James Watson Gerard Jr. (August 25, 1867 – September 6, 1951) was a United States lawyer and diplomat.
Gerard was born in Geneseo, New York. His father, James W. Gerard Sr. was a lawyer and Democratic Party politician in New York. Gerard Jr. graduated from Columbia University (A.B. 1890; A.M. 1891) and from New York Law School (LL.B. 1892). He was chairman of the Democratic campaign committee of New York County for four years. He served on the National Guard of the State of New York for four years. He served through the Spanish–American War (1898) on the staff of General McCoskry Butt. From 1900 to 1904 he was quartermaster, with the rank of major, of the 1st Brigade of the Guard. He was elected to the New York Supreme Court in 1907, where he served as a justice until 1911. Under President Woodrow Wilson, he served as the American Ambassador to Germany from 1913 to 1917.
In 1914, Gerard was the Democratic (Tammany Hall) candidate for U.S. Senator from New York. He defeated Anti-Tammany candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Democratic primary, but lost the election to James W. Wadsworth, Jr.
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Gerard assumed the care of British interests in Germany, later visiting the camps where British prisoners were confined and doing much to alleviate their condition. His responsibilities were further increased by the fact that German interests in France, Great Britain, and Russia were placed in the care of the American embassies in those countries, the American embassy in Berlin thus becoming a sort of clearing house. From first-hand knowledge he was able to settle the question, much disputed among the Germans themselves, as to the official attitude of the German government toward the violation of Belgian neutrality.
At the request of Gottlieb von Jagow, after the fall of Liège, he served as intermediary for offering the Belgians peace and indemnity if they would grant passage of German troops through their country. On August 10, 1914, the Kaiser placed in Gerard's hands a telegram addressed personally to President Wilson declaring that Belgian neutrality “had to be violated by Germany on strategical grounds.” At the request of a high German official, this telegram was not made public as the Kaiser had wished but was sent privately to the President. After the sinking of the RMS Lusitania with many United States residents on board, on May 7, 1915, Gerard's position became more difficult.
The German government asked him to leave the country in January 1917. Diplomatic relations were broken off on February 3, and he left Germany. He was detained for a time because of rumours that the German ambassador in America was being mistreated and German ships had been confiscated. When these rumors were disproved, he was allowed to depart. He retired from diplomatic service entirely in July 1917. He took up the practice of law in New York City. The George H. Doran Company of New York City published two books Gerard wrote on his experiences titled My Four Years in Germany released in 1917 and the following year, Face to Face with Kaiserism. My Four Years in Germany was filmed in 1918. Gerard was of major incidental importance in the rise of Warner Brothers movie producers as his book My Four Years in Germany was the source of the Warner's first nationally syndicated film of the same name.source?
Gerard once said in a speech: "The Foreign Minister of Germany once said to me 'your country does not dare do anything against Germany, because we have in your country five hundred thousand Germans reservists [emigrants] who will rise in arms against your government if you dare to make a move against Germany.' Well, I told him that that might be so, but that we had five hundred thousand – and one – lamp posts in this country, and that that was where the reservists would be hanging the day after they tried to rise."
Gerard's wife, the former Mary Augusta Daly, was the daughter of copper magnate Marcus Daly, head of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company that developed the mines of Butte, Montana. Because of his wife's connections to Montana, he held a ranch north of Hamilton, Montana during his lifetime.
In 1933, Gerard reviewed Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf for The New York Times Book Review; his critique occupied the entire front page of the section and continued inside. "Hitler is doing much for Germany," Gerard wrote, including "his destruction of communism, his training of the young, his creation of a Spartan State animated by patriotism, his curbing of parliamentary government, so unsuited to the German character; [and] his protection of the right of private property." But he condemned Hitler's anti-Semitism. "We have all of us a right to criticize, to boycott a nation which reverts to the horrible persecutions of the Dark Ages, we have a right to form a blockade of public opinion about this misguided country," he wrote. Gerard concluded, "It is with sadness, tinged with fear for the world's future, that we read Hitler's hymn of hate against that race which has added so many names to the roll of the great in science, in medicine, in surgery, in music and the arts, in literature and all uplifting human endeavor."
He died September 6, 1951, in Southampton, New York. He was interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York City.