Democratic National Committee Luncheon


Democratic National Committee Luncheon


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




1919 February 28


Address of the President to the Democratic National Committee at Luncheon at the White House


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




I cannot let this occasion go by without saying how very glad Mrs. Wilson and I are to see you and how welcome it is to have a few words of conference with you - for we do not have time for more. I am glad that my return home coincided with your meeting so that this happy thing could occur. I have been saying to a great many that I never knew how good America felt until I got back to it, or how great a sacrifice it was to leave it. Because, of course, not only the natural intricacies of politics - local politics - center in Paris at present, but all the intricacies of the politics of the world, and while there are many gyrations and complexities in our politics, I could not help feeling that the air was more wholesome on this side of the water than it was on the other.

And yet I ought to hasten to say that I have acquired a real admiration for the men that we have been trying to cooperate with. They have many varied interests, they represent peoples who have sometimes had mighty little friendship for each other, and whom it is difficult to bring to a common agreement; and yet I think there sincere object is to bring about a common view and a settlement which will last because it is the right settlement as nearly as may be. I would not be doing them justice if I did not express the pleasure I have experienced in working with them and the pleasure I have received in coming in contact with their minds and the bodies of information and experience which they represent.

But what I wanted to talk about a little was not what is happening on the other side, but rather the proper attitude of our own great party in this country. Personally, I am not the least discouraged by the results of the last Congressional election. Any party which carries out, through a long series of years, a great progressive and constructive program is sure to bring about a reaction, because while in the main the reforms that we have accomplished have been sound reforms, they have necessarily in the process of being made touched a great many definite interests in a way that distressed them, in a way that was counter to what they deemed their best and legitimate interest. So that there has been a process of adaptation in the process of change. There is nothing apparently to which the human mind is least hospitable than change, and in the business world that is particularly true because if you get in the habit of doing your business in a particular way and are compelled to do it in a different way, you think that somebody in Washington does not understand business, and, therefore, there has been a perfectly natural reaction against the changes we have made in the public policies of the United States. In many instances, as in the banking and currency reform, the country is entirely satisfied with the wisdom and permanency of the change, but even there a great many interests have been disappointed and many of their plans have been prevented from being consummated. So that there is that natural explanation. And then I do not think that we ought to conceal from ourselves the fact that not the whole body of our partisans are as cordial in the support of some of the things that we have done as they ought to be. You know, I heard a gentleman from one of the Southern States say to his Senator (this gentleman was himself a member of the State Legislature) - he said to his Senator: We have the advantage over you because we have no publication corresponding with the Congressional Record and all that is recorded in our State is the vote, whereas the Congressional Record records all that happens before the vote; and while you have always voted right we know what happened in the meantime because we read the Congressional Record. Now, with regard to a great many of our fellow-partisans in Congress, the Congressional Record shows what happened between the beginning of the discussion and the final vote, and our opponents were very busy in advertising what the Congressional Record disclosed. And to be perfectly plain, there was not in the minds of the country sufficiently satisfactory evidence that we had supported some of the great things that they were interested in any better than the other fellows. The voting record was all right and the balance in our favor, but they can show a great many things that discount the final record of the vote.

Now, I am in one sense an uncompromising partisan. Either a man must stand by his party or not. Either he has got to play the game or he has got to get out of the game, and I have no more sufferance for such a man than the country has, not a bit. Some of them got exactly what was coming to them and I havent any bowels of compassion for them. They did not support the things they pretended to support. And the country knew they didnt - the country knew that the tone of the cloak-room and the tone of the voting were different tones. Now, I am perfectly willing to say that I think it is wise to judge of party loyalty by the cloak-room, and not by the vote, and the cloak-room was not satisfactory. I am not meaning to imply that there was any kind of blameworthy insincerity in this. I am not assessing individuals. That is not fair. But in assessing the cause of our defeat we ought to be perfectly frank and admit that the country was not any more sure of us than it ought to be. So that we have got to convince it that the ranks have closed up and that the man who constitute those ranks are all on the war-path and mean the things that they say and that the party professes. That is the main thing.

