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Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter XXIII - Renominated
by Tumulty, Joseph P.

As the days of the 1916 Convention at St. Louis approached, it was a foregone conclusion that there would be no serious contender against the President for the nomination and that he would win the prize by a practically unanimous vote. While at times the friends of Mr. Bryan and Mr. Clark were hopeful that the President might withdraw from the contest, after the Democrats at the Convention were assured that the President was ready to accept a renomination, the field was made clear for the setting of the Convention stage to accomplish that end.

It was thought that the St. Louis Convention would be a trite affair; that there would be no enthusiasm in it. This anticipation arose from the idea expressed by many of the devoted friends of the Democratic party, that the cause of Democracy in 1916 was little less than hopeless. Much of this feeling came from the inordinately high estimate which many placed upon Mr. Justice Hughes both as a candidate and as a campaigner. Indeed, many Democrats who had canvassed the national situation felt that without a continuation of the split in the ranks of the Republican party the road to Democratic success was indeed a hard and difficult one to travel.

There is no doubt that in the opinion of the country Mr. Justice Hughes was the strongest man the Republicans could put forward. The fact that he was resigning from the Supreme Court bench and that he had a remarkably progressive record as Governor of New York added a glamour and prestige to this nomination. I, myself, never lost confidence, however, in our ability to win. The Congressional elections of 1914, when the Democratic majority in the House was reduced to thirty-five, had dispirited Democratic friends throughout the country and made them feel that the nomination at St. Louis would be a purely formal matter and without fruitful results.

In a letter addressed to Colonel Harvey in 1914 I had expressed the opinion that the reduced Democratic majority in the Congressional elections of 1914, which was being construed as an apparent defeat of the party, was not a final judgment upon the work of the President and the achievements of his administration; that it was not a reversal irretrievable in character; that it should not depress the Democratic workers throughout the country, and that the field of conquest for the Democratic party in 1916 was the West and the Pacific coast. A calm analysis of the election results in 1914 convinced me that if the Presidential election of 1916 was to be won, our efforts for victory had to be concentrated upon a cultivation of sentiment throughout the West in favour of the Democratic cause.

My letter to Colonel Harvey is as follows:

November 7, 1914.


Now that the clouds have cleared away, let me send you just a line or two expressing an opinion of last Tuesday's election.

It is my feeling that we are making unmistakable gains in sections of the country where Democratic hopes never ran high before this time. Note the results in the states of Utah, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Washington and California. It now appears from the returns, regardless of what the Eastern papers may say, that our majority in the House will be approximately from thirty-five to forty; that our majority in the Senate will be sixteen.

We have elected for the first time in the history of the Democratic party, so far as I can recall, Democratic Senators in the great Republican States of California, Wisconsin and South Dakota. The gains we have made in the West, along the Pacific coast, are mighty interesting and show a new field of conquest for the Democratic party in 1916. To elect a congress, retaining a majority of the party in power, after a revision of the tariff, is unprecedented. Once before it happened, in 1897, after the passage of the Dingley Tariff Act when the Republican majority was reduced from 47 to 10. We are not in the least bit disturbed by the situation. We have for the first time elected Democratic Congressmen from the states of Utah, Washington, South Dakota and North Dakota.

With best wishes, I am,
Cordially and sincerely yours,
Secretary To The President.

Hotel Chamberlain,
Old Point Comfort, Virginia.
While the Democratic Convention was in session at St. Louis the President remained in the White House, keeping in close touch by direct telephonic communication with affairs there.

What at first appeared to be an ordinary and rather spiritless convention was quickly turned into a most enthusiastic and fervent one by the notable speeches of Governor Glynn, of New York, the temporary chairman of the Convention, and Senator Ollie M. James, of Kentucky, the permanent chairman.

The key-note speech delivered by Governor Glynn, contained this ringing defense of the President's policy of neutrality:
"This policy may not satisfy those who revel in destruction and find pleasure in despair. It may not satisfy the fire-eater or the swashbuckler but it does satisfy those who worship at the altar of the god of peace. It does satisfy the mothers of the land at whose hearth and fireside no jingoistic war has placed an empty chair. It does satisfy the daughters of the land from whom bluster and brag have sent no loving brother to the dissolution of the grave. It does satisfy the fathers of this land and the sons of this land who will fight for our flag, and die for our flag when Reason primes the rifle, when Honor draws the sword, when Justice breathes a blessing on the standards they uphold."
And Senator James in a masterly oration paid this splendid tribute to Woodrow Wilson:
"Four years ago they sneeringly called Woodrow Wilson the school- teacher; then his classes were assembled within the narrow walls of Princeton College. They were the young men of America. To-day he is the world teacher, his class is made up of kings, kaisers, czars, princes, and potentates. The confines of the schoolroom circle the world. His subject is the protection of American life and American rights under international law. The saving of neutral life, the freedom of the seas, and without orphaning a single American child, without widowing a single American mother, without firing a single gun, without the shedding of a single drop of blood, he has wrung from the most militant spirit that ever brooded above a battlefield an acknowledgment of American rights and an agreement to American demands."
These eloquent utterances prepared the way for the great slogan of the 1916 campaign: "He kept us out of war."

