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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wilson, Woodrow

[ 1016 ]

WILSON, WOODROW (1856-       ), twenty-eighth president of the United States, was born in Staunton, Va., Dec. 28 1856. He was baptized with the name of Thomas Woodrow Wilson. The Scotch strain predominated in his ancestry, for his paternal grandfather came from county Down, in Ulster, and his maternal grandfather, Thomas Woodrow, a graduate of Glasgow University, from Scotland. The stern Presbyterianism of his father, a minister of small means but marked capacity as a theologian, early influenced him and left an indelible mark upon his character. His early years were spent in Georgia and South Carolina, where he was deeply affected by the sufferings of the South during the reconstruction period. In 1875 he entered Princeton, graduating four years later. His record for scholarship in college was not remarkable, but he was prominent in debating and literary circles, and became student director of athletic sport. [ 1017 ] His most notable achievement was an article written in his senior year, and published in the International Review, which analyzed unfavourably the procedure of Congress and formed the basis of his more mature political principles. After studying law in the University of Virginia and following a brief attempt to practice in Atlanta, he decided to pursue his studies in government and history at Johns Hopkins University, where he received the degree of Ph.D. in 1886. His thesis, entitled Congressional Government and published in 1885, was a development of the attack upon Congressional methods, and because of its clear and felicitous expression has been reprinted many times. In that year[1] he began his teaching career at Bryn Mawr College, where he was associate professor of History and Political Economy until 1888; after two years as professor of the same at Wesleyan, he entered the Princeton Faculty in 1890 as professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy. With slight changes in title he served in this capacity until 1902, when he became president of Princeton. As professor he rapidly achieved distinction. His lectures were remarkable for clarity of presentation and brilliancy of phrasing, and the same qualities characterized both his addresses and his published writings. His gift was for generalization rather than plodding scholarship, and after the publication of his thesis his happiest literary efforts were in essay form. They display keen critical capacity, but are not remarkable either for erudition or for striking creative power. As president of Princeton, Mr. Wilson devoted himself to serious reforms of the educational and social habits of the undergraduates. In the hope of elevating the standards of scholarship and of increasing the efficiency of instruction, he inaugurated in 1905 the “preceptorial system,” designed through small classes to bring teachers and students into the most intimate relationship. In his endeavours to democratize the social life of the university he met determined opposition. Further difficulties developed from a disagreement with the dean of the graduate College. Mr. Wilson's policies aroused warm conroversy among alumni, faculty, and undergraduates.

While at Princeton, both as professor and as president, Mr. Wilson displayed great interest in political questions of the day, and through his addresses and articles speedily won a national reputation. In Sept. 1910 he was tendered the Democratic nomination for governor of New Jersey. The offer coming at the moment when the prospects for success of his policy at Princeton seemed most discouraging, secured his ready acceptance. Resigning his academic position he entered upon an active electoral campaign which won him the support of progressive elements throughout the state, despite the fact that his candidacy had been inaugurated largely under the auspices of the conservative Col. George Harvey (afterwards U.S. ambassador to Great Britain) and the Democratic state boss, Senator James Smith. In Nov. he was elected by a plurality of 49,000 votes. He at once made it plain that he intended, regardless of the protests of machine leaders, to fulfil his liberal pledges and would assume the leadership of the party for this purpose. As governor he successfully carried through a series of reform measures. Of these the most significant were: a Direct Primaries Law, which, supplemented by an effective Corrupt Practices Act, did much to purify the political atmosphere of New Jersey; an Employers' Liability Act; the creation of a Public Utilities Commission; reform in municipal administration, making possible the adoption of the commission form of government. Elections to the State Senate and Assembly in 1911 gave the Republicans a majority in both Houses and the legislative output was curtailed. Nevertheless his final activities as governor were characterized by the impetus which he gave to the passage of a series of bills, known as the Seven Sisters, directed to the protection of the public from exploitation by trusts.

