The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1912-1916.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 29.
With the Republicans divided like the Mason-Dixon line, it was time for the Democrats to shine. Leading the fight was Woodrow Wilson, a passionate reformer from Jersey. He inspired others similar to the way Roosevelt inspired the nation. He easily won the nomination after Bryan endorsed him. His program, ‘New Freedom’, called for even stronger antitrust laws, lower tariffs, and reform of the corrupt banking system.
Meanwhile, Roosevelt and Taft were rallying parties of their own. Standing with Teddy was Jane ‘Double D’ Addams. Roosevelt also had progressives and many Christians on his side. Seeing Wilson as little threat, both men aimed at each other’s throats instead. In fact, Roosevelt was even wounded when a fanatic supporter shot him.
All this chaos would lead to an easy-sailing victory for Wilson. Had Roosevelt not run and endorsed Taft, he would have won, no doubt. Eugene Debs, a socialist, amassed 900,000 votes– more than double what he earned in the previous election. In retrospect, both Roosevelt and Wilson wanted a more active government in the roles of social and economic issues. The Progressive Party, formed by Teddy, actually helped the Democrats reform whilst Wilson was in office.
Speaking of Woodrow, he was clean-cut nerd of a guy. He admired the South’s determination for independence, though he didn’t support slavery. He was a very intellectual and articulate character, the kind of guy who we all picked on, but would one day be rich and have a flock of gold diggers following him at his every move.
Wilson’s plan of action was finely tuned. He would take down the tariffs, banks, and the trusts. First came the tariffs, which got reduced greatly in 1913 with the Underwood Tariff Law. The 16th Amendment, which installed the income tax, now replaced the tariffs as the government’s main source of income.
Next, Woody took on the banks. Still reeling from the 1907 Panic, Wilson presented a huge reform of the banking system in 1913 to Congress. This would lead to the amazing Federal Reserve Act which set up the Federal Reserve Board and 12 regional Federal Reserve districts. This act would later help weather financial storm during WWI.
Finally, Wilson went after the trusts. But Fred, didn’t Teddy and Taft kill all the trusts already?! Nope. If anything, they were simply knocked down and quick to get back up. Woody sent the fatal blow with the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. This gave the President specific rights to investigate interstate commerce. The final nail on the coffin for the trusts was the Clayton Anti-Trust Act also in 1914. This expanded the 1889 Sherman version and made corrupt business practices illegal.
Wilson was walking on air. In his first eighteen months, he did exactly what he said he would do. He set out to make more reform as he helped out farmers by giving loans and rising the prices of crops, putting the long-embattled Populists at ease and earning their support. Wilson went on to help civil servants by increasing their wages, abolished child labor and set up a living wage.
Woody would also earn support from the Jewish minority when he nominated Lou Bradeis for the Supreme Court. Besides the black vote, Wilson had all areas accounted for as he was sure to be reelected in 1916.
Woodrow went on to set up new foreign policy, no longer supporting American investors overseas and focusing more on the home front. Even so, the Philippines became a US territory and we sent loads of troops to Caribbean to protect American ‘economic interests’.
But, uh oh, here comes Mexico. Revolutionary bloodshed plagued their country as coup after coup succeeded. Many refugees hopped the border into the US. Wilson, standing defiant, refused to help stop the Mexican bloodshed. But soon Woody would have no choice when US sailors were captured in 1914. Revengeful, Wilson took down the corrupt Mexican President Huerta with the help of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
But, wouldn’t you know, the Mexicans hated the guy Wilson put in charge and murdered him in 1916. Pancho Villa, a fighter for the suppressed gringos, led the charge. Angered all the more, Wilson attempted to strike down this resistance once and for all. The US Army was sent in and narrowly captured Pancho before they were needed over seas…
With the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, WWI commenced. Germany, long a foe of Russia, sought to deal with France, another enemy, before taking on the Eastern bear. Britain helped out France, whose coastal border was in jeopardy. The Americans were thankful not to get involved, but soon they would have no choice.
Wilson had flirted with going to war but was too busy reforming and grieving over his wife. Europe knew the US would eventually enter the fray and the Germany, the bad side, counted on the US due to its large German-immigrant population. But after a German operative’s plans of industrial sabotage were discovered, US opinion turned against the Germans.
J.P. Morgan, yes he was still alive, advanced over $2 billion to Great Britain while the US remained neutral. During American neutrality, shipping was essentially cut off to Germany as the US and Great Britain starved the lion. The Germans retaliated by using U-boats to sink the Lustitania in 1915, killing 128 Americans. They justified it by claiming there was ammunition on board.
Still oblivious, Wilson condemned the acts but did nothing to counter them. Many discussions went on between the Germans and Americans, but little was solved. The Germans would break pledge after pledge and demand ludicrous things. This, and the hellcat submarine U-boats, would force the US into war.
‘But, not yet’, says the textbook as it, for some reason, explains how Roosevelt refused to run again and how the Republicans condemned nearly everything the Democrats did. Nothing new. Hughes, the Republican nominee, actually had lots of support in the East. It wasn’t all that obvious who would win. But in the end, Wilson came through victorious, ready to send the nation into war.
A perfect example of irony was Wilson’s campaign slogan– ‘He Kept Us Out of War’, while he never actually promised to do just that. Nevertheless, in charged the Yankees.