Acclaimed author Patricia O’Toole’s “superb” (The New York Times) account of Woodrow Wilson, one of the most high-minded, consequential, and controversial US presidents. A “gripping” (USA TODAY) biography, The Moralist is “an essential contribution to presidential history” (Booklist, starred review).
“In graceful prose and deep scholarship, Patricia O’Toole casts new light on the presidency of Woodrow Wilson” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis). The Moralist shows how Wilson was a progressive who enjoyed unprecedented success in leveling the economic playing field, but he was behind the times on racial equality and women’s suffrage. As a Southern boy during the Civil War, he knew the ravages of war, and as president he refused to lead the country into World War I until he was convinced that Germany posed a direct threat to the United States. Once committed, he was an admirable commander-in-chief, yet he also presided over the harshest suppression of political dissent in American history.
After the war Wilson became the world’s most ardent champion of liberal internationalism—a democratic new world order committed to peace, collective security, and free trade. With Wilson’s leadership, the governments at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 founded the League of Nations, a federation of the world’s democracies. The creation of the League, Wilson’s last great triumph, was quickly followed by two crushing blows: a paralyzing stroke and the rejection of the treaty that would have allowed the United States to join the League. Ultimately, Wilson’s liberal internationalism was revived by Franklin D. Roosevelt and it has shaped American foreign relations—for better and worse—ever since.
A cautionary tale about the perils of moral vanity and American overreach in foreign affairs, The Moralist “does full justice to Wilson’s complexities” (The Wall Street Journal).