Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856—February 3, 1924), was the twenty-eighth President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University and then became the Governor of New Jersey in 1910. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. He proved highly successful in leading a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation that included the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Underwood Tariff, the Federal Farm Loan Act and most notably the Federal Reserve System.
Narrowly re-elected in 1916, his second term centered on World War I. He tried to maintain U.S. neutrality, but when the German Empire began unrestricted submarine warfare, he wrote several admonishing notes to Germany, and in April 1917 asked Congress to declare war on the Central Powers. He focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving the waging of the war primarily in the hands of the military establishment. On the home front, he began the first effective draft in 1917, raised billions in war funding through Liberty Bonds, imposed an income tax, enacted the first federal drug prohibition, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the railroads, and suppressed anti-war movements. He paid surprisingly little attention to military affairs, but provided the funding and food supplies that helped the Americans in the war and hastened Allied victory in 1918.
In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. He was the first President to leave the United States while still in office, going to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. Wilson collapsed with a debilitating stroke in 1919, as the home front saw massive strikes and race riots, and wartime prosperity turn into postwar depression. He refused to compromise with the Republicans who controlled Congress after 1918, effectively destroying any chance for ratification of the Versailles Treaty. The League of Nations was established anyway, but the United States never joined. Wilson's idealistic internationalism, calling for the United States to enter the world arena to fight for democracy, progressiveness, and liberalism, has been a highly controversial position in American foreign policy, serving as a model for "idealists" to emulate or "realists" to reject for the following century.
Wilson's father was originally from Steubenville, Ohio where his grandfather had been an abolitionist newspaper publisher and his uncles were Republicans. Wilson's parents moved South in 1851 and identified with the Confederacy. His father defended slavery, owned slaves and set up a Sunday school for them. They cared for wounded soldiers at their church. The father also briefly served as a chaplain to the Confederate Army. Woodrow Wilson's earliest memory, from the age of three, was of hearing that Abraham Lincoln had been elected and that a war was coming. Wilson would forever recall standing for a moment at Robert E. Lee's side and looking up into his face.
Wilson’s father was one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) after it split from the northern Presbyterians in 1861. Joseph R. Wilson served as the first permanent clerk of the southern church’s General Assembly, was Stated Clerk from 1865-1898 and was Moderator of the PCUS General Assembly in 1879. Wilson spent the majority of his childhood, up to age 14, in Augusta, Georgia, where his father was minister of the First Presbyterian Church.
Wilson did not learn to read until he was about 12 years old. His difficulty reading may have indicated dyslexia or A.D.H.D., but as a teenager he taught himself shorthand to compensate and was able to achieve academically through determination and self-discipline. He studied at home under his father's guidance and took classes in a small school in Augusta. During Reconstruction, he lived in Columbia, South Carolina, the state capital, from 1870-1874, where his father was professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary.
In 1873, he spent a year at Davidson College in North Carolina, then transferred to Princeton as a freshman, graduating in 1879, becoming a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Beginning in his second year, he read widely in political philosophy and history. Wilson credited the British parliamentary sketch-writer Henry Lucy as his inspiration in resolving to enter public life. He was active in the undergraduate American Whig-Cliosophic Society discussion club, and organized a separate Liberal Debating Society.
In 1879, Wilson attended law school at University of Virginia for one year. Although he never graduated, during his time at the University he was heavily involved in the Virginia Glee Club and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, serving as the Society's president. His frail health dictated withdrawal, and he went home to Wilmington, North Carolina where he continued his studies.
He entered graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1883 and three years later received a Ph.D. in political science. His doctoral dissertation, Congressional Government (1885), brought immediate fame and academic appointments at Bryn Mawr College (1885-88) and Wesleyan University (1888-90).
Wilson was an early automobile enthusiast, and he took daily rides while he was President. His favorite car was a 1919 Pierce-Arrow, in which he preferred to ride with the top down. His enjoyment of motoring made him an advocate of funding for public highways.
