The Confessions Of A Reformer

Frederic C. Howe

[Part 9 of 11]


The administration of Ellis Island was confused by by-products of the war. The three islands isolated in New York harbor and capable of accommodating several thousand people, were demanded by the War Department and Navy Department for emergency purposes. They were admirably situated as a place of detention for war suspects. The Department of Justice and hastily organized espionage agencies made them a dumping-ground of aliens under suspicion, while the Bureau of Immigration launched a crusade against one type of immigrant after another, and brought them to Ellis Island for deportation. No one was concerned over our facilities for caring for the warring groups deposited upon us. The buildings were unsuited for permanent residence; the floors were of cement, the corridors were chill, the islands were storm-swept, and soon the ordinary functions of the island became submerged in war activities. Eighteen hundred Germans were dumped on us at three o'clock one morning, following the sequestration of the German ships lying in New York harbor. ...each day brought a contingent of German, Hungarian, Austrian suspects, while incoming trains from the West added quotas of immoral men and women, prostitutes, procurers, and alleged white-slavers arrested under the hue and cry started early in the war, with the passage of the Mann White Slave Act and the hysterical propaganda that was carried on by moralistic agencies all over the country.[pp.266.267]

I was the custodian of all these groups. Each group had to be isolated. I became a jailer instead of a commissioner of immigration; a jailer not of convicted offenders but of suspected persons who had been arrested and railroaded to Ellis Island as the most available dumping-ground under the successive waves of hysteria which swept the country.

...In the case of the thousands of suspects I was merely a custodian; those aliens that had been tried at all, had been tried by drum-head court martials, and such evidence as there might be was not on the island. The justice or injustice of their conviction was no affair of mine; I had no authority to examine the evidence, to concern myself with their stories, to do other than carry out orders, which were to deport aliens when directed to do so, quite irrespective of their guilt. But the testimony on which men and women were held was so flimsy, so emotional, so unlegal in procedure that my judicial sense revolted against the orders which I received. I quarreled with the Commissioner-General of Immigration, who was working hand in glove with the Department of Justice; I harassed the Secretary of Labor with protests against the injustice that was being done. I refused to believe that we were a hysterical people; that civil liberties should be thrown to the winds. But in this struggle there was no one to lean on; there was no support from Washington, no interest on the part of the press. The whole country was swept by emotional excesses that followed one another with confusing swiftness from 1916 to 1920.[p.267]

In time this hysteria came to an end. Official raids were discontinued. The press ceased to feature the subject. But as a result of arrests I became the custodian of hundreds of men and women, mostly from southern and central Europe, who could not be deported because of the war and could not be held at Ellis Island because it was not fitted for permanent detention. That I was bound to execute the laws was evident. That I should use my official power to get rid of people without evidence, and because some individual or group said they were undesirable, was abhorrent to my ideas of legal ethics and my sense of responsibility to my oath of office. I listened to the personal stories of the arrested men and women. Many said they had never had a hearing. Others insisted that there had been no interpreter to translate their testimony. Many were arrested under suspicious circumstances, due to the close living of immigrants in tenement-houses, while others were gathered in to satisfy some labor controversy, or in connection with a conspiracy by one alien to get possession of the property or business of another. ...[p.269]

...I proposed to the Secretary of Labor that casual offenders whose offense did not involve the commission of a crime should be paroled. Responsible persons or organizations would report on their conduct until they could be deported at the close of the war. The plan was approved, partly because of its humanity and partly because it was becoming impossible to carry on the work of the island in its crowded condition. Hundreds of men and women were paroled. They reported to me in person or through the parole officer, and careful records were kept of their behavior. The great majority of them made good. Some of them married. Before leaving the island I asked for a report of these cases from the legal department, and was advised that not more than a dozen had been rearrested, and that the vast majority were responding to the consideration that had been shown them.[pp.271-272]

