March 12, (1918)
Nothing talked of at Cabinet that would interest a nation, a family, or a child. No talk of the war. No talk of Russia or Japan. Talk by McAdoo about some bills in Congress, by the President about giving the veterans of the Spanish war leave, with pay, to attend their annual encampment. And he treated this seriously as if it were a matter of first importance! No word from Baker nor mention of his mission or his doings. ...
TO FRANKLIN K. LANE, JR.
SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE
Washington, February 15, 1918
My dear boy,—... We are anxiously awaiting some word telling where you are, what you are doing, and how you got on in your trip. I thought your cablegram was a model of condensation, quite like that of Caesar, “Veni, vidi, vici.” ...
Sergeant Empey has just left the office with a letter to the Secretary of War, asking that he be given a commission. He has been lecturing among the cantonments and wants to get back to France. ... He says that the boys in the cantonments are anxious to go across, and that they are beginning to criticise us because they do not have their chance. But they will all get there soon enough for them. Our national problem is to get ships to carry them, and to carry the food for the Allies. ... We have undertaken to supply a certain amount of food to the other side, and our contract, so far, has not been fulfilled. During December and January, however, this was, of course, due to railroad conditions.
You are a long way off, but you must not visualize the distance. Nothing so breaks the spirit as to dwell upon unfortunate facts. Some one day or another you had to leave the nest, and this is your day for flying. Wherever you are, with people whose language you understand only imperfectly, with a civilization that is somewhat strange, and under conditions that often-times will be trying, don’t adopt the usual attitude of the American in a foreign country and wonder “why the damn fools don’t speak English.” No doubt some of the French will pity you because of your delinquency in their language.
Another thing that differentiates us from other people is our lavishness in expenditure, and in what appears to us to be their “nearness.” ... From these same thrifty French have come great things. They have always been great soldiers; they have led the world in the arts, especially in poetry, painting and fiction— perhaps, too, I should add architecture. So that men who are careful of their pennies are not necessarily small in their minds. ...
I have less doubt, however, of your ability to get on with the Frenchman than I have with the Englishman. ... You will have difficulty—at least I should—in understanding the rather heavy, sober, non-humorous Englishman. ... He is always a self-important gentleman who regards England as having spoken pretty much the last word in all things, and who will abuse his own country, his countrymen, and institutions, frankly and with abandon, but will allow no one else this liberty. He is not a “quitter” though, and he has done his bit through the centuries for the making of the world.