WOODROW WILSON AS I KNOW HIM
JOSEPH P. TUMULTY
To the memory of my dear mother Alicia Tumulty whose spirit of generosity, loyalty, and tolerance I trust will be found in the lines of this book
In preparing this volume I have made use of portions of the following books: "The War The World and Wilson" by George Creel; "What Wilson Did at Paris," by Ray Stannard Baker; "Woodrow Wilson and His Work" by William E. Dodd; "The Panama Canal Tolls Controversy" by Hugh Gordon Miller and Joseph C. Freehoff; "Woodrow Wilson the Man and His Work" by Henry Jones Ford; "The Real Colonel House" by Arthur D. Howden Smith; "The Foreign Policy of Woodrow Wilson" by Edgar E. Robinson and Victor J. West. In addition, I wish to make acknowledgment to the following books for incidental assistance: "My Four Years in Germany" by James W. Gerard; "Woodrow Wilson, An Interpretation" by A. Maurice Low; "A People Awakened" by Charles Reade Bacon; "Woodrow Wilson" by Hester E. Hosford; "What Really Happened at Paris," edited by Edward Mandell House and Charles Seymour, and above all, to the public addresses of Woodrow Wilson. I myself had furnished considerable data for various books on Woodrow Wilson and have felt at liberty to make liberal use of some portions of these sources as guide posts for my own narrative.
Woodrow Wilson prefers not to be written about. His enemies may, and of course will, say what they please, but he would like to have his friends hold their peace. He seems to think and feel that if he himself can keep silent while his foes are talking, his friends should be equally stoical. He made this plain in October, 1920, when he learned that I had slipped away from my office at the White House one night shortly before the election and made a speech about him in a little Maryland town, Bethesda. He did not read the speech, I am sure he has never read it, but the fact that I had made any sort of speech about him, displeased him. That was one of the few times in my long association with him that I found him distinctly cold. He said nothing, but his silence was vocal.
I suspect this book will share the fate of the Bethesda speech, will not be read by Mr. Wilson. If this seems strange to those who do not know him personally, I can only say that "Woodrow Wilson is made that way." He cannot dramatize himself and shrinks from attempts of others to dramatize him. "I will not write about myself," is his invariable retort to friends who urge him to publish his own story of the Paris Peace Conference. He craves the silence from others which he imposes upon himself. He is quite willing to leave the assessment and interpretation of himself to time and posterity. Knowing all this I have not consulted him about this book. Yet I have felt that the book should be written, because I am anxious that his contemporaries should know him as I have known him, not only as an individual but also as the advocate of a set of great ideas and as the leader of great movements. If I can picture him, even imperfectly, as I have found him to be, both in himself and in his relationship to important events, I must believe that the portrait will correct some curious misapprehensions about him.
For instance, there is a prevalent idea, an innocently ignorant opinion in some quarters, an all too sedulously cultivated report in other quarters, that he has been uniformly headstrong, impatient of advice, his mind hermetically closed to counsel from others. This book will expose the error of that opinion; will show how, in his own words, his mind was "open and to let," how he welcomed suggestions and criticism. Indeed I fear that unless the reader ponders carefully what I have written he may glean the opposite idea, that sometimes the President had to be prodded to action, and that I represent myself as the chief prodder.
The superficial reader may find countenance lent to this latter view in the many notes of information and advice which I addressed to the President and in the record of his subsequent actions which were more or less in accord with the counsel contained in some of these notes. If the reader deduces from this the conclusion that I was the instigator of some of the President's important policies, he will misinterpret the facts and the President's character and mental processes; if he concludes that I am trying to represent myself as the instigator he will misunderstand my motives in publishing these notes.
These motives are: first, to tell the story of my association with Mr. Wilson, and part of the record is contained in these notes; secondly, to show what liberty he allowed me to suggest and criticize; how, so far from being offended, he welcomed counsel. Having this privilege I exercised it. I conceived it as part of my duty as his secretary and friend to report to him my own interpretations of facts and public opinion as I gathered these from newspapers and conversations, and sometimes to suggest modes of action. These notes were memoranda for my chief's consideration.
The reader will see how frankly critical some of these notes are. The mere fact that the President permitted me to continue to write to him in a vein of candour that was frequently brusque and blunt, is the conclusive answer to the charge that he resented criticism.
Contrary to the misrepresentations, he had from time to time many advisers. In most instances, I do not possess written reports of what others said orally and in writing, and therefore in this record, which is essentially concerned with my own official and personal relations with him, I may seem to represent myself as a preponderating influence. This is neither the fact nor my intention. The public acts of Mr. Wilson were frequently mosaics, made up of his own ideas and those of others. My written notes were merely stones offered for the mosaic. Sometimes the stones were rejected, sometimes accepted and shaped by the master builder into the pattern.
It was a habit of Mr. Wilson's to meditate before taking action, to listen to advice without comment, frequently without indicating whether or not the idea broached by others had already occurred to him. We who knew him best knew that often the idea had occurred to him and had been thought out more lucidly than any adviser could state it. But he would test his own views by the touchstone of other minds' reactions to the situations and problems which he was facing and would get the "slant" of other minds.
He was always ahead of us all in his thinking. An admirer once said: "You could shut him up in an hermetically sealed room and trust him to reach the right decision," but as a matter of fact he did not work that way. He sought counsel and considered it and acted on it or dismissed it according to his best judgment, for the responsibility for the final action was his, and he was boldly prepared to accept that responsibility and conscientiously careful not to abuse it by acting rashly. While he would on occasion make momentous decisions quickly and decisively, the habitual character of his mind was deliberative. He wanted all the facts and so far as possible the contingencies. Younger men like myself could counsel immediate and drastic action, but even while we were advising we knew that he would, without haste and without waste, calmly calculate his course. What, coming from us, were merely words, would, coming from him, constitute acts and a nation's destiny. He regarded himself as the "trustee of the people," who should not act until he was sure he was right and should then act with the decision and finality of fate itself.
Of another misapprehension, namely, that Mr. Wilson lacks human warmth, I shall let the book speak without much prefatory comment. I have done my work ill indeed if there does not emerge from the pages a human-hearted man, a man whose passion it was to serve mankind. In his daily intercourse with individuals he showed uniform consideration, at times deep tenderness, though he did not have in his possession the little bag of tricks which some politicians use so effectively: he did not clap men on their backs, call them by their first names, and profess to each individual he met that of all the men in the world this was the man whom he most yearned to see. Perhaps he was too sincere for that; perhaps by nature too reserved; but I am convinced that he who reads this book will feel that he has met a man whose public career was governed not merely by a great brain, but also by a great heart. I did not invent this character. I observed him for eleven years.
CHAPTER I. THE POLITICAL LABORATORY II. DOING THE POLITICAL CHORES III. MY FIRST MEETING WITH THE POLITICAL BOSS IV. COLONEL HARVEY ON THE SCENE V. THE NEW JERSEY SALIENT VI. SOMETHING NEW IN POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS VII. THE CRISIS OP THE CAMPAIGN VIII. THE END OP THE CAMPAIGN IX. A PARTY SPLIT X. EXIT THE OLD GUARD XI. EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP XII. COLONEL HARVEY XIII. THE "COCKED HAT" INCIDENT XIV. WILSON AND THE OLD GUARD XV. MR. BRYAN ISSUES A CHALLENGE XVI. THE BALTIMORE CONVENTION XVII. FACING A SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY XVIII. WILLIAM F. McCOMBS XIX. THE INAUGURATION OF 1913 XX. MEXICO XXI. PANAMA TOLLS XXII. REFORMING THE CURRENCY XXIII. RENOMINATED XXIV. THE ADAMSON LAW XXV. GERMAN PROPAGANDA XXVI. WILSON AND HUGHES XXVII. NEUTRALITY XXVIII. PREPAREDNESS XXIX. THE GREAT DECLARATION XXX. CARRYING ON XXXI. THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD XXXII. COLONEL ROOSEVELT AND GENERAL WOOD XXXIII. WILSON THE WARRIOR XXXIV. GERMANY CAPITULATES XXXV. APPEAL FOR A DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS XXXVI. THE GREAT ADVENTURE XXXVII. WILSON—THE LONE HAND XXXVIII. JAPAN—SHANTUNG XXXIX. IRELAND XL. PROHIBITION XLI. THE TREATY FIGHT XLII. THE WESTERN TRIP XLIII. RESERVATIONS XLIV. WILSON—THE HUMAN BEING XLV. THE SAN FRANCISCO CONVENTION XLVI. THE LAST DAY
WOODROW WILSON AS I KNOW HIM
THE POLITICAL LABORATORY
My introduction to politics was in the Fifth Ward of Jersey City, New Jersey, which for many years was the "Bloody Angle" of politics of the city in which I lived. Always Democratic, it had been for many years the heart and centre of what New Jersey Democrats were pleased to call the great Gibraltar of Democracy. The ward in which I lived was made up of the plainest sort of people, a veritable melting pot of all races, but with a predominance of Irish, Germans, and Italians, between whom it was, like ancient Gaul, divided into three parts.
My dear father, Philip Tumulty, a wounded soldier of the Civil War, after serving an apprenticeship as an iron moulder under a delightful, whole- souled Englishman, opened a little grocery store on Wayne Street, Jersey City, where were laid the foundation stones of his modest fortune and where, by his fine common sense, poise, and judgment, he soon established himself as the leader of a Democratic faction in that neighbourhood. This modest little place soon became a political laboratory for me. In the evening, around the plain, old-fashioned counters, seated upon barrels and boxes, the interesting characters of the neighbourhood gathered, representing as they did the leading active political forces in that quaint cosmopolitan community.
No matter how far back my memory turns, I cannot recall when I did not hear politics discussed—not ward politics only, but frequently the politics of the nation and the world. In that grocery store, from the lips of the plainest folk who came there, were carried on serious discussions of the tariff, the money question, our foreign relations, and all phases of the then famous Venezuelan question, which in those days threatened to set two continents on fire.
The make-up of the little "cabinet" or group which surrounded my father was most interesting. There was Mr. Alexander Hamill, the father of Congressman Hamill of Jersey City, a student of Queen's College in Ireland and who afterward taught in the National Schools of Ireland, a well-read, highly cultured, broad-minded man of affairs; and dear Uncle Jimmie Kelter, almost a centenarian, whose fine old gray hair gave him the appearance of a patriarch. Uncle Jimmie nightly revelled in the recital to those who were present as ready listeners, his experience when he was present at a session of the House of Parliament in London and heard the famous Irish statesman, Daniel O'Connell, denounce England's attitude of injustice toward Catholic emancipation. He loved to regale the little group that encircled him by reciting from memory the great speech of Robert Emmett from the dock, and excerpts from the classic speeches of the leading Irish orators like Curran, Sheridan, and Fox.
While these discussions in the little store wended their uneasy way along, a spark of humour was often injected into them by the delightful banter of a rollicking, good-natured Irishman, a big two-fisted fellow, generous- hearted and lovable, whom we affectionately called "Big Phil." I can see him now, standing like a great pyramid in the midst of the little group, every now and then throwing his head back in good-natured abandon, recounting wild and fantastic tales about the fairies and banshees of the Old Land from whence he had come. When his listeners would turn away, with skepticism written all over their countenances, he would turn to me, whose youthful enthusiasm made me an easy victim upon which to work his magic spell in the stories which he told of the wonders of the Old Land across the sea.
I loved these delightful little gatherings in whose deliberations my dear father played so notable a part. Those kind folk, now off the stage, never allowed the spirit of provincialism to guide their judgment or their attitude toward great public affairs. I recall with pleasure their tolerance, their largeness of view, and fine magnanimity which raised every question they discussed to a high level. They were a very simple folk, but independent in their political actions and views. Into that little group of free, independent political thinkers would often come a warning from the Democratic boss of the city that they must follow with undivided allegiance the organization's dictum in political matters and not seek to lead opinion in the community in which they lived. Supremely indifferent were these fine old chaps to those warnings, and unmindful of political consequences. They felt that they had left behind them a land of oppression and they would not submit to tyrannous dictation in this free land of ours, no matter who sought to exert it.
In this political laboratory I came in contact with the raw materials of political life that, as an older man, I was soon to see moulded into political action in a larger way in the years to come. I found in politics that the great policies of a nation are simply the policies and passions of the ward extended. In the little discussions that took place in that store, I was, even as a youth, looking on from the side-lines, struck by the fine, wholesome, generous spirit of my own father. Never would he permit, for instance, in the matter of the discussion of Ireland—so dear to his heart—a shade of resentment or bitterness toward England to influence his judgment in the least, for he believed that no man could be a just judge in any matter where his mind was filled with passion; and so in this matter, the subject of such fierce controversy, as in every other, he held a judgment free and far away from his passionate antagonisms. I found in the simple life of the community where I was brought up the same human things, in a small way, that I was subsequently to come in contact with in a larger way in the whirligig of political life in the Capitol of the Nation. I found the same relative bigness and the same relative smallness, the same petty jealousies and rivalries which manifest themselves in the larger fields of a great nation's life; the same good nature, and the same deep humanity expressing itself in the same way, only differently apparelled.
One of the most interesting places in the world for the study of human character is the country store or the city grocery. I was able as a boy standing behind the counter of the little grocery store to study people; and intimately to become acquainted with them and their daily lives and the lives of their women and children. I never came in contact with their daily routine, their joys and sorrows, their bitter actualities and deep tragedies, without feeling rise in me a desire to be of service. I remember many years ago, seated behind the counter of my father's grocery store, with what passionate resentment I read the vivid headlines of the metropolitan newspapers and the ghastly accounts of the now famous Homestead Strike of 1892. Of course, I came to realize in after years that the headlines of a newspaper are not always in agreement with the actual facts; but I do recall how intently I pored over every detail of this tragic story of industrial war and how, deep in my heart, I resented the efforts of a capitalistic system that would use its power in this unjust, inhuman way. Little did I realize as I pored over the story of this tragedy in that far-off day that some time, seated at my desk at the White House in the office of the secretary to the President of the United States, I would have the pleasure of meeting face to face the leading actor in this lurid drama, Mr. Andrew Carnegie himself, and of hearing from his own lips a human and intelligent recital of the events which formed the interesting background of the Homestead Strike.
DOING THE POLITICAL CHORES
For the young man who wishes to rise in the politics of a great city there is no royal road to preferment but only a plain path of modest service uncomplainingly rendered. Of course, there seem to be exceptions to this rule. At times it is possible for the scion of a great family to rise to temporary distinction in politics without a preliminary course in the school of local politics, for as a Democratic boss once said to me: "Great family names are fine window-dressers," but in my own experience I have seen the disappointing end of careers thus begun and have found that sometimes after a great name has been temporarily used to meet certain political emergencies, the would-be politician is quickly thrust aside to make way for the less pretentious but more capable man. There is nothing permanent or lasting about a place in politics gained in this adventitious way. Of course, there sometimes come to high office men from military careers, or men, like the distinguished subject of this book, from fields apparently remote from practical politics, but such successes are due to an appealing personal force, or to exceptional genius which the young aspirant had better not assume that he possesses. The general rule holds good that a political apprenticeship is as necessary and valuable as an industrial apprenticeship.
My first official connection with politics was as the financial secretary of the Fifth Ward Democratic Club of Jersey City. My father had told me that if I intended to play an active part in politics, it would be necessary to begin modestly at the bottom of the ladder, to do the political chores, as it were, which are a necessary part of ward organization work. I recall those days with singular pleasure, for my work gave me an unusual opportunity to meet the privates in the ranks and to make friendships that were permanent.
The meetings of the Club were held each week in a modest club house, with part of the meeting given over to addresses made by what were then considered the leading men in the Democratic party. It is queer how the average political worker favours the senator, or the ex-judge, or the ex-Congressman, as a speaker on these occasions. Ex-Congressman Gray, of Texas (I doubt whether there ever was a congressman by that name), would often be the headliner and he could be depended upon to draw a crowded and enthusiastic house. The knowledge and experience I gained at these inspirational meetings were mighty helpful to me in the political life I had carved out for myself. I found that when you had convinced these plain, everyday fellows that, although you were a college man, you were not necessarily a highbrow, they were willing to serve you to the end. It was a valuable course in a great university. It was not very long until I was given my first opportunity, in 1896, to make my first political speech in behalf of Mr. Bryan, then the Democratic candidate for President. I was not able at that time to disentangle the intricacies of the difficult money problems, but I endeavoured, imperfectly at least, in the speeches I made, to lay my finger on what I considered the great moral issue that lay behind the silver question in that memorable campaign—the attempt by eastern financial interests to dominate the Government of the United States.
After my apprenticeship, begun as secretary of the Fifth Ward Democratic Club, an incident happened which caused a sudden rise in my political stock. At a county convention I was given the opportunity of making the nominating speech for the Fifth Ward's candidate for street and water commissioner—a bricklayer and a fine fellow—who was opposing the machine candidate. It was a real effort on my part and caused me days and nights of worry and preparation. Indeed, it seemed to me to be the great moment of my life. I vividly recall the incidents of what to me was a memorable occasion. I distinctly remember that on the night of the Convention, with the delegates from my ward, I faced an unfriendly and hostile audience, our candidate having aroused the opposition of the boss and his satellites. While I felt that the attitude of the Convention was one of opposition to our candidate, there was no evidence of unfriendliness or hostility to myself as the humble spokesman of the Fifth Ward. When I stood up to speak I realized that I had to "play up" to the spirit of generosity which is always latent in a crowd such as I was addressing. I believe I won, although my candidate, unfortunately, lost. My Irish buoyancy and good nature brought me over the line. I felt that the audience in the gallery and the delegates on the floor were with me, but unfortunately for my cause, the boss, who was always the dominating influence of the Convention, was against me, and so we lost in the spirited fight we made. In this first skirmish of my political career I made up my mind to meet defeat with good grace and, if possible, smilingly, and no sore spot or resentment over our defeat ever showed itself in my attitude toward the men who saw fit to oppose us. Evidently, the boss and his friends appreciated this attitude, for it was reported to me shortly after the Convention that I was to be given recognition and by the boss's orders would soon be placed on the eligible list for future consideration in connection with a place on the legislative ticket.
One lesson I learned was not to be embittered by defeat. Since then I have seen too many cases of men so disgruntled at being worsted in their first battles that their political careers ended when they should have been just beginning.
MY FIRST MEETING WITH THE POLITICAL BOSS
After serving my apprenticeship as a ward worker, devoted friends from my home ward urged my name upon the Democratic leader, Mr. Robert Davis, for a place upon the Democratic legislative ticket for Hudson County. I had grown to have a deep regard and affection for this fine old fellow. While he was a boss in every sense, maintaining close relations with the Public Service Corporations of the state, he had an engaging human side. He never pretended nor deceived. With his friends he was open, frank, generous, and honourable in all his dealings, and especially kind to and considerate of the young men who became part of his working force. With his political enemies he was fair and decent. Many a time during a legislative session, when I was a member of the House of Assembly, word would come to us of the boss's desire that we should support this or that bill, behind which certain corporate interests lay. The orders, however, were clean and without a threat of any kind. He took no unfair advantage and made no reprisals when we failed to carry out his desires.
While a member of the New Jersey Legislature, the name of Woodrow Wilson began to be first discussed in the political world of New Jersey. It came about in this way: By reason of the normal Republican majority of the state the nomination by the Legislature in those days of a Democratic candidate for the United States senatorship was a mere compliment, a courtesy, a very meagre one indeed, and was generally paid to the old war horses of democracy like James E. Martine, of Plainfield, New Jersey; but the appearance of the doughty Colonel Harvey on the scene, at the 1907 session of the New Jersey Legislature, gave a new turn to this custom. A request was made by Colonel Harvey and diplomatically conveyed by his friends to the Democratic members of the Legislature, that the honorary nomination for the United States senatorship at this session of the Legislature should be given to President Wilson of Princeton. It may be added that I learned years afterward that Mr. Wilson was not a party to Colonel Harvey's plans; that once he even sent a friend as an emissary to explain to the Colonel that Mr. Wilson did not believe that the use of his name in connection with political office was a service to him or to Princeton University.
The suggestion that Woodrow Wilson be given the nomination was hotly resented by young men like myself in the Legislature. Frankly, I led the opposition to the man I was afterward to serve for eleven years in the capacity of private secretary. The basis of my opposition to Mr. Wilson for this empty honour was the rumour that had been industriously circulated in the state House and elsewhere, that there was, as Mr. Dooley says, "a plan afoot" by the big interests of New Jersey and New York to nominate Woodrow Wilson for the senatorship and then nominate him for governor of the state as a preliminary start for the Presidency. I remember now, with the deepest chagrin and regret, having bitterly assailed Woodrow Wilson's candidacy in a Democratic caucus which I attended and how I denounced him for his alleged opposition to labour. In view of my subsequent intimacy with Mr. Wilson and the knowledge gained of his great heart and his big vision in all matters affecting labour, I cannot now point with pride to the speech I then made attacking him. I am sure the dear doctor, away off in Princeton, never even heard of my opposition to him, although in my conceit I thought the state reverberated with the report of my unqualified and bitter opposition to him. In my poor vanity I thought that perhaps what I had said in my speech of opposition to him had reached the cloisters of Princeton. As a matter of fact, he never heard about me or my speech, and afterward in the years of our association he "joshed" me about my opposition to him and would often make me very uncomfortable by recounting to his friends at the White House how even his own secretary had opposed him when his name was first under consideration for the United States senatorship in New Jersey.
To me was given the honour of nominating at a joint session of the Senate and House Assembly the candidate opposed to Woodrow Wilson for the Senate, the Honourable Edwin E. Stevens. I recall the comparison I made between the claims of Colonel Stevens, the strict party man, and those of Woodrow Wilson, the Princeton professor. The speech nominating Woodrow Wilson at the joint session of the Legislature was the shortest on record. It was delivered by a big generous fellow, John Baader, one of the Smith-Nugent men from Essex County. When Essex County was called, he slowly rose to his feet and almost shamefacedly addressing the Speaker of the House, said, tremulously: "I nominate for the United States Senate Woodrow Wilson, of Princeton," and then, amid silence, sat down. No applause greeted the name of the man he nominated. It seemed as if the college professor had no friends in the Legislature except the man who had put his name forward for the nomination.
Colonel Stevens won the honorary nomination and Woodrow Wilson was defeated. Colonel Harvey, disgruntled but not discouraged, packed up his kit and left on the next train for New York.
COLONEL HARVEY ON THE SCENE
Although the intrepid Colonel Harvey was defeated in the first skirmish to advance the cause of Woodrow Wilson, he continued to pursue his purpose to force his personal choice upon the New Jersey Democracy. The approaching gubernatorial election in 1910 gave the Colonel his opportunity and he took full advantage of it.
Rumours began to circulate that the machine run by Davis, Smith, and Ross, the great Democratic triumvirate of the state, was determined to nominate the Princeton president at any cost. Young men like Mark Sullivan, John Treacy, and myself, all of Hudson County, representing the liberal wing of our party, were bitterly opposed to this effort. We suspected that the "Old Gang" was up to its old trick of foisting upon the Democrats of the state a tool which they could use for their own advantage, who, under the name of the Democratic party, would do the bidding of the corporate interests which had, under both the "regular" organizations, Democratic and Republican, found in New Jersey their most nutritious pastures. At a meeting held at the Lawyers' Club in New York, younger Democrats, like Judge Silzer of Middlesex and myself, "plighted our political troth" and pledged our undying opposition to the candidacy of the Princeton president. As a result of our conferences we set in motion the progressive machinery of the state in an intensive effort to force the nomination of Judge Silzer in opposition to that of Woodrow Wilson.
As soon as the Democratic boss of Hudson County, Bob Davis, one of the leaders in the Wilson movement in North Jersey, was apprized of the proposed action on our part, he set about to head it off, and as part of his plan of opposition he sent for me in an effort to wean me away from the Silzer candidacy. I refused to yield. Upon being interrogated by me as to his interest in Woodrow Wilson, Boss Davis stated that if we nominated Woodrow Wilson there would be a big campaign fund put up for him by Moses Taylor Pyne, a trustee of Princeton University. Never before was the ignorance of a boss made more manifest. As a matter of fact, at that very time there was no more implacable foe of Woodrow Wilson in the state of New Jersey than Moses Taylor Pyne, who headed the opposition to Mr. Wilson in the Princeton fight.
Years after this incident the President and I often laughed at what must have been the surprise and discomfiture of Boss Davis when he finally learned the facts as to Moses Taylor Pyne's real feelings toward Woodrow Wilson. Previous to the gubernatorial campaign I asked Boss Davis if he thought Woodrow Wilson would make a good governor. His reply was characteristic of the point of view of the boss in dealing with these matters of moment to the people of the state. "How the hell do I know whether he'll make a good governor?" he replied; "he will make a good candidate, and that is the only thing that interests me."
Shortly after, those of us who banded together to oppose the bosses in their efforts to force Doctor Wilson upon us began to the feel pressure of the organization's influence. Many of our friends left us in despair and in fear of the power of the machine. The movement toward Woodrow Wilson in the state was soon in full swing. The Davis-Smith-Nugent-Ross machine was in fine working order on the day and the night of the Convention.
I was not even a delegate to the Convention, but I was present and kept in close touch by contact with my friends with every phase of the convention fight. Colonel Harvey was again on the scene as the generalissimo of the Wilson forces, quietly and stealthily moving about, lining up his forces for the memorable battle of the morrow. There was bitter but unorganized opposition to the favourite son of the state machine, Woodrow Wilson. The Convention itself presented an unusual situation and demonstrated more than anything I ever saw the power of the "Old Gang" to do the thing its masters had in mind. As I look back upon the great event of this convention, the nomination of Woodrow Wilson for the governorship of New Jersey, I feel that destiny was inscrutably engaged there, working in mysterious ways its wonders to perform, working perhaps through strange, incongruous instrumentalities to bring the man of destiny into action, led by those who were opposed to everything Woodrow Wilson stood for, opposed by those who were yearning for and striving for just the dawn of political liberalism that his advent in politics heralded. The conflict of the Trenton Convention about to be enacted was an illustration of the poet's line, "Where ignorant armies clash by night." The successful side of the Convention was fighting for what they least wanted; the defeated against what they most wanted. Here in this convention, in truth, were in aggressive action the incongruities of politics and in full display were witnessed the sardonic contrasts between the visible and the invisible situations in politics. All the Old Guard moving with Prussian precision to the nomination of the man who was to destroy for a time the machine rule in New Jersey and inaugurate a new national era in political liberalism while all the liberal elements of the state, including fine old Judge Westcott of Camden and young men like myself were sullen, helpless. Every progressive Democrat in the Convention was opposed to the nomination of the Princetonian, and every standpatter and Old Guardsman was in favour of Woodrow Wilson. On the convention floor, dominating the whole affair, stood ex-Senator James Smith, Jr., of New Jersey, the spokesman of the "highbrow" candidate for governor, controlling the delegates from south and west Jersey. Handsome, cool, dignified, he rose from the floor of the convention hall, and in rich, low tones, seconded the nomination of the man "he had never met," the man he would not "presume" to claim acquaintance with, the man whose life had lain in other fields than his. Very close to him, "taking his orders," and acting upon every suggestion that came to him, sat Jim Nugent, grim, big-jawed, the giant full-back of Smith's invincible team, the rising star of machine politics in New Jersey. Down the aisle sat the "Little Napoleon" of Hudson County, Bob Davis, wearing a sardonic smile on his usually placid face, with his big eyes riveted upon those in the Convention who were fighting desperately and against great odds the effort of the state machine to nominate President Wilson. Across the aisle from me sat "Plank-Shad" Thompson, of Gloucester, big and debonair, a thoroughly fine fellow socially, but always ready to act upon and carry out every tip that came to him from the master minds in the Convention—Davis and Smith.
These were the leading actors in this political drama. Behind the lines, in the "offing," was the Insurgent Group, young men like Mark Sullivan and John Treacy of Hudson, stout defenders of the liberal wing in the Convention, feeling sullen, beaten, and hopelessly impotent against the mass attack of the machine forces. What a political medley was present in this convention—plebeian and patrician, machine man and political idealist—all gathered together and fighting as leading characters and supernumeraries in the political drama about to be enacted.
Not three men outside of the leading actors in this great political drama had ever seen the Princeton professor, although many had doubtless read his speeches. I watched every move from the side-lines. The bosses, with consummate precision, moved to the doing of the job in hand, working their spell of threats and coercion upon a beaten, sullen, spiritless body of delegates. One could easily discern that there was no heart in the delegates for the job on hand. To them, the active forces in the Convention, the Princeton president was, indeed, a man of mystery. Who could solve the riddle of this political Sphinx? Who was this man Wilson? What were his purposes? What his ideals? These questions were troubling and perplexing the delegates. Colonel Harvey, the commander-in-chief of the Wilson forces, when interrogated by us, refused to answer. How masterfully the Old Guard staged every act of the drama, and thus brought about the nomination of the Princeton president. The Convention is at an end. Wilson has been nominated by a narrow margin; the delegates, bitter and resentful, are about to withdraw; the curtain is about to roll down on the last scene. The chairman, Mr. John R. Hardin, the distinguished lawyer of Essex, is about to announce the final vote, when the clerk of the Convention, in a tone of voice that reached every part of the hall, announces in a most dramatic fashion: "We have just received word that Mr. Wilson, the candidate for the governorship, and the next President of the United States, has received word of his nomination; has left Princeton, and is now on his way to the Convention." Excellent stage work. The voice of the secretary making this dramatic statement was the voice of Jacob, but the deft hand behind this clever move was that of Colonel Harvey. This announcement literally sets the Convention on fire. Bedlam breaks loose. The only sullen and indifferent ones in the hall are those of us who met defeat a few hours before. For us, at least, the mystery is about to be solved. The Princeton professor has left the shades of the University to enter the Elysian Fields of politics.
At the time the secretary's announcement was made I was in the rear of the convention hall, trying to become reconciled to our defeat. I then wended my weary way to the stage and stood close to the band, which was busy entertaining the crowd until the arrival of Mr. Wilson. I wanted to obtain what newspaper men call a "close-up" of this man of mystery.
What were my own feelings as I saw the candidate quietly walk to the speakers' stand? I was now to see almost face to face for the first time the man I had openly and bitterly denounced only a few hours before. What reaction of regret or pleasure did I experience as I beheld the vigorous, clean-cut, plainly garbed man, who now stood before me, cool and smiling? My first reaction of regret came when he uttered these words:
I feel the responsibility of the occasion. Responsibility is proportionate to opportunity. It is a great opportunity to serve the State and Nation. I did not seek this nomination, I have made no pledge and have given no promises. If elected, I am left absolutely free to serve you with all singleness of purpose. It is a new era when these things can be said, and in connection with this I feel that the dominant idea of the moment is the responsibility of deserving. I will have to serve the state very well in order to deserve the honour of being at its head.... Did you ever experience the elation of a great hope, that you desire to do right because it is right and without thought of doing it for your own interest? At that period your hopes are unselfish. This in particular is a day of unselfish purpose for Democracy. The country has been universally misled and the people have begun to believe that there is something radically wrong. And now we should make this era of hope one of realization through the Democratic party.
I had another reaction of regret when he said:
"Government is not a warfare of interests. We shall not gain our ends by heat and bitterness." How simple the man, how modest, how cultured! Attempting none of the cheap "plays" of the old campaign orator, he impressively proceeded with his thrilling speech, carrying his audience with him under the spell of his eloquent words. How tense the moment! His words, spoken in tones so soft, so fine, in voice so well modulated, so heart-stirring. Only a few sentences are uttered and our souls are stirred to their very depths. It was not only what he said, but the simple heart- stirring way in which he said it. The great climax came when he uttered these moving words: "The future is not for parties 'playing politics' but for measures conceived in the largest spirit, pushed by parties whose leaders are statesmen, not demagogues, who love not their offices but their duty and their opportunity for service. We are witnessing a renaissance of public spirit, a reawakening of sober public opinion, a revival of the power of the people, the beginning of an age of thoughtful reconstruction that makes our thoughts hark back to the age in which democracy was set up in America. With the new age we shall show a new spirit. We shall serve justice and candour and all things that make, for the right. Is not our own party disciplined and made ready for this great task? Shall we not forget ourselves in making it the instrument of righteousness for the state and for the nation?"
After this climax there was a short pause. "Go on, go on," eagerly cried the crowd. The personal magnetism of the man, his winning smile, so frank and so sincere, the light of his gray eyes, the fine poise of his well- shaped head, the beautiful rhythm of his vigorous sentences, held the men in the Convention breathless under their mystic spell. Men all about me cried in a frenzy: "Thank God, at last, a leader has come!"
