Cary T. Grayson Diary


Cary T. Grayson Diary


Grayson, Cary T. (Cary Travers), 1878-1938




1922 January 11


Cary T. Grayson describes a luncheon with Arthur J. Balfour.


Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia





I had luncheon with the Right Honorable Arthur James Balfour at 1:30 o’clock today (January 11, 1922) in his apartments at 1302 Eighteenth Street, NW. Those present were: Mr. Balfour, Mrs. Grayson, Mr. Peterson (Mr. Balfour’s Secretary), and myself. It was snowing and Washington was in the path of a heavy storm which was raging all along the Atlantic Coast.

Mr. Balfour came in about fifteen minutes late and expressed regret that he had been “button-holed” by several people as he was leaving the Conference on the Limitation of Armament, which was holding its final sessions. He seemed to miss Sir Maurice Hankey while in Washington, for he said that Sir Maurice always “unbuttoned” him on such occasions. Sir Maurice Hankey was attending to some matters for Mr. Balfour so that he was unable, as Mr. Balfour said, to “unbutton” him, as he usually did on occasions of this kind.

Mr. Balfour, after apologizing for being late, remarked: “It is very fine to see you again, and it is particularly fine to see you looking so well.” I told him that it gave me pleasure to be able to return the compliment - that he too was looking remarkably well. He responded by saying that he rather prided himself on the fact that he did not show that he was seventy-four years of age. He said: “I play tennis whenever I get an opportunity and also golf. My only trouble now is that I am a little deaf in my right ear.”

Mr. Balfour suddenly turned the subject of our conversation. “Have you seen many of our old friends from Paris?”, he asked. After I had answered his question, he inquired as to Mr. Wilson’s health. “I fancy”, he said, “that Mr. Wilson’s condition is much like that of Mr. Chamberlain’s illness, although I suppose Mr. Chamberlain was really worse than Mr. Wilson, for Mr. Chamberlain’s speech was badly affected. I had considerable difficulty in understanding him, but he usually had one of his daughters present - they could understand him better than anyone else.” He then dwelt upon the sadness of Mr. Wilson’s illness, coming as it did at such an untimely period in the world’s affairs. He said: “Mr. Wilson is unquestionably the greatest man of the age, and the things that he stood for - and I mean chiefly the League of Nations - are eternal. I am a firm believer in the ultimate success of the League. If it “blew up to the skies” now, it would be well worth all that has been done. It has accomplished more - much more - than the people as a whole realize. It has stopped wars already - several wars - the most recent being that between Servia and Albania - by bringing economic pressure to bear. If anything could cause the defeat of the purposes of the League it would be the petty and sordid objections, magnified by political intrigue, against the paying of a very moderate tax for the maintenance of the League. Few have had vision enough to see that what this body is doing is for the good of all; in other words, that what is being done for any one part is naturally beneficial to the whole. I have been sent here on a different job task, and, therefore, I must restrain myself, but I should like very much to have an opportunity to make a speech on the League of Nations. I have watched this country with the deepest interest and I firmly believe that the defeat of the League of Nations ‘out here’ was due to lack of understanding and to misrepresentation. I feel that I know as much about it (the League) as anybody, because I have made a thorough and exhaustive study of it -- I have been a member of the Council and have attended nearly all of its meetings -- and I must repeat that I feel that it is a decided success so far. Moreover, I am convinced that nothing can take the place of the League of Nations - nothing can be substituted for it.”

Mr. Balfour was anxious to know how much of an interest Mr. Wilson was taking now in world affairs, and whether he kept in touch with the changing conditions not only in this country but in the world at large. He said: “I enjoyed my visit with Mr. Wilson very much. I hope that you are keeping notes about this important man. The things that may seem to you so very trivial now may be of very great importance later. You should write everything that you possibly can about him.”

Mr. Balfour inquired whether Mr. Wilson read much. I told him that he had difficulty in holding a book. He replied: “There are so many artificial means in the way of stands and book-rests that I hope he will not let his crippled hand interfere with his pleasure of reading.” I said that Mr. Wilson was very fond of being read to, and that he had only recently told me how fortunate he was in having his brother-in-law, Dr. Stockton Axson, in Washington the past six months, Mr. Wilson remarking that it was a pleasure to have Dr. Axson read to him for he (Dr. Axson) was such an excellent reader and a man of letters. I also told Mr. Balfour that Mrs. Wilson frequently reads to Mr. Wilson, while in the evenings Mr. Wilson devotes a part of his time to reading the daily papers himself - more so than he ever did while in public life.

Mr. Balfour said that he did not want to leave Washington without seeing Mr. Wilson again, and he inquired whether I thought it would be all right for him to write a note to Mr. Wilson asking if he might call to have a good-bye visit with him, as he expected to sail for England about January twenty-fifth. I replied that I felt sure Mr. Wilson would be delighted to see him, as he had expressed the warmest admiration for him and was especially pleased with his (Mr. Balfour’s) previous visit -- all of which seemed to please Mr. Balfour.

