MONSIEUR POINCARÉ paid an extraordinary tribute to the work of the American Relief Clearing House.
"Never in the world, within memory of man," he declared, was there such an outflow of sympathy and solidarity. Neither distance nor the ocean could prevent the hearts of our two peoples from feeling closely drawn together. Our wounded soldiers, the widows and orphans, our hapless countrymen driven out by the invasion and seeking refuge in the uninvaded regions, felt the immediate benefits of this soul-union.
"But underlying cold figures, our memory easily discerns the warmth and activity of the indefatigable affection evidenced for us. The American Relief Clearing House was fully worthy of its illustrious founder, Mr. Myron T. Herrick, who gave us such striking proof of his friendship for France in 1914 and who, even when temporarily absent, has never lost sight of us.
" By an ingenious combination, the Clearing House of Paris was linked to a similar organization with headquarters in New York, founded also by Mr. Herrick. This latter mobilized and raised relief; while the former received and distributed it. The more necessities increased, the more inexhaustible seemed the sources of supply. Clothing, linen, food, material, aid for the maimed, funds, flowed uninterruptedly across the ocean; and American charity constantly assumed forms ever new, ever more ingenious, and ever more touching.
"Never, never will France have the ingratitude to forget that."
The story of this organization has been written by Mr. Percy Mitchell in a volume as interesting as it is honorable for the American people, and while no extended account of its beneficent operations can be given here, it would be unpardonable to describe Mr. Herrick's activities in 1914 and not briefly tell what the Clearing House was. For he not only conceived the plan but he threw himself into its accomplishment with an intense ardor that never diminished. He loved what he was doing. he felt competent to decide the many questions that arose; and then, as the horrible years of the war drew to a close, the memory of his wife became associated with this work as it was with that of the American Ambulance. Wherever Mrs. Herrick had trod, his heart forever lingered, and this is one of the reasons why the Ambulance and the Clearing House remained for him in after life surrounded with such tender sentiment.
Very soon after the war started, organizations of every sort were formed in America for sending aid to the suffering in Europe, civilians and soldiers alike. Most of the supplies contributed were specifically given for the Allies and a great part of them for France and Belgium. Individuals and societies sprang up, both in France and the United States, which collected funds, purchased goods, and endeavored to deliver them where needed. Very soon confusion began to threaten, and in some cases abuses and waste were visible. As the business grew and huge sums became available, the possibility that something worse might arise led Mr. Herrick to step in. He had in view the protection of those who had given their money, the interests of the sufferers for whom the supplies were intended, and the guarding of America's good name. He wished to take no chances. Much of the material as well as the money was being sent addressed to the embassy, which was in no wise equipped to receive, account for, and distribute the tons of freight arriving, and the danger of loss or peculation was evident. Mr. Herrick therefore decided that in the interest of all it was imperative that a competent body, independent of the embassy, should centralize and be responsible for this American work of rescue, and about the middle of November, 1914, he convened a meeting of Americans in Paris to discuss the matter. Those present included: Mr. H. H. Harjes, Professor J. Mark Baldwin, Mr. Whitney Warren, Mr. James Hazen Hyde, initiator of the exchange professorships between France and America; Rev. Dr. S. N. Watson, Mr. M. Percy Peixotto, Mr. Elmer Roberts; Mr. C. Inman Barnard and Mr. Henry Cachard, lawyers; Mr. Edward Tuck, philanthropist and Mæcenas of the American colony; Mr. J. Ridgeley Carter, former American Minister; Mr. Junius S. Morgan, Mr. W. S. Hilles, Mr. L. V. Twyeffort, Mr. William S. Hogan, Duc de Loubat, Mr. Randolph Mordecai, Mr. Charles Carroll, Mr. Charles R. Scott, and many others.
Mr. Herrick presided and in his opening remarks outlined the question before the meeting. America, he said, was making a powerful effort to help France. As a matter of justice and humanity the movement should be encouraged and stimulated. That could best be done by expediting the distribution of the relief supplies received from the United States. Order must be brought out of the chaos produced by unsystematized shipments. The task was too big and too delicate to be grappled with by any individual. The relief movement must be protected from possible abuses or dishonesty. The distribution of the aid must be under the control of a central organization, approved by the embassy and empowered to see to the faithful carrying out of the intentions of the donors.
He believed that the most effective safeguard and collaborator in this business would be an institution corresponding in charitable work to a clearing house in banking, and he proposed that such an organ be created and that it be called "The American Relief Clearing House." He declared that it would find plenty of work to do, but all that was necessary to success was the cooperation of business ability and public spirit. In both these respects the American colony was rich.
Mr. Herrick's appeal hit the mark. After a searching discussion his solution was agreed to be the best, and the work of practical realization was at once begun. Offices were established at 5 Rue François I., the owner, Comte Gérard de Ganay, placing the building, rent and taxes free, at the disposal of the committee, and the Duchesse de Talleyrand---née Gould---provided a commodious edifice for a warehouse.
Mr. Herrick's departure for America had already been decided upon when this meeting took place, and he had sailed when the formal organization was perfected on December 1, 1914. One can perceive his solicitude for the success of American efforts to aid France in his determination to get this matter well started while still ambassador. He did not desire to leave to others a matter so near to his heart and whose value was so clear to his businesslike mind.
He was elected honorary president, and on reaching home he devoted his influence and time to Clearing House affairs. In this he drew to his aid an old friend whose marvelous ability was equaled only by his modesty. Mr. Herrick could never mention the Clearing House, without telling of the work done for it by Mr. C. A. Coffin, president of the General Electric Company and "the soul of War Relief." In an extraordinary letter, he speaks of the impossibility of getting any statement from Mr. Coffin as to his endless activities for that cause. "I merely did my day's work," he said, "and a far less personal contribution, proportioned to my situation, than was that of every boy who went across facing disaster and death. I feel that what we did was essentially clerical work." This from a man who practically quit his great business for several years to work for war relief.
