Three Men in Russia: Marye, Robins, and Francis, 1914-18
by Valentine M. Smith
American goals in Russia were murkily defined in the years 1914-17. On the face of
things a prime goal was the restoration of a 1832 treaty that had been condemned in 1911,
cancelled in 1912 because of United States' unhappiness with the behavior of the Russian
government in regards to its Jewish population. A great deal of pressure was exerted by
the American Jewish community to punish the Russians in some way for the mistreatment of
Jews as reported by the thousands of immigrants from Russia to the United States from 1880
Restoration of the treaty, or the negotiation of a new one became a prime goal for both
the U.S. Ambassadors in the years 1914-18. They failed utterly. In 1917-18 the United
States' goals were to keep Russia fighting in the world war then raging against Germany
and Austria-Hungary, to try to keep the centrist, constitutionalist pro-war Kerensky
government in power and to keep the leftist, anti-war Bolsheviks out. Though it was clear
that the Tsar was gone irretrievably, the necessity remained that Russia stay in the war
from the Allied point of view, so as to keep Germany and her allies fighting a two-front
war. A centrist, pro-Ally government such as the Kerensky government appeared to be fit in
with that Allied goal considerably better than the avowed Bolshevik goal of pulling Russia
out of the war. There was no clear reason for the U.S. to support one government over
another, though the preference was to stay away from the radical Bolsheviks because they
appeared to Americans as against property rights, religion and the rule of law. Our policy
was governed by a scant understanding of the country, and often our leaders were
misinformed or operated from their own bias.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Curtis Guild resigned officially in April, 1913, and though
Henry Pindell was appointed in January, 1914, he declined the post. From April, 1913 to
late October, 1914, there was no U.S. Ambassador in Petrograd. This "punishment"
of the Tsarist regime left United States interests in Petrograd for eighteen months in the
custody of Charles S. Wilson, the charge d' affaires. (2)
In July, 1914, with little apparent thought about the need for a trained expert to be
in the Russian capital, Woodrow Wilson appointed a wealthy, 57 year old San Francisco
banker with no background whatsoever in Russian affairs, George T. Marye, to be U.S.
Ambassador to the court of the Romanovs. The world war had already begun and Wilson felt
that the United States needed an Ambassador in Russia because of the war situation. Marye
was ill-equipped to deal with the magnitude of problems the war would generate, nor was he
acute enough to see past the Tsarist vantage point to see that there might be other views
about how to deal with the conflict and the vast number of problems inside Russia that had
led to Congress cancelling a treaty that had been in place eighty years. The Russians did
and did not want an Ambassador, being that they were still angry about the treaty
cancellation, but they did want a new treaty on their terms and they also looked to the
U.S. for war materials and access to markets. (3)
Marye served as American Ambassador to Russia from October, 1914 to March, 1916. Some
felt he had arrived too late to do any good, as he had arrived several weeks after he was
appointed. (4) To his credit, he did meet with the new Russian Ambassador to the US, Boris
Bakhmeteff, who had opposed sending an Ambassador because Bakhmeteff perceived the only
reason one was being sent was to represent the interests of the belligerants Austria and
Germany. Bakhmeteff indicated to Marye that for two years that it had alright with the US
to have just Charles Wilson in charge, but as soon as Germany and Austria-Hungary asked
the US to represent their interests too, as the US was then still a neutral, then "an
Ambassador is hurried over to St. Petersburg over great difficulties." (5)
In late August, while Marye was still waiting on the State Department to give him the
go-ahead to leave, the Charge d' Affaires Wilson in Petrograd sent a telegram to the State
Department which said "Emperor has informed Minister for Foreign Affairs that
presence of Mr. Marye is not at all necessary if he prefers to delay coming. If he does
come now Emperor will cordially receive him if he should be in St. Petersburg. He is here
now but later movements doubtful." (6) It was apparent that the Russians were tepid
at best on whether a new Ambassador came or not from the United States.
Marye also met with Jewish leaders Jacob Schiff, Louis Marshall and Herman Bernstein
about the passport problems of would-be Jewish immigrants from Russia and the difficulties
of former Russian Jews' American passports being recognized, but indicated he felt they
had given him little guidance as to arguments to offer the Tsarist government to change
their policies. He was aware of the opposition to his going to Petrograd, both in Russia
and the United States, but was determined to go anyway. In his book he wrote about his
Ambassadorial years, Marye points out he was confirmed on 9 July, 1914, sailed for Great
Britain 9 September, and arrived there 14 September. (7)
Marye makes it clear from beginning to the end of his time there that his primary
orientation was increasing American-Russian business ties, monitoring the war on behalf of
Germany and Austria in terms of keeping track of their prisoners held by the Russians and
representing their interests in Moscow (until the U.S. entered the war April, 1917), and
strengthening his social ties. There is scant indication as to how well Marye did his job;
he disliked the Germans intensely and may have personally not been much involved in the
German/Austrian prisoner matters, leaving such to Embassy staff.
RUSSIA OBSERVED: NEARING THE END IN IMPERIAL RUSSIA is basically Marye's journals of
the period, published pretty much unedited and unchanged. He presents a man interested in
the events of the day, reporting on the rise and fall of governments in and out of Russia,
the progress (or lack of same) in negotiating a new trade agreement, social and funeral
events in Petrograd, and speculations on the character and doings of Rasputin (who Marye
had an interest in because of Rasputin's affect on government, and the Imperial family).
But his interest was narrow, confined to the doings of the upper classes in Russia and
elsewhere, with no real understanding of the masses and their aspirations, or the
undercurrent of revolution that increased greatly during his tenure as Ambassador. The
historian Rachel West wrote; "His assets were his wealth and his friendship with
Marye was quite pompous by today's standards, a bit of a social climber who knew all
the right people and whom was quite attached to the Imperial Court, according to George
Kennan, later an Ambassador to the Soviets himself. (9) He was apparently mostly caught up
in the intrigues and affairs of the upper nobility, and there is little evidence to
indicate he ever met a worker or peasant of the Russian masses.
In early February, 1916 Marye told Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonoff of Russia that he
had resigned. Marye offered no specific reasons for resigning, only "that political
combinations had arisen at home which affected me and that I felt impelled to
withdraw." (10) In the sources available, there is no explanation of those
"political combinations," nor does Marye ever illuminate what those problems
He had a keen eye in some respects, but his closeness to the Imperial family, and his
upper-class orientation, made him totally unable to see what was happening to the people,
or how they reacted to the government, all he could see is things like the vanishing of
all the coins in the capital. He could perceive minutae, but had no grasp of the larger
picture save in fragments, and with the upper-class bias he brought to the job.
On 24 October, 1914, Marye arrived in Petrograd to take up the duties of US Ambassador
to Russia, having taken two months to get there, partially through delays by the State
Department, partially via leisurely stops in London, the Hague, Berlin and Stockholm.
In January, 1915, Marye began journalling the events occurring in Russia, much about
court life and intrigues, and speculations on the perambulations of the various bit
players - Japan, Italy, Finland, and of the major ones, especially Russia, Britain,
France, Germany and the US. He remained heavily preoccupied with the behaviors of the
nobles, who he seemed to feel were his peers, court life, and renewing a treaty no Foreign
Minister he ever met with wished to renegotiate, or so it would seem from the record. He
asserted in the first week of February, 1915, that "Four-fifths of the work of the
embassy here now consists of looking out for German and Austrian prisoners." (11) He
does not say to what degree he was involved in that work.
On 2 February, Marye reported rumors in Petrograd that Interior Minister Khovstoff is
plotting to kill Rasputin (12) Marye seemed quite puzzled that Khovstoff would attempt to
murder the man who reportedly gotten him the Interior Ministry post in the first place. In
"gentlemanly society," one did not attempt to kill one's patron, and in this,
Marye seemed to be rather naive in the ways and depths of Russian politics.
Marye predicted the post-war course on 6 March, saying "We feel very certain that
after the war the part of Poland under Russian rule will receive a very full measure of
autonomous government; that Constantinople and the Dardanelles will go to Russia; that
Russia will have free access to the Mediterranean and will not be again shut in as she now
is." Marye asserted that the Dardenelles agreement had already been agreed to by
Russia, France and Britain in early 1915 (13) In addition, the Russians had promised
Poland independence when the war broke out, to be tied to Russia "only in the person
of the Tsar." By 1916, continued Russian adherence to that policy was to cause the
dismissal of Foreign Minister Sazonoff over the protests of the British and French
Ambassadors, and the Russian Emperor reneged on his support for such an idea. (14)
Marye for the most part did not realize that there was no basis in Russian political
reality for the bulk of this speculation, it came solely from his perception of the
post-war situation. Then he speculated on a possible Russo-Japanese alliance. (15) His
ability to see forward was quite erroneus, an example of the non-existent training the
United States offered to political diplomats.
In early April, Marye predicted that there would not be a revolution in Russia
"when the war is over," though he reported a friend, an insurance executive, who
had been in Russia some 18 years, believed there would be one. Marye says of the man that
he spoke Russian, was a good observer with "keen intelligence," and that he
looked upon him as his best source of information about conditions in the country. He did
not say whether this informant ever was out of the capital into the countryside to have
formed this opinion, but his business colleague appeared to have had a clearer view of
Russia's future than did Marye.
Marye felt strongly that a revolution would not occur. He allowed that changes would
happen, and that autocracy was an "anachronism" probably because he, and many
other Americans, believed American style democracy ought to prevail everywhere, though he
seemed to feel much more comfortable with the nobility from a social point of view. Marye
thought a gradualist approach to change would be the course of Russia. He also believed
the peasantry had gotten many concessions from the Tsarist government and would not seek
its overthrow, and then he said, "The only chance of a revolution would be through a
defection of the army. But the army is made up of the peasantry and the nobles, and there
are certainly no revolutionary tendencies among the nobles." There is no significant
evidence to indicate Marye ever met a peasant, or ever heard the point of view of that
It is this refusal to believe a "best source of information" that led the
writer to believe that Marye could not see the conditions of the Russian state because he
was tied to the status quo ante, and that though he believed that the Emperor and royal
family did not show themselves enough and were not aware what was going on in the country,
that the Tsar would survive the war. Marye's understanding of the feelings of the people
of Russia was almost non-existant, in that he was as ignorant as the Tsar or more so.
Marye was concerned that the Emperor was so enclosed in his own world, which ironically
appeared to be a problem of his also, that Nicholas was unable to see what was happening
in Russia, surrounded by a bureaucracy that tended to insulate the royal house from
interacting with the subjects of the Empire. Marye could see the isolation, but was very
much part of continuing the cocooning in that he went to the dinner parties, audiences
with the Emperor and Empress, and many fruitless meetings with whoever the current Foreign
Minister was about reviving the old treaty. The Romanov's were basically unconcerned about
the treaty because of the U.S demands about the Jews. (17)
According to the historians W. Bruce Lincoln and E.M. Almedingen, who both wrote
histories of the Romanov dynasty, Nicholas II was an anti-Semite as his father and
grandfather had been, and he basically refused to listen to pleadings by anyone on their
behalf. Lincoln, in more than one work, pointed out Nicholas' total inaction during
government-inspired pograms in 1904 that slaughtered several hundred Jews, and the
massacre of upwards of ten thousand Jews in the wake of the October Manifesto of 1905 that
granted civil rights to all Russians and created a Duma as evidence of Nicholas' tendency
to ignore the Jewish situation altogether. (18)
Marye noted at April's end the high officials stricken from the British Order of the
Garter - the Emperor of Germany, of Austria-Hungary, the king of Wurtemberg, The Grand
Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, Prince Henry of Prussia and two other Dukes. He paid quite a bit
of attention to these kinds of events, and occasionally had a keen insight into what a
ruler might be up to. (19) He felt strongly that the German Emperor was a criminal, went
on at great length about Wilhelm's perfidity and criminality, and seemed to believe that
these "punishnments" were the least Wilhelm and his allies deserved, expressing
an interest in seeing the Emperor tried after the war for things like the sinking of the
Lusitania. But he rarely observed what might be happening away from the capital, or in
terms of what any other group besides the wealthy and the nobles were doing.
>From late April until early May came the Rockefeller Commission to Petrograd,
"Messrs. Bricknell, Wadsworth and Earl." Their mission was to give assistance in
the way of both money and food to any Poles inside German lines, and to aid any Poles who
needed it within Russian lines. Why only Poles Marye does not explain, nor does any other
source offer a clear explanation. Marye tried to arrange for them to see Foreign Minister
Sazonoff. (20) The Commissioners told Marye that the Minister of Agriculture had persuaded
them that their goals were not workable, and so they were not too upset at not meeting
with Sazonoff. (21) If the Russian government chose not to deal with Americans, Marye had
no ability or influence to persuade them otherwise.
But Marye occasionally did have fairly astute insights, such as one in late May, 1915,
where he offered a penetrating comment about the Empress of Russia in his journal-
"There is no agitation at this time in Continental countries for female suffrage,
but, certain it is, that women in high places wield enormous power and have great
influence, as witness the influence of Queen Sophia of Greece and that of the Empress of
Russia here in Petrograd right now. Noble woman that she is, and devoted as she is to the
interests of her husband and Russia, she is doing much to undermine and destroy the
prestige of the Imperial family amd the authority of the Emperor through the support she
gives to the interference of the meddling monk Rasputin in important affairs of Church and
Marye reported on an Imperial rescript, "published in the name of the president of
the Council of Ministers, Goremykin, ...the Emperor solemnly declares it to be the
intention of the Russian Government and people to carry on the war to complete
victory,..." (23) but does not explain in what context there might be reason for the
necessity of such a statement from the Emperor. He could, and often did, describe visits
to the opera, the yacht club, or the Imperial Court, but rarely did Marye offer many
insights as to why events occurred, just that they did.
Marye reported on a 23 June meeting about a commercial treaty with Sazonoff, and on the
turning tide against Russia militarily (24) and continued to believe the Imperial
government would negotiate such a treaty. Again, Marye offered no details as to what was
being left in or out of these drafts, just that Article so-and-so was left out, and
another article was retained. He gives the impression that what was being discussed were
technicalities, and not matters of substance. The passport issue was to be left for
discussion as "negotiations proceeded."
Marye reported at length in mid-August on Rasputin's influence on the Court and the
government (25) in which he alluded to the Tsarevich's illness, and how Rasputin is
alleged to have "hypnotic eyes." Francis later also commented on this ability of
Rasputin's. (26). Reportedly, few people knew of Tsarevich Alexis' hemophelia, including
Marye, who in 1916 reported "We hear all kinds of stories about what was the matter
with him, the best authenticated seems to be that he has some trouble of the circulation,
..." so therefore "Because the condition of the Tsarevich was never revealed,
Russians never understood the power which Rasputin held over the Empress." (27)
Marye analyzed "German influence" in Russia (28). He did evidence some
knowledge of the widespread belief that people in high places were stealing from the army,
and that corruption was widespread. Francis, also leaned in this direction, (29)
Demonstrating perhaps his banker's bent, and one of the few reports of minutae that
affected the common Russian citizenry that he ever offered, Marye reported in late August
the vanishing of all coinage in Petrograd. He said that all "silver coins, roubles,
half roubles and smaller coins, by a kind of common action, disappeared from
circulation." (30) But, despite his noticing this event occurring, he offered no
insight as to why nor in any way did he comment on what might have led to this happening.
In early September, Marye reported on the removal of Grand Duke Nicholas from command
of the Armies. The Grand Duke's dismissal by the Emperor himself was considered by some as
potentially disastrous for internal political unity. (31) Marye went to describe the
Emperor's assumption of that command, and the proposed legislation in the Duma "about
Jewish matters." (32) He believed that the Russian government might actually support
these laws, which were part of a Duma the Tsar depised (33) and wanted to remove
altogether. Marye could not see this attitude, in fact blamed the Duma for intransigence,
and especially for taking action in an area he believed the Emperor's province. (34)
On 1 October, Marye reported that the Emperor had issued a rescript that all legal
proceedings against Jews for carrying out business outside the Pale be ceased,
"except in cases where persons against whom the proceedings were pending have
established themselves in the capitol ..." This proposal, along with proposed
measures of the preceding Duma, shows a decided disposition and tendency to mitigate and
alleviate the harshness of the laws relating to the Jews. (35) Marye again clearly
believed that the Tsar would follow through on these laws and see them enforced, and he
did not understand or was blind to the Tsar's prejudices about the Jews.
At October's end, Marye offered an insightful commentary about the Emperor wherein he
noted "He (the Emperor) could not do a wiser or more judicious thing than to show
himself frequently to his troops and to the people. It has always seemed to me that the
great weakness of this government was the remoteness of the ruler from the bulk of the
people." He noted in this entry one of the few remarks he offered in his whole book
about the lack of a middle class in Moscow, "... as there are not in Russia and
intermediate classes rising in progressive rank from the people to the throne," but
he offered no insight as to why that might be so. (36)
In early November, Marye commented on a conference held in Paris by the English and
French, which is intended to be the precursor of larger meetings at which Russia and Italy
will also be represented." The meetings were to tighten the military operations of
the Allies to allow planning of a "greater unity of purpose and direction." He
went on to say that the Allies were seeking a single line of control over military
movements. He rattled on this entry at great length about the expelling of the King of
Bulgaria from the French Order of the Holy Ghost for being allied with the German Emperor,
showing once again his preoccupation with the doings of royalty and the powerful, which he
gave considerably more attention to than the above meeting. (37)
On 3 December, Marye commented on the Austrian response to the Ancona sinking, the Ford
"peace expedition" ("the American legation at Stockholm made it clear that
the United States Government is in no way connected with the peace expedition sent over to
Europe by Henry Ford.") and that "the collapse of Germany has been, and
continues to be, only a question of time." (38) He was off slightly.
