The Personality Behind the President




IT is not easy to write with sureness on the subject of the personality behind the President. None of the chief executives who have guided the country during my adult lifetime has presented so baffling a problem. To me, Mr. Wilson is endlessly interesting. I have found him as utterly frank in conversation as ever Mr. Roosevelt was, and he is himself habitually much more tolerant of frankness in others. But the mental processes leading to his actions are frequently difficult to understand. The extraordinarily capricious methods which he adopts in the selection of men; the remarkably definite political philosophy which marks his public acts; his practical idealism and his almost utter lack of personal appeal of a certain sort, combine to form a character that will give the political essayists of the future the best chance of the century.

I begin by saying frankly that I have myself constructed a general theory of Mr. Wilson, into which all the inconsistencies of his character fit with sufficient neatness. There may be too much of the deductive and too little of the inductive in the process by which I have arrived at my estimate. But I have had opportunities of observation which furnish some warrant, at least, for making an attempt to consider this great and significant personality from every angle.

When, at the beginning of 1910, I acquired control of the Baltimore Sun, I learned from one of my associates who was then a trustee of Princeton, that President Wilson might soon be leaving that institution. It at once occurred to me that here might be found that scarcest of all men, a great editor. I went to Princeton immediately and saw President Wilson. I found that I had entered the field for his services against the powerful competition of the Democratic party leaders of New Jersey. The matter was not yet settled, however, and I returned later to Princeton on the same errand. Mr. Wilson had made his choice. I recall the vivid impression he made upon me as he sat facing me in his library. All the while, in my mind’s eye, I was seeing him in the White House; and when I went home that night I said, ‘ I have talked to-day with the man who will be the next Democratic President.’ He looked the part; and of course the governorship of New Jersey was a springboard for the nomination.

I did not get him for editor, but a conviction formed in my mind to the effect that in the college president who had led a forlorn hope at Princeton, and who was now being groomed for the New Jersey governorship, the Democratic Party would find a great leader. I came into possession at this time of some ‘copy’ he was writing for the state platforms in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and was so much impressed by both the substance and the form of his declarations, that I made use of them in shaping the editorial policy of my paper.

The Sun thus became a supporter of Wilson immediately upon his entry into politics; and his original methods in New Jersey gave it much material to impart interest to the campaign of publicity which it made for him. This paper had long been a power in its state, and its continued support of Wilson, in quiet ways and mainly by chronicling his activities in its news columns, was potent. Someone said, ‘The Sun is poisoning the coffee-cup of Maryland for Wilson every morning.’

In the spring of 1912, the Sun was largely instrumental in securing the Democratic Convention for Baltimore. Meanwhile the paper, morning, evening and Sunday, was sent to each Democratic delegate as he was elected, beginning as early as February. Thus the delegates came to Baltimore, regular readers of the paper, found the galleries of the Convention hall filled with people who ‘wanted Wilson.’

Far be it from me to claim that the Sun nominated Wilson. Aside from what he himself did to accomplish the result, there were several fortunate circumstances, every one of them necessary links in the chain. The ‘Sun’s support was one of them; without it, a stampede to Champ Clark after he had received a majority vote could probably not have been prevented.

I saw Mr. Wilson several times in the course of his campaign for nomination and election. I remember once visiting him at Sea Girt. In the course of the conversation I asked him if he could suggest any new journalistic activity in his behalf. He said ‘No,’ at first, but afterward a thought came to him. ‘ Can you send a man to Boston, where his team is now playing, to interview “Ty” Cobb? I hear he is for me.’ I began to see that I had a good deal to learn about the Wilson characteristics.


I saw and heard from the President from time to time between 1913 and 1917, and this acquaintance was the foundation upon which I established a relationship as a correspondent after he came to Paris; for it was mainly there that I gained the impressions which embolden me to appear before the readers of the Atlantic in an attempt to give some idea of the man as a whole.

