Report.  Seventh International Conference of the Red Cross

Report. Seventh International Conference of the Red Cross Held At St. Petersburg, Russia
written and published by Clara Barton in 1902.

The following was transcribed from: Report. Seventh International Conference of the Red Cross Held At St. Petersburg, Russia, May 16 - 29, June 4 - 22, 1902, written and published by Clara Barton in 1902:

In behalf of the delegates appointed by you, under authority of an Act approved March 3, 1887, to represent the United States in an International Conference of the Red Cross, I have the honor to present the following report:

The conference which called together this body of eminent philanthropists and statesmen from the various civilized countries of the world, is the seventh which has taken place since the formation of the organization, and was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, the 16-29 of May to June 4-22, inclusive, 1902, for the purpose of deliberating upon the various methods of organized aid as outlined by the convention of Geneva, to be given both in military and civil life, as in cases of war and public calamity, which are before the reflecting, humanitarian, and progressive world to-day.

The delegates assembled represented the countries of Germany, Baden, Prussia, Wurtemberg, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria, Congo Free States, Denmark, Spain, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Roumania, Servia, Siam, Sweden and Norway, Switzerland, Uruguay, the United States of America, and last, though by no means least, Russia, the magnificence of whose entertainments of her guests was equalled, if not surpassed by the warm-hearted friendliness which accompanied and graced every act of courtesy so profusely bestowed.

I cannot refrain from expressing, in personal terms, what I am sure are the sentiments of every delegate who had the honor of having been appointed by you; their appreciation of the cordial reception given them on every hand, the honor specially conferred upon them, not alone by the committee but by the state, whose every princely hand, from those who modestly served to the Czar who commanded, was held out in royal welcome.

The conference was held under the high patronage of Her Majesty, the Empress Dowager Marie Feodorovna, the Patroness of the Red Cross in Russia.

All invitations were extended by her, courtesies shown through her, and entertainments given under her patronage.

It was through this august direction that the members of the conference were invited to a familiar reunion at the Hall of the Assembly of Nobles, on the 15-28 of May for the social acquaintance and better preparation for the work before them, and from the same hospitable source all were invited to a dinner given in their honor at the Palace de la Tauride on the following evening, May 16-29, and again on the 17-30 an excursion to the islands of the river and a visit and entertainment at the Palace Yeleguine.

On May 18-31 a visit to her own residentiary palace, where each of the nearly a hundred delegates were not only personally and cordially received by Her Majesty, but made to partake of a most royal lunch, and, as if this were not enough of courtesy direct, on one of the first days of June we were taken a charming drive of several miles to the Palace de Tzaiskae Selo, the country residence of the royal family, where we were received by their majesties, the Czar and Czarina, in a manner so cordial, social, and altogether friendly as to banish from our minds the thought of royalty, and the repast which followed served to heighten, if possible, the sense of friendly ease pervading the entire assemblage.

Both the Emperor and Empress eagerly encouraged conversation with the delegates on all subjects of national or social importance which could interest.

On the part of the committee was a state dinner at the Hotel de Ville on the evening of June 2d, and various entertainments of social and national interest, closing with a visit to Moscow of three days' duration, with transportation free and carriages always at our service.

The entertainment at Moscow was in keeping with that of St. Petersburg, including the cordial and elegant reception by the Grand Duke Sergius, Governor-General of Moscow, the uncle of the Emperor, and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, sister of the Empress, and granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

It must not be inferred that these entertainments, many and grand as they were, in any way detracted from the official duties for which the conference had been called; the facts were quite the contrary. They served to heighten social intercourse and quicken activities. The full and prompt attendance upon each sitting and the spirited nature of the discussions evinced an interest in the world-wide questions they had met to consider, most significant for the future.

The conference was opened for the welcome of delegates and order of business on the 29th day of May in the presence of the Empress Marie Feodorovna, its Royal Patroness, better known to our people as the Empress Dagmar, sister of the Queen of England, mother of the Czar, and Patroness of the Red Cross of Russia.

Addresses of welcome were made by the Secretary of State, Minister of Justice, M. Mouravieff, by M. de Kenesebeck, Chamberlain of the Emperor and Empress of Germany, and president of the German Red Cross, and by other officers of the governments of Germany and Russia.

