Woodrow Wilson - Twenty-Eighth President of the United States

Woodrow Wilson - Twenty-Eighth President of the United States

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Woodrow Wilson's Childhood and Education:

Born on December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia, Thomas Woodrow Wilson soon moved to Augusta, Georgia. He was taught at home. In 1873, he went to Davidson College but soon dropped out due to health issues. He entered the College of New Jersey which is now called Princeton in 1875. He graduated in 1879. Wilson studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He soon decided to go back to school and become an educator. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University.

Family Ties:

Wilson was the son of Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a Presbyterian Minister, and Janet "Jessie" Woodrow Wilson. He had two sisters and one brother. On June 23, 1885, Wilson married Ellen Louis Axson, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. She died in the White House while Wilson was president on August 6, 1914. On December 18, 1915, Wilson would remarry Edith Bolling Galt at her home while he was still president. Wilson had three daughters by his first marriage: Margaret Woodrow Wilson, Jessie Woodrow Wilson, and Eleanor Randolph Wilson.

Woodrow Wilson's Career Before the Presidency:

Wilson served as a professor at Bryn Mawr College from 1885-88 and then as professor of history at Wesleyan University from 1888-90. He then became a professor of political economy at Princeton. In 1902, he was appointed President of Princeton University serving until 1910. Then in 1911, Wilson was elected as the Governor of New Jersey. He served until 1913 when he became president.

Becoming the President - 1912:

Wilson desired to be nominated for the presidency and campaigned for the nomination. He was nominated by the Democratic Party with Thomas Marshall as his vice president. He was opposed not only by incumbent President William Taft but also by Bull Moose candidate Theodore Roosevelt. The Republican Party was divided between Taft and Roosevelt which meant that Wilson easily won the presidency with 42% of the vote. Roosevelt had received 27% and Taft and won 23%.

Election of 1916:

Wilson was renominated to run for the presidency in 1916 on the first ballot along with Marshall as his Vice President. He was opposed by Republican Charles Evans Hughes. At the time of the election, Europe was at war. The Democrats used the slogan, "He kept us out of war," as they campaigned for Wilson. There was much support, however, for his opponent and Wilson won in a close election with 277 out of 534 electoral votes.

Events and Accomplishments of Woodrow Wilson's Presidency:

One of the first events of Wilson's presidency was the passage of the Underwood Tariff. This reduced tariff rates from 41 to 27%. It also created the first federal income tax after the passage of the 16th Amendment.

In 1913, the Federal Reserve Act created the Federal Reserve system to help deal with economic highs and lows. It provided banks with loans and helped smooth out business cycles.

In 1914, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act was passed to help labor have more rights. It allowed important labor tools like strikes, pickets, and boycotts.

During this time, a revolution was occurring in Mexico. In 1914, Venustiano Carranza took over the Mexican government. However, Pancho Villa held much of northern Mexico. When Villa crossed into America in 1916 and killed 17 Americans, Wilson sent 6,000 troops under General John Pershing to the area. Pershing pursued Villa into Mexico upsetting the Mexican government and Carranza.

World War I began in 1914 when Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. Due to agreements made among the European nations, many eventually joined the war. The Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria fought against the Allies: Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, Portugal, China, and Greece. America remained neutral at first but eventually entered the war in 1917 on the side of the allies. Two reasons were the sinking of the British ship Lusitania which killed 120 Americans and the Zimmerman telegram which revealed that Germany was trying to get an agreement with Mexico to form an alliance if the U.S. entered the war. America officially entered the war on April 6, 1917.

Pershing led American troops into battle helping to defeat the Central Powers. An armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. The Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 blamed the war on Germany and demanded huge reparations. It also created a League of Nations. In the end, the Senate would not ratify the treaty and would never join the League.

Post-Presidential Period:

In 1921, Wilson retired in Washington, D.C. He was very sickly. On February 3, 1924, he died of complications from a stroke.

Historical Significance:

Woodrow Wilson played a huge role in determining if and when America would get involved in World War I. He was an isolationist at heart who attempted to keep America out of war. However, with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America would not be held back. Wilson fought for the League of Nations to help avert another World War which won him the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize.

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