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:
THE WHITE HOUSE,
November 7, 1914.
DEAR COLONEL HARVEY:
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,
J. P. TUMULTY,
Secretary To The President.
COLONEL GEORGE HARVEY,
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
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
And Senator James in a masterly oration paid this splendid tribute to
"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
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.
THE WHITE HOUSE
CORNISH, N. H.,
August 6, 1915
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.
(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:
THE WHITE HOUSE,
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
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
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
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:
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES,
WASHINGTON, D. C.
June 10, 1916.
TO THE PRESIDENT:
I hereby resign the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
of the United States.
I am, Sir,
CHARLES E. HUGHES.
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
The President replied to Mr. Hughes in the following note:
THE WHITE HOUSE,
June 10, 1916.
DEAR MR. JUSTICE HUGHES:
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.
HON. CHARLES E. HUGHES,
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
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  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:
THE WHITE HOUSE,
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.