U.S. President Woodrow Wilson gives Flag Day address

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson gives Flag Day address

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On June 14, 1917, as the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) travel to join the Allies on the battlefields of World War I in France, United States President Woodrow Wilson addresses the nation’s public on the annual celebration of Flag Day.

Just the year before, on May 30, 1916, Wilson had officially proclaimed June 14 “Flag Day” as a commemoration of the “Stars and Stripes,” adopted as the national flag on June 14, 1777, when the design featured just 13 stars representing the original 13 states.

In his Flag Day address on June 14, 1917, barely two months after the American entry into World War I, Wilson spoke strongly of the need to confront an enemy–Germany–that had, as he had said in his April 2 war message to Congress, violated the principles of international democracy and led the world into “the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.” In the June 14 speech, after repeating the distinction he had made in earlier speeches between the German people and their leaders, Wilson absolved the former of guilt and listed the numerous transgressions of the latter–U-boat warfare, espionage, the attempt to build an alliance with Mexico against the U.S.–that had provoked the U.S. into declaring war.

The “military masters of Germany,” Wilson declared, were a “sinister power that has at last stretched its ugly talons out and drawn blood from us.” He also asserted that Germany, at the head of the Central Powers, had started the war to create “a broad belt of?power across the very center of Europe and beyond the Mediterranean into the heart of Asia.” Most disturbingly for pacifist listeners and critics of the speech, Wilson dismissed all previous peace proposals, given the fact that they had all been based on terms favorable to Germany. As journalist Philip Snowden wrote in the Labour Leader, “Six months ago President Wilson was the greatest hope for peace. Today he is probably the greatest obstacle to it.”

On a less rhetorical and more practical note, Wilson also declared in his Flag Day speech that the initial transport of AEF troops would be followed, as quickly as possible, by the departure of more soldiers for Europe. In fact, the first U.S. troops arrived in France just 12 days later, on June 26. Though it would be more than a year before they could be trained and organized enough to play a significant role on the battlefields alongside the French and British soldiers, the eventual impact of the American entrance into World War I–both in terms of manpower, resources and economic assistance to the Allies–would be significant.

READ MORE: What Is Flag Day?

William Gibbs McAdoo

William Gibbs McAdoo Jr. [1] / ˈ m æ k ə ˌ d uː / (October 31, 1863 – February 1, 1941) was an American lawyer and statesman. McAdoo was a leader of the Progressive movement and played a major role in the administration of his father-in-law President Woodrow Wilson. A member of the Democratic Party, he also represented California in the United States Senate.

Born in Marietta, Georgia, McAdoo moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in his youth and graduated from the University of Tennessee. He established a legal practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee before moving to New York City in 1892. He gained notoriety as the president of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Company and served as the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McAdoo worked on Wilson's successful 1912 presidential campaign and served as the United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1913 to 1918. He married Wilson's daughter, Eleanor, in 1914. McAdoo presided over the establishment of the Federal Reserve System and helped prevent an economic crisis after the outbreak of World War I. After the U.S. entered the war, McAdoo also served as the Director General of Railroads. McAdoo left Wilson's Cabinet in 1919, co-founding the law firm of McAdoo, Cotton & Franklin.

McAdoo sought the Democratic presidential nomination at the 1920 Democratic National Convention but was opposed by his father-in-law, President Woodrow Wilson, who hoped to be nominated for a third term. [2] In 1922, McAdoo left his law firm and moved to California. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination again in 1924, but the 1924 Democratic National Convention nominated John W. Davis. He was elected to the Senate in 1932 but was defeated in his bid for a second term. McAdoo died of a heart attack in 1941 while traveling from the third inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Flag Day

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Flag Day, also called National Flag Day, in the United States, a day honouring the national flag, observed on June 14. The holiday commemorates the date in 1777 when the United States approved the design for its first national flag. Flag Day is celebrated on Monday, June 14, 2021 in the United States.

The idea to set aside a day to honour the national flag came from several sources. Bernard J. Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher, in 1885 urged his students to observe June 14 as “Flag Birthday.” He later wrote an essay published in a Chicago newspaper that urged Americans to proclaim this date as the day to celebrate the flag. In 1888 William T. Kerr of Pennsylvania founded the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania, an organization to which he dedicated his life. A lesser-known claim is that of George Morris of Connecticut, who is said to have organized the first formal celebration of the day in Hartford in 1861.

In 1916 Pres. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as the official date for Flag Day, and in 1949 the U.S. Congress permanently established the date as National Flag Day. Although Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, Pennsylvania celebrates the day as a state holiday. Each year the U.S. president delivers an address that proclaims the week of June 14 as National Flag Week, and all Americans are encouraged to fly U.S. flags during that week.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

U.S. Government Is Open, but Flag Day Provides Plenty to Celebrate

Sandwiched between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, Flag Day isn't officially a federal holiday. But presidents routinely issue proclamations every June 14 calling for the display of the U.S. flag, even as the government stays open and the flag itself acquires new layers of meaning.

President Joseph R. Biden declared on Friday that Monday would be Flag Day again, and called on Americans to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. More than a century ago, in 1916, Woodrow Wilson picked the date to commemorate a moment in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress paused writing the Articles of Confederation to approve the first American flag design.

They called for 13 red and white stripes and the same number of stars, "white on a blue field, representing a new constellation." Today Americans wave a 50-star flag but the stripes remain untouched, pointing back to the colonists who rebelled against the British crown. Before the Declaration of Independence, each colony flew its own flag.

It took Congress until 1949 to officially approve Flag Day with a bill that Harry Truman signed into law.

American University history professor Allan Lichtman told Zenger News that the holiday's importance is tied to the emergence of a common nation in the middle of the Revolutionary War. "This was kind of the first recognition, symbolically, through a flag, that there was now a United States of America, and not just individual states," Lichtman said.

The flag has been an inescapable symbol of that unity at critical moments in American history, beginning in the War of 1812 when Francis Scott Key saw it flying, in tatters, over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. The fort had endured a night-long British onslaught that Key watched helplessly from a ship carrying a truce mission.

We know the poem he wrote aboard that ship, "Defence of Fort McHenry," as the lyrics to America's national anthem.

The U.S. flag is the centerpiece of one of the most reproduced photos in history, Joe Rosenthal's image of U.S. Marines raising it atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, was rejected for military service because of his poor eyesight. He won the Pulitzer Prize for capturing what few Americans know was the second flag hoisted atop the mountain on Feb. 23, 1945, during just the fifth day of a month-long battle.

"To get that flag up there, America's fighting men had to die on that island and on other islands and off the shores and in the air," Rosenthal would write in 1955. "What difference does it make who took the picture? I took it, but the Marines took Iwo Jima."

The Austrian-born sculptor Felix de Weldon was an active-duty American sailor when he made a three-dimensional version of Rosenthal's picture in clay. It would take nine years to turn that into the 100-ton Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery. De Weldon's 2,000 completed works include a bust of John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Library and one of Elvis Presley at Graceland.

The American flag's importance transcended military power during the Civil Rights Movement, as African-American protesters carried it along the length of a five-day, 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and James Baldwin walked alongside it, even as the battle flag of the Confederacy competed for attention in some places.

And as the world watched Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon in 1969, America boasted its technological victory over the Soviet Union with a flag that Apollo 11 astronauts brought with them to plant in the lunar dust, untroubled by gravity.

Burning the flag during the Vietnam War made it a political football. A 1968 federal law banned its desecration, but the Supreme Court struck it down two decades later as a violation of free-speech rights.

Politics has continued to follow the stars and stripes. A "thin blue line" version, in black and white with a single blue stripe, briefly served as a counter-protest in support of police officers after deadly shootings in 2016. Nike in 2019 abruptly stopped selling a shoe that included an embroidered Betsy Ross flag, the version featuring 13 stars in a circle, because former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick claimed it was a symbol of a racist, slave-holding era.

Commentators flooded Twitter with images of three giant Betsy Ross flags hung from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol as Barack Obama took his presidential oath in 2009, and again in 2013.

Lichtman said the American flag should not be a source of division.

"It is not supposed to represent any faction, certainly not any political faction of the country," he told Zenger. "It is supposed to represent the unity of the country, which would include all peoples."

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.


Edith Bolling was born October 15, 1872, in Wytheville, Virginia, to circuit court judge William Holcombe Bolling and his wife Sarah "Sallie" Spears (née White). [3] Her birthplace, the Bolling Home, is now a museum located in Wytheville's Historic District. [4]

Bolling was a descendant of the first settlers to arrive at the Virginia Colony. Through her father, she was also a direct descendant of Mataoka, better known as Pocahontas, [5] [6] [7] [8] the daughter of Wahunsenacawh, the paramount weroance of the Powhatan Confederacy. [9] On April 5, 1614, Mataoka (then renamed as "Rebecca" following her conversion to Christianity the previous year) married John Rolfe, the first English settler in Virginia to cultivate tobacco as an export commodity. [10] Their granddaughter, Jane Rolfe, married Robert Bolling, [11] a wealthy slave-owning planter and merchant. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] John Bolling, the son of Jane Rolfe and Robert Bolling, [17] had six surviving children with his wife, Mary Kennon each of those children married and had surviving children. [18] Edith's great-great-grandmother was Mary (Jefferson) Bolling, sister to U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.

Edith was the seventh of eleven children, two of whom died in infancy. [19] The Bollings were some of the oldest members of Virginia's slave-owning, planter elite prior to the American Civil War. After the war ended and slavery abolished, Edith's father turned to the practice of law to support his family. [20] Unable to pay taxes on his extensive properties, and forced to give up the family's plantation seat, William Holcombe Bolling moved to Wytheville, where most of his children were born. [21]

The Bolling household was a large one, and Edith grew up within the confines of a sprawling, extended family. In addition to eight surviving siblings, Edith's grandmothers, aunts and cousins also lived in the Bolling household. Many of the women in Edith's family lost husbands during the war. [22] The Bollings had been staunch supporters of the Confederate States of America, were proud of their Southern planter heritage, and in early childhood, taught Edith in the post-Civil War South's narrative of the Lost Cause. As was often the case among the planter elite, the Bollings justified slave ownership, saying that the persons that they owned had been content with their lives as chattel and had little desire for freedom. [23]

Edith had little formal education. While her sisters were enrolled in local schools, Edith was taught how to read and write at home. Her paternal grandmother, Anne Wiggington Bolling, played a large role in her education. Crippled by a spinal cord injury, Grandmother Bolling was confined to bed. Edith had the responsibility to wash her clothing, turn her in bed at night, and look after her 26 canaries. In turn, Grandmother Bolling oversaw Edith's education, teaching her how to read, write, speak a hybrid language of French and English, make dresses, and instilled in her a tendency to make quick judgments and hold strong opinions, personality traits Edith would exhibit her entire life. [24] William Bolling read classic English literature aloud to his family at night, hired a tutor to teach Edith, and sometimes took her on his travels. The Bolling family attended church regularly, and Edith became a lifelong, practicing Episcopalian. [25]

When Edith was 15, her father enrolled her at Martha Washington College (a precursor of Emory and Henry College), a finishing school for girls in Abingdon, Virginia. [25] William Holcombe Bolling chose it for its excellent music program. [26] Edith proved to be an undisciplined, ill-prepared student. She was miserable there, complaining of the school's austerity: the food was poorly prepared, the rooms too cold, and the daily curriculum excessively rigorous, intimidating, and too strictly regimented. [27] Edith left after only one semester. [28] Two years later, Edith's father enrolled her in Powell's School for Girls in Richmond, Virginia. Years later, Edith noted that her time at Powell's was the happiest time of her life. [24] Unfortunately for Edith, the school closed at the end of the year after the headmaster suffered an accident that cost him his leg. Concerned about the cost of Edith's education, William Bolling refused to pay for any additional schooling, choosing instead to focus on educating her three brothers. [29]

While visiting her married sister in Washington, D.C., Edith met Norman Galt (1864–1908), a prominent jeweler of Galt & Bro. The couple married on April 30, 1896 and lived in the capital for the next 12 years. In 1903, she bore a son who lived only for a few days. The difficult birth left her unable to have more children. [30] In January 1908, Norman Galt died unexpectedly at the age of 43. Edith hired a manager to oversee his business, paid off his debts, and with the income left to her by her late husband, toured Europe. [31]

Re-marriage and early First Ladyship Edit

In March 1915, the widow Galt was introduced to recently widowed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the White House by Helen Woodrow Bones (1874–1951). Bones was the president's first cousin and served as the official White House hostess after the death of Wilson's wife, Ellen Wilson. Wilson took an instant liking to Galt and proposed soon after meeting her. However, rumors that Wilson had cheated on his wife with Galt threatened the burgeoning relationship. [32] Unsubstantiated gossip that Wilson and Galt had murdered the First Lady further troubled the couple. Distressed at the effect such wild speculation could have on the authenticity of the presidency and respectability of his personal reputation, Wilson proposed that Edith Bolling Galt back out of their engagement. Instead, Edith insisted on postponing the wedding until the end of the official year of mourning for Ellen Axson Wilson. [33] Wilson married Galt on December 18, 1915, at her home in Washington, D.C. Attended by 40 guests, the groom's pastor, Reverend Dr. James H. Taylor of Central Presbyterian Church, and the bride's, Reverend Dr. Herbert Scott Smith of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C., performed the wedding jointly.

Hostessing and the First World War Edit

As First Lady during World War I, Edith Bolling Wilson observed gasless Sundays, meatless Mondays, and wheatless Wednesdays to set an example for the federal rationing effort. Similarly, she set sheep to graze on the White House lawn rather than use manpower to mow it, and had their wool auctioned off for the benefit of the American Red Cross. [34] Additionally, Edith Wilson became the first First Lady to travel to Europe during her term. She visited Europe with her husband on two separate occasions, in 1918 and 1919, to visit troops and to sign the Treaty of Versailles. During this time, her presence amongst the female royalty of Europe helped to cement America's status as a world power and propelled the position of First Lady to an equivalent standing in international politics. [35]

Though the new First Lady had sound qualifications for the role of hostess, the social aspect of the administration was overshadowed by war in Europe and abandoned after the United States formally entered the conflict in 1917. Edith Wilson submerged her own life in her husband's, trying to keep him fit under tremendous strain, and accompanied him to Europe when the Allies conferred on terms of peace.

Increased role after husband's stroke Edit

Following his attendance at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Woodrow Wilson returned to the United States to campaign for Senate approval of the peace treaty and the League of Nations Covenant. However, he suffered a stroke in October 1919 which left him bedridden and partially paralyzed. [36] The United States never did ratify the Treaty of Versailles nor join the League of Nations, which had initially been Wilson's concept. At the time, non-interventionist sentiment was strong.

