The Voter's Choice in the Coming Election


We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please Ourselves.-PAUL to the ROMANS: XV, 1.

IT is only a minority of the voters, even a small minority, who make an intelligent choice at any election. Most practised voters follow their party leaders or their party newspapers, without much use of either their minds or their wills. This fact is not to be regretted in ordinary times; because party government is the only form of government which has proved possible in the democracies, and to successful party government a certain stability in political parties seems to be essential. Moreover, the free governments in which political parties are only two, with the occasional and generally precarious development of a third, have been on the whole much more successful in procuring for the people concerned real progress in education, production, and trade, and real toleration in religion, than the governments which have to be carried on through numerous political parties, which naturally tend to become mere factions, compelling the administration to rely on temporary groupings within which there is little real sympathy, or even much hostility.

In extraordinary crises, however, like that of Europe in 1914, or that of America at this moment, this normal stability of great parties in free governments becomes a serious danger. The formidable question then presents itself, — presents itself now in this country, — how large a proportion of the voting mass will rise to the occasion, and make a sound choice between the policies and men set before them by the two contending parties — a choice sound, not only intellectually, but morally. A larger proportion of the young voters than of the old will free themselves from partisanship, and make their choice on simple moral grounds. This fall the ex-soldiers will choose best of all; because they know more about the facts than stay-at-home people do, and want to make as sure as they can that their dead and disabled comrades have not died and suffered in vain.

The American people are now approaching a momentous crisis. They are called upon to render a decision on questions not primarily economic or industrial, but relating chiefly to national duties, responsibilities, and obligations. The decision will depend on the present state of the national character, which is, of course, an outcome of the moral and religious leadership enjoyed by the people during the past three centuries, and of the national experience at home and abroad during the same period, and also on the openness of the people’s heart to the world’s appeal for help. Under these circumstances the stability of the two great parties in the country is sure to be impaired, the number of independent voters will increase, and many more voters than usual will be making a real choice among the policies and persons that solicit their votes.

What are the documents which the intelligent and conscientious voter needs to study, in order to make up his mind whether he ought to cast a Republican or a Democratic vote ? The leading documents are, of course, the official platforms of the two parties, the ‘key-note’ speeches at the conventions, and the acceptance speeches of the candidates. It is a grave misfortune and hindrance that these documents are, with two exceptions, deplorably long, much less explicit than they should be, and defaced with vituperation, bombast, and votecatching appeals to the thoughtless and ignorant. The exceptions are the speeches of acceptance of the two candidates for the vice-presidency.

It now (August 22) looks as if September and October were going to supply the inquiring voter with some other means of making up his mind how he ought to vote. These means will apparently be better adapted to the reading habits of the American people than the official documents now accessible; because they will be short editorial paragraphs in the newspapers, or short reports of utterances by the leading candidates. The best opinion now seems to be that the ordinary American will put off reading an article in his newspaper which exceeds a column or so in length, or an article in his magazine which exceeds eight or ten pages. He may intend to read it later, but seldom does. If the newspapers and periodicals conform to this confirmed habit of their readers, there is hope that the voter who wishes to cast a considerate and righteous vote will get some help from the press during the months before the election, and particularly during October. Indeed, both the principal candidates have within the past three weeks made significant contributions to the great debate. They are revealing their personal qualities to the attentive voter.

The Republican managers seem even now to be studying how to shift the main issue of the campaign from repudiation of the Covenant and Treaty to repudiation of President Wilson and all his works. They hope that there are more voters who dislike the President, condemn severely his mistakes and failures, and see no merit in his achievements, than there are voters who reject outright the Covenant and Treaty and wish to have the United States kept out of all participation in the struggles of the world toward international coöperation, the reduction of armaments, and the prevention of violence by strong peoples against weak ones, and of wars for new territory or new trade. They incline to withdraw the rejection of the League and Covenant as the primary issue, and to rely chiefly on the impatience of shortsighted people with those Democratic measures of the past seven years which have disturbed their private business or their accustomed pleasures. They think it safer to seek the votes of the numerous people who are tired of the strenuous ideals of the eloquent but unpractical and mentally isolated President. They hope to profit by the reaction from the moral exaltation of the war-time, and by the common wish for a change in political, economic, and industrial management. All the more it is important to state, and keep stating until the election, the real issues which the people are to decide on the second of November.

