Last updated: May 15, 2017
The Ridgely Family and the US Presidents Podcast
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TranscriptGood Afternoon Everyone, [Image 1: NPS Logo] I’d like to welcome you to the orangery, and to this program. This talk grew out of my work at James A. Garfield National Historic Site, [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 2: Garfield NHS] near Cleveland, Ohio. When I returned this fall, a colleague suggested I work up a talk on Hampton during the brief administration of President Garfield. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 2a: James A. Garfield] So, with the assistance of the archivist, Julia Lehnert, I searched the records on site. While there is some information relating to President Garfield, there is not enough to support a full talk. So, because Julia showed me documents in the collection, bearing the signatures of various presidents, this project evolved into “The Ridgely Family and the Presidents.” That is to say, the Ridgely family, broadly speaking. There are few, if any, persons named Ridgely who can be directly associated with a president. But don’t be disappointed! I have not assembled you here on false pretenses! The collateral relatives save the day – and this talk! Let’s begin with [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 3: John Eager Howard] John Eager Howard. You can’t get any better than John Eager Howard and George Washington, the Father of our country. In Baltimore you can find references to John Eager Howard everywhere. There’s Howard Street, Eager Street, and John Street (in Bolton Hill). Guildford Avenue and Eutaw Street commemorate Revolutionary War battles in the Carolinas in which Howard played a significant role. The Washington Monument [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 4 & 5: Monument] in Baltimore stands on what was once part of his property. Howard County is named for the Colonel. At one point in the Battle of Cowpens, in South Carolina, Howard [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 6: Colonel Howard] ordered his men to “change their front” to support troops under General Daniel Morgan, then under attack. Howard’s men misunderstood and began to retreat. An alarmed Morgan hurried over to Howard who then ordered his troops to reform for a bayonet charge. The British panicked. According to historian Cary Howard, the British threw down their guns in surrender, broke formation and ran. “The Americans halted their massacre of them only when Howard ordered them to spare the defenseless soldiers. … After the battle, Howard, holding seven swords of British officers who had personally surrendered to him, was complimented by General Morgan: ‘You have done well, for you are successful; had you failed, I would have shot you.’ Col. Howard replied, ‘Had I failed, there would have been no need of shooting me.’ Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee credited Howard with turning the tide of the battle by quick, decisive action at a vital instant…” Howard held many public offices following his service in the Revolution, including Justice of the Orphan’s Court, state Senator, United States Senator and as fifth Governor of Maryland. He was well known to George Washington. Washington dined at Howard’s home, Belvedere, in 1791, and in 1793 President Washington offered Howard the post of Secretary of War. Howard declined, citing an old war wound which required daily exercise. [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 7 & 8: Washington and Howard] A disappointed Washington wrote to Howard on November 30th of that year Had your inclination and private pursuits permitted you to take the office that was offered to you, it would have been a very pleasing circumstance to me, and I am persuaded, as I observed to you on a former occasion, a very acceptable one to the public; - but the reasons you have assigned for not doing it carry conviction along with them, and must however reluctantly be submitted to.’” John Eager Howard died at age 75 on October 12, 1827. [Image 9: JQA] At the time, President John Quincy Adams was in Baltimore. He was informed of Mr. Howard’s death and was persuaded to stay longer in the city, in order to attend the old patriot’s funeral. Adams National Historical Park has supplied the following excerpt from President Adams’ Diary: “October 14, 1827 – Captain Trippe informed me last evening that he had been requested by the committee to give them immediate notice of my arrival at Baltimore… [He continued] I turned into a berth early in the evening, and at half-past two was awakened by my son with the notice that we were at the wharf.”