When in June 1912 the Democratic National Convention met at Baltimore to choose a candidate for President, Mr. Wilson's reputation as an effective reformer had brought his name prominently before the delegates. The convention was apparently controlled by conservative elements and there seemed little chance of the nomination of an anti-machine progressive. But as the struggle to secure the necessary two-thirds vote proceeded, with the conservative forces divided between Champ Clark, Harmon, and Underwood, Mr. W. J. Bryan, leader of the progressive elements threw his dominating influence in favour of Mr. Wilson. It proved decisive, and on the 46th ballot he was nominated, July 2 1912. In the campaign that followed he voiced popular discontent with the conservatism of the Republican administration, which he believed to have been too closely allied with the interests of “privileged big business.” His campaign speeches, characterized by a striking phraseology, won much applause, but were remarkable for their high moral tone rather than for originality of thought or policy. Like Roosevelt he demanded a national renaissance of ideals. In matters of immediate concern, such as the tariff, trust regulation, currency, the interests of labour, he insisted that the “rule of justice and right” must be set up. As regarded the future, in matters of conservation and trade, he asserted that great opportunities had been lost through the interlacing of privilege and private advantage with the framework of existing laws: “we must effect a great readjustment and get the forces of the whole people once more into play.” His radicalism was of a mild sort and he insisted that “we need no revolution, we need no excited change; we need only a new point of view and a new method and spirit of counsel.” The popular temper was responsive to such a tone, but success in large measure could hardly have come to him except for the division of Republican forces through the campaign of Theodore Roosevelt as Progressive candidate. In the Nov. election Mr. Wilson received 435 electoral votes as against 88 for Roosevelt and 8 for Taft; but his popular vote was a million less than that of his two chief opponents, and in only 14 states (all in the South) did he receive a clear majority.

Despite the fact that he was the choice of a minority of the whole people, Mr. Wilson's political position when he assumed office on March 4 1913 was one of remarkable strength. He was supported by a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress, the Republicans were at loggerheads, and he might expect support from the Progressives for much of his reforming legislative programme. His Cabinet was not distinguished, but it contained certain elements of political and administrative strength, which proved advantageous for the moment, although later it was to become the mark for bitter criticism. The President soon made it plain that he was determined, as in his governorship of New Jersey, to exercise his personal influence and his position as head of the party to initiate and carry through the legislation he had advocated in his campaign. His ascendancy in Congress was soon established. After convoking both Houses in special session on April 7 1913, he delivered his first message in person, reviving the custom that had lapsed since the administration (1797) of the elder Adams. He intervened constantly during this and later sessions, to further the legislation in which he was especially interested.

The first important piece of legislation that resulted from the special session was the Underwood Tariff Act, which was passed in Sept. and signed by the President Oct. 3 1913. It provided for a notable downward revision and naturally met strong opposition from varied industrial interests. Such opposition was overcome largely through the personal efforts of Mr. Wilson, who appealed constantly to public sentiment, notably in an attack upon the activities of hostile lobbyists. The Tariff Act, in addition to lower duties and important administrative changes, introduced an income tax — long advocated by Democrats — which was destined in later developments to counterbalance the loss of revenue resulting from the lowering of the tariff; it weighed heavily upon the industrial interests of the North and increased the growing unpopularity of the President in that region. The Tariff Act was followed by a broad measure of currency reform, the Federal Reserve Act, signed Dec. 23 1913; it is generally regarded as the administration's second great legislative triumph. Mr. Wilson's purpose was to [ 1018 ] supplant the dictatorship of private banking institutions by a reorganization that should provide funds available to meet extraordinary demands and a currency that would expand and contract automatically. Early in 1914 the President called upon Congress to continue its labours of reform by the regulation of the trusts. After long debate and warm opposition, his appeal was answered by the passing of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Anti-trust Act. The latter, besides perfecting anti-trust legislation in several ways, met the demands of labour by declaring that labour was not a commodity, by prohibiting injunctions in labour disputes unless necessary to prevent irreparable injury, and by proclaiming that strikes and boycotts were not violations of Federal law. It further exempted labour associations from the anti-trust laws.

Mr. Wilson's policy of domestic social reform had thus been developed with surprising legislative success during the first year of his administration. His foreign policy was not so clear-cut and aroused little enthusiasm. It was characterized by an evident desire to concede the rights of other nations to the limit and to avoid any stressing of the power of the United States for the material advantage of its citizens. Definite steps were taken to prepare the Filipinos for self-government. Pressure was brought to bear upon the California state Government to mitigate the severity of its anti-Japanese legislation. The “dollar diplomacy” of the preceding administration was repudiated and American bankers effectively discouraged from participating in the international Chinese loans. As a result of the President's personal demand, Congress repealed the law exempting American coastwise shipping from Panama Canal tolls. Mr. Wilson, however, failed to secure the Senate's ratification of a treaty with Colombia, which contained a virtual apology on the part of the United States and an offer to pay $25,000,000 as reparation for the alleged grievances of Colombia in connexion with the establishment of Panama as an independent country. In the Caribbean, Mr. Wilson's policy differed in principle rather than practice from that of his predecessors; in Nicaragua and Haiti the customs were taken over by U.S. officials. By a treaty signed Sept. 16 1915, a virtual protectorate of Haiti was assumed; in Santo Domingo the precautionary visits of American cruisers were followed in the summer of 1916 by the landing of marines, and in Nov. of that year by the proclamation of a military government under American auspices.

Mr. Wilson's Mexican policy aroused heated criticism. Following the accession of Gen. Huerta to power and the President's failure to arrange a settlement providing for his elimination as dictator, Mr. Wilson resigned himself to what he called a policy of “watchful waiting.” Conditions in Mexico were anarchical, and intervention was strongly urged by both American and European commercial interests. To formal intervention the President was definitely opposed, but in April 1914 he was compelled to authorize the occupation of Vera Cruz in retaliation for affronts to American blue-jackets. The proffered mediation of Argentina, Brazil and Chile he gladly accepted, but the resulting protocol of Niagara Falls (June 24 1914) did not provide a basis for peace. Although Huerta fled from Mexico in July, the country continued to be torn by rival factions. American troops were withdrawn from Vera Cruz in Nov. 1914, but it was not until Oct. 1915 that the Government of Carranza was recognized by Mr. Wilson, in company with eight South and Central American Governments. Further complications ensued. The raid into American territory of Gen. Villa, March 9 1916, led Mr. Wilson to authorize a punitive expedition, which soon aroused the protests of Carranza. In May and June the President mobilized the National Guard and sent a force of about 100,000 to patrol the Mexican border. The crisis was tided over by a joint Mexican-American commission sitting at New London, Conn., which brought no definite settlement, but at least postponed hasty action on either side. In Jan. 1917, the last American troops were withdrawn from Mexican soil. The President's policy had not led to stable conditions in Mexico, and the sole advantage secured seemed to be the emphasis laid by the U.S. Government on the principle that it would not take advantage of the misfortunes of a weak neighbour for its own selfish profit.

