[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 12

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Woodrow Wilson

Josephus Daniels

in the
Greenwood Press edition,
New York, 1971

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 14

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p135  Chapter XIII
Cabinet Making and Breaking

Picking the Cabinet — "I am sweating blood over choices," he wrote — The Cabinet a place of common counsel — Team play under sound leader­ship — Bryan's resignation the first break — Why Bryan and Garrison resigned, and why Lansing was asked to retire

"I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward looking men to my side. God helping me, I will not fail them." — Wilson

[image ALT: A photograph of a group of men seated around a long table. It is one of the Cabinets of President Wilson; the men are named in the accompanying caption.]

[image ALT: A photograph of a group of men seated around a long table. It is one of the Cabinets of President Wilson; the men are named in the accompanying caption.]

[image ALT: A photograph of a group of men seated around a long table. It is one of the Cabinets of President Wilson; the men are named in the accompanying caption.]

Wilson's three Cabinets

Top, the first cabinet: Around the table, left to right: President Wilson, William G. McAdoo, J. C. McReynolds, Josephus Daniels, D. F. Houston, W. B. Wilson, W. C. Redfield, F. K. Lane, A. S. Burleson, L. M. Garrison, and W. J. Bryan.

Center, the war cabinet: Robert Lansing has succeeded Mr. Byran; T. W. Gregory has succeeded McReynolds; Newton Diehl Baker has succeeded Garrison.

Bottom, the last cabinet: with Bainbridge Colby succeeding Lansing, John Barton Payne succeeding Lane, D. F. Houston succeeding Carter Glass, who took McAdoo's place in 1918; A. Mitchell Palmer succeeding Gregory; and E. T. Meredith succeeding Houston

The election over, the first duty was the selection of a Cabinet. The leisure to make ready for Washington duties was denied him. He was still Governor of New Jersey and had pledged himself to a continuation of reforms. He did not feel free to resign until these measures became laws. He was hampered because the new Legislature was of an opposite political party, but in his message he said of his recommendations: "They are matters which we can approach without party bias or prejudice." The Republicans responded in equally fine spirit and gave aid in the measures Wilson had most at heart. His last work as Governor of New Jersey was to demand and secure the selection of juries free from political influence. He found time before the Legislature for a brief vacation with his family. A sea trip to Bermuda — he always loved the sea — brought needed rest.

The business of selecting a Cabinet and planning his inaugural afforded enough work to give zest to his play.  p136 He was not long in coming to a conclusion as to the two ranking members of his Cabinet. He had not believed in Bryan's free coinage of silver plank when the Nebraskan was candidate for President in 1896. He had shared his views against imperialism in 1900. Later, in 1907 he had written to Joline, expressing the wish that Bryan should be "knocked into a cocked hat." He had, however, come to have genuine respect for Bryan and admiration for his patriotism. In an address at the Jackson Day dinner in Washington, Mr. Wilson had paid high tribute to Bryan. He had wired, "You are quite right," in his telegram to Bryan on the eve of the Baltimore Convention, when the Nebraskan was demanding that only Progressives be put on guard in the organization of the Convention. When urged by McCombs, who thought such promises would bring support to Wilson for the nomination, to promise he would not invite Bryan to become a member of his Cabinet, Mr. Wilson had refused to make that or any pledge as to his advisers if he should be nominated and elected. Almost immediately upon his election he found, particularly in the East, advisers and supporters who thought Bryan's selection would be a mistake. Wilson listened, sent for Bryan, and asked him to become Secretary of State.

The second selection was quite easy. He had tested the ability and capacity of William G. McAdoo and found that in fiscal policies McAdoo's mind "ran along with" his. He was resolved that his Secretary of the Treasury should be a man of initiative, independent, courageous, and able to lead in revenue and fiscal reform that would end control of the fiscal policy by the few great bankers of the money centres. The unfounded jealousy of  p137 McCombs was the only dissent, and it did not weigh. The portfolio of the Secretary of War was tendered to A. Mitchell Palmer, of Pennsylvania, who had been the brilliant floor leader of the Wilson forces in the Baltimore Convention, and a leader in Congress. "I am a Quaker," answered Palmer, "and I could not consistently accept."

