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BAITING THE LION, 1877-1897
The period between 1877 and 1897 marks the lowest point in the conduct of our diplomacy. The long and able services Break in con
of Seward and Fish had given dignity and continuity
tinuity to, the period from 1861 to 1877, and their previous experience in public. life rhad reduced to a minimum the deflection from policies previously developed. In the new period, administrations of short duration reversed each other and paid little attention to the past. There was some continuity between the policies of Evarts, secretary under Hayes from 1877 to 1881, and those of Blaine, who served under Garfield in 1881, though Evarts would not have admitted it. Frelinghuysen, coming in under Arthur in December, 1881, changed Blaine's policies, only to have his own reversed by Bayard, whom Cleveland appointed in 1885. Bayard was inclined to conform to the traditions of our history, but he was seriously hampered by Congress. Harrison brought in Blaine again in 1889, and the two united in discarding what their predecessors had done, but otherwise for the most part pulled different ways, until Blaine resigned in 1892, to be succeeded by John W. Foster, who was well equipped but served too short a time to make himself felt. In 1893 Cleveland and his party effectually checked what the Republicans had set in train.
Never before had diplomacy been so much at the mercy of politics. In the fifties the attempt was to arouse national Politics and interest in general policies; in this period pardiplomacy
ticular questions of diplomacy were thrown into the balance to turn a few votes. Particularly popular was the diversion of twisting the tail of the British lion, which
Effect of the
animal proved to be peaceable, though not easily led by this method to any useful end.
During these years we did not put into office any really great diplomat. The secretaries of state were all exceptionally able men, but the position had become Lack of great primarily political. James G. Blaine seems to diplomats have had some genius for diplomacy, as well as a real purpose, but his superficiality was so much greater than that of Henry Clay, whom he imitated, that comparison is odious. His lack of knowledge of international law was conspicuous even in his own generation, and the influence of his splendid and magnetic personality which might have compensated for this defect was lost by the ineptness of his agents, some of them forced upon him and some for whom he was himself responsible.
The whole mechanics of diplomatic intercourse had been changed by the laying of the Atlantic cable in 1866. This was particularly true of our own service. Owing to distance and the frequent difficulty Atlantic cable of communication, our representatives abroad had always enjoyed a remarkable degree of freedom and responsibility, which they had used to the uttermost, as is illustrated by the careers of John Jay and Soulé. As Mr. Dooley says of our ministers, they "led a free an' riochous life, declared war, punched Prime Ministers in th'ey', an'gin'rally misbehaved” themselves, “an' no wan at home cared. ... Be the time they knew anything about it it was old news an’” they were “up to some other divilment. But now, how is it? Sure an Ambassador is about as vallyable as a tillyphone op’rator. He has to make connections an' if he listens or cuts in he's fired. He's a messenger an'a slow wan fr'm wan Government to another." With the concentration of business at the home department, the position of foreign representative became less attractive to able men with a future. They accepted it as a vacation or an honorable retirement, or because of the social ambition of their wives.
With the flooding of Europe by Americans of wealth, bent upon pleasure or social advancement, a chief occupation Social distrac- of the American ministers became the securing
of introductions for their countrymen at the courts to which they were accredited. It was in general a thankless task, as the absence of fixed social rank in America left their selections for the honor to the caprices of their own choice; consequently every capital city became the fighting-ground of cliques of Americans for and against the embassy. Involved in society as they were, such offices could be used as stepping-stones to social position at home; hence they came to be sought by men of wealth, whose easiest method of securing them was by contribution to the party campaign funds. Cleveland's appointment to Italy, in 1893 of James J. Van Alen, who had given fifty thousand dollars to the Democratic fund, aroused such a storm of protest throughout the country, that he was barely confirmed by the Senate, and in decency was forced to decline the position. This was not the only case of the kind, however, nor the last.
The competition of the rich for these posts doubtless had something to do with the failure of Congress to raise the sal
aries to meet the increased cost of modern living, Rich and poor
and it became almost impossible for a man without private resources to accept appointment. On the other hand, the éclat of some embassies did not prevent the exigencies of domestic politics from forcing the appointment of many men whose social training was as lacking and more obvious than their intellectual deficiencies.
There were always exceptions however, and in particular the mission to Great Britain maintained its distincMission
tion. With John Adams, Thomas Pinckney, Great Britain
John Jay, Rufus King, James Monroe, William Pinkney, John Quincy Adams, Richard Rush, Albert Gallatin, Martin Van Buren, Edward Everett, George Bancroft, James Buchanan, Charles Francis Adams, Reverdy
1 A. D. White, Autobiography, 2 vols., New York, 1906.
Johnson, and John Lothrop Motley among its previous holders, the line was continued by James Russell Lowell, Edward J. Phelps, Robert Lincoln, and Thomas F. Bayard. The loss of diplomatic responsibility was here more than made up by the growing sense that the American minister in England was representative of one people to the other; and the position was regarded as one of eminence.
While the importance of the diplomatic service was declining, that of the consular service was increasing with the change of trade conditions. Not only was inter- Commercial national exchange assuming larger relative changes proportions, but American trade was becoming less specialized. With the development of Argentina, our exports of provisions encountered more active competition. In many lines of manufacture, moreover, as in leather goods and agricultural machinery, the supply was coming to exceed the needs of the home market, and a foreign market was demanded. The aid of the government was therefore once more called in, as it had been in the early days of the republic, to assist our commercial interests. This could be done in part by national policy, and Blaine and Cleveland proposed, the one reciprocity, the other free trade. Much of it, however, must be done by the collection and diffusion of information by our consuls, and by their activity in establishing friendly relations with foreign business men.
Although the consular service had grown to cover almost every port and shipping point of the world, its selection remained at the mercy of politics. With the Consular adoption of civil service reform in 1883, efforts were made to extend the merit system to this branch; but they were unsuccessful. On the whole, however, the results were better than might have been expected. The lack of special training and experience was not so important here as in diplomatic positions, and the politicians who were appointed were by profession shrewd and apt at dealing with men and clever at picking up information. Although they
did not particularly command the respect of the educated classes of other countries or of their own, and though some of them created difficulties that might not otherwise have occurred, they were on the whole efficient in promoting business. 1
While no advances in the routine of diplomacy are to be looked for, developments already started continued to make
progress. For one thing, the range of our exExtradition
tradition treaties was extended. The passage of an act by the Canadian Parliament in 1889, authorizing the government to surrender fugitives from justice even where no treaty existed, seemed to close that haven to our embezzlers. Although for certain reasons it failed to be put into operation for some time, it appears to have deterred many recreants from taking refuge there. With the toils of international agreement closing round them, criminal fugitives of all kinds continued to furnish much of the business of diplomacy.
The movement for the protection of trademarks continued, and many treaties were made on the subject. More Trademarks important was our adhesion, in 1883, to a conand copyright
vention for the International Protection of Industrial Property, which covered patents, trademarks, and commercial names. In 1891 Congress at length authorized the President to enter into agreements regarding international copyright, which he could make valid by proclamation. This step was speedily followed up, and copyright has become practically universal in its extent.
We also joined, in 1886, in an international agreement for the protection of submarine cables, and in 1890 in an International
international union for the publication of cuscoöperation
toms tariffs. Our participation in the latter year in an international act for the suppression of the African slave trade has already been noticed. This tendency to enter freely into agreements with foreign countries on general subjects was a natural result of the improvement of communica
* Consular reports have been published monthly since 1880.