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Copyright, 1919,



FeS,26 19l9






For the early career of President Wilson^ the chief
authority is Mr. William B. Hale's " Woodrow Wilson:
The Story of His Life " (1912). Excellent studies
of his work as an educator and a statesman will he
found in Mr. Henry J. Ford's " Woodrow Wilson:
The Man and His Work'' (1916), and (from the
British point of view) in Mr. H. Wilson Harris's
" President Wilson: His Problems and Policy " (1917),
To all three books I am greatly indebted.



The United States of America have passed
through two great crises of history — the crisis
which gave them birth as an independent nation,
and the crisis which decided that they were to
remain for ever one and indivisible, and that
negro slavery was no longer to be tolerated
within their bounds. Each of these crises
brought to the front a man, not only of lofty
spiritual stature, but of the purest order of
greatness. George Washington was not, per-
haps, what is accounted a man of genius. His
powers were solid rather than dazzling. A
splenetic Scotch sophist could, without manifest
absurdity, sneer at him as merely " a good land-
surveyor." But he had what the crisis de-
manded more than brilliancy of genius: he had
greatness of character. Never was polity more
fortunate than the United States in its founder
and patron saint. Abraham Lincoln, on the
other hand, was a man of genius if ever there
was one; yet what endears his name to his



countrymen, and to all lovers of freedom
throughout the world, is not his genius but his
sheer goodness. The rugged frontiersman, the
Illinois country lawyer, was a nobleman in the
highest sense of the word. The people of
America were much wiser than they realized
when they sent that long, lean, ungainly
Westerner to the White House. Yet we cannot
but believe that some sort of happy instinct
guided the democracy in making so brilliant a

In August, 1914, a third great crisis found, as
some of us believe, a third great man in the
presidential chair of the United States. The
issue in this crisis was an entirely new one; not
whether the nation should be independent, not
whether it should be indivisible, but whether it
should attempt to hold aloof from the shaping
of the world's future, in fancied inviolabihty, or
should accept the share in that momentous task
imposed on it at once by its strength and by its
ideals. There was much that was specious, and
much that carried the weight of high authority,
to be said in favor of the former alternative.
The question simply was whether America
should realize that the world of to-day was an


entirely different world from that in which the
tradition of aloofness was established, and that
her national ideals of peace and democracy were
as formidably menaced by events in Europe as
though the Atlantic Ocean had been no broader
than the Straits of Dover.

The President in office when that crisis burst
upon the world had been elected on wholly dif-
ferent issues. But once more fortune had
marvelously favored the United States. He
proved to be a man in whom the wisdom of
patience was no less conspicuous than the wis-
dom of courage. So long as it seemed that
American ideals might be safeguarded, and the
future of the world secured, without the active
participation of his country in the vast calamity
of war, he held his hand, he disregarded the
clamor of impatient spirits on either side of the
ocean, and he awaited the time when either the
skies should clear, or they should so darken that
not even the most ostrich-like optimism could
imagine the United States unthreatened by the
tornado. Meanwhile the American people had,
in a hotly-contested election, reaffirmed its belief
that the man they had chosen in calmer times,
and in view of simpler problems, was the strong


man whose hand was required on the helm of
the ship of state.

The skies, as we know, did not clear — they
grew ever more lowering — and as soon as the
moment came when the interests of the nation
and of the world manifestly demanded that
counsels of patience should give place to coun-
sels of resolution, Woodrow Wilson spoke un-
hesitatingly the decisive word, and found a
united people behind him. Is it premature to
recognize in his whole course of action an ex-
ample of lofty and intrepid statesmanship,
justly comparable with anything recorded of his
two great predecessors? May not one even go
further, and say that never did crisis in history
find, or produce, a man more splendidly ade-
quate to the task imposed upon him?

For the past two years, no living man has
held a more conspicuous or a more responsible
position than Mr. Wilson. All the world has
hung upon his utterances; and to all lovers of
freedom and justice — to all whose one consola-
tion in calamity has been the hope that the
world would profit by the awful lesson — his
utterances have been a constant source of in-
spiration and of confidence. His idealism, on


the one hand, has never faltered, while on the
other hand his sane sense of the practical needs
of the situation has never failed. To millions
of people in allied, in neutral, and even in
enemy countries, the knowledge that this strong,
just man had his hand on the levers of state-
craft has given inexpressible reassurance.

Since the great turn of fortune in July, 1918 —
since the Landshde of Autocracy set in — Mr.
Wilson's position has been unique and unpar-
elleled. In virtue of the mandate of a great
people: in virtue, too, of his own character and
faculty: he has at more than one juncture been
in very truth the arbiter of the destinies of
the world. In the name of democracy, he has
spoken the doom of empires. To this man of
plain Scotch-Irish parentage, this son of an
obscure Presbyterian minister, Hapsburgs and
Hohenzollerns have come truckling for mercy,
only to be told, calmly and sternly, that man-
kind has no longer any use for them. The
wonderful, the incredible drama is a theme for
an ^schylus or a Shakespeare. We, its living
spectators, can find no adequate words for the
emotion it excites in us.

But the career and character of its protago-


nist we can and must study. Difficult though
it be to see a contemporary in just perspective,
this is a case in which the attempt must be made.
The purpose of the following pages is to give,
in the briefest compass, a sketch of the career
and character of the man to whom we owe the
inspiring spectacle of a great nation accepting,
from motives of pure world-patriotism, the
gravest responsibility which a people can take
upon itself, and throwing its weight, at the
decisive instant, into the most momentous war
of the modern world.

The earlier and less widely-known stages of
the President's career have been more fully
treated than the later, which are matters of
recent history. Wherever it has seemed possi-
ble, Mr. Wilson has been left to tell his own
story, through extracts from his writings and





Youth and Early Manhood . . . 1


The Man of Letters



Princeton . . . ,



New Jersey



The White House .

. 49


Mexico ....

. 73


Into the War .

. 82


Peace and the League of Nations

. 109

Appendix . . . ...

. 115



Thomas Woodrow Wilson — the " Thomas "
seems soon to have been dropped by general eon-
sent — was born at Staunton, Virginia, on De-
cember 28, 1856. His paternal grandfather,
James Wilson, emigrated from Ulster in 1807,
and married, in Philadelphia, Anne Adams, an
Ulster girl who had been among his fellow-
passengers. He went westward, about 1812, to
Steubenville, Ohio, and there a son, Joseph
Ruggles — the youngest of seven — was born to
him in 1822. All the seven sons learned their
father's trade, and became printers; but the
transition from printing to journalism was easy,
and James Wilson founded two papers, the
Western Herald in Steubenville, and the Penn-


sylvania Advocate in Pittsburg, both of which
remained in his possession till his death in 1857.
His youngest son soon dropped the family trade
in order to enter the Presbyterian ministry.
Though licensed as a preacher, he at first de-
voted himself mainly to teaching, and in 1846
obtained a post in the Male Academy at his
birthplace, Steubenville. There he met Miss
Janet Woodrow, daughter of the Rev. Dr.
Thomas Woodrow, a Scotch Presbyterian min-
ister, who had crossed the Border to Carlisle,
where his family of eight were all born. From
Cumberland they removed to Canada, and
thence to Ohio. His daughter Janet was a
pupil at the Steubenville Academy for Girls
when she made the acquaintance of Joseph
Wilson. They were married on June 7, 1849.
The future President was their third child, but
eldest son. Another son was born ten years

