The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

North American Review v. 224 no. 4 (November 1927): 472-475.

[See also Speech and Article File, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York]
 

I am for Governor Smith, because of his astonishing knowledge of government, his power of clear, straight thinking, his intolerance of trickery and chicanery, his courage and unswerving honesty, but above all because he has a human heart and does not consider that success in the life of individual or nation can be measured by a bank balance or treasury credit.

The big question before our people today is whether we are to be more material in our thinking, judging administrative success by its economic results entirely and leaving out all other achievements. History shows that a nation interested primarily in material things invariably is on the downward path. Great wealth has ruined every nation since the day that Cheops laid the cornerstone of the Great Pyramid, not because of any inherent wrong in wealth, but because it became the ideal and the idol of the people. Phoenicia, Carthage, Greece, Rome, Spain, all bear witness to this truth, which is far more fundamental and vital to us than Prohibition, high or low Tariff, Catholic or Protestant Presidents. Somehow or other during the next decade we will find a way to have practical temperance. We will not always have an ineffectual, politically minded, partisan Tariff Commission. Religious intolerance is already dying out. But if we do not stem the tide of crass materialism, we are headed for a really dangerous and critical situation.

We have had in our last three Presidents three distinct types: Wilson, the Idealist, with no knowledge of practical politics, and therefore without the ability to translate his dreams into facts; Coolidge, who apparently has no dreams, who glories in shrewd politics and firmly believes that economy is the first of the Ten Commandments, and that prosperity is in some way a kind of spiritual triumph. Between these two we had a President who unfortunately lacked the courage to denounce his friends when they proved corrupt and untrustworthy. The ideals of President Wilson failed to be established as the ideals of our Republic, because he lacked tact and understanding of men and measures; they were lost in the mire of corruption which marked Harding?s Administration, and they have been completely forgotten under the dollar and cents regime of President Coolidge and his advisers. What we need, and it is a crying need, is a President who will combine Wilson?s ideals with Coolidge?s practical knowledge of how to achieve political results, who will not spare his dearest friend if he fails to measure up to his conception of the high honesty and responsibility required of every public servant. I believe Governor Smith is such a man.

His courage has been shown in this State in many political battles; for instance, in his steady and unswerving refusal to bow to the influence and power of a great newspaperman who had used his power for personal ends and earned the opprobrium of many good citizens; also, in his long fight for the people to control their water power, as against control by the big utility interests.

He is of the people and understands and respects them, but also realizes that they must be led.

He is a leader because his whole political life shows that he has a wonderful power of convincing people regardless of their usual political affiliations that he is right; a power due, I think, to the fact that he believes himself to be right with all his heart and soul, and never goes ahead until he is himself convinced. It is fortunate that a man of this rare ability has also the keen power of analysis and clear thinking which make his conclusions in the great majority of instances the right answers to the problems of the hour. Compared to these qualities his personal attitude on Prohibition is of minor importance, especially in view of the fact that, in my opinion, this is not a question between parties, but within the parties, between individuals who wish their party to be either completely wet or completely dry. So far no group has won out in either party, and as a President, with all his influence, cannot vote on any law, this question remains one to be settled in Congressional Districts, regardless of whether the President wishes the Volstead Act modified or not. When we elect enough Congressmen who are convinced that their constituents want the Volstead Law or any other law strictly enforced, we will have it done and not before.

As to the religious question, Governor Smith has made his own answer and the country seems as a whole to approve. If a few captious souls still fear the influence of Rome, it is because they must find something to fear and this is nearest at hand.

One often hears it said: "Yes, Smith has been a wonderful Governor; but will he grasp National and International questions? Have his education and opportunities been sufficient to make this possible?" My answer is that you judge a man by his record and character. His record as an executive is unimpeachable, and no one has ever dared claim the authorship of any Smith policy. He has been constructively minded in the State. Why should he not be in the Nation? All will agree that his appointments have been made with merit as the first consideration; he believes in Civil Service and supports it and refuses to use Government employees primarily as factors in a political machine.

As Governor of New York State he has had to show executive and administrative ability, he has had to choose men to head departments which required technical ability, integrity and a general grasp of varied conditions, he has had agricultural and urban problems, questions of water power development, of waterways and highways, of labor conditions, of education, of public buildings and institutions, of taxation and finance; and in his handling and solution of these questions a vast majority of the citizens of New York State have repeatedly declared their confidence in his judgment, ability and character. The field is more restricted in area, but the problems are strikingly similar to National problems, and we can say at least that no man has been to a better school in preparation for added and broader responsibilities.

Can he grasp International situations? No one can tell until the need arises, but a clear thinking man is a great asset in any situation, whether it be abroad or at home. He has grown up in a party which believes in the people knowing what the Government is doing, and that the Government should be responsible to the will of the people. This principle applied to foreign affairs means open, straightforward diplomacy. The tradition established by the last Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, added to this principle a spirit of friendliness. Under him we created the impression abroad that we were not looking at International questions in a purely selfish spirit, but that we were willing to take into consideration the other fellow?s point of view, and above all that we wanted to find a way by which International differences could be settled by justice and not by might. It would seem safe to assume that this spirit would still exist in the heart of any leader of Democratic men and women, at least to a greater extent than it has been exhibited in the diplomacy and International relations of the last two Administrations under our political opponents. Governor Smith stated in his answer to Mr. Marshall, in speaking of Mexico: "I believe in peace on earth, good will to men, and that no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any other country." Furthermore, a man who knows the value of experts in dealing with questions at home and has shown good judgment in picking his advisers, we may confidently hope will exercise this same ability when it comes to dealing with International affairs.

These are my reasons for considering Governor Smith the logical Democratic candidate for President in 1928.