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Woodrow Wilson
Date Issued: 1938-08-29
Postage Value: $1.00

Commemorative issue
Presidential Series
Woodrow Wilson

The portrait used as the basis for this stamp design is taken from a medal furnished by the U.S. Mint.

Woodrow's Wilson's widely acclaimed book, Congressional Government, was published a year before he received his doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University. He taught at Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University in Connecticut before moving to Princeton. In 1902 he was named president of the university.

His reforms at Princeton included reorganization of the departmental structure, curriculum revision, raising academic standards, and tightening student discipline. His attempts to develop a quad plan, to create colleges or quadrangles where students and faculty would live and study, was defeated. The struggles brought national attention to Wilson, and he was prompted to run for governor of New Jersey, a position he easily won.

As governor, he brought about a direct-primary law, anti-trust laws, a public utility commission, and laws permitting cities to adopt the commission form of government. His success in New Jersey made him more of a national figure. He won the Democratic nomination for president in 1912 on the 46th ballot. With only 42 percent of the popular vote, Wilson won the electoral balloting with 435 votes to 88 for Theodore Roosevelt and eight for President William Howard Taft.

Among the domestic measures passed during Wilson's presidency were the Underwood Tariff Act, the first reduction in duties since the Civil War; the Federal Reserve Act, providing for currency and banking reform; and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act. He also signed the Federal Farm Loan Act, the Adamson Act, which granted an eight-hour day to interstate railroad workers, and the Child Labor Act. The foreign-policy arena was active also. He helped foil Japanese designs on the Chinese mainland. In dealing with Mexico, fresh from its revolution, Wilson first tried to force Victoriano Huerto from office as president. After that failed, mediation by Argentina, Brazil, and Chile led to his resignation in 1914.

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Wilson tried to maintain American neutrality. After the Lusitania was sunk in May 1915, Wilson negotiated so firmly that Secretary of State Williams Jennings Bryan resigned in protest. Germany in 1915 promised safety for passengers caught in submarine attacks and the following year agreed to abandon unrestricted submarine warfare.

With the slogan, "He kept us out of war," Wilson won a narrow victory for a second term. Germany renewed submarine warfare in 1917, and Wilson sought a declaration of war from Congress. In May 1917 he forced through Congress a Selective Service bill under which 2.8 million men were drafted by war's end. Wilson headed the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. He committed a political faux pas by not having a Republican as part of the delegation.

The 1918 Congressional election was set on local issues, and Republicans captured both houses of Congress. Wilson's power was lessened. Wilson bargained shrewdly to have the Versailles Treaty along the lines of his original plan. He believed the treaty to be the best possible compromise and then placed his hopes on the League of Nations. Republicans at home challenged the treaty without serious modifications to the American commitment to the League. A national debate ensued, during which Wilson suffered a stroke. From his bed he continued to oppose restrictions to the League. The Senate rejected the treaty in November 1919 and March 1920. Wilson urged that the 1920 presidential election be a referendum on the League. Republican Warren G. Harding, with a reputation as an opponent of the League, won in a landslide.

Topics: Politics (153)  Portrait (895)  President (287)  

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