|Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)|
Most people rank the 28th president rather high on lists of best presidents. This is mainly because he successfully championed for and signed laws that gave women the right to vote, created better working conditions for laborers, and protected consumers from unfair business practices.
The problem with what Wilson did is that he became the first president to use the executive branch in order to move "forward" an agenda. To accomplish this he increased the power of government at the expense of personal liberties.
The founding fathers saw first hand how government officials naturally abuse the powers invested in them. They understood that such abuse usually came at the expense of personal liberties. To prevent the new government from gaining such power, the founding fathers gave the government the ability to rule on only 30 areas, and they created a system of checks and balances.
The founding father believed that, while ideas and opinions change with the times, morals (rules) and natural rights (liberties) come from a higher power and are unchanging. For this reason the Constitution was written so that it would be unchanging, written to ensure moralistic society and protect natural rights for all people for all time.
They understood that society is flawed, although they had faith in the ability of individual people and individual industries to solve their own problems. They believed life on this earth would never be euphoric (perfect), and that true euphoria only comes in the next world.
All 37 presidents prior to Wilson had the same understanding of the Constitution as the founding fathers, and they defended and respected it to the best of their ability, as they promised in citing the presidential oath of office.
Yet this all changed in 1913 when Woodrow Wilson was elected President. He became the first academic (he had earned a Ph.D), and the first to speak poorly of the Constitution.
He spoke poorly of the Constitution because he believed it was the only thing that stood in the way of his agenda, which in his case was an idealist agenda. By this, he believed that people did not have to wait for the next world to find euphoria. He believed that if he had the power, he could push Congress to pass laws that he would sign that would create this euphoria, or perfect, or ideal world.as
According to Wilson, people are flawed, and therefore prone to making mistakes that might result in chaos. If the roaring 20s showed anything, it was that unfettered capitalism leads to short term prosperity that allows greedy people to obtain wealth at the expense of the poor. This was unfair, he believed. And it was this unchecked system that ultimately lead to the collapse of the stock market in 1929.
So, in order to reach a state of euphoria, Wilson believed the people should not be allowed to make complicated decisions. Instead, experts in Washington (preferably progressive experts) should make these decisions. In this way, he championed for a large central government, a large state.
He therefore made himself the first imperial president, thus giving himself unprecedented powers. This was necessary for him to push his agenda forward.
The problem with this is that it would require people to sacrifice some of their personal liberties, something most people do not want to do. To make matters worse for Wilson, the Constitution and the Declaration of independence stood in his way.
So it was on this premise that he spoke against it, saying that it should change with the changing times. He trashed the idea of natural rights, or inalienable rights, or personal liberties, claiming that they do not come from a higher power but from the founding documents. So he believed the idea of natural rights should be extricated from them.
In 1911 he said:
The rhetorical introduction of the Declaration of Independence is the least part of it…. If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.He also said:
No doubt a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle.In order to increase the power of the president, or to turn it into an imperial president, he championed against the separation of powers, claiming that they caused the various organs of government to fight against each other thus preventing progress. He believed that by reducing restraints on executive branch the president would be more like the British Prime Minister who has the ability to push his agenda through Congress.
Most presidents prior to him wrote their State of the Union Address in the form of a letter that was read to Congress. Wilson wanted Congress to be clear what he wanted, so he addressed them in person in 1913. Every president since him has done the same.
He then pushed his agenda through Congress, and signed them into law, something no previous president had dared to do. Yet by doing so he set the precedence needed to increase the power of government, and, most important, the power of the executive.
In a 1913 address, he said:
I have been smashing precedents almost daily every since I got here."Now he had the power to push forth his idealist agenda, whether the people wanted it or not. He was not the first imperial president. While all 37 of his predecessors feared this type of power, he cherished it. He said.
I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.”So Wilson sought to relax, if not to remove completely, the restraints on government set forth by the founding fathers. This was the only means to which Wilson, and other progressives, could move "forward" their idealist agenda that was aimed at perfecting society.
It was based on this reasoning that he was able to accomplish the following:
1. The 16th Amendment: The Supreme Court had previously ruled that an income tax was unconstitutional. To get around this, Wilson encouraged the democrat controlled Congress to changed the Constitution. The new amendment enabled the federal government to create an income tax, which the senate wasted no time doing. This was necessary to pay for the federal programs that were needed to advance the agenda. By the end of Wilson's term as president taxes were up as high as 70 percent. While their agenda was meant to lower unemployment, it created more.
2. The 17th Amendment: This took away the right of states to select senators, and allowing direct election of senators. The states generally selected senators who would protect state rights, and without selected senators, progressives have succeeded in passing many laws abducting state rights, with Obamacare being only one of them. This amendment was meant to make it easier to perfect society, and what it gave us was more laws and fewer freedoms.
4. The Great War: Wilson championed that the U.S. was a neutral state and that he wanted to avoid war at all costs, yet he then lead us into war we had not reason to be in for political gain. Evidence of this, some say, is that Great Britain's powerful naval blockade prevented food from getting into Germany, therefore starving the German population. Yet while this was against international law, Wilson did nothing.
He did nothing, some say, because he secretly sided with the Allied Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) and was waiting for the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungry) to give him a reason to go to war, mainly because this would give him a reason to advance his agenda. It would later become an ongoing theme that progressives would use a war theme to advance their agendas, such as the war on women and the war on poverty.
The German's retaliated against the blockade, warning that neutral ships might be sunk if they get in the way. They warned that they will not intentionally sink neutral ships, but it sometimes is impossible to tell the difference. This was especially true since British ships were violating international rules of war by placing white flags upon their ships to lure German submarines to the surface so they could destroy them.
Yet despite these warnings, Wilson continued to allow civilian ships to such dangerous waters, and this was why the Lusitania -- a British luxury liner -- was a target for German ships, resulting in the deaths of 124 innocent American civilians.
The Germans then volunteered to give up the submarine warfare if Wilson would pressure Britain to stop the hunger blockade. Wilson refused, instead blaming the Germans for the sinking of the Lusitania and using this as a national battle cry for war.
With a limited media at this time, there was no way for the truth to get out. So Wilson took advantage of this to advance his agenda. In total, 115, 516 Americans lost their lives in a war American had no reason to be involved in just so Woodrow Wilson could advance the progressive agenda.
5. Committee on Public Information (CPI): He created this soon after Congress declared war. Its sole function was as ministry of propaganda to convince the American people that what Wilson was doing was right. This effort was lead by former journalist and police commissioner George Creed. As a journalist he was a liberal muckraker, and as a police commissioner he once prevented his officers from carrying guns. He was an ardent supporter of creating a totalitarian state (socialist, progressive, liberal, fascist) in the U.S., citing that there is "no dividing line between the rich and poor, and no class distinction to breed mean envies." The CPI was, in essence, the first state-run propaganda machine.
The written intent of this organization was to manipulate the minds of the people, and to enforce consent. Some of the propaganda made Wilson look like a larger than life figure, a strategy that was later used in Nazi Germany by Hitler, and in totalitarian Iraq by Saddam Hussein.
6. Alien and Sedition Acts of 1918: The Alien Act allowed noncitizens to be deported without trial if they were suspected of disloyalty. The Sedition Acts prevented individuals (particularly those in the media) from "uttering, printing, writing, or publishing an disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States government or military." This gave that government, the state, unprecedented powers over the people, and pretty much ignored the first amendment which clearly states, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." Yet when a government gains power, it tends to abuse this power.
7. Espionage Act of 1917: Enacted after the start of the Great War, it prevented citizens from interfering with military operations or recruitment, prevented insubordination in the military (those drafted could not refuse to serve), and prevented support of U.S. enemies during war. In 1919 the U.S. Supreme Court somehow found a way to find this law did not violate the freedom of speech in Schenck v United States.
8. Postmaster General Powers: Wilson gave the Postmaster General the power to enforce the Sedition and Espionage Acts. It was by this means that over 75 periodicals were shut down, and hundreds more were warned. Tens of thousands of innocent American citizens were imprisoned just for speaking or writing dissent. Could you imagine if George W. Bush had such powers to shut up democrats who opposed the War in Afghanistan and Iraq. He would have been loved by the media, and exceeded expectations in polls.
9. American Protective League (API): This was set up by Wilson's Justice Department to get citizens to spy on other citizens and turn in "seditious" persons or draft dodgers. Members swore not to reveal other members, and were encouraged to keep an eye on their neighbors, co-workers and friends by listening in on their phone calls and reading their mail. It was under this program that, in September of 1918, 50,000 people were rounded up without just cause. Thankfully, because of the Constitution, Wilson was unable to get away with this, and about two-thirds of those arrested were eventually found innocent of all charges. Nevertheless, the Justice Department approved of this, and the assistant attorney general confessed that Americans had never been better policed. If progressives ever succeeded in getting their ideal world, this is the type of system that they would incorporate to "encourage" or "enforce" compliance.
