Woodrow Wilson

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Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (28 December 18563 February 1924) was the 28th president of the United States of America (1913–1921) and the 45th governor of New Jersey (1911–1913). He was the second Democrat to serve two consecutive terms in the White House, after Andrew Jackson, and was the first President from the South to be elected since the American Civil War


We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a winter’s night. Some of us let these dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they come true.
Power consists in one's capacity to link his will with the purpose of others, to lead by reason and a gift of cooperation.
The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.
No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation.
The success of a party means little except when the Nation is using that party for a large and definite purpose.
There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect.
If my convictions have any validity, opinion ultimately governs the world.
The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history...
The supreme test of the nation has come. We must all speak, act, and serve together!
Because I love the South, I rejoice in the failure of the Confederacy.
Segregation is not humiliating but a benefit.


  • Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work.
    • Congressional Government, A Study in American Politics (1885; republished 1981), chapter 2, p. 69 (1981)
  • The Senate of the United States has been both extravagantly praised and unreasonably disparaged, according to the predisposition and temper of its various critics... The truth is, in this case as in so many others, something quite commonplace and practical. The Senate is just what the mode of its election and the conditions of public life in this country make it.
    • Congressional Government, A Study in American Politics (1885; republished 1981), chapter 4, p. 135 (1981)
  • In fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals.
    • “Socialism and Democracy,” essay published in The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Arthur S. Link, ed., Vol. 5, Princeton University Press, 1968, pp. 559-62, (first published, August 22, 1887)

"The Study of Administration," 1887


Woodrow Wilson, "The Study of Administration," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (June, 1887), pp. 197-222.

  • It is getting to be harder to run a constitution than to frame one.
  • Administration is the most obvious part of government; it is government in action; it is the executive, the operative, the most visible side of government, and is of course as old as government itself.
  • Like a lusty child, government with us has expanded in nature and grown great in stature, but has also become awkward in movement... English and American political history has been a history, not of administrative development, but of legislative oversight-not of progress in governmental organization, but of advance in law-making and political criticism... We go on criticising when we ought to be creating.
    • p. 203; as cited in: Dimock (1937;28)
  • The principles on which to base a science of administration for America, must be principles which have democratic policy very much at heart.
  • The English race, consequently, has long and successfully studied the art of curbing executive power to the constant neglect of the art of perfecting executive methods. It has exercised itself much more in controlling than in energizing government, It has been more concerned to render government just and moderate than to make it facile, well-ordered,and effective.
    • p. 206;


  • The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.
    • “The Leaders of Men”, speech at the University of Tennessee (17 June 1890), in The Politics of Woodrow Wilson, p. 74
  • Uncompromising thought is the luxury of the closeted recluse.
    • “The Leaders of Men”, (17 June 1890), p. 75
  • It has never been natural, it has seldom been possible, in this country for learning to seek a place apart and hold aloof from affairs. It is only when society is old, long settled to its ways, confident in habit, and without self-questioning upon any vital point of conduct, that study can affect seclusion and despise the passing interests of the day.
  • Negro rule under unscrupulous adventurers had been finally put an end to in the South, and the natural, inevitable ascendancy of the whites, the responsible class, established.
    • Division and Reunion, 1829-1889 Longmans, Green, & Company (1893) p. 273
  • The object of education is not merely to draw out the powers of the individual mind: it is rather its right object to draw all minds to a proper adjustment to the physical and social world in which they are to have their life and their development: to enlighten, strengthen and make fit.
    • "Princeton In The Nation's Service" (21 October 1896)
  • Nothing is easier than to falsify the past. Lifeless instruction will do it. If you rob it of vitality, stiffen it with pedantry, sophisticate it with argument, chill it with unsympathetic comment, you render it as dead as any academic exercise. The safest way in all ordinary seasons is to let it speak for itself: resort to its records, listen to its poets and to its masters in the humbler art of prose. Your real and proper object, after all, is not to expound, but to realize it, consort with it, and make your spirit kin with it, so that you may never shake the sense of obligation off. In short, I believe that the catholic study of the world's literature as a record of spirit is the right preparation for leadership in the world's affairs, if you undertake it like a man and not like a pedant.
    • "Princeton In The Nation's Service" (21 October 1896)


  • However it has come about, it is more important still that the control of credit also has become dangerously centralized. It is the mere truth to say that the financial resources of the country are not at the command of those who do not submit to the direction and domination of small groups of capitalists who wish to keep the economic development of the country under their own eye and guidance. The great monopoly in this country is the monopoly of big credits. So long as that exists, our old variety and freedom and individual energy of development are out of the question. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom. This is the greatest question of all, and to this statesmen must address themselves with an earnest determination to serve the long future and the true liberties of men. This money trust, or, as it should be more properly called, this credit trust, of which Congress has begun an investigation, is no myth; it is no imaginary thing. It is not an ordinary trust like another. It doesn’t do business every day. It does business only when there is occasion to do business. You can sometimes do something large when it isn’t watching, but when it is watching, you can’t do much. And I have seen men squeezed by it; I have seen men who, as they themselves expressed it, were put “out of business by Wall Street,” because Wall Street found them inconvenient and didn’t want their competition.
  • Adventurers swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of one race as of the other, to cozen, beguile and use the negroes. The white men were aroused by a mere instinct of self-preservation — until at last there sprung into existence a great Kuklux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.
    • A History of the American People (1902), describing the Klan as a brotherhood of politically disenfranchised white men; famously quoted in The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes.
    • A History of the American People (1902), Documentary Edition, Vol. IX, p. 58
  • Opinion shifted uneasily, the while, the nation through. The unexpected scope and magnitude of the war, its slow and sullen movement, its anxious strain of varying fortune, its manifest upheaval of the vary foundations of government, turned men's hopes and fears now this way now that, threw their judgements all abroad, brought panic gusts of disquietude and dismay which lasted a long season through before any steady winds of purpose found their breath and their second quarter. For eighteen months Mr. Lincoln had waited upon opinion, with a patience which had deeply irritated all who wished radical action taken. He knew the hazards of time as well as any man; feared that at almost any moment news might come of the recognition of the southern Confederacy by the old governments abroad; knew how important success was to hold opinion at home no less than to check interference from without; was keenly conscious how the failures of the Army of the Potomac offset and neutralized the successes of the federal arms in the West; and realized to the full how awkward it was, whether for the government of opinion at home or over sea, to have no policy more handsome than conquest and subjugation. It was necessary to put the South at a moral disadvantage by transforming the contest from a war waged against States fighting for their independence to a war against States fighting for the maintenance and extension of slavery, by making some open move for emancipation as the real motive of the struggle. Once make the war a struggle against slavery, and the world, it might be hoped, might see it as a moral war, not a political; and the sympathy of nations would begin to run for the North, not the South.
    • A History of the American People (1902), Vol IV, p. 229–231.
  • No doubt a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle.
    • Constitutional Government in the United States, New York: NY, Columbia University Press, (1908) p. 16.
  • We are not put into this world to sit still and know; we are put into it to act.
    It is true that in order to learn men must for a little while withdraw from action, must seek some quiet place of remove from the bustle of affairs, where their thoughts may run clear and tranquil, and the heats of business be for the time put off; but that cloistered refuge is no place to dream in.
  • There are two beings who assess character instantly by looking into the eyes,—dogs and children. If a dog not naturally possessed of the devil will not come to you after he has looked you in the face, you ought to go home and examine your conscience; and if a little child, from any other reason than mere timidity, looks you in the face, and then draws back and will not come to your knee, go home and look deeper yet into your conscience.
    • Young People and the Church“ (13 October 1904)
    • Variant: If a dog will not come to you after he has looked you in the face, you ought to go home and examine your conscience.
  • [W]e are not bound to adhere to the doctrine held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
    • Woodrow Wilson, “The Author and Signers of the Declaration,” (July 1907), The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (PWW), 17:251
  • The only reason I read a book is because I cannot see and converse with the man who wrote it.
    • Speech in Kansas City (12 May 1905), PWW (The Papers of Woodrow Wilson) 16:99
    • Unsourced variant: I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.
  • Generally young men are regarded as radicals. This is a popular misconception. The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.
  • The only thing that has ever distinguished America among the nations is that she has shown that all men are entitled to the benefits of the law.
  • Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.
    • An unpublished paper of 1907, as quoted in The Rising American Empire (1960) by Richard Warner Van Alstyne, p. 201; also quoted in On Power and Ideology (1987) by Noam Chomsky; accounts of this as being from a lecture of 15 April 1907 seem to be incorrect.
  • We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
  • The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible. By the time a man has grown old enough to have a son in college he has specialized. The university should generalize the treatment of its undergraduates, should struggle to put them in touch with every force of life.
    • “The University's Part in Political Life” (13 March 1909) in PWW (The Papers of Woodrow Wilson) 19:99
  • At every crisis in one's life, it is absolute salvation to have some sympathetic friend to whom you can think aloud without restraint or misgiving.
    • Letter to Mary Allen Hulbert Peck (1 August 1909), PWW 19:321

A History of the American People, Vol. 9 (1902)


New York and London, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1918

  • The Southern legislatures which Mr. Johnson authorized set up saw the need for action no less than Congress did. It was a menace to society itself that the negroes should thus of a sudden be set free and left without tutelage or restraint. Some stayed very quietly by their old masters and gave no trouble, but most yielded, as was to have been expected, to the novel impulses and excitement of freedom and made their way to the camps and cities, where the blue-coated soldiers were, and the agents of the Freedman’s Bureau.
    • pp. 18-19
  • Adventurers swarmed out of the North to cozen, beguile, and use them. These men were ‘carpet baggers’… They gained the confidence of the negroes, obtained for themselves the most lucrative offices, and lived upon the public treasury, public contracts, and their easy control of affairs… For the Negroes there was nothing but occasional allotments of abandon or forfeited land, the pay of petty offices, a per diem allowances as members of the conventions and the state legislatures which their new masters made business for, or the wages of servants in the various offices of administration. Their ignorance and credulity made them easy dupes.
    • p. 46
  • The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and conducted in the interest of adventurers.”
    • p. 58
  • Every country-side wished to have its own Ku Klux, founded in secrecy and mystery like the mother ‘Den’ at Pulaski, until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, an ‘Invisible Empire of the South,’ bound together in loose organization to protect the southern country from some of the ugliness hazards of a time of revolution.
    • p. 60
  • It was plain to see that the trouble in the southern States arose out of the exclusion of the better whites from the electoral suffrage no less than from the admission of the most ignorant blacks.
    • p. 82


