Skip to main content

Campaign Literature

ISSUE:  Autumn 1928
Progressive Democracy. Addresses and State Papers of Alfred E. Smith. Edited by Henry Moskowitz. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. $3.00. Herbert Hoover, A Reminiscent Biography. By Will Irwin, New York: The Century Company. $3.00. The Democratic Party. By Frank R. Kent. New York: The Century Company. $5.00. The Republican Party. By William Starr Myers. New York: The Century Company. $5.00.

With the Smith-Hoover presidential campaign in full blast, the time is ripe for the publication of books dealing with the candidates and the parties they represent. Not that such works are apt to have any appreciable effect on the ultimate outcome. The masses of the voters are swayed far too completely by prejudices and personalities to be influenced to any noticeable extent by, ponderous tomes containing discussions of candidates and issues. In the present campaign, for example, the Catholic Church and prohibition, coupled with the personalities of Smith and Hoover, probably will prove to be the determining factors. The religious issue, indeed, seems to have overshadowed all the others. The evangels are spouting from their pulpits that no man who seeks to lay impious hands on the thrice-sacred prohibition laws can get within gunshot of the White House, but the truth is, of course, that this is largely camouflage.

What the ecclesiastics really are afraid of is that a Roman Catholic will attain the presidency. It was freely, admitted in private by many consecrated drys who attended the anti-Smith conference at Asheville last July that about eighty per cent of the Methodist-Baptist revolt against Al in the South is due to his religion and not to his views on the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act, or his Tammany affiliations.

In the four volumes at present under review there is material of value to the student of public affairs who wishes to disabuse his mind of preconceived notions relative to Messrs. Smith and Hoover, and by independent inquiry to arrive at reasoned conclusions concerning them and the parties whose standard-bearers they, are.

Those who are interested in Al Smith, the able, captivating, honest, and salty candidate of the Democratic Party, will find valuable data in “Progressive Democracy,” by Henry Moskowitz. The book is a selection of the more important and significant state papers and addresses promulgated or delivered by Smith during his public career as legislator, president of the New York City Board of Aldermen, delegate to the State Constitutional Convention of 1915, and Governor. There are campaign speeches, patriotic addresses, messages to the Assembly dealing with bills relating to social welfare and to the preservation of civil and religious liberties, addresses on law enforcement, water power, the budget, and other related subjects.

It is hard to see how any unbiased person can read this book without feeling admiration for Smith’s ability, sincerity, and administrative capacity. It is true that some of his messages and addresses fall considerably short of his magnificent reply to Charles C. Marshall, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly last year, and which is included in Dr. Moskowitz’s collection. A few of them, in fact, are sloppily phrased, and one, a speech delivered on Washington’s Birthday in 1923, descends to bathos. It is unfair, however, to hold politicians to strict accountability for their remarks on the Glorious Fourth and like occasions, for the fervently patriotic utterances to which they usually give vent at such times are almost certain to look silly in print. But while it is true that some of the addresses and papers contained in the volume in hand are better than others, a number of them, from the standpoint of both phraseology and content, reach a very high plane. Most of those relating to the preservation of civil, religious, and personal liberties are in the same class with the reply to Marshall, and there are others which bear witness to Smith’s statesmanlike grasp of the fundamentals of government, his amazing familiarity with the administrative machinery of the State of New York, and his very real concern for the rights of minorities and for the welfare of the poor, the insane, and the downtrodden.

The eventful career of Smith’s rival for the presidency is set forth by Will Irwin in “Herbert Hoover, a Reminiscent Biography.” Long a personal friend of the Republican nominee, Mr. Irwin tells of Hoover’s early struggles, his years at Stanford, his rapid rise as an engineer until he became one of the world’s leaders in his profession, his thrilling escape from death with Mrs. Hoover when they were besieged for weeks in Tientsin during the Boxer uprising; his far-flung engineering projects in Burma, Australia, Turkestan, Russia, and every corner of the globe; his wonderful relief work in Belgium, Russia, Poland and other European countries during and after the Great War, and finally his career as Secretary of Commerce.

Mr. Irwin’s biography holds the reader’s attention in a measurably satisfactory manner, although it is a bit tedious in spots. It is also unduly laudatory. If there is to be found within its pages a single hint that Herbert Hoover is in any respect less than perfect, it escaped the eye of this reviewer. The author does not even mention his idol’s shortcomings as a public speaker, although he is notorious as being one of the worst speakers in the Western Hemisphere. Hoover’s ability as an organizer and executive is universally conceded, of course, and his work in the Department of Commerce in standardizing paving bricks, grinding wheels, and kitchen sinks is doubtless commendable. Those who worship Hoover’s efficiency, and those who were uplifted when he announced before his nomination that, if elected, he would “carry forward the great objectives of President Coolidge’s policies,” will vote for him in November. How glorious to have in the White House a super-efficient Coolidge!

Passing on from the candidates to the parties which nominated them, we have “The Democratic Party,” by Frank R. Kent, and “The Republican Party,” by William Starr Myers. Mr. Kent, who is a member of the staff of the Baltimore Sun, is the best-informed and most penetrating political writer in American journalism today. No other commentator on the political scene has such a thorough knowledge of politics and politicians, and none is able to set down his daily impressions with such verve and bounce. His book on the Democratic Party is in his usual lively style. Dr. Myers, a member of the Princeton University faculty, writes more academically and also more tediously of the Republican Party.

With Mr. Kent’s dicta relative to the party of Jefferson and Jackson this reviewer finds himself in agreement for the most part. The book contains a few minor inaccuracies, but they are unimportant. (The author of “Jeffer-son and Hamilton,” for example, is not Claude M. Bowers, and Senator Furnifold M. Simmons is not from South Carolina). It is depressing, too, to find a man of Mr. i Kent’s intelligence referring to prohibition as a “moral is- â–  sue,” and his constant use of the adjective “vibrant” is ! enough to give any reader the heebie-jeebies. These are j not intended as serious criticisms, however, for Mr. Kent’s > book is both engaging and arresting. [

Dr. Myers’ work, on the other hand, suffers from two j major deficiencies. First, it is written in a somewhat dull style, and second, the author’s estimates of various eminent; G. O. P.’s are uncommonly irritating. If you regard 1 Abraham Lincoln as “a stupendously great man” and | like to hear him so denominated over and over again; if’ you believe that “justice and right prevailed” when the presidency was stolen from Samuel J. Tilden; if you regard Theodore Roosevelt, pere, as a man of unimpeachable integrity, despite his flat violation of the promise he made in 1904 never again to be a candidate for the presidency; if you believe there can be no doubt as to the honesty and sincerity of Henry Cabot Lodge; and if you regard Warren Gamaliel Harding as a man of “charm, absolute honesty, and undoubted ability,” and Calvin Cool-idge as possessing ability, courage, and a sense of humor, then you probably, will enjoy Dr. Myers’ book. Otherwise it is apt to get on your nerves.


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading