MoboReader> Literature > The Adventure of Living : a Subjective Autobiography

   Chapter 25 No.25

The Adventure of Living : a Subjective Autobiography By John St. Loe Strachey Characters: 61892

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

FIVE GREAT MEN (Continued)

It was at one of Mr. Chamberlain's house-parties that I first met one of the five distinguished men who made a deep impression on my mind and so on my life. That man was Colonel John Hay, some time Ambassador of the United States to this country. I shall never forget going down, some thirty-two years ago, to Birmingham with my wife for a Saturday to Monday party, and finding that the chief guest was the new American Ambassador. When one is young and going to a pleasant house, there is nothing more delightful or stimulating than the moment of waiting at the side of a country-house omnibus consecrated to station work and wondering who are to be one's fellow-guests. On that occasion it was not long before we discovered that they were Colonel and Mrs. Hay and their daughter Helen. It did not take one long to see what a memorable man Hay was. It was indeed a case for me of friendship at first sight. Though it only took, even in pre-motor days, some twenty minutes to drive to Highbury, I had become, long before we reached the front door, a fervent admirer of the man who had been Private Secretary to the greatest man of modern times,-Abraham Lincoln.

The acquaintance begun at Highbury ripened for both of us into a true friendship. I was deeply touched to find that Mr. Hay met me half way in my desire to be friendly, for I knew enough about him to know that his reputation was that of a very reticent, very fastidious man-a person by no means inclined to fall into the arms of the first comer. But I don't want to flatter myself. Perhaps the passport to Hay's heart in my case was my love of Lincoln, for that he soon saw was real and not assumed. Anyway, Hay and I soon began to see a great deal of each other, and he paid me the compliment of confiding in me throughout the war between Spain and America. He would have liked to avoid that war and did his very best to do so, but I knew that all the time he felt it was inevitable. I remember well his saying to me that the positions of the United States and Spain were like two railway engines on the same track, neither of which would give way and both of which were advancing. You might delay the collision, but you could not prevent it, unless one train cleared out of the way of the other, and to this neither side in control would agree. Therefore, a collision had to come,-and come it did.

Hay loved his tenure of office in England and greatly regretted that he had to accede to Mr. McKinley's request that he should go back and become Secretary of State. He knew the work would be too much for him, and told me so quite simply and unaffectedly, but he was never a man to shirk a duty. During his term of office, he and I were constantly in touch with each other by letter. Though Hay did not write long letters, he contrived in his short notes to say many poignant things,-often in the form of comments on Spectator articles, for he was a diligent reader of my paper. One example is so curious and so interesting that I must set it forth. The War enables me to do so without any risk of doing injury in the diplomatic sphere. It concerns the memorable visit of Prince Henry of Prussia to the United States in the year 1902.

The Kaiser was alarmed at the good feeling growing up between Britain and the United States. He therefore made a special effort to capture American goodwill, largely in the hope of drawing off American sympathy from this country. Accordingly he sent his sailor brother to American to announce his august and Imperial satisfaction with the United States. The Americans-most kindly of hosts-gave him the best possible reception. At that time Mr. Roosevelt was President, and Hay was Secretary. Writing of Prince Henry's reception on March 1, 1902, The Spectator pointed out what delightful hosts the Americans had proved and were proving, but went on to express very grave doubt whether in the circumstances and with the men then at the helm, the Kaiser would "cut any political ice" or gain any material advantage by the visit or by the attempts at diplomatic bargaining sure to be connected with it. The article continued as follows:

American photographers are taking "snapshots" of the Prince at every turn in his progress; but the snapshots we should like to see would be those of the President and Mr. Hay just before and just after the Prince had made some political request. They would hardly look, if our view of the American temperament is correct, like the faces of the same persons. The infinitely courteous hosts will in a moment become hard business men, thinking not of the pleasantest sentences to say, but of the permanent interests of the United States. Only the humour might linger a little in the eyes.

The article took some six days to get to America, but as soon as it was possible for a return of comments I received from Hay the following characteristic and laconic note:

Spectator, March 1, p. 317, 2nd Column,

half-way down.

My Dear Strachey,

You are a mind reader.

J. H.

I turned eagerly to the passage, for I could not at the moment recollect what we had said, and found what I have given above. By a guess, or (shall I say?) by a piece of thought transference, I had had the good luck to envisage exactly what had happened at Washington. Prince Henry was not merely a social but a political bagman. He had asked for something. He wanted a tangible "souvenir" of his visit. He had made proposals to the State Department of the usual Prussian type. By "usual Prussian type," I mean that he had asked for concessions of territory and engagements in which all the real, and most of the apparent, benefit was on the Prussian side. I do not now remember their exact nature, though later I learned from Hay something of their general scope and character. My only trustworthy recollection is that Hay referred to them with that patient, well-bred disgust with which he always received overtures of this kind. He was a man of a very fastidious sense of honour, and not amused by the low side of life, or by trickery even when foiled. And here I may perhaps be allowed to interpolate another personal recollection. I remember his telling me twenty years ago-that is, during the Spanish War-how the German Ambassador in London had approached him officially with the request that a portion of the Philippine Islands should be ceded-Heavens knows why-to the Kaiser. I can well recall his contemptuous imitation of the manner of the request. "You haf so many islands; why could you not give us some?" I asked Hay what he had replied. With a somewhat grim smile he answered: "I told him: 'Not an island-not one!'"

I shall perhaps be accused of indiscretion in what I have written, especially when I am dealing with a man so discreet, so punctilious in all official intercourse, as John Hay. I feel, however, that I am justified by the time which has elapsed, and by the events of the last few years.

I could fill, not one, but several chapters with the delightful talks about Lincoln which I had with Mr. Hay. He was always at his best when talking about Lincoln. It must not be supposed, however, that he was a man with one idea or that he was, as it were, eaten up by his great chief. Hay was a true statesman and a man with clear and consistent views of his own. I had the pleasure of bringing Hay into touch with Lord Cromer. Cromer was, of course, greatly impressed. I remember pointing out to him that Hay was really the best illustration that he could have had for one of his favourite theories,-that is, that the people who in their youth had been private secretaries were, other things being equal, the best people to whom to give big appointments. Cromer used to say that the reason for this was a very plain one. The difficulty with most officials, and especially with men in the Army, was that they so often did not attain to positions of real responsibility, and where they had to take the initiative, till their minds had been atrophied by official routine and by the fact that they had simply carried out other people's orders, and not to think or act for themselves. It was different with a young man who at the most impressionable time of life had not only been under the influence of a great man, but had seen great affairs absolutely at first hand and not dressed up in official memoranda. Again, the Private Secretary saw the whole of them and not merely departmental fragments.

It was no doubt this fact which made Hay a great Ambassador and a great Secretary of State. He had not only had the magnificent education which was received by the whole of Lincoln's personal staff, the inspiration, intellectual, moral, and political, which a man like Lincoln spreads around him, but he had seen at their very source the great affairs of home, war, and foreign politics.

He had seen how great questions arise and how hard it is to settle them; how they go wrong through accidents, or delay, or negligence, how necessary it is to prevent the rise of prejudice, selfishness, and folly in their handling. In a word, there could not have been a better proof of Lord Cromer's dictum than Hay's career. I remember talking on the general subject to Hay, who in effect agreed, and later I also said the same thing to President Roosevelt. I told him I thought it was a great pity that the Presidents of the United States and other holders of great offices did not encourage young men of brains and also of great possessions, coming from families with great influence, local or social, to become, when young, private secretaries. There would be a double blessing produced thereby. It would help to bind men of wealth and influence to the public service, and would get them trained to fill in later life the great offices of State-Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, and special commissioners. If a young man had been a member, say, of the President's official family for four or five years and had then gone into business or even into leisure, he would, granted that he was a man of intelligence, have received an insight into affairs which might be of great use to the nation later on. I even went so far as to dream that the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain might have an occasional exchange of secretaries and so get a certain number of people on both sides of the Atlantic who knew something about the arcana in each government. As it is, both halves of the English-speaking race are apt to make official bogeys,-to spell Washington or London as the case may be with a very big capital letter, and then to envisage this impersonation as something dark, mysterious, or even terrible. How useful it would be if, when this sort of talk was in the air, someone could say, "Honestly, they really are not a bit like that (in Washington, or in London). You picture them as hard-shell Machiavellis with sinister reasons for not answering our despatches or proposals promptly, or as going behind our backs in this or that matter. Believe me, they are just about like what we are here. They go out to lunch as we do; they forget big things and trifle with small things, and for fear of their trivialities being exposed, they talk big as if they had some great and ruthless reasons of state for their official misadventures. When you begin to ask, 'What are they up to? What is their game?' the answer ninety-nine times out of a hundred is 'There is not any game at all.'"

Before I take leave of Hay, I want to add a fact which deeply touched me. It will be remembered that the Secretary of State, after a breakdown in his health at Washington, came over to Europe to try the Mannheim cure. The treatment at first seemed to do him good; but he was in truth a broken man. So precarious, indeed, was his condition that, passing through London, the only people he saw were Lord Lansdowne, then Foreign Minister, and King Edward VII. I was the only exception. He asked me to come up and see him, telling me that I must not let it be known or he would be killed with kindness. If I was deeply touched by his thought of me, I was still more moved to see how extreme was his weakness of body. His mind, however, was as clear as ever and he talked almost in his old way. He was the kind of man who was much too sensitive to say in words, what I knew he felt-that it was good-bye. I came away from that last talk, with my devotion to the man, high as it was before, greatly heightened.

* * * * *

Though I did not know the Duke of Devonshire, earlier known as Lord Hartington, nearly so intimately as the other four, I had for him a political admiration which was almost unbounded. When a young man as was only natural-I was twenty-six when I first came into contact with him- I rather chafed at what I thought was his impenetrability. This, however, I soon discovered was due to no want of intelligence, but partly to natural shyness, partly to his education, partly to temperament, and partly also to a kind of dumbness of the mind, which is by no means inconsistent with a real profundity of intellect.

It is this mental profundity which is the main thing to remember about the Duke of Devonshire. To speak of him as if he were merely a man of character and firmness is to mistake him altogether. The Duke impressed all who saw him at close quarters. It was only the people who did not know him who said that he owed his rise to high office solely to his birth and wealth. I remember Mr. Chamberlain once saying to me, "It's all nonsense to talk about Hartington being dull and stupid. He is a very clever man." What made this admission all the more memorable was that Mr. Chamberlain was at the moment in a condition of something like exasperation with his colleague's dilatory ways, and his constitutional unwillingness to tackle a question till it was almost too ripe; you simply could not hurry him. One of the difficult things about the Duke was that he never realised the full greatness of his position in politics, how much people depended on his lead, and how anxious they were to find out what he thought and then fellow him without demur. But the more they wanted to get a lead out of him, the more he seemed determined to avoid if he possibly could the responsibility they had asked him to assume, and partly because of a certain lethargy of his mind, and partly because he never could be made to believe that anybody could really want to lean upon and follow somebody else, he often appeared to be utterly stubborn. I remember once, just before the election in 1905, urging him as strongly as I knew how to make a public statement and to give a public lead to the Unionist Free Trade electors as to how they should vote. He was more than loath to take my advice. He was all for letting the thing alone. He actually went so far as to say, and remember, this was without the slightest suggestion of pose, "I don't see why I should tell people what I should do if I had a vote. They will do what they think right and I shall do what I think right. They don't want me to interfere." It was no good to try and talk him round, as one would have been inclined to talk round any ordinary politician, by pointing out how very flattering it was to him for people to wait upon his words and to desire to follow him, or to paint in romantic language what he, as a leader of men, owed to his followers. Anything of that sort was unthinkable with the Duke, and, if it had been tried, would first of all have puzzled him utterly and when it had at last dawned on him, would have put him off more than ever.

