Woodrow Wilson and the Presidency

Topics: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, History of the United States Pages: 5 (1557 words) Published: October 8, 1999
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...
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