[Later, Mr. Adams writes], “Mr. David Hoffman, a member of the committee, came in. …He said that an unexpected and embarrassing incident had occurred in the death of Colonel Howard on Friday night. As his funeral was fixed for tomorrow, and would necessarily occupy a great part of the day, he asked if I could, without inconvenience, remain one day longer. I said that under such circumstances, and with a view to show my respect for the memory of Colonel Howard, I should readily attend the funeral and would also remain here on Tuesday. [Mr. Adams continued] Mr. Benjamin Chew, (his brother-in-law), came also to give me the same notice … I told him that… I should take a melancholy satisfaction in attending the funeral, as affording me the opportunity to show respect… Mr. Patterson went with me in my carriage to Belvedere, the late residence of Colonel Howard, and thence in procession to the place of interment. The procession was very long, and attended by … great multitudes of the citizens… The funeral service according to the forms of the Episcopal Church, but abridged, was performed by Bishop Kemp, and partly by another clergyman… I had seen Colonel Howard, when living, only two or three times – the last on the day of General LaFayette’s entry at Baltimore, three years since. I this day took a last view of his lifeless face before the procession moved from his house.” Another memento of John Quincy Adams appearing in the archives here at Hampton is an 1825 invitation from the President to “Dr. Howard” to attend a levee at the White House. Exactly who Dr. Howard was remains a mystery, but he must have been a member of the family, since the invitation was kept by the Ridgelys. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 10: Adams Invite] “Presidential” documents abound in the archives here at Hampton. There is a ship manifold, and there are commissions, and passports bearing presidential signatures, including those of Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Chester Alan Arthur, and Grover Cleveland. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image: 11, Document and Jackson/ Van Buren] In addition to what is on the screen, our archivist Julia Lehnert has provided, on the table located there, actual documents for you to see, bearing the signatures of Presidents Arthur, Cleveland, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Leonice Sampson Moulton, another collateral member of the Ridgely family had a presidential connection, although it was not with a sitting president. She was the grandmother of Helen West Stewart Ridgely, the fifth Mistress of Hampton, and he was Millard Fillmore. In 1874, the former president, [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 12 & 13: Millard Fillmore; Letter from Fillmore] then a member of the Buffalo Historical Society, wrote to Mrs. Moulton requesting a donation of something from her husband’s writings. Joseph Moulton had collaborated in writing a history of New York. Here is the letter bearing Fillmore’s signature. It reads, in part: Grosvenor Library Buffalo, January 1st, 1874 This institution was founded upon the bequest of the late Seth Grosvenor, a former citizen of Buffalo, and has upwards of 18,000 volumes on its shelves. It is designed for reference only, as the will of its founder prohibits the removal of books from its rooms. The trustees respectfully solicit the donation of books, maps, and pamphlets useful for reference, and especially scientific works, and the transactions and proceedings of learned societies. Millard Fillmore James W. Ward O. H. Marshall The Civil War offered Didy Ridgely White Buckler, and her eldest son, Henry White, opportunities to make reference to President Lincoln in verse. [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 14 & 15: President Lincoln; Poem] Two copied poems exist in the archives. One of them, which Henry White wrote out and entitled, “Song,” is in fact “Kingdom Coming,” a pro-Union song with a reference to President Lincoln. It was composed by Henry Clay Work. White’s lyrics vary slightly from a printed version loaned by volunteer Margaret McLeod, but it is true to the original. O Darkies, hab you seen ole massa, Wid de moustache on his face, Aquine up de road dis mornin', Aguine for to leab de place? He see de smoke way up de ribber, Where de Linkum gumboats lay; He took his hat, an lef' berry sudden, An' I spec' he's guine for to run away! Presidential inaugurations and assassinations are part of the Ridgely archival record. The Ridgely family saved copies of The Baltimore Sun from July 3rd and 4th, 1881, recounting the shooting of President James A. Garfield in Washington, in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station on July 2. [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 16, 17, 18: Newspaper, Shooting, Shooting] The saving of those newspapers may only reflect an all too human morbid fascination in the horrific nature of an assassination, or