HistoryAtState
James Gerard Presents His Credentials as Ambassador

After arranging accommodations for himself and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, James Watson Gerard presented his letters of accreditation as U.S. Ambassador to the German Emperor, William II. Gerard noted that “This presentation is quite a ceremony. Three coaches were sent for me and my staff, coaches like that in which Cinderella goes to her ball, mostly glass, with white wigged coachmen, outriders in white wigs and standing footmen holding on to the back part of the coach.”1


Ambassador Gerard on his way to present his letters of credence to the Emperor
James Gerard, My Four Years in Germany (George H. Doran Company, New York, 1917).

The tension between U.S. republican ideals in European aristocratic accoutrements was present in Gerard’s thinking during his invocation into Berlin’s diplomatic rituals. (See our post, “Ambassadors vs. Ministers,”) Of his meeting with the Kaiser, Gerard reflected that,

“The Emperor is a most impressive figure, and, in his black uniform surrounded by his officers, certainly looked every inch a king. Although my predecessors, on occasions of this kind, had worn a sort of fancy diplomatic uniform designed by themselves, I decided to abandon this and return to the democratic, if unattractive and uncomfortable, dress-suit, simply because the newspapers of America and certain congressmen, while they have had no objection to the wearing of uniforms by the army and navy, police and postmen, and do not expect officers to lead their troops into battle in dress-suits, have, nevertheless, had a most extraordinary prejudice against American diplomats following the usual custom of adopting a diplomatic uniform.”2


  1. James Gerard, My Four Years in Germany, (George H. Doran Company, New York: 1917), 21. 

  2. Ibid., 22-23. 

Housing Wanted: James Watson Gerard Finds Embassy & Residence

When James Watson Gerard arrived in Berlin in Autumn 1913 to take up his duties as U.S. Ambassador, his first mission was to find offices and housing. Unlike other countries represented in Germany, the United States did not own or rent property in Berlin. While no fixed embassy building existed, the U.S. Government gave the Ambassador an allowance with which to contract his own arrangements.


The house on Wilhelmplatz, rented for use as the Embassy
James Gerard, My Four Years in Germany (George H. Doran Company, New York, 1917).

Gerard found a house on Wilhelmplatz, opposite the Chancellor’s palace and the Foreign Office, where he planned to live and set up Embassy offices. However, until the renovations were completed in January 1914, Gerard and his wife, Mary, lived and worked in the Hotel Esplanade.

Page’s Pre-August 1914 Attempts to Prevent War

Almost from the beginning of his time in Britain, Ambassador Walter Hines Page was struck by the growing militarism of European powers, especially Germany. As his first year as ambassador progressed, it became increasingly apparent that tensions on the Continent might lead to open warfare between the Great Powers. From London, Page perceived the great European powers were engaged in a never-ending cycle of watching and checkmating. In a memorandum dated August 1913, Page expressed fears that continued frustrations might lead the great powers to end the ongoing stalemate through armed conflict, “and a great European war would set the Old World, perhaps the whole world, back a long way; and thereafter, the present armed watching would recur; we should have gained nothing.”1 Page saw a role for the United States, being independent from European conflicts, as the future leader of the world’s nations and encouraged the Wilson Administration to strengthen Anglo-American relations in an effort to prevent a European war.


Col. Edward M. House
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

In Spring 1914, Colonel Edward M. House, a friend of Page and confidante of President Wilson, traveled to Europe in an attempt to keep European war from breaking out. House visited the United Kingdom, France, and Germany with the hope of facilitating a disarmament pact to avoid all-out war. House’s mission, however, met with little success. British diplomats expressed vague interest in a plan, but no action was taken. The French government at the time was far too concerned with internal matters.2 In Germany, House met with Kaiser Wilhelm II, who expressed opposition to any form of disarmament. House found that militarism suffused all branches of the German armed forces and German society. He later told friends, “The whole of Germany is charged with electricity. Everybody’s nerves are tense. It needs only a spark to set the whole thing off.”3 The spark would come soon after House returned to the United States, when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.


