Woodrow Wilson

Wilson was an extremely activist President, introducing significant domestic reform legislation. Wilson guided the US into World War I, on the side of Great Britain and France. He transformed the war aims of the Allies into a "Fight for Democracy." Elected 1912 Elected 1916


The Early Years

Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia. When he was a child, Wilson's family moved to Augusta, Georgia. Wilson claimed that one of his first memories was of standing in his father's doorway and hearing that Lincoln had been elected President and there would be war. Wilson received his initial education at home. At the age of 12, he attended the Charles Heyward Barnwell School in Columbia. In 1873 he entered Davidson College but was forced to drop out due to poor health. In 1875 he enrolled in Princeton College. After completing Princeton, Wilson entered the University of Virginia Law School. Again, he was forced to resign for health reasons. He taught himself law and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He tired of the law and decided to enroll at John Hopkins for a Ph.D. in Political Science, which he earned in 1886. His doctoral dissertation was called "Congressional Government", and in it he condemned the Congressional domination of American government.

From 1885 to 1888 Wilson taught political economy at Bryn Mawr College. For the next two years, he taught history at Wesleyan College. From 1890 to 1902, Wilson was a professor of jurisprudence and political economy at Princeton. During this time he published a series of books, including a five-volume history of the American people. From 1902 to 1910, Wilson was President of Princeton University, where he reorganized the methods of teaching at the university.

In 1910, Wilson was elected to be the Governor of New Jersey. As Governor, Wilson declared war on the local political monopoly. He enacted laws to insure direct party primaries and requiring candidates to file campaign financial statements.


Accomplishments in Office

Wilson came to power with an activist agenda on domestic affairs based on his belief in a strong role for the office of the Presidency. He considered himself the direct representative of the American people and was determined to enact legislation that he felt met their needs. He called his program "the new freedoms." They included expanded anti-trust legislation, child labor laws, workers compensation for federal employees, and an eight-hour day for railroad workers. Wilson personally appeared before Congress (he was the first President since John Adams to make such an appearance) to persuade it to pass the Longwood Tariff Act which substantially reduced tariffs.

Wilson also helped to establish the Federal Reserve system, the first national banking system since the time of President Jackson.

Wilson followed a liberal foreign policy. He ended the policy of Dollar Diplomacy, in which the United States could use force to enforce economic policies. He did not, however, object to the use of force for the sake of democracy.

He refused to recognize the Mexican dictator Huerta. The United States came to the brink of war with Mexico after one of Huerta's generals ordered American sailors seized. Wilson then ordered the American Armed Forces to seize the Mexican port of Veracruz. When the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa attacked Americans along the Mexican border, Wilson ordered American troops to pursue them deep into Mexico.

With the outbreak of World War I, Wilson's policies were sorely tested. He opposed American involvement in what he felt was a European war, though his personal sympathies laid with the British and French. German submarine attacks against shipping vessels strained Wilson's determination to remain neutral, especially in the case of the sinking of the British ship Lusitania. In 1917, the combination of German submarine warfare and the discovery of the Zimmerman telegram, in which the Germans promised Texas and California to the Mexicans, finally forced Wilson to ask Congress to declare War against Germany.

Wilson was a strong war President. He successfully rallied the American people in support of the war effort. He was particularly successful in portraying the war as a fight for democracy. He promoted a policy that he called his Fourteen Points-tantamount to peace without victory. He was ultimately disappointed that the peace treaties culminated in the Treaty of Versailles bore little resemblance to his Fourteen Points.

Perhaps Wilson's greatest disappointment was the Senate's rejection of United States participation in the League of Nations. Wilson had a stroke in September of 1919. His capacity to function as President was greatly reduced for the remainder of his administration.


The First Family

Father: Joseph Ruggles Wilson
Mother: Janet Woodrow Wilson
Wives: Ellen Louissse Axson, Edith Bolling Galt
Daughters: Margaret, Jessie, Eleanor Randolph

Major Events

US Intervenes in Mexico

Armistace Signed in Europe

Clayton Anti Trust Act

War I Breaks Out

Pershing Lead Expedition Against Mexican Rebels

US Enters WWI

Federal Reserve Act


The Cabinet

Secretaries of State: William Jennings Bryan Robert Lansing Bainbridge Colby
Secretaries of Treasury: William McAdoo Carter Glass David Houston
Secretaries of War: Lindley Garrison Newton Baker
Attorney Generals: James McReynolds Thomas Gregory A. Mitchell Palmer
Secretary of Navy: Josephus Danies
Postmaster General: Albert Burelson
Secretaries of Interior: Franklin Lane John Payne
Secretaries of Agriculture: David Houston Edwin Meridith
Secretaries of Commerce: William Redfield Jopshual Alexander
Secretary of Labor: William Wilson


US intervened in Veracruz (Mexico)

US intervened against Pancho Villa's forces in Mexico

World War I


Did You Know?

First have majored in history.

First to have been a university president.

First hold a Presedential press conference.

First to recieve a PhD.

First to cross the Atlantic while President.

Inaugural Address

Inaugural Address 2