1913-1929 (Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge)

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The Dilemma: Should the United States take sides in foreign wars?

World Wars I and II: Yes, we side with the nations that uphold religious freedom.

1913–1921   Woodrow Wilson

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was an American statesman, lawyer, and academic who served as the 28th president of the United States from 1913 to 1921. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilson served as the president of Princeton University and as the 34th governor of New Jersey before winning the 1912 presidential election. As president, he oversaw the passage of progressive legislative policies unparalleled until the New Deal in 1933. He also led the United States during World War I, establishing an activist foreign policy known as "Wilsonianism."

Born in Staunton, Virginia, Wilson spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. After earning a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University, Wilson taught at various schools before becoming the president of Princeton. As governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913, Wilson broke with party bosses and won the passage of several progressive reforms. His success in New Jersey gave him a national reputation as a progressive reformer, and he won the presidential nomination at the 1912 Democratic National Convention. Wilson defeated incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft and Progressive Party nominee Theodore Roosevelt to win the 1912 presidential election, becoming the first Southerner to serve as president since the American Civil War.

During his first term, Wilson presided over the passage of his progressive New Freedom domestic agenda. His first major priority was the passage of the Revenue Act of 1913, which lowered tariffs and implemented a federal income tax. Later tax acts implemented a federal estate tax and raised the top income tax rate to 77 percent. Wilson also presided over the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, which created a central banking system in the form of the Federal Reserve System. Two major laws, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act, were passed to regulate and break up large business interests known as trusts. To the disappointment of his African-American supporters, Wilson allowed some of his Cabinet members to segregate their departments. Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Wilson maintained a policy of neutrality between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. He won re-election by a narrow margin in the presidential election of 1916, defeating Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes.

In early 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany after Germany implemented a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, and Congress complied. Wilson presided over war-time mobilization but devoted much of his efforts to foreign affairs, developing the Fourteen Points as a basis for post-war peace. After Germany signed an armistice in November 1918, Wilson and other Allied leaders took part in the Paris Peace Conference, where Wilson advocated for the establishment of a multilateral organization known as the League of Nations. The League of Nations was incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles and other treaties with the defeated Central Powers, but Wilson was unable to convince the Senate to ratify that treaty or allow the United States to join the League. Wilson suffered a severe stroke in October 1919 and was incapacitated for the remainder of his presidency. He retired from public office in 1921, and died in 1924.

1921–1923  Warren Harding

Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th president of the United States from 1921 until his death in 1923. A member of the Republican Party, he was one of the most popular U.S. presidents to that point. After his death a number of scandals, such as Teapot Dome, came to light, as did his extramarital affair with Nan Britton; each eroded his popular regard. He is often rated as one of the worst presidents in historical rankings.

Harding lived in rural Ohio all his life, except when political service took him elsewhere. As a young man, he bought The Marion Star and built it into a successful newspaper. In 1899, he was elected to the Ohio State Senate; he spent four years there, then was elected lieutenant governor. He was defeated for governor in 1910, but was elected to the United States Senate in 1914. He ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1920, and he was considered a long shot until after the convention began. The leading candidates could not gain the needed majority, and the convention deadlocked. Harding's support gradually grew until he was nominated on the tenth ballot. He conducted a front porch campaign, remaining for the most part in Marion and allowing the people to come to him, and running on a theme of a return to normalcy of the pre-World War I period. He won in a landslide over Democrat James M. Cox and Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs and became the first sitting senator to be elected president.

Harding appointed a number of well-regarded figures to his cabinet, including Andrew Mellon at Treasury, Herbert Hoover at the Department of Commerce, and Charles Evans Hughes at the State Department. A major foreign policy achievement came with the Washington Naval Conference of 1921–1922, in which the world's major naval powers agreed on a naval limitations program that lasted a decade. His cabinet members Albert Fall (Interior Secretary) and Harry Daugherty (Attorney General) were each later tried for corruption in office; these and other scandals greatly damaged Harding's posthumous reputation. Harding died of a heart attack in San Francisco while on a western tour, succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge.

1923–1929   Calvin Coolidge

John Calvin Coolidge (/ˈkuːlɪdʒ/; July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 30th president of the United States from 1923 to 1929. A Republican lawyer from New England, born in Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor. His response to the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight and gave him a reputation as a man of decisive action. The next year, he was elected vice president of the United States, and he succeeded to the presidency upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in 1923. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small government conservative and also as a man who said very little and had a rather dry sense of humor.[1][2]

For example, a lady approached him and said, “I bet my friend that I could get you to say more than three words.” Coolidge responded, “you lose.”

Upon his departure from a church service, a reporter asked him, “What did the preacher talk about?” “He talked about sin,” was the reply. The reporter followed up, “What did he say about it?” to which Coolidge responded, “He said he’s against it,” and walked away.

Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration, and left office with considerable popularity. As a Coolidge biographer wrote: "He embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength".