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Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was an American statesman 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 from 1902 to 1910, and as Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913, 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." He was one of the three key leaders at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, where he championed a new League of Nations, but he was unable to win Senate approval for U.S. participation in the League.
Born in Staunton, Virginia, to a slaveholding family, Wilson spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. His father was a leading Southern Presbyterian and helped to found the Presbyterian Church in the United States. After earning a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University, Wilson taught at various schools before taking a position at Princeton. In 1910, Democratic leaders recruited him to run for the position of Governor of New Jersey. Serving from 1911 to 1913, Wilson broke with party bosses and won the passage of several progressive reforms. Wilson's success in New Jersey gave him a national reputation as a progressive reformer, and his Southern roots helped him win favor in that region. After several ballots, the 1912 Democratic National Convention selected Wilson as the party's presidential nominee. Theodore Roosevelt's third-party candidacy split the Republican Party, which re-nominated incumbent President William Howard Taft. Wilson won the 1912 election with a plurality of the popular vote and a large majority in the Electoral College.
Upon taking office, Wilson called a special session of Congress, whose work culminated in the Revenue Act of 1913, introducing a federal income tax which provided revenue lost when tariffs were sharply lowered. He also presided over the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, which created a central banking system in the form of the Federal Reserve System. Other major elements of Wilson's New Freedom agenda included Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the Adamson Act, all of which established new economic regulations enforced by the federal government. Wilson staffed his cabinet and administration with numerous Southern Democrats; they insisted on racial segregation at the Treasury Department and other federal offices. Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Wilson maintained a policy of neutrality between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. In the presidential election of 1916, Wilson defeated Republican Charles Evans Hughes by a narrow margin, and Democrats retained control of Congress. His moralistic policy in dealing with the Mexican Revolution involved military actions, but stopped short of war.