A few days later, Marye wrote about the war credits debate in the German Reichstag, and
on the remarks of Geier and Ebert, the socialist opposition. He noted that though in the
end the German Reichstag voted the money, that it ended up being less than was requested
by the government. He pointed out in his 8 December entry that the reverses of the prior 6
months "have severely tried the whole structure of the Russian state." (39)
That led him to analyze in relative depth about the deficiencies of Nicholas II. In
only one sentence was he relatively accurate, and after that, his tendency to be laudatory
of royalty carried him off to inaccuracy almost completely. He says of Nicholas in
comparison with Peter the Great," Peter the Great was a natural autocrat: Nicholas II
does not possess the natural qualities to fit him for that difficult position." But
then he claimed that Nicholas was "quite free of bigotry," claimed he had common
sense, that he tried to use good judgement about choosing Ministers, and that he was
"prudent" in the use of the powers he had. He did allow that Nicholas was
"too tolerant of incompetency," but failed to understand how Nicholas could be
quickly bamboozled about that issue of competency, usually by his wife or Rasputin. (40)
In late January, Marye commented at length about Rasputin and his influence including
comments on his appearance, affect on people, especially women, his childhood and
upbringing, drawing room behavior and religious beliefs. Marye regarded his influence as
"ominous." He was able to see the potential for ruin Rasputin posed for the
Tsar, yet he could not see how much damage Rasputin was really causing. He could only see
the womanizing, the "orgies," though he did say Rasputin would never had the
influence he did without the support he received from Tsarkoe Selo, though he had no clear
understanding of why that support was occurring. He felt that Rasputin held the potential
of destruction for the Romanovs. Marye, however, had only the vaguest cognizance about why
Rasputin was dangerous to the ruling family, being more content to wallow in the gossip
about him than do a serious analysis of his effect politically. (41)
On 3 February, Marye again returned to an analysis the Tsar's method of rule, but again
gave him more credit than he was due, claiming it was the Russian system that was
"outworn," not the Tsar. He did suggest that the need was for reforms to be
enacted that gave the people a larger say in the process of public affairs and that
autocracy could not govern such a vast place as Russia. He then claimed, wrongly, that if
the Tsar was not interfered with, primarily by his wife, that he would "act with the
Duma" which Lincoln says "Nicholas and his advisors regarded most of them as men
of seditious and evil intentions." (42) Marye continued to misread most of the
personalities around the throne, as he often did with the man sitting on it. (43)
In mid-February, Marye puzzled over the recall of "first secretary (Charles)
Wilson" from Petrograd to Madrid, and discusses his own resignation and departure,
and the appointment of David Francis as his successor. There may have been some tensions
going on here that Marye never described, nor did any other observers seem to know much
about. The Russians seemed mystified by the frequent changes in representitives by the US,
Marye reports Sazonoff as saying. Marye also said that many Russians he talked with
believed Wilson and he were being forced out so someone more friendly to the Germans could
be brought in, as both Marye and Wilson were staunchly pro-Ally. (44)
Marye was charged to secure the agreement of the Imperial government to Francis'
appointmeent, which he did. Marye lauded Francis highly to Sazonoff, without addressing
who was the more friendly to Germany issue, saying at the last " I said I felt sure
they would like Governor Francis, that I did not know him personally but that he had been
a friend of my brother, General Marye, who like others whom I had heard speak of Mr.
Francis, liked and admired him." On 11 March, Marye was awarded the Order of St.
Alexander Nevsky, had his last Imperial audience and departed Russia on 29 March, 1916.
Marye was of "the Old Guard," a monied man of the old order, he could not
dream that a revolution might come, or the Emperor would be swept away. He quit his post
to deal with unidentified politcal questions at home, not realizing he had stepped off the
stage just as the United States would face a need for a person of knowledge to fill his
post, not that he had demonstrated any great capability of possessing such understanding
and knowledgability. It is not clear in any source this writer perused as to why he left
when he did. Marye doesn't explain 13 years after the resigNation, soon thereafter dying
as a matter of fact. It remains a minor mystery as to why he removed himself from the
picture as the situation began to deteriorate for Russia as far as the war was concerned.
It would appear that he thought he had acquitted himself in good fashion, that he had done
his best in the representation of German and Austrian interests, and that while he had
failed to get a new trade treaty with the Russians, that right up through the final
auduence with the Emperor, he was promoting American business investment in Russia.
About 6 weeks later, on 28 April, David Francis arrived in Moscow and assumed the post
of US Ambassador. (46) A week later, Ambassador Francis was formally received by the
Emperor. (47) Francis went to Russia in 1916, at sixty-five years of age, older by almost
a decade than Marye was when he went to Russia in 1914, and apparently Marye was in better
health than Francis. When the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, he had reached the age of
sixty-seven. He was married and had several children, but unlike Marye, "for a
variety of personal reasons he left his family at home, and proceeded on his mission
alone, accompanied only by his personal secretary and by his Negro valet and butler, Mr.
Philip Jordan." (48) He appeared to have been quite vigorous despite his age, and
though he had some health problems not clearly discussed by him or other sources,
conducted himself with relative clarity, energy and responsibility in the two and a half
years he served there.
"Francis' tastes and habits were the robust and simple ones of the American Middle
West at the turn of the century. As such, they had little affinity to the refined
predilections of continental diplomatic society. Not that Francis was in any way an
ascetic. On the contrary, he was so well known at home as a gourmet that is he mentioned
in one of O. Henry's tales - "Heart of the West" in SEATS OF THE HAUGHTY
(1916)..... But Francis' hedonism was of a genuinely American sort." Kennan goes on
to say that Francis was much more a quiet man of simple tastes, albeit a bit eccentric, as
he reported in a possibly apocryphal tale of a flapping lid-type spittoon owned by the
Governor. Francis preferred a quiet card game with cronies over mixing with high society
in Petrograd, he liked good whiskey and cigars, and that in part because of an amount of
penuriousness on Francis' part and because he preferred the company of Americans, he
rarely interacted with Russian society during most of his Ambassadorship. Some might have
thought him a buffoon, or boorish by high society standards. (49)
"...this same awkwardness made itself felt in the Ambassador's relationships with
his career associates. He could not help but be aware of their greater familiarity both
with diplomatic life in general and with the Petrograd scene in particular. On the other
hand, it was difficult for him to seek and accept their opinions without betraying his own
ignorance and forfeiting the dignity of his position. This situation (not an uncommon one
in American diplomatic experience) would have been unpleasent in the best of
However, Francis got himself in difficulty because of an "acquaintance" with
a lady named Madame deCram, who he had met enroute to Russia and perhaps dallied with,
though the evidence is none too clear on this point. After their arrival, she was revealed
to perhaps have connections to the Germans. The charges were never found to be true, but
the whole business cost him in prestige and dignity and may have been one reason for his
tendency to stay out of the social whirl of Petrograd society. (51)
Kennan described Francis as an elderly man, though a vigorous one, and deeply out his
depth in the situation he had been thrust in, yet lauds him for his fierce dedication to
the job, his "courage and enthusiasm." He suggested that Francis exhibited a
stormy temper, strong opinions, and that he deftly managed to survive the
"manuevering" among his associates. Kennan's most damning description of him is
that he vacillated a great deal. (52)
Francis' post-Ambassadorial book, and his extensive writing to the State Department,
showed him to be informed to a greater degree than his predeccesor, while also
opinionated, firm in his beliefs and what he thought his duties and obligations as
Ambassador were. He does appear bemused by many of the doings of his subordinates. Francis
did seem fully capable of handling men like Raymond Robins of the Red Cross and Edgar
Sisson of the Committee on Public Information. Francis was also quite willing to listen
and give credence to the input of competent men like the Consul Madden Summers down in
In September, 1916, Francis wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing about a direct
cable link between Russia and the US, American commercial investment in Russia, and that
Russia had allocated $3 million towards such an plan. "...our government declined to
participate on the ground that it could not engage in business enterprises." (53) His
first months in the country appear to focus around commercial opportunities that the US
and Russia might engage in, perhaps as a way to edge at the Russian trade obliquely,
ignoring the lack of a trade treaty since the end of 1912. (54)
Francis had as main tasks being the "representitive" for what he said were
1.25 million Austrian prisoners of war, 250,000 German prisoner's of war, 200,000 German
and 50,000 Austrian civilians interned, acting as their intermediary with the Russian
government, through a "large corps of able assistants, known as the Relief
Corps," which demanded from him his "personal attention for several hours
daily." His numbers on the prisoners were probably low. He also was charged with the
responsibility of negotiating a new trade treaty. He was on the watch for pro-German
activities in the Russian government, and was later for a long time convinced that Lenin
and Trotsky were on German payrolls. He promoted throughout his term in Russia American
investment in Russia - a banking firm, a rail contract, a telegraph service among other
things - though most of these enterprises came to naught in the wake of the October
Revolution. Francis hoped that US investment could replace what he said in his memoirs had
been a 49% German investment in Russian commercial enterprises just prior to the war. (55)
He also was the American "man on the spot" when the Revolutions occurred,
though he did much of his communicating with the Bolsheviks through Raymond Robins. The US
government did not recognize the Smolny government led by Lenin, and because he was the
Dean of the Petrograd diplomatic corps by the time the October Revolution happened,
Francis felt quite constrained to keep distance between himself as President Wilson's
personal representitive to Petrograd which the Bolsheviks had seized from the Kerensky
government. Francis always saw this government as illegitimate, even after the war and his
return to the U.S., and only once did he treat with the Bolshevik leaders at Smolny
himself, over the arrest of an Ambassador.
In early November, 1916, three months before the February Revolution, Francis wrote to
Lansing "There have been manifestations lately of unrest among the workers in the
factories and also among the long lines of people waiting to be served small amounts of
sugar or meat in the shops where such things are distributed. I have heard it rumored that
these rumblings are instigated by German money, and I've also heard it charged by an
intelligent man who gave the information to me ... that the Government itself through its
emissaries is attempting to bring about an uprising of the people in order to give Russia
an excuse to negotiate a separate peace. Every Minister in the Government is solicitous
about the tenure of his office. The Duma will meet in pursuance of adjournment on November
1st/14th." (56) He does not identify either in his book or the State Department's
documents who this source was.
On 29-30 December, Rasputin was murdered (57) by Prince Felix Yussoupov (Yusupov), son
of the wealthiest family in Russia, and four other noble conspirators. The princely
assassin was married to a niece of the Tsar's. Rasputin's "prophecy," "So
long as I live, the imperial family will also live; when I die, they will also
perish," (58) started on its short trail to fulfillment, as the Royal family perished
in July, 1918. (59)
Francis attended the last public reception of the Emperor and Empress, with the
Diplomatic Corps at Tsarskoe-Selo on 14 January. No one there suspected the regime would
be gone by mid-March, Francis among them. He liked the Tsar, felt he was a friendly and
pleasant man dominated by his wife, and whom often vacillated in his decision-making.
Francis thought the Tsar "dignified," and yet really had only the barest
understanding of him, having only met with him twice in his tenure as Ambassador. He could
see the unrest being talked of in the papers, and he knew that Rasputin's assassination
had sent shock waves across Russia, but like his predecessor had no idea how close to the
precipice of collapse the Russian monarchy and government were. (60)
On 23 February (O.S.), now styled 8 March (N.S.), the February revolution began. Two
weeks later, on 22 March, "The government of the United States, through its
Ambassador in Petrograd, David R. Francis, conveyed to the Council of Ministers its
official recognition of the new Russian Government:
"I have the honor, as the Ambassador and representitive of the Government of the
United States accredited to Russia, to state, in accordance with instructions, that the
Government of the United States has recognized the new Government of Russia, and I, as
Ambassador, will be pleased to continue intercourse with Russia through the medium of the
new Government. " (61) The recognition was the first by any government. A month
later, Francis was commended in "Nation" in the United States by an unsigned
editorial for his swift urgings for recognition of the Provisional Government; "You
will observe, perhaps, that his advice to our Government to recognize the Provisional
Government in Russia reached Washington about as soon as the news of the revolution; ...
The Root Commission went to Russia at about this time with the avowed reason of
ascertaining the most immediate needs of Russia for conducting the war and working out
better alliance communications. The mission was in Russia from 3 June to 21 July. (63)
They met with the former Lvov ministry, and the so-called Second Provisional Government
ministry that had taken over 18 May, 1917. (64) The Commission promoted education and
propaganda, improvements of the railroad system, and better equipage of the Russian army.
To a great degree, the mission provided information to the Wilson administration about
conditions in Russia, and offered a set of recommendations that were not fulfilled.
The Commission's recomendations were thus: "(1) To encourgage hope and faith in
the success of the effort of the Russian people to create and maintain adequate
self-government; (2) To inspire confidence in the Provisional Government and an
appreciation of the fact that the progress towards order lay through the maintenance of
that Government; and (3) To promote a realization of the fact that the effective
continuation of the war was the only course by which the opportunity for Russia to work
out the conditions of her own freedom could be preserved from destruction by German
These recommendations were what became the contradictory policy the U.S. as a Nation,
and in the person of Ambassador Francis, attempted to pursue after the February
revolution. Indeed, the U.S. pursued this policy to the moment, and after, that the
Bolsheviks seized power, and declared their intent to get out of the war. Americans, from
President Wilson on down through the ranks of government, believed that a democratic
Russia would emerge if they would stay in the war and defeat the imperialistic Germans. It
was believed that the Kerensky government would accomplish all three goals, while the
Bolsheviks inspired a concern that Russia out of the war would bring dictatorship at home,
and prolong the war. As the war had already gone on longer than anyone believed the war
would when it began, Russia getting out was dismaying to the Allies.
On 20 July, Francis reported to the Secretary of State on the reorganizing of the
Ministry, and the coming to power of Kerensky as the President of the Council of
Ministers. He stated, "Lvov much pleased, saying new Ministry was short-lived the
elimination of Bolshevik faction eradicated German influence and insures success to
revolution. Lvov says leading Bolsheviks including Lenin arrested, publication of Pravda
stopped, ... Another crisis past and atmosphere clearer" (66). This was the
continuation of one of Francis' misreadings of one wing of Russian politics - he kept
insisting, for many months afterward, that the Bolsheviks were German-orientated, affected
in no small amount by Edgar Sisson's purchase of documents that "proved" that
the Bolsheviks were in the pay of the Germans. (67)
The Consul at Petrograd, North Winship, on 24 July wrote to the Secretary of State
"That Kerensky, now Prime Minister in the cabinet that is socialist in all but name,
has officially branded the Maximalists (the Bolsheviks), (68) as German agents, in orders
to the army and the fleet,..." Winship saw this as Francis did, a good thing to be
happening - unmask the Bolsheviks for what they were, in their minds anyway. (69)
The "branding" of the Bolsheviks as German agents was "when the
government released information which appeared to show that Lenin had been working for the
Germans, the people's anger turned against the Bolsheviks." Pravda's offices were
wrecked, and Bolshevik headquarter's in the old palace of the ballerina Mathilda
Kshesinskaya, (70) were invaded by a mob looking for the Bolshevik's leadership.
Lenin had returned to Russia 16 April, Trotsky came back 18 May, Stalin and Leon
Kamenev of the Central Committee, had come to Petrograd from Siberian exile 25 March,
while still other members of the Bolshevik Central Committee had been in hiding since the
February Revolution inside Russia. (71) "But the Bolshevik leaders had gone
underground. ... By the end of July the Bolsheviks were in disarray. Trotsky was in prison
and Lenin was forced to write letters and pamphlets from Finland denying that he had
worked for the Germans. ... However, if the Bolsheviks were in disarray, so was the
government. Kerensky's economic policies had collapsed. There were strikes, mass
unemployment and hunger. All confidence in his ability to govern was lost." (72) The
failed uprising in July had put the Bolsheviks on the defensive, and had aroused the
Kerensky's government's ire against the Bolsheviks.
Somewhere around the time of the bungled July uprising, there entered into the picture
the third American examined here, Raymond Robins, who came to Russia in July by his
account, and was gone by the following 1 June. (73) Raymond Robins was an American Red
Cross representitive who came to Russia as a militant anti-Bolshevik from a business and
Progressive background in Chicago. He had, according to the told-to biography Robins
produced with William Hard in 1921, "...himself had been in his youth a common
miner." (74) He had discovered gold in the Klondike, become quite rich, and developed
a social conscience.
Several views of Robins have survived. One of the harshest came from a recent book by
the conservative historian Richard Pipes, who called Robins a "devious
individual" for expressing a pro-Bolshevik attitude in communications with Lenin and
Trotsky, but then avowed he was an anti-Bolshevist when he returned and testified to a
Senate sub-committee investigating Bolshevism in March, 1919. Robins was in favor of
recognition of what he perceived to be the legitimate government of Lenin and Trotsky from
the revolution in November onward to the moment of his departure in May, 1918, while
Ambassador Francis remained opposed to such a policy from before Robins came to the moment
Francis left Russia on 6 November, 1918. (75) Pipes and the anonymous writer in
"Outlook" 19 March, 1919, apparently both believed Robins sailed under false
colors by stating an anti-Bolshevism position, but at the same moment enthusiastically
endorsed US recognition for the new Soviet state.
