Key Pittman to Woodrow Wilson
My dear Mr. President:-
On yesterday you honored Senator Gerry and myself by seeking our opinion with regard to the general impression of the necessity of your attending the Peace Conference. I then unhesitatingly replied that I believed that the necessity was recognized by a large majority of the members of the Senate. I now discover that there is a grave diversity of opinion with regard to the effect that such action on your part might have and it has occured to me that you would possibly be interested in a frank recital of these various expressions.
Last night I had the pleasure of assembling at a dinner with about thirty of your closest and strongest political supporters. The assembly involuntarily and spontaneously resolved itself into an unofficial and temporary committee upon the welfare of yourself and the Democratic party. It might seem presumptuous that any Democrat should take the liberty of even suggesting the effect of the future conduct of one who has always been intuitively right and whose success has not only been beyond that of his party but supreme throughout the world. The debate and the suggestions, Mr. President, came from no presumption, but from the love that each man there has for you and the hopes that are wrapped up in your career. The following are some of the points urged most strongly by those who believe that it would be a mistake for you to attend the Peace Conference, namely:
- That you are now held in a sacred reverence by all the people of Europe and are looked upon as a superman residing afar off in a citadel of power beyond that of all nations, and that your association at the peace table with well-understood statesmen, who are but frail men long subject to criticism and even suspicion by certain classes of peoples, would lower your dignity, mar your prestige, and encourage resistence to any ultimatum that you might find it necessary to submit to the Peace Conference.
- That you would be involved by the numerous petty questions and details and that your position with regard to the great principles that you maintain would be obscured.
- That in these debates and decisions upon lesser questions you would lose the moral support of peoples that you may now confidently look to in your effort to establish the great principles of international justice.
- That our own country itself is now in the immediate and gravest period of reconstruction, and that without your guiding hand upon the rudder at all times our government may be shipwrecked.
- That congress is in session; that your advice and your executive action may be required at any minute.
Those who believe that it will be necessary for you to attend the Peace Conference expressed these views:
- That the adoption and establishment of your program is essential to the liberty, the peace, and the happiness of the world, and that such accomplishment is of more importance than the temporary glory of any man or group of men.
- That there are certain facts bearing upon the diplomacy of the greater nations that may be only told verbally, and that you alone have the power to speak them with sufficient verity to give them the fullest force.
- That it would be unnecessary for you to wear away the strength of your armor and of your sword upon lesser questions and in minor debates; that these simpler but more tedious questions and other preliminaries could be disposed of by the Peace Conference before the great questions which will start the contest of great nations come before the Peace Conference. And that even then you need not attend the conference until it has reached such a stage of open and hopeless rupture that your dominating presence, personality and power are required to force the cessation of debate and the adoption of the only program that this country will ever stand for.
- That it is unnecessary at this time to either declare that you will or will not attend the conference, as nothing but events can determine the necessity of the case.
- That if the adoption of your program should ultimately require your presence at the peace table then all other considerations, both personal and political, should be cast aside.
You know, of course, that the latter expressions were mine as well as the expressions of a number of other supporters of yours who attended the dinner. I must say, however, that I have the very highest regard for the opinions of those who expressed contrary views. I have again this morning, when visiting several of the Departments, listened to similar arguments, both pro and contra. Should you desire at any time to speak to any of these gentlemen with regard to the matter, I will, of course, feel at perfect liberty to submit to you their names.
Personally, I hope that if you do go to the Peace Conference you will not come back until your program is adopted. Then I know that you will come back with the recognition that you have won and are entitled to, a recognition that will not only reflect glory upon you but upon your party which hangs and depends upon you.
Very sincerely yours,
The White House.