Tuesday, August 11, 2015

John Barrett – Renowned Diplomat, Son of Dartmouth

Page 1 of letter from President Hopkins to John Bartlett, April 6, 1917
John Barrett 1889 was born in Grafton, Vermont on November 28, 1866. Seventy-one years later, he died but a few miles away in Bellows Falls. In those intervening years, however, he embarked upon one of the most storied diplomatic careers in United States history.

Page 2 of letter from President Hopkins to John Bartlett, April 6, 1917Five years after his graduation from Dartmouth College, Barrett's newspaper work so impressed President Grover Cleveland that he decided to appoint the then-twenty-eight-year-old as minister to Siam. Barrett would subsequently serve as commercial commissioner in Japan, Korea, China, and Australia, followed by jaunts to Mexico, Argentina, and most difficult of all, an appointment as minister to Panama, which had recently seceded from Colombia and was ramping up its construction of the Panama Canal. Barrett so ameliorated the issues between Panama and Colombia, said his Associated Press obituary, that "it was a personal triumph, for only short months before the women of Bogotá had been shearing their tresses to make a rope 'to hang the first Yankee who comes here'."

Barrett moved to Washington D.C. in 1907 to head the Pan-American Union. While there, noted President Theodore Roosevelt, he "developed it from an unimportant dying government bureau into a world-recognized international organization for peace, friendship and commerce." In this capacity, Barrett endeavored to assist his alma mater in any way possible. In early 1917, President Ernest M. Hopkins needed such help.

Dartmouth College at the outbreak of the Great War needed both military equipment and an officer
Letter from W. T. Johnston, Adjutant General of the United States, to John Bartlett, May 22, 1917detailed to campus for its training programs. Both were necessary to accommodate the preponderance of students who wished to train for eventual service. Though necessary, they were understandably scarce in the opening days of the war. Nevertheless, Hopkins placed his complete trust in Barrett, writing to nobody else in Washington on the chance that he may "be in danger of mixing up anything that you may do in this matter."

Page 1 of letter from John Bartlett to President Hopkings, May 31, 1917Barrett immediately set out upon assisting the College’s preparedness efforts. Though he told Hopkins in a telegram immediately that a regular army officer would be "impossible" to provide, he attempted to gain an official endorsement from the War Department for one Captain Porter Chase, former head of a cadet training program in Boston who Hopkins brought up to Hanover to lead Dartmouth’s training programs.

Through his contacts, Barrett succeeded in gaining Chase official recognition. After Hopkins thanked him, Barrett noted in his response "the great pride which all of the Dartmouth Alumni feel in the splendid spirit
Page 1 of letter from John Bartlett to President Hopkings, May 31, 1917which the undergraduates of the old college have shown under the stress and demands of wartimes and conditions." Indeed, stories of Dartmouth students' enthusiastic proclivity for military service had already reached the annals of power in Washington, swelling this particularly influential alumnus with pride for his alma mater.

To read the correspondence between Barrett and Hopkins, come to Rauner and ask to see President Hopkins' presidential papers for the academic year 1916-17 (DP-11, Box 6733, "Military Science"). To learn more about John Barrett 1889, ask for his alumni file.

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