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Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Twenty-eighth President (1913-1921).jpg

Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President under the Democratic Party, he was president during WWI. Wilson was Liberal in some ways, he signed the nineteenth amendment, granting women's suffrage, he reduced Monopoly power and curtailed Child labor, and advocated international cooperation to mutually benefit all the Nations of the World.

Woodrow Wilson was one of the leaders of the Progressive movement. A well respected academic, and former President of Princeton University, Wilson not only served as the President of the United States, but enjoyed influence and popularity abroad. Wilson was able to institute many Market and Labor reforms as well as championing international cooperation. For his work in forming the League of Nations, he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

President Wilson is perhaps most noted for his work to insure World peace. After World war I, Wilson gave his famous 14 Points Speech, and lobbied the Nations of the World for an Equitable settlement and Creation of the League of Nations. Unfortunately, conservative forces resisted in both instances. The Treaty of Versailles was used as a punitive and self-serving mechanism to end the War, and the United States resisted acceptance of the treaty and entrance into the League of Nations for fear of compromising the Country's right of independent action. It was during this time of intense diplomatic effort that Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, which removed his voice from the conversation, and resulted in the perhaps de-facto Presidency of his wife and caregiver, Edith Wilson.

Progressive or reactionary?

Woodrow Wilson, as many other great Liberal leaders of the past, has recently come under attack by conservative revisionists. Wilson was one of the greatest of the progressive era leaders, yet in other ways he was Conservative, for example Jailing political dissidents like Anarchists, Communists, and the leadership of the IWW.

Wilson was progressive. Wilson was also a repressive racist, a Klansman, and an elitist. It may be difficult to reconcile the actions of some historical figures with modern definitions. Were Wilson alive today, and claiming some of the same beliefs he did during his lifetime, he would likely be considered Conservative because of his unenlightened social beliefs. Yet, in his time he was able to achieve some significant progress.

It's unfortunately the case that elected leaders must be acceptable to their people, and that means they must convince the electorate that they hold similar, if more enlightened, beliefs of their fellows. Great leadership, in a democratic society, may be the ability to achieve the gradual enlightenment of people, and use that gradual enlightenment to affect incremental progressive change.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The 19th Amendment – allowing women the right to vote was finally passed
  • His second wife became our first (unofficial) female President after he had a stroke
  • Had both a PHD and a Nobel Peace Prize
  • Created the Federal Reserve system
  • The Federal Trade Act
  • The Underwood Tariff Act
  • Supported immigration rights
  • Helped negotiate the end of World War I
  • One of the minds behind the forming of the League of Nations

Cons

  • The Punitive Expedition into Mexico
  • Promised equitable dealing on the basis of race during his campaign, but segregated the Federal Government.
  • Plagued with serious health issues throughout his life
  • Extremely volatile temperament
  • Prohibition (the 18th Amendment) happened on his watch
  • Ran on an anti-war campaign, but got America involved in World War I a month after his second term started
  • Sent American troops overseas under-prepared
  • Jim Crow laws were furthered under his administration
  • Had a number of affairs
  • The Espionage and Sedition Acts
  • Blatant disregard for civil liberties
  • Corporate conflicts of interest
  • Couldn’t convince the US to join the League of Nations
  • 1918 flu pandemic, 675,000 people dead in the U.S. alone because of his mishandling of the event[1] (yes, medical science wasn't that great back then, but regardless)

References

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