Woodrow Wilson’s Western Tour

Rhetoric, Public Opinion, and the League of Nations

978-1-58544-533-2 Paperback
5.5 x 8.5 in
224 pp. 1 b&w photo.
Pub Date: 05/23/2006
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On September 3, 1919, Woodrow Wilson embarked upon one of the most ambitious and controversial speaking tours in the history of American politics: a grueling 8,000-mile, twenty-two-day tour across the Midwest and Far West in support of the League of Nations. Historians still debate Wilson’s motivations for touring in the first place, but most agree with Thomas Bailey that the tour proved a disastrous blunder. Not only did Wilson collapse before completing his swing around the circle, but the treaty likely would have been defeated even if the tour had succeeded beyond all expectations. Most agree that Wilson’s decision to tour was misguidedthe product of an exaggerated sense of his own persuasiveness, a martyr complex, or even mental illness.

In this masterful work, J. Michael Hogan offers the first detailed analysis of Wilsons speeches on the tour, including the most celebrated speech of the campaign, his famous address in Pueblo, Colorado. Assessing the tour in light of Wilsons own scholarly writings about civic discourse and democratic deliberation, Hogan provides new insight into Wilsons failure and a new understanding of this watershed event in the history of American public address. Over the course of the tour, Hogan argues, Wilson abandoned his own principles of oratorical statesmanship and increasingly resorted to the techniques of the propagandist and the demagogue. In the process, he subverted what he himself called the common counsel of public deliberation and foreshadowed some of the worst tendencies of the modern rhetorical presidency.

Library of Presidential Rhetoric

Published by Texas A&M University Press