Joseph Wilson seems to have been a man
of varied attainments, for we find him acting at
one time as " professor extraordinary " of
rhetoric at one Southern college; shortly after-
wards as professor of chemistry and natural
science at another; and later as professor of


pastoral and evangelistic theology at a third.
He also took pastoral charge of various
churches. From 1858 to 1870 he was pastor of
the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta,
Georgia; and it was in this town of some 15,000
people that the young Woodrow spent his child-
hood and early boyhood. The great Civil War
never came very near to the quiet household.
It no doubt caused both perturbations and
privations, but does not seem to have left any
deep impression on the boy's mind. His ear-
liest memory, however, is of " two men meeting
in the street outside his father's house, and one
of them declaring ' Lincoln is elected, and
there'U be war.' "

The chief effect of the war upon Woodrow's
personal fortunes was to retard the beginning
of his education. It is scarcely credible that, in
a literate household, a highly intelligent boy
passed the age of nine before he was even able
to read; but it is certain that until he was four-
teen the only school he attended was one opened
in Augusta by one J . T. Derry, a Confederate
veteran whose qualifications do not seem to
have been of the highest. Meanwhile his taste
for literature was fostered by the domestic habit


of reading aloud, which introduced him to the
works of Scott and Dickens, among other

In 1870 the family removed to Columbia,
South Carolina, where Woodrow went to the
local academy. Three years later he entered
Davidson College, North Carolina, but after a
year's attendance his health temporarily broke
down. His family had now removed to Wil-
mington, North Carolina, and there he spent a
year of comparative rest, at the same time pre-
paring himself for entrance to Princeton Uni-
versity, where he matriculated in September,
1875. Up to this point, that is to say, until
his nineteenth year, his whole life had been
spent in the Southern States.

His academic record at Princeton was credita-
ble but not brilliant. We are told that " his
general average for the four years was 90.3,"
which may strike the uninitiated as rather good ;
but it is added that " he stood thirty-eighth in
a graduating class of 106." His literary ability,
however, did not fail to make its mark, and he
was for a year sole editor of the college maga-
zine, the Princetonian. He was reckoned
among the best speakers in the Whig Hall de-


bating club. On one occasion he was chosen
to represent Whig Hall in a debate with an-
other society, on a subject to be picked at
random from among a number thrown into a
hat. The subject drawn was " Tariffs," and it
should have been Wilson's part to plead the
cause of Protection against Free Trade. But
he would not, even as an academic exercise,
argue against his convictions. He retired from
the debate, and the champion chosen in his
place was defeated. This incident shows a
remarkable earnestness in so young a man.
Paradox — a deliberately insincere display of in-
tellectual adroitness — has usually irresistible at-
tractions for the clever undergraduate.

Before he left college, Wilson contributed to
the International Review a remarkable article
on " Cabinet Government in the United States,"
which " contains in embryo much of his subse-
quent thinking and writing upon Government."
Already he is concerned about the lack of an
efficient connecting-link, in the American con-
stitution, between the legislative and the execu-
tive, and urges that such a link would be sup-
phed by a responsible Cabinet. The following
passage was repeated almost word for word in


many of his campaign speeches during the
Presidential Election of 1912:

Congress is a deliberative body in which there is little
real deliberation; a legislature which legislates with no
real discussion of its business. Our Government is
practically carried on by irresponsible committees.
Too few Americans take the trouble to inform them-
selves as to the methods of Congressional management;
and as a consequence, not many have perceived that
almost absolute power has fallen into the hands of men
whose irresponsibility prevents the regulation of their
conduct by the people from whom they derive their

Already the future President was deeply in-
terested in English political thought. He had
read Chatham, Burke, Brougham, Macaulay
and especially Bagehot, for whom his admira-
tion was unbounded. Moreover, through the
running commentary in the Gentleman's Maga-
zine, he had familiarized himself with the par-
liamentary history of the sixties and seventies,
when Gladstone and Disraeli were at the height
of their fame. Already the bent of his mind
was consciously and definitely political. The
vital things of literature interested him pro-
foundly, but for antiquarianism he had neither


taste nor time. He refused to compete for a
prize of $125 which it was thought he might
easily have won, because he found that it would
have involved a close study of the works of Ben

After taking his degree of A.B. in 1879,
Wilson studied law for a year at the University
of Virginia, Charlottesville. Here we find him
delivering an oration on John Bright, and con-
tributing to the college magazine an article on
Gladstone. His health again becoming unsatis-
factory, he spent a year at home, before entering
upon the profession he had chosen, and estab-
lishing himself as a lawyer at Atlanta, Georgia.
Fortunately, as we are now apt to think, he
waited for clients in vain; and in 1883 he left
Atlanta to enter upon a post-graduate course
at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Here
he obtained a fellowship in history, and, by
means of a thesis on " Congressional Govern-
ment," the degree of Ph.D. In 1885 he joined
the teaching staff of Bryn Mawr, a famous
college for women, then newly established in the
outskirts of Philadelphia, where he lectured on
history and political economy. From 1888 to
1890 he held the Professorship of History in the


Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.
In 1890 he returned to Princeton as Professor
of Jurisprudence and Politics, and at Princeton
he remained for twenty years. He had married
in 1885 Miss Ellen Louise Axon, of Savannah,
Georgia. This lady — whom he had thanked in
more than one dedication for " gentle benefits
which can neither be measured nor repaid " —
died in August, 1914, just as the storm of war
burst upon the world. In December, 1915, Mr.
Wilson married Mrs. Norman Gait, formerly
Miss Edith Boiling, of Wythesville, Virginia.



The years of his professorship at Princeton —
before he entered upon the organizing and ad-
ministrative duties of a University President —
were the chief years of Woodrow Wilson's
hterary activity. How significant, and how full
of promise, that activity was, we have scarcely
realized on this side of the Atlantic.

His authorship falls into three branches: he
is a writer upon political science, he is an his-
torian, and he is an essayist. In all three
branches his work is full of character and vital-
ity. He brings to it a vigorous and compre-
hensive mind, fine literary culture, high ideals,
and a broad, sympathetic humanity. He shows
himself from the first an accomplished writer,
trained in the only good school — that is to say,
a loving study of the best models in the lan-
guage. Those of us who made our first ac-


quaintance with his style in reading diplomatic
" notes " presumed to proceed from his pen,
may have thought it somewhat cumbrous and
conventional. No epithets could be less applica-
ble to his unofficial and unfettered literary work.
The inference is either that, in his diplomatic
documents, some other hand actually held the
pen, or that he was trammeled by the sense
that in such communications anything like indi-
viduality or lightness of touch would be out of

His first book was the Johns Hopkins Uni-
versity thesis, "Congressional Government: A
Study in American Politics," * published when
he was twenty-eight. Seldom has so unromantic
a theme inspired so readable a book. One learns
from it not only the forms of the machinery
which has grown up for expressing in practice
the theories of the American Constitution, but
also, by way of contrast, a good deal about the
workings of the British parliamentary system.
For Mr. Wilson is above everything a student
of comparative politics, and never loses sight of
the intimate relationship between American and

* Called in the English edition (Constable, 1914), "A Study of
the American Constitution."


British institutions. Of the actual style of the
book, a few brief specimens must suffice:

Hamilton and Jefferson did not draw apart because
the one had been an ardent and the other only a luke-
warm friend of the Constitution, so much as because
they were so different in natural bent and temper that
they would have been like to disagree and come to drawn
points wherever or however brought into contact. The
one had inherited warm blood and a bold sagacity,
while in the other a negative philosophy ran suitably
through cool veins. They had not been meant for yoke-

How excellent an expression is that which I
have italicized! There is a touch of Stevenson
about it.

The House sits, not for a serious discussion, but to
sanction the conclusions of its Committees as rapidly
as possible. It legislates in its committee-rooms ; not
by the determinations of majorities, but by the resolu-
tions of especially-commissioned minorities; so that it
is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session
is Congress on public exhibition, while Congress in its
committee-rooms is Congress at work.