I could only repeat then that it was his duty to give people a lead and when I said this once more I was met with the old tale that he would do what he thought right, and they-the voters-would do what they thought right. But what was wonderful in the Duke about a matter of this kind was that he did not in the least show any annoyance at being badgered by a man who was not only so much younger than he was, but also of so much less experience in politics or affairs.

He was essentially a good-tempered man and had not a trace of amour propre in his nature. I doubt if he had ever intentionally snubbed a man in his life, though, no doubt, he had often done so unintentionally, for he was plain-spoken. He hated to hurt people's feelings, but he sometimes thought that their feelings were like his own, quite iron- clad. I remember an example of his imperturbability in this respect. Once, in the eagerness of pressing a plan of action for the Unionist Free Traders, to which he was disinclined, I expressed the wish to propose it to the Council of our group and see what they thought of it. He made no objection and I gathered that he thought it could do no harm to have the matter aired, which, of course, was all I desired. A day or two afterwards, however, the Duke casually and in the most good-humoured way happened to say to me that I, of course, no doubt realised that if people assented to my motion, he would have to resign as President of our Association. I was, horror-struck, for to have lost him would have meant utter destruction for our movement,-the movement, that is, to prevent the Tariff Reformers running away with the Unionist Party. I said at once that I would most gladly withdraw my proposal, and expressed my complete confidence in his leadership.

He was delightfully naive about the whole matter and, here again, without any pose. He declared that he did not see why I should not go on with my scheme if I really thought it was a good one, and that he did not regard it as in the least hostile to himself. There was nothing in it that was in the least personally objectionable to him.

At a much earlier period of my acquaintance with him the Duke gave another example of his good nature and want of fussiness. When the split came in the Liberal party and the Liberal Unionist organisation was created under his leadership and that of Mr. Chamberlain, I was chosen as I have related elsewhere to act as Editor of the party organ, The Liberal Unionist. Each number was to contain an article by some man of importance, so I naturally asked Lord Hartington, as he then was, to supply the signed article for the first number. I was entirely new to the task of editing, and the Duke had never, oddly enough, written anything before for publication, though, of course, he had made plenty of speeches. The Duke was old-fashioned in his ways and did not have a typewriter or a secretary, but wrote with his own hand. It was a very good handwriting, but not quite printer-proof. Like all first numbers mine was late. The proofs of the Duke's article were not sent out early enough, with the result that we had to go to press without getting back a corrected proof from the Duke. The result was one or two bad misprints; the Duke was not angry-only sad, for he thought it might make him look ridiculous. I was told, however, by excited members of the Committee that I had made an awful blunder and must go and apologise for so bad a beginning. Naturally, I was eager to express my regret, and went down at once to the House of Commons and sent in for him. Now, as ill-luck would have it, he was in the middle of an important debate on Home Rule and just on the point of rising to speak when he received my message. However, in the kindest way he came out, to see, as he said, whether he could do anything for me, and apologised most profusely for having kept me waiting for ten or twelve minutes. It was not, indeed, till these apologies had been got over that I was able to make my apologies, which he received in the most delightful way. If he had been a pompous prig, he might so easily have lectured me (for I was not 26) on how important it was for a young man just entering political life, etc., etc. Of course, he had no thought of making me his special adherent by his good temper and easiness. Such things never entered his head. All the same, his courtesy, consideration, and evident determination not to take advantage of my slip, made a deep impression on me. A final example of the Duke's inability to realise that it mattered to anybody else what he did was shown when he let Mr. Balfour, then Prime Minister, persuade him to remain in the Unionist Ministry in 1905 when the rest of his Free Trade colleagues resigned. I felt none of the amazement mixed with indignation felt by some of the Liberal Unionists, because I knew my man, I felt, indeed, quite sure that what had happened was that the Duke imagined that nobody would misunderstand him and that perhaps, as he said, it was a pity when so many people were resigning that he should resign also. He wouldn't be missed and so why should he not just remain where he was? I felt equally sure, however, that in a very little time he would come to understand the importance of clearing up his position.

I was on manoeuvres and riding with the Hampshire Yeomanry at a great sham fight on the Wiltshire downs, when I heard of the Cabinet crisis. I well remember that on a hill-top, which was finally carried by our side, I met the present Lord Middleton, then Mr. St. John Broderick, Secretary of State for War and learned from him what had happened. That night I went home to write on the crisis. When I got home I said to my wife, "The Duke has not resigned, but it is all right. I will write an article in The Spectator which, while perfectly sympathetic, will set forth the situation in a way which will be certain to bring the Duke out." The result was as I expected.