Hysteria over the immoral alien was followed by a two-year panic over the "Hun." Again inspectors, particularly civilian secret-service agents, were given carte blanche to make arrests on suspicion. Again Ellis Island was turned into a prison, and I had to protect men and women from a hue and cry that was but little concerned over guilt or innocence. During these years thousands of Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians were taken without trial from their homes and brought to Ellis Island. Nearly two thousand officers and seamen from sequestered German ships were placed in my care. Many of them had married American wives. They conducted themselves decently and well. They were obedient to discipline. They accepted the situation and they gave practically no trouble. They were typical of the alien enemies the country over that were arrested under the hysteria that was organized and developed into a hate that lingers on to this day.[p.272]

Again I had either to drift with the tide or assume the burden of seeing that as little injustice as possible was done. I realized that under war conditions convincing evidence could not be demanded. I accepted that fact, but not the assumption that "the Hun should be put against the wall and shot." From our entrance into the war until after the armistice my life was a nightmare.[p.272]

...On the island I had to stand between the official insistence that the German should be treated as a criminal and the admitted fact that the great majority of them had been arrested by persons with little concern about their innocence or guilt and with but little if any evidence to support the detention.

Within a short time I was branded as pro-German. I had to war with the local staff to secure decent treatment for the aliens, and with the army of secret service agents to prevent the island from being filled with persons against whom some one or other had filed a suspicious inquiry.

It is a marvelous tribute to the millions of Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians in this country that, despite the injustices to which they were subjected and the espionage under which they lived, scarcely an Americanized alien of these races was found guilty of any act of disloyalty of which the entire German-American population was suspected or accused.

The final outbreak of hysteria was directed against the "Reds" the winter of 1918-I9. It started in the State of Washington in the lumber camps, and was directed against members of the I.W.W. organization which had superseded the more conservative craft unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. There was a concerted determination on the part of employers to bring wages back to pre-war conditions and to break the power of organized labor. This movement against alien labor leaders had the support of the Department of Justice. Private detective agencies and strike-breakers acted with assurance that in any outrages they would be supported by the government itself. The press joined in the cry of "Red revolution," and frightened the country with scare head-lines of an army of organized terrorists who were determined to usher in revolution by force. The government borrowed the agent provocateur from old Russia; it turned loose innumerable private spies. For two Years we were in a panic of fear over the Red revolutionists, anarchists, and enemies of the Republic who were said to be ready to overthrow the government.[pp.273-274]

For a third time I had to stand against the current. Men and women were herded into Ellis Island. They were brought under guards and in special trains with instructions to get them away from the country with as little delay as possible. Most of the aliens had been picked up in raids on labor headquarters; they had been given a drum-head trial by an inspector with no chance for defense; they were held incommunicado and often were not permitted to see either friends or attorneys, before being shipped to Ellis Island. In these proceedings the inspector who made the arrest was prosecutor, witness, judge, jailer, and executioner. He was clerk and interpreter as well. This was all the trial the alien could demand under the law. In many instances the inspector hoped that he would be put in charge of his victim for a trip to New York and possibly to Europe at the expense of the government. Backed by the press of his city and by the hue and cry of the pack, he had every inducement to find the alien guilty and arrange for his speedy deportation.

I was advised by the Commissioner-General to mind my own business and carry out orders, no matter what they might be. Yet such obvious injustice was being done that I could not sit quiet. Moreover, I was an appointee of the President, and felt that I owed responsibility to him whose words at least I was exemplifying in my actions. My word carried no weight with my superior officials, who were intoxicated with the prominence they enjoyed and the publicity which they received from the press. ...[pp.274-275]

...Members of Congress were swept from their moorings by an organized business propaganda, and demanded that I be dismissed because I refused to railroad aliens to boats made ready for their deportation. I took the position from which I would not be driven, that the alien should not be held incommunicado, and should enjoy the right of a writ of habeas corpus in the United States courts, which was the only semblance of legal proceedings open to him under the law.[p.275]

In maintaining this position I had to quarrel with my superiors and the official force at the island. I faced a continuous barrage from members of Congress, from the press, from business organizations, and prosecuting attorneys. Yet day by day aliens, many of whom had been held in prison for months, came before the court; and the judge, after examining the testimony, unwillingly informed the immigration authorities that there was not a scintilla of evidence to support the arrest. ...[p.275]

