John H. Hearley to George Edward Creel


John H. Hearley to George Edward Creel


Hearley, John




1918 October 25


Italian people are enthusiastic for President Wilson.


Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson Papers


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Gompers, Samuel, 1850-1924
World War, 1914-1918--Italy


Danna Faulds




Document scan was taken from Library of Congress microfilm reel of the Wilson Papers. WWPL volunteers transcribed the text.





Honorable George Creel, Chairman,
Committee on Public Information,
Washington, D. C.

My dear Mr. Creel:

In these confused and confusing days, amid the evasive declarations of the Central Powers and the hypocritical comments of the allied governments, the thought of a well-seasoned politician comes back to me: “President Wilson can win and will win if he has the courage and the nerve. But he has first to conquer the Old World’s 2000 years and more of governmental traditions and class and political prejudices.”

One thing stands out clear and certain here. President Wilson has not merely caught the ear of the Italian mass but has touched its soul. The story of the two simple soldiers, who in a local barracks have enshrined the President’s photograph and pray before it morning and evening, illustrates this popular feeling. Besides the President’s poster picture inscribed with the Italian words “for the rights of the peoples” is framed, and hangs in countless simple homes throughout Italy, and this office is in constant receipt of requests for more and more of them.

The people have a spiritual faith in the President, and they promise, should he fail them or the world, a disappointment of a life-long and necessary religion. In this connection I personally believe that the Italian masses, especially in the north, but the majority everywhere, honestly believe that they have a clear and just title to Trent and Trieste, and confidently expect the restoration of these two cities. Unlike the more extreme or imperialistic groups, the people, whether in their ignorance or honesty, are not bothered about Dalmatia or the broader and more complicated Adriatic problems. The masses apparently would be happy and satisfied in the return of their “unredeemed cities, Trent and Trieste”.

The common sense of the Italian people refuses to be essentially guided by the present expediency and policy of the Italian press. The Central Powers or Italy, France and England can pull strings and resume or continue the old European game of governmental and journalistic “diplomania”. It makes no fundamental difference. The popular mind may be confused by such procedure, but essentially unchanged it will go on taking information and instruction from the President, and apparently the President only. Not even D’Annunzio, who is now being used perhaps as a counter agent, promises to reach to the soul of the popular masses. He is again appearing in the journalistic lime-light, and in yesterday’s Corriere della Sera appealed to the people in a two column, semi-spiritual, semi-materialistic poem entitled “Our victory Will Not Be Mutilated”.

The action of the Italian mutilated soldiers of Milan in organizing a society to agitate for the Wilsonian League of Nations will undoubtedly prove helpful and give some sustenance to the spirit of the Italian people. Many other societies and many prominent Italian professors, writers and politicians have adhered and become parties to the agitation. Premier Orlando and Minister Bisselatti were the only two high government officials who publicly supported the movement of the Milanaise soldiers.

However, it cannot and must not be forgotten that disease is rife here; food is short and the popular classes are paying more for food here than in any other allied country. Cattle breeders have killed all their youngest stock because they said they could not afford to sell milk at the price fixed by the government. Now there is a grave lack of milk - a situation especially hard on the sick and the women and children. To relieve the meat shortage in the Italian markets the government has just been forced to permit the breeders to slaughter adult cattle. In discussing the Italian masses, these things - not to mention the Bolsheviki movement, among the industrial workers especially - must be always reckoned with. For notwithstanding the faith of the masses in the President and the moral strength he gives them, there is always “the last straw” that would physically and psychologically break the popular back.

Gompers has come and gone. His success as a moral and democratic agent was limited; for Gompers was - as he always is - Gompers. He came from London with Mr. Buckler, an attache of the American Embassy there. This immediately gave the mission a governmental and official atmosphere, which from a psychological point of view, was unfortunate. He is naturally difficult to handle or steer and the nature of the liaison between Compub and the local Embassy did not help things.

The only popular contacts Gompers made at Rome were arranged by Compub. His vanity, however, seemed to come out, and while here he was apparently much more concerned with ambassadorial luncheons, ministerial meetings, and an official and aristocratic reception in the capitol than with anything else. The workmen for the most part here are socialistic and anti-government, and this behavior was not calculated to win them, especially since Gompers has long been regarded here as being “anti-socialistic and anti-Italian.”

After leaving Rome he went directly to the Front where he passed another few days. There he dined with the King, General Diaz and other governmental or military figures in the war zone. Afterwards, he returned to the important industrial centers of Milan, Genoa and Turin, but only stopped a day in each place with the exception of Turin, where he stopped a day and a half. It would have been better from a propaganda point of view, the Italians say, if he had reversed the order, seeing the workers first and the king afterwards.

I personally advised -- in fact, plead with -- Mr. Gompers to refuse to be directly or indirectly steered by officialdom and forget municipal receptions, and in centers of labor like Milan, Genoa and Utrin to go right into the factories and see the workers at the benches or machines and afterwards assemble them to-gether and talk with them. This was the only way to have reached large numbers of them and to have come into direct contact with them, but he did not have the time to do this adequately. However, he apparently would not have been liberal or democratic enough to have done this successfully if he had had time.

Just as Gompers was leaving Italy the news of his daughter’s sudden death in America became public. This tragedy touched the human side of the Italian masses and Italy’s heart responded with sympathy. It resulted in a psychological reaction, peculiarly Italian. Gompers leaving Italy was much more successful and popular than Gompers coming or present in Italy.

Respectfully submitted,

(Signed) John H. Hearley,

Actin Commissioner.


Original Format



Creel, George, 1876-1953




Hearley, John, “John H. Hearley to George Edward Creel,” 1918 October 25, WWP25316, World War I Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.