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Wilson - Henry Lane

Source: Waveland Independent Aug 8, 1913

Henry Lane Wilson of Crawfordsville, Ambassador to Mexico has resigned. His successor will probably be John R. Lamb, of Terre Haute. It will take a Hoosier to hold 'em down.
Source: Crawfordsville Review, Thursday May 11, 1916

Washington, May 10 - In the district supreme court of the United States this afternoon, Henry Lane Wilson, former minister of Mexico, filed an action for libel against Norman Hapgood publisher of Harper's Weekly, in the sum of $350,000 charging defamation of character in libelous articles published in a series of special articles from the pen of Robert H. Murray, concerning the conduct of the plaintiff as ambassador of the US to Mexico. The complaint charges that the publications were false, and held the plaintiff up to ridicule and that his good name has been injured in the sum mentioned. The petition recites that the plaintiff has been in the diplomatic service of the US for 16 years and that he has served his government as minister to Belgium, Chili and later ambassador to Mexico. On account of hints and inferences as well as the articles in the publication mentioned, the case has caused a mild sensation in Washington and in diplomatic circles. The articles published in HW of which publican Mr. Hapgood is editor were three in number and were written by Robert H. Murray, himself a newspaper man and of the diplomatic corps. Aside from asserting that Wilson as ambassador to Mexico had prior knowledge that Francisco Madero, deposed president of the Mexican Republic was to be killed, they also charged that the ambassador was interfering in Mexican affairs and contained many personal allusions as to the mannerisms of the minister toward the Mexican people in general that were not at all to his credit.
Henry Lane Wilson, since his retirement from the diplomatic corps has been under a furtive fire. John Lind, personal representative of the president in the investigation of the Mexican affairs, was reported to have said at a church meeting in St. Paul, that Mr. Wilson knew of the affairs that was to take place in the city of Mexico. Later, when brought to book by Mr. Wilson, Lind replied that he was not properly quoted. The Oregon Journal, published at Portland, recently charged that Wilson as ambassador sent telegrams to persons in the states to the effect that happenings as to the death of Madero were in transpire, the day before they did. Other newspapers have been bold in the publication of similar items. But in none of these, have the personal element entered as in the Harper stories. In these the ambassador is charge with priggishness and is belittled as to capabilities in diplomacy. The complaint is a voluminous one and is evidently carefully drawn to withstand attacks.

