instantly set fermenting in me. Nothing could better disclose its lurking
persistence than my virtually automatic exclamation, "No, indeed!" I knew
something about England's friendly acts, about Venezuela, and Manila Bay,
and Edmund Burke, and John Bright, and the Queen, and the Lancashire
cotton spinners. And more than this historic knowledge, I knew living
English people, men and women, among whom I counted dear and even beloved
friends. I knew also, just as well as Admiral Mahan knew, and other
Americans by the hundreds of thousands have known and know at this
moment, that all the best we have and are--law, ethics, love of liberty--
all of it came from England, grew in England first, ripened from the seed
of which we are merely one great harvest, planted here by England. And
yet I instantly exclaimed, "No, indeed! "
Well, having been inflicted with the anti-English complex myself, I
understand it all the better in others, and am begging them to counteract
it as I have done. You will recollect that I said at the outset of these
observations that, as I saw it, our prejudice was founded upon three
causes fairly separate, although they often melted together. With two of
these causes I have now dealt--the school histories, and certain acts and
policies of England's throughout our relations with her. The third cause,
I said, was certain traits of the English and ourselves which have
produced personal friction. An American does or says something which
angers an Englishman, who thereupon goes about thinking and saying,
"Those insufferable Yankees!" An Englishman does or says something which
angers an American, who thereupon goes about thinking and saying, "To
Hell with England!" Each makes the well-nigh universal--but none the
less perfectly ridiculous--blunder of damning a whole people because one
of them has rubbed him the wrong way. Nothing could show up more forcibly
and vividly this human weakness for generalizing from insufficient data,
than the incident in London streets which I promised to tell you in full
when we should reach the time for it. The time is now.
In a hospital at no great distance from San Francisco, a wounded American
soldier said to one who sat beside him, that never would he go to Europe
to fight anybody again--except the English. Them he would like to fight;
and to the astonished visitor he told his reason. He, it appeared, was
one of our Americans who marched through London streets on that day when
the eyes of London looked for the first time upon the Yankees at last
arrived to bear a hand to England and her Allies. From the mob came a
certain taunt: "You silly ass."
It was, as you will observe, an unflattering interpretation of our
national initials, U. S. A. Of course it was enough to make a proper
American doughboy entirely "hot under the collar." To this reading of our
national initials our national readiness retorted in kind at an early
date: A. E. F. meant After England Failed. But why, months and months
afterwards, when everything was over, did that foolish doughboy in the
hospital hug this lone thing to his memory? It was the act of an
unthinking few. Didn't he notice what the rest of London was doing that
day? Didn't he remember that she flew the Union Jack and the Stars and
Stripes together from every symbolic pinnacle of creed and government
that rose above her continent of streets and dwellings to the sky?
Couldn't he feel that England, his old enemy and old mother, bowed and
stricken and struggling, was opening her arms to him wide? She's a person
who hides her tears even from herself; but it seems to me that, with a
drop of imagination and half a drop of thought, he might have discovered
a year and a half after a few street roughs had insulted him, that they
were not all England. With two drops of thought it might even have
ultimately struck him that here we came, late, very late, indeed, only
just in time, from a country untouched, unafflicted, unbombed, safe,
because of England's ships, to tired, broken, bleeding England; and that
the sight of us, so jaunty, so fresh, so innocent of suffering and
bereavement, should have been for a thoughtless moment galling to
I am perfectly sure that if such considerations as these were laid before
any American soldier who still smarted under that taunt in London
streets, his good American sense, which is our best possession, would
grasp and accept the thing in its true proportions. He wouldn't want to
blot an Empire out because a handful of muckers called him names. Of this
I am perfectly sure, because in Paris streets it was my happy lot four
months after the Armistice to talk with many American soldiers, among
whom some felt sore about the French. Not one of these but saw with his
good American sense, directly I pointed certain facts out to him, that
his hostile generalization had been unjust. But, to quote the oft-quoted
Mr. Kipling, that is another story.
An American regiment just arrived in France was encamped for purposes of
training and experience next a British regiment come back from the front
to rest. The streets of the two camps were adjacent, and the Tommies
walked out to watch the Yankees pegging down their tents.
"Aw," they said, "wot a shyme you've brought nobody along to tuck you
They made other similar remarks; commented unfavorably upon the
alignment; "You were a bit late in coming," they said. Of course our boys
had answers, and to these the Tommies had further answers, and this
encounter of wits very naturally led to a result which could not possibly
have been happier. I don't know what the Tommies expected the Yankees to
do. I suppose they were as ignorant of our nature as we of theirs, and
that they entertained preconceived notions. They suddenly found that we
were, once again to quote Mr. Kipling, "bachelors in barricks most
remarkable like" themselves. An American first sergeant hit a British
first sergeant. Instantly a thousand men were milling. For thirty minutes
they kept at it. Warriors reeled together and fell and rose and got it in
the neck and the jaw and the eye and the nose--and all the while the
British and American officers, splendidly discreet, saw none of it.
British soldiers were carried back to their streets, still fighting,
bunged Yankees staggered everywhere--but not an officer saw any of it.
Black eyes the next day, and other tokens, very plainly showed who had
been at this party. Thereafter a much better feeling prevailed between
Tommies and Yanks.
A more peaceful contact produced excellent consequences at an encampment
of Americans in England. The Americans had brought over an idea,
apparently, that the English were "easy." They tried it on in sundry
ways, but ended by the discovery that, while engaged upon this
enterprise, they had been in sundry ways quite completely "done"
themselves. This gave them a respect for their English cousins which they
had never felt before.