perhaps the fact that a Ridgely cousin had met President Garfield was the reason for saving these articles. That cousin was Henry White, and it is because of his diplomatic career – and the scrapbooks he assembled documenting it – that the most substantial presidential connections, that form this presentation, were made. Henry White was born on March 29, 1850. He was a first cousin of John (Captain Jack) Ridgely, the fifth master of Hampton. His mother was Eliza (Didy) Ridgely, and his father was John Campbell White. Young Henry had many advantages, among them a fine education, several childhood trips to Europe, and a facility with languages. He was fluent in French and Italian. His biographer, Allan Nevins wrote, “The family was one of considerable wealth; better, it was also a family of standards and breeding, which had held a recognized place in Maryland for generations.” Among Henry White’s earliest childhood memories was a call he and his paternal grandfather made on President Franklin Pierce at Old Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1856. [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 19 & 20: White as a boy & President Pierce] According to Allan Nevins it was, “a call impressed upon him, apparently, by the fact that he had been admonished to take off his hat the moment the President entered the room, and found the strings tied [too] tightly under his chin.” White’s youthful exposure to Europe and his awareness of the bloodshed of the Civil War in Maryland made him “a life-long lover of peace.” These influences, says Nevins, propelled him toward a diplomatic career. Early in 1881, he was introduced to Levi P. Morton, the American Minister to France, who invited him to one of President James A. Garfield’s receptions, [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 21 & 22: President Garfield and White Letter re: JAG] In a letter to wife Daisy, the former Margaret Stuyvesant Rutherfurd, White recorded his impressions of the new president: “I was surprised at the dignity of the President’s manner and the almost elegance of his bearing; as also at the greatly improved appearance of the White House, there being a servant, well dressed, inside the glass doors to open them for everyone going in or out. The President was very civil to me.” Following the assassination and death of James Garfield, Chester Alan Arthur became president. In 1883, White once again visited Washington, to see Secretary of State Frederick Freylinghuysen, a family friend of Daisy. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 23: Frelinghuysen and Margaret Rutherfurd] Freylinghuysen had promised to find or create a vacancy for White in of the European legations. There was a vacancy in Vienna. At the Executive mansion, the Secretary of State introduced “Harry” to President Arthur [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 24: White, Freylinghuysen, and Arthur]. White accepted the appointment soon after the meeting with Arthur. In a letter to Daisy, he wrote: “Upon arrival I was ushered into the East Room, where the Madagascar envoys who had come to Washington the day before were drawn up awaiting the President. I perceived this must be a mistake… I retired, therefore, and told the usher to inquire whether some mistake had not been made, and he then discovered that I was to be sent into the Blue Room. Here, after my waiting some little time, the President and Mr. Frelinghuysen shortly came. … and I had quite a friendly chat with them both. …” Once in Vienna, Henry White made rapid progress in his diplomatic career. At the end of 1883 he was appointed second secretary to the American legation in Great Britain. In 1886 he was made first secretary during the first administration of Democrat Grover Cleveland. He served in this position without controversy throughout Cleveland’s first term and that of his successor, Benjamin Harrison. In 1892, Grover Cleveland recaptured the presidency. During the second Cleveland administration, when Thomas F. Bayard became the first United States Ambassador to Great Britain, Henry White lost his job. Allan Nevins tells the story. Though White did all that he could to make the Ambassador happy, Bayard was “not thoroughly friendly.” On top of that, President Cleveland was convinced that White had spoken disrespectfully of himself. Secretary of State Walter Gresham attempted to intervene in behalf of White. In White’s words: [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 25 & 26: Cleveland and White Letter regarding resignation] Mr. Gresham again took me into his private room, and in the kindest way reported to me the following interview with the President. He handed him my letter of resignation… after which Mr. Cleveland remarked, “This resignation is accepted.” Mr. Gresham then read