Woodrow Wilson Biography

Twenty-eighth President of the United States. Born: 1856 in Virginia. Graduated from Princeton (College of New Jersey) and the University of Virginia Law School. Doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. Married Ellen Louise Axson in 1885. Served as President from 1913 to 1921. Wilson also went on to win re-election. April 2,1917: Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany. Died in 1924.

Woodrow Wilson Biography:
Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 - February 3, 1924) was the twenty-eighth President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University and then became the Governor of New Jersey in 1910. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. He proved highly successful in leading a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation that included the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act, America's first-ever federal progressive income tax in the Revenue Act of 1913 and most notably the Federal Reserve Act. Narrowly re-elected in 1916, his second term centered on World War I. He tried to maintain U.S. neutrality, but when the German Empire began unrestricted submarine warfare, he wrote several admonishing notes to Germany, and in April 1917 asked Congress to declare war on the Central Powers. He focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving the waging of the war primarily in the hands of the military establishment. On the home front, he began the first effective draft in 1917, raised billions in war funding through Liberty Bonds, imposed an income tax, enacted the first federal drug prohibition, 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 the Americans in the war and hastened Allied victory in 1918. National women's suffrage and democratic election of the Senate were achieved under Wilson's presidency, although his largely progressive term was tempered by conservative and sometimes regressive policies towards racial equality. In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. 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 defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. 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 Versailles Treaty. The League of Nations was established anyway, but the United States never joined. Wilson's idealistic internationalism, calling for the United States to enter 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. Wilson has been ranked by some scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1856 as the third of four children of Reverend Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903) and Jessie Janet Woodrow (1826-1888). His ancestry was Scots-Irish and Scottish. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States from Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland in 1807, while his mother was born in Carlisle to Scottish parents. Wilson's father was originally from Steubenville, Ohio where his grandfather had been an abolitionist newspaper publisher and his uncles were Republicans. Wilson's parents moved South in 1851 and identified with the Confederacy. His father defended slavery, owned slaves and set up a Sunday school for them. They cared for wounded soldiers at their church. The father also briefly served as a chaplain to the Confederate Army. Woodrow Wilson's earliest memory, from the age of three, was of hearing that Abraham Lincoln had been elected and that a war was coming. Wilson would forever recall standing for a moment at Robert E. Lee's side and looking up into his face. Wilsonís father was one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) after it split from the northern Presbyterians in 1861. Joseph R. Wilson served as the first permanent clerk of the southern churchís General Assembly, was Stated Clerk from 1865-1898 and was Moderator of the PCUS General Assembly in 1879. Wilson spent the majority of his childhood, up to age 14, in Augusta, Georgia, where his father was minister of the First Presbyterian Church. Wilson did not learn to read until he was about 12 years old. His difficulty reading may have indicated dyslexia or A.D.H.D., but as a teenager he taught himself shorthand to compensate and was able to achieve academically through determination and self-discipline. He studied at home under his father's guidance and took classes in a small school in Augusta. During Reconstruction, he lived in Columbia, South Carolina, the state capital, from 1870-1874, where his father was professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary. In 1873, he spent a year at Davidson College in North Carolina, then transferred to Princeton as a freshman, graduating in 1879, becoming a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Beginning in his second year, he read widely in political philosophy and history. Wilson credited the British parliamentary sketch-writer Henry Lucy as his inspiration in resolving to enter public life. He was active in the undergraduate American Whig-Cliosophic Society discussion club, and organized a separate Liberal Debating Society. In 1879, Wilson attended law school at University of Virginia for one year. Although he never graduated, during his time at the University he was heavily involved in the Virginia Glee Club and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, serving as the Society's president. His frail health dictated withdrawal, and he went home to Wilmington, North Carolina where he continued his studies. He entered graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1883 and three years later received a Ph.D. in political science. After completing his doctoral dissertation, Congressional Government, in 1885, he received academic appointments at Bryn Mawr College (1885-88) and Wesleyan University (1888-90).

In 1885, he married Ellen Louise Axson, the daughter of a minister from Rome, Georgia. They had three daughters: Margaret Woodrow Wilson (1886-1944); Jessie Wilson (1887-1933); and Eleanor R. Wilson (1889-1967). He remarried in 1915 after Axson died.

