Arthur S. Link
THOMAS WOODROW WILSON, twenty-eighth president of the United States, is the only chief executive who has given scholarly attention to the presidency before undertaking the duties of that office. Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia, on 28 December 1856, the son of Janet Woodrow Wilson and the Rev. Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a founder of the southern Presbyterian Church. He was graduated from Princeton University (1879), studied law at the University of Virginia (1879–1880), practiced law in Atlanta (1882–1883), and thereafter did graduate work in political science, history, and economics at The Johns Hopkins University, where he received the Ph.D. in 1886.
From his youth onward, Wilson was intensely interested in the problems of modern democracy from a practical, not a theoretical, point of view. Presidential power was at a low ebb in the mid-1880s, and Wilson, in his first book, Congressional Government (1885), virtually ignored the presidency and focused on the obstacles that then existed to searching debate and discussion of great national issues. He singled out for particular criticism the committees of the House of Representatives, which, he said, effectively stifled free discussion. The surest way to guarantee that such debate would take place, Wilson said, would be to adopt the British cabinet system and make cabinet members ministers of state responsible to Congress.
Throughout his years as a professor of history, politics, and constitutional law at Bryn Mawr College (1885–1888), Wesleyan University (1888–1890), and Princeton University (1890–1910; president, 1902–1910), Wilson paid close attention to developments in American politics. He admired what he perceived as Cleveland's assertion of the moral leadership of the presidency and noted the impact on that office of the war with Spain and the entry of the United States on the world stage as a colonial and naval power.
It was Theodore Roosevelt's revivification of the presidential office that helped Wilson to come to his mature and definitive understanding of the potential powers of the chief executive. Those powers are described in Wilson's Constitutional Government in the United States (1908) in what is perhaps the classic view of the modern presidency. The president, Wilson wrote, is the one single spokesman of the nation:
Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily overpower him. His position takes the imagination of the country. He is the representative of no constituency, but of the whole people. When he speaks in his true character, he speaks for no special interest. If he rightly interpret the national thought and boldly insist upon it, he is irresistible; and the country never feels the zest of action so much as when he is of such insight and calibre.
Ray Stannard Baker, Woodrow Wilson: Life and Letters , 8 vols. (Garden City, N.Y., 1927–1939), is the authorized biography by a contemporary and friend. William M. Leary, Jr., and Arthur S. Link, comps, The Progressive Era and the Great War, 1896–1920 , 2d ed. (Arlington Heights, Ill., 1978), is the most extensive bibliography of Wilson and his era. Arthur S. Link, Wilson , 5 vols. (Princeton, N.J., 1947–1965), provides fullest coverage of Wilson as governor and president, 1913–1917. Arthur S. Link et al., eds., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson , 69 vols. (Princeton, N.J., 1966–1994), is the authoritative and basic documentary collection and the starting point for research on Woodrow Wilson and the Wilson era.
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson (New York, 1991), is the best personal biography. Edwin A. Weinstein, Woodrow Wilson: A Medical and Psychological Biography (Princeton, N.J., 1981); Bert E. Park, The Impact of Illness on World Leaders (Philadelphia, 1986), and his Ailing, Aged, Addicted: Studies of Compromised Leadership (Lexington, Ky., 1993); and the documents and essays in Link et al., eds., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson , vols. 58, 63–68, are definitive on Wilson's health history.
John D. Clark, The Federal Trust Policy (Baltimore, 1931), is good on the Clayton and Federal Trade Commission acts. Thomas J. Knock and Christine Lunardini, "Woodrow Wilson and Woman Suffrage: A New Look," in Political Science Quarterly 95 (1980–1981), gives the closest look at this important subject. Earl Latham, ed., The Philosophy and Policies of Woodrow Wilson (Chicago, 1958), provides a good overview. Sidney Ratner, Taxation and Democracy in America (New York, 1967), is the best coverage of the Wilson administration's fiscal policies.
Alan L. Seltzer, "Woodrow Wilson as 'Corporate-Liberal': Toward a Reconsideration of Left Revisionist Historiography," in Western Political Quarterly 30 (1977), is the definitive monograph on the antitrust policy of the Wilson administration. Frank W. Taussig, The Tariff History of the United States , 8th ed. (New York, 1931), is excellent on the Underwood-Simmons Tariff Act and the Federal Tariff Commission Act. H. Parker Willis, The Federal Reserve System (Chicago, 1920), provides a documentary history by one of the drafters of the Federal Reserve bill.
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality (New York, 1974), is by an eminent British legal scholar. N. Gordon Levin, Jr., Woodrow Wilson and World Politics: America's Response to War and Revolution (New York, 1968), interprets Wilson's reaction to the war and the Bolshevik revolution from a revisionist point of view. Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (New York, 1992), is an eloquent antidote to Levin. Frederick S. Calhoun, Power and Principle: Armed Intervention in Wilsonian Foreign Policy (Kent, Ohio, 1986), and his Uses of Force and Wilsonian Foreign Policy (Kent, Ohio, 1993), are pathbreaking works.
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, and Peace (Arlington Heights, Ill., 1979), presents Wilson as an anti-imperialist, decolonizer, and leader in the fight for world peace. Arthur S. Link, ed., Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World, 1913–1921 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982), gathers articles that reflect the latest research on important topics, such as Wilson and the Mexican Revolution and Wilson and the Russian Revolution. Ernest R. May, The World War and American Isolation, 1914–1917 (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), provides the worldwide context. Arno J. Mayer, Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917–1918 (New Haven, Conn., 1959), presents an interesting contrast between Wilson and Lenin as makers of foreign policy.
Dana G. Munro, Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean, 1900–1921 (Princeton, N.J., 1964), is a nearly definitive treatment. Robert E. Quirk, An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz (Lexington, Ky., 1962), and The Mexican Revolution, 1914–1915: The Convention of Aguascalientes (Bloomington, Ind., 1960), cover Mexican-American relations in 1914–1915. Charles Seymour, ed., The Intimate Papers of Colonel House , 4 vols. (Boston, 1926–1928), contains the diary and letters of Wilson's confidant on foreign policy.
Daniel R. Beaver, Newton D. Baker and the American War Effort, 1917–1919 (Lincoln, Nebr., 1966), and Arthur S. Link and John Whiteclay Chambers II, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander in Chief," in Richard H. Kohn, ed., The United States Military Under the Constitution of the United States, 1789–1989 (New York, 1991), are the best studies of American mobilization. Robert D. Cuff, The War Industries Board: Business-Government Relations During World War I (Baltimore, 1973), places too much emphasis on voluntarism as the motif of American mobilization.
For Wilson's wartime diplomacy, see David R. Woodward, Trial by Friendship: Anglo-American Relations, 1917–1918 (Lexington, Ky., 1993); George F. Kennan, Russia Leaves the War (Princeton, N.J., 1956), and his The Decision to Intervene (Princeton, N.J., 1958); Betty Miller Unterberger, America's Siberian Expedition, 1918–1920: A Study of National Policy (Durham, N.C., 1956), and her The United States, Revolutionary Russia, and the Rise of Czechoslovakia (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1989); and Victor S. Mamatey, The United States and East Central Europe, 1914–1918 (Princeton, N.J., 1957).
For other aspects of the home front, see Horace C. Peterson and Gilbert C. Fite, Opponents of War, 1917–1918 (Madison, Wis., 1957); Stephen Vaughn, Holding Fast the Inner Lines: Democracy, Nationalism, and the Committee an Public Information (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980); and Seward W. Livermore, Politics Is Adjournal: Woodrow Wilson and the War Congress, 1916–1918 (Middletown, Conn., 1966).
The indispensable source for Wilson and the Paris Peace Conference is vols. 53–61 of Link et al., eds., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson , to which should be added Arthur S. Link, trans. and ed., The Deliberations of the Council of Four (March 24–June 28, 1919): Notes of the Official Interpreter, Paul Mantoux , 2 vols. (Princeton, N.J., 1992). Paul Birdsall, Versailles Twenty Years After (New York, 1941), is still the best one-volume account, but see also Inga Floto, Colonel House in Paris: A Study of American Policy at the Paris Peace Conference 1919 (Princeton, N.J., 1980).
For the period 1919–1921, see Robert K. Murray, Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919–1920 (Minneapolis, 1955); Daniel M. Smith, The Aftermath of War: Bainbridge Colby and Wilsonian Diplomacy, 1920–1921 (Philadelphia, 1970); Thomas A. Bailey, Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal (New York, 1945); Ralph Stone, The Irreconcilables: The Fight Against the League of Nations (Lexington, Ky., 1970); Lloyd E. Ambrosius, Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective (Cambridge, 1987); and Wesley M. Bagby, The Road to Normalcy: The Presidential Campaign and Election of 1920 (Baltimore, 1962).
Recent works include Louis Auchincloss, Woodrow Wilson (New York, 2000); John Milton Cooper, Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations (Cambridge and New York, 2001); and Phyllis Lee Levin, Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House (New York, 2001).