Copy Book Archive

A Credit to His Country The diplomat’s task is to see the best in other peoples, not to scold them for their failings.

In two parts

King George I 1714-1727
Music: Jean-Baptiste Lully Source

The Old English Court at Moscow, dating back to the sixteenth century.

About this picture …

The Old English Court in what is now the Tverskoy District of the Central Administrative Okrug at Moscow. The Court was established as the headquarters of the English mission there in 1553, following a daring voyage led by Richard Chancellor through Arctic waters to Archangelsk, and a sleigh-ride to the capital. See Merchants of Muscovy. The perils of repeating that voyage, and the obstructive policies of the European states that lay between, made it difficult to capitalise on the new relationship, and by the nineteenth century India had become a source of persistent diplomatic tension between London and the new capital of Imperial Russia, St Petersburg.

A Credit to His Country

Part 1 of 2

François de Callières, a diplomat in the service of King Louis XIV of France, believed that those posted to overseas embassies should not only show but feel respect for their host country. Given the way that all of us now live in one another’s pockets through the internet, and our much-vaunted democratic government, everyone should heed his advice, for we are all diplomats now.

THE diplomatist must bear in mind once for all that he is not authorised to demand that a whole nation shall conform to his way of living, and that it is more reasonable, and in the long run greatly to his own comfort, to accommodate himself to foreign ways of living. He should beware of criticising the form of government or the personal conduct of the prince to whom he is accredited. On the contrary he should always praise that which is praiseworthy without affectation and without flattery, and if he properly understands his own function he will quickly discover that there is no nation or state which has not many good points, excellent laws, charming customs as well as bad ones; and he will quickly discover that it is easy to single out the good points, and that there is no profit to be had in denouncing the bad ones, for the very good reason that nothing the diplomatist can say or do will alter the domestic habits or laws of the country in which he lives.

Jump to Part 2


François de Callières, a French diplomat at the turn of the eighteenth century, warned his colleagues not to look down on the countries they visit. All countries are a blend of good and bad, he reminded them. The well-trained diplomat focuses on the good, knowing that nothing he can do or say will change the bad. (58 / 60 words)

Part Two

He should take a pride in knowing the history of the country, so that he may be able to give the prince pleasure by praising the great feats of his ancestors, as well as for his own benefit to interpret current events in the light of the historical movements of the past. When it becomes known that the negotiator possesses such knowledge and uses it aptly, his credit will certainly rise, and if he is adroit enough to turn his conversations at court to those subjects of which he is a master, he will find that his diplomatic task is greatly assisted, and that the pleasure he gives to those around him is amply repaid to him in the smoothness of negotiation.

Copy Book


It is particularly important, he went on, for a diplomat to acquaint himself with the history and national heroes of the people among whom he is working. Few things can contribute more to the esteem in which his own country will be held, and he will find his proposals much more warmly received. (53 / 60 words)


From ‘The Practice of Diplomacy’ (1919), a translation by Alexander Frederick Whyte of ‘De la Manière de Negocier avec les Souverains’ (1716), by François de Callières (1645-1717).

Suggested Music

Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

Performed by the French orchestra ‘Les Siècles’ under François-Xavier Roth.

Media not showing? Let me know!

How To Use This Passage

You can use this passage to help improve your command of English.

IRead it aloud, twice or more. IISummarise it in one sentence of up to 30 words. IIISummarise it in one paragraph of 40-80 words. IVMake notes on the passage, and reconstruct the original from them later on. VJot down any unfamiliar words, and make your own sentences with them later. VIMake a note of any words that surprise or impress you, and ask yourself what meaning they add to the words you would have expected to see. VIITurn any old-fashioned English into modern English. VIIITurn prose into verse, and verse into prose. IXAsk yourself what the author is trying to get you to feel or think. XHow would an artist or a photographer capture the scene? XIHow would a movie director shoot it, or a composer write incidental music for it?

For these and more ideas, see How to Use The Copy Book.

Related Posts

for A Credit to His Country

Character and Conduct

The Absent Minded Conquerors

Sir John Seeley urged us to cherish our close ties to India and other nations beyond Europe.

International Relations

The Spectatress

George Canning urged Britain not to bring Continental Europe’s topsy-turvy politics home by getting too closely involved.

International Relations

An Exceptional Nation

William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.

International Relations

The Din of Diplomacy

William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.

International Relations (41)
All Stories (1522)
Worksheets (14)
Word Games (5)