Lesson 2: "To Elect Good Men": Woodrow Wilson and Latin America

Soon after taking office, President Woodrow Wilson and his first Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, rejected the Dollar Diplomacy that had guided U.S. relations with Latin America during the administration of William Taft. In ways consistent with his domestic Progressive reform goals and his faith in the superiority of American democracy, Wilson resolved that the United States would only recognize Latin American governments founded upon law and order, "not upon arbitrary or irregular force." Furthermore, Wilson was willing to use military force to demonstrate to Latin Americans "how to elect good men" as leaders. In this lesson, students will analyze Wilson's attempts to carry out this "missionary diplomacy" in Haiti and Mexico as well as the responses of selected Haitians and Mexicans.

Guiding Questions

How did the Wilson administration respond to revolution and civil unrest in Latin America?

Learning Objectives

Identify American economic and strategic interests in the Western Hemisphere

Explain how the U.S attempted to safeguard American economic interests and promote democratic reforms in Latin America during Wilson's presidency

Discuss how U.S. actions reflected Wilson's foreign policy principles and racial beliefs of the era

Explain why many Latin Americans resented or resisted U.S. actions