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Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter XII - Colonel Harvey
by Tumulty, Joseph P.

Upon the completion of the legislative work of the first session of the New Jersey Legislature the name of Woodrow Wilson quickly forged to the front as a strong Presidential possibility. Intimate friends, including Walter Hines Page, afterward United States Ambassador to Great Britain; Cleveland H. Dodge and Robert Bridges, the two latter old friends and classmates of the Governor in the famous class of '79 at Princeton, set about by conferences to launch the Presidential boom of their friend, and selected for the task of the actual management of the campaign the young Princetonian, William F. McCombs, then an active and rising young lawyer of New York. These gentlemen, and other devoted friends and advisers of the Governor, made up the first Wilson contingent, and at once initiated a plan of publicity and organization throughout the country. They arranged to have the New Jersey Governor visit strategic points in the country to make addresses on a variety of public questions. Whether Colonel Harvey was behind the scenes as the adviser of this little group I have never ascertained, but Harper's Weekly, then edited by the Colonel, was his leading supporter in the magazine world, carrying the name of the Princetonian at its mast-head as a candidate for the Presidency. There were frequent conferences between the Colonel and the Governor at the Executive offices, and as a result of these conferences the Wilson boom soon became a thing to be reckoned with by the Old Guard in control of party affairs in the nation.

Wilson stock from the moment of the adjournment of the Legislature began to rise, and his candidacy spread with great rapidity, until in nearly every state in the Union "Wilson Clubs" were being established. The New Jersey primaries, where again he met and defeated the Smith forces; the Ohio primaries, where he split the delegates with the favourite son, Governor Harmon, a distinguished Democrat; and the Wisconsin primaries, at which he swept the state, gave a tremendous impetus to the already growing movement for the "Reform" Governor of New Jersey.

Everything was serenely moving in the Wilson camp, when like a thunderclap out of a clear sky broke the story of the disagreement between Colonel Harvey, Marse Henry Watterson, and the Governor of New Jersey. I recall my conversation with Governor Wilson on the day following the Harvey- Watterson conference at a New York club. As private secretary to the Governor, I always made it a rule to keep in close touch with every conference then being held regarding the political situation, and in this way I first learned about the Harvey-Watterson meeting which for a few weeks threatened to destroy all the lines of support that had been built up throughout the past months of diligent work and organization.

The Governor and I were seated in a trolley car on our way from the State Capitol to the railroad station in Trenton when he informed me, in the most casual way and without seeming to understand the possible damage he had done his own cause, of what followed the conference the previous day. It was like this: the conference had ended and they were leaving the room when Colonel Harvey put his hand on Woodrow Wilson's shoulder and said: "Governor, I want to ask you a frank question, and I want you to give me a frank answer. In your opinion is the support of Harper's Weekly helping or hurting you?" In telling me of it Woodrow Wilson said: "I was most embarrassed, and replied: 'Colonel, I wish you had not asked me that question.' 'Well, what is the answer?' Colonel Harvey insisted pleasantly. 'Why, Colonel, some of my friends tell me it is not helping me in the West.' Colonel Harvey said: I was afraid you might feel that way about it, and we shall have to soft-pedal a bit'." Mr. Wilson was so serenely unconscious that any offence had been taken that when informed by me a little later that his name had disappeared from the head of the editorial column of Harper's Weekly he did not connect this with the interview. "Was Colonel Harvey offended?" I asked. "He didn't seem to be," was the Governor's answer.

