The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956 Page: 144
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"Character after all is the only thing that counts ... Cleveland
[had] common sense and character but few other advantages
or gifts; Lodge [had] every advantage of birth, environment,
education, and gifts many and brilliant; but literally without char-
acter." Baker, a self-designated Jeffersonian, a prominent defender,
in the 192o's, of Woodrow Wilson's League, had reason to despise
Lodge and revere Wilson, whom he labels "imaginative, daring,
impatient of precedent," but also "a poor judge of men." (But
did not Wilson judge right-and with shrewd insight-in choosing
a leading Progressive opponent of militarism to be his Secretary
of War?) For a Progressive Democrat Baker's view of Bryan
is pungent: "His mind impressed me as wholly second-rate and
to be saved from mediocrity by its limitless energy." But the
subjectivity of these comments may disappoint the practical his-
torian of the First World War, should he be seeking material
for some revisionary assessment of its high politics. For him, how-
ever, there remain Baker's extended and important views on the
British opposition to the St. Mihiel offensive ("extraordinary"),
on the American expedition to Russia (Wilson's decision, over
"my" protests), on the appointment of Pershing ("my personal
selection"), and on a few other matters of importance. Whatever
the value of Mr. Thornton's book, the moral for great public
men is undoubtedly sound: "read with a pencil in your hand."
Mr. Thornton's prefatory remarks scarcely excite much interest
(he is at his best when he lets Baker speak), but he concludes
with a list of Baker's books, wisely restricted to those which
Baker marked up, and which, therefore, we can be sure he read.
Students of Baker's life ought to analyze this list, and Mr. Thorn-
ton has rendered a distinct service in publishing it. (Captious
query: do two items on p. 68, published years after Baker's
death, represent an exercise in ghost-writing?) One can hope
that soon a competent historian-biographer may render obsolete
both Frederick Palmer's lengthy account of Baker and the war
(193 1) and Mr. Thornton's pleasant but fragmentary compilation
of Baker's incidental reflections with some full, concise study of
this man, who on a number of counts is worthy of it.
OTIS A. PEASE
The University of Texas
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956, periodical, 1956; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101162/m1/162/?rotate=270: accessed November 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.