Wilson was an avid baseball fan. In 1916, he became the first sitting president to attend a World Series game. Wilson had been a center fielder during his Davidson College days. When he transferred to Princeton he was unable to make the varsity and so became the assistant manager of the team. He was the first President officially to throw out a first ball at a World Series.
He cycled regularly, including several cycling vacations in the Lake District in Britain. Unable to cycle around Washington, D.C. as President, Wilson took to playing golf, although he played with more enthusiasm than skill. Wilson holds the record of all the presidents for the most rounds of golf, over 1,000, or almost one every other day. During the winter, the Secret Service would paint some golf balls black so Wilson could hit them around in the snow on the White House lawn.
Moreover, Wilson had studied law in order to eventually enter politics, but he discovered that he could not continue his study of government and simultaneously continue the reading of law necessary to stay proficient. In April 1883, Wilson applied to the new Johns Hopkins University to study for a Ph.D. in history and political science, which he completed in 1886.
Wilson would later serve as president of the American Political Science Association in 1910, and remains the only U.S. president to have earned a doctoral degree, and the only political scientist to become president. In July 1883, Wilson left his law practice to begin his academic studies.
Under the influence of Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution, Wilson saw the United States Constitution as pre-modern, cumbersome, and open to corruption. An admirer of Parliament (though he did not visit Great Britain until 1919), Wilson favored a parliamentary system for the United States. Writing in the early 1880s:
Wilson's article The Study of Administration was published in June of 1887 within the Political Science Quarterly. Wilson believed that public administration was an important topic not just because of growing popularity within college campuses. He believed it was a requirement for a growing nation. He defined public administration simply as “government in action; it is the executive, the operative, the most visible side of government, and is of course as old as government itself” (Wilson 3). He believed that by studying public administration that governmental efficiency may be increased.
This set the tone for his following discussion. Wilson is concerned with the implementation of government and not just its principles defined by documents such as the Constitution. Wilson analyzed European history and saw a pattern where educated leaders debated the nature of the state, yet the question of how should the law be administrated was relegated to a lowly “practical detail”. Most of this was due to a much smaller—in comparison to the 19th century—population with the government being relatively “simple”.
Wilson thought it was long past due time to confront these issues, or as he put the problem, “[i]t is getting to be harder to run a constitution than to frame one” (Wilson 4). His justification and purpose for a science of administration was for it to “seek to straighten the paths of government, to make its business less unbusinesslike, to strengthen and purify its organization, and it to crown its dutifulness” (Wilson 5).
The first problem (as he saw it) identified was that so far the advancement of this science had been undertaken by Europeans, not including England, whose goals and historical backgrounds were far different from America. He declared that Americans must advance this science as well, to steep it in the American tradition and make this science their own.
Wilson then described the growth of modern governments, starting with absolute rule, progressing to popular rule based upon a constitution, and then finally leading to a stage where the people undertake to develop administration as a science. He briefly gives an overview of the growth of such foreign states as Prussia, France, and England, highlighting the events that led to advances in administration.
The next problem was that the American Republic required great compromise since public opinion differed on so many levels. The people of America itself come from diverse backgrounds. These people must be convinced to form a majority opinion. Thus practical reform to the government is necessarily slow. Although this could be judged a good thing since a single person cannot make drastic, damaging changes. Every change must be pondered at length.
Now Wilson insisted that “administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics” (Wilson 10) and that “general laws which direct these things to be done are as obviously outside of and above administration” (Wilson 11). He likens administration to a machine that functions independent of the changing mood of its leaders.
Such a line of demarcation is intended to focus responsibility for actions taken on the people or persons in charge. As Wilson put it, “[p]ublic attention must be easily directed, in each case of good or bad administration, to just the man deserving of praise or blame. There is no danger in power, if only it be not irresponsible. If it be divided, dealt out in share to many [presumably within administration], it is obscured...” (Wilson 12). Essentially, the items under the discretion of administration must be limited in scope, as to not block, nullify, obfuscate, or modify the implementation of governmental decree made by the executive branch. While this is Wilson’s ideal in today’s practice people within administration often greatly influence the makeup of law and not just its implementation.
