Madison Courier on

Democrats and the 1920 Presidential Election

May 20, 1920

Woodrow Wilson's vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, addressed the Indiana Democratic State Convention in the state's capital on the coming November election. Wilson's public support had dwindled with the conclusion of World War I. The struggle between the president and Congress over the League of Nations "heightened public dissatisfaction with the president and minimized the Democrats' opportunity for victory in November 1920." To add to the party's struggles, Wilson did not deny or announce his candidacy. Thinking that the president might be seeking a third term, the Democratic contenders did not enter the field with enthusiasim, many refusing to take the stump against a sitting president. Vice President Marshall, though, could take the stump, as he was not a contender for the nomination, and he helped to distance the field from the unpopular Wilson - Kirk Terrell '09

Source: Matthew J. Bruccoli and Richard Layman, eds., American Decades: 1029-1929, 207-9.

"Marshall's Key Note at the Indiana Democratic State Convention Today." Madison Courier, 20 May 1920.

Marshall's Key Note at the Indiana Democratic State Convention Today.

An Able, Patriotic and Anti-Wilson Argument.

Indianapolis, May 20

Equal and exact justice to all men as a remedy for unrest was prescribed by Vice President Marshall in his keynote address today before the state democratic convention. He also urged jail sentences for profiteers and increased production to relieve the high cost of living.

I hold that the democratic doctrine of equal and exact justice to all men and of special privileges to none will meet all the angry and irreconciled views of today, said Mr. Marshall.

The vice president also expressed the hope that President Wilson and the senate would reconcile their differences over the peace treaty and that it would be ratified; but said no man should be read out of the democratic party because of his opinion on the league of nations.

This was as I understand it, the vice president said, an American war. The peace should be an American peace. The war could not have been fought successfully as either a democratic war or a republican war. The peace cannot bring that real peace which the American People want if it be made either as a democratic or a republican peace.

I still hope that the president and the senate will reach an accord upon such terms as will enable the treaty to be ratified and a de jure peace to be made with the government of Germany, but as I grant to no man the right to read me out of the democratic party nor to say to me that I can not stand upon its platform, advocate the election of its candidates and vote for them, I, myself, will not say to any man that his views upon the league of nations inevitably place him without the democratic fold.

Vice President Marshall said his comments on the treaty would be brief for he had no hope of lighting the cimmerian darkness which now envelops it, but added:

A life long advocate of a resort to courts and not to force, I gave my unqualified endorsement to the altruistic views of the president, in the defense of which views he has broken his body.

Any let up in the enforcement of national prohibition until legal change has been made in its provisions was opposed by Mr. Marshall who warned the democratic party that it would merit the contempt of the people if it ever stands for the flaunting of a law because certain citizens do not believe in it.

The almost obliterated lines dividing the three branches of the federal government should be again clearly drawn, he added. Government by discretion should cease. Boards which make rules, try violations thereof, and enforce punishment should go. They are not democratic. They are benevolent despotisms.

While omitting any direct reference to soldier bonus legislation, the vice president said he would say to the former service men “sound of body and mind” that they can obtain almost anything they want from congress.

It will be afraid to resist you, he continued. But looking back upon your glorious record, I beg you to consider whether you want to go down in history as the tribe of Nathan Hale or of the tribe of Oliver Twist.

Mr. Marshall closed his speech with an endorsement of Thomas Taggart for United States Senator from Indiana and with a plea for Indiana democracy not to remove the ancient land marks, to hold fast to the faith, to be strong and to acquit themselves like men.

Success is desirable but honor is needful, the vice president declared.

While the prohibition amendment remains it must be enforced in accordance with its provisions, he said. If crystallizing public sentiment does not as the days go by back it, the people will find a way lawfully to lessen what some deem to be its rigors.

The vice president assailed the republican congress for its work during the last year, declaring it has laid its hand upon nothing and has thought of nothing save a proposal to prevent during an unprecedented scarcity of manufactured products the dumping of foreign made goods on our markets as an obligation to the Great God Protection that he will not permit the lowering of prices lest 300 percent stock dividends may no longer be declared, and thus the working men be put upon an equality with the pauper labor of Europe.

Mr. Marshall declared the aftermath of the war in legislative halls would be heart breaking if it were not humorous, and charged that the republicans have spent the last year conducting, searching investigations at great expense to show that the victory which we won was really a defeat.

The republican party has not rehabilitated America, the vice president said. The question now is, to what party will the people commit the work of reconstruction?

Regarding the doctrine for equaling exact justice, Mr. Marshall said:

Equal and exact justice for all men demands that the law shall take into consideration the inherent right of the individual to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness; shall protect the individual in these rights; shall punish him if he interfere with the rights of another; shall separate all citizens into the honest law-abiding and the dishonest law-breaking; shall let the honest law-abiding alone and shall punish the dishonest law-breaking.

Let us not delude ourselves into the belief that the currency and credit of this country can double, the population increase, and production remain at a standstill, and yet that the high cost of living may be reduced and peace, plenty and prosperity abound in the land. Let us quit talking about the profiteer and begin jailing him. And let the man who works understand that in greater production he benefits himself as well as his fellowmen.

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