"Robins further promised, on his return, to "continue efforts" in
interpreting "the new democracy" to the American people. However, testifying
soon afterward before a Senate committee on conditions in Soviet Russia, Robins urged
economic assistance to Moscow on the disingenuous grounds that it was a way of
`disorganizing Bolshevik power.' " (76)
George Kennan, perhaps America's most eminent Sovietologist, saw Robins differently in
his 1956 history of Russia in World War I. He offered similar, and more accurate, facts to
the early part of Robins life than the would-be biographer of Robins, William Hard,
offered in his 1921 work on Robins. Robins had been born in the East, worked as a miner in
Colorado, and struck it rich during the Yukon Gold Rush in the late 1890s. Kennan also
pointed out that Robins became spiritually affected by the stark beauty of the Canadian
North, a basic impression that was never to leave him.
Robins came back to the plains. and made Chicago his base. Kennan describes him thus:
"Here, being both a liberal and a devout Christian, he became a cross between a
political and religious evangelist, taking a prominent part in the work of the early
Chicago settlement houses and in other liberal causes." Robins started out
politically as a Democrat, but he changed in 1912 to the side of Theodore Roosevelt and
became one of the founders of the Progressive Party. He campaigned for Senator in Illinois
in 1914 on the Republican-Progressive ticket, but lost. Robins apparently became a memner
of the Red Cross Commission in 1917 as a result of the support of Theodore Roosevelt,
though he never said why or how he got involved in the Commission in Hard's book.
When Robins came to Russia in July, August or September, 1917 (Kennan gives both dates,
Hard says 7 August, Robins in 1919 said July) Robins had a number of abilities which
suited him for the role he was about to take on: energy, executive ability, a way with
words, a familiarity with the US labor movement and an interest in the Russian
revolutionary scene. He was hindered in that his education had been scanty. and he was
weak in his knowledge of Russian language, culture and its written history and literature.
Kennan went on to say of Robins' role," Robins' contribution to the analysis of
Soviet realities was generally received with suspicion and rejected at home, but it was
not wholly devoid of merit. He had a hatred of what he called the "indoor"
absorption of knowledge. He believed in getting out and getting around, and this he did in
no uncertain way. He was constantly on the move, dashing from one place to another, seeing
a most extraordinary variety of people. Unquestionably, he saw more of the Soviet leaders
in the early months and years of their power than any other single American. While this
did not always lead to accurate judgements on his part, at least it enabled him to avoid a
number of the erroneus impressions that fastened themselves onto the thinking of other
foreigners. Thus his views about the Revolution, while spotty in their factual foundation
and often vaguely expressed, were never trivial or uninteresting. They were marked, above
all, by the realization that the irritating aspects of the communist personality were no
reason for ignoring its impressive aspects and no reason for not giving it serious study.
No American who has long been exposed to the Soviet scene can read without deep admiration
and sympathy the words with which Robins endeavoured, in 1919, to explain to the members
of a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary how it was possible than an
intense interest in the Soviet Union and respect for the formidable qualities of its
leaders did not necessarily mean sympathy with its ideology or desire to succeed in its
world revolutionary aspirations." (77)
Bruce Lockhart, the young and independent-minded British diplomat who was to become
influential himself in Petrograd, stated that "Lenin was amused by Robins'
hero-worship, and of all foreigners Robins was the only man whom Lenin was always willing
to see `and who ever succeeded in imposing his own personality on the unemotional
Bolshevik leader,' according to one of Lenin's many biographers, Ronald Clark. Later in
that biography, Clark said "And he freely expressed his admiration for Raymond Robins
whom he saw as being open to new ideas." (78)
Still another view, from the afore-mentioned as-told-to biographer of Robins, William
Hard, said, "To-day, because he opposes American and Allied intervention in Russia,
certain hasty or malevolent persons try to stamp the stigma of Bolshevism on him. ...
Robins has been consistantly and continuously anti-Bolshevik, in America and Russia; ...
" and at this point, Hard credits Robins with the ability to see American policy
towards Russia had failed, and acted accordingly. (79)
The reason for such accusations were what both Kennan and Hard referred to as the
"indoor mind." (80) Hard quotes Robins as saying, "Never, says Robins,
never in this age of emotions of peoples, will diplomacy be able to deal with foreign
politics till it discards the Indoor for the Outdoor Mind." (81) He basically
believed there was no substitute for getting out there in the field and seeing what was
happening. Though he never said so, this view appears to be a reason for why he may have
held fellow progressive Francis in some disdain, as Francis relied almost completely on
subordinates and Robins for his views of Russia, though he never said anything
specifically against the Ambassador.
Kennan probably provided the most in-depth look at Robins. Kennan saw Robins as an
epitome of the liberal prior to the war. Robins was "enthusiastic," sincere,
confident and capable of great activity, but he was also "provincial," weak in
his knowledge of Russia's past, and was "erratic" intellectually. From this
melange came his Christian passion, and "his faith in human progress," but also
he was not well-rounded in his knowledge, and he had no patience with political realities,
"...which was to make his career as a figure in Russian-American relations so stormy
..." He was a strong Progressive, a friend of former President Theodore Roosevelt,
who helped Robins get appointed to the Commission to Russia, and Robins was a man who
believed firmly that man's lot in life could be improved. (82)
Robins and Ambassaador Francis would differ sharply on the issue of American
recognition for the second revolutionary government; Robins favored recognition, Francis
opposed recognition, even though he had been the first Ambassador to extend recognition to
the Kerensky government when it took over from the Tsar in March. Yet, both men were firm
believers, to a greater degree than Marye had been, that all humanity could better itself,
what they disagreed about was methods and processes that might accomplish that result. The
Bolsheviks were different. Francis believed them under the influence of the Germans, and
still believed that in 1919 when he testified at the Senate Judiciary Hearings on
Bolshevik propaganda. Both men were gentlemen, by the standards of the day, and their
interaction was always "pleasant," according to Ambassador Francis. Basically,
they agreed to disagree. Robins never lost his view that Francis, Summers and many others
were of the "indoor mind" kind of people, and that Lockhart, Judson, Thompson
and himself were of the the "outdoor mind" camp. Actually, Francis and Robins
agreed on many things, and generally got along quite well. (83)
3-6 August saw another crisis, another shuffling of cabinet posts, a new direction for
the changed leadership, with Kerensky still at the head. (84) Throughout August and
September, the government floundered, changing the commander of the Army, contending with
Bolshevik demonstrations in early September, with Francis writing to the Secretary of
State on the 12th of September that he had not suggested "mediation" between the
Kornilov revolt and the central regime as reported in the Petrograd that day. (85) He was
almost defensive about the fact that the Russian press might have thought such a thing of
On 7 August, in a letter to a colleague, Charles Moser, the American Consul at Harbin,
China, Francis wrote, erroneously as it turned out, that Lenin was now a fugitive,
"supposed to be in Germany." ... "The Bolsheviks are now in great disfavor,
and their leaders are being arrested - one, Trotzky, was arrested yesterday; he was an
exiled Russian Jew, who returned from America two or three months ago and immediately set
his mouth going since which it has never ceased to operate." (86) His disdain for the
Bolshevik leaders was set in place long before the October Revolution and their accession
to power, and never really went away, just changed to a lesser degree of contempt for them
and their ideas.
At the end of August, Woodrow Wilson sent a greeting to the Conference assembling in
Moscow in August, 1917, expressing "confidence in the ultimate triumph of ideals and
democracy amd self-government against all enemies within and without, ... " (87). He
definitely must have believed the Kerensky government capable of that, despite the fact
that such an ideal was never realized, and despite the fact that his Ambassador to Russia
kept reporting the mischief of the Bolsheviks. Wilson, too, was a subscriber to the
idealism of the Progressive movement as perhaps was best indicated by the 14 Points
Wilson specifically called for, in that program, in Point VI, "a settlement of all
questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other
nations of the world..." to obtain a chance at self-determiNation, "political
development" and a "national policy" that would allow Russia to join the
comity of nations, and that Russia get whatever aid she needed. In Point XIII, Wilson
called for "an independent Polish state," that would necessarily occur at the
Russian's expense. (89)
Francis, in a series of dispatches to the Secretary of State from 25 August to 6
September, worried a great deal about the possible actions of the Bolsheviks of a
revolutionary nature. Francis appeared convinced that the Bolsheviks, having tried in July
to topple the Kerensky ministry by armed force, would try again. He was also concerned
about the results and repurcussions of a great Moscow conference that convened 25 August
that Francis decided not to attend because "no colleagues going," which says he
might have. The Bolsheviks had not yet taken over, so the issue of recognition was not yet
an issue. "Quiet here but Bolshevik demonstrations feared. Attempts thereof in Moscow
yesterday failed." "Minister for Foreign Affairs who just left Embassy tells me
death penalty restored in ranks by Council of Ministers and will be promulgated
soon." "Internal situation again threatening." "Nervousness
increasing. Rumors of Bolshevik demonstration for Sunday, 9th. If it materializes army
less reliable than two weeks ago." (90)
Francis appeared quite concerned that a revolt was imminent, right up until it
happened. He could see it coming, but really had no clear idea what to do about it, as
representitive of the US President or as the "dean" of the Petrograd diplomatic
corps. He also had at no point any clear instructions from his superiors in the State
Department or from the President on how to proceed throughout the course of the summer.
None of the American leadership appeared to be clear on a course of action to be taken,
from Washington to Petrograd.
Also, the pressure of the Allies to keep Russia in the war proved in the end the very
thing the American government wanted least, for such provided a force for destabilization,
bringing about that which Washington and Francis feared most, the accession of the
Bolsheviks. "Thus the demand of the Allies, including the United States, that Russia
should renew and reinvigorate her war effort (bluntly expressed by Root in the formula
"no fight, no loans") was actually in conflict with the other major aim of
American policy toward the Provisional Government - namely, that the experiment in
constitutional government should proceed sucessfully. Having once taken this attitude
toward the Provisional Government, the United States government pursued it to the bitter
end." (91) As had often been the case up to this time, and many times afterward, the
U.S. pursued a policy bound to fail at one side or another because it was irreconcilable.
The United States failed to have to have a clear decision at the very top as to which goal
Other problems plagued the Russian people, though only a few people were affected. The
Kornilov "revolt" occurred in mid-September. General Lavr Kornilov was a
loyalist Tsarist General who appeared to have attempted in a three day span to be
revolting against Kerensky. He failed. He was at the time the Commander-in-Chief of the
Russian army. He was removed by Kerensky, and replaced by General Mikhail Alexseev. (92)
Another view of the Kornilov affair is offered in Hard: "Colonel (William)
Thompson (Robin's superior officer on the Red Cross Commission) never took stock in the
Kornilov adventure at any time at any price. He was not a trained observer of foreign
political affairs. ... He was absolutely without diplomatic experience. Yet he went
diplomatically absolutely right. Colonel Thompson used the methods of simple human
inquiry, the methods of outdoor fact, instead of the methods of indoor gossip and surmise.
By dwelling on fact he helped Robins see that adventures like Kornilov's were impossible
in Russia at that time." Robins' fascination for the straight forward field inquirer
type of person allowed him to admire a man who he initially clashed with when he he
arrived in Russia. (93)
Francis described the action with a great deal of criticism for both Kerensky and
Kornilov, with scorn for Kerensky, whom he accused of a "final and fatal
blunder" by arming the workingmen of Petrograd, as many were Bolsheviks. He also
poured scorn on the first head of the Provisional government, Lvov, calling him a
"meddlesome rattle-brain," and then said, a few weeks after the revolt,
"...had Kerensky been big enough to put his country's welfare above his own pride and
seek some middle ground upon which he and Korniloff might have worked against the
Bolsheviks - their common enemies - they might have rescued Russia, and the world from the
curse of Bolshevism:..." (94)
In a letter to a friend, Walter Williams back in Missouri, Francis on the 24th of
September suggested that the Bolsheviks had gained strength, "may soon attempt to
overthrow the present Provisional Government and administer affairs through its own
representives. If such a condition should eventuate, failure will undoubtably ensue in a
short time..."(95). As political prophet about the fate of the Bolsheviks, Francis
did not read the situation very well, as it turned out.
On 28 September, Robert Lansing, the Secretary of State of the US, wrote to Francis
that Washington's information was indicating "that conditions there have been growing
steadily worse until there exists to-day a condition of what one would call anarchy."
He went on to comment on reports of increasing deterioration of morale and respect for
officers in the (Russian) military, and stated to Francis, "Department will be
pleased to receive your comments on this message." This message stemmed from the
reports Lansing was receiving from all over Russia via Sweden from people coming out of
out of the country. (96)
THe following week, after running bulletins to the Secretary about the Bolsheviks not
giving up their arms, the progression of a conference of the Council of Ministers, and the
placarding of Moscow over the alleged mistreatment of the "revolutionist Alexander
Berkman" by the United States, on 4 October, Francis replied, in part, "Numerous
outbreaks, some outrages, many defiances of authority, frequent acts of insubordiNation,
have marked the progress of revolution, but not surprising when we consider the expanse of
the country, inadequate, inefficient transportation, unsatisfactory communication by post
and wire of 180,000,000 people oppressed by absolute monarchy for a thousand years. ...
Problem extremely difficult but not insoluable. Deplorable conditions mainly attributable
to returned exiles, majority from America, Trotsky being most troublesome. ... My sympathy
with Russia deep, sincere and my conviction strong that the country will survive ordeal
and be safe for democracy if we and other Allies are patient and helpful. ..." (97)
Some of Francis' rhetoric would be echoed about the Soviet Union as late as the 1980s.
There were many factions vying for power at this juncture, and the "deplorable
conditions" were as attributable to confusion about who was in charge, the country
being on the verge of civil war, chaotic food distribution, and periodic bursts of
violence by all factions. The returning emigres had a small piece of the responsibility
for the chaos, but here Francis ignored that the Tsarist regime held primary
responsibility for most of the conditions that set off the two revolutions. No one group
could be held responsible for the mess Russia was in, despite Francis' comments.
The military attache, General William Judson, reported to Washington 7 October that the
government was going through a "gradual disintegration of power ... in all
directions." He reported that anti-American meetings have occurred, and that
"Bolsheviks desire peace, separate or otherwise; distribution of land, and giving
factories to workmen; all immediately." (98) He, too, was to later favor recognition
of the fledgling Bolshevik government, with disastrous consequences for himself. It caused
Judson's removal by direct orders from President Wilson in December, 1917.
Francis cabled Washington 27 October that the Bolsheviks plan an "outbreak"
on 2 November, that they will have "assistance" from the Kronstadt military
base, and that the first thing the rebels will do is "arrest" the Provisional
Government. He then goes on to say that the newspapers are full of Bolshevik atrocity
stories and that "Government has announced intention to suppress Bolshevik
manifestation peacefully or otherwise." (99)
On 24-25 October, O.S, 7-8 November (N.S.) the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd
began. (100) "In the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee Trotsky had
declared that the Provisional Government no longer existed." (101) All the
descriptions of the Revolution wildly differ, even to whether it was organized, inevitable
or accident. Many historians seem to think that the October revolution was planned, though
in a most disorganized way. Lenin was not reported in Moscow by some sources until 25
October/7 November, but by the 8th, the Bolsheviks were in control of Petrograd and
Francis in Russia, Morris in Sweden reported to the Secretary of State that the
Bolsheviks appeared to have taken over 7-8 November, Francis reports all Ministers save
Kerensky were arrested. The following day Francis reported that the only action
specifically taken by the Diplomatic Corps is that "each head of mission should act
in such matters as his judgement dictated. No mention made of any new government or
recognition thereof when and if established." He also stated that the Military
Revolutionary Committee "has been directing all matters from Smolny Institute,
headquarters of Petrograd Soviet." (102)
Several accounts exist of Kerensky's escape. In his dispatches of 8 & 9 November,
all Francis tells Washington is that Kerensky is not among the arrested. (103) Pipes says
Kerensky "slipped out of the Winter Palace disguised as a Serbian officer and in a
car borrowed from a US Embassy official, flying the American flag, drove off to the front
in search of help." (104) Trotsky did not believe Francis' report of what happened.
Trotsky wrote that the commandeering story was a polite fiction, and not at all true,
and that the Americans had aided Kerensky's escape, thereby sowing seeds of emnity between
Francis, who reported later that he went along with the fiction as did Trotsky, and the
new regime of the Bolsheviks. (105) Kennan reported the car as belonging to American
Assistant Military Attache Captain E. Francis Riggs, and said, "Francis, fearful of
having the Embassy involved in the political events of the day, tried to hush up the
incident, it naturally became known and led to a general impression that Kerensky had
escaped in an American official car, under cover of the American flag." (106) The
incident did not please the Bolsheviks, especially Trotsky, even though he did go along
with what the Americans said had occurred.
