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A Journalist's Diplomatic Mission

Ray Stannard Baker's World War I Diary

John MaxwellHamilton, RobertMann

Publication Year: 2012

At the height of World War I, in the winter of 1917–1918, one of the Progressive era’s most successful muckracking journalists, Ray Stannard Baker (1870–1946), set out on a special mission to Europe on behalf of the Wilson administration. While posing as a foreign correspondent for the New Republic and the New York World, Baker assessed public opinion in Europe about the war and postwar settlement. American officials in the White House and State Department held Baker’s wide-ranging, trenchant reports in high regard. After the war, Baker remained in government service as the president’s press secretary at the Paris Peace Conference, where the Allied victors dictated the peace terms to the defeated Central Powers. Baker’s position gave him an extraordinary vantage point from which to view history in the making. He kept a voluminous diary of his service to the president, beginning with his voyage to Europe and lasting through his time as press secretary. Unlike Baker’s published books about Wilson, leavened by much reflection, his diary allows modern readers unfiltered impressions of key moments in history by a thoughtful inside observer. Published here for the first time, this long-neglected source includes an introduction by John Maxwell Hamilton and Robert Mann that places Baker and his diary into historical context.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Series: From Our Own Correspondent

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Several friends, colleagues, and students assisted us mightily, and in various ways, during our research and preparation of this book. We gratefully acknowledge them here. Peter Shepherd provided thoughtful and probing criticism of the book’s introduction. As has been usual in the past, MaryKatherine Callaway and Alisa Plant of LSU Press enthusiastically supported the book from the beginning. Copyeditor Derik...

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pp. xiii-xxxiv

In early 1918, Ray Stannard Baker was conflicted. As usual the journalist’s mind roiled with ideas, which he poured into his copious diaries. He considered writing a series of articles for Collier’s on John Purroy Mitchel, a former New York mayor he briefly considered a model leader for municipal reform...


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1. I Sail for England

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pp. 3-6

It is a mild, muggy, heavy morning with a headwind. We are in the Gulf Stream. The weather, for this time of year, has been fine, sea smooth, sun shining by day and a bright moon by night. The St. Louis, although now an old-fashioned ship, is most comfortable and, in these war times, the fastest ship plying between New York...

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2. London, and an Airplane Bombing

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pp. 7-10

I spent Wednesday night, after a most trying wait upon the crowded and disordered docks at Liverpool, in the Adelphi Hotel. There were no cabs to be had and no lights in the streets. A universal feeling of excitement and strain seemed to pervade everything. The war is like a boding black cloud over all the land. And yet when I at last reached the hotel I found a noisy ragtime concert going at full blast and couples...

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3. First Impressions of British Opinion

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pp. 11-17

I went down to Oxford by the early train and had a long talk with Professor Gilbert Murray. The farmers in the fields along the way were plowing, and all the little areas and hedge corners were full of crocuses in bloom, although the air was chill. Spring is really coming. I remained to lunch, and while we were talking army flying machines from a nearby training field were whirling...

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4. I Dine with Ambassador Page

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pp. 18-24

Long talks today with various labor people, and got a good view of the Labour Party politics. These matters I shall put in my letters to Mr. Polk and Croly.15 I sent a cablegram to Jessie16 with birthday greetings. Trying to masticate a great number...

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5. Arthur Henderson and Other Labour and Radical Leaders

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pp. 25-32

I walked down at noon through the park to Victoria Street and had a most interesting hour’s talk with Arthur Henderson, the foremost Labour leader in England. He is now much in the public eye. A square-shouldered, square-headed, blue-eyed, ruddy-faced Scotchman, he was treated as an iron moulder and became a...

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6. Great Battle in France

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pp. 33-39

Anxiety over the great battle in France continues to deepen. No one thinks or talks of anything else. Special editions of the newspapers were on the streets all day and the headlines are most alarming—as these from the London Times...

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7. I Meet a Saint

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pp. 40-46

The ominous battle on the French front is still going on, and the Germans are still surging forward with their great war machine, making from four to six miles a day. There seems no way of stopping them. A sober tone here in the press. Joined Karl Walter about 6 o’clock and met Thomas Burke, that excellent writer of Limehouse Nights. A small, quiet, dark-eyed, black-haired young man who says little. He is helping...

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8. The Peace-by-Negotiation Movement

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pp. 47-52

Today, for the first time I am beginning to get an understanding of the so-called “peace-by-negotiation” movement here in England in which, I understood before leaving Washington, the President was especially interested and of which the State Department could, apparently, learn little. Mr. Francis W. Hirst,...

