Chapter 29

Wilsonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad

1913-1920

 

Woodrow Wilson became the governor of New Jersey by campaigning against trusts and promising to return the state government to the people.

 

Wilson:  The Idealist in Politics

Wilson relied on sincerity and moral appeal to attract the public.  He was smart, but he didn't have people skills. Wilson's idealism and sense of moral righteousness made him incredibly stubborn in negotiating.

 

Wilson Tackles the Tariff

President Wilson was determined to attack "the triple wall of privilege":  the tariff, the banks, and the trusts.

Wilson called a special meeting of Congress in 1913 to address the tariff.  He convinced Congress to pass the Underwood Tariff Bill, which significantly reduced the tariff.  The 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. This enabled Congress to collect a graduated income tax.

 

Wilson Battles the Bankers

The most serious problem of the National Banking Act (passed during the Civil War) was the inelasticity of money. In times of financial stress, banking reserves, which were located in New York and other large cities, could not distribute money fast enough into areas of need.

In 1913, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act.  The new Federal Reserve Board, appointed by the President, oversaw a nationwide system of 12 regional Federal Reserve banks.  Each reserve bank was the central bank for its region.  The final authority of the Federal Reserve Board guaranteed a substantial level of public control.  The board could also issue paper money, called Federal Reserve Notes (the U.S. Dollar).  Because of this, the amount of money in circulation could be increased as needed for the requirements of business.

 

The President Tames the Trusts

Congress passed the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914.  This law created the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which oversaw industries engaged in interstate commerce. This organization could issue cease-and-desist orders to companies engaged in unfair business tactics.

The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 lengthened the Sherman Act's list of business practices that were deemed objectionable.  It also sought to exempt labor and agricultural organizations from antitrust prosecution, while legalizing strikes and peaceful picketing.  Union leader Samuel Gompers supported the act.



Wilson at the Peak

The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 made low-interest rate loans available to farmers.  The Warehouse Act of 1916 enabled farmers to take out loans against the value of their staple crops, which were stored in government warehouses.

The La Follette Seamen's Act of 1915 benefited sailors by requiring decent treatment and a living wage on American ships.

President Wilson assisted the workers with the Workingmen's Compensation Act of 1916, giving assistance to federal civil-service employees during periods of disability.  Also in 1916, the President approved an act restricting child labor on products flowing into interstate commerce.  The Adamson Act of 1916 established an 8-hour work day for all employees on trains in interstate commerce.

Wilson nominated Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court. He was a progressive reformer, and he was the first Jew to be a Supreme Court justice.

 

New Directions in Foreign Policy

President Wilson was an anti-imperialist and he opposed an aggressive foreign policy.

He persuaded Congress in 1914 to repeal the Panama Canal Tolls Act of 1912, which had exempted American coastal shipping from tolls.  He also signed the Jones Act in 1916, which granted the Philippines territorial status and promised independence as soon as a stable government could be established.

When political turmoil broke out in Haiti in 1915, Wilson dispatched marines to protect American lives and property.  In 1916, he signed a treaty with Haiti that provided for U.S. supervision of finances and the police.

In 1917, Wilson purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark.

 

Moralistic Diplomacy in Mexico

In 1913, a Mexican revolution occurred and the Mexican president was murdered and replaced by General Victoriano Huerta. He was a brutal dictator. Because of the chaos in Mexico, millions of Spanish-speaking immigrants came to America.

President Wilson initially refused to directly intervene with the war in Mexico; he wanted the Mexican citizens to overthrow their government, themselves. After a small party of American sailors was accidentally captured by the Mexicans (Tampico Incident), Wilson ordered the navy to seize the Mexican port of Vera Cruz.

Just as war seemed imminent with Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile intervened and pressured Huerta to step down.

Venustiano Carranza became the president of Mexico.  Francisco Villa, rival to President Carranza, attempted to provoke a war between Mexico and the U.S by killing Americans.  Wilson ordered General John J. Perishing to break up Villa's band of outlaws.  The invading American army was withdrawn from Mexico in 1917 as the threat of war with Germany loomed.

In 1914, World War I broke out when the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was murdered by a Serb patriot.  An outraged Vienna government (backed by Germany) presented a series of demands to Serbia.  Serbia (backed by Russia) refused to comply.  Russia mobilized its army, causing Germany to also mobilize its army.

France initially implied that it would be neutral in the Germany-Russia conflict. But, as Germany was bordered on both sides by potential enemies, it decided to first defeat France so that it could focus on fighting Russia. The Central Powers consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria.  The Allies consisted of France, Britain, Russia, Japan, and Italy.

 

A Precarious Neutrality

President Wilson issued the neutrality proclamation at the outbreak of WWI.

Most Americans were anti-German from the start of the war. Americans viewed Kaiser Wilhelm II, the leader of Germany, as the embodiment of arrogant autocracy.  The majority of Americans were opposed to war.

 

America Earns Blood Money

American industry prospered off trade with the Allies.  The Central Powers protested American trade with the Allies, but America wasn't breaking any international neutrality laws. Germany was free to trade with the U.S., but Britain prevented this trade by controlling the Atlantic Ocean through which Germany had to cross to trade with the U.S.

In 1915, several months after Germany started to use submarines in the war (U-boats), one of Germany's submarines sunk the British ship, Lusitania, killing 128 Americans.

Americans demanded war but President Wilson firmly opposed war.  When Germany sunk another British ship, the Arabic, in 1915, Berlin agreed to not sink unarmed passenger ships without warning

After Germany sunk a French passenger steamer, the Sussex, Germany agreed to the Sussex pledge, which again said that Germany would not sink unarmed ships without warning. A German caveat to this pledge was that the U.S. would have to convince the Allies to stop their trade blockade. This was not possible, so war with Germany became imminent.

 

Wilson Wins the Reelection in 1916

The Progressive Party and the Republican Party met in 1916 to choose their presidential candidate.  Although nominated by the Progressives, Theodore Roosevelt refused to run for president because he didn't want to split the party again.  The Republicans chose Supreme Court justice Charles Evans Hughes.  The Republican platform condemned the Democratic tariff, assaults on the trusts, and Wilson's dealings with Mexico and Germany.

The Democrats chose Wilson and ran an anti-war campaign.  Woodrow Wilson won the election of 1916.

 

War by Act of Germany

German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann secretly proposed a German-Mexican alliance with the Zimmermann note.  News of the Zimmermann note leaked out to the public, infuriating Americans. 

On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked for a declaration of war from Congress after 4 more unarmed merchant ships were sunk.

3 Mains Causes of the War:  Zimmermann Note, Germany declares unrestricted submarine warfare, Bolshevik Revolution.

 

Wilsonian Idealism Enthroned

President Wilson persuaded the American public to support war by declaring that America would be fighting "for a war to end war" and "to make the world safe for democracy."

 

Wilson's Fourteen Potent Points

Wilson delivered his Fourteen Points Address to Congress on January 8, 1918. The message declared that WWI was being fought for a moral cause and it called for post-war peace in Europe. The message gave Wilson the position of moral leadership of the Allies.

The first 5 points and their effects were: 

1) A proposal to abolish secret treaties pleased liberals of all countries.

2) Freedom of the seas appealed to the Germans, as well as to Americans who distrusted British sea power.

3) A removal of economic barriers among nations was comforting to Germany, which feared postwar vengeance.

4) Reduction of armament burdens was gratifying to taxpayers.

5) An adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of both native people and the colonizers was reassuring to the anti-imperialists.

The largest point, #14, foreshadowed the League of Nations - an international organization that Wilson dreamed would provide a system of collective security.

 

Manipulating Minds and Stifling Dissent

The Committee on Public Information was created to rally public support of war.  It was led by George Creel whose job was to sell America on the war and to sell the world on Wilsonian war goals.

