The President as Statesman

Woodrow Wilson and the Constitution

With a New Foreword by Trygve Throntveit

Daniel D. Stid

A political scientist who went on to become president, Woodrow Wilson envisioned a "responsible government" in which a strong leader and principled party would integrate the separate executive and legislative powers. His ideal, however, was constantly challenged by political reality. Daniel Stid explores the evolution of Wilson's views on this form of government and his endeavors as a statesman to establish it in the United States. The author looks over Professor and then President Wilson's shoulder as he grappled with the constitutional separation of powers, demonstrating the importance of this effort for American political thought and history.

Although Wilson is generally viewed as an unstinting and effective opponent of the separation of powers, the author reveals an ambivalent statesman who accommodated the Founders' logic. This book challenges both the traditional and revisionist views of Woodrow Wilson by documenting the moderation of his statesmanship and the resilience of the separation of powers. In doing so, it sheds new light on American political development from Wilson's day to our own.

“A very original and well-done account of Woodrow Wilson’s failure to accomplish his goal of reshaping the national polity. This is an instructive, well-researched, and refreshing essay in the enduring character of American government.


“A detailed study, rich in nuance, that should interest students of American history, political theory, constitutional development, the presidency, and the American party system. Its contributions to current discussions of the wisdom of separated powers and the place of Woodrow Wilson in the evolving American political tradition are considerable.

—Perspectives on Political Science

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Throughout the twentieth century, political scientists and public officials have called for constitutional changes and political reforms that were originally proposed by Wilson. By reexamining the dilemmas presented by Wilson's program, Stid invites a reconsideration of both the expectations we place on the presidency and the possibilities of leadership in the Founders' system. The President as Statesman contributes significantly to ongoing debates over Wilson's legacy and raises important questions about the nature of presidential leadership at a time when this issue is at the forefront of public consciousness.

About the Author

Daniel D. Stid is the Program Director of U.S. Democracy at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He began his career as a political scientist teaching at Wabash College and subsequently served as a Congressional Fellow on the staff of the House Majority Leader and a consultant for various non-profit and private-public sector groups.

Trygve Throntveit is Director of Strategic Partnership, Minnesota Humanities Center, and Global Fellow for History and Public Policy, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the author of Power without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the American Internationalist Experiment and William James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series