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26 June, 2013
Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter IV - Colonel Harvey On The Scene
by Tumulty, Joseph P.


Although the intrepid Colonel Harvey was defeated in the first skirmish to advance the cause of Woodrow Wilson, he continued to pursue his purpose to force his personal choice upon the New Jersey Democracy. The approaching gubernatorial election in 1910 gave the Colonel his opportunity and he took full advantage of it.

Rumours began to circulate that the machine run by Davis, Smith, and Ross, the great Democratic triumvirate of the state, was determined to nominate the Princeton president at any cost. Young men like Mark Sullivan, John Treacy, and myself, all of Hudson County, representing the liberal wing of our party, were bitterly opposed to this effort. We suspected that the "Old Gang" was up to its old trick of foisting upon the Democrats of the state a tool which they could use for their own advantage, who, under the name of the Democratic party, would do the bidding of the corporate interests which had, under both the "regular" organizations, Democratic and Republican, found in New Jersey their most nutritious pastures. At a meeting held at the Lawyers' Club in New York, younger Democrats, like Judge Silzer of Middlesex and myself, "plighted our political troth" and pledged our undying opposition to the candidacy of the Princeton president. As a result of our conferences we set in motion the progressive machinery of the state in an intensive effort to force the nomination of Judge Silzer in opposition to that of Woodrow Wilson.

As soon as the Democratic boss of Hudson County, Bob Davis, one of the leaders in the Wilson movement in North Jersey, was apprized of the proposed action on our part, he set about to head it off, and as part of his plan of opposition he sent for me in an effort to wean me away from the Silzer candidacy. I refused to yield. Upon being interrogated by me as to his interest in Woodrow Wilson, Boss Davis stated that if we nominated Woodrow Wilson there would be a big campaign fund put up for him by Moses Taylor Pyne, a trustee of Princeton University. Never before was the ignorance of a boss made more manifest. As a matter of fact, at that very time there was no more implacable foe of Woodrow Wilson in the state of New Jersey than Moses Taylor Pyne, who headed the opposition to Mr. Wilson in the Princeton fight.

Years after this incident the President and I often laughed at what must have been the surprise and discomfiture of Boss Davis when he finally learned the facts as to Moses Taylor Pyne's real feelings toward Woodrow Wilson. Previous to the gubernatorial campaign I asked Boss Davis if he thought Woodrow Wilson would make a good governor. His reply was characteristic of the point of view of the boss in dealing with these matters of moment to the people of the state. "How the hell do I know whether he'll make a good governor?" he replied; "he will make a good candidate, and that is the only thing that interests me."

Shortly after, those of us who banded together to oppose the bosses in their efforts to force Doctor Wilson upon us began to the feel pressure of the organization's influence. Many of our friends left us in despair and in fear of the power of the machine. The movement toward Woodrow Wilson in the state was soon in full swing. The Davis-Smith-Nugent-Ross machine was in fine working order on the day and the night of the Convention.