him a very strong letter which he appears to have received from Pierpont Morgan, earnestly requesting for various good reasons that I be retained…; to which Cleveland … vouchsafed no reply whatever. Mr. Gresham then told him what I had heard as the reasons for the removal, and that it was absolutely untrue that I had ever spoken disrespectfully of him and that I should be glad to have the opportunity of saying so to him… to which the President still made no reply. Thereupon Gresham said he thought it best to drop the subject, which he did by saying: “I suppose, Mr. President, I am to infer from your silence that Mr. White need not count upon further employment under this Administration”; to which there was still no reply… Henry White’s career was revived when [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 28 & 29: Inauguration Ticket/White House Invitation] William McKinley became president in March 1897. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 27: William McKinley] At a meeting attended by the new Secretary of State, John Hay, McKinley offered White his choice between becoming minister to Spain or First Secretary in London. McKinley wanted him to go to Spain. He thought that by placing White in Madrid war might be avoided. “What am I going to do about the Spanish mission? I must have a trained diplomatist there. I wish very much, Mr. White, that I could persuade Col. Hay to let me send you there. …” But White’s heart was in England and that is where he went. William McKinley was assassinated on September 6, 1901. The man who succeeded McKinley had known Henry White for years, and it is this relationship, that realized the strongest connection between an American president and a member of the Ridgely family. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 29: TR montage] “Harry” White was on a first name basis with Theodore Roosevelt. Their first meeting took place in London in March 1887. White wrote to Roosevelt: ‘The other day I happened to hear of your being in London,’ [and] ‘as we have a number of mutual friends in New York, I took the liberty of calling upon you with the intention of offering my services.’ White’s overture stemmed from the fact that Roosevelt was well-known to himself and the American public, having been a much publicized member of the New York State Assembly, for having run for Mayor of New York City, and for writing several books, among them, The Naval War of 1812, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, and the Life of Thomas Hart Benton. From that initial correspondence, the White-Roosevelt friendship grew and developed. By 1894, Roosevelt was living and working in Washington as a member of the United States Civil Service Commission, [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 31: TR as Commissioner] while Henry White was out of a job. TR alluded to that fact when he wrote: “I need hardly say how I enjoyed seeing you here in Washington, and how we look forward to having you here next winter, though I trust it will not be too long before we again see you in our diplomatic service.” In March 1897, as the two men were being considered for posts in the new McKinley Administration, Roosevelt optimistically averred: “I hope I may regard your matter as settled; at least it seems perfectly incredible to me that there should be any other possible solution than your reappointment. As for myself, I have been so absorbed in the fight here that I have had little time to think of my chances as Assistant Secretary of the Navy…” TR also wrote: Lodge [Massachusetts Senator, Henry Cabot Lodge] has just written me telling me how disinterestedly you have concerned yourself on my behalf, in the middle of all your affairs; it touched me very much. Now, old man, don’t you bother about me. I can say quite sincerely that I am much more anxious to have you go back to London as First Secretary than I am to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy, for I think that it is a much more important thing that you should go back, and as for me, I am pretty well accustomed to the buffeting of American political life, and take things with much philosophy. I try to give as good as I get. Of course, White was reappointed First Secretary of the British Legation, and Roosevelt did become Assistant Secretary of the Navy, from which position he argued forcefully for war with Spain in 1898. His subsequent career in Cuba made him Governor of New York and then Vice President of the United States. Following President McKinley’s death, President Roosevelt continued Henry White in the diplomatic service. When TR was elected to a term in his own right in 1904, he appointed White Ambassador to France. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 33: Roosevelt] White shared the news with his wife, Daisy Rutherford, in a letter that also mentioned their daughter, Muriel: Washington March 8th (1905) My darling, I have just sent you a cablegram of congratulation – the first I hope that you will have received in your capacity as Ambassadress. …Everyone is so kind, not only to me but apparently proud of you… We lunched yesterday at the White House and I had a most satisfactory talk of one & a half hours with the President while [Muriel] had Mrs. R. all for the same time. Afterwards Mrs. R. told me in her quiet way that she was so glad Alice had not come in (which she was to have done from a wedding) as she had so greatly enjoyed [Muriel] all to herself and thought her quite charming. On March 4, 1909, Roosevelt was succeeded by William Howard Taft. Out of office, TR remained interested in his friend’s career. Because White was so effective in his post in Paris, Roosevelt believed he would be continued in it. Wrote the former president: Taft told Lodge and me both that he intended to keep you. It was not a promise, but it was an unqualified declaration of intention; and I cannot imagine his being so unwise as to let you go… Roosevelt was incorrect. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 32: White at Retirement] Soon after the new administration began, White was informed by the Secretary of State, Philander Knox, that his resignation would be accepted, effective January 1, 1910. Roosevelt heard the news while in the depths of British East Africa. He strongly disapproved of Taft’s action. Dear White: … I wish you to know that everything I could do was done on your behalf, not because of my affection for you, great though that is, but because as I told Taft I regard you as without exception the very best man in our diplomatic service. With such a warm commendation from Roosevelt, it is not surprising that In 1910, following his African safari, Roosevelt planned a tour of Europe and invited White to join him in Vienna, London, and Berlin. In Berlin White joined the ex-President and Kaiser Wilhelm II at a luncheon in Pottsdam. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 34: TR, White, Wilhelm] The following day the three were together to view army maneouvers. For five hours they were in the saddle.”White wore tweeds and Roosevelt khaki; the Kaiser was of course resplendent in uniform. The scene was impressive, the helmeted troops wheeling past in long files, the Kaiser stiffly saluting, while the ex-President raised his hat from time to time.” The current president, William Howard Taft, had so alienated his patron, Theodore Roosevelt, that their split became public. Newspaper articles documented it. [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 35 & 36: Taft and article] One article, saved in the Ridgely papers, related the story of Taft’s disdain for Roosevelt’s good friend, Henry White. As already noted, when Taft was elected President, it was assumed by White and all his friends that he would either be retained at Paris or transferred to the London Embassy. At that time, he was the best trained member of our diplomatic service. The most influential men in Washington were his friends and supporters – among them Theodore Roosevelt. White, and Mr. Taft’s father, Alonso Taft had served together in Vienna in the 1880s, and had developed a close, warm, bond. So what lay behind President Taft’s dismissal of White? The cause stretched back twenty-five years earlier, when Taft and his bride Helen Herron visited London on their honeymoon in 1886. The newlyweds had asked White to procure seats for a notable debate in Parliament. This proved to be impossible, and White instead sent the Tafts some tickets to view the royal mews. His well-meant act was misunderstood, and the Tafts never forgot the incident. White would not be admitted to the confidences of an American president again until 1919, when Woodrow Wilson tapped him as the lone Republican appointed to the American Peace Commission at Versailles, following the end of World War I.[NEXT SLIDE] [Images 37 & 38: White, Wilson & Peace Commission] As Allan Nevins noted, the heart of the matter was this: “President Wilson had much more in mind than the mere fact that White was an experienced diplomatist and a Republican of not too pronounced a partisan type. …He knew… that White was a man of liberal views, in close touch with events in Europe and holding advanced ideas regarding peace. He was appointed as a moderate… who would favor a just instead of a vengeful peace. … President Wilson knew that he was a friend of Roosevelt… Nevertheless, the appointment was a complete surprise to White. In the archives at Hampton is one document to Henry White with President Wilson’s signature. It is a letter to Henry, in reference to Jack White’s memorandum about Siam. By 1919, White’s son Jack was also