  • The great voice of America does not come from the seats of learning, but in a murmur from the hills and the woods and the farms and the factories and the mills, rolling on and gaining volume until it comes to us the voice from the homes of the common men. Do these murmurs come into the corridors of the university? I have not heard them.
    • Address to Princeton University alumni, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (April 17, 1910); reported in The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link (1975), vol. 20, p. 365
  • RADICAL—one who goes too far.
    CONSERVATIVE—one who does not go far enough.
    REACTIONARY—one who does not go at all.
    • Speech to Kansas Society of New York (23 January 1911) — Wilson's definition of different groups, PWW 22:389
  • No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence.
    • “A Book Which Reveals Men to Themselves”, Address on the Tercentenary of the Tranlation of the Bible (7 May 1911) in The Politics of Woodrow Wilson, p. 104
  • Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions; with their individuality and independence of choice in matters of business they have lost all their individual choice within the field of morals.
    • Annual address, American Bar Association, Chattanooga (31 August 1910)
  • America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.
    • Campaign speech in Chicago (6 April 1912)
  • Business underlies everything in our national life, including our spiritual life. Witness the fact that in the Lord's Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.
    • Speech in New York (23 May 1912)
  • You know that it was Jefferson who said that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible…. But that time is passed. America is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.
    • “Campaign Address in Scranton, Penn.,” (September 23, 1912) [1]
  • Prosperity … is necessarily the first theme of a political campaign.
    • Campaign speech, 1912, PWW 25:99
  • I always remember that America was established not to create wealth—though any nation must create wealth which is going to make an economic foundation for its life—but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal. America has put itself under bonds to the earth to discover and maintain liberty now among men, and if she cannot see liberty now with the clear, unerring vision she had at the outset, she has lost her title, she has lost every claim to the leadership and respect of the nations of the world.
    • “The Coming On of a New Spirit”, speech to Chicago Democrat's Iriquois Club (12 February 1912), The Politics of Woodrow Wilson, p. 180
    • Sometimes abbreviated to: “America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal—to discover and maintain liberty among men.”
  • Liberty is its own reward.
    • Speech in New York City (9 September 1912)
  • I would … rather lose in a cause that I know some day will triumph than triumph in a cause that I know some day will lose.
    • Speech in Syracuse (12 September 1912) PWW 25:145
  • Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.
    • Speech at New York Press Club (9 September 1912), in The papers of Woodrow Wilson, 25:124
  • Mr. House is my second personality. He is my independent self. His thoughts and mine are one. If I were in his place I would do just as he suggested.
    • As quoted in The Intimate Papers of Colonel House, vol. I (Houghton Mifflin) by Charles Seymour, p. 114-115; also referenced here. (1912)
  • There can be no equality or opportunity, the first essential of justice in the body politic, if men and women and children be not shielded in their lives, their very vitality, from the consequences of great industrial and social processes which they can not alter, control, or singly cope with.
  • The success of a party means little except when the Nation is using that party for a large and definite purpose.
  • You are not here merely to prepare to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.
  • I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men.
    • Statement to British envoy William Tyrrell explaining his policy on Mexico (November 1913)
  • The way to stop financial joy-riding is to arrest the chauffeur, not the automobile.
    • The Atlanta Constitution (14 January 1914), p. 1
  • The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name...We must be impartial in thought as well as in action.
    • Message to the Senate (19 August 1914)
  • Segregation is not humiliating but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen. If your organization goes out and tells the colored people of the country that it is a humiliation, they will so regard it, but if you do not tell them so, and regard it rather as a benefit, they will regard it the same. The only harm that will come will be if you cause them to think it is a humiliation... If this organization is ever to have another hearing before me it must have another spokesman. Your manner offends me...
  • You deal in the raw material of opinion, and, if my convictions have any validity, opinion ultimately governs the world.
    • Address to the Associated Press (20 April 1915)
  • No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation.
    • Speech in New York City (20 April 1915)
  • There is such thing as a man being too proud to fight.
    • Address to Foreign-Born Citizens (10 May 1915)
  • No man that does not see visions will ever realize any high hope or undertake any high enterprise.
  • There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.
    • “Citizens of Foreign Birth]”, (10 May 1915)
  • We are constantly thinking of the great war … which which we think to-day as a war which saved the Union, and it did indeed save the Union, but it was a war that did a great deal more than that. It created in this country what had never existed before — a national consciousness. It was not the salvation of the Union, it was the rebirth of the Union.
    • Memorial Day Address (31 May 1915)
  • The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history. It represents the experiences made by men and women, the experiences of those who do and live under that flag.
    • Address (14 June 1915)
  • There is a very great thrill to be had from the memories of the American Revolution, but the American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation, and the duty laid upon us by that beginning is the duty of bringing the things then begun to a noble triumph of completion.
  • We have stood apart, studiously neutral.
    • Message to Congress (7 December 1915)
  • Politics I conceive to be nothing more than the science of the ordered progress of society along the lines of greatest usefulness and convenience to itself.
  • Do you never stop to reflect just what it is that America stands for? If she stands for one thing more than another, it is for the sovereignty of self-governing peoples, and her example, her assistance, her encouragement, has thrilled two continents in this Western World with all the fine impulses which have built up human liberty on both sides of the water.
  • We want the spirit of America to be efficient; we want American character to be efficient; we want American character to display itself in what I may, perhaps, be allowed to call spiritual efficiency—clear, disinterested thinking and fearless action along the right lines of thought. America is not anything if it consists of each of us. It is something only if it consists of all of us; and it can consist of all of us only as our spirits are banded together in a common enterprise.
    • Speech on Military Preparedness, Pittsburgh (29 January 1916)
  • One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.
    • Speech on Military Preparedness, Pittsburgh (29 January 1916)
  • Some men who are not real men love other things about themselves, but the real man believes that his honor is dearer than his life; and a nation is merely all of us put together, and the nation's honor is dearer than the nation's comfort and the nation's peace and the nation's life itself.
  • America cannot be an ostrich with its head in the sand.
    • Speech at Des Moines (1 February 1916)
  • I have long enjoyed the friendship and companionship of Republicans, because I am by instinct a teacher and I would like to teach them something.
    • Speech to the World's Salesmanship Congress (10 July 1916)
  • Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.
  • I am inclined to follow the course suggested by a friend of mine who says that he has always followed the rule never to murder a man who is committing suicide, and clearly this misdirected gentleman is committing suicide slowly but surely.
    • Letter to Bernard Baruch (19 August 1916), PWW 38:51
    • Variant: Never attempt to murder a man who is committing suicide.
  • The question upon which the whole future peace and policy of the world depends is this: Is the present war a struggle for a just and secure peace, or only for a new balance of power? If it be only a struggle for a new balance of power, who will guarantee, who can guarantee, the stable equilibrium of the new arrangement? Only a tranquil Europe can be a stable Europe. There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace.
    • Address to the Senate (22 January 1917)
  • It must be a peace without victory... Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor's terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last.
    • Address to the Senate (22 January 1917)
  • A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.
    • Statement on the successful filibuster by anti-war Senators against a bill to arm merchant ships (4 March 1917)
  • Once lead this people into war and they will forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.
    • Conversation with Frank Irving Cobb before asking Congress to declare war (2 April 1917). Attributed in Cobb of "The World," a leader of liberalism, by Cobb and Heaton, 1924, p. 270
  • I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticise their own public officials. While exercising the great powers of the office I hold, I would regret in a crisis like the one through which we are now passing to lose the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.
    • Letter to Arthur Brisbane (April 25, 1917); reported in Ray Stannard Baker, Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters (1946), vol. 6, p. 36
  • I have read it with the deepest appreciation of Mr. Herron's singular insight into all the elements of a complicated situation and into my own motives and purposes.
    • Letter to Mitchell Kennerley about the book Woodrow Wilson and the World's Peace, October 1, 1917[2][3]
  • Well, nothing was ever done so systematically as nothing is being done now.
    • Address to fleet officers (August 11, 1917), quoted in Joseph P. Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him (1921), p. 297
  • Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.
  • We are all agreed that there can be no peace obtained by any kind of bargain or compromise with the governments of the Central Empires, because we have dealt with them already and have seen them deal with other governments that were parties to this struggle, at Brest Litovsk and Bucharest. They have convinced us that they are without honour and do not intend justice. They observe no covenants, accept no principle but force and their own interest. We cannot “come to terms” with them. They have made it impossible. The German people must by this time be fully aware that we cannot accept the word of those who forced this war upon us. We do not think the same thoughts or speak the same language of agreement.
    • Speech in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City (September 27, 1918)
  • Conservatism is the policy of making no changes and consulting your grandmother when in doubt.
    • Attributed by Raymond B. Fosdick in Report of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1963, p. 49
  • The Germans are really a stupid people. They always do the wrong thing. They always did the wrong thing during the war. They don't understand human nature. This is the most tactless speech I have ever heard. It will set the whole world against them.
    • Remarks to George Riddell (7 May 1919), J. M. McEwen (ed.), The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923 (1986), p. 275. The German plenipotentiary at the presentation of the Treaty of Versailles, Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, unexpectedly made a lengthy speech sitting down.
  • America is the place where you can not kill your Government by killing the men who conduct it. The only way you can kill government in America is by making the men and women of America forget how to govern, and nobody can do that. They sometimes find the team a little difficult to drive, but they sooner or later whip it into harness.
    • "Address at Opera House, Helena Montana" (September 11, 1919), in, Addresses of President Wilson (1919), p. 154.
  • If every nation is going to be our rival, if every nation is going to dislike and distrust us, and that will be the case, because having trusted us beyond measure the reaction will occur beyond measure (as it stands now they trust us they look to us, they long that we shall undertake anything for their assistance rather than that any other nation should undertake it)— if we say, "No, we are in this world to live by ourselves, and get what we can out of it by any selfish processes," then the reaction will change the whole heart and attitude of the world toward this great, free, justice-loving people, and after you have changed the attitude of the world, what have you produced? Peace? Why, my fellow citizens, is there any man here or any woman, let me say is there any child here, who does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry? The real reason that the war that we have just finished took place was that Germany was afraid her commercial rivals were going to get the better of her, and' the reason why some nations went into the war against Germany was that they thought Germany would get the commercial advantage of them. The seed of the jealousy, the seed of the deep-seated hatred was hot, successful commercial and industrial rivalry.
  • This war, in its inception was a commercial and industrial war. It was not a political war.
    • Speech at the Coliseum in St. Louis, Missouri, on the Peace Treaty and the League of Nations (5 September 1919), as published in "The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Authorized Edition) War and Peace: Presidential Messages, Addresses, and Public Papers (1917-1924) by Woodrow Wilson Volume I Page 638. Addresses Delivered by President Wilson on his Western Tour - September 4 To September 25, 1919. From 66th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 120
  • I can predict with absolute certainty that within another generation there will be another world war if the nations of the world do not concert the method by which to prevent it.
    • Speech in Omaha, Nebraska (8 September 1919), as recorded in Addresses of President Wilson (1919), p. 75 and in "The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Authorized Edition) War and Peace: Presidential Messages, Addresses, and Public Papers (1917-1924) Volume II Page 36; Wilson later used this phrase in his address in Pueblo, Colorado, in what has been called his League of Nations Address (25 September 1919)[Note: this phrase is not in Wilson's address in Pueblo, Colorado (25 September 1919). He made a much softer statement making the inevitability of a future war without the League implicit rather than explicit.]
  • Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America, my fellow citizens — I do not say it in disparagement of any other great people—America is the only idealistic Nation in the world. When I speak practical judgments about business affairs, I can only guess whether I am speaking the voice of America or not, but when I speak the ideal purposes of history I know that I am speaking the voice of America, because I have saturated myself since I was a boy in the records of that spirit, and everywhere in them there is this authentic tone of the love of justice and the service of humanity. If by any mysterious influence of error America should not take the leading part in this new enterprise of concerted power, the world would experience one of those reversals of sentiment, one of those penetrating chills of reaction, which would lead to a universal cynicism, for if America goes back upon mankind, mankind has no other place to turn. It is the hope of nations all over the world that America will do this great thing.
    • Address at Sioux Falls (8 September 1919), as recorded in Addresses of President Wilson (1919), p. 86; the first portion of this quote has sometimes been paraphrased: "Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world."
  • There are those in this country who threaten direct action to force their will, upon a majority. Russia today, with its blood and terror, is a painful object lesson of the power of minorities. It makes little difference what minority it is; whether capital or labor, or any other class; no sort of privilege will ever be permitted to dominate this country. We are a partnership or nothing that is worth while. We are a democracy, where the majority are the masters, or all the hopes and purposes of the men who founded this government have been defeated and forgotten. In America there is but one way by which great reforms can be accomplished and the relief sought by classes obtained, and that is through the orderly processes of representative government. Those who would propose any other method of reform are enemies of this country. America will not be daunted by threats nor lose her composure or calmness in these distressing times. We can afford, in the midst of this day of passion and unrest, to be self - contained and sure. The instrument of all reform in America is the ballot. The road to economic and social reform in America is the straight road of justice to all classes and conditions of men. Men have but to follow this road to realize the full fruition of their objects and purposes. Let those beware who would take the shorter road of disorder and revolution. The right road is the road of justice and orderly process.