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9. Lord Mayor’s Dinner

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pp. 53-57

This is the first anniversary of America’s entrance into the war. I had an invitation to the Lord Mayor’s dinner at the Mansion House to celebrate the occasion. It was a grand affair. Mr. Balfour made a speech, but he does not excel supremely at a banquet oration as he does in the kind of bantering and ironic discourse which I heard him make the other day in...

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10. London in War Time

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pp. 58-61

A great day. Parliament sits and Lloyd George introduces his new manpower bill with the dangerous provision for the application of conscription laws to Ireland. While he was speaking at Westminster, a new offensive of the Germans was beginning on the French front. Conditions are recognized as being most serious. If they...

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11. A Conversation with Bertrand Russell

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pp. 62-66

The great battle goes on and the Germans are still forging ahead. They are now near the last danger point. Will our armies hold? The Americans are now fighting side by side with the French. It is the supreme crisis not only in this war, but perhaps in all history. At the same time there is a lesser, but nonetheless alarming, crisis in...

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12. The “Other Half” and the War

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pp. 67-71

This evening I went to Woolwich and had a simple supper with that fine man C. H. Grinling, who has given his life, his fortune, everything, for thirty years to slow up building of his neighbors in Woolwich. I could not help thinking, as I sat at his table—with the monk’s brown cloth upon it—and ate the simple meal of beans and...

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13. The Snowdens and the “I.L.P.”

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pp. 72-74

I had a talk with two bitter Irishmen, one an able member of Parliament, on Irish conscription. I never heard hotter attacks upon a government. Lloyd George was unspeakable! There would be riots and civil war in Ireland. It was a plan to put off home rule for...

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14. The House of Lords Solemnly Discusses the War

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pp. 75-81

“Well, I am forty-eight years old!” It came upon me with a wave of inexpressible sadness. Forty-eight and nothing done! Years ago I used always to think when I thought of my work, that I was accomplishing nothing or next to nothing: “Wait! The future is before me!”—and I would instantly rebound. At forty-eight one begins to know himself too well...

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15. I Gather a Variety of British Opinions

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pp. 82-87

I had tea at the House of Commons with Geoffrey Howard, one of the liberal whips, and had a long and interesting talk with him and with Mr. John Gulland, chief whip, upon the political situation. They are both Asquith men, and like strong party leaders in any parliamentary government, they see the situation of the opposition as steadily...

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16. I Visit Lord Charnwood at Lichfield

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pp. 88-91

At three o’clock Lord Charnwood called for me and I went out to his country home at Lichfield, north of Birmingham—two or three hours’ ride in a crowded train. A fine old place and a fine old town, with a wonderful cathedral. Stowe House, their seat, is mentioned in Samuel Johnson’s letters; he was a frequent...

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17. A Crucial English By-election

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pp. 92-97

I have spent most of this week at the town of Keighley, near Leeds, in northern England. I went up there, welcoming the opportunity to study British public opinion as expressed in a rather crucial by-election. I have found it extremely interesting and interpretive, and I think an account of it at firsthand will help our administration...

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18. Sir Horace Plunkett and the Irish Problem

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pp. 98-105

Very busy with my Washington letters all day. I had tea with Mr. John Gulland, the Liberal whip in the House of Commons, at his home in Onslow Square. Dinner with the excellent Muirheads in Lancaster Road. Last night I attended a great meeting...

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19. Ulster Speaks Its Mind

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pp. 106-110

To come here to Belfast after southern Ireland is to come into a different world—modern, industrial, compared with the typical village and farm life of the south. Belfast resembles a busy American city and the people are much like those I knew as a boy. But I have never been in any place where religious and political feeling were so bitter. It permeates...

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20. A Visit to the Pages at Sandwich

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pp. 111-119

Here I am back in London after a tedious all-day voyage and railroad trip from Dublin. Busy all day with letters to the State Department. Dinner late with Ambassador and Mrs. Page. His health is very bad. His trying service during four years of war has worn him down. He and Mrs. Page are going away for two months to Sandwich...

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21. A Lull in the Battle

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pp. 120-125

We are at one of those odd lulls that come even in a great war. Perhaps we have been overfed on sensations during the past weeks, but an ordinary day in which only a few flying machines are brought down, only a few ships sunk, only a few hundred men lost in battle...

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22. Wilson’s Leadership in Europe

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pp. 126-130

Another fine speech by Wilson! How right he is! How true the ring of his words! It is courage that he has in standing by his ideals. If it were not for his leadership now, the world would be in a miserable state of mind. In its editorial comment this morning the Manchester Guardian comments on the fact that President Wilson “. . . struck once more...