Here is another tale, similar in moral. This occurred at Brest, in
France. In the Y hut sat an English lady, one of the hostesses. To her
came a young American marine with whom she already had some acquaintance.
This led him to ask for her advice. He said to her that as his permission
was of only seventy-two hours, he wanted to be as economical of his time
as he could and see everything best worth while for him to see during his
leave. Would she, therefore, tell him what things in Paris were the most
interesting and in what order he had best take them? She replied with
another suggestion; why not, she said, ask for permission for England?
This would give him two weeks instead of seventy-two hours. At this he
burst out violently that he would not set foot in England; that he never
wanted to have anything to do with England or with the English: "Why, I
am a marine!" he exclaimed, "and we marines would sooner knock down any
English sailor than speak to him."
The English lady, naturally, did not then tell him her nationality. She
now realized that he had supposed her to be American, because she had
frequently been in America and had talked to him as no stranger to the
country could. She, of course, did not urge his going to England; she
advised him what to see in France. He took his leave of seventy-two hours
and when he returned was very grateful for the advice she had given him.
She saw him often after this, and he grew to rely very much upon her
friendly counsel. Finally, when the time came for her to go away from
Brest, she told him that she was English. And then she said something
like this to him:
"Now, you told me you had never been in England and had never known an
English person in your life, and yet you had all these ideas against us
because somebody had taught you wrong. It is not at all your fault. You
are only nineteen years old and you cannot read about us, because you
have no chance; but at least you do know one English person now, and that
English person begs you, when you do have a chance to read and inform
yourself of the truth, to find out what England really has been, and what
she has really done in this war."
The end of the story is that the boy, who had become devoted to her, did
as she suggested. To-day she receives letters from him which show that
nothing is left of his anti-English complex. It is another instance of
how clearly our native American mind, if only the facts are given it,
thinks, judges, and concludes.
It is for those of my countrymen who will never have this chance, never
meet some one who can guide them to the facts", that I tell these things.
Let them "cut out the dope." At this very moment that I write--November
24, 1919--the dope is being fed freely to all who are ready, whether
through ignorance or through interested motives, to swallow it. The
ancient grudge is being played up strong over the whole country in the
interest of Irish independence.
Ian Hay in his two books so timely and so excellent, Getting Together and
The Oppressed English, could not be as unreserved, naturally, as I can be
about those traits in my own countrymen which have, in the past at any
rate, retarded English cordiality towards Americans. Of these I shall
speak as plainly as I know how. But also, being an American and therefore
by birth more indiscreet than Ian Hay, I shall speak as plainly as I know
how of those traits in the English which have helped to keep warm our
ancient grudge. Thus I may render both countries forever uninhabitable to
me, but shall at least take with me into exile a character for strict, if
I begin with an American who was traveling in an English train. It
stopped somewhere, and out of the window he saw some buildings which
"Can you tell me what those are?" he asked an Englishman, a stranger, who
sat in the other corner of the compartment.
"Better ask the guard," said the Englishman.
Since that brief dialogue, this American does not think well of the
Now, two interpretations of the Englishman's answer are possible. One is,
that he didn't himself know, and said so in his English way. English talk
is often very short, much shorter than ours. That is because they all
understand each other, are much closer knit than we are. Behind them are
generations of "doing it" in the same established way, a way that their
long experience of life has hammered out for their own convenience, and
which they like. We're not nearly so closely knit together here, save in
certain spots, especially the old spots. In Boston they understand each
other with very few words said. So they do in Charleston. But these spots
of condensed and hoarded understanding lie far apart, are never
confluent, and also differ in their details; while the whole of England
is confluent, and the details have been slowly worked out through
centuries of getting on together, and are accepted and observed exactly
like the rules of a game.
In America, if the American didn't know, he would have answered, "I don't
know. I think you'll have to ask the conductor," or at any rate, his
reply would have been longer than the Englishman's. But I am not going to
accept the idea that the Englishman didn't know and said so in his brief
usual way. It's equally possible that he did know. Then, you naturally
ask, why in the name of common civility did he give such an answer to the
I believe that I can tell you. He didn't know that my friend was an
American, he thought he was an Englishman who had broken the rules of the
game. We do have some rules here in America, only we have not nearly so
many, they're much more stretchable, and it's not all of us who have
learned them. But nevertheless a good many have.
Suppose you were traveling in a train here, and the man next you, whose
face you had never seen before, and with whom you had not yet exchanged a
syllable, said: "What's your pet name for your wife?"
Wouldn't your immediate inclination be to say, "What damned business is
that of yours?" or words to that general effect?
But again, you most naturally object, there was nothing personal in my
friend's question about the buildings. No; but that is not it. At the
bottom, both questions are an invasion of the same deep-seated thing--the
right to privacy. In America, what with the newspaper reporters and this
and that and the other, the territory of a man's privacy has been
lessened and lessened until very little of it remains; but most of us
still do draw the line somewhere; we may not all draw it at the same
place, but we do draw a line. The difference, then, between ourselves and
the English in this respect is simply, that with them the territory of a
man's privacy covers more ground, and different ground as well. An
Englishman doesn't expect strangers to ask him questions of a guide-book
sort. For all such questions his English system provides perfectly
definite persons to answer. If you want to know where the ticket office
is, or where to take your baggage, or what time the train goes, or what
platform it starts from, or what towns it stops at, and what churches or
other buildings of interest are to be seen in those towns, there are
porters and guards and Bradshaws and guidebooks to tell you, and it's
they whom you are expected to consult, not any fellow-traveler who
happens to be at hand. If you ask him, you break the rules. Had my friend
said: "I am an American. Would you mind telling me what those buildings
are?" all would have gone well. The Englishman would have recognized (not
fifty years ago, but certainly to-day) that it wasn't a question of rules
between them, and would have at once explained--either that he didn't
know, or that the buildings were such and such.
Do not, I beg, suppose for a moment that I am holding up the English way
as better than our own--or worse. I am not making comparisons; I am
trying to show differences. Very likely there are many points wherein we
think the English might do well to borrow from us; and it is quite as
likely that the English think we might here and there take a leaf from
their book to our advantage. But I am not theorizing, I am not seeking to
show that we manage life better or that they manage life better; the only
moral that I seek to draw from these anecdotes is, that we should each
understand and hence make allowance for the other fellow's way. You will
admit, I am sure, be you American or English, that everybody has a right
to his own way? The proverb "When in Rome you must do as Rome does"
covers it, and would save trouble if we always obeyed it. The people who
forget it most are they that go to Rome for the first time; and I shall
give you both English and American examples of this presently. It is good
to ascertain before you go to Rome, if you can, what Rome does do.
Have you never been mistaken for a waiter, or something of that sort?
Perhaps you will have heard the anecdote about one of our ambassadors to
England. All ambassadors, save ours, wear on formal occasions a
distinguishing uniform, just as our army and navy officers do; it is
convenient, practical, and saves trouble. But we have declared it menial,
or despotic, or un-American, or something equally silly, and hence our
ambassadors must wear evening dress resembling closely the attire of
those who are handing the supper or answering the door-bell. An
Englishman saw Mr. Choate at some diplomatic function, standing about in
this evening costume, and said:
"Call me a cab."
"You are a cab," said Mr. Choate, obediently.
Thus did he make known to the Englishman that he was not a waiter.
Similarly in crowded hotel dining-rooms or crowded railroad stations have
agitated ladies clutched my arm and said:
"I want a table for three," or "When does the train go to Poughkeepsie? "
Just as we in America have regular people to attend to these things, so
do they in England; and as the English respect each other's right to
privacy very much more than we do, they resent invasions of it very much
more than we do. But, let me say again, they are likely to mind it only
in somebody they think knows the rules. With those who don't know them it
is different. I say this with all the more certainty because of a fairly
recent afternoon spent in an English garden with English friends. The
question of pronunciation came up. Now you will readily see that with
them and their compactness, their great public schools, their two great
Universities, and their great London, the one eternal focus of them all,
both the chance of diversity in social customs and the tolerance of it
must be far less than in our huge unfocused country. With us, Boston, New
York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, is each a centre. Here you
can pronounce the word calm, for example, in one way or another, and it
merely indicates where you come from. Departure in England from certain
established pronunciations has another effect.
"Of course," said one of my friends, "one knows where to place anybody
who says 'girl'" (pronouncing it as it is spelled).
"That's frightful," said I, "because I say 'girl'."
"Oh, but you are an American. It doesn't apply."
But had I been English, it would have been something like coming to
dinner without your collar.
That is why I think that, had my friend in the train begun his question
about the buildings by saying that he was an American, the answer would
have been different. Not all the English yet, but many more than there
were fifty or even twenty years ago, have ceased to apply their rules to
About 1874 a friend of mine from New York was taken to a London Club.
Into the room where he was came the Prince of Wales, who took out a
cigar, felt for and found no matches, looked about, and there was a
silence. My friend thereupon produced matches, struck one, and offered it
to the Prince, who bowed, thanked him, lighted his cigar, and presently
Then an Englishman observed to my friend: "It's not the thing for a
commoner to offer a light to the Prince."
"I'm not a commoner, I'm an American," said my friend with perfect good
Whatever their rule may be to-day about the Prince and matches, as to us
they have come to accept my friend's pertinent distinction: they don't
expect us to keep or even to know their own set of rules.
Indeed, they surpass us in this, they make more allowances for us than we
for them. They don't criticize Americans for not being English. Americans
still constantly do criticize the English for not being Americans. Now,
the measure in which you don't allow for the customs of another country
is the measure of your own provincialism. I have heard some of our own
soldiers express dislike of the English because of their coldness. The
English are not cold; they are silent upon certain matters. But it is all
there. Do you remember that sailor at Zeebrugge carrying the unconscious
body of a comrade to safety, not sure yet if he were alive or dead, and
stroking that comrade's head as he went, saying over and over, "Did you
think I would leave yer?" We are more demonstrative, we spell things out
which it is the way of the English to leave between the lines. But it is
all there! Behind that unconciliating wall of shyness and reserve, beats
and hides the warm, loyal British heart, the most constant heart in the
"It isn't done."
That phrase applies to many things in England besides offering a light to
the Prince, or asking a fellow traveler what those buildings are; and I
think that the Englishman's notion of his right to privacy lies at the
bottom of quite a number of these things. You may lay some of them to
snobbishness, to caste, to shyness, they may have various secondary
origins; but I prefer to cover them all with the broader term, the right
to privacy, because it seems philosophically to account for them and
In May, 1915, an Oxford professor was in New York. A few years before
this I had read a book of his which had delighted me. I met him at lunch,
I had not known him before. Even as we shook hands, I blurted out to him
my admiration for his book.
That was the whole of his reply. It made me laugh at myself, for I should
have known better. I had often been in England and could have told
anybody that you mustn't too abruptly or obviously refer to what the
other fellow does, still less to what you do yourself. "It isn't done."