...I had released aliens, but in each case I had been ordered to do so by the courts or the bureau. I had observed the law when organized hysteria demanded that it be swept aside. I had seen to it that men and women enjoyed their legal rights, but evidently this was the worst offense I could have committed. A congressional committee came to Ellis Island and held protracted hearings. It listened to disaffected officials, it created scare head-lines for the press, it did everything in its power to convince the country that we were on the verge of a nation-wide revolution, of which the most hard-boiled inspectors sent out by the bureau had reported they could not find a trace. When I went to the hearings and demanded the right to be present, to cross-examine witnesses and see the records, when I demanded that I be put on the witness-stand myself, the committee ordered the sergeant-at-arms to eject me from the rooms.[p.276]

As I look back over these years, my outstanding memories are not of the immigrant. They are rather of my own people. Things that were done forced one almost to despair of the mind, to distrust the political state. Shreds were left of our courage, our reverence. The Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and Congress not only failed to protest against hysteria, they encouraged these excesses; the state not only abandoned the liberty which it should have protected, it lent itself to the stamping out of individualism and freedom. It used the agent provocateur, it permitted private agencies to usurp government powers, turned over the administration of justice to detective agencies, card-indexed liberals and progressives. It became frankly an agency of employing and business interests at a time when humanity -- the masses, the poor -- were making the supreme sacrifice of their lives.[pp.276-277]

I had fondly imagined that we prized individual liberty; I had believed that to Anglo-Saxons human rights were sacred and they would be protected at any cost.

Latin peoples might be temperamental, given to hysteria; but we were hard-headed, we stood for individuality. But I found that we were lawless, emotional, given to mob action. We cared little for freedom of conscience, for the rights of men to their opinions. Government was a convenience of business. Discussion of war profiteers was not to be permitted. The Department of Justice lent itself to the suppression of those who felt that war should involve equal sacrifice. Civil liberties were under the ban. Their subversion was not, however, an isolated thing; it was an incident in the ascendancy of business privileges and profits acquired during the war -- an ascendancy that could not bear scrutiny or brook the free discussion which is the only safe basis of orderly popular government.[p.277]


I Do not know why I suffered so much from this particular hysteria and the cruelties incident to it. It was partly traceable to the treatment I had personally received, partly to an instinctive love of liberty and the rights of individuals to their opinions. These rights were essentially Anglo-Saxon rights. I assumed they were prized by everybody. But I think it was the indignities suffered by friends that aroused me most. ...Few people know of the state of terror that prevailed during these years, few would believe the extent to which private hates and prejudices were permitted to usurp government powers. It was quite apparent that the alleged offenses for which people were being persecuted were not the real offenses. The prosecution was directed against liberals, radicals, persons who had been identified with municipal-ownership fights, with labor movements, with forums, with liberal papers which were under the ban. Many of them were young people, many were college men and women.[p.278] I was part of this liberal movement. To me it was a renaissance of America rising from the orgy of commercialism. And I could not reconcile myself to its destruction, to its voice being stilled, its integrity assailed, its patriotism questioned, especially by a war that promised to give these democratic ideals to the world. I saw this youth movement driven under cover; like children when first punished, it did not understand. It was subjected to strain, to espionage; it found itself oppressed by a government that it loved far more fervently than did the secret agents that spied upon it. These young liberals felt that they had done no wrong, so far as America was concerned they would do no wrong. Some of them lived with indictments hanging over them; all felt a sentence suspended over their enthusiasms, their beliefs, their innermost thoughts. They had stood for variety, for individuality, for freedom. They discovered a political state that seemed to hate these things; it wanted a servile society, a society that accepted authority, so long as it was respectable authority, without protest.[p.279]

The crushing of this movement and the men responsible for it made me hate in a way that was new to me. I hated the Department of Justice, the ignorant secret-service men who had been intrusted with man-hunting powers; I hated the new state that had arisen, hated its brutalities, its ignorance, its unpatriotic patriotism, that made profit from our sacrifices and used its power to suppress criticism of its acts. I hated the suggestion of disloyalty of myself and my friends; suggestions that were directed against liberals, never against profiteers. I wanted to protest against the destruction of my government, my democracy, my America. I hated the new manifestation of power far more than I had hated the spoils men, the ward heeler, the politicians, or even the corruptionists who had destroyed my hope of democracy in Cleveland. I had cherished a free city, but I cherished a free people more.[pp.279-280]

I did not question but that war necessitated the subordination of the individual to the state, but felt that we could have waged war quite as successfully if we had taken a stand like that taken in England, where men were allowed greater freedom of opinion. In England those who questioned were respected in their right to question. I prized liberty at home more than I feared danger from abroad, and felt that our own citizens could be safeguarded without our liberties being destroyed.

