Skip to main content

Gordon Auchincloss papers

Call Number: MS 580

Scope and Contents

The Gordon Auchincloss Papers consist of three and a half linear feet of diaries, letters, cables, memoranda, notes, memorabilia, and printed matter connected with Auchincloss's diplomatic, political, legal, and personal activities in the period of his diplomatic service and in the years immediately before and after. The papers are arranged in three series: I. Diary, II. CORRESPONDENCE, and III. SUBJECT FILE.

The diary is the central element in the papers. It lists Auchincloss's daily activities for most of the time between December 1914 and November 1920 and has many summaries of conversations and expressions of opinion. The correspondence consists mainly of unofficial and personal letters written between 1917 and 1920, many of which are only marginally related to Auchincloss's diplomatic and political work. The subject file is a miscellaneous accumulation of memoranda, notes, administrative and personal papers, and printed matter originating mainly between 1917 and 1919, only a few items of which have an important bearing on the central themes of the diary. Some of the letters and some of the papers in the subject file are valuable, however, for reasons largely unrelated to Auchincloss's activities.

When he and Colonel House were together, Auchincloss often listed the Colonel's meetings in his own diary, but he rarely described them in useful detail except to emphasize how others depended on his father-in-law's advice. The entries describing his work on House's behalf when they were apart are more informative.

The following description of the papers is based on this scheme of classification: A. Prewar (1914 Dec-1917 May); B. State Department (1917 Jun-1919 Jun); C. Interallied Conference (1917 Nov-Dec); D. Peace Conference (1918 Nov-1919 Jul); E. Postwar (1919 Aug-1920 Dec and following). The State Department, Peace Conference, and Postwar sections include a topical analysis under appropriate headings. The goal has been to call attention to all the major strengths of the papers, but the omission of a topic does not mean that there is no significant reference to it. Because Auchincloss himself was far better acquainted with prominent men than his own achievements could explain, he heard or helped do something important about a great variety of foreign policy matters, and the subject matter of his diary is correspondingly diverse notwithstanding his failure, as a diarist, to take full advantage of his opportunities.

A. Prewar

The diary (1914 Dec-1917 May) is the only part of the papers that covers this period. The entries of greatest potential interest are the references to conversations with men who were prominent in national or New York politics and government. But in this period Auchincloss rarely recorded the substance of the conversation and often failed even to mention the topic, and the result is seldom more than a calendar of meetings. The exceptions, which tend to feature Auchincloss in a relatively large and independent role, are more often about politics than policy. For the periods during which Colonel House was long absent from New York (principally 1914 May-Aug and 1915 Feb-Jun), a better source of political information is Auchincloss's correspondence in the Edward M. House Papers, Manuscript Group No. 466. Those letters summarize and interpret conversations many of which were undertaken on the Colonel's behalf. The undated Auchincloss correspondence in the House Papers includes other political letters probably dating from this period and even from as early as 1913.

Auchincloss's work as State Department representative in New York City is documented in the diary (1917 Mar 22-May 24) and in the Miller & Auchincloss Papers, Manuscript Group No. 825.

B. State Department

The principal sources for this part of Auchincloss's career are the diary (1917 Jun-1918 Oct) and the correspondence (1917 Jun-1919 Jun), which provide much information about his work as assistant to Frank Polk and occasional revelations of his role as liaison between Colonel House and various members of the federal government and the Washington diplomatic corps. The diary offers summaries of conversations and expressions of opinion as well as a calendar of activities. An important supplement is Auchincloss's correspondence with his principal co-workers, carried on mainly when he was in Europe with Colonel House or one of them was on vacation or convalescing. These correspondents are Frank L. Polk (mainly in the Frank L. Polk Papers, Manuscript Group No. 656, 1917 Aug-Sep, 1918 Jun-Sep), Carlyle Barton (1918 Aug, 1918 Oct-1919 Jan), G. Howland Shaw (1918 Oct-Dec), and J. Donald Duncan (1918 Oct-1919 Jun). Most of the other letters related to this phase of Auchincloss's career are unofficial and personal exchanges with friends, relatives, legal and business acquaintances, lawyers representing business interests abroad, representatives of the British and other foreign governments, and American officials in Washington and overseas. Auchincloss's official correspondence, including letters that he drafted for the signature of his superiors in the State Department, is largely missing from his own papers, but some of it can be found in the Papers of Frank L. Polk.

Many of Auchincloss's friends, relations, and former legal and business associates wrote asking him to expedite their personal dealings with the government. The most common request was for help in obtaining a passport or in winning an appointment, transfer, or promotion in the armed forces or other war-related government service. Auchincloss seldom refused these petitions except when he could claim that his intervention would be useless or counter-productive, but he expressed irritation at the repeated demands of his relatives in letters to his brother Reginald. He prevented his brother James's assignment to Paris as a military intelligence officer because he believed that General Marlborough Churchill had arranged the appointment to ingratiate himself with Colonel House (1918 Oct 29-Dec 5; also to Charles C. Auchincloss, 1919 Jan 3). Requests for business favors occur in letters from Augustus V. Heely and Samuel Sloan, vice-presidents of the Farmer's Loan and Trust Company.


Auchincloss corresponded with Warren D. Robbins of the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires about the political situation in Argentina and the prospects for American business after the war (1918 Apr-Jul). The diary has a few references to Argentine shipping, German propaganda in Argentine newspapers, and German vessels in Argentine ports .

Great Britain

Auchincloss's diary describes numerous meetings and mentions many others with Sir Richard Crawford ("who treats me as a confidant"--1917 Sep 6), Thomas B. Hohler, Lord Reading, William Wiseman, and occasionally Colville Barclay and Sir Arthur Cecil Spring-Rice. Many of their discussions were related to Auchincloss's routine responsibilities in the State Department, and as such they are covered under "Shipping and Tonnage" and other headings. But there are also comments about the attitudes and performance of the British diplomats and descriptions of Auchincloss's role in certain matters that were mainly the concern of his superiors. An example of the former is his observation of Lord Eustace Percy's domination of a meeting in which Crawford and Spring-Rice also participated (1917 Jul 30). An example of the latter is his description of his service as a channel of communication between Lord Reading and Colonel House about the brigading of American troops with the British Army (1918 Apr-May). The correspondence with the British is mainly routine except for a letter from Wiseman about intelligence work by the Polish National Committee and the Bohemian National Alliance (1918 Jan 26).


The diary has references to numerous visits by representatives of American and other foreign business interests in Mexico, including Chandler P. Anderson (who made a "weekly visit to examine despatches sent by the Department to Mexico"--1917 Jul 23), Henri Bruère (especially 1917 Oct 11), Harold Walker, and others. It also has (mainly in 1918) expressions of opinion and summaries of conversations with American and British officials about access to Mexican oil, Mexican operations of banks and individual investors, and other matters in Mexican-American relations. The principal correspondent about Mexico is G. Howland Shaw, who reporters to Auchincloss after he had left for Paris in October 1918. When Shaw in turn left the State Department in December, his duties reverted to Boaz Long, who did not continue the briefings.


Auchincloss's diary has many reports of visits from Jan Horodyski, Ignace Paderewski, and others interested in the restoration of Poland. A few of these entries include a summary of the conversation. He corresponded about Poland or the Polish National Committee with William Wiseman (1918 Jan 26), Arthur Hugh Frazier (1918 Mar-Sep), Richard Crane (1918 Nov 2), William Phillips (1919 Apr 25), and Hugh Gibson (1919 Apr-May), and he wrote a letter requesting the discharge of Francis E. Fronczak from the United States Army for service with the Committee (1919 Feb 12). The subject file has memoranda and printed matter in the State Department and Peace Conferencesections.

Shipping and Tonnage

The diary has reports of many conversations with American and foreign officials and with American lawyers representing business interests abroad. Among the subjects are these: enforcement of the Exports Embargo Act against European and Latin American neutrals; Auchincloss's proposal to station special assistants in the neutral European countries to gather commercial information; requisitioning of British, Norwegian, and French tonnage in American shipyards; disposition of German and Austrian vessels in South American ports; disposition of Dutch and Norwegian vessels in United States ports; negotiations with the Netherlands and Brazil (plus a letter about the Dutch negotiations from Robert O. Hayward, 1918 Feb 12, and several about the Brazilian negotiations from J. Donald Duncan, 1918 Oct-Dec); and miscellaneous matters affecting Chile and Spain. Auchincloss was never much concerned with routine arrangements about foreign trade, and he delegated many matters connected with the War Trade Board to Duncan and Carlyle Barton in 1918.


Auchincloss made many entries in his diary about Japanese and American military intervention in Siberia, detailing his role as draftsman and reporting his own opinions and those of his superiors (mainly 1918 Feb-Mar, Jul-Oct).

United States Representation in Europe

Auchincloss had hardly begun his work in the State Department when he concluded that it had too little information, independent of what it learned from the French and British, to administer the Exports Embargo Act. The diary shows the development of his proposal to correct this deficiency and maintain good relations with the European neutrals by stationing special assistants in those countries (1917 Jul-Sep).

In the same period he argued against greater American representation on war committees in Europe. His diary summarizes a conversation on this subject with Sir Richard Crawford, Commercial Commissioner in the British Embassy, and reports his own opinion that the motive of the British was to shift the direction of the war to London (1917 Aug 24, Oct 11). The following year Auchincloss wanted a high-level assistant assigned to General Pershing and a United States High Commissioner and a War Industries Board representative sent to Paris. He summarized conversations on these proposals with Lord Reading, William Wiseman, and Vance McCormick and recorded his own opinions in his diary, and he corresponded about the need for these appointments with Arthur Hugh Frazier, George McFadden, and Alonzo E. Taylor (1918 Feb-Jul).

The War

Having just attended graduation exercises at Fort Myers, Auchincloss wrote in his diary that it was "terrible to think that many of those men will have to be killed" (1917 Aug 13), but otherwise he rarely referred to the fighting until the beginning of the spring offensive in 1918, and even then he commented only occasionally on news from the Western Front and its reception in official Washington.

C. Interallied Conference

Auchincloss's diary for this interval is useful mainly as a calendar of his and Colonel House's activities, since he usually provided detail by including copies of cables and other formal accounts instead of drafting fresh descriptions. There are, however, unflattering anecdotes about Walter Hines Page (1917 Nov 10, 17) and Oscar T. Crosby (Nov 19) and an account of a meeting with Jan Horodyski and several British officials about military possibilities on the Eastern Front (Nov 20). The major items in the subject file are his notes of meetings that he attended with Colonel House. His general views of the conference appear in his letters to Frank L. Polk (Nov 16 and in the Polk Papers).

D. Peace Conference

The diary is the principal source for this phase of Auchincloss's diplomatic career. Much as in the State Department period, it offers a detailed listing of his (and sometimes Colonel House's) activities and many summaries of conversations. But as he had done during the Interallied Conference, Auchincloss usually described official meetings, most of which he attended as the Colonel's secretary, by including copies of formal accounts, principally his own cables (over the Colonel's signature) to the President and the Secretary of State. The entries are therefore useful mainly for their references to less formal encounters and their descriptions of his independent activities. Besides the subjects discussed below, the major topics are the organization and staffing of the American Mission and the conduct of Allied leaders, principally Lloyd George, Reading, and Clemenceau. Auchincloss summarized his duties at the conference in a letter to his brother Charles (1919 Mar 1).

League of Nations

This was Auchincloss's major interest between May and July 1919. He consulted frequently with interested Britons and Frenchmen--principally Sir Eric Drummond and Jean Monnet--and drafted resolutions and other official papers. Besides reporting these activities in his diary, he summarized and interpreted many conversations, emphasizing the organization and selection of staff and commenting occasionally on the attitudes and abilities of his colleagues. The principal correspondents are Louis Aubert (especially 1919 Jun 9, on the importance of popular support), Stephen Bonsal (1919 Jul 31, on his rank in the Secretariat and the political implications of American underrepresentation), and Eric Drummond (1919 May-Oct). The subject file has memoranda by Auchincloss and Drummond.


