WOODROW WILSON'S ADMINISTRATION AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Patriotism consists in some very practical things—practical in that they belong to the life of every day, that they wear no extraordinary distinction about them, that they are connected with commonplace duty. The way to be patriotic in America is not only to love America, but to love the duty that lies nearest to our hand and know that in performing it we are serving our country.—From President Wilson's Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 14, 1914.
WOODROW WILSON'S ADMINISTRATION AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Being a Compilation from the Newspaper Press of Eight Years of the World's Greatest History, particularly as Concerns America, Its People and their Affairs
FRANK B. LORD and JAMES WILLIAM BRYAN
James William Bryan Press Washington, D.C.
Copyright, 1921 by Frank B. Lord and James William Bryan
All Rights Reserved
AMERICANISM—From President Wilson's Independence Hall Address, Philadelphia, July, 1914 2
HISTORY'S PROVING GROUND 7-8
PORTRAIT in typophotogravure of President Wilson at America's Entry in the War—Charcoal Sketch by Hattie E. Burdette 10
WOODROW WILSON'S ADMINISTRATION—Eight Years of the World's Greatest History—Courtesy of the New York Times 11-69
EARLY ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF ADMINISTRATION 15
FOREIGN POLICIES, 1913-1914 22
LANDMARKS IN MEXICAN POLICY 23
APPEALS FOR MEDIATION 30
THE EUROPEAN WAR, 1914-1916 30
FEDERAL RESERVE—From President Wilson's Address to Congress, April, 1913 31
TYPOPHOTOGRAVURE of Governor Woodrow Wilson and Joseph P. Tumulty with Newspaper Men, 1912 32
SENATOR GLASS ON WOODROW WILSON, 1921—Courtesy of the New York Times 36
PERSONAL MESSAGES TO CONGRESS from President Wilson's First Address to Congress, April 8, 1913 39
TYPOPHOTOGRAVURE of President Wilson Reading First Message to Congress, April 8, 1913 40
MEDIATION EFFORTS, 1916-1917 43
HAMILTON HOLT'S TRIBUTE 44
UNITED STATES IN THE WAR 46
RURAL CREDITS from President Wilson's Remarks on Signing Bill, July, 1916 48
TYPOPHOTOGRAVURE of the President in 1918 50
THE FOURTEEN POINTS 58-59
PEACE CONFERENCE AND TREATY, 1919 61
THE CLOSING YEAR, 1920-1921 66
CARTOON—The Founders of the League of Nations, by Baldbridge in the Stars and Stripes 70
VERSE—Beware of Visions, by Alfred Noyes 70
POEM—In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea 71
POEM—America's Answer, by R. W. Lillard.—Courtesy of New York Evening Post 71
SONNETS—Recessional by Richard Linthicum—Courtesy of the New York World 72
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION—From President Wilson's Speech of Acceptance, 1916 73
TYPOPHOTOGRAVURE of Portrait of President Wilson at Peace Conference, by George W. Harris 74
WOODROW WILSON'S PLACE IN HISTORY—An Appreciation by General The Right Honorable Jan Christian Smuts, 1921 75-79
CARTOON—Without the Advice or Consent of the Senate, by Kirby in the New York World 80
WE DIE WITHOUT DISTINCTION—From the President's Address at Swarthmore College, 1913 80
WOODROW WILSON—An Interpretation—Courtesy of the New York World 81-93
TYPOPHOTOGRAVURE of the President on Board Ship Returning from Peace Conference 87
THE PRESIDENT AND THE PEACE TREATY 87
TYPOPHOTOGRAVURE of the President at the Last Meeting with his Cabinet, 1921 88
TWO PICTURES—From Address by Joseph P. Tumulty 88
THE COVENANT OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS 93-100
HISTORY'S PROVING GROUND
The modern newspaper through its intensive, minute and zealous activities in searching out, presenting and interpreting each day the news of the entire world, is tracing with unerring accuracy the true and permanent picture of the present. This picture will endure as undisputed history for all time.
Let us concede that the newspaper writer sometimes, in the passion of the hour, goes far afield. It is equally true that no statement of importance can thus be made that is not immediately challenged, answered and reanswered until, through the fierce fires of controversy the dross is burned away and the gold of established fact remains. Not alone the fact stands out, but also the world's immediate reaction to that fact, the psychology of the event and the man dominating the cause and the effect.
The modern newspaper is the proving ground of history. To illustrate let us suppose that our newspaper press, as we know it today, had existed in Shakespeare's time. Would there now be any controversy over the authorship of the world's greatest dramas?
Could the staff photographer of a Sunday supplement as efficient as one of our present day corps have snapped Mohammed in his tent and a keen reporter of today's type questioned him as to his facts and data, would not all of us now be Mohammedans or Mohammed be forgot? Had such newspapers as ours followed Washington to Valley Forge and gone with him to meet Cornwallis, would the father of his country be most intimately remembered through the cherry tree episode? Consider the enlightenment which would have been thrown upon the pages of history had a corps of modern newspaper correspondents reported the meeting of John and the Barons at Runnymede or accompanied Columbus on his voyages of discovery.
Would not even Lincoln be more vivid in our minds and what we really know of him not so shrouded in anecdote and story?
In Washington's time America became a Nation. In Lincoln's time our country was united and made one. In Wilson's time our Nation received recognition as the greatest of the world powers. It remained, however, for Wilson alone to reach the highest pinnacle of international prominence in the face of the pitiless cross fires of today's newspaper press. Yet this inquisition, often more than cruel, was not without its constructive value, for it has searched out every fact and established every truth beyond the successful attack of any future denial.
This little volume—the first perhaps of its kind concerning any man or event—presents with no further word of its compilers a summary of Woodrow Wilson's Administration and Achievements—eight years of the world's greatest history—taken entirely from the newspaper press.
It contains not one statement that has not been accurately weighed in the critical scales of controversy. Its object is simply to present the truth and have this truth early in the field so that the political canard which was so shamelessly indulged in during the close of the Wilson Administration may not be crystalized in the public mind and cloud for a time the glorious luster of his name.
It shall be as Maximilian Harden, the keenest thinker of the defeated Germans said: "Only one conqueror's work will endure—Wilson's thought."
FRANK B. LORD and OPEN COVENANTS
Woodrow Wilson's Administration
Eight Years of the World's Greatest History
Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office as President on March 4, 1913, after one of the most sweeping triumphs ever known in Presidential elections. Factional war in the Republican Party had given him 435 electoral votes in the preceding November, to Roosevelt's 88 and Taft's 8; and though he was a "minority President," he had had a popular plurality of more than 2,000,000 over Roosevelt and nearly 3,000,000 over Taft.
Moreover, the party which was coming back into control of the Government after sixteen years of wandering in the wilderness had a majority of five in the Senate and held more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower house. With the opposition divided into two wings, which hated each other at the moment more than they hated the Democrats, the party seemed to have a fairly clear field for the enactment of those sweeping reforms which large elements of the public had been demanding for more than a decade.
With this liberalism, which was not disturbed at being called radicalism, Mr. Wilson in his public career had been consistently identified. During his long service as a university professor and President he had been brought to the attention of a steadily growing public by his books and speeches on American political problems, in which he had spoken the thoughts which in those years were in the minds of millions of Americans on the need for reforms to lessen those contacts between great business interests and the Government which had existed, now weaker and now stronger, ever since the days of Mark Hanna.
The ideas of Mr. Wilson as to governmental reform, to be sure, went further than those of many of his followers, and took a different direction from the equally radical notions of others. An avowed admirer of the system of government which gives to the Cabinet the direction of legislation and makes it responsible to the Legislature and the people for its policies, he had been writing for years on the desirability of introducing some of the elements of that system into the somewhat rigid framework of the American Government, and in his brief experience in politics had put into practice his theory that the Executive, even under American constitutional forms, not only could but should be the active director of the policy of the dominant party in legislation as well. But a public addicted to hero worship, little concerned with questions of governmental machinery, and inclined to believe that certain parts of the work of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had been accomplished under divine inspiration, had comparatively little interest in the Wilson concepts of reform in political methods. They regarded him, in the language of those days, as a champion of the "plain people" against "the interests." They had seen in his long struggle with antagonistic influences in Princeton University—a struggle from which he retired defeated, but made famous and prepared for wider fields by the publicity which he had won by the conflict—a sort of miniature representation of this antithesis between the people and big business and they had learned to regard Mr. Wilson as a fighter for democratic principles against aristocratic tendencies and the money power.
This reputation he had vastly expanded during his two years as Governor of New Jersey. His term had been distinguished not only by the passage of a number of reform measures consonant with the liberal ideas of the period, but by a spectacular struggle between the Governor and an old-time machine of his own party—the very machine which had nominated him. In this fight, as in his conflict at Princeton, he had been for a time defeated, but here again the fight itself had made him famous and won him a hundred supporters outside of his own State for every one he lost at home.
At the very outset of his term, he had entered, against all precedent, into the fight in the Legislature over a Senatorial election. Demanding that the Legislature keep faith with the people, who in a preferential primary had designated a candidate for United States Senator who did not command the support of the organization, he had won his fight on this particular issue and set himself before the public as a sort of tribune of the people who conceived it his duty to interpose his influence wherever other officials showed a tendency to disregard the popular will.