I HAVE often heard Mr. Herrick's closest friends say that he might very well have been nominated for President, either in 1916 when Mr. Hughes was the candidate or in 1920 when Mr. Harding was elected. They usually coupled this assertion with the remark that if nominated on either occasion he would have been elected. In 1920, they declared, whether the Republicans presented Harding or Herrick, the result would have been the same. But what about 1916? As regards that campaign they said, even leaving out his chance to win in other states, he would certainly have carried California and hence the election. He was on the closest terms with all the factions in that commonwealth; Senator Hiram Johnson, the Crockers, and the railroad people were all his friends; his oft-tested ability to smooth over difficulties, the warm geniality of his character, his entire separation from the bitternesses of the 1912 campaign, in addition to the respect and admiration felt for him throughout the country, all point to the probability of his carrying at least what Mr. Hughes did, plus California.
This of course was interesting, and I therefore once asked Mr. Herrick to tell me what he thought about the matter and whether the political leaders had approached him with the idea of making him the candidate.
"That," he answered, "is a rather complicated story, but I will give you the reason which prevented me from ever encouraging in the smallest degree those enthusiastic friends who thought I had a chance to become President. You know how often one's friends suggest such things, and when I came home from France some of mine were generous enough to broach the subject. I had little difficulty in proving to them that my candidacy was out of the question both on my own account and the party's, and the reasons I can give you now without raking up things which at one time gravely distressed me.
"In 1901-2, I was a member of the syndicate which bought the Western Maryland railroad and built it to the Atlantic seaboard. After the Wheeling & Lake Erie road went into bankruptcy, I was appointed its receiver. At this time George Gould was trying to connect his ambitious western system through to tidewater and he wanted these two railroads for that purpose. To do this he needed a charter to construct a bridge across the Ohio River and reach Pittsburgh. This an act of Congress gave him. The Wabash Terminal Company was organized to build the bridge and the piece of road necessary to connect Gould's Wabash system with the Wheeling & Lake Erie and thus get into Pittsburgh. At first I was 'syndicate manager' of the Wabash Terminal; later I resigned all connection with the enterprise; eventually it came to grief and was thrown into the hands of receivers.
"In going over the affairs of the company, the receivers could find no trace of vouchers covering expenditures amounting to something like twelve million dollars, and the members of the syndicate, old and new, could furnish no information bearing on the entries. The receivers demanded an accounting for this money, and it bothered me greatly.
"When the Wabash Terminal Company went to smash, General Fitzgerald was president of the syndicate. His office was in the Equitable Building in New York, and as it had burned down and General Fitzgerald was dead, the only explanation we could advance was that all of these papers had been burned during the fire. Naturally this was not sufficient for the receivers, and suits had been begun in the courts for the recovery of the money. This was the situation when I came back from France in December, 1914.
"The question of a Republican candidate to run against President Wilson was already occupying the attention of party leaders. A number of these had conferences with me after my return and suggested that I run. Henry Cabot Lodge was one of them. He said to me: 'You are the logical candidate and you can be elected hands down. You have been absent nearly three years and fortunately you have not been mixed up in all the rows of 1912. Everybody knows you and everybody is for you.'
"I was in no way indifferent to these suggestions, but I was thoroughly alive to the dangers which my nomination would provoke, both for myself and the Republican party. I answered Senator Lodge substantially as follows:
"'You forget about that lawsuit of the Wabash Terminal, but I do not. Look at all the political capital that would be made out of it---the connection with Gould and the unaccounted-for loss of a big sum of money---just the sort of mess the Democrats would revel in. Yes, yes, I know there is no truth in it. I know I had sold out long before the transactions in question took place, I know that all I got was my fee as manager; but the public would be made to see in it only the theft of twelve million dollars. No, I would not try to get the nomination even if I believed I might be successful. The things which would inevitably be said during the campaign, and to which I have no convincing reply, would be humiliating.
"In 1920 there was again some talk of my being the candidate. Senator Harding came to me and said: 'Myron, if you will run, I will not raise my finger to get the nomination.' I told him I did not want it and I told him why. Exactly the same situation existed as four years back. Nothing had changed. The Wabash Terminal suit had not been settled and the vouchers not yet found. I did not want to try for the nomination, though I was convinced that Harding and the others would throw the weight of their undoubted influence to me. I know that my decision to refuse was right. It would have been shouted from one end of the country to the other that I was a thief, and however my friends might have defended me, such assaults would have had their effect on the public and they would have wounded me to the quick.
"However, a few years ago this whole matter was cleared up. When he came to Paris some time before his death, Alvin Krech gave me all the details, including an account of his two hours on the witness stand testifying as to those vouchers. What had happened was this: After General Fitzgerald's death and the Equitable fire, the Mercantile Trust, of which he was president, was sold out to the Bankers' Trust and all of Fitzgerald's papers were transferred to the basement of that bank. Among them was an iron-bound trunk in which eventually were found all the vouchers pertaining to those twelve million dollars of the old Wabash Terminal syndicate. Fitzgerald had put them in with the accounts of the Mercantile Trust and nobody ever thought to look for them there. Everything was in perfect order, every dollar accounted for. If Fitzgerald had been alive when the suit was started or if he had not put the accounts of the Wabash syndicate in his books with those of the Mercantile Trust, the vouchers would have been discovered many years ago and no possible accusation could have hung over my head."
Naturally, when he reached this point, the ambassador and I talked for some time as to what strange little accidents often determine the course of important national events. "Don't you remember," he observed, "in one of Bernard Shaw's books he proves that the battle of Lodi was really won by a lieutenant's horse? Some ingenious fellow might amuse himself by showing that the Republicans lost the election in 1916 on account of the Equitable fire. Yes, I suppose that except for those vouchers being mislaid it is within the range of possibility that the nomination would have come to me. If elected I would have been dead long ago, that is sure; so perhaps it is just as well, after all---at least as far as I am personally concerned."
