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Paperback Woodrow Wilson : A Life Book

ISBN: 0143116401

ISBN13: 9780143116400

Woodrow Wilson : A Life

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Book Overview

A portrait of a century's greatest political mastermind Our tw ent y-eighth president was, says Louis Auchincloss, ?the greatest idealist who ever occupied the White House.' Now, in Woodrow Wilson, Auchincloss sheds new light on Wilson's upbringing and career, from the grim determination that enabled him to overcome dyslexia to the skillful dance of isolationism and intervention in World War I to the intransigence that'despite his most cherished vision'caused...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Real Woodrow Wilson in Brief

Louis Auchincloss is a historian who tells the true story about Woodrow Wilson, even if it is in fewer pages that most Wilson biographies. As more sequestered papers of the late Doctor Grayson (who conspired with Edith Wilson to cover up Wilson's real incapacitation) are released, we will learn even more than Louis Auchincloss has revealed in his short but concise and well-written biography. Auchincloss is not the revisionist entrepreneur-type of the Phillip G. Payne ilk, who recently attempted to rehabilitate Warren Harding's reputation in a new book, but Auchincloss presents Wilson, warts and all. Wilson's early medical history is now revealed; his stroke(s), eccentric behavior, loss of vision in one eye, psychosomatic ailments while a college student, cognitive disorders, et.al. All of this was covered up from the Vice-President, Cabinet, Congress, and the public by his wife, personal secretary, and doctor. And then there's Wilson's love affairs with two women; one another professor's wife, while he was at Princeton, and of course, the more well known affair with Mary Peck. Wilson was not the "drugstore clerk" type of individual, as Teddy Roosevelt thought, but a passionate man who had trouble with his sexual appetites. Why did he feel a need to pay hush money to Mrs. Peck and her son over the years? Wilson's second wife, Edith, was jealous of any and all of his personal associates, including Colonel House and Joseph Tumulty. She was responsible for the breakup of their friendship. And then, there's the matter of the Treaty and League of Nations. Wilson had another stroke while in Paris, which affected his ability to deal with the other allied leaders. His eccentric behavior was extreme: he refused to read the background material prepared beforehand; he thought the servants in his hotel were spies; he wanted to re-arrange all the furniture in his suite of rooms, telling Dr. Grayson that the colors clashed, even pushing chairs around the room himself; he fussed about housekeeping details, et.al. He had another stroke while on a train trip out West, trying to drum up support for his League of Nations proposal. There is now a good picture showing his haggard appearance as he entered the Washington, D.C. train station. As he rode through the streets of Washington to the White House, and even though at that hour the streets were empty, he stood in the car and waved to the imaginary crowds with his hat. He would have another, more major stroke soon after in the White House and Admiral (Doctor) Grayson, his secretary and wife Edith, all conspired to cover up his incapacitation. When two senators finally gained an entrance to the sick room to ascertain Wilson's true condition, the scene was carefully staged by Edith and Grayson. As Auchincloss states, those two "hid the condition of their husband and patient from the cabinet and Congress and persuaded him to retain an office for which he was unfit." We ended up with a wife acti

Superb story. Complete

I was surprised at how thorough this book is on the life of Wilson after reading the other reviews of it being just a 'primer'. It really goes into how Wilson the man/president was made and what his prejudices, virtues and hotpoints were very well.The beginning of the book is rather boring but once Wilson becomes president it definitely gets more interesting & how Wilson handled the aftermath of WWI very inciteful & apropos for us going into war against Afghanistan now with the modern day League of Nations, the UN, trying to arbitrate their own world order.I think Louis Auchinchloss, cousin of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis did a good job on the research & unless you are a Wilsonophile this should be more than enough.

Very good short biography

For what this book sets out to do, it is excellent. This is a short biography of about 125 pages. It is not foot noted or indexed. What this book does is provide a very good overview of Wilson. We get a good feel for what his personality was and this personality embodied both his stregnths and weakenesses. The author's theme is that there were two Wilsons; one was the intellectual idealist and the other was the stubborn, emotional, uncompromising character who suffered great failures due to this second trait. History has often portrayed Henry Cabot Lodge as a villain who killed the League of Nations but if Wilson had been a little less bull headed, it would have passed the Senate with Lodge's support. Lodge was concerned about a clause that would have obligated the United States to go to war if another nation's territorial integrity was violated. Lodge proposed a reservation which recognized that it was up to Congress to declare war. If Wilson would have capitulated on this one point, the United States would most likely have joined the League. However, hampered by ill health, Wilson's judgment may not have been sound and therefore he lost the big prize due to his inflexibility. Quite frankly, Lodge may have been right. Paul Johnson in his "History of the American People" notes that the clause, as supported by Wilson, could have been interpreted to require the United States to go to war to protect England's territorial integrity in it's colonial empire such as in India. Given that possible interpretation, wasn't Lodge right? Wilson was a complex man, intellectual yet hardheaded in putting forth his goals. Ill health allowed his second wife, Edith, to exert a tremendous amount of influence (indeed, there is a recently published book on this subject by Phyllis Lee Levin). Ultimately. what emerges from Auchincloss's biography is a man who could have been a great president who ultimately suffered major failures due to his weaknesses.

Elegant profile

Auchincloss, an esteemed novelist, turns his powers to our most complex President since Jefferson with stunning results. This is an elegant an revealing profile.

Enjoyable introduction and overview

Louis Auchincloss provides an interesting introduction and overview of Wilson's personality and presidency. He touches on the major issues Wilson faced as President of Princton University as well as President of the US and shows how Wilson's intransigence was evident from early on. Auchincloss has reviewed the more recent literature as well, and provides some interesting information as Wilson's health. As a lawyer, Auchincloss also provides interesting analysis of the evidence on various issues still in dispute (was Wilson really signing those documents after he had a stroke and his wife wouldn't let anyone see him?). Finally, he produces a nice little portrait of Wilson's nemesis, Henry Cabot Lodge, as well. I doubt that any real student of the Wilson Presidency could learn much in a volume that barely exceeds 100 pages, but for others who wouldn't mind spending a couple of hours learning something about Wilson and his presidency, it serves its purpose admirably.
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