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"The Intimate Papers of Colonel House"

Courtesy Reuters

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THESE two volumes[i] tell Colonel House's story of his association with Woodrow Wilson through the period of American neutrality. They end with a scene at the White House after the delivery of the war message; the President, his family and the Colonel are alone together.

The two friends had spent the day doing nothing except kill time until the President was called to the Capitol. House set down in his diary that he could see signs of nervousness beneath the President's apparent calm. "In the morning he told me he was determined not to speak after three o'clock, believing it would make a bad impression -- an impression that he was unduly pressing matters. I thought differently and persuaded him that he should hold himself ready to address Congress whenever that body indicated their readiness to hear him. It turned out that he began to speak at twenty minutes to nine and finished in about thirty-two minutes. I timed him carefully." . . . It was like the two men, the one in such an agony of doubt over the awful responsibility of the decision into which he had been pushed that he snatched at a pretext that might allow him to delay; the other imperturbable and aware of the immediate requirements of the occasion even to setting down in his diary that he had timed the President carefully and that he spoke about thirty-two minutes. Colonel House did not put down in his diary that night how he felt about the entry of the United States into a great European war, except to say that it seemed to him that "Wilson did not have a true conception of the path he was blazing." It was House's business to be calm and so he simply wrote that they had dined early, at half past six, and that they talked of everything except the matter in hand, that when they returned from the Capitol the family gathered in the Oval Room, where House showed

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