Now, I think whthat can be accomplished by many processes. Unfortunately, the Members of Congress have to live in Washington, and Washington is not part of the United States. It is the most extraordinary thing I have ever known. If you stay here long enough you forget what the people of your own district are thinking about. There is one reason on the face of things. The wrong opinion is generally better organized than the right opinion. If some special interest has an impression that it wants to make on Congress it can get up thousands of letters with which to bombard its Senators and Representatives, and they get the impression that that is the opinion at home and they do not hear from the other fellows; and the consequence is that the unspoken and uninsisted-on views of the country, which are the views of the great majority, are not heard at this distance. If such an arrangement were feasible I think there ought to be a Constitutional provision that Congressmen and Senators ought to spend every other week at home and come back here and talk and vote after a fresh bath in the atmosphere of their home districts and the opinions of their home folks.

But that brings me to what I wanted to speak of: The function of the National Committee not only, but of the State Committee,s, with which the National Committee is in touch. Surely it is the proper function to make the general body of opinion at home visible to the men who represent the district in Congress. They can do that without any offense, without seeming to try to dictate in any way by seeing to it that the real bodies of opinion are felt where action is taken. It is our present malady, you know, that Congress sits all the time. I call it a malady, not because it is in the least tiresome for me, but because it prevents the Members of Congress from getting into frequent contact with their constituents with these continuous sessions of Congress. Congress has been practically continuous ever since I came here and was continuous for six or eight years before that. In these circumstances party representatives owe it to their representatives in the House and the Senate to see to it they that they are informed of the real opinion of the country. The other evening we had a dinner at which the senior Senator from Massachusetts had the honor of sitting next to Mrs. Wilson. Innocently she dwelt upon the magnificent reception we had gotten in Boston. And I think she was acting as I would wish the Committeemen to act - apprising their representatives innocently of the real state of opinion. And I understand that if not that at any rate something had an interesting effect upon the speech that was delivered today by the senior Senator from Massachusetts. He was feeling around and suggested not so much that he was opposed to the League of Nations as that it might be in need of amendments - of bad amendmens as well as good amendments.

Now, the real issue of the day, gentlemen, is the League of Nations, and I was just saying to our colleagues who sit near me here that I think we must be very careful to serve the country in the right way with regard to that issue. We ought not, as I know you already feel from the character of the action you have just taken -- we ought not even to create the appearance of trying to make that a party issue. And I suggested this to Mr. Cummings and the others who sat by me: I think it would be wise for if the several National Committeemen were to get in touch with their State organizations upon returning home and suggest this course of action -- that the Democratic State organizations get into conference with the Republican State organizations and say to them: Here is this great issue upon which the future peace of the world depends; it ought not to be made a party issue or to divide upon party lines; the country ought to support it regardless of party (as you stated in your resolution); now we propose to you that you pass resolutions supporting it, as we intend to do, and we will not anticipate you in the matter if you agree to that policy; let us stand back of it and not make a party issue of it. Of course, if they decline, then it is perfectly legitimate, it seems to me, for the Democratic organization if it pleases to pass resolutions, framing these resolutions in as non-partisan language as is possible, but nevertheless doing what citizens ought to do in matters of this sort. But not without first making it a matter of party record that it has made these approaches to the Republican organizations and has proposed this similarity of action. In that way we accomplish a double object. We put it up to them to support the real opinion of their own people and we get instructed by the resolutions, and we find where the weak spots are and where the fighting has to be done for this great issue. Because, believe me, gentlemen, the civilized world cannot afford to have us lose this fight. I tried to state in Boston what it would mean to the people of the world if the United States did not support this great ideal with cordiality, but I was not able to speak when I tried to fully express my thoughts. I tell you, frankly, I choked up; I could not do it. The thing reaches the depth of tragedy. There is a sense in which I can see that the hope entertained by the people of the world with regard to us is a tragical hope - tragical in this sense, that it is so great, so far-reaching, it runs out to such depths that we cannot in the nature of things satisfy it. The world cannot go as fast in the direction of ideal results as thiese people believe the United States can carry them, and that is what makes me choke up when I try to talk about it - the consciousness of what they want us to do and of our relative inadequacy. And yet there is a great deal that we can do, and the immediate thing that we can do is to have an overwhelming national endorsement of this great plan. If we have that we will have settled most of the immediate political difficulties in Europe. The present danger of the world - of course, I have to say this in the confidence of this company - but the present danger in this world is that the peoples of the world do not believe in their own governments. They believe these governments to be made up of the kind of men who have always run them, and who did not know how to keep them out of this war, did not know how to prepare them for war, and did not know how to settle international controversies in the past without making all sorts of compromising concessions. They do not believe in them, and, therefore, they have got to be buttressed by some outside power in which they do believe. Perhaps it would not do for them to examine us too narrowly. We are by no means suhch ideal people as they believe us to be, but I can say that we are infinitely better than the others. We do purpose these things, we do purpose these great unselfish things; that is the glory of America, and if we can confirm that belief we have steadied the whole process of history in the immediate future; whereas if we do not confirm that belief I would not like to say what would happen in the way of utter dissolution of society.

