Woodrow Wilson was a politician, scholar, activist, and an idealist who believed that “there is no cause half so sacred as the cause of a people. There is no idea so uplifting as the idea of the service of humanity”. Yet he was also considered a racist.
A. The Child Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born December 28, 1856 at Staunton, Virginia; one of four children to Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Janet Wilson who were of Scottish descent. His family moved to Augusta, Georgia a year after his birth and then in 1870 moving to Columbia and later moved to Wilmington in 1884.
Woodrow later drop his first name, Thomas. B. The Student He got his early education from a few ex-Confederate soldiers who set up some schools after the Civil war and his father who taught him religion, literature and British history. At sixteen years of age, Wilson attended Davidson College, North Carolina for one year and later drop out of college due to his health. In 1875, he attended a College of New Jersey which is now known as Princeton University where he graduated in 1879.
Later that year he studied law at the University of Virginia but left school again due to personal reasons. He continued his studying law on his own after returning home of Wilmington, North Carolina. He set up a legal practice with a friend from the University of Virginia in 1882 and passed the Georgia Bar Exam. Later, he left the practice of law and decided to continue his education at John Hopkins University, Baltimore. There he was enrolled as a graduate student in history and political science and earned his PH. D in 1886.
With his research study, he made the dissertation known as Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics. In this dissertation, Wilson argued about the power the congressional government has over a weak postwar Presidency and for a constitutional change of separation of powers between Congress and the President to that of the British Parliament. In the final year of his graduate school, Wilson, at 28 years old, married Ellen Louise Axson, in Savannah, Georgia. They had three daughters in their life together, Margaret, Jessie, and Eleanor.
Woodrow Wilson became an instructor at Bryn Mawr College from 1885 to 1888 teaching political economy and public law. He then accepted professorship at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, teaching history for two years. After 1890, he went back to Princeton University teaching political economy and law. From 1902 – 1910, Woodrow Wilson served as President of Princeton University. Wilson’s tenure helped shape Princeton into one of America’s great universities. C. The Governor Wilson ran for governor of New Jersey accepting the conservative Democrats’ proposal and won the democratic nomination.
He shocked the politicians by declaring independence of the political bosses and later won the decisive victory over the Republican opponent and began his reforms against the political bosses. During two year period, Wilson had pushed legislation to allow voters to choose their candidates rather than having party bosses choose as well as secure reform for campaign finances. He also made passage for Workers Compensation for families whose working member is injured or killed on the job as well as improve the public utility commission to improve rates.
During his time as Governor of New Jersey, many progressive leaders took interest in Wilson as a potential Presidential candidate, especially the Democrat William Jennings Bryan. D. The President Woodrow Wilson narrowly won the Democratic nomination in 1912 putting him against President Taft of the Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt of the Bull Moose Party, and Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party. Wilson on his platform presented a program called the “New Freedom” which busted up corporate monopolies to allow the chance for competition to prevent monopolies from controlling the Federal government.
Wilson won the election with 41. 9% becoming the 28th President of the United States. Few reforms he first put out was the tariff reform, The Underwood Act; which had lowered rates from 40% to 27%, as well as creating the first federal income tax with the passage of the 16th Amendment. In 1914, Ellen Louise Axson, Wilson’s wife and First Lady, died from Bright’s disease. In 1915, Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt, who happens to be a widow at the time which made her the 2nd First Lady.
With the Election of 1916 coming, the main focus came to light about the War in Europe, which Wilson being the Democratic candidate with Marshall as his running mate, bent on neutrality of keeping the United States out of the European War. His opponents were the reunited Republican Party with Charles Evan Hughes of New York as their candidate. Wilson called for military preparedness as well as a world association of peace for maintaining peace after the war in Europe ends, as well as women suffrage, and ending child labor. Democratic delegates also came up with the chant, “He kept us out of war” as the campaign slogan.
Wilson had narrowly won the election in November with 49. 4% vote and 277 electoral vote compared to Hughes 46. 2% vote and 254 electoral vote. E. The Racist Wilson initiated his segregation efforts while president of Princeton University, he discouraged blacks from applying for admission. Wilson’s History of the American People (1901) described the Ku Klux Klan of the late 1860s as a lawless reaction to a lawless period. Wilson wrote that the Klan “began to attempt by intimidation what they were not allowed to attempt by the ballot or by any ordered course of public action”.
Wilson considered African American immigrants unfitting for American citizenship and unable to integrate in the American society. He made this very evident in his book, History of the American People. Wilson described slaves as “indolent” and compared them to “shiftless children” and thought that slave masters were patient with these lazy laborers. Woodrow Wilson disapproved of the idea of African American being free. He usual related them to animals and commonly referred to blacks as darkies.
Wilson held the common neo-Confederate view that the South was demoralized by Northern advocates and Congressional hassle of black equality justified extreme measures to reassert white supremacist national and state governments. Though in 1912, “an extraordinary number of African Americans left the Republican Party to vote for Wilson (a Democrat), encouraged by his promises to support minorities, Wilson’s cabinet expanded racially segregationist policies. Under Woodrow Wilson administration, most federal government offices were segregated – in some departments for the first time since 1863.
Many African American employees were demoted or fired. Some segregationist federal workplace policies introduced by the Wilson administration remained until the Truman Administration in the 1940s. In 1914, Wilson told The New York Times, “If the colored people made a mistake in voting for me, they ought to correct it”. F. The Public Administrator Wilson believed Public Administration was “government in action; it is the executive, the operative, the most visible side of government, and is of course as old as government itself”.
He was fretful about the implementation of government so he studied public administration because he believed that it could increase governmental efficiency. He condemned political leader who modulated the importance of government administration and made it “…….. harder to run the constitution than to frame it”. Woodrow Wilson thought that the United States required greater compromise because of the diversity of public opinion. He compared administration to a machine that functions independent of the changing mood of its leaders.
Wilson put it, “public attention must be easily directed, in each case of good or bad administration, to just the man deserving of praise or blame. There is no danger in power, if only it be not irresponsible. If it be divided, dealt out in share to many, it is obscured…. ” II. Conclusion In 1919, Wilson suffered a stroke while on a speaking tour in Pueblo, Colorado, making him unable to carry out his Presidential duties effectively. After leaving office, he retired in Washington DC where he spent the remaining three years of his life before passing away on February 3, 1924.
He is the only President to be buried in the National Cathedral in Washington DC. He changed the Democratic Party to a “party of reform” as well as changing foreign policy to internationalism from isolationism. He also left behind the Federal Reserve, the tariff reduction, federal regulation of business, as well as support for the labor unions. He helped prepare the United States for its role in the world with creating the League of Nations only for the US to join its; predecessor the United Nations. Woodrow Wilson left behind an idea that would fuel for global peace.