In the legislative fight for the enactment of reform legislation, too, the Governor had continually intervened in the character of "lobbyist for the people," and while the opposition of the old political organization, which he had aroused in the fight for the Senatorship, had partially halted the progress of this program, the great triumph in November, 1912, had returned a Legislature so strong in support of the Governor that before he left Trenton for Washington practically all of the measures included in his scheme had become laws. Mr. Wilson, then, was known to the country not only as a reformer but as a successful reformer; and his victories over the professional politicians of the old school had removed most of the latent fear of the ineffectuality of a scholar in politics. In point of fact, the chief interest of this particular scholar had always lain in politics, and it was partly chance and partly economic determinism that had diverted him in early life from the practice of politics to the teaching of its principles and history.
Abroad, where his election was received with general satisfaction, he was still regarded as the scholar in politics, for a Europe always inclined to exaggerate the turpitude of professional politicians in America liked to see in him the first fruits of them that slept, the pioneer of the better classes of American society coming at last into politics to clean up the wreckage made by ward bosses and financial interests. Scarcely any American President ever took office amid so much approbation from the leading organs of European opinion.
His radicalism caused no great concern abroad and was regarded with apprehension only in limited circles at home—and even here the apprehension was more over the return to power of the Democratic Party than on account of specific fears based on the character of the President-elect. The business depression of 1913 and 1914 would probably have been inevitable upon the inauguration of any Democratic President, particularly one pledged to the carrying out of extensive alterations in the commercial system of the country. For in 1912 Wilson had been in effect the middle-of-the-road candidate, the conservative liberal. Most of the wild men had followed Roosevelt, and the most conservative business circles felt at least some relief that there had been no re-entry into the White House of the Rough Rider, with a gift for stinging phrases and a cohort of followers in which the lunatic fringe was disproportionately large and unusually ragged.
So Woodrow Wilson entered the Presidential office under conditions which in some respects were exceptionally favorable. His situation was in reality, however, considerably less satisfactory than it seemed. To begin with, he was, in spite of everything, a minority President and the representative of a minority party. He had even, during a good part of the Baltimore Convention, been a minority candidate for the nomination. If the two wings of the Republicans should during the ensuing Administration succeed in burying their differences and coming together once more, the odds were in favor of their success in 1916. Moreover, the Democrats were definitely expected to do something. Dissatisfaction with the general influence of financial interests in public life, a dissatisfaction which had gradually concentrated on the protective tariff as the chief weapon of those interests, had been growing for years past. In 1908 a public aroused by Roosevelt but afraid of Bryan had decided to trust the Republican Party to undo its own work, and the answer of the party had been the Payne-Aldrich tariff. That tariff broke the Republican Party in two and paved the way for the return of Roosevelt; it had also, in 1910, given the Democrats the control of the House of Representatives.
Now, at last the Democrats had full control of both Legislature and Executive, and the country expected them to do something: unreasonably, it was at the same time rather afraid that they would do something. To do something but not too much, to meet the popular demands without destroying the economic well-being which the Republican ascendency had undoubtedly promoted, to insure a better distribution of wealth without crippling the production of wealth—this was the problem of a President who had had only two years in public life, and most of whose assistants would have to be chosen from men almost without executive experience.
The chief peculiarity of President Wilson's political position lay in a theory of American Government which had first come to him in his undergraduate days at Princeton and which had been steadily developing ever since. That theory, briefly, was that the American Constitution permitted, and the practical development of American politics should have compelled, the President to act not only as Chief of State but as Premier—as the active head of the majority party, personally responsible to the people for the execution of the program of legislation laid down in that party's platform. Fanciful as it had seemed when first put forward by him many years before, that concept of the Presidency was now, perhaps for the first time, within the reach of practical realization.
Dissatisfaction with the general secrecy and irresponsibility of Congressional committees which had charge of the direction of legislation, in so far as there was any direction, had been growing for years; and an incident of the revolt against the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the break in the Republican Party had been the internal revolution in the House of Representatives, taking away from the Speaker the power of controlling legislation which he had for some time enjoyed, and which would have been a serious obstacle to Presidential leadership such as Wilson had in mind. Moreover, the activity of Cleveland and Roosevelt had shown the public that even in time of peace an energetic President had a much wider field of action than most Presidents had attempted to cover, and the more recent example of Taft had increased the demand for a President who would act, would not leave action to those men around him who "knew exactly what they wanted."
Early Accomplishments of Administration
Underwood-Simmons tariff, establishing the lowest average of duties in seventy-five years, enacted October 3, 1913.
Federal Reserve act, organizing the banking system and stabilizing the currency, December 23, 1913.
Clayton Anti-Trust law.
Creation of Federal Trade Commission.
Repeal of Panama Canal tolls exemption.
End of dollar diplomacy.
Negotiation of a treaty (never ratified) with Colombia to satisfy the Colombian claim in Panama.
There were, however, two great obstacles to the operation of Mr. Wilson's theory. The first was constitutional. In Europe the Premier who directs the legislative policy of the Government is answerable not only in Parliament but to the people whenever his policy has ceased, or seems to have ceased, to command public confidence. The President of the United States finishes out his term, no matter how bad his relations with Congress or how general his unpopularity among the people. The check upon his leadership, as Mr. Wilson presently realized, could come only at the end of his term, when the President as a candidate for re-election came before the public for approval or rejection. So, even before his first inauguration, Mr. Wilson had written to A. Mitchell Palmer, then a Congressman, expressing disapproval, quite aside from any personal connection with the issue, of the proposal to restrict the President to a single term. That had been a plank in the Democratic platform of the year before; already it was apparent that this phase of the party's program would have to be sacrificed in order to make the party leader responsible in the true sense for the program as a whole. But that plank had not been seriously intended, and by 1916 the march of events had made it a dead letter.
A more serious difficulty, in March, 1913, lay in the fact that the President was not the party leader. There was an enormous amount of Wilson sentiment over the country, and there were many enthusiastic Wilson men; but a good many of these were of the old mugwump type, or men who had hitherto held aloof from politics. In 1912, as later in 1917 and 1918, there was seen the anomaly of a leader who was himself an orthodox and often narrow partisan, yet drew most of his support from independent elements or even from the less firmly organized portions of the opposition. And not only were most of the Wilson men independents or political amateurs; a still greater stumbling block lay in the fact that very few of them had been elected to office. In the great Democratic landslide of 1912 the Democrats who had got on the payroll were mostly the old party wheel-horses who had been lingering in the outer darkness of opposition for sixteen years past, or more or less permanent representatives of the Solid South.
In so far as the party had a leader at that time, it was Bryan. Bryan had played the leading part in the Baltimore Convention. If he had not exactly nominated Wilson, he had at least done more than anybody else to destroy Wilson's chief competitors. There were not enough Bryan men in the country to elect Bryan, not even enough Bryan men in the party to nominate Bryan a fourth time; but there were enough Bryan Democrats to ruin the policy of the incoming President if he did not conciliate Bryan with extreme care.
So the first efforts of the new Administration had to be a compromise between what Wilson wanted and what Bryan would permit. This was seen first of all in the composition of the Cabinet, which Bryan himself headed as Secretary of State. Josephus Daniels, who as Secretary of the Navy was to be one of the principal targets of criticism for the next eight years, was also a Bryan man. Of the "Wilson men" of the campaign, William G. McAdoo was chosen as Secretary of the Treasury, not without some grave misgivings as to his ability, which were not subsequently justified by his conduct of the office. The rest of the Cabinet was notable chiefly for the presence of three men from Texas, a State whose prominence reflected not only its growing importance and its fidelity to the party but also the influence of Colonel Edward Mandell House, a private citizen who had risen from making Governors at Austin to take a prominent part in the making of a President in 1912. At the beginning of the Administration and throughout almost all of President Wilson's tenure of office he was the President's most influential adviser, a sort of super-Minister and Ambassador in general; and his position from the first caused a certain amount of heartburning among the politicians who resented this prominence of an outsider who had never held office.
Perhaps because many of his official aids and assistants were more or less imposed upon him, the President showed from the first a tendency to rely on personal agents and unofficial advisers. And this was to become more prominent as the years passed, as new issues arose of which no one would have dreamed in the Spring of 1913, issues for which the ordinary machinery and practice of American Government were but little prepared.
For the eight years which began on March 4, 1913, were to be wholly unlike any previous period in American history. An Administration chosen wholly in view of domestic problems was to find itself chiefly engaged with foreign relations of unexampled complexity and importance. The passionate issues of 1912 were soon to be forgotten. Generally speaking, the dominant questions before the American people in 1912 and 1913 were about the same as in 1908, or 1904, or even earlier. But from 1914 on every year brought a changed situation in which the issues of the previous year had already been crowded out of attention by new and more pressing problems.
