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Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter XXX - Carrying On
by Tumulty, Joseph P.

The critics of the President will ask the question: "What was the President doing to prepare the country for war, which to him seemed inevitable?" From the inside, and without the blare of trumpets, he was quietly engaged in conferring with the heads of the Army and Navy departments. Indeed, from the minute the third Lusitania note was dispatched, actual preparations for war were begun. Immediately upon the dispatch of the note, the following statement was issued from the White House, under date of July 21, 1916.

July 21, 1916.

The President in association with the heads of departments, regardless of present-day conditions or controversies, has long been giving a great deal of consideration to the preparation of a reasonable and adequate naval programme, which he intends to propose to Congress at the proper time.

That is one of the things he is now considering in the quiet of Cornish. He feels, now that the note has been dispatched, that it is best, for the time being, to drop the discussion of it as far as he is concerned and is turning to questions of permanent national policy.

Of course, he realizes that he must have the best practical advice obtainable in this matter and is seeking for it from every available source. In fact, it is known that the best minds of the various departments of the Government, both of the Army and the Navy, are now and have been at work on these important matters for some time; that is, he is seeking advice from the men in those departments who have been most directly in touch with the new conditions of defence that have been evolved out of modern experience. He not only wishes advice from those who have a knowledge of actual modern conditions of warfare, but he is seeking light from those who are able to understand and comprehend the altered conditions of land and naval warfare. He wishes the Navy to stand upon an equality with the most efficient and serviceable.

As to the Army, it is known here that he is preparing to incorporate in his next message to Congress a programme in regard to the development and equipment of the Army and a proper training of the citizens of the United States to arms which, while in every way consistent with American traditions and national policy, will be of such a character as to commend itself to every patriotic and practical mind. In this matter he is working with the Secretary of War and his professional associates, who, it is understood, have reached some very definite conclusions on these exceedingly important matters. He is anxious to have a programme that will be definite and positive, and wishes to have the information in hand before laying the matter before the committees of the Senate and the House.
Contemporaneously with this statement was issued the following, which was prepared by the President, but issued over my name, the full significance of which was not apparent at the time:
The note [Third Lusitania note] having been dispatched, the President felt that it was best to drop further discussion of the matter for the present, as far as he was concerned. He will be free now to devote his time to a full consideration of a matter that the country has for a long time been thoughtful of, that is a reasonable programme of national defense. Of course, this programme will be considered regardless of present-day conditions.

It is known that the President has been considering this important matter in all its aspects, and has been in touch with the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy regarding it. It is also known in official circles here that the President had taken steps before leaving for Cornish to instruct the Army and Navy departments to make ready for his consideration a careful programme of national defense in preparation for the presentation of his views to Congress at the proper time.

He desires to have the programme based on the most practicable lines obtainable from the departments and it is said that the best minds in the departments are at present at work on the subject. He hopes that the programme will express the best traditions of the country and not lose sight of modern experience. He is anxious to have a programme that will be definite and positive, and wishes to have the information in hand before laying the matter before the committees of the Senate and the House.
On July 21, 1915, he addressed the following letters to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, respectively:

July 21, 1915.


I have been giving scarcely less thought than you yourself have to the question of adequate preparation for national defense, and I am anxious, as you know, to incorporate in my next message to Congress a programme regarding the development and equipment of the Army and a proper training of our citizens to arms which, while in every way consistent with our traditions and our national policy, will be of such a character as to commend itself to every patriotic and practical mind.

I know that you have been much in conference with your professional associates in the department and that you have yourself come to some very definite conclusions on these exceedingly important matters. I shall be away from Washington for a few days, but I would be very much obliged if you would be kind enough to prepare for me a programme, with estimates, of what you and the best-informed soldiers in your counsels think the country ought to undertake to do. I should like to discuss this programme with you at as early a time as it can be made ready. Whether we can reasonably propose the whole of it to the Congress immediately or not we can determine when we have studied it. The important thing now is to know and know fully what we need. Congress will certainly welcome such advice and follow it to the limit of its opportunity.

