Henry Clay Ide

Henry Clay Ide (September 18, 1844 – June 13, 1921) was a U.S. judge, colonial commissioner, ambassador, and Governor-General of the Philippines.


Early life, States Attorney, Senator, and Presidential Commissioner to Samoa

Born in Barnet, Vermont in 1844, Ide graduated from Dartmouth in 1866, where he was named valedictorian. He studied law, first with Benjamin H. Steele, and later with Jonathan Ross, and was admitted to the bar in 1870.[1] He practiced law in St. Johnsbury, Vermont from then until 1891.[2][3][4] Among the prospective attorneys who studied law in Ide's office was William H. Taylor, who later served as an Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.[5]

A Republican, from 1876 to 1878, Ide was State's Attorney for Caledonia County. From 1882 to 1885 he was a member of the Vermont State Senate.[6]

President Benjamin Harrison appointed Ide Presidential Commissioner to Samoa in 1891. The formal title of the post was American Land Commissioner in Samoa, one of three representatives (of the United States, Germany, and Great Britain) responsible for adjudicating land claims by foreigners in the islands, as provided for in the Treaty of Berlin (1889). Ide reached Apia on May 16, 1891, but only held the office for six months, until he resigned because of a serious illness in his family and left the islands on November 12, 1891. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote to him two days beforehand, saying "I hear with great regret of your departure. They say there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, but I doubt if they will come to our hook. It is not only that you have shown so much capacity, moderation, tact, and temper ; but you have had the talent to make these gifts recognized and appreciated among our very captious population. For my part, I always thought your presence the best thing that the treaty had brought us."[7][8]

Ide returned to the islands in 1893 as Chief Justice, another position provided for by the Treaty of Berlin. He accepted the appointment in August, and sailed for the islands two months later. As Chief Justice, Ide presided over trials of both native Samoans and foreign nationals of the three Treaty of Berlin signatories. He also had the power to recommend criminal and taxation legislation to the government of Samoa.[7] He remained Chief Justice until 1897.[6] He resigned in 1896, but there was a delay in the arrival of his successor, requiring him to continue in office until 1897-05-13. The Samoa Weekly Herald noted him, upon his departure, as a just and able judge. Similarly, King Malietoa told Ide that "You will not be forgotten in Samoa, you will be remembered as the good Chief Justice who knew our ways and laws and customs and who was kind to us".[7][8]

Ide was succeeded, in each of his positions as Land Commissioner and Chief Justice, by William Lea Chambers.[9]

Presidential Commissioner to the Philippines

Ide was one of the Commissioners of the Taft Commission, appointed in 1900.[11][12] Like the other Commissioners, he arrived in the Philippines in June of that year,[13] and assumed official legislative power on 1900-09-01.[11]

On 1901-01-01, like the four other remaining Commissioners (Commissioner Taft having been appointed Governor on 1901-07-04), Ide gained executive power as well, being appointed one of the members of Taft's cabinet. Ide was appointed Secretary of Finance and Justice.[14][15] He held that position until 1904.[6]

Ide was appointed Vice-Governor of the Philippines, a post first held by Luke Edward Wright and intended to have gubernatorial authority in the event of the absence or incapacity of the Governor, in 1904.[6][11] In November 1905 he became Acting Governor General after Wright, then Governor General, as the position had then been renamed, had gone on leave and left the islands.[6][14] Wright formally resigned his position, and Ide formally succeeded him as U.S. Governor-General of the Philippines on 1906-04-01, the date of effect of Wright's resignation.[14]

Ide was Governor General for five months, until September of the same year, giving him a total of ten months as Governor General and Acting Governor General.[6][14] Ide resigned on 1906-09-19, and was recalled to Washington D.C.[14] In part, Ide's few months as Governor General were a political face-saving exercise (as was Wright's resignation). Taft had visited the Philippines in August 1905, and after that visit it had become apparent at least to the Americans in the government that heads would roll in the Philippine Commission. Wright and Ide were two of the Commissioners whose days as Commissioners had become numbered after Taft's visit. Wright effectively lost power, the resignation being a formality. Ide was permitted to assume the reins for ten months to save face.[16]

