The Progressive Democracy of James M. Cox
Chapter Three - Why Cox is a Candidate for President

CHAPTER III

WHY COX IS A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT

     James M. Cox is a candidate for President because he hopes to be the instrument of divine Providence in a great accomplishment. He knows that the man who secures America's adherence to the League of Nations is as certain of a permanent place in the scrolls of fame as those who laid the foundations of freedom or those who preserved it in the days of fiery trial. To a famous correspondent, Mr. Herbert Corey, who put the question, "Why do you wish to be President?" The Governor has answered: "It affords an opportunity to take hold of a knotty situation (the League) by the back of the neck and seat of the pants and shake a result out of it."
     The answer rings true to the man. The candidate has called it an issue of supreme faith, elaborating his views in a recent communication to the "Christian Herald," in which he has said:
     "'Fighting the good fight of faith'--these words from the epistle to Timothy might well be our text for this campaign before the American people, which, within the limits of our strength, has been carried to every fireside in this broad land of ours. Ours is a fight of faith--faith with a world that accepted our statement of unselfish purpose, faith with fathers and mothers, wives and loved ones, who gave their sons, husbands and brothers to war upon war, faith with those who made sacrifice in homes, faith with those who toiled, faith with the living and faith with the dead.
     "If there were in this contest nothing but the question of whether one or the other of two editors should sit in the seat of power, nothing but whether one organization or another should taste the sweets of office, we could not insist that there is involved a fight of faith. There is, indeed, an issue between two views of government, one looking forward and the other backward. But temporary control by one side or the other for a brief period of four years is not necessarily a supreme matter of faith. We might try one or we might, in a spirit of experiment, try another.
     "In speaking of this we would have our personal fortunes forgotten. They are of transient interest to ourselves and we might say of less interest to others. To hold the exalted office of President of the United States, to occupy the place of Washington, of Jefferson, of Lincoln, to be looked to for leadership in public questions, to be the first citizen in this great land is not a trifling but a gigantic ambition, worthy of all honest striving but involving, in the ordinary sense, no supreme issue. So if personal reasons only animated us, we could not muster the temerity to state our case with the ardent zeal that controls us.
     "But the motives that guide us are of greater import. As leader of a great organization which has had its part in interpreting the aspirations of the American people, and in shaping Americanism through the generations we have been invested with a sacred commission, a mandate sanctified by the reckless bravery of our sons and ennobled by the heart impulses of our daughters. Through circumstances not of our own choosing we have become the custodians of the honor of the nation, we have been called to fight the good fight of faith.
     "We as a party willed otherwise. In the face of bigoted denials of our good faith we sought only concord of all our people in the tasks of American in the world. There was glory enough for all and we never advanced the claim that it was a partisan matter until the fact had been established through long and weary months of purposeful misunderstanding and unconscionable intrigue for party advantage by our opponents. There is in this no suggestion of unkind sentiments toward our leading adversaries. We can utter the sentiment voiced on the hill above Jerusalem and when America has come to understand we stand ready to blot out a dark chapter of our national life and to pronounce a pardon upon a course of conduct charitably covered by 'they know not what they do.'
     "There ought to be in this a special appeal to believers in the living faith. Its purpose to give to all the universal benefits only a share of which it claims for itself, its conception of the Golden Rule as the practical basis for dealings with the world, its high plan to save the weak and feeble from the power and will of the mighty--these things, we say, are of the very essence of the true faith.
     "It is not a subject for marvel then that practically every denominational and interdenominational gathering of religious men that has been held since the Versailles covenant was adopted has included an endorsement of that great document. Aloof from the contentions of partisans, freed from the bigotry engendered by factionalism, looking upon national questions through the windows of light and truth, the banded followers of the Man of Nazareth have seen the question that is presented shorn of false claims. In a word, Christians, speaking organically, with a voice that could not be misunderstood have stated that they wish the League of Nations.
     "For such a League, for the only league now in existence or which has a fair chance of coming into existence, we are contending. Could the question be lifted from the arena of partisanship and could the referendum which we have invoked be by direct ballot, there would be no opposition. Unfortunately, our system of government has not provided a choice so direct, nor a manner of expression that would leave so small doubt as to the sentiment of America. We say this from a field of personal experience for like the certain rich young man of Biblical story, we, too, have seen the type of uncompromising partisan who 'turned away sorrowfully' for party seemed more important than duty or honor.
     "It matters little whether we say that we feel deeply for those across the seas in their troubles when we fail to act in their behalf. The successful issue of the war left a duty on our hands, a duty like that which we performed in Cuba nearly a generation ago and like that which has been brought close to completion in the Philippines. We faced a Christian duty toward our associates and even toward the people of enemy lands. It was our obligation to bind up the wounds of the war and to show by example the fulfillment of high ideals voiced by the leaders of the world thought.
     "There came to us the divine opportunity to act quickly and with high Christian purposes. We might with one stroke have become the counselor and friend of all humanity, its guarantor that all the forces of morality would be enlisted upon the side of peace. But the precious moments were wasted in fruitless discussion, in idle bickerings, in invention of fancied situations, purposely forgetting that the great purpose of the League of Nations was to band the world together in a great brotherhood against war. We were to lead the nations back to peaceful ways but through our own wavering we actually, by reason or a small coterie of men, we think wrongly advised, have drenched Europe and Asia with new wars.
     "The great heart of America has always been right upon this great issue. There has never been a time when associations of men and women, independent of partisanship, have turned from the League proposal. America gave freely in alms to every war-torn nation in the world. She sent her devoted bands of workers to relieve distress. She sent her nurses to heal the sick. She sent her contributions to feed the hungry. She opened her warehouses to clothe the naked. She willingly gave her talent, through private auspices, to help bring life back to normal. Her men of finance gave counsel; they offered credit and we applauded. We were touched by the works of associations and individuals to lessen war's terrors and to refound the wrecked civilization. But foolish men, vain men, envious men forbade our government to do in larger form the same sort of acts which, done by private auspices, we applauded as evidence of Christian purpose.