It was only a few days before March 4 that Mr. Wilson tendered the portfolio of Secretary of War to Lindley M. Garrison, Vice Chancellor of New Jersey, an able lawyer, who resigned after a service of thirty-five months. Palmer would have accepted the Attorney Generalship, to which he was later appointed to succeed Gregory. Mr. Wilson was hard to satisfy in securing an Attorney General. He wished a learned lawyer, who had no corporate leanings and who would be guided by the philosophy of law rather than precedent. J. C. McReynolds, of Tennessee, who was afterwards named as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, was tendered the Justice portfolio. Perhaps the fact that turned the scale in his mind to McReynolds was that, after the tobacco combination had been found guilty of violating the anti-trust laws, McReynolds, counsel for the Government, declined to approve the sham penalty of division into separate companies.

The Secretaryship of the Interior was offered to Newton D. Baker, who declined because he felt impelled to carry out the reforms for which he had been chosen as Mayor of Cleveland. Later, in 1916, he came into the Cabinet as Secretary of War and served during the World War, winning the admiration of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pershing and Foch and Haig. It was not until a few days before the inauguration that Mr. Wilson named Franklin K. Lane, of California, who had made reputation as a member of  p138 the United States Commerce Commission. "I am your Secretary of the Interior," said Lane to President Wilson, as they entered the White House. They had never met until that hour. The Postmaster Generalship went to Albert S. Burleson, of Texas, long member of Congress, able parliamentarian. Colonel House is credited with having had influence in that selection, but Wilson had himself known Burleson's qualities and valued him. Josephus Daniels, of North Carolina, was named Secretary of the Navy. For Secretary of Agriculture, David F. Houston, college president and staunch friend, was selected. Later, as the best proof of Mr. Wilson's confidence, Houston was made Secretary of the Treasury. For Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Wilson is said to have had in mind the selection of Louis D. Brandeis, of Boston, later named by him as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, but certain Massachusetts Democrats urged that instead a well-known party leader be named if New England was to have a representative in the Cabinet. Mr. Wilson named W. C. Redfield, of Brooklyn. As a member of Congress, Mr. Redfield had won reputation as an authority upon the tariff. He was a successful business man. For Secretary of Labor President Wilson had early selected William B. Wilson, of Pennsylvania. He had served in Congress and as an officer of the American Federation of Labor. He had the confidence alike of employer and employee. Thus officered the Ship of State began its new voyage, March 5, 1913. "Whether strong or weak in its various elements, this is no cabinet of political trade and barter," said the New York World. "It was fashioned to placate neither sordid political interests nor sordid financial interests. Every member stands on his own merits."

 p139  The first change in the Cabinet was the appointment of Robert Lansing as Secretary of State when Bryan resigned. Upon Lansing's retirement he was succeeded by Bainbridge Colby, of New York. When McAdoo resigned as Secretary of the Treasury, Carter Glass, of Virginia, was called to that portfolio until he resigned to accept a seat in the United States Senate. Thomas W. Gregory, of Texas, held the portfolio of Attorney General during the World War. He was succeeded by A. Mitchell Palmer, of Pennsylvania. Joshua W. Alexander, of Missouri, succeeded Redfield as Secretary of Commerce. John Barton Payne, of Illinois, succeeded Lane as Secretary of the Interior, and Edwin T. Meredith, of Iowa, came into the Cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture when Houston was promoted to the Treasury. Only Burleson, Daniels, and Wilson retained their original portfolios during the entire eight years, Houston remaining the entire period, though shifted from Agriculture to Treasury.

[image ALT: missingALT.]

© U. & U.º

President Wilson and Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels

Taken in the Presidential box at the Army and Navy football game in New York, on November 29, 1913

If Wilson "sweat blood," he but shared the fate of Lincoln, who had said that if the Twelve Apostles had again to be chosen, the principle of locality would determine their selection. Lincoln chose his competitors for the nomination and only his patience and greatness stood the strain of their feeling of superiority until by sheer evidence of commanding ability Lincoln converted them into a harmonious unit. Wilson regarded his Cabinet, as he said a Cabinet should be, "executive counselors."

The selection of a Cabinet was not easy. "I have been sweating blood over Cabinet choices," the new President wrote to one of the gentlemen who was invited and accepted a seat in the Cabinet. From the inception Mr. Wilson gave the members of his Cabinet free rein in the  p140 management of the affairs of their department. No President refrained so much from hampering them by naming their subordinates. Holding them responsible, he gave them liberty, confidence, and co‑operation. More than that: he stood back of them when criticized and held up their hands. However, when for any reason a member of the Cabinet tendered his resignation, it was accepted without question. President and Cabinet members alike felt that if there were differences upon great policies, resignation was the only course. Mr. Lincoln, who did not always have harmony in his Cabinet, read this memorandum at one of its meetings:

"I must myself be the judge how long to retain and when to remove any of you from his position. It would greatly pain me to discover any of you endeavoring to procure another's removal, or in any way to prejudice him before the public. Such endeavor would be a wrong to me, and, much worse, a wrong to the country. My wish is that on this subject no remark be made nor question asked by any of you, here or elsewhere, now or hereafter."

Cabinet meetings were places of common counsel. Wilson did not, like Jefferson, submit questions to the body and let the majority rule. He did not, as Lincoln is said to have done, permit one member, like Seward, to monopolize his time. He did not, like Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, leave to Cabinet ministers direction of policies that a President should control. The usual plan at these semi-weekly meetings was, after the greetings (he was always the soul of courtesy) something like this: The President would bring forward the chief matter that was on his mind — state the situation. If he was to send a message to Congress, he would read it and invite comment. With  p141 pencil in hand he would note suggestions of change. The members gave their opinions, and debate followed. Discussion ended, he would often say, "To quote a Quaker, presiding at a yearly gathering, I take it to be the sense of this meeting," stating it. Every Cabinet member by turn, one time beginning with the Secretary of State, and the next time with the Secretary of Labor, was invited to bring up any matter of public or department interest. "I have never," said a member of the Cabinet, "known any man in responsible authority on public affairs who sought and valued counsel as much as Mr. Wilson. He was fond of telling of a conference at Princeton to which he went with certain views and to which others came with opposing views. The whole matter was threshed out fully in discussion and a unanimous conclusion reached, different from any one of those entertained before the discussion. That happened often in our Cabinet meetings. He made his own decisions, of course, and properly, for the responsibility was his alone, but he always eagerly sought for light."

The first break in Wilson's Cabinet came on June 8, 1915, when Mr. Bryan tendered his resignation as Secretary of State. It was not attended by any lack of cordial relation­ship and the separation gave regret to both the President and Mr. Bryan. It was a wrench on both sides. The reason that prompted the resignation was plainly and frankly given by Mr. Bryan in these words: "Obedient to your sense of duty and actuated by the highest motives, you have prepared for transmission to the German Government a note in which I cannot join without violating what I deem to be an obligation to my country, and the issue involved is of such moment that to remain a member of the Cabinet would be as unfair to  p142 you as it would be to the cause which is nearest my heart, namely, the prevention of war." The letter breathed warm friendship. In accepting, President Wilson said in part: "I accept your resignation only because you insist" and "with a feeling of personal sorrow." He referred to the fact that their judgments had "accorded in practically every matter of official duty and public policy until now." "As to the cause," he said, "even now we are not separated in the object we seek, but only in the method by which we seek it." For that reason his feeling was "deeper than regret — I sincerely deplore it."

