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Woodrow Wilson

Important Terms, People, and Events

Plot Overview

Early Life: 1856–1872

Terms

The ABC Powers  -   · The countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In 1914 they arbitrated the dispute between the United States and Victoriano Huerta's dictatorship government in Mexico.
Alligators -   · The Alligators was Wilson's eating club while an undergraduate student at Princeton University. As president of the same university, Wilson later attacked this and similar eating clubs as being snobbish, and attempted to eliminate them with his quadrangle plan.
Arabic  -   · The Arabic was a passenger liner sunk by a German U-boat in 1915.
Big Four -   · The term Big Four refers to the leaders of the world's most powerful nations that attended the Paris Peace Conference and drafted the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I in 1918. The Big Four were American President Woodrow Wilson, British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Italian Premier Vittorio Orlando, and French Premier Georges Clemenceau.
Bryn Mawr College -   · Woodrow Wilson served as Bryn Mawr College's first history professor from 1885 until 1888. Located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the college was modeled after Johns Hopkins and designed to educate young women. While there, Wilson began writing The State. He eventually left the school because he disliked teaching women.
Central Powers  -   · The Central powers in World War I were Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. They fought against the Entente powers or Allies.
Collective security  -   · Collective security is the idea that nations can work together constructively to prevent war. Wilson's believed that a lasting peace after World War I could only be established if the major powers worked together to ensure collective security in the new League of Nations.
Committee on Public Information -   · President Wilson established the Committee of Public Information shortly after declaring war on Germany in 1917. The committee was responsible for issuing pro- war propaganda; however, the committee's director George Creel merely succeeded in spreading an already growing anti-German hysteria.
Congressional Government  -   · Published in 1885, Congressional Government was Wilson's first book, and its success brought him academic fame. The work analyzes the American legislative system, and is still considered to be one of the best works on American government ever written.
Constitutionalists -   · The Constitutionalists in Mexico opposed Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta and received support from Wilson during the country's civil war.
Davidson College -   · Woodrow Wilson's first undergraduate year was spent at the Presbyterian Davidson College in North Carolina in 1873 where he earned average marks. He left Davidson after his first year because the living conditions were harsh and his health was poor.
Division and Reunion  -   · Woodrow Wilson wrote Division and Reunion while at Princeton University in 1893. The book analyzed the period of American history between the 1830s and the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War. It was published in the Epochs of American History Series edited by Albert Bushell Hart.
Dominican Republic -   · President Wilson authorized the invasion and occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1916 to end widespread violence in the country.
Entente Powers  -   · The Entente powers, or Allied powers, during World War I were Great Britain, France, and Russia. The United States joined the war to assist the Entente powers against the Central powers.
Espionage Act -   · Wilson signed the 1917 Espionage Act, which hindered free speech by legalizing government censorship during World War I.
Federal Reserve Act -   · Passed in 1913, the Federal Reserve Act created a strong national banking system.
Fourteen Points -   · Wilson delivered his famous Fourteen Points Speech on January 8, 1918, to encourage the Germans to negotiate for a peace settlement to end World War I. The speech outlined fourteen specific goals for the Allies to achieve in order to establish a lasting peace after the war. Eight of those goals were very specific, five promoted general ideas such as self-determination, and the final called for the creation of the League of Nations.
Geran Bill -   · The Geran Bill was New Jersey Governor Wilson's promised legislation to attack the political machines in the state.
Haiti -   · Wilson ordered U.S. military forces to invade and occupy the small Caribbean island of Haiti in 1915 to end a bloody civil war.
History of the American People  -   · Woodrow Wilson published his largest work, History of the American People, in 1902.
Johns Hopkins University -   · Woodrow Wilson studied at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1883 to 1885. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University in 1886. While at Hopkins, Wilson wrote and published Congressional Government, which received high praise and made his reputation as a distinguished and respected political scientist.
