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Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter XLIV - Wilson--The Human Being
by Tumulty, Joseph P.

There is no one who wishes to feel the camaraderie of life, "the familiar touch," more than Woodrow Wilson; but it seems that it cannot be so, and the knowledge that it could not saddened him from the outset of his public career.

I remember a meeting between us at the Governor's Cottage at Sea Girt, New Jersey, a few hours after the news of his nomination for the Presidency had reached us from Baltimore in 1912. In this little talk he endeavoured in an intimate way to analyze himself for my benefit. "You know, Tumulty," he said, "there are two natures combined in me that every day fight for supremacy and control. On the one side, there is the Irish in me, quick, generous, impulsive, passionate, anxious always to help and to sympathize with those in distress." As he continued his description of himself, his voice took on an Irish brogue, "And like the Irishman at the Donnybrook Fair, always willin' to raise me shillalah and to hit any head which stands firninst me. Then, on the other side," he said, "there is the Scotch--canny, tenacious, cold, and perhaps a little exclusive. I tell you, my dear friend, that when these two fellows get to quarrelling among themselves, it is hard to act as umpire between them."

For every day of my eleven years' association with Woodrow Wilson I have seen some part of these two natures giving expression to itself. I have witnessed the full play of the Irish passion for justice and sympathy for the under-dog, the man whom he was pleased to call the "average man," whose name never emerges to the public view. I have seen the full tide of Irish passion and human sympathies in him flow at some story of injustice which I had called to his attention; that Irish sympathy in him expressed itself not dramatically, but in some simple, modest way; an impulse to lift someone, to help an unfortunate person in distress. That sympathy might be expressed in the presence of some father, seeking pardon at the hands of the President in behalf of a wayward son, or some mother pleading for the release of a loved one, or it would show itself in full sway, as it often did, when I called his attention to some peculiar case that had evoked my sympathy and pity. And again I saw the Scotch in him--strict, upstanding, intractable, and unrelenting. I saw the Scotch rise in him when an attempt would be made by personal friends to influence his action where it was evident to him there was at the base of it some hint of personal privilege, of favouritism on grounds of friendship. I saw the full sweep of that Scotch tenacity during the war, in the very midst of that bloody thing, at a time when bitter ridicule and jeers were his portion. Throughout it he was calm, imperturbable, undisturbed by the frenzied passions of the moment.

I saw him express the Irish sense of gratitude in a striking way in the White House, in my presence, as the result of a conference, in which the participants were the President and Senators Stone and Reed, both of Missouri.

The incident arose out of Senator Reed's failure to get the President to agree to appoint an intimate friend of Reed's postmaster of St. Louis. Charges, many of them unfounded, had been made to the Postmaster General's office against the Reed candidate and, although Reed had made many appeals to Postmaster General Burleson to send the appointment of his friend to the President for his approval, Burleson refused to do so, and Reed thereupon brought his case to the President. I remember how generous and courteous the President was in his treatment of Reed and Stone on this occasion. Senator Stone, in his usual kindly way, walked over to the President and putting his hand on his shoulder, said: "Now, Mr. President, I want you to do this favour for my friend, Jim Reed. Jim is a damned good fellow." The President laughingly replied, "Why, Senator, you just know that there is nothing personal in my attitude in this matter. I have no desire to injure or humiliate Senator Reed, but the Postmaster General has refused to recommend the appointment of the Senator's friend for the St. Louis postmastership." The President then turned to Senator Reed and said, "Senator, I will tell you what I will do for you. I will allow you to name any other man, outside of the one whose name you have already suggested, and I will appoint him at once without making any inquiry or investigation whatever as to his qualifications. This I will do in order to convince you that I have no personal feeling whatever toward you in this matter." But Senator Reed continued to argue for the appointment of his friend. The President was adamant. Senator Stone and Senator Reed then turned away from the President and made their way to my office which was adjoining that of the President. It was plain that the two Senators were deeply disappointed and highly displeased with the President. As the President opened the door for the Senators to make their entrance into my room Senator Reed turned to the President again and in the most emphatic way, said, "Mr. President, Senator Stone told me before I came to see you that you were not a cold man and that you were a good fellow. It was upon that hypothesis that I took the liberty of appealing to you personally in behalf of my friend." Senator Reed then continued, and in the most eloquent short speech I have ever heard, said, "They tell me that before you became governor of New Jersey you had a fight at Princeton with the Trustees of that University. You better than any one else in this country know what it is to have a pack of enemies at your heels. This is what is happening in my friend's case. My enemies in Missouri have conspired to destroy this man because he has been my friend and has fought my battles for me. This man whom I have asked you to appoint has been my campaign manager. He has visited my home; we have been life-long friends, and I will stake my life upon his reputation and upon his standing. But because he has been my friend he is now to be punished and now by your action you will complete the conspiracy that is afoot to defeat and destroy him."

The President then said, "But, Senator, I have tried to convince you that there is nothing personal in my attitude and that I will appoint any other man you may name." Whereupon Senator Reed said, "If God Almighty himself asked me to surrender in this fight for my friend, I would not do it. I think I know you well enough to know that in the fight you had for your ideals and your friends at Princeton, you would not have surrendered to anybody. I am fighting now for the reputation and the character of my friend, and you ought not to ask me to surrender him to his executioners."

The President was standing with his arms folded while the Senator was addressing him and was evidently deeply touched by Reed's appeal. As Reed concluded his eloquent speech in behalf of his friend quickly the President reached out his hand to Reed and said, "Senator, don't surrender your friend; stick by him to the end and I will appoint him." Whereupon he turned from the Senators, walked over to the telephone which stood on my desk, called up the Postmaster General and directed him to send over to the White House at once the appointment of Senator Reed's friend for the postmastership at St. Louis. The Postmaster General protested but was overruled by the President. As the two Senators left my room, Senator Stone said to Senator Reed, "By God, Jim, I told you so. There is a great man and a true friend. I told you he was a regular fellow."

