Monday, May 25, 2015

On Woodrow Wilson

[JB note: I have become extremely interested in Wilson because of his role in founding the first USG propaganda agency, the Committee on Public Information, 1917-1919]

image from

Quotations, citations from A. Scott Berg, Wilson (2013) [from pp. 4-305]

p. 10:
[I]n 1916 ... [Wilson] ran on ... the powerful message that 'He kept us out of war.'
And within weeks of his second inauguration, Woodrow Wilson returned to Congress to announce the most consequential shift in the history of American foreign policy, before or since. On April 2, 1017, he addressed a joint session of the legislature ... , in what one prominent journalist called "the most dramatic event that the National Capitol had ever known." In speaking to an isolationist nation, one that long adhered to a policy of avoiding foreign entanglements, Wilson summoned the American people less to a war than a crusade, declaring that the United States must help make the world "safe for democracy." ...
Wilson transformed an introverted country with minor defensive capabilities into a competitive military nation. "Perhaps the greatest foreign army that ever crossed a sea in the history of the world prior to the present was the Persian army of a million men, which bridged and crossed the Hellespont," wrote the Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker. Wilson instituted a program of selective service that would provide the potential to raise and army many times the size of that  of Xerxes and would send millions of men across an ocean.
p. 11:
Throughout the war, Wilson's mightiest weapon was his oratory. ...
He was the last President to compose all his own speeches. ...
[H]e was the only President in the history of the United States to have been raised in a country that had suffered a defeat in war. Born in Virginia and raised during the Civil War and Reconstruction in the Confederacy, Wilson grasped the tragedy that overcame the South after the Civil War.  
p. 12:
In asking his countrymen to engage in this first World War, he had insisted that Americans were fighting for what he called "peace without victory." Feeling as right as he was righteous, he hoped to show the world that foreign policy might have a foreign component as well as political and economic objectives. "Never before in the history of mankind," Edwin Alderman noted, "has a statesman of the first order made the humble doctrine of service to humanity a cardinal and guiding principle of world politics." Nor had any President ever suppressed free speech to so great an extent in order to realize his principles. ...
In the end, Henry Kissinger has noted, "Wilson's principles -- properly applied or misappropriated -- "have remained the bedrock of American foreign-policy thinking."
p. 15:
Willliam C. Bullitt ... boldly explained [to Wilson] that the team of advisers on board [the ship taking Wilson to Europe for the Versailles peace talks]  "was in a thoroughly skeptical and cynical mood" and that "it would have a fatal effect" if they reached Paris and met with their British and French counterparts without knowing the President's precise intentions. " Indeed, even Wilson's chief information officer, George Creel, complained that he "did not know a Goddam thing about what the President was thinking. Bullitt's chat made Wilson realize it was was time to gather his advisers ... . Most of them, in fact, had been working in private under a nascent government program called "the Inquiry." This secret council on foreign affairs had ... become the nation's first central intelligence agency. ...
 General Pershing's AEF had joined the French at Chateau-Thierry, where they were ordered to retreat with the French army. The American commander tore up the oders and commanded his divisions to advance instead. ... "It is not too much to say that at Chateau-thierry we saved the world," Wilson told his advisers, "and I do not intend to let those Europeans forget it."
 [F]or the first time in history, a President of the United States set foot on European soil.
p. 19:
France offered on that day [when Wilson arrived in Paris] the most massive display of acclamation and affection ever heaped upon a single human being -- sheer numbers alone making it the greatest march of triumph the world had ever known. ...
"An American can have anything he wants in Paris to-day," wrote Raymond Fostick in his diary ... Poor Wilson! a man with his responsibilities is to be pitied. The French think that with almost a magic touch he will bring about the day of political and industrial justice. Will he? Can he?" ...
Colonel Edward Mandell House was President Wilson's most trusted confidant. ... [H]e had carte blanche to speak for Wilson, and he became America's first modern national security adviser.
p. 20:
[Wilson at the Sorbonne:] "There is a great wind of  moral moving through the world, and every man who opposes himself to that wind will go down in disgrace."
p. 48:
