HARDING, Warren G. (1865-1923). President. Autograph letter signed ("WGH") as Senator from Ohio, to James E. Phillips, Washington, D.C., 22 April . 3 pages, 4to (6 1/8 x 7 in.), on Senate Chamber stationery, light soiling near fold, otherwise fine.
"SHE IS UNDER THE EYES OF GOVERNMENT AGENTS" AND "IT IS HIGHLY URGENT THAT SHE EXCERCISE GREAT PRUDENCE AND CAUTION"
A distraught Harding writes an urgent letter to his paramour's husband, in an effort to silence Carrie Phillips's dangerously vocal pro-German statements. Her behavior had aroused suspicion and attracted the attention of the Secret Service: "Several days ago I wrote to Carrie along the lines you suggested... and got a reply which in substance said you ran your own affairs. I rather felt my appeal very futile. I wrote her again yesterday, very seriously and earnestly, warning her of impending dangers. She is under the eyes of government agents, and it is highly urgent that she exercise great prudence and caution. I know, of course, that she is not deserving surveillance, but feeling grows intenser, and prejudices are more pronounced as the casualty list grows, and I could beg of her to be prudent and above the impassioned prejudice of passing days. I don't mean to add to your worries, but it is too serious to remain silent. She may tell you of the letter. Hope she shows it to you. Then you can add your own bit. I can't appeal very effectively though I have earnestly tried. I wonder if you could command. Frankly, I doubt it. Perhaps you can appeal. It takes more than tact. But it is really serious. It is too bad, but she is under suspicion--all because of imprudent speech. She forgets we are in war--hellish war--and she forgets how Germany treats those who are against the government. It is time to think. If she is loyal and prudent the cloud may pass. She must be. If she isn't, there is certain humiliation and distress and annoyance and embarrassment in store. I dislike to write, but I feel I must. I have written her even more urgently. Perhaps you had better not refer to this note, but I feel you must cooperate and save her from herself."
Carrie Fulton Phillips of Marion, Ohio, "looked much like the Gibson-girl archtype," and was "the love of Harding's life," from about 1905 until their affair "ended in recrimination at the time he became a candidate for President in 1920" (Francis Russell, The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding and His Times, New York, 1968, pp. 166-167). Phillips's attraction to Germany began after she left her husband and took their daughter to live in Berlin. When she returned, her vocal support of Germany aroused suspicions of her loyalty; she even threatened to expose their affair if Harding voted for the declaration of war. He called her bluff, and she backed down, but her vehement support of Germany after the outbreak of war caused much consternation to Harding. Autograph letters of Harding are uncommon; the present is one of a small group of Harding's letters to Phillips which came onto the market in Ohio in the 1930s.
Provenance: Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby's New York, 15 November 1978, lot 421) -- Mr. and Mrs. Harry Spiro (sale, Christie's New York, 14 May 1992, lot 81).