Kenneth (kensmind) wrote in potus_geeks,

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Remembering Woodrow Wilson

On February 3, 1924 (91 years ago today), Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, died at his home in Washington, DC at the age of 67. He had suffered a stroke late in his presidency that he never recovered from. Wilson served two terms as President from 1913 to 1921.

Born on December 28, 1856, Woodrow Wilson first went by the name of Tommy, but later began using his middle name. He was the son of the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson and was lived in Virginia during the civil war. Wilson became an academic, serving as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With the Republican Party split in 1912, he led his Democratic Party to control both the White House and Congress for the first time in nearly two decades.

In his first term as President, Wilson got the Democratic Congress to pass a legislative agenda that few presidents have equaled, including the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and an income tax. Child labor was regulated by the Keating–Owen Act of 1916, but the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1918. Wilson also had Congress pass the Adamson Act, which imposed an 8-hour workday for railroads. While Wilson accomplished a very progressive legislative agenda, his legacy is tarnished by the fact that he was deeply racist in his beliefs and his administration racially segregated federal employees and the Navy, wiping out progress that previous administrations had achieved.

Wilson was narrowly re-elected in 1916, using the slogan, "He kept us out of war". But Wilson's second term was dominated by American entry into World War I. While American non-interventionist sentiment was strong, American neutrality was challenged in early 1917 when the German Empire began unrestricted submarine warfare and tried to enlist Mexico to attack the U.S. In April 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war in order to make "the world safe for democracy." During the war, Wilson military decisions to his generals, focusing instead on domestic and economic management. In 1917, he began the United States' first draft since the Civil War. He borrowed billions of dollars in war funding through the newly established Federal Reserve Bank and Liberty Bonds. He promoted labor union cooperation and he supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act. He also took over control of the railroads. Wilson also suppressed anti-war movements with the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, a crackdown which broadened and intensified to include real and suspected anarchists and communists. After years of opposition, Wilson was pressured to change his position on women's suffrage in 1918, which he advocated as a war measure.


When the outcome of the war was decided, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. In 1918, he issued his Fourteen Points, in which he proposed how a post-war world could avoid another terrible conflict. In 1919, he went to Paris to lobby for the formation of a League of Nations as part of the Treaty of Versailles. For his sponsorship of the League of Nations, Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. In the midst of this intense fight and while on a tour promoting the League of Nations, Wilson suffered a severe stroke. A conspiracy involving his wife and his physician hid the extent of his illness from the nation and allowed him to remain control of the White House until he left office in March 1921. Despite his poor health, he was able to block any compromises that would enable the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. He even attempted to run for a third term. The Democrats were weakened by Wilson's actions and by the slowness of Wilson to embrace women's suffrage in comparison to Republican candidate Warren G. Harding. Harding promised a "a return to normalcy" and was elected in an unprecedented popular vote landslide in 1920.

Wilson was too ill to leave Washington when his term ended, although he did outlive his successor. On November 10, 1923, Wilson made a short Armistice Day radio speech from the library of his home, his last national address. The following day, Armistice Day itself, he spoke briefly from the front steps to more than 20,000 well wishers gathered outside the house. On February 3, 1924, Wilson died in his S Street home as a result of a stroke and other heart-related problems. He was interred in a sarcophagus in Washington National Cathedral, the only president interred in Washington, D.C.
Tags: warren harding, woodrow wilson

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