Wilson was an early automobile enthusiast, and he took daily rides while he was President. His favorite car was a 1919 Pierce-Arrow, in which he preferred to ride with the top down. His enjoyment of motoring made him an advocate of funding for public highways. Wilson was an avid baseball fan. In 1916, he became the first sitting president to attend a World Series game. Wilson had been a center fielder during his Davidson College days. When he transferred to Princeton he was unable to make the varsity and so became the assistant manager of the team. He was the first President officially to throw out a first ball at a World Series. He cycled regularly, including several cycling vacations in the Lake District in Britain. Unable to cycle around Washington, D.C. as President, Wilson took to playing golf, although he played with more enthusiasm than skill. Wilson holds the record of all the presidents for the most rounds of golf, over 1,000, or almost one every other day.

In January 1882, Wilson decided to start his first law practice in Atlanta. One of Wilsonís University of Virginia classmates, Edward Ireland Renick, invited Wilson to join his new law practice as partner. Wilson joined him there in May 1882. He passed the Georgia Bar. On October 19, 1882, he appeared in court before Judge George Hillyer to take his examination for the bar, which he passed with flying colors and he began work on his thesis Congressional Government in the United States. Competition was fierce in the city with 143 other lawyers, so with few cases to keep him occupied, Wilson quickly grew disillusioned. Moreover, Wilson had studied law in order to eventually enter politics, but he discovered that he could not continue his study of government and simultaneously continue the reading of law necessary to stay proficient. In April 1883, Wilson applied to the new Johns Hopkins University to study for a Ph.D. in history and political science, which he completed in 1886. Wilson would later serve as president of the American Political Science Association in 1910, and remains the only U.S. president to have earned a Ph. D., and the only political scientist to become president. In July 1883, Wilson left his law practice to begin his academic studies.

Wilson came of age in the decades after the American Civil War, when Congress was supreme and corruption was rampant. Instead of focusing on individuals in explaining where American politics went wrong, Wilson focused on the American constitutional structure. Wilson saw the United States Constitution as pre-modern, cumbersome, and open to corruption An admirer of Parliament (though he did not visit Great Britain until 1919), Wilson favored a parliamentary system for the United States.

Wilson believed that public administration was an important topic not just because of growing popularity within college campuses. He believed it was a requirement for a growing nation. He believed that by studying public administration that governmental efficiency may be increased. This set the tone for his following discussion. Wilson was concerned with the implementation of government and not just its principles defined by documents such as the Constitution. Wilson analyzed European history and saw a pattern where educated leaders debated the nature of the state, yet the question of how should the law be administrated was relegated to a lowly practical detail. Most of this was due to a much smaller in comparison to the 19th century population with the government being relatively simple. Wilson thought it was long past due time to confront these issues. The first problem (as he saw it) identified was that so far the advancement of this science had been undertaken by Europeans, not including England, whose goals and historical backgrounds were far different from America. He declared that Americans must advance this science as well, to steep it in the American tradition and make this science their own. Wilson then described the growth of modern governments, starting with absolute rule, progressing to popular rule based upon a constitution, and then finally leading to a stage where the people undertake to develop administration as a science. He briefly gives an overview of the growth of such foreign states as Prussia, France, and England, highlighting the events that led to advances in administration. The next problem was that the American Republic required great compromise since public opinion differed on so many levels. The people of America itself come from diverse backgrounds. These people must be convinced to form a majority opinion. Thus practical reform to the government is necessarily slow. Although this could be judged a good thing since a single person cannot make drastic, damaging changes. Every change must be pondered at length.

Wilson started Congressional Government, his best known political work, as an argument for a parliamentary system, but Wilson was impressed by Grover Cleveland, and Congressional Government emerged as a critical description of America's system, with frequent negative comparisons to Westminster. Wilson believed that America's intricate system of checks and balances was the cause of the problems in American governance. By the time Wilson finished Congressional Government, Grover Cleveland was President, and Wilson had his faith in the United States government restored. When William Jennings Bryan captured the Democratic nomination from Cleveland's supporters in 1896, however, Wilson refused to stand by the ticket. Instead, he cast his ballot for John M. Palmer, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Party, or Gold Democrats, a short-lived party that supported a gold standard, low tariffs, and limited government. After experiencing the vigorous presidencies of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson no longer entertained thoughts of parliamentary government at home. By the time of his presidency, Wilson merely hoped that Presidents could be party leaders in the same way prime ministers were. Wilson also hoped that the parties could be reorganized along ideological, not geographic, lines.

