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Chapter 23:

Grant and Motley.

the beginning of Grant's intercourse with Motley was brought about through me. Mr. Motley made my acquaintance at Newport in 1868. He was visiting a man whom I did not know, but who was good enough to call on me and invite me to dinner; and I, like every one else, was charmed with the manner and conversation of the famous historian. General Grant was at that time a candidate for the Presidency, and Motley had recently returned from Vienna, after his quarrel with Johnson and Seward. He was an enthusiastic admirer of Grant, and took a lively interest in my history of the General's campaigns, the first volume of which had lately appeared. During the canvass he made an eloquent speech for Grant, and sent a copy to me at Galena, where I was spending the autumn with the General. We corresponded regularly after this, and Motley sent frequent messages through me to the President-elect, whom he did not meet until December. After the election he passed some months in Washington, the guest of Samuel Hooper, of Boston, at whose house I met him frequently, as well as at that of Charles Sumner, with whom he was extremely intimate. During this period he read and revised several manuscript chapters of my History of Grant.

At the time of the inauguration it was understood that he was a candidate for the Austrian Mission, but afterward he was pressed by Sumner for the mission to England. John Jay, of New York, was a prominent rival, but Sumner's [198] influence prevailed, and Motley received the appointment to London. I had done my best to speak well of him to the President, and General Grant informed me of his decision immediately after it was made, and allowed me to announce it to Motley. This was a great gratification to me, and of course Motley was delighted. He at once, however, begged me to remember that despite our intimacy and my known relations with General Grant he had never mentioned the subject of his appointment to me, nor had one of his family. I took care to say this to the President, who was peculiarly sensitive on such points. He had never urged his own qualifications or claims for any promotion, and he liked better the men who followed the same course with himself.

A few days afterward I got a note from Motley asking me to call on him. During the interview he asked if I would be willing to take the position of Assistant Secretary of Legation under him. He said he thought me entitled to a much higher place and would not have dreamed of offering me this if it had not been suggested to him, but that it would be a great pleasure to have me accompany him. I thanked him, but said the proposition was entirely unexpected and I could make no answer without consulting the President. I was at that time, as I have before stated, on duty at the Executive Mansion, in charge of a portion of General Grant's unofficial correspondence, and also engaged on my History of his Campaigns. I went direct to the President, who said the suggestion had come from himself. He had already told me that he meant before long to appoint me to one of the smaller European missions, but he preferred not to do this at once; and he had thought as I was so warm a friend of Motley, it might be pleasant for me to accompany him and learn something of diplomatic duty in advance, as well as obtain an agreeable introduction to English society. At any rate I could pass the summer in Europe and return whenever I chose and resume my place at the White House. I was also [199] told that though I was now offered the position of Assistant Secretary, I should be promoted to that of First Secretary as soon as I had familiarized myself with the duties. Of this last arrangement Mr. Motley was not informed. I accepted the appointment.

Before the new Minister sailed he submitted an elaborate paper to the State Department which was doubtless in part drawn up by Mr. Sumner. This was proposed as the draft or basis of Motley's instructions as envoy to England. The document was written in a spirit and tone that would have been highly offensive to England; it was entirely unacceptable to Mr. Fish and to General Grant, both of whom had conceived the idea of a pacific policy looking to an adjustment of our differences with England that might be agreeable to both nations. Mr. Gladstone had just come into power at the head of a liberal government, including such friends of the Union as Bright, Forster, and the Duke of Argyll; and the American Administration thought it might make terms with these without assuming an offensive attitude. The ‘memoir’ which Mr. Motley presented was therefore rejected.

At this Mr. Sumner was very indignant. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs he supposed himself entitled to dictate, or at least control, the foreign policy of the Government, and he would indeed be able to thwart or advance it in an unusual degree. He had been a life-long intimate and personal friend of the Secretary of State, and Mr. Fish was inclined to strain a point to meet his views, or at least to preserve kindly relations with him. But Sumner was intolerant in temper, arbitrary in will, egotistical and conceited in sentiment, and domineering in manner. Mr. Fish, on the other hand, was stubborn, and possessed a will as determined as Sumner's; he knew his rights, and though always ready to accord those of his compeers or subordinates, was equally resolute in maintaining his own. [200] Nevertheless, for the sake of old friendship and because of the important political and international interests at issue, he was far from intolerant at this crisis. General Grant was more inflexible. He had been used to finding subordinates obedient and others deferential; and though Motley was not as yet at fault, Sumner's course both surprised and angered Grant. In a conversation with Fish before Motley sailed, Sumner declared that if his wishes could not be carried out, he would tell Motley to resign. This assumption of a right to dictate to the subordinates of the State Department almost provoked a rupture on the spot, and was received in a manner that did not encourage Sumner to renew or to carry out the threat. The deferred instructions to Mr. Motley were sent to the Minister in New York just before he sailed. He first read them on the voyage.

