CHAPTER XVII
REVOLUTION IN A DEMOCRACY

ONCE HE HAD MADE himself and his kin at home in the White House and had put himself on friendly terms with his official family, Woodrow Wilson lost little time in undertaking to satisfy the expectations that had shone from the faces of the multitude at the inaugural ceremony. The Presidency, of which he had written so perceptively, was now his own office, to be made consequential or paltry in the history of his age. All depended on his will and the scope of his powers. The president had it "in his choice," Wilson had written in 1907, to be the political leader of the nation: "Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily overthrow him. His office is anything he has the sagacity and force to make it."

To achieve the leadership that he had described, Wilson could be expected to deny his mind the "literary" indulgence of regarding principles as "unities."1 As a political leader, his ear "must ring with the voices of the people" and he must check his prophetic impulses and "serve the slow-paced daily need." To keep aloft in the gusty air of spiritual controversy, from which he had fallen disastrously at Princeton, he would now have to convince a national constituency that every venture was conceived for the common interest and without regard to his own welfare. If his office was to have prestige and power, Woodrow Wilson would have to keep himself personally humble.

The President-elect was singularly free from affiliation with any selfish interest. He could justly claim--though he was too modest to do so--that his own livelihood had come from honest intellectual toil and a touch of native genius. He liked to feel that those who had financed and promoted his election had done it not for him, personally, or for material reward, but rather out of devotion to ideals that they shared with him.

____________________
1
Wilson had written in "Leaders of Men" in 1890: "Principles, as statesmen conceive them, are threads to the labyrinth of circumstances. . . . Throw the conceiving mind, habituated to contemplating wholes, into the arena of politics, and it seems to itself to be standing upon shifting sands, where no sure foothold and no upright posture are possible." Motter (ed.), Leaders of Men, p. 46.

-287-

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