Foreign affairs after July 1914 were naturally dominated by the World War. President Wilson insisted upon a policy of strict neutrality. This he emphasized not merely by formal proclamation on Aug. 4, but by an address to the American people of Aug. 18, in which he adjured them, in view of the mixture of nationalities in the United States, to be impartial in thought as well as action. His offer of mediation, made on Aug. 5, remained without response, and further attempts at mediation in early autumn proved fruitless. His determination to remain absolutely aloof from European quarrels was underlined in several addresses, in which he insisted that the United States was in no way concerned, and was further emphasized by his opposition to any change in its military policy. America's vital interest in the struggle, however, soon became plain and resulted in diplomatic controversies with the belligerents. Great Britain's attempt to control indirect importation of goods into Germany, by an enlargement of contraband schedules and an extension of the doctrine of “continuous voyage” to conditional contraband, was vigorously opposed by President Wilson, who authorized Mr. Bryan, his Secretary of State, to protest in strong terms. A lengthy interchange of notes followed, which led to no settlement (see International Law). The diplomatic controversy with Germany proved more serious. The proclamation of a “war zone” about the British Isles, in which German submarines threatened to destroy enemy merchant vessels with consequent danger to the lives and property of neutrals, was met by a note of Feb. 10 1915, which warned Germany that she would be held to “strict accountability” for the lawless acts of submarine commanders. Mr. Wilson further attempted to find a compromise, based upon a relaxation of the British food blockade and an abandonment of the German submarine campaign. The effort failed and was followed by a series of submarine attacks, which culminated in the sinking of the “Lusitania,” May 7 1915, with the loss of over 100 American lives. The President, while he disappointed opinion in the eastern states by a speech in which he reaffirmed his pacific determination, stating that a man might be “too proud to fight,” at once set out to win from Germany a disavowal and a promise that merchant ships should not be torpedoed without warning and the saving of the lives of passengers. A lengthy exchange of notes ensued; the pacific Mr. Bryan, Secretary of State, regarding the President's language as too strong, resigned; on the other hand Mr. Wilson's patience with the evasions of the German Government and the continued sinkings by submarines led to bitter attacks upon the President's policy of conciliation, which was stigmatized as anaemic or even cowardly. Mr. Wilson succeeded, however, in securing from Germany a promise not to sink liners without warning (Sept. 1 1915), and continued his efforts to induce Germany to abandon the submarine campaign completely. He was hampered by an attempted revolt of Congressional leaders, who blurred the issue with Germany by introducing resolutions designed to prevent Americans from travelling upon belligerent ships. The President, through his personal influence, secured the defeat of these resolutions in Feb. 1916, insisting that he would not consent “to any abridgment of the rights of American citizens in any respect.” Shortly afterwards the issue with Germany was brought to a head by the sinking of the “Sussex,” March 24 1916. Mr. Wilson waited three weeks before sending a formal note of protest to Germany (April 19 1916) but couched it in the form of an ultimatum, stating that unless Germany should immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of submarine warfare, the United States would be compelled to sever diplomatic relations. The German answer, while attempting to make acceptance conditional upon Great Britain's relaxation of the blockade, was in effect a promise not to sink merchant ships without warning and without saving human lives. The submarine issue now seemed less critical.

The diplomatic victory thus apparently secured by Mr. Wilson was utilized in his behalf during the electoral campaign [ 1019 ] of 1916, in which he was inevitably the Democratic candidate. It enabled his supporters to declare that he had vindicated the rights of the United States successfully, and at the same time had “kept us out of war.” The slogan made a strong appeal, especially in the districts of the Middle West. The Republicans, on the other hand, who had nominated Charles E. Hughes, criticized the whole foreign policy of the President. They insisted that he had failed to take prompt action for the protection of American lives and honour, alike in his dealings with Germany and in his handling of the Mexican crisis. They characterized his domestic policy as demagogic, instancing the Clayton Act and the Adamson Act; the latter had been urged on Congress by Mr. Wilson to avert a railroad strike in Sept. 1916, and many citizens regarded it as an untimely surrender to labour threats. They also criticized his attitude on “preparedness,” to which the President had been opposed until the close of 1915, and ridiculed the cautious expansion of military and naval forces provided for in the National Defense Act of 1916. In the east and in most industrial centres of the middle west, Mr. Wilson was unpopular, but the election showed his strength in the farming districts west of the Mississippi and on the Pacific coast; in spite of Mr. Roosevelt's return to the Republican fold the President drew largely from the Progressives, and on election day received a slight electoral majority over Mr. Hughes (277 to 254) and a popular plurality of 9,129,606 to 8,538,221.

His re-election enabled Mr. Wilson to proceed with plans for peace proposals to the European belligerents. These he had been preparing since the early summer of 1916, and, regardless of the German peace balloon of Dec. 12 1916, he sent on Dec. 18 identical notes to the belligerents, asking them to state the terms upon which they would consider peace. Informed of the undercurrents of German military circles, he evidently feared that if the war continued, the United States would necessarily become involved; he also hoped that a clear definition of war aims would strengthen pacific elements in both belligerent camps. The German reply was evasive; that of the Allies refused to consider peace until Germany should offer “complete restitution, full reparation, and effectual guarantees.” The replies gave the President opportunity to expound what he had come to believe was the only sure basis of an enduring peace. This he did in a speech of Jan. 22 1917, in which he insisted that the peace must be organized by the major force of mankind, thus emphasizing the need of a League of Nations; that no nation should extend its policy over another nation; that no one Power should dominate the land or the sea. There must be a limitation of armaments. As a guarantee of future peace and justice, the ending of the existing war must not be the violation of the rights of one side or the other: it must be “a peace without victory.” Further efforts to secure a peaceful arrangement were frustrated by the determination of the German militarist clique to renew the submarine warfare, regardless of the effect on the United States. On Jan. 31, the German ambassador, von Bernstorff, delivered a note to this effect, and four days later the President handed him his papers. He still, however, avoided formal war with Germany, and on Feb. 26 asked for a resolution armed neutrality, which would permit the arming of American merchant ships for entrance into the barred sea zone. The resolution was blocked by a filibuster. Finally, in view of continued sinking of American ships, the President came to Congress on April 2 1917, and asked for a declaration that a state of warfare existed with Germany. The resolution was passed by the Senate on April 4, by the House on April 6.

President Wilson had always abhorred the exercise of force in international relations, and the war which he at last regarded as necessary was, in his mind, a war to ensure peace. Nevertheless he was determined that it should be waged efficiently and that the mistakes of previous wars should not be repeated. Those mistakes, he believed, had resulted chiefly from the intermixture of politics in military affairs, and from the decentralization of the American military machine. He opposed a coalition war cabinet, as leading to divided responsibility. Military policy was handed over to the military experts. He approved the immediate development of the general staff as the centralizing military organ, and it was upon the recommendation of that body that he urged, against the wish of Congressional leaders, the Selective Service Act. On the advice of the general staff he appointed Gen. John J. Pershing commander of the expeditionary force to France, and, also following that advice, he refused to authorize a volunteer force under Mr. Roosevelt. Similarly the plans for the development of a large army in France were inaugurated and translated into fact by the military experts. As regards conduct of operations the President gave to Gen. Pershing complete authority, and permitted no interference by politicians. In the building of the new army, the President took no direct part, but he used his authority consistently to favour centralization under the general staff. He followed a similar policy in the mobilization of the industrial resources of the nation. He encouraged the centralizing efforts of the Council of National Defense and its committees, and sought always to secure for them executive rather than the merely advisory powers which they at first possessed. He urged the Lever Act, which in Aug. 1917 created a Food and a Fuel Administration, and advocated the taking over of the railroads by the Government in Dec. His policy of economic centralization was ultimately assisted by the many protests against his war policies which were made in the winter, and which centred round the demand for a non-partizan war cabinet or ministry of munitions; for his supporters were able to insist that the more effective handling of war problems demanded not new machinery but greater efficiency of the existing mechanism. The President asked for powers to cut through red tape and rearrange bureaus without reference to Congress. His demands were embodied in the Overman Act, which was passed in May 1918, and which enabled him to grant executive powers to the various boards that had been created. The War Industries Board, released from its dependence upon the Council of National Defense, at once became the centralizing organ of the economic activities of the country. In his war appointments Mr. Wilson disregarded party lines, a notable fact since in political appointments he always showed himself strictly a party man. Republicans such as Hoover, Stettinius, Goethals, Schwab, Vanderlip, were chosen because of their administrative qualities and regardless of political affiliations.

