Woodrow Wilson and The Presidency

From the beginning of the 1912 election, the people could sense the new
ideas of Woodrow Wilson would move them in the right direction. Wilson\'s idea
of New Freedom would almost guarantee his presidential victory in 1912. In
contrast to Wilson\'s New Freedom, Roosevelt\'s New Nationalism called for the
continued consolidation of trusts and labor unions, paralleled by the growth of
powerful regulatory agencies. Roosevelt\'s ideas were founded in the Herbert
Croly\'s novel, The Promise Of American Life written in 1910. Although both
Wilson and Roosevelt favored a more active government role in economic and
social affairs, Wilson\'s favored small enterprise, entrepreneurship, and the
free functioning of unregulated and unmonopolized markets. Obviously, from the
results of the 1912 election, the people favored Wilson\'s New Freedom.
Wilson entered office with a more clear cut plan of what he wanted to
achieve than any other president before him. The new president called for an
all out assault on what Wilson called "the triple wall of privilege": the tariff,
the banks, and the trusts. In early 1913, Wilson attempted to lower the tariff.
Wilson shattered the precedent set by Jeffer-son to send a messenger to address
Congress when Wilson himself formally addressed Congress. This had a huge
effect on Congress to pass the proposed Underwood Tariff Bill, which provided a
substantial reduction of rates. The new Underwood Tariff substan-tially reduced
import fees. It also was a landmark in tax legislation. Under authority
granted by the Sixteenth Amendment, Congress enacted a graduated income tax. By
1917, revenue from income tax was greatly more than from the tariff and would
continue on this trend for many years.
Next, Woodrow Wilson was determined to conquer the Bankers. The old
banking system had been greatly outgrown by economic expansion. The country\'s
banking was still under the old Civil War National Banking Act which revealed
many glaring defects. In the Panic of 1907, many flaws of the banking system,
including the inelasticity of the currency, were overwhelmingly obvious. Wilson
was determined to fix these problems. In June of 1913, Wilson made his second
personal appearance to address Congress, this time for a plea to reform the
banking system. And in 1913, again appealing to the public, Wilson signed the
Federal Reserve Act, now considered the most important piece of eco-nomic
legislature between the Civil War and the New Deal. The new Federal Reserve
Board, appointed by the president, oversaw a nationwide system of twelve
regional re-served districts, each with its own central bank. The final
authority over these banks was granted to the Federal Reserve Board, which
guaranteed a substantial measure of public control. The board was also
empowered to issue paper money called "Federal Reserve Notes." The amount of
money in circulation could be swiftly increased as needed for the legitimate
requirements of business.
In 1914, Woodrow Wilson tried to tame the trusts. Again making a
personal ap-pearance to address Congress with his propositions helped dramatize
the situation and sway the support towards his ideas. Congress responded with
the Federal Trade Commis-sion Act of 1914. The new law empowered a
presidentially appointed commission to toughen regulations on interstate
commerce. This was supposed to crush monopolies by wiping out unfair trade
policies. Next came the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914, which was meant to
further strangle the major monopolies. It lengthened the list of business
practices deemed objectionable in the Sherman Act. Now, price discrimination
and inter-locking directorates were gravely forbidden.
Wilson had caught the attention of the public by conquering the "triple
wall of privilege." With the full support of the public, Wilson pressed ahead
with further reforms. The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 made credit available
to farmers at low rates of inter-est. The Warehouse Act of 1916 authorized
loans on the security of staple crops. Other laws also benefited rural America
by providing for highway construction and the estab-lishment of agricultural
extension work in the state colleges. In 1915, Wilson passed the La Follette
Seamen\'s Act which required decent treatment and a living wage on American
merchant ships. Wilson further helped the workers with the Workingmen\'s
Compensation Act of 1916, granting assistance to federal civil-service employees
during periods of dis-ability. In the same year the president approved an act
restricting child labor on products flowing into interstate commerce, though the
Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitu-tional. And in 1916, the Adamson Act of
1916 established an eight-hour work day for all employees on trains in
interstate commerce, with extra pay for overtime. Wilson made giant steps in
improving the quality of life for Americans.
Although Wilson had much success in America policies, Woodrow Wilson did
lack the