Nothing could better illustrate the processes of judgment which have baffled commentators than his coming to Paris. When his decision to cross the ocean was mooted, I made a canvass of the Americans in Paris — already a distinguished and representative body — and found scarcely one affirmative voice. Most Americans, especially in army and navy circles, were then opposed to all action leading in the direction of the League of Nations, or any other permanent entanglement in Europe; and even those favorably inclined were practically unanimous in the opinion that the President should hold fast to his advantage of position in Washington, instead of breaking precedents in order to get down into the ring where, after a few weeks of novelty, he would meet other government heads on an equality, and under the unfamiliar rules of the game of European diplomacy. The majority firmly believed that he should stay in the White House, and shout to Europe as through a megaphone; or, — to resort to still another metaphor, — that he should chalk on a blackboard, in letters legible across the sea, the terse terms upon which America would coöperate in the peace as she had in the war.

A less adventuring president would easily have found ground upon which to take the stand that America’s work was finished with the signing of the Armistice upon the basis of the fourteen points. America had furnished the aid necessary to the prevention of Germany’s conquest of Europe and the menacing of our hemisphere. Germany had been disarmed on land and sea, and the very body of German militarism had thus been crushed. As for the rest, it was a purely European affair. Such part as we were called on to take in the subsequent proceedings could with greatest safety to us, and perhaps even with greatest efficacy in respect of results, be taken with our feet solid on the soil of our own country. We would be willing to give such further aid, moral and material, as might be compatible with our principles and interests and the tradition of aloofness from European controversies, all of which were ineradicably rooted in race, geography, and the habit of narrow selfishness.

Such a view was not adopted, and it probably never occurred to the peculiar man who happened to be our President. From the common point of view, Mr. Wilson has lived too much within himself. He does not submit himself to the corrective processes of association, which, not unreasonably, in view of his dilations on ‘Counsel,’ puts him in for a lot of criticism. He does not call to his side all the first-rate men who are available. Let us admit it frankly — he plays a lone hand. But having duly criticized him for playing a lone hand, one must admit that he plays it mighty well. He is no blind indulger of self. No man studies self more keenly, or is quicker to profit by experience. I am convinced that his lone-hand style of play is the result of his having worked it all out in his own sagacious mind, and with the purpose of using himself in the way best to accomplish his objects. He realizes fully how much he loses by lack of assistance and by holding aloof from consultation. But when he reckons up gains against losses in the great game that he is playing, he believes that he comes out ahead by following the bent of his own temperament. He is willing, if necessary, to do the work of ten ordinary men, — he delights in work when something big is at stake, — but he is unwilling, and perhaps unfitted, to scramble with his peers for a decision, on the one hand, or, on the other, to bear with the stupidity, irrelevance, and confusion of commonplace counsel.

This is far from saying that he repels advice. Quite the contrary is true. No one could be more open to suggestion when it comes from those near and friendly. He is absorptive rather than impervious. But he shies away from becoming entangled. He wants to keep himself absolutely free for the decision. I fancy that he has a horror of board meetings, as many another sensible man has, with their tendency to mental impoverishment. For any but a rash executive, in need of constant restraint, the multiplicity of counsel in a board is apt to be a division of wisdom. The scheme has only a deterrent or negative virtue.

It is likely that, in reaching his decision to go to Europe, Mr. Wilson sought the advice of no man. I hazard the guess that from the very moment the idea first entered his mind, there was neither doubt nor hesitation. Whatever might have been the wise course for another president, that was the only course for him. Average prudent considerations were not in the reckoning. He saw a situation which called to him irresistibly. Its dangers and difficulties were not those which alarmed him. He knew what would happen to the swollen prestige that he had been enjoying as the prosperous partner in the Allied combination. All the awe of him would disappear, the mystery and the power that goes with it would vanish, and he would soon find himself pitted against the other government heads, each with his own point of view, on terms of equality.

Presbyterian and Scotch as he is, and never rash or impulsive, the dominating thing in the character of Mr. Wilson is his adventuring spirit. It is this cross in him that makes his character hard to read. He has the courage of his vision and, without a single misgiving, he moved out of the safety zone in the rear and took up his position in the front line, where the greatest of all diplomatic contests was to be fought out.