It has been said by the enemies of Woodrow Wilson that he was ungrateful, that he never appreciated the efforts of his friends in his behalf, and that when it came to the question of appointments he was unmindful of big obligations to them.

The following letter is so characteristic of the man that I beg leave to introduce it:
The White House,
Washington D. C.

April 14, 1916.


Thank you for having let me read this letter again.

There is one thing that distresses me. The implication of Mr. Alward's letter is (or would seem to one who did not know the circumstance to be) that I had not shown my gratitude for all the generous things he did in promoting my candidacy. Surely he does not feel that. Is it not true that I appointed him to the office he now holds? that I did so with the greatest pleasure as gratifying his own personal wish, and that the office itself has afforded him an opportunity of showing his real quality and mettle to the people of his state in the performance of duties for which he is eminently qualified? And have I not tried, my dear Davies, in every possible way to show my warm and sincere appreciation and my loyal friendship both to you and to him? It distresses me to find any other implication even latent between the lines, and the inference left to be drawn is that if I should not appoint him to the Federal Bench, it would be virtually an act of ingratitude on my part. I am sure he cannot soberly mean that, for it is so far from just.

It seems to me my clear duty to do in this case as in all others, the thing which commends itself to my judgment after the most careful consideration as the wisest and best thing, both for the interests of the Bench and the interests of the party.

Always, with real affection,

Faithfully yours,

Hon. Joseph E. Davies,
Federal Trade Commission.
On one of the most critical days of the war, when Lloyd George was crying out in stentorian tones from across the sea that the war was now a race between Von Hindenburg and Wilson, a fine old Southern gentleman appeared at my office at the White House, dressed in an old frock coat and wearing a frayed but tolerably respectable high hat. He was the essence of refinement and culture and seemed to bring with him to the White House a breath of the old Southland from which he had come. In the most courteous way he addressed me, saying, "Mr. Secretary, I am an old friend of the President's father, Doctor Wilson, and I want to see Woodrow. I have not seen the boy since the old days in Georgia, and I have come all the way up here to shake him by the hand."

So many requests of a similar nature came to my desk during the critical days of the war and at a time when the President was heavily burdened with weighty responsibilities that I was reluctant to grant the old man's request and was about to turn him away with the usual excuse as to the crowded condition of the President's calendar, etc., when the old man said, "I know Woodrow will see me for his father and I were old friends." He then told me a story that the President had often repeated to me about his father. It seems that the old gentleman who was addressing me was on a hot summer's day many years ago sitting in front of a store in the business street of Augusta, Georgia, where the President's father was pastor of the Presbyterian Church, when he sighted the parson, in an old alpaca coat, seated in his buggy driving a well-groomed gray mare, and called out to him, "Doctor, your horse looks better groomed than yourself." "Yes," replied Doctor Wilson dryly as he drove on, "I take care of my horse; my congregation takes care of me."

I knew that if I repeated this story to the President it would be the open sesame for the old man. I excused myself and quickly made my way to the Cabinet Room where the President was holding a conference with the Cabinet members. After making my excuses to the Cabinet for my interruption, I whispered into the President's ear that there was an old man in my office who knew his father very well in the old days in Georgia and that he wanted an opportunity to shake hands with him. I then said to the President, "He told me the old horse story, the one that you have often told me. I am sure that he is an old friend of your father's." This struck the President's most tender spot, for many times during the years of our association the President had regaled me with delightful stories of his father and of the tender, solicitous way in which his father had cared for him. One of the passions of President Wilson's life was his love for and recollection of that old father, himself a man of remarkable force of character and intellect. Turning to the members of the Cabinet, the President said, "Gentlemen, will you please excuse me for a few minutes?" When I told the fine old chap that the President would see him at once he almost collapsed. Then, fixing himself up, rearranging his old frock coat, taking his high hat in hand, striking a statesmanlike posture, he walked into the President's office. No words passed between the two men for a few seconds. The old man looked silently at the President, with pride and admiration plainly visible in his eyes, and then walked slowly toward the President and took both his hands. Releasing them, he put one of his arms around the President's shoulder and looking straight into the President's eyes, he said, "Woodrow, my boy, your old father was a great friend of mine and he was mighty proud of you. He often told me that some day you would be a great man and that you might even become President." While the old man was addressing him the President stood like a big bashful schoolboy, and I could see that the old man touched the mystic chord of memories that were very sweet and dear to the President. Removing his arm from about the President's shoulder, the old man said, "Well, well, Woodrow, what shall I say to you?" Then, answering his own question, he said, "I shall say to you what your dear old father would have said were he here: 'Be a good boy, my son, and may God bless you and take care of you!'"

The President said nothing, but I could see that his lips were quivering. For a moment he stood still, in his eyes the expression of one who remembers things of long ago and sacred. Then he seemed, as with an effort, to summon himself, and his thoughts back to the present, and I saw him walk slowly toward the door of the Cabinet Room, place one hand on the knob, with the other brush his handkerchief across his eyes. I saw him throw back his shoulders and grow erect again as he opened the door, and I heard him say in quiet, steady tones, "I hope you will pardon the interruption, gentlemen."

