What This Country Really Needs: A Story of an American Vice President and the Cause of the 25th Amendment

By Dr. John Brown
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Today Thomas R. Marshall is remembered as Vice President under Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), who served two terms in that office and presided over the Senate at a time when the nation was debating whether the nation should join the League of Nations. "Tom" Marshall is also remembered as the man who once said, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar!" – a remark traditionally regarded as not only witty but reflective of the mentality of its speaker. Typically seen as one of the minor figures in American political history, Marshall emerges here as a flesh-and-blood man whose life serves as the model of the plain American who absorbed nineteenth century ideals of American destiny and who incorporated them into his life in the twentieth century.

Marshall had anything but a boring life: excitement accompanied him from his boyhood days in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri during the Civil War period through his adult years as a lawyer, state governor, and Vice President. Conflict also followed him as well: his loves, his alcoholism, his fights with organized political parties, his forthright attacks upon Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt, and the lords of capitalism, and the New York Times' harsh denunciation of "small-minded" Marshall. The climactic conflict occurred during the U.S. Senate debates on the League of Nations and the Versailles treaty, accentuated by the tragic occurrence of President Wilson's stroke, leaving the country leaderless with Thomas Marshall helpless to intervene, later necessitating a constitutional amendment regarding presidential succession.

Marshall has not received a "good press" in the years since then by either journalists or historians primarily because he was not only a Vice President but also because he was a naturally humorous person. Cartoons and criticisms have obscured his essentially serious and capable personality, and by default he has been shunted aside in history.

Contemporary Americans need to think seriously about the character of the people they elect to represent them in government, and that includes their Vice President. Marshall's life is instructive in that way. He believed that the people should choose their leaders, that the office should seek the man, and that the government should seek the good of the people first and foremost. To correct a distorted image of a good man, to uphold the importance of the plain American in this nation's history, and to challenge Americans to rethink the kind of people they nominate for the office of the Vice Presidency this book has been written.

 

About the Author

Dr. Brown first learned about Vice President Thomas R. Marshall through the good offices of a native of Columbia City, Indiana, George Myers, who as a boy grew up to be a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall. Another local boy, Ralph Gates, grew up to become an Indiana Governor. They introduced the author to other contemporaries, and thus he came to interview first class sources on the Marshalls. Mr. Marshall was a dedicated member of the Democratic Party and also an ardent Presbyterian, both of which designed and directed his life.

Dr. Brown is a specialist in Progressive Era history (1896 to 1916). He has written numerous articles on different subjects and has been involved in several county historical societies. He has edited others' books toward their own publications and has been recognized for his work in history and in community service.

Published: 2022
Page Count: 476

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