Henry Lane Wilson, the plaintiff to the action in Washington is well known in Crawfordsville where he was born and reared, although he has not been a resident of the city for many years. He is a son of the late James L. Wilson, former minister to Venezuela and member of congress from this district. His brother, John L. Wilson, was a representative to the Indiana legislature from this county in the early 70s. He later moved to Washington state and became US senator from that commonwealth. Henry Lane Wilson graduated from Wabash college in 1879. He married a Miss Vajen of Indianapolis and has called that city his place of residence since his service in the diplomatic corps
Source: History of Montgomery County, Indiana.  Indianapolis: AW Bowen, 1913, p. 777
Henry Lane WILSON, present American Ambassador to Mexico, was born in Crawfordsville in 1857, his father being James Wilson, who was born in the same place and whose ancestors came to Indiana through Kentucky from Virginia, and his mother, Emma Ingersoll of a New England family.  James Wilson, the father, graduated from the Indiana Law University in 1844.  He later served two terms in Congress, winning his election the first time over Daniel W. Voorhees, the Democratic candidate, on the issue of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill and State Sovereignty.  In that day the joint discussion between these two young leaders of opposite political opinions attracted attention throughout the North and is still remembered by some of the older people in Indiana.  At the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion, James Wilson entered the ranks of the Union Army and went to the front, from whence he was recalled by president Lincoln and commissioned to defend the Emancipation Proclamation throughout all New England, PA, NY and Ohio.  At the close of the war he was brevetted Brigadier General.  Some time after he took an active and high part in the councils of the Republican party and would undoubtedly have been sent to the Senate or made Governor but for his opposition to negro suffrage without educational preparation.  He was appointed Minister to Venezuela by Andrew Jackson and died in that country at the early age of 42, at almost the beginning of what would undoubtedly have been a distinguished career.  Henry La ne Wilson passed all of his earlier years, with the exception of two years in Venezuela, in Crawfordsville, receiving a primary education in the public schools and entered Wabash College in 1875. At that time Joseph F. Tuttle was President of the College and Edmund O. Hovey, Caleb S. Mills, John L. Campbell and Samuel S. Thompson were yet in the full vigor of their usefulness and affording splendid examples of rugged piety and devotion to duty and of dignity and profound learning, and it is to the deep impressions made by these men that he owes in a considerable measure for whatever success he has achieved in life. During his college years he divided his time and interest between extensive and thorough reading and politics and political discussions, never missing a political speech that he could possibly hear and listening with eagerness and profit to the homely discussions of the farmers and odd characters for which Crawfordsville used to be famous.  His education and equipment for the world did not come easily, as at the threshold of his college career the family fortune was largely swept away.  To the devotion, energy and self-sacrifice of his mother, he ascribes all of his success in life as well as the inculcation of those principles of morality, honesty and truthfulness without which no man can attain lasting success.  Among the members of his class who still remain in Indiana are: Albert B. Anderson, United States District Judge; Arthur B. Milford, Professor of English Literature at Wabash College and James H. Osborne, Professor of Latin in the same institution. Others who were in college at the same time, though not classmates were: Vice President Thomas R. Marshall; Charles B. Landis; Albert Baker; James Daniels; Harry J. Milligan and Harold Taylor.  In his earlier days he listened to the political speeches of Oliver Morton; Thomas A. Hendricks; Benjamin Harrison; Joseph E. MacDonald and the gifted, but erratic, Thomas H. Nelson, one of his predecessors in Mexico.  He also received valuable political instruction from Col. Henry S. Lane and from his uncle, William C. Wilson of Lafayette, a distinguished lawyer and orator.  He made his first political speech at age 20 at Waveland in Montgomery County in company with James A. Mount, who afterwards became Governor of Indiana.  From that time on he was engaged in politics, and his public speaking has been carried on with greater or less success until the present day. Following his graduation from college he secured a position as engrossing clerk in the State Legislature at Indianapolis and later entered the law office of MacDonald & Butler. He soon purchased the Lafayette Daily Journal and, as it did not prove a successful venture, sold it a year later without loss.  In 1885, he married Alice VAJEN, a daughter of John H. Vajen, a prominent and well known citizen of Indianapolis, and moved to the town of Spokane, in the eastern part of the state of Washington.  There he resumed the practice of law, making a specialty of land practice.  In this he ma de a pronounced success and his fortunes improved rapidly.  About this time Spokane began the marvelous growth which has now made it one of the great cities of the Union, and he commenced investing in real estate with immediate and astonishing success.  In the course of a few years he amassed a large fortune and became interested in banks, buildings, real estate and promotion companies. In the panic of 1893, all of this fortune was swept away, not through unwise investments or inability to meet his own debts, but through the failure of two banks in which he was heavily interested and by reason of being called upon almost simultaneously to bear the burden of the failure of other men for whom he stood as endorser or surety.  He gave up all of his property and afterwards paid more than one hundred thousand dollars to clear his name and credit. During this peri od he was largely identified with the development of the state of Washington and with its politics, and his name was connected with a majority of measures of a public character in that section of the country.  Politics to him at that time was simply a diversion or perhaps a practical method of being of service to his brother, John L. Wilson, who was then, and continued to be until his death, an active figure in that state. When Benjamin Harrison was elected President, our subject had been living some time in the state of Washington and he, with his brother, managed to create a sentiment favorable to Harrison's nomination, which resulted in his having a third of the state delegation.  When Harrison was elected, he spontaneously offered Mr. Wilson the post of minister of Venezuela, but, as he had no ambition in the direction of the diplomatic service at that time, he declined the offer.  When William McKinley was elected President, Mr. Wilson took a large part in the management of the campaign in Washington, Idaho and Montana and also spoke continuously for 40 days in the f ace of generally hostile and sometimes boisterous free-silver audiences. Early in 1897, President McKinley offered him the post of minister to Chile, and he accepted, going to that country with his mother, wife and 3 children.  He remained at that post for 8 years his services being in every way successful and useful to his government.  He came in time to exert great influence - an influence born to confidence and faith with the Chilean people, and was able not only to render substantial aid to the business and political interests of his own country, but to contribute in a large measure on two occasions to prevent war with Chile and Argentine Republic.  Mr. Wilson's respect and liking for the Chilean people was very profound and this feeling was reciprocated, and the Chilean government has never ceased to follow him with marks of respect and esteem.  Only recently the University of Chile, the oldest in America, conferred up on him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Humanities and Literature, a degree that has never before been conferred on an American.  During Mr. Wilson's residence in Chile, he was twice transferred to other posts, once to Portugal and once to Greece, but was allowed to remain in Chile upon his own request.  In 1905, Pres. Roosevelt promoted him from Chile to Belgium and upon announcing the appointment to the Associated Press along with those of two other gentlemen, said, "These appointments are not made for political considerations but solely for meritorious service performed." This was surely true in Mr. Wilson's case, since his appointment was opposed by both Senators from Washington. Mr. Wilson remained in Belgium 5 years and during that time saw King Leopold pass away and, as the special ambassador of the President, stood at the right hand of King Albert when he was enthroned.  He had really only one important question to handle while in Belgium, namely: the Congo question, a most delicate and trying piece of diplomacy, which was managed to the entire satisfaction of the President and Secretary Root.  The locality of the post gave him access to many opportunities for study, observation and travel in France, Italy, Germany, Holland and England the experience was altogether a useful one. In 1910, President Taft, after tendering Mr. Wilson two embassies in Europe which he could not accept for financial reasons, sent him as ambassador to Mexico.  Since he has been at that post, four Presidents have held office in that country: Diaz; De La Barra; Madero and Huerta.  Three revolutions have been inaugurated and the times have been troublous and dangerous. There are 40, 000 Americans in Mexico; nearly 10,000 in Mexico City.  There is a larger investment of American capital there than in any other country and there is double the amount of work in that embassy than in any other of our diplomatic posts.  Mexico is, therefore, aside from the glamour of social precedence which surrounds a European post, the most important diplomatic post in the service. Mr. Wilson's work in Mexico always had the full approval of President Taft and his cabinet, the former saying a short time after his retirement from office, 'What a misfortune it is that our rotten system of politics seems to require changes in our diplomatic service and thus bring about the loss of a man of the experience and ability of Mr. Wilson, who has served his country so faithfully for so many years and deserves the respect of his country's people.  Men of his type should never be forced out of the field of usefulness." Mr. Wilson has been 16 years continuously in the diplomatic service is in time of service the senior member of the diplomatic corps, and has served longer in these capacities than anyone else since the foundation of our government.—transcribed by kbz
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