A Wilson for OurnTimesnby Paul GottfriednWoodrow Wilsonnby August HeckschernNew York: Charles Scribner’s Sons;n743 pp., $35.00nJohn Lukacs has observed that ourncentury’s two most significant revolutionariesnwere Lenin and Wilson. Ofnthe two, according to Lukacs, the internationalistnLenin had less destructiveninfluence in the long run than thendemocratic moralist but fervent nationalistnWilson; today it may be said thatnthe Wilsonians have outlasted the Commies.nDemocracy and national self-determinationnare words that have comento be used interchangeably by the press,nexcept to denote those pockets ofnreactionary nationalists who have stillnnot been brought to accept global-democraticnorthodoxies. AugustnHeckscher’s voluminous biography is intendednto recall Wilson’s life and itsnmeaning at a time when the rebirth ofnnations and of international law may bencreating a climate particularly receptivento “the ideas of the man who firstncoined the term ‘New World Order.'”nA former president of the WoodrownWilson Foundation and present membernof the advisory committee that thusnfar has edited 68 volumes of Wilson’snpapers, Heckscher has a formidablenknowledge of his subject. Rarely have Inencountered a biography so exhaustivelyndocumented. Heckscher also exhibitsna dedication to his subject that only fewnpolitical biographers of this generation—nDumas Malone writing on Jefferson,nMargaret Coit on Calhoun, GeorgenNash on Hoover, and Stephen Ambrosenon Nixon being other examples—havenbrought to their work. The problemnhere is that Heckscher has produced anmonument instead of a probing biography.nHe has merely touched up, howevernlovingly, the portrait of that principlednbut forbidding statesman whonemerges from Arthur S. Link’s multivolumenstudy of Wilson. In the revisedn34/CHRONICLESnREVIEWSnportrait, Wilson is made to appear sexuallynpassionate with his two wives (andnperhaps with other women), as well asn”sensitive” to human concerns, particularlynthe quest for peace. Unlike Link,nHeckscher diligently covers up Wilson’snfoolish and deceitful conduct. Link, fornexample, depicts Wilson as clumsy innhis Mexican adventures and as far lessnthan an honest broker in trying to makenpeace between the two sides in the FirstnWorld War. Heckscher, by contrast,nmoves gingerly whenever faced with hisnhero’s obvious dishonesty and ineptitude.nWhen he does criticize Wilson,nhe faults him for being overly idealisticnrather than mean-spirited, as he definitelynwas in telling his food commissionersnafter the war to feed only thosenwho had fought on “the democraticnside.”nThis copiously documented hagiographynignores the fact that Wilson, likenBismarck, Cromwell, and Napoleon,ndoes not lend himself well to saccharinenportraits. Though less drawn to himnthan to those other men, I find that, likenthem also, Wilson was unquestionably ansignificant and personally interesting figurenwithout being a morally noble one.nHe was not a principled aristocrat but anman driven by a vision for reconstructingnhuman life; and, whether thrusting hisncountry into war, suppressing its constitutionalnliberties, or imposing an administrativenstate upon his fellow citizens,nhe was working to give flesh to thatnvision. To those who may be offendednby his righteous appeals to Providence, itnmay be answered that Wilson himselfnwas acting providentially in somenHegelian sense. If world history is, asnHegel imagined, an unfolding divinenjudgment, then Wilson was the worldnhistorical figure who shaped the Americanncentury, for better or worse. He torenthe theory and practice of Americanndemocracy away from self-governingncommunities and associated them irreversiblynwith an expanding civil servicenat home and an imperialistic missionnabroad.nSince Wilson was neither a spellbindingnorator nor a military leader, hisnaccomplishments seem all the more remarkable.nThey were also necessary tonturn a people once jealous of its libertiesnnninto the subjects of a national welfarenstate with global commitments. DespitenHeckscher’s heroic efforts to portrayna passionate and marvelously eloquentnWilson, I read his descriptionsnwithout being persuaded. The quotationsnhe offers only serve to confirm anmordant remark by John Lukacs, thatnthe great crusader for democracy spokenand wrote “warmed-over oatmeal.”nGiven his formative influence uponnthe present American republic, the packagingnof Wilson as a principled architectnof the New Wodd Order is likely toncontinue, subject to periodic variations.nThus, as twenty years ago Wilson wasnstill made to combine idealism with Victorianndemeanor, he has now beennadopted by a new generation for whomnhe was erotic and sensitive as well asnglobally idealistic; eventually, perhaps,nhe will be found to have been an advocatenof black civil rights and anPhilosemite. Such biographical manipulationsnare necessary to sanctify thosenwho contributed so heavily to makingnthe nation what it has now become.nClyde Wilson has expounded on thisnsubject of historiographical refurbishment,nand shown how such refurbishmentnincreased dramatically after thenCivil War. Professor Wilson highlightsnthe marginalization of specificallynSouthern contributions to the nationalnexperience in textbooks published sincenReconstruction and particularly sincenthe 1950’s; Heckscher illustrates Wilson’snthesis by downplaying his subject’snSouthern upbringing. Woodrow’s father,nJoseph Wilson, a founder with thatnunmistakably Confederate theologiannJames Thornwell of the Southern PresbyteriannChurch, is persistently describednas a Midwesterner. True, Josephnhad held a pulpit in Chillicothe, Ohio,nbefore going on to Virginia and Georgia.nBut his sojourn in the Midwest didnnot prevent him, as Heckscher concedes,nfrom being an exuberant supporter ofnthe Confederacy. Woodrow and his firstnwife Ellen were both raised in Georgianand returned there often to visit family.nAttempts to present Wilson as a secularizednPuritan ignore the biographicalninconvenience that he was a displacednSoutherner from a profoundly conservativenchurch. He drew his democraticn