Jones Act -   · Wilson fought for the passage of the 1916 Jones Act to grant the American- occupied Philippine Islands more political autonomy.
League of Nations -   · Wilson fought for the creation of the League of Nations during the Paris Peace Conference. The League was designed to be a forum consisting of nations from around the world where leaders and representatives could address grievances and promote ideals such as self-determination. Such a forum, Wilson believed, would ensure collective security. Wilson chaired the committee that drafted the League's covenant that was eventually included in the Treaty of Versailles. Many in the U.S. Senate bitterly opposed the League.
Liberalism  -   · Liberalism is a theory of foreign policy and international relations that promotes ideals such as collective security, self-determination, and democracy. Woodrow Wilson is regarded to be the father of the liberalist school of thought.
Lusitania -   · The Lusitania was a British ocean liner sunk by a German U-boat in May of 1915. Nearly 1,200 civilians died in the attack, including 124 Americans.
Monroe Doctrine -   · The Monroe Doctrine declared that European powers have no authority in the Western Hemisphere and must not involve themselves in the affairs of North and South American countries. The doctrine also claimed that the United States had the right to intervene anywhere in the hemisphere to ensure its security. The Monroe Doctrine was named for President James Monroe who declared the doctrine in the early 1820s.
New Freedom -   · The New Freedom was President Wilson's domestic policy plan. Wilson's goals under the New Freedom included reforming the national banking system, reducing the national tariff, and strengthening the Sherman Act.
Nicaragua  -   · Wilson ordered the occupation of Nicaragua in Central America in 1914 after a bungled American attempt to end the country's civil war.
Overman Act -   · Wilson fought for and signed the Overman Act in 1918 when conservative Republicans tired to take control of the war effort from him. The act gave him much personal power and established him as the de facto head of the U.S. World War I war machine.
Panama Canal Act -   · The Panama Canal Act of 1912 exempted United States merchant ships sailing between U.S. ports via the canal from paying the canal's toll. Wilson believed this act violated a treaty with Great Britain and successfully encouraged Congress to repeal the act in 1913.
Payne-Aldrich Tariff -   · The Payne-Aldrich Tariff was a Republican tariff passed in 1909 to protect American manufacturers. The tariff placed a forty-percent tax on many of the nation's most heavily imported goods.
Plutocracy  -   · The plutocracy refers to the few Americans who controlled an extraordinary amount of wealth. Prominent members included oil tycoon John David Rockefeller, steel producer Andrew Carnegie, and banker J.P. Morgan, who was also the richest man in the world at the time, having a net worth of over one billion dollars.
Political Machine  -   · Political machines were Democratic and Republican Party organizations that controlled the election and campaigning processes. Machines often controlled local and state politics in large cities during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Powerful politicians called bosses controlled the machines. Boss James Smith, Jr. ran the New Jersey Democratic political machine around the turn of the century and helped Woodrow Wilson become governor of the state in 1910.
Populist  -   · The Populist Party was a radical political party that advocated extremely liberal legislation and policies to help primarily poor Midwestern farmers. They desired "free silver"–more and cheaper money to be printed–and the U.S. dollar to be backed by silver instead of gold. The party's champion was William Jennings Bryan. By the early 1900s, the party had become essentially dead because Americans outside the Midwest did not seek the same goals. The Progressive movement did spread throughout the country and many of its original idealism stemmed from the Populist movement.
Preceptorial system  -   · The preceptorial system was a method of education that Wilson devised while president of Princeton University. The system replaced the standard lecture method of teaching with a more personal form where small groups of students, or precepts, could interact with a single professor, or preceptor, in their field of interest. The system was highly successful and many schools throughout the U.S. have adopted similar versions.
Princeton University  -   · Originally called the College of New Jersey, Princeton University was founded in 1746 and soon became one of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning. Woodrow Wilson transferred to the college in 1875 after spending a year at Davidson College, and graduated with honors in the class of 1879. In 1890, Wilson returned to Princeton to teach political economy and jurisprudence, and later served as the university's president from 1902 to 1910.
Progressive  -   · Progressives were primarily northerners who sought reform in government and society in the early 1900s. Prominent Progressive Presidents include Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
Punitive Expedition -   · The Punitive Expedition was a U.S. Army force of roughly 5,000 men commanded by General John J. Pershing sent by Wilson 1916 to pursue of rebel Pancho Villa. The expeditionary force pursued Villa nearly 300 miles south of the border into Mexico and eventually fought two battles against the Mexican army under Venustiano Carranza's leadership. Wilson recalled the force in January of 1917.
Quadrangle Plan  -   · The quadrangle plan was Wilson's plan to eliminate the eating clubs and bring diverse groups of students together at Princeton University. The plan called for a several dormitories to be built throughout the campus that would also serve as self contained colleges where students could eat, attend classes, and receive academic counseling and help from tutors. Each dormitory would surround a central inner courtyard, forming a quadrangle.
Sedition Act -   · Wilson signed the Sedition Act of 1918 which outlawed speaking out against the government and American involvement in World War I. Socialist Eugene V. Debs was the most prominent dissenter who was prosecuted under the law.
Self-Determination  -   · Self-determination is the idea that people throughout the world have the right to determine their own form of government and destiny. This was one of the key concepts of Wilson's Fourteen Points.
Sherman Act  -   · Congress passed the Sherman Act in 1890 in an attempt to eliminate trusts and the unfair business practices they employed to secure monopolies on their products. Although President Theodore Roosevelt had much success in attacking the trusts with the act, Wilson only had moderate success.
Sixteenth Amendment -   · Ratified in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution permits Congress to levy a federal income tax.
Square Deal -   · The Square Deal was President Theodore Roosevelt's bundle of progressive domestic policies and programs.
The State  -   · While he taught at Wesleyan University Professor Woodrow Wilson wrote and published The State in 1889. It was the first textbook ever written on comparative government, and many Wilson scholars and political scientists regard it as his best work.
Staunton -   · Staunton, Virginia, was the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson. It is now a National Historic Site.
Sussex  -   · The Sussex was a passenger liner sunk by a German U-boat in March 1916.
Tariff  -   · A tariff is a tax on imported goods.
Treaty of Versailles -   · The Treaty of Versailles drafted at the Paris Peace Conference was the primary treaty that ended World War I. Over thirty nations participated in drafting the treaty, but its major authors were the Big Four nations. The Treaty included the charter for the new League of Nations drafted by President Wilson. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty.
Trusts  -   · Trusts are large corporations that specialize in producing one product and attempt to create a monopoly. There were scores of trusts in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Within months of becoming President, Theodore Roosevelt attacked the trusts, prosecuting them under the authority of the Sherman Act. President Wilson tried to continue Roosevelt's trust-busting tradition, but had only little success.
U-boat  -   · A U-boat, or underwater boat, was a German submarine in World War I.
Underwood Act -   · The Underwood Act was a law passed in 1913 to reduce the Republican Payne-Aldrich Tariff. This act reduced the overall tariff to approximately twenty-five percent; eliminated the tax entirely on steel, wool, clothing, and sugar; and created a federal income tax.
University of Virginia -   · Founded by a generous grant from President Thomas Jefferson in the 1790s, the University of Virginia is the nation's oldest public university. Woodrow Wilson entered the school of law at the university in 1879 but left in 1880 because of poor health.
War Revenue Act -   · The 1917 War Revenue Act increased taxes to an unprecedented level to pay for the American war effort in World War I. The act increased the highest income tax bracket to sixty-seven percent the first year and seventy-seven percent the following year.
Wesleyan University -   · Woodrow Wilson taught at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, from 1888 until 1900. While there he coached a championship football team, published The State, and organized the school's debating society. He left Wesleyan to accept a teaching position at Princeton University.
Zimmerman Note -   · The Zimmerman Note was a communiqué authored by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman and intercepted by American Intelligence. The note had been designed to entice Mexico into declaring war against the United States should the U.S. declare war on Germany. As a reward, Mexico would then receive Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas after the war.

