Lansing, Robert


1914 TLS as Counselor to the State Department to a former diplomat, now a Department Division Chief, disallowing a small gift given him when a US ambassador


Autograph ID: 6513
Condition: Very good, 2 small file hole at top left corner, oneat bottom left, trivial tiny spots at top left corner
Description: “(1864-1928) Lawyer and politician, Legal Advisor to the State Department at the outbreak of WW I, Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson 1915-20. An authority on international law, he was US Associate Counsel in the 1892-93 Bering Sea Arbitration, Counsel for the US Bering Sea Claims Commission 1896-97, US Government lawyer before the Alaskan Boundary Tribunal in 1903, Counsel for the North Atlantic Fisheries in the Arbitration at The Hague 1909-10, and US agent in the 1912-14 US and British Arbitration. In 1914 he was appointed Counselor to the State Department by President Wilson. In 1916 Lansing hired a handful of men who became the State Department’s first special agents in the new Bureau of Secret Intelligence, who initially observed the activities of the Central Powers in America, and later watched over interned German diplomats. The agents would eventually become the US Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). A few weeks before the formal end of WW I, Lansing informed the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire that since the US was now committed to the causes of the Czechs, Slovaks, and South Slavs, the Empire’s proposal to satisfy the 10th of Wilson’s Fourteen points by granting the nationalities autonomy within the Empire was no longer sufficient. Within 2 weeks, these new nations began to declare themselves independent and Austria-Hungary ceased to exist. Before US involvement in WW I, he vigorously advocated the principles of freedom of the seas and the rights of neutral nations. He persuaded Denmark to sell its islands in the West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands) to the US to prevent possible German occupation of them. After US entry into WW I, he negotiated the 1917 Lansing-Ishii Agreement with Japan in which the US recognized Japan’s special interests in China in return for Japan’s commitment to the Open Door Policy of equal trading rights for all countries there. He later advocated US participation in WW I, and was a member of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at Paris in 1919. He broke with Wilson over elevating the League of Nations over the Peace Treaty. During Wilson’s stroke and illness, Lansing called the Cabinet together for consultations on several occasions and was the first Cabinet member to suggest that Vice President Marshall assume the powers of the presidency. Edith Wilson requested Lansing’s resignation in 1920. In 1890, Lansing married Eleanor Foster, daughter of Secretary of State John W. Foster. Her older sister Edith was the mother of Eisenhower Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, CIA Director Allen W. Dulles, and Eleanor Lansing Dulles, an economist and high level policy analyst and advisor to the State Department.

TLS as Counselor to the Department of State on official letterhead with blue Department seal at top left of 1st page, 2-1/2pp (3 10 1/2 x 8 sheets), Washington, July 31 1914, to William Heimke, Department of State, Washington. Lansing has received Hemike’s letter regarding “a silver coin commemorative of the independence of Guatemala and a letter from the Municipality of Guatemala City which accompanied it presented to you by the Municipality on December, 1903, at which time you were American Minister to Guatemala.” Heimke had claimed that acceptance of the coin did not appear to come under Article 71 of Instructions to Diplomatic Officers” which deals with acceptance of gifts from a foreign government, not a municipal body. Lansing forwards (not present) an opinion from the Department’s Solicitor regarding the presentation of a sword to a US Navy officer by the governor of a state of Venezuela. In a reasoned legal opinion, Lansing states that there is no difference in whether a gift is from a head of a foreign state or the head of a subdivision of a foreign state, and it does not matter that the gift is of sentimental value or one of great monetary value: “The obligation, intended to be avoided, to a foreign state would therefore flow from the gift regardless of its worth in money.” Lansing closes with the Department’s view that “the testimonial should be retained by it until such time as Congress may have authorized you to accept it.”

WILLIAM HEINKE (1847-1931) USMA 1875. US Minister to Guatemala 1908-09 & El Salvador 1909-14, Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs at the State Department 1914-15.”
Type: Letter

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