November 15, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

The Imperial Season: America's Capital in the Time of the First Ambassadors, 1893-1918

The Imperial Season: America's Capital in the Time of the First Ambassadors, 1893-1918

William Seale

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 158834391X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This story of the young city of Washington coming up in the international scene is populated with presidents, foreign diplomats, civil servants, architects, artists, and influential hosts and hostesses who were enamored of the idea of world power but had little idea of the responsibilities involved.

Between the Spanish American War and World War I, the thrill of America's new international role held the nation's capital in rapture. Visionaries gravitated to Washington and sought to make it the glorious equal to the great European capitals of the day. Remains of the period still define Washington--the monuments and great civic buildings on the Mall as well as the private mansions built on the avenues that now serve as embassies.

The first surge of America's world power led to profound changes in diplomacy, and a vibrant official life in Washington, DC, naturally followed. In the twenty-five year period that William Seale terms the "imperial season," a host of characters molded the city in the image of a great world capital. Some of the characters are well known, from presidents to John Hay and Uncle Joe Cannon, and some relatively unknown, from diplomat Alvey Adee to hostess Minnie Townsend and feminist Inez Milholland. The Imperial Season is a unique social history that defines a little explored period of American history that left an indelible mark on our nation's capital.

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not from within. World War I turned Americans against internationalism. With the city now divested of the romantic appeal that internationalism had carried with it before the war, the re-creation of the capital to relate to other capitals of the world had little meaning. The capital’s reinventors had labored to mold it into an American version of the capitals of Europe, in architecture, ceremony, and social customs. Of their efforts only a few buildings and the master plan remained, to amble

of a changed America to sink in, but Americans took quickly to President Roosevelt. Most people thought of Roosevelt less as a politician than as a flashy hero of the Spanish War. However, there was much more to know about the man. Ornithologists were likely to know his book on birds; historians knew his book The Naval War of 1812. His subsequent book, The Winning of the West, followed a theme of racial superiority that would repel today’s sensibilities but received wide acclaim in its time. As

“To Americans in general, diplomat means less than dentist,” wrote Lionel Strachey in the New York Times in 1903. He continued to observe correctly, however, that in Washington a diplomat was an important man, “the pink of polish, the sovereign of social suavity, the artistic aristocrat, the complete conversationalist, decorous and dignified in deportment, possessing unusual intelligence and universal information, pre-eminent in his acquirements of history, languages, international law and

appointed Durand. Roosevelt never liked Sir Mortimer. In spite of their similar interests, both literary and athletic, the president never could relate to the ambassador. He wrote to an American diplomat in London, “Now I wonder if you could arrange to have the Foreign Office send Spring-Rice over here to see me for a week? I understand he is to be in London for a little while. There is no one in the British Embassy here to whom I can talk freely, and I would like to have the people at the

fashionable young ladies and their escorts. There were many excuses to be away from home for a morning or afternoon or a whole day. Marguerite Cassini’s parents warned her, “Danger for young girls awaits on the corners of every street!” Most dangers wore pants. Even so, Marguerite recalled that being around “men all obviously so sophisticated and worldly” made it hard to remember the rules of conduct: “Never look into a man’s eyes—that is bold; never allow a man to call you by your first name;

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