No American President except Lincoln had ever been concerned with matters of such vital importance to the nation; and not even Lincoln had had to deal with a world so complex and so closely interrelated with the United States. Washington, Jefferson and Madison had to guide the country through the complications caused by a great world war; but the nation which they led was small and obscure, concerned only in keeping out of trouble as long as it could. The nation which Wilson ruled was a powerful State whose attitude from the very first was of supreme importance to both sides. And the issues raised by the war pushed into the background questions which had seemed important in 1913—and which, when the war was over, became important once more.
None of this, of course, could have been predicted on March 4, 1913. A new man with a new method had been elected President and intrusted with the meeting of certain pressing domestic problems. At the moment the public was more interested in the man than in his method; and not till the crisis had been successfully passed did popular attention concentrate on the manner of accomplishment rather than on the things accomplished.
Problems at Home, 1913-1914
One of the passages of President Wilson's inaugural address contained a list of "the things that ought to be altered," which included:
A tariff which cuts us off from our proper part in the commerce of the world, violates the just principles of taxation, and makes the Government a facile instrument in the hands of private interests; a banking and currency system based upon the necessity of the Government to sell its bonds fifty years ago and perfectly adapted to concentrating cash and restricting credits; an industrial system which, take it on all sides, financial as well as administrative, holds capital in leading strings, restricts the liberties and limits the opportunities of labor, and exploits without renewing or conserving the natural resources of the country; a body of agricultural activities never yet given the efficiency of great business undertakings or served as it should be through the instrumentality of science taken directly to the farm, or afforded the facilities of credit best suited to its practical needs.
The items had been set down in the order of their immediate importance. First came the tariff, for the tariff had come to be in the minds of many Americans a symbol of the struggle between the "plain people" and "the interests." The Payne-Aldrich tariff, enacted by a party pledged to tariff revision, had been not only an injury but an insult, and if any American Presidential election could ever be interpreted as a popular referendum on any specific policy the election of 1912 meant that the Payne-Aldrich tariff must be revised. At the time of the enactment of that bill Mr. Wilson had written a critical article in The North American Review which expressed a widespread popular sentiment in its criticism of "the policy of silence and secrecy" prevalent in the committee rooms when this and other tariffs had been drawn up and a demand for procedure in the open where the public could find out exactly who wanted what and why. Joined with this objection to the methods of tariff making were some observations by Mr. Wilson on the principles of tariff revision. He saw and said that a complete return to a purely revenue tariff was not then possible even if desirable, and that the immediate objective of tariff reform should be the adjustment of rates so as to permit competition and thereby necessitate efficiency of operation.
The ideas which in March, 1909, were merely the criticism of a college professor had become in March, 1913, the program of the President of the United States, the leader of the majority party, determined to get his program enacted into law. Congress was convened in special session on April 7, and the President delivered a message on the one topic of the tariff. Going back to the precedent of Washington and Adams, broken by Jefferson and never resumed again, he read his message in person to the Congress as if to emphasize the intimate connection between the Executive and legislation which was to be a feature of the new Administration. The principle of tariff reform laid down in that bill was a practical and not a theoretical consideration, the need of ending an industrial situation fostered by high tariffs wherein "nothing is obliged to stand the tests of efficiency and economy in our world of big business, but everything thrives by concerted agreement.... The object of the tariff duties henceforth laid must be effective competition, the whetting of American wits by contest with the wits of the world."
The measure which Democratic leaders had already prepared for that purpose and which eventually became known as the Underwood-Simmons Act was intended to accomplish its end only gradually. Notoriously outrageous schedules of the Payne-Aldrich Act, such as that dealing with wool, were heavily reduced, and the general purport of the bill is perhaps expressed in the phrase of Professor Taussig, that it was "the beginning of a policy of much moderated protection." It went through the House without much difficulty, passing on May 8, and then it struck the Senate committee rooms, from which no tariff bill had ever emerged quite as innocent as it entered. The usual expeditionary forces of lobbyists concentrated in Washington and the Senate talked it over, while Summer came on and Washington grew hotter and hotter. In course of time Senators began to come to the President and tell him that it was hopeless to get the bill through at that session and that Washington was getting pretty hot. The President replied that he knew it was hot, but that Congress would have to stay there till that bill was passed. Already he had given the lower house something to keep it busy while the Senate wrestled with the tariff.
As for the lobby, the President had his own method of dealing with that. On May 26 he issued a public statement calling attention to the "extraordinary exertions" of lobbyists in connection with the tariff. "The newspapers are being filled," he said, "with paid advertisements calculated to mislead not only the judgment of the public men, but also the public opinion of the country itself. There is every evidence that money without limit is being spent to maintain this lobby.... It is of serious interest to the country that the people at large should have no lobby and be voiceless in these matters, while the great bodies of astute men seek to create an artificial opinion and to overcome the interests of the public for their private profit." The outraged dignity of Senators and Representatives, not to mention lobbyists, rose to protest against this declaration. A Republican Senator even declared that the President, who had been actively urging his views on legislators just as he had done in New Jersey, was himself the chief lobbyist in connection with the Tariff Bill. A Senate Committee was appointed to find out if there had been any lobbying, and discovered that there had. Meanwhile the bill was being argued out in the Senate, and the President stood firm against any substantial modification. It was finally passed on Oct. 3.
It was a vindication of the platform promise and a fulfillment of the duty with which the party had been charged in the last election, and it was a notable triumph for the personal policy of the President-Premier, who more than anybody else had literally forced the bill through Congress. The tariff had taken such a prominent place in the fight against business influence in the Government that the passage of a bill which made a material reduction in rates was a moral victory for progressivism at large, and for President Wilson in particular.
The actual effect of the tariff, or rather the actual effect that it might have had, is something impossible to estimate at this time. Before it had been in operation a year, before the country had had a chance to study the new conditions brought in by the legislation of the first year of the Wilson Administration, the war broke out in Europe. The conditions which had prevailed through half a century of tariff making had ceased to exist. They have not yet returned. A subsidiary feature of the Underwood-Simmons Act, however, was to attain enormous importance in the course of the Wilson Administrations. To supply the deficiency in revenue which the lowered duties might be expected to produce there was added an income tax law, which had recently been permitted by constitutional amendment. Even the light duties of the first year, with their $3,000 exemption, were denounced by conservatives as a rich man's tax; but within four years more the exemption was to be lowered to $1,000, and the peak of the tax raised to tenfold its original height.
So long as the Wilson Administration was reducing the tariff, it was carrying out the traditional policy of the Democratic Party; but the next task which the President laid before Congress was much more delicate and much more important. As the event showed, the result was to be of infinitely greater benefit to the nation. Reform of the currency had long been an evident necessity, and the panic of 1907 had recently called attention to the dangers of the system based on emergency measures of the Civil War period. Mr. Wilson himself had said much of the necessity of freeing business from unnatural restrictions, among which the makeshift currency system was included. During the previous Administration Senator Aldrich's plan for a centralized reserve bank had been widely discussed, and innumerable modifications had been suggested. Democratic leaders were already working on plans for currency reform when the new Administration came in, and on June 26 a bill was introduced in the House by Carter Glass and in the Senate by Robert L. Owen.
It took six months of hard work to get this adopted, but it was a marvelous achievement to get it adopted at all. For a large faction of the Democratic Party, including its most influential leader, still represented the old hostility to the "money power," which regarded the overthrow of the United States Bank as the great triumph of the American Democracy. The Glass-Owen bill differed from Senator Aldrich's scheme largely in the direction of decentralization and giving more control to the Government and less to the banks, but, even so, it was a suspicious document to those numerous Democrats whose economic ideas were obtained from the Greenback and Populist Parties of former years. And it was not satisfactory to the majority of the articulate bankers of the country, who wanted a central bank instead of the regional division of the reserve functions, and who thought that the banks should have a good deal to say about appointments to the Federal Reserve Board.
As late as the beginning of December there were still three separate bills before Congress, but the party organization under the President-Premier held together, and on December 23 the Glass-Owen Bill, with some modifications acquired en route, was signed by the President. The pressure on the White House during that struggle was perhaps the hardest which President Wilson encountered during his entire eight years. Many an honest Democrat thought the fundamental principles of the party were being betrayed, and many a Senator or Representative who regarded the reserve banks with profound alarm felt, nevertheless, that if the iniquitous things were going to be established there ought to be one in his home town. When Paul M. Warburg, a Wall Street banker, was appointed as one of the members of the Federal Reserve Board, there were more protests from politicians who professed to believe that the nation was being delivered over to the money power, while the complaints of bankers who thought that the banks were being given over to politicians had not yet died down. But when the act once went into operation criticism almost disappeared; and in the course of a few months the unprecedented financial strain attendant on the outbreak of the European war made it plain to almost anybody that without this timely reform of the banking system 1914 would have seen a disaster far worse than that of 1907.