I watched that struggle daily for months, often at close quarters. The chief new impression that I got of Mr. Wilson was his efficiency in action. In my picture of Wilson, the writer, orator, and scholar had been in the foreground. The experience of the past eight years has developed a high efficiency in this man who lost his fight at Princeton. After seeing him at Paris, I would expect him to succeed, if, upon his retirement from the Presidency at sixty-four years of age, he took the highly improbable step of entering the field of industry. In a large executive position, like, say, the presidency of the Steel Corporation, 1 confidently believe that he would make an unprecedented success. The adventure and magnitude of it might appeal to him; for in dull or small things he is helpless. He is sagacious, but lacks cunning. He must be aroused, to show his great qualities.

The things for which Mr. Wilson is complained of are mainly the defects of his great qualities. If a big matter is in hand, he is so concentrated upon it that he overlooks the little matter. He has the keenest and truest sense of what is real. Irrelevance cuts him to pieces. When he is at work on a thing that engages his interest, he is like a hound on the scent. Waste of time or any kind of lost motion is like poison to him. A member of the ‘ Big Four ’ once said to me, ‘Wilson works. The rest of us play, comparatively speaking. We Europeans can’t keep up with a man who travels a straight path with such a swift stride, never looking to the right or left. We cannot put aside our habit of rambling a bit on the way.’

I hazard the opinion that Mr. Wilson found this European habit hard to bear. He would not have put up with the like procrastination and indirection in Washington; but he was in Paris to do whatever was necessary, and he smiled and pressed forward. The statesmen of Europe had their tongues in their cheeks when Wilson arrived; but a real friendship, mainly attributable to the latter’s patience, courtesy, and humor, soon arose among them. When the President works with a small number of men at close quarters, his instinct is to establish friendly and intimate relations with them. Far from being a dogmatist, his fault perhaps lies in giving up too much in an atmosphere of comradeship. And his passion for practical results probably works in the same direction. At Paris, in seeking a common ground upon which he and his colleagues could stand, it seemed to me that he was constantly watering down the idealism which he brought to Europe with him. It was not alone his desire to come to an agreement that influenced him. He deeply wished to serve his colleagues in their respective home difficulties, by which, under their parliamentary systems, they were constantly bedeviled.

I do not know it for a fact, but I always believed that a narrative of how the President came to accept the French demand for a military alliance would present some such picture as the following. Clemenceau appears in the Place des États Unis. He creeps slowly up the steps to the room which is the meeting-place. The effort exhausts him and he has a long coughing spell. (That murderous bullet in the chest counted for much in the closing days, and Clemenceau did not hesitate to make the most of it for France.) Clemenceau gives his colleagues a report of his daily interview with the Parliamentary Committee to which he must account for his acts as Prime Minister. The Committee has but little interest in the League of Nations. Ma foi! but they are a narrow-minded lot! But there is always behind them the Chamber of Deputies, filled with men unfriendly to the present government and aching for a chance to vote it out. Clemenceau has never had a real majority. The Tiger has held on through the very fear of his steel-shod paw. The chief strength of the opposition lies in the belief that the Premier has yielded the interests of France to the theories of world peace. ‘What the Chamber wants, and probably must have, is something that actually is, or at least sounds like, a military alliance. Unless they get it, my government is gone. Another forty-eight hours, or a week at the most, and we fall. Afterward, some man further toward the Left, and in a few weeks a choice between a military dictatorship and anarchy in France. What chance will there be for a Peace Conference or a League of Nations after that?’

Whether my fanciful picture is or is not accurate in detail, it is a fact that Wilson’s agreement to a military alliance gave the Clemenceau ministry a new lease of life. And it surprised — I won’t quite say shocked — the whole American circle at and around the Crillon.

If and when the story of the Peace Conference, and especially of the Big Four, can be told, it will throw a new light on President Wilson’s personality; and many people will find that they have been hating him for lack of the very qualities in which his personality abounds.


Let us consider Mr. Wilson in his four main relationships, beginning with that of the family. He has an intense domestic instinct. Family love was bred into him. His father, a Presbyterian minister, dead forty years or more, is still the daily companion of his thoughts. The President has no close, personal relation with any other man, and masculine comradeship is mainly supplied by the vivid and living memory of this grand man, whose precepts and example come back for every occasion. Throughout all these years of hard decision, it is in this quarter that he has found counsel. The personality of his father is as fresh in the President’s mind as it was the day he died, and every detail of this early association in which the son was moulded remains crystal-clear, while the spirit of it is the President’s very breath. The elder Wilson was indeed a remarkable man, whose walks and talks with the younger nourished and formed him in his youth, and whose wisdom and humor, preserved in the President’s retentive memory, have been as a lamp to his feet.

Mr. Wilson has always been an uxorious man. A more real partnership than that which exists between him and Mrs. Wilson it would be difficult to find. The President will not budge without his wife. In France, the trip to the devastated regions had to be postponed because Mrs. Wilson had sustained a slight injury to her foot and could not go.

As to Mrs. Wilson, everyone liked her and spoke well of her before her marriage to the President, and she has remained the same quiet, modest, and gracious woman. I should say that her influence had tended to mellow and humanize the President in his outside relations. In the inside relations, which are now under consideration, the President was always the same tender and affectionate head of the family.

To everyone within the household, including house visitors, the President is kindness itself. Once the threshold is crossed, one becomes the trusted friend. The conversation at meals and during the little rest time that follows is easy and delightful, and everyone takes part freely. There is not a trace of presidential arrogance in the President’s manner. He and Mrs. Wilson live in an atmosphere of unaffected simplicity. When they were in Paris, they declined all invitations when possible. Nearly every evening the scene would be the same at the Place des États Unis. The President played solitaire for huge sums of stage money, carefully keeping books on winnings and losings, from night to night. Mrs. Wilson sat by, sewing or crocheting. Sometimes she would read aloud clippings of current newspaper articles.

On the Western trip in September, Mrs. Wilson made a uniformly fine impression. At stations where the train stopped, she would appear if it was insisted upon, but she was never keen on the business. Once a newspaper man said, ‘O Mrs. Wilson, do go out on the platform with the President. It will be worth ten thousand votes.’ She smiled, but kept on crocheting. It usually took a word or gesture from the President to get her out.

At Tacoma, I found a newspaper woman almost in tears on the station platform. She had not succeeded in meeting Mrs. Wilson, and the train was about to pull out. I undertook to manage the introduction, but Mrs. Wilson was in her room changing her costume and therefore not visible. The President heard what was going on, and appearing on the back platform, cried cheerily, ‘May I act as substitute for Mrs. Wilson?’ He stepped down on the station platform and delighted the young woman’s heart by his agreeableness. She had a two-column story the next morning.

The President is a true Spartan. There is never a groan or a whimper from him. While he was traveling through the West, and speaking twice a day with a headache racking him, whenever he referred to it at all it was precisely as if he were speaking of any other incident of the trip. There was no pulling of a long face. At Wichita, after an extremely bad night, he was up and ready to start. Grayson was none too early in taking a firm stand. The President is a stayer and he hates a quitter. He was never a minute late on the whole trip. He is a paragon of order and punctuality.

Before the headache came upon him, he was very fond of going through the train and visiting the newspaper men. He made us all feel that he was of our tribe.

The President and Mrs. Wilson are regular attendants at a modest church in the suburbs of Washington. They go there because nobody pays attention to them;whereas at the big churches they are preached at and stared at inside, and a big crowd collects outside. Neither of them has any fondness for that kind of admiration.


Such is a rough picture of the President in the small circle of home life. Draw another circle wide enough to include the Cabinet and other officials with important connections with the administration, and a corresponding change in the manifestations of Mr. Wilson’s personality is at once visible. There are patience, geniality, kindness, and extraordinary loyalty, but there is a certain reserve. Wilson resembles Washington in this respect. No one slaps him on the back. His devotion to his official household has been carried to such extremes that it has brought general criticism upon him. There has been more speculation over his putting commonplace men into office and then sticking to them than over almost anything else in his administration.