 

Enforcing Loyalty and Stifling Dissent

There were over 8 million German-Americans in America, and rumors began to spread of spying and sabotage.  A hysterical hatred of Germans and things related to Germany swept the nation.

The Espionage Act of 1917 sought to prevent support of U.S. enemies during wartime. The Sedition Act of 1918 made it illegal to speak out against the government. Socialist Eugene V. Debs and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) leader William D. Haywood were convicted under the Espionage Act. 

At this time, any criticism of the government could be censored and punished.  The Supreme Court upheld these laws in Schenck v. United States (1919); it argued that freedom of speech could be revoked when such speech posed a danger to the nation.

 

Forging a War Economy

Before the war, President Wilson created a Civilian Council of National Defense to study problems of economic mobilization. He had also increased the size of the army and created a shipbuilding program.

Fears of big government restricted efforts to coordinate the economy from Washington.

In 1918, Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries Board to create order over the economic confusion.  The Board never had much control, but it set a precedent for how the Federal government would handle the economy in times of crisis.

 

Workers in Wartime

Workers were discouraged from striking by the War Department's decree in 1918 that threatened to draft any unemployed male.

The National War Labor Board tried to fix labor disputes before they hurt the war effort. The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) had some of the worst working conditions in the country.  The AF of L's (American Federation of Labor) supported the war and because of this, membership had more than doubled by the end of the war. 

Wartime inflation reduced wage gains; this led to thousands of strikes across the country.

In 1919, the greatest strike in American history hit the steel industry.  More than 250,000 steelworkers went on strike, seeking the right to organize and collectively bargain. The steel companies refused to negotiate, and they brought in 30,000 African-Americans to keep the mills running. The strike eventually collapsed, crippling the union movement.

Thousands of blacks moved to the North in search of war-industry employment. Deadly disputes between whites and blacks broke out.

Suffering Until Suffrage

The National Woman's party, led by Alice Paul, protested the war.

The larger part of the suffrage movement, represented by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, supported the war.

After men left the country to fight in the war, women took up the factory and field jobs. Impressed by this work, President Wilson supported passage of the 19th Amendment (1920), which gave all American women the right to vote.

Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act of 1921, which gave federally financed instruction in maternal and infant health care.

 

Making Plowboys into Doughboys

Although President Wilson initially opposed a draft, he eventually realized that a draft was necessary to raise the large army that was to be sent to France. Congress passed the draft act in 1917.  It required the registration of all males between the ages of 18 and 45, and it did not allow for a man to purchase his exemption from the draft.

For the first time, women were allowed in the armed forces.

 

America Helps Hammer the "Hun"

In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution (communist) in Russia overthrew the tsar regime. The new regime decided to pull Russia out of the "capitalist" war. This freed up thousands of Germans on the Russian front to fight against France on the western front. 

A year after Congress declared war, the first American troops reached France.  They were used as replacements in the Allied armies and were generally deployed in quiet sectors with the British and French.  Shipping shortages plagued the Allies.

American troops were also sent to Belgium, Italy, and Russia. Americas were sent to Russia because they hoped to prevent Russian munitions from falling into the hands of the Germans.

In the spring of 1918, the Allies, for the first time, united under a supreme commander, French marshal Foch to fight the German expansion on the western front.

To stop Germany from taking Paris and France, 30,000 American troops were sent to the French frontlines.  This was the first significant engagement of American troops in a European war.

By July 1918, the German expansion was halted and Foch made a counteroffensive in the Second Battle of the Marne.  This engagement marked the beginning of a German withdrawal.

The Americans, dissatisfied with simply bolstering the French and British, demanded a separate army; General John J. Pershing was assigned a front of 85 miles.  Pershing's army undertook the Meuse-Argonne offensive from September 26 to November 11, 1918.  One objective was to cut the German railroad lines feeding the western front.  Inadequate training left 10% of the Americans involved in the battle injured or killed.

