Newton D. Baker

Courtesy Reuters

NEWTON BAKER, though a seasoned public servant, was far from being what is called a national figure when he went to Washington as Secretary of War in March 1916; and on the Atlantic seaboard at least, the appointment definitely offended our folkways. Of course the new Secretary had to be a Democrat, but here was clearly the wrong kind of Democrat. He came from Cleveland, not a good sign in itself, where he had been the disciple and successor of Tom Johnson; he had found nothing better to tell the Washington reporters at his first interview than that he was fond of flowers; and he belonged to peace societies (so did his predecessor, Elihu Root, but that was different). Could Woodrow Wilson have done worse had he tried?

Few of us changed our minds about Baker within the first months of his service. Yet at the Armistice he stood without question

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