It's a sort of indecent exposure. It's one of the invasions of the right
In America, not everywhere but in many places, a man upon entering a club
and seeing a friend across the room, will not hesitate to call out to
him, "Hullo, Jack!" or "Hullo, George!" or whatever. In England "it
isn't done." The greeting would be conveyed by a short nod or a glance.
To call out a man's name across a room full of people, some of whom may
be total strangers, invades his privacy and theirs. Have you noticed how,
in our Pullman parlor cars, a party sitting together, generally young
women, will shriek their conversation in a voice that bores like a gimlet
through the whole place? That is an invasion of privacy. In England "it
isn't done." We shouldn't stand it in a theatre, but in parlor cars we do
stand it. It is a good instance to show that the Englishman's right to
privacy is larger than ours, and thus that his liberty is larger than
Before leaving this point, which to my thinking is the cause of many
frictions and misunderstandings between ourselves and the English, I
mustn't omit to give instances of divergence, where an Englishman will
speak of matters upon which we are silent, and is silent upon subjects of
which we will speak.
You may present a letter of introduction to an Englishman, and he wishes
to be civil, to help you to have a good time. It is quite possible he may
say something like this:
"I think you had better know my sister Sophy. You mayn't like her. But
her dinners are rather amusing. Of course the food's ghastly because
she's the stingiest woman in London."
On the other hand, many Americans (though less willing than the French)
are willing to discuss creed, immortality, faith. There is nothing from
which the Englishman more peremptorily recoils, although he hates well
nigh as deeply all abstract discussion, or to be clever, or to have you
be clever. An American friend of mine had grown tired of an Englishman
who had been finding fault with one American thing after another. So he
"Will you tell me why you English when you enter your pews on Sunday
always immediately smell your hats? "
The Englishman stiffened. "I refuse to discuss religious subjects with
you," he said.
To be ponderous over this anecdote grieves me--but you may not know that
orthodox Englishmen usually don't kneel, as we do, after reaching their
pews; they stand for a moment, covering their faces with their
well-brushed hats: with each nation the observance is the same, it is in
the manner of the observing that we differ.
Much is said about our "common language," and its being a reason for our
understanding each other. Yes; but it is also almost as much a cause for
our misunderstanding each other. It is both a help and a trap. If we
Americans spoke something so wholly different from English as French is,
comparisons couldn't be made; and somebody has remarked that comparisons
"Why do you call your luggage baggage?" says the Englishman--or used to
"Why do you call your baggage luggage?" says the American--or used to
"Why don't you say treacle?" inquires the Englishman.
"Because we call it molasses," answers the American.
"How absurd to speak of a car when you mean a carriage!" exclaims the
"We don't mean a carriage, we mean a car," retorts the American.
You, my reader, may have heard (or perhaps even held) foolish
conversations like that; and you will readily perceive that if we didn't
say "car" when we spoke of the vehicle you get into when you board a
train, but called it a voiture, or something else quite "foreign," the
Englishman would not feel that we had taken a sort of liberty with his
mother-tongue. A deep point lies here: for most English the world is
divided into three peoples, English, foreigners, and Americans; and for
most of us likewise it is divided into Americans, foreigners, and Eng-
lish. Now a "foreigner" can call molasses whatever he pleases; we do not
feel that he has taken any liberty with our mother-tongue; his tongue has
a different mother; he can't help that; he's not to be criticized for
that. But we and the English speak a tongue that has the same mother.
This identity in pedigree has led and still leads to countless family
discords. I've not a doubt that divergences in vocabulary and in accent
were the fount and origin of some swollen noses, some battered eyes, when
our Yankees mixed with the Tommies. Each would be certain to think that
the other couldn't "talk straight"--and each would be certain to say so.
I shall not here spin out a list of different names for the same things
now current in English and American usage: molasses and treacle will
suffice for an example; you will be able easily to think of others, and
there are many such that occur in everyday speech. Almost more tricky are
those words which both peoples use alike, but with different meanings. I
shall spin no list of these either; one example there is which I cannot
name, of two words constantly used in both countries, each word quite
proper in one country, while in the other it is more than improper.
Thirty years ago I explained this one evening to a young Englishman who
was here for a while. Two or three days later, he thanked me fervently
for the warning: it had saved him, during a game of tennis, from a
frightful shock, when his partner, a charming girl, meaning to tell him
to cheer up, had used the word that is so harmless with us and in England
so far beyond the pale of polite society.
Quite as much as words, accent also leads to dissension. I have heard
many an American speak of the English accent as "affected"; and our
accent displeases the English. Now what Englishman, or what American,
ever criticizes a Frenchman for not pronouncing our language as we do?
His tongue has a different mother!
I know not how in the course of the years all these divergences should
have come about, and none of us need care. There they are. As a matter of
fact, both England and America are mottled with varying accents literate
and illiterate; equally true it is that each nation has its notion of the
other's way of speaking--we're known by our shrill nasal twang, they by
their broad vowels and hesitation; and quite as true is it that not all
Americans and not all English do in their enunciation conform to these
One May afternoon in 1919 I stopped at Salisbury to see that beautiful
cathedral and its serene and gracious close. "Star-scattered on the
grass," and beneath the noble trees, lay New Zealand soldiers, solitary
or in little groups, gazing, drowsing, talking at ease. Later, at the inn
I was shown to a small table, where sat already a young Englishman in
evening dress, at his dinner. As I sat down opposite him, I bowed, and he
returned it. Presently we were talking. When I said that I was stopping
expressly to see the cathedral, and how like a trance it was to find a
scene so utterly English full of New Zealanders lying all about, he
looked puzzled. It was at this, or immediately after this, that I
explained to him my nationality.
"I shouldn't have known it," he remarked, after an instant's pause.
I pressed him for his reason, which he gave; somewhat reluctantly, I
think, but with excellent good-will. Of course it was the same old
"You mean," I said, "that I haven't happened to say 'I guess,' and that I
don't, perhaps, talk through my nose? But we don't all do that. We do all
sorts of things."
He stuck to it. "You talk like us."
"Well, I'm sure I don't mean to talk like anybody!" I sighed.
This diverted him, and brought us closer.
"And see here," I continued, "I knew you were English, although you've
not dropped a single h."
"Oh, but," he said, "dropping h's--that's--that's not--"
"I know it isn't," I said. "Neither is talking through your nose. And we
don't all say 'Amurrican.'"
But he stuck to it. "All the same there is an American voice. The
train yesterday was full of it. Officers. Unmistakable." And he shook his
After this we got on better than ever; and as he went his way, he gave me
some advice about the hotel. I should do well to avoid the reading room.
The hotel went in rather too much for being old-fashioned. Ran it into
the ground. Tiresome. Good-night.
Presently I shall disclose more plainly to you the moral of my Salisbury
Is it their discretion, do you think, that closes the lips of the French
when they visit our shores? Not from the French do you hear prompt
aspersions as to our differences from them. They observe that proverb
about being in Rome: they may not be able to do as Rome does, but they do
not inquire why Rome isn't like Paris. If you ask them how they like our
hotels or our trains, they may possibly reply that they prefer their own,
but they will hardly volunteer this opinion. But the American in England
and the Englishman in America go about volunteering opinions. Are the
French more discreet? I believe that they are; but I wonder if there is
not also something else at the bottom of it. You and I will say things
about our cousins to our aunt. Our aunt would not allow outsiders to say
those things. Is it this, the-members-of-the-family principle, which
makes us less discreet than the French? Is it this, too, which leads us
by a seeming paradox to resent criticism more when it comes from England?
I know not how it may be with you; but with me, when I pick up the paper
and read that the Germans are calling us pig-dogs again, I am merely
amused. When I read French or Italian abuse of us, I am sorry, to be
sure; but when some English paper jumps on us, I hate it, even when I
know that what it says isn't true. So here, if I am right in my
members-of-the-family hypothesis, you have the English and ourselves
feeling free to be disagreeable to each other because we are relations,
and yet feeling especially resentful because it's a relation who is being
disagreeable. I merely put the point to you, I lay no dogma down
concerning members of the family; but I am perfectly sure that
discretion is a quality more common to the French than to ourselves or
our relations: I mean something a little more than discretion, I mean
esprit de conduits, for which it is hard to find a translation.
Upon my first two points, the right to privacy and the mother-tongue, I
have lingered long, feeling these to be not only of prime importance and
wide application, but also to be quite beyond my power to make lucid in
short compass. I trust that they have been made lucid. I must now get on
to further anecdotes, illustrating other and less subtle causes of
misunderstanding; and I feel somewhat like the author of Don Juan when he
exclaims that he almost wishes he had ne'er begun that very remarkable
poem. I renounce all pretense to the French virtue of discretion.
Evening dress has been the source of many irritations. Englishmen did not
appear to think that they need wear it at American dinner parties. There
was a good deal of this at one time. During that period an Englishman,
who had brought letters to a gentleman in Boston and in consequence had
been asked to dinner, entered the house of his host in a tweed suit. His
host, in evening dress of course, met him in the hall.
"Oh, I see," said the Bostonian, "that you haven't your dress suit with
you. The man will take you upstairs and one of mine will fit you well
enough. We'll wait."
In England, a cricketer from Philadelphia, after the match at Lord's, had
been invited to dine at a great house with the rest of his eleven. They
were to go there on a coach. The American discovered after arrival that
he alone of the eleven had not brought a dress suit with him. He asked
his host what he was to do.
"I advise you to go home," said the host.
The moral here is not that all hosts in England would have treated a
guest so, or that all American hosts would have met the situation so well
as that Boston gentleman: but too many English used to be socially
brutal--quite as much so to each other as to us, or any one. One should
bear that in mind. I know of nothing more English in its way than what
Eton answered to Beaumont (I think) when Beaumont sent a challenge to
play cricket: "Harrow we know, and Rugby we have heard of. But who are
That sort of thing belongs rather to the Palmerston days than to these;
belongs to days that were nearer in spirit to the Waterloo of 1815, which
a haughty England won, than to the Waterloo of 1914-18, which a humbler
England so nearly lost.
Turn we next the other way for a look at ourselves. An American lady who
had brought a letter of introduction to an Englishman in London was in
consequence asked to lunch. He naturally and hospitably gathered to meet
her various distinguished guests. Afterwards she wrote him that she
wished him to invite her to lunch again, as she had matters of importance
to tell him. Why, then, didn't she ask him to lunch with her? Can you
see? I think I do.
An American lady was at a house party in Scotland at which she met a
gentleman of old and famous Scotch blood. He was wearing the kilt of his
clan. While she talked with him she stared, and finally burst out
laughing. "I declare," she said, "that's positively the most ridiculous
thing I ever saw a man dressed in."
At the Savoy hotel in August, 1914, when England declared war upon
Germany, many American women made scenes of confusion and vociferation.
About England and the blast of Fate which had struck her they had nothing
to say, but crowded and wailed of their own discomforts, meals, rooms,
every paltry personal inconvenience to which they were subjected, or
feared that they were going to be subjected. Under the unprecedented
stress this was, perhaps, not unnatural; but it would have seemed less
displeasing had they also occasionally showed concern for England's
plight and peril.
