Woodrow Wilson


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Woodrow Wilson, Born in Virginia in 1856 and raised in Georgia and South Carolina, was the 28th president of the United States. He enacted significant reform legislation during his two terms. Surprisingly, he was a political novice who had held only one public office before becoming president, but fortunately enough possessed considerable political skill. He was a brilliant and effective public speaker, but he found it difficult to work well with other government officials because he did not deal well with disagreements. Wilson developed a program of progressive reform and asserted international leadership in building a new world order. In 1917 he proclaimed American entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy" (similar to George W. Bush, who has used this phrase in his war against terrorism).
In 1912, Wilson used his reputation as a progressive with strong southern roots to run for the presidency as a Democrat. He won this election with 435 electoral votes, beating Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), and William H. Taft (Republican). He later ran for re-election. The U.S. presidential election of 1916 took place while Europe was involved in World War I. Woodrow Wilson campaigned for reelection on a pledge of continued neutrality in the Great War in Europe, while Charles Evans Hughes (the Republican candidate) called for a program of preparedness. Since Wilson had successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, it was difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's campaign.
Wilson decided that only a league of nations that would confront potential threats with the strength of its united military would help to keep world peace. He tried to act as a peacemaker in December 1916, when he asked the Central Powers and Allies to announce their terms to end the war. He appealed for "peace without victory" in an address the Senate on January 1917. But in this calling for peace, he was not including Germany. Wilson believed that Germany had wrongfully invaded Belgium (which was neutral) and unlawfully used it submarines. This did not rest well with the Germans, who now were beginning to believe that the United States' neutrality was not helping them. Because of this, the Germans declared on January 31, 1917 and stated that its submarines would freely attack any ship that was opposing its interests. This meant that no American ship would be safe.
During this period, American citizens were strongly supporting the Allies, but at the same time did not want to go to war.

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Their hopes vanished when the British presented Wilson with the Zimmermann note, which was an intercepted message from the Germans to the Mexicans advising the German Minister of Mexico to seek a German-Mexican alliance against the United States. When Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare and made a clumsy attempt to get Mexico on its side in the Zimmermann Telegram, Wilson took America into the Great War as a "war to end all wars." Wilson did not sign any alliance with Britain or France but operated as an independent force, and declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 (and later on Austria-Hungary on December 1917 for remaining loyal to Germany). He raised a massive army through conscription and gave command to General John J. Pershing, allowing him to use any method of tactics, strategy, and even diplomacy.
Woodrow Wilson had decided by then that the war had become a real threat to humanity. Unless the US threw its weight into the war, Western civilization itself could be destroyed. Upon declaring involvement in the war, he stated in his war speech "Once lead this people into war, and they'll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance. To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter into the very fiber of our national life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street." In 1917, Wilson introduced the Espionage Act which was a United States federal law making it a crime, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 20 years in jail, for a person to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies. The Sedition Act of 1918 was an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917. It forbade Americans to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, flag, or armed forces during war. So basically, the Espionage Act made it a crime to help wartime enemies of the United States, while the Sedition Act made it a crime to say, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States' form of government.
His wartime policies were strongly in support of labor, because of this the American Federation of Labor and other unions saw enormous growth in membership and wages. In addition to this, Wilson set up the United States Committee on Public Information (also known as the Creel Commission). This organization was lead by George Creel (hence the name of the commission). Its purpose was to influence American public opinion toward supporting U.S. intervention in World War I by means of propaganda. When it first started, it depicted facts about what was really going on in the war, but when morale was low things were not going as planned, the CPI (Committee on Public Information) began producing propaganda depicting Germans as monsters. Hollywood directors influenced by the CPI also produced films such as The Claws of the Hun, The Prussian Cur, The Kaiser, and the Beast of Berlin. All of these things were done in order to prepare the country for World War I.
After the Great War in Europe, Wilson participated in negotiations aiming to assure statehood for formerly oppressed nations and an equitable peace. On January 8, 1918, Wilson made his famous Fourteen Points speech, in which he introduced the idea of a League of Nations, an organization with a stated goal of helping to preserve territorial integrity and political independence among both large and small nations. Wilson intended the Fourteen Points as a means toward ending the war and achieving an equitable peace for all the nations. He spent six months at Versailles for the 1919 Paris Peace Conference (making him the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office). . While many of the points were specific, others were more general, including freedom of the seas, abolishing secret treaties, disarmament, restored sovereignty of some occupied lands, and the right of national self-determination of others. He worked very hard to promote his Fourteen Point plan.


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