Thursday, January 31, 2019

I just want a friend

‘Why did I decide to start a diary today? Has something important happened? Have I discovered that my friends are keeping diaries of their own? No! I just want a friend. Somebody I can talk to about my everyday worries and joys.’ This is Renia Spiegel, a Polish teenager, writing in her diary exactly 80 years ago today. But her everyday worries would soon encompass the horrors of being forced to live a Nazi-controlled Jewish ghetto. Renia has been hailed as one of the ‘new voices of the holocaust’, and her diary has recently been celebrated by The Smithsonian.

Renia was born in 1924, in Uhryńkowce, Tarnopol province, then part of Poland now in Ukraine. She had one younger sister, Ariana, who became a child star actress (the ‘Polish Shirley Temple’). By 1939, Renia and Ariana were living with their grandparents in Przemyśl, and studying at the local Gymnasium, where Renia contributed poems to the school magazine. Following the start of the Second World War and Germany’s invasion of Poland, the family were initially located in city’s Soviet zone, but when the Germans overran the city, they became confined to a Jewish ghetto. Renia was shot dead on the street shortly after her 18th birthday on 30 July 1942.

Ariana and her mother survived the war and moved to the US. In the 1950s, Zygmunt Schwarzer, who had been Renia’s boyfriend, and who had survived several concentration camps, gave them a diary that Renia had kept from January 1939 until her death. The diary remained untouched for decades, until, very recently, Ariana’s daughter, Alexandra, had it translated. Subsequently, she showed it to the documentary film-maker Tomasz Magierski who then planned to make a film about Renia; he also helped to have the diary published in Poland.

The recently-founded Renia Spiegel Foundation describes the diary as follows: ‘This nearly seven hundred-page journal by Renia Spiegel, which spans the years 1939 to the summer of 1942, presents a powerful insight into the life of a young woman, whose life was tragically cut short shy of her eighteenth birthday. The diary is an eyewitness account of the horrors of day-to-day life during the Nazi occupation. There is incredible maturity in her observations and insights. Her account of her personal life is poignant, heart breaking, and often amusing with her expression of adolescent infatuation exposing the raw emotion of a teenager. This powerful diary is not only a primary historical source of the Holocaust, but also a true and outstanding work of literature.’

Renia and her diary received international attention when, last November (2018), the Smithsonian published both a biographical article about her and substantial extracts from the diary. The Times of Israel and The Guardian also have substantial articles on the diary, with extracts. St Martins Press (Macmillan) in the US and Ebury Press (Penguin) in the UK (see The Bookseller) are due to publish the English translation later this year as Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of the Holocaust. See also the Renia Spiegel Facebook page.

31 January 1939
‘Why did I decide to start a diary today? Has something important happened? Have I discovered that my friends are keeping diaries of their own? No! I just want a friend. Somebody I can talk to about my everyday worries and joys. Somebody who will feel what I feel, believe what I say and never reveal my secrets. No human being could ever be that kind of friend.

Today, my dear diary, is the beginning of our deep friendship. Who knows how long it will last? It might even continue until the end of our lives.

In any case, I promise to always be honest with you. In return, you’ll listen to my thoughts and concerns, but you’ll remain silent like an enchanted book, locked up with an enchanted key and hidden in an enchanted castle. You will not betray me.’

15 July 1942
‘Remember this day; remember it well. You will tell generations to come. Since 8 o’clock today we have been shut away in the ghetto. I live here now. The world is separated from me and I’m separated from the world. The days are terrible and the nights are not at all better. Every day brings more casualties and I keep praying to you, God Almighty, to let me kiss my dear mamma.

Oh, Great One, give us health and strength. Let us live. Hope is shriveling so fast. There are fragrant flowers in front of the house, but who needs flowers? And Zygmunt - I saw him from a distance today, but he hasn’t come over yet. Lord, please protect his dear head. But why can’t I cuddle up next to him? God, let me hug my dear mamma.’

16 July 1942
‘You probably want to know what a closed-off ghetto looks like. Pretty ordinary. Barbed wire all around, with guards watching the gates (a German policeman and Jewish police). Leaving the ghetto without a pass is punishable by death. Inside, there are only our people, close ones, dear ones. Outside, there are strangers. My soul is so very sad. My heart is seized with terror.

I missed Zygus so much today. I thought about him all the time. I’ve longed so much for his caresses, nobody knows how much. After all, we face such a terrible situation. You will help me, Bulus and God.’

Friday, January 25, 2019

The League is the solution

‘Today may be epoch marking in the history of the World. The Peace Conference opened its sessions in Paris with the representatives of the civilized world assembled around the board. It is announced there that the League of Nations will be one of the first - the first - number in the order of business.’ So wrote Breckinridge Long, an American civil servant, on 18 January 1919. A week later - exactly a century ago today - the Conference formally agreed to set up the new international organisation.

A history of the League of Nations can be found at the website of United Nations Office at Geneva. It says the League was ‘born with the will of the victors of the First World War to avoid a repeat of a devastating war’, and that its objective was ‘to maintain universal peace within the framework of the fundamental principles of the Pact accepted by its Members - to develop cooperation among nations and to guarantee them peace and security’.

Wikipedia, of course, also has an article on the League. It explains that even while the First World War was still underway a number of governments and groups had already started developing plans to change the way international relations were carried out. The idea for the League itself appears to have originated with the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, but was taken up by US President Woodrow Wilson. The Paris Peace Conference, convened to build a lasting peace, approved a proposal for the creation of a League of Nations on 25 January 1919; and it came into formal existence a year later on 10 January 1920 (holding its first assembly - see photo - the same month).

In 1919, Breckinridge Long, an American civil servant, was working for the US state department, though he would soon leave it to campaign (unsuccessfully) to become a senator.  Later, in 1933, he would be appointed ambassador to Italy by his friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt). He is largely remembered, Wikipedia says, for obstructing - not always legitimately - the inflow of refugees during the Second World War, a policy for which he was subsequently criticised and demoted. A PBS profile on the man says this: ‘Ultimately, the effect of the immigration policies set by Long’s department was that, during American involvement in the war, 90 percent of the quota places available to immigrants from countries under German and Italian control were never filled. If they had been, an additional 190,000 people could have escaped the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.’

In 1966 University of Nebraska Press published a selection of his diary entries from 1939-1944 - The War Diary of Breckinridge Long. Long’s papers are archived at the Library of Congress, and a further unpublished selection of his diary entries, from much earlier, about the Paris Peace Conference, have been made available online thanks to Charles T. Evans, Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College. Here are a couple of them.

18 January 1919
‘Today may be epoch marking in the history of the World. The Peace Conference opened its sessions in Paris with the representatives of the civilized world assembled around the board. It is announced there that the League of Nations will be one of the first - the first - number in the order of business. President Wilson has won the first of his fights, and will no doubt prevail in establishing a League. It is necessary to the successful work of the Congress that the Nations represented should be in accord. How then could they be bound except by a League? Reverting to the Democratic platform of 1916 it is evident the President had in mind early in 1916 the general terms of peace and the evolution of a League of Nations. He has worked skillfully toward that object ever since.’

26 January 1919
‘The League of Nations. I think I see so clearly the President’s purpose in trying to establish it. The allied and associated governments have been held together by the danger of the common enemy. Now that has ceased to be a binding force. The centripedal forces are exchanged for centrifugal ones. Each nation, except us, has special and in many cases conflicting claims. They are impossible of settlement in detail by the present Conference because it will take too long. It must soon (in 2 or 3 months) adjourn. People are tired of war. They all want peace proclaimed. That means public opinion will soon force it to sign a peace and adjourn. That peace can in the nature of things be only a settlement of 1) The guilt of Germany, including the official persons; 2) The indemnities Germany & Austria must pay and the reparation they shall make; 3) General principles each nation can and will subscribe to as fundamental doctrines, the specific applications of which to certain cases will be determined by sub-committees which will report their findings and recommendations to the next succeeding body, the World Congress, which will receive them and determine the rights, and which will be the League of Nations in Congress assembled. It will be the authoritative body which will work out the details of the matters now before the Peace Conference. He sees the necessity of committing each nation to the general principles but first of having their agreement to the League and their concurrent acceptance of the condition that they shall submit all their differences to the court of last resort. Once the League is subscribed to, they are bound. Without that obligation they might not be able to agree to terms of Peace; one would be trading its desires and claims for the support of another; combinations, of which special interests of each of the combining parties would be the cement, would jeopardize the successful conclusion of all rights on a just basis. The League, once created, is the solution - & is the prime consideration. He sees it. His critics, who demand ‘peace first & then let’s consider the League’ do not see there can be no peace without it - at least no reasonable prospect of an immediate and proper peace without it.’

For another story connecting diaries and the League of Nations, but this time its latter days, see Sean Lester and the League.

This article is a revised version of one first published 10 years ago on 25 January 2009.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The father of anarchism

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, considered by some to be the father of anarchism, was born 210 years ago today. He came from humble, rural origins, was largely self-taught, but nevertheless became one of the ideology’s most influential theorists. Intriguingly, although he kept a diary for the last 20 years of his life, it has never been edited or published, and only a few extracts are available in English - thanks to a biography by the Canadian writer George Woodcock.

Proudhon was born in Besançon, France, on 15 January 1809, the son of a poor tavern keeper. He lacked any early schooling, and was set to work as a cowherd, and in the tavern. Later, funds were found to send him to Besançon school for a while, when they ran out he was apprenticed to a printer. A thirst for learning, though, led him on to self-study at the local library, not least Latin. He went to work at the Gauthier press, becoming a proofreader. As such, his interest in politics was sparked by meeting the utopian socialist Charles Fourier, also from 
Besançon, whose book was being prepared for publication. Similarly, he also became friends with Gustave Fallot, a scholar from Montebéliard.

In 1830, Proudhon became certified as a journeyman compositor, but work was hard to come by. He spent a while in Paris, at the behest of Fallot, where he mingled with Fallot’s learned friends. When a cholera epidemic hit the capital, he returned to Besançon. After a printing venture failed, he decided to pursue a scholarly career, and subsequently won a bursary from the Academy of Besançon allowing him to return to study in Paris. In 1840, he published his first work Qu’est-ce que la propriété? (What Is Property?). In 1943, he moved to Lyon to work for a water transport company, and there became involved with a secret society of weavers called The Mutualists. He adopted some of their views on how associations of workers could bring about change, and later adopted the term Mutualism for his own form anarchism. In 1846, he published his most important work: Système des contradictions économiques ou philosophie de la misère (The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty), in which he opposed some of the ideas of Karl Marx.

In early 1848, Proudhon travelled to Paris, where he edited anarchist periodicals and participated in the February uprising. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly of the Second Republic in June that year, but confined himself mainly to opposing the emergence of authoritarian tendencies. He tried to set up a people’s bank, but was imprisoned in 1849 for criticising the president, Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III). The terms of his imprisonment were light, and he still managed to marry, have a first child, continue editing his papers, and even author two more books: Confessions d’un révolutionnaire (1849) and Idée générale de la révolution au XIXe siècle (1851).

Proudhon was released in 1852, but found his professional life hampered by the imperial police. His three volume De la justice dans la Révolution et dans l’église was seized, and he fled to Belgium. He was sentenced to prison in absentia, and remained in exile until 1862. Returning to Paris, he was again gaining influence among Paris craftsmen, and was among the founders of First International (or International Workingmen’s Association) aiming to unite a wide range of left-wing groups. He died in 1865. Wikipedia provides this summary assessment: ‘He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist, using that term and is widely regarded as one of the ideology’s most influential theorists. Proudhon is even considered by many to be the “father of anarchism” ’. Further biographical information is also available at Encyclopaedia Britannica, Anarchy Archives, Encyclopedia of Marxism or Spartacus Educational.

Proudhon was a committed diarist. He left behind 11 manuscript diaries covering the years from 1843 to 1964. They have never been edited or published (apart from a few extracts in the French periodical La Grande Revue in 1908). However, the Canadian writer and ‘anarchist thinker’, George Woodcock, used the diaries extensively in his 1956 work Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: a biography (Black Rose Books). This ran to a second and third edition (1987); the latter is freely available to view at (‘a resource for all people who wish to fight to improve their lives, their communities and their working conditions’ - i.e. anarchist communism).

Woodcock embedded the diary extracts into his prose, and so mostly they are undated. I’ve chosen the following extracts from the biography to provide examples of Proudhon’s diaries (which I’ve italicised).

‘Nothing is known about his first love beyond the references he himself makes, and these are inexplicit. “I know today,” he was to write in his diary for 1846, “what at twenty made my spirit so full, so loving, so enraptured: what made women seem to me so angelic, so divine; what in my dreams of love (wherein faith in God, in the immortal soul, in religious practice, mingled and combined with faith in infinite love) made my religion so precious to me. . . I was Christian because I was in love, in love because I was Christian - I mean religious.” ’

‘A second reason for doubting Marx’s influence lies in the marked difference between the methods advocated by the two men in connection with the idea of association. Proudhon was opposed to political action, and he hoped, unlike Marx, that the desirable changes in society could be brought about without violence. On the first point he remarks categorically in his diary for the spring of 1845: “The social revolution is seriously compromised if it comes through a political revolution.” On the second point he notes: “The workers, once they are organised and marching through work to the conquest of the world, should in no event make an uprising, but become all by invading all through the force of principle.” Again, he remarks: “No hatred, no hatred. Eliminate by principle.” And he adds a hope of being able “to dispossess the proprietors, at their solicitation and without indemnity.” The latter end he expects to achieve by the creation of economic associations for the exchange of products and for co-operative work, and the scene of the struggle he locates, not in the streets or the parliament house, but in the workshop. “The new socialist movement will begin by . . . the war of the workshop.” ’

‘A new interest which his increased prosperity allowed him to follow at this period was the stage, and many of the more interesting entries in the diary he began this year are concerned with the theatre. He regularly attended the Opera and the playhouses, and wrote perceptive and caustic comments on the performances. After hearing Rossini’s William Tell, for instance, he noted with discrimination: “Tragedy, comedy and music have independently reached a high point of perfection, but as they have not arrived there simultaneously, the performance cannot attain completeness.” And towards the great actress Rachel, whom he saw in Phedre, he reacted in shocked hostility. She seemed to him a personification of the romantic excesses which he regarded as the great disintegrating factor in French art and literature. “From the beginning to the end of the tragedy she acted like an old tart in love with a handsome boy, and in the grip of an attack of hysteria ... When Rachel moves you, it is by grating on your nerves, not by touching your feelings.” ’

‘Yet if he was never led into transports of love, there are enough indications to suggest that he was a more hopeful and a happier man for having met Euphrasie. A passage in his diary for July, 1847, indicates this in an oblique way. “A man marries a woman ten or twelve years younger than himself, in order that his youth may be prolonged all life long ... Up to 15 or 16 years, he has his father, mother and teacher, from 16 to 30 he is young, from 30 to 40 he is young again through his wife, after 40 he is so through his children. Thus youth exists always for man; it is a miracle of love and sympathy.” Euphrasie was fourteen years younger than Proudhon, and he was clearly hopeful of a renewal of mental vigour from his relationship with her.’