I was to take the same steamer with Motley, and a few days before we started I asked the President if he had any particular or personal injunctions for me. I said I should be known to come direct from his side, and doubtless would be supposed to reflect his views, and I inquired if there was any tone in conversation which he would like me to assume. He replied at once: ‘Yes, I particularly wish you to say that I am anxious for a harmonious adjustment of our differences with England. I do not want any difficulty with that country, and will do my best to prevent one. The two nations ought to be friends, and one object of my Administration is to secure such a friendship. I particularly do not intend to dispute the right that England had to acknowledge the belligerency of the South. Say this in conversation constantly. Make opportunities to say that you know this is my position and that I authorize you to declare it.’ During the voyage I repeated this conversation to Mr. Motley, for I had no idea of doing anything disloyal or even disagreeable to him; but he at once desired me to say nothing on the subject in England. He declared that I should embarrass him greatly if I [201] assumed to discuss political matters at all, or to speak in any way for the President. I was naturally amazed that he should revoke the order of the President, but I attributed this conduct to the extraordinary sensitiveness of Motley. He had shown in one or two instances a petty jealousy unworthy of him. I had intended to give a breakfast party before I left Washington and to invite the British Minister, Mr. Motley, Mr. Fish, and Mr. Sumner to meet the President, who had consented to come, but Motley made it a point that I should not give the party. He said it would be unbecoming in me as Secretary of Legation to invite the President to meet the British Minister. He did not feel that he could invite the Head of the State, and he did not wish his subordinate to do so.

Mr. Motley did not show me his instructions on his arrival, nor did he discuss with me his intercourse with the Foreign Office on any of the points in dispute with the United States; but as Secretary I had access to the archives of the Legation and thus saw his instructions and read the account of Motley's first interview with Lord Clarendon, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I had not known in America of his difference with the State Department, but I said at once to Mr. Moran, the First Secretary of Legation, that the Minister would be removed. He had disobeyed his orders, and I knew that General Grant would not endure disobedience in a subordinate. Moran agreed with me as to the disobedience. Motley indeed had said far more than he had been ordered to say. He had been charged to do everything to cultivate friendly relations, to express a desire on the part of the new Government to maintain an amicable feeling, and he had instead recited the wrongs that England had inflicted and had done this in a menacing and almost offensive tone which only the good temper of the British Government prevented it from resenting on the spot. Moran and I [202] talked over the matter. I was greatly grieved, for I was attached to Motley and wanted to see him succeed; but I could not go to my superior and tell him that he was disobedient. He had not invited my suggestions, and I did not feel authorized to approach him on the subject. I felt all the more delicate because he knew so well my relations with General Grant.

But I wrote at once to the President and told him that I thought he might be able to change Mr. Motley's course. I said the Minister was very susceptible to praise; that he seemed to consider himself Mr. Sumner's Minister rather than that of the Government, but that this came perhaps from an excess of gratitude, because he thought he owed his appointment to Sumner; and if he could be made to feel more pleasantly toward the Administration it might have an influence on his susceptible nature. I recited some things he had said and done which I thought the President would approve, and I urged him to write me a letter which I could show Motley commending these acts. General Grant at once complied with this suggestion.1

But when the dispatch arrived in Washington reporting the interview with Lord Clarendon, the result that I had predicted to Moran occurred. The President at first insisted on the immediate recall of the disobedient Minister. Mr. Fish was equally amazed and even indignant at the extraordinary action of the envoy, but he was less peremptory. He persuaded the President not to take the step of removing his most important diplomatic subordinate in the first months of his Administration; and showed him how the necessity might be avoided. Mr. Motley was informed that he had transcended his instructions and that the further negotiation of the subject would be conducted in the United States and not at London. He was also directed to notify the British Government that the views he had presented [203] were disapproved by his superiors. This, it was supposed, would induce the Minister to resign, but he swallowed his humble pie and made the declaration required to Lord Clarendon. He could not, however, bring himself to utter the words in person, and therefore wrote them, which saved him a part of his mortification, but left the record in the archives of the Foreign Office of England.

I was inexpressibly pained at this situation, for I was fond of Motley, as every one was who was thrown much with him. I knew how his proud spirit must have been stung, and I thought I knew how I could have saved him some of his suffering; but he did not offer me his confidence, and I could not intrude. About this time, only four months after my arrival in England, General Rawlins died. He had in his possession a number of important papers relating to General Grant which only he or I could arrange, as we were the only two who had made the matters to which they referred our study. It was very desirable that these papers should not fall into other hands, and I telegraphed at once to the President that unless he forbade I should return to America. This was in accordance with his permission to me when I left. I received no refusal and made ready to start, writing, however, to the President in advance, and requesting him to explain to the Secretary of State the reasons for my return, and relieve me from the appearance of disrespect in not applying to him for my leave.