Then, the great ending. Turning to the flag that hung over the speakers' stand, he said, in words so impressive as to bring almost a sob from his hearers:
When I think of the flag which our ships carry, the only touch of colour about them, the only thing that moves as if it had a settled spirit in it—in their solid structure, it seems to me I see alternate strips of parchment upon which are written the rights of liberty and justice and strips of blood spilled to vindicate those rights and then—in the corner—a prediction of the blue serene into which every nation may swim which stands for these great things.
The speech is over. Around me there is a swirling mass of men whose hearts had been touched by the great speech which is just at an end. Men stood about me with tears streaming from their eyes. Realizing that they had just stood in the presence of greatness, it seemed as if they had been lifted out of the selfish miasma of politics, and, in the spirit of the Crusaders, were ready to dedicate themselves to the cause of liberating their state from the bondage of special interests.
As I turned to leave the convention hall there stood at my side old John Crandall, of Atlantic City, like myself a bitter, implacable foe of Woodrow Wilson, in the Convention. I watched him intently to see what effect the speech had had upon him. For a minute he was silent, as if in a dream, and then, drawing himself up to his full height, with a cynical smile on his face, waving his hat and cane in the air, and at the same time shaking his head in a self-accusing way, yelled at the top of his voice, "I am sixty-five years old, and still a damn fool!"
THE NEW JERSEY SALIENT
No campaign in New Jersey caused so great an interest as the gubernatorial campaign of 1910. The introduction of a Princeton professor into the political melee in New Jersey had given a novel touch to what ordinarily would have been a routine affair. The prologue to the great drama, the various scenes of which were now to unfold before the voters of the state, had been enacted at the Democratic Convention at Trenton under the masterly direction of the members of the Democratic Old Guard of the state. New Jersey had long been noted throughout the country as the "Mother of Trusts", and the nesting place of Privilege. Through their alliance and partnership with the political bosses of both parties the so- called corporate interests had been for many years successful, against the greatest pressure of public opinion, in blocking the passage of progressive legislation.
Liberal-minded men in the state had for many years been carrying on an agitation for the enactment into law of legislation that would make possible the following great needs:
1. The passage of a Direct Primary Act. 2. The passage of an Employers' Liability Act. 3. The regulation of Public Utilities. 4. The passage of a Corrupt Practices Act.
These were matters within the scope of state legislation, and to these was added an agitation for a fifth reform, which, of course, could be accomplished only through an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the election of United States senators by vote of the people.
In the old days in New Jersey, now happily gone, the days when the granting of special corporation charters was the vogue, a sort of political suzerainty was set up by Railroad and Public Service interests. Every election was, in its last analysis, a solemn referendum upon the question as to which corporate interest should control legislation— whether the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose master mind was the Republican leader of the state, United States Senator Sewall, or the Public Service interests, whose votaries and friends were Senator Smith of New Jersey, and Milan Ross, Sr., of Middlesex County.
While these corporate interests fought among themselves over the matter of a United States senatorship or the governorship of a state, they were at one in their unrelenting, bitter, and highly organized opposition to the passage of what in this day we call by the highly dignified name of Social Welfare Legislation. The voices of those liberal-minded men and women of the state, who, year after year, fought for this legislation, were like voices crying in the wilderness. An illustration of corporate opposition was the unrelenting attitude of the Special Interest group of the state to the passage of the Employers' Liability Act. Every decent, progressive, humane man in the state felt that the old, barbaric, Fellow-Servant doctrine should be changed and that there should be substituted for it a more humane, wholesome, modern doctrine. Nearly every state in the Union had already recognized the injustice of the old rule, but the privileged interests in New Jersey could not be moved in their bitter and implacable opposition to it, and for over half a century they had succeeded in preventing its enactment into law. Progressives or New Idea Republicans, high in the councils of that party, had fought with their Democratic brethren to pass this legislation, but always without result. At last there came a revolt in the Republican party, brought about and led by sturdy Republicans like Everett Colby of Essex, and William P. Martin of the same county; George Record and Mark M. Fagan of my own county, Hudson. Out of this split came the establishment in the ranks of the Republican party itself of a faction which called itself the New Idea branch of the Republican party. The campaign for humane legislation within the ranks of the G.O.P. was at last begun in real fighting fashion. It was the irrepressible conflict between the old and the new, between those who believed human rights are superior to and take precedence over property rights. The conflict could not be stayed; its leaders could not be restrained. These men, Colby, Record, Martin, and Fagan, were the sowers of the Progressive seed which Woodrow Wilson, by his genius for leadership and constructive action along humane lines, was soon to harvest. His candidacy, therefore, admirably fitted into the interesting situation.
When the convention that nominated Woodrow Wilson had adjourned, a convention wholly dominated by reactionary bosses, it seemed as if progress and every fine thing for which the Progressives had worked had been put finally to sleep. Behind the selection of the Princetonian and his candidacy lay the Old Guard who thought the Professor could be used as a shield for their strategy. The Progressives, both Democratic and Republican, had witnessed the scenes enacted at the Democratic Convention at Trenton with breaking hearts. They were about to lose hope. They did not know that the candidate had at the outset served notice on the Old Guard that if he were nominated he must be a free man to do nobody's bidding, to serve no interests except those of the people of the state; but the Old Guard had not published this.
The Republican candidate, nominated at the time Woodrow Wilson was selected, was a most pleasant, kindly, genial man from Passaic, Mr. Vivian M. Lewis, who had just retired as banking commissioner for the state. By clever plays to the Progressives he had, at least temporarily, brought together the various progressive elements of the state. This movement apparently was aided by the Democratic candidate's reluctance in the early days of the campaign to speak out boldly against the domination of the Democratic party by the bosses or the Old Guard.
SOMETHING NEW IN POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
Woodrow Wilson opened his gubernatorial campaign with a speech in Jersey City, my home town. It was a distinct disappointment to those who attended the meeting. His speech in accepting the nomination had touched us deeply and had aroused in us great expectations, but after the Jersey City speech we were depressed in spirit, for it seemed to us that he was evading the real issues of the campaign. I was most anxious to meet the candidate and give him, if he invited it, my impressions of this speech. A dinner given to complete the ceremonies attendant upon the purchase of the Caldwell residence of Grover Cleveland gave me the first opportunity to meet the president of Princeton in an intimate way. Mr. Wilson's first wife, a most delightful woman, made the introduction possible. As I fondly look back upon this meeting, I vividly recall my impressions of the man who had just been nominated for the governorship of the state in a convention in which I had bitterly opposed him.
The democratic bearing of the man, his warmth of manner, charm, and kindly bearing were the first things that attracted me to him. There was no coldness or austerity about him, nor was he what the politicians would call "high-browish." He impressed me as a plain, unaffected, affable gentleman, who was most anxious to receive advice and suggestion from any quarter. He made us doubly welcome by saying that he had heard a great deal of favourable comment about the work of Judge Sullivan and myself in the Legislature. This made us feel perfectly at home, and this frank manner of dealing with us opened the way for the suggestions we desired to make to him as to the attitude we younger Democrats thought he should assume on what we believed were the vital, progressive issues of the campaign.
When he was informed that I was present at his first meeting a few nights before in Jersey City, he came over to me and in a most friendly way said: "What did you really think of my speech?" For a moment I was embarrassed, and yet the frankness of the man was compelling and so I said: "Doctor, do you really desire an honest opinion of that speech? I really want to serve you but I can do so only by speaking frankly." He replied: "That is what I most desire." "Well," I said, "your speech was most disappointing." I stopped suddenly, feeling that I had done enough damage to the Professor's feelings. But he urged: "Please tell me what your criticism is. What I most need is honesty and frankness. You cannot hurt my feelings by truthfully expressing your opinion. Don't forget that I am an amateur at this game and need advice and guidance." Encouraged by this suggestion, I proceeded to tell him what I considered the principal defects of his opening speech at Jersey City. I told him that there was a lack of definiteness in it which gave rise to the impression that he was trying to evade a discussion of the moral issues of the campaign, among them, of major importance, being the regulation of Public Utilities and the passage of an Employers' Liability Act. Briefly sketching for him our legislative situation, I gave him the facts with reference to those large measures of public interest; how, for many years, in face of constant agitation, the Old Guard had prevented the enactment of these measures into law, and how, therefore, his failure to discuss these matters in his first speech had caused a grave feeling of unrest in the progressive ranks of both parties in New Jersey.
