Jean Jules Jusserand (18551932). With Americans of Past and Present Days. 1916.
THIS day, thirteen years ago, a new French ambassador presented his credentials. The ambassador was not very old for an ambassador. The President was very young for a president, the youngest, in fact, the United States ever had. Both, according to custom, read set speeches, and there followed a first conversation, which had a great many successors, touching on a variety of subjects not connected, all of them, with diplomacy. In which talk took part the genial, learned, and warm-hearted author of the Pike County Ballads and of the Life of Lincoln, present at the meeting as Secretary of State of the United States.
This was the first direct impression the newcomer had of broad-minded, strenuous America, his earliest ones, as a child, having been derived from the illustrated weekly paper received by his family, and which offered to view fancy pictures of the battles between the bearded soldiers of Grant and Lee, the poilus of those days; another impression was from Coopers tales, Deerslayer sharing with Ivanhoe the enthusiasm of the young people at the family hearth. Another American impression was received by them a little later, when, the Republic having been proclaimed, the street where the family had their winter home ceased to be called Rue de la Reine and became Rue Franklin.
Thirteen years is a long space of time in an ambassadors life; it is not an insignificant one in the life of such a youthful nation as the United States; I have now witnessed the eleventh part of that life. Something like one-fourth or one-fifth of the population has been added since I began service here. There were forty-five States then instead of forty-eight; the commercial intercourse with France was half of what it is now; the tonnage of the American navy was less than half what it is at present; the Panama Canal was not yet American; the aeroplane was unknown; the automobile practically unused. Among artists, thinkers, humorists, critics, scientists, shone La Farge, McKim, Saint-Gaudens, William James, Mark Twain, Furness, Newcomb, Weir Mitchell, who, leaving a lasting fame, have all passed away.
The speech at the White House was followed by many others. Little enough accustomed, up to then, to addressing any assembly at any time, I did not expect to have much to do in that line; but I had. I soon found that it was not a question of taste and personal disposition, but one of courtesy and friendliness. The quick-witted, kindly-disposed, warm-hearted audiences of America, ever ready to show appreciation for any effort, greatly facilitated matters.
I was thus led by degrees to address gatherings of many kinds, in many places, on many subjects, from the origins of the War of Independence to reforestation in America, and from the Civil War to infantile mortality. Many such speeches had to be delivered impromptu; others, luckily for both orator and listeners, were on subjects which the former had studied with as much care as the fulfilling of a variety of tasks and duties had allowed him.
An examination of the development of the two countries will, I believe, lead any impartial mind to the conclusion that, with so many peculiar ties between them in the past, a similar goal ahead of them, and, to a great extent, similar hard problems to solve, it cannot but be of advantage to themselves and to the liberal world that the two Republics facing each other across the broad ocean, one nearly half a century old, the other three times as much, should ever live on terms of amity, not to say intimacy, comparing experiences, of help to one another whenever circumstances allow: this they have been on more than one occasion, and will doubtless be again in the future. During our present trials the active generosity of American men and women has exerted itself in a way that can never be forgotten.
The dean now, not only of the diplomatic corps in Washington, but of all my predecessors from the early days, when, on a raised platform in Independence Hall, my diplomatic ancestor, Gérard de Rayneval, presented to Congress the first credentials brought here from abroad (and Gérard was then, he alone, the whole diplomatic body), I have presumed to gather together a few studies on some of the men or events of most interest from the point of view of Franco-American relations. Three addresses are added, just as they were delivered. May these pages find among readers the same indulgent reception their author found among listeners.