The Wilson Era

Josephus Daniels
OF the original Josephus, it is recorded that as one of a group of forty partisans, he found himself in a very tight place. Roman legionnaires were moving to the assault and the only recourse seemed to be that every man should cut his own throat. But Josephus suggested a better way. Let every pair, he advised, slay each other. Two by two, they followed his advice until there were left, only Josephus and a single companion. “Quite obviously,”said Josephus, the experiment is satisfactory. There seems no further need of going on with it.”
Something of this spirit inspires Josephus Daniels. With a venerable ruthlessness he presides over the assassination of many characters amongst his ancient comrades of the Wilson Crusades. Out of his memory come detailed conversations, out of his files letters; and both do lethal service. Yet all the while he remains the benevolent old gentleman, wishing good things to all men except Black Republicans. English admirals, and those misbegotten Democrats who disagree with him. For Josephus Daniels was born to be right. Did he not hail from the Tar Heel State? Is he not an Evangelical, a Prohibitionist, and the editor of his own newspaper? For righteousness you cannot beat that combination. When a North Carolinian like Walter Page sells his birthright for a ness of New York pottage, he may go astray, but if the authentic Tar sticks to your heels, you can walk the political tightrope with unflinching rectitude.
Die letters which Mr. Daniels produces cannot be slighted by the historian. They are effective weapons, but the exactness of his memory of conversations is open to argument. Take this illustration. The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Daniels, is in Paris. There is a contentious Peace Treaty in progress. Mr. Daniels calls on Colonel House. The Colonel is out, but Gordon Auchincloss, his son-in law and secretary, greets him.
“I asked where I would find Secretary of State Lansing ’Why call in Lansing?' says Auchincloss. ’Nobody in Paris pays any attention to him. Wait and see Colonel House. He is the man all Paris looks to in the negotiation.’ ”
Is it likely that a man with experience in the State De parturient would volunteer so inane a remark regarding the Secretary of State to an important Cabinet colleague? Mr. Daniels has no doubt of this. This reviewer has; and Mr. Auchincloss is securely dead. The real moral of this little story Mr. Daniels does not envisage. He never questions the unwisdom of Mr. Wilson’s policy in permitting two rival machines, Lansing’s and House’s, to operate simultaneously on opposing lines. The President’s policy was one and indivisible. Two discordant agencies were not calculated to accomplish it.
However this may be, Lansing, House, Page, Sims, McAdoo are all bitterly assailed. But if Mr. Daniels hates the enemies he makes, he loves his friends. He is the soul of loyalty, and his devotion to the great memory of Woodrow Wilson is magnificent. Indeed it borders on idolatry. Every act of the President is the judgment of God.
Mr. Daniels s book is a substantial contribution to history. It is ill-constructed and written in the tradition of the reporter of a local newspaper. So carelessly is the book put together that in a facsimile reproduction of a letter written in his own hand designed to show the intimacy between them, he displays as ungrammatical a scrawl as was, I imagine, ever written to an American President by a member of his Cabinet. How the Professor-President must have grimaced as he read it!
But The Wilson Era remains an interesting and important book. Amusingly childish when he recalls the simple dignity of a God-fearing American walking with kings on no unequal terms. Mr. Daniels saw a vast deal of history and in his shrewd up-country way has set down a history which cannot he neglected. To say that every deserving Democrat should read it is not enough. Many who disagree should ponder it and reflect, with greater candor than before, that to every question there are two sides.