The popular cry of the unthinking against Woodrow Wilson in the early days of his administration was that he was a pacifist and unwilling to fight. The gentlemen who uttered these unkind criticisms were evidently unmindful of the moral courage he manifested in the various fights in which he had participated in his career, both at Princeton University, where he served as president, and as governor of New Jersey, in challenging the "old guard" of both parties to mortal combat for the measures of reform which he finally brought to enactment. They also forgot the moral courage which he displayed in fighting the tariff barons and ha procuring the enactment of the Underwood tariff, and of the fine courage he manifested in decentralizing the financial control of the country and bringing about the Federal Reserve Act, which now has the whole-hearted approval of the business world in America and elsewhere, but which was resisted in the making by powerful interests.

I do not wish to make an invidious comparison between Woodrow Wilson and his predecessors in the White House, but if one will examine the political history of this country, he will find that very few Presidents had ever succeeded, because of the powerful interests they were compelled to attack, in finally putting upon the statute books any legislation that could control the moneyed interests of the country. The reform of the tariff and the currency had been the rocks upon which many administrations had met disaster.

Nearly every adviser about Woodrow Wilson, even those who had had experience in the capital of the nation, warned him that he might, after a long fight, succeed in reforming the tariff, but that his efforts would fail if he attempted to pass a bill that would establish currency reform. But the President allowed nothing to stand in the way of the establishment of the Federal Reserve system without which the financing of the greatest war in the history of the world would have been impossible. It was his courage and his persistency that provided the first uniform and harmonious system of banking which the United States has ever had.

If Woodrow Wilson had accomplished nothing more than the passage of this Federal Reserve Act, he would have been entitled to the gratitude of the nation. This Act supplied the country with an elastic currency controlled by the American people. Panics--the recurring phenomena of disaster which the Republican party could neither control nor explain--are now but a memory. Under the Republican system there was an average of one bank failure every twenty-one days for a period of nearly forty years. After the passage of the Federal Reserve system there were, in 1915, four bank failures; in 1916 and 1917, three bank failures; in 1918, one bank failure; and in 1919, no bank failures at all.

Woodrow Wilson is not a showy fighter, but he is a tenacious and a courageous one.

A little story came to me at the White House, illustrating alike the calmness and the fighting quality of Woodrow Wilson. The incident happened while he was a student at the University of Virginia. It appears that some of the University boys went to a circus and had got into a fight with the circus men and been sadly worsted. They called a meeting at "wash hall," as they termed it. Many of the boys made ringing speeches, denouncing the brutality and unfairness of the circus people and there was much excitement. It was then moved that all the boys present should proceed to the circus and give proper battle, to vindicate the honour of the college. Just before the motion was put a slim, black-haired, solemn youth arose from his seat in the rear of the hall, and walking up the aisle, requested a hearing. He stated that perhaps he was being forward, because he was a "first-year" man, in asking to be heard; that he felt that the action of the circus men deserved the severest condemnation; that it was a natural impulse to want to punish cowardly acts and to "clean up" the show; but that it was lawlessness they were about to engage in; that it would bring disgrace on the college, as well as on the state and the Southland; more than this, many of the showmen would be armed with clubs, knives, and pistols, and if the boys did go, some of them might not come back alive and others might be maimed or crippled for life. He then paused, but resuming, said, "However, if my views do not meet with your approval; if you decide to go as a body, or if a single man wants to go to fight, I shall ask to go with him."

Was not his attitude in this incident characteristic of his dealing with Germany? He was patient with Germany and stood unmoved under the bitterest criticism and ridicule; but when he found that patience was no longer a virtue, he went into the war in the most ruthless way and punished Germany for her attempt to control the high seas.

I recall my own antagonism to him in New Jersey when I was engaged, as now certain of his enemies are engaged, in attacking him, and I recall how my opposition abated and altogether disappeared by the recital by one of his friends to me one day of the controversy among the Princeton Trustees that arose over the now-famous Proctor gift. I was discussing the Princeton professor with this old friend one day and I said to him that I suspected that Wall Street interests were back of his candidacy for the governorship. My friend said, "Tumulty, you are wrong. There is no unwholesome interest or influence back of Wilson. I tell you he is a fine fellow and if he is elected governor, he will be a free man." He then cited the instance of the Princeton fight over the Proctor gift. It will be recalled that Mr. Proctor bequeathed to Princeton University a large sum of money, but attached certain conditions to the gift that had to do with the policy or internal control of the University. The gift was made at a time when Princeton was in sore need of funds. President Wilson, in a prolonged fight, bitterly waged by some who had been his close personal friends, persuaded the Board of Trustees to vote, by a narrow margin, for rejection of the gift on the grounds that a great educational institution could not afford to have its internal policies dictated by purchase on the part of a rich man. By his position he alienated from his leadership many of the wealthy, influential Princeton alumni, especially in the larger Eastern cities, but he stood like a rock on the principle that the educational policy of a college must be made by those authorized to make it and not changed at the bidding of wealthy benefactors. This was a convincing answer to my attack upon the Princeton professor.

This same moral courage was given free play on many an occasion during our intimacy. It was made manifest in the famous Panama Tolls fight, at a time when he was warned that a fight made to rectify mistakes in the matter of Panama tolls would destroy his political future.

He was always a fair fighter and a gentleman throughout every contest he engaged in. Many unkind and untrue things were said about Woodrow Wilson from the time he entered politics, but there is one charge that has never been made against him and that is the charge of untruthfulness or "hitting below the belt." No one in the country during his eight years at the White House ever charged him with making an untrue statement. No politician or statesman ever said that Wilson had broken a promise, though many have complained that he would not make promises.