A major theme in Auchincloss's diary from October 1918 through April 1919 is his relations with British and American newspapermen, including H. Wickham Steed, Charles H. Grasty, Elmer Roberts, and Valentine Williams. Besides answering questions, suggesting leads, and using his influence to overturn censorship in certain cases, he advised them on how to present their stories so as to further the President's goals, and occasionally he edited their copy or approved it before permitting release of information he had supplied. At first he tended to portray them as grateful collaborators in publicizing the official view of American foreign policy, but this kind of entry increasingly gave way to complaints about the nuisance of dealing with reporters and criticism of individuals for biased or inadequate coverage. Auchincloss's association with Wickham Steed, Foreign Editor and then Editor of the Times (London), reached beyond journalism into diplomacy but deteriorated around the beginning of April as he lost confidence in his ability to control Steed's writing for his own purposes.

Russian Relief

This was one of Auchincloss's major interests in June 1918 and again between October 1918 and April 1919. The diary entries made in Washington detail his role in developing the idea of a relief expedition to Russia, proposing that Herbert Hoover be in charge of it, and evaluating the first proposals for its administration. The entries made in Paris summarize further conversations about administration with Hoover, Edward Hurley, and Lord Reading, among others, and interpret their positions. Auchincloss worked as Hoover's collaborator, helping him draft statements of his position and defending his views to British and American officials. Almost a year before their first talk about Russian relief, he had recorded in his diary this assessment by Franklin K. Lane: "'Hoover', he says, 'has the faculty of making every one sorry for him so that I find I'm continually defending him and standing up for him in speeches and otherwise; Everyone else seems to be in the same box'" (1917 Aug 18).

E. Postwar

For the period after Auchincloss's return to the United States, the correspondence and the diary are about equally important. Both are valuable mainly for their political content and their revelation of how his wartime experience with international trade may have affected his legal practice and his investments. The most important papers in the subject file are two speeches that he delivered in 1919 or 1920 about "the principles of the Democratic party" and "Our Foreign Policy As Affected by the War and the Peace Conference."


Auchincloss praised Wilson's policies and expressed optimism about relations between capital and labor in the United States in letters to Frank Trumbull and Raymond B. Fosdick (1919 Sep 2) and in a speech in the subject file that he delivered the following summer.

The diary has a summary of a conversation in which J.W. McConaughy won Auchincloss's approval of having labor attachés in the embassies and holding a national labor conference to work out a program for the war and afterward (1918 Mar 7; also, McConaughy's letters in the House Papers).


Auchincloss's diary has comments about the qualifications and electoral appeal of several potential Democratic and Republican presidential nominees (1919 Aug-1920 Jul). His principal correspondents on this subject were Carl W. Ackerman (1920 Apr-May) and John W. Davis (1920 May-Jun).

The major source for his political activity on behalf of Colonel House in the late summer and fall of 1919 is his correspondence in the House Papers, to which the entries in his own diary (including transcripts of cables to the Colonel) are a supplement.


Auchincloss's understanding of the opposition to the Peace Treaty began to take shape when he was still in Paris--if, indeed, its lineaments cannot be discerned even earlier, in his occasional reaction in his diary to Republican criticism of the conduct of the war in 1918. He argued consistently that American public opinion was solidly behind the President's foreign policy--or would be, once properly instructed--and that opposition was almost exclusively partisan in motivation. He expressed these opinions from Paris in letters to his brothers James (1919 Mar 24, May 16) and Charles (1919 Apr 13). When Breckinridge Long warned from Washington that critics of Wilson's policies were monopolizing public attention and proposed an independent organization to present the President's views until he could do so himself, Auchincloss replied reassuringly that the danger was slight because the people would see that the Republicans were merely fouling their own nests (1919 Mar 10-Apr 10). Late in February, according to his diary, he had advised Frank Hitchcock that "the best politics for the Republicans to play at the present time was to support the administration in its foreign policy," and early in March he had recruited Herbert Swope to write an "interview" with Joseph Joffre to "help along the growing sentiment for the League of Nations" and "counteract the unfavorable attitude of a number of Republican Senators" (1919 Feb 26, Mar 5).

After his return from Paris, Auchincloss reassured his correspondents that the treaty would be ratified with inconsequential reservations. See, for example, his letters to Frank Polk (1919 Aug 29-1920 Jan 14, plus Polk's reply of Jan 20 questioning the willingness of "the big 'White Father'" to compromise), Jean Monnet (1919 Sep 25), John W. Davis (1919 Sep 26), and Wickham Steed (1920 Jan 23)


  • 1914-1951


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Gordon Auchincloss, 1943. Gift of Edward H. Auchincloss, 1991.


Arranged in three series: I. Diary. II. Correspondence. III. Subject File.


4 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, a diary, memoranda, and printed material largely relating to Gordon Auchincloss's position as assistant counselor in the State Department, 1917, and to his position as secretary to Colonel E. M. House at the armistice negotiations and the Paris Peace Conference, with some material on personal affairs. The diary lists his daily activities between 1914 and 1920, including many summaries of conversations, and with a retrospective entry on his first meeting with Colonel House in 1909. The subject files include memoranda and printed matter on the Peace Conference, American foreign policy and other political matters.

Biographical / Historical

Gordon Auchincloss, lawyer and diplomat, was born in New York on 15 June 1886. He was the seventh of eight children of Edgar Stirling Auchincloss and Maria La Grange (Sloan) Auchincloss. His father, a merchant in New York City, died in 1892. His mother, a daughter of Samuel Sloan, president of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad and the Hudson River Railroad, survived until 1930. The other children were Elizabeth (died in 1905), Samuel, Edgar, Jr.(died in 1910), Hugh, Charles, James, and Reginald.

Gordon graduated from the Groton School in 1904, from Yale College in 1908, and from Harvard Law School in 1911. He met Janet House, daughter of Edward Mandell House and Loulie (Hunter) House, during a summer vacation in Europe in 1909. They were married in September 1912. Their first child, Louise, was born in 1914; the second, Edward House, in 1929.

Auchincloss began his legal career in the office of Hawkins, Delafield & Longfellow in 1911, but two years later, against the advice of his father-in-law, he became Assistant United States District Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He returned to private practice in April 1915, joining David Hunter Miller in the firm of Miller & Auchincloss. While in partnership with Miller, he was also special assistant to the Attorney General for certain tax litigation.

Beginning soon after his marriage if not before, Auchincloss became involved in Democratic politics in New York, serving as liaison between his father-in-law and other prominent men and developing a certain standing of his own. He became acquainted with William Gibbs McAdoo, Thomas Watt Gregory, Vance McCormick, Frank L. Polk, and other members of the Wilson administration and with local politicians in New York. In 1916 he was assistant treasurer of the Democratic National Committee.

Auchincloss was appointed to represent the State Department in New York City in March 1917. Two months later he moved to Washington to become assistant to Frank Polk, Counselor of the State Department. His job was to relieve Polk of whatever work did not require his personal attention. This meant answering inquiries in the context of current policy, drafting letters and memoranda for the signature of high-ranking officers in the Department, and representing the Department in discussions of policy and practice with American and British officials. In performing these duties, Auchincloss followed Polk in transacting a great variety of diplomatic business, much of which had little to do with the formal responsibilities of the office. His own responsibility grew with his experience, with the volume of war-related work, and with Polk's illness beginning in April 1918. By the time he left Washington the following October, he had acquired several assistants of his own.

While Auchincloss was in Washington, he served his father-in-law as a channel of communication with federal officials and members of the diplomatic corps. He accompanied him to London and Paris in 1917 as secretary of the American War Mission to England and France (the Inter-allied Conference), and he was House's secretary in Paris during the Armistice negotiations and the Peace Conference in 1918 and 1919. At the Interallied Conference, his activities may have been as circumscribed as his title suggests, but at the Peace Conference he worked more or less independently on press relations, the organization of the League of Nations, and Herbert Hoover's plan for economic relief to Russia.

Auchincloss returned to the United States in August 1919 and resumed the practice of law as a member of the firm of Parker, Marshall, Miller & Auchincloss. Besides representing his clients, he served as trustee and receiver in several major bankruptcies and reorganizations and sat on the boards of directors of a number of American and foreign corporations. He also took part in charitable and alumni activities, beginning with the Young Men's Christian Association of New York City in 1920 and the Groton Alumni Fund in 1923. He died on 16 April 1943, survived by his widow, his daughter (now Mrs. Edward H. Robbins), his son, and four brothers.

This information is taken from the New York Times, the History of the Class of 1908, Yale College , the New York Social Register, and the Gordon Auchincloss Papers.

Guide to the Gordon Auchincloss Papers
Under Revision
by Susan Grigg
May 1978
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours