Lindley Miller Garrison to Woodrow Wilson

Identifier

WWP18224

Description

Lindley M. Garrison and Josephus Daniels write to Woodrow Wilson issuing a formal statement about various songs and other negative attitudes expressed toward the government.

Source

Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Washington, District of Columbia

Relation

WWP18225

Text

My dear Mr. President

We have sufficiently looked into the occurrences at the recent dinner of the Military Order of the Carabao to be able to report generally thereon and to take the liberty of making certain suggestions.
To the extent that the occurrences touched upon matters of public concern, the following are the facts:There were songs which, if taken seriously, were condemnatory of the insurrectos in the Philippine Islands, and, if taken flippantly, were contemptuous thereof. There were dialogues or songs which made brief reference to the policy of the Government towards Mexico, the suggestion being that it had not been vigorous enough. There were allusions to the Secretary of State intended to hold up to ridicule his attitude concerning peace.
The most serious matter was contained in the advance notice sent to the newspapers, which undoubtedly conveyed the information that the things to occur at the dinner were intended to reflect the disapproval of the society of certain of the actions and doings of the Administration. With respect to this latter, so far as we have been able to learn, the responsible person was the secretary of the society, who at one time was a volunteer surgeon in the Army but who resigned and is not in any way connected with the service. We understand that he takes full responsibility for this and exonerates any one else as having a share or part therein.
With respect to the songs above suggested as disrespectful in their tone towards the Filipinos, it should in fairness be stated that they have been sung for many years and therefore it is evident they were not composed with reference to existing conditions or with respect to any policy of this Government at this time. In view of the policy of the Government, it is, of course, clear that it was exceedingly bad taste for those who had charge of this entertainment to have these songs as part of their programme. Their liability to be misunderstood, not only by our own people but by the Filipinos, is too great to allow them to be passed over as a mere matter of funmaking and without a more serious side. A moving picture film was displayed which depicted the pursuit of a hostile Filipino or Moro until his capture, and then his immediate return to his country in the capacity of a Civil Governor appointed by our Government. Here again, although the suggestion was undoubtedly intended to be humorous, the possibility of its being misunderstood, to the detriment of the announced policy of this Government, made it an improper part of any programme to be enacted in public. While reference to the Government policy towards the Republic of Mexico was very slight, it was undoubtedly improper for the officers of the service who were responsible for its inclusion in the programme, to give such expression to their view upon this matter. Its manifest impropriety is so clear that there does not seem to be any occasion to elaborate upon it.
The public reflections upon the attitude of the Secretary of State, such as were made at this banquet, even if intended in the spirit of fun, are greatly to be regretted from every standpoint, and, if not more reprehensible than breaches of good taste, were undoubtedly serious breaches thereof.
The entertainment was in charge of an entertainment committee whose names we have and which can be sent to you if desired, and we have acted upon the assumption that the real offenders are of course the members of this committee who prepared and carried out the entertainment containing the features above referred to.
The dinner of this society, which is composed of members of the Army and Navy and Marine Corps who served in the Philippines between certain years, is an annual event and has almost always, as we learn, been devoted to funmaking; and we seriously doubt whether those responsible had any serious intentions in what they did, and we do not think the occasion would be best met by a courtmartial trial. Such a course would not, in our view, be as efficacious as an appropriately administered rebuke.
The efficacious remedy, as we view it, would be a statement from you calling attention to the fact that it is clearly improper for Army and Navy officers in a service organization to express publicly their views upon any of the policies of the Government of which they are a part. The manifest impropriety of organizations composed of Army and Navy officers participating in public expressions concerning policies of the Government, is too obvious to any one to require more than statement.
We respectfully suggest, therefore, that if it meets with your approval, the matter be disposed of by your writing a letter to each of us, with specific reference to the Department of each, calling attention to the impropriety of such conduct on the part of Army and Navy officers, with the request that we communicate with those who were responsible, to the end that there may be no repetition

Sincerely yours,
Lindley M. Garrison
Secretary of War.

Josephus Daniels
Secretary of the Navy.

Original Format

Letter

Files

http://resources.presidentwilson.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Temp00688B.pdf

Citation

Garrison, Lindley M. (Lindley Miller), 1864-1932, “Lindley Miller Garrison to Woodrow Wilson,” 1913 December 18, WWP18224, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.