Cordially and faithfully yours,

* * * * *

Secretary Of War.


July 21, 1915.


I have been giving, as I am sure you have also, a great deal of thought to the matter of a wise and adequate naval programme to be proposed to the Congress at its next session, and I would like to discuss the whole subject with you at the earliest possible date.

But first we must have professional advice. I would be very much obliged to you if you would get the best minds in the department to work on the subject: I mean the men who have been most directly in contact with actual modern conditions, who have most thoroughly comprehended what the Navy must be in the future in order to stand upon an equality with the most efficient and most practically serviceable. I want their advice, a programme by them formulated in the most definite way. Whether we can reasonably propose the whole of it to the Congress immediately or not we can determine when we have studied it. The important thing now is to know fully what we need. Congress will certainly welcome such advice and follow it to the limit of its opportunity.

It should be a programme planned for a consistent and progressive development of this great defensive arm of the nation and should be of such a kind as to commend itself to every patriotic and practical man.

I shall return to Washington in a few days and shall be glad to take this important matter up with you at your early convenience.

Cordially and faithfully yours, WOODROW WILSON.

HON. JOSEPHUS DANIELS, Secretary of the Navy.
Immediately after the war message there arose an insistent demand for a coalition cabinet. It was the beginning of the Republican drive for what was called a bi-partisan government. Republicans chose to forget the experiences of England and France under their coalition cabinets, and when the President refused to act upon the suggestion, the impression was subtly conveyed to the unthinking that the President's refusal arose from his dislike of counsel and co÷peration, and his unwillingness to share the responsibilities and glories of the war with people outside his own party.

As an historian, the President knew the troubles of Washington with a coalition cabinet, Lincoln's embarrassments from Cabinet members not of his own party, McKinley's sagacious refusal in 1898 to form a coalition cabinet. He also knew human nature; knew that with the best intentions, men sometimes find it difficult to work whole-heartedly with a leader of a political party not their own. He could not risk a chance of division, in his own official family in the face of the common enemy.

The President looked upon the agitation for a coalition cabinet as a partisan effort to hamper and embarrass his administration, and so he coldly turned away from every suggestion that looked toward the establishment of a cabinet of the kind suggested by his too-solicitous Republican friends.

The following note which I addressed to the President and his reply, bear upon the subject:


The newspaper men asked me this morning what the attitude of the Administration was toward the proposed super-cabinet. I hedged as much as I could, but I asked if it was not the same proposition that came up some months ago, advocated by Senator Weeks, in a new disguise--if it was not the same kind of a commission that had harassed Mr. Lincoln. I think we ought to let our attitude be known unofficially for the guidance of men who wish to help us. If we do nothing at this time to let it be known, it would seem that our opposition to this kind of legislation had been silenced by the furore over the fuel order. In other words, we ought to show by our attitude that the tantrums on the Hill are making no impression on us whatever.


* * * * *


Of course, I am opposed to the idea of a "super-cabinet," and regard it as nothing more nor less than a renewal of the perpetual effort of the Republicans to force representation in the Administration. Republicans of the finest sort and of the finest capacity are working for and with the Administration on all hands and there is no need whatever for a change at the head of the administering departments. I am utterly opposed to anything of the sort and will never consent to it. You will know how to create the impression on the minds of the newspaper men that I regard it as merely a partisan effort to hamper and embarrass the Administration.

There were many misgivings in the minds of the people when war was declared in April, 1917, and the nation embarked upon the most gigantic of all its wars, under the leadership of a college professor, a doctrinaire, who did not believe in war as a method of permanently solving international problems, and a Secretary of War who was an avowed pacifist. There was another matter which greatly disturbed the peace of mind of the average American. The political party that was conducting the struggle was the Democratic party, the party of the plain folk, of the average men and women of America. Our Republican friends had so cleverly "advertised" their conduct of the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, that many people in the country felt that the Republican party, because of its leading minds and the business genius of its masters, was the only political organization that could be depended upon successfully to carry on a great war.

