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The Papers of Woodrow Wilson is the first comprehensive edition of the documentary record of the life and thought of the twenty-eighth President of the United States and the first full-scale edition of the papers of any modern American president.
The years 1898-1900 saw the nation’s assumption of an active international role. Wilson’s reactions to the Spanish-American War and to unfolding events on the national and international scenes are documented in newspaper reports of his speeches during this period. Reluctant to see the United States embark on an imperialistic course, Wilson defended ardently the anti-imperialists’ right to dissent, but concluded that America must acquire Puerto Rico and the Philipines and train them in the arduous tasks of self-government.
A crystallization of Wilson’s political thought is seen in his notes for a new course on constitutional government and for his projected magnum opus, “The Philosophy of Politics.” Equally significant are the materials that illuminate Wilson’s rise to first rank among American historians: his articles, “State Rights (1850-1860)” and “The Reconstruction of the Southern States,” display his powers of generalization and interpretation and his command of clear and unaffected, yet evocative, historical prose.
During this period Wilson was also maturing as a leader among the faculty at Princeton — this aspect of his life is seen in papers relating to a statement of standards for graduate work and in a search for a new Professor of Politics which, incidentally, led him into interesting correspondences with Theodore Roosevelt.
“When a Man Comes to Himself,” Wilson’s report of his address to the Philadelphian Society of Princeton, and other papers document a significant change in his religious beliefs during these years. Other, more personal documents included in the volume are a pocket record of Wilson’s bicycle trip around the British Isles in the summer of 1899 and letters to his wife during two lengthy separations.