Woodrow Wilson's Administration
The Final Years
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Wilson could not convince people at home that it was time for America to join the World Community. America had stepped back into isolationism, and would not be budged. The Congress was in Republican hands and was generally uncooperative with Wilson. Led by Wilson's longtime adversary Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the Republicans insisted that certain parts of the League be altered. Wilson refused to make even the smallest concessions, fearing it would make it impotent. The Senate would not agree to the treaty so Wilson entered the final chapter of his relatively short political story. He decided to take the matter directly to the public.
His doctor warned him not to go. His wife begged him to reconsider. Wilson was determined and would not be turned back. The Senate would not listen to him, so he hoped to convince the public through an extensive speaking tour, and thus pressure the Senate into ratifying the treaty. The tour started out well. Enthusiastic supporters cheered him at each stop. Victory turned out to be beyond his grasp. Wilsonís fragile health halted the tour abruptly in Colorado. "I don't seem to realize it," he commented to an advisor, "but I seem to have gone to pieces."
For the remainder of his administration Wilson was a near invalid. His wife looked over him carefully and was suspected of making important decisions for him. His hope was not shattered, but his body was, and that handicap was insurmountable. Wilson lived on until 1924, but never fully regained his mental or physical abilities. He died with his wife by his side, confident to the end that wrongs would be righted, and that America's mission would be fulfilled. His last words were "Edith,(His wife) I'm a broken machine, but I'm ready."
His influence has been significant. During his tenure there were 3 amendments to the constitution. The Seventeenth provided for the direct election of United States Senators.
The Eighteenth prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. The Nineteenth, guaranteed suffrage for women. His legislative successes included the Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Anti-trust Act, Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, and the Adamson Act which established the eight-hour work day on railroads. According to Henry Kissinger, his foreign policy has shaped 20th Century United States policy like no other.
He was a man known for his principles, drawn from the pages of the Bible and the doctrine of the Presbyterians. He was an unusual president in that he had years of thinking and writing the philosophy of government, but little in the way of political experience. In the end he may be remembered more for his failure concerning the League of Nations than his progressive reform.
Wilson served in an era before Watergate, and before all of the scandals that have reduced faith in government to tired cynicism. Wilson was a great man in an age when people still believed in great men.
Woodrow Wilson 1919