A Crossroads of Freedom, the 1912 Campaign Speeches

A Crossroads of Freedom, the 1912 Campaign Speeches

A Crossroads of Freedom, the 1912 Campaign Speeches

A Crossroads of Freedom, the 1912 Campaign Speeches

Excerpt

The presidential campaign of 1912 formed manifestly a critical period in the career of Woodrow Wilson. Its significance did not derive merely from the successful outcome of the election, which was indicated if not assured by the revolt of Roosevelt and the resulting schism of the Republican party. Before the end of the summer Roosevelt himself privately admitted the likelihood of Wilson's election. The campaign was important, rather, because it brought Wilson to the formulation of a political philosophy more sharply etched and pointing further towards the left than any that he had developed as professor of jurisprudence at Princeton or as Governor of New Jersey. He thereby entered clearly and definitely into the expanding forces of the progressives.

The progress of the campaign also opened to him the opportunity, which he capitalized with energy and skill, of assuming the leadership not merely of the Democratic party but of the progressive movement itself, throughout the nation. His spectacular program in New Jersey and the initial triumph of his legislative accomplishment there had aroused widespread attention and interest. But his campaigns of 1911 and the spring of 1912, even though followed by his victory at Baltimore, had not yet given assurance that he could capture the confidence of the country as a whole and the sincere loyalty of Democratic politicians. That assurance was established in the presidential campaign. By the time of his election he had not merely formulated and popularized a national political program but firmly fortified his personal leadership.

The clarity and the positive quality of his program deserve emphasis. Under the conditions which he faced it was not enough that he should merely preach progressive principles in opposition to the old standpat Republicanism. It was essential that he should discover a sharply defined issue upon which he could take his stand against the New Nationalism of Roosevelt. Laissez-faire was not only inadequate in a political sense; it no longer satisfied Wilson's own feeling of the necessity of advance further to the left. He was pledged to the preaching of freedom, but the maintenance of freedom could not in the circumstances of the day safely be left to individuals; its protection had become the responsibility of government.

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