I was interested some time afterwards to hear from one of his relatives that my article was largely instrumental in determining him to follow his followers in the matter of resignation. Almost the last time I saw the Duke of Devonshire affords another example of his good-nature, of his plain-spokenness, of his humanity, and of his public spirit. I had always been, and still am, deeply concerned in the housing question. We cannot be a really civilised nation unless we can get good houses and cheap houses for the working-classes. Not being a philosopher, I had always supposed that one way of getting good and cheap houses was to find some improved form of construction. I have been informed, however, by my Socialist friends that this is an entire mistake and that there are much better ways. Though admitting that this was possible, and hoping that it might be, I was always inclined to add, though I made no converts,-"However good the other scheme, cheap construction, granted it is also adequate construction, must be a desirable premium upon any and every other scheme, financial or rhetorical, of getting good houses." Therefore, I advocated and carried out by the joint action of The Spectator and another paper I then owned, The County Gentleman, a scheme for an exhibition of good cottages, in which a prize was given for the best cottage. The novelty of my plan was that the exhibits were not to be models of cottages, but were to be real cottages. The Garden City were almost as glad to lend me their ground as I was to avail myself of it, and by a well thought out arrangement we were able, as it were, to endow the Garden City with some L20,000 worth of good cottages without their having to put their hands into their pockets. It was quite easy to guarantee to find purchasers or hirers of the cottages put up by competitors. The competitor, therefore, could not lose his money or tie it up for very long, and he was very likely able to win a prize in one of the various categories. The greater number of cottages were planned for competitions in which the cost was limited to L150, for that was my ideal of the price for a cottage; and if a competitor was sure to get his L150 back and might also get a prize either of L150, or L100, or L50, he was in clover. But I am not out to describe the success of the Cheap Cottages Exhibition, but only to throw light on the character of the Duke of Devonshire. I asked the Duke to open the Exhibition for me, and this he did in a speech full of excellent good sense. He obeyed ex animo my direction of "No flowers by request." I remember, however, being somewhat disconcerted as we went down in the special train by a remark which he made to one of the Directors of the Garden City, who was saying, very properly, the usual things about how pleased the Company had been to help with my scheme. The Duke, with a loud laugh, replied with what was meant to be a perfectly good-tempered joke, "And a jolly good advertisement for your company you must have found it. Ha! Ha!" The Director, as was perhaps not to be wondered at, looked somewhat flabbergasted at this sally. Fortunately, I overheard it and was able to prevent any risk of wounded feelings by explaining how helping to spread information in regard to the good work being done by the Garden City was a thing which I and those who were helping me were specially glad to do. If we had been able to provide a useful advertisement for the Company we should feel almost as well pleased as by the success of our own venture. The Duke at once fully assented, but I don't think he in the least realised that his original way of putting the remark might easily have given umbrage. If it had been said to him and not by him it would not have caused any annoyance and he no doubt assumed that other people would feel as simply and as naturally as he did.

It would be impossible to give any account of the Duke and his character and actions without noticing his devotion to the Turf. It was that devotion which made Lord Salisbury once say with humorous despair that he could not hold a most important meeting "because it appears that Hartington must be at Newmarket on that day to see whether one quadruped could run a little faster than another." The Duke was quite sincere in his love of racing. There was no pose about it. He did not race because he thought it his duty to encourage the great sport, or because he thought it would make him popular, or for any other outside reason. He kept racers and went to races because he loved to see his horses run, though oddly enough I don't think he was ever a great man across country, or was learned in matters of breeding and trainers. He just liked racing and so he practised it and that is all that is to be said about it. In this combination of sport and high political seriousness he was extraordinarily English. Pope described the Duke's attitude exactly in his celebrated character of Godolphin; the words fit the Duke of Devonshire absolutely. They may well serve as a peroration to this chapter.

Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,

His hand unstained, his uncorrupted heart,

His comprehensive head! all interests weigh'd,

All Europe sav'd, yet Britain not betray'd?

He thanks you not,-his pride is in piquet,

Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.

But I am dwelling too much on the picturesque side of the Duke and so getting too near the caricature view of the man. What I want is to give in little a true picture of a really great man, for that is what he in truth was.

Instead of tracing the Duke's political actions and political opinions, I prefer to attempt an analysis of his political character. The first and most obvious fact about the Duke was his independence, and what I may call his inevitableness of action. Knowing the Duke's views on a particular subject, you could always tell in any given circumstance what would be his line of conduct. With most politicians explanations have to be found at some point of their career for this or that action. Everything seemed to point to their taking a particular course, and yet they took another. In the case of one man this was due to influence exerted over him by a friend. In that of another it was due to hostility to some colleague or rival. The personal element deflected the course of history. In the case of the Duke of Devonshire such explanations are unthinkable. It is impossible to imagine him a Home-ruler out of devotion to Mr. Gladstone, or a Free-trader out of jealousy or distrust of Mr. Chamberlain. The Duke had no dislikes or prejudices of this kind. Certainly he had none in the case of Mr. Chamberlain. All the efforts of the Tapers and Tadpoles and paragraph-writers in the Press failed to produce the slightest sense of rivalry between them. The Duke, to use a racing phrase, went exclusively on men's public form, and gave his contemporaries credit for the same public spirit which he himself showed.

He was the last man in the world to think that he had a monopoly of patriotism. His high-mindedness was, he assumed, shared by others. He never betrayed a colleague, and he never thought it possible that a colleague could think of betraying him. The result was that throughout his career he was never once the victim of any intrigue or conspiracy. He kept his mind fixed always on questions and not on men, and just as he always endeavoured to solve the real problem at issue rather than secure a party triumph, so his aim was to bring advantage to the nation, not to gain a victory over an opponent. I should be the last to say that in this the Duke of Devonshire was unique. What, however, was unique about his position was the fact that no one ever attributed to him unworthy motives or insinuated that he was playing for his own hand. If any one had ventured to do so, the country would simply have regarded the accuser as mad.

Another striking quality possessed by the Duke of Devonshire was his absolute straightforwardness of conduct and clearness of language. No one ever felt that he had a "card up his sleeve." He told the country straight out exactly what he thought, and his reticence-for reticent he was in a high degree-was due, not to the fact that he did not think it advisable at the moment to let the country know what he was thinking, but simply and solely to the fact that he had not been able to come to a determination. He did not like meeting questions half-way, but waited till circumstances forced them on his attention.

The late Duke of Argyll once said of him at a public meeting: "Oh, gentlemen, what a comfort it is to have a leader who says what he means and means you to understand what he says." Here in a nutshell was the quality which the country most admired in the Duke of Devonshire. They always knew exactly what he stood for, and whether he was a Unionist or a Home-ruler, a Free-trader or a Protectionist. He was never seeking for a safe point to rest on, one which, in the immortal language of the politician in the Biglow Papers, would leave him "frontin' south by north."

In spite of the independence, straightforwardness, and clearness of the Duke's attitude, he often showed a curious diffidence, and seemed unable to realise that he had so absolutely the confidence of the country that no explanations were

ever necessary in his case. For example, after the secession of the Unionist Free-traders from Mr. Balfour's Administration spoken of above, the Duke thought it necessary to explain-in his place in the House of Lords-how it was that he remained for a few days longer in the Cabinet than did his Unionist Free-trade colleagues. I have reason to know that the Duke found such an explanation a painful and trying one to make. Nevertheless he insisted on making it, and this though on the day he spoke he was suffering from the beginnings of a severe attack of influenza. It will be remembered that he then declared, with a sincerity which in one sense deeply touched, and in another sense might almost be said to have amused, the nation, that his mind was not so clear as it ought to have been during his negotiations with Mr. Balfour, and that he had not at first completely grasped the situation. As a matter of fact, is it safe to say that no one, least of all his Unionist Free-trade colleagues, thought there was the slightest need for such an apology. If the thought of the nation on that occasion could have been put into words, it would have run something like this:-"There was not the least reason for you to say what you have said. Every one recognised that you would in the end do exactly what you did-that is, leave the Ministry-and the fact that you took four or five days longer than your colleagues to realise that this was inevitable was looked on as the most natural thing in the world. It was a proof to the British people as a whole that a Free-trader could do nothing else. If you had acted as quickly as others, it might possibly have been thought that there was something not absolutely necessary in your action."

The Duke of Devonshire was often spoken of as a great aristocrat and as a representative of the aristocratic interests in the country. Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth. Though no doubt the Duke was in a sense intensely proud of being a Cavendish, and though he felt in his heart of hearts very strongly the duty of noblesse oblige, he had nothing of that temperament which people usually mean when they use the word "aristocrat." He was the last man in the world whom one could associate with the idea of the noble who springs upon a prancing war-steed, either real or metaphorical, and waves his sword in the air. His represented rather what might be called the old-fashioned English temperament, the possessors of which in effect say to the world:-"I'll mind my own business, and you mind yours. You respect me, and I'll respect you. You stand by me, and I'll stand by you; and when we have both done our duty to ourselves and each other, for heaven's sake don't let us have any d--d nonsense about it."

But though this is true in a sense, one would lose touch altogether with the Duke's character if one insisted on it too much, or gave the impression that the Duke's nature was one of surly defiance such as Goldsmith describes in the famous line on the Briton in The Traveller. No doubt one of his colleagues, Robert Lowe, once said of him: "What I like about Hartington is his 'you-be-damnedness.'" But though this element was not wanting in the Duke's character, it did not in any way prevent him from being at heart as kindly, as sympathetic, and as courteous as he was reasonable, straightforward, and plain- spoken.

One may strive as one will to draw the character of the Duke, but in the end one comes back to the plain fact that he was a great public servant,-one who served, not because he liked service for its own sake or for the rewards it brought in sympathy and public applause, but solely because he was mastered by the notion of duty and by the sense that, like every other Englishman, he owed the State a debt which must be paid. Pope said of one of his ancestors that he cared not to be great except only in that he might "save and serve the State." That was exactly true of the late Duke of Devonshire.

This tradition of public service is one which has long been associated with the house of Cavendish, and it is cause for national congratulation to think that there is no risk of that tradition being broken. The present Duke possesses the high character and the sense of public duty which distinguished his predecessor. It may safely be predicted of him that the ideals of public duty maintained by his uncle will not suffer in his keeping.

* * * * *

Of the five great figures in England and America, who were known to me and who are dead, I find by far my greatest difficulty in writing about Theodore Roosevelt. Though I saw very much less of him than I did of Lord Cromer, my feeling of regret at his death was specially poignant. Mr. Roosevelt was almost my exact contemporary. Therefore, I could look forward, and did look forward, to enjoying his friendship for many years to come. Lord Cromer was ten or fifteen years my senior, and, though my intimacy with him was of the very closest, far closer than that which I enjoyed with Mr. Roosevelt, I did not feel myself on the same plane with him. To put the matter specifically, Lord Cromer was engaged in most important and most responsible public work when I was little more than a child, and by the time I left Oxford he had already finished the first three or four years of his great task in Egypt. Again, when Roosevelt's death came, it came without warning. I did not know that his health had in any way been failing.

Roosevelt and I were always so much in accord and our friendship through the post was of so intimate a kind that I am sometimes amazed when I think of the comparatively small number of days, or rather hours, that I actually passed in his company. For several years before I saw him in the flesh I had exchanged constant letters with him, and so much did he reveal himself in them that, when we did meet, he appeared to me exactly the man I had envisaged. Naturally I wondered greatly whether this would be so, and took a strict inquisition of the impression made on me in seeing him face to face. In similar cases, one almost always finds surprises in minor, if not in major, differences; but Roosevelt needed no re-writing on the tablets of my mind.

I shall never forget my visit to the White House. If I had slept under that roof alone, and without any guide or interpreter, I should have been deeply moved. My readers then may imagine what my feelings were when I, who had read and thought so much of Lincoln, found that my dressing-room was the little sanctum upstairs into which Lincoln, in the crises of the war, used to retire for consultation with his Generals, Ministers, and intimate friends. At that time the ground floor of the White House, other than the great ceremonial rooms, had been almost entirely absorbed by the various officials connected with the Presidency.

Our train from New York was nearly an hour late, and, therefore, when we arrived, we had only bare time to dress for dinner. Yet when we reached the room where guests assembled before dinner we found the President alone. Though it was through no fault of ours that we were late, my wife had fully realised the necessity of being down in time. Dinner was if I remember rightly at eight, and we were shaking hands with the President by five minutes to.