The American journalist John Reed provides a moving picture of the new government's
first hours on 8 November: "Smolny was tenser than ever, if that were possible. The
same running men in the dark corridors, squads of workers with rifles, leaders with
bulging portfolios arguing, explaining, giving orders as they hurried anxiously along,
surrounded by friends and lieutenants. Men literally out of themselves, living prodigies
of sleeplessness and work - men unshaven, filthy, with burning eyes who drove upon their
fixed purpose full speed on engines of exaltation. So much they had to do, so much! Take
over the government, organize the City, keep the garrison loyal, fight the Duma and the
Committee for Salvation, keep out the Germans, prepare to do battle with Kerensky, inform
the provinces what had happened, propagandize from Archangel to Vladivistok ... Government
and Municipal Employees refusing to obey their Commissars, post and telegraph refusing
them communication, railroads stonily ignoring their appeals for trains, Kerensky coming,
the garrison not altogether to be trusted, the Cossacks waiting to come out ... Against
them not only the organized bourgeoisie, but all the other Socialist parties except the
Left Socialist Revolutionaries, a few Mensheviki Internationalists, and the Social
Democratic Internationalists, and even they undecided whether to stand by or not. With
them, it is true, the workers and the soldier-masses - the peasants an unknown quantity -
but after all the Bolsheviki were a political faction not rich in trained and educated men
... " (107).
The revolution(s) were described by a Charles Johnston a few months later "To
realize what has happened in Russia, we should remember this: That two antagonistic
revolutions started in Russia at exactly the same time, and that they have, since March,
1917, been racing madly to best each other, first one and then the other gaining the upper
hand." He described most Russians as "shocked" by these turns of events.
"Most, but not all. The small but tremendously active class led by Nicolai Lenine,
whose real name is said by some to be Ulyanof, and by others to be Zederblum, and by
Trotsky, who formerly called himself Braunstein, is wildly elated over what has happened,
and counts it as only a beginning, not for Russia only, but for the whole world. For we
shall be wise to get it in our minds that the Lenine-Trotsky Bolsheviki, like the German
Kaiser, aim at world domination." (108) Though Johnston appears very briefly on
history's stage, he did discern more accurately than most the course the Bolshevik party
would take after they consolidated their power in Russia. It may have been, given the
naming usage he used, that he was a believer of the "Jewish conspiracy" idea,
though there is no specific evidence to support such a thought.
Colonel House, Wilson's Special Representative to the Allies, was in London, met with
Kerensky and others, and wired the President on 18 November that he believed the Allies
should offer peace terms to the Germans that did not include dealing with indemnities or
annexations. He believed Germany would not accept such a peace, that the move would
"solidify Russia." He predicted that Germany would not make a separate peace for
fear of "socialistic infection," but he cited Kerensky and others in saying that
they believed that Petrograd and the western provinces would fall to Germany in the
spring. (109) House was still another American official who failed to see the staying
power the Bolsheviks would end up having on the Russian political scene, and more
dangerous in his lack of vision in that he so strongly had the ear of the US President.
Francis sent a cable to the Secretary of State 20 November saying the Russians were
demanding an Allied conference to declare the Allied war aims so as to "inspire
Russia with renewed courage and resuscitate army which now demoralized." He
personally doesn't oppose such a conference, but looked to Washington for advice. He
points out that "Lenin attempting to administer" and that Trotsky had taken over
the Foreign Office. (110)
The Bolsheviks consolidated their power after some internal fighting and announce
formally through the Foreign Ministry over Trotsky's signature to the Allied Ambassadors
on 22 November that Lenin is the chairman of the new government organized 8 November, and
proposed an "armistice on all fronts and the immediate opening of peace
negotiations..." No specific request is made for recognition, none is offered in
replies from "neutral" Norway, Holland, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden.
(111) Francis had been given the text of this statement by the Foreign Ministry the day
before it was formally announced, he sent it on to the Secretary of State without comment
Later that day, Francis telegraphed the Secretary of State about a meeting held earlier
in the day by Allied Ambassadors in Petrograd about the note offered by Trotsky. The key
phrase in the document, other than some unsubstantiated comments about Lenin "working
for Germany whose plan it is to encourage civil strife in Russia so that German troops
will be called to restore order and then separate peace negotiated on terms favorable to
Germany..." is, "Agreed furthermore that each chief request his Government not
to direct him to to reply to communication, as pretended government established by force
and not recognized by Russian people." (113)
Secretary of State Lansing replied to Francis 24 November, "For your information.
In reply to an inquiry as to whether we would join with the Allies in an agreement not to
recognize independently any new Russian government, the Department has informed the French
Ambassador that we would be glad to exchange interviews with the Allies at any time on the
subject but that we would not bind ourselves to a course which might look to Russia as a
measure of compulsion." (114) Basically, Lansing told Francis that the Allies would
not band together to deny recognition to the new government, nor would the Allies make it
a quid pro quo that Russia stay in the war in exchange for recognition. But, as a matter
of fact, this was exactly the course the Allies would end up taking.
That same day, Francis reported that he has managed to conduct certain kinds of
business without dealing with Smolny directly, such as getting permission for 18 Americans
to travel east on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and sending Henry Horn, a member of the
railway experts commission then in Russia from the US from Petrograd to Moscow. He put it
thusly, "Have managed to continue in touch with Department of Ways of Communication
without recognizing Smolny,..." (115) He had begun using Robins as a go-between with
the Bolsheviks right around this time, though there is no specific date offered in
Francis' memoirs, Hard or Kennan, in Francis' communications with the State Department or
in State Department communications with Francis as to when this role of Robins actually
On 25 November, Francis reports, in part, to the Secretary of State, on the beginning
of elections for the Constituent Assembly in Russia. He said, "Assembly is authority
to which all Russia has been looking since revolution began and is empowered to determine
form of government without referring same back to people for confirmation. Assembly likely
to be Bolshevik in sentiment but if so develops, will still have a semblance of
representing the people ..." (116)
Consul General Madden Summers in Moscow offered, in a letter to Francis 24 November,
some insights to the question, "Why did the Kerensky government fail?" He wrote
some incisive remarks to the critical issue of character in the letter as to what had
happened in Moscow during the October Revolution, criticizing heavily the American Red
Cross, who he alleged were "annoying" in their attempts to get out of town
"before anybody else," but he did not touch on the real upset he had with the
Red Cross, and more specifically Robins. That was that Robins did not play by the
diplomatic rules in his hobnobbing with the Bolsheviks, and was not controllable by normal
channels of command. In Summers' view, such behavior was not gentlemanly. Then Summers
offered comments as to Kerensky's specific errors. "Under these conditions, to keep
these peasant soldiers fighting and at the same time build up a democratic government in a
land that had only known despotism for hundreds of years was a task for a leader with the
iron nerve of Cromwell and the far-seeing wisdom of Lincoln. Not such a man was Kerensky!
... He was also, in my belief, a patriotic Russian with the welfare of his country at
heart. But he was weak, and twice in the brief tenure of his power he blundered fatally;
first, when after the failed Revolution of July, he failed to execute as traitors, Lenin
and Trotzky. second, when during the Korniloff episode, he failed to seek to conciliate
General Korniloff and instead turned to the Council of Workmen's and Soldier's Deputies
and distributed ammunition among the workers of Petrograd. By this singularly inept stroke
he alienated his own army and armed his enemies." (117)
The US Military Attache' wrote to the Chief of the Russian General Staff 25 November,
"The American Government has announced that no shipments of military supplies and
provisions to Russia will be effected until the situation of this country will be
established. ... The exports to Russia will be resumed only after the formation of a
steady government which can be recognized by the United States, but if the Bolsheviks will
remain in power and will put through their program of making peace with Germany, the
present embargo on exports to Russia will remain in force." (118) This was a critical
part of the U.S. position. Fighting, the Russians could get materials from the United
States. Making peace made it imperative to stop supplies. Recognition tied into the
embargo by mandating that a "steady government" stay in the war to continue
getting supplies and gaining recognition.
Trotsky offered a statement to the Allies on 27 November that said, in part, "We
did not demand a parliamentary "recognition." We are reognized by the people.
... That negative attitude with which our peace initiative is being met from the side of
several of the Allied Governments, cannot in in the slightest change the course of our
policy. ... As long as Allied governments answer with bare "no recognition" of
us and our intiative we follow our own course appealing to the peoples after the
governments. Should the results of the appeal bring separate peace, which we do not want,
responsibility will fall completely upon the Allied governments." (119) Francis wrote
to the Secretary of State, commenting on this note on the 28th of November, "Trotsky
note in my 2084 (the numbers refer to State Dept. dispatch numberings) is presuming and
insulting to Allied governments. It threatens appeals to peoples of countries whose
Governments will not recognize him or refuse to propose armistice and peace. ... (120)
George Kennan observed, "On Tuesday and Wednesday (the 27th and 28th), the State
Department received sheaves of new reports about the Russian situation, all affecting in
one or another the question of recognition. ... Together with the news of the unfriendly
reception of the Allied military protest, it indicated clearly that the question of
contact between the Allied representitives and the Soviet authorities was becoming acute,
and that if something weren't done soon to clarify the United States position,
complications might ensue at any time." (121)
On 28 November, Trotsky notifies the Allied governments that he will be having
preliminary meetings with Germany on the peace, and hostilities on the Russian front with
the Germans had ceased. He invited the Allied governments to paricipate in the
"preliminary negotiations" on 2 December. (122) They did not take him up on his
offer, probably a mistake on the part of the Allies.
29 November saw rumors become part of official reports on the subject of recognition.
Francis telegraphed the Secretary of State to tell him that the British Ambassador
"has changed position" and recommended recognition of the Soviet government. He
suggested that he would convene a meeting of Allied Ambassadors the next day to see
whether this is true or not. (123)
"At some time on ..., November 29 or 30, Lansing appears to have either seen the
President or communicated with him in some way on problems of policy towards Russia. ...
Clearly, Wilson and Lansing agreed that there was as yet insufficient reason either to
respond to the Bolshevik peace offer or to enter into any other form of communication with
the Bolshevik authorities. But no statement of this policy was made at that time to the
On the 1st of December, Francis reported to the State Department, "British
Ambassador in authorized interview published today says: `In an interview according to
Reuter correspondent Lord Cecil is reported to have said that His Majesty's Government
could not recognize the present Russian Government and the Ambassador has further been
instructed to abstain from any action that could be taken as implying recognition.' (125)
4 hours after this dispatch was sent, Secretary of State Lansing replied, "Your
2034, November 27; 2039, November 28; and 2040, November 29. You are to make no reply to
communications mentioned in these telegrams and are informed that this Government awaits
further developments. The President has made no statement." (126) Nor would he. This
was a critical telegram from Lansing - it basically told Francis to hang on, operate from
the ongoing non-recognition stance without clear instructions, and at some point, some
guidance as to what to do next would be forthcoming. That guidance came really in the form
of no directions at all, from which Francis derived correctly that Wahington was sticking
to the course of non-recognition of the Bolsheviks.
The Secretary of State drafted a memorandum 2 December to the President. In it, he said
that many people were advising a course on Russia, in his mind the best information
received had been to do nothing. He said, "With this latter policy I'm in total
accord." He pointed out that the Root Mission "recommendations had been
predicated on the success of the Provisional Government" and that government had
failed. He suggested that the "Bolsheviki are anarchists rather than socialists"
and could not see how such a hostile bunch could claim to be a government. He stated that
recognizing the Bolsheviks would encourage similar elements in other countries. Lansing
went on, "The correct policy for a government which believes in political
institutions as they now existand based on nationality and private property is to leave
these dangerous idealists alone and have no direct dealings with them. To recognize them
would give them an exalted idea of their own power, ... and win their contempt, not their
Lansing stated that while the Teutonic governments were recognizing the Bolshevik
regime, it was a short-sighted policy. He predicted the downfall of the Bolsheviks. He
stated his sureness "trhat it would be unwise to give recognition to Lenin, Trotsky
and their crew of radicals." He offered that the probable result would be several
states managing their own affairs. (He was off by 74 years). He offered his feelings of
dubiousness about the Bolshevik leaders, accusing them of having no regard for decent
virtues. He accused them of planning to "destroy civilization by mob violence."
He predicted correctly that civil war would ensue, but picked the Germans to be the
benefactors of such a conflict. He stated that a "Terror" would bvefall Russia,
worse than that in France in the 1790s. He suggested that the only remedy might be a
"strong ... personality" to emerge, and with force maintain a government. He
concluded the memo by saying," `Do nothing' should be our policy until the black
period of terrorism comes to an end and the rising tide of blood has run its course. It
cannot last forever, but Russia will sink lower before better days come." (127)
On 4 December, Lansing sent another draft memo to the President, stating basically the
points he had made in his 2 December comments. Lansing asserts, "The President did
not think it was opportune to make a public declaration of this sort at the time it was
suggested." Lansing said that Wilson "approved in principle the position I had
taken" and directed that actions be taken along those lines of thinking. "From
that time forward the policy of non-recognition of the Bolsheviki was pursued without
variation, and was at last proclaimed by Secretary (of State) Colby in the summer of
1920." (128) "The policy of non-recognition thus may be said to date from that
moment - December 4, 1917 - and Lansing's unused memorandum may be regarded as its first
authoritative expression." (129)
Francis was now slightly stuck. He had been feeling since late November that the
Department had little idea of what he was facing in Russia, saying in a letter to Lansing
24 November, "I have not received any from you indicating you are aware of the
situation here." (130) Francis was not told of Wilson's decision not to publicly
state that America favored non-recognition, nor was he made aware of Wilson's move for
quite some time, and all he had to go on was the 1 December statement to him about
awaiting further developments. This really was very little information to make decisions
or act upon them in such a momentous matter, and showed the lack of understanding in the
American State Department about how far and much to instruct an Ambassador in the field.
Francis was not informed of all this for some months (in February, 1918). However, he was
aware of conditions inside the country from myriad reports from Consuls at Tiflis, Odessa,
Riga, Petrograd and Moscow, and was aware of their contacts with opponents of the
Bolsheviks. He showed remarkable ability to operate with the paucity of instructions from
Washington, and the almost dangerous reports he received from the field outlining the
activities of the Bolshevik opposition, any of which could have aroused the Bolshevik's
On 2 December, Francis cabled to Washington that the Military Attache's visit to Smolny
on 1 December was "exciting comment" among various Allied embassies that the
United States was recognizing Russia's new rulers. He says "Judson has insisted for
some time that Soviet is de facto government and relations therewith should be
established." Francis said he had not authorized Judson to go, that he had instructed
that a subordinate go to discuss "armistice only," and that he did not know
until after the fact that Judson had gone. Francis enclosed the test of a message from
Trotsky published in "oficial Soviet organs," which said, in part,
"General Judson informed Comrade Trotsky that at present he has no opportunity to
of speaking in the name of the American Government since recognition of Soviet authority
is not yet an accomplished fact, but he appeared for the purpose of establishing
relations, elucidate certain circumstances and dispel misunderstandings. ..." (131)
Francis went on to say that Judson had told him that the visit was "... personal,
not official, ..." and that he had only asked questions and received assurances that
now "all negotiations will be openly conducted." (132)
Hard points out that it "was absolutely necessary" for the Allies to keep in
touch with Trotsky on "some subjects," despite the allusion to the recall of
Judson for doing so. He goes on to say, "they had embassies in Petrograd; and these
embassies had to get police protection, for instance, and telegraph-service, and similar
courtesies and facilities. For the American embassy Robins was the `unofficial' talker. He
was not a member of the club, so to speak; and accordingly, he could go to Smolny on
behalf of the American Ambassador without in the slightest degree compromising the
American Ambassador. He went, and he kept on going, month after month, at the American
ambassador's request. He was `unofficial,' but he was recognized. In all that follows it
should, therefore, be thoroughly understood that Robins was not going to Smolny in any
merely private capacity." (133)
Hard went on to point out that Robins is now the head of the Red Cross mission, Colonel
Thompson apparently having left in the first days of December. (134) Also, "...Robins
was the American ambassdor's "unofficial" aide in all dealings with Smolny. Once
an order came from Washington forbidding Robins to go to Smolny any more. The ambassador
secured its cancellation. He wanted Robins to go." (135) The documentation shows that
Francis did ask Washington on 12 December about Robins' role, and on 15 December he was
forbidden to have contact with Smolny. On 29 December, he assertd after the war, he
received a telegram that was "unclear as to what he should do." (136) The record
is mute about Hard's assertion, it would appear that Washington just ignored the situation
as Robins' role served their purposes without having to formally recognize the Bolsheviks.
This statement glosses over the fact that while Francis did want Robins to continue
interacting with the Bolsheviks, had the US government put its foot down, he would have
been duty-bound to yank Robins out of the arena of contact with Smolny.
