WOODROW WILSON by J.W. Schulte Nordholt


A Life for World Peace
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 From Dutch historian Schulte Nordholt, an evenhanded look at the 28th President. Schulte Nordholt seeks to illuminate the contradictions that made Wilson a paradox: a great President but a presidential failure. A student of the Romantic historians and an admirer of Wordsworth, Wilson, the author explains, was a disappointed poet who channeled biblical metaphors into political oratory with the ambition of becoming a statesman. As president of Princeton, Wilson gained the notice of the Democratic Party, winning the governorship of New Jersey and, in 1912, the US presidency. During his tenure in the White House, though, his hope for American neutrality in the Great War could not be maintained. Nor could the promise of his postwar Fourteen Points, designed to make the world safe from future aggression by providing a utopian world ruled by a rational League of Nations. As Schulte Nordholt shows, Wilson's idealism ran smack into the Old World's self-interest--and Wilson's own stubbornness, which led to the Senate failing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and to American exclusion from the League of Nations. Though Schulte Nordholt does a good job in detailing Wilson's woes, he spends too much time--for American readers, at least--on digressions about Holland during Wilson's day; moreover, his writing, though well translated, occasionally trips over its own cleverness, as in his comparison of the winter of 1919 to a ``hawthorn bush in the winter dunes, stubborn and fierce, a tangle of branches, a crisscross of contradictions, of mutual division....'' Schulte Nordholt's perceptive focus on Wilson's volatile mind- set--which equated esthetics with ethics and poetics with politics- -is a refreshing change from the more familiar portraits such as August Heckscher's Woodrow Wilson (p. 909). (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs-not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-520-07444-0
Page count: 575pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1991


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