The President as Statesman: Woodrow Wilson and the Constitution

By Wasniewski, Matthew A. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

The President as Statesman: Woodrow Wilson and the Constitution


Wasniewski, Matthew A., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


The President as Statesman: Woodrow Wilson and the Constitution. By DANIEL D. STID. American Political Thought. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. xi, 231 pp. $35.00.

WOODROW WILSON "was not a small man, and he still evokes strong reactions one way or the other," Arthur Link once observed. For Wilson's most admiring biographer, it was a rare understatement.

Indeed, Wilson's legacy inspires fevered, pitched, and partisan interpretations. Much to Daniel D. Stid's credit, his important book, The President as Statesman, does not descend into the often counterproductive squabble between Wilson's defenders and critics. Stid writes as both political scientist and historian analyzing Wilson's bold attempts to reform party politics and to contend with the constitutional separation of powers. He provides ample documentation, based largely on Wilson's own writings as both an academic and politician.

This sympathetic but insightful study traces Wilson's ideas about political reform from his rise as a respected political scientist and Princeton academic to the presidency of the United States. The author soundly interprets the lifelong tension between Wilson's theory of domestic political reform and his practice of it. Stid accentuates "the moderation of Wilson's statesmanship, his persistent ambivalence regarding his program for `responsible government under the Constitution,' and the resilience of the separation of powers" (p. 5). But he is less than convincing on the issue of Wilson's wartime wrangling with the constitutional separation of powers.

Stid finds Wilson's substantial body of writings on political reform more genuine than do revisionist critics, who view them as mere theoretical camouflage for empowering the executive at the expense of the parties and Congress. But the author acknowledges that tension always existed between Wilson's theories of progressive governance and his political instincts. As both scholar and president he adapted his ideals to fit his strategies. In his influential Congressional Government (1885), Wilson proposed a presidential cabinet composed of congressional leaders (based on Walter Bagehot's ideas) that might more effectively craft legislation. Theodore Roosevelt's strong leadership convinced him otherwise. In Constitutional Government (1907), Wilson advocated that only an assertive executive could elevate partisan politics and harness them for progressive reform.

Stid maintains that Wilson believed in using high principles and policy goals rather than the lure of patronage and political power to build support and unite party members. But pragmatism and expediency also characterized Wilson's domestic agenda. His constructive personal leadership won passage of major New Freedom reforms such as the antitrust legislation contained in the Clayton and Federal Trade Commission acts. Like no president before, Wilson engaged Congress, worked compromises between party factions, used the press to focus public opinion on the issues, and told Democratic lawmakers in no uncertain terms what he thought constituted the public interest. This scenario nearly embodied his ideal, "to have a wise and visionary leader, supported by a principled political party, draw together the executive and legislative branches that Wilson believed the Founders had impractically separated" (p. 1).

Wilson also resorted to the carrot-andstick approach to maintain party discipline. Though he later regretted it, he dispensed appointments to secure Democratic votes for the New Freedom. Such actions violated his ideals, not to mention a 1912 campaign promise to appoint "progressives, and only progressives." Ironically, Wilson's recommitment to rid his party of patronage after the 1916 election divided Democrats and Progressives, an already fragile coalition that soon unraveled over the issues of American neutrality and intervention in World War I. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The President as Statesman: Woodrow Wilson and the Constitution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.