People

Dr. Herbert Adams -  Dr. Herbert Adams was Wilson's most difficult professor at Johns Hopkins University. Educated in Germany, Adams believed in hard work and discipline and pushed Woodrow to develop his academic skills.
William E. Borah -  William E. Borah, a Republican Senator, led the opposition against Wilson's League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles.
William Jennings Bryan  -  William Jennings Bryan ran for President four times in his lifetime and was defeated four times. He ran on the Populist Party ticket and the Democratic ticket between the years 1892 and 1908. He advocated printing more money to help impoverished farmers and eliminating the gold standard
Venustiano Carranza -  Venustiano Carranza of the Constitutionalists became Mexico's president after Victoriano Huerta was deposed in 1915. His ascendancy spurred Pancho Villa to initiate a second civil war in which the U.S. became entangled. Carranza's soldiers and the U.S. Punitive Expedition clashed in Mexico twice before Wilson recalled the U.S. troops.
Georges Clemenceau -  Georges Clemenceau was the Premier of France during and after World War I. He was a member of the Big Four at the Paris Peace Conference.
Bainbridge Colby -  Bainbridge Colby served as President Wilson's third Secretary of State towards the end of his second administration. He and Wilson also established a Washington, D.C., law firm after Wilson stepped down as President.
James M. Cox -  James M. Cox ran for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket in 1920. He was defeated by Republican Warren G. Harding.
Eugene V. Debs -  Eugene V. Debs ran for President against Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912. After the United States entered World War I, he was imprisoned under the Sedition Act of 1918 for speaking out against the war.
Lloyd George -  Lloyd George was Great Britain's Prime Minister during and after World War I. He attended the Paris Peace Conference and was a member of the Big Four.
Warren G. Harding -  Warren G. Harding served as the twenty-ninth President of the United States. He defeated Democrat James M. Cox in the election of 1920.
George Harvey -  George Harvey was one of New Jersey's most powerful political voices in the early 1900s when Wilson ran for governor. Although he was not a politician himself, he acted behind the scenes and helped Wilson get elected. He was also the editor of Harper's Weekly Magazine.
Col. Edward M. House  -  Colonel House became one of Wilson's most trusted friends and advisors shortly before Wilson was elected President in 1912.
Victoriano Huerta -  Mexico dissolved into civil war shortly after Wilson's 1913 inauguration when Victoriano Huerta seized control of the nation's government from the Constitutionalists. Tensions between Mexico and the U.S. culminated in Wilson's seizure of the Mexican port of Veracruz. Wilson appealed to the ABC powers to arbitrate the dispute.
Charles Evans Hughes  -  Charles Evans Hughes ran against Wilson for the Presidency in 1916 on the Republican ticket. He lost by only twenty-three votes in the Electoral College.
Hiram W. Johnson -  Hiram W. Johnson was a Republican Senator who led the isolationist opposition to the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.
Abraham Lincoln -  Abraham Lincoln served as the sixteenth President of the United States. His abolitionist and pro-Northern policies prompted many Southern politicians to push for secession after his election to the Presidency in 1860.
Henry Cabot Lodge -  Henry Cabot Lodge was a Republican Senator who served throughout the first decade of the 1900s. During Wilson's second administration, he supported Wilson's League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, but had many reservations. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he led the discussion and debate on the treaty and League.
William G. McAdoo  -  William G. McAdoo served as Wilson's Secretary of the Treasury. He later married Wilson's daughter Eleanor in 1914.
Vittorio Orlando -  Vittorio Orlando was the Premier of Italy both during and after World War I. He was a member of the Big Four at the Paris Peace Conference in 1918.
General John J. Pershing -  General John J. Pershing led the U.S. Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916 in pursuit of former Mexican general Pancho Villa. A year later, he commanded over 1,200,000 American troops in France during World War I. He is the only U.S. General to ever receive five stars.
Edward I. Renick -  Edward Renick attended law school at the University of Virginia with Woodrow Wilson in 1879. In 1882, the two practiced law together at their new firm "Renick and Wilson" until a lack of clients forced them out of business.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt -  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who later became the thirty-second President of the United States, served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I.
