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FROM KHARTOUM TO LONDON_CONTINUED
I was immensely impressed with my whole visit to Rome. I attended a dinner given me by Mayor Nathan, the Syndic, and his colleagues of the municipal council. Mayor Nathan was a Jew, who spoke excellent English, and was apparently a good public servant. When I dined with him I had already taken lunch with a number of Members of the Administration, sitting beside the Prime Minister, also a Jew, and a man of more intellectual type than Nathan. Think what a contrast this meant! In the Eternal City, in the realm of the popes, the home of the Ghetto, I lunched sitting beside one Jew who was Prime Minister of Italy, and dined as the guest of another Jew who was the head of the Roman Government itself! The Prime Minister and his colleagues struck me as upright men, sympathizing with liberal and progressive ideas, and anxious to do justice, and also on the whole as cultivated men, well read, and, in short, good fellows; but they did not strike me as possessing very great force. Mayor Nathan was precisely like many an American municipal politician of good type. He would have been quite at home as Reform Mayor of any American city of the second class. Among his colleagues were a number of Socialists, mostly parlor or study Socialists of the Latin type, well-meaning people with lofty aspirations, wild eyes, and a tendency to pay over-much heed to fine phrases. What I saw of Italy made me feel that there was infinite need for radical action toward the betterment of social and industrial conditions; and this made me feel a very strong sympathy with some of the Socialistic aims, and a very profound distrust of most of the Socialistic methods.
The king and queen were delightful people. I had already seen the king, for when I was on my way to Africa he had come down in a battleship to Messina, and at his request I had gone aboard the battleship and had been presented to him; and I had a very genuine respect for him. Moreover, I found him most companionable. There were many things in which both of us were interested, from big game hunting to history and social progress. Some time before he had written asking me to come on a shooting trip with him after ibex, and I was genuinely sorry to refuse; and when I made my formal call upon him he showed me the heads of all kinds of game animals, including for instance the very rare South Italian chamois; and he showed that he took much more than a pure sportsman's interest in them. As for his general reading, I need only mention that I found on his desk, open, a copy of Mahaffy's 'Empire of the Ptolemies,' in which he was interested. I have always had a liking for the early history of the House of Savoy. Happening to say that I supposed that the fact that the House of Savoy had elected to live under Roman and not under Lombard law indicated that it was probably of native and not of invading Germanic origin, the king at once became interested and he told me many queer incidents of early Savoy history; and showed us his noteworthy collection of Savoyard coins, from the earliest to modern times. While I was President he had sent me, together with a handsome edition of Dante, a score of volumes of the original reports and papers of Eugene of Savoy-one of my favorite heroes.
The king showed that he was deeply and intelligently interested in every movement for social reform, and was not only astonishingly liberal but even radical, sympathizing with many of the purposes and doctrines of the Socialists. He took me in to see his children, who were well behaved and simple. When I spoke of how well the queen was bringing them up, he laughed and said, yes, he wished his son to be so trained that if necessary he would be fit to be the First President of the Italian Republic. Later he
called for me at the hotel, causing thereby frightful agitation among the hotel attendants and guests, and spent a morning driving me round the city-I had already made the correct formal calls and had left a wreath on Victor Emmanuel's tomb in the Pantheon. He slightly embarrassed me by making me sit on the right-hand in the carriage, as almost all the kings did—I suppose on the theory that I was a kind of ex-sovereign myself; I always wished they wouldn't do it, but after one or two trials I made no further protest, as it always became evident that if I insisted on sitting on the left-hand I should cause a fuss, which was just exactly what I was desirous of not doing. He took me to the cavalry school, where I was greatly impressed by the riding of his officers, and especially by the way in which they took their horses down well-nigh perpendicular banks. Evidently he knew the army and its needs just as he knew the civil and social needs of the country; and in fact I do not see how Italy could have a more intelligent, devoted, and sympathetic ruler. I told him I wished we had a few men like him in the Senate! He asked usMrs. Roosevelt and 1-to drive out with him and the Queen and spend a day and a couple of nights at their country place not far from Rome, saying that they would dig out some badgers—I think it was badgers—but we had so many other engagements and were so pressed for time that, as he asked me to say frankly whether it would be convenient or not, I begged off, stating that we would infinitely rather go with him to his place, but that it would cause us serious inconvenience in keeping our other engagements; and he at once acquiesced, being as considerate as possible. In a way, I should have liked to see more of him; but after all I am doubtful whether it would have been worth while, for even with the pleasantest and kindliest king there must of necessity be a little that is artificial in association with a civilian foreigner, and especially a civilian foreigner from a huge overseas democracy. To have gone with him on a hunt, where we should have had a real object in common, or to have met him while I was President, when also we would have had interests in common, would of course have been an entirely different thing.