Francis acknowledged the 1 December Washington cable of the Secretary of State on 4
December, informing the State Department "Have made no replies to communications
designated. ... The position of the Washington government is founded on the assumption
that a large part of Russia does not sympathize with the aims of the Bolsheviks and more
than that their success is by no means assured. ..." Francis concluded his telegram
with a vaguely ominous sentence, "Trotsky issued an order three days ago removing all
(foreign) diplomats averse Soviet government." (137) Which diplomats were to be
expelled is never clearly spelled out by Francis. Even though Francis is given no specific
instructions about recognition, he followed his own inclinations, which happened to
dovetail into the stance President Wilson wanted taken. In the issue of recognition and to
a degree also the issue of intervention, Francis served as he was supposed to - the
personal representive of the President, with some latitude for discretion, which he
Also on 4 December, a telegram from the US Ambassador in Sweden, Ira Morris, stated
that through "Colonel Thompson, head of Red Cross, William Sands and others who have
just come from Russia," that the Russians are seeking recognition from somebody,
anybody, ... one of the neutral powers..." The Russians clearly hoped that
recognition by somebody would give them some weight in the international community. (138)
Francis sent a cable 7 December which in part stated he had "seen no American
paper since this revolution began." He pointed out who was currently in Russia,
correspondents from the Chicago News and the New York world, and said, "I think both
correspondents would like to see the Soviet government recognized." (139) The
following day, Francis is chastised by the State Department for offering viewpoints in a
cable earlier in the month that "enunciates views totally at variance with the
announced policy of this Government." Secretary Lansing advised him that they wish
"recommendations on the political situation" from Francis, and they wanted to
hear from Francis, privately, on his own views, but they definitely did not want him
talking to the press. (140)
In perusing the two years of comments offered by Francis to the State Department, he
rarely missed an opportunity to say what he thought ought to be done. It appears that what
the Department periodically would react to was Francis commenting publicly on what ought
to happen, when in some cases, for a variety of reasons, the Department had not yet heard
his views, or wanted him to take a certain view that he had expressed in public
differently. Considering that he often felt, with some justification, that he was being
asked to carry a large burden without much information from Washington, it remains
surprising that there was not more acrimony from Francis to his noiminal superiors about
their carping at him to tell them more. He was not happy about the critical telegrams, and
on 9 December sent a long and detailed defense of his actions. (141)
The next day, 10 December, Francis sent another fairly long telegram to Washington
wherein he asserts that a "source worth of credence," (whom he never identifies)
says that "the Smolny government absolutely under the control of German General
Staff." He then asked on what to do if the Germans occupied Petrograd with the
Embassy staff and so on, and that he had planned to remain there no matter what, and that
he would rely on the Russian people themselves for help and protection. He goes on to
report, "Trotsky gives widest possible circulation to any favors requested even by
subordinates of Allied missions, hoping thereby to convince Russian people that his
government is recognized by Allies as that would be most effective argument for its
recognition in Russia." (142) Francis did correctly perceive the desperation the new
government has to be recognized, as if the Bolsheviks can see coming the long civil war
that erupted in late 1918, in part, because no legitmate government wants to recognize
them for fear of igniting Bolshevism in their country.
On 12 December, the British informed the US Secretary of State that they were
discussing recognition in the Cabinet, but would not be recognizing the Bolshviks in the
near term. Morris in Sweden that same day reported "Russian Minister, Copenhagen,
informs me that Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs told him that Danish Government would
take no action with reference to recognition of Bolshevik government for the present and
await developments." (143) Slowly, from around the world, Lansing learned that the
Allied, and neutral, governments are holding to non-recognition of the Bolshevik
government as December winged by.
Then Robins reportedly held out the possibility of U.S. aid and recognition, according
to newspapers in Petrograd, Francis reported. In the first of two telegrams sent that same
day, the Ambassador stated, "Trotsky in speech Sunday night reported in Bolshevik
paper as saying, `The chief of the American Red Cross came to Smolny and said straight
that in Russia there never had been any such strong government as ours and that America of
course will give us all kinds of supplies except munitions ...' Suppose Robins is meant,
as he is acting since Thompson's departure. This was in morning paper the 11th. Are Red
Cross members wearing uniform included in your 1883, December 6, 2 p.m., which says,
"The President desires American representitives withhold all direct communications
with the Bolshevik government?" (144) This issue of the Red Cross and what their role
was to be ended up being brushed aside, so Francis continued to use Robins as a go-between
and ignoring the recognition question in that regard, while publicly refusing to treat
with the Smolny government in any way.
On 14 December, Francis reported without personal comment that Trotsky had stated in an
"official bulletin," "Judson came to us and said it isn't true that England
is preparing to deprive us of supplies and Colonel Robins said he had never seen a firmer
government. He thinks his government will be the first to recognize us ... " (145)
Judson lost his job over his willingness to "recognize" the Bolsheviks, and
Robins was, as it turned out, quite wrong about the US government's willingness to
recognize the new government in Russia.
Then arose the armistice between Germany and Russia. "On 15 December,
German-Soviet negotiations, which had actually been inaugerated in Brest-Litovsk on
December 3, were finally brought to an end by the signing of an armistice agreement. ...
Trotsky had officially communicated these terms to the Allied governments in a note dated
December 6 (146) and delivered that same day in Petrograd. ... There is no record that
this communication was ever given any special consideration in Washington, or that it was
ever acknowledged in any way. In the absence of any reply from the western governments,
the Soviet delegation returned to Brest and the talks were resumed December 12. On the
evening of Friday, December 14, rumors began to circulate in Petrograd of the signing of
the agreement, ... The agreement was actually signed the following day, but the news was
not released in Petrograd until Sunday, December 16." (147)
Francis on the scene, and Lansing in Washington, missed a golden opportunity to have
perhaps caused havoc with the idea of a German-Russian armistice simply by having sent
someone to Brest-Litovsk and accepting Trotsky's invite. THe US decision to not treat with
the Bolsheviks, and Francis' willingness to fall in line with that attitude, perhaps did
our long-range and war interests great harm. One strong American voice at the talks could
have disrupted them greatly. Francis was innately cautious however, and would have never
made such a move without Washington's approval, and it appears that the Wilson government
never discerned the possibility they had at hand.
Judson having been barred from further interacting with Smolny, the job of contact with
the Soviet authorities was allowed to rest on Robins' shoulders. On Sunday evening, as the
news of the armistice was spreading throughout Petrograd, Robins had another of his
frequent meetings with Trotsky. Trotsky apparently slightly bamboozled Robins or
"Robins seems to have failed to understand..." that the armistice would allow
the Germans to move troops around at will, that there would probably be trade or shipping
of war materials with and to the Germans. (148)
The "so-called Kalpashnikov affair," which occurred at about this time,
revolved around Trotsky's resentment of the Allies not joining in the armistice talks, and
the failure for world revolution to occur. He had no great love for the Allies, indeed
there was "evidences of the sharpest resentment on Trotsky's part, directed against
the Allied representitives in Petrograd." Kalpashnikov had shipped a number of
ambulances and trucks to Russia for the use of the Red Cross. He shipped out to Petrograd
on the same ship to Petrograd that Trotsky did, and when the British detained Trotsky at
Halifax, Kalpashnikov "allowed himself to be used by the British security officers on
this occasion as an interpreter in Trotsky's interrogation, a fact Trotsky understandably
resented and found it difficult to forget or forgive." (149) Trotsky did't forget.
Apparently, after Kalpashnikov got to Russia, his ambulances, semi-assembled, were
being put together in Petrograd when Kerensky was overthrown. For reasons not completely
clear, Kalpashnikov and Colonel H.W. Anderson of the Romanian Red Cross Commission decided
"that the ambulances might well be used in Rumania rather than left in Russia, where
obviously there would be no further need for them." Anderson wired the head of the
Red Cross in Washington, Henry Davison, in early December asking for permission to
transfer the ambulances to Romania. Kalpashnikov appeared in Petrograd 18 December with
"a letter to Francis from Anderson asking the Embassy's help in getting the vehicles
to Jassy (the headquarters of both the Romanian Red Cross and the government)." (150)
Then somewhere along the way, Anderson decided that he wanted the ambulances in Rostov.
He wrote Francis later that he sent them there as a safety move, so that the vehicles
might go to the south if someone decided on the need. Anderson sent messages to
Kalpashnikov with instructions about the ambulances, and to the Embassy asking for
monetary help to get them there. Anderson sent Francis letters explaining in more detail
what he was up to, though they conflicted with earlier communications, which had been sent
"in the clear" and that the Bolsheviks knew about by 7 December. "The
Embassy at Petrograd failed to turn the messages over to Kalpashnikov or the Petrograd Red
Cross Commission, nor does anything appear to have been said to either of these parties
about them. ... Why the Embassy held up their transmission remains a mystery. Was it just
inefficiency and dilatoriness? Or was there some backstairs collusion with Robins which
prevented their delivery?" Kennan indicated that the record as left offered no clue
as to what really occurred. But Trotsky did not want motor vehicles in the hands of the
Bolshevik's many enemies and as there wren't too many vehicles in Russia, they were
A short interlude occurred. Kennan offered information gleaned from Robins' pocket
diary entries indicating that he had some knowledge of the telegrams bottled up by the
Embassy, probably having been shown them by the Russians 5 or 7 December. Another entry on
11 December made it clear that "Robins by this time had some knowledge of the
messages concerning the ambulances." On 17 December, Robins and Major Roger Perkins
of Anderson's staff quarrelled over the ambulances, "with Robins walking out in a
huff." The following day, Robins received written instructions that the trainload of
supplies headed to Romania could go, sans motorcars. On 20 December, Kalpasnikov,
determined to get his motorcars out of Petrograd, appealed to the US Naval Attache, Walter
Cosley, for help. In Kalpashnikov's book written in 1920, A Prisoner of Trotsky's,
according to Kennan, he recounted a whole conversation he held with the Ambassador about
Robins' desire to cause trouble for Francis, Robins' aspirations for Francis' job, and the
Ambassador's vehement opposition to recognizing the Bolshevik government. On the night of
20-21 December, Kalpashnikov was arrested by the Soviets. (152)
The Secretary of State sent to US diplomatic representitives in Europe, Japan, China
and Siam on 15 December, "Pending further instructions you should have no official
relations with Russian diplomatic officers who recognize or are appointed by Bolshevik
government. (153) Lansing sent a telegram to the US Consul at Tiflis, Felix Smith, on 15
December, which said, "Your telegrams December 4, 9 p.m. and subsequent dates
including December 13, 6 p.m. received. Department appreciates your thorough reports on
situation, is in touch with Allied Governments and hopes to give you definite instructions
shortly on whole subject. Meanwhile do not commit this Government. No country either
belligerant or neutral has recognized Bolshevik government, Petrograd." (154)
That same day, Maddin Summers, US Consul General in Moscow, sent to the Department from
Petrograd a lengthy analysis they didn't get until 30 January the following year "in
regard to political developments during the first half of December." The analysis was
detailed, covered all the fronts, factions and personalities, and covered the elections to
the Constitutional Convention extensively. (155) Summers' sudden death in May, 1918, was
to deprive both Francis and the US Department of State of a very cogent and objective
analyst of the situation at a relative critial juncture.
Francis told the Department on 17 December that an armistice ageeement had been made
for 4 weeks "subject to termination on seven day's notice,..." He said that
Trotsky thought he had "achieved a success,..." Francis went on to say, "It
means, in my judgement, that Russia is out of the war. ... " (156) In that flat
statement, though Brest-Litovsk was not agreed on for three more months, Francis did see
what had happened more clearly than they did in Washington. On 18 December, Summers,
cabled the preliminary agreement between the Germans and the Russians. According to the
document as it appears in Foreign Affairs, Volume I., it was not received at the State
Department until 2 March, 1918. (157) The technical problems of communicating between
Russia and Washington have never been adequately discussed by most sources, but Francis
mentioned the difficulties periodically in his State Department communiques.
Robins reacted to the arrest by the Soviets of Kalpashnikov the night 20 December
detailed above by meeting with first Francis, and then with letters from the Counselor of
the Embassy, J. Butler Wright, saying that Kalpashnikov had gotten no money from the
Embassy for any purpose. "To send Robins to the Soviet authorities involved a
departure by the Ambassador from the very policy of "no contact" which he
himself had recommended to Washington; but in the heat of the moment, and in the face of
the lively apprehensions which he and the others were experiencing for their own safety,
this aspect of the matter evidently appeared to have lost its importance." (158) The
"problem" referred to by Wright was never really addressed by anyone - a link to
Smolny was fairly vital until both Francis and Robins moved out of range of contact with
Smolny the following spring.
Robins met with Trotsky that afternoon. Trotsky was reported by Francis as
"refusing to listen to Robins' explanation thereof, because Robins could not state
sent by me, ..." (159), this despite the fact that Robins had the letter from Wright
explaining what the US had done, and also had the offending telegrams the Embassy had been
holding. That night, Trotsky denounced Kalpashnikov in very harsh terms, accusing him of
attempting to place the autos in the hands of an anti-Bolshevik group. Robins was
exonerated by Trotsky as having no part in the affair. (160) Francis reported that Trotsky
had attacked him for colluding in the affair with aid to opponents of the regime in mind,
which Francis denied in both his cable, and a comment to the press (161) on 22 December.
"At the conference on the morning of December 22, it was also apparently decided
that to send Robins to the Smolny once more" to represent the US positions on the
incident and to try and secure Kalpashnikov's release. That same day, the State Department
word barring Robins from contact with the Bolsheviks AND the Red Cross instructions to the
same end both arrived at the Embassy that same morning. "This meant Robins was NOT to
have contact with the Soviet authorities. The source of this dictum, it must be
remembered, was a Presidential directive." (162)
"At the Embassy, Robins mentioned this order. `What?' said the Ambassador. `Pay no
attention to it.' `But,' Robins said, `it's an order.' `I'll take the responsibility,'
said the ambassador. ` You keep on going to Smolny. Tear the order up.' `Well,' said
Robins, `will you cable Washington to change the order?' `Certainly,' said the ambassador.
" (163) According to Kennan, this dialogue occurred at the 22 December meeting. (164)
Francis did ask for clarification, but Robins kept going to Smolny despite what Washington
had to say.
Francis testified to a Senate "investigating committee" in 1919 that he had
told Robins that he thought it unwise to sever the contacts with Smolny and that cessation
of the visits might not be a prudent course. Francis wanted to know what the Bolsheviks
were up to, Robins was his conduit to knowing, and a willing participant in the exchange
in addition. Francis went on at the hearings to say he had cabled the government as to
this decision and he did not receive a reply until 29 December, and that was unclear as to
what he should do. "In this remarkable manner, Robins succeeded in escaping at the
last moment from the operation of Washington's ban on contacts with the Soviet
authorities. From that time on he proceeded vigorously with the pursuit of a series of
associations with the Soviet leaders which appeared to him both necessary and
desirable." (165) This whole situation really pointed up how unprepared the State
Department was to deal with the complexity presented by Russia in the post-Tsarist period,
and how to handle extraneous personnel like Robins who really was not under their control.
On 27 December, Robins sent the following telegram via Francis' wire access to Henry
Davison, head of the Red Cross "from Robins:" "December 26, State
Department 1920, December 21st. Please urge on the President the necessity of our
continued intercourse with the Bolshevik government. Otherwise it is impossible to arrange
transporation and distribution of supplies, particularly milk. Ambassador approves this
statement and has advised the State depatment to the same efect. Alleged statement by
Trotsky quoted in your message untrue. Statement made by me to Trotsky was from your
cables regarding shipment of supplies." Francis adds the line, "Please note my
above stated expression of approval." (C & P, 60). Lansing replied to Francis
obliquely. He sidestepped the issue of Robins' contacts with Smolny, and said only that he
hoped that the Red Cross work would continue. (166)
New Year's Day, 1918, Francis telegraphed the Secretary of State that Robins had met
with Trotsky and (N.V) Krylenko on 31 December, and that they were "enraged"
because of an alleged German "conspiracy," and wanted to "sever all
negotiations" towards an end of the war with Germany as far as Russia is concerned.
Robins reportedly had grasped the tail end of a conversation at Smolny, and believed a
conspiracy was going to cause a break in the negotiating. Karl Radek, head of the Soviet
propaganda bureau AND a negotiator in the talks with the Germans in the naval and economic
areas, that same evening, proceeded to further lead on Edgar Sisson, the Committee for
Public Information representative who had arrived on the scene 25 November, and by
extension Robins and Francis, by alleging that the Bolsheviks would fight the Germans
because they would all die if they didn't. Francis, Judson, Robins and Sisson all met in
the Embassy that day, and Francis agreed to support "immediate assistance ... in the
event of a resumption of hostilities." This same day, Judson was recalled, "the
decision had ... the President's personal approval." Apparently the decision was
oral, as the papers of the State Department, Lansing and Wilson's public papers do not
specifically reflect Judson's recall, though Albert Rhys Williams claimed that Judson's
recall was due to Sisson, whose boss, George Creel, was a close confidant of President
Wilson, and Williams refers to a telegram that must have been sent from the Army. (167)
On 2 January, Robins, worried that Francis might squirm out of committment to aid the
Russians if they broke off peace negotiations, brought two documents for Francis to sign.
One was a draft to the State Department about aid to Russia if hostilities were renewed.
The other was a draft of a "communication to the Soviet Commissar for Foreign
Affairs," outlining a similar plan if "Soviet government decided to prosecute
war against Germany and Austro-Hungary." Francis intialled them both, and a entire
misconstruction arose from them. Later that day, the Department in the person of the
Secretary of State made it clear to Francis that he was not to change course on
recognition, and that they would instruct as to when that policy might change. (168)
Francis had only appoved these documents tentatively, and with only scant feeling that
they would be used. However, the documents survived, and became objects of intense
scrutiny from a variety of viewpoints. Robins, who testified before Francis in the 1919
hearings, and then again after, produced these documents as proof he had been acting with
the Ambassador's approval. Trotsky was shown these documents by Robins three days before
he left for renewed negotiations at Brest 5 January. However, Robins missed the import of
Judson's recall, and Francis did not, which is perhaps why he hewed so close to his
instructions on recognition. (169)
"Yet it was a serious matter that the Soviet authorities should have been
permitted to rest under a misapprehension of such gravity at this crucial moment ... It
was not the last time such confusion would flow from Robins' ambiguous position and his
eagerness to be useful," says Kennan. (170) The authorities in Washington should have
clarified what Robins could and could not do, Francis did not help at all in his reliance
on this quasi-independent person for so much in terms of interacting with the despised
Wilson first offered his 14 Points program, in a long speech to Congress, on 8 January,
1918. The next day, the 9th, Francis cabled the State Department and says, "Robins,
who visits Smolny often, says Trotsky enroute Brest addressed four armies who received him
cordially and pledged themselves to fight rather than submit to a disgraceful peace. ...
