erik lundegaard

Woodrow Wilson, With a Message for the Originalists

Here's Woodrow Wilson in 1908 in his book, “Constitutional Government in the United States,” arguing against, of all ideas, checks and balances:

The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.

I came across it while reading Jill Lepore's article, “The Tug of War: Woodrow Wilson and the power of the Presidency,” which is ostensibly a book review, or books review (“Wilson” by A. Scott Berg; “Woodrow Wilson” by John Milton Cooper, Jr.), but which ranges more into the life, and into the office, than into the books. That link to the article, by the way, is just to a snyopsis. For the full thing you need the magazine. Which you should get. Sept. 9, 2013.

Helluva rise for Wilson. Named president of Princeton in 1902. Elected governor of New Jersey in 1910. Elected president of the United States in 1912 and again in 1916. Helluva fall as well: illness and incapaciation. The elections, meanwhile, required help: Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party splitting the Republican vote in the first; winning 10 of the 12 states where women could vote in 1916. I hadn't realized suffrage had been a state by state thing before the 19th amendment.

He was the first Southerner since the Civil War to be president. James Weldon Johnson said he “openly condoned and vindicated prejudice against the Negro.” His wife died in office; he remarried in office; his second wife ran things during his incapacitation.

Lepore also reminds us of the swift change of things: “During Wilson's Adminstration, Congress lowered the tariff, reformed banking and currency laws, passed a new antitrust act, instituted a graduate income tax and the first federal inheritance tax, passed the first private-sector-eight-hour-workday legislation and the first federal aid to farmers, abolished child labor, and established the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve. Wilson believed  that it was the obligation of the federal government to regulate the economy to protect ordinary Americans 'from the consequences of great industrial and social processes which they cannot alter, control, or singly cope with.'”

Are Democrats more likely than Republicans to be academics? From this list it seems so: Wilson, LBJ, Clinton, Obama. Also, look at all the Navy boys.

Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States


Posted at 06:35 AM on Tue. Sep 17, 2013 in category U.S. History  
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