The New Freedom (1913)

The New Freedom : A Call For the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People (Full text online)
No country can afford to have its prosperity originated by a small controlling class.
We have, not one or two, but many, fields of endeavor into which it is difficult, if not impossible, for the independent man to enter.
  • I have not written a book since the campaign. I did not write this book at all. It is the result of the editorial literary skill of Mr. William Bayard Hale, who has put together here in their right sequences the more suggestive portions of my campaign speeches.
    And yet it is not a book of campaign speeches. It is a discussion of a number of very vital subjects in the free form of extemporaneously spoken words. I have left the sentences in the form in which they were stenographically reported. I have not tried to alter the easy-going and often colloquial phraseology in which they were uttered from the platform, in the hope that they would seem the more fresh and spontaneous because of their very lack of pruning and recasting.
  • In most parts of our country men work, not for themselves, not as partners in the old way in which they used to work, but generally as employees,—in a higher or lower grade,—of great corporations. There was a time when corporations played a very minor part in our business affairs, but now they play the chief part, and most men are the servants of corporations.
    • Section I: “The Old Order Changeth”, p. 5
  • Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.
    They know that America is not a place of which it can be said, as it used to be, that a man may choose his own calling and pursue it just as far as his abilities enable him to pursue it; because to-day, if he enters certain fields, there are organizations which will use means against him that will prevent his building up a business which they do not want to have built up; organizations that will see to it that the ground is cut from under him and the markets shut against him. For if he begins to sell to certain retail dealers, to any retail dealers, the monopoly will refuse to sell to those dealers, and those dealers, afraid, will not buy the new man's wares.
    • Section I: “The Old Order Changeth”, p. 13
  • American industry is not free, as once it was free; American enterprise is not free; the man with only a little capital is finding it harder to get into the field, more and more impossible to compete with the big fellow. Why? Because the laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the weak. That is the reason, and because the strong have crushed the weak the strong dominate the industry and the economic life of this country. No man can deny that the lines of endeavor have more and more narrowed and stiffened; no man who knows anything about the development of industry in this country can have failed to observe that the larger kinds of credit are more and more difficult to obtain, unless you obtain them upon the terms of uniting your efforts with those who already control the industries of the country; and nobody can fail to observe that any man who tries to set himself up in competition with any process of manufacture which has been taken under the control of large combinations of capital will presently find himself either squeezed out or obliged to sell and allow himself to be absorbed.
    • Section I: “The Old Order Changeth”, p. 15
  • No country can afford to have its prosperity originated by a small controlling class. The treasury of America lies in those ambitions, those energies, that cannot be restricted to a special favored class. It depends upon the inventions of unknown men, upon the originations of unknown men, upon the ambitions of unknown men. Every country is renewed out of the ranks of the unknown, not out of the ranks of those already famous and powerful and in control.
    • Section I: “The Old Order Changeth”, p. 17
  • The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.
    • Section II: “What is Progress?”, p. 35
  • Government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.
    • Section II: “What Is Progress?”, p. 47
  • No student knows his subject: the most he knows is where and how to find out the things he does not know.
    • Section V: “The Parliament of the People”, p. 100
  • The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it.
    • Section VIII: “Monopoly, or Opportunity?”, p. 117
  • A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom. This is the greatest question of all, and to this statesmen must address themselves with an earnest determination to serve the long future and the true liberties of men.
    • Section VIII: “Monopoly, Or Opportunity?”, p. 185. Note that this remark has been used as the basis for a fake quotation discussed below.
  • Let me say again that I am not impugning the motives of the men in Wall Street. They may think that that is the best way to create prosperity for the country. When you have got the market in your hand, does honesty oblige you to turn the palm upside down and empty it? If you have got the market in your hand and believe that you understand the interest of the country better than anybody else, is it patriotic to let it go? I can imagine them using this argument to themselves.
    The dominating danger in this land is not the existence of great individual combinations, — that is dangerous enough in all conscience, — but the combination of the combinations, — of the railways, the manufacturing enterprises, the great mining projects, the great enterprises for the development of the natural water-powers of the country, threaded together in the personnel of a series of boards of directors into a "community of interest" more formidable than any conceivable single combination that dare appear in the open.
    • Section VIII: “Monopoly, Or Opportunity?”, p. 186
  • We are at the parting of the ways. We have, not one or two or three, but many, established and formidable monopolies in the United States. We have, not one or two, but many, fields of endeavor into which it is difficult, if not impossible, for the independent man to enter. We have restricted credit, we have restricted opportunity, we have controlled development, and we have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world — no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.
    • Section IX: “Benevolence, Or Justice?”, p. 201
  • If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it; what we have to determine now is whether we are big enough, whether we are men enough, whether we are free enough, to take possession again of the government which is our own.
    • Section XII: “The Liberation of a People's Vital Energies”, p. 286

Address to Congress on War (1917)

Armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable.
Address asking for a declaration of war (2 April 1917)
  • The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.
  • It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.