An American, this time a man (our crudities are not limited to the sex)
stood up in a theatre, disputing the sixpence which you always have to
pay for your program in the London theatres. He disputed so long that
many people had to stand waiting to be shown their seats.
During deals at a game of bridge on a Cunard steamer, the talk had turned
upon a certain historic house in an English county. The talk was
friendly, everything had been friendly each day.
"Well," said a very rich American to his English partner in the game,
"those big estates will all be ours pretty soon. We're going to buy them
up and turn your island into our summer resort." No doubt this
millionaire intended to be playfully humorous.
At a table where several British and one American--an officer--sat during
another ocean voyage between Liverpool and Halifax in June, 1919, the
officer expressed satisfaction to be getting home again. He had gone
over, he said, to "clean up the mess the British had made."
To a company of Americans who had never heard it before, was told the
well-known exploit of an American girl in Europe. In an ancient church
she was shown the tomb of a soldier who had been killed in battle three
centuries ago. In his honor and memory, because he lost his life bravely
in a great cause, his family had kept a little glimmering lamp alight
ever since. It hung there, beside the tomb.
"And that's never gone out in all this time?" asked the American girl.
"Never," she was told.
"Well, it's out now, anyway," and she blew it out.
All the Americans who heard this were shocked all but one, who said:
"Well, I think she was right."
There you are! There you have us at our very worst! And with this plump
specimen of the American in Europe at his very worst, I turn back to the
English: only, pray do not fail to give those other Americans who were
shocked by the outrage of the lamp their due. How wide of the mark would
you be if you judged us all by the one who approved of that horrible
vandal girl's act! It cannot be too often repeated that we must never
condemn a whole people for what some of the people do.
In the two-and-a-half anecdotes which follow, you must watch out for
something which lies beneath their very obvious surface.
An American sat at lunch with a great English lady in her country-house.
Although she had seen him but once before, she began a conversation like
Did the American know the van Squibbers?
He did not.
Well, the van Squibbers, his hostess explained, were Americans who lived
in London and went everywhere. One certainly did see them everywhere.
They were almost too extraordinary.
Now the American knew quite all about these van Squibbers. He knew also
that in New York, and Boston, and Philadelphia, and in many other places
where existed a society with still some ragged remnants of decency and
decorum left, one would not meet this highly star-spangled family
The hostess kept it up. Did the American know the Butteredbuns? No? Well,
one met the Butteredbuns everywhere too. They were rather more
extraordinary than the van Squibbers. And then there were the Cakewalks,
and the Smith-Trapezes' Mrs. Smith-Trapeze wasn't as extraordinary as her
daughter--the one that put the live frog in Lord Meldon's soup--and of
course neither of them were "talked about" in the same way that the
eldest Cakewalk girl was talked about. Everybody went to them, of course,
because one really never knew what one might miss if one didn't go.
At length the American said:
"You must correct me if I am wrong in an impression I have received.
Vulgar Americans seem to me to get on very well in London."
The hostess paused for a moment, and then she said:
"That is perfectly true."
This acknowledgment was complete, and perfectly friendly, and after that
all went better than it had gone before.
The half anecdote is a part of this one, and happened a few weeks later
at table--dinner this time.
Sitting next to the same American was an English lady whose conversation
led him to repeat to her what he had said to his hostess at lunch:
"Vulgar Americans seem to get on very well in London society."
"They do," said the lady, "and I will tell you why. We English--I mean
that set of English--are blase. We see each other too much, we are all
alike in our ways, and we are awfully tired of it. Therefore it refreshes
us and amuses us to see something new and different."
"Then," said the American, "you accept these hideous people's
invitations, and go to their houses, and eat their food, and drink their
champagne, and it's just like going to see the monkeys at the Zoo?"
"It is," returned the lady.
"But," the American asked, "isn't that awfully low down of you?" (He
smiled as he said it.)
Immediately the English lady assented; and grew more cordial. When next
day the party came to break up, she contrived in the manner of her
farewell to make the American understand that because of their
conversation she bore him not ill will but good will.
Once more, the scene of my anecdote is at table, a long table in a club,
where men came to lunch. All were Englishmen, except a single stranger.
He was an American, who through the kindness of one beloved member of
that club, no longer living now, had received a card to the club. The
American, upon sitting down alone in this company, felt what I suppose
that many of us feel in like circumstances: he wished there were somebody
there who knew him and could nod to him. Nevertheless, he was spoken to,
asked questions about various of his fellow countrymen, and made at home.
Presently, however, an elderly member who had been silent and whom I will
designate as being of the Dr. Samuel Johnson type, said: "You seem to be
having trouble in your packing houses over in America? "
"Very disgraceful, those exposures."
They were. It was May, 1906.
"Your Government seems to be doing something about it. It's certainly
scandalous. Such abuses should never have been possible in the first
place. It oughtn't to require your Government to stop it. It shouldn't
"I fancy the facts aren't quite so bad as that sensational novel about
Chicago makes them out," said the American. "At least I have been told
"It all sounds characteristic to me," said the Sam Johnson. "It's quite
the sort of thing one expects to hear from the States."
"It is characteristic," said the American. "In spite of all the years
that the sea has separated us, we're still inveterately like you, a
bullying, dishonest lot--though we've had nothing quite so bad yet as
your opium trade with China."
The Sam Johnson said no more.
At a ranch in Wyoming were a number of Americans and one Englishman, a
man of note, bearing a celebrated name. He was telling the company what
one could do in the way of amusement in the evening in London.
"And if there's nothing at the theatres and everything else fails, you
can always go to one of the restaurants and hear the Americans eat."
There you have them, my anecdotes. They are chosen from many. I hope and
believe that, between them all, they cover the ground; that, taken
together as I want you to take them after you have taken them singly,
they make my several points clear. As I see it, they reveal the chief
whys and wherefores of friction between English and Americans. It is also
my hope that I have been equally disagreeable to everybody. If I am to be
banished from both countries, I shall try not to pass my exile in
Switzerland, which is indeed a lovely place, but just now too full of
Beyond my two early points, the right to privacy and the mother-tongue,
what are the generalizations to be drawn from my data? I should like to
dodge spelling them out, I should immensely prefer to leave it here. Some
readers know it already, knew it before I began; while for others, what
has been said will be enough. These, if they have the will to friendship
instead of the will to hate, will get rid of their anti-English complex,
supposing that they had one, and understand better in future what has not
been clear to them before. But I seem to feel that some readers there may
be who will wish me to be more explicit.
First, then. England has a thousand years of greatness to her credit. Who
would not be proud of that? Arrogance is the seamy side of pride. That is
what has rubbed us Americans the wrong way. We are recent. Our thousand
years of greatness are to come. Such is our passionate belief. Crudity is
the seamy side of youth. Our crudity rubs the English the wrong way.
Compare the American who said we were going to buy England for a summer
resort with the Englishman who said that when all other entertainment in
London failed, you could always listen to the Americans eat. Crudity,
"freshness" on our side, arrogance, toploftiness on theirs: such is one
generalization I would have you disengage from my anecdotes.
Second. The English are blunter than we. They talk to us as they would
talk to themselves. The way we take it reveals that we are too often
thin-skinned. Recent people are apt to be thin-skinned and self-conscious
and self-assertive, while those with a thousand years of tradition would
have thicker hides and would never feel it necessary to assert
themselves. Give an Englishman as good as he gives you, and you are
certain to win his respect, and probably his regard. In this connection
see my anecdote about the Tommies and Yankees who physically fought it
out, and compare it with the Salisbury, the van Squibber, and the opium
trade anecdotes. "Treat 'em rough," when they treat you rough: they like
it. Only, be sure you do it in the right way.
Third. We differ because we are alike. That American who stood in the
theatre complaining about the sixpence he didn't have to pay at home is
exactly like Englishmen I have seen complaining about the unexpected
here. We share not only the same mother-tongue, we share every other
fundamental thing upon which our welfare rests and our lives are carried
on. We like the same things, we hate the same things. We have the same
notions about justice, law, conduct; about what a man should be, about
what a woman should be. It is like the mother-tongue we share, yet speak
with a difference. Take the mother-tongue for a parable and symbol of all
the rest. Just as the word "girl" is identical to our sight but not to
our hearing, and means oh! quite the same thing throughout us all in all
its meanings, so that identity of nature which we share comes often to
the surface in different guise. Our loquacity estranges the Englishman,
his silence estranges us. Behind that silence beats the English heart,
warm, constant, and true; none other like it on earth, except our own at
its best, beating behind our loquacity.
Thus far my anecdotes carry me. May they help some reader to a better
understanding of what he has misunderstood heretofore!
No anecdotes that I can find (though I am sure that they are to be found)
will illustrate one difference between the two peoples, very noticeable
to-day. It is increasing. An Englishman not only sticks closer than a
brother to his own rights, he respects the rights of his neighbor just as
strictly. We Americans are losing our grip on this. It is the bottom of
the whole thing. It is the moral keystone of democracy. Howsoever we may
talk about our own rights to-day, we pay less and less respect to those
of our neighbors. The result is that to-day there is more liberty in
England than here. Liberty consists and depends upon respecting your
neighbor's rights every bit as fairly and squarely as your own.
On the other hand, I wonder if the English are as good losers as we are?
Hardly anything that they could do would rub us more the wrong way than
to deny to us that fair play in sport which they accord each other. I
shall not more than mention the match between our Benicia Boy and their
Tom Sayers. Of this the English version is as defective as our
school-book account of the Revolution. I shall also pass over various
other international events that are somewhat well known, and I will
illustrate the point with an anecdote known to but a few.
Crossing the ocean were some young English and Americans, who got up an
international tug-of-war. A friend of mine was anchor of our team. We
happened to win. They didn't take it very well. One of them said to the
"Do you know why you pulled us over the line? "
"Because you had all the blackguards on your side of the line."
"Do you know why we had all the blackguards on our side of the line? "
inquired the American.
"Because we pulled you over the line."
In one of my anecdotes I used the term Sam Johnson to describe an
Englishman of a certain type. Dr. Samuel Johnson was a very marked
specimen of the type, and almost the only illustrious Englishman of
letters during our Revolutionary troubles who was not our friend. Right
down through the years ever since, there have been Sam Johnsons writing
and saying unfavorable things about us. The Tory must be eternal, as much
as the Whig or Liberal; and both are always needed. There will probably
always be Sam Johnsons in England, just like the one who was scandalized
by our Chicago packing-house disclosures. No longer ago than June 1,
1919, a Sam Johnson, who was discussing the Peace Treaty, said in my
hearing, in London:
"The Yankees shouldn't have been brought into any consultation. They
aided and abetted Germany."
