Theodore Roosevelt gives rare praise to Woodrow Wilson on this day in 1908

29 Aug

On August 29, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to the Reverend Lyman Abbott, a Congregationalist minister and longstanding proponent of Roosevelt’s Progressivism. Referring to Constitutional Government in the United States, written by Woodrow Wilson when he was president of Princeton University, Roosevelt tells Abbott,

That is a great quotation from Woodrow Wilson. I had not seen read the book, because I have felt rather impatient with his recent attitude on certain matters, notably the effort to control corporations; but this is a really first class paragraph.

In Wilson’s book, the future President observed that the present system of American government was gridlocked and lacked accountability, arguing that the Constitution allowed adaptation and reform when needed. One adaptation he advocated was the continued development of a stronger executive, something more akin to the British system where the prime minister was the leader of the party and could initiate policies—as well as being held responsible for them.

Perhaps Roosevelt thought Wilson, the academic, was too soft on corporations and trust-busting (areas of focus during Roosevelt’s two terms), but he no doubt found the call for reform and expanded executive power directly in line with his own presidential style and “bully pulpit” leadership.

Read the letter, written 104 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in General


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