Edith Wilson and others in the President's inner circle hid the true extent of the President's illness and disability from the American public. [36] [37] [38] Edith also took over a number of routine duties and details of the Executive branch of the government from the onset of Wilson's illness until he left office almost a year and a half later. From October 1919 to the end of Wilson's term on March 4, 1921, Edith, acting in the role of First Lady and shadow steward, decided who and which communications and matters of state were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. [39] Edith Wilson later wrote: "I studied every paper sent from the different Secretaries or Senators and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband." Edith became the sole communication link between the President and his Cabinet. She required they send her all pressing matters, memos, correspondence, questions, and requests. [35]

Edith took her role very seriously, even successfully pushing for the removal of Secretary of State Robert Lansing after he conducted a series of Cabinet meetings without the President (or Edith herself) present. [40] [41] She also refused to allow the British ambassador, Edward Grey, an opportunity to present his credentials to the president unless Grey dismissed an aide who was known to have made demeaning comments about her. [35] [42] She assisted President Wilson in filling out paperwork, and would often add new notes or suggestions. She was made privy to classified information, and was entrusted with the responsibility of encoding and decoding encrypted messages. [43]

Controversy Edit

In My Memoir, published in 1939, Edith Wilson justified her self-proclaimed role of presidential "steward," arguing that her actions on behalf of Woodrow Wilson's presidency were sanctioned by Wilson's doctors that they told her to do so for her husband's mental health. [44] Edith Wilson maintained that she was simply a vessel of information for President Wilson however, others in the White House did not trust her. Some believed that the marriage between Edith and Woodrow was hasty and controversial. Others did not approve the marriage because they believed that Woodrow and Edith had begun communicating with each other while Woodrow was still married to Ellen Wilson. [43]

In 1921, Joe Tumulty (Wilson's chief of staff) wrote: "No public man ever had a more devoted helpmate, and no wife a husband more dependent upon her sympathetic understanding of his problems . Mrs. Wilson's strong physical constitution, combined with strength of character and purpose, has sustained her under a strain which must have wrecked most women". [45] In subsequent decades, however, scholars were far more critical in their assessment of Edith Wilson's tenure as First Lady. Phyllis Lee Levin concluded that the effectiveness of Woodrow Wilson's policies were unnecessarily hampered by his wife, "a woman of narrow views and formidable determination". [46] Judith Weaver opined that Edith Wilson underestimated her own role in Wilson's presidency. While she may not have made critical decisions, she did influence both domestic and international policy given her role as presidential gatekeeper. [47] Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian, has taken issue with Edith Wilson's claim of a benign "stewardship". Markel has opined that Edith Wilson "was, essentially, the nation's chief executive until her husband's second term concluded in March of 1921". [48] While a widow of moderate education for her time, she nevertheless attempted to protect her husband and his legacy, if not the presidency, even if it meant exceeding her role as First Lady. [49]

In 1921, Edith Wilson retired with the former president to their home on S Street NW in Washington, D.C., nursing him until his death three years later. In subsequent years, she headed the Woman's National Democratic Club's board of governors when the club opened formally in 1924 and published her memoir in 1939. [50]

On December 8, 1941, one day after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war, taking pains to draw a link with Wilson's April 1917 declaration of war. Edith Bolling Wilson was present during Roosevelt's address to Congress. [51] Twenty years later, in 1961, Mrs. Wilson attended the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. [52]

Wilson died of congestive heart failure at age 89, on December 28, 1961. She was to have been the guest of honor that day at the dedication ceremony for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, on what would have been her husband's 105th birthday. [53] She was buried next to the president at the Washington National Cathedral. [54]

Edith Wilson left her home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with a condition that it be made into a museum honoring her husband. The Woodrow Wilson House opened as a museum in 1964. To the Library of Congress, Mrs. Wilson donated first President Wilson's presidential papers in 1939, then his personal library in 1946. [55]

The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation & Museum in Wytheville, Virginia was established in 2008. The foundation has stabilized the First Lady's birthplace and childhood home it had been identified in May 2013 by Preservation Virginia as an Endangered Historic Site. The foundation's programs and exhibits aspire to build public awareness "honoring Mrs. Wilson's name, the contributions she made to this country, the institution of the presidency, and for the example she sets for women." The Foundation shares First Lady Mrs. Wilson's journey "From Wytheville to The White House". [ citation needed ]

In 2015, a former historic bank building in Wytheville, located on Main Street, was dedicated to the First Lady and bears her name. Adapted as the Bolling Wilson Hotel, it serves Wytheville residents and travelers alike. [56]

The Tampico Affair was set off when nine American sailors were arrested by the Mexican government for entering off-limit areas in Tampico, Tamaulipas. [13] The unarmed sailors were arrested when they entered a fuel loading station. The sailors were released, but the U.S. naval commander demanded an apology and a 21-gun salute. The apology was provided, but not the salute. In the end, the response from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Navy to prepare for the occupation of the port of Veracruz. While awaiting authorization from the U.S. Congress to carry out such action, Wilson was alerted to a delivery of weapons for Victoriano Huerta, who had taken control of Mexico the previous year after a bloody coup d'état (and was eventually deposed on July 15, 1914), due to arrive in the port on April 21 aboard the German-registered cargo steamer SS Ypiranga. As a result, Wilson issued an immediate order to seize the port's customs office and confiscate the weaponry. The weapons had actually been sourced by John Wesley De Kay, an American financier and businessman with large investments in Mexico, and a Russian arms dealer from Puebla, Leon Rasst, not the German government, as newspapers reported at the time. [14] Huerta had usurped the presidency of Mexico with the assistance of the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson during a coup d'état in February 1913 known as la decena trágica. The Wilson administration's answer to this was to declare Huerta a usurper of the legitimate government, to embargo arms shipments to Huerta, and to support the Constitutional Army of Venustiano Carranza.

Part of the arms shipment to Mexico originated from the Remington Arms company in the United States. The arms and ammunition were to be shipped to Mexico via Odessa and Hamburg to skirt the American arms embargo. [14] In Hamburg, De Kay added to the shipment. The landing of the arms was blocked at Veracruz, but they were discharged a few weeks later in Puerto Mexico, a port controlled by Huerta at the time.

On the morning of April 21, 1914, warships of the United States Atlantic Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, began preparations for the seizure of the Veracruz waterfront. Fletcher's orders were to "Seize custom house. Do not permit war supplies to be delivered to Huerta government or any other party." At 11:12 hrs, consul William Canada watched from the roof of the American Consulate as the first boatload of Marines left the auxiliary vessel USS Prairie. [1] [2] Whaleboats carrying 502 Marines from the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment, 285 armed Navy sailors, known as "Bluejackets," from the battleship USS Florida and a provisional battalion composed of the Marine detachments from Florida and her sister ship USS Utah also began landing operations. As planned earlier, American consul William W. Canada notified General Gustavo Maass that Americans were occupying the port and warned him to "cooperate with the naval forces in maintaining order." Maass, however, was not permitted by Mexico City to surrender the port. [15]

Maass ordered the Eighteenth Regiment, under the command of General Luis B. Becerril, to distribute rifles to the populace and to the prisoners in "La Galera" military prison, and then all to proceed to the dock area. Maass also ordered the Nineteenth Regiment, under the command of General Francisco A. Figueroa, to take up positions on Pier Number Four. Maass then radioed a dispatch to General Aurelio Blanquet, Minister of War in Mexico City, of the American invasion. Blanquet ordered Maass to not resist, but to retreat to Tejería, six miles inland. The landing party, under the command of William R. Rush reached Pier 4 at 11:20. A large crowd of Mexican and American citizens gathered to watch the spectacle. The American invaders, under the command of Marine Lt. Col. Wendell C. Neville, proceeded to their objectives without resistance. By 11:45, the rail terminal and cable station were occupied. [15]

Commodore Manuel Azueta [es] encouraged cadets of the Veracruz Naval Academy to take up the defense of the port for themselves. [15] : 96–97

Three Navy rifle companies were instructed to capture the customs house, post, and telegraph offices, while the Marines went for the railroad terminal, roundhouse, and yard, the cable office and the power plant. [16]

3,360 Mexican forces were led by Brigadier General Juan Esteban Morales. [6] Arms were distributed to the population, who were largely untrained in the use of Mausers and had trouble finding the correct ammunition. In short, the defense of the city by its populace was hindered by the lack of central organization and a lack of adequate supplies. The defense of the city also included the release of the prisoners held at the "La Galera" military prison, not those at San Juan de Ulúa (some of whom were political prisoners), who were later attended to by the U.S. Navy. [17]

Although most of the regular troops retreated with Maass to Tejería, the liberated prisoners under the command of Lt. Col. Manuel Contreras, and some civilians, opposed the Americans as they made their way to the custom house. At 11:57, the Mexicans fired upon the Americans as they reached the intersection of Independencia and Emparán. The navy signalman on top of the Terminal Hotel, Capt. Rush's headquarters, was the first American casualty, and by the end of the day, 4 Americans were dead and 20 wounded. [15] : 94–96

At 1:30 PM, the Ypiranga was intercepted, and detained, before it could off load its cargo of weapons and ammunition. [15] : 98

On the night of April 21, Fletcher decided that he had no choice but to expand the initial operation to include the entire city, not just the waterfront. [18] At 8:00 AM the next day, he gave orders to take control of the entire city. [15] : 100

At 8:35 PM, Capt. C.T. Vogelsang's San Francisco entered the harbor next to the Prairie and off loaded a landing party. At 3 AM, Commander William A. Moffett's Chester offloaded 2 companies of marines and a company of seamen. These were followed by men from the Minnesota and Hancock of Admiral Charles J. Badger's Atlantic Fleet, bringing the total American men ashore to more than 3000. [15] : 99–100

At 07:45 April 22, the advance began. The leathernecks adapted to street fighting, which was a novelty to them. The sailors were less adroit at this style of fighting. A regiment led by Navy Captain E. A. Anderson advanced on the Naval Academy in parade-ground formation, making his men easy targets for the partisans barricaded inside (the cadets had left Veracruz the night before, after suffering a few casualties [19] ). This attack was initially repulsed soon, the attack was renewed, with artillery support from three warships in the harbor, Prairie, San Francisco, and Chester, that pounded the academy with their long guns for a few minutes, silencing all resistance. [15] : 101–102

The city was secured by 11:00 AM, and by evening more than 6,000 troops were ashore. [15] : 102

That afternoon, the First Advanced Base Regiment, originally bound for Tampico, came ashore under the command of Colonel John A. Lejeune.

A small naval aviation detachment arrived aboard USS Mississippi on April 24 under the command of Henry C. Mustin. Two early aircraft assembled by Glenn Curtiss prior to formation of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company conducted aerial reconnaissance around Veracruz. This was the first operational use of naval aircraft and the first time U.S. aviators of any service were the target of ground fire. [20]

A third provisional regiment of Marines, assembled at Philadelphia, arrived on May 1 under the command of Colonel Littleton W. T. Waller, who assumed overall command of the brigade, by that time numbering some 3,141 officers and men. By then, the sailors and Marines of the Fleet had returned to their ships and an Army brigade had landed. Marines and soldiers continued to garrison the city until the U.S. withdrawal on November 23, which occurred after Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (the three ABC powers, the most powerful and wealthy countries in South America) were able to settle the issues between the two nations at the Niagara Falls peace conference. [21]

On April 26, Fletcher declared martial law, and started turning the occupation over to the American army under the command of General Frederick Funston. [15] : 104–105 400 Mexican soldiers and 800 civilians were killed in the fighting. [6] Nineteen American sailors and Marines were killed. [22]

U.S. Army Brigadier General Frederick Funston was placed in control of the administration of the port. Assigned to his staff as an intelligence officer was a young Captain Douglas MacArthur. [23] While Huerta and Carranza officially objected to the occupation, neither was able to oppose it effectively, being more preoccupied by events of the Mexican Revolution. Huerta was eventually overthrown and Carranza's faction took power. The occupation, however, brought the two countries to the brink of war and worsened U.S.-Mexican relations for many years. The ABC Powers held the Niagara Falls peace conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, on May 20 to avoid an all-out war over this incident. A plan was formed in June for the US troops to withdraw from Veracruz after General Huerta surrendered the reins of his government to a new regime and Mexico assured the United States that it would receive no indemnity for its losses in the recent chaotic events. [24] Huerta soon afterwards left office and gave his government to Carranza. Carranza, who was still quite unhappy with US troops occupying Veracruz, [24] rejected the rest of the agreement. [24] In November 1914, after the Convention of Aguascalientes ended and Carranza failed to resolve his differences with revolutionary generals Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, Carranza left office for a short period and handed control to Eulalio Gutiérrez Ortiz.

During this brief absence from power, however, Carranza still controlled Veracruz and Tamaulipas. After leaving Mexico City, Carranza fled to the state of Veracruz, [25] made the city of Cordoba the capital of his regime and agreed to accept the rest of the terms of Niagara Falls peace plan. The US troops officially departed on November 23. [24] Despite their previous spat, diplomatic ties between the US and the Carranza regime greatly extended, [ clarification needed ] following the departure of US troops from Veracruz,. [24]

After the fighting ended, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ordered that fifty-six Medals of Honor be awarded to participants in this action, the most for any single action before or since. This amount was half as many as had been awarded for the Spanish–American War, and close to half the number that would be awarded during World War I and the Korean War. A critic claimed that the excess medals were awarded by lot. [26] [27] Major Smedley Butler, a recipient of one of the nine Medals of Honor awarded to Marines, later tried to return it, being incensed at this "unutterable foul perversion of Our Country's greatest gift" [ citation needed ] and claiming he had done nothing heroic. The Department of the Navy told him to not only keep it, but wear it.

The controversy surrounding the Vera Cruz Medals of Honor led to stricter standards for the award of the Medal of Honor and the establishment of lower ranking medals to recognize a wider range of accomplishments.

Mexico's Naval Lt. Azueta and a Naval Military School cadet, Cadet Midshipman Virgilio Uribe, who died during the fighting, are now part of the roll call of honor read by all branches of the Mexican Armed Forces in all military occasions, alongside the six Niños Héroes of the Military College (nowadays the Heroic Military Academy) who died in defense of the nation during the Battle of Chapultepec on September 13, 1847. As a result of the brave defense put up by the Naval School cadets and faculty, it has now become the Heroic Naval Military School of Mexico in their honor by virtue of a congressional resolution in 1949.

As an immediate reaction to the military invasion of Veracruz several anti-U.S revolts broke out in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Uruguay. [28] US citizens were expelled from Mexican territory and they had to be accommodated in refugee campuses at New Orleans, Texas City, and San Diego. [29] Even the British government was privately irritated, because they had previously agreed with Woodrow Wilson that the United States would not invade Mexico without prior warning. [28] The military invasion of Veracruz was also a decisive factor in favor of keeping Mexico neutral in World War I. [30] Mexico refused to participate with the United States in its military excursion in Europe and guaranteed German companies they could keep their operations open, especially in Mexico City. [31]


Wilson became a prominent 1912 presidential contender immediately upon his election as Governor of New Jersey in 1910, and his clashes with state party bosses enhanced his reputation with the rising Progressive movement. [3] Prior to the 1912 Democratic National Convention, Wilson made a special effort to win the approval of three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, whose followers had largely dominated the Democratic Party since the 1896 presidential election. [4] Speaker of the House Champ Clark of Missouri was viewed by many as the front-runner for the nomination, while House Majority Leader Oscar Underwood of Alabama also loomed as a challenger. Clark found support among the Bryan wing of the party, while Underwood appealed to the conservative Bourbon Democrats, especially in the South. [5] On the first ballot of the Democratic National Convention, Clark won a plurality of delegates, and on the tenth ballot, he won a majority of the delegates after the New York Tammany Hall machine swung behind him. However, the Democratic Party required a nominee to win two-thirds of the delegates to win the nomination, and balloting continued. [6] The Wilson campaign picked up delegates by promising the vice presidency to Governor Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana, and several Southern delegations shifted their support from Underwood to Wilson, a native Southerner. Wilson finally won two-thirds of the vote on the convention's 46th ballot, and Marshall became Wilson's running mate. [7]

Wilson faced two major opponents in the 1912 general election: one-term Republican incumbent William Howard Taft, and former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who ran a third party campaign as the "Bull Moose" Party nominee. A fourth candidate, Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party, would also win a significant share of the popular vote. Roosevelt had broken with his former party at the 1912 Republican National Convention after Taft narrowly won re-nomination, and the split in the Republican Party made Democrats hopeful that they could win the presidency for the first time since the 1892 presidential election. [8] Roosevelt emerged as Wilson's main challenger, and Wilson and Roosevelt largely campaigned against each other despite sharing similarly progressive platforms that called for a strong, interventionist central government. [9] Wilson won 435 of the 531 electoral votes and 41.8% of the popular vote, while Roosevelt won most of the remaining electoral votes and 27.4% of the popular vote, representing one of the strongest third party performances in U.S. history. Taft won 23.2% of the popular vote but just 8 electoral votes, while Debs won 6% of the popular vote. In the concurrent congressional elections, Democrats retained control of the House and won a majority in the Senate. Wilson's victory made him the first Southerner to win the presidency since the Civil War. [10]

Cabinet and administration Edit

The Wilson Cabinet
PresidentWoodrow Wilson1913–1921
Vice PresidentThomas R. Marshall1913–1921
Secretary of StateWilliam Jennings Bryan1913–1915
Robert Lansing1915–1920
Bainbridge Colby1920–1921
Secretary of the TreasuryWilliam Gibbs McAdoo1913–1918
Carter Glass1918–1920
David F. Houston1920–1921
Secretary of WarLindley Miller Garrison1913–1916
Newton D. Baker1916–1921
Attorney GeneralJames Clark McReynolds1913–1914
Thomas Watt Gregory1914–1919
A. Mitchell Palmer1919–1921
Postmaster GeneralAlbert S. Burleson1913–1921
Secretary of the NavyJosephus Daniels1913–1921
Secretary of the InteriorFranklin Knight Lane1913–1920
John Barton Payne1920–1921
Secretary of AgricultureDavid F. Houston1913–1920
Edwin T. Meredith1920–1921
Secretary of CommerceWilliam C. Redfield1913–1919
Joshua W. Alexander1919–1921
Secretary of LaborWilliam Bauchop Wilson1913–1921

After the election, Wilson quickly chose William Jennings Bryan as Secretary of State, and Bryan offered advice on the remaining members of Wilson's cabinet. [11] William Gibbs McAdoo, a prominent Wilson supporter who would marry Wilson's daughter in 1914, became Secretary of the Treasury, while James Clark McReynolds, who had successfully prosecuted prominent anti-trust cases, was chosen as Attorney General. On the advice of Underwood, Wilson appointed Texas Congressman Albert S. Burleson as Postmaster General. [12] Bryan resigned in 1915 due to his opposition to Wilson hard line's towards Germany in the aftermath of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. [13] Bryan was replaced by Robert Lansing, and Wilson took more direct control of his administration's foreign policy after Bryan's departure. [14] Newton D. Baker, a progressive Democrat, became Secretary of War in 1916, and Baker led the War Department during World War I. [15] Wilson's cabinet experienced turnover after the conclusion of World War I, with Carter Glass replacing McAdoo as Secretary of the Treasury and A. Mitchell Palmer becoming Attorney General. [16]

Wilson's chief of staff ("Secretary") was Joseph Patrick Tumulty from 1913 to 1921. Tumulty's position provided a political buffer and intermediary with the press, and his irrepressible spirit offset the president's often dour disposition. [17] Wilson's first wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, died on August 6, 1914. [18] Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt in 1915, [19] and she assumed full control of Wilson's schedule, diminishing Tumulty's power. The most important foreign policy advisor and confidant was "Colonel" Edward M. House until Wilson broke with him in early 1919, for his missteps at the peace conference in Wilson's absence. [20] Wilson's vice president, former Governor Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana, played little role in the administration. [21]

Press corps Edit

Wilson fervently believed that public opinion ought to shape national policy, albeit with a few exceptions involving delicate diplomacy, and he paid close attention to newspapers. Press secretary Joseph Patrick Tumulty proved generally effective, until Wilson's second wife began to distrust him and reduced his influence. [22] Wilson pioneered twice-weekly press conferences in the White House. They were modestly effective, though the president prohibited his being quoted and often made purposely vague statements. [23] The first such press conference was held on March 15, 1913, when reporters were allowed to ask him questions. [24]

Wilson had a mixed record with the press. Relations were generally smooth, but he ended weekly meetings with the White House correspondents after the Lusitania sinking in 1915. He also sharply restricted access during the 1919 peace conference. In both cases, Wilson was afraid that publicity would interfere with his quiet diplomacy. Journalists such as Walter Lippmann found a workaround, discovering that Colonel House was both highly talkative and devious in manipulating the press to slant its stories. A major problem facing the administration was that 90 percent of the major newspapers and magazine outside the South had traditionally favored Republicans. The administration countered this by quietly collaborating with favorable reporters who admired Wilson's leadership in the cause of world peace their newspapers printed their reports because their scoops made news. The German language press was vehemently hostile to Wilson, but he used this to his advantage, attacking hyphenates as loyal to a foreign country. [25]

Judicial appointments Edit

Wilson appointed three men to the United States Supreme Court. He appointed James Clark McReynolds in 1914 he was an arch-conservative who served until 1941. Wilson wanted to appoint Louis Brandeis to the cabinet in 1913, but he was too controversial then and instead served privately as Wilson's chief legal advisor. In 1916, Wilson nominated Brandeis to the Court, setting off a major debate over Brandeis's progressive ideology and his religion Brandeis was the first Jew named to the Supreme Court and anti-semitism was rampant in upper class circles. But Brandeis had many friends who admired his legal acumen in fighting for progressive causes. They mounted a national publicity campaign that marginalized anti-semitic slurs in the legal profession. [26] Wilson worked hard and convinced Senate Democrats to vote for Brandeis, who served as an arch-liberal until 1939. In 1916 Wilson appointed John Hessin Clarke, a progressive lawyer who resigned in 1922 after bitter disputes with McReynolds. [27] [28]

In addition to his three Supreme Court appointments, Wilson also appointed 20 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals and 52 judges to the United States district courts.

New Freedom Edit

With the support of the Democratic Congress, Wilson introduced a comprehensive program of domestic legislation at the outset of his administration, something no president had ever done before. [30] The Democrats had four major priorities: the conservation of natural resources, banking reform, tariff reduction, and equal access to raw materials, which would be accomplished in part through the regulation of trusts. [31] Foreign affairs would increasingly dominate his presidency starting in 1915, Wilson's first two years in office largely focused on domestic policy, and the president found success in implementing much of his ambitious "New Freedom" agenda. [32]

Lower tariff and new income tax Edit

Democrats had long attacked high tariff rates as equivalent to unfair taxes on consumers, and tariff reduction was the first priority. [33] Wilson argued that the system of high tariffs "cuts us off from our proper part in the commerce of the world, violates the just principles of taxation, and makes the government a facile instrument in the hands of private interests." [34] While most Democrats were united behind a decrease in tariff rates, most Republicans held that high tariff rates were useful for protecting domestic manufacturing and factory workers against foreign competition. [33] Shortly before Wilson took office, the Sixteenth Amendment, which had been proposed by Republicans in 1909 during a debate over tariff legislation, was ratified by the requisite number of states. [35] Following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, Democratic leaders agreed to attach an income tax provision to their tariff reduction bill, partly to make up for lost revenue, and partly to shift the burden of funding the government towards the high earners that would be subject to the income tax. [36]

In May 1913, House Majority Leader Oscar Underwood organized House passage of a bill that cut the average tariff rate by 10 percent. [37] Underwood's bill, which represented the largest downward revision of the tariff since the Civil War, aggressively cut rates for raw materials, goods deemed to be "necessities," and products produced domestically by trusts, but it retained higher tariff rates for luxury goods. [38] The bill also instituted a tax on personal income above $4,000. [37] Passage of Underwood's tariff bill in the Senate would prove more difficult than in the House, partially because some Southern and Western Democrats favored the continued protection of the wool and sugar industries, and partially because Democrats had a narrower majority in that chamber. [39] Seeking to marshal support for the tariff bill, President Wilson met extensively with Democratic senators and appealed directly to the people through the press. After weeks of hearings and debate, Wilson and Secretary of State Bryan managed to unite Senate Democrats behind the bill. [37] The Senate voted 44 to 37 in favor of the bill, with only one Democrat voting against it and only one Republican voting for it. Wilson signed the Revenue Act of 1913 (called the "Underwood Tariff") into law on October 3, 1913. [37] [40]

The Revenue Act of 1913 reduced the average import tariff rates from 40 percent to 26 percent. [41] It also imposed a federal income tax for the first time since 1872. Congress adopted an income tax in the 1890s, but that tax had been struck down by the Supreme Court before taking effect. The Revenue Act of 1913 imposed a one percent tax on incomes above $3,000, with a top tax rate of six percent on those earning more than $500,000 per year. Approximately three percent of the population was subject to the income tax. The bill also included a one percent tax on the net income of all corporations, superseding a previous federal tax that had only applied to corporate net incomes above $5,000. [42] The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the income tax in the cases of Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co. [43] [44]

Facing the need for further revenue due to an arms build-up, in 1916 the Wilson administration called for the passage of another major revenue bill. President Wilson and congressional allies like Congressman Claude Kitchin rejected proposal to increase tariff rates, instead favoring increased taxes on high earners. [45] Working with progressive Republicans, Congressional Democrats won passage of the Revenue Act of 1916, which reinstated the federal estate tax, established a tax on the production of munitions, raised the top income tax rate to fifteen percent, and raised the corporate income tax from one percent to two percent. [46] That same year, the President signed a law that established the Tariff Commission, which was charged with providing expert advice on tariff rates. [47] In the 1920s, Republicans raised tariffs and lowered the income tax. Nonetheless, the policies of the Wilson administration had a durable impact on the composition of government revenue, which after the 1920s would primarily come from taxation rather than tariffs. [48]

Federal Reserve System Edit

President Wilson did not wait to complete the Revenue Act of 1913 before proceeding to the next item on his agenda—banking. Britain and Germany had strong financial controls through government-run central banks, but the United States had not had a central bank since the Bank War of the 1830s. [49] In the aftermath of the Panic of 1907, there was general agreement among bankers and leaders in both parties of the necessity to create some sort of central banking system to provide coordination during financial emergencies. Most leaders also sought currency reform, as they believed that the roughly $3.8 billion in coins and banknotes did not provide an adequate money supply during financial panics. Under conservative Republican Senator Nelson Aldrich's leadership, the National Monetary Commission had put forward a plan to establish a central banking system that would issue currency and provide oversight and loans to the nation's banks. However, many progressives led by Bryan distrusted the plan due to the degree of influence bankers would have over the central banking system. Relying heavily on the advice of Louis Brandeis, Wilson sought a middle ground between progressives such as Bryan and conservative Republicans like Aldrich. [50] He declared that the banking system must be "public not private, [and] must be vested in the government itself so that the banks must be the instruments, not the masters, of business." [51]

Democratic Congressmen Carter Glass and Robert L. Owen crafted a compromise plan in which private banks would control twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, but the ultimate control of the system was placed in a central board filled with presidential appointees. The system of twelve regional banks was designed with the goal of diminishing Wall Street's influence. Wilson convinced Bryan's supporters that the plan met their demands for an elastic currency because Federal Reserve notes would be obligations of the government. [52] The bill passed the House in September 1913, but it faced stronger opposition in the Senate. Wilson convinced just enough Democrats to defeat an amendment put forth by bank president Frank A. Vanderlip that would have given private banks greater control over the central banking system. The Senate then voted 54–34 to approve the Federal Reserve Act. Wilson signed the bill into law in December 1913. [53] The president appointed Paul Warburg and other prominent bankers to direct the new system. While power was supposed to be decentralized, the New York branch dominated the Federal Reserve as the "first among equals." [54] The new system began operations in 1915, and it played an important role in financing the Allied and American war efforts in World War I. [55]

Antitrust legislation Edit

Next on the agenda was anti-trust legislation to supplant the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. [56] The Sherman Antitrust Act had barred any "contract, combination. or conspiracy, in restraint of trade," but had proved ineffective in preventing the rise of large business combinations known as trusts. Roosevelt and Taft had both escalated antitrust prosecution by the Justice Department, but many progressives desired legislation that would do more to prevent trusts from dominating the economy. While Roosevelt believed that trusts could be separated into "good trusts" and "bad trusts" based on their effects on the broader economy, Wilson had argued for breaking up all trusts during his 1912 presidential campaign. In December 1913, Wilson asked Congress to pass an anti-trust law that would ban many anti-competitive practices. A month later, in January 1914, he also asked for the creation of an interstate trade commission, eventually known as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), that would preside over the dissolution of trusts but would play no role in anti-trust prosecution itself. [57]

With Wilson's support, Congressman Henry Clayton, Jr. introduced a bill that would ban several anti-competitive practices such discriminatory pricing, tying, exclusive dealing, and interlocking directorates. The bill also allowed individuals to launch anti-trust suits, and it limited the applicability of anti-trust laws on unions. [58] As the difficulty of banning all anti-competitive practices via legislation became clear, President Wilson came to favor legislation granting the FTC greater discretion to investigate anti-trust violations and enforce anti-trust laws independently of the Justice Department. The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, which incorporated Wilson's ideas regarding the FTC, passed Congress with bipartisan support, and Wilson signed the bill into law in September 1914. [59] One month later, Wilson signed the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, which built on the Sherman Act by defining and banning several anti-competitive practices. [60] [61]

Labor issues Edit

President Taft had established the Commission on Industrial Relations to study labor issues, but the Senate had rejected all of his nominees to the commission. Upon taking office, Wilson nominated a mix of conservatives and progressive reformers, with commission chairman Frank P. Walsh falling into the latter group. The commission helped expose numerous labor abuses throughout the nation, and Walsh proposed reforms designed to empower unions. [62] Prior to his first presidential inauguration, Wilson had had an uneasy relationship with union leaders such as Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor, and he generally believed that workers were best protected through laws rather than unions. [63] Wilson and Secretary of Labor William Bauchop Wilson rejected Walsh's proposed reforms, and instead focused on using the Labor Department to mediate conflicts between labor and ownership. [64] The labor policies of Wilson's administration were tested by a strike against the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in late-1913 and early-1914. The company rejected the Labor Department's attempts to mediate, and a militia controlled by the company attacked a miner's camp in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre. At the Governor of Colorado's request, the Wilson administration sent in troops to end the dispute, but mediation efforts failed after the union called off the strike due to a lack of funds. [65]

In mid-1916, a major railroad strike endangered the nation's economy. The president called the parties to a White House summit in August — after two days and no results, Wilson proceeded to settle the issue, using the maximum eight-hour work day as its linchpin. Congress passed the Adamson Act, which incorporated the president's proposed eight-hour work day for railroads. As a result, the strike was then cancelled. Wilson took credit in the fall campaign for averting a national economic disaster. Business-oriented conservatives denounced it as a sellout to the unions and the Republicans made it a major campaign issue. The Adamson Act was the first federal law that regulated hours worked by private employees, and it was upheld by the Supreme Court. [66] [67] [68]

Wilson thought a child labor law would probably be unconstitutional but reversed himself in 1916 with a close election approaching. In 1916, after intense campaigns by the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and the National Consumers League, the Congress passed the Keating–Owen Act by large majorities. It became illegal to ship goods in interstate commerce if they were made in factories employing children under specified ages. Southern Democrats were opposed but did not filibuster. Wilson endorsed the bill at the last minute under pressure from party leaders who stressed how popular the idea was, especially among the emerging class of women voters. He told Democratic Congressmen they needed to pass this law and also a workman's compensation law to satisfy the national progressive movement and to win the 1916 election against a reunited GOP. It was the first federal child labor law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law in Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918). Congress then passed a law taxing businesses that used child labor, but that was struck down by the Supreme Court in Bailey v. Drexel Furniture (1923). Child labor was finally ended in the 1930s. [69] [70] He approved the goal of upgrading the harsh working conditions for merchant sailors and signed LaFollette's Seamen's Act of 1915. [71] [72]

Agricultural issues Edit

President Wilson's agricultural policies were heavily influenced by Walter Hines Page, who favored a reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to put less focus on scientific research and more emphasis on using the department to provide education and other services directly to farmers. [73] Secretary of Agriculture David F. Houston presided over the implementation of many of Page's proposed reforms and worked with Congressman Asbury Francis Lever to introduce the bill that became the Smith–Lever Act of 1914. This act established government subsidies for a demonstration farming program allowing farmers to voluntarily experiment with farming techniques favored by agricultural experts. Proponents of the Smith–Lever Act overcame many conservatives' objections by adding provisions to bolster local control of the program. Local agricultural colleges supervised the agricultural extension agents, and the agents were barred from operating without county governments' approval. By 1924, three-quarters of the agriculture-oriented counties in the United States took part in the agricultural extension program. [74] With the Model T craze roaring along, the demand for better roads was irresistible, with efforts coordinated by the American Automobile Association (formed in 1902) and the American Association of State Highway Officials (formed in 1914). The slogan was, "Get America Out of the Mud!" The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, provided federal subsidies to road-building in every state. [75]

Wilson disliked the excessive government involvement in Federal Farm Loan Act, which created twelve regional banks empowered to provide low-interest loans to farmers. Nevertheless he needed the farm vote to survive the upcoming 1916 election, so he signed it. [76] [77]

The Philippines and Puerto Rico Edit

Wilson embraced the long-standing Democratic policy against owning colonies, and he worked for the gradual autonomy and ultimate independence of the Philippines, which had been acquired from Spain in the Spanish–American War. Wilson increased self-governance on the islands by granting Filipinos greater control over the Philippine Legislature. The House passed a measure to grant the Philippines full independence, but Republicans blocked this proposal in the Senate. The Jones Act of 1916 committed the United States to the eventual independence of the Philippines independence took place in 1946. [78] The Jones Act of 1917 upgraded the status of Puerto Rico, which had also been acquired from Spain in 1898. The act, which superseded the Foraker Act, created the Senate of Puerto Rico, established a bill of rights, and authorized the election of a Resident Commissioner (previously appointed by the president) to a four-year term. The act also granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship and exempted Puerto Rican bonds from federal, state, and local taxes. [79]

Immigration policy Edit

Immigration was a bitterly contested issue before the World War, but President Wilson gave the matter little attention, even though he came from immigrant roots himself. [80] In 1913, California enacted the California Alien Land Law of 1913 to exclude Japanese non-citizens from owning any land in the state. The Japanese government protested strongly, and Wilson sent Bryan to California to mediate. Bryan was unable to get California to relax the restrictions, and Wilson accepted the law even though it violated a 1911 treaty with Japan. The law bred resentment in Japan which would linger into the 1920s and 1930s. [81] [82]

As America entered the war, many Irish and German Americans were alienated --they did not want to help Britain or fight Germany. These Irish and German "Hyphenated American" elements repulsed Wilson because he believed that they were motivated to help the goals of Ireland and Germany, not to the needs and values of the United States. Many reacted by voting against the Democrats in 1918 and 1920. [83] [84] [85]

Migration from Europe, or return thereto, ended in 1914, as European nations closed their borders during World War I. [86] Wilson's progressivism encouraged his belief that immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, though poor and illiterate, could assimilate into a homogeneous white middle class, and he opposed the restrictive immigration policies that many members of both parties favored. Wilson vetoed the Immigration Act of 1917, but Congress overrode the veto. The act's goal was to reduce unskilled European immigration by requiring literacy tests. It was the first U.S. law to restrict immigration from Europe, and it foreshadowed the more restrictive immigration laws of the 1920s. [87]

Home front during World War I Edit

With the American entrance into World War I in April 1917, Wilson became a war-time president. The War Industries Board, headed by Bernard Baruch, was established to set U.S. war manufacturing policies and goals. Future President Herbert Hoover led the Food Administration the Federal Fuel Administration, run by Henry Garfield, introduced daylight saving time and rationed fuel supplies William McAdoo was in charge of war bond efforts Vance McCormick headed the War Trade Board. These men, known collectively as the "war cabinet", met weekly with Wilson at the White House. [88] Because he was heavily focused on foreign policy during World War I, Wilson delegated a large degree of authority over the home front to his subordinates. [89]

The great majority of unions, including the AFL and the railroad brotherhoods, supported the war effort, and were rewarded for their efforts with high pay and access to Wilson. Unions saw enormous growth in membership and wages during the war, and strikes were rare. [90] Wilson established the National War Labor Board (NWLB) to mediate wartime labor disputes, but it was slow to organize, and the Labor Department provided mediation services in most disputes. Wilson's labor policies continued to stress mediation and agreement on all sides. When Smith & Wesson refused to assent to an NWLB ruling, the War Department seized control of the gun company and forced employees to return to work. [91]

Financing the war Edit

Large amounts of money was needed to finance the war--to buy food and munitions for the soldiers, to pay them, and to loan $7 billion to the Allies for their purchasing needs. [92] The GDP in 1917 plus 1918 was $124 billion in current dollars. Since the dollar then was worth about $20 in 2021, that is about $2.5 trillion in 2021 dollars. The original military cost of the war was $28 billion counting non-military costs as well brings the total to $33 billion. Not included are the much larger eventual totals for veterans benefits and interest. [93] [94]

The United States had by far the best financial performance of any country in the war. In all, $38 billion was raised, 36% from taxes and 64% from bonds. [95] Five "Liberty Loan" campaigns induced people save more than $20 billion in savings bonds. That meant that civilian spending was shifted into the future when the bonds came due. Taxes were raised, especially on income taxes for the rich and on corporate profits, as well as luxuries, tobacco, and liquor. The new Federal Reserve System expanded the money supply, and prices doubled. People on fixed incomes suffered a sharp drop in purchasing power the economic resources they no longer used were diverted to war production. That is, inflation was a hidden tax that was in addition to the obvious taxes. The government made sure that farmers and war workers enjoyed higher incomes--a strong incentive to switch from the civilian to the munitions sectors. The financing of the war was broadly successful. Later generations of taxpayers absorbed about half the economic cost of the war, and the people at the time the other half. [96]

The foreign loans stabilized the Allied economies and strengthened their ability to fight and to produce weapons, and thus helped the American war effort. By the end of the war, the United States had become a creditor nation for the first time in its history. [97] But the loans caused no end of diplomatic problems when Washington in the 1920s demanded (and did not get) full repayment. In 1932, 90% was written off because of the Great Depression after that the issue was largely forgotten and the loans were finally repaid in 1951. [98]

In the midst of the war, the federal budget soared from $1 billion in fiscal year 1916 to $19 billion in fiscal year 1919. [99] The War Revenue Act of 1917 raised the top tax rate to 67 percent, greatly increased the number of Americans paying the income tax (approximately 5.5 million Americans paid an income tax in 1920), and levied an excess profits tax on businesses. The Revenue Act of 1918 raised the top tax rate to 77 percent and further increased other taxes. [100]

Propaganda Edit

Wilson established the first modern propaganda office, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), headed by George Creel. [101] [102] Creel set out to systematically reach every person in the United States multiple times with patriotic information about how the individual could contribute to the war effort. He set up divisions in his new agency to produce and distribute innumerable copies of posters, pamphlets, newspaper releases, magazine advertisements, films, school campaigns, and the speeches of the Four Minute Men. The CPI also worked with the Post Office to censor seditious counter-propaganda. [103] The CPI trained thousands of volunteer speakers to make patriotic appeals during the four-minute breaks needed to change reels at movie theaters. CPI volunteers also spoke at churches, lodges, fraternal organizations, labor unions, and even logging camps. Creel boasted that in 18 months his 75,000 volunteers delivered over 7.5 million four minute orations to over 300 million listeners, in a nation of 103 million people. [104]

Disloyalty Edit

To counter disloyalty to the war effort at home, Wilson pushed through Congress the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress anti-British, pro-German, or anti-war statements. [105] While he welcomed socialists who supported the war, he pushed at the same time to arrest and deport foreign-born enemies. [106] After the war many recent immigrants, resident aliens without U.S. citizenship, who opposed America's participation in the war were deported to Russia or other nations under the powers granted in the Immigration Act of 1918. [106] [107] The Wilson administration relied heavily on state and local police forces, as well as local voluntary organizations , to enforce war-time laws. [108] Anarchists, Industrial Workers of the World members, and other antiwar groups attempting to sabotage the war effort were targeted by the Department of Justice many of their leaders were arrested for incitement to violence, espionage, or sedition. [106] [107] Eugene Debs, the 1912 Socialist presidential candidate, was convicted for encouraging young men to evade the draft. In response to concerns over civil liberties, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a private organization devoted to the defense of free speech, was founded in 1917. [109]

Wilson called on voters in the 1918 off-year elections to elect Democrats as an endorsement of his policies. However the Republicans won over alienated German-Americans and took control. [110] Wilson refused to coordinate or compromise with the new leaders of House and Senate--Senator Henry Cabot Lodge became his nemesis. [111]

Prohibition Edit

Prohibition developed as an unstoppable reform during the war, but Wilson and his administration only played a minor role in its passage. [112] A combination of the temperance movement, hatred of everything German (including beer and saloons), and activism by churches and women led to ratification of an amendment to achieve Prohibition in the United States. A Constitutional amendment passed both houses in December 1917 by 2/3 votes. By January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment had been ratified by 36 of the 48 states it needed. On October 28, 1919, Congress passed enabling legislation, the Volstead Act, to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment. Wilson felt Prohibition was unenforceable, but his veto of the Volstead Act was overridden by Congress. [113] Prohibition began on January 16, 1920 the manufacture, importation, sale, and transport of alcohol were prohibited, except in specific cases (such as wine used for religious purposes). [114]

Women's suffrage Edit

Wilson privately opposed women's suffrage as late as 1911 because he felt women lacked the public experience needed to be good voters. Looking at the actual evidence of how women voters behaved in the western states changed his mind, and he came to feel they could indeed be good voters. He did not speak publicly on the issue except to echo the Democratic Party position that suffrage was a state matter, primarily because of strong opposition in the white South to Black voting rights. [115]

A win for suffrage in New York state, combined with the increasingly prominent role women took in the war effort in factories and at home, convinced Wilson and many others to fully support national women's suffrage. In a January 1918 speech before Congress, Wilson for the first time endorsed a national right to vote: "We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?" [116] Later in January, the House quickly passed a constitutional amendment providing for women's suffrage in a 274 to 136 vote, but the campaign for women's suffrage stalled in the Senate. While the vast majority of Republicans favored the amendment, Southern Democrats stood opposed. [117] Wilson continually pressured senators to vote for the bill, and in June 1919 the Senate approved the amendment. The requisite number of states ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in August 1920. [118] That same year, Wilson appointed Helen H. Gardener to a seat on the United States Civil Service Commission, the highest position a woman had ever held in the federal government. [119]

Demobilization and First Red Scare Edit

Wilson's leadership in domestic policy in the aftermath of the war was complicated by his focus on the Treaty of Versailles, opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress, and, beginning late 1919, Wilson's incapacity. [120] A plan to form a commission for the purpose of demobilization of the war effort was abandoned due to the Republican control of the Senate, as Republicans could block the appointment of commission members. Instead, Wilson favored the prompt dismantling of wartime boards and regulatory agencies. [121] Though McAdoo and others favored extending government control of railroads under the United States Railroad Administration, Congress passed the Esch–Cummins Act, which restored private control in 1920. [122]

Demobilization of the army was chaotic and violent four million soldiers were sent home with little planning, little money, few benefits, and vague promises. A wartime bubble in prices of farmland burst, leaving many farmers deeply in debt after they purchased new land. Major strikes in the steel, coal, and meatpacking industries disrupted the economy in 1919. [123] The country was also hit by the influenza pandemic, which killed over 600,000 Americans in 1918 and 1919. [124] A massive agricultural price collapse was averted in 1919 in early 1920 through the efforts of Hoover's Food Administration, but prices dropped substantially in late 1920. [125] After the expiration of wartime contracts in 1920, the economy plunged into a severe recession, [126] and unemployment rose to 11.9%. [127]

Following the October Revolution in the Russia, many in America feared the possibility of a Communist-inspired agitation in the United States. These fears were inflamed by the 1919 United States anarchist bombings, which were conducted by the anarchist Luigi Galleani and his followers. [128] Fears over far-left subversion, combined with a patriotic national mood, led to the outbreak of the so-called "First Red Scare." Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer convinced Wilson to delay amnesty for those who had been convicted of war-time sedition, and he launched the Palmer Raids to suppress radical organizations. [129] Palmer's activities met resistance from the courts and from some senior federal officials, but Wilson, who was physically incapacitated by late 1919, was not told about the raids. [130] [131]

Civil rights Edit

Segregated government offices Edit

Historian Kendrick Clements argues that "Wilson had none of the crude, vicious racism of James K. Vardaman or Benjamin R. Tillman, but he was insensitive to African-American feelings and aspirations." [132] Segregation of government offices and discriminatory hiring practices had been started by President Theodore Roosevelt and continued by President Taft, but the Wilson administration escalated the practice. [133] In Wilson's first month in office, Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson brought up the issue of segregating workplaces in a cabinet meeting and urged the president to establish it across the government, in restrooms, cafeterias and work spaces. [134] Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo also permitted lower-level officials to racially segregate employees in the workplaces of those departments. Though Wilson did not issue an executive order regarding segregation, by the end of 1913 many departments, including the Navy, had segregated workspaces, restrooms, and cafeterias were segregated. [134] During Wilson's term, the government also began requiring photographs of all applicants for federal jobs. [135]

Ross Kennedy writes that Wilson's support of segregation complied with predominant public opinion, [136] but his change in federal practices was protested in letters from both blacks and whites to the White House, mass meetings, newspaper campaigns and official statements by both black and white church groups. [134] The president's African-American supporters, who had crossed party lines to vote for him in 1912, were bitterly disappointed, and they and Northern leaders protested the changes. [134] Wilson defended his administration's segregation policy in a July 1913 letter responding to Oswald Garrison Villard, publisher of the New York Evening Post and founding member of the NAACP Wilson suggested the segregation removed "friction" between the races. [134]

Segregation in the military Edit

While segregation had been present in the army prior to Wilson, its severity increased significantly under him. During Wilson's first term, the army and navy refused to commission new black officers. [137] Black officers already serving experienced increased discrimination and were often forced out or discharged on dubious grounds. [138] In 1917-1918 the War Department drafted hundreds of thousands of blacks into the army, and draftees were paid equally regardless of race. Commissioning of African-Americans officers resumed but units remained segregated and most all-black units were led by white officers. [139]

Unlike the Army, the U.S. Navy had never been formally segregated. Following Wilson's appointment of Josephus Daniels as Secretary of the Navy, a system of Jim Crow was swiftly implemented, Ships, training facilities, restrooms, and cafeterias all becoming segregated. [134] While Daniels significantly expanded opportunities for advancement and training available to white sailors, African-American sailors were relegated almost entirely to mess and custodial duties, often assigned to act as servants for white officers. [140]

Hundreds of thousands of blacks were drafted into the wartime Army, and given equal pay with whites. However, in accord with military policy from the Civil War through the Second World War, the army kept African-American soldiers in all-black units with white officers, and the great majority of black units were kept out of combat. [141] When a delegation of blacks protested the discriminatory actions, Wilson told them "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen." In 1918, W. E. B. Du Bois—a leader of the NAACP who had campaigned for Wilson believing he was a "liberal southerner"—was offered an army commission in charge of dealing with race relations DuBois accepted, but he failed his army physical and did not serve. [142] [143] By 1916, Du Bois opposed Wilson, charging that his first term had seen "the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that [blacks] had experienced since the Civil War." [143]

Race riots and lynchings Edit

The Great Migration of African Americans out of the South surged in 1917 and 1918. There was a severe shortage of housing in centers of war industry. Race riots erupted—the worst was the East St. Louis riots of July 1917 which killed 29 blacks and 9 whites and caused $1.4 million in property damage. [144] Wilson asked Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory if the federal government could intervene to "check these disgraceful outrages." However, on the advice of Gregory, Wilson did not take direct action against the riots. [145]

Lynchings against individual blacks averaged about one a week across the South. [146] After consulting with African-American leader Robert Moton, Wilson issued a major statement denouncing lynching. He called upon governors and law-enforcement officers to "stamp out this disgraceful evil" of lynch mobs. He denounced the mob spirit of lynching as a blow against liberty and justice. He further stated, "I say plainly that every American who takes part in the action of mob or gives it any sort of continence is no true son of this great democracy but its betrayer, and . [discredits] her by that single disloyalty to her standards of law and of rights." [147]

In 1919, another series of race riots occurred in Washington D.C., Chicago, Omaha, Elaine, Arkansas, and two dozen other cities across the country. At the request of state governors, The War Department sent Army troops to the worst-hit cities. Wilson ignored the crisis. [148] [149]

Liberal internationalism Edit

Wilson's foreign policy was based on an idealistic approach to liberal internationalism that sharply contrasted with realist conservative nationalism of Taft, Roosevelt, and William McKinley. [150] Since 1900, the consensus of Democrats had, according to Arthur Link:

consistently condemned militarism, imperialism, and interventionism in foreign policy. They instead advocated world involvement along liberal-internationalist lines. Wilson's appointment of William Jennings Bryan as Secretary of State indicated a new departure, for Bryan had long been the leading opponent of imperialism and militarism and a pioneer in the world peace movement. [151]

Bryan took the initiative in asking 40 countries with ambassadors in Washington to sign bilateral arbitration treaties. Any dispute of any kind with the United States would lead to a one-year cooling-off period, and submission to an international commission for arbitration. Thirty countries signed, but not Mexico and Colombia (which had grievances with Washington), nor Japan, Germany, Austria-Hungary, or the Ottoman Empire. Some European diplomats signed the treaties, but considered them irrelevant. [152]

Diplomatic historian George C. Herring says that Wilson's idealism was genuine, but that it had blind spots:

Wilson's genuine and deeply felt aspirations to build a better world suffered from a certain culture-blindness. He lacked experience in diplomacy and hence an appreciation of its limits. He had not traveled widely outside the United States and knew little of other peoples and cultures beyond Britain, which he greatly admired. Especially in his first years in office, he had difficulty seeing that well-intended efforts to spread U.S. values might be viewed as interference at best, coercion at worst. His vision was further narrowed by the terrible burden of racism, common among the elite of his generation, which limited his capacity to understand and respect people of different colors. Above all, he was blinded by his certainty of America's goodness and destiny. [153]

Latin America Edit

Wilson sought closer relations with Latin America, and he hoped to create a Pan-American organization to arbitrate international disputes. He also negotiated a treaty with Colombia that would have paid that country an indemnity for the U.S. role in the secession of Panama, but the Senate defeated this treaty. [154] However, Wilson frequently intervened in Latin American affairs, saying in 1913: "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men." [155] The Dominican Republic had been a de facto American protectorate since Roosevelt's presidency, but suffered from instability. In 1916, Wilson sent troops to occupy the island, and the soldiers remained until 1924. In 1915, the U.S. intervened in Haiti after a revolt overthrew the government, The occupation lasted until 1919. Wilson also authorized military interventions in Cuba, Panama, and Honduras. The 1914 Bryan–Chamorro Treaty converted Nicaragua into another de facto protectorate, and the U.S. stationed soldiers there throughout Wilson's presidency. [156] [157]

The Panama Canal opened in 1914, fulfilling the long-term American goal of building a canal across Central America. The canal provided quick passage between the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean, presenting new opportunities to the shippers and allowing the Navy to quickly transfer warships between the two oceans. In 1916, Wilson used the Treaty of the Danish West Indies to purchase the Danish West Indies for $25 million. The new territory was renamed as the United States Virgin Islands. [158]

Mexican Revolution Edit

Apart from the World War, Mexico was the main focus of Wilson's foreign policy. [159] Wilson took office during the intensely violent Mexican Revolution, which had begun in 1911 after liberals overthrew the military dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Shortly before Wilson took office, conservatives retook power through a coup led by Victoriano Huerta. [160] Wilson rejected the legitimacy of Huerta's "government of butchers" and demanded Mexico hold democratic elections. Wilson's unprecedented approach meant no recognition and doomed Huerta's prospects for establishing a stable government. [161] After Huerta arrested U.S. Navy personnel who had accidentally landed in a restricted zone near the northern port town of Tampico, Wilson dispatched the Navy to occupy the Mexican port city of Veracruz. A strong backlash against the American intervention among Mexicans of all political affiliations convinced Wilson to abandon his plans to expand the U.S. military intervention, but the intervention nonetheless helped convince Huerta to flee from the country. [162] A group led by Venustiano Carranza established control over a significant proportion of Mexico, and Wilson recognized Carranza's government in October 1915. [163]

Carranza continued to face various opponents within Mexico, including regional warlord Pancho Villa. In early 1916, Pancho Villa raided an American town in New Mexico, killing or wounding dozens of Americans and sparking an angry popular demand for his punishment. Wilson ordered General John J. Pershing and 4000 troops across the border to capture Villa. By April, Pershing's forces had broken up and dispersed Villa's bands, but Villa remained on the loose and Pershing continued his pursuit deep into Mexico. Carranza then pivoted against the Americans and accused them of a punitive invasion a confrontation with a mob in Parral on April 12 resulted in two dead Americans and six wounded, plus hundreds of Mexican casualties. Further incidents led to the brink of war by late June, when Wilson demanded an immediate release of American soldiers held prisoner. The prisoners were released, tensions subsided, and bilateral negotiations began under the auspices of the Mexican-American Joint High Commission. Eager to withdraw from Mexico due to World War I, Wilson ordered Pershing to withdraw, and the last American soldiers left in February 1917. According to historian Arthur Link, Carranza's successful handling of the American intervention in Mexico left the country free to develop its revolution without American pressure. [164] The incident also gave the American army some needed experience and made Pershing a national figure. [165]

Neutrality in World War I Edit

World War I broke out in July 1914, pitting the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria) against the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia, and several other countries). The war fell into a long stalemate after the German advance was halted in September 1914 at the First Battle of the Marne. [166] From 1914 until early 1917, Wilson's primary foreign policy objective was to keep the United States out of the war in Europe. [167] Wilson insisted that all government actions be neutral, and that the belligerents must respect that neutrality according to the norms of international law. After the war began, Wilson told the Senate that the United States, "must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another." He was ambiguous whether he meant the United States as a nation or meant all Americans as individuals. [168] Though Wilson was determined to keep the United States out of the war, and he thought that the causes of the war were complex, he personally believed that the U.S. shared more values with the Allies than the Central Powers. [169]

Wilson and House sought to position the United States as a mediator in the conflict, but European leaders rejected Houses's offers to help end the conflict. [170] At the urging of Bryan, Wilson also discouraged American companies from extending loans to belligerents. The policy hurt the Allies more than the Central Powers, since the Allies were more dependent on American goods. The administration relaxed the policy of discouraging loans in October 1914 and then ended it in October 1915 due to fears about the policy's effect on the American economy. [171] The United States sought to trade with both the Allied Powers and the Central Powers, but the British attempted to impose a Blockade of Germany, and, after a period of negotiations, Wilson essentially assented to the British blockade. The U.S. had relatively little direct trade with the Central Powers, and Wilson was unwilling to wage war against Britain over trade issues. [172] The British also made their blockade more acceptable to American leaders by buying, rather than seizing without compensation, intercepted goods. [173] Many Germans viewed American trade with the Allies as decidedly unneutral. [172]

Growing tensions Edit

In response to the British blockade of the Central Powers, the Germans launched a submarine campaign against merchant vessels in the seas surrounding the British Isles. Wilson strongly protested the policy, which had a much stronger effect on American trade than the British blockade. [174] In the March 1915 Thrasher Incident, the commercial British steamship Falaba was sunk by a German submarine with the loss of 111 lives, including one American. [175] In early 1915, a German bomb struck an American ship, the Cushing, and a German submarine torpedoed an American tanker, the Gulflight. Wilson took the view, based on some reasonable evidence, that both incidents were accidental, and that a settlement of claims could be postponed to the end of the war. [176] A German submarine torpedoed and sank the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania in May 1915 over a thousand perished, including many Americans. [177] Wilson did not call for war instead he said, "There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right". He realized he had chosen the wrong words when critics lashed out at his rhetoric. [178] Wilson sent a protest to Germany which demanded that the German government "take immediate steps to prevent the recurrence" of incidents like the sinking of the Lusitania. In response, Bryan, who believed that Wilson had placed the defense of American trade rights above neutrality, resigned from the cabinet. [179]

The White Star liner the SS Arabic was torpedoed in August 1915, with two American casualties. The U.S. threatened a diplomatic break unless Germany repudiated the action. The Germans agreed to warn unarmed merchant ships before attacking them. [180] In March 1916, the SS Sussex, an unarmed ferry under the French flag, was torpedoed in the English Channel and four Americans were counted among the dead the Germans had flouted the post-Lusitania exchanges. Wilson drew praise when he succeeded in wringing from Germany a pledge to constrain submarine warfare to the rules of cruiser warfare. This was a clear departure from existing practices—a diplomatic concession from which Germany could only more brazenly withdraw. [181] In January 1917, the Germans initiated a new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare against ships in the seas around the British Isles. German leaders knew that the policy would likely provoke U.S. entrance into the war, but they hoped to defeat the Allied Powers before the U.S. could fully mobilize. [182]

Preparedness Edit

Military "preparedness," or building up the small army and navy—became a major dynamic of public opinion. [183] [184] New, well-funded organizations sprang up to appeal to the grassroots, including the American Defense Society (ADS) and the National Security League, both of which favored entering the war on the side of the Allies. [185] [186] Interventionists, led by Theodore Roosevelt, wanted war with Germany and attacked Wilson's refusal to build up the U.S. Army in anticipation of war. [187] Wilson resistance to preparedness was partly due to the powerful anti-war element of the Democratic Party, which was led by Bryan. Anti-war sentiment was strong among many groups inside and outside of the party, including women, [188] Protestant churches, [189] labor unions, [190] and Southern Democrats like Claude Kitchin, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Biographer John Morton Blum says:

Wilson's long silence about preparedness had permitted such a spread and such a hardening of antipreparedness attitudes within his party and across the nation that when he came [at last] to his task, neither Congress to the country was amenable to much persuasion. [191]

After the sinking of the Lusitania and the resignation of Bryan, Wilson publicly committed himself to preparedness and began to build up the army and the navy. [173] Wilson was constrained by America's traditional commitment to military nonintervention. Wilson believed that a massive military mobilization could only take place after a declaration of war, even though that meant a long delay in sending troops to Europe. Many Democrats felt that no American soldiers would be needed, only American money and munitions. [192] Wilson had more success in his request for a dramatic expansion of the Navy. Congress passed a Naval Expansion Act in 1916 that encapsulated the planning by the Navy's professional officers to build a fleet of top-rank status, but it would take several years to become operational. [193]

World War I Edit

Entering the war Edit

In early 1917, German ambassador Johann von Bernstorf informed Secretary of State Lansing of Germany's commitment to unrestricted submarine warfare. [194] In late February, the U.S. public learned of the Zimmermann Telegram, a secret diplomatic communication in which Germany sought to convince Mexico to join it in a war against the United States. [195] Wilson's reaction after consulting the Cabinet and with Congress was a minimal one—that diplomatic relations with the Germans be brought to a halt. The president said, "We are the sincere friends of the German people and earnestly desire to remain at peace with them. We shall not believe they are hostile to us unless or until we are obliged to believe it". [196] After a series of attacks on American ships, Wilson held a Cabinet meeting on March 20 all Cabinet members agreed that the time had come for the United States to enter the war. Wilson called Congress into a special session, which would begin on April 2. [197]

March 1917 also brought the first of two revolutions in Russia, which impacted the strategic role of the U.S. in the war. The overthrow of the imperial government removed a serious barrier to America's entry into the European conflict, while the second revolution in November relieved the Germans of a major threat on their eastern front, and allowed them to dedicate more troops to the Western front, thus making U.S. forces central to Allied success in battles of 1918. Wilson initially rebuffed pleas from the Allies to dedicate military resources to an intervention in Russia against the Bolsheviks, based partially on his experience from attempted intervention in Mexico nevertheless he ultimately was convinced of the potential benefit and agreed to dispatch a limited force to assist the Allies on the eastern front. [198]

Wilson addressed Congress on April 2, calling for a declaration of war against Germany. He argued that the Germans were engaged in "nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States." He asked for a military draft to raise the army, increased taxes to pay for military expenses, loans to Allied governments, and increased industrial and agricultural production. [199] The declaration of war by the United States against Germany passed Congress by strong bipartisan majorities on April 6, 1917, with opposition from ethnic German strongholds and remote rural areas in the South. The United States would also later declare war against Austria-Hungary in December 1917. The U.S. did not sign a formal alliance with Britain or France but operated as an "associated" power—an informal ally with military cooperation through the Supreme War Council in London. [200]

Generals Frederick Funston and Leonard Wood had been contenders for the command of American army forces in Europe, but Funston died just weeks before the United States entered the war, and Wilson distrusted Wood, who was a close ally of Theodore Roosevelt. Wilson instead gave command to General John J. Pershing, who had led the expedition against Pancho Villa. [201] Pershing would have complete authority as to tactics, strategy, and some diplomacy. [202] Edward House became the president's main channel of communication with the British government, and William Wiseman, a British naval attaché, was House's principal contact in England. Their personal relationship succeeded in serving the powers well, by overcoming strained relations in order to achieve essential understandings between the two governments. House also became the U.S. representative on the Allies' Supreme War Council. [203]

The Fourteen Points Edit

Wilson sought the establishment of "an organized common peace" that would help prevent future conflicts. In this goal, he was opposed not just by the Central Powers, but also the other Allied Powers, who, to various degrees, sought to win concessions and oppose a punitive peace agreement on the Central Powers. [204] He initiated a secret study group named The Inquiry, directed by Colonel House, to prepare for post-war negotiations. [205] The Inquiry's studies culminated in a speech by Wilson to Congress on January 8, 1918, wherein he articulated America's long term war objectives. It was the clearest expression of intention made by any of the belligerent nations. The speech, known as the Fourteen Points, was authored mainly by Walter Lippmann and projected Wilson's progressive domestic policies into the international arena. The first six points dealt with diplomacy, freedom of the seas, and settlement of colonial claims. Then territorial issues were addressed and the final point, the establishment of an association of nations to guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of all nations—a League of Nations. The address was translated into many languages for global dissemination. [206]

Aside from post-war considerations, Wilson's Fourteen Points were motivated by several factors. Unlike some of the other Allied leaders, Wilson did not call for the total break-up of the Ottoman Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In offering a non-punitive peace to these nations as well as Germany, Wilson hoped to quickly began negotiations to end the war. Wilson's liberal pronouncements were also targeted at pacifistic and war-weary elements within the Allied countries, including the United States. Additionally, Wilson hoped to woo the Russians back into the war, although he failed in this goal. [207]

Course of the war Edit

With the U.S. entrance into the war, Wilson and Secretary of War Baker launched an expansion of the army, with the goal of creating a 300,000-member Regular Army, a 440,000-member National Guard, and a 500,000-member conscripted force known as the "National Army." Despite some resistance to conscription and to the commitment of American soldiers abroad, large majorities of both houses of Congress voted to impose conscription with the Selective Service Act of 1917. Seeking to avoid the draft riots of the Civil War, the bill established local draft boards that were charged with determining who should be drafted. By the end of the war, nearly 3 million men would be drafted. [208] The Navy also saw tremendous expansion, and, at the urging of Admiral William Sims, focused on building anti-submarine vessels. Allied shipping losses dropped substantially due to U.S. contributions and a new emphasis on the convoy system. [209]

The American Expeditionary Forces first arrived in France in mid-1917. [210] Wilson and Pershing rejected the British and French proposal that American soldiers integrate into existing Allied units, giving the United States more freedom of action but requiring for the creation of new organizations and supply chains. [211] There were only 175,000 American soldiers in Europe at the end of 1917, but by mid-1918 10,000 Americans were arriving in Europe per day. Russia exited the war after the March 1918 signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, allowing Germany to shift soldiers from the Eastern Front of the war. The Germans launched a Spring Offensive against the Allies that inflicted heavy casualties but failed to break the Allied line. Beginning in August, the Allies launched the Hundred Days Offensive that pushed back the exhausted German army. [212]

By the end of September 1918, the German leadership no longer believed it could win the war. Recognizing that Wilson would be more likely to accept a peace deal from a democratic government, Kaiser Wilhelm II appointed a new government led by Prince Maximilian of Baden Baden immediately sought an armistice with Wilson. [213] In the exchange of notes, German and American leaders agreed to incorporate the Fourteen Points in the armistice House then procured agreement from France and Britain, but only after threatening to conclude a unilateral armistice without them. Wilson ignored Pershing's plea to drop the armistice and instead demand an unconditional surrender by Germany. [214] The Germans signed the Armistice of 11 November 1918, bringing an end to the fighting. Austria-Hungary had signed the Armistice of Villa Giusti eight days earlier, while the Ottoman Empire had signed the Armistice of Mudros in October.

Aftermath of World War I Edit

Paris Peace Conference Edit

After the signing of the armistice, Wilson traveled to Europe to attend the Paris Peace Conference, thereby becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office. [215] Save for a two-week return to the United States, Wilson remained in Europe for six months, where he focused on reaching a peace treaty to formally end the war. The defeated Central Powers had not been invited to the conference, and anxiously awaited their fate. [216] Wilson proposed that the competing factions of the Russian Civil War declare a truce and send a joint delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, but other Allied leaders opposed the proposal and no delegation was sent. [217] Wilson, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando made up the "Big Four," the Allied leaders with the most influence at the Paris Peace Conference. Though Wilson continued to advocate his idealistic Fourteen Points, many of the other allies desired revenge. Clemenceau especially sought onerous terms for Germany, while Lloyd George supported some of Wilson's ideas but feared public backlash if the treaty proved too favorable to the Central Powers. [216]

In pursuit of his League of Nations, Wilson conceded several points to the other powers present at the conference. France pressed for the dismemberment of Germany and the payment of a huge sum in war reparations. Wilson resisted these ideas, but Germany was still required to pay war reparations and subjected to military occupation in the Rhineland. Additionally, a clause in the treaty specifically named Germany as responsible for the war. Wilson agreed to the creation of mandates in former German and Ottoman territories, allowing the European powers and Japan to establish de facto colonies in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The Japanese acquisition of German interests in the Shandong Peninsula of China proved especially unpopular, as it undercut Wilson's promise of self-government. However, Wilson won the creation of several new states in Central Europe and the Balkans, including Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were partitioned. [218] Wilson refused to concede to Italy's demands for territory on the Adriatic coast, leading to a dispute between Yugoslavia and Italy that would not be settled until the signing of the 1920 Treaty of Rapallo. [219] Japan proposed that the conference endorse a racial equality clause. Wilson was indifferent to the issue, but acceded to strong opposition from Australia and Britain. [220]

The Covenant of the League of Nations was incorporated into the conference's Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war with Germany. [221] Wilson himself presided over the committee that drafted the covenant, which bound members to oppose "external aggression" and to agree to peacefully settle disputes through organizations like the Permanent Court of International Justice. [222] During the conference, former President Taft cabled to Wilson three proposed amendments to the League covenant which he thought would considerably increase its acceptability—the right of withdrawal from the League, the exemption of domestic issues from the League, and the inviolability of the Monroe Doctrine. Wilson very reluctantly accepted these amendments. In addition to the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies also wrote treaties with Austria (the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye), Hungary (the Treaty of Trianon), the Ottoman Empire (the Treaty of Sèvres), and Bulgaria (the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine), all of which incorporated the League of Nations charter. [223]

The conference finished negotiations in May 1919, at which point German leaders viewed the treaty for the first time. Some German leaders favored repudiating the treaty, but Germany signed the treaty on June 28, 1919. [224] For his peace-making efforts, Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. [225] However, the defeated Central Powers protested the harsh terms of the treaty, and several colonial representatives pointed out the hypocrisy of a treaty that established new nations in Europe but allowed continued colonialism in Asia and Africa. Wilson also faced an uncertain domestic battle to ratify the treaty, as Republicans largely opposed it. [226]

Treaty ratification debate Edit

The chances were less than favorable for ratification of the treaty by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, in which Republicans held a narrow majority. [227] Public opinion on the treaty was mixed, with intense opposition from most Republicans, Germans, and Irish Catholic Democrats. In numerous meetings with Senators, Wilson discovered opposition had hardened. Despite his weakened physical condition following the Paris Peace Conference, Wilson decided to barnstorm the Western states, scheduling 29 major speeches and many short ones to rally support. [228] Wilson suffered a series of debilitating strokes and had to cut short his trip on in September 1919. He became an invalid in the White House, closely monitored by his wife, who insulated him from negative news and downplayed for him the gravity of his condition. [229]

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge led the opposition to the treaty he despised Wilson and hoped to humiliate him in the ratification battle. Republicans were outraged by Wilson's failure to discuss the war or its aftermath with them. An intensely partisan battle developed in the Senate, as Republicans opposed the treaty and Democrats largely supported it. The debate over the treaty centered around a debate over the American role in the world community in the post-war era, and Senators fell into three main groups. Most Democrats favored the treaty. [227] Fourteen Senators, mostly Republicans, become known as the "irreconcilables," as they completely opposed U.S. entrance into the League of Nations. Some of these irreconcilables, such as George W. Norris, opposed the treaty for its failure to support decolonization and disarmament. Other irreconcilables, such as Hiram Johnson, feared surrendering American freedom of action to an international organization. Most sought the removal of Article X the League covenant, which purported to bind nations to defend each other against aggression. [230] The remaining group of Senators, known as "reservationists," accepted the idea of the league, but sought varying degrees of change to the League to ensure the protection of U.S. sovereignty. [230] Former President Taft and former Secretary of State Elihu Root both favored ratification of the treaty with some modifications, and their public support for the treaty gave Wilson some chance of winning significant Republican support for ratification. [227]

Despite the difficulty of winning ratification, Wilson consistently refused to accede to reservations, partly due to concerns about having to re-open negotiations with the other powers if reservations were added. [231] In mid-November 1919, Lodge and his Republicans formed a coalition with the pro-treaty Democrats to pass a treaty with reservations, but the seriously indisposed Wilson rejected this compromise and enough Democrats followed his lead to defeat ratification. Cooper and Bailey suggest that Wilson's stroke in September had debilitated him from negotiating effectively with Lodge. [232] U.S. involvement in World War I would not formally end until the passage of the Knox–Porter Resolution in 1921.

Intervention in Russia Edit

After Russia left World War I following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Allies sent troops there to prevent a German or Bolshevik takeover of weapons, munitions and other supplies previously shipped as aid to the pre-revolutionary government. [233] Wilson loathed the Bolsheviks, who he believed did not represent the Russian people, but he feared that foreign intervention would only strengthen Bolshevik rule. Britain and France pressured him to intervene in order to potentially re-open a second front against Germany, and Wilson acceded to this pressure in the hope that it would help him in post-war negotiations and check Japanese influence in Siberia. [234] The U.S. sent armed forces to assist the withdrawal of Czechoslovak Legions along the Trans-Siberian Railway, and to hold key port cities at Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok. Though specifically instructed not to engage the Bolsheviks, the U.S. forces engaged in several armed conflicts against forces of the new Russian government. Revolutionaries in Russia resented the United States intrusion. Robert Maddox wrote, "The immediate effect of the intervention was to prolong a bloody civil war, thereby costing thousands of additional lives and wreaking enormous destruction on an already battered society." [235]

Other issues Edit

In 1919, Wilson guided American foreign policy to "acquiesce" in the Balfour Declaration without supporting Zionism in an official way. Wilson expressed sympathy for the plight of Jews, especially in Poland and France. [236]

In May 1920, Wilson sent a long-deferred proposal to Congress to have the U.S. accept a mandate from the League of Nations to take over Armenia. [237] Bailey notes this was opposed by American public opinion, and had the support of only 23 senators. [238] Richard G. Hovannisian states that Wilson "made all the wrong arguments" for the mandate and focused less on the immediate policy than on how history would judge his actions: "[he] wished to place it clearly on the record that the abandonment of Armenia was not his doing." [239]

List of international trips Edit

Wilson made two international trips during his presidency. [240] He was the first sitting president to travel to Europe. He spent nearly seven months in Europe after World War I (interrupted by a brief 9-day return stateside).

Dates Country Locations Details
1 December 14–25, 1918 France Paris,
Attended preliminary discussions prior to the Paris Peace Conference promoted his Fourteen Points principles for world peace. Departed the U.S. December 4.
December 26–31, 1918 United Kingdom London,
Met with Prime Minister David Lloyd George and King George V.
December 31, 1918 – January 1, 1919 France Paris Stopover en route to Italy.
January 1–6, 1919 Italy Rome,
Met with King Victor Emmanuel III and Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando.
January 4, 1919 Vatican Rome Audience with Pope Benedict XV (the first meeting between a sitting President and a reigning Pope).
January 7 – February 14, 1919 France Paris Attended Paris Peace Conference. Returned to the U.S. February 24.
2 March 14 – June 18, 1919 France Paris Attended Paris Peace Conference. Departed the U.S. March 5.
June 18–19, 1919 Belgium Brussels,
Met with King Albert I. Addressed Parliament.
June 20–28, 1919 France Paris Attended Paris Peace Conference. Returned to the U.S. July 8.

On October 2, 1919, Wilson suffered a serious stroke, leaving him paralyzed on his left side, and with only partial vision in the right eye. [241] He was confined to bed for weeks and sequestered from everyone except his wife and physician, Dr. Cary Grayson. [242] Doctor Bert E. Park, a neurosurgeon who examined Wilson's medical records after his death, writes that Wilson's illness affected his personality in various ways, making him prone to "disorders of emotion, impaired impulse control, and defective judgment." [243] In the months after the stroke, Wilson was insulated by his wife, who selected matters for his attention and delegated others to his cabinet. For the remainder of the Wilson presidency, Edith Wilson managed the office of the president, a role she later described as a "stewardship," as she determined which communications and matters of state were important enough to bring to the attention of the bedridden president. Wilson temporarily resumed a perfunctory attendance at cabinet meetings. [244] His wife and aide Joe Tumulty helped a journalist, Louis Seibold, present a false account of an interview with the supposedly alert president. [245] Despite his condition, Wilson rarely considered resigning, and he continued to advocate ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and even planned to run again. [246]

By February 1920, the president's true condition was publicly known. Many expressed qualms about Wilson's fitness for the presidency at a time when the League fight was reaching a climax, and domestic issues such as strikes, unemployment, inflation and the threat of Communism were ablaze. No one close to Wilson, including his wife, his physician, or personal assistant, was willing to take responsibility to certify, as required by the Constitution, his "inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office". [247] Though some members of Congress encouraged Vice President Marshall to assert his claim to the presidency, Marshall never attempted to replace Wilson. [21] Wilson's lengthy period of incapacity while serving as president was unprecedented of the previous presidents, only James Garfield had been in a similar situation, but there were no secrets about his assassination and Garfield retained greater control of his mental faculties and did not face pressing issues. [248] [249]

Midterm elections of 1914 Edit

In Wilson's first mid-term elections, Republicans picked up sixty seats in the House, but failed to re-take the chamber. In the first Senate elections since the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, Democrats retained their Senate majority. Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party, which had won a handful of Congressional seats in the 1912 election, fared poorly, while conservative Republicans also defeated several progressive Republicans. The continuing Democratic control of Congress pleased Wilson, and he publicly argued that the election represented a mandate for continued progressive reforms. [250] In the ensuing 64th Congress, Wilson and his allies passed several more laws, though none were as impactful as the major domestic initiatives that had been passed during Wilson's first two years in office. [251]

Presidential election of 1916 Edit

Wilson, renominated without opposition, employed his campaign slogan "He kept us out of war", though he never promised unequivocally to stay out of the war. In his acceptance speech on September 2, 1916, Wilson pointedly warned Germany that submarine warfare resulting in American deaths would not be tolerated, saying "The nation that violates these essential rights must expect to be checked and called to account by direct challenge and resistance. It at once makes the quarrel in part our own." [252] Vance C. McCormick, a leading progressive, became chairman of the party, and Ambassador Henry Morgenthau was recalled from Turkey to manage campaign finances. [253] Colonel House played an important role in the campaign. "He planned its structure set its tone helped guide its finance chose speakers, tactics, and strategy and, not least, handled the campaign's greatest asset and greatest potential liability: its brilliant but temperamental candidate." [254]

As the party platform was drafted, Senator Owen of Oklahoma urged Wilson to take ideas from the Progressive Party platform of 1912 "as a means of attaching to our party progressive Republicans who are in sympathy with us in so large a degree." At Wilson's request, Owen highlighted federal legislation to promote workers' health and safety, prohibit child labor, provide unemployment compensation and establish minimum wages and maximum hours. Wilson, in turn, included in his draft platform a plank that called for all work performed by and for the federal government to provide a minimum wage, an eight-hour day and six-day workweek, health and safety measures, the prohibition of child labour, and (his own additions) safeguards for female workers and a retirement program. [255]

The 1916 Republican National Convention nominated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes for president. A former governor of New York, Hughes sought to reunify the progressive and conservative wings of the party. Republicans campaigned against Wilson's New Freedom policies, especially tariff reduction, the implementation of higher income taxes, and the Adamson Act, which they derided as "class legislation." [256] Republicans also attacked Wilson's foreign policy on various grounds, but domestic affairs generally dominated the campaign. As election day neared, both sides saw victory as a strong possibility. [257]

The election outcome was in doubt for several days and was determined by several close states. Wilson won California by 3,773 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's 254. Wilson was able to win by picking up many votes that had gone to Teddy Roosevelt or Eugene V. Debs in 1912. [258] He swept the Solid South and won all but a handful of Western states, while Hughes won most of the Northeastern and Midwestern states. [259] By the time Hughes' concession telegram arrived, Wilson commented "it was a little moth-eaten when it got here". [260] Wilson's re-election made him the first Democrat since Andrew Jackson to win two consecutive terms. Wilson's party also maintained control of Congress, although control in the House would depend on the support of several members of the Progressive Party. [15]

Midterm elections of 1918 Edit

Wilson involved himself in the 1918 Democratic congressional primaries, hoping to elect progressive members of Congress who would support his administration's foreign policies. Wilson succeeded in defeating several intra-party opponents, including Senator James K. Vardaman of Mississippi. [261] However, the general elections saw Republicans take control of both the House and the Senate. Republicans ran against Wilson's foreign policy agenda, especially his proposal for the League of Nations. [262]

Presidential election of 1920 Edit

Despite his ill health, Wilson continued to entertain the possibility of running for a third term. Many of Wilson's advisers tried to convince him that his health precluded another campaign, but Wilson nonetheless asked Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby to nominate him for president at the 1920 Democratic National Convention. While the convention strongly endorsed Wilson's policies, Democratic leaders were unwilling to support the ailing Wilson for a third term. The convention held several ballots over multiple days, with McAdoo and Governor James Cox of Ohio emerging as the major contenders for the nomination. [263] Though McAdoo had served as Secretary of the Treasury under Wilson, and had married Wilson's daughter in 1914, the president did not back McAdoo's candidacy due in part to McAdoo's perceived lukewarm support for the League of Nations. [264] After dozens of ballots, the convention nominated a ticket consisting of Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. [263]

Many expected Theodore Roosevelt to be the 1920 Republican nominee, but his death in January 1919 left the race for the Republican nomination wide open. [265] The three major contenders for the Republican nomination were General Leonard Wood, who had been a close friend of Roosevelt, Senator Hiram Johnson, who was Roosevelt's running mate on the 1912 Progressive ticket, and Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois. When the 1920 Republican National Convention met in June 1920, none of the three major contenders were able to accrue enough support to win the nomination, and party leaders put forward various favorite son candidates. The party ultimately nominated a dark horse candidate, Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio. [266] The Republicans centered their campaign around opposition to Wilson's policies, with Harding promising a "return to normalcy" to the conservative policies that had prevailed at the turn of the century. Wilson largely stayed out of the campaign, although he endorsed Cox and continued to advocate for U.S. membership in the League of Nations. Harding won a landslide victory, taking 60.3% of the popular vote and winning every state outside of the South. Democrats also suffered huge losses in the Congressional and gubernatorial elections of 1920, and the Republicans increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. [267]

Wilson is generally ranked by historians and political scientists as one of the better presidents. [268] A 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association's Presidents and Executive Politics section ranked Wilson as the 10th best president. [269] A 2017 C-Span poll of historians ranked Wilson as the 11th best president. [270] However, a 2006 poll of historians ranked Wilson's unwillingness to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles as the fourth-worst mistake made by a sitting president. [271]

More than any of his predecessors, Wilson took steps towards the creation of a strong federal government that would protect ordinary citizens against the overwhelming power of large corporations. [272] Many of Wilson's accomplishments, including the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the graduated income tax, and labor laws, continued to influence the United States long after Wilson's death. [268] He is generally regarded as a key figure in the establishment of Modern American liberalism, and a strong influence on future presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. [268] Cooper argues that in terms of impact and ambition, only the New Deal and the Great Society rival the domestic accomplishments of Wilson's presidency. [273] Wilson's idealistic foreign policy, which came to be known as Wilsonianism, also cast a long shadow over American foreign policy, and Wilson's League of Nations influenced the development of the United Nations. However, Wilson's record on civil rights has often been attacked. [268] Wilson's administration saw a new level of segregation among the federal government, and Wilson's Cabinet included several racists. [268]

Perhaps the harshest attack on Wilson's diplomacy comes from Stanford historian Thomas A. Bailey in two books that remain heavily cited by scholars, Woodrow Wilson and the Lost Peace (1944) and Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal (1945), Bailey:

contended that Wilson's wartime isolationism, as well as his peace proposals at war's end, were seriously flawed. Highlighting the fact that American delegates encountered staunch opposition to Wilson's proposed League of Nations, Bailey concluded that the president and his diplomatic staff essentially sold out, compromising important American ideals to secure mere fragments of Wilson's progressive vision. Hence, while Bailey primarily targeted President Wilson in these critiques, others, including House, did not emerge unscathed. [274]

A Historian Told Us Why Woodrow Wilson Was the Worst U.S. President Ever

Key Point: Wilson brought America into World War I, and bungled the war effort.

If you wanted to identify, with confidence, the very worst president in American history, how would you go about it? One approach would be to consult the various academic polls on presidential rankings that have been conducted from time to time since Harvard’s Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. pioneered this particular survey scholarship in 1948. Bad idea.

Most of those surveys identify Warren G. Harding of Ohio as the worst ever. This is ridiculous. Harding presided over very robust economic times. Not only that, but he inherited a devastating economic recession when he was elected in 1920 and quickly turned bad times into good times, including a 14 percent GDP growth rate in 1922. Labor and racial unrest declined markedly during his watch. He led the country into no troublesome wars.

(This first appeared several years ago and is being reposted due to reader interest.)

There was, of course, the Teapot Dome scandal that implicated major figures in his administration, but there was never any evidence that the president himself participated in any venality. As Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, put it, “Harding wasn’t a bad man. He was just a slob.”

The academic surveys also consistently place near the bottom James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania. Now here’s a man who truly lacked character and watched helplessly as his country descended into the worst crisis of its history. He stepped into the presidency with a blatant lie to the American people. In his inaugural address, he promised he would accept whatever judgment the Supreme Court rendered in the looming Dred Scott case. What he didn’t tell the American people was that he already knew what that judgment was going to be (gleaned through highly inappropriate conversations with justices). This is political cynicism of the rankest sort.

But Buchanan’s failed presidency points to what may be a pertinent distinction in assessing presidential failure. Buchanan was crushed by events that proved too powerful for his own weak leadership. And so the country moved inexorably into one of the worst crises in its history. But Buchanan didn’t create the crisis he merely was too wispy and vacillating to get control of it and thus lead the nation to some kind of resolution. It took his successor, Abraham Lincoln, to do that.

That illustrates the difference between failure of omission and failure of commission—the difference between presidents who couldn’t handle gathering crises and presidents who actually created the crises.

In the realm of commission failure, three presidents come to mind—Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Bear in mind here that nearly all failed presidents have their defenders, who argue, sometimes with elaborate rationales, that the perceived failure wasn’t really failure or that it wasn’t really the fault of this particular president. We see this in stark reality in our own time, with the ongoing debates about the presidency of the second Bush, reflected in the reaction to senator Rand Paul’s recent suggestion that GOP hawks, with their incessant calls for U.S. intrusion into the lands of Islam, contributed to the rise of the violent radicalism of the Islamic State.

The prevailing view of Bush is that his invasion of Iraq, the greatest example in American history of what is known as “preventive war,” proved to be one of the most colossal foreign policy blunders in all of American history, if not actually the greatest. According to this view, Bush destabilized the Middle East, essentially lit it on fire and fostered the resultant rise of the Islamic State and the deepening sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the region. Where this all leads, nobody can tell, but clearly it is going to play out, with devastating consequences, for a long time to come.

But of course there are those who deny that Bush created all this chaos. No, they say, Bush actually had Iraq under control and it was his hapless successor, Barack Obama, who let it all fall apart again by not maintaining a U.S. military force in the country. This is the minority view, embraced tenaciously by many people with a need to gloss over their own complicity in the mess.

There is little doubt that history eventually will fix upon the majority view—that Bush unleashed the surge of chaos, bloodshed and misery that now has the region in its grip. As Princeton’s Sean Wilentz wrote in 2006, when Bush still sat in the Oval Office, “Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.” And bear in mind that Bush also presided over the emergence of one of the most devastating financial crises in the country’s history.

Then there’s Nixon, whose Watergate transgressions thrust the nation into one of its most harrowing constitutional crises. There are some who argue that Nixon’s transgressions weren’t actually as egregious as many believe, particularly when viewed carefully in the context of the maneuverings and manipulations of many of his people, some of them conducted behind the president’s back. There may be some truth in this. But in the end it doesn’t matter. He was president and must take responsibility for the culture and atmosphere he created in the West Wing and the Old Executive Office Building. If his people were running around and breaking the law, he must bear responsibility, whatever his knowledge or complicity. And we know definitively that Nixon himself set the tone in his inner circle—a tone so dark, defensive and menacing that wrongdoing was almost the inevitable result. Also, there can be no dispute that the president himself stepped over the line on numerous occasions.

Which brings us to Woodrow Wilson, whose failures of commission probably had the most dire consequences of any U.S. president. His great flaw was his sanctimonious nature, more stark and distilled than that of any other president, even John Quincy Adams (who was no piker in the sanctimony department). He thought he always knew best, because he thought he knew more than anybody else. Combine that with a powerful humanitarian sensibility, and you get a president who wants to change the world for the betterment of mankind. Watch out for such leaders.

Even during his first term, with war raging in Europe, he sought to get the United States involved as a neutral mediator, fostering a peace agreement to break the tragic stalemate that had the nations of Europe in its grip. When that effort was rebuffed, he ran for reelection by hailing himself as the man who kept the United States out of the war.

But, immediately upon entering his second term, he sought to get his country into the war by manipulating neutrality policy. While proclaiming U.S. neutrality, he favored Britain by observing the British blockade of Germany (imposed, said a young Winston Churchill, to starve Germans, including German infants, into submission) and by allowing armed British merchant ships entry to U.S. ports, which in turn fostered a flow of U.S. munitions to the Allied powers. At the same time, Wilson declared that Germany would be held to a “strict accountability” for any American loss of life or property from Germany’s submarine attacks. This policy applied, said Wilson, even if affected Americans traveling or working on British or French ships. He declined to curtail what he considered Americans’ “right” to travel on vessels tied to France or Britain (but not Germany).

Wilson was warned, most notably by his secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, that these lopsided policies inevitably would pull America into the war. When he ignored those warnings, Bryan resigned from the Wilson cabinet on a stand of principle.

As Bryan predicted, America did get pulled into the conflict, and it certainly appears that that was Wilson’s intention all along. Then three things happened.

First, Wilson conducted the war in ways that devastated the home front. Prices shot up into double digits, and then came a potent economic recession that lasted three years. He accepted the suppression of civil liberties by his notorious attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer. His government nationalized many private industries, including the telegraph, telephone and railroad industries, along with the distribution of coal. Race riots erupted in numerous cities that claimed nearly 150 lives in two years.

Second, America’s entry into the war broke the stalemate, allowing the Allied powers to impose upon Germany devastating armistice terms. Third, when Wilson went to the Versailles peace conference bent on bringing to bear his humanitarian outlook and making the world safe for democracy, he promptly got outmaneuvered by the canny nationalist leaders of Britain and France, whose agenda had nothing to do with Wilson’s dreamy notions about a harmonious world born of his humanitarian vision.

The result was a humiliation of Germany that rendered another war nearly inevitable and created in that country a sump of civic resentment and venom that would poison its politics for a generation. We can’t say with certainty that Adolf Hitler wouldn’t have emerged in Germany if the stalemate of World War I had been settled through negotiations rather than diktat. But we can say that the world spawned by Wilson’s naïve war policies certainly created a political climate in Germany that paved the way for Hitler.

That’s a big load for Wilson to carry through history, though the academic polls consistently rank him quite favorably. That’s probably because most academics are progressives who like Wilson for his own progressive sentiments. But the two Roosevelts also were progressives and left the country better off when they left office. Such a case can’t be made for Wilson, who left the country in shambles. The 1920 Republican victories in the presidential and congressional elections constituted of the greatest political repudiations in U.S. history. Thus, Wilson’s failures of commission render him, arguably, the worst president in American history.

This first appeared several years ago and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The History of Flag Day: Why We Honor the Star-Spangled Banner on June 14

Though it may be overshadowed by President Donald Trump's birthday and, more broadly, the ongoing investigation into his election campaign's ties to Russia, Wednesday is an important American holiday: Flag Day.

The observance, intended to honor what Francis Scott Key would call the broad stripes and bright stars over the land of the free and home of the brave, is held annually on June 14. But you might not even know it's happening, given that most banks are open and, unfortunately, you (probably) have to go to work. Unlike what occurs on Independence Day or Labor Day, there aren't even Flag Day sales or barbecues, as The New York Times noted in 2011 in an opinion piece that also called it "the runty stepchild among American national holidays."

That said, in a turbulent political time where Watergate comparisons abound and Americans believe a former FBI director is more trustworthy than the president, it can be helpful to look back at the past as a way to process the present.

Here's what you need to know. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution officially designating the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the newly formed country, according to the History Channel. It decreed that "the flag of the United States [should] be 13 stripes, alternate red and white" and "that the union [should] be 13 stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation."

From there, the origins of Flag Day are unclear. Several people are credited with creating the holiday, but the timeline generally starts in the late 19th century. A Wisconsin man named B.J. Cigrand decided people should celebrate the official birthday of the banner, so he proposed and helped organize a Flag Day celebration featuring kids, according to the National Flag Day Foundation.

This occurred just around the time that New Yorker George Bolch held a ceremony of his own for Flag Day in 1889 and Elizabeth Duane Gillespie pushed for a similar observance in Pennsylvania in 1893, according to a guide produced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. William Kerr has also been credited with launching the Flag Day movement with his 1888 establishment of the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania, which became a lifelong passion for him.

"He was a strong personality, a force of will," Kerr's grandson, Thomas Kerr, told TribLive in 2012. "He had no secretary. He did it all himself."

As legend has it, Kerr spoke with Woodrow Wilson and inspired the U.S. president to issue a proclamation in 1916 calling for June 14 to be named Flag Day. Calvin Coolidge followed up with a proclamation of his own in 1927, as did Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. But Harry S. Truman was the president who finally signed a Congress-approved Flag Day into law, in 1949.

"It is our custom to observe June 14 each year with ceremonies designed not only to commemorate the birth of our flag but also to rededicate ourselves to the ideals for which it stands," Truman said in his proclamation. "This beloved emblem, which flies above all our people of whatever creed or race, signalizes our respect for human rights and the protection such rights are afforded under our form of government."

So, whether you celebrate Wednesday with a baseball tribute, flag ceremony or street parade, remember the origins of Old Glory&mdashand what it means&mdash240 years after its adoption.

"I venture to say that a great many things are said about the flag which very few people stop to analyze," Wilson said in 1915. "For me, the flag does not express a mere body of vague sentiment. The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment but of a history."

Wilson (book)

When asked why he spent the last thirteen years writing a biography of Wilson, Berg replied "The simple answer is that he was the architect of much of the last century and re-drew the map of the world." [3] But there were personal reasons, as well. Berg was given a copy of Gene Smith's "When the Cheering Stopped: The Last Years of Woodrow Wilson" when he was in the 11th grade [4] and his "budding obsession" has grown ever since. [3] At 15, he put a picture of Wilson on his bedroom wall, a campaign poster given to him by his brother, Jeff [5]

The author had four heroes when he was in high school: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Adlai Stevenson, Woodrow Wilson, and Don Quixote. [6] The fact that the first three went to Princeton helped induce Berg to enroll. Berg spent his college years at Princeton, the college Wilson was president of, graduating in 1971. He also taught a class in biography writing while there doing research for the book. [7]

Berg began researching Wilson in 2000: "I have an image of him in my mind that is unlike any picture I have seen anywhere else, based on material at Princeton and 35 years of researching and thinking about him". [7] "When most people think of Woodrow Wilson, they see a dour minister's son who never cracked a smile, where in fact he was a man of genuine joy and great sadness. I did not write a diplomatic history or a history of foreign affairs in his life. I wanted the reader to walk through his life and see it with his eyes." [8] "It takes a certain amount of egotism for a biographer to think he has something new to add to the record, and I believe I do." [6]

Berg hesitated before writing the biography. "Yet I'd been afraid of writing about him all my life because I held him so high and he was so overwhelming a figure." [9]

Berg visited many of Wilson's homes during his research, including his birthplace, his childhood homes and the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C. "Getting a sense of place is extremely important to me as a biographer. And I make a point, as I have in all of my books, to visit as many of the places in the lives of my subjects as possible." [10]

Berg purchased a set of Arthur A. Link's 69-volume compilation of "Wilson's greatest hits" (that Link spent 40 years collecting) as part of his research. He explored other libraries, such as the Library of Congress and the Princeton Library for documents not in Link's collection. [11]

Berg was the first allowed access to the correspondence of the President's second daughter Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre, [6] found when her son died a few years ago, [12] as well as the papers of his close friend and doctor, Cary T. Grayson. [13] Berg described the Grayson discovery, found in Grayson's garage, as "trunk loads" of papers. [6] Berg found that Grayson kept "meticulous" notes, covering years of contact with Wilson, especially the last years of his presidency. [6] "You have no idea what a thrill that was, quite wonderful," he says. [9] Berg worked without researchers or secretaries for the thirteen-year research/writing process. [14]

Wilson was always intended to be a single-volume: "There are several multi-volume [Wilson biographies], and that's the last thing I wanted to do . I wanted to write a page-turner, and I think it is." [11]

The biography is divided into four parts, and then into chapters. Each chapter title is intended to draw a Biblical reference, such as "Ascension," "Baptism," "Resurrection," using the King James Bible. [5] Each chapter begins with a Bible quote, pointing to Wilson's devout faith. [15] [16] [17]

Contents Edit

Part One Edit

Chapter One - "Ascension." Mark, XVI:19
- Wilson departs New York on December 4, 1918 on the first European trip by a U.S. President.
Chapter Two - "Providence." Romans, VIII:28
- Wilson is born, December 28, 1856.
Chapter Three - "Eden." Genesis, XII:1,2
- Wilson enters Princeton.
Chapter Four - "Sinai." Psalms, CVII:4
- Wilson graduates from Princeton.
Chapter Five - "Reformation." Romans, XII:2
- Wilson joins the faculty at Princeton.
Chapter Six - "Advent." I Corinthians, X:13
- Wilson becomes President of Princeton.

Part Two Edit

Chapter Seven - "Paul." Acts, IX:3
- Wilson becomes Governor of New Jersey.

Part Three Edit

Chapter Eight - "Disciples." John, XII:12-14
- Wilson is elected President of the United States.
Chapter Nine - "Baptism." Matthew, III:16
- Wilson begins his first term as President.
Chapter Ten - "Ecclesiastes." Ecclesiastes, III:1-8
- Europe moves towards war.
Chapter Eleven - "Deliverance." Daniel, VI:20
- Wilson honeymoons with his second wife, Edith.
Chapter Twelve - "Armageddon." Revelation XI:18
- The U.S. enters the war.

Part Four Edit

Chapter Thirteen - "Isaiah." Isaiah, LXI:1
- The Great War ends.
Chapter Fourteen - "Gethsemane." Matthew, XXVI:36 and Luke, XXII:44
- Wilson returns to Europe.
Chapter Fifteen - "Passion." Matthew, XXVII, 30-31
- Wilson delivers the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate.
Chapter Sixteen - "Pieta." John, XIX:40
- Wilson convalescences from a major stroke.
Chapter Seventeen - "Resurrection." Matthew, XXVIII:20
- Wilson leaves the White House.

Reviewers, such as Bruce Ramsey, have sought to compare Berg's book with other biographies of Wilson: "Berg's biography has a fine feeling for Wilson and the story of his life, but he does present Wilson mostly from Wilson's point of view. For a more critical look at the 20th century's first war president, the reader will have to look elsewhere, such as Thomas Fleming's "The Illusion of Victory" (2003)." [18] From Michael Kazin: "Berg uncovers few significant details that previous biographers—the best of whom are Arthur Link and John Milton Cooper, Jr.—neglected." [19]

Several reviewers compare Berg's telling unfavorably to John M. Cooper's. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "He brings nothing new to the conventional evaluation of Wilson the president (for the best treatment, read John M. Cooper's 2009 "Woodrow Wilson")." [20] Publishers Weekly also makes this comparison: "This won't replace John Milton Cooper Jr.'s superb 2009 biography . " [21] Bob Blaisdell writing for The Christian Science Monitor goes further: "He (Berg) lacks what Cooper repeatedly credits Wilson with having: boldness" and "Given a choice of reading, take Cooper's fine and authoritative "Woodrow Wilson: A Biography," which is still in print." [22] Jill Lepore writes "A sharp, subtle, and more squarely political biography is Woodrow Wilson by American historian John M. Cooper. [23] When asked about Cooper's book, Berg admitted he had not read it, but did glance at it long enough to ensure that the two books began and finished differently. [11] [24] [a]

The reviewer in Publishers Weekly also questions the use of Biblical chapter titles: " . Berg's likening of Wilson's life to biblical stages is overkill." [21] Walter Stahr also questions these appellations. For example, the chapter "Passion," covering the debate in the Senate over the Treaty of Versailles, begins with "And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head." Stahr asks "Berg apparently wants us to view Wilson as Jesus, reviled and beaten by the Roman soldiers. Does he want us to think that Wilson was the divine Christ?" [25] Jeff Shesol asks a similar question: "Berg's decision to endow each chapter with a biblical title and a passage of scripture raises the question of whether he sees Wilson as a Christ figure or merely as a man with a Christ complex . " [26]

Martin Rubin writes in The Washington Times that Berg "succeeds magnificently in elucidating Woodrow Wilson the man," but "as I read on, I felt increasingly that the further Mr. Berg moved from Wilson himself into the wider world, the less satisfying his portrait." [27] Stephen Loosley writes in The Australian " . at times Berg's obvious affection for his subject causes him to be a little too generous." [28] Jeff Shesol agrees: "Berg is simply too enamored of Wilson to provide a balanced appraisal." [26]

In an essay written specifically in answer to the biography, noted Wilson biographer John Milton Cooper offers his perspective, including this overarching comment: "The quality of the writing in the book, the pleasure in reading it, and the warm human impression it leaves of its subject are the good news. The bad news is that the book leaves out much that it ought to include and includes some that it ought to leave out." [29] As an example of what he felt should have been included, Cooper notes "In spite of the book's strength in depicting Wilson's family life, it is also oddly unsatisfactory about one of its most important figures: his father." [29] As another example, Cooper states that "Equally glaring is the lack of attention to Wilson's thought." [29] Cooper questions Berg's inclusion of the memories of Wilson wife by saying "Kristie Miller's excellent biography of Wilson's two wives could have raised red flags about Edith's memory." [29] Cooper not only disputes Berg's framing of Wilson's racism but also his religious perspective, calling into question the use of Bible quotations at the beginning of each chapter: "Other reviewers have found this practice tiresome I found it unenlightening and strange." [29] Cooper ends by saying "To sum up, this biography has much to recommend it, especially the pleasure it affords in reading it. Its shortcomings make it far from balanced or comprehensive, much less "definitive." [29]

Wilson was missing from the longlist for the 2013 National Book Awards. [30]

Berg approached The New York Times January 2013 offering to write a column noting the 100th anniversary of Wilson's inauguration and to " . contemporize this story and really make it reverberate by writing a kind of open letter to President Obama." [11] In the op-ed, Berg offered the following advice: "All sides should remember Wilson and the single factor that determines the country's glorious successes or crushing failures: cooperation." [31]

During interviews following the release of the book, Berg compared Wilson's diplomacy to President Obama's handling of the Syria crisis: "Over the last few weeks, Obama has been addressing the crisis in a very Wilsonian manner, raising the question of whether the United States was meant to be the policeman of the world." [32] In another interview, Berg said "Wilson is a real model for Obama." [33] When asked during an interview to compare the two Presidents, he says "Certainly they're both considered rather aloof, they both come out of academia, they're both Constitutional scholars . " [34] Berg admitted that on some days he wrote the book as if it was about Obama: "As I was writing, there were literally days I would say, 'I'm going to forget the name is Wilson. I'll pretend it is Obama. And I will write it as though it is Obama.'" [5]

Barrie Dunsmore sees parallels, as well: "Berg told NPR this past week, 'I found during my research there were documents in which Lodge and other Republicans were talking about opposing any peace that Wilson brought back from Paris, no matter what it was.…so whatever Wilson had, was not going to fly.' Sound familiar?" [35]

    - "Berg gives Wilson a fresh look, restoring him to the place he occupied — the idealist in politics." [36] - "Berg is a masterful biographer…[Wilson is] absorbing." [15] - "Marvelously detailed." [36] , Washington Post - " . in the end, "Wilson," despite its scope, fails to convey the lessons it most wishes to impart." [26] , The New York Times - "A. Scott Berg tells the story of Wilson, the man, very well indeed." [37]
  • Book Reporter - "Exhaustively researched and wonderfully written." [38] - "Readable, authoritative and, most usefully, inspiring." [39] - "The fact is that, for all Mr. Berg's diligent research and revelations about Wilson the man, the biography falls between two stools: too detailed to be introductory, yet not really definitive where it counts most." [4] - "The problem is not only that Berg praises Wilson: he does not question Wilson." [25] - "An enthralling biography of Woodrow Wilson." [40] - " . a thorough, entertaining account . " [41] , History Book Club - "Berg's book is enlightening, colorful and a good read." [42] - " . a detailed account lionising the man.." [43] - " . there's no modern lesson in "Wilson," other than maybe try to get A. Scott Berg as your biographer." [44] - "Berg's study should remain the standard biography of this tragic figure for a long time." [45] - "Berg has produced an insightful and intimate work that is likely to stand as the definitive biography of one of the nation's most consequential leaders." [46] - "Berg has brought Wilson to life." [47] - "Berg rehabilitates Woodrow Wilson." [48] , The Daily Beast - " . his (Berg's) talent as a biographer tends to overwhelm his desire to be a historian." [19] - " . Berg presents a sympathetic but penetrating portrait that is essential reading for anyone interested in Wilson and his times." [49] - " . Berg has illuminated this influential man like no other biographer before him." [50] - "This fine piece of writing is not only highly entertaining, it fills a void in the history of the U.S. presidency and may well become the definitive Wilson biography of our era." [51] - " . the best single-volume presidential biography since David McCullough's Truman." [28] , Los Angeles Times - "Magisterial." [52]

Warner Bros. is negotiating the movie rights to the biography, with Leonardo DiCaprio to star in the title role, as well as serve as producer. [53]