Tuesday, July 15, 2008

#28 - [Thomas] Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1919

It is somewhat appropriate that Woodrow Wilson's entry should come the day after Bastille Day. He was of course, President of the United States and the representative at the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles at the conclusion of World War I.

Our 28th President, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, came to the Presidency with the ideals of his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt. He believed he was the personal representative of the people. His values and ideals led the nation into the First World War to "make the world safe for democracy." Wilson had seen war up close. He was the son of a Baptist minister and had spent the Civil War in Atlanta, Georgia and most of the Reconstruction Era in Columbia, South Carolina.

Wilson dedicated his life to academia and was not thinking about a political career. He became a president for the first time in 1902, when he became the 13th President of Princeton University. He also served on the faculties at Bryn Mawr (I'd get in trouble if I didn't mention that) and Wesleyan University. His growing reputation led democratic leaders to come calling, who persuaded Wilson to run for Governor of New Jersey, an office he was elected to in 1910. (It had nothing to do with the extra-marital affair that Wilson had, no not at all.) Two years later he received the nomination of the Democratic Party for President and won the election in a three-way vote, where the Republican votes were split between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

President Wilson spent the majority of his first term on domestic issues, lowering tariffs and improving the plight of the American worker. It was during the first Wilson Administration that the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve System were established. When he ran for reelection in 1916, he used the slogan, "he kept us out of war," as the conflict that would become the First World War had erupted in Europe shortly after he was first elected President. However, shortly after his reelection, he determined that the United States could no longer remain neutral, primarily due to Germany's decision to begin unrestricted submarine warfare. He asked Congress for a Declaration of War in April 1917.

American involvement led to an Allied victory and Wilson traveled to France to help negotiate the treaty. Encompassed in the Treaty of Versailles were Wilson's Fourteen Points and the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. Upon returning to the United States, Wilson set out on a cross-country tour to promote the Treaty and the League. While on the trip, Wilson suffered a stroke and never fully recovered. It is widely speculated that Wilson's second wife, Edith Wilson, was indirectly responsible for running the country while her husband recuperated. Wilson left the presidency and retired to a home in Georgetown, in Washington, DC, where he died just five years after leaving the presidency.

The Facts
  • born December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia
  • died February 3, 1924 in Washington, DC (age 67)
  • Party: Democrat
The Election of 1912
  • Woodrow Wilson / Thomas Marshall (D) - 6,296,284 (41.8%) / 435 EVs
  • Theodore Roosevelt / Hiram Johnson (Bull Moose / Progressive) - 4,122,721 (27.4%) / 88 EVs
  • William Howard Taft / Nicholas Butler (R) - 3,486,242 (23.2%) - 8 EVs
The Election of 1916
  • While associated from New Jersey as that is the state from which he was elected, Wilson is, to date, the last of the Virginia Presidents. Wilson became the first Southerner elected since Zachary Taylor in 1848 (although Andrew Johnson became President in 1865, but was not elected).
  • He was also the first Democrat elected since Grover Cleveland (in 1882) and another Democrat would not be elected until Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 (just a month away!).
  • Wilson was an avid baseball fan and in 1916, became the first President to attend a World Series game and throw out the first pitch at a game (so it is also fitting that the Mid-Summer Classic, also known as the All-Star Game, should take place this evening).
  • Wilson appointed Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court, the first person of Jewish faith to sit on the high court
  • While in Europe to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, Wilson traveled to Rome and became the first President to meet with a sitting pope while in office.
  • Wilson supported the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, however it was not ratified until June 1919, three months after Wilson left office.
  • In 1914, Wilson declared the first Mother's Day
  • Wilson enjoyed golf upon becoming president and holds the record of all presidents for number of rounds played while President (over 1000).
  • Wilson recalled that his earliest memory was at age 3, hearing that Lincoln had been elected President and that a war was coming. He further recalled standing next to Robert E. Lee and looking up at his face.
  • Like his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Though never diagnosed, it is alleged that Wilson may have suffered from dyslexia or ADHD. He did not learn to read well until the age of 12 and created his own personal shorthand for note taking.
  • Wilson is the only president to have earned their doctorate as well as the only political scientist to serve as President.
  • Wilson is the only President to be buried in Washington, DC. He and his wife are buried at Washington National Cathedral.
  • After losing three elections for President, William Jennings Bryan tried to back door his way, serving as Wilson's Secretary of State. It still didn't work.


Mary Witzl said...

I had no idea Wilson was a Southerner! There is something eerie about the idea of him meeting Robert E Lee, and I find it intriguing that he may have been dyslexic. He is certainly proof that dyslexia is not a barrier to getting a good education. Though you'd never guess that from our current incumbent's attitude toward education...

Brave Astronaut said...

Mary - You said it, I didn't :)