In all the annals of official correspondence, there could not be found two letters so free from all that is formal or one so permeated by genuine admiration, each for the other. Very different in temperament, each admired the other for recognized sterling qualities. The resignation created a national sensation and was followed by much gossip. Those on the inside knew that the letters contained the true sentiments. Attempts were made to give an air of mystery where none existed. Mr. Bryan hated war — he believed the course of Mr. Wilson would bring war. He could not consistently sign or approve a note that he believed would eventuate in war with Germany. As a conscientious man and official, he felt the only honorable course was to retire to private life when he was not in harmony with his chief. He did so with genuine regret. On the President's part, he hated war. He had been derided for his long-continued attempts to "keep us out of war." But he believed it better to have war, if war should come, than to fail to assert the demands he made upon Germany. He felt then, as he said in his war message, "the right is more precious than peace," and he was so convinced he was right he could "do no otherwise."

 p143  The separation did not affect their mutual esteem. As Mr. and Mrs. Bryan were leaving Washington ten days after the resignation, the President called at their home to say "good-bye." Mr. Bryan took an active part in the 1916 campaign, helping in the winning of the West, and Mr. Wilson wrote him a letter of appreciation. After that campaign, Mr. and Mrs. Bryan were luncheon guests of the President and Mrs. Wilson in the White House.

Mr. Wilson never changed the opinion to which he gave expression at the Jackson Day dinner, 1912, in Washington: "I, for my part, never want to forget this: That while we have differed with Mr. Bryan upon this occasion and upon that in regard to the specific things to be done, he has gone serenely on pointing out to a more convinced people what it was that was the matter. He has had the steadfast vision all along of what it was that was the matter and he has not, any more than Andrew Jackson did, based his career upon calculation, but has based it upon principle."

The second break in the Cabinet came suddenly. It was upon disagreement over "fundamental principles." On February 10, 1916, Judge Lindley M. Garrison, Secretary of War, tendered his resignation. The reasons given were differences with the President over "preparedness" and the Philippine question. These were the real reasons, but beneath them was a radical difference in the point of view of the two men. Garrison looked at questions from the standpoint of what Wilson called "legalistic." He was first of all a lawyer, an able and honorable one, and approached the consideration of public questions from that standpoint. Wilson was never fully controlled by precedent in such matters. Moreover,  p144 Garrison, as he himself asserted, was not cut out for teamwork. He was an individualist of the most pronounced type. In an interview published April 20, 1913, he said:

"I never could obey orders in the matter of opinion. Universal belief carries no weight with me. Another man's convictions are heard through politeness or interest, but they utterly fail to convince. I claim no moral or intellectual credit for the peculiar qualities of my mind any more than I can claim responsibility for my height or the color of my eyes. I was born as I am, and the case ends so far as I am concerned. Orders always irritate me. A program of conduct can never be carried out. It was so when I was a boy at school. I became a rebel the moment the teacher said the lesson would be so and so the next day. Going home I would study something else. I wasn't obstinate, but a task was odious and a command made me an outlaw at once."

In presenting his resignation, Garrison wrote Wilson:

"It is evident that we hopelessly disagree upon what I conceive to be fundamental principles. This makes manifest the impropriety of my longer remaining your seeming representative with respect to these matters."

Garrison's program included a considerable enlargement of the regular army and the formation of a reserve body of about 400,000 men to be known as the continental army and to be made up, for the most part, of men taking a brief but thorough training to the number of about 133,000 each year. Mr. Wilson, though his mind was open and he was looking for the plan which best met the needs of the nation, was not willing to back Garrison in fighting the plan proposed by the House Committee on military affairs, the distinctive feature of which was  p145 an increase in the number of the national guard, and the payment of these troops out of the national treasury and making them subject to the call of the President.

Garrison had written: "I consider the reliance upon the militia for national defence an unjustifiable imperilling of the nation's safety." Mr. Wilson replied: "I am not yet convinced. . . . I feel in duty bound to keep my mind open. . . . This is a time when it seems to me patience on the part of us all is essential." Agreement with Garrison meant a hopeless break with Congress and a contest and conflict over what Wilson regarded as methods. He had just returned from his Preparedness Tour in the West. He had won the people to a big program. "I am urging Congress," he told them, to adopt "a system by which we may give a very considerable body of our fellow citizens the necessary training if danger comes." He was unwilling to dictate to Congress, over the protest of the Military Affairs Committee of the House, the exact "system."