Beginning to think separate peace improbable perhaps impossible and inclined to recommend
similtaneous recognition of Finland, Ukraine, Siberia, perhaps Don Cossacks Province snd
Soviet de facto government of Petrograd, Moscow and vicinity. Understand another
government organizing at Archangel and comprising territory equal to England, France and
Germany combined. ..." (171) Wilson favored self-determination for all of Russia as
one governmental unit, though in the 14 Points, he favored self-determination for much
smaller political units. Lansing once suggested that he thought Russia might break into
several smaller nations (172), but this never became a policy the U.S. embraced. Wilson
never really explains why he takes one stance with Russia, another with Austria-Hungary.
This communique was one of the few waverings of Francis on the subject of recognition.
He was ignored by Washington. 9 January also saw the Secretary of State cable Francis,
"... President delivered speech to Congress yesterday stating war aims and attitude
toward Russia. It was cabled you at once. Have it conveyed unofficially to Trotsky. Report
results also of measures taken to circulate it." (173)
Francis was pondering an idea that had much circulation in Allied circles, especially
the British, of recognizing everybody. The U.S. government "never warmed" to
this idea. it also appears that Francis meant this is as a suggestion, not a formal
proposal. Robins tried to send a telegram on the 15th to Thompson saying that these were
formal proposals. Francis sat on the telegram and didn't send it. (174) Robins was
apparently oblivious as to how much the Embassy, and Francis personally, interfered with
his communications back to the United States, or he chose to ignore this behavior without
Also on 9 January, the British Ambassador to Washington sent a momo to Lansing stating
that they planned to keep informal exchanges going with the Bolsheviks, though the person
of former Consul General (R.H. Bruce) Lockhart, and through the "newly appointed
agent of the Bolsheviki in London, M. Litinov. As already explained, the Bitish Government
consider it necessary to maintain relations in some way, ... the present system does not
entail the recognition of the Trotsky-Lenin government either by the British Government or
the Governments of the Allies." (175) This two-track behavior seems almost laughable
almost 75 years later, but the decision to not "recognize" but to interact
"informally" is a posture the U.S. was to take again, most notably with the
People's Republic of China from 1949-72, and with Cuba from 1960 to the present time. So,
as it has suited our needs, two-track stances have been a posture our government has
embraced without concern for how confusing or hypocritical it might seem.
On the 12th, Francis replied to the Secretary about the Wilson 14 Points speech.
"... Robins reports had an interview with Lenin who has wired President's message
textually to Trotsky at Brest. Lenin said he approved of the message and thought it
potential agency in promoting peace. Lenin also expressed himself as believing war would
be resumed and no separate peace effected. ..." (176) Lansing cabled to Francis on
the 15th that several governments had recognized Finland - including one of the Allies,
France. Then he said France was planning to recognize the Ukraine as an independent state.
"This government not disposed as yet to recognize any independent governments until
the will of the Russian people has been more definitely expressed on this general subject.
The public utterances of the President have definedly clearly the sympathy of the United
States for democracy and self-government." (177) It appears clear that no
instructions to Francis about Brest-Litovsk, US attendence at those talks. or general
recognition were forthcoming at a point a little over two months after the October
Francis reported to the Department on 20 January that Allied Ambassadors had held a
meeting in Petrograd on whether to stay or not, Francis wanting to stay because he thought
leaving would aid the Germans and ensure that Russia would stop fighting. But, he wanted
instructions - go or stay? That day also saw a 10 break in the Brest-Litovsk talks, asked
for by Germany. (178) Later on that day, Robins met with Trotsky. They talked about
recognition, the American Ambassador's feelings about recognition, and Judson's impending
departure. Some time after his departure, Judson called "clever" Robins'
statement to Trotsky that Judson was going for American assistance in case Brest-Lotovsk
talks broke down. (179)
Robins asked to cable, and then did cable Colonel Thompson in New York City 23 January
saying "Soviet Government stronger to-day than ever before. ... Cannot too strongly
urge importance of prompt recognition of Bolshevik authority and immediate establishment
of modus vivendi making possible generous and sympathetic co-operation. ... Sisson
approves this text and requests you show this cable to Creel. ..." (180)
"Francis agreed, rather unhappily, to this," ... and sent both the cable cited
above, and the one he had been holding since the 15th. He indicated in an accompanying
message that as Robins was helping him in keeping linked to the Bolsheviks, he couldn't
well deny such requests, but he didn't agree with the contents. All he thought he was
suggesting was "working relations" with the various de facto governments. (181)
"The Robins-Sisson recommendation of January 23 had no visible effect on the
United States government. But whether the same could be said about the Soviet government
is doubtful." (182) The differences between Robins and Francis on recognition come
through very clear in these messages - what is amazing is that Francis would allow Robins
to have such communications privileges without censoring or refusing them, and allowing
Robins so much leeway solely on the basis of the linkage he provided to the Bolshevik
On 24 January, Trotsky summoned Robins to Smolny, and told him that he's leaving for
Brest-Litovsk (183). Robins told this to Francis on the 25th. "Robins, who informed
me yesterday morning of Trotsky's hasty departure for Brest, told me 11 last night that
Trotsky had sent for him night before to tell him thereof and to ask whether knew what our
government would do about his recognition and on receiving negative reply inquired whether
Ambassador knew. Robins thought not but would ask. I told him I had no instructions
concerning recognition and was satisfied Government would not act other than in concert
with Allies. Robins telephoned today that Trotsky had returned, consequently I doubt
whether he started; possibly this was scheme to force our hand. " (184) The old
gentleman smelled a rat, and realized more clearly than Robins that Trotsky was
manipulating a far too believing Robins and trying to force American action by getting
Robins to spook Francis.
The Ambassador's canniness was probably correct in this instance. There is no
indication that Trotsky left Petrograd at any time between January 23 and 25, or that he
ever intended to. Kennan suggests that Trotsky deceived Robins deliberately in hopes of
pushing the U.S. into a "hasty gesture of recognition." Trotsky was involved in
several struggles internally where "...a promise - or even a semi-promise - of
American recognition and assistance would have been a distinct boon to his position."
On 29 January, "...Francis received from Chicherin, a former Tsarist diplomat who
was to replace Trotsky as Foreign Affairs Commissar in March and who had returned to
Russia earlier in the month, of whose status as a Foreign Office official he had had no
previous notification, a handwritten note conveying the astonishing news that the Russian
Consul in New York, Mr. Oustinoff, the Tsarist appointee, has been dismissed and Citizen
John Reed has appointed Consul of the Russian Republic in New York." (186) As the
United States had not recognized the Russian Government at all, an American representing
the Russian's interests, especially an American currently residing in Russia, must have
been abhorrent to all the diplomatic types in the State Department. Francis felt that way,
and so did Washington. In any event, the idea was quickly squelched. (187) Francis wrote
to Lansing 31 January "Endeavoring through Robins to get Lenin revoke Reed
appointment with fair prospect of success." (188) Reed never filled the post.
The State Department on 1 February, through an Assistant Swecretary of State, in some
anxiety, cabled Francis that they'd not heard from him in three days, but they were aware
from Morris in Stockholm that Petrograd was isolated, and that they "have been trying
to communicate by all possible channels..." (189) The Department was concerned about
more data from the Ambassador were he to stay in Petrograd - weekly reports from the
naval, military and commercial people, "also information from such other sources as
you find available, which you can compound into a single brief cable report with
background of your own views. Department believes this will enable you to supplement your
valuable daily telegrams by weekly resume of situation which will be additionally helpful,
the reports to be sent every Friday." (190)
It appears that the Assistant Secretary of State was speaking as bureaucrat, not a
practical diplomat, and he appears to assume that Francis had all the time in the world to
fill out such detailed reports. Francis responded, in part, to the telegram of 1 February
on the 4th, "Your telegrams coming through regularly, consequently cannot account for
the delays in mine. Not aware Petrograd communication with Europe severed until messages
from Vladivistok. Archangel, London. Perhaps Soviet using this additional lever for
recognition. Has given notice through official organ that missions of governments where
Russia has deposits cannot procure funds until such governments recognize right of Soviet
government to draw Russian funds deposited in those countries." (191)
On 8 February, Francis sent an intriguing telegram to the State Department. " ...
consequently ask no change in Department's policy, certainly not before Brest negotiations
are ended. Have absolutely reliable eveidence (the Samenev papers? He doesn't say, but
Francis had seen the first of these from Sisson on the 5th) that Lenin, Trotsky accepted
German money from June to October professedly for peace propaganda and army demoralization
but I have not shown to Robins as might impair his effectiveness by weakening his implicit
confidence in their sincerity. ... Still think that Soviet recognition would be a mistake
for if separate peace concluded it would be much less binding upon Russian people and much
less satisfactory to Germany without our previous recognition." (192)
What is intriguing is that Francis was apparently, and with quite a bit of
justification, much more clear-eyed about Robins than the other way around. He clearly
believed that Robins was totally enthralled with the Bolshevik government to the point of
not being able to view it objectively. To some degree, it appeared that his belief had
substance, though Francis was as pigheaded about non-recognition as was Robins on
recognition's behalf. The two men had a fair amount of respect for each other, though it
seems from the record that Francis was much more cautious about Robins than Robins
Robins was often abrasive and strong-willed. He battled with Edgar Sisson, the
representitive of the Committee on Public Information, as Sisson began accumulating a
large number of documents, purportedly from Smolny, that reportedly indicated that the
high Bolsheviks were in league with the German General Staff. "As Sisson's enthusiasm
for the documents increased, together with the depth of his personal committment to the
thesis of their authenticity, his suspicion of the Soviet leaders became highly inflamed.
Robins, on the other hand, was utterly incredulous of the authenticity of the documents.
... " Robins continued to believe that treating the Bolsheviks fairly was the better
course, and that to buy into the "dubious documents" offered by Eugene Semenev
was to play the German game. (193) In this belief, it appears that Robins was much more
level-headed about the Semenev "evidence" than either Sisson or Francis. To
Francis' credit, he began to doubt the Semenev evidence not long after it first appeared.
Sisson could, or would, not abandon the position he had taken on that material, and he
continued even after the war to believe it true. (194)
On 7 February, Sisson attempted to have a meeting with Robins about the documents.
Reportedly, Robins walked out of the meeting "abruptly." He apologized the next
day, but refused to renew the discussion. "The incident had affected him
deeply." He felt the issue at hand a "final showdown of power and faith..."
(195) Russia repudiated its foreign debts on 8 February, and formally removed itself from
the war 10 February. (196) Trotsky broke off the talks at Brest-Litovsk that same day. On
the 11th, while discussing this development, Robins and Sisson quarreled again. The
following morning they ate breakfast together without a word. "From the moment when
that silent breakfast party disbanded, Robins and Sisson never spoke to each other again,
either in Petrograd or anywhere else." (197)
On 12 February, Robins made a dramatic speech at Bruce Lockhart's house-warming, one of
the first British people there to give his ideas credence, a story repeated by Kennan from
Lockhart's book, British Agent. "Lockhart has left us a brilliant word-picture of
Robins as he appeared at that luncheon party, three or four hours after his last breakfast
with Sisson. Despite its length, this passage is too striking and illuminating not to be
During luncheon Robins spoke little, but afterwards, when we were assembled in the
smoking room, his tongue was loosened. Standing by the mantelpiece, his black hair
smoothed back with characteristic gesture, He made a moving appeal for Allied support of
the Bolsheviks. He began quietly, analyzing the various Allied arguments against
recognition and demolishing the ridiculous Allied theory that the Bolsheviks were working
for a Germany victory. He drew a touching picture of a helpless people facing with courage
and without arms the greatest military machine in history. We had nothing to hope from the
demoralised Russian bourgeoisie, who were actually relying on German aid for the
restoration of their rights and property. Then he began his eulogy of Trotsky. The Red
Leader was a "four kind son of a bitch, but the greatest Jew since Christ. If the
German General Staff bought Trotsky, they bought a lemon." As he worked up to his
peroration, he became almost indignant over the folly of the Allies in `playing the German
game in Russia.' Then he stopped dramatically and took a piece of paper from the flap
pocket of his uniform. I can see him now. Consciously or not, he had provided himself with
an almost perfect setting. Before him a semicircle of stolid Englishmen. Behind him the
roaring log-fire, its tongues of flames reflected in wierd shadows on the yellow-papered
walls. Outside, through the window, the glorious view of the slender spire of Peter and
Paul with the great fire-ball of the setting sun casting rays of blood on the snow-clad
waters of the Neva. Once again he pushed his hair back with his hand and shook his head
like a lion. "Have any of you read this?" he asked. "I found it this
morning in one of your newspapers." Then in a low voice, quivering with emotion, he
read Major McCrae's poem:
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow Loved and were
loved, and now we lie In Flanders Fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from
failing hands we throw The Torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who
die We shall not sleep, though Poppies grow In Flanders Fields.
When he had finished, there was an almost deathly silence. For what seemed an eternity
Robins himself turned away and looked out the window. When, squaring his shoulders, he
came back at us. "Boys!" he said. "I guess we're all here for one purpose -
to see that the German General Staff doesn't win this war."
Three quick strides, and he was by my side. He wrung my hand. "Good-bye,
Lockhart." he said. Four more strides, and he was gone.
As a dramatic performance Robins' effort was immense. Today, it sounds like emotional
hysteria. Doubtless, too, he had rehearsed all his effects before his shaving glass in the
morning. But at the moment his words made a deep impression on every one who heard him.
There was not a laugh or a smile." (198)
On the following day, Robins met with Lenin about the possibility of getting aid from
the Americans for the Soviets. (199) On 14 February, the Gregorian calender was adopted in
Russia. (200) On the 15th, Robins cabled Thompson in New York with a long analysis of the
current situation, urging "Great values for Allied cause in resulting situation
dependend on continuance of Bolshevik authority as long as possible." He stressed the
greatest danger to the Allied cause might be trade relations between the Germans and the
Bolsheviks, and that if a wedge could be shoved between Russia and Germany,
"Revolutionary Russia ... will naturally turn to United States for commodities and
supplies of non-military character ... (201).
"From the 15th of February, things moved, for the American Embassy in Petrograd,
to a rapid and drastic conclusion." The next day, it was rumored that the Germans
were about to renew hostilities. This news filtered slowly throughout Petrograd, but by
the 18th many in Petrograd were aware that hostilities might resume very soon. Francis
wasn't sure escape through Finland was possible, "nor was it certain that it was
desirable for the Allied representitives to leave Russia entirely." (202)
"(Captain Jacques) Sadoul and Robins had met occasionally with Lenin, Trotsky and the
other Communist leaders after the Bolshevik coup. These contacts multiplied in the second
half of February, 1918, during the interval between the Bolshevik acceptance of the German
ultimatum (February 17) and the ratification of the Brest-Litovsk treaty (March 14)."
(203) It appears from a variety of sources that Robins had frequent, not
"occasional," contact with the Bolshevik government from its birth to the point
he left the country in May, 1918. Escape or departure became an ongoing theme in Francis'
correspondence from this point until he left Russia in Movember.
Francis cabled Lansing on 20 February that the Soviet government was
"demoralized," and on the verge of fleeing. He reported the German army near,
and that they could be in control of Petrograd in 2 days. He said he planned to go
"eastward" if he left, but "all arrangements indefinite." He planned
to leave U.S. interests in the hands of the Norwegian Ambassador. (204)
By 21 February, the five Allied Ambassadors met in Petrograd, and "agreed they had
no choice but to prepare for departure from Petrograd on short notice." (205) Later
that day, Francis cabled Washington, suggesting the Soviets were in slightly chaotic
shape, and that while Lenin and Trotsky may "not have been Germany's agents
continuously," that their actions had been of great help to the Germans. "Last
revolution has materially set back the cause of democracy in Europe and if the Allies
cannot prevent will result in making Russia virtually German province of monarchial
reform. History shows the Russians incapable of great movements or great achievements as
whatever creditable that has been accomplished can be traced to foreign inspiration and
leadership. Now is the time for the Allies to act. ..." The plucky old man then
suggested that transport at Harbin (China) be held "until my arrival" but that
he wan't coming until ordered to. He said "Planning to stop en route Vologda and
another place if safe; awaiting developments Harbin or Vladivistok where I shall advise
Department of conditions and get instructions. Unwilling to absolutely abandon Russia to
Francis was strongly backed in this stance by many other Americans, especially those
who had Russian friends beginning to worry about their lives. He also thought his presence
in Russia might serve as a deterrant to the Germans shifting troops on the Eastern Front
to the West. "Thus Francis decided not to leave Russia entirely unless actually
forced out by physical compulsion." He chose Volgda because it was at a junction of
the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Moscow-Archangel railroad, and 350 miles more distant
from the Germans. He had a series of fallback positions beyond that planned. Robins
testified in 1919 that Vologda was close to transport routes and communication links, and
out of the possible route of a German military sweep. "Robins further related he went
to Lenin and obtained the latter's agreement to make railway accomodations available for
the official party." (207)
>From the 22nd to the 24th, the German advances against Moscow and Petrograd
continued. Francis cabled Washington on the 24th, and tells them that "Japanses,
Chinese and American missions sending special train with some of their nationals and
portions of their staffs to Vologda today to await orders." The following day, the
Secretary of State cabled the US Ambassador in Sweden to let Francis know that the
Department was "relying on your judgement" and to destroy or burn all
"seals, codes, cipher messages or translations." (208)
On 23 February, Francis wrote his son Charles that he planned to stay in Russia as long
as he could. He said he would help any resistance force to the Germans he could, and that
he was headed toward Vladivistok. "You may not conclude, therefore, that I am
planning to return to America." (209) He, in fact, did not leave until 6 November.
