Josephus records in his History that the Romans once collected a number of wild beasts for exhibition, and from each country where they had been captured they had brought a sackful of earth. This earth was deposited in separate heaps around the circus, and when the wild beasts were let into the arena, each animal sought and knew instinctively its own natal soil.
I have been reminded of this by the extraordinary conduct of Americans during the late warm controversy upon the Venezuelan question.
I have not yet recovered from the effects of that blast of rage which came from America. I am too astonished to think of anything else much. I knew there was a moral disagreement about the limits of British Guiana which had lasted for about 250 years. The question had been transmitted to England and Venezuela from Spain & Holland, the original possessors of the country in dispute. But why America should lash herself into a fury and talk about conquering Canada & thrashing England, because of this prehistoric and miserable squabble is more than I can understand. According to instinct and nature it sounds to me that Americans should have preferred Canadian soil to anything that was in South America, and English blood to Venezuelan, but no, Americans were said to be burning with a desire to lay Canada in waste, and destroy a people allied to them by blood, language habits, connections, & institutions, because the Venezuelans differed with the English, about the limits of an uninhabited, and uninhabitable patch of swamp land near the Orinoco.
There are more churches and fewer illiterates in the United States than in any other country, yet with all its education and Christianity we have this mad fury as the result. An American General – General Longstreet 76 years old praying in public for a war with Great Britain can find applause from his countrymen, because it is patriotic! Well if American soil had been trespassed upon, or anything American had been violated, injured, or insulted I could understand why resentment should have been shown, but why anything connected with Venezuela should be so dear to the American heart as to make Americans hate a sister country passes my comprehension.
We cannot get up any anger about this matter in this country. We are absolutely unconcerned about it – though in Society we are still discussing the convulsion in America, and wondering what strange influence it was that made a whole nation of 72 million act as though it had been stricken with madness. And now that you have sat down quietly in Commission to unravel the historical puzzle, we all feel more than Commonly grateful to you, and we hope that you will arrive at a just solution of it.
Now considering that the Boston Press Club has been incorporated for the purpose of Social intercourse, and friendly feeling among its numbers, is it too much to hope that they may become animated with a desire to enlarge this sphere of influence, and include British humanity among those deserving of their friendly regards? In this hope I rest…”
Henry Morton Stanley
A Welsh immigrant to the United States who enlisted in the Confederate Army (he subsequently fought for the Union) and later became a war correspondent, Stanley was sent by the New York Herald in 1868 to accompany British forces fighting against Emperor Theodore of Abyssinia. His scoop about the fall of Magdala brought him immediate recognition and the offer of further Herald assignments, the most famous being his successful search and discovery, three years later, for Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone. Upon his discovery in a remote area of Tanzania in 1871, Stanley famously greeted him with, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
Our letter regards the Venezuelan Crisis of 1895, a territorial dispute between Britain and Venezuela over Essequibo and Guayana Esequiba, which Britain claimed were part of British Guiana. The dispute dated back to the time of Spanish colonization but became a diplomatic crisis in 1895, when America’s ambassador to Venezuela argued that Britain’s claims and, in particular, its occupation of Nicaragua’s port of Corinto on April 22, 1895, violated the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. American President Grover Cleveland demanded international arbitration which led to a conference in Paris in 1898 and a settlement in 1899 that determined the bulk of the disputed territory to belong to British Guiana. The incident helped improve the United States standing in South America, while raising its prominence in matters of international importance.
Confederate General James Longstreet (1821-1904) whom his superior officer, Robert E. Lee, called “Old War Horse,” was involved in post-bellum Republican politics, serving as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and U.S. Commissioner of Railroads.
Alexander, the letter’s recipient, was a journalist who served as managing editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal from 1898 until 1910. He was also the president of the Boston Press Club, discussed in our letter, and the vice-president of the International League of Press Clubs.
English poet and politician Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809-1885) was a Member of Parliament who Lord Palmerston had elevated to a peerage. As a respected author, he exerted great influence in literary matters, championing the careers of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Our letter likely refers to Milnes’ Memorials of Residence upon the Continent.
Roman-Jewish first century historian Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100) authored a number of notable works of Jewish history intending for a Roman audience including The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews.
An unusually lengthy letter in extremely fine condition.