  1. Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 1 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923), 272. 

  2. Ross Gregory, Walter Hines Page: Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s (Lexington, KY: Published for the Organization of American Historians by University Press of Kentucky, 1970), 45–47. 

  3. Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, 1:299. 

Settling In: Brand Whitlock in Brussels

Brand Whitlock and his wife Nell arrived in Belgium in February 1914.


Brand and Nell Whitlock
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The first months of Whitlock’s tenure were full of the usual diplomatic activities. He and his wife participated in cultural events, toured the Belgian countryside, and were active in diplomatic social life, attending dinners, balls, concerts, and other social affairs with members of the Belgian and diplomatic elite. During these early months, Whitlock spent time on his literary pursuits, taking a villa outside Brussels in the summer of 1914 where he could write in peace.

Walter Hines Page & Sir Edward Grey

Walter Hines Page’s duties as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain inevitably brought him into frequent contact with British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey. Upon meeting Sir Edward, Page described him as “fair, frank, sympathetic, and he has so clear an understanding of [Americans’] real character that he’d yield anything that his party and Parliament would permit. He’d make a good American with the use of very little sandpaper.”1 The two men worked well together on issues affecting both their governments and their friendly rapport meant that the negotiation of potentially controversial issues—such as Panama Canal tolls—proceeded relatively smoothly and with little rancor, avoiding potential diplomatic crises.


Sir Edward Grey
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

In addition to their formal dealings as representatives of two governments, Page and Grey established a strong personal relationship. Both were idealistic, shared a love of nature and the outdoors, as well as strong literary inclinations. A vignette from Page’s biography illustrates this bond. During the early years of the war the issue of the British blockade of Germany was tense and threatened to upset U.S.-British relations. One afternoon Page went to the Foreign Office to discuss a particularly delicate and potentially controversial issue. After a few hours Page still had not returned to the Embassy and his staff feared the worst. Upon his return the truth came out that after spending a few minutes discussing the diplomatic issue at hand, the two men had proceeded on to a much more agreeable discussion of William Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other favorite poets.2 The affinity between the two was mutual. Grey once said of Page: “Mr. Page is once of the finest illustrations I have ever known of the value of character in a public man.”3


  1. Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 1 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923), 149–50. 

  2. Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 2 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1926), 305–306. 

  3. Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, 1923, 1:312. 

todaysdocument:

Thomas Jefferson’s Account of the Storming of the Bastille, 225 Years ago:

“…in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed 4 people of those nearest to the deputies. The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by 100 men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges & had never been taken.”
Letter from Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Minister to France, to John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, July 19, 1789, reporting on the events in Paris, (page 538)
From the file unit:  Letters from Thomas Jefferson, 1785 - 1789

Appointed U.S. Minister to France in 1785, Thomas Jefferson was in Paris in July 1789 when the French people rose up against their rulers and the first blood was shed in the opening days of the French Revolution. In his letter to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay, Jefferson recounts how a mob stormed the Bastille, took the stash of arms, freed the prisoners, and seized the “Governor” of the Bastille who was then killed and beheaded in the city streets on July 14, 1789.
via Eyewitness: Thomas Jefferson - Onset of the French Revolution, 1789

todaysdocument:

Thomas Jefferson’s Account of the Storming of the Bastille, 225 Years ago:

“…in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed 4 people of those nearest to the deputies. The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by 100 men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges & had never been taken.”