During the war President Wilson consistently developed his ideals of a new international system which should perpetuate peace and assure justice and security to every nation regardless of its material strength. He hoped thus not merely to construct a basis for just peace when the war should end, but to hasten the end of the war by appealing to the peoples of the enemy states against their Governments. The most notable of his speeches was that of Jan. 8 1918, in which he stated 14 points necessary to a just and lasting peace. This, with his later addresses, was ultimately accepted as the basis of the final settlement. Their effect in Germany and Austria-Hungary was not apparent until the military defeat of those empires, but his words acted continually as a corroding factor, weakening the enemy's determination to fight. When in the autumn of 1918 they faced military defeat, they turned to Mr. Wilson offering to accept his Fourteen Points as the basis of peace. The President's insistence upon justice as an essential to a lasting settlement had brought him great prestige in Allied countries, but the chiefs of the Allied Governments hesitated to accept the Fourteen Points in the fear that the material advantages of the victory might be thrown away. They yielded, however, to the persuasive diplomacy of Col. House, who represented the President at Paris, and it was on the understanding that the Fourteen Points (reservation made of “Freedom of the Seas” and inclusion of Germany's promise to make full reparation) should be the basis of the peace that the Armistice was granted to Germany.[2] The President realized, however, that it would be difficult to translate his principles into the actual treaty. Aside from the opposition he might expect from selfish nationalistic interests among the [ 1020 ] Allies, he lacked unified support at home, where his political opponents called for a “strong peace” that would annihilate Germany; there was little enthusiasm for a League of Nations, which the President regarded as essential to a just and lasting settlement. Furthermore he had weakened his political position at home by a series of tactical mistakes. Of these, the most important was an appeal issued immediately before the Congressional election of Nov., in which Mr. Wilson asked the voters to cast their ballots for Democratic candidates, on the ground that a Republican Congress would divide the leadership at the moment of international crisis. Such an appeal would have been comprehensible if it had been made by a prime minister in a parliamentary country, but Wilson had proclaimed himself the leader of the nation and could not logically also play the rôle of party leader. The Republicans seemed to have some ground for complaining that although they had submerged partizan quarrels during the war, President Wilson was now attempting to capitalize the war and foreign affairs in order to win a partizan advantage. Many voters were antagonized by the appeal, and the elections went in favour of the Republicans. The President thus lost command of the Senate in the next Congress and its Foreign Relations Committee was to be controlled by his political and other opponents. Believing that his presence at the Peace Conference was necessary, if it was not to be dominated by old-style diplomatic practices, Mr. Wilson decided himself to go to Paris, and on Dec. 4 1918 sailed with the other members of the American Commission on the “George Washington.” He arrived at Brest on Dec. 13, and was received at Paris, in England, and at Rome with tremendous enthusiasm. For the moment he was the popular hero, both in Allied and enemy countries. But his prestige rested on a precarious footing, and must inevitably diminish when he came to oppose the national aspirations of any people. He was anxious, therefore, to strike off a quick general peace, leaving details for later settlement; but this proved impossible, and formal conversations at Paris began only in Jan. 1919. The President succeeded in winning an early victory when he persuaded the conference to accept the principle of the League of Nations as the basis of the peace, and when, on Feb. 14, he won unanimous approval of the preliminary draft of the covenant. On returning to the United States, however, he found Republican opposition to the league strongly manifested in the Senate, although he had the support of Mr. Taft's influence in that party and in the country. Public opinion seemed to be uninstructed and apathetic as to the President's policies. Going back to Paris in March, he was able to secure the insertion in the covenant of certain amendments required by American sentiment, and the approval by the conference of the final draft of the covenant. But he was confronted by the demands of the French, Italians and Japanese for territorial and economic concessions from the enemy, which he regarded as excessive. Long discussions followed, culminating in Mr. Wilson's acceptance of a portion of the Allied demands, notably the granting of Shantung to the Japanese, of much of the frontier line promised by the Treaty of London to Italy, and the exaction from Germany of what amounted to a blank cheque in the matter of reparations. Such concessions aroused the opposition of liberals in England and America, who insisted that the President had surrendered his principles. Mr. Wilson, on the other hand, acknowledging that certain aspects of the settlement were not ideal, believed that he had won his main contention in securing the League of Nations, which provided the mechanism for eradicating the vices contained in the treaties. In this belief he was supported by another liberal protagonist, Gen. Smuts. On June 29 1919, the day following the signing of the Versailles Treaty, the President sailed for America. His international prestige had suffered from his opposition to national claims, especially that of the Italians to Fiume and of the French to the left bank of the Rhine. Nevertheless, as the bitterness of the moment passed, the magnitude of his accomplishments at Paris became more generally recognized. When the veil of secrecy surrounding the negotiations was gradually lifted, it was seen that the belief that he had been outmanœuvred by Lloyd George and Clemenceau was hardly justified by the facts. Lacking the negotiating ability of Lloyd George and the political experience of Clemenceau, he refused to enter the diplomatic lists with them, but by his manifest candour and sincerity early disarmed his opponents in argument. He said exactly what was in his mind, and was careful that his statements should be fortified by the documents and statistics furnished by his expert advisers.

The strain of the conference had told upon Mr. Wilson's physical and nervous strength. He was thus not well equipped to wage the struggle with his Republican opponents in the Senate which developed upon his presentation of the treaty. Had the President been willing to compromise and accept reservations to the covenant of the league, it is possible that the two-thirds necessary to ratification might have been secured. This course he refused to follow, and it soon became clear that the Foreign Relations Committee would not recommend ratification without serious reservations or amendments. In the hope of winning popular support, the President set forth upon a tour of the country and along the Pacific coast aroused enthusiasm in marked contrast to the coldness of the east. The effort, however, overtaxed his strength, and on Sept. 26 at Wichita, Kan., the President was compelled to give over his tour and return to Washington, where he suffered a complete nervous collapse. The exact nature of his illness was not made public and few realized how serious it would prove to be. Many, however, felt that in view of his inevitable abstention from active work, it would have been wiser for him to retire at least temporarily. As it was, his system had provided for no understudy and the administration was left without a leader. Entirely apart from the confusion thus caused in the conduct of the public business, Mr. Wilson's illness led directly to the defeat of the treaty. There was no one else capable either of leading the fight for ratification without reservations, or with sufficient authority to arrange a compromise. On Nov. 14 the Senate adopted reservations which Mr. Wilson declared would “nullify” (etc., etc.) the treaty; for this reason he urged the Democrats to refuse to vote for the ratifying resolution, which was accordingly defeated on Nov. 19 1919. During the succeeding weeks efforts were made to arrange a compromise. The Republican leaders agreed to soften the language of certain reservations, and the President intimated that he would accept a mild reservation on Article X. of the covenant, which had aroused the chief opposition. Neither side would yield enough, and when on March 19 1920, the final vote was taken on the ratifying resolution, which contained a strong reservation on Article X., Mr. Wilson again urged Democratic senators not to accept. The resolution thus failed of the necessary two-thirds by a margin of seven votes, 57-37. The President appealed to the autumn presidential election in 1920 as the decisive plebiscite. Although he had lost his former control of the party, and the Democratic presidential nominee at San Francisco was not his choice, the Wilsonian policies, including approval of the League of Nations, were inevitably the issue of the elections. In the electioneering campaign, however, the President himself could take no active part, for his physical collapse proved so serious as to confine him to the White House. For the overwhelming victory won by the Republicans, see United States (History). After his defeat Mr. Wilson kept close silence on public matters, and his annual message of Dec. 1920, while it sounded the note of national duty, made no reference to that which lay nearest his heart — the League of Nations. This silence, indeed, he preserved until the close of his administration, March 4 1921. In Dec. 1920 he had been awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

The failure of President Wilson to win the approval of the United States for his peace policies presents one of the most interesting problems of American history. He had led the country through the difficult period of a war unsurpassed in magnitude and culminating in complete victory; in the face of serious obstacles he had forced European statesmen to accept the major item in his programme; he returned home only to be repudiated by his own people. Personal and partizan factors [ 1021 ] unquestionably contributed to his defeat. In private intercourse Mr. Wilson displayed a personal magnetism, a breadth culture, and a genial cordiality that are amply attested by his intimates. But in public life he proved unable to capitalize such advantages, possibly because of natural shyness, possibly because physical delicacy restricted his social activities. Roosevelt's capacity for “mixing” with all political and human types he totally lacked. In the formation of his policies he isolated himself and was unable to establish close relations with Congressional leaders. This gave rise to the impression that the President disliked advice, was an ego-centric autocrat, and immediately dispensed with anyone who disagreed with him. Such criticism, by no means a novelty in the case of strong-willed presidents, was utilized by his political opponents and intensified his unpopularity in the industrial centres, especially of the east, an unpopularity which, except for a few months during the opening months of the war, was an outstanding factor in the political situation. Broadly speaking, the criticism does not seem to be fully justified. In matters of what he regarded as principle he was adamant, and he distrusted the judgment of those whose basic point of view was different from his own; but the evidence of those who worked with him, including that of Republican advisers at Paris, is almost unanimous to the effect that he was anxious to secure advice, was tolerant of opinions, and glad to delegate responsibility. The contrary belief was doubtless fostered by Mr. Wilson's inability to build up an efficient secretarial organization, and his incapacity, rather than unwillingness, to apportion effectively the details of administrative labour. His handling of war problems shows clearly his desire to delegate responsibility; once an appointment was made he refused to interfere and consistently protected his appointee from the importunities of politicians.

Political responsibility in general, he believed, should rest with the President. From conviction, rather than from egotism, he sought to emancipate the presidential office from the control of Congressional committees, a control which he earnestly deplored in his earliest writings. The President, he felt, should be the real leader of the nation, and not a mere executive superintendent. The Cabinet he looked on as an executive and not as a political council, and it was always strictly subordinated to his policies. So long as the Democrats held the majority in Congress he was able to translate such ideas into fact, and effectively disposed of all attempted Congressional revolts. This attitude naturally did not allay the political resentments which were inevitably aroused and which were intensified by Mr. Wilson's tendency to regard political opposition as tantamount to personal hostility; when the Democratic majority disappeared he faced uncompromising hostility. He was intensely impatient of partizan obstruction of his idealistic plans, and there is much of the Calvinist in his refusal to temporize or deviate from the path which he believed himself appointed to tread. While in matters of detail he showed at times some capacity for compromise, in matters of principle he displayed the unswerving determination characteristic of the prophet, a trait that is not always conducive to success in the exigencies of modern party warfare. Indeed it is as a prophet, rather than las a statesman that Mr. Wilson should be regarded. No one has preached more effectively the necessity of introducing a moral standard into international politics.

The following are the most important writings of President Wilson: Congressional Government, a Study in American Politics (1885); The State — Elements of Historical and Practical Politics (1889); Division and Reunion, 1829-1889 (1893); An Old Master and Other Political Essays (1893); Mere Literature and Other Essays (1893); George Washington (1896); A History of the American People (1902); Constitutional Government in the United States (1908); The New Freedom (1913); On Being Human (1916); International Ideals (1919). Personal and political biographies of President Wilson have been written by H. J. Ford, Woodrow Wilson: The Man and His Work (1916); by H. W. Harris, President Wilson: His Problems and His Policy (1917); by W. E. Dodd, Woodrow Wilson and His Work (1920); and by his private secretary, Joseph P. Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson as I Know Him (1921). All four are eulogistic, especially the last two named. General surveys of Wilson's foreign policy are to be found in E. E. Robinson and V. J. West's The Foreign Policy of President Wilson, 1913-1917 (1917); and in Charles Seymour's Woodrow Wilson and the World War (1921). Editions of President Wilson's State papers have been made by Albert Shaw, President Wilson's State Papers and Addresses (1917); by J. B. Scott, President Wilson's Foreign Policy; and Messages, Addresses, Papers. (C. Sey.)


  1. In 1885 he married Ellen Louise Axson of Savannah, Ga., who died in 1914, leaving three daughters. On Dec. 18 1915, he married Edith Bolling Galt of Washington, D.C.
  2. The Fourteen Points are set forth in full in the article World War, under the subhead Political History.