As German supplies ran low and as their allies began to desert them, defeat was in sight for Germany.

Germany surrendered on November 11, 1918, after the kaiser of Germany had fled to Holland.

The United States' main contributions to the victory had been foodstuffs, munitions, credits, oil, and manpower.  The Americans only fought 2 major battles, at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne.  The prospect of endless U.S. troops, rather than America's actual military performance eventually demoralized the Germans.

 

Wilson Steps Down from Olympus

President Wilson had gained a lot support throughout the world because he was viewed as the moral leader of the war.

Leading up to the congressional elections of November 1918, Wilson asked the public to re-elect a Democratic majority in Congress. He thought it would help him negotiate and pass a treaty. This angered much of the public, and voters instead elected a Republican majority to Congress.

Wilson's decision to go to Paris in person to negotiate the treaty infuriated the Republicans because no president had ever traveled to Europe.

 

An Idealist Battles the Imperialists in Paris

The Paris Conference was dominated by the Big Four: United States, Italy, Britain, France.  President Wilson (led the conference) was joined by Premier Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Britain, and Premier Georges Clemenceau of France. 

Wilson's ultimate goal was the creation of the League of Nations.  It would contain an assembly with seats for all nations and a council to be controlled by the great powers.  Wilson envisioned it as a way to prevent future world wars. In February 1919, the the Big Four agreed to include the creation of the League in the treaty.

France gave up claims for the Saar Valley (part of Germany); it would remain separate from France for 15 years, and then a popular vote would determine its fate. In exchange for this, Britain and America agreed to the Security Treaty: American and Britain would defend France if Germany invaded again.

Italy demanded Fiume, a valuable seaport inhabited by both Italians and Yugoslavs. Wilson wanted it to go to the Yugoslavs, but this was opposed by the Italians. Ownership of the area was ultimately not established.

Japan demanded China's Shandong Peninsula and the German islands of the Pacific, which it had seized during the war.  After Japan threatened to walk out, Wilson accepted a compromise in which Japan kept Germany's economic holdings in Shandong and pledged to return the peninsula to China at a later date.

The Treaty of Versailles was forced upon the Germans in June 1919.  The Germans were outraged with the treaty, which spoke more of vengeance than reconciliation. Most of the Fourteen Points were left out of the treaty.

Wilson compromised away some of his Fourteen Points in attempts to salvage the League of Nations.

 

Wilson's Battle for Ratification

Isolationist congressmen (irreconcilables) did not support the treaty or the League of Nations. Most Americans supported the treaty, though.

In an attempt to speed up the passing of the treaty in the Senate, President Wilson gave speeches across the country to appeal to the public. The speeches had mixed reactions. During the tour, Wilson suffered a stroke.

Senator Lodge, a critic to the president, came up with fourteen reservations to the Treaty of Versailles. He wanted to give the U.S. more control over how it interacted with other nations and how these nations interacted with it.

Wilson strongly opposed the reservations, and after the Senate rejected the Treaty twice, the Treaty of Versailles was defeated.

 

The "Solemn Referendum" of 1920

Wilson decided to settle the treaty issue in the presidential campaign of 1920; if voters elected a Democrat, then this would mean they supported the treaty.

The Republicans chose Senator Warren G. Harding as their presidential nominee for the election of 1920.  Their vice-presidential nominee was Governor Calvin Coolidge.  The Republican platform appealed to both pro-League and anti-League sentiment in the party.

Democrats nominated pro-League Governor James. M. Cox for president and chose Franklin D. Roosevelt for vice-president.

Warren Harding won the election of 1920.  Harding's victory led to the death of the League of Nations.

 

The Betrayal of Great Expectations

After WWI, America became isolationist and it did not embrace a role as a global leader. In the interests of its own security, the United States should have used its enormous strength to shape the world.  It instead allowed the world to drift towards another war.



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