And I was officially part of the system. I was part of this government, very much a part, for I was the custodian of hundreds of persons whom I knew to be innocent. That I was shielding them as individuals did not satisfy that part of me that wanted to protest against the wrongs that were being done. This was the personal problem that weighed most heavily on my mind. I was fighting a battle new to me -- a moral battle that went to the bottom of things. ...I had rarely lost a night's sleep in my life; now I could not sleep. And I began to be afraid. The telephone became to me an evil thing. I felt a sense of oppression in that I was not doing what the crowd demanded; the fact that I was aiding men and women in their legal rights in an orderly way gave me little comfort.[p.280]

For months I lived in a state of fear. I feared something impending, something mysterious that hung over me. ...A congressman from New York came to me and said that the Rules Committee of the House was framing up charges against me. They were false, but he saw no reason for opposing them. "I had never done anything for him," he said. And the charges were serious. I brooded over these fears, over the hostility of the bureau, of the island, of the press. I had never encountered anything like it before.[pp.280-281]

My attitude toward the state was changed as a result of these experiences. I have never been able to bring it back. I became distrustful of the state. It seemed to want to hurt people; it showed no concern for innocence; it aggrandized itself and protected its power by unscrupulous means. It was not my America, it was something else. And I think I lost interest in it, just as did thousands of other persons, whose love of country was questioned, and who were turned from love into fear of the state and all that it signified. Possibly the falling off in the number of voters, numbered by millions, is in some way related to this disillusionment, this fear of the state which came into existence during these hysterical years.[p.282]


My contacts with the President during the war had mainly to do with the prosecution of liberals, who had delayed their approval of his war declarations, assuming as a matter of course the right to question. His acquiescence in the suppression of opposing opinions was incomprehensible to me, as was his apparent approval of private agencies identified with the Department of Justice, and his assent to the indiscriminate inhumanity that fell under my notice at Ellis Island. Nor could I understand the appointment to positions of high trust of the kind of men whom he had vehemently denounced in his "New Freedom"; his turning departmental activities over to business men of the exploiting Wall Street type, who were even, in many instances, his known enemies.

...By taking the initiative he protected himself from divergent views, from discussion of questions that he had settled. ...I would go away with a feeling that there was nothing more to be said; the subject was closed, it could not be debated. But I was confused and unconvinced by this new aspect of the President, aware that I had come up against a stone wall; he understood the cases of arrested liberals, but he seemed determined that there should be no questioning of his will. I felt that he was eager for the punishment of men who differed from him, that there was something vindictive in his eyes as he spoke. And I could not understand his apparent hatred of men who persisted in their belief in his own liberal opinions of 1916. At the same time he wrote me letters breathing his old belief in freedom. That was the Woodrow Wilson that I knew, my model of the university statesman; the new intolerant one was a product of the war.[p,284]

Early in the war I wrote to the President about the Near East. ...I did not want Germany to take the place of England and America in their dominance of the world. I did not believe the war propaganda, did not accept the singleness of German guilt. Still something within me was aroused at the thought of German ascendancy in the world. The thought of America seemed to be fixed on the western front; our minds were being filled with hatred and desire for revenge. Vistas of permanent security and peace that the President's eloquence painted were unrealizable, to my mind, unless the problems of the Near East were taken into account. Here was the tinder-box of Europe, the source of repeated modern wars. Over its control Russia, England, and France had warred and negotiated from the time of Napoleon. The Kaiser had bent his energies to the control of Turkey, Asia Minor, and the eastern Mediterranean, with the object of splitting the Franco-Russian Alliance and breaking up the British Empire through outposts menacing the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. This was the military objective of the Bagdad Railway and the German Drangnach Osten.[pp.284-285]