THE "Rip Van Winkle sleep" which Mr. Herrick had promised himself before leaving Paris did not last long. During the year 1915 he was in demand for every organization that had been created to aid France or the Allies. He served on many relief committees, made speeches, worked for the Clearing House and the Ambulance, received visits from prominent foreigners and American politicians. He enjoyed being with his family and old friends as never before in his life. and the change in the business outlook created by the war required that he once more devote a small part of his time to his personal affairs. He was fully occupied and very happy.
As the presidential campaign of 1916 drew near, some of the Republican leaders approached him with the suggestion that he become the candidate of his party. This idea he rejected for reasons which have already been explained; but the pressure to have him run for the Ohio senatorship was too strong to be resisted and he accepted the nomination. He threw himself with ardor into the campaign, but his personal popularity could not overcome the forces arrayed against the Republicans. A large part of the population of Ohio was of German origin and Mr. Herrick's known sympathy for France naturally made no appeal to these men, many of whom in other circumstances would probably have voted for him. The cry that Wilson "kept us out of war" was used with great effect in Ohio and the President swept the state, carrying with him all the Democratic candidates.
Mr. Herrick felt this defeat keenly, and even the consolation of seeing the nominee of his party elected to the Presidency was denied him. But these disappointments were soon forgotten in the satisfaction he experienced when Mr. Wilson at last decided to enter the war. Then in 1917-1918 two terrible blows fell upon him in succession. His eldest grandson, a charming boy who bore his name, was run over and killed by an automobile. Less than a year after this Mrs. Herrick died.
These two bereavements broke his spirit for a time and, indeed, he never fully recovered from them. He loved Mrs. Herrick with all the ardor of his younger days. She was his unfailing consolation in every trouble, his companion in all his joys, a counselor upon whom he constantly relied, and her death left a gap in his existence which never was filled. Among all the circumstances which molded his nature and left their impress upon his work, none was more powerful than the unbroken happiness of his married life.
Since the close of hostilities he had wanted to make a visit to France, but family bereavements and a sense of delicacy had prevented the indulgence of this desire. At last, in the summer of 1920, he felt able to carry it out. Its realization brought him an immense pleasure and was influential in reviving his spirits and improving his health. It could hardly be otherwise, for no one was more susceptible to the stimulation which comes in an atmosphere of affection and approval. All France welcomed him as a friend, French statesmen and his old colleagues among the diplomats were delighted to see him again, the American colony fêted him, and the city of Paris organized a magnificent reception in his honor at the Hôtel de Ville. His letters show that he was entirely unprepared for the fervor of the reception which awaited him, and had he realized the demands which this enthusiastic welcome would make upon his recently recovered strength, it seems likely that he would have hesitated to undertake the journey,
On July 14 he writes to his son Parmely from Paris:
"I returned last night from one of the most active four days that I have had in a long time. I will not attempt to give you the details of a visit to the battlefields, Verdun, Rheims....
"The journey, from start to finish, was full of the deepest interest, and I only wish it were possible for every citizen in the Allied countries to see what we saw, even after all this time since hostilities ceased. It would make them more sympathetic with France.
"We were under the guidance of Colonel Philippe Bunau-Varilla, and a more fortunate guide in some respects we could not have had.
"We began in the morning at eight and ran until about nine or ten o'clock at night without stopping for dinner. We would then find a restaurant of some kind, and anything that we had to eat was awfully good!
"Philippe, with his peg-leg, bid fair to outdo us all, but I suppose the reason for that is that one leg being wooden he did not get tired as quickly as we did with two. (He lost his leg at Verdun.)
"I am too fatigued to attempt any description. I am sending you some clippings which tell the story of Rheims most interestingly. A large déjeuner was given in the Hôtel de Ville, which is a wreck. Two or three hundred people were present. Léon Bourgeois spoke. Some time I shall tell you all about it if you care to hear.
"This afternoon I am to speak at the Club House of the Knights of Columbus---Marshal Foch is to be presented with a flag from the ladies of California, etc.
"I am called on to do so very many things here that I find Paris harder on me than the trip---hard as that was. Public reception and other things planned, and while it is all most gratifying, I shall be glad to get over to London, where I hope it will be rather quiet. I am going to enjoy all this in retrospect---but it is hard to keep the pace.
"The thing that I constantly wish is that you and Agnes could have been with me."
In a later letter he says:
"I have never been so occupied in my life. It is not possible for any human being to be as good as these people think I am, therefore I am leaving as quickly as possible.
"I am going to Coblenz to-night. Mott is there. General Allen has asked me; they will have a motor for me. I shall go to Strasburg. They want to give me a big reception there, but I shall not be able to accept it.
"I lunched with the Castellanes yesterday. The British ambassador was there. Had a delightful reunion with Princess Murat, the daughter of the Duc de Rohan; last evening Madame Benoist d'Azy came to dine with me.
"The last three weeks have been so full of events, so kaleidoscopic, that I cannot begin to enumerate them. Mails are slow, and no chance to write much. I shall soon be home."
He drove over much of northern and eastern France, looking at the battlefields and the devastated regions, stopping above all at Rheims, for which place he had a profound sentiment. I accompanied him on the journey along the Rhine, and when at Coblenz we stood watching the Stars and Stripes floating over the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, we seemed to measure the vast distance between the America of Mr. Herrick's boyhood years and the nation whose armies, after crossing the Atlantic, had marched through half of Europe and now stood guard with French and British troops along the Rhine.