The only thing that that ugly, poisonous thing called bolshevism feeds on is the doubt of the man on the street of the essential integrity of the people he is depending on to do his governing. That is what it feeds on. No man in his senses would think that a lot of local soviets could really run a government, but some of them are in a temper to have anything rather than the kind of thing they have been having; and they say to themselves: Well, this may be bad but it is at least better and more immediately in touch with us than the other, and we will try it and see whether we cannot work something out of it.

So that our immediate duty, not as Democrats, but as American citizens, is to concert the most powerful campaign that was ever concerted in this country in favor of supporting the League of Nations and to put it up to everybody - the Republican organizations and every other organization - to say where they stand, and to make a record and explain this thing to the people.

In one sense it does not make any difference what the constitution of the League of Nations is. This present constitution in my judgment is a very conservative and sound document. There are some things in it which I would have phrased otherwise. I am modest enough to believe that the American draft was better than this, but it is the result of as honest work as I ever knew to be done. Here we sat around the table where there were representatives of fourteen nations. The five great powers, so-called, gave themselves two delegates apiece, and they allowed the other nine one delegate apiece. But it did not count by members - it counted by purpose.

For example, among the rest was a man whom I have come to admire so much that I have come to have a personal affection for him, and that is Mr. Venizelos, Prine Minister of Greece, as genuine a friend of man as ever lived and as able a friend of honest people ever had, and a man on whose face a glow comes when you state a great principle, and yet who is intensely practical and who was there to insist that nothing was to be done which put the small nations of the world at the disposal of the big nations. So that he was the most influential spokesman of what may be called the small powers as contrasted with the great. But I merely single him out for the pleasure of paying him this tribute, and not because the others were less earnest in pursuing their purpose. They were a body of men who all felt this. Indeed, several of them said itthis to us: The world expects not only, but demands of us that we shall do this thing successfully, and we cannot go away without doing it. There is not a statesman in that conference who would dare go home saying that he had merely signed a treaty of peace no matter how excellent the terms of that treaty are, because he has received if not an official at least an influential mandate to see to it that something is done in addition which will make the thing stand after it is done; and he dare not go home without doing that. So that all around that table there was cooperation - generous cooperation of mind to make that document as good as we could make it. And I believe it is a thoroughly sound document. There is only one misleading sentence in it - only one sentence that conveys a wrong impression. tThat can, I dare say, be altered, though it is going to be extremely difficult to set up that fourteen-nation process again as will have to be done if any alteration is made.

