The Exemplary Presidency: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition

By Philip Abbott | Go to book overview

4
The Parade

Edmund Wilson described the inauguration of Roosevelt in comic-tragic terms. "Everything is gray today," Wilson observed.1 The weather seemed to describe the state of the nation. Things were vaguely ominous, "clouds in colorless light threaten rain or snow," "the people seem dreary," there was "general blankness and dismay." The address itself also fit the mood of both the weather and the nation. The phrases of the speech (which Wilson did not like much) were "shadowy" -- "plain-speaking followed by the old abstractions," the "old unctuousness, the old pulpit vagueness." And there is at the close "a warning, itself rather vague, of a possible dictatorship."

But it was the inaugural parade that most caught Wilson's attention. First passed the branches of the service. There was General MacArthur, "who drove the veterans out of Washington last summer," followed by a flare of flags from the First Division and the Knickerbocker cadets, "tall and rigid, in gray." Next came the Marines dressed in white caps and gaiters and with a red and yellow rattlesnake flag. Behind them were "Negroes in khaki, always with a white officer at their head" and followed by the Richmond Blues and Grays "all with white plumes and pre-Civil War uniforms." The martial portion of the parade was fun -- "It was fun to hear 'The West Point Cadets March' and 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' -- they bring back the America of boyhood: the imperial Roosevelt, The Spanish War." But at this point the procession "crazily degenerates." The inaugural reminded Wilson of some college reunion where the classes dress up in crazy costumes. The event took on "qualities of grotesque idiocy which make the Carnival at Nice look decorous." High school bands exude a "musical-comedy air." Then come the governors followed by more bands. There is a "fairy drum-major" whose "specialty is hipwiggling and mincing." And as the weather grows "darker and more

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The Exemplary Presidency: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Exemplary Governance 3
  • 2 - The Story Teller and the Theorist 22
  • 3 - Is There a Jefferson on the Horizon? 47
  • 4 - The Parade 63
  • 5 - Oh, Shade of Jefferson 77
  • 6 - The Jacksonian Turn 110
  • 7 - They Have Retired into the Judiciary 132
  • 8 - Black Easter and Other Lincolns 152
  • 9 - Which Romevelt Do I Imitate? 181
  • Notes 203
  • Index 227
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