I have already described how Lord Cromer at first sight showed himself willing to tell me everything and to trust wholly to the discretion of his visitor. Mr. Roosevelt exhibited an equal confidence. In the long talk which I had with him on my first evening at the White House, throughout the Sunday and during a long ride on the Monday, in pouring rain on a darkish November evening, we talked of everything under the sun, and had our talk out. Mr. Roosevelt was one of those very busy men who somehow contrive to have time for full discussion. After breakfast on the Monday morning,-we did not move to other quarters in Washington, till late on the Monday,-Mr. Roosevelt asked me whether I would like to see how he got through his work. I accepted with avidity. Accordingly we went from the White House to the President's office, which had been built, under Mr. Roosevelt's directions, in the garden and was just finished. We first went into Mr. Roosevelt's special room. There he put me in a window seat and said I was quite free to listen to the various discussions which he was about to have with Cabinet Ministers, Judges, Ambassadors, Generals, Admirals, Senators, and Congressmen.

It was very remarkable to see the way in which he managed his interlocutors,-who by the way apparently took me either for a private secretary or else as part of the furniture! I recall the clever manner in which Mr. Roosevelt talked to an Ambassador, and kept him off thorny questions, and yet got rid of him so skilfully that his dismissal looked like a special act of courtesy. The interview with a leading Western or Southern Senator, who had got some cause of complaint, I forget what, was equally courteous and dexterous, though the President's attitude here was, of course, perfectly different. Roosevelt was a man, for all his downrightness, of great natural dignity and of high breeding, though he had the good sense never, as it were, to affiché this good breeding to any man who might have misunderstood it and thought that he was being patronised. In this case the Senator was a self-made man, who would, no doubt, have been suspicious if he had been talked to in the voice and language used for the Ambassador. Mr. Roosevelt had no difficulty whatever in making his change of manners as quick as it was complete. A Judge of the Supreme Court, who came for a short talk, demanded yet a third style and got it, as did also one of the members of the President's Cabinet.

"The President's Cabinet" remember, is not only a piece of official style. It represents a fact. The American Cabinet Ministers are not responsible to Congress, as ours are to Parliament, but are the nominees of the President and responsible only to him. In a word, they are "the President's Cabinet." Communications between them and the House of Representatives and the Senate come always theoretically, and largely actually, through the President.

After an hour, or rather more, had been spent in these interviews, the President took me into another room, which was the Cabinet Room, and very soon the Members of the Administration began to assemble and to take their seats round the big table in the centre. I felt as the children say, that this was getting "warm." Even though I had the President's general leave to stop, I thought I had better not take advantage of it. As soon as I saw my friend Colonel Hay enter, I went up to him and asked him whether he did not think that though I had been honoured by the President's invitation, I had better not remain during the Cabinet. I could see that this relieved him not a little. Though devoted to Roosevelt, he was a little inclined to think that the President's ways were sometimes too unconventional. Therefore, I slipped quietly out of the room.

It is amusing to recall that when at luncheon, I apologised half whimsically for my desertion, Mr. Roosevelt told me that I had acted "with perfect tact." Anyway, I look back to the incident with interest. I hold that I probably got nearer to seeing the United States Cabinet actually at work than do most people. Business had actually begun before I completed my retreat.

I won the approval of the President not only for my discretion here, but, as I afterwards found out, for my complete willingness, nay, pleasure, in going out for a ride with him in a flood of rain on a dark November evening. That was not a very great feat, but apparently some of his visitors had shown themselves anything but happy in such rides. He was indeed inclined to use his afternoon winter rides as a test of men. Accustomed, however, as I was to the English climate and always, not only willing, but intensely eager to get on the back of a horse, it never occurred to me to think that our ride would either be put off because it poured or its accomplishment counted to me for righteousness.

Certainly it was a curious kind of ride. I was mounted on a superb Kentucky horse procured for me from the Cavalry Barracks-a creature whose strength and speed proved how well deserved is the reputation of that famous breed. We were a party of four, with General Wood and a young aide-de-camp. No sooner were we mounted-I on a McClellan saddle- than we set off at a fast pace which very soon became a gallop. I remember, as we dashed through the rain on the hard pavements, thinking that our horses' hooves sounded like an elopement on the stage-"heard off". The lovers' ardour is usually marked by the vivid manner in which their horses wake the thunders of the King's highway.

We crossed the well-known creek or torrent in the park near the city, which meant putting our horses through a fairly swift and broad though not deep stream, and then passed through what had once been a largish plantation. The trees had, however, been cut down a year or two before. This we negotiated at a gallop, the President leading. I admit that it was an exciting performance. Not only was it almost dark when we reached the wood or ex-wood, but the wood-cutters had left the stumps of innumerable small trees or saplings, standing up about six inches from the ground. You could hardly imagine anything better devised for catching a horse's foot. But even worse than the risk of a horse stumbling over a stump, was the thought of his putting his hoof down on one of the more sharply pointed stumps, often not more than the thickness of a big walking stick. It would have pierced like a spear.

However, I felt that the honour of my country and of my profession as a journalist were at stake. Therefore, I made my horse, who was not at all unwilling, keep well alongside the President. Under such conditions steering was impossible; and we galloped along at haphazard. I was consoled to feel that if the President's horse could pick his way, mine could probably do the same. As it happened nobody's horse made a blunder, and we all four emerged quite safely from the ordeal and soon turned homeward, but by a different way. Our pace, however, did not slacken. We galloped along a main thoroughfare, which was not made safer by tram lines. All the same I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and was proud to bring my big horse of nearly seventeen hands home without a slip. It was in truth a delightful experience. My horse proved well able to keep up with the President's very fine charger-needless to say, I knew enough to know that one does not attempt to out-ride persons in the position of sovereigns-and we talked as hard as we rode, for a whole hour without interruption.

The President's remark as we dismounted was characteristic,-"Don't you think, Strachey. I am quite right, as I can only get an hour's exercise a day, to go while I am at it, as hard as I can?" That remark was really meant as a kind of rebound argument for General Wood.

I assured the President in the enthusiasm of the moment that he was perfectly right, but General Wood in a ride, which I subsequently took with him, shook his head over the President's way of galloping fast on the hard roads and declared that he shook his horse's legs all to pieces. Some day there would be an accident. "I try to get him to give up the practice but I am afraid I don't have much success, though he takes it very well. No, he's not a careful rider!"-a comment, by the way, which I had so often heard about myself that it sounded quite familiar. Need I add that this was anxious affection on the part of General Wood, one of the ablest of military and civil administrators alive today-and a man whom I am proud to say has honoured me with a friendship as warm and as generous as that of his great Chief and friend.

Some day my correspondence with Mr. Roosevelt will, I hope, see the light; but not yet. The President's powers in the matter of letter writing, however, deserve a special comment. He was probably one of the greatest letter writers in the matter of quantity who ever lived. He was also high up in quality. He liked letter writing, and he certainly expressed himself not only with vigour but with ease and distinction. If not a faultless writer, he wrote well enough for his purpose, and showed his largeness and fineness of character. Though a well-educated man, with a strong tradition of culture behind him, and, further, with a very marked love of good literature, he was too busy and too practical to find time to turn or tune his phrases. His letters are very readable and from many points of view very attractive, but they do not possess the kind of fascination which belongs to the correspondence of some of the elder statesmen of England or America-the kind of fascination which we may feel sure will be exercised whenever Lord Rosebery's letters are given to the world-may the event be a long way off. Finally, they have not that inspiration in word and thought of which the history of personal and political correspondence affords us its best example in the letters of Abraham Lincoln.

One of the delightful things about Roosevelt's correspondence is, that he touched life at so many sides. He struck the hand of a great gentleman, a great statesman, and, in the best sense, a man of the world, into the hands not only of kings and emperors, ministers and soldiers, but of authors, poets, artists, men of science, explorers, naturalists, and last, but not least, of men of action in all ranks of life. He attained to this freedom of the Great World early in life. He had in effect that singular advantage which belongs to kings. For twenty years of his life at least he had always at his command the best brains in the world. He had only to make a sign to get en rapport with the man who knew most on the subject that was interesting him. Besides this, as his Biographer, Mr. Bishop, has pointed out, Roosevelt had the essential mark of a great man. Emerson truly said, "He is great who never reminds us of others." Certainly Roosevelt stood alone. Though he touched many men of the Old World and the New, and of the old age and the new, he was intensely individual.

As to his personal characteristic. One of the most memorable of his personal characteristics was that, in spite of the fierce conflicts of his political life, no one ever seriously accused him of a mean or ignoble act. Though, not professing to be a political saint, he ran as straight as any statesman of whom we have record. Not Pitt nor Lord Grey here, nor Washington nor Lincoln in America, had a finer sense of honour and of political rectitude. He preached the square deal; he practised it.

To do that in party politics and with a democracy so vast and so full of cross-currents and stormy elements as that of America is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Roosevelt was of course no plaster saint. He dared to look at life as a whole, and without its trappings and disguises, and yet all the time he made men feel that it was not only right but quite possible, in Burke's phrase, "to remember so to be a patriot as not to forget that you are a gentleman."

I shall not touch upon Mr. Roosevelt's political views or political acts. They are too well known for comment. Nor, again, is there, I am glad to say, any necessity to make clear in these pages how strong was the sympathy between Roosevelt and the English people, and how anxious he was to keep together the whole of the English-speaking race,-not, of course, by any sort of alliance, but by mutual understanding, and through adherence to common aims and common ideals.

These things are public property. What I would rather dwell upon is a certain boldness of attitude in which Roosevelt set a wonderful example to the leaders of a democracy. Though Mr. Roosevelt was in many ways an exceedingly astute and practical politician, he was not the least awed by rumour, not the least afraid of touching questions because they were thorny. His attitude towards Labour when questions of public order were involved, is well shown in the letter to Senator Lodge in which Roosevelt gives an account of a visit which he paid to Chicago during a strike, accompanied by disorder in the streets.

When I came to Chicago I found a very ugly strike, on account of which some of my nervous friends wished me to try to avoid the city. Of course I hadn't the slightest intention of doing so. I get very much puzzled at times on questions of finance and the tariff, but when it comes to such a perfectly simple matter as keeping order, then you strike my long suit. The strikers were foolish enough to come to me on their own initiative and make me an address in which they quoted that fine flower of Massachusetts statesmanship, the lamented Benjamin F. Butler, who had told rioters at one time, as it appeared, that they need have no fear of the United States Army, as they had torches and arms. This gave me a good opening, and while perfectly polite, I used language so simple that they could not misunderstand it; and repeated the same with amplifications at the dinner that night. So if the rioting in Chicago gets beyond the control of the State and the City, they now know well that the Regulars will come.

Commenting on the President's visit to Chicago, Mr. Secretary Hay said: "It requires no courage to attack wealth and power, but to remind the masses that they, too, are subject to the law, is something few public men dare to do." That of course is perfectly true. But it is equally true that when a public man does dare speak the truth it always turns out to be the best and most paying policy that he could have adopted. Roosevelt did not lose popularity with the mass of his countrymen but gained it by his honesty.

Another example of Roosevelt's political honesty was the way in which he treated the question of negro-lynching in the South. This is delicate ground, and as I have been accused by a Southern newspaper most absurdly, as I am certain all reasonable Americans will agree, of attacking America and the American people because in The Spectator I have spoken out in regard to lynching, I will quote without comment the account of Roosevelt's plain speaking, given by Mr. Bishop:

The President gave another illustration of his courage in October, 1905, when he made a tour of the South, speaking at various points in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Alabama, including a visit to the home of his mother at Roswell, Georgia. At Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 25th, he was introduced by the Governor of the State to a large concourse of citizens in the City Park. In his introductory remarks, the Governor made a quasi defence of the lynching of coloured men for supposed outrages upon white women. In opening his speech the President declared that he had been fortunate enough to have spoken all over the Union and had never said in any State or any section what he would not have said in any other State or in any other section. Turning a few minutes later directly to the Governor, he said: "Governor, you spoke of a hideous crime that is often hideously avenged. The worst enemy of the negro race is the negro criminal, and, above all, the negro criminal of that type; for he has committed not only an unspeakably dreadful and infamous crime against the victim, but he has committed a hideous crime against the people of his own colour; and every reputable coloured man, every coloured man who wishes to see the uplifting of his race, owes it as his first duty to himself and to that race to hunt down that criminal with all his soul and strength. Now for the side of the white man. To avenge one hideous crime by another hideous crime is to reduce the man doing it to the bestial level of the wretch who committed the bestial crime. The horrible effects of the lynchings are not for that crime at all, but for other crimes. And above all other men, Governor, you and I and all who are exponents and representatives of the law, owe it to our people, owe it to the cause of civilisation and humanity, to do everything in our power, and unofficially, directly and indirectly, to free the United States from the menace and reproach of lynch law."