The Fourteen Points Speech (1918)

The Fourteen Points Speech (8 January 1918)
  • All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.
  • 1. Open covenants of peace must be arrived at.
  • 2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war.
  • 5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims.
  • 14. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

Address to Congress: Analyzing German and Austrian Peace Utterances (1918)

What is at at stake now is the peace of the world. What we are striving for is a new international order based upon broad and universal principles of right and justice, -- no mere peace of shreds and patches.
There shall be no annexations, no contributions, no punitive damage. Peoples are not to be handed about from one sovereignty to another by an international conference or an understanding between rivals and antagonists. National aspirations must be respected; peoples may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. "Self-determination" is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of actions which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.
We cannot have general peace for the asking, or by the mere arrangements of a peace conference. It cannot be pieced together out of individual understandings between powerful states. All the parties to this war must join in the settlement of every issue anywhere involved in it; because what we are seeking is a peace that we can all unite to guarantee and maintain.
Our own desire for a new international order under which reason and justice and the common interests of mankind shall prevail is the desire of enlightened men everywhere. Without that new order the world will be without peace and human life will lack tolerable conditions of existence and development. Having set our hand to the task of achieving it, we shall not turn back.

Address to Congress: Analyzing German and Austrian Peace Utterances, Delivered to the U.S. Congress in Joint Session on (11 February 1918)

  • What is at at stake now is the peace of the world. What we are striving for is a new international order based upon broad and universal principles of right and justice, — no mere peace of shreds and patches.
  • The peace of the world depends upon the just settlement of each of the several problems to which I adverted in my recent address to the Congress. I, of course, do not mean that the peace of the world depends upon the acceptance of any particular set of suggestions as to the way in which those problems are to be dealt with. I mean only that those problems each and all affect the whole world; that unless they are dealt with in a spirit of unselfish and unbiased justice, with a view to the wishes, the natural connections, the racial aspirations, the security, and the peace of mind of the peoples involved, no permanent peace will have been attained. They cannot be discussed separately or in corners. None of them constitutes a private or separate interest from which the opinion of the world may be shut out. Whatever affects the peace affects mankind, and nothing settled by military force, if settled wrong, is settled at all. It will presently have to be reopened.
  • There shall be no annexations, no contributions, no punitive damage. Peoples are not to be handed about from one sovereignty to another by an international conference or an understanding between rivals and antagonists. National aspirations must be respected; peoples may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. "Self-determination" is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of actions which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril. We cannot have general peace for the asking, or by the mere arrangements of a peace conference. It cannot be pieced together out of individual understandings between powerful states. All the parties to this war must join in the settlement of every issue anywhere involved in it; because what we are seeking is a peace that we can all unite to guarantee and maintain and every item of it must be submitted to the common judgment whether it be right and fair, an act of justice, rather than a bargain between sovereigns.
  • This war had its roots in the disregard of the rights of small nations and of nationalities which lacked the union and the force to make good their claim to determine their own allegiances and their own forms of political life. Covenants must now be entered into which will render such things impossible for the future; and those covenants must be backed by the united force of all the nations that love justice and are willing to maintain it at any cost.
  • After all, the test of whether it is possible for either government to go any further in this comparison of views is simple and obvious. The principles to be applied are these: First, that each part of the final settlement must be based upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent; second, that peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game, even the great game, now forever discredited, of the balance of power; but that third, every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival states; and fourth, that all well defined national aspirations shall be accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them without introducing new or perpetuating old elements of discord and antagonism that would be likely in time to breaks the peace of Europe and consequently of the world. A general peace erected upon such foundations can be discussed. Until such a peace can be secured we have no choice but to go on.
  • Our whole strength will be put into this war of emancipation, — emancipation from the threat and attempted mastery of selfish groups of autocratic rulers, — whatever the difficulties and present partial delays. We are indomitable in our power of independent action and can in no circumstances consent to live in a world governed by intrigue and force. We believe that our own desire for a new international order under which reason and justice and the common interests of mankind shall prevail is the desire of enlightened men everywhere. Without that new order the world will be without peace and human life will lack tolerable conditions of existence and development. Having set our hand to the task of achieving it, we shall not turn back.
  • I have spoken thus only that the whole world may know the true spirit of America — that men everywhere may know that our passion for justice and for self-government is no mere passion of words but a passion which, once set in action, must be satisfied. The power of the United States is a menace to no nation or people. It will never be used in aggression or for the aggrandisement of any selfish interest of our own. It springs out of freedom and is for the service of freedom.

1920s and later

  • The highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people.
    • As quoted in American Industry at War : A Report of the War Industries Board (March 1921) by Bernard Baruch
  • [Reconstruction was detestable] not because the Republican Party was dreaded but because the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.
    • As quoted in Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, Ronald J. Pestritto, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005, p. 45. Came from Wilson’s marginal notes on one of his manuscripts.
  • It will take one hundred years to eradicate this prejudice, and we must deal with it as practical men. Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.
    • As quoted in “Expunging Woodrow Wilson from Official Places of Honor,” Randy Barnett, The Washington Post, June 25, 2015, Wilson’s reply to William Monroe Trotter. [4]
  • Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.
    • Letter to Winterton C. Curtis (29 August 1922)
  • Perhaps it was providential that I was stricken down when I was. Had I kept my health I should have carried the League. Events have shown that the world was not ready for it. It would have been a failure. Countries like France and Italy are unsympathetic with such an organisation. Time and sinister happenings may eventually convince them that some such scheme is required. It may not be my scheme. It may be some other. I see now, however, that my plan was premature. The world was not ripe for it.
    • Remarks to Barney Baruch quoted in George Riddell's diary (10 September 1923), J. M. McEwen (ed.), The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923 (1986), pp. 388–389
  • The sum of the whole matter is this, that our civilization cannot survive materially unless it be redeemed spiritually.
    • “The Road Away from Revolution”, Atlantic Monthly 132:146 (August 1923). Reprinted in PWW 68:395
  • The great malady of public life is cowardice. Most men are not untrue, but they are afraid. Most of the errors of public life, if my observation is to be trusted, come not because men are morally bad, but because they are afraid of somebody. God knows why they should be: it is generally shadows they are afraid of.
    • As quoted in American Chronicle (1945) by Ray Stannard Baker, quoted on unnumbered page opposite p. 1
  • If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.


  • It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.
    • Remarks on The Birth of a Nation attributed to Wilson by writer Thomas Dixon, after White House screening of the film, which was based on Dixon's The Clansman. Wilson later said that he disapproved of the "unfortunate film." Wilson aide Joseph Tumulty, in a letter to the Boston branch of the NAACP in response to reports of Wilson's regard for the film wrote: The President was entirely unaware of the nature of the play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his approbation of it.
  • I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world: no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.
    • Attributed in Shadow Kings (2005) by Mark Hill, p. 91; This and similar remarks are presented on the internet and elsewhere as an expression of regret for creating the Federal Reserve. The quotation is fabricated from out-of-context remarks Wilson made on separate occasions:
      • I am a most unhappy man…
        • Attributed by Curtis Dall in FDR: My Exploited Father-in-Law, regarding Wilson's break with Edward M. House: "Wilson … evidenced similar remorse as he approached his end. Finally he said, 'I am a most unhappy man. Unwittingly I have ruined my country.'"
      • A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit.…
        • "Monopoly, Or Opportunity?" (1912), criticizing the credit situation before the Federal Reserve was created, in The New Freedom (1913), p. 185
      • We have come to be one of the worst ruled… governments….
        • "Benevolence, Or Justice?" (1912), also in The New Freedom (1913), p. 201
    • The quotation has been analyzed by Andrew Leonard in "The Unhappiness of Woodrow Wilson" (December 12, 2007) Salon:
      • I can tell you categorically that this is not a statement of regret for having created the Federal Reserve. Wilson never had any regrets for having done that. It was an accomplishment in which he took great pride.
        • John M. Cooper, professor of history and author of several books on Wilson, as quoted by Andrew Leonard
  • As a beauty I'm not a great star,
    There are others more handsome by far,
    But my face, I don't mind it,
    Because I'm behind it —
    Tis the people in front that I jar.
    • Reported as a misattribution in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 131-32; Boller and George note that Wilson was so fond of quoting this limerick that others thought he had written it. In fact, it was written by a minor poet named Anthony Euwer, and conveyed to Wilson by his daughter Eleanor.
  • I sat next to the Duchess at tea.
    It was just as I feared it would be:
    Her rumblings abdominal
    Were truly phenomenal,
    And everyone thought it was me!
    • A variation with "thought" instead of feared and "abominable" instead of phenomenal is reported as a misattribution in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 132

