The Statesman and the Storyteller: John Hay, Mark Twain, and the Rise of American Imperialism
And just as the narrative details the wisdom, and the occasional missteps, of two great men during a tumultuous time, it also penetrates the seat of power in Washington as the nation strove to make itself known internationally--and in the process committed acts antithetical to America’s professed ideals and promises.
The country’s most significant move in this time was to go to war with Spain and to eventually wrest control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. In what has to be viewed as one of the most shameful periods in American political history, Filipinos who believed they had been promised independence were instead told they were incapable of self-government and then violently subdued in a war that featured torture and execution of native soldiers and civilians. The United States also used its growing military and political might to grab the entirety of the Hawaiian Islands and a large section of Panama.
As secretary of state during this time, Hay, though a charitable man, was nonetheless complicit in these misdeeds. Clemens, a staunch critic of his country’s imperialistic actions, was forced by his own financial and family needs to temper his remarks. Nearing the end of their long and remarkable lives, both men found themselves struggling to maintain their personal integrity while remaining celebrated and esteemed public figures.
Written with a keen eye--Mark Zwonitzer is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker--and informed by the author’s deep understanding of the patterns of history, The Statesman and the Storyteller has the compelling pace of a novel, the epic sweep of historical writing at its best, and, in capturing the essence of the lives of Hay and Twain, the humanity and nuance of masterful biography.
man careering around the department. Theodore Roosevelt brought a vitality and a sharp bristle to official Washington that John Long didn’t often observe in his daily business: not when a United States senator came in to make the plea for some favored constituent to get the lousy two-dollar-a-day slot at some naval yard in his state; not when he went to testify before the inert members of the House Naval Affairs Committee about the conditions of the docks in New York. “It is fair to say, with
Diamond Head, that majestic, 760-foot-high promontory that rose up 300,000 years earlier, give or take, in a series of violent, spasmodic eruptions. A certain affinity existed, in terms of personality, between himself and the old volcano; it was like seeing a dear and long-lost friend. “Not any other thing in the world,” he would write of that moment, “could have stirred me as the sight of that great rock did.” Once Oahu was in view, Clemens knew, it would be only a few hours to the Honolulu
Krantz, where trunks and travel bags were packed and waiting, he wrote a quick note to his friend the Viennese humorist Eduard Pötzl. The New York papers have asked me about my audience, & I have telegraphed the following, which I consider quite nice because it is dignified & does not give any information: It was only a pleasant unconstrained private conversation on matters unconnected with international policy. I was very much wanting to explain my plan, now in the hands of the Secretary of
official mind of a Senator.” Hay’s initial fury receded to passive disgust and private remorse and finally to something like relief: a defeat of his canal treaty might be his best chance for an early exit from the cabinet, even before William McKinley’s first term was up. This outcome had its allure for Hay. Once out of office, he would have time to improve his art collection or to write more poetry. He could have long, uninterrupted summers of leisure at the Fells, or he could run off to London
Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, Long Island—the Summer White House. President Roosevelt wanted John Hay at his country residence in three days; there were things he needed to discuss with his secretary of state. Theodore had too much time on his hands, Hay figured, and just wanted him there to watch him grind his axes. The president would be on again about the Alaska tribunal and would probably try to reopen the question of sending to the czar a petition signed by thousands of American citizens