Wilson believed that America's intricate system of checks and balances was the cause of the problems in American governance. He said that the divided power made it impossible for voters to see who was accountable for ill-doing. If government behaved badly, Wilson asked,
The longest section of Congressional Government is on the United States House of Representatives, where Wilson pours out scorn for the committee system. Power, Wilson wrote,
Wilson said that the committee system was fundamentally undemocratic, because committee chairs, who ruled by seniority, were responsible to no one except their constituents, even though they determined national policy.
In addition to its undemocratic nature, Wilson also believed that the Congressional Committee System facilitated corruption.
By the time Wilson finished Congressional Government, Grover Cleveland was President, and Wilson had his faith in the United States government restored. When William Jennings Bryan captured the Democratic nomination from Cleveland's supporters in 1896, however, Wilson refused to stand by the ticket. Instead, he cast his ballot for John M. Palmer, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Party, or Gold Democrats, a short-lived party that supported a gold standard, low tariffs, and limited government.
After experiencing the vigorous presidencies of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson no longer entertained thoughts of parliamentary government at home. In his last scholarly work in 1908, Constitutional Government of the United States, Wilson said that the presidency "will be as big as and as influential as the man who occupies it". By the time of his presidency, Wilson merely hoped that Presidents could be party leaders in the same way prime ministers were. Wilson also hoped that the parties could be reorganized along ideological, not geographic, lines. "Eight words," Wilson wrote, "contain the sum of the present degradation of our political parties: No leaders, no principles; no principles, no parties.
Wilson delivered an oration at Princeton's sesquicentennial celebration (1896) entitled "Princeton in the Nation's Service." (This has become a frequently alluded-to motto of the University, later expanded to "Princeton in the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations.) In this famous speech, he outlined his vision of the university in a democratic nation, calling on institutions of higher learning "to illuminate duty by every lesson that can be drawn out of the past".
The trustees promoted Professor Wilson to president of Princeton in 1902. Although the school's endowment was barely $4 million, he sought $2 million for a preceptorial system of teaching, $1 million for a school of science, and nearly $3 million for new buildings and salary raises. As a long-term objective, Wilson sought $3 million for a graduate school and $2.5 million for schools of jurisprudence and electrical engineering, as well as a museum of natural history.
He achieved little of that because he was not a strong fund raiser, but he did increase the faculty from 112 to 174, most of them personally selected as outstanding teachers. The curriculum guidelines he developed proved important progressive innovations in the field of higher education.
To enhance the role of expertise, Wilson instituted academic departments and a system of core requirements where students met in groups of six with preceptors, followed by two years of concentration in a selected major. He tried to raise admission standards and to replace the "gentleman C" with serious study. Wilson aspired, as he told alumni, "to transform thoughtless boys performing tasks into thinking men."
In 1906-10, he attempted to curtail the influence of the elitist "social clubs" by abolishing the upperclass eating clubs and moving the students into colleges, also known as "quadrangles." Wilson's "Quad Plan" was met with fierce opposition from Princeton's alumni, most importantly Moses Taylor Pyne, the most powerful of Princeton's Trustees. Wilson refused any proposed compromises that stopped short of abolishing the clubs because he felt that to compromise "would be to temporize with evil. In October 1907, due to the ferocity of alumni opposition and Wilson's refusal to compromise, the Board of Trustees took back its initial support for the Quad Plan and instructed Wilson to withdraw it.
Even more damaging was his confrontation with Andrew Fleming West, Dean of the graduate school, and West's ally, former President Grover Cleveland, a trustee. Wilson wanted to integrate the proposed graduate building into the same area with the undergraduate colleges; West wanted them separated. The trustees rejected Wilson's plan for colleges in 1908, and then endorsed West's plans in 1909. The national press covered the confrontation as a battle of the elites (West) versus democracy (Wilson). During this time in his personal life, Wilson engaged in an extramarital affair with socialite Mary Peck. Wilson, after considering resignation, decided to take up invitations to move into New Jersey state politics.
In the 1910 election the Democrats also took control of the General Assembly. The State Senate, however, remained in Republican control by a slim margin. After taking office, Wilson set in place his reformist agenda, ignoring the demands of party machinery. While governor, in a period spanning six months, Wilson established state primaries. This all but took the party bosses out of the presidential election process in the state. He also revamped the public utility commission, and introduced worker's compensation.
Wilson experienced early success by implementing his "New Freedom" pledges of antitrust modification, tariff revision, and reform in banking and currency matters.
Wilson's first wife Ellen died on August 6, 1914 of Bright's disease. In 1915, he met Edith Galt. They married later that year on December 18. Wilson arrived at the White House with severe digestive problems. He treated himself with a stomach pump.
Wilson, born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, was the first Southerner to be elected President since Zachary Taylor in 1848 and the first Southerner to take office since Andrew Johnson in 1865, as well as the first President to deliver his State of the Union address before Congress personally since John Adams in 1799. Wilson was also the first Democrat elected to the presidency since Grover Cleveland in 1892. The next Democrat elected was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.
The Federal Reserve Act is one of the more significant pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. Wilson secured passage of the Federal Reserve system in late 1913 in exchange for campaign support. He took a plan that had been designed by conservative Republicans—led by Nelson W. Aldrich and banker Paul M. Warburg—and passed it. However, Wilson had to find a middle ground between those who supported the Aldrich Plan and those who opposed it, including the powerful agrarian wing of the party, led by William Jennings Bryan, which strenuously denounced private banks and Wall Street.
They wanted a government-owned central bank which could print paper money whenever Congress wanted. Wilson’s plan allowed the large banks to have important influence, but Wilson went beyond the Aldrich plan and created a central board made up of persons appointed by the President and approved by Congress who would outnumber the board members who were bankers at that time.
Moreover, Wilson convinced Bryan’s supporters that because Federal Reserve notes were obligations of the government, the plan fit their demands. Wilson’s plan also organized the Federal Reserve system into 12 districts. This was designed to weaken the influence of the powerful New York banks, a key demand of Bryan’s allies in the Southern United States and Western United States. This decentralization was a key factor in winning the support of Congressman Carter Glass (D-VA) although he objected to making paper currency a federal obligation.
Glass was one of the leaders of the currency reformers in the U.S. House and without his support, any plan was doomed to fail. The final plan passed, in December 1913, two days before Christmas when most of congress was on vacation. Some bankers felt it gave too much control to Washington, and some reformers felt it allowed bankers to maintain too much power. (It is more plausible that the bankers objected to the plan because it would increase the plan's popularity. The plan later proved in their interest.)
Wilson named Warburg and other prominent bankers to direct the new system. At first, the New York branch dominated the Fed and thus power remained in Wall Street. The new system began operations in 1915 and played a major role in financing the Allied and American war efforts. Wilson appeared on the $100,000 bill. The bill, which is now out of print but is still legal tender, was used only to transfer money between Federal Reserve banks.
A series of programs were targeted at farmers. The "Smith Lever" act of 1914 created the modern system of agricultural extension agents sponsored by the state agricultural colleges. The agents taught new techniques to farmers. The 1916 "Federal Farm Loan Board" issued low-cost long-term mortgages to farmers.
The railroad brotherhoods threatened in summer 1916 to shut down the national transportation system. Wilson tried to bring labor and management together, but when management refused he had Congress pass the "Adamson Act" in September 1916, which avoided the strike by imposing an 8-hour work day in the industry (at the same pay as before). It helped Wilson gain union support for his reelection; the act was approved by the Supreme Court.
While German submarines were sinking merchant ships, the U.S. and Wilson stayed neutral. Britain had declared a blockade of Germany, preventing neutral shipping carrying “contraband” goods to Germany. Wilson protested this violation of neutral rights by London, but his protests were mild, and the British knew America would not take action.
