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Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born on the 28th day of December in 1856 to the family of Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Janet, a family of Scottish-Irish immigrants. Wilson had a brother and two sisters. Wilson’s father was a Presbyterian minister, a fact that contributed much in his personal and educational development.
Thomas learnt how to read when he was only ten years old and in 1873, he went to Davidson College, but had to drop out due to health complications. In 1875, he joined the college of New Jersey for one year and proceeded to Princeton University for his undergraduate studies. At the University, Wilson read widely as well as participating in debates (Baker 3). He also developed skills in journalism, wrote some articles as well as editing the college newspaper. In his undergraduate years, Wilson published an essay that was compared to the American and British governing systems. After graduating from Princeton University, he joined Virginia University, pursued a degree in law, and completed it within a span of two years. He had a one-year legal practice at Atlanta but later he abandoned his practice and joined Johns Hopkins University from his master degree and later a PhD in political science from the same university.
In 1885, Thomas worked as a professor at Bryan Mawr College. In 1888, he left for Wesleyan University as a professor in history until 1890. He later taught as a professor in economy at Princeton University. He became the president of Princeton University in 1902 and served in the same capacity until 1910. During his term as the President of Princeton University, he proposed his reformist ideas on education. He wanted reforms in the admission, pedagogical, social systems, and the architectural layout of the University. According to Baker, he was also a democratic leader, factors that made him to be a famous (16).
Election to Presidency
His popularity at Princeton University made him to consider venturing into the political field. Wilson was voted in as the Governor of New Jersey in 191. In 1912, the Democratic Party nominated Wilson as its president with Thomas Marshall as his running mate. He had William Taft of the Republican Party and Theodore Roosevelt, a Bull Moose candidate as opponents. It was Wilson’s first time ever to run for presidency but he won his post as the United States’ 28th President in 1912. He successfully garnered 42 percent of the U.S’s total votes. He had an easy win because the Republican Party’s votes were divided between Taft and Roosevelt (Wilson, 2011).
Wilson had the mind of a reformer and this enabled him to drafted changes that he wanted to be implemented across the United States. He proposed social and economic reforms that would enable the transformation of livelihoods of the American citizenry. There was reduction on tariffs form 41 to 27 percent and the result was an instant reduction on import duties. He also proposed the regulation of the banking system by the government and at the same time, income tax was adopted. Wilson spearheaded the creation of the Federal Trade Commission Act in 1913. The main aim of this act was to curtail the formation of monopolies because of their exploitative nature. The Act also created reserves that would help in regulation of the economic standards of the country, lend loans to farmers and businesspersons. The aim of this reserve was to foster economic growth, help in business operations, and create jobs. He also funded the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which motivated unions to guarantee fair treatment to American workers and the Child Labor Reform was developed during this era. In addition, he proposed the enactment of the eight-hour working system for the railroad workers (Baker 88).
In American history, Wilson was the first president to appear before the Congress in person. Wilson also proposed Brandeis, a judge of Jewish origin to be Supreme Court’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and he strongly lobbied until he was confirmed. All these were well-advanced strategies that he employed in a bid to attract most of voters who had supported Roosevelt in 1912.
His Foreign Policy
Wilson faced a great challenge on foreign policy and consequently refused to acknowledge Victoriano Huerta, a Mexican President. He also ordered the occupation of Veracruz in 1914 to block Victoriano from receiving weapons from overseas.
One of the most distinctive features about his rule is that he tried a new way that diverted from the ideals of imperialism as expressed by his predecessors. Wilson with his State Secretary, William Bryan, based their foreign policy on moral foundations. They wanted to spread the process of democracy all over the world. In 1919, Puerto Rico’s citizens became Americans because the nation was awarded a territorial status. On the same note, Philippines was awarded independence. Wilson believed in signing of treaties that acted as alternatives to war. Upon his election, he issues a statement on how the U.S is a friend to the Latin American nations only if they embrace democracy. He sent soldiers to crush a revolution in Haiti and the Dominican Republic but they failed to restore democracy in those nations. Wilson slipped into imperialism, a trademark of his predecessors when he bought Virgin Islands from Denmark.
Ellen Axson Wilson, the First Lady was an activist in the political field. Some of the decisions made by Wilson were thought to be the views of his wife like the abstinence of America from World War I. The First World War in Europe started in August 1914. Sadly, his wife died and he was left with three young daughters. In the beginning of 1915, Wilson married Edith Galt as a second wife.
His Stand on WWI
During World War I, America remained neutral but conceded to an agreement that encouraged European nations to join the war. Wilson prevented America from going into war. In 1916, Wilson was again nominated to go vie for presidency with Marshall as his vice president against Charles Evans Hughes of the Republican Party. During his campaign, his supporters had slogans that claim that he refused America to go into war. Although he went in for the second term, he did not have many supporters as before. He won with 277 votes against Hughes who had 254 votes. His victory gave him hope that the war could end. Wilson made a peace appeal and requested for the foundation of the League of Nations that would prohibit America from going into war. This effort saw him win a Nobel Prize in 1919 (Nobelprize.org, 2011).
However, his efforts failed to produce a peaceful co-existent with countries like Germany. Germany constantly attacked American vessels and sent provocative messages to America in a bid to entice it into entering the war. The outcome of Germany’s provocations forced Wilson to support the war. The Congress voted in favor of America’s entry into the war. Wilson argued that its main aim of going to war is to make the world a safe place where the ideals of democracy are practiced. In addition to that, he retaliated that, America is a nation that supports the liberties of small nations, self-governance, and an international League of Nations. America helped Britain to crush German in World War I.
Wilson’s Life after Office
In 1919, Wilson suffered a major stroke in White House. On 4 March 1921, he left office and introduced his successor, Warren Harding to the Capitol. He started a law partnership with Colby Bainbridge but could not work due to his poor health. In 1924, Wilson was partially paralyzed and blind but he believed that he could get to run for a third term. In his plan, he wanted to become a president, seek a referendum from the American citizens on the League of Nations. In 1924, he passed on at his home and his remains were interred in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. His life after office did not yield any major achievements partly because of his ill health. His family homes and birthplace in Staunton, Virginia are open to the public and the National Trust maintains them.
Personal Opinion of Wilson’s Presidency
Wilson’s presidency would be termed as one characterized by “direct indecision.” He had an isolationist approach towards war but later changed his mind and supported the war. Although he kept off war, he commanded his soldiers to attack Mexico, without going through the foreign policy. After he discovered that it was difficult to spread democracy in the Latin American nations, he resulted into imperialism and bought the Virgin Islands. I picked Preisdent Wilson because of his indecisive nature. Most presidents of America have been very decisive on issues surrounding foreign policy and war. Presidents like Richard Nixon directly engaged America in Vietnam, George W. Bush engaged America in the Iraqi War while Franklin Roosevelt used the Pearl Harbor attacks as an excuse to get into World War II.
In the social sector, Wilson designed and implemented reforms that changed the lives of Americans. He enforced the eight-hour work shift, reforms on child labor, laws that prohibited monopolies and controlled banking. These reforms generally changed the life on an average American.
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