In the matter of promises I never met a man who was so reluctant to give a promise, especially in the matter of bestowing office upon willing candidates. I have known him on many occasions to make up his mind for months in advance to appoint a certain man and yet he would not say so to his most intimate friends who urged it. Speaking to me one day about the matter of promises, he said, "The thing to do is to keep your mind open until you are bound to act. Then you have freedom of action to change your mind without being charged with bad faith."

One reason for the charge made against him of coldness and "political ingratitude" was that he steadfastly refused to barter public offices for political support. He is by instinct, as well as by conviction, utterly opposed to the "spoils system." He considers government the people's business to be conducted as such and not as a matter of personal exchange of political favours. Nor can those who failed to get from him what they fancied their political services earned, complain truthfully that they were deceived by him into supposing that he shared their own opinion of their deserts. Frequently they had explicit warning to the contrary. There was the case of Jim Smith and the New Jersey machine, for instance. When those gentlemen paid the president of Princeton University an unsolicited call to suggest that he be candidate for the Democratic nomination for the governorship of New Jersey, Mr. Wilson, after thanking them for the compliment, with disconcerting directness asked, "Gentlemen, why do you want me as the candidate?" They replied, because they believed he could be elected and they wanted a Democratic governor. He asked why they believed he could be elected, he who had never held any public office. They answered that the people of New Jersey would have confidence in him. "Precisely," said Mr. Wilson; "they will have confidence in me because they will believe that I am free of the political entanglements which have brought distress to New Jersey, because they are tired of political bargain and sale, because they want their government delivered back into their hands. They want a government pledged to nobody but themselves. Now, don't you see, gentlemen, that if I should consider your flattering suggestion, I must be what the people think I am. I must be free to consider nothing but their interests. There must be no strings tied to your proposal. I cannot consider it an obligation of returned personal favours to any individual. We must clearly understand that we are acting in the interest of the people of New Jersey and in the interest of nobody else." If the self-constituted committee thought this merely handsome talk without specific meaning, they had only themselves to thank for their subsequent predicament. They found he meant exactly what he said.

There has never been a public man in America with a profounder faith in popular government, or a stronger conviction that the bane of free government is secret bargaining among those ambitious to trade public office for private benefits. Mr. Wilson could no more pay for political support from public offices than he could pay for it from the public treasury. He abhors all forms of political favoritism including nepotism. He not only would not appoint kinsmen to office; he would discountenance their appointment by others. He resisted the efforts of well-meaning friends to have his brother, Mr. Joseph R. Wilson, Jr., who had rendered a substantial service to the 1912 campaign by his effective work as a trained journalist, elected secretary of the United States Senate, saying that his brother in this position would inevitably be misunderstood, would be thought a spy on the Senate to report matters to the President. His son-in-law, Mr. Francis B. Sayre, is by profession a student of international law, a professor of the subject in Harvard University, and as such was employed by Colonel House on the research committee preparatory to the Paris Conference. Mr. Sayre assumed he was to go to Paris, but the President set his personal veto on this, saying that it would not do for the President's son-in-law to be on a list of those who were going abroad at the public expense. When Mr. Sayre asked if he could not go and pay his own expenses, the President replied, "No, because it would not be believed that you had really paid your own expenses." Mr. Sayre, respecting the President's views, did not press the claim.

If it has appeared that the President has sometimes "leaned backward" in these matters, it is because of his strong conviction that politicians have leaned too far forward in using public office for private rewards, a bad system toward which the President's attitude may be stated in Hamlet's impatient injunction to the players, "Oh, reform it altogether!"

My experiences with him, where one could witness the full play of the Scotch and Irish strains in him, came particularly in the matter of the numerous pardon cases and the applications for Executive Orders, placing this man or that woman under the classified civil service. The latter were only issued in rare instances and always over the protest of the Civil Service Commission. In many of these applications there was a great heartache or family tragedy back of them and to every one of them he gave the most sympathetic consideration.

I remember his remark to me one day when I was urging him to sign an Executive Order in behalf of a poor woman, the widow of an old soldier. After I had argued with him for a time he turned to me and said, "Every unfortunate person in distress seems to come to me for relief, but I must not let my sympathies get the best of me, it would not be right to do these things upon any basis of sympathy." Although I stood rebuked, the order was signed. It was a thing urged against him in the last campaign, that he held the record for the number of Executive Orders issued by him. His Scotch nature would also assert itself on many occasions. While I was living with the President at the White House one summer, on a night after dinner we engaged in the discussion of an article which appeared that month in one of the popular magazines of the country. In this article Woodrow Wilson was portrayed as a great intellectual machine. Turning to me, he said, "Tumulty, have you read that article? What do you think of it?" I said that I thought in many respects it was admirable. "I don't agree with you at all," he said. "It is no compliment to me to have it said that I am only a highly developed intellectual machine. Good God, there is more in me than that!" He then said, rather sadly, "Well, I want people to love me, but I suppose they never will." He then asked me this question, "Do you think I am cold and unfeeling?" I replied, "No, my dear Governor, I think you are one of the warmest hearted men I ever met."

And when I say this of Woodrow Wilson I mean it. I hope I have all of the generous tendencies of my race and that I know a great heart when I see its actions. I could not have been associated with him all these years, witnessing the great heart in action, without having full faith in what I now say. No man of all my acquaintance, with whom I have discussed life in all of its phases and tragedies, at least those tragedies that stalked in and out of the White House, was more responsive, more sympathetic, and more inclined to pity and help than Woodrow Wilson. His eyes would fill with tears at the tale of some unfortunate man or woman in distress. It was not a cheap kind of sympathy. It was quiet, sincere, but always from the heart. The President continued talking to me--and now he spoke as the canny Scot--"I am cold in a certain sense. Were I a judge and my own son should be convicted of murder, and I was the only judge privileged to pass judgment upon the case, I would do my duty even to the point of sentencing him to death. It would be a hard thing to do but it would be my solemn duty as a judge to do it, but I would do it, because the state cannot be maintained and its sovereignty vindicated or its integrity preserved unless the law is strictly enforced and without favour. It is the business of the judge to uphold it and he must do it to the point of every sacrifice. If he fails, justice fails, the state falls. That looks cold- blooded, doesn't it? But I would do it." Then his voice lowered and he said, "Then, after sentencing my own son to death, I would go out and die of a broken heart, for it would surely kill me."