Theodore Roosevelt  -  Theodore Roosevelt served as the twenty-sixth President of the United States from 1901 to 1908.
James Smith, Jr. -  James Smith, Jr. was New Jersey's most powerful boss of the state's Democratic political machine in the early 1900s. Along with George Harvey, he helped Wilson become governor of the state in 1910. After Wilson was elected, the two men fought over political reform.
William Howard Taft  -  William Taft was a loyal supporter of Roosevelt during his Presidency, and served as Roosevelt's Governor of the Philippine Islands and as Secretary of War. He and Roosevelt were steadfast friends. When Roosevelt refused to run for a third presidential term in 1908, he nominated Taft as the Republican candidate. Taft was elected as the twenty-seventh President in 1908, defeating William Jennings Bryan. After Roosevelt returned from Europe and Africa, the two men had a political disagreement that soon turned into a bitter personal hatred. They ran against each other in the election of 1912, Taft as the Republican candidate and Roosevelt as the Bull Moose Party candidate. They split the Republican Party, allowing Woodrow Wilson to become President. Taft later served as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Pancho Villa -  General Pancho Villa of the Mexican army began a civil war when his rival Venustiano Carranza was named the country's new president in 1915. To bring the United States into the war, Villa led several raids into the American Southwest. During his most destructive raid, he killed nineteen Americans and burned a small town in New Mexico. In response, Wilson sent General John J. Pershing and the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Villa, but he was never captured.
George Washington -  George Washington served as a General in the American Continental Army and as the first President of the United States.
Andrew Fleming West -  Andrew Fleming West was the Dean of Graduate Studies at Princeton University while Wilson served as the president of the same institution. Towards the end of Wilson's tenure as the university's president, the two men battled over plans to build a new graduate school. West eventually won.
Edith Galt Wilson  -  Edith Galt Wilson was Woodrow Wilson's second wife. The two married on December 18, 1915. They had no children together.
Eleanor Wilson  -  Eleanor Wilson was born in 1889 and was the last daughter born to Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson. She married William G. McAdoo in the White House on May 7, 1914.
Ellen Axson Wilson  -  Ellen Axson Wilson was Woodrow Wilson's first wife. They met in 1883 and were married two years later before Wilson entered Johns Hopkins University as a graduate student. The couple had three children, Margaret, Jessie, and Eleanor. First Lady Ellen Wilson died on August 6, 1914, from kidney failure caused by tuberculosis.
Jessie Woodrow Wilson  -  Jessie Woodrow was born in the summer of 1887, and was the second daughter of three born to Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson. She was named for Woodrow Wilson's mother.
Joseph Ruggles Wilson  -  Doctor Joseph Ruggles Wilson was a prominent Presbyterian minister and educator in the South. A highly educated man, Dr. Wilson taught his son Thomas Woodrow as much as he could during the Civil War when formal education had all but disappeared in the South. The future president also inherited a strong sense of morality from his father and from the Church.
Margaret Wilson  -  Margaret Wilson was born on April 16, 1886, and was Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson's first child.
Hattie Woodrow -  Hattie Woodrow was a cousin of Woodrow Wilson's on his mother's side. While attending law school at the University of Virginia, young Woodrow fell in love with Hattie and eventually proposed, although she refused.

Events

Civil War -  The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 when several southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America led by President Jefferson Davis. It was the bloodiest war in the history of the United States.
Paris Peace Conference -  The Paris Peace Conference was the convention held in France in 1918 to draft a treaty to end World War I. Over thirty nations attended the conference and wrote the Treaty of Versailles.
Reconstructionist  -  Reconstruction was the North's plan to formally bring the seceded Southern states back into the Union after the Civil War. Reconstruction succeeded in reuniting the country, it also succeeded in further destroying the economy of the South.
World War I  -  Also known as the Great War, World War I was fought between 1914 and 1918 between the Entente powers or Allies (Britain, France, and for a time, Russia) and the Central powers (Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire). The United States entered the war in 1917 to assist the Allies against the Central powers.

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