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A. Scott Berg’s Wilson Review

A. Scott Berg’s Wilson is a comprehensive biography by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Berg. Heavily referenced and loaded with minute detail, Wilson is highly readable and quite balanced. As a great historian should do, A. Scott Berg does a great job for the most part of hiding bias. Instead, he presents a lot of facts with a lot of direct quotes to form a concrete account of the 28th President of the United States.

A. Scott Berg's Wilson cover

Berg, like Thomas Woodrow Wilson, was a Princeton University graduate. Wilson was also president of Princeton and sought grand-scale change in education at Princeton that was hoped to spread to other places of higher learning. Berg covers Wilson’s tenure at Princeton, a period of his life that largely formed his ideals that would guide him as the President of the United States.

Woodrow Wilson spent his life focused on learning. His ability to speak publicly turned him into a natural leader. Early on he seemed destined to find higher office with several people predicted him as a future president. In many ways, his ideals blinded him from compromise and hurt his ability to fully accomplish what he felt was most important. This shows clearly in his pursuit of the League of Nations after the end of the Great War (aka, World War I).

Wilson was one of four people who ran for president, including Theodore Roosevelt and was largely elected because of the split votes. Here Berg shows a dislike to Roosevelt, often referring to him by TR and making harsh statements against him. This continues as the former president was against a lot of Wilson’s policies.

As far as conservation goes, Wilson was a mixed bag. He signed the bill to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, something John Muir had fought his entire life against. But Woodrow also signed the National Park Service Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, two vital laws for conservation.

The entire biography is sprinkled with biblical references, especially heading the chapters. Wilson was one of the most religious presidents and his beliefs helped guide many of his policies. Despite this, he did not do much for black Americans nor was he fully supportive of women’s suffrage.

Republicans voted in much higher numbers than democrats for the 19th Amendment. Wilson stood behind state’s rights, specifically New Jersey, to pass women’s voting rights. But he could have done more from his high office.

In his second term, Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke that was covered up. His second wife, Edith, essentially ran interference on what information Wilson received while he was recovering. While she can not fully be called the “first woman president”, it is hard to dispute that Edith violated the Constitution by not only hiding Woodrow’s disability but by partaking in business she was not elected to be part of.

Overall, A. Scott Berg’s Wilson does a thorough job covering the entire life of Thomas Woodrow Wilson. This is a lengthy biography, but will give you a complete picture of the 28th President’s entire life.