That is one key to the character of the man that was revealed before my own eyes in the years of our intimacy.

It showed itself on many other occasions. It was his idea of the duty of the trustee, the judge, the guardian.

I remember a visit that two very warm friends from the Pacific Coast made to him, both of whom had worked night and day for his cause in the great state of the Golden West.

Their son had been convicted and was incarcerated in the Federal Prison. They had every personal reason for feeling that a mere appeal on their part on behalf of this son would be a winning one, for their friendship with the President was one of long standing and most affectionate in character. I can see him now, standing in the centre of the room, with the two old people grouped about him, shaking his head and saying, "I wish I could do it, but I must not allow personal consideration to influence me in the least. I know it is hard for you to believe that I will turn away from your request, but the only basis upon which you make it is our friendship. I would be doing an injustice to many a boy like yours who has similarly offended and for whom no one is able to speak or approach me in the intimate contact which is your privilege. Please do not think me cold- hearted, but I cannot do it."

I remember one of the last pardon cases we handled in the White House was that of an old man, charged with violating the banking laws and sentenced to imprisonment. I pleaded with the President to pardon the old man; the Attorney General had recommended it, and some of the warm-hearted members of the President's family had gone to him and sought to exert their influence in behalf of the old man. It seemed as if everything was moving smoothly and that the old man might be pardoned, until the family influence was brought to bear. It was the last pardon case I brought to his attention before the fall of the curtain on March fourth. I went to him, and said, "My dear Governor, I hope you will close your official career here by doing an act of mercy." He smiled at me and I thought I could see the prison gates open for the old man, but when I mentioned the name in the case, the President stiffened up, stopped smiling, and looking at me in the coldest way, said, "I will not pardon this man. Certain members of my family to whom I am deeply devoted, as you know, have sought to influence my judgment in this matter. They have no right to do it. I should be unworthy of my trust as President were I to permit family interference of any kind to affect my public actions, because very few people in the country can exert that kind of influence and it must not be tolerated." The case was closed; the pardon refused.

He often spoke to me in the frankest way of his personal appearance; how he looked and appeared and of the "old Scotch face," as he called it, which gave him the appearance of what Caesar called a "lean and hungry look." Speaking at the annual banquet of the Motion Picture Board of Trade, he discussed his personal appearance in this way:

"I have sometimes been very much chagrined in seeing myself in a motion picture. I have wondered if I really was that kind of a 'guy.' The extraordinary rapidity with which I walked, for example, the instantaneous and apparently automatic nature of my motion, the way in which I produced uncommon grimaces, and altogether the extraordinary exhibition I made of myself sends me to bed very unhappy. And I often think to myself that, although all the world is a stage and men and women but actors upon it, after all, the external appearance of things are very superficial indeed."

He knew that his facial expression gave one the impression that he was a cold and canny Scot. In repose one would get that impression, but when that old Scotch face took on a winning smile it was most gracious and appealing. One of his favourite limericks was:
  For beauty I am not a star,
  There are others more handsome by far.
  But my face I don't mind it,
  For I am behind it,
  It's the people in front that I jar.
Behind the cold exterior and beneath the "gleam of the waters" there was a warm, generous heart. I have often thought of the character discussed by Israel Zangwill in his book "The Mantle of Elijah." These lines, in my opinion, draw a perfect picture of Woodrow Wilson as I knew him:

Speaking of Allegra's father Zangwill said:

"With him freedom was no nebulous figure, aureoled with shining rhetoric, blowing her own trumpet, but Free Trade, Free Speech, Free Education. He did not rail against the Church as the enemy, but he did not count on it as a friend. His Millennium was earthly, human; his philosophy sunny, untroubled by Dantesque depths or shadows; his campaign unmartial, constitutional, a frank focussing of the new forces emergent from the slow dissolution of Feudalism and the rapid growth of a modern world. Towards such a man the House of Commons had an uneasy hostility. He did not play the game. Whig and Tory, yellow and blue, the immemorial shuffling of Cabinet cards, the tricks and honours--he seemed to live outside them all. He was no clubman in 'The best club in England.' He did not debate for argument's sake or to upset Ministers. He was not bounded by the walls of the Chamber nor ruler from the Speaker's chair; the House was resentfully conscious it had no final word over his reputation or his influence. He stood for something outside it, something outside himself, something large, vague, turbulent, untried, unplumbed, unknown--the People."

A little incident illustrating the warmth of the heart of Woodrow Wilson and the sympathetic way he manifested his feeling came to me in a letter received at the White House in 1920 from a Red Cross nurse, who was stationed at the Red Cross Base Hospital at Neuilly, France. An excerpt from it follows:
I might interest you to recite an incident within my own personal knowledge that proves the depths of his sympathy--his sincerity. I was one of the unit of Red Cross Workers who went to France to help our soldiers blinded in battle. I was at the time of this incident stationed at the Red Cross Base Hospital No. I at Neuilly. After a visit of the President and Mrs. Wilson to the hospital, one of my charges, a totally blind private to whom Mr. Wilson had spoken, said to me: "Miss Farrell, I guess the President must be very tired." I said, "Why do you think that, Walter?" "Well, because," replied the soldier, "he laughed and joked with all the other fellows but was so quiet when he talked with me and just said, 'Honourable wound, my boy,' so low I could hardly hear him. But say," continued Walter, "look at my hand please and see if it is all there, will you? The President sure has some hand and he used it when he shook hands. I'll say."

