A strange book indeed! It is a novel; yet the author is not a novelist. It is a love story; yet that is the least aspect of it. It is not a horror story; yet it is scary.
Before one can understand what this book really is, he must have some knowledge of its author. Edward Mandell House was the unofficial chief advisor to President Woodrow Wilson in the second decade of the twentieth century, just when this country was making its first appearance as equal partner to the European countries on the world stage. He was Wilson’s friend and shadow at this crucial time in the history of the world and of America. In Wilson’s own words, he was his alter ego.
Born in Texas to a wealthy planter, House (originally “Huis”) became advisor to four Texas governors, thereby earning his honorary title of “Colonel.” During an illness in 1912, he set down his political and social ideas in novel form because he knew that they would receive wider readership in that format than if he had written a dry political treatise. It is interesting to note that the work was published anonymously and with very little correction to the first draft. By that time, he had recovered from his illness and had taken up the business of assisting in getting the Princeton Professor Wilson elected president.
House served Wilson as a kind of roving peace ambassador, trying to negotiate peace between the antagonists in Europe. When war was not averted, he helped Wilson outline the plan for the League of Nations, supposedly the body that would be instrumental in peacekeeping in the future. (We know that that body failed to see the light of day, but the idea saw successful fruition in the formation of the United Nations after World War II.)
It is also interesting (and disturbing) to note that President Wilson was not in the habit of keeping copies of important correspondence, nor did he keep records of meetings with his cabinet members. It is the Diaries of Edward Mandell House, collected in the Yale University Library, that divulge most of the information known of the history of Wilson’s presidency.
In this short novel — 275 pages — Philip Dru, a West Point graduate of the highest rank, is seriously injured on duty in the Southwest United States, thereby ending his military career. During his recuperation, he begins to take serious notice of the terrible plight of the destitute in his country. He and his beloved Gloria then launch a campaign to involve the wealthy in bringing to light the situation of these hopeless poor, while at the same time actually getting into the ghettos and offering assistance to those in need. One unlikely thing leads to another when, at last, the working classes of the western parts of the country rise up against the “Fat Cat Establishment” of the east.
Who, but our hero Philip Dru, with his West Point military training and genius mind, becomes the one to lead the “West” in a “Civil War” against the “East!” In one great battle, Philip’s troops are victorious and he becomes dictator (or “Administrator”) of the United States. He is a benevolent dictator, of course. Here are some of the programs in his new vision for the U.S. He abolishes protective tariffs; he sets up a social security system; profit-sharing becomes mandatory, whereby, after a “reasonable” profit is extracted, a share goes to the laborers; a graduated income tax is instituted; a great banking system resembling the Federal Reserve System is installed; the great powers of the world are united for peace, each one receiving its portion of the “lesser” nations in its “sphere of influence.” (I kid you not!) After six years as Administrator, when the world is at peace and things are running smoothly all over, our protagonist sails off into the sunset with Gloria, never to return.
While the plot is unlikely and the literary style is stilted, the core of the book is frightening. House was at heart a globalist who at one point admired Mussolini and his philosophy of government. Very telling — to this reader at least — was Dru’s revamping and simplifying of the laws of the country first, then his drafting of a new Constitution to fit the new laws. Backwards, indeed!
That Philip was a socialist there is no doubt. He wanted a “leveling of society” but with the elite still in control. Can we think that it is a coincidence that House was the founder of the Council on Foreign Relations, that body that is, and was in his day, a roll call of the rich and powerful in this country? In his later years, House was an influence on and supporter of Franklin Roosevelt. Are you surprised?
In the forward of this Philip Dru, William Norman Grigg calls it “the most influential political tract of the twentieth century.” Unfortunately, little is known of House today. It would behoove us who lament the path that our nation has taken in the past one hundred years to avail ourselves of some knowledge of the influence of Edward Mandell House and his “little novel.” It will help us gain some understanding of how the United States got on this track and the shadowy figure who is responsible for much of our downward spiral to socialism.