Keep Politics Out of the War




Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library




My dear Mr. Hays.

I am very glad indeed to have your disclaimer. Although I observed in one of the Washington morning papers an acknowledgment by Republican Chairman Motter, of Kansas, that he had given to the press in that state the interview to which I called your attention, I prefer to accept your own explanation.

The general trend of your letter, however, still leaves doubt in my mind as to the responsiveness of some of the Republican managers to the clearly implied desire of the American people to keep politics out of the war. While the whole thought of President Wilson has been given to the successful prosecution of the war, the foremost leaders of the Republican party, including yourself and Senator Penrose, have been making fervent arguments in favor of a restoration of the old political control of the nation. I have in mind your obviously partisan statement in the New York Times of a short time ago wherein you said:

"Our coming political activity is not to be lessened. On the contrary, what we want in this country is not 'less politics', but mere attention to politics."

Also I recall a recent speech you made in Philadelphia in which you said:

"We will bring the Government back to the limitations and principles of the Constitution in time of peace and establish policies which will again bind up the wounds of war, renew our prosperity, administer the affairs of the government with the greatest economy, enlarge our strength at home and abroad, prevent the further spread of the socialistic tendency of the times towards Federal ownership of all the creation and distribution of wealth as a panacea for all the real and fancied ills of society and put the nations feet once more firmly on the path of progress."

I doubt whether the remarks which I have quoted can be interpreted in any way other than as an implied criticism of some of the necessary war policies of the government, which you claim the Republican party, as a minority, supported in Congress, and which, you plainly indicate, they would overturn if returned as a majority in Congress. A similar political speech by Senator Penrose of Pennsylvania makes this assumption of your meaning inevitable. He said:

"I want to say to the Republican party: Keep it vigorous and virile all through the United States, successful whenever it can be successful and if under the guidance of the chairman of the National Committee, we can secure a Republican majority in the House of Representatives at Washington, I believe that we have reached a point in the development of the situation when it will be best to replace the Democratic party for military improvement and economical efficiency. We are all pulling together in order to stop the war as soon as we possibly can stop it, and then, Mr. Chairman, over and above all the people, by an overwhelming vote, we will vote the Republican party in control of the American people; as the country has never prospered economically unless it has been under Republican contol. Let us keep up an efficient organization in Pennsylvania and all through the United Stats, and make a successful Republican contest at every oppportunity in every congressional district and at the next presidential election, and endeavor to assure the election of Republican candidates."

Even more partisan was the speed of George W. Wickersham, formerly Attorney General of the United States some weeks ago at a Republican meeting at Lancaster, Pa. He was quoted in the Lancaster Intelligencer as follows:

"See to it that you elect Republican Congressmen. Congressmen who will not be at the beck and call of the President. Also see to it that the Republican Congressmen who acquiesced in what the President wanted in the last two years are retired."

I am afraid that your quoted speeches, the speech of Senator Penrose, and your letter of today, indicate all too plainly that some Republicans find it difficult to think outside the realm of politics. The vast body of Republican voters, now standing with all Democratic voters, staunchly behind their government doubtless will be interested in any statement you might care to make as to how far you would go in repealing the laws which have made America's participation in the war so effective.

The President's war aims have been made the aims of all the nations fighting against the German government. These aims have been stated unequivocally by the President upon a number of occasions since the war began. Not merely the American people, but all the world is familiar with these aims which assure “force without stint” until victory is achieved.

It is only through the subtle insinuations that characterize partisan politics that these aims might be diluted with any doubt. It is quite obviously partisan and gratuitous for you to refer to “the imperative necessity of a vigorous prosecution of the war and a conclusive peace only, and the need of a Republican Congress to that end.” That this reference was not an inadvertence is shown by the speech of Congressman S. D. Fess, Chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee, wherein he said:

"Republicn success will not only insure the most vigorous prosecution of the war, but it will be a guarantee against a compromise, and therefore, an inconclusive peace, " a peace without victory," but an assurance of a definite peace dictated by victory on the field."

These statements with reference to an “inconclusive peace” by yourself and Mr. Fess, can be regarded either in the light of straw men raised up to be knocked down, or as efforts to introduce doubt into a decision which the government has already announced and upon which the American people are agreed.

Very truly yours,

Joseph P. Tumulty.

Hon. Will H. Hays,
Woodward Building,
Washington, DC

Original Format





Tumulty, Joseph P. (Joseph Patrick), 1879-1954, “Keep Politics Out of the War,” 1918 September 12, WWP20647, Woodrow Wilson Press Statements, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.

Transcribe This Item

  1. D30264.pdf