The fact was, Walter was the first blind soldier the President had met in France and knowing from experience the appeal the blind make to our emotions, I knew the President was so touched that he was overcome and couldn't joke further--he was scarcely able to manage the one remark and could not trust himself to venture another, 'Twas with tears in his eyes and a choking voice that he managed the one. Both he and Mrs. Wilson wept in that blind ward.
As a political fighter, he was gallant and square. No one ever heard him call an opponent a name or knew him unworthily to take advantage of an opponent.

Illustrative of the magnanimous attitude of the President toward his political enemies was the striking incident that occurred a few weeks before the close of the last Presidential campaign, 1920. Early one afternoon two Democratic friends called upon me at the Executive offices and informed me that they could procure certain documents that would go a long way toward discrediting the Republican campaign and that they could be procured for a money consideration. They explained the character of the documents to me and left it to me to say what I considered a fair price for them. They explained the serious nature of these documents, and it was certainly a delicate situation for me to handle and embarrassed me greatly. I was reluctant to offend these gentlemen, and yet I was certain from what they said that the documents, as they explained them to me, even though they might discredit the Republican campaign, were not of a character that any party of decent men ought to have anything to do with. When the gentlemen told me the name of the person who claimed to have these damaging papers in his possession, I at once recalled that we had in the files of the White House certain letters that could be used to discredit this very man who claimed to possess these incriminating documents. I thought it wise, therefore, to listen politely to these gentlemen until I could get a chance to confer with the President. I did this at once.

At this time the President was lying ill in his sick room at the White House. The nurse raised him up in the bed and I explained the whole situation to him, saying to him that it was my opinion that the Democratic party ought not to have anything to do with such a matter and that I thought we should at once apprise the Republican managers of the plan that was afoot to discredit by these unfair means the Republican candidate and campaign. When I told the President of the character of these documents that had been offered to me he was filled with indignation and said, "If we can't win this fight by fair means, we will not attempt to win it by unfair means. You have my authority to use whatever files we have against this party who would seek unfairly to attack the Republican nominee and you must at once notify the Republican managers of the plan proposed and explain the whole situation to them. Say to the Attorney General that he must place at the disposal of Mr. Harding and his friends every officer he has, if necessary, to disclose and overcome this plot. I am sure that Governor Cox will agree with me that this is the right and decent thing to do."

Acting upon the President's suggestion, I at once called upon a certain Republican senator from the West, now a member of President Harding's Cabinet, and told him of the proposed plot that was afoot to discredit the Republican campaign. I told him I was acting upon the express authority of the President. He expressed his high appreciation of the information I had brought him and informed me that he would place the matter in our hands with the utmost confidence in us to handle it honourably.

It ought to be said here that upon investigation, personally made by myself, I found that there was nothing in this whole matter that in the slightest degree reflected upon the honour or the integrity or high standing of President Harding.

One of the things for which President Wilson was unduly censured shortly after he took office was the recognition he gave to his political enemies in the Democratic party. The old-line politicians who had supported him in 1912 could not understand why the loaves and fishes were dealt out to these unworthy ones. Protests were made to the President by some of his close personal friends, but he took the position that as the leader of the party he was not going to cause resentment and antagonisms by seeming to classify Democrats; that as leader of his party he had to recognize all factions, and there quickly followed appointments of Clark men, Underwood men, Harmon men, all over the country. A case in point illustrates the bigness of the President in these matters--that of George Fred Williams as Minister to Greece. In the campaign of 1912 Mr. Williams had travelled up and down the state of Massachusetts making the bitterest sort of attacks upon Woodrow Wilson. I remember how I protested against this appointment. The President's only reply was that George Fred Williams was an eccentric fellow, but that he believed he was thoroughly honest. "I have no fault to find, Tumulty, with the men who disagree with me and I ought not to penalize them when they give expression to what they believe are honest opinions."

I have never seen him manifest any bitterness or resentment toward even his bitterest, most implacable enemies. Even toward William Randolph Hearst, whose papers throughout the country have been his most unrelenting foes, he never gave expression to any ill feeling or chagrin at the unfair attacks that were made upon him. I remember a little incident that shows the trend of his feelings in this regard, that occurred when we were discussing the critical Mexican situation. At this time the Hearst papers were engaged in a sensational propaganda in behalf of intervention in Mexico. The President said to me, "I heard of a delightful remark that that fine old lady, Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, made with reference to what she called her 'big boy Willie.' You know," he continued, "Mrs. Hearst does not favour intervention in Mexico and it was reported to me that she chided her son for his flaming headlines urging intervention, and told him that unless he behaved better she would have to take him over her knee and spank him."

The President has one great failing, inherent in the very character of the man himself, and this is his inborn, innate modesty--his unwillingness to dramatize the part he played in the great events of the war, so that the plain people of the country could see him and better understand him. There is no man living to-day who has a greater power of personal appeal or who is a greater master in the art of presenting ideals, facts, and arguments than Woodrow Wilson. As his secretary for nearly eleven years, I was often vexed because he did not, to use a newspaper phrase, "play up" better, but he was always averse to doing anything that seemed artificially contrived to win applause. Under my own eyes, seated in the White House offices, I have witnessed many a great story walk in and out but the President always admonished us that such things must not be pictured or capitalized in any way for political purposes; and thus every attempt we made to dramatize him, as Colonel Roosevelt's friends had played him up, was immediately placed under the Presidential embargo.

