Header Graphic
The Progressive Democracy of James M. Cox
Chapter Seven - The Leader in the State of War



     Theodore Roosevelt said that Governor Cox was among the very foremost of war Governors. The utterance was made after he had assessed the things done during the fateful period of hostilities. Presenting complicated problems at all time it was no less true that in war there were major, not minor, obstacles to be met and surmounted before Ohio might take her traditional place as one of the very militant states of the Union. That she did achieve such place attests the zeal and ardor of the Governor. Ohio presented to the country a complete division, the Thirty-seventh, recruited under the personal supervision of Governor Cox. It led the nation, by long odds, in sale of war saving stamps, an activity stimulated by Governor Cox. It preserved good order and set an example in spite of many conflicting racial antagonisms within its borders by cultivation of such a spirit as made open or covert disloyalty dangerous to the disloyal. Withal there was no untoward incident affecting peaceful alien enemies. In the cities, none led those of Ohio in war gardening, and the tractor campaign for Ohio farms was adopted and imitated in other states. The Governor himself was a dynamo of activity, organizing the first State Council of Defense and enlisting volunteer aid at no expense to state and country in quickening all war and related activities. Every situation affecting the State's power found him ready for the emergency. When an early frost and severe winter in 1917-18 destroyed much of the seed corn, the Governor uncovered instances of profiteering and immediately stopped it by vigorous action. Corn in other districts with similar soil and climate was brought in and sold at three dollars a bushel.
     Soldiers of no state were better supplied with all the comforts that could be provided than those of Ohio. While the Thirty-seventh was in camp in the far South a Christmas train was sent to it. Special funds were raised for entertainment of both the Ohio camps. In a word, every war activity felt the vigilant care and sympathetic help of the Governor.
     During the war time there were few idle men in Ohio. Through proclamation attention of local authorities was directed to an old law making vagrancy an offense and it was applied rigorously.
     No less in reconstruction than in was activities his energies were tireless. The Governor took the lead in securing legislation to correct the defects found in educational laws and one of the statutes placed upon the books at his suggestion provided for an oath of allegiance on the part of teachers. Referring to disclosures in certain cities, he said: "We have had our bitter experiences and love for our children compels us, in common prudence, to protect them."
     Without sympathy for the mischievous spirits who sought to foment trouble in America, the Governor clearly expressed his conception of Americanization as a voluntary spiritual, and not a compulsory, process. The policy he had in mind was indicated in an address in Chicago in March, 1920, in which he said:
     "There must be no compromise with treason, but the surest death to Bolshevism is exposure of the germ of the disease itself to the sunlight of public view. We must protect ourselves against extremes in America. The horrors and tragedies of revolution can be charged to them. If government is assailed, its policy must not become vengeful. Our fathers in specifying what human freedom was, and providing guarantees for its preservation, recognized that among the necessary precautions was the protection of individual right against governmental abuses.
     "If the alien, ignorant of our laws and customs, cows in fear of our government, he is very apt to believe that things are much the same the world over, and he may become and easy convert to the doctrine of resistance. The skies will clear but meanwhile government must be firm, yet judicial, uninfluenced by the emotionalism that breeds extremes. The less government we have, consistent with safety to life and property, the better for both happiness and morals. A policeman on every corner would be a bad index to the citizenship of the community, for it would reflect a foolish concept of conditions by the municipal officers."
     The vision of Governor Cox in legislation is best to be studied in the statute book of Ohio. The fact is that he was a pioneer in some of this, indeed in a large part of it. Through the years he has insisted that government must deal with its problem by evolution lest revolution overtake it. It was this sentiment that led him to deal with the industrial injury matter. When he heard men inveighing against the courts, a discerning eye knew something was wrong and he gave his attention to righting that wrong. His creed, not recently as a candidate, but in the years of his public career, has been expressed in this summary: "Our view is toward the sunrise of tomorrow with its progress and its eternal promise of better things."
     The expression is found so frequently in his state documents that it might properly be set forth in the form of a creed. But there has been more than what the great Roosevelt called "lip-service to progress. The forward steps became a part of the laws.
     In health affairs he asked for the appointment of a commission to study the need for adequate local administration and he urged its adoption before the General Assembly so forcefully that Ohio to-day has what is universally recognized to be the best system in America. In placing the state department upon a footing commensurate with other institutions of government, case was taken to place it where it cannot be prostituted to partisanship. There has been a growing number of governmental departments under Governor Cox in which partisanship is utterly forbidden. They include the Board of Administration, dealing with the wards of the state, the social agencies, the educational, and the Fish and Game Department. An actual census in all the varied public office activities in Ohio would disclose that although the Democratic party has been in possession of the Government for nearly all of the past twelve years, the number of members of the Republican party on the public rolls is almost as great as that of the victors. The Governor has found that men in the world of business employ, at larger compensation than the state has afforded, the type of men he has most often selected for responsible posts. It is one of the curious effects of progress in government that it has touched and awakened progress in business and in civic life.
     In social service there has been evolved the cold storage act which has served as a model for proposed national legislation. under its provisions a strict limitation of time is placed upon the storing of food. With this has gone strict legislation against adulteration of food and honest enforcement of the laws.
     Other states have accepted as a model the social agency committee now working in effective co-operation with state departments and bringing into mutual operation all recognized social agencies. One of the greatest steps forward was the establishment of a bureau of juvenile research with Dr. L. H. Goddard at its head.Second to no other reform has been that effected in handling of
the prison problem. Prisoners now earn their freedom through work in the healthful out-of-doors on highways, in plants for making road material, and on farms. There is a system of compensation to the families for work done as a balance on which to begin life anew.
     Twelve hundred consolidated schools in Ohio attest the successful workings of the rural school code which was brought into existence in 1914 after careful study and after the state in general meetings had carefully studied the plans. The old one-room school house is giving way in the country to the modern centralized school and community life is being remade. Through the raising of the country school to the plane of those of the cities, it will be possible to check the alarming drift to the cities and depopulation of the countryside. Governor Cox does not believe that the federal government should interfere in the affairs of local communities but he does believe that it "can inventory the possibilities of progressive education, and in helpful manner create an enlarged public interest in this subject."
     Along with the improvement of rural schools has gone a most comprehensive highway programme involving an annual outlay of millions of dollars. Gradually as highways are improved they will, under the state policy shaped in 1913, be taken over by the state.
     The agricultural legislation was in consonance with the other subjects touched. Ohio was long a dumping ground for inferior fertilizers, diseased livestock and impure seed. Adequate laws have changed all this. Still, these are police measures not of necessity a true index of real vision in agricultural matters. The boldest step ever taken was the establishment of pure bred herds of cattle by the state with opportunity afforded through breeding service at institutional farms to extend these pure strains to the small farms. The success attained is reflected in numerous heard of thorough-bred cattle.

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