     "And the good that we sought to do was lost in our larger neglect. Weak fears that in helping the world, fantastic forebodings that in taking our stand for peace everlasting, imaginary perils that in service we might be surrendering our birthright of independence restrained our more noble impulses. While famine stalked and the world cried to heaven for our help we debated selfish questions. Our nation became a silent but effective partner in undermining Christian civilization, causing the despairing peoples of Europe, friend and enemy alike, to turn in every agony to those who denied the fundamental precepts upon which our society rests.
     Some one has called this black despair, 'Satanism,' the belief that the laws and deeds of God and men are set against the victim. And we, through the perversity of a few men, have been silent enemies of Christian faith and allies, indeed, or this newer scourge of mankind. There are happiness and satisfaction in the thought that we have not this fault to bear. It is not strange to us that those who permitted narrow views and ungenerous purpose to thwart our nation in its duty rest uncomfortably under the accusations of the American conscience. If temporary success is to be won at such sacrifice we cannot think it worth the price.
     "Nor can the blame be shifted. So far as was humanly possible, objections were met. Reservations stating our complete compliance with the fundamental organic law, needless as they were in a strictly legal sense, were proposed. Others were accepted where they seemed to be animated by proper motives, but good faith prevented acceptance of those which proposed to withdraw the pledge in the same document in which it was plighted. As was observed in the address accepting the designation as champion of the party, every boy in our schools knows that war may be declared only by act of Congress and that the American Constitution rises superior to all treaties. Still, every friend of the Covenant was ready to acquiesce in proposals that would state these propositions, and more, if that would prove a solution.
     "Failing in this effort, the resolution was formed that the only other method lay in submitting the matter in a solemn referendum to the conscience of America. In that great judgment we now are. Men are but instrumentalities of the Divine Will, worked out, we pray, in the nations. Few things are of smaller importance than the temporal fortunes of men; no things of greater importance than the destiny of mankind. Willingly would we undergo crushing defeat to save the principle for which we strive, guiltily would we assume power won by appeal to baser motives and selfish fears.
     "There is in this year, for the causes here outlined, a militancy as of the Crusaders, marching over mountains and deserts to wrest the Holy Places from unworthy hands. There is a sacred fire in the countenances of those who speak the message, there is a joy in proclaiming the tidings, there is a zeal in spreading the word. We are preachers this year of national righteousness, of honor, of faith and of high purpose.
     "We scorn to think of our mission in ordinary terms. We disdain to look upon the early days of November as a test of rival organizations in their power to muster votes. We have no mind to compete in lavish outlay, we have no purpose to resort to sinister methods of electrical appeal. If we are to be chosen, it is to be because we have won the conscience of the nation, and God helping us, we will appeal to nothing else.
     "We turn from the external duties of the country to its internal. Promises with respect to these matters must of every necessity be in general terms largely because the problems are vast and must adjust themselves to all parts of the country, harmonizing with conditions that vary widely. Back of all legislation, back of statute and executive policy worth while, there lies one unvarying hope and purpose--to right wrong, to secure justice and to give equal opportunity. All measures must be tested by these great principles and on them rest securely if at all.
     "Past performances--the record--furnish the best indication of a man's mind, and the executive acts and legislative recommendations of the Governor of Ohio during the past six years have been studied with great care. That they have won approval is a source of gratification and satisfaction that will endure. We are in this country face to face with gigantic problems. They cannot be left unsolved. That would be blindness. They cannot be considered in the gathering darkness of reaction, they must be viewed in the brightening dawn of a new day.
     "Before us we have the examples of restrained liberties and of unfulfilled desires. It is dangerous to trust reactionary forces with power. It may become a little short of menacing to the stability of our institutions and to the orderly processes of development. It is well to sound a word of warning, calmly but ever seriously.
     "As has been observed, actions furnish the basis of determination of fitness for further service. What better guarantee of cordial and sound industrial relations between employee and employer than legislation which follows the lines of the Ohio workmen's compensation law? Under its influence, industrial conditions have improved, life and limb have been conserved, the workmen's families are happy in their security and a new era has dawned for millions of people. It was enacted when legislation of this sort was an experiment in America. If every state in this Union had a law of this sort our nation would have solved half of its industrial problems. Our courts are free from the vexatious litigation that fosters criticism and they are trusted as never before in history. It has been a factor of no small importance that enabled our state to uphold the sovereignty of the law without repressive measures directed against freedom of speech and pen.
     "Educational activities have been quickened and rural life has been regenerated through modem school legislation. To the boys and girls of our rural districts there are coming schools which will be second to none in our most progressive cities, and one of the reasons for draining of the country districts of population will be checked. It has given an impetus to church and community life that is of greatest importance.
     "These things are cited not because there is any disposition to urge that there should be encroachment by the federal government on local control. It is the healthful, reasonable individualism of American national life that has enabled the people of this country to think for themselves. We have no will to impair their independence. The central government can assist and give encouragement to state movements if the men called to high positions are in sympathy with progress. A reactionary central government can demonstrate likewise that it has no sympathy with men of vision who ever have difficult tasks in bringing about the taking of forward steps.
     "The details of these instances, which might be greatly expanded, have been touched in order to form a setting as for a picture. Our view is toward to-morrow. The opposition, and I assume that they are sincere in it, stands in the skyline of the setting sun, looking backward, backward to the old days of reaction."

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