The second difference was over the Philippine question. Senator Clarke, of Arkansas, a month before had introduced a resolution giving the Philippines their independence in not less than two nor more than four years at the discretion of the President. Mr. Garrison wrote that he considered "the principle embodied in the Clarke amendment an abandonment of the duty of this nation and a breach of trust toward the Filipinos." Wilson's position on Philippine legislation was in keeping with the American position taken at the time the Philippines were purchased from Spain and the pledges of the Democratic party in all its platforms since 1898. Mr. Wilson in his correspondence with Mr. Garrison said he considered the Clarke amendment unwise.

 p146  Writing months afterwards, P. W. Wilson made this comment, applicable to the resignation of Bryan and Garrison: "Like Louis XIV, Wilson was his own Foreign Minister. He lost from his Cabinet, therefore, two men of strong personality. One was Lindley Garrison, his Secretary of War, who in 1916, when the country was still neutral, wanted military preparation. The other was William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of State, who was still for peace. Between the Scylla of preparedness and the Charybdis of pacifism, the President had to steer the Ship of State: and the prophets of both evangels left him."

The third resignation, aside from the normal retirements, was the dramatic one of Robert Lansing, who had succeeded to the portfolio upon Bryan's resignation. When appointed Mr. Lansing was an unknown figure to the general public. He was an "up state" New York Democrat. He had lived for years in Washington, where he practiced law. His practice was largely confined to international law. He had married the daughter of Hon. John W. Foster, a Republican, who was appointed Secretary of State when Blaine resigned. Residing in Washington, Lansing had taken no part in politics, and it was incorrectly supposed by many that he was a Republican when his appointment was announced. At the beginning of the Wilson administration, he was named Counsel of the State Department. In that post he was capable and efficient to a high degree. The President and Bryan felt every confidence in him. His well prepared opinions and recommendations were received with favor. When Bryan resigned, the President, who, as the reason for Bryan's resignation showed, felt it his duty to conduct the negotiations with Germany himself, wished the least  p147 change possible in the continuity of diplomatic policy. He, therefore, named Lansing. It was not a popular appointment, nor unpopular. Many people said "the President is resolved to be Secretary of State in all big affairs, and wishes an international lawyer to assist him, and he has chosen wisely."

The President felt that Lansing might incline too much to accepted diplomatic practice, but he was confident, with all the legal questions fully stated by his Secretary of State, that he himself could determine the policies. When Lansing advised the President not to go to Paris, Wilson probably regarded it as presuming, but he said nothing. He wished his official family to be free with their advice.

Paris saw the beginning of the break. Lansing regarded his office as entitling him to primacy. The diplomats and press representatives in Paris regarded Colonel House as ranking next to Wilson. This was not agreeable to the Secretary of State. But that was only a pin-pricking incident. Wilson had his heart set upon a Covenant for Permanent Peace to be inseparably bound up in the peace treaty. He had promised that to the boys as they went to France. He had pledged it in his War Message and in almost every utterance before and during the war. He regarded any other treaty as no better than the miserable war-breeding Vienna treaty. The armistice had been agreed to by the Allies and Germany on the basis of the Fourteen Points and his addresses that pledged a League of Nations. It was his belief that only such an association could avert the debacle into which the world has fallen.

Not long after reaching Paris it began to be talked by the newspaper men gathered there that Lansing was  p148 not in harmony with incorporating the League covenant with the Treaty. "When we were in Paris I found that Lansing and others were constantly giving out statements," the President is quoted by Tumulty as saying to him a few days before he was stricken, "that did not agree with my viewpoint. When I had arranged a settlement, there would appear from some source I could not locate, unofficial statements telling the correspondents not to take things too seriously; that a compromise would be made, and this news, or rather news of this kind, was harmful to the settlement I had already obtained and quite naturally gave the Conference the impression that Lansing and his kind were speaking for me, and then the French would say I was bluffing." That statement was made, so Mr. Tumulty says, after Bullitt had testified that Lansing had told him that "the League Covenant was thoroughly bad and in his belief, if the Senate thoroughly understood, it would reject it."

When that statement appeared, just a few days before Wilson was stricken, he was heroically, and despite physical weakness, engaged in seeking to arouse the people to the supreme importance of ratifying the treaty. Lansing sent a telegram which was regarded as a virtual admission he had said in substance what Bullitt quoted him as saying. That angered Wilson. He had suspected Lansing's lack of co‑operation and support and ofº opposition. "Lansing's own statement is a verification of the very thing (disloyalty) I have suspected," Tumulty quotes with as saying. Tumulty says he was convinced that "only the President's illness a few days later prevented an immense demand for the resignation of Mr. Lansing." That was the middle of September. The next week (September 26) the President was stricken  p149 and returned to Washington. For some weeks he was very ill.

On October 3, Lansing went to the Executive office to talk to Tumulty about the President's condition. Tumulty thus describes the interview: "He informed me that he had called diplomatically to suggest that in view of the incapacity of the President, we should arrange to call in the Vice-President to act in his stead as soon as possible, reading to me from a book which he had brought from the State Department, which I afterwards learned was 'Jefferson's Manual,' the following clause of the United States Constitution:

" 'In case of the removal of the President from office, or his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve upon the Vice-President.' "

Tumulty says, "I coldly turned and said: 'Mr. Lansing, the Constitution is not a dead letter with the White House. I have read the Constitution and do not find myself in need of any tutoring at your hands of the provision you have just read.' " Tumulty says he told Lansing that he would be no party to certifying to the President's "disability," and that Dr. Grayson came in at that time and "left no doubt in Mr. Lansing's mind that he would not do as Mr. Lansing suggested." Tumulty adds that he less told Lansing that "if anybody outside of the White House attempted to certify to the President's disability, that Grayson and I would stand together and repudiate it."

Mr. Lansing's statement differs. He says that on October third, "the newspapers under 'scare' headlines carried alarming reports concerning the President," and he went over to the White House to see Mr. Tumulty.  p150 "He told me that on Wednesday, October 1, the President had become much worse," says Lansing. "I asked him in what way. He did not answer me in words, but significantly put his right hand to his left shoulder and drew it down along his left side. Of course, the implication was that the President had suffered a stroke and that his left side was paralyzed." Grayson came in, Lansing goes on, but "was extremely reticent as to the President's malady, giving no indication of any trouble other than a nervous breakdown." Lansing adds, "We decided (Lansing, Grayson and Tumulty) that the Cabinet ought to meet and confer about the matter." Later, Lansing says, he talked to Secretaries Baker and Lane who approved of calling a meeting of the Cabinet; the call was issued, and it met October 6. He continues, "Admiral Grayson and Tumulty were present during the early part of the meeting, and Grayson gave a very encouraging report on the President's condition, which, he said, showed decided improvement and seemed to indicate a speedy recovery." Lansing added: "We, therefore, asked Grayson to convey to the President our felicitations and best wishes." Nothing else was heard of "disability" of the President in his official family, though Senators later visited the White House and satisfied themselves that the President was able to discharge the duties of the office.

Though the Cabinet met weekly, Secretary Lansing did not bring before it his ultimatum sent to the Mexican government November 20, 1919, in connection with the arrest of W. O. Jenkins, who was a consular agent at Puebla, Mexico. It was reported that he was captured by bandits who demanded a ransom of $150,000. While payment of the ransom was reputed to be in  p151 process of arrangement, Puebla state authorities arrested Jenkins on the charge that he was in collusion with the bandits. There was conflict of testimony and much uncertainty. In the midst of it all Secretary Lansing sent a note "demanding the immediate liberation of Mr. Jenkins."

The President had not been consulted. When the tenor of the note became known to him, he took the matter out of Lansing's hands and virtually repudiated his warlike demand. That was the moment when Mr. Lansing ought to have resigned, if he had not felt constrained to do so in Paris or when the Bullitt incident disclosed his attitude of opposition to the cause dearest of all causes to the heart of his chief.

On February 7, President Wilson addressed a letter to Secretary Lansing and asked: "It is true, as I have been told, that during my illness you have frequently called the heads of the executive departments of the government into conference?" He went on to say that "under our constitutional law and practice, as developed hitherto, no one but the president has the right to summon the heads of the executive departments into conference." Lansing answered, February 9, that it was true, that "certain members of the Cabinet, of which I was one, felt that, in view of the fact that we were denied communication with you, it was wise for us to confer informally together." He said it had never entered his mind that such action was "unconstitutional or contrary to your wishes," and that he had "no intention to assume powers and exercise functions exclusively confided to the President." He added that it had been his "constant endeavor to carry out your policies" and "to act in all matters as I believed you would wish me to act."

Concluding, Lansing said: "If, however, you think  p152 that I have failed in my loyalty to you and if you no longer have confidence in me and prefer to have another to conduct foreign affairs, I am, of course, ready to relieve you of any embarassment by placing my resignation in your hands." Wilson answered, February 11, that he was "very much disappointed" by the answer, said "no action could be taken without me by the Cabinet," and went on to say:

"This affair only deepens a feeling that was growing upon me. While you were still in Paris I felt, and have felt increasingly since, that you accepted my guidance and directions on questions with regard to which I had to instruct you with increasing reluctance, and since my return to Washington I have been struck by the number of matters in which you have apparently tried to forestall my judgment by formulating judgment and merely asking my approval when it was impossible for me to form an independent judgment because I had not had an opportunity to examine the circumstances with any degree of independence."

He would, therefore, says Wilson, "take advantage" of the suggestion of resignation, saying it "would relieve me of the embarrassment of feeling your reluctance and divergence of judgment" and "afford me an opportunity to select some one whose mind would more willingly go along with mine." He added, "I need not tell you with what reluctance I take advantage of your suggestion, or that I do so with the kindliest feeling. In matters of transcendent importance like this the only wise course is a course of perfect candor where personal feeling is as much as possible left out of the reckoning." Usually the President ended his letters "Faithfully yours." This ending was "Sincerely yours."

 p153  In formally tendering his resignation, February 12, Lansing denied he had attempted to "forestall" the President's "judgment" or "usurp" power in calling informal meetings of the Cabinet. He said "ever since January, 1919," he had "been conscious of the fact that you no longer were disposed to welcome my advice pertaining to the negotiations at Paris, to our foreign service, or to international affairs in general," and that he would have early in 1919 resigned, but wished "to cause you no embarrassment in carrying forward the great task in which you were then engaged." Later, in the latter part of July, 1919, he withheld his resignation only because "I felt loyalty to you and my duty to the administration compelled me to defer action." He closed by saying he left the office "with only good will toward you and a profound sense of relief, forgetting our differences and remembering only your kindnesses in the past." The President in accepting the resignation said his "best wishes will always follow you" and that "it will be a matter of gratification to remember our delightful personal relations."

The President was well within his rights in asking Mr. Lansing to retire from the Cabinet, but the ground upon which the resignation was called for was not regarded by the public as justifying the President's demand. The act (calling the Cabinet) he specified was, doubtless, in the President's mind an inseparable part of Lansing's suggestion to Tumulty of the President's "disability" to perform the duties of his office. Seeing that the call for the first meeting of the Cabinet followed the suggestion of "disability," the President evidently regarded the two as one joint act. In the words of his letter, however, the President named only the calling of the  p154 Cabinet as the reason for desiring Mr. Lansing's retirement.

The people, who had known for weeks that the Cabinet was meeting regularly and had approved their coming together, could not understand why this course of Lansing's warranted a demand for his resignation. They did not know of his visit to Tumulty to suggest that the Vice-President should exercise the duties of chief executive. If the President had given the Bullitt incident or the Jenkins incident or lack of co‑operation at Paris, or if he had given no reason at all, he would have been in a position that would not have justified the severe and widespread criticism that followed.

When Mr. Lansing's book appeared, disclosing how widely he was at variance with the President upon the one issue that meant more than all others to Mr. Wilson, it was seen that he ought long before to have withdrawn from the Cabinet.

"In other countries there are cushions upon which such men fall," wrote P. W. Wilson, former member of Parliament. "The United States usually offers the pavement, and in the case of Mr. Lansing the blow of the boot was heard throughout the planet. What Wilson in health would have managed with a smile, Wilson from his sick bed only accomplished with the mailed fist."

Cabinets were made for unity!

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 8 Sep 14