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Chapter I Why Ambassador Morgenthau's Story Written

Lowry Heath W.*
The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story



ANY examination of the genesis of the Morgenthau ‘Story,’ must begin by focusing on a letter the Ambassador addressed to his friend and conffidant, United States President Woodrow Wilson, on November 26, 1917. For it is in this previously unpublished letter that Morgenthau set forth both his idea of writing a book, and his aims and objectives in desiring to do so. He combined his concept with an appeal for the President’s ‘blessing’ as it were for his proposal. Given the fact that his sole aim was fostering public support for the United States war effort by writing a work of anti—German, anti-Turkish propaganda which would “win a victory for the war policy of the government,” he not surprisingly received it. He couched his idea to Wilson in the following terms:

“...Greatly discouraged at the amount of outright opposition and the tremendous indifference to the war, as well as by the lack of enthusiasm among the mass of those who are ?upporting the war...

I am considering writing a book In which I would lay bare, not only Germany’s permeation of Turkey and the Balkans, but that system as It appears In every country of the world. For in Turkey we see the evil spirit of Germany at its worst — culminating at last In the greatest crime of aft ages, the horrible massacre of helpless Armenians and Syrians. This particular detail of the story and Germany’s abettance of the same, I feel positive will appeal to the mass of Americans In small towns and country districts as no other aspect of the war could, and convince them of the necessity of carrying the war to a victorious conclusion...

We must win a victory for the war policy of the government and every legitimate step or means should be utilized to accomplish it.”[1]

In its simplest form, this study intends to evaluate the ensuing work from the perspective of whether or not, as written, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story exceeds or adheres to his own criteria of utilizing “every legitimate means” to reach his stated goal of convincing the “mass of Americans” to support the war.

Within a year of the date of Morgenthau’s letter to Wilson, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, as the work he proposed was eventually titled, had been written; serialized in monthly installments in one of America’s best-known magazines, The World’s Work (circulatlon: 120,000);[2] appeared in over a dozen of the country’s largest newspapers with a combined circulation of 2,630,256;[3] released with great fanfare as a book by Doubleday, Page & Co.,[4] and already accumulated sales of several thousand copies (by July 1st of the following year those sales would reach 22,234 copies).[5]

In short, Morgenthau’s goal of contributing to America’s war effort by authoring a book which would, in his words, “appeal to the mass of Americans in small towns and country districts as no other aspect of the war could,”[6] had been attained in a manner which must have exceeded even his wildest expectations. Indeed, no sooner had World’s Work begun its installments of the book’s opening chapters in May, 1918, than Morgenthau received an offer from Hollywood for the film rights of his ‘story,’ an offer accompanied by the promise of $25,000 for said rights. After initial excitement, and the writing of a basic film treatment,[7] Morgenthau’s enthusiasm for a career in the movies cooled following receipt of a second letter from President Wilson which expressed his disapproval in no uncertain terms. Wilson wrote:

“I appreciate your consulting me about the question whether the book shall be translated into motion pictures, and I must frankly say that I hope you will not consent to this...Personally I believe that we have gone quite far enough in that direction.. It is not merely a matter of taste, —I would not like in matters of this sort to trust my taste,—but it is also partly a matter of principle... There is nothing practical that we can do for the time being in the matter of the Armenian massacres, for example, and the attitude of the country toward Turkey is already fixed. It does not need enhancement.”[8]

Less than a year earlier it had been the approval of Wilson which Morgenthau sought prior to beginning the book project, and, indeed, itwas onlywhen Wilson had blessed the proposal and written: “I think your plan for a full exposition of some of the fines of German intrigue is an excefrent one and I hope you wift undertake to write and publish the book you speak of,”[9] that Morgenthau responded positively to preliminary inquiries from Burton J. Hendrick of Doubleday, Page & Company’s The World’s Work,[10] and the project began to materialize. It would be somewhat surprising to find the President of the United States of America and an ex-Ambassador communicating on a topic of this nature. But, this was wartime and, as the Morgenthau—Wilson correspondence Illustrates, from its inception, Ambassador Morgertthau’s Story was conceived as an Integral part of ‘President Wilson’s Story’ as well. It was a desire to increase support for Wilson’s war effort which prompted Morgenthau to write an anti-German, anti-Turkish work, which would convince the American public of the “necessity of carrying the war to a victorious conclusion,”[11] In other words, as envisaged by Morgenthau, his ‘story’ was intended as wartime propaganda, i.e., as a contribution to the Entente war eLort. It is against this background that we must attempt to examine how and by whom the book was actually written, as well as the larger questions concerning the accuracy or lack thereof of the ‘story’ it purports to tell.