His unwillingness to allow us in the White House to "play him up" as the leading actor in this or that movement was illustrated in the following way: On July 1, 1919, a cable reached the White House from His Holiness, Pope Benedict, expressing the appreciation of His Holiness for the magnificent way in which the President had presented to the Peace Conference the demands of the Catholic Church regarding Catholic missions, and conveying to the President his thanks for the manner in which the President had supported those demands. The cable came at a time when certain leaders of my own church, the Roman Catholic Church, were criticizing and opposing the President for what they thought was his anti- Catholic attitude. I tried to induce the President to allow me to give publicity to the Pope's cable, but he was firm in his refusal. The cable from the Pope and the President's reply are as follows:
Rome, The Vatican.
1 July, 1919.

Doctor Woodrow Wilson,
President of the United States.


Monsignor Carretti, upon his return from Paris, hastened to inform us with what spirit of moderation Your Excellency examined the demands regarding the Catholic Missions which we presented to the Peace Conference, and with what zeal Your Excellency subsequently supported these demands. We desire to express to you our sincere gratitude and at the same time we urge Your Excellency to be good enough to employ your great influence, also, in order to prevent the action, which according to the Peace Treaty with Germany it is desired to bring against the Kaiser and the highly placed German commanders. This action could only render more bitter national hatred and postpone for a long time that pacification of souls for which all nations long. Furthermore, this trial, if the rules of justice are to be observed, would meet insurmountable difficulties as may be seen from the attached article from the Osservatore Romano, which deals exclusively with the trial of the Kaiser, the newspaper reserving right to treat in another article the question of the trial of the generals.

It pleases us to take advantage of this new occasion to renew to Your Excellency the wishes which we entertain for your prosperity and that of your family, as well as for the happiness of the inhabitants of the Confederation of the United States.


* * * * *

The White House,
Washington, D. C.

15 August, 1919.


I have had the pleasure of receiving at the hands of Monsignor Cossio the recent letter you were kind enough to write me, which I now beg to acknowledge with sincere appreciation. Let me assure you that it was with the greatest pleasure that I lent my influence to safeguarding the missionary interests to which you so graciously refer, and I am happy to say that my colleagues in the Conference were all of the same mind in this wish to throw absolute safeguards around such missions and to keep them within the influences under which they had hitherto been conducted.

I have read with the gravest interest your suggestion about the treatment which should be accorded the ex-Kaiser of Germany and the military officers of high rank who were associated with him in the war, and beg to say that I realize the force of the considerations which you urge. I am obliged to you for setting them so clearly, and shall hope to keep them in mind in the difficult months to come. With much respect and sincere good wishes for your welfare,

Respectfully and sincerely yours,

His Holiness,
Pope Benedict XV.
[Illustration: Correspondence with the Pope (Transcriber's note: contains a reproduction of the two above-quoted letters.)]

There was something too fine in his nature for the dramatics and the posturings of the political game, as it is usually played. He is a very shy man, too sincere to pose, too modest to make advances. He craves the love of his fellow-men with all his heart and soul. People see only his dignity, his reserve, but they cannot see his big heart yearning for the love of his fellow-men. Out of that loving heart of his has come the passion which controlled his whole public career--the passion for justice, for fair dealing, and democracy.

Never during the critical days of the war, when requests of all kinds poured in upon him for interviews of various sorts, did he lose his good- nature. Nor did he show that he was disturbed when various requests came from this or that man who claimed to have discovered some scientific means of ending the war.

The following letter to his old friend, Mr. Thomas D. Jones of Chicago, is characteristic of his feeling toward those who claimed to have made such a scientific discovery:
The White House, Washington,
25 July 1917.

My dear friend:

It was generous of you to see Mr. Kenney and test his ideas. I hope you derived some amusement from it at least. I am afraid I have grown soft-hearted and credulous in these latter days, credulous in respect to the scientific possibility of almost any marvel and soft-hearted because of the many evidences of simple-hearted purpose this war has revealed to me.

With warmest regard,

Cordially and faithfully yours,
Nor did the little things of life escape him, as is shown by the following letter to Attorney General Gregory:
The White House, Washington,
1 October, 1918.


The enclosed letter from his wife was handed to me this morning by a rather pitiful old German whom I see occasionally looking after the flowers around the club house at the Virginia Golf Course. I must say it appeals to me, and I am sending it to you to ask if there is any legitimate way in which the poor old fellow could be released from his present restrictions.

In haste,

Faithfully yours,
[Illustration: An evidence of the tender-heartedness which Mr. Tumulty claims for the President. (Transcriber's note: contains a reproduction of the above-quoted letter.)]

