The Political Experience: Republican Party

The Republicans nominated Charles Evans Hughes, an associate justice of the Supreme Court and former governor of New York for the 1916 presidential ticket.  Neither a liberal nor a conservative, Hughes (campaigning at top right) possessed a reputation for being capable, honest, and willing to fight injustice: as governor, he had entered into political competition with the boss-run New York state legislature, enacting liberal legislation to the dismay of many Old Guard Republican financial interests.  Former Bull Moose Progressives* and some of the Old Guard wished for Theodore Roosevelt's nomination.  Conservative Old Guards wanted Elihu Root, a 72 year old Senator, to be nominated.  Hughes' nomination resulted from a compromise between the conservative and progressive wings of the Republican Party.

Republicans rejected Roosevelt because of his split with the party in 1912 as well as the general feeling that his political ship had sailed.  Elihu Root (portrait at middle left), viewed by many as representative of financial interests, was considered simply too conservative to be taken seriously as a candidate.  Root did, however, make an important anti-Wilson campaign speech that suggested the emerging theme of the Republican campaign.

Hughes' campaign began and remained critical of Wilson, but Hughes himself was criticized by many for a lack of alternatives for his attacks on Wilson's policies.  Democrats capitalized on this weakness and painted Hughes as insecure in his opinions.  Hughes did grasp the tariff as a major issue, arguing that the low tariff crafted under Wilson's administration and the importation of cheap goods resulted in a long term unstable economy.  However, the nation's relative prosperity during this election year caused this campaign strategy to fail.

*Theodore Roosevelt split from the Republican Party during the 1912 presidential election, taking many Progressive reformers with him.  They formed the Bull Moose Party, a short lived third party whose existence ensured Democratic Wilson's election in 1912.

Click here to read about The Political Experience: Election Results.

Return to the 1916 Election


did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation