He was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the charred city of Columbia, South Carolina.
After graduation from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) and the University of Virginia Law School, Wilson earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and entered upon an academic career. In 1885 he married Ellen Louise Axson. Wilson advanced rapidly as a conservative young professor of political science and became president of Princeton in 1902.
His growing national reputation led some conservative Democrats to consider him Presidential timber. Wilson first ran for Governor of New Jersey in 1910. He was nominated for President at the 1912 Democratic Convention and campaigned on a program called the New Freedom, which stressed individualism and states’ rights. In the three-way election he received only 42 percent of the popular vote but an overwhelming electoral vote.
Wilson is credited with moving through Congress three major pieces of legislation. The first was a lower tariff, the Underwood Act; attached to the measure was a graduated Federal income tax. The passage of the Federal Reserve Act provided the Nation with the more elastic money supply it badly needed. In 1914 antitrust legislation established a Federal Trade Commission to prohibit unfair business practices.
In 1916, another new law prohibited child labor; another limited railroad workers to an eight-hour day. By virtue of this legislation and the slogan “he kept us out of war,” Wilson narrowly won re-election.
But after the election Wilson concluded that America could not remain neutral in the World War. On April 2,1917, he asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.
The President, against the warnings of his doctors, had made a national tour to mobilize public sentiment for the treaty of Versailes, containing the covenant of the League of Nations. Exhausted, he suffered a stroke and nearly died. Nursed by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, he lived until 1924.
“A man is not as big as his belief in himself; he is as big as the number of persons who believe in him.”
“I would rather lose in a cause that will some day win, than win in a cause that will some day lose.”
“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”
“One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.”
“The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.”
“Uncompromising thought is the luxury of the closeted recluse.”
“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who hope that their dreams will come true.”
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
“At every crisis in one’s life, it is absolute salvation to have some sympathetic friend to whom you can think aloud without restraint or misgiving.”
“The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it.”