No American who did not visit the occupied regions in those days can imagine the effect of that spectacle. We stood on the point of land where the colossal statue of the old Emperor William proudly overlooks the stream. Ancient houses, the familiar bridge of boats, policemen in German uniforms, all that, as travelers, one had seen in years gone by, was there unchanged; but as the eye inevitably swept across the wide rush of water to the prodigious battlements rising on the other side, it fixed itself with startled gaze upon the colors of our country, crowning their topmost peak and at first inviting more of wonder than any other emotion. Suddenly, all that it meant burst upon the consciousness. Pride, a thrill of patriotic awe, and then a sense of utter happiness---happiness in the power it told us of, the mighty protection it signified for everything we loved and hoped for. In that one glance we could see, crowding behind this symbol in the German sky, millions of soldiers pouring into France, millions more panting to embark, a vast land marshaling its untold energies for the sweet business of righting a stupendous wrong.
As a young soldier I had watched the Spanish colors lowered on the citadel at Manila while our own flag floated slowly out in the faint tropical breeze, and an irrepressible gulp had risen in my throat. But how poor was my emotion then as compared with this! Here was no decaying empire whose crumbling fragments fell off beneath our blows, but the stoutest foe the world had seen in centuries squarely met on the battlefield and broken by a fiercer energy. Only twenty years separated these two pictures, but they had written a whole century of attainment.
While Mr. Herrick was in France on this visit arrangements were completed for dedicating the monument to Wilbur Wright at Le Mans, where he had made his historic flights. Mr. Herrick was asked to be present, and in a letter home tells of what took place when Baron d'Estournelles de Constant in 1913 started this plan for a monument:
"I gave a déjeuner to some 50 Frenchmen at that time and the matter was well under way; then came the war, and all turned from thoughts of the dead to the horrible business of killing the living. It touches me strangely, after all these years and the many things that have happened since, to be again on the point of going to Le Mans to attend the dedication of this monument. It is a shaft, on the summit of which is a man, kneeling; he is straining, with uplifted arms as of yearning prayer, to the Great Blue to lift him, take him up from the earth into the vast spaces of the sky. And his prayer was answered.
"I don't know why, but there seems to be something in the very air of France that draws to her shores from all parts of the globe the dreamers and thinkers that are struggling to wrest from the unknown some new gift for the world. It must be that here they find the quick intelligence and the ready sympathy that softens the pain of failure and ever stimulates them to new effort. Here, too, they find in such large measure the true instinct of the sportsman---for the Frenchman is the first to recognize merit in a new thing and to step forward with the hand of good fellowship and congratulation. It is typical of them that the first move for the erection of this monument to Wilbur Wright should have been made by a Frenchman---Baron d'Estournelles de Constant."
In another letter he says:
"I have asked Miss Singleton to keep you advised of what is going on. I really have not a moment for myself.
"To-day at luncheon, at the S----- P-----'s, I met Baron G-----, who said he knew you and sent best regards. Next to me there was a very interesting and beautiful Russian Countess . . . who escaped from the Bolshevists last year....
"Later I called on the Queen of Roumania, who seemed intent on making a journey to the United States. I think I was successful in convincing her that it would be better to wait until next spring. She is delightful.
"It seems to me now that the fatigue is having its effect. If only I can finish up the next fifteen days here and then go away! Now, I feel as if I should never want to go through with this again."
The obedient and devoted Miss Singleton adds this:
"Your father is a miracle. No crowned head could have received a more splendid welcome, and he is carrying it off beautifully. He is the type that the more you load on him, the better he stands it. However, I shall try to get Barlow to give him salt rubs---they are most strengthening. The only thing is I don't get any support. They all agree with me in whispers that be ought to do this and ought to do that, and then he rolls his eyes at them and they quail. To meet an extraordinary emergency you must use extraordinary means. That's military. But he doesn't want to do that. He thinks he can pull through this siege with no more care of himself than the ordinary routine of a quiet day in Cleveland....
"I wish you would write him a firm letter to London telling him he must take care of himself and do all he is told to do. You know London---those people begin to live at 2 A. M.!"'
And so it went until the climax was reached on July 26th. On that day the city of Paris gave him an official reception in splendid Hôtel de Ville. The Prefect of the Seine, the mayor, and others made eloquent speeches recounting the ambassador's services to Paris. In closing, Monsieur Corbeiller addressed these words to him:
"When you left France in November, 1914, the President of our Municipal Council, knowing all that you had done for us, desired that you might take away from Paris some symbol of her gratitude. At the railway station he took from his pocket a case containing a poor little medal---the Mint was no longer in operation---on which he had caused to be cut these words: 'À Myron T. Herrick, Ambassadeur des Éats-Unis d'Amérique en 1914, la Ville de Paris reconnaissante.'
"He asked you to excuse the modesty of this offering and to wait for better days when it could be replaced by a souvenir more worthy of you and of us. This souvenir, Mr. Ambassador, I now offer you. The case is richer, the medal more beautiful, but the inscription is the same; and in its eloquent simplicity it faithfully expresses an unchangeable sentiment, the gratitude of Paris to you."
He then handed him a finely executed medal, on one side of which is shown the Hôtel de Ville with an allegorical figure of Paris, and on the other the inscription just quoted.
Mr. Herrick did not have time to write to his children more than the briefest notes after this, but in one of them he says, "Miss Singleton will tell you the rest." She did. And in her own way. What she wrote has a flavor difficult to convey by mere extracts. She describes at length what took place at the Hôtel de Ville so that one sees every detail of the picture: the speeches in Mr. Herrick's praise, his reply, how he bore himself, "the unstudied charm that men of great personality possess, the spark they have caught from the great hot heart of Nature, that knows no school"; the clothes the women wore "Mrs. R-----in black with cream lace helter-skeltering along it; Madame P-----, a flower of bygone days, a strain of half-forgotten music; the beautiful Countess X----- and her sister, lady-in-waiting to the Queen of B----- ; Madame Poincaré, who sat beside him; the Marquis de Lasteyrie, the Rochambeaus, the Chambruns, and the Castellanes; no end of government people---Millerand, the Prime Minister, Pétain, Nivelle, Pau; Mrs. F------ (dear old lady) who said she could not see for her tears.
