Woodrow Wilson's Administration
Early Political Career
Introduction, From Princeton to President, Cabinet
"Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy"
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Often it is difficult to determine whether a man is significant because of his own deeds or because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Woodrow Wilson certainly presided over the nation at a memorable time, but his actions were significant and his policies still influence the United States today. His life is more a thought of what could have been, then what came to pass. Still, despite the inconsistencies, errors, and hesitations, Wilson's style and principles were unique. This enables his legacy to shine beyond the shadow of tragedy.
In 1909 Wilson's progressive programs and innovations as president of Princeton University attracted the attention of the Democratic political machine. They helped elect him Governor of New Jersey, but learned to regret it. Instead of following orders Wilson ended up cleaning house and riding the state house of much deep-seeded corruption. Presidential aspirations cut his tenure as Governor short. His writing, oratory skills, and progressive accomplishments gave him enough visibility to attract Democrats looking for a national leader. A speaking tour designed to test the waters was a rousing success and Governor Wilson stepped into national politics.
Wilson could not have picked a more opportune time to run. Teddy Roosevelt's dissatisfaction with William Howard Taft's record caused a split in the Republican Party . Roosevelt tried and failed to receive the Republican nomination, so he and his rowdy following left the convention and formed the progressive (Bull Moose) party. This dissension virtually guaranteed a Wilson Presidency. This unique election between 3 presidents (one past, one present, and one future) ended with 88 electoral votes for Roosevelt, 8 for Taft, and the remaining 435 for Wilson. Wilson brought a democratic Congress with him and the stage was set for progressive reform.
Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, was another important selection. He was most notable for who he choose as his under secretary, a young politician from New York named Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Perhaps the most influential of all the president's advisors was a Texas gentleman nicknamed "Colonel" House. He noticed Wilson while he was governor of New Jersey and was invaluable throughout Wilson's administration although he never held an official post.