[1] The largest public collection of papers relating to the life and career of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau (1856—1946), is preserved in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Housed in the Library’s ’Manuscript Division,’ under the title ’The Papers of Henry Morgenthau,’they consist of approximately 30,000 items which are made available to researchers in the form of a set of 41 reels of microflim. In the present study references to materials in this collection will be given in the following format: LC: PHM — Reel No. — followed where applicable (as in the case of correspondence) by a date. In the case of the present document, the citation is LC: PHM—Reel No.8 —HMletter to President Woodrow Wilson of November 26,1917.
[2] The World’s Work was a monthly publication owned in this period by ‘Doubleday, Page & Co.,’the New York publishers. Beginning in its April, 1918 edition with an article by Burton J. Hendrick entitled: “Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story —Introductory Article,” this periodical serialized in seven installments (which ran between May and November), the Morgenthau book. To Professor Rober j. Rusnak of Rosary College in Illinois, I am indebted among other things, for the circulation figures of The World’s Work. Prof. Rusnak’s doctoral dissertation was devoted to a study of this journal and its impact.
[3] The second major collection of Morgenthau Papers is housed in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, as part of the collection titled: ‘The Papers of Henry Morgenthau, Jr.,’ Ambassador Morgenthau’s only son who served for many years as a member of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Cabinet. This collection, comprising some 414 linear feet, is divided into eleven series, of which Series nos. 8 and 10 contain papers relating to Ambassador Morgenthau. Speciffically Series No. 8, the ‘Gaer File,’ is material collected by Joseph Gaer, Morgenthau Junior’s collaborator in his unpublished autobiography. In this series we find a typed transcript of all correspondence between Ambassador Morgenthau and his son. Material in this series which is cited in this study, will appear as:FDR: HMJ/Gaer—Box No... Series No. 10 is titled the ‘Papers of Henry Morgenthau, Sr.’ and consists of some 10 linear feet of primarily business and personal correspondence. When cited in this study, items from this collection will appear as:FDR: HMS—Box No.
The circulation figures for the newspapers which published Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story are found in a letter from Frank Doubleday of Doubleday, Page & Co.(Morgenthau’s publisher),to Henry Morgenthau, Sr. of October17, 1918 (FDR: HMS — Box No. 12). This letter was originally accompanied by a list of the actual papers which were running the serialized version of the book. Unfortunately, this list is lost or separated from the letter.
Having worked in Libraries and Archives in a number of countries, I would be remiss were I not to express my thanks and appreciation to the staff of the Roosevelt Library, who made my all too brief stay in Hyde Park a working pleasure. In particular my research benefited from the gracious assistance provided by Ms. Susan Y. Elter, an ‘Audiovisual Archivist’ at this facility.
[4] FDR: 3MS— Box Wo. 12 (Letter of October 17,1918 from Doubleday to Morgenthau) mentic. ns that the publisher has arranged windows in Macy’s, Brentano’s, Wanamaker’s, Scribner’s, etc., in add it ion to sending out advance copies of the book and various publicity releases.
[5] The third major collection of materials utilized in this study, are the personal papers of the late Burton J. Hendrick. Hendrick, a distinguished author and journalist was the individual who actually ‘ghosted’ the Morgenthau book. Through a New York Times obituary (March 25, 1949), which detailed the life and achievements of Hendrick, I was able to trace his grandson, a Hobart Hendrick, Jr. of Hamden, Connecticut, who most graciously answered all my queries. He, in turn, put me in touch with a cousin, Martha Rusnak of Winfleld,, Illinois, whose husband, Robert Rusnak, a professor of History at Rosary College, has actually written on his wife’s grandfather. Professor Rusnak most kindly provided me copies of a number of documents from the ‘Papers of Burton J. Hendrick;’ which are in their collection. These included correspondence between Morgenthau and Hendrick, and, in particular an unpublished Rusnak study on Hendrick, called: “To Cast Them in the Heroic Mold’: Court Biographers — The Case of Burton Jesse Hendrick.” Professor Rusnak also informed me that Hendrick had participated in the Columbia University Oral History Project and been interviewed by Alan Nevins shortly before his death in 1949. Material cited in this study from the Hendrick materials supplied by Prof. Rusnak will appear as: Hendrick/Rusnak together with a description of the actual item being referred to.
The sales information figures given here are found in a handwritten document in the Hendrick/Rusnak papers which is headed: “Statement of Profit and Loss to July 1, 1919 on ‘Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story’ by Henry Morgenthau.” This document, apparently written by Morgenthau himself, shows sales as of that date totalling 22,234 copies.
[6] LC: PHM — Reel No.8 : HM Letter to President Woodrow Wilson of November 26, 1917.
[7] Hendrick/Rusnak Among the material provided by Robert Rusnak relating to the Morgenthau —Hendrick collaboration, is a typed 8 page document titled: “Proposal for a Moving Picture on the Near East, Based to a Considerable Extent on Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story.” Across the top of this document is the following handwritten note: “This great scheme (for which the moving picture people offered us $25,000) was busted by the war’s suddenly coming to an end! B.J.H.”
[8] LC: PHM — Reel No. 8: President Woodrow Wilson letter to Henry Morgenthau of June 14, 1918. The emphases in this quotation and throughout this study are the present author’s.
[9] LC: PHM — Reel No.8: President Woodrow Wilson letter to Henry Morgenthau of November 27, 1917. Interestingly, whereas Morgenthau’s November 26, 1917 letter to Wilson has never been published, he did include the President’s answer in his 1922 autobiography, All In A Life—Time. New York (Doubleday, Page & Co.), 1922. p.297, and cites it as the reason he wrote his book.
[10] FDR: HMS — Box No.11: Frank Doubleday letter to Henry Morgenthau of November 7, 1917; Henry Morgenthau letter to Frank Doubleday of November 12,1917 in which Morgenthau states:
“Since Mr. Hendrick called upon me I have again carefully considered the advisability of writing a book about my experiences in Turkey and have now definitely concluded that this is not the time to publish it.” However, upset by lack of public support for the war, two week later he asked the President’s blessing and following receipt of Wilsop’s November 27, 1917 letter changed his mind and immediately entered into serious negotiations with the publisher. See also: Frank Doubleday letters to Henry Morgenthau of 23 November and 5 December 1917, and Arthur Page to Henry Morgenthau letters of 8 December and 20 December1917. By the latter date, all contract arrangements for the book had been completed.
[11] LC: PHM — Reel No.8: HM Letter to President Woodrow Wilson of November 26, 1917.

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ERAREN - Institute for Armenian Research

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