When I found I was to return I talked again with Moran about our chief. I was anxious to do the Minister a service, and thought if I could carry a submissive message to Washington I might save him further humiliation, and perhaps the loss of his place. Finally I determined to say something as delicately as possible to the ladies of his family. I told them that from my knowledge of General Grant I was sure he must be displeased, and that I believed it all-important for Mr. Motley to change his course; but that I did not [204] venture to approach him on the subject, which he had never broached to me. They at once begged me to speak to him frankly, assuring me that he would not be offended. I did so, and he took my interposition in the best possible spirit, admitting at once that he might have erred at the start, but declaring his intention now to carry out the wishes of the Government even if they were contrary to his own. He urged me to make this fully known to the President and to Mr. Fish, and to inform him of the result; and thanked me cordially for my interposition.

When I returned to America I found the Head of the Government extremely displeased, and my messages did not have the full effect desired; the explanations were insufficient. I therefore wrote to Mr. Motley and advised him to send me a letter which I might show to the President and Mr. Fish, repeating in the strongest words he could use the verbal messages he had sent through me. This he did promptly, and thanked me for the suggestion.

I read this letter to the President and the Secretary of State, and they seemed to feel that there was now some probability that their instructions would be obeyed; but they determined to risk nothing, and the further discussion of the points at issue was not resumed in London. Even this was not sufficient, high strung as Motley was, to induce him to resign; for he was fond of the accessories of etiquette and precedence attached to his place. Yet he was in small things as well as great utterly lacking in the diplomatic character. Lord Houghton once said of him that he was a historian, not a diplomatist; he was used to meting out praise and blame to Governments and could not understand that he was to take orders from them. This soon became evident again.

A month or two after my return I resigned my post of Assistant Secretary at London, and resumed my duties at the White House. When this was decided the President [205] said to me: ‘Badeau, I wish you would write to Mr. Motley and say I would like him to nominate as your successor Mr. Nicholas Fish, the son of the Secretary of State. Mr. Fish does not know of this, and might feel delicate about appointing or asking me to appoint his son. I wish to surprise him, and Mr. Motley will have the chance to gratify both me and the Secretary of State.’ I wrote of course promptly to the Minister, but he declined to comply with the President's wish. He had another man whom he preferred for the place, and whom he had promised to nominate if I resigned. He had indeed already sent an informal request to the State Department which probably crossed my letter on the ocean. But Motley at the best could only nominate, it was for the President to appoint; and the statement to any friend that he could not redeem his pledge would surely have released him. But he insisted so far as he could on his nomination, and refused to oblige the two persons on earth who were most able to oblige him. I do not know that Mr. Fish ever knew of this circumstance. General Grant enjoined secrecy on me at the time, and I never spoke of it to the Secretary or his family.

But the President was extremely angry; he looked upon the refusal as another piece of insubordination, a proof that Motley was determined to do as he pleased, and not as the President desired; more than this, he regarded it, after all that had occurred, as a personal discourtesy and defiance. Mr. Motley's friend was not appointed, so that he lost what he wanted, as well as the regard of the President. A day or two after the letter arrived Grant asked his Cabinet if any one of them had a man he wanted to send to London in my stead. The place had not been known to be vacant, and at first no name was mentioned; but after a while Mr. Cresswell, the Postmaster-General, suggested Mr. E. R. Nadal, and that gentleman, who was utterly unknown to Motley, received the appointment. Young Mr. Fish, at General [206] Grant's suggestion, was sent as Secretary to Berlin, where the Minister was less recalcitrant.

During the winter nothing further was done about Motley; but the President received from several sources reports in regard to the Minister's social treatment of Americans which displeased him. I fancy the stories were exaggerated, but it was said that Motley ignored his compatriots, and that his deference for the aristocracy was so marked that he disliked to bring democrats into contact with them.

In May I returned to London, this time as Consul-General, and on the day I left Washington, I dined with the President. He went to the door of the White House to bid me good-by, and we talked a long while in the lower halls. Then and there he told me that he meant to remove Mr. Motley. This was on the 15th of May, nearly two months before the final vote on the Saint Domingo matter. He said he was persuaded that the Minister was un-American in spirit and not a fitting representative of democracy. He charged me not to disclose his intention to any human being, and declared he had not told it even to Mrs. Grant; or to any one whatever, except the Secretary of State. He even said he should like to make me Minister to England, but I replied at once that he ought not to think of the appointment. I was not sufficiently prominent before the country, and the nomination would be regarded as favoritism and would injure him. He promised, however, to write me fully on public affairs, letters which I might show, and which would indicate his confidence in me; and he kept his word.2

