Woodrow Wilson

     In 1856, Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born to Joseph Wilson and Janet Woodrow. Because
he was the son of a Presbyterian minister, the moral ideology of Woodrow Wilson
had its foundation early in his life. It is this moral approach to politics that
shaped American foreign policy for a great part of the twentieth century. Wilson
was elected president in 1910, as a result of Theodore Rooseveltís Bull Moose
split from the Republican Party. The idealistic governor from New Jersey
believed that the time had come for him to instate moral politics on the

American people. Wilson had little experience in the arena of international
politics, this is quite ironic of Wilsonís presidency because, Wilson himself
would be chiefly remembered as a world diplomat, and, his domestic policy would
not be long cherished. To understand Woodrow Wilsonís take on politics, one
must first review his childhood and background. Born in the age of slavery,

Wilson grew up as a racist. His parents both came from families of strong

Presbyterian influence. Growing up his father would quiz him on the Bible as
well as the orations of men such as Daniel Webster and Charles Lamb. It was also
a result of his Scottish-Irish ancestry that Wilson began to inspect the British
form of government, a government from which he would later try to incorporate
ideas into American democracy. It was here, in his childhood, which the
brickwork was laid for Americaís leader in World War I. (Walworth 14) After
attending Princeton University, Wilson became the president of the University.

He instituted many reforms including the defeat of the quadrangle system and a
development of a graduate school. His belief was that Princeton was to transform
boys performing meaningless tasks into thinking men. This goal was to be
achieved by using the British model of the preceptorial program . After hearing
about this new method of instruction, many vigorous young teachers flocked to

Wilson praising his method. Wilson had now become the universityís Pastor.
(Walworth 89) When a new contract concerning the new graduate school was
adopted, the pastor was asked to leave the university life, he was now ready to
enter the political arena. Many politicians in the state of New Jersey were
eager to have Wilson, a democrat, become involved in politics. Muckrakers had
introduced New Jersey as a state conducive to corporations and the political
machines they controlled, and the need for an honest politician was greater than
ever. At the time when Wilson began his political career, the New Jersey machine
was lacking a democratic candidate that could take the place of strong
progressive reformers. In the 1906 election for New Jerseyís senator, Wilson
had all but conceded defeat, since the democrats had no viable chance of winning
the election, or so he thought. After conversing with a Princeton classmate,

Edwin Stevens, he realized that the bosses were trying to place Wilson as a
candidate to cover up the real problems of the machines. (Walworth 145) George

Brinton McClellan Harvey was the editor of Harperís Weekly Magazine during the
latter part of Wilsonís tenure at Princeton. Harvey is largely responsible for
the governorship of New Jersey. It was Harvey that made a deal with James Smith

Jr. Harvey guaranteed that Wilson would accept the nomination if Smith used his
pull in the Democratic Party to make Wilson the president of the United States
(Walworth 151). Wilson reluctantly accepted the proposal from Harvey and Smith
and began the march toward the presidency. As soon as Wilson was elected
governor of New Jersey, he was seen as the man who would lead the Democratic

Party towards a more righteous end. As governor, Wilson turned and fought the
machines that had, unbeknownst to Wilson, in effect put him in office. When

Smith learned of Wilsonís alleged betrayal, he announced his candidacy for
re-election to the United States Senate, Wilson publicly denounced this campaign
and had once and for all, ended the reign of the New Jersey Machine. The time
for the 1912 election was near and a reluctant Woodrow Wilson accepted the
challenge and the Democratic nomination. This was largely due to the crises that
were blooming in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, Wilson campaigned and toured
the country giving the speeches, which he had become famous for. Wilson then
secured the democratic nomination when he earned the support of the influential

William Jennings Bryan . Bryan had respected Wilson and had followed him since
the time of his presidential reforms at Princeton, admired and congratulated him
on his quest for governor and now supported him on his campaign for the
presidency, (Walworth 203) The election of 1912 was one of great significance.

The Bull Moose split of Theodore Roosevelt splintered the republican bloc, and

Eugene V. Debbs would run under the Socialist ticket. The timing was right for a
democrat to usurp the presidency and enter into a new era. Despite the lack of a
strong republican candidate, Taft posed little threat; democrats still pressed
toward the voters with vigor. After many speeches and tours around the nation,

Wilsonís campaign treasury had run dry. Senator Champ Clark of Missouri now
posed as Wilsonís greatest threat for the Democratic choice, and the support
of William Jennings Bryan waned. (Walworth 228) The Machine politics of Kansas

City and New Yorkís Tamanny Hall, put the partisan Clark ahead of Wilson at
the Democratic National Convention. Clark reached 556 votes; a mark that for the
past 68 years meant the candidate received the nomination (Walworth 230). In n
odd turn of events, after New York delegates pledged to Clark, Wilson wrote a
message to be delivered to Bryan stating that he would not accept a nomination
donated to him by the state of New York. Bryan then swayed the Nebraska
delegates, as well as much of the West, toward Wilson with the provision that he
would withdraw his support if New York pledged to Wilson. After intensely
swaying votes, Wilson received the democratic nomination for the office of the
president of the United States. (Walworth 234) In the first election since

Lincoln, and only the second since Jefferson, the United States had a serious
third party candidate. As a result of the split in the opposite party, Wilson
triumphed and led the Democratic Party to its first presidency of the century.

Now that the turmoil of the domestic election was over, Wilson could aim his
efforts at the reforms he hoped to impose, as well as the growing tensions in

Europe. Wilson was a progressive and his domestic policy reflected that fact. A
champion of the people and their democracy, Wilson fought against "Big

Business" and the political influence they had. Wilson wanted to end the
era of special treatment of "Big Business". One example of this was

Wilsonís sought repeal of tariffs, which he believed created trusts through
government. One such tariff was the Payne-Aldrich Tariff. (Diamond 46) Wilson
also sought to reform the banking system. He wanted to end the reign of New York
bankers like J.P. Morgan. His Federal reserve bill allowed the national banking
system to be governed by an altruistic public board, and not by the bankers
themselves. J.P Morgan announced, only after the passing of the bill, that he
would give up some of his banking dictatorships. (Diamond 104). Perhaps

Wilsonís greatest triumph as a champion for the common man was his reworking
and passing of the Clayton anti-trust act, a bill that Samuel Gompers called the
"Magna Carta of labor." This, in effect prohibited the justice
department from prosecuting labor unions under the anti-trust laws. (Diamond

118) As Wilsonís fight against the abuses of business continued, he began his
pastoral role over the American people. This leadership towards righteousness
culminated in the passing of the18th amendment to the constitution. Prohibition
of the production and sale of alcohol was Wilsonís greatest achievement in the
area of moral legislation. This along, with his economic reforms, was part of

Wilsonís plan to create a better society, a more moral and free society. Along
with this new morality came a war in Europe, this would be Wilsonís finest
hour. (Diamond 127) Wilson was an optimist of morality from the south. Always on
the forefront of his agenda was domestic policy. It just so happened that due to
circumstances beyond his control Wilson would have to shift from domestic pastor
to the worldís priest. Europe was engaged in a bloody war that soon would
involve the United States for a number of economic and ethical reasons. It was
because of this war that Woodrow Wilson faced a far more complicated foreign
situation than any president had before him. As the war came to an end, the
chancellor of Germany had asked Wilson to negotiate a treaty amongst the major
powers. Wilson agreed and, The Treaty of Versailles was on the horizon. The
treaty was more than just the ideological rhetoric of Wilson, but to the

European heads it was a revenge document for ravaging their homes. Wilson was
treated as an outsider and often was not taken seriously. It was at this
conference that Wilson presented his fourteen points, and the infamous League of

Nations was set up. (Link 109) Among Wilsonís foreign policy, the key message
was the issue of self-determination. Wilson once said, "We must protect the
rights of those that cannot protect themselves." This became the basis of

American foreign policy for the next twenty years. Wilson believed that it was
the duty of the United States to intervene in areas where the people were
fighting for their freedom from an unjust government. By U.S. intervention the
peoples of this foreign land would gain their freedom and set up a new
democratic government. Wilson, however, contradicted himself with this policy.

In Mexico, the U.S. intervened to protect itís own interests and prevent a

Mexican revolution. The justification for this was that, "Some
peoples," Wilson believed, "were not fit to govern themselves
properly" and they must be shown how to do so. (Link 24) The League of

Nations was also a product of Wilson at Versailles. His dream of a union of
nations devoted to help each other in times of crisis and protect world order
became somewhat of a reality. This league would become a failure in great part
because the United States failed to join. The league was set up to protect the
democratic countries from invasion, but was not able to form its own army. The
reason that the United States failed to join the league was not that it viewed

Wilsonís self-determination as an ideal unworthy of pursuit, but rather
because of American pride. The United States did not believe that it should be
responsible to an outside force. American sovereignty was supreme and no one,
including Wilson, could say otherwise. (Link 115) Woodrow Wilson had an
interesting climb to the top of the political ladder. The professor from

Princeton became the proctor of America. Through his valiant speeches about
moral legislature and his shrewd attempts at negotiating on the international
level, Woodrow Wilson created an American form of democracy not only run by
dollars and cents, but also held accountable by morals. It is for this reason
that Wilson is revered as one of the greatest presidents in this countryís
history. Though much of Wilsonís ideology has washed away, much abides. Be it
in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf, the idea of self-determination has influenced

United States intervention (along with other factors). Looking back on the

Wilson administration, one must ask, "Why was the president of the United

States so involved in the freedom of others?" The answer is quite simple:

The United States is a country founded by men revolting against a great power,
fighting for freedom, and the chance to govern themselves. They fought not only
for their economic interests, but for the right bestowed on them as men, the
right to be free.