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23. I Sit Between the Lion and the Unicorn

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pp. 131-135

;I had a talk this noon with Professor Gilbert Murray on means for securing a better interchange of liberal ideas between Great Britain and America. We discussed the possibility of a Grey mission and the best auspices under which it could proceed, probably upon an invitation from Harvard or Yale. Professor Murray thought...

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24. English Leaders and English Ideas

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pp. 136-140

I lunched today at White’s—one of the oldest clubs in London—with my friend Buckler to meet A. F. Whyte, M.P., editor of The New Europe, a weekly journal devoted to the discussion of European politics and especially the aspirations of the subject races of Austria and the Balkans. Mr. Whyte is quite a typical Englishman, serious...

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25. I Attend a Dramatic Meeting of the Labour Party Conference

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pp. 141-147

I have been looking forward with some impatience to the Conference of the British Labour Party, since I have felt that the discussions would give me a clearer understanding of the attitude and the influence of the various groups of the “working class” than I have as yet been able to get. It is most important to us in America to know...

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26. I Attend an American Baseball Game

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pp. 148-153

What a week the past has been. One wild rush. By working hard all this warm summer Sunday with my stenographer, I got my report off to the State Department and had time for a tramp in Hampstead Heath this evening, which I was far too weary to enjoy. “The world is too much with us.” I wonder tonight whether I am doing any...

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27. In London Again

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pp. 154-164

I have returned to London after an entire day at Le Havre struggling with passes and passports. I came by the mail-packet to Southampton, guarded by three destroyers. London, again in fog and rain. Like getting home; the very smell of London was good in my nostrils. And here I am in Curzon Street— and London all about—and...

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28. The British Sense of Superiority

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pp. 165-169

I think the British suffer from a sense of their own superiority. They have such a keen sense of their own quality that they do not think it necessary to advertise! This is not irony. Reading Mr. Lloyd George’s speech of today in the House of Commons, I was...

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29. My Summaries of the Situation in England and France After Five Months

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pp. 170-179

Before leaving again for France—and Italy—as directed by the State Department, I endeavored in reports sent on August 10 and 17, the first to Mr. Polk, the second to Colonel House, to survey and summarize my findings after five months in England and France. Both of these reports, I learned afterwards, were immediately placed in the President’s...

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30. I Went Today to Dorking

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pp. 180-184

I learned long ago what to do when the world begins to look dun-colored, and my own part in it seems of no account. I take to the hills! It was hot and muggy in London and I was discouraged. I seemed, after six months, to have accomplished nothing whatever; work swept into the void by the whirlwind...

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31. Attitude of French Radicals Toward the War

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pp. 185-189

In the afternoon began the tiresome work of getting my passport visaed for the trip from France to Italy. And now strikes! All London is tied fast by a strike of the omnibus conductors—women demanding the same pay for the same work as men. There is much...

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32. I See Something of the War in Italy

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pp. 190-194

Well, here I am in Rome, where I had so often imagined being! As I have been going about it has come over me with an indescribable thrill of adventure, “I am in Rome!” “I am in Rome!” When I went by Caesar’s palace and the way down to the Catacombs, I had again the dream I have so often had of lifting back the film of history...

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33. The Piavi River Front and the War in the Alps

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pp. 195-197

A fine and interesting day. General Treat took me out with him (and Colonel Davidson, the medical officer) to the Piave River front where our troops are stationed. We drove through the city of Treviso, much bombed and mostly deserted. We stopped at one small town where the Monday market was going on and went among the sturdy...

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34. A Great Day in War-Shattered Venice

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pp. 198-199

Another great day—the events of which I cannot here attempt to describe fully, for the very wealth of my adventures and experiences. But such things cannot be forgotten! I went to Venice with Lieutenant Wanger and an Italian, Cicerone, by the early train, after much ado about military and naval passes; and having emerged from the station upon the Grand Canal, Wanger insisted upon treating us to roast squash that a...

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35. Great News in Milan and a Great Strike

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pp. 200-204

This is a great day; perhaps one of the great days in all history. I can hear the people blowing horns and shouting in the streets. They were at it all last night, parading up and down in front of this hotel, with torch lights, and flags, all shouting and singing—believing...

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36. Rome Again

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pp. 205-211

I came back from Milan on Friday and have been in a whirl ever since. Merriam164 has gone home to America and the battle between the Embassy and the Committee on Public Information deepens. The Ambassador165 is standing upon this ancient authority. He is one of the most amiable and delightful men, but old and cannot see the new...