The White House Washington
Cornish, N. H., July 3, 1915
My dear Tumulty:
I am heartily obliged to you for your telegrams. It is characteristic of you to keep my mind free by such messages. I am really having a most refreshing and rewarding time and am very thankful to get it. I hope that you are not having depressing weather in Washington and that you are finding it possible to make satisfactory arrangements for the family, so that we can have the pleasure of having you with us at the White House when I get back.
With warmest messages from us all, Affectionately yours,
(signed) Woodrow Wilson
Hon. Joseph P. Tumulty Washington, D.C.
This letter reveals the warm personal relations between the President and his secretary.]
He listened with keen attention and then modestly remarked: "I value very highly this tip and you may rest assured I shall cover these matters in my next speech. I meant that speech to be general."
In my ignorance of things past I did not know that the candidate had himself written the platform adopted by the Trenton Convention, and in my ignorance of the future I did not then know that one of the boldest and most remarkable political campaigns in America was to be conducted on that platform, and that after the election and inauguration of the nominee the chief business of the legislation was destined to be the enactment into law of each of the planks of the platform, a complete and itemized fulfilment of preelection promises, unusual in the history of American politics. At the time of my first conversation with the nominee I only knew that the Convention had been dominated by the reactionary elements in the party, that under this domination it had stolen the thunder of the progressive elements of the party and of the New Idea Republicans, and that the platform had been practically ignored by the candidate in his first campaign speech. In these circumstances, and smarting as I was under the recollection of recent defeat, it is not strange that I thought I detected the old political ruse of dressing the wolf in sheep's clothing, of using handsome pledges as a mask to deceive the gullible, and that I assumed that this scholarly amateur in politics was being used for their own purposes by masters and veterans in the old game of thimblerig.
The candidate soon struck his gait and astonished me and all New Jersey with the vigour, frankness, and lucidity of his speeches of exposition and appeal. No campaign in years in New Jersey had roused such universal interest. There was no mistaking the character and enthusiasm of the greeting the candidate received every place he spoke, nor the response his thrilling speeches evoked all over the state. Those who had gathered the idea that the head of the great university would appear pedantic and stand stiff-necked upon an academic pedestal from which he would talk over the heads of the common people were forced, by the fighting, aggressive attitude of the Doctor, to revise their old estimates. The campaign had only begun when the leading newspapers of the country, particularly the large dailies of New York, were taking an interest in the New Jersey fight.
Those of us who doubted Woodrow Wilson's sincerity and his sympathy for the great progressive measures for which we had been fighting in the New Jersey Legislature were soon put at ease by the developments of his campaign and his sympathetic attitude toward the things we had so much at heart.
No candidate for governor in New Jersey had ever made so striking and moving an appeal. Forgetting and ignoring the old slogans and shibboleths, he appealed to the hearts and consciences of the people of the state. His homely illustrations evoked expressions of delight, until it seemed as if this newcomer in the politics of our state had a better knowledge of the psychology of the ordinary crowd than the old stagers who had spent their lives in politics. His illustrations always went home.
For instance, speaking of progress, Doctor Wilson said that much depended upon the action of the one who is supposed to be progressive. "I can recall," he would say in trying to make his point, "the picture of a poor devil of a donkey on a treadmill. He keeps on tramping, tramping, tramping, but he never gets anywhere. But," he continued, "there is a certain elephant that's tramping, too, and how much progress is it making?" And then, again, he would grow solemn when he spoke of the average man. Turning aside from the humorous, he would strike a serious note like this one:
You know that communities are not distinguished by exceptional men. They are distinguished by the average of their citizenship. I often think of the poor man when he goes to vote: a moral unit in his lonely dignity.
The deepest conviction and passion of my heart is that the common people, by which I mean all of us, are to be absolutely trusted. The peculiarity of some representatives, particularly those of the Republican party, is that when they talk about the people, they obviously do not include themselves. Now if, when you think of the people, you are not thinking about yourself, then you do not belong in America.
When I look back at the processes of history, when I look back at the genesis of America, I see this written over every page, that the nations are renewed from the bottom, not from the top; that the genius which springs up from the ranks of unknown men is the genius which renews the youth and the energy of the people; and in every age of the world, where you stop the courses of the blood from the roots, you injure the great, useful structure to the extent that atrophy, death, and decay are sure to ensue. This is the reason that an hereditary monarchy does not work; that is the reason that an hereditary aristocracy does not work; that is the reason that everything of that sort is full of corruption and ready to decay.
So I say that our challenge of to-day is to include in the partnership all those great bodies of unnamed men who are going to produce our future leaders and renew the future energies of America. And as I confess that, as I confess my belief in the common man, I know what I am saying. The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it. The man who is in the melee knows what blows are being struck and what blood is being drawn. The man who is on the make is a judge of what is happening in America, not the man who has made; not the man who has emerged from the flood, not the man who is standing on the bank, looking on, but the man who is struggling for his life and for the lives of those who are dearer to him than himself. That is the man whose judgment will tell you what is going on in America, and that is the man by whose judgment I for one wish to be guided—so that as the tasks multiply and the days come when all will seem confusion and dismay, we may lift up our eyes to the hills out of these dark valleys where the crags of special privilege overshadow and darken our path, to where the sun gleams through the great passage in the broken cliffs, the sun of God, the sun meant to regenerate men, the sun meant to liberate them from their passion and despair and to lift us to those uplands which are the promised land of every man who desires liberty and achievement.
Speaking for the necessity of corporate reform in business, he said:
I am not objecting to the size of these corporations. Nothing is big enough to scare me. What I am objecting to is that the Government should give them exceptional advantages, which enables them to succeed and does not put them on the same footing as other people. I think those great touring cars, for example, which are labelled "Seeing New York," are too big for the streets. You have almost to walk around the block to get away from them, and size has a great deal to do with the trouble if you are trying to get out of the way. But I have no objection on that account to the ordinary automobile properly handled by a man of conscience who is also a gentleman. I have no objection to the size, power, and beauty of an automobile. I am interested, however, in the size and conscience of the men who handle them, and what I object to is that some corporation men are taking "joy-rides" in their corporations.
Time and time again men were reminded of the great speeches of Lincoln and thought they saw his fine spirit breathing through sentences like these:
Gentlemen, we are not working for to-day, we are not working for our own interest, we are all going to pass away. But think of what is involved. Here are the tradition, and the fame, and the prosperity, and the purity, and the peace of a great nation involved. For the time being we are that nation, but the generations that are behind us are pointing us forward to the path and saying:
"Remember the great traditions of the American people," and all those unborn children that will constitute the generations that are ahead will look back to us, either at those who serve them or at those who betray them. Will any man in such circumstances think it worthy to stand and not try to do what is possible in so great a cause, to save a country, to purify a polity, to set up vast reforms which will increase the happiness of mankind? God forbid that I should either be daunted or turned away from a great task like this.
Speaking of the candidate who opposed him:
I have been informed that he has the best of me in looks. Now, it is not always the useful horse that is most beautiful. If I had a big load to be drawn some distance I should select one of those big, shaggy kinds of horses, not much for beauty but strong of pull.
On one occasion, when he had been talking about his and Mr. Lewis's different conceptions of the "constitutional governor", and telling his audience how he, if elected, would interpret the election as a mandate from the people to assist in and direct legislation in the interests of the people of New Jersey at large, he paused an instant and then in those incisive tones and with that compression of the lips which marked his more bellicose words, he said curtly: "If you don't want that kind of a governor, don't elect me."
