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26. Chapter XXVI The Centenary Of Peace

AFTER a Christmas and New Year spent in Switzerland, 1912–13, I proceeded on a short tour, with business objects in view, to Vienna, Berlin, and Paris.

In winter the Grindelwald is one of those places one can never forget. The change from London at that time of the year is delightful, almost overwhelming in its grandeur, but for the presence of some of the latest editions of tourist humanity. These establish trying contrasts between civilisation at its worst and Nature at her best.

In Vienna I was graciously received in audience by the Emperor. Count Hoyos, of the Foreign Office, acted as interpreter. The aged Emperor's health was the subject of rumour at that time; but His Majesty seemed wonderfully well. I asked leave on behalf of Australia to congratulate him upon his long and peaceful reign, and assured him that we looked to his powerful efforts in the future to maintain the peace of Europe. His Majesty, in reply, asked that I would convey to my Government his intention, so long as he lived, to do his best to preserve peace amongst the nations of Europe.

This was eighteen months before the ultimatum to Servia!

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Some of those in the United Kingdom and the United States who never tire in their efforts to strengthen the growth of a good understanding between the two countries, set to work upon an ambitious scheme to celebrate in 1914–15 the hundred years of peace which date from the Treaty signed at Ghent.

Influential committees were formed. Earl Grey stood at the head of the British Committee and Mr. Choate at the head of the American Committee. Both bodies were of a calibre worthy of the object in view.

A memorable gathering at the Guildhall took place, when the Prime Minister delivered a wonderfully able address.

The next step was a proposal from the American Committee that a delegation should be sent to a conference to be held in New York in May, 1913, at which a programme for concurrent celebrations could be settled.

Lord Grey told me that both committees hoped I would accompany the delegation, and my Government approved.

Of all missions with which I was ever associated that was the most attractive.

The British delegation was composed of the following gentlemen: Lord Weardale (Chairman), Sir Arthur Lawley (Vice-Chairman), Earl Stanhope, Sir Herbert Eustace Maxwell, Mr. Shirley Benn, M.P., Mr. J. A. Baker, M.P., Mr. Neil Primrose, M.P., Mr. C. T. Mills, M.P., Mr. Moreton Frewen, Mr. Henry Vivian, and the Secretary, Mr. H. S. Perris.

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I went as representative of Australia. A Canadian delegation was to meet us at New York.

In spite of its Conservative and Liberal elements, then far removed from a state of fusion, the party assembling on the White Star Caronia forgot for the time their hostile relations. The enterprise on which they were engaged brought out their best qualities, and we were from first to last a happy family.

Lord Weardale and Sir Arthur Lawley could hardly have been improved upon. There was nothing insular about them. Both made themselves very popular everywhere, and their guidance was invaluable. As for the rest of us, we did our best and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

I had one drawback. I had no right to be alive in the United States, because some months before the American journals had printed handsome notices of my death. As I have previously stated, there were two Sir George Reids in those days—one a President of the Royal Scottish Academy, the other myself. It was Sir George, the eminent portrait painter, who had passed away. I will never have so comprehensive a claim for remembrance set up on my behalf again, because my American obituary notice dwelt quite as much upon my excellence as a painter as upon the events of my public career. I felt compelled, indeed, when the Pilgrims received us with a luncheon, to explain during a speech my reluctance to join the mission, as I was the last person to desire “to cast even the slightest shade of a shadow upon the veracity and accuracy of the American Press.”

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I suppose the most puzzling cablegram I ever got came to me two or three weeks after my distinguished namesake died. It was a message from my good friend, Mr. George Wilson, Vice-President of the Pilgrims, and also Vice-President of another great “Equitable” organisation which he probably finds more remunerative. The message, when I opened it, contained these words, “Hurrah! I am glad you are alive!” I speculated furiously. I wondered whether he had heard of my severe influenza and thought I was heavily insured in his society. My wife solved the mystery. During that illness she had received a cable of condolence from my friend, which she would not show me, and had written to let him know of the mistake. This cleared up a transient doubt in my mind as to the mental balance of one of the “cutest” Americans I know.