The occasion was one of great solemnity and dignity, being formally closed at 4 P.M. by the permission and retirement of Her Majesty, the Empress.

On the day following, May 17-30, during two very lengthy sittings, many important questions were discussed, commencing with the best manner of applying the fund left at her death by the Empress Augusta of Germany (known as the "Augusta Fund"), for the benefit of the Red Cross.

The conference arose reverently at the mention of her name, and the remarks which followed were a union of grateful eloquence for the past and wise consideration for the future.

Following this was the reading of reports, and the introduction of questions touching the use of the Red Cross flag, both on land and sea, the care to be extended to prisoners of war, the relations between the work of the Red Cross, and the propositions of the convention of La Hague, the methods of which, as well as the objects, being mainly identical.

At the next sitting were most interesting reports and suggestions by Sir John Furley upon the actual official situation of the Red Cross in England, and listened to with the most intense interest, as well as the learned treatise of Dr. Pannwitz of Germany upon the work of the Red Cross in time of peace; but it is reserved for the subject of the general and personal misuse and abuse of the insignia and name of the Red Cross to call out the full spirit of a Red Cross Conference. Pages would fail to convey an adequate idea of the protests, the arguments, the efforts, the hopes, the failures in the past, the national and international significance so earnestly and so highly portrayed upon the introduction of this subject.

Twelve years of untiring effort in the same cause had taught at least some of your delegates how wearying and discouraging these efforts have been, and how to sympathize with them.

The sittings of June 3d opened with a telegram from Prince Okihita, the honorary president of Japan, an organization numbering over half a million.

Then followed most interesting reports, and acceptance of the international gift of 100,000 roubles, presented to the Red Cross by Empress Marie Feodorovna, who, by this gracious act, is following the benign example of Empress Augusta of Germany, in placing funds at the disposition of the Red Cross internationally.

The organization has surely found friends in the sovereign women of the world.

The application of the Red Cross to the saving of life at sea was a subject brought up by Uruguay.

Dr. Pannwitz of Germany submitted valuable information concerning anti-tuberculosis in all countries.

From the Congo Free States came a wise, and withal morally brave suggestion, but which met hearty approval, viz: That naval ambulances for relief in war at sea, luxurious and expensive, were less useful than boats less pretentious, less strong and massive which could, upon occasion, be transferred in case of naval evacuation.

Belgium recommended very warmly the spreading of a clear knowledge of the Red Cross and the text of the convention of Geneva among the soldiers, and the resolution of M. Renault, that oral instruction upon its work and its nature be given among the armies was unanimously adopted. Speaking to this question Baron de Kenesebeck, president of the German Red Cross, with a wisdom born of long experience, suggested the utility of finding some means of spreading a knowledge of the Red Cross among all classes of the populations, rather than educate a part, and to this end he asked the opinion of the members, if it would not be better to make the Red Cross useful to all the people in time of peace, thus winning their affection and help for it, and for themselves, rather than create prejudice by preparations for activity upon the battlefield.

This idea was so warmly seconded as to result in a resolution to that effect. Russia hastened to add her concurrence, and, as this has been the mainspring of all American work for the Red Cross from its inception, it is needless to add that your delegates did not fail to make their concurrence understood.

The fourth of June brought the close of the conference. The work had been completed the day before; it only remained now for the honorable president of the conference, Lieut.General de Richter to give a short résumé of the subjects and their authors which had been of paramount interest, and how they had been disposed of.

The first to be named was the interesting report of Admiral Van Reypen upon the medical work of the navy in the late war and the quick transformation of the "Solace" into a floating hospital, an example which has been followed later by Germany, France and Russia.

M. le Dr. Pannwitz of Germany, who so ably portrayed the work of that country in time of peace.

Le Commander Postemski of the Italian delegation, who had made a word picture of the ravages of malaria, and proposed a means of combating it, thus making it possible to transform the lands, now the sources of mortal disease, into fields of healthful cultivation.

Of Le Dr. Kuettner, for his very instructive report of a highly scientific nature touching the variations of climate in extreme latitudes, enabling operations to be carried on in all.

Le Dr. Cazin for his report upon the work of women in the Red Cross.

Of M. Le Dr. Romeyn of the army of the Netherlands, for his valuable observations upon the department of the Red Cross in Pretoria.

And last of all was made modest mention of the great and well-known activity of the Red Cross of Russia in the extreme Orient and in recent public calamities.

Then followed the parting speeches, doing honor to all, forgetting none, in words of touching eloquence that left few dry eyes in the silent hall.

But when the last words fell from the lips of M. le General Lanty of France, "Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs du Comite Central Russe, c'est avec le coeur que vous nous avez reçus, c'est avec le coeur que nous vous disons; Merci,"* there was no longer silence, a hundred voices joined in the response, and twice that number of hands clasped each other in the loving good-will of the nations of the earth.

*TRANSLATION.--"Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the Central Committee of Russia, it is with the heart that you have received us -- it is with the heart that we say: Thank you."

It is only a feeble portrayal of this great occasion that I am able to make, but such as it is, I hope, Mr. President, that it may in some way serve to awaken a renewed and larger interest in the Red Cross among our own people, full of goodhearted endeavor, and our government which seeks, amid all its cares, always the best welfare and largest opportunities for its people.

If I might presume to make a recommendation, it would be that steps be taken to still further protect the interests of your organization of the Red Cross, by protection of its insignia, and to spread a knowledge of it by the circulation of public documents, as is done in the case of most other institutions or beneficiaries for the public benefit. In that regard the Red Cross stands and always has stood, nearly alone; and yet I believe it could well bear the motto, "Ich dien."

Mr. B. F. Tillinghast of Iowa, one of your delegates, has kindly acted as secretary, and I have asked of him a report, to your Honorary Secretary of State, which will deal with other sides of the subject, and do justice to the corps of delegates accompanying me, of whom too much cannot be said in commendation. Of Mr. Tillinghast, who, I fear, will not speak of himself, I beg to say that he has not only honored his appointment, but he has earned it in indefatigable, intelligent labor for the conference from first to last.

Dr. Nicholas Senn of medical renown, labored incessantly in the Red Cross hospitals, not alone gaining a knowledge of the methods of work in other countries, but, if one may trust reports, giving as much information as he gained.

Admiral Van Reypen, who, from his past eminent services and high rank, was no stranger in Russia, as well as for his admirable report, received honors on every hand.

Captain S. L. H. Slocum of the War Department was "instant in season and out of season" for any service which he could render his fellow delegates, for which he won their constant thanks.

Mrs. J. Ellen Foster, so well and so highly known throughout her own country, and to whom no words of mine could add honor, gave patient, faithful attendance upon all duties, as well as admirably gracing social occasions by timely words of eloquence, most fitly spoken.

And let me not neglect to name to you (although not a delegate) the hearty coöperation and tireless service of our Chargé d'Affaires at St. Petersburg, Mr. John Wallace Riddle, acting as head of the embassy, in the absence of the embassador. Mr. Riddle both honors and graces the station to which you have appointed him.

And again, our obliging Consul General, M.W. R. Holloway, struggling under pains and disabilities of the old war of '61, still striving to do faithful work for the country for which he gave so much.

On behalf of the entire delegation, I beg to return appreciative thanks for appointments and courtesies guaranteed through our nation's honored President.

I have the honor to be with profound respect,

President American National Red Cross.





Since the autumn of 1897, when the American Red Cross had the honor of meeting with this honorable council, there have taken place in the United States of America, besides one event of international importance, three or four of minor character, more especially pertaining to the Red Cross in its national capacity.

In the spring of 1898, at the request of President McKinley, the Red Cross under charge of its President undertook the relief of the reconcentrados in the Spanish Island of Cuba, which island was in a state of insurrection against the government of Spain. The gathering of the country people into the towns, in order to cut off their aid to the insurgent soldiers in the mountains, whom the Spanish armies could not reach, had become a war measure which produced great suffering and loss of life, especially as the means of subsistence on the island grew less and starvation became imminent.

This condition of things gave great concern to our people, and painfully so to our great tender-hearted President McKinley; and at length, at his request, a committee of relief was formed in New York under the management of Mr. Stephen E. Barton as chairman, by which committee, supplies were shipped to Cuba. These supplies were received in Cuba by the President of the American National Red Cross, who had gone there for that purpose and were, by herself and her assistants, distributed among the hospitals and towns where the reconcentrados were gathered. The suffering was very naturally terrible and the death rate appalling.

There were a few months of this quiet relief over the island, but finally, in the month of April, war was declared between our nation and Spain, which is known as the "Spanish-American War."