The particular and most important thing to which every nation that joins the League agrees is this: That it wont fight on any question at all whichuntil it has done one of two things. If it is about a question that it considers suitable for arbitration it will submit it to arbitration. You know, Mr. Taft and other serious advocates of this general idea have tried to distinguish between justiciable and non-justiciable subjects, and while they have had more or less success with it, the success has not been satisfactory. You cannot define expressly the questions which nations would be willing to submit to arbitration. Some question of national pride may come in to upset the definition. So we said we would make them promise to submit every question that they considered suitable to arbitration and to abide by the result. If they do not regard it as suitable for arbitration they bind themselves to submit it to the consideration of the executive council for a period not exceeding six months, but they are not bound by the decision. It is an opinion, not a decision. But if a decision, a unanimous decision, is made, and one of the parties to the dispute accepts the decision, the other party does bind itself not to attack the party that accepts the opinion. Now in discussing that we saw this difficulty. Suppose that Power B is in possession of a piece of territory which Power A claims, and Power A wins its claims so far as the opinion of the executive council is concerned. And suppose that the power in possession of the territory accepts the decision but then simply stands pat and does nothing. It has got the territory. The other party, inasmuch as the party that has lost has accepted the decision, has bound itself not to attack it and cannot go by force of arms and take possession of the country. In order to cure that quandary we used a sentence which said that in case -- I have forgotten the phraseaology but it means this -- in case any power refuses to carry out the decision the executive council was to consider the means by which it could be enforced. Now that apparently applies to both parties but was intended to apply to the non-active party which refuses to carry it out. And that sentence is open to a misconstruction. The commission did not see that until after the report was made and I explained this to the general conference. I made an explanation which was substantially the same as I have made to you, and that this should be of record may be sufficient to interpret that phrase, but probably not. It is not part of the covenant and possibly an attempt ought to be made to alter it.

But I am wandering from my real point. My point is thisat this is a workable beginning of a thing that the world insists on. There is no foundation for it except the good faith of the parties but there could not be any other foundation for an arrangement between nations.

The other night after dinner Senator Thomas, of Colorado, said: Then after all it is not a guarantee of peace. Certainly not. Who said that it was? If you can invent an actual guarantee of peace you will be a benefactor of mankind, but no such guarantee has been found. But this comes as near being a guarantee of peace as you can get.

I had this interesting experience when the Covenant was framed. I found that I was the only member of the committee who did not take it for granted that the members of the League would have the right to secede. I found there was a universal feeling that this treaty could be denounced in the usual way and that a State could withdraw. I demurred from that opinion and found myself in a minority of one, and I could not help saying to them that this would be very interesting on the other side of the water, that the only Southerner on this conference should deny the right of secession. But nevertheless it is instructive and interesting to learn that this is taken for granted; that it is not a covenant that you would have to continue to adhere to. I suppose that is a necessary assumption among sovereign states, but it would not be a very handsome thing to withdraw after we had entered upon it. The point is that it does rest upon the good faith of all the nations. Now the historic significance of it is this:

We are setting up right in the path that German ambition expected to tread a number of new states that, chiefly because of their newness, will for a long time be weak states. We are carving a piece of Poland out of Germanys side; we are creating an independent Bohoemia below that, an independent Hungary below that, and enlarging Roumania, and we are rearranging the territorial divisions of the Balkan States. We are practically dissolving the empire of Turkey and setting up under mandatories of the League of Nations a number of states in Asia Minor and Arabia which, except for the power of the mandatories, would be almost helpless against any invading or aggressive force, and that is exactly the old Berlin to Bagdad route. So that when you remember that there is at present a strong desire on the part of Austria to unite with Germany, you have the prospect of an industrial nation with seventy or eighty millions of people right in the heart of Europe, and to the Southeast of it nothing but weakness, unless it is supported by the combined power of the world.

Unless you expect this structure built at Paris to be a house of cardsm you have got to put into it the structural iron which will be afforded by the League of Nations. Take the history of the war that we have just been through. It is agreed by everybody that has expressed an opinion that if Germany had known that England would go in, she never would have started. What do you suppose she would have done if she had known that everybody else would have gone in? Of course she would never have started. If she had known that the world would have been against her, this war would not have occurred; and the League of Nations gives notice that if anything of that sort is tried again, the world will be against the nation that tries it, and with that assurance given that such a nation will have to fight the world, you may be sure that whatever illicit ambitions a nation may have, it cannot and will not attempt to realize them. But if they have not that assurance and can in the meantime set up an infinite network of intrigue such as we now know ran like a honeycomb through the world, then any arrangement will be broken down. This is the place where intrigue did accomplish the disintegration which made the realization of Germanys purposes almost possible. So that those people will have to make friends with their powerful neighbor Germany, unless they have already made friends with all the rest of the world. So that we must have the League of Nations or else a repetition of the catastrophe we have just gone through.

Now if we you put that case before the people of the United States and show them that without the League of Nations, it is not worth while completing the treaty we are making in Paris, then you have got an argument which even an unidealistic people would respond to, and ours is not an unidealistic people but the most idealistic people in the world. Just let them catch the meaning which really underlies this and there wont be any doubt as to what the response will be from the hearts and from the judgments of the people of the United States.

I would hope, therefore, that forgetting elections for the time-being we should devote our thought and our energies and our plans to this great business, to concert bi-partisan and non-partisan action, and by whatever sort of action, to concert every effort in support of this thing. I cannot imagine an orator being afforded a better theme, so trot out your orators and turn them loose, because they will have an inspiration in this that they have never had before, and I would like to guarantee that the best vocabulary they can mobilize wont be equal to the job. It surpasses past experience in the world and seems like a prospect of realizing what once seemed a remote hope of international morale. And you notice the basis of this thing. It guarantees the members of the League, guarantees to each their territorial integrity and political independence as against external aggression.

I found that all the other men abround the conference table had a great respect for the right of revolution. We do not guarantee any State against what may happen except in inside itself, but we do guarantee against aggression from the outside, so that the family can be as lively as it pleases, and we know what generally happens to an interloper if you interfere in a family quarrel. There was a very interesting respect for the right of revolution, may be because many of them thought it was nearer at hand than they had supposes and this immediate possibility breathed a respect in their minds. But whatever the reason was, they had a very great respect for it. I read the Virginia Bill of Rights very literally but not very elegantly to mean that any people is entitled to any kind of government it damn pleases, and that it is none of our business to suggest or to influence the kind that it is going to have. Sometimes it will have a very riotous form of government, but that is none of our business. And I find that that is accepted, even with regard to Russia. Even conservative men like the representatives of Great Britain say it is not our business to dictate what kind of government Russia shall have. The only thing to do is to see if we can help them by conference and suggestion and recognition of the right elements to get together and not leave the country in a state of chaos.

It was for that reasonable purpose that we tried to have the conference at a place I had never heard of before - a place called Prinkipos. I understand it is a place on the Bosphorus with fine summer hotels, etc., and I was abashed to admit that I had never heard of it - But having plenty of house room, we thought that we could get the several Russian elements together there and see if we could not get them to sit down in one room together and tell us what it was all about and what they intended to do. The Bolshevists had accepted, but had accepted in a way that was studiously insulting. They said they would come and were perfectly ready to say beforehand that they were ready to pay the foreign debt and ready to make concessions in economic matters, and that they were even ready to make territorial readjustments, which meant, we are dealing with perjured governments whose only interest was is in striking a bargain, and if that is the price of European recognition and cooperation, we are ready to pay it.