The issue in part was a conflict between the Commission and the Federalistas. The Federalistas disagreed with and disliked both Wright and Ide. However, whilst they found Wright's Governor Generalship outright offensive, they were happier with Ide's ten months in office. Hailing his resignation from office La Democracia (as quoted in the 1906-09-05 Manila Times) praised Ide and his work, and stated that "in his social relations, Mr Ide has reestablished the good times of Taft, which the latter's successor tried to make us forget".[16]


Ide served as minister to Spain 19091913.

Family, personal life, and business affairs

On 26 October 1871 Henry was married to Mary M., daughter of Joseph and Sophia Matcher (or Melcher), of Stoughton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, who died 13 April 1892. They had four children: Adelaide (Addie) M., Annie L., Harry J. and Mary M.[17][18][19]

During his time on Samoa, Ide became friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, who was heavily engaged in the politics of the region and a frequent commentator on Samoan affairs to the world at large.[20][21][22] One day, Ide mentioned to Stevenson the feelings of his daughter Annie about having been born on Christmas Day and so having no birthday celebration separate from the family's Christmas celebrations. Stevenson drew up a formal deed of gift, properly sealed and witnessed as a legal document, and then published in the press, donating his birthday to Ide's daughter.[20][22][23] The daughter and Stevenson corresponded further on the matter in November 1891, with Stevenson assuring her that "I am sure [your father] will tell you this is sound law.". The affair was the root of a strong bond between the Ide and Stevenson families.[20]

Anne H. Ide, who was known as "Levei-malo" to the Samoans, married William Bourke Cockran in 1906, becoming his third wife.[23][24][25] In 1912, his daughter Marjorie married Shane Leslie, a first cousin of Winston Churchill.


Ide died in St. Johnsbury, Vermont on 13 June 1921.[3][4][26] He was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. Johnsbury.[27]