‘On the 23rd June he entered in his diary: “The Terror reigns in the capital, not a Terror like that of ’93, but the Terror of the civil and social war . . . What is happening here is what has always been seen: each new idea has its baptism; the first to propagate it - misunderstood and impatient, get themselves killed for too much philosophic independence.” ’

‘A much more disconcerting visitor was George Sand, who, in February, 1852, embarrassed Proudhon by calling on him and Marc Dufraisse. He was surprised to realise that this detested personification of feminist romanticism was not lacking in good qualities, and there is a certain compassion in the way he described her in his diary: “A long, cold, tired face; a woman of great good sense, great good heart and little passion, her speech curt, clear, positive and simple. G. Sand has burnt the candle at both ends, rather, I believe, from fancy than from sensuality or passion. . . . She is too mannish, too poised, too sedate. . . . Nothing in her, nothing, nothing of the feminine!” Yet these impressions seem to have been too fleeting to soften Proudhon’s hostile estimate of George Sand’s performance and influence, and in De la Justice a few years later he was to judge her work with extreme harshness.’

These entries - here as found in Woodcock’s biography - were all written in 1851.
‘3rd December. “Never has such an assault been committed on the good faith of a nation. . . . The insult is too sharp, the nation is lost if it gives in!
4th December. “I rise at 5.30 in the morning: I have had a feverish and inflammatory sleep, with intolerable beating of the arteries. . . If I were free, I would bury myself under the ruins of the Republic with her faithful citizens, or else I would go to live far from a land unworthy of liberty.”
5th December. “How right I was, in 1843, to cry out against that absurdity of universal suffrage. No, the masses are not and will not for a long time be capable of a good action for themselves.
10th December. “Through the defection of the working class, Paris has lost the battle.
14th December. “She [Mme Suchet confirms the news of the] shooting of citizens taken at the barricades. . . Thus, he is not content to defend himself; he has not even recoiled before massacre, before crime. France is under oppression. The insolence of the conquerors knows no bounds; indignation is growing.
15th December. “A sign of Parisian stupidity. Most people go about repeating, with B’s newspapers, that without the coup d’état, we should have had the revolution, that is to say, pillage, arson, murder, robbery. And they have under their eyes the atrocities, the nameless atrocities of the army!” ’

Monday, January 14, 2019

Philippine hero’s birth date

Carlos P. Romulo, one of the most decorated Filipinos in history, was born 120 years ago today. Although there is widespread disagreement across the web about the date of his birth, it’s a diary clue that seems to provide the most reliable date. He was a president of the United Nations General Assembly in its early years, and a long-term foreign minister at home - he served, in one capacity or another, eight Philippine presidents. There is no evidence that he was diarist, but he does feature in the diaries of various other leading politicians of the day, as revealed by The Philippine Diary Project - a database of diary entries concerning Philippine history.

Romulo was born in Intramuros, the historic centre of Manila, on 14 January 1898, though his well-off parents soon moved to live in Camiling, Tarlac, some 150km north of Manila. After graduating from the University of the Philippines in 1918, he studied for a masters at Columbia University. Back in Manila, he was appointed professor of English, and chairman of the English department at University of the Philippines, eventually succeeding to become, first, a regent of the university, and then president. In 1924, he married Virginia Llamas, and they had four sons.

In 1931, Romulo was made editor-in-chief of TVT Publications. In the late 1930s, he helped found the Boy Scouts of the Philippines movement. In 1941, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a series of pioneering articles on the politics of Southeast Asia; and that same year he joined the staff of General Douglas MacArthur as press relations officer. He also served as secretary of information and public relations in the wartime cabinet of Manuel Quezon (for whom he’d acted as secretary earlier in their careers). As aide-de-camp to MacArthur, he rose from the rank of colonel to brigadier general.

In 1945, Romulo acted as Philippine delegate to the United Nations Organization Conference in San Francisco; and he was then Philippine ambassador to the UN from 1946 to 1954 (including a period as president of the General Assembly). In 1950-1951, he acted as secretary of foreign affairs and, from 1952 on (with some gaps) he served as Philippine ambassador to the US. Terms as president of the University of the Philippines and as secretary of education followed, before he returned to the post of secretary/minister of foreign affairs, a position he held from 1968 to 1984. He died in 1985, having become one of the most decorated Filippinos in history. He also published nearly 20 books, politicial, historical, autobiographical and even fiction. Further information is available from a website hosted by The Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, and maintained by Romulo’s great granddaughter (Liana Romulo), Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or the United Nations.

There seems to be an interesting controversy over when Romulo was actually born. The UN website gives his year of birth as 1901, Encyclopaedia Britannica says 1899, and Wikipedia says 1898 at the top of its biography but 1899 in the side box of facts! However, the Romulo website displays several pages from the diary of Romulo’s father, Gregorio Besacruz Romulo. One of the pages, in translation, reads: ‘On 14 of January 1898 at 3:45 pm (Friday) my wife, thank God, happily gave birth to a boy in the house Legaspi No. 19 (Intramuros) and nine days after his birth he was baptized, his godfather Don Enrique Llopis y Becerra (lawyer).

Another entry reads: ‘On Wednesday 23 of March 1898 at 10 am I had my two children Lourdes and Carlos vaccinated - the first was one year and 10 months old; the second [. . .] two months and 9 days old. The doctor who vaccinated them was my friend Don Jose R. Torres, recently licensed.’

There is no evidence that Romulo himself kept a diary, but he does feature in the diaries of several other leading politicians of the time. The excellent Philippine Diary Project contains many diary extracts from Philippine history, and a search for Romulo brings up the following extracts, among others.

Diary of Francis Burton Harrison

24 August 1942
‘Quezon, whom I had not seen for nearly a month, looks well but complains that he cannot make any great effort; and that his blood pressure is still very high. He spends most of the day in a silk dressing wrapper. He was closeted in his room for some time with Carlos Romulo, whom he afterwards characterized to me as politically “foolish” but adds that Romulo is a man who carries out everything entrusted to him.’

9-10 January 1943
‘Bernstein then presented the question of a movie drama in Hollywood, now in course of preparation, showing an American nurse and an American officer’s adventures on Bataan. A Filipino doctor had been proposed, and Romulo considered it, and insisted that he should appear as himself! Quezon said quietly that Romulo did not look sufficiently like a Filipino - was more like a Chinese. Proponed Dr Diño, his personal physician instead - said he was a real Malay type and also had had previous experience of acting.

Knowing as I did, from another source, of the terrific row Romulo and Quezon had recently had over Romulo’s book I saw the Fall of the Philippines, I was somewhat diverted by this calm discussion. Quezon had been so angry with Romulo that he had told him, “to get the hell out of here, and never come back” and had deprived him of his uniform as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Philippine Army when he was on the lecture platform.’

Diary of Antonio de las Alas

19 May 1945
‘Don Vicente Madrigal talked also of Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. He said that Romulo is even rougher and more uncompromising than Confesor and Secretary Cabili. One day he saw copies of the Philippines Herald being sold in the streets. He learned that the newspaper’s daily publication started a week before. Romulo appears as Chief Editor. Don Vicente sent word to Romulo stating that he was glad that the Philippines Herald was already being published. It must be remembered that Don Vicente is practically the owner of the Philippines Herald as he owns the majority of the stocks. Romulo offered his regrets and apology to Don Vicente for not having informed him. Romulo added that the publication of the Herald would have to be suspended as Gen. MacArthur did not want any of the old newspapers to begin publication. Later the Free Philippines began its publication.

When Romulo arrived from the U.S., he did not visit Madrigal nor offer any help to him. Madrigal considers Romulo the most ungrateful man he has ever known. He bought the Herald upon the entreaty of Romulo who did not want the Herald to fall into the hands of the Roceses. He made Romulo the Editor. Romulo wanted to go to Chunking and other places in the Orient to be able to write on the conditions in those places. He had no money, however. Don Vicente granted him an unlimited credit that allowed Romulo to visit many places in the Orient and write a series of articles. These made him very famous in the literary world. The articles earned him the Pulitzer Prize, which also brought in some cash. After all he has done for Romulo, as Mr. Madrigal puts it, Romulo’s attitude of indifference towards him was the height of ingratitude.’

4 July 1945
‘In connection with Romulo again, after the nomination for candidates for Senator in 1941, Romulo, who was an intimate friend of mine, showed coolness towards me. I attributed it to the fact that I was nominated and he was not. His resentment was absolutely unjustified. We all worked for him and we were able to get a big majority in the convention promise support for Romulo. Although Pres. Quezon always said that he wished the convention to act freely, the fact was that he controlled the nominations. He was the one who prepared the list of candidates and the names in his list were the ones nominated in the convention. When we submitted the name of Romulo, the President flatly refused for two reasons: he belonged to the same organization (Philippines Herald) as Don Vicente Madrigal. As Madrigal had already been chosen, Romulo could not be a candidate. The other reason was that he was not supported by a majority of the delegation from his own province, Tarlac. How could he expect other provinces to support him when his own province would not even vote for him? But there was a clear majority in favor of Romulo in the convention. It was probably influenced by the Free Press poll in which he got first place among an array of big men. Because of this, I had been calling him “Senator”. When later I was nominated and he was not, I noticed that he changed, probably believing that if I had not been included he would have been nominated. But it was all in accordance with the desire of President Quezon.’

17 July 1945
‘It was reported that there was a plan to launch a team composed of Osmeña for President and Romulo for Vice President. It is also said that Romulo had declined. It is too bad. We wish Romulo were a candidate so that the people can show that they do not consider Romulo the hero he seems to think he is.’

Diary of Ferdinand E. Marcos

20 February 1970
‘But Romulo is getting senile. That note of his in answer to the stiff protest of the Americans was off the beam. It speaks of there being valid ground for the attacks against the Americans and the Americans to ponder on the solution of the problems between the two countries. I have to replace Romulo soon. This is not the way to treat a wounded ally.’

Friday, January 11, 2019

Curzon’s fate was sealed

‘[Leo] Amery related the important part he played in choice of Baldwin as PM in 1923. [. . .] Amery did not think Curzon suitable on personal grounds as PM. He went round to see Salisbury, who confessed that he had not previously thought that any alternative to Curzon was possible. But eventually he agreed to accepting Baldwin. Amery and Bridgeman immediately went round to Stamfordham’s house: he was already on way to Palace. They caught up with him in St James’s Park. There, standing for about twenty minutes, they convinced Stamfordham, and Curzon’s fate was sealed.’ Today is the 160th anniversary of the birth of Lord Curzon, he who had an illustrious career in India, and then, famously, fell out with Lord Kitchener. Twenty years later, Curzon looked to be a shoe-in for prime minister to replace the dying Bonar Law, but - as this anecdote from the newly-published diaries of Kenneth Rose shows - a few senior Tories with the ear of the Sovereign’s private secretary (Stamfordham) were able to change the course of history.

George Nathaniel, 1st Marquess Curzon, the eldest son of Lord Scarsdale, was born on 11 January 1859, at the family home, Kedlestone Hall, Derbyshire. He was ignored by his parents, and had a tyrannical governess. As a teenager, while riding, he suffered a serious spinal injury which left him needing to wear a corset for the rest of his life. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he was President of the Union. Curzon was soon researching and writing speeches for Lord Salisbury, who, on becoming prime minister, made him assistant private secretary. In 1886, he entered Parliament as Member for Southport. With Salisbury’s approval, Curzon spent much of the next four years travelling widely, largely in Asia, and publishing books on his findings.

In late 1891, Salisbury appointed Curzon to the post of under secretary of state for India. In 1895, he married Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of a Chicago millionaire, and they had three daughters before Mary died, tragically young, in 1906. Also in 1895, Curzon was promoted by Salisbury to under secretary of state for foreign affairs. Four years later, in 1899, he was appointed Viceroy of India. Although his career in India is described as illustrious, at the end he stood down from the Viceroyship following an acrimonious dispute with Lord Kitchener over the organisation of the Indian army. The dispute left him a political outcast for the best part of a decade. He remained busy, however, winning an election to be chancellor of the University of Oxford, a role he took on with zeal.

With the onset of war, Curzon joined the coalition cabinet of Herbert Asquith, and, then, under Lloyd George, took over as leader of the House of Lords with the office of lord president. In 1917, he married Grace Duggan, widow of a rich Argentinian rancher. In the postwar government led by Lloyd George, and then Bonar Law, he was appointed foreign secretary, and painstakingly dealt with the problems of postwar Europe and the near east. Many expected him to become prime minister when the ailing Bonar Law stepped down, but Stanley Baldwin was chosen instead. Curzon died two years later in 1925. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or

Although there is no obvious evidence among Curzon’s archived papers (as listed by the National Archives) that he left behind any diaries, the Richard Cocks Society (about which I can find nothing online) published, in 1985, a book called Lord Curzon’s Japan Diaries, as edited by Anthony Farrington (about which I also know nothing).

However, Kenneth Rose, who wrote a formidable biography of Curzon published in 1969 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) called Superior Person; a portrait of Curzon and his circle in late Victorian England, was a diarist, and his diaries include several substantial entries about Curzon. Rose, who also penned an award-winning biography of King George V, died in 2014, but it is only now that a first collection of his diaries has just been published: Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Journals of Kenneth Rose: Volume One 1944-1979 (Weidenfeld & Nicholson) edited by D. R. Thorpe. Some pages can be previewed at both Googlebooks and Amazon.

Jane Ridley’s review of Journals in Literary Review says: ‘As a history of the Establishment in the second half of the 20th century, these journals will become indispensable and definitive. They are the equivalent for that period of the journals of Harold Nicolson and Chips Channon for the first half, combining sharp observation and anecdote with political and social insights. They are also extremely entertaining.’ And Philip Ziegler in The Spectator has this to say: ‘Kenneth Rose’s diaries do not make history and do not set out to do so. There are no significant revelations which will change the way we look at events or radically alter our judgments of important public figures.  But they do illuminate history and give it life. If one cannot be there oneself then Rose provides as good an apparatus for eaves-dropping as can well be conceived. He deserves our gratitude.’

Here are four extracts from Rose’s diaries about Curzon.

13 July 1950
‘Conversation with Count Sforza [Italian minister of foreign affairs] at Palazzo Chigi, Rome. I asked Sforza for an estimate of Curzon’s character and work. ‘I liked and respected Curzon, but I have never known a man of such blue blood who was so great a snob. Curzon worshipped titles, orders and decorations.’

I asked Sforza whether he had ever spoken to Curzon on subjects other than politics. ‘Generally I enjoy talking to British statesmen on outside subjects. I have talked to Bonar Law of the Canadian temperament, and to Ernest Bevin on religion. But Curzon was a monument, and one cannot speak informally to a monument!’

I asked Sforza how far one should take L.G.’s constant interference into consideration. ‘It is impossible to judge Curzon alone, because L.G. constantly opposed him. I know of no parallel case in which a PM so attacked his Foreign Minister. There was an immense difference in temperament. L.G. was an adventurer and loved confidential talks and secret agents. L.G. wanted his revenge on the upper classes.’

We discussed the conference at Lausanne, 1923. ‘To achieve success, a conference with a beaten enemy must be quick. But Curzon was very verbose, and while he talked, the Turks grew stronger.’ ’

1 May 1951
‘Conversation with Leo Amery [retired Conservative politician] in Eaton Square about Curzon. Amery saw little of him before World War I when the university was appealing for a large fund. Curzon was Chairman of the committee, and asked all its members to write begging letters to friends. Two or three weeks later he summoned them again, and like a schoolmaster asked each person in turn how many they had written. One replied three, another two, etc. And Amery was proud at having sent twenty (dictated) letters. Curzon looked round the committee in scorn. ‘I have written 3,000 letters,’ he said, ‘and all in my own hand!’

Curzon played a great part in bringing about conscription, but by the time he became Foreign Secretary in October 1919 he had lost his grip, and could only argue or write memoranda, never taking bold and immediate action.

Amery was a Secretary to Cabinet Committees. First Cabinet he ever attended was in December 1916. Curzon cleared his throat and began, ‘You may not be aware . . .’. At this point he was interrupted by Balfour. ‘It’s all right, George, we all know you have written a monumental work on Persia!’

In the Conservative Party, Curzon was mistrusted, e.g. House of Lords reform. Amery wanted Asquith to make extra peers and so be forced to reform compositions of the second chamber. But Curzon wanted exclusive H of Lords. In coalition from 1919 to 1922, the government was really in the hands of four men - Winston, Lloyd George, F.E. Smith and Austen Chamberlain. Curzon was rather out of it, and so felt no doubts about leaving coalition in 1922.

Amery related the important part he played in choice of Baldwin as PM in 1923. Amery had gone skiing and met Bonar Law passing through Paris on his return. Amery was told by Bonar Law that he must shortly resign premiership [owing to ill health]. Back in London as First Lord of the Admiralty, Amery was visited by Bridgeman, who had just seen Salisbury. Bridgman told Amery that Curzon was definitely to be PM. This was not unexpected as Curzon had been presiding over Cabinets in absence of B.L. (although B.L. would have preferred Cave to do so). Amery did not think Curzon suitable on personal grounds as PM. He went round to see Salisbury, who confessed that he had not previously thought that any alternative to Curzon was possible. But eventually he agreed to accepting Baldwin. Amery and Bridgeman immediately went round to Stamfordham’s house: he was already on way to Palace. They caught up with him in St James’s Park. There, standing for about twenty minutes, they convinced Stamfordham, and Curzon’s fate was sealed. Later that day Balfour arrived and suggested that Curzon being a peer should be offered as reason for choice of Baldwin: real reason was Curzon’s domineering temperament. Unfortunately, Stamfordham sent a clumsily worded telegram to Curzon, which caused him much unnecessary distress. Curzon was wonderfully magnanimous to Baldwin. Also to Amery, who had thought it his duty to deny Curzon’s greatest ambition.’

13 March 1952
‘Saw the Earl of Halifax about Curzon. Curzon was pathetic in his later years. He was often overruled by the Cabinet and that hurt him very much.

When Curzon laughed he did so from the waist and shook all over.

One day the Cabinet was discussing Oswald Mosley. Curzon expressed the hope that the Cabinet would not be deflected from its proper course by ‘the conduct of my sinister son-in-law’.

Even if Curzon had been in the House of Commons in 1923 he would still not have become Prime Minister. He was too unpopular in his own party.

Halifax agrees that Chamberlain wanted him, Halifax, to be Prime Minister in 1940 - ‘but this was a stupid plan for a variety of reasons'.

The day Curzon died in 1925, Halifax met Lord Salisbury in the street and said to him: ‘Were you a great friend of Curzon?’ Salisbury replied: ‘Yes, I suppose I was, if he had any.’

Halifax once casually mentioned to Curzon that he was going to look at the chateaux on the Loire. The next day he received sheets and sheets and sheets of information about them in Curzon’s own hand.’

24 August 1952
‘Conversation with Sir Thomas Beecham at his Edinburgh hotel, after hearing him conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He drinks iced milk, and I am given sherry and a cigar at 5 p.m.

Much talk about politicians and music. On Curzon - ‘A great statesman, the last of the statesmen. Sometimes, owing to fatigue, he was reticent, restrained and brief. In congenial company, he shone. The three best conversationalists in England were Curzon, Balfour and Harry Cust. Delius was good in argument. George Bernard Shaw did not shine in conversation.

Neither A.J.B. nor Curzon were good at public speaking. Lansdowne was the worst of all at it - but the most charming. Winston Churchill spoke as if with pebbles in his mouth, and had an irritating trick of letting his voice rise at the end of a sentence.

What a pity Curzon did not succeed Bonar Law as PM. Instead, there was Baldwin, who led us onto the rocks, and Neville Chamberlain, who led us into the quicksands.’

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Suffragists of every religion

‘I almost had to pinch myself to make sure that I was alive. Really this day has been one of the happiest of my life - now I have shaken the hands of Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian suffragists, and I’ve seen many a Christian missionary show contempt for the cause. [. . .] And I am in China - China!!!.’ Carrie Chapman Catt, born 160 years ago today, was a powerful figure in the American women’s right movement, leading up to adoption of women’s suffrage in 1920. She was also an important figure in the international movement for women’s suffrage, travelling widely, not least to China. She kept diaries on these travels, none of which have been published, although one biography does contain some extracts.