Wilson served on the faculties of Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University. At Wesleyan, he also coached the football team and founded the debate team - to this date, it is named the T. Woodrow Wilson debate team. He then joined the Princeton faculty as professor of jurisprudence and political economy in 1890. Additionally, Wilson became the first lecturer of Constitutional Law at New York Law School. Wilson delivered an oration at Princeton's sesquicentennial celebration (1896) entitled "Princeton in the Nation's Service."

Prospect House, located in the center of Princeton's campus, was Wilson's residence during his term as president of the university. The trustees promoted Professor Wilson to president of Princeton in 1902. Although the school's endowment was barely $4 million, he sought $2 million for a preceptorial system of teaching, $1 million for a school of science, and nearly $3 million for new buildings and salary raises. As a long-term objective, Wilson sought $3 million for a graduate school and $2.5 million for schools of jurisprudence and electrical engineering, as well as a museum of natural history. He achieved little of that because he was not a strong fund raiser, but he did increase the faculty from 112 to 174, most of them personally selected as outstanding teachers. The curriculum guidelines he developed proved important progressive innovations in the field of higher education. To enhance the role of expertise, Wilson instituted academic departments and a system of core requirements where students met in groups of six with preceptors, followed by two years of concentration in a selected major. He tried to raise admission standards and to replace the "gentleman C" with serious study. Wilson aspired, as he told alumni, "to transform thoughtless boys performing tasks into thinking men." In 1906-10, he attempted to curtail the influence of the elitist "social clubs" by abolishing the upperclass eating clubs and moving the students into colleges, also known as "quadrangles." Wilson's "Quad Plan" was met with fierce opposition from Princeton's alumni, most importantly Moses Taylor Pyne, the most powerful of Princeton's Trustees. Wilson refused any proposed compromises that stopped short of abolishing the clubs. In October 1907, due to the ferocity of alumni opposition and Wilson's refusal to compromise, the Board of Trustees took back its initial support for the Quad Plan and instructed Wilson to withdraw it. Even more damaging was his confrontation with Andrew Fleming West, Dean of the graduate school, and West's ally, former President Grover Cleveland, a trustee. Wilson wanted to integrate the proposed graduate building into the same area with the undergraduate colleges; West wanted them separated. The trustees rejected Wilson's plan for colleges in 1908, and then endorsed West's plans in 1909. The national press covered the confrontation as a battle of the elites (West) versus democracy (Wilson).

In 1910 Wilson ran for Governor of New Jersey against the Republican candidate Vivian M. Lewis, the State Commissioner of Banking and Insurance. Wilson's campaign focused on his independence from machine politics, and he promised that if elected he would not be beholden to party bosses. Wilson soundly defeated Lewis in the general election by a margin of more than 49,000 votes, despite the fact that Republican William Howard Taft had carried New Jersey in the 1908 presidential election by more than 80,000 votes. In the 1910 election the Democrats also took control of the General Assembly. The State Senate, however, remained in Republican control by a slim margin. After taking office, Wilson set in place his reformist agenda, ignoring the demands of party machinery. While governor, in a period spanning six months, Wilson established state primaries. This all but took the party bosses out of the presidential election process in the state. He also revamped the public utility commission, and introduced worker's compensation.

Wilson defeated two former U.S. presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, to win the election of 1912. Wilson experienced early success by implementing his pledges of antitrust modification, tariff revision, and reform in banking and currency matters. He held the first modern presidential press conference, on March 15, 1913, in which reporters were allowed to ask him questions. He would later become more disillusioned with the press, as he fought to establish the League of Nations. Wilson's first wife Ellen died on August 6, 1914 of Bright's disease. In 1915, he met Edith Galt. They married later that year on December 18. Wilson arrived at the White House with severe digestive problems. He treated himself with a stomach pump. Wilson, born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, was the first Southerner to be elected President since Zachary Taylor in 1848 and the first Southerner to take office since Andrew Johnson in 1865, as well as the first President to deliver his State of the Union address before Congress personally since John Adams in 1799. Wilson was also the first Democrat elected to the presidency since Grover Cleveland in 1892.

Wilson secured passage of the Federal Reserve system in late 1913 in exchange for campaign support. He took a plan that had been designed by conservative Republicans led by Nelson W. Aldrich and banker Paul M. Warburg, along with Wilson's close adviser Col. Edward House, at Jekyll Island and pressured an initially reluctant Congress to pass it. Wilson had to find a middle ground between those who supported the Aldrich Plan and those who opposed it, including the powerful agrarian wing of the party, led by William Jennings Bryan, which strenuously denounced private banks and Wall Street. They wanted a government-owned central bank which could print paper money whenever Congress wanted. Wilsonís alternate plan allowed the large banks to have important influence, but Wilson went beyond the Aldrich Plan and created a central board made up of persons appointed by the President and approved by Congress who would outnumber the board members who were bankers at that time. Moreover, Wilson convinced Bryanís supporters that because Federal Reserve notes were obligations of the government, the plan fit their demands. Wilsonís plan also organized the Federal Reserve system into 12 districts. This was designed to weaken the influence of the powerful New York banks, a key demand of Bryanís allies in the Southern United States and Western United States. This decentralization was a key factor in winning the support of Congressman Carter Glass (D-VA), although he objected to making paper currency a federal obligation; he sponsored and wrote the legislation, and his home state capitol of Richmond, Virginia received a Reserve headquarters. Wilson also mollified the bill's opponents by saying that he would pursue antitrust legislation in return for their vote. Glass was one of the leaders of the currency reformers in the U.S. House and without his support, any plan was doomed to fail. The final plan passed, in December 1913, two days before Christmas when most of Congress was on vacation. Some bankers felt it gave too much control to Washington, and some reformers felt it allowed bankers to maintain too much power. However, several Congressmen claimed that the New York bankers feigned their disapproval of the bill in hopes of inducing Congress to pass it.

Wilson named Warburg and other prominent bankers to direct the new system. While the power was supposed to be decentralized, the New York branch has dominated the Fed as the "first among equals" and thus power has somewhat remained in Wall Street. The new system began operations in 1915 and played a major role in financing the Allied and American war efforts. Wilson appeared on the $100,000 bill. The bill, which is now out of print but is still legal tender, was used only to transfer money between Federal Reserve banks.

In 1913, the Underwood tariff lowered the tariff. The revenue thereby lost was replaced by a new federal income tax (authorized by the 16th Amendment, which had been sponsored by the Republicans). The "Seaman's Act" of 1915 improved working conditions for merchant sailors. As response to the RMS Titanic disaster, it also required all ships to be retrofitted with lifeboats. A series of programs were targeted at farmers. The "Smith Lever" act of 1914 created the modern system of agricultural extension agents sponsored by the state agricultural colleges. The agents taught new techniques to farmers. The 1916 "Federal Farm Loan Board" issued low-cost long-term mortgages to farmers.

Wilson broke with the "big-lawsuit" tradition of his predecessors Taft and Roosevelt as "Trustbusters", finding a new approach to encouraging competition through the Federal Trade Commission, which stopped "unfair" trade practices. In addition, he pushed through Congress the Clayton Antitrust Act making certain business practices illegal (such as price discrimination, agreements forbidding retailers from handling other companiesí products, and directorates and agreements to control other companies). The power of this legislation was greater than previous anti-trust laws, because individual officers of corporations could be held responsible if their companies violated the laws. More importantly, the new laws set out clear guidelines that corporations could follow, a dramatic improvement over the previous uncertainties. This law was considered the "Magna Carta" of labor by Samuel Gompers because it ended union liability antitrust laws. In 1916, under threat of a national railroad strike, he approved legislation that increased wages and cut working hours of railroad employees; there was no strike.

Wilson spent 1914 through the beginning of 1917 trying to keep America out of the war in Europe. He offered to be a mediator, but neither the Allies nor the Central Powers took his requests seriously. Republicans, led by Theodore Roosevelt, strongly criticized Wilsonís refusal to build up the U.S. Army in anticipation of the threat of war. Wilson won the support of the U.S. peace element by arguing that an army buildup would provoke war. However for all his words, Wilson was anything but neutral. His pro-British views caused his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan to resign in protest in 1915. While German submarines were sinking merchant ships, the U.S. and Wilson stayed neutral. Britain had declared a blockade of Germany, preventing neutral shipping carrying contraband goods to Germany. Wilson protested this violation of neutral rights by London, but his protests were mild, and the British knew America would not take action.

Renominated in 1916, Wilson's major campaign slogan was "He kept us out of the war", referring to his administration's avoiding open conflict with Germany or Mexico while maintaining a firm national policy. Wilson, however, never promised to keep out of war regardless of provocation. In his acceptance speech on September 2, 1916, Wilson pointedly warned Germany that submarine warfare that took American lives would not be tolerated: Wilson narrowly won the election, defeating Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes. As governor of New York from 1907-1910, Hughes had a progressive record, strikingly similar to Wilson's as governor of New Jersey. Theodore Roosevelt would comment that the only thing different between Hughes and Wilson was a shave. However, Hughes had to try to hold together a coalition of conservative Taft supporters and progressive Roosevelt partisans and so his campaign never seemed to take a definite form. Wilson ran on his record and ignored Hughes, reserving his attacks for Roosevelt. The final result was exceptionally close and the result was in doubt for several days. Because of Wilson's fear of becoming a lame duck president during the uncertainties of the war in Europe, he created a hypothetical plan where if Hughes were elected he would name Hughes secretary of state and then resign along with the vice-president to enable Hughes to become the president. The vote came down to several close states. Wilson won California by 3,773 votes out of almost a million votes cast and New Hampshire by 54 votes. Hughes won Minnesota by 393 votes out of over 358,000. In the final count, Wilson had 277 electoral votes vs. Hughes 254.

Before entering the war in 1917, the U.S. had made a declaration of neutrality in 1914. During this time of neutrality, President Wilson warned citizens not to take sides in the war in fear of endangering wider U.S. policy. Woodrow Wilson did not hold his strict belief, that America could achieve peace without victory, for long. The U.S. neutrality would deteriorate when Germany began to initiate its unrestricted submarine warfare threatening U.S. commercial shipping. When Germany started unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 and made an attempt to enlist Mexico as an ally, Wilson took America into World War I as a war to make "the world safe for democracy." He did not sign a formal alliance with the United Kingdom or France but operated as an "Associated" power. He raised a massive army through conscription and gave command to General John J. Pershing, allowing Pershing a free hand as to tactics, strategy and even diplomacy.

Woodrow Wilson had decided by then that the war had become a real threat to humanity. Unless the U.S. threw its weight into the war, as he stated in his declaration of war speech, on April 2nd, 1917. Western civilization itself could be destroyed. His statement announcing a "war to end all wars" meant that he wanted to build a basis for peace that would prevent future catastrophic wars and needless death and destruction. This provided the basis of Wilson's Fourteen Points, which were intended to resolve territorial disputes, ensure free trade and commerce, and establish a peacemaking organization, which later emerged as the League of Nations. To stop defeatism at home, Wilson pushed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 through Congress to suppress anti-British, pro-German, or anti-war opinions. He welcomed socialists who supported the war, such as Walter Lippmann, but would not tolerate those who tried to impede the war or, worse, assassinate government officials, and pushed for deportation of foreign-born radicals. Over 170,000 US citizens were arrested during this period, in some cases for things they said about the president in their own homes.[citation needed] Citing the Espionage Act, the U.S. Post Office refused to carry any written materials that could be deemed critical of the U. S. war effort. Some sixty newspapers were deprived of their second-class mailing rights. The American Federation of Labor and other 'moderate' unions saw enormous growth in membership and wages during Wilson's administration. There was no rationing, so consumer prices soared. As income taxes increased, white-collar workers suffered. Appeals to buy war bonds were highly successful, however. Bonds had the result of shifting the cost of the war to the affluent 1920s. Wilson set up the first western propaganda office, the United States Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel (thus its popular name, Creel Commission), which filled the country with patriotic anti-German appeals and conducted various forms of censorship.

Woodrow Wilson's War Message was delivered on April 2, 1917. This day he had stood up before Congress and delivered his historic speech. April 2nd was a cold and rainy day in Washington D.C. and thousands of supporters gathered to support President Wilson. Wilson spent the day reading over his address with Colonel House, a close friend, as they reworded and corrected the speech. That evening Wilson made his way to the State, War and Navy Building to discuss the war proclamation. At approximately 8:30 p.m. President Wilson was introduced to Congress. He walked to the rostrum and arranged his papers of his speech in a particular order on the podium. The applause that he received was the greatest that President Wilson had ever received in front of Congress. He waited impatiently for the applause to die down before he started his address. He had an intense look on his face and remained intense and almost motionless for the entire speech, only raising one arm as his only bodily movement. In President Wilsonís war message presented to Congress, he addressed a few main points to Congress about why the United States was required to enter the war. He first brought to their attention that the Imperial German Government had announced that it would begin using its submarines to sink any vessel approaching the ports of Great Britain, Ireland or any of the Western Coasts of Europe. Wilsonís main concern was not that ships or any type of property were being damaged, but that innocent lives were being taken in these attacks by the Germans. Wilson announced that even though his previous thought was to remain in an armed neutrality state, it had become evident that this was no longer a practical tactic. He advised Congress to declare that the recent course of action taken by the Imperial German Government to be nothing less than war. Wilson continues on to state that the object of this war was to vindicate principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power. The United States had also intercepted a telegram sent to the German ambassador in Mexico City which provided evidence that Germany meant to convince Mexico to attack the U.S., hence Wilson states that the German government means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors. Wilson ends his address to Congress with the statement that the world must be once again safe for democracy. Once he ended his War message in front of the joint houses of congress, the place loudly roared in applause. Wilsonís speech was not just for Congress but for the American public.

Between 1914 and 1918, the United States intervened in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, and Panama. The U.S. maintained troops in Nicaragua throughout his administration and used them to select the president of Nicaragua and then to force Nicaragua to pass the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty. American troops in Haiti forced the Haitian legislature to choose the candidate Wilson selected as Haitian president. American troops occupied Haiti between 1915 and 1934. After Russia left the war in 1917 following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Allies sent troops there, presumably, to prevent a German or Bolshevik takeover of allied-provided weapons, munitions and other supplies, which had been previously shipped as aid to the Czarist government. Wilson sent armed forces to assist the withdrawal of Czech and Slovak prisoners along the Trans-Siberian Railway, hold key port cities at Arkangel and Vladivostok, and safeguard supplies sent to the Tsarist forces. Though not sent to engage the Bolsheviks, the U.S. forces had several armed conflicts against forces of the new Russian government. Wilson withdrew most of the soldiers on April 1, 1920, though some remained as late as 1922.

After World War I, Wilson participated in negotiations with the stated aim of assuring statehood for formerly oppressed nations and an equitable peace. On January 8, 1918, Wilson made his famous Fourteen Points address, introducing the idea of a League of Nations, an organization with a stated goal of helping to preserve territorial integrity and political independence among large and small nations alike. 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 Paris for the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. He worked tirelessly to promote his plan. The charter of the proposed League of Nations was incorporated into the conference's Treaty of Versailles. For his peace-making efforts, Wilson was hastily awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize, however, he failed to even win US Senate support for ratification. The United States never joined the League. Republicans under Henry Cabot Lodge controlled the Senate after the 1918 elections, but Wilson refused to give them a voice at Paris and refused to agree to Lodge's proposed changes. The key point of disagreement was whether the League would diminish the power of Congress to declare war. During this period, Wilson became less trustful of the press and stopped holding press conferences for them, preferring to utilize his propaganda unit, the Committee for Public Information.

Wilson had ignored the problems of demobilization after the war, and the process was chaotic and violent. Four million soldiers were sent home with little planning, little money, and few benefits. A wartime bubble in prices of farmland burst, leaving many farmers bankrupt or deeply in debt after they purchased new land. In 1919, major strikes in steel and meatpacking broke out.

Wilson supported eugenics, and in 1907 he helped to make Indiana the first of more than thirty states to adopt legislation aimed at compulsory sterilization of certain individuals. Although the law was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1921, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia law allowing for the compulsory sterilization of patients of state mental institutions in 1927.

The cause of his incapacitation was the physical strain of the demanding public speaking tour he undertook to obtain support of the American people for ratification of the Covenant of the League. After one of his final speeches to attempt to promote the League of Nations in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25, 1919 he collapsed. On October 2, 1919, Wilson suffered a serious stroke that almost totally incapacitated him, leaving him paralyzed on his left side. For at least a few months, he was confined to a wheelchair. Afterwards, he could walk only with the assistance of a cane. The full extent of his disability was kept from the public until after his death on February 3, 1924. Wilson was purposely, with few exceptions, kept out of the presence of Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, his cabinet or Congressional visitors to the White House for the remainder of his presidential term. His first wife, Ellen, had died in 1914, so his second wife, Edith, served as his steward, selecting issues for his attention and delegating other issues to his cabinet heads. Wilson was a remarkably effective writer and thinker. He composed speeches and other writings with two fingers on a little Hammond typewriter. Wilson's diplomatic policies had a profound influence on shaping the world.

In 1921, Wilson and his wife retired from the White House to a home in the Embassy Row section of Washington, D.C. Wilson continued going for daily drives and attended Keith's vaudeville theater on Saturday nights. Wilson died in his S Street home on February 3, 1924. Because his plan for the League of Nations ultimately failed, he died feeling that he had lied to the American people and that his entry into the war had been in vain. He was buried in Washington National Cathedral, and is thus the only president buried in Washington, DC. Mrs. Wilson stayed in the home another 37 years, dying on December 28, 1961. Mrs. Wilson left the home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to be made into a museum honoring her husband. Woodrow Wilson House opened as a museum.

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