On 24 February, Lenin issued a statement published the following day in Pravda.
"In accordance with the decision adopted by the Central Executive Committee of the
Soviet' of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies at 4:30 a.m. on February 24, the
council of People's Commissars has resolved that the terms of peace proposed by the German
Government be accepted and a delegation sent to Brest-Litovsk." (210)
Kennan described the dramatic departure of the Americans from Petrograd in better
detail than any other source. "On February 25, ... Francis wrote a letter ... gives a
good idea of the mood of the moment. He had outwaited the French and the British, he
indicated, because as doyen of the diplomatic corps he did not want to be the first to
leave. The Soviet government, he thought, was doomed. He was proud, now, that he had never
recommended recognition. ... The next morning (Tuesday, the 26th) it was decided that
departure could be delayed no longer. ... By evening all was ready. ... Thus the
Ambassador made his departure in the sleigh, behind the horses with the American flags at
their ears. ... The sleigh, ... moved off briskly and quietly down the darkened streets
... and to the Nikolayev Station. ... Another hitch occurred at the last moment. ...
Robins, always the last recourse in emergency, was summoned to the rescue. " So
Robins visited Lenin, and after some dramatic persuading on Robins' part, "Lenin
yielded. Robins tore back to the station and, to make sure that nothing more went wrong,
changed his plans and boarded the train himself. At two a.m. on Wednesday, February 27,
1918, the special train bearing Ambassador David R. Francis, his reduced staff, and a few
of his diplomatic colleagues, pulled out of the Nikolayev Station, southbound ... A few
miles out of town, the train took a switch to the east ..." (211). Francis himself
was more direct about it. "I left Petrograd on the morning of February 27th, and
arrived in Volgda about twenty-six hours later. ... I lived nearly a week on the train,
... After being in Vologda two days, I cabled the Department I had concluded to remain as
long as it was safe." (212)
Robins and Lenin corresponded on the 28th, while Robins was still at Vologda. Robins'
cabled, "Train of American Ambassador Francis arrived Vologda. All well. Express
gratitude Council People's Commissaires for co-operation. What is the situation in
Petrograd? What is the last news of German offensive? Was peace signed? Did the French and
British Embassies leave? When and by what route? Tell about our arrival, Lockhart, British
Embassy." Lenin replied in his usual terse manner, "Peace not signed. Situation
without change. Rest will be answered by Petroff, Department of Foreign Affairs.
Francis sent Military Attache Colonel Ruggles and his assistant Captain Riggs on 5
March instructing them to confer with their equal numbers on the Soviet side about
resisting the Germans. "Upon their arrival, Ruggles and Riggs found that their task
had been largely accomplished by Robins." He had spoken with Trotsky the morning of 5
March and by that afternoon Trotsky produced a document. Together, ..., they repaired to
Lenin's office and joined him in his frugal afternoon repast. The document was translated,
and its terms explained, for Robins' benefit. Not only did it satisfy him, but he accepted
it as a statement of highest significance." He showed it to Lockhart, and sent a copy
to Francis. (214) While that was being done, Robins met with Charles Smith of AP, who,
according to Hard, cabled AP the 6th and said, "Whether Moscow Congress approves or
rejects peace apparently depends largely on attitude of Entente Allies toward Soviet
Government." (215) In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Robins said he
had also sent copies via an English reporter and Lockhart. (216)
The document Trotsky gave Robins was a series of questions to be transmitted to the US
government relating to Brest-Litovsk; "In case (a) the all-Russian congress of the
Soviets will refuse to ratify the peace treaty with Germany, or (b) if the German
government, breaking the peace treaty, will renew the offensive in order to continue its
robber's raid, or (c) if the Soviet government will be forced by the actions of Germany to
renounce the peace treaty - before or after its ratification - and to renew hostilities -
In all these cases it is very important for the military and political plans of the
Soviet power for replies to be given to the following questions:
1. Can the Soviet government rely on the support of the united States of North America,
Great Britain and France in its struggle against Germany? 2. What kind of support could be
furnished in the nearest future, and on what conditions - military equipment,
transportation supplies, living necessities? 3. What kind of support would be furnished
particularly and especially by the United States?
Should Japan - in consequence of an open or tacit understanding with Germany or without
such an understanding - attempt to seize Vladivistok and the Eastern-Siberian Railway,
which would threaten to cut off Russia from the Pacific Ocean and would greatly impede the
concentration of Soviet troops toward the East about the Urals - in such case what steps
would be taken by the other allies, particularly and especially by the United States, to
prevent a Japanese landing on our far East, and to insure uninterrupted communications
with Russia through the Siberian route?
In the opinion of the Government of the United States, to what extent - under the
above-mentioned circumstances - would aid be assured from Great Britain through Murmansk
and Archangel? What steps would the Government of Great Britain undertake in order to
assure this aid and thereby to undermine the foundation of the rumors of the hostile plans
against Russia on the part of Great Britain in the nearest future?
All these questions are conditioned with the self-understood assumption that the
internal and Foreign policies of the Soviet government will continue to be directed in
accord with the principles of international socialism and that the Soviet government
retains its complete independence of all non-socialist governments." (217) This
document was given to Robins one week before the scheduled opening of the All-Russian
Congress of Soviets, which was to vote on the acceptance of the German terms offered at
Brest-Litovsk. It proceeded to have a various curious life after being produced.
The document became of great importance to Robins, and he thought if the Allies
accepted it, that ratifying Brest-Litovsk wouldn't be necessary. The message was sent to
Francis, by military code. Riggs and Ruggles had the code books. The message was encoded
to be sent to Washington on the 6th, after enormous problems. "The message was
evidently held, however, for clearance with Ruggles. Ruggles must have decided, for some
reason, not to dispatch it at that time." In any case, the records indicate he did
not actually dispatch the message containing Trotsky's suggestions until March 22... Not
only did Ruggles hold up dispatch of this message, but he failed to inform either ...
Robins, or the Ambassador that he had done so. Robins thus remained under the impression
that Trotsky's inquiry had gone forward to Washington. ..." On the 6th or 7th,
"Robins went to see Lenin again and pleaded for a delay in the ratification of the
treaty, in order to give him time to get an answer from the United States Government to
Trotsky's questions." (218) A delay in the treaty's ratification did occur, though it
appears unlikely that delay was related to Robins' plea.
"He added that the day after he saw Lenin, either the 7th or 8th, Izvestiya
announced the opening date of the Congress (that was to ratify the treaty) had been
postponed from the 12th to the 14th at lLenin's instance. He "thought" that the
reason for postponement "was to give us time to answer." This assumption gained
considerable historical currency, and has been frequently - and not unnaturally - accepted
as valid." Kennan suggests at great length that the timing was coincidental, that
Lenin was in favor of ratifying Brest-Litovsk all along, and that Robins believed, in
error, that this message of Trotsky's might actually entice Washington into aiding the
Bolshevik government. (219) The evidence does appear that Robins thought he had more
weight with the Bolsheviks than he actually did.
Col. Robins met with Ambassador Francis at Vologda and he and a consul unidentified
went back to "St. Petersburg" on 9 March, Francis cabled the Secretary of State.
"I still believe Lenin, Trotsky accepted German money to corrupt and demoralize
Russia ... " (220) That same day, Hard reports that "Robins carried Trotzky's
message to Vologda personally. He got there on the night of March 8th. On the morning of
the 9th the American ambassador sent Trotzky's message to Washington in the code of the
State Department." Hard also asserts a copy was sent to the War Department. (221)
Kennan says, in a footnote, "Hard, op. cit., p.144, says Francis did wire the text of
Trotsky's questions to Washington on the morning of the 9th. I can find no confirmation of
this in the National Archives." (222) No other evidence appears to indicate that the
"questions" posed by Trotsky reached senior American hands prior to the
Brest-Litovsk ratification by the Soviet Congress. Albert Rhys Williams indicates that
though he wasn't aware of the "Soviet query" until later, "presumably meant
for Wilson himself - or of its delays and amputations in arriving, of which Robins himself
was then unaware." (223)
Williams went on to say, " The fate of Robins' reports once they finally reached
Washington was another question." A reporter from a Phildelphia newspaper, Lincoln
Colcord, later sent Robins' extracts from his journal of March, 1918, "to show that
State Department and other officials who should have known knew nothing of the
Lenin-Trotsky query. The reporter is quoted by Williams from a confidential letter he sent
Robins 5 February, 1919. "The first news we had of it (the query) was when you
arrived in the early summer. >From all this, I think it fair to assume that Polk [Frank
Polk, Acting Secretary of State at the time Wilson sent the message to the Soviet
Congress] knew nothing of this communication, and I shall always believe that the
President did not see it. I think it went to Lansing and was pigeon-holed. As you know,
Colonel House admitted to me on the 9th of August, a week after intervention had gone
through, that he had never seen or heard of this communication before." Colcord also
said about William Bullitt, later Ambassador to Russia in the Thirties and then a State
Department aide, "Bullitt, who pretty much everything that came into the Department
... had no knowledge of the communication. " (224) The Lansing Papers in Foreign
Relations, 1914-20, and his War Memoirs say nothing about this communication.
Francis sent another message to the State Department that one source says was sent 9
March, another dates it as 10 March "Robins arrived midnight reports that from
Petrograd after important conference with Trotsky on 5th he wired me in Military Mission
cipher result of the conference but Military Attache had left for Petrograd as you were
advised, with code, consequently did not learn of conference until Robins arrived hour
ago. " He goes on to say that the Petrograd, St. Petersburg and Moscow Soviets have
all voted in favor of ratifying Brest Litovsk. (225)
The Congress was postponed, though exactly when and why remains slightly unclear. The
postponement was only for a couple of days from the originally planned date. The Germans
had said the treaty had 14 days to be ratified from the date they offered terms, 3 March.
The original date was set 5 March. "But it was then decided to move the government to
Moscow prior to the holding of the Congress. That meant a great deal had to be done in a
short space of time. Most members of the Soviet of People's Commissars, including Lenin
himself, proceeded to Moscow on Monday, March 11, which was plainly the earliest they
could get away. ... This was presumably the reason for the postponement from the 12th to
the 14th." (226)
Kennan goes on to say that neither Izvestia or Pravda had a notice about the
postponement, and that Consul General Summers did not wire the State Department about the
conference's postponement until 11 March. "Thus the known circumstances do not bear
out in any way Robins' impression that a decision was taken March 6 or 7 to postpone the
conference in order to give the United States government time to answer Trotsky's
questions. One can only conclude that here again either he was the victim of the sort of
misinformation that so frequently dogged his path during the months of his activity in
Russia, or his memory failed him, or both." (227) A third possibility not suggested
by Kennan is that Robins wanted so badly to believe what he was doing had value, and that
he sincerely believed that the ratification had been halted because of the US plea.
"On arrival in Moscow, Robins was, as will be recalled, still under the impression
that Trotsky's questions were being carefully pondered in Washington. He had tea with
Lenin and his sister the day the Congress opened (the 14th). He found Lenin preparing to
submit a resolution for ratification. ... Lenin asked what Robins had heard from his
government. The answer was "Nothing." Robins, in his testimony to the Senate
subcommittee in 1919 said that Lenin said, "You will not either. Neither the American
government nor any of the allied governments will cooperate, even against the Germans,
with the workman's and peasant's revolutionary government of Russia." (228) Lenin, as
was often the case, was quite accurate in this assessment, both Robins and Francis never
paid enough attention to what he said.
"Robins clung, though, to his one last hope. Lenin and Trotzky had written that
memorandum. He awaited, they awaited, in Moscow, the reply from London, from Paris, from
Washington." (229) They waited in vain. No such communication ever came, for it
appears that Washington didn't even have the questions to respond to had they been
The Fourth All-Russian Congress met from 14-16 March, in Moscow, and Lenin argued in
favor of ratification. Kennan and Hard both describe the scene, with only the slightest of
variations from Robins' testimony before the Senate subcommitte hearings on Bolshevik
Propaganda in 1919, "About an hour before midnight on the second night of the
conference Lenin was sitting on the platform; I was sitting on a step of the platform, and
I looked around at this man, and he motioned to me. I went to him. He said, "What
have you heard from your government?" I said, "Nothing." I said, "What
has Lockhart heard?" (Hard has Lenin asking this question) He said,
"Nothing." He said, "I'm now going to the platform and the peace will be
Kennan indicates how important Robins thought the Trotsky message had been, but Robins
had misread how much weight the US government would give those questions. "These
words conveyed, of course, the suggestion that had Robins been able to tell Lenin, at that
moment, that his government responded favorably to Trotsky's questions, the treaty might
never have been ratified. Robins was surely sincere in his belief that this was so, and he
must have left the steps of the platform sick with disappointment at the inexplicable
silence of his government." ... "It became one more stone in the structure of
belief that the United States government, swayed by the fear and prejudice of American
capitalists, had rejected the hand of friendship proffered by the Soviet leaders in the
days of Brest Litovsk and had thus needlessly estranged them in the early days of their
power, when they desperately needed sympathy and support." (231)
On 16 March, Brest-Litovsk is "duly ratified" by the Fourth Special
All-Russian Congress of the Soviets (232) "The count was had: Not Voting, 204. Voting
against ratification, 276. Voting in favor of ratification, 724. ... Robins sat still on
the steps of the platform. The count was cried through the house. ... It was the decision
of the most innovating and upsetting of all peoples in the world. From them, through him,
a question had gone to Washington, and an offer, begging a response. No response came to
him then. No response came to him any time afterward. " (233) His expectation and
belief that Washington would respond perhaps indicates the level of his idealism and lack
of common political sense. There is an indication that Robins first learned of the delays
that August after he had returned to the United States. (234)
That same day, Francis cabled Robins in Moscow, asking about the results of the
Congress. Robins reported that ratification had not yet occurred (before the vote). On the
17th, Robins reported the Congress "finally adjourned," and that Trotsky was to
"open his office as war minister here tomorrow." He made no comment about his
reaction to the result of the vote. (235)
Francis also issued a statement on the 16th with his reaction to the ratification vote,
in a scattered kind of way. "I shall not leave Russia until forced to depart. My
government and the American people are too deeply interested in the welfare of the Russian
people to abandon the country and leave its people to the mercies of Germany."
America is sincerely interested in Russia, and in the freedom of the Russian people. ... I
have not yet seen an authentic copy of the peace treaty but am sufficiently acquainted
with its provisions to know that if the Russian people submit thereto Russia will not only
be robbed of ... but will eventually become virtually a German province and her people
will lose the liberties ... My Government still considers America an ally of the Russian
people... About four days after this appeared, Keuhlman, the German Minister of Foreign
Affairs, made a demand of the Bolshevik Government that I be sent out Russia. The German
demand said: He is not only violating the laws of neutrality, but he has issued an address
to the Russian people which is a virtual call to arms." Keuhlman's assessment is
pretty close to what Francis was actually doing. Amazingly, the Bolsheviks did not expel
Francis for this action. Francis then reported, "At this time cable communication
with my Government was severed; it had become very unreliable and irregular since the
Bolsheviks came into power. " (236)
Francis relied on Robins for a variety of things; on 20 March, he cabled Washington
that he had directed Robins, at Trotsky's request, to send an American military officer
out to Siberia to see what really was going on, in the face of garbled and conflicting
reports on what was happening there. Robins sent someone from the Red Cross staff. On 26
March, Francis cabled the State Department that "documents in such a consecutive way
as to convince me that Soviet leaders accepted German money to demoralize Russian Army ...
Robins says absurd that Soviet working with Germans, but Sisson and Bullard convinced, are
positive. Probably Sisson and Robins both influenced by pride of opinion and mutual
animosity. I follow developments closely communicating with Summers and Robins daily, who
also differ greatly." (237) This debate about the Bolsheviks being on the German
payroll went on between Robins and Francis from the beginning to the end of their
association, and was never resolved to either's satisfaction.
A bit of these differences appeared in a cable sent by Robins on the 23rd from Moscow
to Francis at Vologda. "Regarding Consul Summers' reports it must be remembered that
he considers all work of and cooperation with the Soviet government as unpromising. ...
While he is an able businessman and delightful gentleman perhaps the opinion of the
American, French, English and Italian officers who are now co-operating with Trotzki is of
more value ..." (238). It appears that everyone, including Stalin, misunderstood
Trotsky. Summers was quite pessimistic about the Bolsheviks in the months before his
death. Francis never cottoned to them, and only met Lenin once, Trotsky never. Robins
thought they were the wave of the future, and may have been the most correct in thinking
the US, and others, were making a serious mistake in withholding support for the fledgling
Francis forwarded a cable from the head of Red Cross, Davison, to Robins, sent by
Davison 21 March, forwarded 25 March; "... As to your movements am not informed.
Assuming no personal risk involved, it is important that you remain in Russia in the
interest of the Red Cross work which is to be done there. " (239) Francis cabled
Robins 30 March, "We have had no commercial treaty with Russia since 1912 but that
not interfering with commercial transactions ... " (240).
