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
Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 1 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923), 149–50. ↩
Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, vol. 2 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1926), 305–306. ↩
Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, 1923, 1:312. ↩