Colonel Roosevelt's diary, first made public on September 28, 1921, throws interesting light on Republican claims of efficient management by Republicans of the Spanish-American War. Under date of May 7, 1898, the Colonel, then a lieutenant-colonel, recorded in his diary: "The delays and stupidity of the Ordnance Department surpass belief. The Quartermaster's Department is better, but bad. The Commissary Department is good. There is no management whatever in the War Department. Against a good nation we should be helpless," and these animadversions are reiterated in subsequent entries. Interesting comments from the greatest of contemporary Republicans on the divine right of the Republican party to conduct all American wars and transact all other American business of importance. But doubtless the Colonel had forgotten all this in 1917, and many other good Americans had also forgotten what was notorious in 1898 and the ineptitude of the Republican War Department, which, as Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt said under date of May 21, 1898, had "no head, no energy, no intelligence." But the old myth sedulously cultivated by Republicans continued in 1917, that only Republicans are fit to govern, no matter how badly they govern. Direful prophecies and predictions of disaster to the country by reason of the Democratic auspices under which the war was to be conducted were freely made.

It is an unpleasant fact that some of the leading Republicans in the Senate and the House harboured for the President a partisan and personal hatred which made the wish father to the thought. Yet the expected did not happen, to the amazement and chagrin of the Republican enemies of the President. No other war was attended with so little scandal and with greater expedition. The cause was plain. It was the magnificent and aggressive leadership of Woodrow Wilson exerting itself all along the line, and that leadership was based upon certain fundamental resolutions which had been taking form in the President's mind for many months previous to his appearance before Congress asking for the passage of a war declaration. They were as follows: (1) There was to be no "politics" in the conduct of the war; (2) no political generals would be selected; (3) every ounce of energy and force in the nation was to be put back of the heads of the Army and the Navy in a supreme effort to make our influence, moral and physical, quickly felt. Every effort was made to cut out scandal and to put an absolute embargo on the activities of army speculators, contractors, and profiteers.

Speaking to me one day about the conduct of the war, shortly after the delivery of his war message, he said: "We must not in our conduct of this war repeat the scandals of the Civil and the Spanish-American wars. The politics of generals and admirals must be tabooed. We must find the best trained minds that we can get and we must back them up at every turn. Our policy must be 'the best man for every job,' regardless of his political affiliations. This must be the only test, for, after all, we are the trustees of the boys whose lives will be spent in this enterprise of war."

This was not an easy policy to pursue. Every kind of harassing demand came from Democratic senators and representatives to induce the President to recognize political considerations in the conduct of the war, the argument being that after all the responsibility for its conduct resting with the Democrats, the administration of the war ought to be under Democratic tutelage throughout. But the President was firm--in his resolve to see the war through to the end without political considerations. The political predilections of generals, admirals, and war workers of every kind was ignored.

Mr. Creel by furnishing a list of Republicans appointed by the President to conspicuous office has disproved the charge against the President of niggard partisanship. Although the President would not tolerate a coalition cabinet, he gave to Republicans all manner of opportunities to share in the conduct and the credit of the war. I quote from Mr. Creel:
The search for "the best man for the place" was instituted without regard to party, faction, blood strain, or creed, and the result was a composite organization in which Democrats, Republicans, and Independents worked side by side, partisanship forgotten and service the one consideration.

It stood recognized as a matter of course that the soldier selected to command our forces in France might well develop into a presidential possibility, yet this high place was given without question to Gen. John J. Pershing, a life-long Republican and the son-in-law of Senator Warren, one of the masters of the Republican machine.

Admiral William S. Sims, a vociferous Republican, was sent to English waters in high command, and while Secretary Daniels was warned at the time that Sims's partisanship was of the kind that would not recognize the obligations of loyalty or patriotism, he waved the objection aside out of his belief that Sims was "the best man for the job".

