Proud Servant: Memoirs of a Career Ambassador
By Ellis O. Briggs
Kent State University Press, 1998, 430 pp.
A wonderfully written and highly amusing memoir from a diplomat of the old school. Briggs, who died in 1976, entered the foreign Service in 1925 and served as ambassador to seven countries: the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Czechoslovakia, Korea, Peru, Brazil, and Greece. His political views will appear retrograde, not to say reactionary, to many readers: he was no enthusiast for "busybody diplomacy" and reformist interventions; he thought countries should pay their debts and not confiscate the property of American businesses; he considered the Peace Corps "the ultimate imbecility"; and he often lamented that the ambassador was no longer the boss of the "military hangers-on, superfluous dispensers of aid for the backward, the spook fraternity, the propagandists, and other accretions" that had grown up around American embassies since the 1940s. But while Briggs will not win any posthumous awards for political correctness, most impressive is the flair with which this crusty New Englander evokes the exotic settings in which he found himself and the strange characters he encountered. A truly distinguished work that deserves a wider readership than it is likely to get.