5/31/14

#28: Woodrow Wilson: Initial Thoughts

OK, so the rumors are true that having a child puts a crimp in your free time. The last time I wrote a post was a little over a year and a half ago, just before our daughter Edith was born.

I'm trying to pick up the pieces of this project and restart the journey of reading a biography on every American president and writing about it. Hopefully I can rededicate myself and power through the 20th century over the next year or so.

I just finished the biography of Wilson by H W Brands and there were a couple interesting things I observed that I'll expand on in later posts.

This book was written in 2003, so unlike many of the other biographies I've read which were written by contemporaries of the presidents, this book was written from a relatively modern viewpoint of American culture. The great debates of the day (internationalism, America's role abroad, economic policy etc.) are largely covered as settled debates rather than ongoing arguments.

Wilson was not always the "Wilsonian" internationalist we make him out to be in contemporary culture. In fact, he considered foreign policy his weakness and spent most of his first term trying his hardest to keep America out of World War One. It took the cajoling of Teddy Roosevelt (sort of the John McCain of his day when it came to any war question) to push him to American involvement.

He was actually incapacitated with a severe stroke during much of the debate during his signature issue of trying to create the league of nations post World War One. His wife largely acted as his proxy during this time claiming that she'd represent things that Wilson would say while not allowing anyone to actually see him.

Wilson was a southerner at heart and largely ignored the great racial strife that was taking place across the country. Wilson being prejudiced is really not that special of a finding considering that the vast majority of white America was back then except for the fact that he is such an icon for do-gooders (for lack of a better term).

Looking forward to getting back into the project and hoping I can do roughly a post a week.

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