I never saw anybody more angered than Mr. Lloyd George, who said, We cannot let that insult go by. We are not after their money or their concessions or their territory. That is not the point. We are their friends who want to help them and must tell them so. We did not tell them so because to some of the people we had to deal with the payment of the foreign debt was a more interesting and important matter, but that will be made clear to them in conference, if they will believe it. But the Bolshevists, so far as we could get any taste of their flavor, are the most consummate sneaks in the world. I suppose because they know they have no high motives themselves, they do not believe that anybody else has, and Trotsky, having lived a few months in New York, was able to testify that the United States is in the hands of capitalists and does not serve anybody else's interests but the capitalists'. And the worst of it is, I think he honestly believes it. It would not have much effect if he didn't. Having received six dollars a week to write for a socialistic and anarchistic paper which believed that and printed it, and knowing how difficult it is to live on nothing but the wages of sin, he believes that only wages paid here are the wages of sin.

But we cannot rescue Russia without having a united Europe. One of my colleagues in Paris said, We could not go home and say we had made peace if we left half of Europe and half of Asia at war--because Russia constitutes half of Europe and Siberia constitutes half of Asia. And yet we may have to go home without composing these great territories, but if we go home with a League of Nations, there will be some power to solve this most perplexing problem.

And so from every point of view, it is obvious to the men in Paris, obvious to those who in their own hearts are most indifferent to the League of Nations, that we have to tie in the provisions of the treaty with the League of Nations because the League of Nations is the heart of the treaty. It is the only machinery. It is the only solid basis of masonry that is in the treaty, and in saying that I know that I am expressing the opinion of all those with whom I have been conferring. I cannot imagine any greater historic glory xxxx for the party than to have it said that for the time being it is thinking not of elections, but of the salvation of the plain people of the world, and the plain people of the world are looking to us who call ourselves Democrats to prove to the utmost point of sacrifice that we are indeed democrats, with a small D as well as a large D, xx that we are ready to put the whole power and influence of America at the disposal of free men everywhere in the world no what the sacrifice involved, no matter what the danger to the cause.

And I would like, if I am not tiresome, to leave this additional though in your mind. I was one of the first advocates of the mandatory. I do not at all believe in handing over any more territory than has already been handed over to any sovereign. I do not believe in putting the people of the German territories at the disposition, unsubordinated disposition, of any great power, and therefore I was a warm advocate of the idea of General Smuts--who by the way is an extraordinary person--who propounded the theory that the pieces of the Austro-Hungarian Empires and the pieces of the Turkish Empire and the German colonies were all political units or territorial units which ought to be accepted in trust by the family of nations, and not turned over to any member of the family, and that therefore the League of Nations would have as one of its chief functions to set as Trustee for those great areas of dismembered empires. And yet the embarrassing moment can when they asked if the United States would be willing to accept a mandatory. I had to say offhand that it would not be willing. I have got to say off hand that in the present state of American opinion at any rate, it wants to xx observe what I may call without offence Pharisaical cleanliness and not take anything out of the pile. It is its point of pride that it does not want to seem to take anything, even by way of superintendence. And of course they said, That is very disappointing, for this reason (The reason they stated in as complimentary terms as I could have stated it myself): You would be the most acceptable mandatory to any one of these peoples, and very few of us, if any, would be acceptable. They said that in so many words, and it would greatly advance the peace of the world and the peace of mind of Europe if the United States would accept mandatories. I said, I am perfectly willing to go home and stump the country and see if they will do it, but I could not truthfully say off hand that they would, because I did not know.

Now what I wanted to suggest is this: Personally, and just within the limits of this room, I can say very frankly that I think we ought to. I think there is a very promising beginning in regard to countries like Armenia. The whole heart of America has been engaged for Armenia. They know more about Armenia and its sufferings than they know about any other European area; we have colleges out there; we have great missionary enterprises, just as have had Robert College in Constantinople. That is a part of the world where already American influence extends, a saving influence and an educating and uplifting influence. Colleges like Beirut in Syria have spread their influence very much beyond the limits of Syria, all through the Arabian country and Mesopotamia and in the distant parts of Asia Minor, and I am not without hope that the people of the United States would find it acceptible to go in and be the trustee of the interests of the Armenian people and see to it that the unspeakable Turk and the almost equally difficult Kurd had their necks sat on long enough to teach them manners and give the industrious and earnest peole of Armenia time to develop a country which is naturally rich with possibilities.