10. German antipathy: Any Germans in the United States were held under deep contempt. German authors were purged from libraries, families of Germans were harassed and taunted. Sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage." In fact, some estimate that over 175,000 people living in America were arrested for not demonstrating their patriotism. All were punished, and many went to jail. There was no true justification for any of it at all, and Wilson got away with it. Encouraged by the state-run propaganda machine, Americans were encouraged to turn in Germans who were disloyal to the American cause. They were also encouraged to refuse to eat German food, listen to German music, or buy dogs with German names. Could you imagine if George W. Bush or Obama did this to the Muslim community after 9-11?
11. Palmer Raids: The Palmer Raids were an attempt by the Justice Department to arrest or deport people just for being anarchists. The raids, or arrests, occurred between November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Wilson's Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Thankfully, while 500 leftist anarchists were arrested, the U.S. Department of Labor put an end to the raids.
Wilson justified this police state by claiming that "the gravest threats" against national peace are changed within our borders. This justification lead to over 175,000 Americans citizens being unjustly arrested within American borders by the Wilson-run state.
12. War Industries Board (WIB): He put Barnard Baruch in charge of the War Industries Board, which was essentially charged with taking over the entire American economic system to make sure all industries worked together to serve the state. He seized railroads, food and energy production, and set price controls. This system would later be copied by Mussolini and Hitler, who wouldn't have a Constitution that limited their power to fully implement it.
13. Wilson's 14 Points: He voiced his 14 points on January 8, 1918, basically stating that the Great War (WWI) was fought for a noble cause, and he called for world peace, open borders, free trade, free navigation of the seas, and the formation of an "association of nations" to solve conflict and prevent future wars.
14. The Treaty of Versailles: The treaty, written mainly by Wilson, had a couple of serious faults. First of all, it entitled the United States to give loans to European nations that needed rebuilding, and the U.S. was too lenient on repayment, and they were never repaid. America had accumulated a steep war dept, and this did not help. It ultimately resulted in Wilson raising income taxes as high as 70 percent, which resulted in the depression of 1920. Second of all, Article 231 of the treaty, which later became known as the War Guilt Clause, required Germany to completely disarm, make territorial concessions, and pay reparations the were the equivalent of $31.4 billion U.S. dollars. This clause was considered to be too harsh, and it was ultimately not enforced. So, in the end, instead of punishing or completely annihilating the German military, the peace treaty essentially allowed the German military to back off and regroup. This created an environment that allowed a man named Adolf Hitler to form a fascist government called Nazism. In this way, Wilson, so some believe, was also responsible for causing WWII.
15. The League of Nations: Of course then he attempted to create the League of Nations which was supposed to be a union of nations to prevent any future wars. The League would force all nations involved to participate in any wars of member nations, and it would be able to create rules for all nations to follow.
While other Central Powers had already entered this League, Congress did not want other nations to create laws that took away the same natural rights protected by the Constitution. In other words, it wanted to create restrictions protecting American sovereignty. They also did not want to be forced to participate on border fights between European nations. It was on these grounds Congress failed to sign on to Wilson's association of nations that was meant to create world peace.
Essentially, Congress had grown weary of Wilson's dream of creating laws that extricated personal liberties in order to create his perfect, or state-run, world. It was because of this that Woodrow Wilson left office a defeated man. Voters also grew weary of laws to perfect society, and they elected conservative republican Warren G. Harding in 1920.
Yet Woodrow Wilson was far from a failure as a president, particularly for those who continued to believe in the idealistic progressive agenda. What Wilson had accomplished was merely the first step, as over the next century they would gradually move "forward" with their agenda to "fundamentally transform" American from capitalism to socialism.
Perhaps because the media was controlled by progressives, and later by their their liberal offshoots, the full history of Wilson's presidency was not written until 87 years later when, in 2007, Jonah Goldberg published his book "Liberal Fascism." Only then was it realized the damage he created, and that Wilson in fact had been the first imperial (empire, king, totalitarian dictator) president.
For this reason, many historians have removed Woodrow Wilson from the top five best presidents, placing him now among the five at the bottom. Some even go as far as to say that he is the single worst president of all time.