Carrie Lane was born on 9 January 1859 (though some sources give 9 February) in Ripon, Wisconsin, but moved to Charles City, Iowa, when seven. She studied at Iowa Agricultural College (now the state university), where she joined the Crescent Literary Society and helped bring about a change to the rules so as to allow women to speak. She also started an all-female debating club. She graduated with science degree in 1880, becoming a teacher and then a superintendent of schools in Mason City, the first woman to take that role in the district. In 1885, she married Leo Chapman, a newspaper editor, though he died the following year of typhoid. Subsequently, she worked as a reporter in San Francisco, again the first woman to do so in the city.

In 1887, Catt returned to Charles City; and in 1890, she married George Catt, a wealthy engineer, who supported her campaigning for women’s suffrage. She served as state organiser for the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, and then began working nationally for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In 1892, she was asked by Susan B. Anthony to address Congress on proposed changes to woman’s suffrage. Catt, herself, was twice elected president of NAWSA, in 1900-1904 (she resigned early due to her husband’s ill health - he died in 1905) and 1915-1920. During her second term especially, Catt successfully led NAWSA and the suffrage movement in general to win support from President Woodrow Wilson in 1918, and to the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which prohibits US states and federal government from denying the right to vote to US citizens on the basis of sex) in 1920.

In 1902, Catt had helped found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and was its president from 1904 to 1923. Thereafter, she continued to remain an active campaigner for women’s suffrage internationally. In the 1920s and 1930, she embraced the peace movement, and turned her focus towards anti-war causes, being particularly active in campaigning to change immigration laws so that Jews, being persecuted in Germany, could more easily take refuge in the US. For her efforts she was rewarded with the American Hebrew Medal. In 1941, she received the Chi Omega award at the White House from her longtime friend Eleanor Roosevelt. After the death of her second husband, Catt had two long-term close friendships with, first, Mollie Hay, and then Alda Wilson. Catt died in 1947. Further information is readily available online, from Wikipedia, Wisconsin Historical Society, Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home and Interpretive Center, Historical Dictionary of the 1940s, and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Some pages of Kristin Thoennes Keller’s biography, Carrie Chapman Catt: A Voice for Women (Compass Point Books, 2006) can be previewed at Googlebooks.

Catt seems to have been a busy diarist when travelling. The Library of Congress has some of her diaries, but those from her 1911-1912 round-the-world trip are held by University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. The latter gives the following summary of its holdings: ‘Diaries of Carrie Chapman Catt, a noted leader in the woman suffrage movement, written during a trip around the world. Included are descriptions of places, people, and activities, including meetings with women's suffrage groups and their leaders; details of daily life; and commentary on area politics. The diaries are especially detailed for Catt’s visits to Palestine, South Africa, Ceylon, India, the East Indies, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan. Most of the diaries are original with some typewritten copies and some summaries written later by Catt.’

The only source online I can find for information on these diaries is Jacqueline Van Voris’s biography, Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life (The Feminist Press, 1987). This can be previewed at Googlebooks and Amazon. Van Voris makes the following general comment: ‘Running through Catt’s diary is a startled appreciation at discovering women who had been fighting bigotry and sex prejudice all their lives. She was gratified to find feminists everywhere: often the women were not aware that they were part of a worldwide movement.’

In one annotation, Van Voris explains: ‘There are eight typewritten diaries of varying lengths covering Catt’s trip around the world in 1911-12. The diaries are neatly typed on standard 8½" by 11" paper. Throughout Catt pasted postcards, some newspaper clippings, and a few snapshots. [. . .] The collection consists of 589 pages as follows: 1. South Africa, 181 pages; 2. the Holy Land, 55 pages; 3. Ceylon, 31 pages; 4. India and Sumatra, 46 pages; 5. Java, 98 pages; 6. the Philippines, 39 pages; 7. China, 95 pages; 8. Korea, Japan, and Hawaii, 44 pages.’ Elsewhere, in another annotation, Van Voris records: ‘Catt kept a diary of her travels in Europe and South America from October 8, 1922 to March 17, 1923. It had apparently been started in 1917 (although she later misdated it 1916) but had only three days’ entries. Catt had come across it when she was cleaning out her apartment and decided to keep it on this trip.’

Here is one extract from Catt’s diary quoted by Van Voris. ‘We met nine splendid, sweet, refined, enthusiastic, hopeful, lovable young women, and three equally splendid young men. We told them about the Alliance and that we wanted to have China join it. We asked them what they had done and were doing. What a splendid story they told us. I almost had to pinch myself to make sure that I was alive. Really this day has been one of the happiest of my life - now I have shaken the hands of Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian suffragists, and I’ve seen many a Christian missionary show contempt for the cause. How curious is the plan for the onward march of the world’s army of humans! Now my dear Chinese suffragists are going to give me a reception. And I am in China - China!!!.’ Van Voris adds this comment; ‘Catt did not use exclamation points often but in her excitement she splattered her diary with them.’