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37. Reverberations in Rome of Wilson’s Responses to Germany

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pp. 212-216

I lunched with Steward of the War Trade Board—a very agreeable fellow. Good talk about a possible future world organization for the control of transportation and distribution of raw materials—which is truly necessary if the world is to have real and lasting peace. The power in the hands of this American organization is greater...

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38. I Visit the Radical Leaders of Rome

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pp. 217-220

I visited today the office of the radical paper Avanti, in Rome, and talked with the leaders of the Socialist Party of Italy. All radical leaders are alike—whether in Italy, England, France, or America, and the attics they live and work in! I have seen samples of all of them. All radicals are hero-worshipers...

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39. My Report to the State Department from Italy

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pp. 221-229

On October 26 I made a somewhat lengthy report to the State Department regarding my findings in Italy—substantial extracts from which are here presented...

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40. Night Train to Paris

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p. 230-230

Such a whirl of events! The very world is on fire! Great battles in progress, dynasties crumbling, new nations being born, the statesmen of the world sitting at Versailles to decide the fate of the peoples. In such a time, how puny seem the doings of any one...


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1. I Arrive at Paris

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pp. 233-239

On reaching Paris from Italy on Monday morning, I spent an hour getting a cab at the station, such was the rush, and I tried five different hotels before I could get a room. What a different Paris I found from that of last July and August! It was a crowded, gay...

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2. The Heart of Wilson’s Problem in Europe as I Saw It

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pp. 240-244

As the end of the war approached, and the attention of the world began to turn toward the coming settlements, thoughtful men in all countries became anxious, even alarmed, over the sudden recrudesce of the old internal struggles and jealousies within the nations of Europe. How would Wilson’s program be effected? Would it be possible to secure...

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3. The Armistice in Paris

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pp. 245-251

Still wonderful news. Wilson’s final transmittal of the Allied terms to Germany was made yesterday, and they are stiff. It is a fine thing to have fullblown approval of the Wilson program, except that part relating to sea power, set down in black and white by the Allies. We heard this morning that the Germans are already sending...

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4. I Return to Italy

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pp. 252-259

Well, I am in Italy again and it is chill, raw winter. Coming down the Alps today in unheated cars, it was painful. I found the streets crowded here this evening—flags flying everywhere. They are still celebrating the victory. Big placards are up on the walls...

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5. Genoa and Florence

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pp. 260-266

Again here in Genoa have I heard and seen most interesting things and met most interesting and curious people. It is in some ways the most charming Italian city I have yet visited, in the variety of its structures, and the curious way in which it meets, with...

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6. I Return to Paris

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pp. 267-270

Rome again, with mild, sunny weather, evenings like pleasant Amherst Octobers, and mornings such as this, cool, moist, and sunny, as in Amherst Mays. Leaves yet unfallen, or falling, and not wholly dead—glorious in places in their coloring. But Rome...

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7. Wilson’s Arrival in Paris

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pp. 271-276

This has been a great day in Paris—Wilson’s arrival. A soft, mild, misty, half-cloudy day with the people by thousands abroad since early morning in the streets. I made no effort to get any set place of observation especially among the Americans, for I wished to be with the French crowd and to see how Wilson was received...

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8. The King of Italy Visits the President

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pp. 277-283

The King of Italy arrived today in Paris, but there was no such crowd to greet him as greeted the President. At the President’s request I brought my report on Italy down to date so that he could have it in hand when the Italian delegation called. Admiral Grayson29 told me...

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9. I Meet One of the Wisest Americans in Paris

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pp. 284-289

What surprise we sometimes have in human beings! I had a great experience today. I went in to see General Bliss for a few minutes’ talk and remained nearly three hours—one of the most interesting and, to me, surprising talks I have had over here. I supposed that the general was placed on the Commission for the value of his military...

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10. Problems of Publicity at the Paris Peace Conference

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pp. 290-294

It is most unfortunate that during the period from January 7th to February 23th I was so overwhelmed with work connected with the organization of the Press Bureau and in planning methods for making available speedily and completely the news of the President’s activities and that of the Peace Commission that I was unable, from sheer...

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11. Return Voyage to Paris with the Presidential Party

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pp. 295-302

We left New York on the George Washington on Wednesday morning, the 5th, at eight o’clock, the President’s party, of which I was one, taking ship late Tuesday night after the great meeting at the Metropolitan Opera House with speeches by Mr. Wilson...

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12. The President Throws a Bombshell

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pp. 303-312

I decided during the return voyage to Paris to make a strong effort to keep a more complete record in my notebooks of daily happenings at the Peace Conference. During the earlier period I had been driven with labor as never before in my life. In addition to all my other duties I was subject to the call, day and night, of several score of restless...