"They gave him a large gold medal.... Also a wonderful bouquet in a solid silver dish (I don't think tinware would come out of the Rue de la Paix, so I say it was solid). A child gave him a bunch of roses. The child got a kiss."
Then Miss Singleton adds: "However, what we went through before this beautiful outburst of love and affection on the part of Paris no one will put into history. The president of the Municipal Council, his cohorts and his legions, sashayed back and forth; then the formal invitation, then the formal acceptance; then the change of date so that the American ambassador could be present; then the notes to and from the American embassy explaining all this; then the list of guests to be invited; then more lists of guests who desired to be invited; then L----- N----revamping the list; then the wrong first names found tied to the wrong surnames; the wait for the speech from the president of the Municipal Council; the receipt of the speech, and the rewriting of the ambassador's speech; the non-arrival of the speech of the Prefect of the Seine; the search for this speech that was said to have been sent three days ago; the telephoning; the speech found at the embassy; the boy scout waiting for the tip when there was no change; finally the franc found; then the writing of the rewritten speech; Mr. Norton cross, Miss Singleton still crosser; Barlow trying to get people on the telephone, and telephone girls who won't answer; Miss N----- wanting more invitations (just like a woman); the official interpreter, sick (shows his lack of humor to get sick at such a time); Mr. K----- taking the speech off to translate; the emissary of the Municipality trekking after to help; Mr. K----- very cross; Barlow sent to see him; tells Barlow to sit down and wait; Barlow won't sit down and wait but walks straight in on him (Barlow is British). Then the Hôtel de Ville, and the band and the buffet."
AS SOON as Mr. Harding was elected, the question of Mr. Herrick's appointment to France or to some other country as ambassador was naturally brought up. His closest friends were divided in their opinions as to his accepting such a post, although they were sure he would be asked to do so. Some thought if he went abroad again it should be to London; others feared that his health was not good enough to stand the work and that if he returned to Europe he would break down under the strain. Several of them talked to me about it, and as my ideas on the subject were definite I said what I thought unreservedly, indeed hoping it would reach him.
I was convinced that his going to London would be a mistake. All would be new to him, the effort would be greater, the surroundings unfamiliar; he would be at the start among strangers; whereas his coming back to Paris would be like the return of a traveler from a cold and tiring journey, who finds a bright fire going and his slippers warming on the hearth. Frenchmen of all classes would be delighted at his appointment, they would hail him as an old and tried friend, while the Americans in Paris would welcome him with joyful affection. Everything would be made easy for him. If his health was not good, nothing would stimulate it more than this happy atmosphere and interesting work. Indeed I had a theory that its unsatisfactory condition was more induced by his having nothing to do than by any other cause and that congenial occupation in a sphere already familiar to him would build him up as nothing else could do.
The event proved the fairness of this reasoning. With every month after his arrival in Paris he grew stronger physically and keener mentally, and after a year had passed it was astonishing, the amount of "punishment" he could stand. In 1924 he had a very serious illness and for a few days he himself believed his end was near. During his convalescence some of those very close to him suggested that if he continued at work he would shorten his life and that in his own interest he ought to resign. "If I quit," he said to me at this time, "I would go home and simply sit down and wait to die. If I keep busy I may last quite a while yet. But I don't want to hang on if I am merely a senile encumbrance. Am I? That is the question. What do you think, frankly?"
He put in five years of work useful to his country after that, and at the end it was his body that gave out; his judgment remained firm and his mind keen to the very last. He was one of those rare men who understood himself as accurately as he estimated others.
Telling of his being asked to go back to France, he said:
"I was chairman of the Ohio delegation to the national convention of 1920 when Harding was nominated and I worked for his candidacy. He and I had long been friends and political associates and of course all Ohio was strongly for him. Before he was inaugurated we had a little argument about Harry Daugherty. He discussed that appointment with me before it was made and I spoke against it with a plainness which rather tiffed Harding. However, that was only a warm discussion as between old friends, and he informed me that he wanted me to go to London, Paris, or any other post I might prefer. I thanked him but told him I was not very well and I had to think it over. I was on my way to New York at the time, and I finally wrote him from there saying that I had decided to go to Honolulu for a rest and please not to consider me for any appointment. I assumed that would be the end of the matter, but after I got back to California, while up at the observatory on top of Mount Wilson, Tod Ford called me on the telephone from Pasadena and read a telegram from Harding in which he asked me to go to France as ambassador. He was so generous as to say afterward that he believed everybody in the United States was expecting him to send me there.
"Mr. Root was in the Mount Wilson party, and I shall never forget him as he was that evening when I told of Harding's offer. Henry Smith Pritchett of the Carnegie Foundation, William Benson Story of the Atchison Road, Parmely, and Ulysses Grant were all sitting around a big fire, and Mr. Root began to talk about the League of Nations, the World Court, and the vast financial problems facing all countries. For a long time none of us spoke, we were all so afraid he might stop or branch off. Finally I said, 'What do you think about my accepting?'
"'You must by all means go,' he replied in his terse, definite way.
"I left California," continued Mr. Herrick, "with my mind still not quite made up and went to Washington, where Harding was then installed. Nobody could have been kinder than he was when I saw him, and I learned with pleasure that Mr. Hughes was also strongly in favor of my selection. After talking to them both, I decided to accept.
I only made two requests, indeed conditions. One was that I could have Sheldon Whitehouse as counselor; the other that you would remain my military attaché as long as I was ambassador. Both of these were agreed to."