I was full of the subject and urged it repeatedly on President Wilson's attention, in long letters to which his replies were far more satisfactory than any talks I ever had with him. ...[p.285]

In correspondence with the President I urged on him my conviction of the economic causes of the war; that it was not the Kaiser, nor the Czar, but imperialistic adventurers who had driven their countries into conflict. Secret diplomacy, the conflict of bankers, the activity of munition-makers, exploiters, and concessionaires in the Mediterranean, in Morocco, in south and central Africa, had brought on the cataclysm; glacial-like aggregations of capital and credit were responsible for the war. His vision of peace was only possible with imperialism ended and the world freed from the struggle over the control of backward countries, embroiling now one country, now another. Permanent peace meant that Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, and the Dardanelles should be internationalized; the Bagdad Railway completed by an international consortium, so that Asiatic Turkey might again become as in ancient days a great granary and storehouse of wheat and cotton. I pictured the territory of the old Roman Empire freed from imperialism and developed by international arrangement, with Constantinople a free port and great cosmopolis, serving as the distributing centre of three continents.[p.287]

When the armistice was signed I felt that the international millennium was at hand. The President's idealism had carried the world; his Fourteen Points had been accepted; armies were to be disbanded, armaments scrapped, imperialism ended. Self-determination was to be extended to all peoples, hates were to be assuaged, and peace to reign.[p.287]

I was ready to embrace a league of nations, even a league to enforce peace. Any international arrangement that would prevent war was worth while. I believed that the negotiators at Paris wanted peace and were willing to make any sacrifices for it; that war was going to be forever ended on the earth.[pp.287-288]

Such facts as did not fit in with my enthusiastic vision, I suppressed. I found an explanation for wrongs that had been done at home in the end to be attained. America had almost lost her own liberties -- that was part of our sacrifice. Surely the President had covenanted for his ideals in exchange for what we had lost. His suppression of liberalism still raised unsatisfied questioning, but of a new dispensation for the world I did not permit myself to doubt. The men in Europe would be of one mind with him; war had all but destroyed civilization, war should not happen again. I was captivated by the President's eloquence and thoroughly believed in his programme. And I wanted to have a part in it; a share in the settlement of the Near Eastern problems. I wanted to be around when the hand of the Western world should be lifted from the peoples of the Near East, the glories of whose ancient civilization I dreamed of seeing restored.[p.288]

George Creel, of the Committee on Public Information, ...organized a propaganda agency, and was largely responsible for Wilson's prestige in the popular mind in Europe. ...Creel knew about my interest in the Near East and my pre-war knowledge of Germany. ...George Creel urged on the President an unofficial appointment that would enable me to go to the Peace Conference. One day he said to me: "The President wants you to go to Paris." There was something more about passport, funds, an assignment to be made when I should arrive. It was not very clear, but it meant definitely to me an opportunity to press my ideas about the Mediterranean. That was what I wanted.[pp.289-290]

The American mission carried with it vanloads of reports. Colonel House had a group of experts gathered from the universities, many of whom had worked for two years on special details. Each was convinced of the supreme importance of his own assignment. ...Questions of personal importance took precedence of idealistic visions. I went with Lincoln Steffens, whose assignment also came from the President, to the old Hotel Chatham. Together we spent much of our time in a splendid palace on the Champs Elysees, placed by the French Government at the disposal of newspaper men. Here we made acquaintances, dined, and talked over events with men of all nations. They were mostly cynical, many of them had been through the war; they knew more than the American mission about the political psychology of Europe and the methods of the men told off to make peace. Most of the Americans represented papers hostile to President Wilson.[pp.290-291]

Shortly after my arrival, Colonel House sent for me and said that the President planned to send a mission to Syria to ascertain the wishes of the Syrians themselves in regard to a mandatory. He desired me to familiarize myself with all the treaties and engagements of the allied powers relating to the Near East, and to hold myself in readiness to leave for Syria at a moment's notice. ...

