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intimate association and daily observation. The difference between the Washington view and that of the rest of the country is the difference between a photograph and a Cubist picture. The one reproduces with pitiless fidelity, even though the focus may be distorted; the other is whatever erratic fancy may choose to see. It is as easy for a Cubist to find in a meaningless collection of splotches a nude descending a staircase as it is for the country to see in a demagogue a demigod.
In the three months between Mr. Wilson's election and his inauguration it was noted by a close observer that of the scores of Democrats who turned their steps toward New Jersey as religiously as the true believer faces the east on the call of the muezzin not one brought back any report of what Mr. Wilson said. An account of a visit to Trenton or Princeton usually took this form:
"I said to Mr. Wilson that in my opinion we
"Yes," the impatient listener, knowing the stereotyped form from having heard it so often, would interrupt, "but what did Mr. Wilson say?"
"He did n't say anything."
Whereupon it was said that Mr. Wilson was "self-centered." It fits in with the American temperament for Americans to find a word that is all-embracing, that, like the ideograph of a shorthand writer, which expresses a sentence by a sign, can describe a man emotionally and intellectually with a mental shrug of the shoulders. Before inauguration Mr. Wilson was too "self-centered" to make a successful President; events since the fourth of March a year ago have not robbed that useful descriptive adjective of either its value or frequent application.
Nearly every President has either been a party leader in fact or has attempted to be one no less than the President; but no President has considered it to be in keeping with Presidential ethics and the constitutional limitation of his office to impress upon the public his political leadership. Mr. Wilson has gone out of his way to make the people understand that by their votes they elected him to two offices, both intimately associated, but with different functions: he was elected to the Presidency, as every one knew; and he was also elected to be the leader of his party.
In the second message that Mr. Wilson read to Congress, on June 23, he referred to himself in this language, "I have come to you, as the head of the Government and the responsible leader of the party in power. Some of Mr. Wilson's critics pointed out that while the Constitution explicitly defined the duties of the President, singularly enough its framers neglected to include political leadership among them. But this, like other things that Mr. Wilson has done, was no sudden judgment; it was simply putting into effect at the first opportunity a matured conclusion. The President, Mr. Wilson wrote, "because he is at once the choice of the party and of the nation" can escape being the leader of his party only "by incapacity or lack of personal force." It was no new thought that the people, having voted him into the Presidency, had also voted him the party leader, because, as Mr. Wilson wrote, "he is the party nominee, and the only party nominee for whom the whole nation votes.”
Much has been said about the great accomplishments of Mr. Wilson's first year of his Presidency, and repeatedly it has been asked what is the secret of the President's success. The secret, if any, which ought not to be a secret to persons who have closely followed Mr. Wilson's methods, is simply that he has asserted leadership and made his party accept it through the force of a dominating personality. He began right. From the first day he made his mastery felt. He spent no "honeymoon" weeks, hoping to win by amiability, and later, if necessary, to demand. Politicians did not quickly take his full measure, but they soon realized that here was a man who neither feared nor could be forced to favor. Other Presidents, preserving the fiction of the President not being the party leader, and yet attempting to lead, have considered that they were entitled to be "consulted" while a great party measure was in process of formation, to try to put their own impress upon it, to intimate the possibility of a veto if necessary, to coerce or conciliate the recalcitrant, to preserve at all cost that priceless jewel of the politician, "party harmony"; to compromise, even to sacrifice convictions, rather than to see the bill fail; and always being able to offer in excuse that it was necessary to yield something to Con
gress if the labors of a session were not to be wasted. It was this system of dual evasion that led to many legislative crimes. The President evaded responsibility by throwing the onus upon Congress; Congress pretended that it would have passed a better bill had it not been for the folly or obstinacy of the President.
Mr. Wilson had no hesitation in exercising the functions that he believed the people conferred upon him. He resorted to no subterfuge to shape the tariff bill as he desired. There were no vague hints as to what he might do if a bill passed which was unsatisfactory to him. Mr. Wilson knew what he wanted, and he insisted that his party must either follow him or destroy the party by deserting him. His position was impregnable. It is not material whether his party followed him willingly or grudgingly, whether he was wiser than his party or his party wiser than he. That the future will determine; dealing with the present it is sufficient to say that the tariff and currency bills were passed in the shape they assumed because he led. They were the bills he demanded.
But while it is easy enough to sum up the result in a few words, it was not reached without much tact, vast patience, great self-denial, inflexible determination. In those long, hot, weary summer months when men's nerves were on edge, and they were in resentful mood because they were forced to labor against their will, it would have been easy to disrupt the party or to make it impossible for legislation honestly carrying out party pledges to be passed. A less conscientious President would have allowed Congress to stew in its own oratorical juice while he watched the pot from a rocking-chair set to catch the pleasant breezes of sea-shore or mountain. Verily Mr. Wilson "stuck to his job." So long as Congress sweltered, he sweltered, sharing and directing its labors, by his presence encouraging his party, inspiring it with his own high devotion to the public service.