In Littell's Living Age of July 20, 1918, pages 151-160, you may read an
interesting account of British writers on the United States. The bygone
ones were pretty preposterous. They satirized the newness of a new
country. It was like visiting the Esquimaux and complaining that they
grew no pineapples and wore skins. In Littell you will find how few are
the recent Sam Johnsons as compared with the recent friendly writers. You
will also be reminded that our anti-English complex was discerned
generations ago by Washington Irving. He said in his Sketch Book that
writers in this country were "instilling anger and resentment into the
bosom of a youthful nation, to grow with its growth and to strengthen
with its strength."
And he quotes from the English Quarterly Review, which in that early day
already wrote of America and England:
"There is a sacred bond between us by blood and by language which no
circumstances can break.... Nations are too ready to admit that they have
natural enemies; why should they be less willing to believe that they
have natural friends?"
It is we ourselves to-day, not England, that are pushing friendship away.
It is our politicians, papers, and propagandists who are making the
trouble and the noise. In England the will to friendship rules, has ruled
for a long while. Does the will to hate rule with us? Do we prefer
Germany? Do we prefer the independence of Ireland to the peace of the
Chapter XVI: An International Imposture
A part of the Irish is asking our voice and our gold to help independence
for the whole of the Irish. Independence is not desired by the whole of
the Irish. Irishmen of Ulster have plainly said so. Everybody knows this.
Roman Catholics themselves are not unanimous. Only some of them desire
independence. These, known as Sinn Fein, appeal to us for deliverance
from their conqueror and oppressor; they dwell upon the oppression of
England beneath which Ireland is now crushed. They refer to England's
brutal and unjustifiable conquest of the Irish nation seven hundred and
forty-eight years ago.
What is the truth, what are the facts?
By his bull "Laudabiliter," in 1155, Pope Adrian the Fourth invited the
King of England to take charge of Ireland. In 1172 Pope Alexander the
Third confirmed this by several letters, at present preserved in the
Black Book of the Exchequer. Accordingly, Henry the Second went to
Ireland. All the archbishops and bishops of Ireland met him at Waterford,
received him as king and lord of Ireland, vowing loyal obedience to him
and his successors, and acknowledging fealty to them forever. These
prelates were followed by the kings of Cork, Limerick, Ossory, Meath, and
by Reginald of Waterford. Roderick O'Connor, King of Connaught, joined
them in 1175. All these accepted Henry the Second of England as their
Lord and King, swearing to be loyal to him and his successors forever.
Such was England's brutal and unjustifiable conquest of Ireland.
Ireland was not a nation, it was a tribal chaos. The Irish nation of that
day is a legend, a myth, built by poetic imagination. During the cen-
turies succeeding Henry the Second, were many eras of violence and
bloodshed. In reading the story, it is hard to say which side committed
the most crimes. During those same centuries, violence and bloodshed and
oppression existed everywhere in Europe. Undoubtedly England was very
oppressive to Ireland at times; but since the days of Gladstone she has
steadily endeavored to relieve Ireland, with the result that today she is
oppressing Ireland rather less than our Federal Government is oppressing
Massachusetts, or South Carolina, or any State. By the Wyndham Land Act
of 1903, Ireland was placed in a position so advantageous, so utterly the
reverse of oppression, that Dillon, the present leader, hastened to ob-
struct the operation of the Act, lest the Irish genius for grievance
might perish from starvation. Examine the state of things for yourself, I
cannot swell this book with the details; they are as accessible to you as
the few facts about the conquest which I have just narrated. Examine the
facts, but even without examining them, ask yourself this question: With
Canada, Australia, and all those other colonies that I have named above,
satisfied with England's rule, hastening to her assistance, and with only
Ireland selling herself to Germany, is it not just possible that
something is the matter with Ireland rather than with England? Sinn Fein
will hear of no Home Rule. Sinn Fein demands independence. Independence
Sinn Fein will not get. Not only because of the outrage to unconsenting
Ulster, but also because Britain, having just got rid of one Heligoland
to the East, will not permit another to start up on the West. As early as
August 25th, 1914, mention in German papers was made of the presence in
Berlin of Casement and of his mission to invite Germany to step into
Ireland when England was fighting Germany. The traffic went steadily on
from that time, and broke out in the revolution and the crimes in Dublin
in 1916. England discovered the plan of the revolution just in time to
foil the landing in Ireland of Germany, whom Ireland had invited there.
Were England seeking to break loose from Ireland, she could sue Ireland
for a divorce and name the Kaiser as co-respondent. Any court would grant
The part of Ireland which does not desire independence, which desires it
so little that it was ready to resist Home Rule by force in 1914, is the
steady, thrifty, clean, coherent, prosperous part of Ireland. It is the
other, the unstable part of Ireland, which has declared Ireland to be a
Republic. For convenience I will designate this part as Green Ireland,
and the thrifty, stable part as Orange Ireland. So when our politicians
sympathize with an "Irish" Republic, they befriend merely Green
Ireland; they offend Orange Ireland.
Americans are being told in these days that they owe a debt of support to
Irish independence, because the "Irish" fought with us in our own
struggle for Independence. Yes, the Irish did, and we do owe them a debt
of support. But it was the Orange Irish who fought in our Revolution, not
the Green Irish. Therefore in paying the debt to the Green Irish and
clamoring for "Irish" independence, we are double crossing the Orange
"It is a curious fact that in the Revolutionary War the Germans and
Catholic Irish should have furnished the bulk of the auxiliaries to the
regular English soldiers;... The fiercest and most ardent Americans of
all, however, were the Presbyterian Irish settlers and their
descendants." History of New York, p. 133, by Theodore Roosevelt.
Next, in what manner have the Green Irish incurred our thanks?
They made the ancient and honorable association of Tammany their own.
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