The President himself never used that slogan, however. From the first declaration of hostilities in Europe he realized the precarious position of the United States and the possibility that, whether we would or not, we might be swept into the conflict. As early as August, 1914, he expressed his anxious apprehension that "something might occur on the high seas which would make our neutrality impossible." He emphatically believed at that time that America's neutrality would best serve the interests of the world; he respected the American tradition of noninterference in European quarrels; with his almost mystic ability to assess and understand the opinion of the people of the country at large he knew that the American people did not want war; in his comparative seclusion he read the mind of America clearer than did the "mixers" of the Pullman smoking compartments who mistook the clamour for intervention among certain classes along the north Atlantic seaboard for the voice of America at large; while the German rape of Belgium stirred his passionate indignation, he knew that there was no practical means by which the United States could stop it, that we could not immediately transport armies to the theatre of war, and that public opinion, especially in the West and South, was not prepared for active intervention; and in addition to all this he was genuinely, not merely professedly, a passionate lover of peace. But with all this he, realizing the magnitude of the war, had already glimpsed its wider significance, which caused him to say later that "this is the last war of its kind, or of any kind that involves the world, that the United States can keep out of. The business of neutrality is over." He saw that if the war should continue long, as it promised to do, our participation might be inevitable and the American tradition of isolation for ever destroyed by circumstances beyond human control. With patience mingled with firmness, he trod his difficult path, doing all he could to keep us from getting involved without sacrificing fundamental principles of human and national rights, but he neither believed nor pretended to believe that he could give guaranties for the future. Nor did any of those who were closest to him make rash promises. For instance, the Cabinet officers who actively participated in the campaign were careful to say in their speeches that he had done all that a president could honourably do to keep us out of war and that he could be depended upon to continue in the future the same course so long as it should prove humanly possible, for "peace" was not merely a word on his lips but a passion in his heart, but that neither he nor any other mortal could "look into the seeds of time" and say what would be and what would not be. The event was on the knees of the gods. Those who spoke with responsibility adhered strictly to the tense of the verb, the past tense: "kept." None rashly used, explicitly or by implication, the future tense: "will keep." In strictest truth they recited what had been, and, from their knowledge of the President's character and convictions, said that he would not be driven into war by the clamour of his critics, that he would refrain from hostility so long as it was humanly and honourably possible to refrain.


August 6, 1915

Dear Tumulty:

Thank you for sending me the editorials from the World and from Life. You don't need to have me tell you that I say Amen to everything that Life says in the article "Tumulty and Rome." The attitude of some people about this irritates me more than I can say. It is not only preposterous, but outrageous, and of course you know it never makes the slightest impression on me.

Affectionately yours,
(signed) Woodrow Wilson

Hon. Joseph P. Tumulty,
Secretary to the President.
Showing the President's confidence in and loyalty toward his secretary.]

The President had sent Secretary of War Baker to the Convention to represent him before the various committees and to collaborate with the Committee on Resolutions in the preparation of a suitable platform.

Shortly after Mr. Baker's arrival in St. Louis the question of the attitude of the Convention and the party toward the "hyphen" vote came up for consideration, and there were indications that certain members of the Committee on Resolutions were inclined to ignore the matter of the hyphen and to remain silent on this grave issue.

While the Committee on Resolutions was meeting at St. Louis, it was reported to me by Mr. Henry C. Campbell, one of the editors of the Milwaukee Journal, and a devoted friend, that the Democratic party, through its representatives on the Committee on Resolutions, was engaged in "pussyfooting" on the hyphen issue and that this would result in bitter disappointment to the country. At the time of the receipt of this telephone message from St. Louis the President was away from town for a day and I called his attention to it in the following letter:

June 13, 1916.


It is clear, as the editorial appearing in this morning's New York World says, that the "hyphenate vote is a definite factor that cannot be discredited"; and that from the activities of the German- American Alliance every effort, as their own supporters declare, should be made to elect Justice Hughes. That there is abundant proof of this is clear, so that he who runs may read. This is evident from the attitude of the German-American press, and from the statements of professional German agitators, and from the campaign that has been carried on against you from the very beginning.

I have not read the platform to be proposed by you. The only part that I have any knowledge of is that which you read to me over the telephone some nights ago; that had to do with the question of Americanism.