It was no light achievement to secure the passage of the tariff bill; it was a much greater achievement to secure the passage of the currency bill. On the tariff, Democrats must either vote for the bill or vote themselves out of the party; on the currency, Democrats might disagree and still
not risk the charge of disloyalty. There was a time while the bill was pending in the Senate that Mr. Wilson was told his bill was in danger. A President under less self-control and determined to be a "boss" (and curiously enough one of the grounds of complaint against Mr. Wilson is that he is too much of a boss, and has reduced Congress to a nullity, so as to magnify the power of the Presidency) would have denounced his opponents. A weaker and less "self-centered" President would have become panic-stricken and sold his Presidential birthright for senatorial support, thus putting himself virtually in pawn to a senatorial oligarchy. Mr. Wilson was neither angry nor fearsome. He neither threatened nor fawned. He denounced no one, nor did he buy peace. A great many persons wanted to see an opportunity to test Mr. Wilson's capacity as leader. They wanted to take his measure as strategist and tactician. The currency bill was the answer.
Mr. Wilson came to the Presidency under peculiar circumstances, in some respects more peculiar than those surrounding any of his predecessors. He was a minority President, President by a rare combination of luck and chance, as we may all admit. He was the unknown, and he must have been aware that the country accepted him with some distrust. The things in his favor were few; those against him were many. The impression as to his reticence and aloofness had already gone abroad; although the country professes to have no great respect for politicians, it questioned whether a politician was not more qualified to do a politician's work than a college professor. He succeeded a President who was sensational for the love of sensation and the excitement he created, and another, disliking sensation, who made life seem dull by comparison. Mr. Wilson could not be sensational, and he must not be commonplace.
Mr. Wilson is that rare combination, a conservative iconoclast. He is a breaker of precedent and a defier of tradition. Not that he delights to smash for the pure joy of destruction; but when precedents and traditions lumber up the way, the sensible thing is to throw them out. Yet with all his impatience of being tied to forms and customs that have neither use nor picturesqueness to commend them, his habit
of thought is conservative rather than radical.
This man, naturally conservative, disliking show, almost timid in parading himself, with no gift for advertisement and a contempt for the sensational, has done many sensational things in his first year; but I am convinced they have not been done simply for love of the spectacular, but with a purpose. That feeling the country has. He is not feared as an unstable man willing to sacrifice custom founded on wisdom for the vanity of the momentary applause of the unthinking.
It came as something of a shock when Mr. Wilson announced that he did not wish the customary ball on the night of inauguration. Mr. Wilson has never given any reason for having broken that precedent, and it was not necessary that he should, but one can well understand his motive. Why should the President of the United States put himself on exhibition in the same way that fat stock is exhibited at an agricultural fair? The President was to be used simply to swell the gate-receipts and enable the local committeemen to enjoy their brief hour of glory. But if the Presidency is a great and dignified office, and withal a serious office, then it was not a dignified thing for its occupant to make of himself an adjunct of the box-office. Reference has already been made to the President addressing Congress in person; not less a departure from precedent was his going to the Capitol to confer with senators instead of inviting them to the White House. It was criticized as being unseemly; the President, it was contended, should go to no one. To Mr. Wilson it appeared the sensible thing to do; it was the short cut to results, and it saved time. Mr. Wilson, it will be noted, is a stickler for dignity when the dignity of the Presidency is involved, but he is not so sensitive about his own dignity that he is afraid to outrage it by common sense.
That-common sense-is his dominant characteristic. An English writer said of him: "He has no vague ideas of reform that are impossible of accomplishment. He lives in no intellectual Utopia, and spreads no Barmecide feast." It is curious, but nevertheless true, that the most practical President in recent years is the President who by training and environment should be the least practical.
He has shown how the practical dominates him in all that he has done. He began with the tariff as the legislation of the highest importance. His message was very brief, very concise, very simple. He used short words. There was no attempt at epigram or phrase-making; neither was there any oratorical ambiguity. No one could twist two meanings into his words. He not only knew what he wanted, but he was insistent that every one else should share that knowledge. He held Congress strictly to the one thing in hand-the tariff. There must be nothing to dissipate its energies, nothing to distract its concentration, nothing to serve excuse for delay. It was the same with the currency. His message was equally brief, equally workmanlike, almost matter of fact in its simplicity, and yet not without a certain charm. Congress was weary, and would like to adjourn, but the President refused. Congress would compromise; if the President would agree to adjournment, it would not object to meeting in advance, and thus compensating for the time lost. But the President remained firm, and again he got what he wanted.
In Washington, at the end of his first. year, one can get two diametrically opposite views of President Wilson, and both the honest conviction of those who hold them. One is that of the "self-centered," cold, passionless man, almost unhuman in his control of emotion and concealment of sympathy; the other is that of a magnetic personality who appeals and attracts. Now, the truth is that men get from others a part of what they give, and friendship. is a reflection of ourselves. Mr. Wilson is not magnetic in the ordinary use of the word. He is neither "mixer" nor "good fellow," as politicians use that term, but he has a great force of intellectual magnetism, a rare gift that makes little appeal to the multitude. Among other things, the unwritten law requires that a President shall coin epigrams and say smart things and write quotable letters. may search the newspapers diligently during the last year, and not find a single paragraph beginning, "President Wilson was reminded the other day to tell a story." He has not the national vice of "being reminded" by a "story," nor does he indulge in the pseudo-philosophy of the anecdote. His manner of speaking and