13 APRIL 1929, Page 13


A LETTER FROM WASHINGTON. [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—It is amniing to realize, as one scarcely can escape doing in these first few weeks after inauguration, how quickly and completely the personality of the new President is impressed upon the entire governmental structure of the United States as well as the whole social and political life of the capital.

Three weeks. ago Washington reflected the personality of Calvin Coolidge in a thousand ways ; to-day the central motif is a medley of the most conspicuous characteristics of Herbert Hoover. Few men have left the Presidency while riding the crest of the wave of popular esteem, as did Calvin Coolidge on March 4th. It is no reflection, therefore, either upon his personal qualities or his administration to say that Washington is so soon breathing new air. Reduced to its simplest terms, the change has been essentially one of atmosphere. There is a dash, a snap and a vim in Washington now which would have been alien to the city under the ultra-conservative, safe-and-

sure, super-cautious leadership of Mr. COolidge. '

This polite, but none the less precipitate, shift from the old to the new keynote is perhaps more impressive here than in any .otber capital only because Washington is almost com- pletely a governmental city. Because more than half the population of the city lives, directly or indirectly, from services to the Government or to those on the Civil Service rolls, there is nowhere else in the world a city of comparable size so completely dominated by a single interest. Since that interest happens to be government it is easy to imagine to what degree the personality of a new government-head permeates every root and fibre of the capital's social structure.

The subsidence of the Coolidge note and the simultaneous emergence of the Hoover traits during the last four weeks should make an excellent laboratory case for the research experts delving for the elusive fundamentals of social psy- chology. It is suggested that if any man, or any cause, had set out deliberately to achieve the same shifting of mass allegiance in the same period of time, the effort probably would have failed signally. Yet it is a regular phenomenon in Washington following inauguration, so perfectly harmonious with the fundamentals of American political philosophy that it is scarcely remarked by our professional observers. Indeed, • a case might be established for the thesis that the whole phenomena represents but the visible top-churn of the more profound political stirrings of the nation incident to installation of a new government, and that it is, therefore, only an epitome of the United States political system at work. At least there is ample historical evidence to justify the general statement that the essential character of gcrVermnent is to be easily and quickly discerned in the dapto-day atmosphere of Washington. It would be difficult to find in the United States two men more closely matched in their conceptions of the ultimate ends of government than Mr. Coolidge and President Hoover. Likewise, it would be difficult to find two men further apart in administrative methods. Their conceptions of the office of President, as revealed by official conduct, are as dissimilar as any two which have met at inauguration ceremonies here. Mr. Coolidge was the Chief Executive, head of the third unit of our tripartite government, calm, silent, frequently aloof from daily affairs. It is questionable if any President func- tioned in more precise conformity to the rigid definition of the office set down in the Constitution. Mi. Hoover, on the other hand, has thus far lived up well to the new conception of the office defined in -his speech at Palo Alto, California, last August 11th, accepting the nomination of the Republican National Convention -

" The Presidency is more than an administrative office. It must be the symbol of American ideals. The high And the lowly must be seen with the same eyes, met in the same spirit. It must be the Instrument by which national conscience is livened and it must, under the guidance of the Almighty, interpret and follow that conscience."

No one in recent years has defined so accurately the precise nature of the Presidential office to-day. Most Presidents have felt the extra-legal responsibilities of the office, Woodrow Wilson more acutely, perhaps, than any other Chief Executive in American history. Yet even Wilson did not leave in all his voluminous writings and State papers a definition- of the presidency more consonant with the present-day reality in

American politics. -

For the present, official Washington is a bit stunned and agog by the vigour, boldness and decisiveness of Mr. Hoover's first weeks in office. For eight years, under Mr. Harding and Mr. Coolidge, the capital has been accustomed to expect from the White House only the occasional bit of news. Most of the history was made in other parts of town, and it was a mere anti-climax at the White House when the President signed the new law. Beyond Mr. Coolidge's prepared public ad- dresses, his messages to Congress, his principal executive appointments and his memorable veto of the MeNary-Haugen Bill, there was little news of historical significance from the White House during his five years and seven months' incum- bency. Compare the case of Mr. Hoover. In less than a month he has called an extraordinary session of Congress to convene April 15th ; enunciated a new and far-reaching policy of oil conservation ; laid the groundwork for his proposed exhaustive inquiry into the federal judicial and criminal enforcement system, and ended a five-year controversy with a five-line Executive Order opening to public inspection the records of larger tax refunds by the Treasury Department.

At odd moments he has established his Executive Office staff, broadened the basis of Press relations at the White House by disposing of the mythical " White House Spokesman,"

outlined to leaders in both House and Senate his legislative programme for the special session of Congress, disposed of his key appointments in the domestic service and turned his mind to the principal diplomatic selections. Sandwiching State functions between these operations, he has received both the diplomatic corps and the Supreme Court at the White House and accepted the credentials of the new Minister of the Irish Free State, Mr. Michael MacWhite. And notwithstanding

that he assumed personal direction of United States' policy in the Mexican disturbances from the moment of his inaugura- tion, he has, nevertheless, also found time to approve the architect's plans for extensive alterations in the White House Executive Offices, to provide space for his augmented staff.

Washington has watched Mr. Hoover work at many posts for almost fifteen years. It has grown more or less accustomed

to seeing him engaged in half-a-dozen major enterprises simul- taneously. Yet even his closest friends were not prepared for the dash, vigour and boldness of his first weeks in the White House.—I am, Sir, &C.,