Letter from Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Minister to France, to John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, July 19, 1789, reporting on the events in Paris, (page 538)

From the file unit:  Letters from Thomas Jefferson, 1785 - 1789

Appointed U.S. Minister to France in 1785, Thomas Jefferson was in Paris in July 1789 when the French people rose up against their rulers and the first blood was shed in the opening days of the French Revolution. In his letter to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay, Jefferson recounts how a mob stormed the Bastille, took the stash of arms, freed the prisoners, and seized the “Governor” of the Bastille who was then killed and beheaded in the city streets on July 14, 1789.

via Eyewitness: Thomas Jefferson - Onset of the French Revolution, 1789

Ambassador George W. Guthrie (1848–1917)

George W. Guthrie, U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1913-1917), did not live to see the end of the war. Nevertheless, the former mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, helped the United States navigate several thorny issues with Asia’s emerging power. Although Guthrie was originally President Woodrow Wilson’s choice to be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Wilson refused to recognize the new Mexican government under Victoriano Huerta and decided against sending an emissary. He nominated Guthrie instead to lead the U.S. mission in Tokyo.


Ambassador George Guthrie and his wife in Tokyo

Guthrie nurtured the bilateral relationship as war spread into Asia and the Pacific in 1914. Japan declared war on Germany and Austro-Hungary in August, in order to support its chief ally, the United Kingdom, and to seize Germany’s possessions in China and the Pacific. Japan’s actions put the United States in a difficult position as Wilson attempted to maintain neutrality. Moreover, as a neutral nation, the United States represented the interests of Germany in Japan as it did in other world capitals, further complicating matters. The United States also opposed Japan’s “Twenty-One Demands” that Japan placed on China in January 1915, through which Japan hoped to gain, among other things, control over Manchuria. These demands threated China’s sovereignty and the United States’ Open Door policy in China. Nevertheless, the United States did little to blunt Japan’s expansionism in order to safeguard U.S. interests in the Pacific, primarily the Philippines.

Throughout these crises, Guthrie endeavored to keep relations with Japan on an even keel. He had the respect of the Japanese government, and was invited by the Japanese to represent the United States at both the funeral of the Empress Dowager, widow of the Emperor Meiji, in April 1914, and the coronation of Emperor Taisho in November 1915. Guthrie’s unexpected death in March 1917 of apoplexy while playing golf in Japan shocked and saddened both nations. The esteem the Japanese government had for Guthrie and the United States was evident in Japan’s final gesture to the fallen diplomat. Not only did representatives of the Imperial family attend his funeral, but the Japanese government provided a warship to transport Guthrie’s body back to the United States. The Japanese Foreign Minister publicly expressed that Guthrie’s death was an “unmeasurable loss” to Japan and that he had “done an incalculable service in promoting and cementing the closer friendship between the United States and Japan.”1


  1. “Japan Honors Guthrie,” Washington Post, Mar. 11, 1917, p. 12. 

Settling In: Walter Hines Page in London, 1913-1914

When Walter Hines Page presented his credentials to King George V on May 30, 1913, he could not have imagined how world events would unfold. During his tenure, Page’s duties shifted from dealing with peacetime trade disputes to navigating U.S. neutrality at the outbreak of World War I to representing the United States as an associated belligerent power during the final years of the war. However, the first year of Page’s ambassadorship was devoted to relatively commonplace activities. He attended official court functions, hosted and was entertained by members of the British elite, and generally dedicated his time to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Great Britain through speeches, interviews with the press, and American cultural events. For example, in February 1914, Page and King George V attended a baseball exhibition match between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants.


King George V Attends His First Baseball Game, 1914
Boston Public Library

In addition to the more social aspects of his ambassadorial duties, one of Page’s main tasks during his early months was to repair and maintain communication between Britain and the United States with regard to the U.S. role in the Western Hemisphere. The main concerns at the time were the Mexican Revolution (and whether or not to officially recognize Victoriano Huerta as president of Mexico) and tolls and trade through the Panama Canal.

Above all, Page viewed it as his duty to do all he could to explain the United States to the British, especially U.S. democracy. To this end, he traveled the British Isles speaking and lecturing about topics as diverse as education, agriculture, U.S. democratic ideals, medicine, law, and women’s suffrage.1 Page’s efforts were well-received and he quickly settled into the role of explain of all things American.