Fortunately these issues are moral issues. In all free governments based on a wide suffrage sound popular decisions are obtained on moral questions more quickly and more surely than decisions on economic, legal, or administrative questions. This fall the main questions before the people might properly be called religious, if that word did not suggest to many minds some sectarian or ecclesiastical interpretation. The reflecting and responsible voter is going to make his choice on moral grounds. He is going to ask himself who are right, the President and his supporters in and out of office, or the opposition Senators who have been preaching for more than a year that the noble phrase ‘America first’ means, in respect to national conduct, not moral leadership and enterprise, and service without thought of self, but selfishness, desertion of brave comrades-in-arms, seeking cover from new risks for liberty and humanity, and refusal to participate in protecting the weak against the strong, and in making aggressive war too dangerous, in either civilized or barbarous regions, to be undertaken.

The two political platforms differ from each other most strongly in their descriptions of President Wilson’s character and achievements. The Republican platform condemns and repudiates in hot terms both President Wilson’s abstract political philosophy and the practical conduct of the administration of which he has been for seven years the head. One would infer from that platform that President Wilson had never said or done anything that was right, and that his administration had been an abject failure before the war, during the war, and after the war. The Democratic platform praises both the principles which President Wilson has expounded and stood for — or in other words the ideals which guide and animate him—and the measures his Cabinet and the administrative bureaus at Washington have already put into execution or are now advocating.

The first thing, therefore, for the thoughtful voter to do is to satisfy himself as to the principles of government which President Wilson believes in and has acted on. The next thing will be to consider what the two Wilson administrations have done for the country.


Any study of President Wilson’s ideals should start from the following statements made in the Inaugural Address of the President at the Capitol, March 4, 1913, a year and five months before the Great War broke out in Europe, and reaffirmed in various later addresses and messages.

Nowhere else in the world have noble men and women exhibited in more striking forms the beauty and the energy of sympathy and helpfulness and counsel in their efforts to rectify wrong, alleviate suffering, and set the weak in the way of strength and hope. We have built up, moreover, a great system of government, which has stood through a long age as in many respects a model for those who seek to set liberty upon foundations that will endure against fortuitous change, against storm and accident. . . .

The feelings with which we face this new age of right and opportunity sweep across our heartstrings like some air out of God’s own presence, where justice and mercy are reconciled, and the judge and the brother are one. . . . This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster, not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity.

That is a simple statement of the noble function of America in the twentieth-century world, as the oldest and most experienced of democracies, the most sympathetic and the most disinterested. It was not intended as a prophecy, but only as a description, or perhaps an exhortation and a promise; but whatever its purpose, it characterizes the thought and conduct of President Wilson, at home and abroad, during seven years of prodigious events and unexampled human agonies the world over.

In a short address delivered by President Wilson at Swarthmore College — a liberal Quaker college — on October 25, 1913, nine months and a half before the Great War broke out, he said: —

The spirit of Penn will not be stayed. You cannot set limits to such knightly adventurers. After their own day is gone their spirits stalk the world, carrying inspiration everywhere that they go.... It is no small matter, therefore, for a college to have as its patron saint a man who went out upon such a conquest. What I would like to ask you young people to-day is: How many of you have devoted yourselves to the like adventure? How many of you will volunteer to carry these spiritual messages of liberty to the world? How many of you will forego anything except your allegiance to that which is just and that which is right?

Two days later, on October 27, President Wilson delivered a short address before the Southern Commercial Congress at Mobile, one object of which was to promote American trade with the Latin-American states. The following are the noble sentences with which that short address concludes: —

Do not think, therefore, gentlemen, that the questions of the day are mere questions of policy and diplomacy. They are shot through with the principles of life. We dare not turn from the principle that morality and not expediency is the thing that must guide us, and that we will never condone iniquity because it is most convenient to do so. It seems to me that this is a day of infinite hope, of confidence in a future greater than the past has been; for I am fain to believe that, in spite of all the things that we wish to correct, the nineteenth century that now lies behind us has brought us a long stage toward the time when, slowly ascending the tedious climb that leads to the final uplands, we shall get our ultimate view of the duties of mankind.

These two addresses of October 25 and 27, 1913, — one to college youth and the other to southern business men, — express strong expectation of good for humanity soon to come, and invite the listeners to service and self-sacrifice. If President Wilson were to speak to his fellow-countrymen to-day, after all that has happened since 1913, he would say these same things with the same sincerity.

In a brief address by President Wilson at Independence Hall on July 4, 1914, when the vain struggle for peace in Europe was already going on under the leadership of Sir Edward Grey, he spoke as follows: —

I am sometimes very much interested when I see gentlemen supposing that popularity is the way to success in America. The way to success in this great country, with its fair judgments, is to show that you are not afraid of anybody except God and his final verdict. If I did not believe that, I would not believe in democracy. If I did not believe that, I would not believe that people can govern themselves. If I did not believe that the moral judgment would be the last judgment, the final judgment in the minds of men as well as the tribunal of God, I could not believe in popular government. But I do believe these things, and, therefore I earnestly believe in the democracy, not only of America but of every awakened people that wishes and intends to govern and control its own affairs.

This is a striking anticipation of the Fourteen Points.

In a three-minute address to the American Bar Association on October 20, 1914, President Wilson said: —

Public life, like private life, would be very dull and dry if it were not for this belief in the essential beauty of the human spirit and the belief that the human spirit could be translated into action and into ordinance. Not entire. You cannot go any faster than you can advance the average moral judgments of the mass; but you can go at least as fast as that, and you can see to it that you do not lag behind the average moral judgments of the mass. I have in my life dealt with all sorts and conditions of men, and I have found that the flame of moral judgment burned just as bright in the man of humble life and limited experience as in the scholar and the man of affairs.

Here is another affirmation of his faith in the moral judgments of the common people, the faith which led him to embark on his last series of appeals to the country against the opposition of the Senate minority.

On Memorial Day, 1915, President Wilson delivered at the great National Cemetery in Arlington a brief but pithy address, of which the following is the last paragraph:—

America, I have said, was reborn by the struggle of the Civil War; but America is reborn every day of her life by the purposes we form, the conceptions we entertain, the hopes that we cherish. We live in our visions ... in the things that we purpose. Let us go away from this place renewed in our devotion to daily duty and to those ideals which keep a nation young, keep it noble, keep it rich in enterprise and achievement, make it to lead the nations of the world in those things that make for hope and for the benefit of mankind.

In the week January 27 to February 3, 1916, President Wilson made a series of addresses in various cities, from New York to Kansas City and St. Louis. His purpose was to set forth the measures which his administration was advocating, and to secure popular support for some of them which were still pending in Congress. He wished also to explain before great popular assemblages how he was trying to meet the tremendous burden placed on the Chief Executive of the country. In particular he wished to set forth his conception of the naval and military forces that were needed for the defense of the country. The following passage from his address at Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shows how his mind was already turning from keeping the country out of the war to preparing the means of effective fighting. He had not yet come to the draft, and was, therefore, advocating dependence on a volunteer army. But he dwelt on the fact that every constitution in the United States — the Constitution of the nation and that of every state — lays it down as a principle that every man in America has the right to bear arms. Here are his words on the need of universal military training and on the soldier’s death for country: —

There are two things which practically everybody who comes to the Executive Office in Washington tells me. They tell me, ‘The people are counting upon you to keep us out of this war.’ And in the next breath, what do they tell me? ‘The people are equally counting upon you to maintain the honor of the United States.’ Have you reflected that a time might come when I could not do both? And have you made yourselves ready to stand behind your government for the maintenance of the honor of your country, as well as for the maintenance of the peace of the country? If I am to maintain the honor of the United States, and it should be necessary to exert the force of the United States in order to do it, have you made the force ready? You know that you have not; and the very fact that the force is not ready may make the task you have set for me all the more delicate and all the more difficult. I have come away from Washington to remind you of your part in this great business. There is no part that belongs to me that I wish to shirk; but I wish you to bear the part that belongs to you. I want every man and woman of you to stand behind me in pressing a reasonable plan for national defense. . . . Every audience still, after the passage of more than a hundred years, is stirred by the stories of the embattled farmers at Lexington, the men who had arms, who seized them and came forth in order to assert the independence and political freedom of themselves and their enterprise. That is the ideal picture of America, the rising of the Nation. But do we want the Nation to rise unschooled, inexperienced, ineffective, and furnish targets for powder and shot before they realize how to defend themselves at all? . . . And so, my fellow citizens, what I am pleading for with the utmost confidence is the revival of that great spirit of patriotism for which a hall like this stands as a symbol. I was saying the other night that it was a very interesting circumstance that we never hang a lad’s yardstick up over the mantelpiece, but that we do hang his musket up when he is gone. Not because the musket stands for a finer thing than the yardstick in itself, — it is a brutal thing to kill, — but that the musket stood for the risk of life, for something greater than the lad’s own self. It stood for infinite sacrifice to the point of death; and it is for that sentiment of willingness to die for something greater than ourselves that we hang the musket up over the mantelpiece, and in doing so make a sacred record of the high service of the family from which it sprang.

Let it be observed that this was said in January, 1916, and that it was addressed to the common people.

In the Auditorium at Chicago on January 31, 1916, he describes as follows the task assigned to the United States by passing events: —

Look at the task that is assigned to the United States, to assert the principles of law in a world in which the principles of law have broken down — not the technical principles of law, but the essential principles of right dealing and humanity as between nation and nation. ... We may have to assert these principles of right and of humanity at any time. What means are available? What force is at the disposal of the United States to assert these things? The force of opinion? Opinion, I am sorry to say, my fellow citizens, did not bring this war on; and I am afraid that opinion cannot stay its progress. This war was brought on by rulers, not by the people. ... No man for many a year yet can trace the real sources of this war; but this thing we know — that opinion did not bring it on, and that the force of opinion, at any rate, the force of American opinion, is not going to stop it.

At Des Moines, on February 1, 1916, he uttered the following sentences which apply without the change of a word to the present utterances of the Republican leaders who are trying to prevent the American people from discharging their plain duty toward their recent comrades-in-arms, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan.

Yet, my fellow citizens, there are some men amongst us preaching peace who go much further than I can go, . . . further, I believe, than you can follow them, in preaching the doctrine of peace at any price and in any circumstances. There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect. One cannot pay the price of duties abdicated, of glorious opportunities neglected, of character, national character, left without vindication and exemplification in action.

The above citations from addresses made by President Wilson in the week January 27 to February 3, 1916, will enable the careful voter to estimate the correctness or fairness of the following sentence near the beginning of the Republican platform of 1920: ‘Inexcusable failure to make timely preparation is the chief indictment against the Democratic administration in the conduct of the war.’

The last sentence of a short address which President Wilson made at a meeting of the Business Men’s League of St. Louis on February 3, 1916, being the last of the addresses which he made in his week’s tour, is as follows: —

I have come out to appeal to America, not because I doubted what America felt, but because I thought America wanted the satisfaction of uttering what she felt, and of letting the whole world know that she was a unit in respect of every question of national dignity and national safety.

This sentence shows that President Wilson was sure that the American people held his own firm belief in their responsiveness on any question of national dignity, responsibility, and disinterested service. He held this faith then, and has held it ever since. This faith was his reason for assuring his fellow negotiators at Paris that the United States would ratify the Treaty and Covenant in its final form. It was his reason for appealing at once, with entire confidence, to the masses of the people on the journey which was interrupted by his physical breakdown. It is his reason for desiring the present appeal to the mass of the voters. The Republican speakers and writers describe President Wilson’s adherence to this conviction as obstinacy. A juster name for it would be fidelity.

In an address at the first annual assemblage of The League to Enforce Peace on May 27, 1916, President Wilson made some remarks which describe well, not only his own convictions, but the convictions which he then believed were already held by the people of the United States.

The nations of the world must in some way band themselves together to see that right prevails as against any sort of selfish aggression; that henceforth alliance must not be set up against alliance, understanding against understanding, but that there must be a common agreement for a common object, and that at the heart of that common object must lie the inviolable rights of peoples and of mankind. . . . We believe these fundamental things: First, that every people has a right to choose the sovereignty under which it shall live. . . . Second, that the small states of the world have a right to enjoy the same respect for their sovereignty and for their territorial integrity that great and powerful nations expect and insist upon. And, third, that the world has a right to be free from every disturbance of its peace that has its origin in aggression and disregard of the rights of peoples and nations.

So sincerely do we believe in these things, that I am sure that I speak the mind and wish of the people of America when I say that the United States is willing to become a partner in any feasible association of nations formed in order to realize these objects and make them secure against violation.

President Wilson still believes that the United States is willing to become a partner in any feasible association of nations formed to realize these objects and further maintains that the League and Covenant formed at Versailles is the only feasible association. The supreme issue at the coming election is the decision of the majority of voters on that matter.

In an address at Philadelphia to the Associated Advertising Clubs, June 29, 1916, President Wilson said: —

I believe . . . that America, the country that we put first in our thoughts, should be ready in every point of policy and of action to vindicate at whatever cost the principles of liberty, of justice, and of humanity to which we have been devoted from the first. [Cheers.] You cheer the sentiment, but do you realize what it means? It means that you have not only got to be just to your fellow men, but that as a nation you have got to be just to other nations. It comes high. It is not an easy thing to do.’

The American people now realize that it ‘comes high’ to fight for liberty, justice, and peace throughout the world; but do they not still propose to vindicate the principles of liberty, justice, and humanity in international relations ‘ at whatever cost ’ ? The Republican Senators who have defeated the ratification of the Covenant and Treaty do not believe that. The Republican platform and the acceptance speech of the Republican candidate for the presidency declare opposite hopes and expectations. They declare that the cost of discharging our obligations under the proposed Covenant and League is much too high; and that the American people had better keep their breath to cool their own porridge.

In an address delivered at a joint session of the two Houses of Congress April 2, 1917, President Wilson stated with the utmost compactness the objects of the Government and people of the United States in going to war with Germany.

Our object now as then1 is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power, and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles.... A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic government could be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its covenants. It must be a league of honor, a partnership of opinion. . . . The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. . . . We fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

This is also an exact statement of what America ought to continue to do at all risks, in order that the fruits of their military victory may be gradually secured.

In the address to his fellow countrymen which was given to the newspapers on April 16, 1917, the President said,—

We are fighting for what we believe and wish to be the rights of mankind, and for the future peace and security of the world. To do this great thing worthily and successfully we must devote ourselves to the service without regard to profit or material advantage, and with an energy and intelligence that will rise to the level of the enterprise itself. We must realize to the full how great the task is, and how many things, how many kinds and elements of capacity and service and self-sacrifice it involves. . . . The supreme test of the nation has come. We must all speak, act, and serve together.

And so we did, until the Republican Senators began to obstruct the ratification of the Covenant and Treaty.

In an address at Washington on Flag Day, June 14, 1917, when our armies were gathering and all our industries were rushing to make the supplies and means of transportation necessary to put our young men at work on fields of blood in France, President Wilson closed with these words :—

For us there is but one choice. We have made it. . . . Once more we shall make good with our lives and fortunes the great faith to which we were born, and a new glory shall shine in the face of our people.

That glory did shine, until Republican Senators began, first, to interfere — without Constitutional right — in the negotiations which were going on in Paris, and so to diminish the influence and authority of the American delegate at that Conference, and then to urge the whole American people to abandon the course of conduct which President Wilson and the great majority of the Democratic party had advocated, and to adopt the selfish, timid, and dishonorable course advocated by the opponents of the League. And now the Republican platform praises those Senators, and the candidate nominated by the Republican Convention gives notice that he will oppose the ratification of the Covenant and Treaty of Versailles.


The difference between the Democratic policy and the Republican in respect to the Covenant and Treaty is now clearly defined. So is the difference between President Wilson’s ideals and those of the present Republican leaders. Which ideals are the majority of the American voters going to prefer? Which leaders are they going to follow — the heirs of President Wilson’s policies, or the Republican leaders who have kept the United States out of the League and poured contempt and insults on President Wilson’s character, manners, and measures? If President Wilson’s estimate of the moral quality of the American people is correct, many young voters, and many ex-soldiers, many fathers and mothers of sons who died or were crippled in the war, and many non-partisan or independent voters will take the noble and disinterested side, and reject the leadership of those Republicans who have lost sight of the fact that the Republican party was at its origin the party which stood for human liberty, for justice to the oppressed, and for a great expectancy of good for suffering humanity.

The fall of the Republican Party between the summer of 1918 and the summer of 1920 is an extraordinary political phenomenon. In 1918 a group of Republican leaders, headed by Henry Cabot Lodge, used the following language: —

This is not the President’s personal war. This is not the war of Congress. It is not the war of the Democratic or the Republican party. It is the war of the American people. It is more. It is the war of the United States, of the Allied Powers, of the civilized world against the barbarism of Germany. In this great burden and responsibility the Republican party, representing more than half the citizenship of the country, demands its rightful share.

According to the Chicago platform the Republican Party in 1920 stands for agreement among the nations to preserve the peace of the world; but this must be effected through a new association of nations and ‘without depriving the people of the United States in advance of the right to determine for themselves what is just and fair when the occasion arises, and without involving them as participants, and not as peacemakers, in a multitude of quarrels the merits of which they are unable to judge.’ It affirms that ‘The Senators performed their duty faithfully. We approve their conduct, and honor their courage and fidelity.’

Since the triumph of these Republican leaders in the Senate, some new calamities have befallen Europe and the Near East, and some new dangers threaten democracy and civilization. War has broken out again in Europe and the Near East at several points, the very existence of Poland as a free nation has been imperiled, millions of people lack food, clothing, and fuel, and the industrial and financial restoration of the belligerent nations is cruelly delayed. Marxian Socialism, with its despotic super-state, seems to be gaining ground on the Continent, and Labor-Union Socialism in Great Britain. It seems probable, though not certain, that these new evils would not have occurred and these new dangers would not have arisen, if the sane and strong influence of the United States had been exerted from the beginning in the League of Nations.

Now the League of Nations already contains twenty-nine nations; it is in operation, and has made important contributions toward a proper organization of the League and its various agencies. But its beneficent action is crippled by the absence of the United States as a member of the Executive Council of the League. The Republican candidate for President declares that he will not carry the country into the existing League of Nations. The party, instead of demanding its rightful share in the burden and responsibility of the war, proposes that this country take no share in the burden of securing the fruits of the war, and advises the American people to look first to the maintenance of their own independence and the security of their own property, and to renounce all sense of obligation to the other free nations which were associated with America in the conduct of the war against Germany. The party has turned its back on its own principles of 1860 and 1918. This deplorable change of front is a deep mortification and distress to all patriotic Americans, Republican or Democratic, and particularly to those who remember the political ideals which the Republican party was founded to contend for, and which led it to glorious victories. Within the memory of living men no political party in this country has suffered so crushing a catastrophe. Habitual Republicans may well consider how this downfall is to be remedied. Surely not by putting the country into the hands of the very men who have led the party into its present plight.

The services of President Wilson to the cause of permanent peace at the Conferences at Paris were very great, and they were successful to an extraordinary degree. It was he who persuaded the other negotiators to make the Covenant and League indispensable parts of any final settlement. The provisions of the League are so interwoven with the provisions of the Treaty that the union is all-pervasive. The League provides the means of carrying out the provisions of the Treaty, and throughout the Treaty the League appears as the indispensable instrument for executing, and also for modifying the terms of, the Covenant and Treaty, as occasion may require. That the Covenant and Treaty together contain the means of abolishing secret treaties and understandings, of reducing armaments, and curbing nations inclined to attack their neighbors or to cause dangerous friction in international dealings, is due to President Wilson and to the influence of his ideals on the governments and peoples of Europe.

The other negotiators did not share President Wilson’s ideals when the Conferences began, and at the end they probably accepted them with but scant belief in their efficacy. All parties in Great Britain have been for centuries shy of ideals in general, and have been ready to abandon theories and logical aims in favor of compromises and short steps toward some immediate practical end. French diplomacy has for many years depended on secret alliances and secret, even unrecorded, understandings. The general attitude of Premier Clemenceau throughout the Conferences was one of cynical distrust. He had no faith that strong nations could be, or were going to be, influenced in their relations with other nations by anything but their own interests and passions. He felt that France could be protected against Germany in the future only by reducing Germany to impotency, and that no League of Nations and no affirmations of international good-will could be trusted to make France safe. Yet there resulted from the Conferences at Paris far-reaching international agreements much more promising than the world has ever known before toward the abolition of autocratic government, militarism, competitive armaments, secret diplomacy, balances of power, and wars of conquest. This result is due to President Wilson’s ideals and his persuasiveness or combativeness on their behalf, backed as they were by the unanimous rush of the American people in April, 1917, into the war against Germany.

The reader who has apprehended the quality of the foregoing quotations from President Wilson’s messages and addresses and the nature and extent of his services at the Paris Conferences will now be prepared to appreciate the following extract from an editorial in the Philadelphia Public Ledger of July 31:—

Governor Cox and his personal staff will not be able to slink from under the burdens of the Wilson administrations. They must defend their records or be condemned for them. Only in that way can the American people pronounce their final judgment on Wilsonism. Otherwise Wilsonism escapes scot-free.

There is no method by which a party can inflict on this nation the ills of an experimental, pseudo-idealistic, irritatingly impractical, openly sectional, poisonously Socialistic government, and get away with it without any ‘come-back.’ The Democratic Party must accept the consequences of its ‘seven lean years’ and await the verdict of a thoroughly exasperated people.