The work of "striking the shackles off business" was continued in 1914 by the introduction of bills to carry out the President's recommendations for prohibiting interlocking directorates, clarifying the anti-trust laws, establishing an Interstate Trade Commission, and supervising the issue of railroad securities. The chief results of this discussion were the creation of the Trade Commission, a body of which much more was expected at the time than it has accomplished, and the passage of the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which exempted farmers' combinations and labor unions from the anti-trust laws, and wrote into the statutes the declaration that labor is not a commodity. The La Follette Seamen's Bill, drawn by Andrew Furuseth of the Seamen's Union, was introduced in 1913 and not enacted until much later. Its friends declared that it would at least establish decent living conditions for sailors, and its opponents, including nearly all the shipping interests, asserted that, so long as foreign ship owners were not under similar restrictions, the bill would ruin the American Merchant Marine. Of the actual workings of this law there has really been no fair test, as conditions which arose during the war unsettled the entire shipping situation.
The domestic program of the first year and a half of the Wilson Administration comprised, then a long-needed and immeasurably valuable reform of the banking and currency system, a revised tariff, which was at least a technical victory for Democratic principles, and a number of minor measures which seem less important in retrospect than they did at the time. The program neither completely unshackled business nor opened the door to a new era of cooperation and human brotherhood, but it was a large and on the whole decidedly creditable accomplishment, and it was above all the work of President Wilson, who had led the fight that carried the Administration measures through Congress, quite as any Prime Minister might have done. He had not done it without exposing himself to severe criticism. Ex-Senator Winthrop Murray Crane, for example, declared that he had "virtually obliterated Congress." But he had got most of what he wanted, and by the end of his first year in office Mr. Bryan was no longer the most powerful individual in the Democratic Party.
Foreign Policies, 1913-1914
In The North American Review for March, 1913, edited by Colonel George Harvey, the original Wilson man, who had mentioned Wilson as a Presidential possibility back in 1904, when such a suggestion was regarded as only a playful eccentricity, who had begun to work hard for him in 1911, and who had finally been asked by Wilson himself to give up his activity because the connection of one of Harvey's magazines with J. P. Morgan & Co. was hurting Wilson in the West—there appeared an article entitled "Jefferson—Wilson: A Record and a Forecast." It consisted of eight pages of quotations from Wilson's "History of the American People," dealing with the beginning of Jefferson's Administration. The reader's attention was arrested by the startling parallel between the division in the Federalist Party and the quarrel between Hamilton and Adams that facilitated Jefferson's election, and the situation which led to Wilson's victory in November, 1912. Wilson, writing a dozen years before the fight between Taft and Roosevelt, had unconsciously drawn a parallel closer perhaps than the facts warranted; and the reader who had been attracted by this similarity read on into Wilson's characterization of Jefferson an introduction to the achievements of his Administration with a growing hope—if he happened to be a Wilson man—that after as before election Wilson's record would duplicate Jefferson's.
Colonel Harvey was as good a prophet in 1913 as in 1904. Wilson's achievement in domestic affairs in the first year of his Administration was not likely to suffer much by comparison with Jefferson's. But it could not have crossed anybody's mind in March, 1913, that complications of international politics such as had almost ruined the country under Jefferson would in the latter part of Wilson's first term expose him to as much criticism as Jefferson, and for the same reasons.
America was still new as a world power, but was beginning to feel more at home. In Taft's Administration, with Philander C. Knox as Secretary of State, there had been for the first time the beginnings of what might fairly be called a consistent foreign policy. True, it was not a very lofty policy, nor was it by any means generally approved in America. It was called by its friends "dollar diplomacy," meaning the promotion of American commercial interests by diplomatic agencies. It had been exemplified principally in Central America, where its operations had not always commanded admiration, and in China, where Knox had made a well-intentioned but not very skillful effort to prevent the absorption of Manchuria by Russia and Japan.
Landmarks in Wilson's Mexican Policy
Program for armistice and elections to end civil war, August, 1913.
"Watchful waiting," 1913-14.
Capture of Vera Cruz, April 21, 1914.
A B C mediation, April 25, 1914.
Flight of Huerta, July, 1914.
Recognition of Carranza, September, 1915.
Villa's raid on Columbus and Pershing's expedition into Mexico, March, 1916.
Flight and death of Carranza, May, 1920.
However primitive this organization of foreign policy, none the less Taft and Knox had taken a great step forward in the improvement of American diplomatic machinery. The diplomatic service and the State Department were beginning to be regarded as two parts of the same agency, and for the first time diplomacy had begun to be a career with possibilities. The practice of promoting able young secretaries to chiefs of legation, begun by Roosevelt, had been widely extended by Taft; and though the highest posts were still filled by wealthy amateurs it seemed that at last the American diplomatic service offered some attraction to an ambitious man. It was the general expectation in Europe and still more in America that President Wilson, who by training and inclination might be expected to approve of the elevation of standards in the diplomatic service, would continue and extend this work. Instead of that, he undid it, or rather permitted it to be undone.
Mr. Bryan had of necessity been made Secretary of State, and it may be supposed that there was equal necessity for opening up the diplomatic service as a happy hunting ground for the Bryan men—"deserving Democrats," as Mr. Bryan called them in a famous letter. The chief European posts, to which the Taft Administration had not begun to apply the merit system, were filled chiefly by Mr. Wilson's own nominees. These included several well-known men of letters, and with one or two exceptions the amateur diplomats serving as the heads of the missions in Europe did satisfactory and even brilliant service under the unprecedented strain which the war brought on them. The service in Latin America, however, which Knox had almost entirely professionalized, was given over bodily to personal followers of Bryan. In what was in 1913 perhaps the most important of our diplomatic posts, the embassy to Mexico, Mr. Wilson was compelled to rely provisionally on Henry Lane Wilson, a holdover appointee from the previous Administration.
It was soon made clear that there was to be no more dollar diplomacy. The Knox policies in Central America were dropped—although American troops continued to dominate Nicaragua—and in 1914 the Administration successfully discouraged American participation in a six-power loan to China. The Russo-Japanese absorption of Manchuria was to be treated as the accomplished fact that it was; and in general the policy of the new Administration was anything but aggressive. It would not use diplomacy to advance American commercial interests, nor was it prepared to accept the assistance of American financiers in promoting the policies of diplomacy.
But it was evident from the outset that the most quiescent foreign policy could not prevent foreign complications. Growing anti-Japanese sentiment in California led to the passage of a State law against Japanese land holdings. There was much resentment in Japan, and protest was made to the Federal Government. Mr. Bryan, as Secretary of State, had to make a personal trip to Sacramento to intercede with the Californians; and at one time (May, 1913) military men appeared to feel that the situation was extremely delicate. But the crisis passed over, the Californians modified the law, and though in its amended form it suited neither the Californians nor the Japanese, the issue remained in the background during the more urgent years of the war. Toward the very end of the Wilson Administration it was to come back into prominence.
Another question which caused much disturbance to the new Administration was the question of Panama Canal tolls. An act passed in 1912 had exempted American coastwise shipping passing through the canal from the tolls assessed on other vessels, and the British Government had protested against this on the ground that it violated the Hay-Pauncefote treaty of 1901, which had stipulated that the canal should be open to the vessels of all nations "on terms of entire equality." Other nations than England had an interest in this question, and there was a suspicion that some of them were even more keenly if not more heavily interested; but England took the initiative and the struggle to save the exemption was turned, in the United States, into a demonstration by the Irish, Germans and other anti-British elements. Innate hostility to England, the coastwise shipping interests, formed the backbone of the opposition to any repeal of this exemption, but the Taft Administration had held that the exemption did not conflict with the treaty (on the ground that the words "all nations" meant all nations except the United States), and British opposition to the fortification of the canal, as well as the attitude of a section of the British press during the Canadian elections of 1911, had created a distrust of British motives which was heightened by the conviction of many that the Hay-Pauncefote treaty had been a bad bargain.
It was understood early in President Wilson's Administration that he believed the exemption was in violation of the treaty, but not until October did he make formal announcement that he intended to ask Congress to repeal it. The question did not come into the foreground, however, until March 5, 1914, when the President addressed this request to Congress in ominous language, which to this day remains unexplained. "No communication I addressed to Congress," he said, "has carried with it more grave and far-reaching implications to the interests of the country." After expressing his belief that the law as it stood violated the treaty and should be repealed as a point of honor, he continued: "I ask this of you in support of the foreign policy of the Administration. I shall not know how to deal with other matters of even greater delicacy and nearer consequence if you do not grant it to me in ungrudging measure."
It has been most plausibly suggested that this obscure language had reference to the Mexican situation, which a few weeks later was to lead to the occupation of Vera Cruz. The European powers were known to be much displeased at the continuing disturbances in Mexico and the American policy of "watchful waiting," and the belief has been expressed that repeal of the exemption was a step to get British support for continued forbearance with Mexico. Other critics have seen a reference to the unsettled issues with Japan and a fear that England might give more aggressive support to her ally if the tolls question were left unsettled. The attempt of a writer of biography to maintain that even in March, 1914, the President and Colonel House foresaw the European war and wanted to arrange our own international relations by way of precaution has been generally received with polite skepticism.
At any rate, the President's intervention in the question, against the advice of his most trusted political counselors, brought down on him a shower of personal abuse from Irish organs and from the group of newspapers which presently were to appear as the chief supporters of Germany. The arguments against the repeal were unusually bitter, and even though Elihu Root took his stand beside the President and against the recent Republican Administration, partisan criticism seized upon the opening. Nevertheless the tolls exemption was repealed in June, and events of July and August gave a certain satisfaction to those who had stood for the sanctity of treaties.
