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26 June, 2013
Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter X - Exit The Old Guard
by Tumulty, Joseph P.


The conferences and meetings in preparation for the great senatorial fight having been concluded, the scene of activities was transferred to Trenton, where shortly after the Inauguration plans were laid for the final battle.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the Inaugural ceremonies, the hand-to- hand contests for the great prize and incidentally the leadership of the Democrats, was on in full swing. At the beginning of the fight the bosses counted upon the active support of the influential Democratic leaders throughout the state, like Robert S. Hudspeth of Hudson County, Johnston Cornish of Warren County, Edward E. Grosscup of Gloucester County, Barney Gannon and Peter Daley of Middlesex County, old Doctor Barber of Warren County, Otto Wittpenn of Hudson County, Billy French and Judge Westcott of Camden, Dave Crater of Monmouth, and minor bosses or leaders in south and middle Jersey. But in utter amazement they found that we had captured these fine pieces of heavy political artillery and that through them we had acquired and taken over some of the most valuable political salients in the state.

A little incident in the campaign is worth reciting. In managing the campaign I found that for some unaccountable reason the so-called Irish vote of the state was massed solidly behind ex-Senator Smith and in bitter opposition to Governor Wilson. We were constantly coming in contact with these currents of opposition, and how to overcome them and bring the Irish vote into our fold was the task that devolved upon me as the manager of Martine's campaign. Seated in my office one day I recalled that years before I had read in the Congressional Record an account of a speech delivered in the United States Senate by James Smith, upholding in terms of highest praise the famous Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. The speech in all its details, particularly the argument it contained calling for closer relations between the United States and Great Britain, was still fresh in my memory. Evidently Senator Smith and his Irish friends had forgotten it, for he was now trying to mobilize the Irish vote of the state in his favour. On re-reading this speech of the old Senator, I smiled with satisfaction, realizing the campaign use that could be made of it. After considering the matter carefully, I sent for a devoted friend of mine, a fine, clean-cut Irishman, who stood high in the ranks of the Clan-na-Gael and other Irish societies in our county. After he had read the speech, we discussed the method of using it, for we felt sure that our Irish friends, when they became acquainted with this speech upon reading it, would not find themselves in agreement with Smith's attitude toward England and the Treaty. My friend consented to write letters to the leading papers, particularly the Irish papers of the state, setting forth Smith's attitude toward the Treaty. The effect upon the Irish vote was immediate and soon resolutions began to be adopted by the various Irish societies throughout the state, denouncing Smith for having advocated the much-despised "Anglo- Saxon Alliance."

While I opposed Senator Smith in this contest there was nothing personally antagonistic in my attitude. We were, I hope, friends throughout the conflict, and many times since then we have discussed the events leading up to Martine's election to the United States Senate. It was only a few months ago, while seated at a table at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, that the old Senator, genial and debonair as ever, was discussing the fights of the old days, and particularly the events leading up to his defeat for the United States senatorship. In discussing the New Jersey campaign, he told me of the use that had been made by "someone" in the Wilson ranks of his Senate speech on the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. He said that his reason for making this speech was his sincere desire as an Irish- American to bring about more amicable relations between the United States and England, and as I listened to this frank recital I felt that, although the use I had made of his speech was legitimate in the circumstances, there was nothing to be proud of in having exploited the Senator's really fine speech for political purposes.

The State House at Trenton on the night previous to the balloting for the senatorship was a place of feverish activity. The Essex ex-Chieftain, Smith, kept "open house" in the then famous Room 100 of the Trenton House. The Governor-elect, calm and apparently undisturbed, but anxious and ready for a contest, quietly moved about the Executive offices attending to official matters.

We felt confident of the result of the vote if the members of the Legislature were left free, but we were certain that every kind of pressure would be put upon them to change the votes of the wobblers in our ranks. All night long and until four or five o'clock in the morning the Governor-elect and I remained in the Executive office, keeping in close contact with our friends both by telephone and personal conference. Senator Smith never knew it, but some of the men close to him and participating in his own conferences on this fateful night hourly brought to us information as to what would be the real line-up of his forces on the day set for balloting. We found a spy in our own ranks--a leading lawyer and politician from, my own county--who, while pretending to be our friend, was supplying the enemy with what he thought was useful information. We, however, were already aware of this gentleman's duplicity and, although he never suspected it, whenever he left the Executive office he was followed by a professional detective, who heard and reported to us every bit of information he had supplied to our political foes.

