CHAPTER X
FALL OF AN OLD REGIME

THE NOMINATION at Trenton put Woodrow Wilson on the front page. It was unprecedented for a man so renowned as a scholar to venture to give active political leadership. To what extent would he be able to make his ideals effective? everyone wondered. Did he understand them, the plain people, and their wants and needs in the autumn of 1910? Was he indeed the messiah to lead them through the economic wilderness without bloodshed?

Wilson himself, leaving the work to which he had given the best twenty years of his life and staking his family's livelihood on his ability to serve the people of New Jersey, wondered. "Am I equal to this big work when I failed in a much smaller one?" he asked an old friend a little wistfully. Then, reassuring himself, he said: "Yes, I believe I am, for now I shall be speaking to the American people, not to an academic group rooted in tradition and fearful of progress."

For several weeks he and the people sounded each other out, and reached only tentative conclusions. Folks were quick to see that they were being offered leadership of a caliber that was strange to them. They caught the awe that Smith had reflected from the floor of the nominating convention when he said: "It is not to be assumed that such as I should be acquainted with such as he, but it is clear from all I have heard that he will make a superlative governor."

The candidate, for his part, stepped lightly and uncertainly through the first weeks of the campaign. Meeting the Democratic leaders with great warmth and charm, he dodged state issues by taking refuge in discussion of national policies and academic generalities. He was keeping up his guard, not trusting all men to accept his virtuous intent as guarantee of his wisdom.

In council with party men it was decided that the candidate should woo the hearts of his new constituents by the eloquence of set speeches rather than the give-and-take of interviews. Twenty-seven addresses were scheduled. He was nervous about these public appearances, at first, begging his wife to stay away for fear that he would disgrace her by some deviation from perfection; and when his daughters went to hear

-162-

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