Tommy [as Wilson was known in his youth] told his father that he had experienced a "Eureka!" moment, that he had "found it" at last. When his father inquired what he had found, Tommy replied, "A mind, sir. I've found that I have an intellect and a first-class mind."
 p. 58:
One memorable conversation [between Wilson as an undergraduate and a fellow student, Robert McCarter], about the Civil War, stretched into an all-nighter." "He was very fully of the South and quite a secessionist," said McCarter." ... Wilson, a son of four confederate states, had never heard "The Star-Spangled banner."
p. 62:
With all the surety of a man with a year of college [at Princeton] under his belt, Tommy Wilson espoused only bold opinions . ... On the hundreth anniversary of American independence, he wrote how much happier his nation would be now "if she had England's form of government instead of the miserable delusion of a republic. A republic too founded upon the notion of abstract liberty! I venture to say that this country will never celebrate another centennial as a republic. The English form of government is the only true one."
p. 64:
[Wilson as an undergraduate writing in the student-run the Princetonian:] "Until we eschew declamation and court oratory," he wrote, "we must expect to be ciphers in the world's struggles for principles and the advancement of causes. Oratory is persuasion, not the declamation of essays."
p. 68:
The two of them [Wilson and fellow student Charles Talcott] ... entered into what Wilson called a "solemn covenant" that "we would school all our powers and passions for the work of establishing the principles we held in common; that we would acquire knowledge that we might have power; and that we drill ourselves in all arts of persuasion, but especially in oratory ... that we might have facility in leading others into our ways of thinking and enlisting them in our purposes."
p. 72:
As he [Wilson] had noted in his diary back in 1876, "Universal suffrage is the foundation of every evil in this country" Wilson's views on that subject would change over the years. 
 p. 84:
At twenty-five, Wilson had never lived in a major city, and, except for the occasional token fee for an article, had never earned a dollar.
p. 101:
[From Wilson letter to his wife Ellen (1885):] "I should be complete if I could inspire a great movement of opinion." 
p. 103:
[While teaching at Bryn Mawr Wilson] urged his students not to "learn history" but to learn from history."
p. 112:
[Wilson, regarding his own The State: Historical and Practical Politics: "A fact book is always a plebeian among books." [1889]
p. 120:
Wilson ... displayed a tendency to appear "more interested in what he was saying than in what you were saying [Wilson's friend Bliss Perry]
p. 127:
[From Wilson's  address  "Princeton in the Nation's Service" (1896):] "[I] am much mistaken if the scientific spirit of the age is not doing us a great disservice, working in us a certain great degeneracy. Science has bred in us a spirit of experiment and a contempt for the past. It had made us credulous of quick improvement, hopeful of discovering panaceas, confident of success in every true thing." ... Instead, he said, "We must make the humanities human again; must recall what manner of men we are; must turn back once more to the region of practicable ideals." In short, he explained, "I believe that the catholic study  of the world's literature as a record of spirit is the right preparation for leadership in the world's affairs, if you undertake it like a man and not like a pedant."
p. 156:
[Wilson, 1897:] "The race problem of the South will not doubt work itself out in the slowness of time, as blacks and whites pass from generation to generation, gaining with each remove from the memories of the war a surer self-possession, an easier view of the division of labor and of social function to be arranged between them. "
p. 167:
[Wilson, 1907:] "We live by poetry, not by prose, and we live only as we see visions."
p. 196:
 [Wilson, 1910: ]  "When I look about the American flag before me," he said [at the New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial convention] in unabashedly patriotic language, "I think sometimes it is made of parchment and blood. The white in it stands for parchment, the red in it signifies blood -- parchment on which was written the rights of men, and blood that was spilled to make these rights real."
p. 216:
[Wilson Former Princeton president turned Governor of New Jersey:] "After dealing with college politicians," Wilson explained, I find that the men with whom I am dealing now [politicians] seem like amateurs." (1911)
 p. 252:
[President Wilson] appreciated new facts and entertained outside opinions; but from those closest to him, he preferred constancy over contention. He generally expected his advisers to react to his thoughts rather than supply him with new one.
p. 262:
As [Wilson] had told a Princeton colleague while preparing for his move to Washington, "It would be an irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs."

p. 294:
[Theodore Roosevelt on Wilson:] "Wilson is merely a less virile me." 
p. 303:
[Wilson;] "The President is a superior kind of slave."

No comments: