The Learned Presidency: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson

By David H. Burton | Go to book overview

3
WOODROW WILSON Righteous Scholar

In March 1911, while he was governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson addressed a breakfast meeting of the Young Men's Democratic League in Atlanta. The previous day former president Theodore Roosevelt had spoken to the group, and that evening President Taft was to talk. Wilson was introduced as "the next president of the United States," as much a sign of local pride as of prophetic sense. This coincidental association in time and place comes as a reminder of how intertwined were the public careers of these three men and offers a suggestion of some commonality in their private lives.1

Born within three years of one another, they belonged to a generation that was supremely confident of the future of America. And there were also individual similarities among them. Roosevelt and Wilson were frail youths, plagued by poor health with which they had to contend in order to achieve. Like TR, Wilson held his father in the highest respect: "my incomparable father" was his phrase.2 The Civil War touched each of them in meaningful but distinct ways. Despite his love for his father, TR was always somewhat uneasy that the senior Roosevelt had not served in the Union army, while Wilson was proud of his father's Confederate chaplaincy. Beyond this, the Roosevelt and Wilson families were divided by the war; TR's maternal uncles were ranking Confederate officers and two of Wilson's paternal uncles were Union generals. Wilson had serious reservations about the "economic man" of Roosevelt's view, believing that the practice of law for gain, for example, was "antagonistic to the best interests of the intellectual life."3 Both of them had an abiding fondness for the literary heritage of the Anglo-American race.

There were strong resemblances between the Wilson and Taft families in the way in which family life had a nurturing effect on the young. The family circles were closely drawn and the sons appeared to receive much in the

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The Learned Presidency: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Contents 9
  • Acknowledgments 10
  • Preface 11
  • Prologue 19
  • 1 - Theodore Roosevelt Learned Style 38
  • 2 - William Howard Taft Legal Mind 89
  • 3 - Woodrow Wilson Righteous Scholar 136
  • Epilogue 193
  • Notes 200
  • Select Bibliography 213
  • Index 218
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