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A 2 pages term paper on Woodrow Wilson

     Woodrow Wilson regarded himself as the personal representative of the people.  "No one but the President," he said, "seems to be expected... to look out for the general interests of the country."

     He developed an agenda of progressive restructuring and asserted international leadership in building a new world order.  In 1917, he declared America’s entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy."

     Wilson had seen the dreadfulness of war.  He was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the city of Columbia, South Carolina.

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     Until the last possible time he wanted to be neutral but circumstances made him finally decide to join the allies.

 

“As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind-fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong."
(Woodrow Wilson, 2nd Inaugural)

     In 1916 Wilson ran on the slogan, "he kept us out of war," and by a narrow margin defeated Supreme Court Justice Charles Even Hughes.  He managed to keep America out of the war until it was clear that Germany's submarine warfare would continue to claim American civilian lives.  During the 976 days of neutrality, Wilson repetitively tried to talk for an end to the fighting, and called on all those involved to accept peace without victory.  Facing the imminent defeat of France, and seeing no end to Germany's attacks on civilian shipping, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany 2 April 1917.  Thus, Neutrality ended, the nation was at war.

     Wilson unrelentingly worked for an end to the fighting while marshalling the nation for war.  American forces led by General Pershing made a significant addition to the allied fighting force in both numbers and morale.  When America entered the war France was on the verge of collapse, but within months, the Germans agreed to an armistice based on Wilson's 14 points.  It was clear that they could not continue under such great pressure.

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     Wilson became the first President to travel to Europe while in office when he left for France aboard the S.S. George Washington 4 December 1918.  Wherever he went in Europe huge crowds gathered to cheer him on.  His 14 points were very popular and the common people saw him as the liberator of France, and the greatest hope for world peace.

     His efforts, for the most part, though ended in vain.  Both British Prime Minister and French Prime Minister refused to accept most of his ideas.  To them the objective was to penalize Germany to the degree that it could never make war again.  They both were very mindful of the unforgiving attitude of constituents, and would not move.

     Through much effort, Wilson did manage to prevent some of the excessive punishments against Germany, and convinced the allies that a League of Nation was necessary.  With these small victories in hand, he returned home.

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Wilson could not persuade people at home that it was time for America to join the World Community.  America had become isolated and did not favor joining any forum.  The Congress was in Republican hands and was generally unhelpful with Wilson.  Led by Wilson's long-time adversary Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the Republicans maintained that certain parts of the League be altered.

     Wilson refused to yield, fearing it would make it impotent.  The Senate would not agree to the treaty so Wilson entered the final chapter of his relatively short political story.  He decided to take the matter directly to the public.

     His doctor warned him not to go. His wife begged him to reconsider but Wilson was determined and would not be turned back.  The Senate would not listen to him.

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     The tour started out well.  Enthusiastic supporters cheered him at each stop.  Victory turned out to be beyond his grasp.  Wilson’s fragile health halted the tour abruptly in Colorado.  "I don't seem to realize it," he commented to an advisor, "but I seem to have gone to pieces."

     His influence has been noteworthy.  During his tenure, there were three amendments to the constitution.  The Seventeenth provided for the direct election of United States Senators.  The Eighteenth prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.  The Nineteenth, guaranteed suffrage for women.

     His legislative successes included the Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Anti-trust Act, Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, and the Adamson Act, which established the eight-hour workday on railroads.  According to Henry Kissinger, his foreign policy has shaped 20th Century United States policy like no other.

     He was a man known for his ethics, drawn from the pages of the Bible and the principles of the Presbyterians.  He was an extraordinary president in that he had years of thinking and writing the philosophy of government, but little in the way of political experience.  In the end, he is remembered more for his failure concerning the League of Nations than his progressive reform.

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Works Cited

Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy Touchstone New York. 1995
 


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