I am going to give my theory; but it is nothing more than a theory. In what he can do well, and likes to do, Mr. Wilson is tireless: but he is very indolent about what he is not proficient in. He is not a judge of men; he has not the flair for it, and it is something that is not a matter of analysis. The selection of men is a labor to the President, and is a thing that has been largely attended to by others for him. Once the business is fixed, he is not going to unfix it. And afterwards there comes in that element of domestication to which I have referred. When the President sits around the table with men, and comradeship sets up, the harder the critics pound him and them, the more immovable he becomes. They may be poor things, but they are his own. I have never known a man who could put criticism on one side as serenely as Mr. Wilson can. He is implacable. ‘They say. What say they? Let them say.’

After all, the President’s instinct has in it much that is fine and strong. And who shall say that he has been unsuccessful on the score of results? Suppose he had ripped up his organization at the beginning of the war? Would the country have come off better? Or would Wilson be in a better position as a man or as president? At all events, he could not have done otherwise. His mind is too dependent upon order and repose in his immediate vicinity to function properly in an environment of confusion. He could not have run the war his way in the hubbub of change and upheaval. Here again he resembles his paternal prototypes, for the Presbyterian preacher must have quiet in the house at the sermon-making time. Mr. Wilson carried his method through the whole war. When General Pershing was appointed head of the A.E.F. he was there to stay, and knew it. The President would never have listened to any tattle. In every crisis he backed his man with granite fixity. No general in Europe was in Pershing’s strong position. Without this rock to stand on, Pershing could not have maintained himself against the storm of European opposition aroused by several of his big decisions.

Mr. Wilson’s tendency to give his indorsement in blank has sometimes got him into trouble. No man should have been put into the position that Colonel House was. The country resented it, and finally the colonel himself used the President’s writ too freely, with the result that unity of policy was somewhat impaired at Paris. Colonel House filled a deeply felt need at the White House, and from the President’s point of view was most helpful. He was very active in the field in which the President had disabilities. He loved being a Warwick as much as the President hated the whole business of handling the patronage. House was, as it were, a bureau drawer for things he did not exactly know where else to put. The Texan is orderly minded and has much sagacity, but he overestimated his reach. It was inevitable that this should be the result of the President’s clothing him with so much power.


I come now to a third zone, in which Mr. Wilson manifests a different set of characteristics. In the wider circle is included that portion of officialdom not intimately connected with the administration. The President’s reaction to this body constitutes the chief ground of criticism of him. Here he strikes limitations which he seems to be unable to surmount. In much of his endeavor he has been quick to profit by experience, and his development has attested his openness of mind as well as his alert mentality. But he has shown neither skill nor tact in his dealing with this very necessary body, consisting of several hundred men and including both houses of Congress. After coming home last March and displaying a gaucherie in his contact with the Senate difficult to understand in view of his consummate skill in dealing with the foreign diplomats, he went back to Paris and had every important suggestion of the opposition Senators embodied in the treaty and Covenant. The thing needed but a gesture to make it a fait accompli — a wave of the hand to show agreement and acknowledgment. But he would not, or could not make that gesture which would have nailed down ratification. His meeting with the Senatorial committee at the White House showed him at his very best in patience and conciliation. But it was too late; the opposing Senators had not been tied in March and were now out of the reservation and on the war-path.

The attempt to account for such mistakes must be speculative. Clearly it must be a matter of temperament.

Someone has said that temperament in the individual is like climate to race — it is fate. The President has so many high qualities that it is inevitable that they should have their defects. Personally I believe that the chief element in the temperament that prevents the President from realizing on the big things that he does well because of the little things he does ill is the predominance in him of the intellectual quality. The human quality, except in the small circle where it manifests itself in patience, tenderness, and considerateness, has been ‘sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.’ He has for so many years restrained his impulses, that they no longer work in the subconscious way necessary for that form of human intercommunication which is psychic in its subtlety.

To the instinct and habit of restraint I would add the trait of shyness. The President is extremely diffident with persons outside the little circle. On the Western trip I heard people who were paying the highest tribute to his statesmanship add, ‘but he is not folks.’ And I think that it is true that he lacks a certain sort of animal heat. But this carries with it a whole set of qualities that are admirable. For example, he has the spirit of his great office in the highest degree, but none of the fleshand-blood pride and vanity. He has not the slightest love of the purple. He detaches himself from the presidency, and regards the office and its power objectively. To use Diderot’s paradox, ‘He is a centre of human agitation in which he himself takes no emotional part, though he is its intellectual primemover.’

There was a group of Wilson originals who were very ardent in their support of Mr. Wilson before the movement for him became nation-wide. As his presidential character disclosed itself, these supporters were surprised at two things. First, they were amazed at his practicalness in organizing the party forces and in getting legislation through. Secondly, they were deeply disappointed by his display of narrow partisanship and the delegation that he made of the power of selecting his appointees. They wondered, as did the public, at his abandonment of the policy of publicity and counsel. It seems to me that there is but one thing to be said about that. He was sincere in his professions and wanted to practise what he preached. But temperament came in and stopped him. He could not have maintained a system of publicity and counsel without shattering himself and sacrificing results; and as he learned the presidential office and became more familiar with the tools he had in his armory, he let the first theory slide.

But his failure to set a very high personal standard in his important appointments, and his partisanship, have continued to puzzle men who looked to his academic antecedents as a guaranty of the precisely opposite line of action. I have hereinbefore suggested an explanation of one of these defects: I believe that the partisanship had little feeling behind it, but was an intellectual expedient to aid in putting through the programme of legislation. The habit once acquired was retained; which was made the easier by the fact that at his elbow was always Mr. Tumulty, to whom a Republican is a ‘ boll-weevil.’

Those who believe that Mr. Wilson has been one of the greatest of our presidents are most puzzled by his seeming lack of magnanimity. That a man should be so great in the other great things and yet fall short in generosity, is a contradiction of the historical record. But I believe that in the baffling complex of this peculiar man there is an explanation which will show that the acts attributed to lack of magnanimity have had a different mainspring. For example, what seemed shabby treatment of General Leonard Wood, whose work prepared the way for the selective draft, may, if all the facts were known, have been well grounded on the needs and exigencies of the war, difficult as it is to understand why such an alternative as an obscure Southern post, or Hawaii, should have been set before the general. That detail may have been just an extra touch put on by Mr. Baker. Once the Secretary had done it, the President would have stood by it if it had given him the reputation of a pirate. He never shoulders blame upon a subordinate. When, in the election of 1918, he was politically dished by the appeal for the Democratic ticket which he signed, but to which he probably never gave a moment’s consideration (his ‘single-track mind’ was strenuously engaged in the direction of Paris), it is safe to say that there was never one word of complaint or reproach for the real authors of the mischief.

But to go back to the question of magnanimity — much more difficult of explanation was the treatment of Roosevelt , for which the President was entirely responsible. I understand the difference in temperament between the two men. I understand the impossibility of gratifying Roosevelt’s desire to raise a corps or division to command in whole or in part. His abilities could have been recognized, however, and his great qualities utilized somewhere, for the exuberant tender of his services left the whole field open. The President’s acceptance would have had an electrical effect in inspiring and unifying the country behind Wilson and the war. Roosevelt would have played the game squarely. He was a colt in the pasture, but a wheel-horse in harness. His having a share in the war under President Wilson would have supplied elements for producing the will to war, which were then lacking. If the President had been an emotional man, he would have met Roosevelt with hands outstretched. But to my mind, his failure to respond is explainable on grounds other than lack of magnanimity. Personally I was a warm and sincere admirer of Mr. Roosevelt, and I believe that he rendered a very great service to his country both in office and out. But there were thousands of people who did not admire him, and the President was one of these. When the colonel presented himself, the President put him and his possible value through a coldly intellectual process of assessment, and his conclusions were in accordance with his judgment of what would best promote the interests of the country in the war. Again he failed in the importance of the gesture.

The same lack of what I may call the grand-stand instinct runs all through his conduct. At bottom, the fault, if it be a fault, is one of intellectual sincerity. He steers by intellect and does not possess the emotional qualities to correct his reckoning. We saw it constantly on his Western tour. He could not be persuaded to make oratorical use, except with the most severe restraint, of the deeds of valor of the army and navy, of which he was Commander-in-Chief. Thousands of women and men whose dead sleep in France sat in front of him with hearts begging for allusion in terms of sentiment and pathos. He left them unsatisfied, contenting himself with powerful appeal to reason. He may himself be conscious of his emotional limitations. Or he may have felt a sense of impropriety in making a sort of political commerce of the memory of our noble dead; for he is a man of high dignity.