Quotes about Wilson

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • The war sharpened Liberal dissatisfaction with the traditional methods of conducting foreign policy. ... They found in President Wilson a man after their own hearts. His views and theirs coincided at many points: a just peace without annexations or indemnities; the map of Europe redrawn on the principle of self-determination; "open covenants openly arrived at", arbitration and the rule of law; disarmament and the replacing of exclusive alliances by a League of Nations; above all, a devotion to the ideal of the brotherhood of man.
  • The League of Nations had no sooner been created than it received an almost mortal blow. The United States abandoned President Wilson’s offspring. The President himself, ready to do battle for his ideals, suffered a paralytic stroke just as he was setting forth on his campaign, and lingered henceforward a futile wreck for a great part of two long and vital years, at the end of which his party and his policy were swept away by the Republican Presidential victory of 1920. Across the Atlantic on the morrow of the Republican success isolationist conceptions prevailed. Europe must be left to stew in its own juice, and must pay its lawful debts. At the same time tariffs were raised to prevent the entry of the goods by which alone these debts could be discharged. At the Washington Conference of 1921, far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American Governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons. The finger of Anglo-American reprobation was presently to be pointed at France, deprived alike of the Rhine frontier and of her treaty guarantee, for maintaining, even on a greatly reduced scale, a French Army based upon universal service.
  • The European War, which began in 1914, is now generally recognized to have been a war between two rival empires, an old one and a new, the new becoming such a successful rival of the old, commercially and militarily, that the world-stage was, or was thought to be, not large enough for both. Germany spoke frankly of her need for expansion, and for new fields of enterprise for her surplus population. England, who likes to fight under a high-sounding title, got her opportunity in the invasion of Belgium. She was entering the war 'in defense of the freedom of small nationalities'. America at first looked on, but she accepted the motive in good faith, and she ultimately joined in as the champion of the weak against the strong. She concentrated attention upon the principle of self-determination and the reign of law based upon the consent of the governed. "Shall", asked President Wilson, "the military power of any small nation, or group of nations, be suffered to determine the fortunes of peoples over whom they have no right to rule except the right of force?" But the most flagrant instance of violation of this principle did not seem to strike the imagination of President Wilson, and he led the American nation- peopled so largely by Irish men and women who had fled from British oppression- into the battle and to the side of the nation that for hundreds of years had determined the fortunes of the Irish people against their wish, and had ruled them, and was still ruling them, by no other right than the right of force.
  • To the people of the United States, the death of Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States from March 4, 1913, to March 4, 1921, which occurred at 11:15 o'clock today at his home at Washington, District of Columbia, deprives the country of a most distinguished citizen, and is an event which causes universal and genuine sorrow. To many of us it brings the sense of a profound personal bereavement... His early profession as a lawyer was abandoned to enter academic life. In this chosen field he attained the highest rank as an educator, and has left his impress upon the intellectual thought of the country. From the Presidency of Princeton University he was called by his fellow citizens to be the Chief Executive of the State of New Jersey. The duties of this high office he so conducted as to win the confidence of the people of the United States, who twice elected him to the Chief Magistracy of the Republic. As President of the United States he was moved by an earnest desire to promote the best interests of the country as he conceived them. His acts were prompted by high motives and his sincerity of purpose can not be questioned. He led the nation through the terrific struggle of the world war with a lofty idealism which never failed him. He gave utterance to the aspiration of humanity with an eloquence which held the attention of all the earth and made America a new and enlarged influence in the destiny of mankind.
  • In testimony of the respect in which his memory is held by the Government and people of the United States, I do hereby direct that the flags of the White House and of the several Departmental buildings be displayed at half staff for a period of thirty days, and that suitable military and naval honors under orders of the Secretary of War and of the Secretary of the Navy may be rendered on the day of the funeral.
  • In his address to Congress on January 8th, President Wilson said: "It is our heartfelt desire and hope that some way may be opened whereby we may be privileged to assist the people of Russia to attain their utmost hope of liberty..." He professed to be speaking for the American people, and we hope that he was. He was speaking for us. And we would only wish to add two things to his words before the world. First, that the people of Russia, a vast majority of them comprised in the Left Wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviki, have set before themselves a hope of liberty that involves the ownership and control of all land, plants, and machinery by those who work them, and the abolition of profits and wage-dependence altogether. We should like to add in parenthesis after the words, utmost hope of liberty, the words, (See the Communist Manifesto). And then, second, we should like to add for ourselves, that it is our heartfelt desire and hope that some way may be opened to awaken in the people of the United States that same "utmost hope of liberty," and that we may be privileged to assist them to attain it.
    • The Liberator article (March 1918) in Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution
  • It's not that Jackson had a "dark side," as his apologists rationalize and which all human beings have, but rather that Jackson was the Dark Knight in the formation of the United States as a colonialist, imperialist democracy, a dynamic formation that continues to constitute the core of US patriotism. The most revered presidents-Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, both Roosevelts, Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Obama-have each advanced populist imperialism while gradually increasing inclusion of other groups beyond the core of descendants of old settlers into the ruling mythology. All the presidents after Jackson march in his footsteps. Consciously or not, they refer back to him on what is acceptable, how to reconcile democracy and genocide and characterize it as freedom for the people.
  • Woodrow Wilson spoke fluently and freely on all subjects as a "liberal," but his sorry deeds belied his words. "Self-determination" and "make the world safe for democracy" were the most vulnerable. Demonstrations and delegations of advocates of peace, "Hands off Russia," freedom for Ireland, amnesty for political prisoners and last, but not least, "Votes for Women," confronted him at every turn. His administration was faced with the great steel strike of 1919-20. His plans to join the League of Nations were defeated by the Senate. Members of his administration resigned in protest over various issues-a secretary of state over war, a collector of the New York port over suffrage, the issue that perhaps plagued him most.
  • Brave women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had been the early pioneers, facing abuse and ridicule, violence and even arrests for attempting to vote. Later, women like Dr. Anna Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt headed the National American Women's Suffrage Association, which struggled against "the lethargy of women and the opposition of men." But by 1916 a younger, bolder and more militant group emerged, which was dissatisfied with the slower process of winning suffrage, state by state, and fought for a constitutional amendment. They organized the Women's Party in 1916, which planned to mobilize the women's vote in all suffrage states only for parties and candidates who would support national suffrage. That year a group of wealthy suffragists financed and toured in a Suffrage Special. They did not campaign directly for the Republican candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, but their slogan was anti-Wilson: "Vote against Wilson! He Kept Us Out of Suffrage!" Many voted for Eugene V. Debs, then in prison.