A good parallel with this criticism of ‘Wilsonism’ and the Wilson administrations is to be found in the Aurora, a paper which was being published in the same city of Philadelphia in 1797. The following sentence was published in the Aurora a few days before Washington retired from the Presidency and returned to his farm.

If ever a nation was debauched by a man, the American nation has been debauched by Washington; if ever a nation was deceived by a man, the American nation has been deceived by Washington.

A few days later, an anonymous correspondent of the Aurora wrote as follows:—

When a retrospect is taken of the Washington administration for eight years, it is a subject of the greatest astonishment that a single individual should have conquered the principles of republicanism in an enlightened people just emerged from the gulf of despotism, and should have carried his designs against the public liberty so far as to have put in jeopardy its very existence.

The Public Ledger’s criticisms of ‘ Wilsonism ’ this summer are as wrongheaded as those of the Aurora against Washington; but they do not transcend in stupidity and irrelevancy the epithets which the Republican official documents and the speeches of Republican orators now apply to President Wilson. Here is an incomplete group of those epithets — autocrat, usurper, despot, dictator, hypocrite, phrase-maker, obstinate, Utopian, deceitful, insincere, narrow-gauged, and meanly jealous of friends and foes alike. May all thoughtful and open-minded voters keep these epithets in mind this fall! The recollection will help them to decide whether they will aid to put the men that use them in control of the government for the next four years.


The objections urged against the Treaty and Covenant by the group of Senators who have defeated ratification are extraordinarily narrow-minded and selfish. One would think that they had never perceived the prodigious changes in the civilized world since Washington used the phrase ‘entangling alliances’; that they had not felt the exaltation of the American spirit when the people went to war with Germany to protect the free nations from the Prussian autocracy, to defend the weaker nations against the stronger, to make right triumph over wrong, and to make impossible in the future such war as Germany was waging upon the freer nations of Europe. They appealed during the long and rambling discussion to only the selfish side of the American character. They urged the people to make no more sacrifices for liberty and justice in the world, to save their own property, and to share their resources in the future with no other nation, not even with their recent comrades-inarms. They would have none of coöperation between the American Republic and the other free nations, to make the world a better place for the rising generation to live in. They had no faith in the magnanimity and disinterestedness of the American people. What an incredibly low estimate of the moral quality of the American people these men formed, right in the face of the sacrifice the young men and the fathers and mothers of America made between April, 1917, and November, 1918! One of the most outrageous of their slanders against the people of the United States was their statement that Americans would never accept any mandate on behalf of Armenia.

Now the Republican platform endorses the language and the conduct of the Senators who defeated the ratification. It says outright, ‘We commend the Republican Senate for refusing the President’s request to empower him to accept the mandate for Armenia ’; and again, ‘No more striking illustration can be found of President Wilson’s disregard of the lives of American boys or of American interests and action’; and again, ‘ We deeply sympathize with the people of Armenia and stand ready to help them in all ways; but the Republican Party will oppose now and hereafter the acceptance of a mandate for any country in Europe or Asia.’ One of the most interesting questions at the coming election is whether the majority of the American voters, or the majority of the members of the House of Representatives (if the election is thrown into the House), has become so degraded as to accept that teaching of Republican Senators and the Republican platform, and so unfeeling as not to revolt absolutely at that remark of the Republican platform about President Wilson.

Many established members of the Republican Party, both old and young, are going to feel great difficulty in voting for the Democratic candidate for the presidency next November, even though they earnestly desire the prompt ratification of the Covenant and Treaty and the entrance of the United States into the beneficent work of the League of Nations, because they have somehow acquired an utter distrust of the character and conduct of President Wilson. They are convinced that he is insincere, or shifty; that while his sayings are apt to be sound, his doings are apt to be unsound; that he chooses his counselors badly; that his nature is cold and inconstant in spite of his much talk about justice, mercy, coöperation, and goodwill; and that he is utterly incapable of attaching to himself able men as disciples or ardent followers. This picture of President Wilson is accepted by a large proportion of Republicans and by some Democrats. Those who have accepted it cannot but be reluctant to vote for Governor Cox, because he is the heir to President Wilson’s policies and public doings, although he holds himself free to depart from or modify the President’s recent line of conduct in respect to the ratification of the Covenant and Treaty. They can hardly bring themselves to vote for a measure or a principle which is attributable to President Wilson. Their aversion to his personality overcomes every other consideration. It may fairly be urged, however, upon all voters, old and young, Republican and Democratic, that President Wilson’s character and conduct are not practical issues in the coming election. He is perforce a retired statesman, and the disputes or differences about his character and conduct should not affect the voter’s desire or purpose to use his own vote in the best interest of his country and the world. President Wilson’s policies and ideals are the main issue, not his personality. History will give him much later his rightful place.