The Conference met on May 5th. There was quite a large number of American delegates. The Canadian delegates were headed by Sir Edmund Walker.

The Conference was unanimous in spirit, but some of the proposals tabled were wildly impracticable.

Venerable in years, but young in fact, that truly great man, Mr. J. H. Choate, presided. The placid, innocent manner in which he “steered” the deliberations of the Conference was inimitable. A great deal of time was saved by his occasional deafness, which ignored some of the most troublesome desires to have things “put to the meeting.”

The scheme for improving the lessons given in American history and British history, as to events of

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mutual concern, was perhaps the best suggestion of all. The text-books in the States up to that time were so written as to feed the patriotic appetite of Young America at the expense of the character of the British people, who had as little to do with the creation of American wrongs as the American patriots had.

The German-Americans in the States did not take kindly to our visit. They feared that an alliance between Britain and the United States, to the prejudice of Germany, was aimed at.

Lord Weardale, on our behalf, gave public assurances that the object of the peace celebrations was not to bind Great Britain and the United States together to the exclusion of other nations, but to show to the world the beneficent effects of peace, in the hope that other nations would follow this Anglo-Saxon example.

Of course there was a great banquet. Mr. Choate presided. The Secretary of State, Mr. W. J. Bryan, was the chief speaker. He was quite in his element at this peace demonstration.

Our engagements included a charming visit to Colonel Roosevelt at Oyster Bay. Included in the company were Mr. Alton B. Parker, who was the Democratic candidate against our host for President in 1904, and had not “met” his successful opponent since—until that day. Mr. Andrew Carnegie was there; he drove Lord Weardale and myself out in his splendid motor-car—his men in “real English” livery. Mr. John A. Stewart, the able and zealous Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American

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Peace Society, was present. Mr. Choate came too; there had been an “interval” between himself and his host also.

Mr. Roosevelt is a genial host always, but he seemed to excel himself in the kindly enthusiasm of his greetings.

The toast he proposed was: “Peace with justice and righteousness between the nations and within the borders of each nation.” He strongly advocated arbitration for the Panama Canal dispute. As for international disputes, “there are certainly some subjects which under certain conditions I would never consent to submit to arbitration. But, as far as the British Empire and the American Republic are concerned, I am prepared to agree in advance to the settlement of any question that may arise, either by mutual agreement or by arbitration, or by any other method that would not induce friction.” With great emphasis he added, “War between those two countries was, and must be, inconceivable.”

He reminded us of his Dutch descent, and expressed an earnest hope that “the British and Dutch in South Africa may blend together in as complete and friendly a manner as they had done in the American Republic.”

The house was full of trophies of sport and travel.

I never heard the word “bully” used as a word of welcome before, but as we came in sight he exclaimed “Bully!” several times.

In the afternoon we went to a reception given by Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie. We were shown some interesting

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things. He had been sounded informally as to the bestowal upon him of some mark of Royal favour. This approach he discouraged, as he thought he could have no greater honour than that he posessed as an American citizen. He let it be known, however, that he would highly appreciate an autograph letter from King Edward.

In due time he received one, which he highly treasures. It made graceful allusion, I saw, when reading it, to Mr. Carnegie's benefactions and their cosmopolitan character.

One of the refusals to do a good work that was suggested to him was so entirely to his credit that I must allude to it. Some years before there had been a rather destructive fire at the Bodleian Library, at Oxford. Someone suggested that he should offer to make the damage good. He refused on the ground that he thought the honour of restoring the library of that ancient and learned foundation should not be bestowed upon an American citizen, proud as he would have been to enjoy it.

I went on with our leader to Washington. Some of the others made a hurried trip to Chicago and then joined us.

The President, who was, I believe, a supporter of the movement, received us at the White House.

There was a memorable banquet in our honour on May 12th. Senator Elihu Root presided. There were several Ambassadors and Ministers present, including Sir Cecil Spring-Rice and the French Ambassador. The chairman's address was the address of the evening. It was worthy of his eminent reputation. Mr. Root

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is one of those men who are rather rare in new communities—men who utter weighty thoughts in a matter of fact manner, without resort to the arts of rhetoric or elocution.