The assignment called for much preliminary work. I reread the pre-war investigations of the Germans on the Near East. The secret treaties were placed at my disposal by Colonel House and the English authorities, who seemingly approved of the mission. There was no help to be had from the French, who did not want the inquiry made. These secret treaties, like others, had been kept from President Wilson; it was claimed he knew nothing about them until his arrival. They furnished astounding revelations. Our allies, like Germany, scrapped treaties -- not with traditional enemies, but solemn agreements with friends and with each other. The documents showed that England and France had pleaded with the King of the Hedjas to throw the Arab forces in with the allied cause, and drive the Turks from Arabia. The Arabs were promised their freedom in exchange; England would get out of Mesopotamia, France would get out of Syria; the whole of Arabia was to be divided into three parts, to be ruled by the three sons of the King of the Hedjas – one of whom, Emir Feisal, was in Paris. Dignified, meditative, richly turbaned, he was there to see that the compact was lived up to. But France and England were unwilling to give up this rich territory. Scarcely was the ink dry on their compact with the Arabs when they negotiated with each other the secret Sykes-Picot Treaty, under whose terms England was to retain Mesopotamia, France was to keep Syria, and Russia take Armenia. Then the Jews asked for Palestine, and Balfour, the gentleman-statesman, agreed on behalf of England that they should have it, although Palestine had already been promised to the Arabs and given to the French. And England, I soon found, was reluctant to hand over Syria to France.[pp.291-292]

My vision of a free world was clouding. Self-determination for peoples began to ring like an empty phrase. Still I believed that President Wilson had guaranties that would permit him to turn a trick at the proper time and restore the situation. I would not believe that we were going back to the old order; would not credit what I saw about me.[pp.294-295]

One evening a number of young Englishmen visited me at the Hotel Chatham. They were Oxford and Cambridge men, brilliant, friendly, amiable. A few days later I was invited to breakfast with them. Arriving, I found that I was at the house of Lloyd George; that Philip Kerr, my host, was Lloyd George's secretary. He and his associates, Lionel Curtis, Arnold Toynbee, and others, were known as "Lord Milner's men." They were editors of the periodical known as The Round Table, and had organized an imperial conference in each of the British colonies. We talked about the Near East. They, too, were interested in the subject. I took it for granted that they were interested in self-determination for peoples; that they understood, as a matter of course, the crimes committed by imperialistic adventurers in Egypt, Persia, Africa. I talked about my discoveries of conflicting treaties, about the activities of British oil interests in Mesopotamia and Persia. I warmed to the theme of financial imperialism and the necessity of being rid of imperialistic exploiters in order to have permanent peace. I felt that they would help in solving the Near Eastern problem.

It astounded me to find that they scarcely knew the meaning of the words economic imperialism. Imperialism was not economic, it was a white man's burden. A sacred trust, undertaken for the well-being of peoples unfitted for self-government. The war was in no way related to the conflict of financial interests. Unfortunate things were done sometimes by business bounders -- true -- but they did not influence the Foreign Office. The flag followed the investor, perhaps, but only because the investor was a British citizen who was sacred wherever he ventured. This imperialism, which was not imperialism, must be carried to the end. It must be carried by Anglo-Saxons, and England was no longer able to carry it alone. She had lost much of her best blood in the trenches; Oxford and Cambridge, which recruited the Foreign Office, had been depleted of a generation of talent. The only country which could be trusted to share the white man's burden was America; America must help. ...[pp.295-296]

" It looks to me as if America is to be asked to carry the bag; to police Europe and remove from England and France the burden of protecting imperialistic ventures. You are asking us to assume the biggest, most dangerous, and costliest job of all."

The young men admitted the danger. They felt, as all Englishmen whom I met seemed to feel, that America owed a debt to England, much as did Canada, Australia, and other colonies. We ought to be proud to pay our debt to the empire. That America was a colonial dependence, not yet a sovereign nation, seemed to be their fixed idea.[p.296]