Although the great issue to be decided at the coming election is the ratification of the Covenant and Treaty, with explanations or interpretations, if any, which may be needed to make clear to European opinion the differences between constitutional government in the United States and constitutional government in Great Britain, France, and Italy, there is another question to be submitted to the voters, which is large and interesting, though only secondary. Fortunately this, too, is a moral question, and one which appeals strongly to the young mind and to the liberal mind as distinguished from the conservative. This second question is as follows: To which of the two great parties is it safest to intrust the forward movement toward greater liberty, comfort, health, and happiness for the manual laborers of the country, both men and women, both skilled and unskilled, for the people who work for wages with or without bonuses, and have thus far had little or no influence on the physical or mental conditions under which their daily labor has been performed?

The young voter, or the open-minded voter, who makes himself acquainted with the history of the two parties within the past eight years, — or, better, within the last thirty years, — will soon see that the Democratic Party has one great advantage over the Republican Party in soliciting his vote on this issue. The key-note speech of Mr. Cummings at San Francisco and the Democratic platform there adopted rely, in respect to promotion of industrial and social progress and public welfare, on the deeds or acts of the Democratic Party during the past seven years of extraordinary world-turmoil, on its actual enactments and administrative achievements, accomplishments without a parallel in the whole series of Republican administrations since the Civil War. This statement applies to all the great financial, economic, and philanthropic subjects which have been under active discussion in the United States during the past thirty years. In comparison with the actual record of the Democratic Party since 1912, the Republican Party has very little to show.

One may sum up this situation by saying that the Democratic Party is far the more trustworthy party for the promotion of progressive ideas in government, politics, and the improvement of all social, commmercial, and industrial organizations. For thirty years the Democratic Party has been more sensitive than the Republican Party to the needs and aspirations of the depressed or less fortunate classes in human society, and it has exhibited a more practical sense of human brotherhood than the Republican Party, both at home and abroad. Moreover, it has shown since 1912 that it has more sense of the duty of a strong nation toward a weak one, and — better still — a greater sensitiveness to the maintenance of American honor. Let the young voter compare the statements in the two platforms concerning the policy of the United States toward Mexico, and let him also compare the actual legislation of the Republican Party with that of the Democratic Party on the exemption from the payment of tolls by American coastwise vessels passing through the Panama Canal. If he would understand the attitude of the Democratic Party toward the productive laboring millions, let him see clearly what the two Wilson administrations have done for the farmers of the country. Both the party platforms exhibit the greatest possible interest in the welfare of the farmer class; but the Democrats have this great advantage over the Republicans, that the Democratic platform recounts deeds, while the Republican is necessarily confined to sympathetic platitudes and promises.

To-day the Democratic Party has a right to say that it is the party of progressive legislation and administration. It is the party which, building on a sure foundation of achievements, can say to the American people: ‘Trust us for safe advances toward public liberty, order, prosperity, and contentment. We have given the American people two administrations which have been governed by just ideals, and have made enormous practical achievements. Our leader has fallen by the way, a sacrifice to his sense of duty and to his faith in the rectitude and courage of the common people. But we offer you other leaders, who will not only carry on the works so well begun by the Wilson administration, but will rise to new occasions and new duties, and press on to the fulfillment in the United States of the best hopes and expectations of democracy.’

To make democracy safe in the harassed world means to give to every citizen freedom to do his best for the public welfare, and the will to use energetically that freedom. Judging by the history of the Democratic Party since 1912, the country may trust that party to defend its honor and its rights, to build up education, to improve the public health, to raise the general level of intelligence and comfort, and also to create the free and mobile society in which the finest and rarest human capacities will come oftenest to fruition.

The legitimate conclusion of the foregoing discussion is, that the patriotic and considerate voter, not forgetting the progressive domestic policy of the Democratic Party, should base his choice between the candidates on his acceptance or rejection of that policy of world-leadership and world-helpfulness which is irrevocably associated with the name of President Wilson.

  1. The reference in the word ‘then’ is to his earlier addresses — to the Senate on the 22d of January, and to Congress on the 3d and 26th of February, 1917.