The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 69

… But while no harm can come to him personally by any act
of his, he can commit no act, whether noble or infamous,
which does not directly affect the honor of the nation which
he represents. Hence his guiding rule of action must neces-
sarily be to subordinate all personal and private interest to the
national honor; and his immunity from prosecution is the very
reason why he should refrain from engaging in any operations
by which others may sustain loss while he is protected from
personal responsibility.”
Hewitt was also critical of Secretary of State Fish. He was
particularly concerned about “the injurious consequences to
the fair name of the United States arising out of the failure of
the government to deal promptly and firmly with its minister,
when, by becoming a director and by his letter of resignation,
he made the grave and irreparable mistake of endorsing and
re-endorsing the enterprise and the men who have caused this
great disaster and this greater reproach.”
Although the evidence against Schenck was damning, in an
attempt to secure bipartisan support, Democrats on the com-
mittee did not press Republicans to support any specific pun-
ishment for Schenck for his actions, or for Fish for his inaction.
The committee instead unanimously approved a resolution
condemning Schenck for taking actions that were “ill-advised,
unfortunate and incompatible with the duties of his official
Hewitt added: “There are … circumstances in which igno-
rance is as mischievous as crime; and I feel constrained and
grieved to say that the connection of the American minister
at the Court of St. James’s with the Emma Mine belongs to
that category. We may pity, we may sympathize, but we must
Schenck returned to Washington to practice law. Thor-
oughly discredited, he never again held public office, and died
in 1890.
Today, few people remember Robert Schenck or the Emma
Mine affair. But, after 150 years, we still struggle as a nation to
make sure that only the most capable and upright individuals
represent the United States as ambassadors.
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