I recall a day when he sat at his typewriter in the White House, preparing the speech he was to deliver at Hodgensville, Kentucky, in connection with the formal acceptance of the Lincoln Memorial, built over the log cabin birthplace of Lincoln. When he completed this speech, which I consider one of his most notable public addresses--perhaps in literary form, his best-- he turned to me and asked me if I had any comment to make upon it. I read it very carefully. I then said to him, "Governor, there are certain lines in it that might be called a self-revelation of Woodrow Wilson." The lines that I had in mind were:
I have read many biographies of Lincoln; I have sought out with the greatest interest the many intimate stories that are told of him, the narratives of nearby friends, the sketches at close quarters, in which those who had the privilege of being associated with him have tried to depict for us the very man himself "in his habit as he lived"; but I have nowhere found a real intimate of Lincoln. I nowhere get the impression in my narrative or reminiscence that the writer had in fact penetrated to the heart of his mystery, or that any man could penetrate to the heart of it. That brooding spirit had no real familiars. I get the impression that it never spoke out in complete self-revelation, and that it could not reveal itself complete to any one. It was a very lonely spirit that looked out from underneath those shaggy brows, and comprehended men without fully communing with them, as if, in spite of all its genial efforts at comradeship, it dwelt apart, saw its visions of duty where no man looked on. There is a very holy and very terrible isolation for the conscience of every man who seeks to read the destiny in the affairs for others as well as for himself, for a nation as well as for individuals. That privacy no man can intrude upon. That lonely search of the spirit for the right perhaps no man can assist.
To Woodrow Wilson the business of government was a solemn thing, to which he gave every ounce of his energy and his great intellectual power. No President in the whole history of America ever carried weightier responsibilities than he. Night and day, with uncomplaining patience, he was at his post of duty, attending strictly to the pressing needs of the nation, punctiliously meeting every engagement, great or small. Indeed, no man that I ever met was more careless about himself or thought less of vacations for the purpose of rest and recuperation.

There are three interesting maps which show the mileage covered by Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson. These maps show the states traversed by each of the Presidents. Great black smudges show the trail covered by President Roosevelt, which included every state in the Union, and equally large black marks show the territory covered by President Taft, but only a thin line shows the peregrinations and wanderings of President Wilson. The dynamic, forceful personality of Mr. Roosevelt, which radiated energy, charm, and good-nature, and the big, vigorous, lovable personality of Mr. Taft, put the staid, simple, modest, retiring personality of the New Jersey President, Mr. Wilson, at a tremendous disadvantage. Into the atmosphere created by these winning personalities of Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Taft the personality of Mr. Wilson did not easily fit, and he realized it, when he said to me one day, "Tumulty, you must realize that I am not built for the dramatic things of politics. I do not want to be displayed before the public, and if I tried it, I should do it badly."

Without attempting to belittle the great achievements of former Presidents of the United States, particularly Roosevelt, it is only fair to say that, comparing the situations which confronted them with those that met President Wilson from the very beginning of his incumbency, their jobs were small. As a genial Irishman once said to me, "Hell broke loose when Wilson took hold." Every unusual thing, every extraordinary thing, seemed to break and break against us. From the happening of the Dayton flood, which occurred in the early days of the Wilson Administration, down to the moment when he laid down the reins of office, it seemed as if the world in which we lived was at the point of revolution. Unusual, unprecedented, and remarkable things began to happen, things that required all the patience, indomitable courage, and tenacity of the President to hold them steady. The Mexican situation, left on our door-step, was one of the great burdens that he carried during his administration. Then came the fight for the revision of the tariff, the establishment of the Federal Reserve System, all items that constituted the great programme of domestic reform which emanated from the brain of Woodrow Wilson, and then in the midst of it all came the European war, the necessity for neutrality, the criticism which was heaped upon the President for every unusual happening which his critics seemed to think called for intervention of the United States in this great cataclysm. It was not a time for the camaraderie and good- fellowship that had characterized the good old days in which Mr. Roosevelt served as President.

And yet no man was less exclusive in dealing with the members of the Senate and House. In preparing the Federal Reserve Act in collaboration with Senator Glass, he was constantly in touch with the members of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, in an endeavour to make clear the road for the passage of this important piece of constructive legislation. Constant demands were made upon his time and he gave of his energy and of the small reserve of strength that he had uncomplainingly and without a protest. No rest, no recreation, no vacation intervened. Every measure that he sought to press to enactment was the challenge to a great fight, as, for instance, the tariff, the currency, the rural credits, and the Panama tolls acts.

I have often been asked whether anger or passion ever showed itself in the President, and I am reminded of a little incident that happened at the White House during one of those conferences with the newspaper men, which, before the days of the war, and for a long time afterward, took place in the Executive offices. At the time of this particular conference, the President's first wife lay seriously ill at the White House, and stories were carried in the various newspapers exaggerating the nature of her illness, some of them going so far as to say she was suffering from this or from that disease. At the very time these stories were appearing in the newspapers there were also articles that his daughter, Margaret, was engaged to marry this man or that man. The President came to the newspaper men's conference this morning fighting mad. It was plain that something serious was afoot. Taking hold of the back of the chair, as if to strengthen himself for what he had to say, he looked squarely at the newspaper men and said, "I hope that you gentlemen will pardon me for a personal word this morning. I have read the stories that have appeared in certain newspapers of the country, containing outrageous statements about the illness of my wife and the marriage of my daughter. I realize that as President of the United States you have a perfect right to say anything you damn please about me, for I am a man and I can defend myself. I know that while I am President it will be my portion to receive all kinds of unfair criticism, and I would be a poor sport if I could not stand up under it; but there are some things, gentlemen, that I will not tolerate. You must let my family alone, for they are not public property. I acquit every man in this room of responsibility for these stories. I know that you have had nothing to do with them; but you have feelings and I have feelings, even though I am President. My daughter has no brother to defend her, but she has me, and I want to say to you that if these stories ever appear again I will leave the White House and thrash the man who dares to utter them."

A little letter came to my notice in which the President replies to an old friend in Massachusetts who had asked him to attempt to interpret himself:

You have placed an impossible task upon me--that of interpreting myself to you. All I can say in answer to your inquiry is that I have a sincere desire to serve, to be of some little assistance in improving the condition of the average man, to lift him up, and to make his life more tolerable, agreeable, and comfortable. In doing this I try hard to purge my heart of selfish motives. It will only be known when I am dead whether or not I have succeeded.

Sincerely your friend,


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