The Charlotte News



Country Gentlemen in the White House

By W. J. Cash

Site ed. note: The sardonic reference to the national debt of a "puny and cowardly" thirty-seven billion dollars as being not enough, according to the Coyle book Cash reviews, is indeed ironic and puny by today's trillion dollar standards.

Cash often criticized Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal as being vascillating and at times endangering of liberty, but at the end of the day thought the Administration's programs by far the better solution for the harsh times when compared to the proposed alternatives. (See "Inter-Office Memos: Willkie Or Roosevelt" - October 13, 1940.)


From a publicity blurb issued by Bobbs-Merrill, I come by the information that President Roosevelt has recently been reading two books. One of them is Marquis James' current best-selling biography, "Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President." And the other is David Cushman Coyle's "Why Pay Taxes?"

He liked the Jackson book so well that he had himself photographed, in the company of his daughter[-in-law], Mrs. James Roosevelt, with a copy of it in his hand, the title prominently displayed. And anybody who imagines that such a great master of publicity did not do that without careful forethought and for well-planned purposes of suggesting certain things to the country is a little silly. He meant, undoubtedly, to have himself compared with Jackson. And as a matter of fact, he has a great deal of likeness to the tough old whip-and-pistol slinger out of Tennessee (with apologies to the Waxhaw country). 1 He has as great contempt for precedent and tradition as ever Old Hickory himself had--perhaps an even greater one. He has the same absolute confidence in the rightness of his own convictions. And he is a gentleman fighting the battle, as he understands it, of the masses against the gentry. Mr. James, if I remember correctly the doctrine of his previous book, argues the same thing about Jackson. The frontier, he sets forth, always has one of the most rigid of all aristocracies, and Jackson, he maintains, was one of the chief aristocrats of the Tennessee frontier. That takes some color from the fact that the old boy did in fact own an enormous plantation. Still, even so, Mr. Roosevelt is only partly like Jackson in that respect. Behind the former lies a tradition of recognized aristocracy extending over three hundred years.

But there are greater differences than this to set off the likenesses. Jackson was completely open. But that Mr. Roosevelt is, I have my doubts, and despite a continual play of being whole-heartedly frank. And yet again, if Jackson took his own opinions as revelations from heaven, at least his opinions rarely changed. This Mr. Roosevelt is sometimes dizzying in the rapidity of his passage from one absolute truth to another diametrically opposite absolute truth.

That for his reading of Jackson. For his reading in Mr. Coyle, I'm afraid I can say little that is kind. Mr. Coyle's book has been in my desk for a couple of weeks now, and at intervals I have taken it out and read it with earnest devotion. But--well, as nearly as I can make it out, Mr. Coyle's doctrine is that the more we stand for taxes the better off everybody is. The present public debt of thirty-seven billion bucks, he contends, is merely a puny and cowardly starter. What we need is a really whopping one. Then everybody would have coin in his pants sufficient to keep all the mills rolling at top speed, night and day, (in a country with the six hour day) and buy all the automobiles, radios, pianos, and fancy bedroom suites those mills can turn out. Everybody would be employed, and instead of a paltry two cars in the family, there would be two for everybody around down to little Jimmy, aged six months.

Well, maybe so. I'm no economic royalist. I'm not even a conservative so far as economics go. I don't believe that the things Old Adam Smith figured out on the basis of Eighteenth-century society are absolute truths for all time. I'm perfectly willing to see anything tried that, after careful and extended examination and testing, seems to stand the solid basis of logic and recognition of the facts of human nature. But for all that, this sounds entirely cuckoo to me. And so I hope that Dr. Roosevelt's dipping into it was merely by way of amusing himself.

1 The reference to Waxhaw is from the hotly debated issue among historians and between North Carolinians and Tennesseeans as to whether Jackson was born in Waxhaw, N.C. or in Tennessee.

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