In the course of the luncheon Mr. Balfour commented on Marshal Foch’s visit to Mr. Wilson’s residence in S Street. He said: “I judge Foch’s visit was misrepresented by the newspapers, for I noticed in some of the American papers that Mr. Wilson was represented as not liking Foch. I think that must have been a mistake, for my impression was that Mr. Wilson had a high regard for Marshal Foch personally. I know that Mr. Wilson and some others of us differed with Foch in regard to his (Foch’s) ideas and plans to build up a French army along parallel lines with the German war machine. Clemenceau strongly opposed Foch in this project. But as to the inference in the newspaper articles that Mr. Wilson did not like Foch personally, I cannot agree.” I replied to Mr. Balfour by saying that Mr. Wilson was acutely sick that morning, whereupon Mr. Balfour remarked: “I thoroughly understand; it was just one of those unfortunate circumstances.”

Mr. Balfour continued the conversation by saying: “I am sorry to note that your press is a bit unreliable, which, however, is not confined to America, for we have some papers also which can be placed in this category. But some of your papers here are even worse than the French papers in this respect - and that is saying a good deal.” He continued: “Some of the press men are spoiled. Of this I would like to give you an example: I was visiting Mr. Garrett in Baltimore, who is Secretary-General of the Conference, and a number of guests were present at dinner. At the conclusion of the dinner we enjoyed coffee, some of the guests smoked (Mr. Balfour it will be noted never smokes), and all joined in social conversation. While talking casually with one of the guests I expressed my views on prohibition. This guest, who happened to be a newspaper man, published my expressions in the form of an interview. I am not saying that what he quoted me as uttering was not correct, but what I did say to him was said in a private, personal conversation. Notwithstanding this, it was published as an interview. As a visitor to the United States it would have been grossly impertinent for me to express an opinion on a domestic question of this kind. I came here in reality as a guest of the Nation as one of the representatives of Great Britain in an official capacity, and it would have been entirely out of place for me to express myself openly in this way. Such a thing could very readily be construed as an act of impertinence, and of this I would of course not be guilty.” Any one who appreciates Mr. Balfour’s preeminent position in the world’s diplomatic life of today can fully realize his feelings in this matter.

The conversation then drifted to prohibition and Mr. Balfour said: “Last evening I was at a dinner given by the “Secretary for War” and a Member of the Cabinet (Mr. Hoover) who was present said that he predicted that prohibition would not only invade England like a creeping disease but would spread all over the world. Personally, I do not believe that prohibition will invade England, but this Member of the Cabinet felt very confident that prohbition would eventually prevail in Japan and in England.”

Mr. Balfour wanted to know just what made alcohol so poisonous and I informed him that it contained fusel oil, which was composed of alcoholic acids, and another chemical compound called “esters”, which has a deleterious effect on the nervous system.

Mr. Balfour then inquired whether I kept up a correspondence with Lord Derby, formerly the British Ambassador to France. I told him that I did, and he said that Lord Derby had expressed the hope that I would visit him. I said: “Lord Derby assured me when I was in Paris at the Peace Conference that he would always have room for me. Last Christmas he sent me a picture of “Knowsley”, his home, (it is one of the largest residences in England), and after looking at that picture I felt sure that he would have room for me.” Mr. Balfour said: “It is a gorgeous place, and the only objection I have to it is that it is too near the city of Liverpool.”

Just as we left the luncheon table Ambassador Geddes (the British Ambassador to the United States) was announced. Mr. Balfour said: “I know the Ambassador wants to talk business but we will not stand for that now.” Thereupon we all seated ourselves and carried on a general conversation for quite awhile. Ambassador Geddes told Mr. Balfour about a delightful visit he had with Judge John Barton Payne (of the American Red Cross) and me to Richmond, Williamsburg (William and Mary College), Yorktown and Jamestown, and commented on the pleasure which the visit to these interesting places afforded him. He called particular attention to some amusing incidents of the trip, stressing the fact that he had come in contact during the course of the trip with some good old friends of mine. The Ambassador said: “I emphasize the “goodfriend”, for while we were in a strictly prohibition district a friend of the Admiral’s called to see us at about two o’clock in the morning, woke us up, and remarked to the Admiral: ‘Cary, I don’t want you and your friends to go away without having this to take along with you’; and he left a large bottle of red whiskey! We carried this bottle with us to Yorktown and escorted it carefully the remainder of the trip, finally depositing it in the Admiral’s cellar with his other medicinal preparations. Now, Judge Payne and I are looking forward to having the contents divided some day into three parts.” Mr. Balfour was very much amused.

Mr. Balfour dwelt briefly on MONTICELLO, the home of Thomas Jefferson, and made inquiry as to the present owner of this most historic place. He said: “I would think the Government would like to own a shrine like that. It is too bad that there are no direct descendants of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason.” Whereupon the Ambassador told him that I was a direct descendant of George Mason, my grandmother being the granddaughter of George Mason. Mr. Balfour said: “Yes, that may be, but you haven’t the Mason name. I mean a descendant by the name of Mason.”

At this juncture Mrs. Grayson suggested that Mr. Balfour and the Ambassador were very busy, so we thanked Mr. Balfour for a delightful luncheon and left. Before shaking hands, however, Mr. Balfour said: “It is fine to see you and I hope I shall see you again before I return home.”

It is interesting to note that this foremost diplomat and statesman made no reference whatever during the luncheon to the proceedings of the Conference on the Limitation of Armament now in seesion here in Washington.

Original Format




Grayson, Cary T. (Cary Travers), 1878-1938, “Cary T. Grayson Diary,” 1922 January 11, WWP16412, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.