I had seen British university men of this type at Ellis Island, had met them in Washington and at the clubs in New York. But I understood them better in Paris. The civil service of which they are a part is one of the marvelous things about England. Made up of Oxford and Cambridge men who enter the Foreign Office after the hardest kind of competitive examinations, it forms them into servants devoted, like Jesuits, to the empire. Before the war these men, especially the Lord Milner group, had gone to Canada, Australia, and South Africa. They gave up home, companionship, and everything to which they had been accustomed; they often lived isolated lives in distant places of the world. They mobilized opinion for imperialistic ends. Conservatives or Liberals, the empire was their passion. It was to be served, strengthened, carried on. Where the empire was in question they were impervious to facts, blind to obvious evils, untouched by argument. As administrators they were intelligent and kindly -- conceded nothing to self-government, nothing to the aspirations of other people for liberty. England and the empire were one; British citizenship a distinction, like Roman citizenship; to question the empire was to question centuries of sacrifice, the renown of England's most distinguished men. This extraordinarily efficient organization knew everything except the suppressed wants of subject peoples; granted everything to subject peoples except political liberty. It was not willing to dignify by discussion the questionings of others as to the sanctity of England's imperial trust.[pp.296-297]

As I talked with these young men I reflected on the nature of English gentlemen and Oxford scholars -- their unwillingness, perfected by long practice into inability, to recognize issues that touched their economic interests. India, Egypt, Africa, Mesopotamia provided careers for the younger sons of the aristocracy; England was crowded, trade undesirable, the service of the state was their opportunity. To end imperialism was to end jobs, opportunities for preferment. It was like suggesting abolishing the church to the clergy, the army to the military caste, the navy to marines. Men receive unwillingly ideas that destroy a livelihood; and vocal England is a unit in the protection of its privileged sons -- they would be left to starve if the colonial service were ended, they would have to compromise their dignity in trade or emigrate as workers.[pp.297-298]

Another interest touched them in a way they refused to see. England exploited her dependencies; billions of pounds were invested in backward countries, in bonds, in oil, in diamond and gold mines, in rubber plantations. The landed aristocracy was the investing class. It kept aloof from things economic at home; business was vulgar, outside of recognized interests. The bombardment of Alexandria or the Boer War was not in any admissible way related to loans, to gold and diamond-mine owners. Yet when the British purse was touched the investing class felt the hurt. Then the press spoke, the Foreign Office responded, Britain bristled, gunboats were despatched; the cry was that the rights of British citizens were in danger. In reality British pounds sterling were affected. Economic reasons for imperialism were consistently ignored. Even the Labor Party had a confused veneration for the empire, a veneration springing from tradition. Oxford young men wanted our dough-boys to do their policing, to help protect economic interests that they dignified as sacred. ...America's duty was always being held before my eyes.[p.298]

Representatives of French interests talked no bunk. They were always realistic. They were opposed to our mission to Syria. Syria was French in influence; France claimed it from the time of the Crusades. She had contracts with the British for exclusive control that were exhausting to Syria. France had the prior right to own and exploit everything. Every business concession had first to be offered to her before it could be offered to others. I talked with men from the Sorbonne, with military men and experts. They saw nothing wrong in the contracts, even though the Syrians had not been consulted. France must take and keep all that she could get. She used her possessions for business exploitation -- true; as recruiting-grounds for military power -- it was obvious. I recalled her exploitation of Algiers and Tunis, the conquest of Morocco by French bankers, and inquired about the Sykes-Picot Treaty. The French shrugged their shoulders. Great Britain had gotten her territory; France would take hers. The only regret was that Great Britain had the most valuable spots. The French treated the blacks with consideration -- they were needed for the protection of the republic, and their land and markets were needed for French business. The French point of view was straightforward. It embodied complete historical realism. France could only protect herself by force. President Wilson was a dreamer, his ideals were foolish or worse. France would prepare in every possible way for war that was inevitable; imperialist possessions where black troops were recruited was one important way.[pp.298-299]

About the Turks, whom the Allies had promised to drive into Asia, the French were equally succinct:

"They owe us money," was their summary of the Turkish question -- "huge debts contracted before the war. If we drive out the Turks and take Constantinople, there will be no Turks left to pay our debts. The Turks must keep Constantinople."

