27 Masters of Politics: In a Personal Perspective

By Raymond Moley | Go to book overview

Peter Pan in the Treasury
WILL WOODIN

IF THIS BOOK falls into the hands of any reader whose age is under 30, it is likely that among all of my dramatis personae, Will Woodin will be least known. However, in a financial crisis without parallel since Alexander Hamilton wrought his miracles eight score years ago, Woodin held the controls of the Treasury and brought us safely through. This labor cost him years of peaceful twilight, and since he had the means and talent for happy leisure, his sacrifice was very great. He was, among all the men I have known, the most kindly, sincere and unselfish. Retrospect brings memories poignant, moving and tragic.

Achievement in public office can be of two sorts. The first is rounded achievement--the details completed, the shadows retouched, the story told in persuasive and friendly prose. The friends of Will Woodin would covet for him that kind of public service.

But they must content themselves with the memory of another sort of public career--short, broken, the details incomplete--a fragment of artistry left by the maker.

One reason why the writers of the day-to-day history of Washington failed to portray the true proportions of this unusual Secretary of the Treasury was because he was so utterly and artlessly without pretense. When he did not know, he said he did not know. Time and again he sat down with newspapermen, and said that he was new at his job, that there were a lot of things he did not know, and that he wanted them to help him find out. The newspapermen liked it; even official Washington liked it. But the shock was very great.

The atmosphere that surrounds a successful candidate for high

-186-

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