For the head of the Aircraft Board, with its task of launching America's great aviation programme, Mr. Howard E. Coffin, a Republican, was selected and at his right hand Mr. Coffin placed Col. Edward A. Deeds, also a Republican of vigour and regularity.

It is to be remembered also that when failure and corruption were charged against the Aircraft Board, the man appointed by the President to conduct the highly important investigation was Charles E. Hughes.

Three Assistant Secretaries of War were appointed by Mr. Baker--Mr. Benedict Crowell, a Cleveland contractor; Doctor F. E. Keppel, dean of Columbia University, and Emmet J. Scott, formerly Booker Washington's secretary--and all three were Republicans. Mr. E. R. Stettinius of the J. P. Morgan firm and a Republican was made special assistant to the Secretary of War and placed in charge of supplies, a duty that he had been discharging for the Allies. Maj. Gen. George W. Goethals, after his unfortunate experience in shipbuilding, was given a second chance and put in the War Department as an assistant Chief of staff. The Chief of Staff himself, Gen. Peyton C. March, was a Republican no less definite and regular than General Goethals. Mr. Samuel McRoberts, president of the National City Bank and one of the pillars of the Republican party, was brought to Washington as chief of the procurement section in the Ordnance Section, with the rank of brigadier-general, Maj. Gen. E. H. Crowder was appointed Provost- Marshal-General, although his Republicanism was well known, and no objection of any kind was made when General Crowder put Charles B. Warren, the Republican National Committeeman from Michigan, in charge of appeal cases, a position of rare power.

The Emergency Fleet Corporation was virtually turned over to Republicans under Charles M. Schwab and Charles Piez. Mr. Vance McCormick, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was made chairman of the War Trade Board, but of the eight members the following five were Republicans: Albert Strauss of New York, Alonzo E. Taylor of Pennsylvania, John Beaver White, of New York, Frank C. Munson of New York, and Clarence M. Woolley of Chicago.

The same conditions obtained in the Red Cross. A very eminent Republican, Mr. H. P. Davison, was put in supreme authority, and on the Red Cross War Council were placed ex-President Taft; Mr. Charles D. Norton, Mr. Taft's secretary while President; and Mr. Cornelius N. Bliss, former treasurer of the Republican National Committee. Not only was Mr. Taft thus honoured, but upon the creation of a National War Labour Board the ex-President was made its chairman and virtually empowered to act as the administration's representative in its contact with industry.

Mr. Frank A. Vanderlip, a Republican of iron regularity, was placed in charge of the War Savings Stamps Campaign, and when Mr. McAdoo had occasion to name Assistant Secretaries of the Treasury he selected Prof. L. S. Rowe of the University of Pennsylvania and Mr. H. C. Leffingwell of New York.

Harry A. Garfield, son of the Republican President, was made Fuel Administrator, and Mr. Herbert Hoover, now a candidate for President, on a platform, of unadulterated Republicanism, was nominated as head of the Food Administration.

The Council of National Defense was an organization of high importance and one of tremendous influence from a partisan standpoint, yet its executive body was divided as follows: Republicans--Howard E. Coffin, Julius Rosenwald, Dr. Hollis Godfrey, Dr. Franklin Martin, Walter S. Gifford, Director; Democrats--Daniel Willard and Bernard M. Baruch; Independent--Samuel Gompers.
No sooner had the war begun than the preliminary war work of the President began to bear fruit.

Within a month from the declaration of war the traditional policy of the nation was reversed, by the enactment of the Selective Service Act. A vast machinery of registration was created that ran without a hitch, and on June 5th more than 10,000,000 men were registered quickly and efficiently.

Thirty-two encampments--virtual cities, since each had to house 40,000 men--were built in ninety days from the driving of the first nail, complete in every municipal detail, a feat declared impossible, and which will stand for all time as a building miracle.