I immediately scented the danger of the situation and the possibilities of disaster to his political fortunes that lay in his reply, and I told him very frankly that I was afraid he had deeply wounded Colonel Harvey and that it might result in a serious break in their relations. The Governor seemed grieved at this and said that he hoped such was not the case; that even after he had expressed himself so freely, Colonel Harvey had been most kind and agreeable to him and that they had continued to discuss in the most friendly way the plans for the campaign and that the little conference had ended without apparent evidence that anything untoward had happened that might lead to a break in their relations. We then discussed at length the seriousness of the situation, and as a result of our talk the Governor wrote Colonel Harvey and endeavoured to make clear what he had in mind when he answered the question put to him by the Colonel at the club conference a few days before, not, indeed, by way of apology, but simply by way of explanation. This letter to the Colonel and a subsequent one went a long way toward softening the unfortunate impression that had been created by the publication of the Harvey-Watterson correspondence. The letters are as follows:

University Club
Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Fourth Street
December 21, 1911.


Every day I am confirmed in the judgment that my mind is a one-track road and can run only one train of thought at a time! A long time after that interview with you and Marse Henry at the Manhattan Club it came over me that when (at the close of the interview) you asked me that question about the Weekly I answered it simply as a matter of fact and of business, and said never a word of my sincere gratitude to you for all your generous support, or of my hope that it might be continued. Forgive me, and forget my manners!

Faithfully, yours,
To which letter Colonel Harvey sent the following reply:

Franklin Square
New York, January 4, 1912.


Replying to your note from the University Club, I think it should get without saying that no purely personal issue could arise between you and me. Whatever anybody else may surmise, you surely must know that in trying to arouse and further your political aspirations during the past few years I have been actuated solely by the belief that I was rendering a distinct public service.

The real point at the time of our interview was, as you aptly put it, one simply "of fact and of business," and when you stated the fact to be that my support was hurting your candidacy, and that you were experiencing difficulty in finding a way to counteract its harmful effect, the only thing possible for me to do, in simple fairness to you, no less than in consideration of my own self-respect, was to relieve you of your embarrassment so far as it lay within my power to do so, by ceasing to advocate your nomination. That, I think, was fully understood between us at the time, and, acting accordingly, I took down your name from the head of the Weekly's editorial page some days before your letter was written. That seems to be all there is to it. Whatever little hurt I may have felt as a consequence of the unexpected peremptoriness of your attitude toward me is, of course, wholly eliminated by your gracious words.

Very truly yours,
To Colonel Harvey's letter Governor Wilson replied as follows:

Hotel Astor
New York, January 11, 1912.


Generous and cordial as was your letter written in reply to my note from the University Club, it has left me uneasy, because, in its perfect frankness, it shows that I did hurt you by what I so tactlessly said at the Knickerbocker Club. I am very much ashamed of myself, for there is nothing I am more ashamed of than hurting a true friend, however unintentional the hurt may have been. I wanted very much to see you in Washington, but was absolutely captured by callers every minute I was in my rooms, and when I was not there was fulfilling public engagements. I saw you at the dinner but could not get at you, and after the dinner was surrounded and prevented from getting at you. I am in town to day, to speak this evening, and came in early in the hope of catching you at your office.

For I owe it to you and to my own thought and feeling to tell you how grateful I am for all your generous praise and support of me (no one has described me more nearly as I would like myself to be than you have); how I have admired you for the independence and unhesitating courage and individuality of your course; and how far I was from desiring that you should cease your support of me in the Weekly. You will think me very stupid--but I did not think of that as the result of my blunt answer to your question. I thought only of the means of convincing people of the real independence of the Weekly's position. You will remember that that was what we discussed. And now that I have unintentionally put you in a false and embarrassing position you heap coals of fire on my head by continuing to give out interviews favourable to my candidacy!

All that I can say is that you have proved yourself very big, and that I wish I might have an early opportunity to tell you face to face how I really feel about it all. With warm regard,

Cordially and faithfully, yours,
For a while it seemed as if the old relations between the Colonel and the New Jersey Governor would be resumed, but some unfriendly influence, bent upon the Governor's undoing, thrust itself into the affair, and soon the story of the Manhattan Club incident broke about the Princetonian's head with a fury and bitterness that deeply distressed many of Mr. Wilson's friends throughout the country. The immediate effect upon his candidacy was almost disastrous. Charges of ingratitude to the "original Wilson man" flew thick and fast. Mr. Wilson's enemies throughout the country took up the charge of ingratitude and soon the stock of the New Jersey man began to fall, until his immediate friends almost lost heart. The bad effect of the publication of the Harvey-Watterson correspondence and the bitter attacks upon the sincerity of the New Jersey Governor were soon perceptible in the falling away of contributions so necessary to keep alive the campaign then being carried on throughout the country. The "band-wagon" crowd began to leave us and jump aboard the Clark, Underwood, and Harmon booms.

