Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson

28th President of the United States

under the   Constitution of 1787

Students and Teachers of US History this is a video of Stanley and Christopher Klos presenting America's Four United Republics Curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The December 2015 video was an impromptu capture by a member of the audience of Penn students, professors and guests that numbered about 200.

Presidential Proclamation 1364 of April 6, 1917, by President Woodrow Wilson declaring war against Germany. - Courtesy of: National Archives and Records Administration

Be Sure to Visit The Woodrow Wilson House 

THOMAS WOODROW WILSON was born in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856. He was the first son and third child of Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a Presbyterian minister, and Jessie Janet Woodrow. In 1859 the family moved when the elder Wilson was named pastor of a church in Augusta, Georgia. The Civil War was difficult as Dr. Wilson was an ardent Confederate sympathizer, and young Wilson witnessed the ruthless behavior of General William T. Sherman’s federal troops who invaded Georgia and South Carolina, and he remained an ardent Southerner throughout his lifetime.

Young Wilson was educated at home and at private schools in Augusta and Columbia, South Carolina, where the Wilsons moved when Dr. Wilson accepted a position as a professor. In 1873 they moved again, to Wilmington, North Carolina where Wilson attended Davidson College, a small Presbyterian school where his father was a trustee. The following year he enrolled at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he pursued his interest in English literature and politics. He studied the classic orators and the techniques of public speech and was a leader among the school debaters. His vision of entering national politics was revealed in his visiting cards, which was written "Thomas Woodrow Wilson, senator from Virginia." During his senior year at college he dropped the 'Thomas' from his name and he published an essay, "Cabinet Government in the United States," in the International Review (August 1879). The essay revealed his gift for embellishing ideas and giving them simple and urgent form. He envisioned a government of strong and competent legislators rather than a strong president, and he was encouraged by the excellent reception his essay received He decided to become a lawyer and enter politics and he enrolled in the University of Virginia law school. However, he became inpatient with the fine points of law as he found public speaking and political history more satisfying. He received his law degree and in 1882 settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where he opened a law office with Edward I. Renick, another idealistic young Southerner. However, neither Renick nor Wilson were skilled at the business side of their venture, and in 1883 Wilson relinquished his law career and entered the graduate school of The Johns Hopkins University to study history.

At John Hopkins, Wilson’s mentor, Professor Herbert Baxter Adams permitted him to continue to analyze politics. The result was a book-length expansion of his earlier essay which was accepted and published early in 1885. Congressional Government earned Wilson his Ph.D. degree and enabled him to pursue a literary and academic career.

Wilson had been engaged for several years to Ellen Louise Axson, daughter of a Georgia clergyman, and they were married on June 24, 1885. She was cultured and vivacious and was the perfect mate for him. The couple had three daughters, Margaret Woodrow Wilson (1886 – 1944), Jessie Woodrow Wilson (1887 – 1933) and Eleanor Randolph Wilson (1889 – 1967).

At that time, he also accepted a position with the newly opened Bryn Mawr College, a school for women near Philadelphia, where he taught and pursued his writing for the next three years. In 1888 he accepted a professorship in history and political economy at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. There, in 1889, he published a lengthy textbook analyzing the political nature of society, The State. In 1890 he was offered and accepted a professorship at his alma mater, the College of New Jersey. He began a program of publishing and public appearances and became one of the leading academic personalities of the era. His essays appeared in many magazines and he brought an excitement to his subjects that stirred his students, his colleagues, and the outside reader. He seemed to have abandoned any hope for a political career, but he continued to follow political affairs. Responding to the strong demand for his work, he wrote A History of the American People, published in five volumes in 1902 and his name became familiar and respected.

Wilson was unanimously elected to the presidency of the college in 1902, which had now become Princeton University. During his tenure as president, his innovation and reforms brought wide impact on national university education.

In 1909 Wilson's progressive approach to education attracted the attention of the Democratic political machine. They helped elect him Governor of New Jersey, but learned to regret it when he ended up cleaning house and riding the state house of corruption. Success in New Jersey made him a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Although he entered the 1912 Democratic National Convention a poor second to Speaker of the House Champ Clark, he won the nomination after 46 ballots. Offering a program of reform he called the New Freedom, Wilson ran against a divided Republican party. In November, Wilson won only 41.85 percent of the popular vote but polled 435 electoral votes, compared with Roosevelt's 88 and President Taft's 8.

With a Democratic majority in Congress, Wilson pushed through many reforms, including the graduated income tax, a lower tariff, laws restricting child labor and the Federal Reserve Act. However, he proved to be less decisive on other reform issues. He had little confidence in the ability of women to vote and participate in politics, but for political reasons he was slow to oppose the determined suffragettes. Similarly, he fought for the child labor law with obvious reluctance and supported the Adamson Act only to head off a threatened strike by railroad workers. Wilson’s most obvious failure at reform was his policy toward blacks. Segregation had never been the custom in federal government offices in Washington, D.C. However, faced with strong pressure from his fellow Southerners, Wilson allowed segregation in the capital. Challenged with his vague promises before election that he would treat blacks with fairness, he could only say that the new policy of segregation was in the best interests of blacks and he would angrily end the interview when he was disputed.

