University of Rochester Library Bulletin: David Jayne Hill and Andrew Carnegie

Volume XI · Spring 1956 · Number 3
David Jayne Hill and Andrew Carnegie

The personal papers of David Jayne Hill, President of the University from 1889 until 1896, have come to us in a series of deposits made by members of his family over a period of years. The first group was received in the fall of 1949 from a grandson, Walter L. Hill, Jr., of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This collection consisted largely of the manuscripts of books, articles, and addresses of Dr. Hill written during his long career as an educator, diplomat, and publicist—a period of some fifty years. An article by B. Jane Wilkins, published in the issue of The University of Rochester Library Bulletin for the spring of 1950, described this earliest acquisition. Since the fall of 1949, several additions have been made to the collection by Mr. Hill, Mrs. Otto Lorenz, of Wilton, Connecticut, and Mrs. Juliet Tillema Brace, '49, of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, all descendants of Dr. Hill. The later acquisitions have included extensive files of correspondence, clippings, books, pamphlets, and periodical publications of Dr. Hill, photographs, articles about him, and memorabilia. The entire collection has assumed an imposing size with all these additions, and now occupies several shelves in the collection of University Archives.

The latest addition to the collection was made by Mrs. Otto Lorenz in March of this year. Among other papers in this acquisition there are two series of letters of more than usual interest and significance. The smaller of these includes some thirty letters and telegrams exchanged between ex-President Theodore Roosevelt and Ambassador Hill during the fall of 1909 and the spring of 1910, which are concerned with the arrangements for Roosevelt's visit to Berlin in May, 1910, and his official reception by His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Wilhelm II. The article by Dr. Glyndon Van Deusen which follows is based largely on this group of manuscripts.

The second and much larger group includes a series of letters exchanged between Dr. Hill and Andrew Carnegie over a period of years, but particularly strong in the period from 1904 until 1911. The correspondence between the two men, and it is voluminous, reveals the existence of a strong feeling of friendship which seems to have originated in their mutual interest in world peace movements, particularly in the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. It was a friendship which flourished as the campaign for peace progressed during those years preceding the First World War.

The earliest of the letters is dated January 30, 1904, and was written by Dr. Hill from the United States Legation at Berne, where he was then stationed as American Minister. From this letter, it is evident that Andrew Carnegie had enlisted the interest and advice of Dr. Hill in the plans for the "Temple of Peace," or "Palais de Justice," at The Hague at a very early stage in their development. As early as 1902, Carnegie had intimated that he was willing to establish a library of international law at The Hague for the use of the Court of Arbitration. Later, through the encouragement of Andrew D. White, Frederick W. Holls and others, he extended his plan and offered to finance the building of a home for the Court in addition to the library. Accordingly, he set up a foundation, or Stichting, to which he contributed one and one-half million dollars, which was placed at the disposal of the Netherlands government, and which was to be used for the purpose of "building, establishing and maintaining in perpetuity at The Hague a Court House and Library (Temple of Peace) for the Permanent Court of Arbitration established by the Treaty of July 29, 1899."

In 1905 Dr. Hill was appointed United States Minister to the Netherlands, and was able to be of very material assistance to Mr. Carnegie in implementing the plans for the Palace of Peace. Carnegie's interest had by this time become so absorbed in the more ambitious scheme of erecting a suitable and dignified permanent home for the Court, that his original offer to provide a library of international law had assumed secondary importance. Unfortunately his shift in interest had not been clearly understood, and considerable confusion resulted. A governing board was set up according to the terms of the gift, and an international competition was held to provide plans for the Palace. More than three thousand plans were submitted by architects from many countries, but none of them met with Mr. Carnegie's approval. In virtually all the sketches submitted, the library facilities dominated the building, while space allotted to meeting rooms appeared to be a minor consideration. David Jayne Hill's tactful handling of the difficult situation, as revealed in the letters exchanged between the two men, was instrumental in bringing the matter to an amicable solution, and the jury appointed to decide upon the final plans was able to comply with Mr. Carnegie's wishes.

