His election came with a huge victory for the Democrats in Congress and with near absolute power President Wilson could have his way on just about everything. The American people were to see what an unfettered Democratic government looked like for the first time in the memory of most people. First he lowered or abolished tariffs and then set about putting the government in charge of the banking industry and establishing a new currency with the passage of an act creating the Federal Reserve which the government would have exclusive control over. In doing this, Wilson had said that he wanted to set business free, but not too free it seems as he next set about enacting a massive intrusion of government into the business sector with the creation of the Federal Trade Commission and the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act. He also helped out the farmers by making it easier for them to drown themselves in debt. Again, what a guy. And if that doesn’t make you love him, Americans also have President Wilson to thank for the federal income tax. I’m rather surprised his face isn’t on Mt Rushmore (which was carved by a member of the KKK so I really am surprised).
After Pancho Villa raided American territory, President Wilson ordered another invasion of Mexico where American troops clashed with rebel and government forces alike. The issue was never settled as American attention was soon diverted by the First World War. However, Mexico was certainly not alone in being invaded by American troops thanks to President Wilson. No, this preachy scholar who firmly believed he was the smartest man in any room, who condemned past territorial acquisitions by the United States and who would condemn, for example, the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, invaded a number of other countries himself. Aside from a totally unjustified invasion of Mexico at Veracruz, Wilson had American troops invade and occupy Nicaragua in 1914, Haiti in 1915 and Wilson put the Dominican Republic under U.S. military rule in 1916. Somehow, each of those was justified but, of course, Germany invading Belgium or Austria-Hungary invading Serbia was just plain wrong. It was after all of that, in 1917, that Woodrow Wilson took the United States into World War I after winning reelection on the slogan “he kept us out of war”.
But, before getting into that, we should also mention that a whopping three Constitutional amendments were passed during the Wilson administration. One was giving women the vote (and we know what Wilson thought about that), the other was the prohibition of alcohol which proved to be extremely lucrative for the organized crime business and finally one which provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators who had previously been appointed by state governments. This is often overlooked but it was one of the worst of the many terrible things Wilson inflicted on the United States. The Senate had been established in the first place to provide a representative body for the states of the Union. The people were represented by the House of Representatives and the states were represented by the Senate. By making Senators be directly elected, the public suddenly got double-representation and the states suddenly had none. This made it much easier for the federal government to trample on the rights of the states in the future. It would also lead to a great deal of political fighting and deadlock as the Senate ceased to be a less partisan gathering based on region rather than party and became a more puffed up version of the lower house which became particularly problematic when the same public would elect one party to power in the House and another party to power in the Senate.
|Wilson declaring war on Germany|
In his arrogant, scholarly way, he came to Europe when it was over famous for his “Fourteen Points”, cheered wildly in every European capital he visited. The truth, of course, was that the Fourteen Points were irrelevant from day one. The Germans actually wanted to have a peace based on them, knowing it was a better deal than what they would otherwise get but, of course, Britain and France had no intention of letting Wilson dictate the peace. Most regarded Wilson with derision as an over-educated yet uniformed, idealistic incompetent who didn’t know what he was talking about. Eventually, Wilson himself all but admitted as much. He had lots of vague, pretty sounding slogans but no real solutions to European or world problems. He also sacrificed a great deal just to see the creation of his beloved League of Nations, a useless talking shop that the United States, thankfully, refused to have any part of. In fact, the U.S. refused to sign on to both the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles which, in typical fashion, Wilson blamed on the influence of Germans and Irish in the United States. He left behind him a country full of unemployed veterans, striking workers and race riots but with a much bigger and more powerful federal government that future presidents would be only too willing to exploit.