I was not even a delegate to the Convention, but I was present and kept in close touch by contact with my friends with every phase of the convention fight. Colonel Harvey was again on the scene as the generalissimo of the Wilson forces, quietly and stealthily moving about, lining up his forces for the memorable battle of the morrow. There was bitter but unorganized opposition to the favourite son of the state machine, Woodrow Wilson. The Convention itself presented an unusual situation and demonstrated more than anything I ever saw the power of the "Old Gang" to do the thing its masters had in mind. As I look back upon the great event of this convention, the nomination of Woodrow Wilson for the governorship of New Jersey, I feel that destiny was inscrutably engaged there, working in mysterious ways its wonders to perform, working perhaps through strange, incongruous instrumentalities to bring the man of destiny into action, led by those who were opposed to everything Woodrow Wilson stood for, opposed by those who were yearning for and striving for just the dawn of political liberalism that his advent in politics heralded. The conflict of the Trenton Convention about to be enacted was an illustration of the poet's line, "Where ignorant armies clash by night." The successful side of the Convention was fighting for what they least wanted; the defeated against what they most wanted. Here in this convention, in truth, were in aggressive action the incongruities of politics and in full display were witnessed the sardonic contrasts between the visible and the invisible situations in politics. All the Old Guard moving with Prussian precision to the nomination of the man who was to destroy for a time the machine rule in New Jersey and inaugurate a new national era in political liberalism while all the liberal elements of the state, including fine old Judge Westcott of Camden and young men like myself were sullen, helpless. Every progressive Democrat in the Convention was opposed to the nomination of the Princetonian, and every standpatter and Old Guardsman was in favour of Woodrow Wilson. On the convention floor, dominating the whole affair, stood ex-Senator James Smith, Jr., of New Jersey, the spokesman of the "highbrow" candidate for governor, controlling the delegates from south and west Jersey. Handsome, cool, dignified, he rose from the floor of the convention hall, and in rich, low tones, seconded the nomination of the man "he had never met," the man he would not "presume" to claim acquaintance with, the man whose life had lain in other fields than his. Very close to him, "taking his orders," and acting upon every suggestion that came to him, sat Jim Nugent, grim, big-jawed, the giant full-back of Smith's invincible team, the rising star of machine politics in New Jersey. Down the aisle sat the "Little Napoleon" of Hudson County, Bob Davis, wearing a sardonic smile on his usually placid face, with his big eyes riveted upon those in the Convention who were fighting desperately and against great odds the effort of the state machine to nominate President Wilson. Across the aisle from me sat "Plank-Shad" Thompson, of Gloucester, big and debonair, a thoroughly fine fellow socially, but always ready to act upon and carry out every tip that came to him from the master minds in the Convention--Davis and Smith.

These were the leading actors in this political drama. Behind the lines, in the "offing," was the Insurgent Group, young men like Mark Sullivan and John Treacy of Hudson, stout defenders of the liberal wing in the Convention, feeling sullen, beaten, and hopelessly impotent against the mass attack of the machine forces. What a political medley was present in this convention--plebeian and patrician, machine man and political idealist--all gathered together and fighting as leading characters and supernumeraries in the political drama about to be enacted.

Not three men outside of the leading actors in this great political drama had ever seen the Princeton professor, although many had doubtless read his speeches. I watched every move from the side-lines. The bosses, with consummate precision, moved to the doing of the job in hand, working their spell of threats and coercion upon a beaten, sullen, spiritless body of delegates. One could easily discern that there was no heart in the delegates for the job on hand. To them, the active forces in the Convention, the Princeton president was, indeed, a man of mystery. Who could solve the riddle of this political Sphinx? Who was this man Wilson? What were his purposes? What his ideals? These questions were troubling and perplexing the delegates. Colonel Harvey, the commander-in-chief of the Wilson forces, when interrogated by us, refused to answer. How masterfully the Old Guard staged every act of the drama, and thus brought about the nomination of the Princeton president. The Convention is at an end. Wilson has been nominated by a narrow margin; the delegates, bitter and resentful, are about to withdraw; the curtain is about to roll down on the last scene. The chairman, Mr. John R. Hardin, the distinguished lawyer of Essex, is about to announce the final vote, when the clerk of the Convention, in a tone of voice that reached every part of the hall, announces in a most dramatic fashion: "We have just received word that Mr. Wilson, the candidate for the governorship, and the next President of the United States, has received word of his nomination; has left Princeton, and is now on his way to the Convention." Excellent stage work. The voice of the secretary making this dramatic statement was the voice of Jacob, but the deft hand behind this clever move was that of Colonel Harvey. This announcement literally sets the Convention on fire. Bedlam breaks loose. The only sullen and indifferent ones in the hall are those of us who met defeat a few hours before. For us, at least, the mystery is about to be solved. The Princeton professor has left the shades of the University to enter the Elysian Fields of politics.

At the time the secretary's announcement was made I was in the rear of the convention hall, trying to become reconciled to our defeat. I then wended my weary way to the stage and stood close to the band, which was busy entertaining the crowd until the arrival of Mr. Wilson. I wanted to obtain what newspaper men call a "close-up" of this man of mystery.