Before he started for France, Cleveland gave him an imposing "send-off " to which he refers in a letter written from the ship to Mr. Samuel Mather:
"I never was so completely surprised and overwhelmed as I was by the good-bye from my friends in Cleveland. I could not in any adequate way meet such expressions of friendship and praise in my embarrassed attempt to reply.
"I wonder if you would send me what you have written introducing me. I would like Parmely to have it to keep.
"I've been 'the lonesomest beggar in all the world' for three years nearly, and began to feel that my friends were fewer; but your eloquent words of approval and praise not only made me want to remain at home but 'bucked' me up for France."
This idea as to the inspiring value of friends' approval recalls another paragraph in a letter written years before to Andrew Squire:
"Unless one has warm and devoted friends willing to overlook his mistakes and weaknesses and give large credit for good intentions, life is not worth nearly so much. The invitation---of your committee I construe to mean that I have more of these than I had thought, therefore, am glad. I've always known that I had you and a few others for all emergencies."
Mr. Herrick's arrival in France in 1921 was attended by circumstances so unusual as to constitute a new precedent in the history of diplomatic relationships. A glance at the speeches of public men and the editorials in all the news papers of the land, big and little, will show that his coming was hailed as an event of prime importance to France. Time did not diminish this feeling, and during the eight years which followed everybody became so accustomed to the happy situation that it was taken for granted he would remain as long as he lived.
As though chance also wished to take a hand in marking the dramatic element of his return, it happened that he arrived on the great French national holiday, July 14th. The Prime Minister went to the station to meet him, which was unusual; what was far more so is that an enormous crowd of people from every walk of life filled the streets on his passage. The seven terrible years that had intervened since his departure had not blurred their memory, and all wanted to prove it.
The next day Stephen Lausanne in the Matin said: "Le Havre, Rouen, Paris, and all France gave yesterday to Mr. Herrick such a welcome as has never yet been accorded to any ambassador, however eminent he might be or however great the people he represented. This is because a friend, and a very dear friend, has come back to us. I have known him for ten years and each time that I have found myself in his presence during all that period it has seemed to me how perfectly Brantôme's phrase applies to him: 'He is a man whose heart rises to his lips.'"
Monsieur Poincaré wrote in the Revue des Deux Mondes, after referring in affectionate terms to the events of 1914:
"He is one of those who can most contribute toward making our true frame of mind known in America, showing us as we are and defending us against German calumnies. He is also one of those best able to inform us as to America's thoughts and save us from occasional optical illusions." Subsequent events proved how accurate was the prediction of this great statesman.
The Dépêche of Toulouse asserted: "He is resolute, courageous, and elegant. There is no concealment in his language, no affectation in his manner. He comes of a race which brings its native rectitude to bear in international affairs and offers sane solutions for the problems of life."
The Intransigeant declared: "Such a friend of France as he is can do much to serve us in serving his own country. Mr. Herrick will be the well-informed witness of our fears and our desires."
The Journal des Débats said: "Few ambassadors have given more proofs of their capacity to fulfill their delicate functions than Mr. Herrick has already shown. He is equal to all the duties his office imposes upon him and, what is rare, he accomplishes them in a way to satisfy everyone. He arrives at a difficult moment. France expects very much of America, and it would seem that politically America is not in a position to give France all that she hopes for. It is comforting for the true friends of America and for all of France to think that Mr. Herrick will be there to intervene, as no one knows better how to do, for the best interests of both countries."
There was probably not a newspaper published in the whole land which did not comment in grateful terms upon his arrival. And then, in April, 1929, after eight years of office, during times more difficult than those of the war, these same papers with one accord praised his later work as fervently as they had applauded his earlier services; a thing almost unheard-of in the annals of journalism.
Hundreds of letters arrived, many from those he did not know. Children as well as grown people wrote. One of these from Le Bateau, a village utterly destroyed during the war, is evidently from a young girl:
"We were all so glad to read in the papers of the marvelous reception given you, the old friend of France, when you reached our country, so torn by the most terrible of all wars. God is just: He weighs kings and shepherds in the same scales, and He will reward you for all your goodness to those who suffer, and for whom generous American hearts have done so much. Your kind face is like the spring to us and your words heal the trouble in our hearts. We thank the newspapers for telling us what little folks as well as big wish to know of your arrival. We ask God in our prayers every night to bring us peace and to bless our great friend Mr. Herrick."
His speech to the President, in presenting his letters of credence, abounded in terms unusual to diplomatic usage:
"From the moment I stood again on the soil of France yesterday, I have been made the recipient of a welcome that: has touched me more deeply than I can express. You may imagine my emotion when at Havre I was greeted by the orphans of men who gave their lives that their children might live in peace. At Paris, the President of the Council came, regardless of diplomatic formality, to welcome me as a friend. With him were so many others whom I had grown to know and esteem that it seemed to me almost as if I were among my own people.
"I am told that I have really won the love of France. If that be true, I am blessed beyond the measure of good fortune, for the things I have done which have brought me this sentiment are also the very things that have won the confidence and approval of the people of my own country, whose love for France was never stronger than it is to-day. President Harding expressed it when, in offering me this post, he said:
'I believe that the people of the United States expect me to ask you to return to France. It is also my desire that you do so.'
"I bring from my government and people to the government and people of France the same affectionate friendship and desire for cooperation in the solution of the problems of peace which animated America when she came to your side during the war and I return to my old post with an abundance of hope, but with no illusions that the task will be easier than it was in 1914, when a visible enemy was at the gates of Paris. . . . The outstanding peril to civilization from the war has been the ruthless violation of international law and the criminal attempt to break down moral precepts. Providentially that failed. Reconstruction, both moral and material, and prosperity can come only through hard and incessant labor and economy, and upon this foundation only can be built practical idealism. The call to arms is happily now no longer heard; but the call to work and the call to service sound more clearly and with more imperative insistence than ever."