This was the first time in the history of the American Red Cross that any touch of war in our own country had called for its labors; its work, during the fifteen years of its existence, having been entirely confined to scenes of national disaster in civil life. It is needless to say that we were not in that state of preparation which would have been desirable. Still the Red Cross became the rallying cry for all war relief throughout the United States. Auxiliaries were formed in every state from which relief went out to every conceivable want that a needy soldier could be supposed to have.

It is safe to say that notwithstanding all the efforts which had been made to spread a knowledge of the organization over the country, to fully one-half of the people of the United States the idea for the first time came home to them, that the Red Cross had its foundation in war, and simply meant war-relief. To their lasting credit, however, be it said that once in possession of the idea, they acted upon it with an avidity equaled only by their liberality and faithfulness. The thousands from the coffers of the millionaire lay side by side with the hard-earned pennies of the washer-woman, and the cheers of the multitude were divided between the broad national emblem and the little red cross that floated modestly by its side.

Our records show an aggregate of scores of principal auxiliary societies, with hundreds of lesser bodies reporting to them in the eastern parts of the country, as in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago; while on the Pacific coast California and its kindred states formed a section of their own, but working in harmonious conjunction with, and under the direction of, the central body at New York and Washington. The financial statement of California alone at the close of the year 1901 shows the receipt and the employment of over $80,000. This record stands to the credit of the women of California. It seems scarcely credible that the western coast of our country is, geographically, almost as near to the seats of government of some of the countries represented in this assemblage as to our own. San Francisco reaches her neighbor Tokio almost as readily as Washington, and yet it was through this distant door that the American armies marched for the Philippines and China. It was through this hospitable door that they returned and are returning, wayworn, weary, broken in health and spirit to the homes they left and the land they tried to serve. To the grand women of California, that golden coast, are due the thanks of the whole American nation. The broad banner of the Red Cross has covered their every act of devotion, charity, unity and love. One faithful woman, as chairman and director, Mrs. W. B. Harrington, has held the control of this vast work and should be with us here to-day to make her own matchless report.

Ladies of the highest social position went voluntarily into the hospitals and to the fields as nurses, and many a soldier in the miry fever swamps caught hold once more of the life fast ebbing out, blessing the tender nursing of the jewelled hands that never before knew either hardship or labor.

It remains for me, however, to bear my personal testimony to the unfailing faith with which our sister nation, Spain, through all these trying days, sustained her fealty to her vows, and to the treaty; nay more, the generous courtesy at all times manifested, together with every offer of protection from the commanding general and still more and higher, in the very heat of the contest, with the wounded and the prisoners of both armies on either hand, there came to the President of the American Red Cross the Royal Decoration of Spain, the gift of Her Majesty the Queen, in these darkest days, a token held with pride which no words can speak. Can more be said than to express the hope that the relations so amicably commenced may continue unbroken until a whole world at peace shall no more need the Red Cross nor its treaties for protection.

It has been my good fortune to have associated officially with me, at this conference, the medical directors of both the navy and the army of the United States at the field of Cuba, in the persons of Admiral Van Reypen, Medical Director of the Navy through the entire Spanish-American War, and Dr. Nicholas Senn, Medical Director at the field on the island of Cuba during the same campaign. With coadjutors so able, as eye-witnesses and participants, no more words of mine are needed to represent our first war under the Red Cross relief. May I, however, bespeak from the conference a few minutes audience for these eminent representatives, so well armed with all needed facts.


It will be remembered that America, in common with other nations, has for years labored for the protection of the name and the insignia of the Red Cross. Two years ago a bill was passed by our Congress which gave to the Red Cross governmental recognition, which it had not before had, but quite failed in affording the protection sought. The usurpation of the insignia had become so general, the holders of the patents who use it claiming "vested rights" that even the government hesitates to interfere. If this protection is ever to be granted in America, it must be by future action, a better understanding of the subject and a higher sense of rectitude. No mere efforts of the Red Cross by itself can surpass those already made.


It is with humility and indignation that I, speaking personally as President of the American Red Cross, am compelled to mention here a most regrettable occurrence which transpired in relation to the war in the South African states. I merely make my own statement of the affair, involving neither the opinions nor the prejudices of any other person and desire to be so understood.