A letter dated June 18, 1906, from Skibo Castle in Scotland, gives the first suggestion of the misunderstanding. Carnegie wrote:

"The money given is for a special purpose, a Temple of Peace for the Supreme Court of Nations. . . . The Library contemplated by the Baron is a new idea.

A collection of books bearing upon Peace, Arbitration and International Law would obviously be an appropriate adjunct in one of the rooms.. . . A large showy building would I feel be incongruous. A moderate structure only is needed. The Court, the principal chamber, should be small, so that members can sit close together, in touch with each other mentally and almost physically, proximity being always conducive to friendly conference and harmony. . . .   For these, and other reasons I strongly hope that the Temple is to be dignified, chaste, breathing repose and peace, not large, conspicuous, aggressive and showy."

Several letters followed, each bitterly complaining of the improper accentuation of the library feature of the building, and of the grandiose plans for a building which might cost several millions to erect.

"Not a dollar more will I give. . . . To me the building proposed is no Temple of Peace, but shouts all over of the 'pomp, pride and circumstance of inglorious war,'" he wrote on July 10, appending the note: "You play the Rooseveltian part of 'The Peacemaker.' A.C."

A week later he wrote again, adding, in a tone of appeasement, this postscript:

"This is all past history. No use dwelling upon it. A misunderstanding—that's all. Let us consider the future and that only."

Evidently Dr. Hill succeeded admirably both in appeasing the "Laird of Skibo Castle" and in bringing the directors of the Stichting into line with his desires without causing them undue embarrassment. We have the drafts of two of his letters to Carnegie, one dated July 18, 1906, and one written three days later. He wrote in part:

"Your clear and well reasoned exposition of your intention in founding the Peace Palace at The Hague has been submitted to Mr. van Karnebeek. He is now consulting his associates and in due time we shall know what effect it has produced. To my mind, it is clear that these gentlemen will have to modify their interpretation of the Deed of Gift and make an entirely fresh start.. . . Still, these gentlemen have gone so far afield that they will probably feel somewhat sensitive about repudiating all that they have done. There is, however, no other  course, and this they must patiently, courteously, and tactfully be brought to see. ...

"Yesterday I had a long and earnest talk with him [Hermann Adriann van Karnebeek] which confirmed my conviction that all will eventually come out well. While he feels that the directors were justified in taking the steps they have thus far taken, he would deplore any permanent divergence of views regarding plans to be executed and shows a desire to shape them so as to receive your approbation. To obtain this, I ventured to say, two points would be essential:

(1) the Temple of Peace should possess unity of form and should be planned and constructed solely as a Temple of Peace; and (2) there should be no thought of a Library other than as a subordinate adjunct to the Temple of Peace. . .

Curiously enough, Dr. Hill's letter of July 21 continued with fairly elaborate plans for a collection of books for the use of the Court, which, he warned Mr. Carnegie, "would, as I have reason to know, present a much more formidable mass of literature than would generally be imagined." Provisions for housing a collection of such magnitude and allowance for the growth of the future would necessitate a rather large space, he assured Mr. Carnegie, but, he tactfully continued, "...the fact of its being thus assembled and ready for use would be an attraction to make use of it and would draw all international arbitrations to The Hague as the most convenient locality for peaceful conciliation."

At Dr. Hill's suggestion, a conference at Skibo was arranged for early August, which seems to have resulted in a better understanding and restored harmony. A letter from Carnegie to Hill dated August 13, 1906, even went so far as to indicate his willingness to have any surplus funds used for the purchase of books, maps, and other material "which they think most important. I do not see that so wise a use of surplus could be made, and am heartily in favor of it." The jury eventually awarded first prize for his plans to Louis Marie Cordonnier, of Lilie. These, with very considerable alterations, were adopted, ground was broken for the structure in 1907, and its completion and dedication took place in August, 1913, with suitable ceremonies, during which Carnegie was decorated with the Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Dr. Hill participated in the Second Peace Conference at The Hague in 1907, being attached to the American delegation as an expert in international law. Writing to Mr. Carnegie in January, 1907, he expressed grave doubts as to the immediate success of the forthcoming conference, but hope that eventually great good would result:

"There are vested interests which are steadily and subtly opposing it. The question of disarmament is very obnoxious to some of the powers, and if its insertion in the programme is insisted upon, I think it is very likely to result in deferring the Conference. . . . In all these considerations, however, I see no cause for discouragement. In considering long periods of time, as in my historical studies I have been compelled to do, I have been impressed with the extreme slowness of human progress. Almost all great advances in the life of humanity have come silently and gradually, like the dawn; and it is only rarely that the glory of a new day has suddenly burst upon the world. The future is likely to be very much like the past in this respect, but the improvement of mankind has for its guarantee the principle of evolution, which is the law of the Universe. We have, therefore, a permanent ground for faith in the good that is to come; even in the darkest hour we may be as certain of it as we are of the laws of logic and their final sway over human action."

During the course of the Conference, Dr. Hill wrote many letters to Carnegie, keeping him well informed on the progress of the discussions and giving him a more intimate picture of the course of events than he might have had otherwise. Each of Carnegie's replies contained the same plea: establish a permanent court of arbitration at all costs. In August he wrote:

"I do hope permanent tribunal (Judicial) will carry, that stone well laid will ensure an edifice in the future never to be destroyed… There is no mistaking the trend of events. Men's minds are awakening to the savagery of killing each other—I consider the permanent Court all sufficient, all else must follow."

On the sixth of November Carnegie wrote to Dr. Hill from New York, commenting at length on his summary of the results of the Conference. He expressed great disappointment with the attitude which the German delegation had taken on the subject of arbitration, and remarked that their course of action had served only to strengthen anti-German sentiment both in Great Britain and the United States, thus placing Germany in a decidedly awkward position. While he deplored Britain's attitude against the immunity of private property at sea, he felt that Germany's policy was far more serious, for arbitration was the vital issue—once it had been obtained, the other issues could never arise.

Carnegie closed the letter of that date with a statement which showed how confident he was in Dr. Hill's ability as a diplomat, and how determined he was that that ability should be used where it would count the most:

"I am to lunch with the President and Secretary Root on Friday and you may be sure your household will not fail to figure in what I have to say. The President has nobody in view for Germany but I have a suggestion to make on that subject, altho it is doubtful whether he would spare you from The Hague as I should. Still, Germany is, in my opinion, the great point for the present."

The Washington dispatches of the evening following that luncheon (November 8, 1907) carried the announcement of David Jayne Hill's appointment as American Ambassador to Berlin.

In connection with his transfer to the American Embassy in Berlin, a painfully embarrassing situation arose, and Carnegie's sympathetic and friendly help during the next few months was a source of great comfort to Dr. Hill. His predecessor, Charlemagne Tower, was a man of large private means, whose lavish entertainment in Berlin had created a most favorable impression on the Kaiser and members of the German court. Although Wilhelm II had at first approved of Dr. Hill as successor to Ambassador Tower, he shortly let it be known through diplomatic channels that another choice would be preferred, presumably a man of wealth. The reaction of the Roosevelt administration to this slight was immediate—the Kaiser was persuaded to withdraw his objection, and Dr. Hill's appointment was accepted. Throughout the course of the affair, Hill had maintained a dignified silence, but the depth of his feelings on the subject was revealed in a letter he wrote to Carnegie on the sixteenth of April, 1908:

"Your friendly telegram gave me good cheer in a dark hour, and it was most thoughtful and kind of you to send it. You can, perhaps, imagine my amazement at the proceedings at Berlin. There was absolutely no ground for them, as has since appeared. How unfortunate it would have been for me, possessing nothing but a good name and a good conscience, if the attitude had been persisted in.

"And now, having made no accusations against anyone, or any public comments on the 'incident,' I am going to Berlin to prove to William II that I, too, am a man. Others have spoken of my 'feelings,' of my 'embarrassment,' and of 'my handicaps,' but I shall ignore them. True, I cannot represent the princely side of our great American life, and so I told the President when, without my seeking, he appointed me. But I can represent the independence and the courage of my race, and, I hope, the interests of my country. I shall try to do it modestly but firmly, fearing nothing and expecting no reward."

Two months later, on the sixteenth of June, he wrote again to Mr. Carnegie, giving an account of his reception in Berlin. Any unpleasantness which may have existed during the preceding months seems to have been dispelled. He was received with cordiality and dignity, and his mission began auspiciously. I quote the letter in full:

 June 16, 1908


My Dear Mr. Carnegie:

My first letter from Berlin was to my dear wife, my second shall be to you.

I arrived here on Friday the twelfth. That same afternoon I was received by Herr Von Schoen, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was made to feel thoroughly welcome. Before I had handed him the office copy of my credentials and presented my formal request for an audience with His Majesty the Emperor, he plunged into business. He said there were still difficulties in the matter of the arbitration treaty raised by the German jurists, and that he was glad I thoroughly understood that matter and hoped I would be able to meet them. This I considered very auspicious as it indicates a disposition on the part of the German Government to meet our wishes. I do not doubt that with a little time we shall succeed.

On Saturday, I had my first interview with the Chancellor of the Empire, Prince Von Bülow. His reception of me was most cordial, and we had a long and interesting conversation ending with an invitation to dinner next week.

Much to my surprise I was visited that same afternoon by the Grand Master of Ceremonies in person, who informed me that His Majesty would receive me the next day, Sunday, in the Palace at Berlin.

Accordingly, on Sunday at 12:30, three carriages of state drew up in front of my hotel on Unter den Linden, and I, in the dress of an American citizen, accompanied by my little suite, was called for by the Introducer of Ambassadors and driven to the Palace. There the Emperor, in military uniform and wearing a silver helmet, having come in from Potsdam for the purpose, received me in the garden of the Palace with a cordiality that left nothing to be desired. There were no formal discourses, but things were said which I have no right to repeat which put me entirely at my ease and gave me the greatest satisfaction. I was not only impressed with the evident desire of the Emperor to treat me with the greatest kindness and consideration, but with his intelligent appreciation of my country and the value of its friendship. Our conversation lasted more than half an hour, and was in every respect most agreeable.

To-day I saw a private note, written in confidence by a high officer of the Imperial Court, which was left in my possession, but which it would be immodest for me to quote, further than to say that the Kaiser remarked, in the presence of a circle of court people, that he had been wrongly informed concerning Mr. Hill, adding that he had received an excellent impression of my fitness for my mission and that he would take occasion to make known his approbation in such a manner to be of aid to me in the accomplishment of my mission.

I tell you these things unblushingly, my dear friend, not because they are flattering to me or awaken any pride in me, but because you believed in me when I was under fire and were among the first to cheer and encourage me with your words of confidence. My real pleasure is not that the pain of what might have been a deep and permanent humiliation has now been entirely removed, but that my way seems clear to be really useful to my country by making my mission a success. That is a triumph that fills me with gratitude. I have a difficult role to fill here, and I do not underestimate the obstacles I shall encounter; but I am sure I did right to come. If I should be recalled or resign next week, I should still feel that it was right to do as I was bidden and come to Berlin. But I do not expect either to be recalled or to resign at once, but to go forward with my mission and to prove to the world that, in spite of the handicaps with which I entered upon it, I can succeed. I feel that I represent a great people and stand for great principles, and I shall try to be true to them.

It was very sad parting from our dear friends at The Hague, who from the Queen down,—who offered me the Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau, which our laws do not permit me to receive—did everything in their power to show Mrs. Hill and myself the regard and affection they have generously entertained for us. It is a great pleasure to know that we have left so many friends behind.

You will read this, perhaps, up in the moors, near to the heart of nature, where the ways of emperors and the performances of ambassadors do not count for much! But I am sure you will not misunderstand me when I say that it is a great satisfaction to me to know that my success at Berlin is a matter of interest to you.

