The moderate candidate in the election of 1912 came from the Democratic party. Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856 in the Presbyterian manse in Staunton, Virginia. Born into a family of Presbyterian ministers and scholars, young Thomas Woodrow Wilson was likely intended for that profession as well. The young man in question, however, always preferred politics.
When Wilson discovered that his preference for politics did not translate into the ability to afford that profession, he became a professor of political science. He quickly moved up in the academic world, propelled by his performance at lecturing as well as writing. He settled at Princeton University, and became the university’s president in 1902. This promotion prompted a congratulatory letter from Theodore Roosevelt, who was president of the United States at the time. TR writes, “As an American interested in that kind of productive scholarship which tends to statemanship, I hail your election as President of Princeton, and I count myself fortunate in having the chance to be present to witness your inauguration.”
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson, June 23, 1902. From the Library of Congress Manuscript division.
Although Wilson was instrumental in elevating Princeton to be one of the leading universities of the nation, his leadership term there was fraught with difficulties. After losing several battles with administrators and trustees, he turned to politics, and the notoriety he had gained during his Princeton presidency paved the way for success.
The relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson deteriorated gradually over the decade between Wilson’s Princeton inauguration and the presidential election of 1912. Wilson did not always agree with Roosevelt’s policies during TR’s presidency, and TR did not always agree with the sentiments expressed in Wilson’s writings from that time. After these two men secured their respective nominations in August, 1912, the competition between them became fierce. It soon became clear that the real battle for president would be waged between these two.
Wilson and Roosevelt may never have become such staunch rivals, however, had they not been thrust into direct opposition. In fact, while these two candidates stressed the differences in their particular platforms repeatedly and vociferously, their beliefs were remarkably similar.
Wilson acted upon many of the items on the 1912 Progressive Party platform during his first term as president. Therefore, while the Progressive Party lost the election, its platform effectively carried the day.
On to Washington! October 23, 1912. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division.
Cooper, John Milton. The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.