  1. Crockett, Walter Hill (1921). Vermont: The Green Mountain State. 4. New York, NY: Century History Company. p. 215.
  2. John E. Findling (1989). "Ide, Henry Clay". Dictionary of American diplomatic history (2nd ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780313260247.
  3. 1 2 Alexander DeConde (1978). "Ide, Hendy Clay". Encyclopedia of American foreign policy: studies of the principal movements and ideas. 3. Scribner. p. 1047. ISBN 9780684160412.
  4. 1 2 Prentiss Cutler Dodge (1912). "Ide, Henry Clay". Encyclopedia, Vermont biography: a series of authentic biographical sketches of the representative men of Vermont and sons of Vermont in other states. Burlington: Ullery publishing company. p. 233.
  5. Cummings, Charles R. (November 1906). "The New Judiciary System: The Board of Superior Judges; William H. Taylor". The Vermonter. White River Junction, VT: Chas. R. Cummings. p. 296.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 David Shavit (1990). "Ide, Henry C.". The United States in Asia: a historical dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 259. ISBN 9780313267888.
  7. 1 2 3 American Council of Learned Societies (1959). "Ide, Henry C.". Dictionary of American Biography. 5 (HibbenLarkin). Scribner. p. 458.
  8. 1 2 George Herbert Ryden (1933). The foreign policy of the United States in relation to Samoa. Yale historical publications. 24. Yale University Press. pp. 533534,540541.
  9. David M. Pletcher (2001). The diplomacy of involvement: American economic expansion across the Pacific, 17841900. University of Missouri Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780826213150.
  10. Michael Burgan (2003). William Howard Taft. Profiles of the Presidents. Point Books. p. 17. ISBN 9780756502737.
  11. 1 2 3 Henry Morse Stephens (2008). The Pacific Ocean in History. BiblioBazaar, LLC. pp. 255257. ISBN 9780559703027.
  12. David Bernstein (2007). The Philippine Story. READ BOOKS. p. 85. ISBN 9781406744644.
  13. Warwick Anderson (2006). Colonial pathologies: American tropical medicine, race, and hygiene in the Philippines. Duke University Press. p. 253. ISBN 9780822338437.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Dean C. Worcester (1914). The Philippines: Past and Present. 1 (Reprinted 2008 by BiblioBazaar LLC ed.). p. 16. ISBN 9781426458507.
  15. José S. Arcilla (1994). An introduction to Philippine history (4th ed.). Ateneo de Manila University Press. p. 97. ISBN 9789715502610.
  16. 1 2 Michael Cullinane (1989). Ilustrado Politics: Filipino elite responses to American rule, 18981908. Ateneo de Manila University Press. pp. 111, 246. ISBN 9789715504393.
  17. "Biography of Henry Clay IDE". Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters & Sons of Vermont. Ullery. Brattleboro: Transcript Publishing Company, p 218. 1894.
  18. Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Ernest Mehew (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2001)
  19. "Bound for Samoa: New Chief Justice and Land Commissioner, Both from America". The Daily bulletin. Honolulu, Hawaii. October 27, 1893. p. 3.
  20. 1 2 3 Taylor Erwin Gauthier (October 1923). "For Stevenson Lovers". The Rotarian. Vol. 23 no. 4. Rotary International. p. 38. ISSN 0035-838X.
  21. Ann C. Colley (2004). Robert Louis Stevenson and the colonial imagination. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 141. ISBN 9780754635062.
  22. 1 2 Joseph Waldo Ellison (1953). Tusitala of the South Seas: the story of Robert Louis Stevenson's life in the South Pacific. Hastings House. pp. 179180.
  23. 1 2 The Philadelphia North America (1906-07-24). "MISS IDE'S BIRTHDAY.; Robert Louis Stevenson Gave Her His Mr. Roosevelt Has the Reversion". The New York Times. p. 6.
  24. "A Samoan Girl's Letter". The Outlook. Vol. 61. Outlook Co. 1899. p. 226.
  25. William Butler Yeats (2005). John S. Kelly; Ronald Schuchard, eds. The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats: 19051907. Yeats Collected Letters Series. 4. Oxford University Press. p. 823. ISBN 9780198126843.
  26. "Ide, Henry Clay". Encyclopedia Americana. 14. Americana Corp. 1966. p. 660.
  27. VOCA (2015). "Mount Pleasant Cemetery, St. Johnsbury". www.voca58.org/. Burlington, VT: Vermont Old Cemetery Association.

Further reading

  • William H. Jeffrey and E. Burke (1904). "Ide, Henry C.". Successful Vermonters. Vermont: The Historical Publishing Company. pp. 1719. 
    • republished as: William H. Jeffrey (January 2003). "Henry C. Ide". Successful Vermonters. Tom Dunn. 
  • Jacob Ullery (1894). "Henry C. Ide". Men of Vermont: Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters & Sons of Vermont. Brattleboro: Transcript Publishing Company. p. 218. 
  • Leslie, Mrs. Shane - Girlhood in the Pacific Samoa-Philippines-Spain London MacDonald undated c.1943 The memoirs of Ide's daughter Marjorie.
  • Arthur F. Stone (1935). The Life of Henry Clay Ide. Bighampton, N.Y.: Vail-Ballou Press. 

Ide's published works

  • Henry C. Ide (June 1899). "The imbroglio in Samoa". The North American Review. University of Northern Iowa. 168 (511). 
  • Henry C. Ide (December 1907). "Philippine Problems". The North American Review. University of Northern Iowa. 186 (625): 510524. JSTOR 25106039. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Luke E. Wright
Governor-General of the Philippines
Succeeded by
James Francis Smith
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
William Miller Collier
U.S. Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
Joseph E. Willard
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