A recent post mentioned some of our less savory administrative governmental heritage dating from the time of President Woodrow Wilson. Not mentioned in the article or the comments, understandably, was any reference as to how and why Pres. Wilson came to represent a formative administrative state. The real story is interesting, informative, and important.
At the end of the 19th century, a powerful Texas political governor-maker by the name of Edward Mandel House – nicknamed "Colonel," though he never served in the military – looked to broaden his political and imaginative horizons by relocating to the East, where he assessed national politics and ferreted out a role to play at the highest possible social, political, and educational levels. He found an opportunity in the person of Woodrow Wilson, Yale University professor. Latching onto Wilson, just as he had when creating elections for Texas governors-to-be whom he favored, Colonel House decided to take a skillful and experienced shot at maneuvering Wilson into the presidency. House had other ulterior motives in backing Wilson and soon introduced global aspirations and possibilities into Wilson's head that today must be recognized as having proved to be of great importance.
House had authored a novel, published by various accounts in 1905-6, titled Philip Dru: Administrator, which he made available for Wilson to read, digest, and hopefully act upon. The book depicts a second U.S. Civil War, with a participant, Philip Dru, creating for the world, in the war's aftermath, a new world order characterized by a single administrator (Dru) working through a World Bank, World Court, World Army, and a League of Nations – i.e., utopia achieved!
President Wilson was energized by the fictional creation of House and was advised by House all through WWI. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, House himself, along with Wilson, convinced the participant-nations to create a League of Nations. The U.S. was saved from League of Nations membership by the U.S. Senate's refusal to ratify such a relationship, but then, in 1943, the U.S. joined the Allies in agreement to form a United Nations after WWII.
House died in 1938, advising U.S. presidents up through FDR with fading influence after WWI and with the ultimate failure of the League of Nations. The administrative state would go on to progress wildly beyond House's fertile utopian imagination to the monster administrative states we experience today.
House's Dru is available today, having been reprinted in the 1990s after a decades-long absence.
Of major importance regarding the political course and influence of House on the course of the 20th century, with vast echoes to the very present, huge and detailed information is contained in the original four-volume set of books by Charles Seymour up through the mid-1920s, titled The Intimate Papers of Colonel House, available today at a major internet bookseller and at larger public and university libraries. The fourth volume is hard to find. Paperback editions are also available.
As a final note, perhaps Edward Mandel House was clapping in his grave as President GHW Bush gave his "thousand points of lights" inaugural speech and mentioned a new world order. One can wonder where President Bush's new world order came from, but only for a microsecond if one knows anything about House. Utopian fiction, indeed!