On the night before the election the Smith-Nugent leaders had gathered their forces and, headed by a band, paraded through the streets of Trenton, passing in review before Senator Smith who stood upon the steps of the Trenton House and greeted them in most generous fashion. The purpose of this demonstration was obvious to the Governor-elect and his friends. It was simply to give to the arriving legislators an impression of great strength behind the Smith-Nugent forces.

On the morning of the balloting the corridors and lobby of the State House were crowded with the henchmen of the Essex chieftain. The surface indications were that Smith had the necessary number of votes, but to those of us who were able accurately to analyze the situation it was apparent that the froth would soon pass away. The parade and the demonstration of the Nugent followers had deeply impressed some of the men in our ranks, particularly the editor of a Trenton newspaper, who came to the Executive offices and urged upon the Governor the publication of a statement which he had prepared, filled with grandiloquent phrase, warning the people of the state that the members of the Legislature were about to be coerced and threatened by the strong-arm methods of the Smith-Nugent organization.

Frankly, the suggestion which this Trenton editor made to the new Governor impressed him. The Governor made certain changes in the statement and then sent for me to read it, asking my advice upon it. The first test of my official connection with the Governor was at hand. Upon reading the editor's article I saw at once that its issuance would be most unwise, and I frankly said so. My practical and political objection to it, however, was that if published it would give to the people of the state the impression that our forces were in a panic and that we, were in grave fear of the result. I further argued that it was an attempt at executive coercion of the Legislature that would meet with bitter resentment. I felt that we had already won the fight; that the Legislature, which was the jury in the case, was inclined to favour us if we did not seek to influence its members by such foolish action as the Trenton editor advised. The statement was not published.

I found in this little argument with the new Governor that he was open- minded and anxious for advice and I thereafter felt free to discuss matters with him in the frankest way.

The first ballot showed Martine leading heavily. In the following ballots he gained strength at every count. The Legislature adjourned the first day without reaching a decision. As we surveyed the field after the first day's balloting it was clear to us that if we hoped to win the fight we would have to have Hudson County's legislative vote. The Democratic boss, Bob Davis, had died a few days previous, and had entrusted his affairs to the hands of a fine, clean-cut, wholesome Irish-American, James Hennessy, then chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Committee. He was one of the squarest men I ever met in politics and had been an intimate associate of my father in the old days in Jersey City. On the day of the final balloting we were sorely pressed. When it seemed as if we had reached the limit of our strength, it occurred to me that a final appeal to Hennessy by the Governor might have some effect. We decided to send for Hennessy to come to the Executive offices. It was clear from his attitude when he arrived that, while his sympathies lay with us, he was bound in honour to carry out the instructions of his chief and deliver the Hudson County vote to Smith. The Governor, getting very close to him and discussing the campaign in the most intimate way, told him that if Martine was rejected, the political effect on our party's fortunes would be disastrous; that we were sure we had the votes and that the next ballot would give proof of this, and that it was only a question, to use a campaign phrase, of "getting on the band wagon" and making Martine's nomination unanimous. When the Governor concluded his talk, I turned to Hennessy in the most familiar way, and spoke of the Governor's desire to elect Martine and of the unselfish purpose he had in mind and how he, Hennessy, was blocking the way. I said to him: "You have it in your power to do a big thing. You may never have the chance again." He finally stood up and said to me: "What do you want me to do?" I told him that we wanted him to go to the Hudson delegates and give word that the "jig" was up and that they must throw their support to Martine. Shortly after this meeting the Hudson delegation met in caucus and agreed to support Martine.

When Smith and Nugent heard of this message they practically surrendered. The balloting which began at ten o'clock was a mere formal affair for it was plainly evident from the changes in the early balloting that Martine's election was assured. Martine's election was a fact; and Woodrow Wilson was the victor in the first battle for the Presidency.

I have stated that I am not proud of the way I used Senator Smith's speech on the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. We were fighting veterans in the political game, men who knew all the tricks and who did not scruple to play any of them. In the rough school of practical politics I had been taught that "you must fight the devil with fire" and that it is as legitimate in politics as in war to deceive the enemy about your resources. But we conducted politics on higher levels during the eight years in the White House, when my chief, no longer an amateur, taught me, by precept and example, that effective fighting can be conducted without resort to the tricks and duplicities of those who place political advantage above principle. Woodrow Wilson made new rules for the game, and they were the rules which men of honour adopt when conducting their private business on principles of good faith and truth-telling.

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