But the place where they all want us to accept a mandate most is at Constantinople. I may say that it seems to be rather the consensus of opinion there that Constantinople ought to be internationalized. So that the present idea apparently is to delimit the territory around Constantinople to include the straits and set up a mandate for that territory which will make those straits open to the nations of the world without any conditions and make Constantinople truly international--an internationalized free city and a free port--and America is the only nation in the world that can undertake that mandate adn have the rest of the world believe that it is undertaken in good faith that we do not mean to stay there and set up our own sovereignty. So that it would be a very serious matter for the confidence of the world in this treaty if the United States did not accept a mandate for Constantinople.

What I have to suggest is that questions of that sort ought to be ventilated very thoroughly. This will appeal to the people of the United States: Are you going to take the advantages of this and not any of the burden? Are you going to put the burden on the bankrupt states of Europe? For almost all of them are bankrupt in the sense that they cannot undertake any new things. I think that will appeal to the American people: that they ought to take the burdens--for they are burdens. Nobody is going to get anything out of a mandatory of Constantinople or Armenia. It is a work of disinterested philanthropy. And if you first present that idea and then make tentative expositions of where we might go in as a mandatory, I think that the people will respond. If we went in at Constantinople, for example, I think it is true that almost all the influential men who are prominent in the affairs of Bulgaria were graduates of Robert College and would be immediately susceptible to American interests. They would take American guidance when they would not take any other guidance.

But I wish I could stay home and tackle this job with you. There is nothing I would like to do so much as to really say in parliamentary language what I think of the peole that are opposing it. I would reserve the right in private to say in unparliamentary language what I think of them, but in public I would try to stick to parliamentary language. Because of all the blind and little provincial people, they are the littlest and most contemptible. It is not their character so much that I have a contempt for, though that contempt is thorough-going, but their minds. They have not got even good working imitations of minds. They remind me of a man with a head that is not a head but is just a knot providentially put there to keep him from ravelling out, but why the Lord should not have been willing to let them ravel out I do not know, because they are of no use, and if I could really say what I think about them, it would be picturesque. But the beauty of it is that their ignorance and their provincialism can be made so perfectly visible. They have horizons that do not go beyond their parish; they do not even reach to the edges of the parish, because the other people know more than they do. The whole impulse of the modern time is against them. They are going to have the most conspicuously contemptible names in history. The gibbets that they are going to be erected on by future historians will scrape the heavens, they will be so high. They won't be turned in the direction of heaven at all, but they will be very tall, and I do not know any fate more terrible than to be exhibited in that future catalogue of the men who are utterly condemned by the whole spirit of humanity. If I did not despise them, I would be sorry for them.

Now I have sometimes a very cheering thought. On the fifth of March, 1921, I am going to begin to be a historian again instead of an active public man, and I am going to have the privilege of writing about these gentlemen without any restraints of propriety. The President, if my experience is standard, is liable some day to bust by merely containing restrained gases. Anybody in the House or Senate can say any abusive thing he pleases about the President, but it shocks the sense of propriety of the whole country if the President says what he thinks about them. And that makes it very fortunate that the term of the President is limited, because no President could stand it for a number of years. But when the lid is off, I am going to resume my study of the dictionary to find adequate terms in which to describe the fatuity of these gentlemen with their poor little minds that never got anywhere but run around in a circle and think they are going somewhere. I cannot express my contempt for their intelligence, but because I think I know the people of the United States, I can predict their future with absolute certainty. I am not concerned as to the ultimate outcome of this thing at all, not for a moment, but I am concerned that the outcome should be brought about immediately, just as promptly as possible. So my hope is that we will all put on our war paint, not as Democrats but as Americans, get the true American pattern of war paint and a real hatchet and go out on the war path and get a collection of scalps that has never been excelled in the history of American warfare.




Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Democratic National Committee Luncheon,” 1919 February 28, WWP15679, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.