  • The Women's Party picketed almost continuously from January 1917 until March 19, 1919. They picketed the White House and Capitol, held military parades, return receptions for Wilson after his trips to Europe and receptions when he departed. They picketed him in Washington, Boston and New York. Only the Irish had attempted such tactics. Later, a Children's Crusade for Amnesty picketed President Harding. Suffrage banners were addressed to foreign visitors and President Wilson's speeches on "freedom" and "democracy" at home and abroad were burned by the suffragists in a "watch-fire of freedom" urn.
  • With the exception of Gladstone, probably no man in supreme power in the life of any nation was so profoundly imbued by the Christian faith.
  • I do not know how to avoid the conclusion that a man who is capable of taking the illusions of religion so literally and is so sure of a special personal intimacy with the Almighty is unfitted for relations with ordinary children of men.
    • Sigmund Freud, in Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study (1966) by Sigmund Freud and William Christian Bullitt, Jr., remarking on a statement attributed to Wilson after his election victory: “Remember that God ordained that I should be the next president of the United States. Neither you nor any other mortal or mortals could have prevented this.”
  • Woodrow Wilson has now joined his worthy colleagues in the jingo movement, echoing their clamor for preparedness and their howl of "America for Americans." The difference between Wilson and Roosevelt is this: Roosevelt, a born bully, uses the club; Wilson, the historian, the college professor, wears the smooth polished university mask, but underneath it he, like Roosevelt, has but one aim, to serve the big interests, to add to those who are growing phenomenally rich by the manufacture of military supplies.
  • In the eighty years since he left office, Wilson’s reputation has risen and fallen regularly—but he remains as fascinating and central to an understanding of modern American foreign policy as ever. His many supporters, from Herbert Hoover to Robert McNamara, have argued that his enemies in both Paris and the United States Senate were responsible for the undoing of one of history’s noblest dreams. Others, including Senator Jesse Helms, have viewed Wilson’s determined adversary, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, as a principled protector of American sovereignty and charged Wilson with seeking to undermine the American Constitution. Another school of thought, especially prevalent in the later years of the Cold War, criticized Wilson for unrealistic, overly moralistic goals: among its best-known practitioners are George F. Kennan and Henry Kissinger, who accused Wilson of “extraordinary conceit,” even while conceding that he “originated what would become the dominant intellectual school of American foreign policy.” (To Kissinger’s horror, his president, Richard Nixon placed Wilson’s portrait in the place of honor in the Cabinet Room.)
    • Richard Holbrooke, introduction to Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (2001), p. viii
  • Even more dramatic was the eagerness, five months later, with which the Wilson administration launched the United States into war corporatism. The pointers had, indeed, been there before. In 1909, Herbert Croly in The Promise of American Life had predicted it could only be fulfilled by the state deliberately intervening to promote 'a more highly socialized democracy'. Three years later, Charles Van Hise's Concentration and Control: a Solution of the Trust Problem in the United States presented the case for corporatism. These ideas were behind Theodore Roosevelt's 'New Nationalism', which Wilson appropriated and enlarged to win the war. There was a Fuel Administration, which enforced 'gasless Sundays,' a War Labor Policies Board, intervening in industrial disputes, a Food Administration under Herbert Hoover, fixing prices for commodities, and a Shipping Board which launched 100 new vessels on 4 July 1918 (it had already taken over 9 million tons into its operating control). The central organ was the War Industries Board, whose first achievement was the scrapping of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, a sure index of corporatism, and whose members (Bernard Baruch, Hugh Johnson, Gerard Swope and others) ran a kindergarten for 1920s interventionism and the New Deal, which in turn inspired the New Frontier and the Great Society. The war corporatism of 1917 began one of the great continuities of modern American history, sometimes underground, sometimes on the surface, which culminated in the vast welfare state which Lyndon Johnson brought into being in the late 1960s. John Dewey noted at the time that the war had undermined the hitherto irresistible claims of private property: 'No matter how many among the special agencies for public control decay with the disappearance of war stress, the movement will never go backward.' This proved an accurate prediction. At the same time, restrictive new laws, such as the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918), were often savagely enforced: the socialist Eugene Debs got ten years for an anti-war speech, and one man who obstructed the draft received a forty-year sentence. In all the belligerents, and not just in Russia, the climactic year 1917 demonstrated that private liberty and private property tended to stand or fall together.
  • As a college undergraduate some decades ago, I was assigned an essay on the three most evil men of the 20th century. Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong were obvious choices, and most of my fellow students chose from that group. I agreed on Hitler and Lenin, but felt that Stalin and Mao were just additional manifestations of the evil Lenin embodied. My third choice was Woodrow Wilson, which upset my professor at the time, but which I stand by today.
    The Nazis and the Soviet Empire are gone and while meager bands of the admirers of both survive to inhabit steamy corners of various ideological swamps, the evil for which Hitler and Mao were responsible died with the last century. Woodrow Wilson’s legacy, however, simply won’t go away. Schools and think tanks are named for the man and various polls continue to rate him as a great or near-great president. The “progressive” politics of today’s Democrats are part of his legacy, as is the instability of much of the world in which we live.
    Wilson, the first college president to occupy the White House, banned blacks from government restrooms, was the first president to openly attack the U.S. Constitution and eagerly support laws to prosecute and imprison those who disagreed with his policies. His hostility to black Americans was matched only by his antipathy toward Italian, German and Irish Americans and his desire to rid the nation of those he referred to dismissively as “hyphenated Americans” and against who he railed incessantly.
  • To see the British Prime Minister watching the company, with six or seven senses not available to ordinary men, judging character, motive, and subconscious impulse, perceiving what each was thinking and even what each was going to say next, and compounding with telepathic instinct the argument or appeal best suited to the vanity, weakness, or self-interest of his immediate auditor, was to realize that the poor President would be playing blind man's buff in that party.
  • Woodrow Wilson dreamed a dream of a League of Nations, but he died before the promise was delivered.
  • [David Lloyd George] said he thought him more sincere than he had done at first. He talks a lot of sentimental platitudes, but he believes them. He is not a hypocrite nor a humbug. He is sincere. The difference between his point of view and that of old Clemenceau is marked. The old boy believes in none of Wilson's gods and does not understand them.
    • David Lloyd George quoted in George Riddell's diary (April 11, 1919), J. M. McEwen (ed.), The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923 (1986), p. 268
  • [David Lloyd George] said he felt sure Wilson would occupy a great place in history. Neither he (LG) nor Clemenceau in connection with the Peace Conference had done any special thing which could be ear-marked as his work, whereas, for better or worse, Wilson had advocated an idea which had been embodied in the League of Nations. The League might fail, but it would be an historic fact.
    • David Lloyd George quoted in George Riddell's diary (November 14, 1920), J. M. McEwen (ed.), The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923 (1986), p. 328
  • Wilson was to an extraordinary degree a man to be admired and hated. In his own country the fiercest feelings were aroused by him... Wilson was Ulster-Scottish-American, Presbyterian, Liberal-Democrat, academic professor and jurist, all these words being to some people terms of abuse. Ignorant or disdainful of the arts of acquiring easy popularity with the multitude, he was content to instruct, enlighten and exhort, to serve and, to the full stretch of his constitutional power, to govern them. He did not fear, indeed, he seems almost to have relished making enemies... He was an idealist in the sense that he aimed at great but distant objectives and demanded much of the intelligence and virtue of citizens... "Gladstone with an American accent" was one journalist's description of him.