Excerpts from the speeches cannot do justice to this remarkable campaign, which Woodrow Wilson himself, after he had been twice elected President of the United States, considered the most satisfying of his political campaigns, because the most systematic and basic. As Presidential candidate he had to cover a wide territory and touch only the high spots in the national issues, but in his gubernatorial campaign he spoke in every county of the state and in some counties several times, and his speeches grew out of each other and were connected with each other in a way that made them a popular treatise on self-government. He used no technical jargon and none of the stereotyped bombast of the usual political campaign. He had a theme which he wanted to expound to the people of New Jersey, which theme was the nature and character of free government, how it had been lost in New Jersey through the complicated involvements of invisible government, manipulated from behind the scenes by adroit representatives of the corporate interest working in conjunction with the old political machines; how under this clever manipulation legislators had ceased to represent the electorate and were, as he called them, only "errand boys" to do the bidding of the real rulers of New Jersey, many of whom were not even residents of the state, and how free government could be restored to New Jersey through responsible leadership. He was making an application to practical politics of the fundamental principles of responsible government which he had analyzed in his earlier writings, including the book on "Congressional Government." Beneath the concrete campaign issues in New Jersey he saw the fundamental principles of Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. His trained habit of thinking through concrete facts to basic principles was serving him well in this campaign; his trained habit of clear exposition in the Princeton lecture hall was serving him well. People heard from him political speaking of a new kind; full of weighty instruction and yet so simply phrased and so aptly illustrated that the simplest minded could follow the train of reasoning; profound in political philosophy and yet at every step humanized by one who believed government the most human of things because concerned with the happiness and welfare of individuals; sometimes he spoke in parables, homely anecdotes so applied that all could understand; sometimes he was caustic when he commented on the excessive zeal of corporations for strict constitutionalism, meaning thereby only such legislation and judicial interpretations as would defend their property rights—how they had secured those rights being a question not discussed by these gentlemen; sometimes, though not frequently, there would be purple patches of eloquence, particularly when descanting on the long struggle of the inarticulate masses for political representation.
One of the surprises of the campaign to those who had known him as an orator of classic eloquence was the comparative infrequency of rhetorical periods. It was as if he were now too deeply engaged with actualities to chisel and polish his sentences. Of the many anecdotes which he told during the campaign one of his favourites was of the Irishman digging a cellar, who when asked what he was doing said: "I'm letting the darkness out." Woodrow Wilson told the people of New Jersey that he was "letting the darkness out" of the New Jersey political situation. "Pitiless publicity" was one of his many phrases coined in the campaign which quickly found currency, not only in New Jersey but throughout the country, for presently the United States at large began to realize that what was going on in New Jersey was symbolical of the situation throughout the country, a tremendous struggle to restore popular government to the people. Since the founders of the Republic expounded free institutions to the first electorates of this country there had probably been no political campaign which went so directly to the roots of free representative government and how to get it as that campaign which Woodrow Wilson conducted in New Jersey in the autumn of 1910.
THE CRISIS OF THE CAMPAIGN
The crisis of the campaign came when George L. Record, Progressive leader in the ranks of the Republican party in Hudson County, uttered a ringing challenge to the Democratic candidate to debate the issues of the campaign with him. The challenge contained an alternative proposition that the Democratic candidate either meet Mr. Record in joint debate in various parts of the state or that he answer certain questions with reference to the control of the Democratic party by what Mr. Record called the "Old Guard." Mr. Record's letter and challenge created a profound sensation throughout the state and brought hope and comfort to the ranks of the Republican party.
Record emphasized the Old Guard's control of the convention at which Wilson was nominated, basing most of his questions upon this character of political control, and openly challenging Wilson, the Democratic candidate, to say whether the elements that were dominant at Trenton in the Convention would be permitted by him, in case of his election, to influence his action as governor.
For several days after the letter containing the challenge reached the Democratic candidate, there was a great deal of apprehension in the ranks of the Democratic party lest the candidate should decide to ignore the Record challenge, thus giving aid and comfort to the enemies of progressivism in the state, or, on the other hand, that he would accept it and thus give Mr. Record, who was a most resourceful public speaker and a leading exponent of liberalism in the state, a chance to outwit him in public debate. The latter practically demanded of the Democratic candidate that he repudiate not only the Old Guard but the active management of his campaign which had been taken over by James R. Nugent, one of the leaders of Essex County, who daily accompanied the Democratic candidate on his tour of the state. For a time it looked as if Doctor Wilson would ignore entirely the Record challenge. It was plainly evident from all sides that what appeared to be his reluctance to take a stand in the matter had turned support away at a time when the sentiment of the state was rapidly flowing his way.
I accompanied the candidate on an automobile tour of the state and in our little talks I sought to find out, in a diplomatic way, just how his mind was running on the Record challenge and how he intended to meet it. In the automobile with us on this tour was James R. Nugent, then the state chairman of the Democratic Committee. I ascertained that even he knew nothing about the Princetonian's attitude toward the Record challenge. A significant remark which the candidate dropped "between meetings" gave me the first intimation that the Democratic candidate was, to use a baseball expression, "on to the Record curve" and that he would answer him in so emphatic and overwhelming a fashion that the Republican campaign would never entirely recover from the blow.
One day while we were seated in the tonneau of the automobile discussing the Record challenge, Mr. Wilson pointed his finger at Jim Nugent and said, very significantly: "I intend to reply to Mr. Record, but I am sure that it will hurt the feelings of this fine fellow."
A few days later, without consulting any one, Mr. Wilson replied to Record's challenge. It was a definite, clean-cut, unequivocal repudiation of the Old Guard's control of the Democratic party, and a convincing answer to every question that had been put to him. It rang true. Old-line Republicans, after reading this conclusive reply, shook their heads and said, regretfully, "Damn Record; the campaign's over."
It was plainly evident that the crisis of the campaign had been safely passed and that Mr. Wilson was on his way to the governorship.
In his challenge Mr. Record had addressed to Doctor Wilson nineteen questions. Mr. Wilson's reply was in part as follows:
You wish to know what my relations would be with the Democrats whose power and influence you fear should I be elected governor, particularly in such important matters as appointments and the signing of bills, and I am very glad to tell you. If elected I shall not either in the matter of appointments to office, or assent to legislation, or in shaping any part of the policy of my administration, submit to the dictation of any person, or persons, "special interests," or organizations. I will always welcome advice and suggestions from any citizens, whether boss, leader, organization man, or plain citizen, and I shall confidently seek the advice of influential and disinterested men representative of the communities and disconnected from political organizations entirely; but all suggestions and all advice will be considered on its merits and no additional weight will be given to any man's advice because of his exercising, or supposing that he exercises, some sort of political influence or control. I should deem myself for ever disgraced should I, in even the slightest degree, cooeperate in any such system. I regard myself as pledged to the regeneration of the Democratic party.
Mr. Record also inquired: "Do you admit that the boss system exists as I have described it?" "If so, how do you propose to abolish it?"
Mr. Wilson said:
Of course I admit it. Its existence is notorious. I have made it my business for many years to observe and understand that system, and I hate it as thoroughly as I understand it. You are quite right in saying that the system is bipartisan; that it constitutes "the most dangerous condition in the public life of our state and nation to- day"; and that it has virtually, for the time being, "destroyed representative government and in its place set up a government of privilege." I would propose to abolish it by the reforms suggested in the Democratic platform, by the election to office of men who will refuse to submit to it, and who will lend all their energies to break it up, and by pitiless publicity.
Still hoping to corner the Governor, Mr. Record named the bosses:
In referring to the Board of Guardians, do you mean such Republican leaders as Baird, Murphy, Kean, and Stokes? Wherein do the relations to the special interests of such leaders differ from the relation to the same interests of such Democratic leaders as Smith, Nugent, and Davis?
Mr. Wilson, answering this, said:
I refer to the men you name. They [meaning Baird, Murphy, Kean, Stokes] differ from the others in this, that they are in control of the government of the state while the others are not, and cannot be if the present Democratic ticket is elected.
In reply to Mr. Record's question: "Will you join me in denouncing the Democratic 'overlords' as parties to a political boss system?" Doctor Wilson replied: "Certainly I will join you in denouncing them—or any one of either party who attempts any outrages against the Government and public morality."
At this time I was in close touch with the managers of the Wilson campaign, including Smith, Nugent, and Davis. While they admired the fine strategy that lay back of the Democratic candidate's reply to Mr. Record, they looked upon it as a mere gesture upon the part of Mr. Wilson and scorned to believe that his reply to Mr. Record constituted a challenge to their leadership. They did not show any evidences of dismay or chagrin at the courageous attitude taken by Doctor Wilson. They simply smiled and shrugged their shoulders and said: "This is a great campaign play."
THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN
The final meeting of the gubernatorial campaign was held in a large auditorium in Newark, New Jersey, where the last appeal was made by the Democratic candidate. It was a meeting filled with emotionalism such as I had never seen in a campaign before. The Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, had covered every section of the state and it was easy for even the casual observer to note the rising tide in his favour. The campaign had, indeed, become a crusade; his eloquence and sledge-hammer blows at the opposition having cut our party lines asunder. I was present at the final meeting and took my place in the wings of the theatre or auditorium, alongside of Senator Smith, the Democratic chieftain who a few weeks before had, in a masterful fashion, manipulated the workings of the Convention at Trenton in such a way as to make the Doctor's nomination possible. Mr. Wilson's speech on this occasion was a profession of faith in the people, in the plain people, those "whose names never emerged into the headlines of newspapers." When he said in a delightful sort of banter to his audience, "I want you to take a sportsman's chance on me," there went up a shout of approval which could be heard as far as the hills of old Bergen.
The peroration of his final speech, spoken in a tone of voice that seemed not only to reach every ear but, in fact, to touch every heart, was as follows:
We have begun a fight that, it may be, will take many a generation to complete, the fight against privilege; but you know that men are not put into this world to go the path of ease. They are put into this world to go the path of pain and struggle. No man would wish to sit idly by and lose the opportunity to take part in such a struggle. All through the centuries there has been this slow, painful struggle forward, forward, up, up, a little at a time, along the entire incline, the interminable way which leads to the perfection of force, to the real seat of justice and honour.
There are men who have fallen by the way; blood without stint has been shed; men have sacrificed everything in this sometimes blind, but always instinctive and constant struggle, and America has undertaken to lead the way; America has undertaken to be the haven of hope, the opportunity for all men.
Don't look forward too much. Don't look at the road ahead of you in dismay. Look at the road behind you. Don't you see how far up the hill we have come? Don't you see what those low and damp miasmatic levels were from which we have slowly led the way? Don't you see the rows of men come, not upon the lower level, but upon the upper, like the rays of the rising sun? Don't you see the light starting and don't you see the light illuminating all nations?
Don't you know that you are coming more and more into the beauty of its radiance? Don't you know that the past is for ever behind us, that we have passed many kinds of evils no longer possible, that we have achieved great ends and have almost seen their fruition in free America? Don't forget the road that you have trod, but, remembering it and looking back for reassurance, look forward with confidence and charity to your fellow men one at a time as you pass them along the road, and see those who are willing to lead you, and say, "We do not believe you know the whole road. We know that you are no prophet, we know that you are no seer, but we believe that you know the direction and are leading us in that direction, though it costs you your life, provided it does not cost you your honour."
And then trust your guides, imperfect as they are, and some day, when we all are dead, men will come and point at the distant upland with a great shout of joy and triumph and thank God that there were men who undertook to lead in the struggle. What difference does it make if we ourselves do not reach the uplands? We have given our lives to the enterprise. The world is made happier and humankind better because we have lived.
At the end of this memorable and touching speech old Senator James Smith, seated alongside of me, pulled me by the coat and, in a voice just above a whisper and with tears in his eyes, said: "That is a great man, Mr. Tumulty. He is destined for great things."
It did not seem possible on this memorable night that within a few days these two Democratic chieftains would be challenging each other and engaging in a desperate struggle to decide the question of Democratic leadership in the state.
A PARTY SPLIT
All the prophecies and predictions of the political seers and philosophers of New Jersey, many of them of course feeling their own partisan pulse, were annihilated and set adrift by the happenings in New Jersey on the first Tuesday in November, 1910. Woodrow Wilson, college professor, man of mystery, political recluse, the nominee of the most standpat Democratic convention of many years, had been chosen the leader of the people of the state by the unprecedented majority of 39,000, and was wearing the laurels of victory. The old bosses and leaders chuckled and smiled; they were soon to have a Roman holiday under the aegis of the Wilson Administration.
There were many surprises in the Wilson victory. The Democrats awoke on the day after the election to find that they had not only won the governorship of the state, but their joy was unbounded to find that they had captured the Lower House of the Legislature that would have the election, under the preferential primary system just adopted, of a United States senator. Therein lay the fly in the ointment. Never in their wildest dreams or vain imaginings did the leaders of the Democratic party believe that there was the slightest chance even under the most favourable circumstances of carrying a majority of the vote of the state for the Democratic choice, James E. Martine, of Plainfield.
The suggestion that it was possible to elect a Democrat to the United States Senate was considered a form of political heresy. The nomination for the Senate had been thrown about the state until torn and tattered almost beyond repair; it was finally taken up and salvaged by that sturdy old Democrat of Union County, Jim Martine. Even I had received the offer of the senatorial toga, but the one who brought the nomination to me was rudely cast out of my office. The question was: What would be the attitude of the new Democratic leader, Woodrow Wilson, toward the preferential choice, Martine? Would the vote at the election be considered as having the full virtue and vigour of a solemn referendum or was it to be considered as Senator Smith would have it, a sort of practical joke perpetrated upon the electors? Soon the opinion of the people of the state began to express itself in no uncertain way, demanding the carrying out of the "solemn covenant" of the election, only to be answered by the challenge of Senator Smith and his friends to enter the field against Martine, the choice at the election.
This business pitchforked the Governor-elect prematurely into the rough- and-tumble of "politics as she is," not always a dainty game. As I review in retrospect this famous chapter of state history, which, because of the subsequent supreme distinction of one of the parties to the contest, became a chapter in national history, I realize the almost pathetic situation of Mr. Wilson. He had called himself an amateur in politics, and such he was in the practical details and involutions of the great American game, though in his campaign he had shown himself a master of political debate. In the ordinary course of events he would have been allowed two months between his election and inauguration to begin an orderly adjustment to the new life, to make a gradual transition from the comely proprieties of an academic chair to the catch-as-catch-can methods of the political wrestling mat, to get acquainted with the men and problems of the new career. But the Smith-Martine affair gave birth prematurely to an immediate occasion for a fight.
As president of Princeton, Doctor Wilson had proved that he was not averse to a fight when a fight was necessary and when it was distinctly his affair, but he may well have paused to consider whether the Smith-Martine business was his affair. One of his favourite stories in later years was of the Irishman who entered a saloon and seeing two men in a tangle of fists and writhing legs and bloody heads on the floor at the rear of the saloon, turned to the barkeeper and asked: "Is this a private fight, or can anybody git into it?" A more politic man than Woodrow Wilson and one less sensitive to moral duty, might well have argued that this contest was the business of the Legislature, not of the Governor. Many a governor- elect would have avoided the issue on this unquestionably sound legal principle, and friends in Princeton were in fact advising Mr. Wilson to precisely this course, the course of neutrality. It would not be strange if neutrality, aloofness, had presented a rather attractive picture at times to Mr. Wilson's mind. Why should he gratuitously take a partisan position between the factions which would inevitably win for him the enmity of a strong element within the party? Which would also win for him the unpleasant reputation of ingratitude? For though he had at the first overtures from Senator Smith and his friends made it as clear as language can make anything that he could accept the nomination only with the explicit understanding that acceptance should establish no obligations of political favours to anybody, it would be impossible to make it appear that opposition to Smith's darling desire to become senator was not an ungracious return to the man who had led the forces which had nominated Wilson at Trenton.
On the other hand, there was his distinct pledge to the people during his campaign, that if they elected him governor he would make himself the leader of the party, would broadly and not with pettifogging legalism interpret his constitutional relationship to the Legislature, would undertake to assist in legislative action, and not wait supinely for the Legislature to do something, and then sign or veto the thing done. Moreover, he had insisted on the principle of the preferential primary as one means by which the people should participate in their own government and convey an expression of their will and purpose to the law-making body. The people had voted for Martine. The fact that Senator Smith had scorned to have his name placed on the ballot, the fact that human imagination could picture a stronger senator from New Jersey than genial "Jim" Martine did not affect the argument. A great majority had voted for Martine and for nobody else. Was the use of the preferential primary for the first time in the selection of a United States senator to be ignored, and all the arguments that Candidate Wilson and others had made in behalf of the system to be taken "in a Pickwickian sense," as not meaning anything?
There was a real dilemma doubtless much more acutely realized by the Governor-elect than by the hot-heads, including myself, who were clamorous for an immediate proclamation of support of Martine, on progressive principles, and for an ultimatum of war-to-the-knife against Smith and the old crowd.