I thoroughly liked and respected almost all the various kings and queens I met; they struck me as serious people, with charming manners, devoted to their people and anxious to justify their own positions by the way they did their duty—it is no disparagement to their good intentions and disinterestedness to add that each sovereign was obviously conscious that he was looking a possible republic in the face, which was naturally an incentive to good conduct; I was very glad to have met them; and it was pleasant to see them for a short while; but longer intercourse, or renewed intercourse, would have been unnatural unless there had been, as there was not, some real intellectual interest, or other bond in common, and if there was any such, it happened not to develop itself.
I was much amused, by the way, when I reached Rome, at finding that our Ambassador was engaged in an intricate controversy with the puffy-faced, entirely pompous and well-meaning local baron who was Court Marshal or Master of Ceremonies, or something of the sort; the Ambassador wishing to have me treated with the courtesies granted a visiting sovereign, and the Court Marshal taking the entirely proper view that I was simply a private citizen, with no title or no claim to any precedence. I hastily interfered, telling the Ambassador that I absolutely shared the views of his opponent, that I wished him himself to act upon, and to notify all our other ambassadors that they were to act upon, the theory that I was purely a private citizen, with no claim to any position of precedence at all, and that at any function, formal or informal, I should be perfectly happy to walk or sit or stand anywhere, and below any one, just as the local people desired—or not to appear at all, unless they expressly wished it. I added that I was really speaking less in a spirit of humility than of pride. I have a hearty and sincere respect for a king who does his duty and acts decently, and am delighted to show him any kind of formal courtesy which is customary; but I have no patience with a sham and least of all a snobbish sham; and of all snobbish shams there is none more contemptible than that of the democrat who loudly contends that he is such and yet wishes in private or public life to grasp privileges which give the lie to his contention. To me there is something fine in the American theory that a private citizen can be chosen by the people to occupy a position as great as that of the mightiest monarch, and to exercise a power which may for the time being surpass that of Czar, Kaiser, or Pope, and that then, after having filled this position, the man shall leave it as an unpensioned private citizen, who goes back into the ranks of his fellow-citizens with entire self-respect, claiming nothing save what on his own individual merits he is entitled to receive. But it is not in the least fine, it is vulgar and foolish, for the President or ex-President to make believe, and, of all things in the world, to feel pleased if other people make believe, that he is a kind of second-rate or imitation king. It is as if a Roman ex-dictator wished to be treated like a king of Pergamum or Antioch! The effort to combine incompatibles merely makes a man look foolish. The positions of President and King are totally different in kind and degree; and it is silly, and worse than silly, to forget this. It is not of much consequence whether other people accept the American theory of the Presidency; but it is of very much consequence that the American people, including especially any American who has held the office, shall accept the theory and live up to it.
However, in this case, the Italian king insisted upon treating me upon “the most favored guest” principle. When we dined at the palace, by the way, I struck one bit of etiquette which I did not strike at any other court. I had endeavored to dispose of my hat when I left my coat in the anteroom, but it was returned to me with every symptom of surprise and horror, and as the other male members among the guests retained theirs, I went on with mine. When the royal party came in, and I was brought up to the queen to take her in to dinner, I again thought it was