Frankly, your mention of Americanism is on all fours with the declarations found in the Bull Moose and regular Republican platforms. The characteristic of all these references to Americanism is vagueness and uncertainty as to what is really meant. I believe that the time has come when the Democratic party should set forth its position on this vital matter in no uncertain terms. Efforts will soon be made, from stories now appearing in the newspapers, by professional German- Americans, to dominate our Convention, either in an effort to discredit you or to have embodied in the platform some reference to the embargo question, or a prohibition against the sale of munitions of war. We ought to meet these things in a manly, aggressive and militant fashion. It is for that reason that I suggest an open letter to the chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, setting forth your position in this matter so that the Convention may know before it nominates you the things for which you stand. Mr. Baker at the Convention will doubtless know when the representatives of the German- American Alliance make their appearance, asking for consideration at the hands of the Committee of their resolutions. As soon as they do, it appears to me to be the time for you to strike.

I discussed this matter over the telephone yesterday with Mr. Henry C. Campbell, one of our devoted friends, and editor of the Milwaukee Journal. Mr. Frank Polk, Counsellor of the State Department, who was at the Convention, tells me that he was discussing this matter with Mr. Nieman, of the Milwaukee Journal, and that Mr. Nieman made the statement that both parties were "pussyfooting" and that he would not support the Democratic party unless its attitude in this matter was unequivocal. When Mr. Campbell discussed this matter with me over the telephone, I told him to send me a telegram, setting forth what he thought ought to find lodgment in the platform, by way of expressing our attitude in the matter. This morning I received the attached telegram from Senator Husting, expressing Mr. Campbell's and Mr. Nieman's views. The part I have underlined I think should be expressed in less emphatic language.

The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to urge you as strongly as I can to address at once an open letter to the chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, expressing fully your views in the matter.

As a result of the Husting telegram, the President wired Secretary Baker, insisting upon a definite and unequivocal repudiation of the hyphen vote. The President's "fighting" telegram to Baker which contained the substance of Husting's telegram resulted in the insertion in the platform of the following plank:
Whoever, actuated by the purpose to promote the interest of a foreign power, in disregard of our own country's welfare or to injure this Government in its foreign relations or cripple or destroy its industries at home, and whoever by arousing prejudices of a racial, religious or other nature creates discord and strife among our people so as to obstruct the wholesome processes of unification, is faithless to the trust which the privileges of citizenship repose in him and is disloyal to his country. We, therefore, condemn as subversive of this nation's unity and integrity, and as destructive of its welfare, the activities and designs of every group or organization, political or otherwise, that has for its object the advancement of the interest of a foreign power, whether such object is promoted by intimidating the Government, a political party, or representatives of the people, or which is calculated and tends to divide our people into antagonistic groups and thus to destroy that complete agreement and solidarity of the people and that unity of sentiment and purpose so essential to the perpetuity of the nation and its free institutions. We condemn all alliances and combinations of individuals in this country of whatever nationality or descent, who agree and conspire together for the purpose of embarrassing or weakening the Government or of improperly influencing or coercing our public representatives in dealing or negotiating with any foreign power. We charge that such conspiracies among a limited number exist and have been instigated for the purpose of advancing the interests of foreign countries to the prejudice and detriment of our own country. We condemn any political party which in view of the activity of such conspirators, surrenders its integrity or modifies its policy.
There is no doubt that for a while after the Convention at Chicago which nominated Mr. Hughes there was deep depression in the ranks of our party throughout the country, the opinion being that the former Supreme Court Justice was an invincible foe. I had engaged in sharp controversies with many of my friends, expressing the view that Mr. Hughes would not only be a sad disappointment to the Republican managers, but that in his campaigning methods he would fall far short of the expectations of his many Republican friends.

Previous to the nomination of Mr. Hughes the President was his cordial admirer and often spoke to me in warm and generous terms of the work of Mr. Hughes as Governor of New York, which he admired because of its progressive, liberal character. Previous to the Republican Convention, he and I had often discussed the possible nominee of the Republican Convention. The President, for some reason, could not be persuaded that Mr. Justice Hughes was a serious contender for the nomination and often expressed the opinion that the idea of a nomination for the Presidency was not even remotely in the thoughts of the then Justice of the Supreme Court. I did not share this view. Although the newspaper men who conferred with Justice Hughes from day to day at his home in Washington informed me of the Judge's feelings toward the nomination for the Presidency, I was always strongly of the opinion that the Justice was in no way indifferent to the nomination and that he was not inclined to go out of his way publicly to resent the efforts that his friends were making to land it for him. When I expressed the opinion to the President, that as a matter of fact Mr. Justice Hughes was a candidate and was doing nothing outwardly to express his disapproval of the efforts being made by his friends, the President resented my statements.

