Princeton Students Are Right: Woodrow Wilson Was The Worst

Princeton Students Are Right: Woodrow Wilson Was The Worst

Students recently staged a protest in the office of Princeton University’s president, demanding the school remove the name of former school president Woodrow Wilson from all programs and buildings because of his racist legacy.

Finally! A college struggle for all the people.

Well, almost all the people. Joe Scarborough seem to believe this is insanity. I’m not sure why. Yes, demanding the First Amendment be suspended to safeguard the brittle feelings of students is complete insanity. Disrupting classes to have vacuous protests against imaginary injustices is insanity. Attacking free and open debate in the school is insanity. Proposing Wilson be purged from textbooks and whitewashed from history would be insanity.

Asking a private school to stop honoring an authoritarian hatemonger who also happened to be one of the most destructive presidents in the history of the United States is about the sanest thing I’ve heard happening on a college campus in a long time. (Update: Princeton caved.)

A school spokesman argued that, while, yes, the progressive Wilson was an enormous racist, it’s important to weigh his distasteful tendencies against the contributions he made to the school and the nation.


Whereas some of the Founding Fathers did nothing to stop an unfathomably immoral and racist institution (meaning slavery, of course), their legacy is one under which liberal ideals flourish and the world became a better place. We can argue about that inheritance if you like, but Wilson made the world a worse place in every way imaginable. Not one element of genuine liberalism was safe under his watch.

Like most progressives of his era, Wilson wasn’t merely a common racist, he embraced the pseudo-scientific eugenics that would haunt millions. After his election, he didn’t only say terrible things—”There are no government positions for Negroes in the South. A Negro’s place in the corn field”—he institutionalized racism in the federal government, segregating the civil service in 1913. He personally fired 15 out of 17 black supervisors appointed to federal jobs, while his postmaster general and Treasury secretary segregated their departments. He’s the only president that I know of who’s ever celebrated the Ku Klux Klan in the White House.

While governor of New Jersey, Wilson signed a bill making sterilization of criminals and the mentally ill compulsory. Is that the legacy Princeton was talking?

A well-regarded scholar, Wilson, who argued that Americans needed to get “beyond the Declaration of Independence” and valued “progress” over freedom, is typically given a pass because he was the first president to lead a massive expansion of the federal government, activating the state in the “service of humanity.”

That’s just the start. Although I suspect there will be pushback to this contention: Wilson also oversaw one of the greatest foreign-policy disasters in American history, World War I. The untenable outcome was bad enough, but the massive social engineering project Wilson helped spearhead is still being paid for. Simultaneously, Wilson sent American citizens to jail for expressing opinions that cast the government or the war effort in poor light.

There are many insane things happening on college campuses these days, but calling out Woodrow Wilson is not one of them.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo The worst president. Ever.
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