Some day or another we will meet, ... and I am inclined to believe that you will think me less of a reactionary than a radical. I am against a standardized world, an ordered, Prussianized world. I am for a world in which personal initiative is kept alive and at work. There are a lot of people here who believe that you can do things by orders, which I know from my knowledge of the human and the American spirit can much more effectively be done by appeal.
Everything goes happily here these days, because we are winning the war, and the future of the world will soon be in the hands of a man who not so long ago was a school teacher. A great world this, isn’t it? And the greatest romance is not even the fact that Woodrow Wilson is its master, but the advance of the Czecho-Slavs across five thousand miles of Russian Asia,—an army on foreign territory, without a government, holding not a foot of land, who are recognized as a nation! This stirs my imagination as I think nothing in the war has, since Albert of Belgium stood fast at Liege. Cordially yours,
FRANKLIN K. LANE
Notes on Cabinet Meetings Found in Lane’s Files
October 23, 1918
Yesterday we had a Cabinet Meeting. All were present. The President was manifestly disturbed. For some weeks we have spent our time at Cabinet meetings largely in telling stories. Even at the meeting of a week ago, the day on which the President sent his reply to Germany—his second Note of the Peace Series—we were given no view of the Note which was already in Lansing’s hands and was emitted at four o’clock; and had no talk upon it, other than some outline given offhand by the President to one of the Cabinet who referred to it before the meeting; and for three-quarters of an hour told stories on the war, and took up small departmental affairs.
This was the Note which gave greatest joy to the people of any yet written, because it was virile and vibrant with determination to put militarism out of the world. As he sat down at the table the President said that Senator Ashurst had been to see him to represent the bewildered state of mind existing in the Senate. They were afraid that he would take Germany’s words at their face value.
“I said to the Senator,” said the President, “do they think I am a damned fool?” ... Yet Senator Kellogg says that Ashurst told the Senators that the President talked most pacifically, as if inclined to peace, and that Ashurst was “afraid that he would commit the country to peace,” so afraid that he wanted all the pressure possible brought to bear on the President by other Senators. At any rate, the Note when it came had no pacificism in it, and the President gained the unanimous approval of the country and the Allies.
But all this was a week ago. Germany came back with an acceptance of the President’s terms—a superficial acceptance at least—hence the appeal to the Cabinet yesterday. This was his opening, “I do not know what to do. I must ask your advice. I may have made a mistake in not properly safe-guarding what I said before. What do you think should be done?”