There was a warm feeling of friendship on the part of all the members of the President's family toward Mr. Justice Hughes, and at the Sayre wedding, held in the White House, one of Justice Hughes' sons had played a prominent part. Owing to the personal feelings of friendship of the whole Wilson family for Mr. Hughes, the curt character of the Justice's letter of resignation to the President deeply wounded the President and the members of his family who had been Mr. Hughes' stout defenders and supporters.

I recall that on the day Mr. Hughes was nominated, and after the news of his nomination was published throughout the country, there came to the Executive offices a coloured messenger, bearing the following abrupt note to the President:

June 10, 1916.


I hereby resign the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

I am, Sir,
Respectfully yours,
When I brought this letter of resignation to the White House the President was in conference with that sturdy Democrat from Kentucky, Senator Ollie M. James. When the President read the letter and observed its rather harsh character he was deeply wounded and disappointed. When he showed it to Senator James, the Senator read it and advised that by reason of its character the President ought not to dignify it by any acknowledgment. The President turned quickly to the Kentucky statesman and said: "No, my dear Senator, the President of the United States must always do the gentlemanly thing."

The President replied to Mr. Hughes in the following note:

June 10, 1916.


I am in receipt of your letter of resignation and feel constrained to yield to your desire. I, therefore, accept your resignation as Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States to take effect at once.

Sincerely yours,

Washington, D. C.
On the first of August, 1916, I prepared the following memorandum which explained my feelings regarding the campaign of 1916 and what appeared to me to be the weakness of the Republican party and the strength of our own candidacy:

One of the principal arguments upon which the Republican managers lay great stress in favour of Hughes' candidacy is his strength as a campaigner as evidenced in his Youngstown speech delivered years ago in a campaign in which Mr. Bryan was the leader of the Democratic hosts. The strength of that speech lies in its cool analysis of the attitude of a great emotional orator [Bryan] on public questions at a time when the Democracy was advocating economic principles of doubtful strength and virtue. In other words, the position of Justice Hughes in that campaign was that of attacking an economic principle which had cut the Democratic party in two.

The position of Hughes as a candidate in this the [1916] campaign will be radically different for he will have to face a candidate representing a united party; one whose power of analysis is as great as Hughes', and to this will be added this feature of strength in the Democratic candidate--the power of appeal to the emotional or imaginative side of the American people. Added to this will be the strength of conviction in urging his cause that comes to a man who has passed through a world crisis amid great dangers and who has brought to consummation substantial (not visionary) achievements unparalleled in the political history of the country. He will not speak to the country as the representative of a party divided in its counsels or as a dreamer or doctrinaire, but rather will he stand before the country as the practical idealist, defending, not apologizing for, every achievement of his administration.

In his Youngstown speech, Justice Hughes found no difficulty in attacking the economic theories of Bryan. In this attack he not only had the sympathy of his own party but there came to him the support of many Democrats. In this campaign he will have to attack achievements and not principles of doubtful virtue. I predict that the trip of Hughes to the West will be a disastrous failure. When Justice Hughes' Western trip was announced, there was consternation in the ranks of the Democratic party, especially those Democrats with whom I came in contact in Washington. They declared that he would make a tremendous impression on the West and that he would destroy that great salient, and make it impossible for the Democrats to make any gains there.

In a letter which I addressed to Mr. Raymond T. Baker, Director of the Mint, I expressed the opinion that Mr. Hughes' Western trip would prove as distinct a disappointment to his friends as had his speech of acceptance. The letter is as follows:

August 4, 1916.


You have rightly sensed the feelings of the East as to the Hughes speech of acceptance, and I was indeed glad to know from your telegram, which came as welcome news from you, that the sentiment that the speech was a hit-and-miss affair was well nigh universal throughout the West.

There is no apparent slump that I can find here in Democratic ranks; the same buoyancy and optimism which pervaded the whole Washington atmosphere while you were here still predominate.

My belief is that Hughes' trip to the West will prove another distinct disappointment to his friends. A candidate following the path of expediency as exemplified by Hughes will find himself in an unenviable position in the West, merely criticizing, finding fault, and setting forth no policy of a constructive character.

As I told you and the boys some weeks ago, Mr. Hughes is going to prove a distinct disappointment as a candidate. He is so eager for the office that he will follow any path that may lead to it, even though it may be the rough path of expediency. We face the foe unafraid, and will soon have our big guns trained upon the frowning fortresses of the enemy. They look formidable at this time, but as we approach them it is my belief that they will be found to be made of cardboard and will fall at the touch of the President's logic and the record of his great achievements.

Sincerely yours,

Oakland, California.


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