MoboReader> Literature > Philip Dru: Administrator; A Story of Tomorrow, 1920-1935

   Chapter 10 No.10

Philip Dru: Administrator; A Story of Tomorrow, 1920-1935 By Edward Mandell House Characters: 11475

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Selwyn Seeks a Candidate

Selwyn then began carefully scrutinizing such public men in the States known as Presidential cradles, as seemed to him eligible. By a process of elimination he centered upon two that appeared desirable.

One was James R. Rockland, recently elected Governor of a State of the Middle West. The man had many of the earmarks of a demagogue, which Selwyn readily recognized, and he therefore concluded to try him first.

Accordingly he went to the capital of the State ostensibly upon private business, and dropped in upon the Governor in the most casual way. Rockland was distinctly flattered by the attention, for Selwyn was, perhaps, the best known figure in American politics, while he, himself, had only begun to attract attention. They had met at conventions and elsewhere, but they were practically unacquainted, for Rockland had never been permitted to enter the charmed circle which gathered around Selwyn.

"Good morning, Governor," said Selwyn, when he had been admitted to Rockland's private room. "I was passing through the capital and I thought I would look in on you and see how your official cares were using you."

"I am glad to see you, Senator," said Rockland effusively, "very glad, for there are some party questions coming up at the next session of the Legislature about which I particularly desire your advice."

"I have but a moment now, Rockland," answered the Senator, "but if you will dine with me in my rooms at the Mandell House to-night it will be a pleasure to talk over such matters with you."

"Thank you, Senator, at what hour?"

"You had better come at seven for if I finish my business here to-day, I shall leave on the 10 o'clock for Washington," said Selwyn.

Thus in the most casual way the meeting was arranged. As a matter of fact, Rockland had no party matters to discuss, and Selwyn knew it. He also knew that Rockland was ambitious to become a leader, and to get within the little group that controlled the party and the Nation.

Rockland was a man of much ability, but he fell far short of measuring up with Selwyn, who was in a class by himself. The Governor was a good orator, at times even brilliant, and while not a forceful man, yet he had magnetism which served him still better in furthering his political fortunes. He was not one that could be grossly corrupted, yet he was willing to play to the galleries in order to serve his ambition, and he was willing to forecast his political acts in order to obtain potential support.

When he reached the Mandell House, he was at once shown to the Senator's rooms. Selwyn received him cordially enough to be polite, and asked him if he would not look over the afternoon paper for a moment while he finished a note he was writing. He wrote leisurely, then rang for a boy and ordered dinner to be served.

Selwyn merely tasted the wine (he seldom did more) but Rockland drank freely though not to excess. After they had talked over the local matters which were supposed to be the purpose of the conference, much to Rockland's delight, the Senator began to discuss national politics.

"Rockland," began Selwyn, "can you hold this state in line at next year's election?"

"I feel sure that I can, Senator, why do you ask?"

"Since we have been talking here," he replied, "it has occurred to me that if you could be nominated and elected again, the party might do worse than to consider you for the presidential nomination the year following.

"No, my dear fellow, don't interrupt me," continued Selwyn mellifluously.

"It is strange how fate or chance enters into the life of man and even of nations. A business matter calls me here, I pass your office and think to pay my respects to the Governor of the State. Some political questions are perplexing you, and my presence suggests that I may aid in their solution. This dinner follows, your personality appeals to me, and the thought flits through my mind, why should not Rockland, rather than some other man, lead the party two years from now?

"And the result, my dear Rockland, may be, probably will be, your becoming chief magistrate of the greatest republic the sun has ever shone on."

Rockland by this time was fairly hypnotized by Selwyn's words, and by their tremendous import. For a moment he dared not trust himself to speak.

"Senator Selwyn," he said at last, "it would be idle for me to deny that you have excited within me an ambition that a moment ago would have seemed worse than folly. Your influence within the party and your ability to conduct a campaign, gives to your suggestion almost the tender of the presidency. To tell you that I am deeply moved does scant justice to my feelings. If, after further consideration, you think me worthy of the honor, I shall feel under lasting obligations to you which I shall endeavor to repay in every way consistent with honor and with a sacred regard for my oath of office."

"I want to tell you frankly, Rockland," answered Selwyn, "that up to now I have had someone else in mind, but I am in no sense committed, and we might as well discuss the matter to as near a conclusion as is possible at this time."