Our Ambassador made an excellent speech also, and so did the Secretary of State, Mr. W. J. Bryan, whose oratorical powers are of a high order—sometimes too suggestive of the pulpit.

The evening was bright in every way, the whole of the very distinguished gathering being heart and soul with the movement to make Anglo-American relations more and more intimate and genuine.

The band excelled itself in the fury of its efforts to do justice to the great occasion. I often think that the possessors of wind instruments would be far more agreeable if they spared themselves more than they do! Perhaps I should add that this is equally true in the case of fluent speakers—like myself.

At a breakfast given by Mr. J. A. Stewart next morning Mr. Bryan allowed the exuberance of his fancy to describe a vision he had of a new kind of ship: “Its compass is the heart; its shells carry good will; its missiles are projected by the smokeless powder of love; its captain is the Prince of Peace. I want you to drink with me to the battleship ‘Friendship.’ No target will withstand the projectiles which friendship sends abroad.”

It was noticed that so far no official assurance had been given of the support of the Government to the celebration proposed.

At Philadelphia there was another right royal gathering. It was a dinner at which the ladies were

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just as numerous and far more interesting than the men. This is no disparagement of the men!

The Mayor, Mr. Blankenburg, was one of the best results I have met of the influence of America upon the German. He took our fancy immensely.

Sir Arthur Lawley, who is a first-rate speaker, excelled himself. Speaking of the excellent throwing we had seen at a baseball match that afternoon, he said that he thought George Washington was the best thrower America had ever possessed because he once threw “a sovereign across the Atlantic.”

I don't know that I ever spoke with such happy effect as I seemed to do that night. When I finished the whole company rose and I received three hearty cheers. Stay! Was it because I had finished?

There is an annual gathering in May at Lake Mohonk in the interests of peace and arbitration. It is associated with the name of Albert K. Smiley, a man of eminent good service, especially to the Indian races. He created, out of the smallest of beginnings, a summer resort at the lake on temperance principles. He achieved such a success that the Hostel is now an immense concern. The Conferences bring together notable assemblages, who are all guests of the family. One of the most impressive features of these gatherings is their Christian character. I went to the Conference, and was glad I had done so. Talking of international arbitration, Professor Shepherd, of the Columbia University (over which Mr. Nicholas Butler presides), said that there could be no arbitration in the present state of public opinion over a question like the Monroe doctrine; it was just as impossible

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as one over the national independence of the United States.

At the close of the Conference a hymn, “God be with you till we meet again,” was sung with a fervour of deep religious feeling which made upon my mind an impression I shall never forget. The young lady —a member of the Smiley family—who led the singing had a voice which breathed the very soul of the music and the words, with an effect beyond that of many sermons.

From first to last the visit was a most successful one. It had a good influence, it brought out many valuable demonstrations of goodwill, and gave us all a most enjoyable time.

I had heard and read much about the undue familiarities of American journalism, and the relentless inquisitiveness of the American interviewer. Of course I cannot speak for more important visitors, but I would like to say that during my visits to Canada and the United States I met with unvarying politeness and friendly treatment from all the Pressmen I met and all the newspapers I happened to see.

So far as their own citizens are concerned, many of the newspapers of the States do publish personal paragraphs as if the people of the great Republic were one vast family circle whose most intimate affairs are common property. In that respect there is a huge gap between the British and the American Press.

The intellectual capacity of newspaper writers in the two countries is pretty even, but the men who make the headlines in America have either a great

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deal more of vacant space or have to strike harder to awaken the intelligence of their readers.

The size and range of some of the American dailies and weeklies are astounding. Every village in the radius of their circulation has its place of honour, and the number of “worthy and public-spirited citizens” in those villages whose good deeds have to be chronicled, and the number of people who have to be disciplined seem to be immense. By the time full justice is done to everybody within that local radius there is little room for the affairs of the rest of the Universe. All this, of course, was before the war.

I happened to sit next the proprietor of a leading New York journal at a dinner given by Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt. He assured me that American public opinion was moulded far more in the Middle West than in New York.