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The Wilson Circle

'The Wilson Circle' cover image

The Wilson Circle

President Woodrow Wilson and His Advisers

An in-depth look at the key advisers to Woodrow Wilson during the course of his tumultuous presidency.

Nearly 100 years after Woodrow Wilson's death, historians continue to be divided over the impact of his presidency and his political leadership. The collapse of Wilson's health in 1919 and his failure to win Senate approval of the Versailles Treaty have tainted his legacy, as have the racism of his administration and its disregard for civil liberties after American entry into World War I. In The Wilson Circle, Charles E. Neu takes a new look at the Wilson presidency through the lens of his inner circle, a group of ten advisers. Some of these advisers, like his wife Ellen, were by his side at the start of his term, while others joined him as the challenges facing Wilson's presidency mounted. All of these advisers believed that, whatever Wilson's flaws as a leader, they had served a great man whose legacy would endure. Struck by his magnetism, his oratorical gifts, and the power and precision of his mind, they each became, to one extent or another, friends of the president. Looking back, they acknowledged that their relationship with Woodrow Wilson had transformed their lives.

Challenging the publicly held assumption that Wilson was a remote, harsh president by exploring the intense emotional connection he developed with this tight-knit group, Neu argues that we can partially credit Wilson's remarkable journey in American politics to his ability to bring together such an impressive group of advisers. Wilson realized that, given his limited energy and experience, he had to rely on advisers to help him maintain his physical and emotional equilibrium and to achieve his far-reaching political goals. And as the demands on his presidency changed, changes also occurred in his group of presidential confidants. Informing vivid biographical sketches with a wide range of recent scholarship, The Wilson Circle shines a light on the exceptional people whose advice impacted the course of a presidency.