November 11, 1918
On Sunday I heard that Germany was flying the red flag, and postponed my promised visit to the Governors of the South, to be held at Savannah. At eleven yesterday word came that the President would speak to Congress at one, and that he would have no objection if the Departments closed to give opportunity for rejoicings. I went to a meeting of the Council of National Defence and spoke, welcoming the members. It was a meeting called by Baruch to plan reconstruction—but the President had notified him on Saturday that he could not talk or have talking on that subject. So all I could do was to give a word of greeting to men who are bound to be disappointed at being called for nothing.
The President’s speech was, as always, a splendidly done bit of work. He rose to the occasion fully and it was the greatest possible occasion. ... Lansing says that they (he and the President) had the terms of Armistice before election—terms quite as drastic as unconditional surrender.
Washington, November 7, 1918
Dear Mr. Willard,—I am extremely sorry to receive word that you are leaving us, but of course you are going into a sphere of action much larger than the one you are in here, and we must yield you with every grace, no matter how unwillingly. You will be gone from us only a short time, I trust, and then I shall have the opportunity of seeing more of you and continuing a friendship which has been of very real value to me.
All that you say about the Advisory Commission is true, and more. If the history of the Council of National Defence and of the Advisory Commission is ever written it will be seen that you gentlemen, who gave your time and experience freely, gave the first real impulse to war preparation, and we missed out only because we did not have more authority to vest in you. I am very proud of the first six months of the Council’s work and of the Commission’s work.
I received your letter telling me of the death of your son and daughter-in-law, and I did not have the heart to write you another line. The mystery and the ordering of this world grow altogether inexplicable when the affections are wrenched. It requires far more religion or philosophy than I have, to say a real word that might console one who has lost those who are dear to him. Ten years ago my mother died, and I have never become reconciled to her loss. This is a wrong state of mind, and I hope that you are sustained by that unfaltering trust of which Bryant spoke. Sincerely yours,