  1. Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 1 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923), 159–60. 

Spotlight on Alice Wilson Page

Willia Alice Wilson Page was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on June 9, 1858. Orphaned at an early age, she moved with an older half sister to North Carolina shortly after the Civil War, eventually settling near the family of her future husband, Walter Hines Page. The two knew each other but lost touch when Alice moved away after a few years. In 1877, Alice once again returned to North Carolina. While attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1878, Alice took an English class taught by her childhood friend Walter Page. The renewed acquaintance quickly grew into romance and Walter proposed to Alice on Christmas 1879. The two were married in St. Louis on November 15, 1880.

Burton J. Hendrick, Page’s first biographer, described Alice as “A woman of cultivation, a tireless reader, a close observer of people and events and a shrewd commentator upon them, she also had an unobtrusive dignity, a penetrating sympathy, and a capacity for human association, which, while more restrained and more placid than that of her husband, made her a helpful companion for a sorely burdened man.” 1 Although never as outspoken as her husband, Alice did not hesitate to “utter strong opinions or disagree with him,” being used to acting and thinking independently.2In her role as an ambassador’s wife, Alice created a home in London that welcomed everyone from members of the royal court to writers and artists like Henry James and John Singer Sargent. During the war, Alice worked with the American Red Cross in Britain.


  1. Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 2 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1926), 315. 

  2. John Milton Cooper, Walter Hines Page: The Southerner as American, 1855-1918, The Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), 48. 

Spotlight on Mrs. Marie Alice Doyle Marye

While U.S. Ambassador George T. Marye executed his duties as President Woodrow Wilson’s top envoy to Russia, his wife, Marie, did not simply indulge in a life of privilege in Petrograd 1 high society. During her time in the Russian capital between 1914 and 1916, Mrs. Marye, threw herself into relief work to help alleviate the suffering of some of the war’s neediest victims. She helped establish an American hospital for Russian soldiers as well as a crèche, or day care center, for women and children displaced by the war.


Mrs. Marie Alice (Doyle) Marye, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Russia George T. Marye
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Mrs. Marye, however, was not just an organizer or administrator. She also rolled up her sleeves and served as a nurse at the hospital. If the misery and horror of war disturbed her, it did not stop her visiting active war zones in order to learn more about the care given to wounded soldiers. During a trip she took with her husband to Poland, she exhibited an intrepid spirit by venturing to go to the front lines.

According to a fellow American who accompanied Mrs. Marye, “[o]ur objective was the field hospital to which the wounded were being brought.” According to him, “Mrs. Marye spent some time here and visited every one of the wounded.” She also visited several hospitals in Warsaw. Her adventure to the Polish front grabbed the attention of the U.S. press, including the Washington Post (“Ambassador Marye’s Wife Unafraid”) and the New York Times (“Mrs. Marye at the Front”).2

Her efforts were also recognized by her Russian hosts. In order to meet with and thank Mrs. Mayre, Czar Nicholas II’s wife, Empress Alexandra Federovna Romanova, made an exception to her war-time practice of holding no formal audiences. 3 After her departure from Petrograd in 1916, Mrs. Marye’s concern for Russia and its people continued. She served for a time as chairman of the Washington chapter of the American Central Committee for Russian Relief, which provided food, clothing and medical supplies to Russia’s needy following the war and the Bolshevik revolution. Mrs. Marye died in Washington, D.C., on January 5, 1946, thirteen years after her husband.


  1. Czar Nicholas changed the name of St. Petersburg to Petrograd in early September 1914 

  2. “Ambassador Marye’s Wife Unafraid: Amid Roar and Tumult of Battle; Visits Trenches at Russian Front,” Washington Post, January 12, 1915, p. 4; “Mrs. Marye at the Front,” New York Times, January 12, 1915, p. 2. 

  3. Marye, George T. Nearing the End in Imperial Russia (Philadelphia, 1929), p.478-479.