I have never gone, and do not want to go, one hairs-breadth beyond what Mr. Roosevelt said in condemnation of the lynchers. Further, I fully realise that the best men in the South detest lynching and are as anxious to put down lynching as indeed were the best men in the South to get rid of slavery. I want, however, to say with Roosevelt that whatever else is right, and whatever ought to be the relations between white men and black, lynching must be wrong, and must tend to make the difficulties of a mixed population even greater than they were already. Whatever may be the vices of the black man, burning negroes alive at the mandate of an irresponsible mob, who are acting on rumour and hearsay, cannot but be the very acme of human depravity. And it is as stupid as it is wicked.

Though there was a distinct strain of austerity as well as authoritativeness in Mr. Roosevelt's nature, there was also a deep strain of sentiment. He was a man easily moved, not only by "the sense of tears in mortal things," but by all that was generous and noble. A delightful example of how deeply and quickly his feelings could be touched when a child is given by Mrs. Douglas Robinson, his sister, in the account of her brother.

The Roosevelt family were in Rome at the end of the "sixties" and played, like other English-speaking children, on the Pincian Hill. While they were playing at leapfrog word was suddenly passed round that the Pope was coming.

"Teddie" whispered to the little group of American children that he didn't believe in Popes-that no real American would; and we all felt it was due to the stars and stripes that we should share his attitude of distant disapproval. But then, as is often the case, the miracle happened, for the crowd parted, and to our excited, childish eyes something very much like a scene in a story-book took place. The Pope, who was in his sedan-chair carried by bearers in beautiful costumes, his benign face framed in white hair and the close cap which he wore, caught sight of the group of eager little children craning their necks to see him pass; and he smiled and put out one fragile, delicate hand towards us, and lo! the late scoffer who, in spite of the ardent Americanism that burned in his eleven-year-old soul, had as much reverence as militant patriotism in his nature, fell upon his knees, and kissed the delicate hand, which for a brief moment was laid upon his hair. Whenever I think of Rome this memory comes back to me, and in a way it was so true to the character of my brother. The Pope to him had always meant what later he would have called "unwarranted superstition," but that Pope, Pio Nono, the kindly, benign old man, the moment he appeared in the flesh, brought about in my brother's heart the reaction which always came when the pure, the good, or the true crossed his path.

That is almost as good a papal story as that of the Pope whom the great Napoleon brought a virtual captive from the Vatican to grace his coronation as Emperor. The Pope, while moving about Paris, was accustomed to give his blessing freely, for he soon became a very popular character. It happened, however, that one day, while going through the galleries of the Louvre, he unwittingly gave his blessing to a little crowd that contained a fierce, anti-clerical Jacobin and revolutionary. The man showed the greatest disgust and contempt at receiving the Pope's blessing, and retorted with curses on the man who dared implore for him Heaven's grace and favour. The Pope, with his Italian grace and good manners, easily got the best of the scowling brows and the muttered imprecations. He apologised simply and humbly to the man whom he had blessed by mistake and added, "I do not think, sir, that after all an old man's blessing can have done you any harm." Quite as little could Roosevelt's boyish kiss make him a votary to superstition.

I feel for the reasons that I have already given that I am not managing to express my personal feeling about Roosevelt. Yet he is the last man of whom I want to write perfunctorily or even ceremoniously. Therefore, for the time I shall bring my recollections of him to a close by merely noting certain characteristics of the statesman.

The essential quality in Roosevelt was the spirit of good citizenship. He was a very able politician and party leader. He was also no mean orator in a nation where the arts of the rostrum are specially cultivated and understood. He was a skilled and powerful administrator. He had a soldier's eye for country and a soldier's heart. What is more, he understood the soldier's spirit as well as did Cromwell. Though a strict disciplinarian, he knew that if you are to get the best out of a soldier, you must make him feel a free citizen and not a fighting slave. Roosevelt, again, was a man highly qualified to be the personal representative and head of a great nation. He had the dignity of demeanour, the sense of proportion, the knowledge of the world, the instinct for great affairs, together with that universality of comprehension which is necessary to the efficient discharge of high office.

Yet, great as was Roosevelt in all these matters, it was not so much the qualities just enumerated which make, and will continue to make, his memory live in America. Others could rival him or surpass him on the political stage. He made good citizenship an art. He never tired in enforcing by precept and example the duty which men and women owe to the community. No man, as his life and work showed, can be allowed to keep his good citizenship in watertight compartments. He must not say that he had done his best in his district or city or State, or at Washington, and that no more was to be required of him. He must do his duty to the State in all capacities. Duty accomplished in one sphere would not relieve him of responsibility in the others.

Though Roosevelt was a Whig, an individualist, and a man who hated over- centralisation, abhorred administrative tyranny, and loathed Etatism, he never failed to pay due homage to the nation personified. To him the Government as representing the community, was something sacred and revered, not merely a committee to manage tram- lines, roads, and drains. Treason to the State was to him the greatest of crimes. When he talked of the National Honour, he meant something very real and definite, and was not merely indulging in a rhetorical flourish. Good citizenship was indeed to Roosevelt a religion, as in a rougher and less conscious way it was to Cromwell and to Lincoln.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top