Special Relationship? Probably Not in 1932

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

A fixture of U.S. foreign relations in the Twentieth Century has been the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain.  Certainly since World War II, and perhaps even earlier, the diplomatic, cultural, economic, military, and intelligence cooperation and relationship between the two countries were unparalleled in modern history.  Whether that remains true today is open to question.

On one occasion in 1932, the actions of a British diplomat certainly call into question the existence of such a relationship before World War II.  In February 1932,  U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Joseph Grew celebrated the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.  This included events at Constantinople Woman’s College and at Robert College, followed by a reception at the U.S. embassy.  Turkish officials and other foreign diplomats in Turkey received invitations and local Americans were invited through announcements printed in local papers. The reception went well.  Grew recorded the following episode in his diary:

British amb came to reception, shook hands, stayed for 60 seconds
"The father of our country looked on benevolently..."
Excerpts from the Diary of Joseph Grew

In retirement, Grew worked with Professor Walter Johnson of the University of Chicago to prepare a “memoir” made up of selections from his diaries, private letters, and official reports.  The resulting work – Turbulent Era: A Diplomatic Record of Forty Years, 1904-1945 – was published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1952 in two volumes totaling 1526 pages.  By the time Grew was preparing this work, the “special relationship” was in full bloom.  In order not to interfere with that, or perhaps just out of politeness, Grew did not include the sentence “This seemed to me a singular piece of gaucheness of which only our colleagues from perfidious Albion could be capable” in the published work.

For more about Joseph Grew, see this earlier blog post.

Source: Entry for February 22, 1932, DIARY OF JOSEPH C. GREW.  1927-32, Entry A1-629 (NAID 1223727), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  Ambassador Grew shared his personal diary with colleagues in the Department of State as part of his efforts to keep them apprised of the embassy’s work as well as to keep in touch socially.