Commenting upon this speech, the Gaulois said: "Under the immutable protocol and the apparent coldness of an official ceremony, Mr. Herrick could feel vibrating the ardent sympathies which the statesmen and people of France have unanimously vowed to great America and to the man who best represents her generous idealism and her faithful affection for France." Other papers all over the country discussed it in a similar tone. In fact, his arrival was hailed with delight by all classes and, as he acknowledged himself, he was treated like a national hero returning home after a successful campaign.
While waiting to find a house in Paris he took a cottage at Garches, and began his work. It was midsummer and unusually hot. Paris was empty, apart from tourists and the working classes (among the latter being included, of course, government officials and embassy staffs). Except for this fact Mr. Herrick might have been killed with hospitable kindness before he got a good start. One banquet given at the Ritz in his honor by the American Chamber of Commerce remains in my mind. Its president, Laurence Benét, I think it was, made a speech in which he said (I quote from memory), "We have tried various brands of diplomacy in our country; there has been what was called shirt-sleeves diplomacy, there has been dollar diplomacy, and just plain, old-fashioned, conventional diplomacy; but it remained for Mr. Herrick to invent the diplomacy of the heart, and I leave it to you to judge what the measure of its success has been."
Everybody knows with what tireless patience he continued his efforts to induce our government to buy an official residence for its ambassador in Paris and how at last he succeeded in the face of every obstacle. His first weeks of duty brought home to him in vivid fashion the intolerable situation which existed in that regard. The house occupied by his predecessor, Mr. Wallace, was no longer available and there was nothing for Mr. Herrick to do when he arrived but go to a hotel or hire some temporary residence. The latter solution was decided upon before he sailed, but the place selected was in the country, and when the Prime Minister, after greeting him at the station, said, "I am going to drive you home," there was no home to drive to. I suggested my apartment, so Monsieur Briand conducted the ambassador there and left him. Later in the afternoon he went out to his new suburban home at Garches.
Again, when with the usual pomp be went to present his letters of credence to the President, this ceremony had to begin from his office and end there. This was intensely disagreeable to his sense of national pride. He thought that the United States ought to have as proper an establishment in Paris as other nations. A man more genuinely simple in his tastes and democratic in his ideas than Mr. Herrick did not exist, but when a question arose which concerned his country's dignity, or even the appearances attaching to that dignity, he was as sensitive as a hen over her chickens.
Before the summer was over he had succeeded in securing as a residence the handsome hôtel of the Prince de Broglie; here he established himself in the autumn, and he lived there for several years. He regretted his old home in the Rue François Premier which he had occupied from 1912 to 1914, and which was associated with all the gayety of his first two years in Paris and the tragic events of their close. Here the outbreak of the war had surprised him in his preparations for returning to America; here he had so often assembled with the distinguished men who had become his cooperators in great undertakings; here he and Mrs. Herrick had organized the vast relief work which was to be such a blessing to France, and here he had come back so often at midnight to tell his wife all the anxieties of his long hard day and whimsically extract for her benefit something amusing from its tragedy. But this house, like Mr. Wallace's, was no longer for rent.
Paris was still far from normal. To the feverish enthusiasm which marked the first year of restored peace there had succeeded a reaction permeating all classes, and a harrowing uncertainty replaced the earlier confidence. The war had brought up new problems of finance and reconstruction in which our leading men of affairs took a keen interest, and many of them came to France to get in closer contact with the situation. These all sought out their ambassador, and his house was the center of much entertaining intended to bring these men into contact with their French confrères.
Mr. Herrick's long experience as a banker now came usefully into play, called upon as he constantly was to discuss financial reconstruction with visitors from home, with French officials, and with his own government. His letters and despatches dealing with this problem would fill a large volume. They are permeated with his usual sound sense and unruffled good humor, to which is added an astonishing mastery of all its intricacies. His contribution to the efforts made to solve it is as great as that of any other man and constitutes one of the most signal services rendered to postwar financial restoration.
It can be understood, then, how difficult, in many ways, were those first years after his return. The hard times of 1921 were in full swing at home, the readjustment of business had not taken place, Germany seemed sinking into ruin, carrying an important American market down with her, Americans as well as Englishmen were abusing France, accusing her of imperial designs, and to a certain extent sympathizing with her great enemy. Finally Germany refused to pay, the Ruhr was occupied, and Europe was in a turmoil.
The resulting situation annoyed Mr. Herrick unendingly. He once outlined his ideas on it:
"The world is tired out. Everybody is disappointed. They all thought---at least the victorious nations did---that the end of the war would settle everybody's troubles. They forgot that all which had been destroyed during four years had to be rebuilt and that as much energy and self-sacrifice would be needed after the conflict as during it. There is one distinct comfort I get out of the situation; it ought to be ten times harder to start up another great conflagration. They say governments, like the old kings, never learn anything, but I believe the people do, and the people are now everywhere running things. I do not believe that they are going to soon forget that after any big war, whatever the technical outcome, there are no victors: all are the vanquished. They are vanquished in this sense, that when hostilities are over the victorious suffer just as much in trying to recover as do the beaten countries. I have in mind all the time the people, not the governments, and of course a government is nothing but the business organization of the people it directs. I don't say rule: governments don't rule any more; they only execute---more or less accurately---the people's desire."
During the negotiations over the Briand-Kellogg Pact these ideas became more crystallized. "I believe that war," he said, "can be prevented by public opinion and by no other means. All these agreements are a good thing. They make war more difficult and the Kellogg Pact is one of the best of them. But they only help public opinion to become fixed and to express itself. They constitute the most effective machinery that governments can devise for delaying war and making those bent upon it see that it is not going to pay; but the only force that can really definitely prevent war is public opinion. I believe we have made steady progress in this direction and it is going to keep on."
Two letters to his son soon after reaching France show his solicitude over the financial situation at home and his firm belief that it would quickly adjust itself:
"August 17, 1921
"I am improving in health and strength all the time.
"On Monday the British Ambassador (1) came to pay us a visit. I had suggested that he come most informally and he stayed to lunch. He drove his own beautiful, Rolls-Royce and spent nearly all the afternoon, it being a holiday. He is a charming man and I got some new sidelights on the situation, especially in regard to their ambassador and ours, which were quite interesting. He was very much interested when I told him Geddes (2) was the plural of 'god' and therefore, he must be all right.... I hope you will let me know as soon as you get to Cleveland how things appear there. I think there is no real occasion to be downcast. We will go through some hard financial stress for a time, but things will come out all right. I had a much harder time during the panic of '93 and the years that followed, and then we did not have the assets to cope with the situation that we have to-day."
"September 6, 1921.
"I have been deeply distressed over the financial situation and the fear that a great burden was being placed on you. However, I have such faith in our country that I know if we can successfully mark time for a year, everything will come right again and the world situation will be by that time on the road to readjustment.... I think I have made a considerable gain in my health, which of course was not very bad at any time, but the strain of arrival, after my illness at home, made me rather uneasy as to whether I could meet the fatigue or not. However, I seem to be doing it rather well. It is a pretty steady grind, of course, and it is hard to keep a stiff upper lip when there seems to be so little sunshine in the world.... I am planning to go to Coblenz, leaving on the train Monday night with Agnes and the boy, spending a day and a half with General Allen, and then motoring to Mayence and Wiesbaden. I think it would be a journey that little Parmely never would forget, and Agnes is quite anxious to go. Mott will accompany us."
Moments of depression would sometimes creep into his cheerful nature, and while they never lasted long, when they were on he would turn to old friends and contemporaries, those who he felt could best understand. There is always pathos in these letters and they give a glimpse into the secret chambers of his being. One often sees, too, that he is thinking of Mrs. Herrick and missing her more acutely than usual. But even as he wrote, the old optimism would return; he would brag a little over beating Norton or me at golf, recite his many occupations, and wind up with the realization that if he could do all that, he was perhaps a stouter fellow than he had thought.
Here is a letter to Mr. James Parmelee of Cleveland sent in May, 1922:
Every day I think of you and I am sure that the newly discovered forces which are doing all sorts of tricks in the air, almost revealing the innermost councils of men to the public, carry the thoughts to and from those who love each other---those whose lives have been so closely and understandingly bound together as yours and mine.
Dear old Andrew(3) has been here and has gone. When I said good-bye, the thought came to me that we might not meet again. How intimately his life has been interwoven with ours! He once said to me, "I have no other purpose than to serve those I love and be useful to the end." I hope this trip will buck him up.
Sam(4) is here---dear old Sam---getting considerable out of the last lap of his life. A good and rather warm heart he has; he has shown it to me, but to most he has kept it concealed inside his puritanical armor. He proudly wears his insignia of the Legion of Honor which he so richly deserved.
So we of the old guard are wending our way through these last hard years, each in his own way trying, like Andrew, to make his life useful where the world needs him most. Fate seems to have again placed me in the running and to have given me a hard stunt. Frankly, I thought that I would die soon in the harness; maybe I shall, but I am not unwilling. Strange as it may seem, with the intense pressure, my health has returned to a point equal to my age, and I am "facing the day" with confidence and enthusiasm. I begin at eight- thirty and rarely end before midnight. I have the confidence and love of these people, and Harding and Hughes tell me that I have the confidence and respect of my own people; that helps no end.
Although I have the blessed memories of my beloved and lost ones there is always with it that loneliness and heartache which sometimes is almost too great to bear. But I have my dear boy and his dear little boy, the wife and mother of them, who love me and help me and without whom I could not strive. Youth, it has been so often said, is sometimes unknowingly and unthinkingly cruel. One generation does not differ from another. I thought my father, at my age, had had his life; he in turn, told me that his great sorrow was that he had thought in the same way of his father. So each successive generation goes on, learning its own lessons and repining over the same errors when its time comes.
Laszlo has nearly finished my portrait for the Chamber of Commerce, which requested it and employed him. Manship, your friend, has also nearly completed a bust in clay, as a gift to Parmely. I think it will be a fine one. Then, the Panorama of the War wanted a lifesize figure standing with Pershing, to replace a poor representation from a photograph. So you see that I've had an endurance test equal to a life in the trenches superimposed on this daily grind.
To-day I stole out with Laurence Norton and played a round of golf, putting him down six holes; came home and have written you this long letter. After the work of the chancery, a sitting for Laszlo of two and a half hours, and a speech at the inter-Allied with Marshal Foch---not bad for a half holiday.
I did not mean to write all this, dear Jim. I was so delighted to hear the good news of you and Alice.
My love to you both,
In a later letter to Mr. Squire he laments the death of the Marquis de Lasteyrie:
"He and his wife were among our first friends here in 1912. They had a charming château at La Grange (the home of Lafayette, his ancestor) where we spent many delightful hours. The Marquis de Lasteyrie was one of the few remaining 'grands seigneurs' of the old régime and one of the most distinguished and delightful Frenchmen it has been my pleasure to meet. He was in the diplomatic service years ago in London under his uncle, the Comte de Jarnac. I had talked with him just the day before he died. His going closes a chapter of one of my most delightful friendships here."
In another he makes this prediction:
"I am deeply disturbed over France's dilemma. It furnishes much proof of the inadequacy of parliamentary government in a crisis. We should also take heed, for if the Farm Bloc continues in our Congress, we will become as ineffective as France in the solution of problems."
1. Lord Hardinge.
2. Sir Auckland Geddes had recently (1920) been appointed British ambassador to the United States.
3. Andrew Squire.
4. Samuel Mather.
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