The People's Experience: Immigrant Americans

Against a backdrop of war in Europe, frequent home rule uprisings in Ireland, revolution in Mexico, and a constant influx of immigrants to the United States, Americans in 1916 struggled to define “true Americanism.”  Ethnic issues emerged early in the presidential campaign.  Theodore Roosevelt, campaigning first for himself and then for Republican Hughes, made many rancorous speeches about “anti-American hyphenism”, the use of a hyphenated national identity, such as “Irish-American” or “Japanese-American.”  Despite these loud speeches by Roosevelt, ethnic community leadership tended to favor Republican Hughes because of dissatisfaction with Wilson's foreign policies.  A more favorable stance towards the Allies in Europe turned some immigrant hearts against him, as did the recognition of the Carranza regime in Mexico over rival general Dorotea Arangoan Arangula (better known as Pancho Villa, pictured at botton right).  Wilson's policy and the installment of General Pershing's troops to maintain order in Mexico earned Wilson a reputation among ethnic leadership as nativist and anti-Catholic.  Wilson maintained that the average American citizen of foreign descent was as fully American as anyone born in the States, but spoke against groups such as the German-American Alliance, whose leadership questioned his commitment to neutrality in Europe. He also refused to aid Sir Roger Casement, an Irish home-rule leader executed by the British during the 1916 campaign, angering Irish-American leaders.

Most ethnic community leadership remained solidly anti-Wilson throughout the campaign.  Nevertheless, Election Day brought a suprising result from the immigrant communities.  Many immigrants worked in the factories and on the farms that legislation such as the Farm Loan Act and the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act aided.  Because of the Wilson administration's concern over bread-and-butter issues, many immigrants abandoned the advice of their leadership and voted in as large or larger numbers for Wilson as they had voted for any Democratic candidate in the past.  Eastern cities highly populated by immigrants, such as Buffalo, Boston, New York, Jersey City, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, showed huge returns for Wilson, although in most cases the states eventually went for Hughes.

Click here to read about The People's Experience: African-Americans.

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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