Throughout April, the question of intervention loomed large in the considerations of
all parties, a debate that went on after Robins left in May, and was acted on from the
summer of 1918 to the summer of 1920. (241) That debate resulted in a limited intervention
later on by US and other Allied forces.
On 22 April, Robins cables Francis from Moscow, "It is possible that I shall leave
for a few days from Petrograd and shortly thereafter be in Vologda. ... Wardwell (a Red
Cross employee) reports all well in Petrograd and that our Red Cross work will be finished
by first of May in that city." That same day, Francis replied in part, "Do not
feel I should be justified in asking you to remain longer in Moscow to neglect prosecution
of your Red Cross work, but this does not imply any want of appreciation of the sevice you
have rendered me in keeping me advised concerning matters important for me to know, ... as
well as being a channel of unofficial communications with the Soviet government."
On 3 May, Francis cabled Robins, mostly reacting to the Bolshevik severing of
telegraphic communciations save by their government. At the end of that message, Francis
says, "There are many things which I would like to talk to you about. You are correct
in thinking that I was not at all disturbed by the newspaper surmise that I was to be
succeeded by yourself, not that I think such suggestion absurd but I did not for a moment
feel that you were a party to such a move." The next day, Robins cabled back,
"Orders issued restoring cipher rights allied embassies." (243) There appears to
be no specific evidence that Robins lusted after the Ambassadorship, but he does appear to
have thought he was a free agent with a great deal of power. Francis, unfortunately, did
little to disabuse him of this notion.
On 13 May, Robins cabled Francis he was enroute to Volgda on his way to the U.S.
"On the 15th of May I saw Colonel Robins who was on his way to the United States.
.... After our conversation, Robins told ... that if he could get one hour with President
Wilson he would persuade the President to recognize the Bolshevik government." (244)
Also in May, DeWitt C. Poole arrived as Acting Consul General, replacing Madden Summers
who had died early in the month. (245) In mid-May, Robins left Russia. If Robins got the
hour with Wilson, and it does not appear he did, he probably would not have swayed Wilson
to change course. Francis would have had trouble getting much of Wilson's time, so it
would appear that Robins would have had almost no chance to express his views to the
Francis hung on until November, and he left via Archangel and was in Britain in time
for Christmas, 1918, had surgery in England 4 January, 1919 and returned to the United
States in February. "I left Paris on the special train with the President on the
evening of February 14. ... In a note to the President, I said to him I awaited his
pleasure for an audience. The President did not reply in writing, but two or three days
later came to the cabin I was occupying. I outlined my recommendation about Russia to him.
He replied sending American soldiers to Russia after the armistice had been signed would
be very unpopular in America. I ventured to differ with him: ... I never broached the
subject again to the President and did not see him after landing in Boston until his term
expired, except for a moment when he arrived in New York from Paris July 8, 1919."
George Marye went to Russia ill-equipped, totally untrained, with a political/comercial
goal as his immediate agenda. He was a society-orientated person, and spent much time
cultivating the imperial court. There is no specific evidence to indicate that he in any
way succeeded in convincing the Russians to write a new treaty to replace the abrogated
treaty of 1832. He left abruptly in the spring of 1916, and fades from the record with no
articles or comments about his time there until his 1929 book came out.
Raymond Robins came to Russia in the tulmultuous year of the Russian Revolutions, the
fall of the monarchy and the death of the Romanov line, immersed himself in the affairs of
the new fledging state. He had extraordinary access to Lenin and Trotsky, and was probably
used the best he could be by Ambassador Francis in the absence of official American
recognition. Yet he was impressionable, easily misled, highly opinionated on behalf of the
Bolsheviks, and made many errors in judgement, though perhaps not in his quarrel with
Sisson as much as in his belief that the United States would respond to Trotsky's
"questions" of early March, 1918.
No one told him to go. His biographer in 1920 was amazed that Robins got from Petrograd
to Vladivistok on the sheer authority of a note from Lenin giving Robins clearance to
leave the country. He left, leaving behind but a skeleton crew of Red Cross people, with
the apparent hope that when he got home, he could persuade the powers that be that America
should recognize the Soviet government. He failed utterly to prevail in that persuasion.
The United States did not recognize the Soviets until 1933.
David Francis was an old man by the standards of the time when he went to Russia in
1916. Yet, though he took a narrow view, and eventually and continuously opposed the
Bolsheviks and favored Allied intervention into Russia's affairs, he did attempt to be and
was a vigorous, if ineffectual voice, in the events surrounding the two Revolutions.
He was ill-equipped to his task, often at odds with those aiding him, yet he acquitted
himself as he saw his duty to be, following what he perceived to be what his superiors in
Washington wanted. He eventually left on 6 November, 1918, from Archangel, where he had
gone from Vologda on 26 July, 1918. (247)
All three men were poorly equipped for their roles in terms of background knowledge,
grasp of the Russian language or diplomatic niceties, which were apparently minimal in all
three cases, and were not really controllable by their "superiors," save in
instructions that might or, more probably, might not be feasible in the atmosphere of
government enshrouding Russia during 1914-18. Only Robins of the three could be considered
an activist, in a semi-adversarial, semi-cooperative fashion with Ambassador Francis and
his underlings some of whom, like Summers and Sisson, resented Robins' role a great deal.
None were able to serve the interests of the US completely, because Washington was, at
first, of mixed minds about the Revolution, and was not at all sure what its interests
were. Kerensky was supportable by Washington, the Bolsheviks became anathema.
The big issue that Francis and Robins came down on opposite sides about was the
recognition of the Bolshevik government by the United States and other powers. Francis
went along with Washington - no recognition, apparently because the ideology of the
Bolsheviks was abhorrent to the capitalist-leaning Americans. Robins, a Progressive at
home, seemed to believe that the Bolsheviks represented the future, were accepted by the
people of Russia as legitimate, and should be recognized. The view of Francis and
Francis hung on at Vologda from February to July. Robins left in June. Francis then
went on to Archangel, but he left in the late fall of 1918, as did all the other Allied
contigents, and US involvement or understanding ceased occurring for some fifteen years as
far as the Soviet Union was concerned.
Marye returned to banking, wrote his book, died in 1933.
Robins lived to 1954. He testified about his role in 1919, returned to Russia in 1933
after recognition finally occurred, and lived out his days in quiet obscurity. (248)
Francis remained "nominal American Ambassador to Russia" until he submitted
his resignation in March, 1921, and it was accepted by Warren Harding in May of that year.
(249) He died in January, 1927. (250)
1) George Kennan, Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1920: Russia Leaves
the War, vol. 1 (Princeton, NJ, 1956), 32-33.
2) Department of State, Principal Officers of the Department of State
and U.S. Chiefs of Mission, 1778-1986 (Washington, 1986), 97.
3) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 34.
4) Rachel West, The Department of State on the Eve of the First World
War (Athens, Ga., 1978), 105.
5) George Marye, Russia Observed: Nearing the End in Imperial Russia
(Philadelphia, 1929), 17-18.
6) Ibid., 20.
7) Ibid., 15, 19-22.
8) West, The Department of State,., 105-106.
9) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 34.
10) Marye, Russia Observed, 460. Marye, Kennan nor any source
available ever go beyond the comments Marye makes as to what Marye's
"political combinations" were all about, or how they were resolved.
11) Ibid., 86.
12) Ibid., 84-85.
13) Ibid., 100-01.
14) Robert K. Massie. Nicholas and Alexandra, (New York, 1967), 350.
15) Marye, Russia Observed, 100-01.
16) Ibid., 132-34.
17) Ibid., 137-40.
18) E.M. Almedingen, The Romanovs, Three Centuries of An Ill-Fated
Dynasty (New York, 1966), 298; W. Bruce Lincoln, In War's Dark
Shadow, The Russians Before the Great War (New York, 1983), 331; W.
Bruce Lincoln, The Romanovs, Autocrats of All the Russias (New York,
19) Marye, Russia Observed, 150-51.
20) Ibid., 148.
21) Ibid., 157.
22) Ibid., 169-72.
23) Ibid., 185.
24) Ibid., 190-92.
25) Ibid., 212-14.
26) David R. Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, April, 1916 -
November, 1918 (New York, 1921), 42.
27) Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, , 162-63.
28) Marye, Russia Observed, 224-30.
29) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 185; Department of
State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States,
1918, Russia, vol. 1, 239. Francis' fellow Ambassador in Sweden, Ira
Morris, also believed corruption in the Russian Army was rampant.
30) Marye, Russia Observed, 231-32.
31) Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, , 315-21.
32) Marye, Russia Observed, 238-43.
33) Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, , 220.
34) Marye, Russia Observed, 247-55.
35) Ibid., 273.
36) Ibid., 306.
37) Ibid., 312-16.
38) Ibid., 346-49.
39) Ibid., 357-60.
40) Ibid., 360-62.
41) Ibid., 444-50.
42) Lincoln, The Romanovs,, 665.
43) Marye, Russia Observed, 453-56.
44) Ibid., 459-63.
45) Ibid., 459-70; Department of State, Principal Officers, 97.
46) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 3.
47) Ibid., 12-18.
48) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 35.
49) Ibid., 36, 38.
50) Ibid., 38.
51) Ibid., 38-40.
52) Ibid., 40-41.
53) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 28-29.
54) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 33.
55) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 4-29.
56) Ibid., 35.
57) Ibid., 42-47; Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, , 368-81; Richard
Pipes, The Russian Revolution (New York, 1990), 262-67; Rene
Fulop-Miller, Rasputin, the Holy Devil (Leipzig, 1927), 320-68;
Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution (France, 1930), 48.
58) Fulop-Miller, Rasputin,, 341.
59) Alan Moorehead, The Russian Revolution (New York, 1958), 283-85;
Bernard Pares, A History of Russia (New York, 1926); Massie, Nicholas
and Alexandra, 512-16; Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 745-88; Serge,
Year One, 275-79.
60) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 47-51.
61) G.K. Cumming and Walter W. Pettit, Russian-American Relations,
March, 1917-March, 1920, Documents and Papers (New York, 1920), 6.
62) "Tattler" in Nation, (4/17/19), 469.
63) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , vol. 1, 131-53.
64) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations, 19-20.
65) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , vol. 1, 144.
66) Ibid., 163-64.
67) Ibid., 370-380; Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on Bolshevik
Propaganda, 2/10-3/10/19, Senate Document #62, 66th Congress, 1st
Session (Washington, 1919), 935-85, 1125-1158.
68) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , vol. 1, 165.
69) Ibid., 164-68.
70) Christopher Dobson and John Miller, The Day They Almost Bombed
Moscow, The Allied War in Russia, 1918-20 (New York, 1986), 30.
71) Jesse Clarkson, A History of Russia (New York, 1961), 802-03.
72) Dobson and Miller, The Day They Almost Bombed Moscow , 30-31.
73) Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings, 763.
74) William Hard, Raymond Robin's Own Story (New York, 1920), 13.
75) Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 589-90; anonymous commentary
column in "Outlook," (3/19/19); Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings,
76) Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 589-90; Senate Judiciary Committee
Hearings, 763-856, 1007-32.
77) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 62-63; Senate Judiciary Committee
78) Ronald W. Clark, Lenin, A Biography (New York, 1988), 292, 452.
79) Hard, Raymond Robins , 5.
80) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 63.
81) Hard, Raymond Robins , 7.
82) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 64-65.
83) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 185; Senate Judiciary
Committee Hearings, 1007-32.
84) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , vol. 1, 174-77.
85) Ibid., 188-89.
86) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 144.
87) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 177.
88) Albert Busnell Hart, ed. Selected Addresses and Public Papers of
Woodrow Wilson (New York, 1918), 244-51; Cumming and Pettit,
Russian-American Relations ,68-74.
89) Hart, Selected Addresses, 248-49.
90) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 178-81.
91) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 24-25.
92) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 189.
93) Hard, Raymond Robins , 16.
94) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 156-57.
95) Ibid., 164.
96) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 198.
97) Ibid., 202-03.
98) Ibid., 204-05.
99) Ibid., 214.
100) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 224-25; F. W. Dupee,
ed. Leon Trotsky, The Russian Revolution (New York, 1932), 336-477;
Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 71-74; Moorehead, The Russian
Revolution, 234-57; Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 439-505; Serge,
Year One, 68-75; John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (New York,
101) Reed, Ten Days ,97.
102) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. 1, 226-28.
103) Ibid., 226-27.
104) Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 491.
105) Dupee/Trotsky, The Russian Revolution, 380-81.
106) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 72-73.
107) Reed, Ten Days ,125-26.
108) Charles Johnston, "Russia's Two Revolutions," American Review of
Reviews (January, 1918), 59-62.
109) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 243.
110) Ibid., 238-39.
111) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,44-46.
112) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 244.
113) Ibid., 245.
114) Ibid., 248.
115) Ibid., 264.
116) Ibid., 267.
117) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 193-94.
118) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,47.
119) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 250.
120) Ibid., 251-52.
121) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 152-53.
122) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,51.
123) Foreign Relations, 1918, vol.1, 272.
124) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 154.
125) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 276.
126) Ibid., 254; Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 154.
127) Robert Lansing, War Memoirs of Robert Lansing (Indianapolis,
128) Ibid., 343-45.
129) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 158.
130) Ibid., 159.
131) Izvestia, 12/2/17, in Cumming and Pettit, 55; Foreign Relations,
1918, Russia, vol. 1, 282-83.
132) Foreign Relations, Russia, 1918, vol.1, 282-83.
133) Hard, Raymond Robins , 70-71.
134) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 286.
135) Hard, Raymond Robins , 72, 119.
136) Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings, 935-985.
137) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 257.
138) Ibid., 286.
139) Ibid., 291.
140) Ibid., 292.
141) Ibid., 295-95.
142) Ibid., 296.
143) Ibid., 299-300.
144) Ibid., 301.
145) Ibid., 303.
146. Ibid., 258. Kennan calls this text a "poor translation."
147) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 191-92.
148) Ibid., 193.
149) Izvestia, 12/25/17, in Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 195.
150) Ibid., 196.
151) Ibid., 199-201.
152) Ibid., 202-06.
153) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 317.
154) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 2 (Washington, 1931), 590.
155) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 304-15.
156) Ibid., 318.
157) Ibid., 260-63.
158) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 206-07.
159) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 321.
160) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 208.
161) Ibid., 211; Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol.1, 321.
162) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 211.
163) Hard, Raymond Robins , 119.
164) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 211-12.
165) Ibid., 212; Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings, 935-85.
166) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 233.
167) Lucita Williams, ed. Albert Rhys Williams, Journey Into
Revolution, Petrograd, 1917-1918 (Chicago, 1969), 197; Kennan,
Russia Leaves the War, 233-37.
168) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 238-42, 521-522; Cumming and
Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,65-66.
169) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 238-39.
170) Ibid., 241.
171) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 336.
172) Lansing, War Memoirs, 343-45.
173) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 426.
174) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 397-98.
175) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 337.
176) Ibid., 426.
177) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 2, 743.
178) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 355.
179) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 398.
180) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,76-77.
181) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 356-57.
182) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 400.
184) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 358-59.
185) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 400-01.
186) Ibid., 405.
187) Ibid., 407-09.
188) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 363.
190) Ibid., 367-68.
191) Ibid., 368.
192) Ibid., 370.
193) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 420.
194) Senate Judiciary Committee Hearingss, 1125-1158.
195) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 421.
196) Cummings and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,77, 79.
197) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 421-22.
198) Ibid., 422-23; R.H. Bruce Lockhart, Secret Agent, (New York and
London, 1933), 222-223.
199) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 423.
200) Serge, Year One, 388, note 25.
201) Cumming and Pettit, 79-80.
202) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 430-31.
203) Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 590.
204) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , 383.
205) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 433.
206) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , 384.
207) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 434-35; Senate Judiciary
Committee Hearings, 763-856.
208) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 387.
209) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 236.
210) V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 42 (Moscow, 1969), 60.
211) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 437-40.
212) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 236.
213) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,80-81.
214) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 495-97.
215) Hard, Raymond Robins , 144.
216) Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings, 857-896.
217) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,81-82.
218) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 497-500.
219) Ibid., 500-04; Adam Ulam, The Bolsheviks (New York, 1965), 412.
220) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 2, 74.
221) Hard, Raymond Robins , 144.
222) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 508.
223) Williams, Journey Into Revolution, 262.
224) Ibid., 264.
225) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations; Foreign
Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. 1, 394-95.
226) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 504.
227) Ibid., 505.
228) Ibid., 514.
229) Hard, Raymond Robins , 105.
230) Ibid., 151-52; Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 515-16; Senate
Judiciary Committee Hearings, 857-896.
231) Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, 516; Ulam, The Bolsheviks, 412.
232) Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 602-03.
233) Hard, Raymond Robins , 153.
234) Williams, Journey Into Revolution, 264.
235) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,101-03.
236) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 231-33.
237) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 483, 487.
238) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,110.
239) Ibid., 113-14.
240) Ibid., 122.
241) Ibid., 125-60; Betty Miller Unterberger, ed., American
Intervention in the Russian Civil War (Lexington, Mass., 1969),
242) Cumming and Pettit, Russian-American Relations ,155-56.
243) Ibid., 161-63.
244) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 302.
245) Ibid., 320-21.
246) Ibid., 307-10.
247) Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, , , vol. 1, 625-40.
248) William. A. Williams, "The Outdoor Mind" in Nation (10/30/54),
249) Francis, Russia From the American Embassy, 345-46.
250) New York Times (1/16/27), 30.
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