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James Watson Gerard Edit Profile

diplomat , Lawyer

James Watson Gerard Jr. was a United States lawyer and diplomat.


Gerard, James Watson was born in 1867 in Geneseo, New York, United States. Son of James and Jenny (Angel) Gerard.


Gerard graduated from Columbia University in 1890, and received a master's degree the following year.


From 1892 to 1941 he worked in his paternal grandfather's law firm with only a few interruptions. Gerard sat on the New York Supreme Court from 1908 to 1913. During the presidential campaign in 1912 he had given generously to the Democratic party and in return expected an ambassadorship. Woodrow Wilson duly appointed Gerard envoy to Madrid, but in 1913 transferred the barrister to the more important post at Berlin. Without any diplomatic training, Gerard spent his first year at the court of Emperor Wilhelm II attempting to learn the rudiments of the language as well as to master the intricacies of court etiquette. For the first two years of the European war, Gerard worked diligently in behalf of Allied prisoners of war and British subjects stranded in Germany.

Ambassador Gerard regularly reported to Washington Germany's hostility concerning American arms sales to the Allies, arguing that the Reich regarded this activity as patently ''un"neutral and that it would seek revenge on the American republic after the war in Europe had ended; South America was singled out as the most likely victim of such German action. Gerard cautioned the State Department to be ready after the European war to counteract expected German offensives in the southern hemisphere. President Wilson generally considered Gerard to be highly gullible and unreliable, but Colonel House thought well of him. The ambassador was somewhat sympathetic to Germany's plight in 1915, and he discerned an element of reason in the German argument that Great Britain's distant naval blockade of the North Sea could be countered only with an equally harsh submarine blockade.

In fact, Gerard took the rather unusual step on July 8, 1915, of suggesting to the German government compromise language in their note to President Wilson at the height of the crisis precipitated by the sinking of the liner Lusitania. The envoy was to be painfully embarrassed when Wilson flatly rejected the German note, and his relations with the German government soured. In a last-ditch attempt to avoid a break between the two nations, Gerard, in April and May 1916, went to German army headquarters in Charleville to impress upon German leaders the president's firmness over the issue of unrestricted submarine warfare during the Sussex crisis. And it was at the suggestion of the German government that Gerard returned to the United States in the fall of 1916 in order to urge Wilson to undertake an early bid for peace in Europe. Upon his arrival in New York City, the diplomat gave a sensational interview to the New York World in which he predicted that Germany would resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the near future if the war could not be ended quickly. Gerard's prophecy was fulfilled on February 1, 1917. At the time the ambassador opined that Geman leaders regarded Americans as "a fat, rich race without sense of humor and ready to stand for anything in order to keep out of the war."

After the Great War, Gerard entered a career as Democratic party fund raiser that spanned three decades. He died on September 6, 1951, in South-hampton, Long Island.


Member of advisory board Point Four Program.


Married to Mary, d.

James Gerard

Jenny (Angel) Gerard