Header Graphic
The Preogressive Democracy of James M. Cox
Chapter Two - Cox the Man



     Men of great versatility are most difficult to picture comprehensively. Perhaps this is the reason that no pen-portrait of Theodore Roosevelt ever seemed quite complete. There was in every single sketch something that seemed to be left unsaid, a point made by one was certain to be omitted by another. Cox is a man after the Roosevelt type. They were fast friends and they had many ideas in common. They often exchanged views upon progressive issues and found themselves largely in accord. Neither was static in mental processes and their dynamics were often of the same sort.
     But while Governor Cox's intimates compare him often with Roosevelt, they prefer to liken him to Andrew Jackson. For Cox is the true Twentieth Century Jacksonian, they say. Like Andrew Jackson, Governor Cox can improvise the organization of a political campaign better than any man of his time, save Colonel Roosevelt, and the masterful Colonel won only when he had great resources at his command. Cox seems to have reached back into history and grasped the idea of the manner in which Jackson's men worked with resources so small that they had to pass newspapers of their faith from hand to hand.
     Largely, it seems, because no war came along when he was free of family responsibilities Governor Cox has no martial record. He might have been a soldier of the Roosevelt type had he lived in other circumstances but his youth was spent in the drudgery of toil and there was no chance for education in a military academy.
     Still they call him "fighting Jimmy," and those who have been through a campaign with him know what they mean. As a boy there was never need to drive him forward to personal combat and in the man the juvenile tendency continued until he was well past the forty-five-year mark of middle age.
     If one were to inventory his external features there would appear a compact, muscular individual of about five feet six inches in height and of one hundred and seventy pounds in weight, every ounce keyed up to the efficiency of successful performance. motions indicate a man of quick decision, a tendency to suddenness that many older than he have sought to check in his earlier years. It is a proverb among those who know him best that when Governor Cox makes an instant decision he may be mistaken but that when he thinks it over for a single night he is never wrong. As the years in a varied experience have passed this disposition to think everything over has grown and grown until snap judgments no longer are taken. This may be the reason why men say that he has improved as an executive from year to year and why his later acts and deeds have the rounded out and complete aspect that is lacking in the earlier. The nature of Cox himself is for "action," even when it seems to take the form of experiment. In simple justice it must be said that he has never been an adventurer, but he is willing to tackle problems before other would seize hold of them. His first administration, he thinks, was his best, for much more was done, but his last is his best, Ohio judgment has decided, because it repressed tendencies to go the wrong way, taking perhaps the Gladstone view that a statesman deserves more credit for defeating unwise legislation than for securing the enactment of good. As Governor, Cox has been willing to risk defeat for principle.
     A trait of character is told in the story of school and taxation legislation. He was warned that progressive steps would encompass his defeat. If a composite answer could be formed to all the suggestions of this sort, it would be something like this: "There is need for improving our schools. Time will vindicate it."
     Something else of character may be learned from the manner in which Governor Cox redeems pledges. When he was sorely beset by his political foes in 1914, it was represented to him that the liquor interests might be made to do service if licenses were withheld until after the election. And the answer given was something like this: "The pledge was given that the license system shall not be prostituted to partisanship. That pledge will be redeemed."
     The forebodings of the worldly wise were not disappointed. The liquor interests contributed heavily to the opposition candidate and supported him so well that he won the election.
     Cox hates war even if he made a remarkable record as war Governor. But he likes the smoke and fury of political contest, and he thrives on campaigns. He has a fashion of leading his party organization and making it do his will, and like all men or this sort, he has been accused of being dictatorial. Yet none denies that he gives a fair hearing and is open to conviction on disputed issues.
     He has a power of expression in a few words, portraying a whole field of action. Tending to go into great detail in public matters, he comes to the heart of an issue with a laconic expression that tells all there is to be told. "I favor going in"--on the League of Nations is one. Assuring his supporters that the proposal for separate peace with Germany was "opening their front lines," he drew a word sketch of a gigantic contest in which he as a general had sensed a rift in the opposition ranks and had broken through a whole army.
     Associates of Governor Cox say that he is daring because of his strong sense of justice. The question is frequently asked by him as to whether a proposition is fair to all sides. Readiness to trust in him as an arbitrator has brought many issues to his desk that are not part of a Governor's official duties. Disputes between interests and differences among organizations, no less than capital and labor disagreements have been left to his decision. It is an evidence of the trust in the sense of justice in the man.
     There is a notable habit in him of picking men quickly for tasks. It is not claimed for him that he has never made mistakes in his estimate of men, but they are comparatively rare.
     Governor Cox is the only man ever nominated for President who owns wealth--real wealth. His personal fortune is handsome. That was a point of criticism when he began to get acquainted with the country, but it is no longer. The reason is to be found in the fact that he has a natural appeal that makes his associates forget money. Nor is the charge ever seriously made that his broad sympathy is affected. When he is best known, the wealth he owns is least often mentioned.
     They do not refer to a wealthy man whose possessions are an outstanding attribute as "Jim" or "Jimmy." Cox, the man of affairs, is overshadowed by "Jimmy Cox."
     As with all powerful leaders, no sketch would be complete if it did not allude to a certain imperiousness that is in the man. This quality has made foes but that was inevitable. One who has risen by his own efforts has had the pushing impulse, of course.
     It tells something of the Cox character that he has become a forceful speaker only in the last ten years. When he first entered public life in 1908 his style in speaking lacked force and his manner was hesitating and uncertain. A course of self-discipline and training led to constant improvement, and while there has never been a pretense of oratorical flight, issues and questions are discussed plainly and effectively. There is a penchant for reducing statements to simple and understandable terms and for stating his conviction with a measure of aggressiveness that carries conviction.
     As a candidate he has always believed that the people are entitled to the fullest information possible and to see and hear those who seek their suffrage.
     Like Roosevelt, the more strenuous sports and recreations attract him far more that does the swinging of the golf stick. He is an expert marksman and has astonished military men on the rifle range by what he can do with a gun. His ancestors were squirrel-hunters, and his sure eye was an inheritance from them. The Governor likes to rough it in the Northern Canadian woods, spending at leisure a couple of weeks with only his son, James M. Jr., now a boy of 18, for his companion. He prides himself upon his ability to cook a fish after it is caught, and to plunge in the lake as an evidence of his swimming ability. When in Columbus his form of exercise is walking, and younger men of sedentary pursuits find that he can tire them.
     Quitting school at an early age, Cox's education has been acquired through much private study. He knows no language except English. His range of reading covers a wide variety of topics, the favorite of which are the political sciences, and outdoor life. He does not lay claim to literary excellence or perfection of style, and is a man of serious bent of mind, speaking only when he thinks he has a message to carry.
     The name under which he has been known to the country, James Middleton Cox, seems to be an error which only lately his friends have corrected. In the old family Bible the name of James Monroe Cox appears, indicative of a family admiration. The name which appears signed to all official documents is James M. Cox. The Middleton seems to have had its origin in a bit of journalistic levity, probably having reference to Middletown, Ohio, the city in which he got his early training as a newspaper reporter.
     The Governor's family consists of his wife, a little daughter, Anne, who is slightly less than a year old, a married daughter, Mrs. Daniel J. Mahoney of Dayton, and two sons, James M. Jr., and John, age ten.
     While the Governor's devotion to the equal suffrage cause has been of many years' standing, the interests of Mrs. Cox are of a domestic nature. The time not devoted to her baby daughter is spent in the outdoors, the hobby being her garden.

Return to "The Progressive Democracy of James M. Cox" Home Page