Selwyn's voice hardened a little as he went on. "You would not want a nomination that could not carry with a reasonable certainty of election, therefore I would like to go over with you your record, both public and private, in the most open yet confidential way. It is better that you and I, in the privacy of these rooms, should lay bare your past than that it should be done in a bitter campaign and by your enemies. What we say to one another here is to be as if never spoken, and the grave itself must not be more silent. Your private life not only needs

to be clean, but there must be no public act at which any one can point an accusing finger."

"Of course, of course," said Rockland, with a gesture meant to convey the complete openness of his record.

"Then comes the question of party regularity," continued Selwyn, without noticing. "Be candid with me, for, if you are not, the recoil will be upon your own head."

"I am sure that I can satisfy you on every point, Senator. I have never scratched a party ticket nor have I ever voted against any measure endorsed by a party caucus," said Governor Rockland.

"That is well," smiled the Senator. "I assume that in making your important appointments you will consult those of us who have stood sponsor for you, not only to the party but to the country. It would be very humiliating to me if I should insist upon your nomination and election and then should for four years have to apologize for what I had done."

Musingly, as if contemplating the divine presence in the works of man, Selwyn went on, while he closely watched Rockland from behind his half-closed eyelids.

"Our scheme of Government contemplates, I think, a diffuse responsibility, my dear Rockland. While a president has a constitutional right to act alone, he has no moral right to act contrary to the tenets and traditions of his party, or to the advice of the party leaders, for the country accepts the candidate, the party and the party advisers as a whole and not severally.

"It is a natural check, which by custom the country has endorsed as wise, and which must be followed in order to obtain a proper organization. Do you follow me, Governor, and do you endorse this unwritten law?"

If Rockland had heard this at second hand, if he had read it, or if it had related to someone other than himself, he would have detected the sophistry of it. But, exhilarated by wine and intoxicated by ambition, he saw nothing but a pledge to deal squarely by the organization.

"Senator," he replied fulsomely, "gratitude is one of the tenets of my religion, and therefore inversely ingratitude is unknown to me. You and the organization can count on my loyalty from the beginning to the end, for I shall never fail you.

"I know you will not ask me to do anything at which my conscience will rebel, nor to make an appointment that is not entirely fit."

"That, Rockland, goes without saying," answered the Senator with dignity. "I have all the wealth and all the position that I desire. I want nothing now except to do my share towards making my native land grow in prosperity, and to make the individual citizen more contented. To do this we must cease this eternal agitation, this constant proposal of half-baked measures, which the demagogues are offering as a panacea to all the ills that flesh is heir to.

"We need peace, legislative and political peace, so that our people may turn to their industries and work them to success, in the wholesome knowledge that the laws governing commerce and trade conditions will not be disturbed over night."

"I agree with you there, Senator," said Rockland eagerly.

"We have more new laws now than we can digest in a decade," continued Selwyn, "so let us have rest until we do digest them. In Europe the business world works under stable conditions. There we find no proposal to change the money system between moons, there we find no uncertainty from month to month regarding the laws under which manufacturers are to make their products, but with us, it is a wise man who knows when he can afford to enlarge his output.

"A high tariff threatens to-day, a low one to-morrow, and a large part of the time the business world lies in helpless perplexity.

"I take it, Rockland, that you are in favor of stability, that you will join me in my endeavors to give the country a chance to develop itself and its marvelous natural resources."

As a matter of fact, Rockland's career had given no evidence of such views. He had practically committed his political fortunes on the side of the progressives, but the world had turned around since then, and he viewed things differently.

"Senator," he said, his voice tense in his anxiety to prove his reliability, "I find that in the past I have taken only a cursory view of conditions. I see clearly that what you have outlined is a high order of statesmanship. You are constructive: I have been on the side of those who would tear down. I will gladly join hands with you and build up, so that the wealth and power of this country shall come to equal that of any two nations in existence."

Selwyn settled back in his chair, nodding his approval and telling himself that he would not need to seek further for his candidate.

At Rockland's earnest solicitation he remained over another day. The Governor gave him copies of his speeches and messages, so that he could assure himself that there was no serious flaw in his public record.

Selwyn cautioned him about changing his attitude too suddenly. "Go on, Rockland, as you have done in the past. It will not do to see the light too quickly. You have the progressives with you now, keep them, and I will let the conservatives know that you think straight and may be trusted.

"We must consult frequently together," he continued, "but cautiously. There is no need for any one to know that we are working together harmoniously. I may even get some of the conservative papers to attack you judiciously. It will not harm you. But, above all, do nothing of importance without consulting me.

"I am committing the party and the Nation to you, and my responsibility is a heavy one, and I owe it to them that no mistakes are made."

"You may trust me, Senator," said Rockland. "I understand perfectly."

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