Woodrow Wilson A Controversial President

1029 words - 5 pages

Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States during World War One, is known as one of the most controversial presidents in American history. While some might claim that he is among the greatest presidents this country has ever had, others will argue that he is among the worst. How can one man, in his eight years as president, create so much controversy? A "war to end all wars" and all that comes along with it can do that to a man. As a result of the political and social changes that were occurring at the time, Wilson was forced to go against many of his principles and standards to protect American interests and lives. This often went against the wishes of other world leaders and the citizens of other countries, as well as Americans, making for mixed opinions on Wilson as a president.When Wilson took office in 1913, he did not support the foreign policies of interventionism and dollar diplomacy that were currently in effect, however he was soon forced to utilize these policies that he was against. When American lives and properties were jeopardized by the revolt in Haiti, Wilson sent in the Marines to intervene, directly going against his policy of isolationism. Wilson was also an anti-imperialist. In 1916 Congress passed the Jones Act, which granted the Philippines independence from the United States sometime in the future. Despite this, however, the government under Wilson soon purchased the Virgin Islands. In 1913 when General Victoriano Huerta overthrew the Mexican government and murdered the president, many demanded that American intervention was necessary to protect the over 50,000 Americans living in Mexico and the over $1 billion in American investments. This time staying true to his stance against interventionism, Wilson refuses to send the military into Mexico and instead refuses to recognize Huerta's government. However, the United States government sent money and weapons to two of Huerta's enemies, Venustiano Carranza and Francisco "Pancho" Villa, in hopes of overthrowing the unrecognized Mexican government, a form of dollar diplomacy.The controversy over Wilson's foreign relations extends beyond his contradiction of political principles. In the cases of intervention by the United States in foreign affairs under Wilson, the methods by which American security of interests was achieved often angered the foreign government, the foreign citizens, or both. When it became known that Germany was providing weapons to Huerta's government, Wilson seized the Mexican port of Vera Cruz without the permission of congress, once again in the name of protecting American interests. Many Mexicans, including Carranza, called this action an example of Yankee Imperialism, and even after the United States had agreed to mediations by the ABC Powers, relations with Mexico had dropped dramatically. Wilson's personal involvement in ending World War One is another example of foreign relations under Wilson gone wrong. Wilson's fourteen points about the war were viewed by many political leaders as Yankee Imperialism, however were thought of as good ideas by most people in Europe. In giving up the first thirteen points in order to achieve the goal of his fourteenth point, the League of Nations, Wilson lost the support of the people and never entirely gained the support of the European political leaders. In fact, it might be his determination to achieve this one goal that resulted in the United States never passing the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War One.When World War One began, Wilson did stick to his policy of isolationism, encouraging Americans to be "neutral in thought as well as in deed". However, since England controlled all news that reached the United States about the war in Europe, American public opinion soon turned against Germany. The launch of German submarine warfare against the British navy and the British blockade on Germany soon concerned Americans when German U-boats sunk passenger liners carrying American passengers. The country was still divided on the issue of war, and though the issue of submarine warfare was a threat to Americans, Wilson knew that he could not bring a divided country into a war. Following the sinking of a second British passenger liner and a French passenger liner, Wilson tells Germany to stop sinking passenger liners or diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany will be broken. Germany agreed to these conditions, however they wanted the U.S. to get the British to lift their blockade on Germany. This agreement, the Sussex Pledge, made in 1916 kept the United States out of the war for a little longer. The irony is, however, that the man who used the campaign slogan "He kept us out of the war" would be the man who would later get the U.S. involved in the war.Though Wilson did his job as president by protecting American interests in the best way he saw possible at the time, his methods were indeed controversial. He often said one thing but then had to turn around and do another. He often had no choice. Wilson was a president of contradiction. He was the president that kept the United States out of World War One; he was the man that got the United States into World War One. He was considered the man that won the war for the Allied Powers, however he is also considered the man who lost the peace for everyone. With as much that had happened during Wilson's eight years as president and with as much that he had to publicly deal with on a world stage, there was no way he could have made decisions to make everyone happy. Thus is the reason why Wilson's administration generated so much controversy.


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