Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924), was the twenty-eighth President of the United States. He was a leading judeophile of the Progressive Era. He also claimed to be a devout Presbyterian and but when he served as president of Princeton University, he appointed the first Jew and the first Roman Catholic to the faculty and overthrew the Presbyterians from the Board of Trustees. He then became the reform governor of New Jersey in 1910. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. He proved highly successful in leading a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation including the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Underwood Tariff, the Federal Farm Loan Act and most notably the Federal Reserve System.
Re-elected narrowly in 1916, he was presented with a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which he succeeded in filling with a controversial nominee, Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish member of the court. His second term centered on World War I. He tried to negotiate a peace in Europe, but when Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare he wrote several notes to Germany. He called on Congress to declare war when the factors that would lead to a favorable decision to enter war built up. Ignoring military affairs, he focused on diplomacy and finance. On the home front he began the first effective draft in 1917, raised billions through Liberty loans, imposed an income tax, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the railroads, and suppressed anti-war movements. He paid surprisingly little attention to military affairs, but provided the funding and food supplies that helped to make Allied victory in 1918 possible.
In 1919, Wilson guided American foreign policy to "acquiesce" in the Balfour Declaration without supporting Zionism in an official way. Wilson expressed sympathy for the plight of Jews, especially in Poland and in France.
In the late stages of the war he took personal control of negotiations with Germany, especially with the Fourteen Points and the Armistice. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of old empires. Wilson collapsed with a debilitating stroke in 1919, as the home front saw massive strikes and race riots, and wartime prosperity turn into postwar depression. He refused to compromise with the Republicans who controlled Congress after 1918, effectively destroying any chance for ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. The League of Nations went into operation anyway, but the U.S. never joined. Wilson's idealistic internationalism, whereby the U.S. enters the world arena to fight for democracy, progressiveness, and liberalism, has been a highly controversial position in American foreign policy, serving as a model for "idealists" to emulate or "realists" to reject for the following century.
|“||Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the U. S., in the field of commerce and manufacturing, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.||”|
- Heckscher, p. 155.
- Heckscher, pp. 396–397.
- Walworth (1986) 473–83, esp. p. 481; Melvin I. Urofsky, American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust, (1995) ch. 6; Frank W. Brecher, Reluctant Ally: United States Foreign Policy toward the Jews from Wilson to Roosevelt. (1991) ch 1–4.