As soon as I arrived in London, Motley asked me how the President felt toward him, and I had great difficulty in replying without betraying the President's confidence. Motley was so amiable to me personally that I felt more than sorry for him; he enjoyed his social opportunities so keenly, [207] and in all social matters he so adorned his position that I should have been glad to see him remain. I told him he ought to do every thing in his power to cultivate American society; to invite Americans to his house, to make himself liked by them. He took my advice after a fashion; held Saturday receptions for Americans and made a Fourth of July party for them. But it did no good, for he asked no English to meet them, and the Americans felt themselves excluded from the society to which their Minister was admitted as their representative. I also urged Motley, if he was anxious to please the President, to make much of the envoys of the Central and South American Republics. I thought if he would form a democratic coterie and put himself at the head of it in London society, it would make him more of a power, enhance the consequence of the republicans, and be an advantage to himself at home. He invited the republican ministers a little, but his heart was not with them. He preferred ambassadors and royal and aristocratic connections in every way. Still he asked me to write to the President what he was doing, and I complied.

But it was of no avail. In July he read in the newspapers rumors of his recall, and of the appointment of Mr. Frelinghuysen in his place. He was greatly shocked, and I was myself surprised, for I had thought from the delay that the President's feeling might have been mitigated. Motley himself acknowledged that he had erred the year before, but he held that his offense had been condoned. But Grant did not often condone. The crisis finally came.

Motley was living in Lord Yarborough's house, in Arlington Street, one of the most sumptuous in London; he was entertaining sovereigns, his halls were filled with Titians and Murillos and Van Dykes. I recollect a dinner just before he fell at which D'Israeli, the Duke of Devonshire, the Rothschilds, and thirty or forty others of the highest position in London were present, and the grace and urbanity with which [208] he received and arranged the splendid company were remarked by all. He held no memorandum in his hand, but stood at the centre of his long table which was gleaming with silver and lights, and pointed to each aristocratic guest where he should sit and whom he should place beside him. His handsome, intellectual face was lighted up with pleasure and distinction, and he felt himself at home.

Poor man! The next day his post was required of him. He was requested to resign, and, unfortunately for his dignity, refused. The Tenure of Office act was still in force under which Stanton had held on in spite of Johnson, and Motley availed himself of it now. After Frelinghuysen declined the place, it was offered to Morton of Indiana, who was also unable to accept it, but Motley remained against the wishes of his own Government; of course discredited both in society and at court; with no important business whatever entrusted to him; presenting the unprecedented spectacle of a representative of a country which did not wish him to represent it, a diplomatist defying instead of supporting his Government, a gentleman retaining a position in a service that sought to discard him. He even complained in society of his treatment and thus injured his country instead of benefiting it. It was supposed by the English that he had been displaced because of his preferences for England, whereas the fact was directly the contrary. The British Minister for Foreign Affairs said to Mr. Moran about this time, and Moran told it to me, that he would not have retained a subordinate a day after the first letter that Motley had written in disobedience of his instructions.

Finally, as the time approached when Congress would meet, and the Government could report its action, the First Secretary, Mr. Moran, was directed to assume charge of the Legation; and as Motley still refused to resign, he subjected himself to the indignity from which the Administration had sought to save him—he was expelled. [209]

He never recovered from the effect of all this on his health and spirits. He remained a short while in England, visiting his numerous friends, who strove in every way to soften the bitterness of the situation, though I never met one who approved his course in holding office after he had been requested to resign. Some of them thought from what he told them that he had been harshly treated, but they all admitted the right of a Government to select its own Minister. I saw him occasionally, but our intercourse was of course painful. We reminded each other too much of the past. He soon went to Holland, where the Queen offered him a villa in which he wrote his volume of ‘John of Barneveld.’ Then he returned to England and went about a little in the world, but his strength and vivacity were gone. To have been repudiated and dismissed by his own Government was a blow from which his proud spirit could not recover. In 1873 he had a neuralgic or paralytic fit, from which he rallied for a while. Then his wife died of a cruel and lingering malady. This crushed him more completely still, and in the spring of 1877 he passed away, suddenly at the last. Two days before his death General Grant arrived in England, and I was told by an intimate and mutual friend that when Motley was informed of the extraordinary reception of the exPresi-dent he replied: ‘I am glad of it; Grant is a great man and a representative American.’

The first Sunday that General Grant spent in London he was invited to a service at Westminster Abbey. Dean Stanley preached the sermon, and spoke tenderly of the loss to literature and to English society of the graceful and eloquent historian, who had been his intimate friend, and then turned in the same discourse to offer welcome to that other American who had been General and President in the country which Motley had represented in England.

1 See this letter, page 468.

2 See Chapter L.

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