With best regards to yourself and Mrs. Carnegie

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Hill remained in Berlin as American Ambassador for three years. During this period his correspondence with Andrew Carnegie continued to be voluminous. Both were actively engaged in furthering any movement which might insure international peace, and Carnegie was convinced that Germany held the key to the situation. If the German Emperor could be persuaded to become an "apostle of peace," his nation would support him. If, backed by the growing military strength of his nation, he should call for an international league of peace, the four great powers would unite with him, and the opposition of the lesser powers would be futile. Their letters were filled with these topics, and with reflections on the course of the negotiation of a German-American arbitration treaty.

Carnegie, during Dr. Hill's residence in Berlin, took steps to extend to Germany the benefits of his "Hero Fund." The first of these funds, covering the United States, Canada, and Newfoundland, had been set up in 1904. During the ensuing years similar funds were established in the leading European nations. The German foundation, known as the Carnegie-Stiftung für Lebensretter, was finally set up in September, 1910. To this Carnegie provided one and one-quarter million dollars, the proceeds of which were to be used "for the amelioration of distress caused within the German Empire and its waters by death or disablement of heroes in attempting to save human life." In his position as intermediary between Carnegie, on the one hand, and the Kaiser and Rudolf von Valentini, Chief of the Emperor's Civil Cabinet, on the other, Dr. Hill received and preserved much of the official correspondence relating to the fund.

One final topic with which the Hill-Carnegie correspondence of this period was concerned was the visit of Theodore Roosevelt to Berlin in May, 1910. Carnegie, wholly convinced that Roosevelt could prevail upon the Kaiser to become a "protagonist for peace," was active in the preparations for the meeting of the two men, and instigator of the plan for a meeting of British and American leaders in England to which Roosevelt would repair immediately after his conversations with Wilhelm II.  This meeting is described at length in the article by Dr. Van Deusen which follows. Throughout the early months of 1910, Dr. Hill kept Mr. Carnegie informed of the progress of the plans, and a few days after Roosevelt's departure in May, he addressed a long letter to him in which he summed up the results of the historic meeting.

"I am convinced," he wrote, "that T. R. and H. I. M. are nearly if not quite of the same opinion. They are real friends of peace, but they think peacefulness needs armed strength to protect it from wrong. . . . We who are not fighters have also our role. . . namely, to prevent war, all war if possible, by the appeal to reason and justice, hoping that wisdom will finally triumph and that men may unite in seeking justice through peace."

In the summer of 1911, Dr. Hill prepared to leave Berlin—the last post he was to hold in the diplomatic service of his country. On the Fourth of July of that year, he addressed a long, friendly letter to Mr. Carnegie in which he revealed in moving language the extent to which he had relied upon their long friendship for advice, strength, and courage, during the critical years through which they had just passed:

"Looking back over the past three years, I am glad I came here. It has been a great experience. But now, I am convinced, it is time to go. I have lived down every prejudice, made many friends and fully vindicated my appointment.

"But do not imagine, my good Father Confessor, that I am going to be unhappy! I shall get a brace from the Swiss air and then find my task. But when I become absorbed in it I shall have nothing to write to you about, and then the correspondence we have had in these last six or seven years will drop off. I cannot tell you how much we have enjoyed it, or how much I have been braced and helped in moments that were critical for me, by your brave and kind words of encouragement and counsel. And this has lifted a veil from your heart and made me understand you as the world at large cannot. I have witnessed the generosity of real friendship and disinterested regard which you have given to me—your time, your thought, sometimes your anxiety, which money could never buy or in any way represent. I have thus come to understand the spirit in which you have poured out so lavishly your great gifts to the world, and to love and honor-let me say also reverence—the character that lies behind; and all this has been an inspiration to me, has taught me out of the heart to act well and try to live nobly. And I pray you to let me come to you sometimes, as I would come to an elder brother, for this same cheer and communion, which have been so much to me."