Suddenly, as if over night, a reaction in favour of Governor Wilson began to set in. The continued pounding and attacks of the reactionary press soon convinced the progressives in the ranks of the Democratic party that Wilson was being unjustly condemned, because he had courageously spoken what many believed to be the truth. At this critical stage of affairs a thing happened which, routed his enemies. One of the leading publicity men of the Wilson forces in Washington, realizing the damage that was being done his chief, inspired a story, through his Washington newspaper friends, that Wilson was being gibbeted because he refused to accept the support of Wall Street interests which Harvey and Watterson had offered him, and that his refusal to accept their offer was the real cause of the break. This new angle of the Harvey-Watterson episode worked a complete reversal of opinion.

The clever work of this publicity man in turning the light on what he conceived to be the real purpose of the Harvey-Watterson conference probably did injustice to these two gentlemen, but at all events it gave weight to the impression in the minds of many people throughout the country that the real reason for the break was Mr. Wilson's refusal to bow the knee to certain eastern financial interests that were understood to be behind Harper's Weekly. The tide quickly turned against Colonel Harvey and Marse Henry Watterson. Marse Henry, alone in his suite at the New Willard Hotel at Washington, and the Colonel away off in his tower at Deal, New Jersey, were busily engaged in explaining to the public and attempting, in heroic fashion, to extricate themselves from the unfortunate implications created by the story of the Wilson publicity man. What appeared at first blush to be a thing that would destroy the candidacy of the New Jersey Governor had been, by clever newspaper manipulation, turned to his advantage and aid.

When the bitterness and rancour caused by this unfortunate incident had happily passed away Colonel Watterson and I met at a delightful dinner at Harvey's Restaurant in Washington and discussed the "old fight." The young fellow who had inspired the story which so grievously distressed Marse Henry and Colonel Harvey was present at this dinner. Marse Henry was in fine spirits, and without showing the slightest trace of the old bitterness, rehearsed the details of this now-famous incident in a witty, sportsmanlike, and good-natured way, and at its conclusion he turned to my newspaper friend and laughingly said: "You damn rascal, you are the scoundrel who sent out the story that Harvey and I were trying to force Wall Street money on Wilson. However, old man, it did the trick. If it had not been for the clever use you made of this incident, Wilson never would have been President."

In a beautiful letter addressed to the President by Marse Henry on September 24, 1914, conveying his expressions of regret at the death of the President's first wife, appears the following statement with reference to the famous Harvey-Watterson controversy:
I hope that hereafter you and I will better understand one another; in any event that the single disagreeable episode will vanish and never be thought of more. In Paris last winter I went over the whole matter with Mr. McCombs and we quite settled and blotted out our end of it. I very much regret the use of any rude word--too much the characteristic of our rough-and-tumble political combats--and can truly say that I have not only earnestly wished the success of your administration but have sought to find points of agreement, not of disagreement.

I am writing as an old man--old enough to be your father--who has the claim upon your consideration that all his life he has pursued the ends you yourself have aimed at, if at times too zealously and exactingly, yet without self-seeking or rancor.

Your friend,
The President's acknowledgment of this letter is as follows:
September 28, 1914.


Your kind letter has gratified me very deeply. You may be sure that any feeling I may have had has long since disappeared and that I feel only gratified that you should again and again have come to my support in the columns of the Courier-Journal. The whole thing was a great misunderstanding.