I have had my own theory — of a piece with what I have been saying — in respect to Mr. Wilson’s course in the Lusitania crisis. The German blow was just as certainly aimed at America and world-civilization then as it was two years later. The President in his speeches in the West repeatedly made statements indicating the belief that Germany’s purpose was clear long before we entered the war. At the time of the sinking of the Lusitania, America would have responded as one man to strong, emotional leadership. But it is possible that the President was studying himself and his capacity and limitations with cold-blooded objectivity. The question in his mind may have been — whatever another might do in the same circumstances, was it possible for him to keep the war-spirit up to the necessary white heat in the absence of overwhelming, concrete evidence of Germany’s evil intentions?

I have always thought that in his course of action from the Lusitania forward, he took the kind of chance that a purely intellectual policy is peculiarly subject to. If Germany had not blundered so fatally, she could have put us where we could never have gone into the war. Suppose in February, 1917, Germany had replied to the President’s demand regarding the submarine: ‘All right. With unrestricted submarine warfare it is absolutely clear that we can win. But we cannot afford to offend America and bring her in. In deference to her views we yield to your demand.’ We are out of the war immediately, and can never get in, and Germany whips Europe, with future consequences to us that would be appalling.

But Mr. Wilson managed the war; he did it consistently with the conditions as he saw them, and with due regard to his own abilities and limitations; and from first to last he was successful.

The characteristics upon which I have put such stress will, in my opinion, enable Mr. Wilson to do what few men could do. He will decline to stand for a third term. There will be many unprecedented conditions and the pressure from party men will be strong. But if he does not want to run, he will not. He will have the best judgment of anybody as to the state of mind of the country. He won’t bemuse himself. I suspect that he believes that his health requires his retirement. He is a man of infinite resources, and there are many congenial activities to which he could turn. There is only one set of circumstances in which I could imagine his being a candidate. If the treaty failed of ratification, and there were a square issue before the American people, and the whole job of treaty and Covenant were to be done over again on a clear mandate from the American people, I believe that there might be a third term. Rejection would put the Democrats back into the running for 1920. A few months ago it seemed that Republican nomination would be equivalent to election. The Republicans in the fetid caves of the Senate have been working overtime to make their chances for next year dubious. Unless there is ratification without resubmission, there will probably be either a close contest between the two old parties, or we shall see two new parties, one standing for the League of Nations and the other for freedom from foreign entanglement.


I finish by considering Mr. Wilson in the wide field where he appears at his best. The President who shuts his eyes, stretches out his hand, and touches the man nearest, who shall thereupon be a Cabinet Minister; who stumbles in his dealings with Congress, and who is generally helpless in the grind of office, rises to a great height as a statesman. His near sight is defective, but when he looks up and out, no man sees further or more clearly. He lacks the ‘spirit of the herd,’ but no other man in public life is more in touch with the spirit of mankind. He frankly ‘plays to mankind.’ His enemies admit that he is the best judge of what they call ‘ mob-psychology.’

Such broad sympathies are uncommon in a man of orderly mind and of fundamentally conservative instincts, and in the inevitable conflict of classes which impends in the world, Mr. Wilson is in a position to do humanity an inestimable service as interpreter and mediator between the warring elements. He has perspective, he is always looking far ahead. He cannot see the trees for the woods. The little things by the way do not distract him, for they escape his attention. If his life and health are spared, a man of such vision in combination with such extraordinary practical qualities will go far, whether as President or as an unofficial leader. Happen what may, the fact stands that largely through his effort —which has been more than effort: it has been a striving, even an agonizing, to use the real equivalent of the Greek word of which the St. James version gives the milder rendering — the world has been faced toward peace and it will not turn back. Historically he will be a member of the group of three great presidents —Washington the Father, Lincoln the Emancipator, Wilson the Pacificator.