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David Jayne Hill

Assistant Secretary of State

Centurion, 1902–1932

Born 10 June 1850 in Plainfield, New Jersey

Died 2 March 1932 in Washington, District of Columbia

Buried Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Proposed by Alfred Thayer Mahan and Albert Bushnell Hart

Elected 3 May 1902 at age fifty-one

Century Memorial

David Jayne Hill has been alternately described as scholar in diplomacy, diplomat of the old school and enemy of diplomatic innovation. All the descriptions were correct. Scholar he certainly was; he had been college professor, college president and writer of college text-books, long before he entered public life. His ideas about diplomacy were unquestionably those of the old school. Wilson’s foreign policies outraged him. The methods of Talleyrand or Metternich were not his model—they could not be so in the circumstances of his age and generation—but his conceptions of diplomatic practice were based on the conduct of the correct and courtly European envoys of the Nineteenth century, whose qualities have been best reproduced in our day by the Cambons and Sir Edward Goschen, and whose methods were perhaps best applied in the history of our own foreign service by John Quincy Adams.

Dr. Hill had served as assistant Secretary of State and as minister to Holland before President Roosevelt named him in 1907 as ambassador to Berlin. Then occurred that curious incident in which, by way of side-light on the atmosphere of the younger William’s court, the German government insinuated objection to Hill’s appointment. Probably the truth of the matter was that William had grown used to the luxurious diplomatic residence and the lavish hospitality, maintained out of his private fortune by Dr. Hill’s immediate predecessor, Charlemagne Tower. Like another of his predecessors at Berlin, Andrew D. White, Hill was a man of modest means, and the appointment grated on the imperial fondness for display. The resultant international exchange of views is not of public record, but the belief of the day was that William received from the White House a diplomatically worded suggestion that he attend to his own business. During the four ensuing years, at all events, Hill was ostensibly persona grata at Berlin. In his later days he was a constant visitor at the Century. His conversation across the lunch-table will be remembered as embodying, whenever the talk shifted to politics, the ideas not only of an old-time American diplomat but of a Republican stalwart of the school of 1880.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1933 Century Association Yearbook