1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lansing, Robert

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

LANSING, ROBERT (1864- ), American diplomatist, was born at Watertown, N.Y., Oct. 17 1864. He graduated from Amherst in 1886, was admitted to the bar in 1889, and for the next 18 years was associated with his father in legal practice at Watertown. In 1892 he was appointed associate counsel for the United States on the Bering Sea Commission, and later was American counsel or agent before several important arbitral tribunals or mixed commissions, including the Alaskan Boundary Tribunal (1903), the Hague Tribunal for Arbitration of the North Atlantic Fisheries (1910), and the Anglo-American Commission (1911) for settling outstanding claims between Great Britain and the United States. He was technical delegate at several international conferences, including the fur-seal conference (1911) at Washington between the United States, Great Britain, Russia and Japan. In 1914 he was appointed counsellor of the Department of State. When Mr. W. J. Bryan resigned (June 8 1915) because of unwillingness to sign the second “Lusitania” note, Mr. Lansing was appointed Secretary of State ad interim, and his first official action was to sign that note. He was definitely appointed Secretary of State on June 23 1915. In Aug. he was attacked by the Friends of Peace, representing several societies, mostly German-American, who declared that he was liable to plunge America into war. In his attempts to uphold American rights he was called upon to direct notes to all the warring countries. On Oct. 18 1915, defining safety for crews in a note to Germany after the sinking of the “William P. Frye,” he pointed out that it was not sufficient that Americans be given an opportunity to embark in life-boats; it must be under circumstances that assured landing in safety. A little later he sent a protest to England against the commercial blockade and the detention of cargoes bound for neutral ports. On Jan. 18 1916 he addressed a note to all the European belligerents, asking, for the sake of safety of those on board, that all guns be removed from merchantmen. He pointed out the disadvantage of a submarine in attempting to stop such an armed vessel for search, and emphasized that armament on a merchantman had every appearance of being offensive. In March this proposal was rejected by all the Allies. On Aug. 4 1916 he signed a treaty for the purchase by America of the Danish West Indies for $25,000,000. In reply to a note addressed by England to neutrals, asking that all belligerent submarines be excluded from neutral waters, he said that the nature of each submarine must govern the decision. He thus drew an important distinction between the “Deutschland,” which had peacefully brought a cargo to America, and the U53, which had raided several ships off the New England coast Oct. 7 1916. In March 1917 he refused Government support to the proposed reorganization of the so-called “Six Power” loan for China. He declared that American bankers should not enter into agreement with foreign institutions which had more or less a Government connexion and might therefore have political as well as financial interest in the matter. The same year he notified President Carranza, of Mexico, that the United States would not adopt his proposed Pan-American plan of stopping the shipment of food and munitions to all the European belligerents. In Nov. 1917 he signed an agreement with Japan (the Lansing-Ishii agreement) which, while recognizing Japan's special interests in China, provided for a continuance of the “open door” policy for commerce.

He was a member of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at Paris 1918-9, and, together with Lord Robert Cecil and Col. House, prepared a draft of the League of Nations in Jan. 1919. In a book issued in 1921 in justification of his own actions, Mr. Lansing explained that he disagreed with Mr. Wilson on various points, including that of incorporation of the League of Nations in the Peace Treaty; but he was overtly responsible with him for signing the Treaty, and on his return to Washington he urged that the Treaty as formulated be adopted by the Senate. On Feb. 13 1920 he resigned as Secretary of State on being reprimanded by the President for having called together the heads of the executive departments of the Government. Such meetings of the Cabinet had, however, frequently been called before during the President's illness, naturally by the Secretary of State as ranking member. Lansing's conduct at this juncture showed dignity and self-possession, and the action of the President was generally regarded as that of a sick and worried man. In Aug. 1920 he opened a law office in Washington. He was the author of The Peace Negotiations (1921) and The Big Four and Others (1921).