Woodrow Wilson to Ray Stannard Baker


Woodrow Wilson to Ray Stannard Baker


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




1924 January 8


Woodrow Wilson believes Ray Stannard Baker is indeed the right man to write about his life, but he comments on the fact that he has not been systematic in preserving his own papers and does not know where all his paper may be to be used for research.


Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia




My dear Baker

I think that there is no man who could do what you propose in your letter of January seventh so well as you could. But unhappily the papers and other sources upon which alone you could build a solid structure are so scattered and inaccessible that the task would, at the present moment, be next to impossible. I could not myself assemble the material because I do not know where it is.

I have my doubts whether it is wise to endeavor to promote the great general cause in which we are interested by making too much of a single man and his activities and influence. Such a method would encounter a great body of prejudice and animosity which there will be no means, so far as I can see, of removing.

But the main obstacle is that I myself do not know where the materials are that you would have to have. I have never been in the least systematic about the preservation of my own personal papers, and they are by now widely scattered, or packed away in storage with household effects.

It grieves me to put the least obstacle in your way in the disinterested and generous work which you desire to undertake; but when I ask myself the question how I would go about giving you “full and first access”, I realize that I would not know how to do it; and it is only right and frank that I should tell you so. I have had an active and varied career, but I have had no thought of keeping memoranda of it, or records of any kind; so that I am obliged in candor to make this disclosure to you.

It may be that as the years go by I shall come upon material of the kind you desire, but even that is a matter of conjecture and depends upon whether I spend the rest of my life in one place or not. I have not preserved even the original manuscripts of the books I have published.

I think that you will agree with me that, the circumstances being what I have described them, no systematic progress could be hoped for in the development of the work you so generously suggest.

My confidence in your impartiality and justice is absolute, but even your high qualities do not involve the power to create material as well as to interpret it.

I feel almost guilty of disloyalty to you in making this reply to your persuasive letter, but it is the only reply that I can make which would be consistent with the facts as I know them, and I am sure I can depend upon your intuition to put the true interpretation upon it.

With affectionate regard, in which Mrs. Wilson joins me,

Faithfully Yours,

Woodrow Wilson

Original Format



Baker, Ray Stannard, 1870-1946




Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Woodrow Wilson to Ray Stannard Baker,” 1924 January 8, WWP16522, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.