As a part of what might be called the general deflation of overseas entanglements, the new Administration brought about a material change in the treatment of the Philippines. From the beginning great changes were made in the personnel of the Philippines Commission and of the Administration of the country. Many American officials were replaced by Filipinos, but the separatist agitation in the islands was not much allayed by the extension of self-government. In October, 1914, the Jones Bill, which practically promised independence "as soon as a stable government shall have been established," was passed by the House of Representatives, but Republican opposition was strengthened by those who remembered Bryan's anti-imperialism in 1900 and by the supporters of a strong policy in the Pacific. This issue, like others of the early period, came back into greater prominence in the last years of the second Wilson Administration, when war issues were temporarily disposed of.
A specially conciliatory policy toward Latin America was one of the chief characteristics of the early period of the Administration. At the Southern Commercial Congress in Mobile, on October 27, 1913, the President declared that "the United States will never seek one additional foot of territory by conquest;" a statement which was understood in direct relation to the demand for intervention in Mexico, and which had a very considerable effect on public sentiment in Central and South America. The passing of "dollar diplomacy," too, was generally satisfactory to Latin America, and, though Mr. Bryan's inexperienced diplomats made a good many blunders and could not help, as a rule, being compared unfavorably with the professionals who had held the Latin-American posts in the previous Administration, the general policy of Wilson created much more confidence in the other two Americas than did the spasmodic aggressiveness of Roosevelt or the commercialized diplomacy of Taft.
One specific attempt was made to heal a sore spot left by Roosevelt in relations with Latin America by the new Administration. Negotiations with Colombia to clear up the strained situation left by the revolution in Panama had been under way in the Taft Administration, but had come to nothing. Under Wilson they were resumed, and on April 7, 1914, a treaty was signed by which the United States was to pay to Colombia a compensation of $25,000,000 for Colombian interests in the Isthmus. The treaty further contained a declaration that the Government of the United States expressed its "sincere regret for anything that may have happened to disturb the relations" between the two countries, and this suggestion of an apology for Roosevelt's action in 1903 roused the violent hostility of Republicans and Progressives. The opposition was so strong that in spite of repeated efforts the Administration could never get the treaty ratified by the Senate; but the undoubtedly sincere efforts of the Executive had of themselves a considerable effect in mollifying the suspicions of Latin America.
But all problems south of the Isthmus were insignificant compared with the difficulties in Mexico which had begun with the Madero Revolution against Diaz in 1910. Just at the close of the Taft Administration Madero had been overthrown and killed by Huerta, who then ruled in Mexico City and was recognized by England and Germany in the Spring of 1913. Villa and Carranza were in arms against Huerta in the north, calling themselves the champions of the Constitution; Orozoco and Zapata were in arms against everybody in the south; foreign life and property were unsafe everywhere except in the largest cities. The demand for intervention, which had been strong ever since the troubles began, was increasing in 1913. Huerta professed to be holding office only until a peaceful election could determine the will of the nation, but the date of that peaceful election had to be constantly put off. The embargo on shipments of arms from the United States still existed, preventing Huerta from supplying his troops; but there was a good deal of smuggling to the revolutionary armies in the north. Of the interventionists some wanted intervention against Huerta and some wanted intervention for Huerta; and the pressure of economic interests in Mexico was complicating all phases of the situation.
From the first President Wilson had expressed his disapproval of the methods by which Huerta had attained office. Ambassador Wilson, on the other hand, thought that Huerta ought to be supported, and when his policy did not commend itself to the President he resigned in August, 1913. But already the President had been getting information about Mexico from extra-official sources. His first envoy was William Bayard Hale, author of one of his campaign biographies. Ambassador Wilson was virtually replaced in August by another special representative, John Lind, who carried to Huerta the proposals of President Wilson for solution of the Mexican problem. They included a definite armistice, a general election in which Huerta should not be a candidate, and the agreement of all parties to obey the Government chosen by this election, which would be recognized by the United States. Huerta refused and presently dissolved Congress. When the elections were finally held on October 2 Huerta won, and there was no doubt that he would have won no matter how the voting had happened to go.
The President's program for Mexican reform, it may be said, was not as evidently impracticable in 1913 as it seems in retrospect. It was widely criticised at the time, and the phrase "watchful waiting" which he invented as a description of his Mexican Policy was made the object of much ridicule. Throughout the first winter of the new Administration the American Government was apparently waiting for something to happen to Huerta or for Huerta to reform, and President Wilson several times sharply criticised the actions of the Mexican dictator. But Huerta did not reform and nothing sufficient happened to him; it began to look as if watchful waiting might continue indefinitely when a trivial incident furnished the last straw.
A boatload of American sailors from the warships anchored off Tampico to protect American citizens had been arrested by the Mexican military authorities. They were released, with apologies, but Admiral Mayo demanded a salute to the American flag by way of additional amends, and when Huerta showed a disposition to argue the matter the Atlantic Fleet was (April 14, 1914) ordered to Mexican waters. A week later, as negotiations had failed to produce the salute, the President asked Congress to give him authority to use the armed forces of the United States "against Victoriano Huerta." There was much criticism of the policy which had endured serious material injuries for more than a year to threaten force at last because of a technical point of honor, and besides those who did not want war at all the President found himself opposed by many Congressmen who thought that the personal attack on Huerta was rather undignified, and that the President should have asked for a downright declaration of war.
While Congress was debating the resolution the American naval forces (on April 21) seized the Vera Cruz Custom House to prevent the landing of a munition cargo from a German ship. This led to sharp fighting and the occupation of the entire city. General Funston with a division of regulars was sent to relieve the naval landing parties; and war seemed inevitable. Even the Mexican revolutionaries showed a tendency to prefer Huerta to the intervention of the United States. But on April 25 the Governments of Argentina, Brazil and Chile proposed mediation, which Wilson and Huerta promptly accepted. A conference met at Niagara Falls, Ontario, and through May and June endeavored to reach a settlement not only between the United States and Mexico, but between the various Mexican factions. The President was still attempting to carry out his policy of August, 1913, and the chief obstacle was not Huerta, but Carranza, who had refused to consent to an armistice and for a long time would not send delegates to Niagara Falls. Meanwhile Huerta made one concession after another. Watchful waiting had indeed ruined him; for President Wilson's opposition had made it impossible for him to get any money in Europe—and in the early part of 1914 some European nations would still have considered Mexico a good risk. Moreover, from February to April the embargo on arms had been lifted, and the Constitutionalists armies in the north, munitioned from the United States, were steadily conquering the country. On July 15 Huerta resigned, and soon afterward sailed for Spain; and on August 20 Carranza entered Mexico City.
Despite the criticism that had been heaped on the President's handling of the Tampico-Vera Cruz affair, he had got rid of Huerta without getting into war. A still more important consequence, the full effect of which was not immediately apparent, was the enormous increase in the confidence felt by Latin America in the good intentions of the Wilson Administration. The acceptance of A-B-C mediation in 1914 made possible the entry of most of the Latin-American powers into the European War in 1917 as allies of the United States. And for a time it was to appear as if this had been about the only tangible profit of the episode; for Carranza presently proved almost as troublesome as Huerta. The Fall of 1914 saw the outbreak of a new civil war between Villa and Carranza, in which Zapata, Villa's ally, for a long time held Mexico City. Obregon's victories in 1915 drove Villa back to his old hunting grounds.
By this time the European war was occupying most of the attention of the American people, but Mexico was a constant irritant. Carranza carried the Presidential art of biting the hand that fed him to an undreamed-of height. Wilson, Villa and Obregon had enabled him to displace Huerta, and Obregon had saved him from Villa. Yet he had quarreled with Villa, he was eventually to quarrel with Obregon; and though the United States and the chief Latin-American powers had given him formal recognition in September, 1915, his policy toward Wilson continued to be blended of insult and obstruction. Henry Prather Fletcher, the ablest of the diplomats accredited to Latin-American capitals, had been called back from Santiago de Chile to represent the United States in Mexico; but despite his skill, despite the infinite forbearance of the Administration, Mexico sank deeper and deeper into misery, foreign lives and property were unsafe throughout most of the country, and there was a continuing succession of incidents on the border.
These were the fault of bandits, chiefly of Villa, whose repeated murders of American citizens led to futile attempts to get satisfaction out of Carranza. The culmination of these outrages came on March 9, 1916, when Villa raided across the border, surprised the garrison of Columbus, N.M., and killed some twenty Americans. A punitive expedition of regulars under General Pershing was promptly organized. It pushed about 200 miles into Mexico, destroyed several small parties of Villistas, and wounded Villa himself. But it did not catch him nor any of his principal leaders, and in April outlying parties of Americans came into skirmishing with Carranza forces at Parral and Carrizal. It was evident that further advance meant war with Carranza; and indeed much American sentiment aroused by the capture of American soldiers by Carranzistas, demanded war already. But relations with Germany were very acute at the moment, so Pershing dug in and held his position throughout the Summer and Fall. In May the National Guard was ordered out to protect the border, and remained in position for months without taking active steps.
