American Diplomacy
Letters from Readers

February 2000

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Letters from Readers
January 1, 2000

I hope you can help me out with some information. I am from Canada and trying to learn about American history and in particular U.S. presidents. I came across the following question in a quiz and despite my best efforts, I have not been able to find an answer. I have searched various web sites and sources to no avail. Your site has an extensive amount of information with regards to presidents and military service so that is why I am sending the question to you. Here it is: “Who was the only U.S. president to actively lead troops while in office?” Any help you can provide will be much appreciated.

Bill Mitton


Good question. I don’t know the answer off hand myself, and I claim to know a bit about U.S. presidents & their military service. I would guess that George Washington is the answer, that is, he possibly led troops to put down something like the Whiskey Rebellion during his first term in office. But I’ll have to look into this and get back to you. Are you sure that someone actually did?   ~Ed.

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February 5, 2000

I am currently researching the life of Mr. John Clark Higgins, American Consul in Dundee, between 1897 and 1909. As part of this study I have copies of consular inspection reports, obtained from the National Archives in Washington, relating to Consul Higgins’ effectiveness in promoting American trade expansion over that period.

Mr. Higgins was personally appointed to the Consulate in Dundee by President McKinley, as a “family favour”.

What particularly interests me is the role of these inspection reports would have had in his “sacking” on the grounds of inefficiency. The assessment of his ability seems at odds with the clear fondness he achieved with those in Dundee, who classed him better than the two previous Consuls, covering 1886-87 period.

Firstly, on several pages in these reports a rubber stamped “recorded efficiency in report” has been placed in the column where any comment detrimental to the Consul’s activity is noted. Do you know how these inspection and efficiency reports were assessed? The inspector himself admits of not understanding the Dundee environment, yet, complains of Mr. Higgins in terms of the Consul’s assessment of the trade opportunities and his reluctance “to be considered obtrusive.” Is this evidence of centralized control based in Washington failing to accept the intelligence delivered by delegated authority? The stories of Consuls Straight in Manchuria and Sutton in Mexico spring to mind as a contrasting comparison. Is this fair?

Secondly, on his sacking, which, I have no evidence of the analysis for the action. Mr. Higgins’ brother, Anthony Higgins (ex-Senator from Delaware), had written to the President with a five page support of the Consul (missing, I think?), on I think, 7th of May 1909, calling for the President to reassess Consul Higgins’ claim and asking to recall the Senate to do so. In the response on 14th May, it was claimed a recall and reassessment was not in the “public interest” to do so. It also indicated that the Senate had appointed Mr. Higgins’ successor on the 1st of May. Would this indicate that Mr. Higgins had no right of appear and therefore infringing the 14th Amendment?

Thirdly, was this type of sacking a common occurrence?

How important were such Consuls in the development of trade expansion strategies? If Mr. Higgins was personally appointed to Dundee by the President does that mean the office in Dundee was an important one? How would he have been informed of his sacking? What would have been the process of appeal, if he indeed, he had such a right? How many consulates and consuls did America have around the World at the beginning of the 1900s?

The Higgins story seems an interesting one as it would tell me more of the Dundee-American commercial relationship, a complex and intriguing one. The Dundee Consulate office seems to have played an important part in trade development in the 1840 period onwards. I hope you can help me answer these or relating questions.

Graham Duncan
Dundee, Scotland
Email: dbtgd@tay.ac.uk

Mr. Duncan,

You raise several interesting questions, detailed answers to which I don’t have at hand and would be unable to provide without doing considerable research, I’m afraid. I note, however, that the U.S. Consular Service of that day was a highly politicized branch of the U.S. Government: appointments were made based largely on the political influence of an individual with the political party in power in the the White House, not necessarily on experience or qualifications. Might I suggest that you peruse my book published about ten years ago by Kent State Univ. Press. So, the individual you’re interested in may have gotten himself caught up in the political buzzsaw; it may have been much more a function of the timing of his problem. Have you checked the dates against possible changes of administration in Washington? There’s not much more I can provide in the way of illumination at this moment, but I am interested in the subject. Would you please keep me informed of any further light you’re able to shed on the matter?   ~Ed.

MORE Letters from Readers . . .

January 24, 2000

One of the wisest and most far-reaching decisions made by the U.S. Government at the end of World War II was to NOT prosecute Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal, but on the contrary, to leave him on the throne, thus putting a revered Japanese face on our occupation of Japan. [See editorial, The Best and the Rest, in the present issue of this journal.]

We installed General MacArthur as Shogun—the power behind the throne. This was a position well known to and accepted by the Japanese people, at least since the beginning of the Tokugawa period in the seventeenth century. MacArthur did not occupy any portion of the Imperial Palace, but installed himself in a modern office building—the Dai Ichi (Number One) building—across the moat from the palace.

Had Truman followed the urgings of some of his more vengeful advisors and removed/prosecuted the Emperor, we would have faced probably armed resistance in many parts of Japan instead of the willing cooperation we actually received, which I personally witnessed in 1947-48. And it is hard to say what kind of peace treaty we would have had, or what effect the certain resistance would have had on the political and industria1 developmont of Japan. We would not have had Japan as a dependable ally against the attempted (and still ongoing) Marxist domination of East Asia and the Western Pacific. And any failure by Japan to develop industrially, as it in fact did, would have had a negative inmpact on our own technological/ industrial development. It is a truism (disputed by Marxists and the teachers unions) that competition improves everything. Where would our industries, such as automotive, be now had they not faced serious competition from smaller, better Japanese cars and other products?

In short, Japan is what it is today in large part because of one wise and far-seeing decision. We obviously had learned something from the harsh treatment dealt out to Germany after WW I and its results.

J. Edgar Williams
Fearrington, NC

The foregoing, written by a member of American Diplomacy’s editorial review board, was sent as comment on the editorial in the current issue of the journal. Retired diplomat Ed Williams served as a U.S. Army officer in Japan shortly after the end of the Second World War.    ~Ed.

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Commentary on Current Issues

Mackinder's World

“No one understood better the important relationship between geography and world history than the great British geographer, Halford John Mackinder. . . . Mackinder had “a strong curiosity about natural phenomena, . . . a love of the history of travel and exploration, an interest in international affairs, and a passion for making maps.’ . . . Mackinder pointed out that although the ‘physical facts of geography have remained substantially the same during … recorded human history,’ it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that the globe became, in political terms, a ‘closed system’.” [FULL TEXT]

America and the World at the Dawn of a New Century

It is even possible that the United States will cease to exist as we know it over the next century, either because Mexican immigrants reconquer the Southwest, or because American society fragments into hostile ethnic and special interest groups, or because of some unforeseen breakdown in our constitutional government. Conversely, the U.S. may cease to exist as we know it by merging into some larger entity, for instance a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Association uniting the European Union and North America.” [FULL TEXT]

Los Principios de Primacía y Operatividad en el Derecho Comunitario como Fundamentos para la Integración de Latinoamérica

“El objetivo de la creación de un gran mercado común, al cual se consagran los tratados fundacionales de las Comunidades Europeas, se pretende conseguir esencialmente mediante el recurso de un doble mecanismo, relacionado por vínculos estrechamente interdependientes: por una parte, estableciendo un conjunto de obligaciones entre los Estados comprometidos en el proceso; y, por la otra, creando un conjunto de instituciones nuevas, comunes y diferentes de los Estados miembros y dotados de competencias para velar por el cumplimiento de las obligaciones de éstos. Lo relevante en el presente estudio es el primer aspecto.[FULL TEXT]

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