France took Syria, England Mesopotamia. Palestine went to the Jews. The Arabs had driven back the Turks and had perhaps saved the British Empire. Their sacrifices were ignored; agreements were thrown to the winds and betraying friends took possession of their ancient towns and countryside. The Arabs rebelled; their rebellion was crushed by the same friends with aeroplanes and machine-guns. Emir Feisal, son of the desert was exiled to Switzerland. A free Mediterranean was the idlest of dreams.[p.302]

One by one other men despaired. Lincoln Steffens was interested in Russia; President Wilson had spoken generously of Russia's right to have revolutions if she saw fit. Lenin talked Wilson's language as to self-determination and ending imperialism. The Prinkipo Conference was organized as a friendly overture to Russia. It failed. One day Steffens and I were with William Bullitt a liaison official whose business it was to keep the American mission informed as to what was going on. Bullitt had an engaging personality. He knew Europe, had been connected with the State Department during the war. Steffens suggested a mission to Russia, a mission that understood the Bolshevik point of view that could talk its language. Bullitt liked the idea and dictated a memorandum about it to Colonel House. Two days later Bullitt asked Steffens if he would go to Russia with him; if so, could he be ready immediately? The plan had been approved by Colonel House; it was only necessary to get the sanction of Lloyd George. The next day that had been secured. I saw Bullitt and Steffens off. They went to London; from London by British aid they reached Russia. They were sympathetically received by Lenin, and returned to Paris to make their report. The mission had been successful. The Russians had acceded to the allied memorandum; a rapprochement seemed established; Russia was to come back into the family of nations. Bullitt and Steffens were elated. A great advance had been made toward international amity. For some reason or another they could not see the President. Lloyd George received Bullitt and the report, but later denied that he knew of the mission or had given his consent to it. No explanation for his change of front was ever offered. That Lloyd George had approved of the mission was obvious to all. It could not have left France, could not have landed in England, could not have secured conveyance to Russia but for British aid and approval.[pp.302-303]

Truth meant little at Paris. Paris did not expect men to tell the truth. The President worked in a net of duplicity; he was surprised when apparently satisfactory agreements turned into betrayals of his position. His tasks were cruelly difficult; he attempted them for the most part alone. Aided only by memoranda on a sheet of paper, he went into conference with men who knew personally every detail of the subjects under discussion. The American experts who furnished the President's data were competent; they did thorough work, but they were like an army which was not facing its enemy.[p.303]

...Officially Paris was not interested in things economic. Tt was fixing boundaries, agreeing on reparations. The President was not interested. Nor were Balfour, Lloyd George, or Clemenceau -- ostensibly. Rut economic forces moved the conference, like players about a chess-board. Boundary-lines were shifted to include harbors, copper, oil, mineral resources. Races were split, natural demarcations ignored. The imperialist interests that had kept the world on edge for thirty years before the war were making a killing; they would end the old controversies; would sanction their loot by treaty agreements; perhaps rivet them by the League of Nations. The British Admiralty wanted oil; it had talked oil for years. British maritime prescience saw that oil was the fuel of to-morrow. The French steel trust wanted a grip on coal and iron ore, to gain command of the Continent and strip Germany of her war-making power. Munition-makers were busy. They were getting ready for the next war.[p.304]

...One evening at dinner a friend of President Wilson's, a man thoroughly conversant with the conference, said despondently:

"It is impossible to tell yet whether the peace is being drafted by the international bankers or the munition-makers. It is not being drafted by America."

America had no business at Paris. That was the outstanding thing about which we almost all agreed. President Wilson should have stayed at home. We were amateurs, amateurs seeking to right the world by moralistic appeals; we had fought as religious crusaders, and, like Joshua, had expected the old world to fall at a trumpet-blast. Our emotions were honest, the sacrifice genuine, whole-hearted, but Europe only smiled at our naivete. The righteousness of Wilson was one of the Allies' greatest assets. Confronted with the realism of old Europe, it was almost childish. It was the morality of the church seeking to function against alarmist war lords, ministries tenacious of power, lords of finance -- all moved by elemental motives of individual, class, and nationalistic aggrandizement. The evangelism of Wilson had turned America from her traditions; it made no impression on the realism of the old world.[pp.305-306]

My Still-born vision of the Near East was the child of kindly American ignorance. It partook of our righteousness; possibly it was the idlest dream of all. Only a Europe dedicated to renunciation would have considered it. And old Europe was thinking of spoils and the next war.[p.306]

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