Wilson suffered a severe personal loss on August 6, 1914, with the death of his wife. Combined with the sickness and tension that had plagued him for most of his life, her death was almost more than he could bear. He sought solace in more intensive work and leaned heavily on his few friends. The following year he met Edith Bolling Galt, a southerner and the widow of a Washington jeweler. She and Wilson were married on December 18, 1915.

In 1916, the war in Europe was the major issue of the day. Wilson opposed intervention and narrowly won re-election. Soon after, Germany’s mounting aggression against the United States forced Wilson to declare war, to “make the world safe for democracy.”

After the Allied victory, Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” peace plan paved the way for the creation of the League of Nations. Against the advisement of his doctor, Wilson set out on a national tour to generate public demand for ratification of the League. The physical strain was too great for his frail body. He nearly collapsed following a speech at Pueblo, Colo., on September 25, 1919. He returned to Washington, and suffered a severe stroke and paralysis of the left side on October 2. He never fully recovered. On November 19 the Republican controlled Senate rejected the League’s Treaty of Versailles. Wilson's stroke left him physically incapacitated but his condition was not made public. Mrs. Wilson jealously guarded her husband, and most likely feared that his resignation would sap his will to live. To her he was "first my beloved husband whose life I was trying to save ... after that he was the president of the United States." As a result, his Cabinet members were denied access to him. His wife decided what printed materials he could see, and his state papers became few and unsatisfactory.

The Democratic Party, at its 1920 convention, bestowed lavish praise on Wilson, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1919, but decided to nominate James M. Cox for president.

After leaving office Wilson retired to a house on S Street in Washington, D.C., where he lived in virtual seclusion. He died on February 3, 1924 and was buried in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

By: Stanley Yavneh Klos

  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 8th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.

The First United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents 
Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776

September 5, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 26, 1774
May 20, 1775
May 24, 1775
May 25, 1775
July 1, 1776

The Second United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United States Presidents 
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781

July 2, 1776
October 29, 1777
November 1, 1777
December 9, 1778
December 10, 1778
September 28, 1779
September 29, 1779
February 28, 1781

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies & States of America

George Washington: June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783

The Third United American Republic
Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to March 3, 1789

March 1, 1781
July 6, 1781
July 10, 1781
Declined Office
July 10, 1781
November 4, 1781
November 5, 1781
November 3, 1782
November 4, 1782
November 2, 1783
November 3, 1783
June 3, 1784
November 30, 1784
November 22, 1785
November 23, 1785
June 5, 1786
June 6, 1786
February 1, 1787
February 2, 1787
January 21, 1788
January 22, 1788
January 21, 1789

The Fourth United American Republic
Presidents of the United States of America

Chart Comparing Presidential Powers 
of  America's Four United Republics - Click Here

United Colonies and States First Ladies


United Colonies Continental Congress
18th Century Term
09/05/74 – 10/22/74
Mary Williams Middleton (1741- 1761) Deceased
Henry Middleton
05/20/ 75 - 05/24/75
05/25/75 – 07/01/76
United States Continental Congress
07/02/76 – 10/29/77
Eleanor Ball Laurens (1731- 1770) Deceased
Henry Laurens
11/01/77 – 12/09/78
Sarah Livingston Jay (1756-1802)
12/ 10/78 – 09/28/78
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
09/29/79 – 02/28/81
United States in Congress Assembled
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
03/01/81 – 07/06/81
07/10/81 – 11/04/81
Jane Contee Hanson (1726-1812)
11/05/81 - 11/03/82
11/03/82 - 11/02/83
Sarah Morris Mifflin (1747-1790)
11/03/83 - 11/02/84
11/20/84 - 11/19/85
11/23/85 – 06/06/86
Rebecca Call Gorham (1744-1812)
06/06/86 - 02/01/87
02/02/87 - 01/21/88
01/22/88 - 01/29/89

Constitution of 1787
First Ladies
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Martha Wayles Jefferson Deceased
September 6, 1782  (Aged 33)
March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817
March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
December 22, 1828 (aged 61)
February 5, 1819 (aged 35)
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
April 4, 1841 – September 10, 1842
June 26, 1844 – March 4, 1845
March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
February 22, 1862 – May 10, 1865
April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
January 12, 1880 (Aged 43)
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
March 4, 1889 – October 25, 1892
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
March 4, 1913 – August 6, 1914
December 18, 1915 – March 4, 1921
March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009
January 20, 2009 to date

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