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THE BRAHMIN AS DIPLOMAT IN NINETEENTH CENTURY AMERICA: Everett Bancroft Motley Lowell Lawrence S. Kaplan Traditionally the years from the Monroe Doctrine to the expansionism of the last decade of the nineteenth century have been depicted as an era without significant American diplomatic involvement with Europe. The nation's energies, once released from the Napoleonic Wars, were channeled inward, toward the development of a continental empire. Foreign relations intruded only on the periphery of American life, as in the Texas annexation crisis or in the Civil War when American divisions tempted European governments to interfere. Most occasions for public attention to foreign affairs were either trivial or parochial : controversies over reparations with the French in the 1830s; excitement over the Revolutions of 1848; disturbances over boundaries and fisheries with Canada in the 1840s and 1850s, or a contest with Germany over Samoa in the 1870s and 1880s. Even Great Britain, which by its proximity along northern borders, by its competition in Central America and the Far East, and by its long history of hostility and condescension provided a great potential for major problems, failed to furnish sufficient incentives for the formulation of a fullblown American foreign policy or the establishment of a foreign service to manage it. Secure by virtue of distance and lack of interest from the troubles of the old world, successive administrations after that of John Quincy Adams advanced the growth of isolationism by permitting the atrophying of the means of conducting foreign affairs. The indifference and frequently the hostility to professionalism in the federal government, the expansion of the spoils system in office-holding, and the transfer of power from the executive to the legislative branch which characterized the middle and late nineteenth century all had their effects upon the Department of State and the diplomatic and consular services. In light of their basic unimportance, positions abroad were natural places to offer faithful party servants or presidential friends. Most surveys of nineteenth-century diplomacy would be incomplete without some reference to the roguish General Robert Schenck introducing draw poker to the Court of St. James, and then—true to the spirit of his times and of Grant's friendships—promoting the sale of stocks of a shady 6 CIVIL WAR HISTORY Western silver-mining company among his British acquaintances, a company in which he was a director. Another Civil War general and friend of Grant, Daniel Sickles, made his tour of duty in Spain noteworthy for the verve he brought to an affair with the exiled Carlist queen of Spain. Sickles was a charming personality, but also impetuous and indiscreet; and his queen at the time was a proscribed enemy of the regime in power. Even if these tales are frequently embellished in the telling, their common elements are obvious. Diplomatic appointments seemed to be filled with buffoons or scoundrels. As The Nation observed in 1870, the minister to St. Petersburg, "spent nearly the whole of his term in vain endeavors to be sober enough to be presented to the Emperor, or even to have an interview with the Prime Minister. As surely as an appointment was made, so surely was he drunk, and the Secretary had to write an apology on accout of 'severe illness.' His Irish body-servant is reported to have dragged him to the mirror regularly every morning, with the exclamation, 'Is thim the eyes for a Minister Plenipotentiary.' M1 While it was obvious that rogues abroad no more embarrassed Americans than rogues at home did at this time, serious reformers and sensitive travelers then and later were concerned with the effects of such antics—and of the system that bred them—upon the reputation of America in the world. For most Americans it did not matter what the world thought of them. If the issue ever arose over the spectacle American ministers were making of themselves, popular reaction would be to applaud their bravado and resourcefulness. American interests in Europe were either too slight or too special to disturb the public in the Gilded Age. It was the literati of the eastern seaboard and the political reformers of the Mugwump species who after the Civil War voiced discontent with the quality...


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