President Wilson's Appeals for Mediation
Formal offer of mediation to all belligerents, August 5, 1914.
German proposal of peace conference, December 12, 1916.
President's appeal to the belligerents to state their terms, December 18, 1916.
German refusal to state terms, December 26, 1916.
Allied statement of war aims, January 11, 1917.
President's "peace without victory" speech, January 22, 1917.
Notification of unrestricted submarine war, January 31, 1917.
Diplomatic relations with Germany broken, February 3, 1917.
Declaration of war, April 6, 1917.
The Mexican policy of the Administration was one of the chief points of attack during the campaign of 1916, but the re-election of President Wilson and the progress of events in Europe presently threw the issue into the background. In February and March, 1917, when war with Germany seemed inevitable, the expeditionary force under Pershing was recalled.
Carranza's pro-Germanism, or rather anti-Americanism, was hardly disguised during the war, and the confiscatory policy of his Administration in dealing with foreign oil and mineral properties threatened to do much damage to American interests. When the war in Europe had ended, the question of Mexico once more came back to the foreground of attention. Carranza's Administration had not been stained by so much guilt as Huerta's, and the opposition to it was on the scale of banditry rather than revolution; but Mexico was far worse off after years of the war than it had been in 1913, and disregard of American rights was still the cardinal policy of the Government. Carranza's security, however, was illusory. In the Spring of 1920 Presidential elections were announced at last, and Carranza's attempt to force Ygnacio Bonillas, his Ambassador in Washington, into the Presidential chair led to a revolt which eventually attracted the leadership of Obregon. Carranza fled from Mexico City and was murdered on May 22, 1920, and, after the interim Presidency of Adolfo de la Huerta, Obregon came into office in the Fall.
The European War, 1914-1916
When in the last week of July, 1914, a war of unparalleled intensity and magnitude suddenly fell upon a world which for forty years had been enjoying unprecedented well-being and security, the practically unanimous sentiment of Americans was gratitude that we were not involved. The President's first steps, a formal proclamation of neutrality and equally formal tender of mediation to the belligerents, "either now or at any other time that might be thought more suitable," had general approval.
[Illustration: Federal Reserve We must have a currency, not rigid as now, but readily, elastically responsive to sound credit, the expanding and contracting credits of everyday transactions, the normal ebb and flow of personal and corporate dealings. Our banking laws must mobilize reserves; must not permit the concentration anywhere in a few hands of the monetary resources of the country or their use for speculative purposes in such volume as to hinder or impede or stand in the way of other more legitimate, more fruitful uses.—From the President's Address to Congress, April 23, 1913.]
But a sharp division of sentiment showed itself when, on August 18, he issued an address to the American people warning against partisan sympathies and asking that Americans be "impartial in thought as well as in action," in order that the country might be "neutral in fact as well as in name." The great majority of the American people, or of such part of it as held opinions on public questions, had already made up their minds about the war, and most of the others were in process of being convinced. Some of them had made up their minds from racial sympathies, but others had thought things out. And among these last, particularly, there was a revolt against the assumption that in the presence of such issues any impartiality of thought was possible.
Moreover, the world-wide extent of the war, and the closer inter-relations of nations which had grown up in recent years, made almost from the first a series of conflicts between the interests of the United States and those of one or the other set of belligerents. Preservation of neutrality against continual petty infractions was hard, and was rendered harder by the active sympathy felt for the different belligerents by many Americans. A further complication came from the growing feeling that America's military and naval forces were far from adequate for protection in a world where war was after all possible. The Autumn of 1914 saw the beginning for better national preparedness, and counter to that the rise of organized peace-at-any-price sentiment which from the first drew much support from pro-German circles.
The President appeared to incline toward the pacifists. He called the discussion of preparedness "good mental exercise," and referred to some of its advocates as "nervous and excitable," and in the message to Congress in December, 1914, he took the position that American armaments were quite sufficient for American needs. In this it was apparent that he was opposed by a large part of the American people; how large no one could yet say. But the Congressional elections of 1914 had conveyed a warning to the Democrats. They were left with a majority in both houses, but the huge preponderance obtained in 1912 had disappeared. And the reason was even more alarming than the fact; the Progressive Party almost faded off the map in the election of 1914. Most of the voters who had been Republicans before the Chicago Convention of 1912 were Republicans once again. Of the Progressive Party, there was nothing much left but the leaders, and many of these were obviously thinking of going back to the old home.
The Government had already had occasion to protest against British interference with allied commerce when, on February 4, 1915, the Germans proclaimed the waters about the British Isles a war zone open to submarine activities. The President promptly warned the German Government that it would be held to "strict accountability" if American ships were sunk or American lives lost in the submarine campaign. Along with this a message was sent to the British Government protesting against British restriction of neutral commerce. There was good ground for objection to the practices of both Governments, and the simultaneous protests emphasized the neutral attitude of the United States. Not until later was it evident that to the Germans this policy seemed to indicate the possibility of putting pressure on England through America.
"Strict accountability" seemed to be a popular watchword, except among pacifists and German sympathizers, but Americans soon began to be killed by the submarines without provoking the Government to action. When the Lusitania was sunk on May 7, 1915, and more than a hundred of the 1,200 victims were Americans a great part of the nation which had been growing steadily more exasperated felt that now the issue must be faced. The President was the personal conductor of the foreign policy of the Administration; Mr. Bryan's sole interest in foreign affairs seemed to be the conclusion of a large number of polite and valueless treaties of arbitration, and it was certain that with Germany, as with Mexico, the President would deal in person. In the few days after the sinking of the Lusitania the nation waited confidently for the President's leadership, and public sentiment was perhaps more nearly unanimous than it had been for eight months past, or was to be again for two years more.
The President's note on May 13 met with general approval. It denied any justification for such acts as the sinking of the Lusitania, and warned the Germans that the Government of the United States would not "omit any word or act" to defend the rights of its citizens. But some of the effect of that declaration had already been destroyed by a speech the President had made two days before, in which he had said that "there is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight," and the Germans, it was learned presently, had been still further reassured by a declaration of Mr. Bryan (entirely on his own authority) to the Austrian Ambassador that the note was intended only for home consumption.
At any rate, the note was not followed by action. Throughout the whole Summer the President maintained a correspondence with the Germans, distinguished by patient reasoning on his part and continual shiftings and equivocations on theirs. Meanwhile nothing was done; the public sentiment of the first days after the Lusitania had been sunk had slackened; division and dissension had returned and redoubled. Pacifism was more active than ever and German agents were spreading propaganda and setting fire and explosives to munition plants. Mr. Bryan, who apparently alone in the country was fearful that the President might needlessly involve the nation in war, resigned as Secretary of State on June 8. Aside from a certain relief, the public almost ignored his passing; the man who had been the strongest leader of the party in March, 1913, had in the last two years sunk almost into obscurity. Attention was now concentrated on the policy which the President, whose new Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, was hardly more than a figurehead, was pursuing toward Germany.
In August two more American passengers were drowned in the sinking of the liner Arabic, and in other submarine exploits of the Summer a number of American seamen lost their lives. The President's persistence at last had the effect of getting from the Germans, on September 1, a promise to sink no more passenger boats, and on October 5 they made a formal expression of regret for the Arabic incident. Meanwhile some of the acts of sabotage against American industries had been traced back to the Austro-Hungarian Embassy, and the Ambassador, Dr. Dumba, was sent home in September. A few months later Papen and Boy-Ed, the Military and Naval Attaches of the German Embassy, followed him for a similar reason.
But the German outrages continued, and so did the submarine sinkings, though these were now transferred to the Mediterranean and Austria was put forward as the guilty power. Also, nothing had been done about the Lusitania. The country had apparently been divided by internal discords. The condition which the President had hoped to prevent by his appeal for "impartiality in thought as well as in action" had come about. Also, the danger of war had revealed the inadequacy of America's military establishment, and a private organization, whose moving spirit was General Leonard Wood, had undertaken to supply the deficiencies of the Government by establishing officers' training camps. Toward Wood and his enterprise the Government seemed cold, and he was reprimanded by the Secretary of War for permitting Colonel Roosevelt to make an indiscreet speech at the training camp at Plattsburg. But when Congress assembled in December the President deplored and denounced that new appearance in American public life, the hyphenate, and urged upon Congress that military preparation which he had derided a year before.
Congress, it was soon evident, was far less convinced than the President that anything had happened during 1915. In December, 1915, and in January, 1916, Mr. Wilson made a speaking tour through the East and Middle West in support of his new policy. His demand for a navy "incomparably the most adequate in the world," which Mr. Daniels translated into the biggest navy in the world, aroused some doubts in the minds of the public as to where the Administration thought the chief danger lay, and German influences did their best during the Winter to stir up anti-British sentiment in Congress—the more easily since the controversy over British interference with American commerce was still unsettled.