Some two or more years ago the President of the Red Cross was waited upon by reputable agencies requesting that the sanction of the Red Cross be given to a body of men in the city of Chicago, some fifty-six in number, said to be composed of physicians and their assistants, who had organized themselves into a corps for medical help for the wounded and sick in the armies, in the field of South Africa, where need was imminent. Their funds were all raised, they were medically officered, would soon sail from New York and wanted, most of all, the sanction of the Red Cross, and to go out as a body of volnnteeer Red Cross physicians and nurses for friend and foe alike. Habitually cautious, we hesitated, and it was only after repeated visits from the agency and when we were informed that the men were already in New York prepared to sail, that each man of the fifty-six had individually given his sworn affidavit of entire loyalty to the cause he represented and nothing else, and when they asked merely a letter of recognition and the privilege of making a little Red Cross flag for themselves, that the letter and the flag were given to their agent, and even then, our field agent, Dr. J. B. Hubbell, was sent from Washington to New York to personally inspect the corps as it embarked, before allowing the letter and the flag to pass into their hands.

After some weeks news of disloyal conduct began to come back from Pretoria. The agents were promptly summoned to Washington. They could not believe the reports. They had faith in the rectitude of the corps. At length the correctness of the report was no longer to be gainsaid, and finally their head surgeon returned, heart-broken and bearing back, as we were told, their dishonored flag which he had succeeded in preserving. Reports said that the men, once safely past the outposts and admitted as Red Cross assistants, had torn off their brassards and trampled them, had taken allegiance to the Boer Commanders and entered the army as Irish-American recruits.

There was nothing to be done. Of their fate we know little. A portion at least returned later to Chicago. How received, if as heroes or renegades we know not. There was no law for them, and none for us. We can only report it here, but speaking for myself, and I believe the delegation with me, I desire to say that the moderation and the patient forbearance of the British authorities in dealing with these men was something beyond conception. Again I believe I speak for all, when I say that, according to all known rules or customs of war, England would have been justified in demanding the liberty if not the life of every recreant traitor in that body.

So far as we know, this is the only stain of disloyalty or of broken faith that rests on the American Red Cross. It is enough.


Of the American Red Cross in the civil relief during the past five years, perhaps it is sufficient to name that of Galveston, Texas, swept by a hurricane and tidal wave in August, 1900. No greater disaster that this has fallen to our charge to relieve. Thirty thousand persons were overwhelmed by the sea. Eight thousand are supposed to have been drowned or killed, and ten thousand made utterly homeless. The Red Cross was so fortunate as to be able to render most acceptable service during this sad crisis, in helping to build up temporary homes, in furnishing them, feeding and clothing the sufferers and to aid the husbandmen in the desolated surrounding country from which the fury of the waves, for sometimes fifty miles inland, had carried away not only the homes and the animals but had cleared the ground of all vegetation. This was a fruit-growing section of the country for the northern markets. The storm had taken from these husbandmen their only means of subsistence. They were largely strawberry growers. No plants were left on the ground. The Red Cross procured at once a million and a half of strawberry plants and distributed them among the people. These plants yielded fruit the first year. This year their product is almost incredible in quantity. The State of Texas is a thousand miles in diameter. It is no longer a stranger to the Red Cross.


Until the present time the American Red Cross has published no official bulletin but has endeavored to supply this deficiency so far as possible by sending the reports of its fields of activity. Such reports of the relief of Cuba and Galveston have been sent recently to all central societies whose address we possess, and we have been happy to receive from very many societies most courteous acknowledgments for which we desire to return our cordial thanks.


To our patriotic and true-hearted President Roosevelt, who carries with him the hearts and the hopes of our people, our thanks are due for the appointment of the delegates to this Conference. While we ardently pray that his administration may never need the services of the Red Cross in war, we hope to be permitted to lay our hands beside his in any woe that may befall his people.


There remains but one more subject to mention. In this I am sure of the sympathy not alone of this Conference, but of the whole world.

The best of rulers, the man most beloved in all our land, of whom no word of disapproval is spoken, whom all trusted, who loved his people as they loved him, has fallen by the assassin's hand. The third ruler so to fall in our history; God grant it be our last.

Let us take to ourselves courage and the hope that the steps which we are so unitedly taking toward the love and good will of all the nations of the earth, may not be without effect.

President of the American National Red Cross.


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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