In June, scarcely two months after the President's appearance before Congress, General Pershing and his staff reached France, and on July 3rd the last of four groups of transports landed American fighting men in the home of La Fayette and Rochambeau. On October 10th our soldiers went on the firing-line.

Training camps for officers started in June, and in August there were graduated 27,341 successful aspirants, ready to assume the tasks of leadership.

In a notable speech, confidential in character, the President on the 8th day of April, 1918, addressed the foreign correspondents at the White House concerning "our resolutions" and "actions in the war." The speech was as follows:
I am very glad to have this opportunity to meet you. Some of you I have met before, but not all. In what I am going to say I would prefer that you take it in this way, as for the private information of your minds and not for transmission to anybody, because I just want, if I may, in a few words to create a background for you which may be serviceable to you. I speak in confidence.

I was rendered a little uneasy by what Mr. Lloyd George was quoted as having said the other day that the Americans have a great surprise in store for Germany. I don't know in what sense he meant that, but there is no surprise in store. I want you to know the sequence of resolves and of actions concerning our part in the war. Some time ago it was proposed to us that we, if I may use the expression feed our men into the French and English armies in any unit that might be ready-- companies or regiments or brigades--and not wait to train and coordinate the larger units of our armies before putting them into action. My instinctive judgment in the face of that proposition was that the American people would feel a very much more ardent interest in the war if their men were fighting under their own flag and under their own general officers, but at that time, which was some months ago, I instructed General Pershing that he had full authority whenever any exigency that made such a thing necessary should occur to put the men in any units or in any numbers or in any way that was necessary-- just as he is doing. What I wanted you to know was that that was not a new action, that General Pershing was fully instructed about that all along.

Then, similarly with regard to the impression that we are now going to rush troops to Europe. Of course, you cannot rush any faster than there is means of rushing and, what I have said recently is what I have said all along, that we are getting men over there just as fast as we can get them ready and as quickly as we can find the ships to transport them. We are doing that now and we have been doing it all along. Let me point out some of the circumstances: Our first programme was to send over ninety thousand men a month, but for several months we were sending over only thirty thousand--one third of the programme. Why? Not because we didn't have the men ready, not even because we didn't have the means of transportation, but because--and there is no criticism of the French Government involved in this--because the ports assigned to us for landing couldn't take care of the supplies we had to send over. We had to send materials and engineers, and workmen, even, over to build the docks and the piers that would be adequate to handle the number of men we sent over, because this was happening: We began with the ninety-thousand programme and the result was that cargo ships that we needed were lying in those ports for several weeks together without being unloaded, as there was no means of unloading them. It was bad economy and bad practice from every point of view to have those ships lying there during a period when they could have made two or three voyages. There is still this difficulty which I am afraid there is no means of overcoming rapidly, that the railroad communication between those ports and the front is inadequate to handle very large bodies of men. You may notice that General Pershing recommended that Christmas boxes should not be sent to the men. That sounded like a pretty hard piece of advice, but if you could go to those ports and see those Christmas boxes which are still there, you would know why he didn't want them sent. There was no means of getting them to the front. Vast accumulations of these gifts were piled up there with no means of storing them adequately even.

I just wanted to create for you this picture, that the channels have been inevitably choked. Now we believe that, inasmuch as the impediments on the other side are being largely removed, we can go ahead with the original programme and add to it in proportion as the British can spare us the tonnage, and they are going to spare us the tonnage for the purpose. And with the extra tonnage which the British are going to spare us we will send our men, not to France but to Great Britain, and from there they will go to the front through the channel ports. You see that makes a new line where the means of handling them are already established and where they are more abundant than they are at the French ports. Now, I want to say again that none of this involves the least criticism of the French authorities, because I think they have done their very best in every respect, but they couldn't make ports out of hand, they couldn't build new facilities suddenly, and their man power was being drawn on in very much larger proportion than our man power. Therefore, it was perfectly proper that we should send men over there and send materials to make the means of handling the troops and the cargoes more expeditiously.