Eventually, and largely as a result of the President's speaking tour, Congress adopted a huge naval program, which was destined to remain on paper for some years. Military reform, however, had a different fate. The President had supported the policy favored by the Secretary of War, Lindley M. Garrison, of supplementing the regular line by a federalized "Continental army" of 400,000 men. The House Committee on Military Affairs, led by James Hay, would not hear of this and insisted on Federal aid to the National Guard. The President, declaring that he could not tell a Congressional committee that it must take his plan or none, appeared to be ready to give in to Hay, and Garrison resigned in protest. Hay had his way, and Garrison was succeeded by Newton D. Baker, previously regarded as inclined to the pacifist side of the controversy.
Senator Glass on Woodrow Wilson
It is my considered judgment that Woodrow Wilson will take a place in history among the very foremost of the great men who have given direction to the fortunes of the nation. No President of the United States, from the beginning of the Republic, ever excelled him in essential preparation for the tasks of the office. By a thorough acquisition of abstract knowledge, by clear and convincing precept and by a firm and diligent practical application of the outstanding principles of statecraft, no occupant of the Executive chair up to his advent was better furnished for a notable administration of public affairs. And Wilson's Administration has been notable. Its achievements, in enumeration and importance, have never been surpassed; and it may accurately be said that most of the things accomplished were of the President's own initiative.
Of the President's personal traits and characteristics I cannot as confidently speak as those persons whose constant and intimate association with him has given them observation of his moods and habits. To me he always has been the soul of courtesy and frankness. Dignified, but reasonably familiar; tenacious when sure of his position, but not hard to persuade or to convince in a cause having merit, I have good reason to be incredulous when I hear persons gabble about the unwillingness of President Wilson to seek counsel or accept advice. For a really great man who must be measurably conscious of his own intellectual power, he has repeatedly done both things in an astonishing degree during his Administration; and when certain of a man's downright honesty, I have never known anybody who could be readier to confide serious matters implicitly to a coadjutor in the public service.
CARTER GLASS Written for The New York Times, February 18, 1921.
Meanwhile the submarine issue was still an issue. Little satisfaction had been obtained for events in the Mediterranean, and in March the Sussex, a cross-Channel passenger boat, was torpedoed in plain violation of the German promise of September 1. There followed another interchange of notes, but the usual German efforts to deny and evade were somewhat more clumsy than usual. On April 19 the President came before Congress and announced that "unless the Imperial Government should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of submarine warfare against passenger and freight carrying vessels" diplomatic relations would be broken off. The threat had its effect; the Germans yielded, grudgingly and in language that aroused much irritation, but on the main question they yielded none the less, and promised to sink no more merchantmen without warning.
During this crisis the President had had to contend with a serious revolt in Congress, which took the form of the Gore Resolution in the Senate and the McLemore resolution in the House, warning American citizens off armed merchantmen. The President took the position that this was a surrender of American rights, and upon his insistence both resolutions were brought to a vote and defeated. The Lusitania question was still unsettled, but on the general issue of submarine war the Germans had at last given way to the President's demand, and through most of 1916 the submarine issue was in the background.
During the year there was a continuation of diplomatic action against the British Government's interference with neutral commerce and with neutral mails. But, aside from the comparative unimportance of these issues beside the submarine assassinations, the Lusitania and similar episodes had stirred up so much indignation that not many Americans were seriously interested in action against England which could only work to the advantage of Germany. The year saw the institution of the Shipping Board, which was to look after the interests of the American merchant marine brought into being by the war, and also some efforts to extend American commerce in South America. Of more eventual importance for Latin-American relations was the necessity for virtually superseding the Government of the Dominican Republic, which had become involved in civil war and financial difficulties, by an American Naval Administration, as had been done in Haiti the year before.
The principal domestic event of the year was the threatened railroad strike, which came at the end of the Summer. The President summoned the heads of the four railroad brotherhoods and the executives of the railroad lines to Washington for a conference in August, and attempted without success to bring them to an agreement. A program to which he eventually gave his approval provided for the concession by the employers of the basic eight-hour day, with other issues left over until the working of this proposal could be studied. The railroad executives refused this, and while the negotiations were thus at a deadlock it became known that the brotherhoods had secretly ordered a strike beginning September 4. To avert this crisis the President asked Congress to pass a series of laws accepting the basic eight-hour day, providing for a commission of investigation, and forbidding further strikes pending Government inquiry.
None of these proposals except the eight-hour day, the center of the whole dispute, met the approval of the brotherhoods, and none of them except the eight-hour day and the commission of investigation was adopted. But, with A. B. Garreston, of the Brotherhood of Conductors, holding a stopwatch in the gallery, Congress hastily passed these laws and the strike was called off.
The eight-hour issue was the last item on the record on which President Wilson came up for re-election in the Fall of 1916. Despite the single-term plank in the Democratic platform of 1912, it had been evident long before the end of Mr. Wilson's first term that he was the only possible candidate. In March, 1913, he had seemed almost like an outside expert called in for temporary service in readjusting some of the problems of public life; he was by no means the leader of the party. But long before Bryan resigned in alarm at the tendencies of a foreign policy over which the Secretary of State had no control the President had become the leader of the party, and by 1916 he was almost the only leader of prominence.
In the record on which the electorate was to express its judgment only a minor place was taken by the issues which had seemed of such importance in 1913. The Federal Reserve Act had already proved its value so well that it was being taken as a matter of course, and people were forgetting that they had ever had to depend on a currency which ran for cover in every crisis and on a banking system where each bank was a source of weakness to its neighbors instead of strength. What effect the Underwood-Simmons Tariff and other measures of the first year might have had on American business no man could say, for conditions created by the war had left America the only great producer in a world of impatient consumers whose wants had to be met at any price.
Mexico, which had provided the most pressing problem in foreign affairs during the Taft Administration, was still an unsolved problem in 1916, and more disturbing than ever. The President had indeed avoided war with Mexico, but had become involved in two invasions of the country and in an expensive mobilization. During the 1916 election the nation had in Mexico most of the drawbacks of war without any of the possible benefits. In forcing out Huerta the President had indeed won a notable diplomatic triumph, but he had not succeeded either in winning greater security for American life and property or in getting a Mexican Government more disposed to good relations with the United States; and the Republicans maintained that war had been avoided only at the sacrifice of both American prestige and American interests.
Personal Messages to Congress
I am very glad, indeed, to have this opportunity to address the two Houses directly and to verify for myself the impression that the President of the United States is a person, not a mere department of the Government hailing Congress from some isolated island of jealous power, sending messages, not speaking naturally and with his own voice—that he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service. After this pleasant experience I shall feel quite normal in all our dealings with one another.—From the President's First Address to Congress, April 8, 1913
But Mexico, despite the emphasis placed upon it by the Republicans, was a secondary issue in the campaign of 1916. The great issue was the conduct of American relations with Germany, and the ultimate Republican failure in the election may be laid primarily to the inability of the Republican Party to decide just where it stood on the main issue.
The President had in this field also won a diplomatic victory. Like his victory over Huerta, it was more apparent than real, for the submarines were still active, and even during the campaign several incidents occurred which looked very much like violations of the German promise made in May. The most serious incident, that of the Lusitania, was still unsettled and the opponents of the President charged him with having bought peace with Germany, like peace with Mexico, at the cost of national interest and honor. Still the technical victory in the submarine negotiations had remained with the President, and he had succeeded in winning at least a nominal recognition of American rights without going into a war which, as every one realized, would be a much more serious enterprise than an invasion of Mexico. German propaganda and terrorist outrages, which had been so serious in 1915, fell off materially in 1916 largely on account of the energetic work of the Department of Justice, which had sent some of the most prominent conspirators to jail and driven others out of the country. But a considerable section of the population had made up its mind that Germany was already an enemy and was dissatisfied with the President's continual efforts to preserve impartiality of thought as well as of action.
The President was renominated at the Democratic Convention in St. Louis, and the platform expressed a blanket endorsement of the achievements of his Administration. But the chief incident of that convention was the keynote speech of Martin H. Glynn, which was based on the text, "He kept us out of war." His recital of the long list of past occasions in American history when foreign violations of American rights and injuries to American interests had not led to war was received with uproarious enthusiasm by the convention and completely overturned the plans which had been made by the Administration managers to emphasize the firmness of the President in defense of American rights.
But the Republicans presently gave that issue back to them. The party passed over Colonel Roosevelt; the memory of 1912 was still too bitter to permit the old-line leaders to accept him. On the other hand, the Colonel and his following had to be conciliated, so the Republican Convention nominated Charles E. Hughes, who had viewed the party conflict of 1912 from the neutrality of the Supreme Court bench. The Progressive Party duly had its convention and nominated Roosevelt; and when Roosevelt announced that Hughes's views on the preservation of American interests were satisfactory and that the main duty was to beat Wilson, a good many Progressives followed the Colonel back into camp. A rump convention, however, nominated a Vice Presidential candidate, and virtually went over to Wilson.
Justice Hughes's views on public issues were not known before he was nominated, and on the great issue of the campaign they were never very clearly known until after the election, when it was too late. He had strong opinions on Democratic misgovernment and maladministration and outspoken opinions on Mexico, but whenever he tried to say anything about the war in Europe he used up most of his energy clearing his throat. A large element in the American people, which was influential out of proportion to its numbers because it included most of the intelligent classes and most of the organs of public opinion, felt that the President had been too weak in the face of German provocation. To this element, chiefly in the East, Colonel Roosevelt appealed with his denunciation of German aggression and of the President's temporizing with Germany; but Colonel Roosevelt was not running for President. There was another minority, considerably smaller and far less reputable, which consisted of bitter partisans of the German cause. This minority was fiercely against the President because he had dared to challenge Germany at all; and though Mr. Hughes gave it no particular encouragement, it supported him because there was nobody else to support.
So, in the Eastern States, where anti-German sentiment was strongest, the Democrats advocated the re-election of Wilson as the defender of American rights against foreign aggression, while in the West he was praised as the man who had endured innumerable provocations and "kept us out of war." When Hughes swept everything in the East, it was confidently assumed on election night that Wilson had been repudiated by the country; but later reports showed that the East was no longer symptomatic of the country's sentiment. For three days the election was in doubt. It was finally decided by California, where the Republican Senator whom Hughes had snubbed was re-elected by 300,000 majority, while the Democratic electoral ticket won by a narrow margin. Wilson had carried almost everything in the West. Those parts of the country which lay further away from Europe and European interests had re-elected him because he had "kept us out of War."
Mediation Efforts, 1916-1917
It has been stated by Count von Bernstorff that, if Hughes had been elected, President Wilson would immediately have resigned, along with the Vice President, after appointing Hughes as Secretary of State, in order to give the President-elect an opportunity to come into office at once and meet the urgent problems already pressing on the Executive. Whether the President actually entertained any such intention or not, it would have been a logical development of his theory of the Chief Executive as Premier. But the President-Premier had received a vote of confidence, and was free to deal with the new situation created by the various peace proposals of the Winter of 1916-1917. The negotiations which followed during December and January were obscure at the time and are by no means clear even yet. The fullest account of them is that of Bernstorff, whose personal interest in vindicating himself would make him a somewhat unreliable witness even if there were nothing else against him. And at the time, when the President's motives were unknown to a public which had not his advantage of information as to what was going to happen in Europe, almost every step which he took was misconstrued, and his occasional infelicities of language aroused suspicions which later events have shown to be entirely unjustified.
Reports of American diplomats in the Fall of 1916 indicated that the party in Germany which favored unrestricted submarine war without consideration for neutrals was growing in strength. It was opposed by most of the civilian officials of the Government, including the Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg; Jagow and Zimmermann, the successive Foreign Secretaries, and Bernstorff, the Ambassador in Washington. But the Admirals who supported it were gradually winning over the all-powerful Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff, and it appeared only a question of time until the promise to America of May, 1916, should be broken. And, as Bernstorff has expressed it, the President realized after the Sussex note there could be no more notes; any future German aggression would have to be met by action or endured with meekness.
In these circumstances the President was driven to seek opportunity for the mediation which he had been ready to offer, if asked, from the very beginning of the war. But to offer mediation, so long as the war was undecided, was a matter of extreme delicacy. The majority of intelligent Americans were strong partisans of the allied cause and firmly believed that that cause was bound to win in the long run. There was a minority which had equal sympathy for Germany and equal confidence in her ultimate success. To offer mediation while the war was still undecided would have been to offend both of these elements, as well as the warring nations themselves, all of which were still confident of victory. Specifically, to offer mediation during the course of the Presidential election would have been to drive over to Hughes all the pro-Ally elements in America, which in the state of mind of 1916 would have seen in such a proposal only a helping hand extended to a Germany whose cause was otherwise hopeless.
So, though during 1916 the President would have welcomed a request for mediation, he did not dare suggest it on his own account. And neither side dared to propose it, for such a request would have been taken as an admission of defeat. Nineteen hundred and sixteen was an indecisive year, but the fortune of war gave now one side and now the other the conviction that a few months more would bring it to complete victory. In such circumstances the losers dared not make a proposal which would hearten their enemies and the victors would not suggest the stopping of the war when they hoped that a few months more would see them in a much more favorable position.
A Sympathetic Tribute
Hamilton Holt, head of a delegation that visited the White House on October 27, 1920, in connection with the campaign advocating our entry into the League of Nations, said in the course of his address to President Wilson:
"It was you who first focused the heterogeneous and often diverse aims of the war on the one ideal of pure Americanism, which is democracy. It was you who suggested the basis on which peace was negotiated. It was you, more than any man, who translated into practical statesmanship the age-old dream of the poets, the prophets and the philosophers by setting up a league of nations to the end that cooperation could be substituted for competition in international affairs.
"These acts of statesmanship were undoubtedly the chief factors which brought about that victorious peace which has shorn Germany of her power to subdue her neighbors, has compelled her to make restitution for her crimes, has freed oppressed peoples, has restored ravaged territories, has created new democracies in the likeness of the United States, and above all has set up the League of Nations."
But by December Germany's situation was more fortunate than at any time since the early Summer. Rumania, which had come into the war three months before, had been defeated and overrun in a spectacular campaign which had brought new prestige to the German armies. The triumph was of more value in appearance than in reality, for no decision had been reached on the main fronts and none of the chief belligerents was willing to give up. Germany was under a terrible strain, and the civilian Government concluded that the end of 1916 offered an opportunity to make a peace proposal, without loss of prestige, which might lead to a settlement of the war that would leave Germany substantially the victor. For it was known that unless some such decisive result were soon attained the military party would unloose the submarines in the effort to win a complete victory, and thereby bring about complications too serious for the civilian officials to contemplate with any sense of security.
So on Dec. 12 Bethmann Hollweg proposed a peace conference. He mentioned no terms which Germany would consider; he spoke in the arrogant tones of a victor; and the total effect of his speech was to convince the world that he was trying to influence the pacifist elements in the allied countries rather than to bring about an end of the war. But his step caused profound uneasiness in Washington, for he had anticipated the action which the President had long been considering. If Mr. Wilson could not have offered mediation before the election, he might have tried it in November had not the German deportation of Belgian workingmen just then aroused such a storm of anti-German feeling in America that it would have been unsafe to take a step which public opinion would have generally regarded as favorable to Germany. Now that Bethmann Hollweg had anticipated him, it was evident that any proposal which the President might make would be regarded as a sort of second to the German motion.
Nevertheless, the situation was urgent, and the President seems to have felt that his interposition could perhaps accomplish something which the German initiative could not. Colonel House in the last two years had made a number of trips to Europe as a sort of super-Ambassador to all the powers in the endeavor to find out what their Governments regarded as suitable terms of peace. Mr. Wilson's own interest lay first of all in the establishment of conditions that would reduce—or, as men would have said in 1916, prevent—the possibility of future wars. On May 27, 1916, he had delivered a speech before the League to Enforce Peace in which he favored the formation of an international association for the delay or prevention of wars and the preservation of the freedom of the seas. Later speeches contained doctrines most of which were eventually written into the League covenant, and were based on the central theory that all nations must act together to prevent the next war, as otherwise they would all be drawn into it. On Oct. 26 he had declared that "this is the last war the United States can ever keep out of."
The United States in the War
Declaration of war, April 6, 1917.
American warships in European waters, May 4, 1917.
First Liberty Loan offered, May 14, 1917.
Selective Service act operative, May 18, 1917.
First American troops in France, July 1, 1917.
Fourteen Points speech, January 8, 1918.
"Force to the utmost" speech, April 6, 1918.
Americans in action at Cantigny, May 28, 1918.
Chateau-Thierry, June 1-5, 1918.
Marne-Aisne offensive, July 15-August, 1918.
St. Mihiel offensive, September 12, 1918.
Meuse-Argonne offensive, September 26-November 11, 1918.
Austrian peace proposal, September 15, 1918.
First German peace note, October 4, 1918.
Armistice ending the war, November 11, 1918.
Yet the President also had ideas on the nature of the peace terms by which the war then going on should be concluded, though he felt that no good could be obtained by the proposal of such terms from a neutral. On Dec. 18, accordingly, he addressed the belligerent Governments with an invitation to state the specific conditions which each of them regarded as essential to a just peace, in the hope that they would find they were nearer agreement than they knew. Unfortunately, the President made the observation that the objects of the two alliances, "as stated in general terms to their own people and the world," were "virtually the same." That was true; each side had said that it was fighting in self-defense in order to preserve international justice, the rights of nationalities, and a number of other worthy interests. But the public, both in America and in the allied countries, saw in this renewed effort at "impartiality of thought as well as of action" an indication that the President saw no moral difference between the two sides. From that moment any good result of the President's suggestion, in America or in the allied countries, was out of the question; and if any hope had remained, the Germans presently destroyed it. They wanted a peace conference with no terms stated beforehand, where they could play on the divergent interests of the allied countries; nor did they want the President to have anything to do with the making of peace, lest, as Bethmann Hollweg expressed it to Bernstorff, the Germans should be "robbed of their gains by neutral pressure." So the German reply on Dec. 26 politely observed that a direct conference between the belligerents would seem most appropriate, which conference the German Government proposed. For the general idea of a League of Nations the Germans expressed their approval, but they wanted peace of their own kind first.