Wilson narrowly won the election, defeating Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes. As governor of New York from 1907-1910, Hughes had a progressive record, strikingly similar to Wilson's as governor of New Jersey. Theodore Roosevelt would comment that the only thing different between Hughes and Wilson was a shave. However, Hughes had to try to hold together a coalition of conservative Taft supporters and progressive Roosevelt partisans and so his campaign never seemed to take a definite form. Wilson ran on his record and ignored Hughes, reserving his attacks for Roosevelt. When asked why he did not attack Hughes directly, Wilson told a friend to “Never murder a man who is committing suicide.”
The final result was exceptionally close and the result was in doubt for several days. Because of Wilson's fear of becoming a lame duck president during the uncertainties of the war in Europe, he created a hypothetical plan where if Hughes were elected he would name Hughes secretary of state and then resign along with the vice-president to enable Hughes to become the president. The vote came down to several close states. Wilson won California by 3,773 votes out of almost a million votes cast and New Hampshire by 54 votes. Hughes won Minnesota by 393 votes out of over 358,000. In the final count, Wilson had 277 electoral votes vs. Hughes 254. Wilson was able to win reelection in 1916 by picking up many votes that had gone to Teddy Roosevelt or Eugene V. Debs in 1912.
Woodrow Wilson had decided by then that the war had become a real threat to humanity. Unless the U.S. threw its weight into the war, as he stated in his declaration of war speech, Western civilization itself could be destroyed. His statement announcing a "war to end all wars" meant that he wanted to build a basis for peace that would prevent future catastrophic wars and needless death and destruction. This provided the basis of Wilson's Fourteen Points, which were intended to resolve territorial disputes, ensure free trade and commerce, and establish a peacemaking organization, which later emerged as the League of Nations.
To stop defeatism at home, Wilson pushed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 through Congress to suppress anti-British, pro-German, or anti-war opinions. He welcomed socialists who supported the war, such as Walter Lippmann, but would not tolerate those who tried to impede the war or, worse, assassinate government officials, and pushed for deportation of foreign-born radicals. Over 170,000 US citizens were arrested during this period, in some cases for things they said about the president in their own homes. Citing the Espionage Act, the U.S. Post Office refused to carry any written materials that could be deemed critical of the U. S. war effort. Some sixty newspapers were deprived of their second-class mailing rights.
His wartime policies were strongly pro-labor, though again, he had no love for radical unions like the Industrial Workers of the World. The American Federation of Labor and other 'moderate' unions saw enormous growth in membership and wages during Wilson's administration. There was no rationing, so consumer prices soared. As income taxes increased, white-collar workers suffered. Appeals to buy war bonds were highly successful, however. Bonds had the result of shifting the cost of the war to the affluent 1920s.
Wilson set up the first western propaganda office, the United States Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel (thus its popular name, Creel Commission), which filled the country with patriotic anti-German appeals and conducted various forms of censorship. In 1917 Congress authorized ex-President Theodore Roosevelt to raise 4 Divisions of Volunteers to fight in France-Roosevelt's World War I volunteers; Wilson refused to accept this offer.
The speech was controversial in America, and even more so with its Allies. France wanted high reparations from Germany as French agriculture, industry, and lives had been so demolished by the war; and Britain, as the great naval power, did not want freedom of the seas. Wilson compromised with Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and many other European leaders during the Paris Peace talks to ensure that the fourteenth point, the League of Nations, would be established. In the end, Wilson's own Congress did not accept the League and only four of the original Fourteen Points were implemented fully in Europe.
After Russia left the war in 1917 following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Allies sent troops there, presumably, to prevent a German or Bolshevik takeover of allied-provided weapons, munitions and other supplies, which had been previously shipped as aid to the Czarist government. Wilson sent armed forces to assist the withdrawal of Czech and Slovak prisoners along the Trans-Siberian Railway, hold key port cities at Arkangel and Vladivostok, and safeguard supplies sent to the Tsarist forces. Though not sent to engage the Bolsheviks, the U.S. forces had several armed conflicts against forces of the new Russian government. Wilson withdrew most of the soldiers on April 1, 1920, though some remained as late as 1922. As Davis and Trani conclude,
In 1913 Henry Morgenthau Sr., was appointed ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. In his capacity as ambassador, Morgenthau did his best to blunt the consequences of the Ottoman actions'. A telegram detailing the "Armenian situation", was sent to Wilson, imparting the magnitude of the hardships faced by the Armenians. The full extent of the Genocide was discussed in Morgenthau's book Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. A book dedicated by the ambassador to Wilson.
Also, humanitarian aid was coordinated by the American Committee for Relief in the Near East, a society founded by Morgenthau.
After World War I, Wilson participated in negotiations with the stated aim of assuring statehood for formerly oppressed nations and an equitable peace. On January 8, 1918, Wilson made his famous Fourteen Points address, introducing the idea of a League of Nations, an organization with a stated goal of helping to preserve territorial integrity and political independence among large and small nations alike.
Wilson intended the Fourteen Points as a means toward ending the war and achieving an equitable peace for all the nations. He spent six months at Paris for the 1919 Paris Peace Conference (making him the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office). He worked tirelessly to promote his plan. The charter of the proposed League of Nations was incorporated into the conference's Treaty of Versailles.
For his peacemaking efforts, Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. However, Wilson failed to win Senate support for ratification and the United States never joined the League. Republicans under Henry Cabot Lodge controlled the Senate after the 1918 elections, but Wilson refused to give them a voice at Paris and refused to agree to Lodge's proposed changes. The key point of disagreement was whether the League would diminish the power of Congress to declare war. Historians generally have come to regard Wilson's failure to win U.S. entry into the League as perhaps the biggest mistake of his administration, and even as one of the largest failures of any American presidency. When President Wilson came to Europe to settle the peace terms, Wilson visited Pope Benedict XV in Rome, which made Wilson the first American President to visit the Pope while in office.
After a series of bombings by radical anarchist groups in New York and elsewhere, Wilson directed Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer to put a stop to the violence. Palmer then ordered the Palmer Raids, with the aim of collecting evidence on violent radical groups, to deport foreign-born agitators, and jail domestic ones.
Wilson broke with many of his closest political friends and allies in 1918-20, including Colonel House. Historians speculate that a series of strokes may have affected his personality. He desired a third term, but his Democratic party was in turmoil, with German voters outraged at their wartime harassment, and Irish voters angry at his failure to support Irish independence.
And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.' They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.
Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
Woodrow Wilson and his inner circle tried to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. The doctor refused, saying that Alice Paul was strong and brave. That didn't make her crazy.
The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'
All of this served to cast the administration in a bad light. In January 1918, after years of lobbying and public demonstrations, Wilson finally announced his support of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Amendment passed the House but initially failed in the Senate. Finally, on June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the amendment.
Wilson was purposely, with few exceptions, kept out of the presence of Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, his cabinet or Congressional visitors to the White House for the remainder of his presidential term. His first wife, Ellen, had died in 1914, so his second wife, Edith, served as his steward, selecting issues for his attention and delegating other issues to his cabinet heads. This was, as of 2008, the most serious case of presidential disability in American history and was later cited as a key example why ratification of the 25th Amendment was seen as important.
|Vice President||Thomas R. Marshall||1913–1921|
|Secretary of State||William J. Bryan||1913–1915|
|Secretary of the Treasury||William G. McAdoo||1913–1918|
|David F. Houston||1920–1921|
|Secretary of War||Lindley M. Garrison||1913–1916|
|Newton D. Baker||1916–1921|
|Attorney General||James C. McReynolds||1913–1914|
|Thomas W. Gregory||1914–1919|
|A. Mitchell Palmer||1919–1921|
|Postmaster General||Albert S. Burleson||1913–1921|
|Secretary of the Navy||Josephus Daniels||1913–1921|
|Secretary of the Interior||Franklin K. Lane||1913–1920|
|John B. Payne||1920–1921|
|Secretary of Agriculture||David F. Houston||1913–1920|
|Edwin T. Meredith||1920–1921|
|Secretary of Commerce||William C. Redfield||1913–1919|
|Joshua W. Alexander||1919–1921|
|Secretary of Labor||William B. Wilson||1913–1921|
Wilson was a remarkably effective writer and thinker. He composed speeches and other writings with two fingers on a little Hammond typewriter. Wilson's diplomatic policies had a profound influence on shaping the world. Diplomatic historian Walter Russell Mead has explained:
American foreign relations since 1914 have rested on Wilsonian idealism, argues historian David Kennedy, even if adjusted somewhat by the "realism" represented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger. Kennedy argues that every president since Wilson has,
As President, Wilson allowed many of his cabinet officials to establish official segregation in most federal government offices, in some departments for the first time since 1863. "His administration imposed full racial segregation in Washington and hounded from office considerable numbers of black federal employees." Wilson and his cabinet members fired many black Republican office holders in political appointee positions, but also appointed a few black Democrats to such posts. W. E. B. Du Bois, a leader of the NAACP, campaigned for Wilson and in 1918 was offered an Army commission in charge of dealing with race relations. (DuBois accepted, but he failed his Army physical and did not serve.) When a delegation of blacks protested the discriminatory actions, Wilson told them that "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen." In 1914, he told the New York Times, "If the colored people made a mistake in voting for me, they ought to correct it."
Wilson was highly criticized by African Americans for his actions. He was also criticized by southern hard-line racists such as Georgian Thomas E. Watson, who believed Wilson did not go far enough in restricting black employment in the federal government. The segregation introduced into the federal workforce by the Wilson administration was kept in place by the succeeding presidents and not officially ended until the Truman Administration.
Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People explained the Ku Klux Klan of the late 1860s as the natural outgrowth of Reconstruction, a lawless reaction to a lawless period. Wilson noted that the Klan "began to attempt by intimidation what they were not allowed to attempt by the ballot or by any ordered course of public action. Although it is unclear whether Wilson's harsh critique of the Reconstruction was colored by his personal beliefs, it is clear that his critique provided much of the intellectual/historical justification for the racist policies/reactions of the 20th century American South.
In a 1923 letter to Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas, Wilson noted of the reborn Klan, "...no more obnoxious or harmful organization has ever shown itself in our affairs." Although Wilson had a volatile relationship with American blacks, he was a friend of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, a black African monarch. A sword, a gift from Selassie, is on display at Wilson's Washington, DC house, now a museum.
Irish Americans were powerful in the Democratic party and opposed going to war as allies of their traditional enemy Great Britain, especially after the violent suppression of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. Wilson won them over in 1917 by promising to ask Great Britain to give Ireland its independence. At Versailles, however, he reneged and the Irish-American community vehemently denounced him. Wilson, in turn, blamed the Irish Americans and German Americans for lack of popular support for the League of Nations, saying,
In 1921, Wilson and his wife retired from the White House to a home in the Embassy Row section of Washington, D.C. Wilson continued going for daily drives and attended Keith's vaudeville theater on Saturday nights. Wilson was one of only two Presidents (Theodore Roosevelt was the first) who had been president of the American Historical Association.
Wilson died in his S Street home on February 3, 1924. Because his plan for the League of Nations ultimately failed, he died feeling that he had lied to the American people and that his entry into the war had been in vain. He was buried in Washington National Cathedral, and is thus the only president buried in Washington, DC.
Mrs. Wilson stayed in the home another 37 years, dying on December 28, 1961, ironically the same day she was to be the guest of honor at the opening of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge near Washington, D.C. .She passed away with her favorite dog, Rooter, at her bedside. Mrs. Wilson left the home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to be made into a museum honoring her husband. Woodrow Wilson House opened as a museum. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.