I want you gentlemen to realize that there was no wave-like motion in this thing so far as our purpose and preparation are concerned. We have met with delays, of course, in production, some of which might have been avoided and ought to have been avoided, and which are being slowly corrected, but apart from that the motive power has been back of this thing all the time. It has been the means of action that has oscillated, it has been sometimes greater and sometimes less than was necessary for the programme.

I for my own part don't like the idea of having surprises. I would like the people to be surprised if we didn't do our duty, but not surprised that we did do it. Of course, I don't mean that Mr. Lloyd George meant that we would surprise everybody by doing our duty, but I don't just know how to interpret his idea of it, because I have said the same thing to the British representatives all along as I informally expressed it to Lord Reading, that we had been and always would be doing our damnedest, and there could not be a more definite American expression of purpose than that.

As to another matter (I am just giving you things to think about and not things to say, if you will be kind enough to take it that way). That speech I made on Saturday I hope was correctly understood. We are fighting, as I understand it, for justice to everybody and are ready to stop just as soon as justice to everybody is everybody's programme. I have the same opinion privately about, I will not say the policy, but the methods of the German Government that some gentlemen have who see red all the time, but that is not a proper part of my thought. My thought is that if the German Government insist that the thing shall be settled unjustly, that is to say by force, then of course we accept that and will settle it by force. Whenever we see sincere symptoms of their desire to settle it by justice, we will not only accept their suggestions but we will be glad and eager to accept them, as I said in my speech. I would be ashamed to use the knock-down and drag-out language; that is not the language of liberty, that is the language of braggadocio. For my part, I have no desire to march triumphantly into Berlin. If they oblige us to march triumphantly into Berlin, then we will do it if it takes twenty years. But the world will come to its senses some day, no matter how mad some parts of it may be now, and this is my feeling, that we ought when the thing is over to be able to look back upon a course which had no element in it which we need be ashamed of. So it is so difficult in any kind of a speech, this kind or any other, to express two things that seem to be going in opposite directions that I wasn't sure that I had succeeded in expressing them on Saturday--the sincere willingness to discuss peace whenever the proposals are themselves sincere and yet at the same time the determination never to discuss it until the basis laid down for the discussion is justice. By that I mean justice to everybody. Nobody has the right to get anything out of this war, because we are fighting for peace if we mean what we say, for permanent peace. No injustice furnishes a basis for permanent peace. If you leave a rankling sense of injustice anywhere, it will not only produce a running sore presently which will result in trouble and probably war, but it ought to produce war somewhere. The sore ought to run. It is not susceptible to being healed except by remedying the injustice. Therefore, I for my part wouldn't want to see a peace which was based upon compelling any people, great or small, to live under conditions which it didn't willingly accept.

If I were just a sheer Machiavelli and didn't have any heart but had brains, I would say: "If you mean what you say and are fighting for permanent peace, then there is only one way to get it, whether you like justice or not." It is the only conceivable intellectual basis for it, because this is not like the time, years ago, of the Congress of Vienna. Peoples were then not willing, but so speechless and unorganized and without the means of self-expression, that the governments could sit on their necks indefinitely. They didn't know how to prevent it. But they are wide awake now and nobody is going to sit comfortably on the neck of any people, big or little, and the more uncomfortable he is who tries it, the more I am personally pleased. So that I am in the position in my mind of trying to work out a purely scientific proposition: "What will stay put?"

A peace is not going to be permanent until that principle is accepted by everybody, that, given a political unit, every people has the right to determine its own life. That, gentlemen, is all I have to say to you, but it is the real inside of my mind, and it is the real key to the present foreign policy of the United States which for the time being is in my keeping. I hope it will be useful to you, as it is welcome to me to have this occasion of telling you what I really think and what I understand we are really doing.


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