  • That Woodrow Wilson was so keen an advocate of [the League of Nations] is explained by many factors. For one thing he was a jurist and an historian and therefore trained to look at historical fact and political possibilities with a sense of intellectual responsibility. For another he was a very European and, it may even be said, an English personality as opposed to the middle western neo-American type... He was learned not only in the political thought of the Fathers of the American constitution, but also in the great English masters... If ever a man was formed to be link between what was best in the political traditions of our two nations it was Woodrow Wilson. But he was recognizably a Liberal, and therefore viewed with suspicion by the Tories. Moreover, he was hated by the majority of the wealthy in the Eastern States, and upper-class Englishmen, meeting similar persons in America, were not likely to hear much good of him.
  • Wilson's principles survived the eclipse of the Versailles system and that they still guide European politics today: self-determination, democratic government, collective security, international law, and a league of nations. Wilson may not have gotten everything he wanted at Versailles, and his treaty was never ratified by the Senate, but his vision and his diplomacy, for better or worse, set the tone for the twentieth century. France, Germany, Italy, and Britain may have sneered at Wilson, but every one of these powers today conducts its European policy along Wilsonian lines. What was once dismissed as visionary is now accepted as fundamental. This was no mean achievement, and no European statesman of the twentieth century has had as lasting, as benign, or as widespread an influence.
  • The President has received me twice with very great kindness. He is a man who does not resemble his photographs at all. A determined-looking gentleman with whom one would not care to be in antagonism, he is about as tall as I am, more slightly built, very quiet in his manner, compresses more meaning into a few words than any other American I have met, uses more American in his speech than I had expected, is, I believe, with his family quite a hermit, is always surrounded with a bodyguard of detectives, does not entertain privately, bears his worries remarkably well, is quite humorous and amusing and, incidentally, the most powerful individual in the world. I should say that his fault is lack of power of delegation. He called himself to me "the clearing house of the Government". Everything has to be "put up" to him. I like him thoroughly and believe that I shall get on with him.
    • Lord Northcliffe to his wife (July 1, 1917), quoted in Reginald Pound and Geoffrey Harmsworth, Northcliffe (1959), pp. 555-556
  • The date of March 4 may not have any significance in the African-American community other than personal birthdays and wedding anniversaries. However, March 4, 2013 will mark the centennial of the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States. On that day President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration will be celebrated in Washington, D.C. Why would March 4 and Woodrow Wilson be significant for African Americans?
  • A few weeks after Mr. Wilson became President, four of us went to see him. And the President, of course, was polite and as much of a gentleman as he always was. He told of his own support, when he had been governor of New Jersey, of a state referendum on suffrage, which had failed. He said that he thought this was the way suffrage should come, through state referendums, not through Congress. That’s all we accomplished. We said we were going to try and get it through Congress, that we would like to have his help and needed his support very much. And then we sent him another delegation and another and another and another and another and another and another—every type of women’s group we could get. We did this until 1917, when the war started and the President said he couldn’t see any more delegations. (So you began picketing the White House?) We said we would have a perpetual delegation right in front of the White House, so he wouldn’t forget. (this perpetual delegation, or picketing, continued until the President changed his position?) Yes. Since the President had made it clear that he wouldn’t see any more delegations in his office, we felt that pickets outside the White House would be the best way to remind him of our cause. Every day when he went out for his daily ride, as he drove through our picket line he always took off his hat and bowed to us. We respected him very much. I always thought he was a great President. Years later, when I was in Geneva [Switzerland] working with the World Woman’s Party, I was always so moved when I would walk down to the League of Nations and see the little tribute to Woodrow Wilson
  • when President Wilson went to Paris for the peace conference, he was always issuing some wonderful, idealistic statement that was impossible to reconcile with what he was doing at home. And we had an enormous bell—I don’t recall how we ever got such an enormous bell—and every time Wilson would make one of these speeches, we would toll this great bell, and then somebody would go outside with the President’s speech and, with great dignity, burn it in our little caldron.
  • President Woodrow Wilson, pacifist, changes his mind under pressure. War is declared.
  • I was not alone. The atmosphere, after the joys of the armistice, was strange and foreboding for those of us who sought a world of peace and international comity. Woodrow Wilson had, as Martin Luther King had, a dream, and I shared that dream—all fourteen points of it—and watched it come to nothing. (I was in the press gallery of the House of Representatives when President Woodrow Wilson returned from Europe and addressed Congress. I saw Senator Henry Cabot Lodge avoiding him. I heard Wilson's muted passion, and I cried.) What a splendid vision the League of Nations was; how sickening to watch it scuttled.
  • There were ideas of balance in the governments of his time which Newton felt, and political thought is bound to Newtonian science in the work of Newton himself. Politics, said Woodrow Wilson, is turned into mechanics under the touch of Montesquieu. The principle of unity depended, for each system, upon some single law. The law of gravitation swung the worlds, keeping the free bodies in their places, reined to their courses with order and precision. The poise and balance of forces gave the universe its unity, one of symmetry and perfect adjustment. Wilson says, "The government of the United States was constructed upon the Whig theory of political dynamics, which was a sort of unconscious copy of the Newtonian theory of the universe." And, again, "The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life." Having described one fallacy, Wilson goes on toward another: he would hope that we would substitute the science of Darwin for the science of Newton.
  • The Democrat Wilson was a dyed-in-the-wool bigot who as president tried to rid the national government of its few black employees, save, of course, those who could be cooks, waiters, drivers, or fill other kinds of menial jobs. Wilson was, indeed, as great a bigot toward blacks, as today's Democratic president is.
  • Wilson's parents were not Virginians. His father was born in Ohio, and his mother was born on the border between England and Scotland. Like many people from the Valley of Virginia, both of his parents sprang from Scottish stock. The older Wilsons learned to love Virginia and taught their son to love it too. In later years a newspaper writer said Wilson was a member of an old Virginia family. Wilson commented, "Of course, this is not true, but I wish I could say it were true." He felt that way because he was a Virginian in habits and thoughts. He said that he could speak out among Virginians because they were men of his "own race and breeding." Nowhere else, he believed, have the American traditions and ideals been kept so unbroken as they have in Virginia.
    • Francis Butler Simkins, Spotswood Hunnicutt, Sidman P. Poole, Virginia: History, Government, Geography (1957), p. 512
  • They will not forget him in the future. He is the first leader in the history of society who has treated the ancient dream of a peaceful world as something more than wishful thinking, the first who was willing to stake all in drawing the nations of the world together in an effort to make that "just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations" for which Abraham Lincoln pleaded. In Paris in 1919 Woodrow Wilson actually persuaded the leaders of the majority of the earth's nations to help him build and set up a machine for such a peace…The world will not forget the man who led in this effort to achieve enduring peace. That is what I was saying in those bitter days and have been saying in all the melancholy ones since.

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