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13. Efforts to Wear the President Down

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pp. 313-320

The difficulties deepen. I went down to the President’s house at 11 Place des États-Unis at six-thirty and found Mr. Wilson impatient and somewhat discouraged. After a whole week devoted to conferences on reparations, he said that the French had suddenly...

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14. The President Falls Ill

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pp. 321-329

The President fell ill today just after the Council of Four meeting and Admiral Grayson put him to bed. He has a severe cold with fever. The Four had up the Adriatic problems this afternoon, and Signor Orlando refused to be present when the Jugo-Slavs (represented by Ante Trumbić78) set forth...

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15. Northcliffe Attacks Lloyd George and Wilson

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pp. 330-340

I get no time even to write here. High politics are being played. Northcliffe and his press are attacking Lloyd George for his “kindness” to the Germans and his effort to work with the Russians, incidentally hitting even more virulently at Wilson. Here is the Northcliffe indictment of both...

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16. Great Battle over Japanese-Chinese Problems

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pp. 341-353

Another critical day. The Japanese question—Kiao-Chau94 up, and it is as complicated as the Italian problem. One great fault of the whole conference lies in having left the hardest problems—disagreements among the Allies themselves— until the last. The...

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17. May Day Riots in Paris

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pp. 354-360

We watched from the window of my office on the Rue Royal, just at the corner of the Place de la Concorde, the May Day riots in which cavalry, soldiery, police, and the fire department took turns in beating, sabering, and wetting down the crowds of working...

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18. Greatest Day, So Far, of the Peace Conference

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pp. 361-368

The busiest of busy days! Having the Treaty summary finally finished, I took it up to the President yesterday and secured his approval of it. Also completed the complicated arrangements for cabling or sending it by radio to various parts of the world. I was summoned to attend...

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19. I Fly to Brussels

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pp. 369-379

I am just back from a thrilling trip to Brussels by aeroplane. I learned in confidence some days ago that the President was contemplating a trip to Belgium, urgently invited by the King, and I thought it imperative that I make inquiries in advance...

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20. Jokers in the Treaty

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pp. 380-388

I went to St. Germain with Puaux and Mair this morning to complete arrangements for the press at the Chateau112 when the treaty is presented to the Austrians. It was a very lovely drive—the chestnuts, lilacs, and locusts all in bloom. We walked to the edge...

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21. Flooded with German Responses to Treaty Provisions

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pp. 389-396

We have been flooded today with German notes on the treaty and M. Clemenceau’s replies. We put out the correspondence on Prisoners of War, the Economic sections, and the German plan for a League of Nations with the Allies’ reply. Norman Hapgood came...

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22. Several Important Conversations with the President

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pp. 397-406

Everyone is now asking, will the Germans sign? Up to noon every day I think they will; and just before going to bed I’m persuaded they will not. On the whole, I think they will—with fingers crossed. Tomorrow is the last day for the presentation of their...

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23. First Meeting of the Entire American Peace Commission

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pp. 407-412

I attended this forenoon one of the most interesting conferences I have known since I came here. It was a meeting of President Wilson and the American Commissioners with the various experts of our Commission, including Admiral William Benson and...

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24. Europe Awakening to the Realities

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pp. 413-419

The governments of Europe are recovering from the “shell shock” of war and are beginning to awaken to new realities. The chief of these is the fact that no one can or will pay for the losses. It is beginning to be perceived that Germany cannot meet the...

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25. Problem of Germany’s Admission to the League

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pp. 420-428

It is a French holiday—though none for us—and thousands of the French workers and their families thronged the Bois; it is not only fine, warm, summer weather, but half Paris is striking. No trams or cars are running and many factories and shops are...

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26. Wilson as a Story Teller

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pp. 429-436

I am going to Belgium tonight with the President. We leave at 10:30 p.m. and visit the devastated regions in the morning, accompanied, as I understand, by the King and Queen of Belgium. The President was in the most sanguine mood I’ve seen him recently. He feels more hopeful of the German...

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27. Breathless Final Days

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pp. 437-448

Another breathless day, full of rumors. Will the Germans sign? What will happen if they do not? Early this morning the Germans sent in a note asking for delay, but the Three met at nine o’clock and denied the request. I had the note in my hands at ten, so that we got it over early. I made close telephone arrangements with the French Foreign Office,...


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pp. 449-469

E-ISBN-13: 9780807144244
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807144237

Page Count: 504
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: From Our Own Correspondent