in the diplomatic corps, and familiar with affairs in Thailand, then officially known as Siam. Paris, 29 January, 1919 My dear Mr. White: Thank you very much for sending me a copy of the memorandum from your son about the desire of Siam to be relieved of the restriction of extra-territoriality. I shall take great pleasure in examining it very carefully. Carefully and sincerely yours, Woodrow Wilson At those same Versailles negotiations to end the Great War, a future president was in attendance. Herbert Hoover sent Henry White a report on the relief efforts he was overseeing Europe, as the files at Hampton show. The letter is dated May 17, 1919. [NEXT SLIDE] [Images 39 & 40: Hoover and Hoover Letter] It reads: My dear Mr. White: I am enclosing herewith copy of the statement which shows the total relief effected to the first of this month. Faithfully yours, Herbert Hoover White thought very highly of Herbert Hoover and his work to relieve masses of Europeans starving as a result of the war. The American people would probably never appreciate, in his opinion, the magnitude of Hoover’s work, the number of lives he had saved, and the suffering he had alleviated. … “Someday,” White confided to Lodge, “I shall tell you of some of the efforts to keep the knowledge from the general public of what he was doing…” Between Wilson and Hoover came Harding and Coolidge.[NEXT SLIDE] [Images 41 & 42: Harding and Coolidge] “Of President Harding White saw much; of President Coolidge very little…” White thought Coolidge was the better man. In November 1927, four months after Henry White died, a memorial service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington. President and Mrs. Coolidge sent an arrangement of chrysanthemums to the service, which the First Lady attended. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 43: Cards from Flowers] Henry White was personally familiar to every American president from James A. Garfield to Herbert Hoover – that’s eleven of them. But there is one more president to mention: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. [NEXT SLIDE] [Image 44: FDR] Henry White never served under FDR; however, there are documents in reference to him. One is a 1936 ticket to the Democratic National Convention. It bears Roosevelt’s image and is believed to have been used by White’s son Jack, who served as the Ambassador to Haiti and then to Peru in the 1940s. More tantalizing perhaps is the connection between Henry White’s first wife and Franklin Roosevelt’s former mistress. You may recall the name Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd? She was the sister-in-law of Daisy White, the former Margaret Rutherfurd, and married to Daisy’s brother, Winthrop. [Images 45 & 46: Jack’s Letters] The Hampton archives retain letters from Daisy’s son Jack, which make mention of Roosevelt. The letters were written three days apart in the summer of 1913, and refer to a trip down the Rappanhannock and a visit to St. Mary’s: July 17, 1913 Darling Mother. I spent yesterday night at "The Manor” … Tonight I hope Moor & Archy Coolidge will dine & also F. Roosevelt. Saturday… I will go down the Bay & up the Rappahannock. July 20, 1913 Darling Mother. I returned from a very pleasant trip down the river. F. Roosevelt, Bill, Prof. Coolidge & myself. We went to St. Mary’s where Ld. Baltimore first (1634) landed… So there you have it, presidential signatures and presidential stories, from George Washington to FDR, from John Eager Howard to John Campbell White. This talk is based on primary documents in the archives here at Hampton and the Diary of John Quincy Adams, and on secondary sources such as biographies and articles. It would not have been possible but for the assistance of several members of the Hampton staff, and others. [Image 47: Hampton] I would like to thank Hampton’s archivist, Julia Lehnert for her assistance in locating documents and in several cases, providing background information. Cora Provins, the Cultural Resources Technician, and her co-worker, Jessica Bulger, scanned the images you saw today. Park Ranger Carol Van Natta helped me set up the equipment for today’s talk. Chief of Resource Management, Paul Bitzel, and Curator Gregory Weidman were generous with staff time in allowing this project to move forward. Kelly Cobble, of Adams National Historical Park, in Quincy, Massachusetts, supplied the excerpt from President John Quincy Adams’ diary, and the Reference Desk and Maryland Room of the Enoch Pratt Free Library sent the information relating to John Eager Howard. Finally, Park Ranger Kirby Shedlowski inspired the idea for this talk, and I thank her for setting me down the path that resulted in this talk. I hope you enjoyed it.
Podcast about the Ridgely Family and their interactions with various United States Presidents