I know not how better to describe our form of
government in a single phrase than by calling it a
government by chairmen of the Standing Committees
of Congress. This disintegrate ministry, as it figures


on the floor of the House of Representatives, has many

One must take this passage in its full context
in order quite to appreciate the admirable felicity
of " disintegrate ministry."

Some of the Committees are made up of strong men,
the majority of them of weak men; and the weak are
as influential as the strong. The country can get the
counsel and guidance of its ablest representatives only
upon one or two subjects; upon the rest it must be
content with the impotent service of the feeble. Only
a very small part of its important business can be done
well ; the system provides for having the rest of it done
miserably, and the whole of it taken together done at

Indirect taxes off^end scarcely anybody. .
They are very sly, and have at command a thousand
successful disguises. . . . Very few of us taste the
tariff in our sugar; and I suppose that even very
thoughtful topers do not perceive the license-tax in
their whisky. There is little wonder that financiers
have always been nervous in dealing with direct but
confident and free of hand in the laying of indirect

Executive and legislature are separated by a hard
and fast line, which sets them apart in what was meant
to be independence, but has come to amount to isolation.


It is natural that orators should be the leaders of a
self-governing people. Men may be clever and engaging
speakers . . . without being equipped even tolerably
for any of the high duties of the statesman; but men
can scarcely be orators without that force of character,
that readiness of resource, that clearness of vision,
that grasp of intellect, that courage of conviction, that
earnestness of purpose, and that instinct and capacity
for leadership, which are the eight horses that draw
the triumphal chariot of every leader and ruler of free
men. ""

Our English cousins have worked out for themselves
a wonderfully perfect scheme of government by prac-
tically making their monarchy unmonarchical. They
have made of it a republic steadied by a reverenced
aristocracy, and pivoted upon a stable throne. . . .
I think that a philosophical analysis of any successful
and beneficent system of self-government will disclose
the fact that its only effectual checks consist in a mix-
ture of elements, in a combination of seemingly contra-
dictory political principles; that the British govern-
ment is perfect in proportion as it is unmonarchical,
and ours safe in proportion as it is undemocratic.

" Congressional Government " was an essay in
criticism rather than a work of systematic exposi-
tion. Mr. Wilson followed it up four years later
(1889) with a much solider, though scarcely-
more valuable, contribution to political science.


This was entitled "The State: Elements of His-
torical and Practical Politics," and was, in fact,
a text-book which had grown up out of the
material collected for his Princeton lectures. It
was a pioneer work, so far, at any rate, as the
English language is concerned. " In preparing
it," said Mr. Wilson in his preface, " I labored
under the disadvantage of having no model. So
far as I was able to ascertain, no text-book of
like scope and purpose had hitherto been at-
tempted." Its all-embracing " scope " may be
gathered from its table of contents:

I. The Earliest Forms of Government.

II. The Governments of Greece.

III. The Government of Rome.

IV. Roman Dominion and Roman Law.

V. Teutonic Polity and Government during the

Middle Ages.

VI. The Government of France.

VII. The Governments of Germany.

VIII. The Governments of Switzerland.

IX. The Dual Monarchies: Austria-Hungary;

Sweden, Norway.

X. The Government of Great Britain.

XI. The Government of the United States.

XII. Summary: Constitutional and Administrative



XIII. The Nature and Forms of Government.

XIV. Law: its Nature and Development.

XV. The Functions of Government.

XVI. The Objects of Government.

In view of this multiplicity of topics, it is
scarcely surprising to find that the book runs to
1,586 paragraphs, and (in the English Edition)
to 639 pages. In introducing the Enghsh edition
of 1899, Mr. Oscar Browning wrote:

Scholars well qualified to judge are of opinion that
in coming years the interest now taken in Economics
will be shared with Political Science. Whenever that
Science is regarded not only as indispensable to an his-
torian, but as the very backbone to Historical Study,

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Online LibraryWilliam ArcherThe peace-president, a brief appreciation (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 7)