World War I
Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was an American statesman and academic who served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilson served as the President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and as Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913, before winning the 1912 presidential election. As president, he oversaw the passage of progressive legislative policies unparalleled until the New Deal in 1933. He also led the United States during World War I, establishing an activist foreign policy known as "Wilsonianism." He was one of the three key leaders at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, where he championed a new League of Nations, but he was unable to win Senate approval for U.S. participation in the League.
Born in Staunton, Virginia, to a slaveholding family, Wilson spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. His father was a leading Southern Presbyterian and helped to found the Presbyterian Church in the United States. After earning a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University, Wilson taught at various schools before taking a position at Princeton. In 1910, Democratic leaders recruited him to run for the position of Governor of New Jersey. Serving from 1911 to 1913, Wilson broke with party bosses and won the passage of several progressive reforms. Wilson's success in New Jersey gave him a national reputation as a progressive reformer, and his Southern roots helped him win favor in that region. After several ballots, the 1912 Democratic National Convention selected Wilson as the party's presidential nominee. Theodore Roosevelt's third-party candidacy split the Republican Party, which re-nominated incumbent President William Howard Taft. Wilson won the 1912 election with a plurality of the popular vote and a large majority in the Electoral College.
Upon taking office, Wilson called a special session of Congress, whose work culminated in the Revenue Act of 1913, introducing a federal income tax which provided revenue lost when tariffs were sharply lowered. He also presided over the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, which created a central banking system in the form of the Federal Reserve System. Other major elements of Wilson's New Freedom agenda included Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the Adamson Act, all of which established new economic regulations enforced by the federal government. Wilson staffed his cabinet and administration with numerous Southern Democrats; they insisted on racial segregation at the Treasury Department and other federal offices. Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Wilson maintained a policy of neutrality between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. In the presidential election of 1916, Wilson defeated Republican Charles Evans Hughes by a narrow margin, and Democrats retained control of Congress. His moralistic policy in dealing with the Mexican Revolution involved military actions, but stopped short of war.
In early 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare against American merchant ships and in the Zimmermann Telegram, proposed that Mexico join a war against the U.S. In April, Wilson asked Congress to declare war in order to make "the world safe for democracy." The United States provided food, raw materials, and loans—and in 1918 sent a newly raised army to France at the rate of 10,000 soldiers to Europe per day by mid-1918. Wilson focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving military strategy to the generals, especially General John J. Pershing. On the home front, he raised income taxes, borrowing billions of dollars through the public's purchase of Liberty Bonds, and initiated a draft. He promoted labor union cooperation, regulated agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, and took direct control of the nation's railroad system. Wilson asked Congress for what became the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, suppressing anti-draft activists. The crackdown was intensified by his Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer to include expulsion of non-citizen radicals during the First Red Scare of 1919–1920. Early in 1918, Wilson issued his principles for an end to the war, the Fourteen Points. Following the signing of an armistice in November 1918, he traveled to Paris, concluding the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson embarked on nationwide tour of the United States to campaign for ratification of the treaty and U.S. entrance into the League of Nations, but he suffered a severe stroke in October 1919. In his final year in office, Wilson secluded himself in the White House, disability having diminished his power and influence. The Treaty of Versailles was rejected by the Senate, and the U.S. remained outside of the League of Nations. Wilson retired from public office in 1921, and he died in 1924. Scholars and historians generally rank Wilson as one of the best U.S. presidents.