Sincerely yours,
While the Harvey-Watterson episode ended as above related, there is no doubt that Woodrow Wilson deeply regretted the whole matter, and, so far as he was concerned, there was no feeling on his part of unfriendliness or bitterness toward Colonel Harvey. Indeed, he felt that Colonel Harvey had unselfishly devoted himself to his cause in the early and trying days of his candidacy, and that Harvey's support of him was untouched by selfish interests of any kind. In every way he tried to soften the unfortunate impression that had been made on the country by what many thought was an abrupt, ungracious way of treating a friend. An incident in connection with this matter is worth relating:

One day at the conclusion of the regular Tuesday cabinet meeting the President and I lingered at the table, as was our custom, and gossiped about the affairs of the Administration and the country. These discussions were intimate and frank in every way.

A note in the social column of one of the leading papers of Washington carried the story that Colonel Harvey's daughter, Miss Dorothy Harvey, was in town and was a guest at the home of Mrs. Champ Clark. I took occasion to mention this to the President, suggesting that it would be a gracious thing on his part and on the part of Mrs. Wilson to invite Miss Harvey to the Sayre-Wilson wedding which was scheduled to take place a few days later, hoping that in this way an opening might be made for the resumption of the old relationship between the Colonel and Mr. Wilson. The President appeared greatly interested in the suggestion, saying that he would take it up with Mrs. Wilson at once, assuring me that it could be arranged. When I saw how readily he acted upon this suggestion, I felt that this was an opening for a full, frank discussion of his relations with Colonel Harvey. I approached the subject in this way: "For a long time I have wanted to discuss Colonel Harvey with you. There is no doubt, Governor, that this unfortunate episode did not sit well on the stomachs of the American people. Whether you believe it or not, the country resented your attitude toward your old friend, and out of this incident an impression has grown which is becoming stronger with each day, that you pay little regard to friendship and the obligations that grow out of it. I have been hoping that in some way the old relationship could be resumed and that you would feel free at some time in a public way to attest your real feeling for Colonel Harvey, at least by way of reciprocation for the genuine way he stood by you in the old days in New Jersey." The President looked at me in the most serious way, apparently weighing every word I had uttered, and said: "You are right, Tumulty; unfortunate impressions have been created. What can I do for Colonel Harvey to attest in some public way my appreciation of what he did for me in the old days?" I asked why, inasmuch as McCombs had declined the French Ambassadorship, this post might not be offered to Colonel Harvey, adding that I believed he coveted and would appreciate such an appointment. The President said that this was an admirable suggestion and authorized me to get in touch with Colonel Harvey at once and make him the offer of the French post.

While my relations with Colonel Harvey were at no time strained, and, in fact, up to this day our friendship has been uninterrupted, I thought it would be more tactful if I should approach him through the junior senator from New York, James O'Gorman. Immediately upon leaving the President I went to the Army and Navy Club, where Senator O'Gorman was living, and told him of my conversation with the President in reference to Colonel Harvey. He was enthusiastic and immediately got in touch with Colonel Harvey at his home at Deal, New Jersey, told him of the President's offer, and asked for a conference. Then a thing happened which completely destroyed these plans for a reconciliation. The following Sunday an interview signed by Colonel Harvey, bitterly assailing the President, appeared in the New York Times. The fat was in the fire. Senator O'Gorman and I were silenced. When I approached the President on Monday morning to discuss further the matter with him, he said: "I greatly regret this interview of Colonel Harvey. How can I now with propriety offer him any post? Knowing Harvey as I do, he would be reluctant to take it, for the country might be of the opinion that he had yielded in his criticism of me by the offer of this appointment, and I could not in honour make the appointment now, for it might appear to the country that by this method I was trying to purchase the silence of the Colonel. I am very sorry, indeed, that the plan we discussed has fallen to the ground."

And thus the efforts of Mr. Wilson to bring about a reconciliation with his old friend ended in dismal failure.


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