One of the genuine classics of American political science literature, Constitutional Government in the United States is also a subtle and influential criticism of the American founding fathers produced during the Progressive Era. Wilson's interpretation of the Constitution shaped the thought of scholars and students of American politics. His definition of constitutional government and the place of the United States in the development of constitutional theory continues to shape discourse today. Wilson discusses the three branches of government in the United States, the relation between the states and the federal government and party government in a manner quite distinct from the founding fathers.
Constitutional Government has its origins in a series of lectures Wilson delivered at Columbia University in 1907. It is carefully organized around three separate but mutually supporting arguments. First, is the idea that constitutional government evolves historically from primitive beginnings of the state toward a universal and ideal form. Second, this idea of historical evolution contains within it an analysis of how and where the Constitution fits into the evolutionary process as a whole. Third, the historical thesis itself provides a prescription for bringing American government, and with it the Constitution, into accord with his first principle of the ideal form of modern government.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), the 28th U.S. president, served in office from 1913 to 1921 and led America through World War I (1914-1918). An advocate for democracy and world peace, Wilson is often ranked by historians as one of the nation’s greatest presidents. Wilson was a college professor, university president and Democratic governor of New Jersey before winning the White House in 1912. Once in office, he pursued an ambitious agenda of progressive reform that included the establishment of the Federal Reserve and Federal Trade Commission. Wilson tried to keep the United States neutral during World War I but ultimately called on Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917. After the war, he helped negotiate a peace treaty that included a plan for the League of Nations. Although the Senate rejected U.S. membership in the League, Wilson received the Nobel Prize for his peacemaking efforts.