What were my own feelings as I saw the candidate quietly walk to the speakers' stand? I was now to see almost face to face for the first time the man I had openly and bitterly denounced only a few hours before. What reaction of regret or pleasure did I experience as I beheld the vigorous, clean-cut, plainly garbed man, who now stood before me, cool and smiling? My first reaction of regret came when he uttered these words:
I feel the responsibility of the occasion. Responsibility is proportionate to opportunity. It is a great opportunity to serve the State and Nation. I did not seek this nomination, I have made no pledge and have given no promises. If elected, I am left absolutely free to serve you with all singleness of purpose. It is a new era when these things can be said, and in connection with this I feel that the dominant idea of the moment is the responsibility of deserving. I will have to serve the state very well in order to deserve the honour of being at its head.... Did you ever experience the elation of a great hope, that you desire to do right because it is right and without thought of doing it for your own interest? At that period your hopes are unselfish. This in particular is a day of unselfish purpose for Democracy. The country has been universally misled and the people have begun to believe that there is something radically wrong. And now we should make this era of hope one of realization through the Democratic party.
I had another reaction of regret when he said:

"Government is not a warfare of interests. We shall not gain our ends by heat and bitterness." How simple the man, how modest, how cultured! Attempting none of the cheap "plays" of the old campaign orator, he impressively proceeded with his thrilling speech, carrying his audience with him under the spell of his eloquent words. How tense the moment! His words, spoken in tones so soft, so fine, in voice so well modulated, so heart-stirring. Only a few sentences are uttered and our souls are stirred to their very depths. It was not only what he said, but the simple heart- stirring way in which he said it. The great climax came when he uttered these moving words: "The future is not for parties 'playing politics' but for measures conceived in the largest spirit, pushed by parties whose leaders are statesmen, not demagogues, who love not their offices but their duty and their opportunity for service. We are witnessing a renaissance of public spirit, a reawakening of sober public opinion, a revival of the power of the people, the beginning of an age of thoughtful reconstruction that makes our thoughts hark back to the age in which democracy was set up in America. With the new age we shall show a new spirit. We shall serve justice and candour and all things that make, for the right. Is not our own party disciplined and made ready for this great task? Shall we not forget ourselves in making it the instrument of righteousness for the state and for the nation?"

After this climax there was a short pause. "Go on, go on," eagerly cried the crowd. The personal magnetism of the man, his winning smile, so frank and so sincere, the light of his gray eyes, the fine poise of his well- shaped head, the beautiful rhythm of his vigorous sentences, held the men in the Convention breathless under their mystic spell. Men all about me cried in a frenzy: "Thank God, at last, a leader has come!"

Then, the great ending. Turning to the flag that hung over the speakers' stand, he said, in words so impressive as to bring almost a sob from his hearers:
When I think of the flag which our ships carry, the only touch of colour about them, the only thing that moves as if it had a settled spirit in it--in their solid structure, it seems to me I see alternate strips of parchment upon which are written the rights of liberty and justice and strips of blood spilled to vindicate those rights and then--in the corner--a prediction of the blue serene into which every nation may swim which stands for these great things.
The speech is over. Around me there is a swirling mass of men whose hearts had been touched by the great speech which is just at an end. Men stood about me with tears streaming from their eyes. Realizing that they had just stood in the presence of greatness, it seemed as if they had been lifted out of the selfish miasma of politics, and, in the spirit of the Crusaders, were ready to dedicate themselves to the cause of liberating their state from the bondage of special interests.

As I turned to leave the convention hall there stood at my side old John Crandall, of Atlantic City, like myself a bitter, implacable foe of Woodrow Wilson, in the Convention. I watched him intently to see what effect the speech had had upon him. For a minute he was silent, as if in a dream, and then, drawing himself up to his full height, with a cynical smile on his face, waving his hat and cane in the air, and at the same time shaking his head in a self-accusing way, yelled at the top of his voice, "I am sixty-five years old, and still a damn fool!"

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