James W. Gerard

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James Watson Gerard

James Watson Gerard (August 25, 1867 – September 6, 1951) was a United States lawyer and diplomat.

Biography[edit]

Gerard was born in Geneseo, New York. He graduated from Columbia University (A.B. 1890; A.M. 1891) and from New York Law School (LL.B. 1892). He was chairman of the Democratic campaign committee of New York County for four years. He served on the National Guard of the State of New York for four years. He served through the Spanish-American War (1898) on the staff of General McCoskry Butt. From 1900 to 1904 he was quartermaster, with the rank of major, of the 1st Brigade of the Guard.[1] He was appointed to the New York Supreme Court in 1908, where he served as a justice until 1911. Under President Woodrow Wilson, he served as the American Ambassador to Germany[2] from 1913 to 1917.

In 1914, Gerard was the Democratic (Tammany Hall) candidate for U.S. Senator from New York. He defeated Anti-Tammany candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Democratic primary, but lost the election to James W. Wadsworth, Jr.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Gerard assumed the care of British interests in Germany, later visiting the camps where British prisoners were confined and doing much to alleviate their condition. His responsibilities were further increased by the fact that German interests in France, Great Britain, and Russia were placed in the care of the United States embassies in those countries, the United States embassy in Berlin thus becoming a sort of clearing house. From first-hand knowledge he was able to settle the question, much disputed among the Germans themselves, as to the official attitude of the German government toward the violation of Belgian neutrality.[1]

At the request of Gottlieb von Jagow, after the fall of Liège, he served as intermediary for offering the Belgians peace and indemnity if they would grant passage of German troops through their country. On August 10, 1914, the Kaiser placed in Gerard's hands a telegram addressed personally to President Wilson declaring that Belgian neutrality “had to be violated by Germany on strategical grounds.” At the request of a high German official this telegram was not made public as the Kaiser had wished, but was sent privately to the President. After the sinking of the RMS Lusitania with many United States residents on board, on May 7, 1915, the United States ambassador's position became more difficult.[1]

The German government asked him to leave the country in January 1917. Diplomatic relations were broken off on February 3, and he left Germany. He was detained for a time because of rumours that the German ambassador in America was being mistreated and German ships had been confiscated. When these rumors were disproved, he was allowed to depart. He retired from diplomatic service entirely in July 1917.[1][3] He took up the practice of law in New York City. The George H. Doran Company of New York City published two books Gerard wrote on his experiences titled My Four Years in Germany released in 1917 and the following year, Face to Face with Kaiserism. My Four Years in Germany was filmed in 1918.

Gerard once said in a speech: "The Foreign Minister of Germany once said to me 'your country does not dare do anything against Germany, because we have in your country five hundred thousand Germans reservists [emigrants] who will rise in arms against your government if you dare to make a move against Germany.' Well, I told him that that might be so, but that we had five hundred thousand – and one – lamp posts in this country, and that that was where the reservists would be hanging the day after they tried to rise."[2]

Ambassador Gerard was of major incidental importance in the rise of Warner Brothers movie producers as his book My Four Years in Germany was the source of the Warner's first nationally syndicated film of the same name.

Gerard's wife, Mary, was the daughter of copper magnate Marcus Daly, head of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company that developed the mines of Butte, Montana. Because of his wife's connections to Montana, he held a ranch north of Hamilton, Montana during his lifetime.[3] He died September 6, 1951, in New York City.

Former Ambassador James W. Gerard. Warns of the "Coming conflict with the Bolsheviki" and assesses the causes of today's social unrest (ca. 1918-1920).

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Gerard, James Watson". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  2. ^ a b Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 267. ISBN 0-465-04195-7. 
  3. ^ a b Guide to the James W. Gerard Papers at the University of Montana

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
n/a
Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate from New York (Class 3)
1914
Succeeded by
Harry C. Walker
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John G. A. Leishman
United States Ambassador to Germany
October 29, 1913 – February 5, 1917
Succeeded by
Ellis Loring Dresel