Henry Cabot Lodge, whom Wilson refused to shake hands, since Lodge was the lead Senator that was doing his best to scuttle ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and US membership in the League of Nations.
Improving news from abroad actually led to Wilson's mood becoming more bitter, even mean-spirited. The disabled President (his left arm was paralyzed and his left leg was lame due to a severe stroke in September 1919) demanded on his afternoon drives that the Secret Service apprehend the drivers of the cars that passed his vehicle. Wilson even wrote Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer that he wanted each of those divers fined $1000. During January 1921, Palmer presented Wilson with a document to sign that would pardon Eugene V. Debs, and Wilson wrote "denied" on the document.
Woodrow and Edith Wilson decided to remain in Washington, D.C. largely for Wilson to be able to use the vast resources of the Library of Congress to research and write. Wilson needed to generate income (it wouldn't be until 1958 that Congress allocated a pension for former Presidents) but he absolutely refused to write his memoirs; bitterness and depression was basically oozing out of Wilson's pores. On 1 March 1921, Wilson presided over his last Cabinet meeting, and on 3 March 1921, Warren and Florence Harding invited the Wilsons to the traditional informal pre-Inauguration Day tea. Dr. Cary Grayson, who had been Wilson's doctor his entire Presidency, had to break the news to Wilson that he couldn't be a full active participant on Inauguration Day due to too many stairs. However, Wilson was able to be in the car with Harding in the first Inaugural Procession in automobiles before he had to leave the continuing ceremonies. Like Herbert Hoover in 1933, Wilson stared straight ahead in the car, refusing to acknowledge the crowds; Wilson felt that they were cheering for Harding, not for him.
General John J. Pershing. The last person to talk to Wilson before Vice-President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in was Senator Lodge, who asked the President if he had any last communications to make with Congress; Wilson's response was a polite-yet-curt "no".
Due to the steps involved in reaching the Presidential Platform, Wilson was not able to be present for the swearing-in for Coolidge and Harding, so the Wilsons quietly disappeared In the car back to their home on S Street, Edith vented her full fury at Harding, while Wilson gently laughed. One of Harding's first actions was a very generous gesture: Grayson was assigned to continue to take care of former President Woodrow Wilson. It didn't take too many months to pass for Harding's brand of arrogance and his anti-intellectual tone to start foreign leaders to worry about the leadership in the US; now Wilson didn't look too bad to European leaders.
No President has left the White House being/feeling more depleted than Wilson, who lacked the spirit to do things that consumed his (apparently) fully-functioning mind. What Wilson looked forward to the most each day was his daily drive around DC, and starting in April 1921, every Saturday evening was "Play Night" at Keith's Theater, where the manager reserved seats in the last row for the Wilsons and their entourage. Soon enough, Wilson became part of that theater's landscape with its patrons, and often Wilson received ovations in his honor in the theater and when he approached his Pierce Arrow to go back home. By then Wilson had become a bit more mobile, but his physical health hadn't improved much overall in that his left arm and left leg were not improving, and he was experiencing gastrointestinal difficulties.
necessary for economic growth. During December 1921, Harding commuted the prison sentence of Debs, something Wilson had absolutely refused to do since he viewed Debs as a traitor.
Where Wilson (when he was healthy) had been a nose-to-the-grindstone President when he wasn't "off-the-clock" with Edith reading or watching movies, Warren Harding drank, played poker, cheated on his wife, and was taken advantage of by his cronies since he was basically incapable of saying "no". A tone of licentiousness was transmitted to the nation by the Harding Administration, which encouraged far too many citizens to engage in the same boorish behavior. One result was that the admiration of Wilson in the press and public increased a tremendous amount. Crowds would gather to watch Wilson leave his house on
S Street for his daily drive, and people passed by Wilson's residence in de facto tours to see where the former President lived. Wilson's name started appearing in the US and elsewhere in the world on plaques, bridges, and streets.
Unknown Soldier from World War I would occur. An Act of Congress with just minutes left in Wilson's Presidency authorized an exhumation of an unnamed US soldier buried in France for entombment in a new marble sarcophagus at Arlington. Wilson wasn't physically able to be at the burial itself, but he wanted to be part of the procession, requesting an open carriage instead of a car. The Wilsons arrived on time in their carriage for the procession, but in the last of a series of slights from the Harding Administration, Wilson and Edith found that their place in the procession had already been filled, and that they didn't have a guard. So, the Wilson carriage had to unceremoniously wedge itself into the procession at its first opportunity, and they were far behind the government officials in the parade. The crowd, upon realizing Wilson was in the procession, responded with appropriate praise which lasted all the way to the White House. Once there, Wilson left the procession as he had been instructed and went home.
The next day about 20,000 people were in front of Wilson's house, cheering at the two instances when Wilson came outside to engage the crowd, especially when he talked to two veterans. Soon after the entombment of the Unknown Soldier, many Americans started calling Wilson the "Known Soldier". The famous journalist/muckraker Ida Tarbell came to realize that Americans were starting to see foreign affairs Wilson's way, and she wrote an article that was published in Collier's asking the rhetorical question why so many Americans from different backgrounds revered Wilson. Tarbell believed that Wilson's mission had been to elevate mankind.
Colonel Edward House in Paris in 1919 (but Wilson never doubted Tumulty's loyalty and service for the eight years he was President).
The Congressional Elections of 1922 were a referendum on Harding's Presidency, and his fellow Republicans suffered in that their lead in the Senate was halved and the Democrats were in striking distance of re-taking control in the House winning 76 seats. It seemed that the voters weren't in total agreement with the Republican effort to erase all-things-Wilson, such as enacting protective tariffs and coddling Big Business. Wilson was very irritated that Lodge won re-election to his sixth term by a very thin margin of only a few thousand votes.
After reaching the age of 66, Wilson received two unexpected tributes. On 27 December 1922, Franklin Roosevelt told Wilson that the Woodrow Wilson Foundation had raised over one million dollars, the vast majority coming from regular citizens. Then came a resolution from the Senate stating their pleasure at Wilson's continued improving health (most Republicans were "busy' during the actual vote), and a very complimentary appended message was included by Vice-President Calvin Coolidge. On 2 August 1923, President Warren Harding died of a heart attack. Despite being on cordial terms with Harding, Wilson believed that Harding was an inept politician. Nonetheless, Wilson sent a prompt note of sympathy to Harding's widow, Florence.
8 August 1923. Wilson wrote Coolidge that he was very grateful but unable to attend the funeral, procession, and the other ceremonies at the Capitol. But Wilson did view Harding's casket from his car and was part of the procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, where upon reaching the Capitol, Wilson and Edith returned home.
As the scandal-ridden postmortem of Harding's Presidency came to light (e.g. Teapot Dome
and his numerous affairs), Wilson became even more popular. Florence Harding hadn't allowed an autopsy, so conspiracy theories abounded as to how Harding REALLY died. Wilson truly appreciated and admired the calming influence that President Coolidge had on the nation.
On 28 December 1923, Woodrow Wilson celebrated his 67th birthday. On 31 January 1924, Grayson examined Wilson, and despite the reduced energy, Grayson was not alarmed. However, Edith wanted a second opinion, and a specialist told her that Wilson was very sick, and Grayson agreed to stay overnight. On the morning of 1 February 1924, Edith was convinced that her husband was dying and that she needed to notify the three daughters. Grayson informed Edith that Wilson had taken a turn for the worse overnight in that his systems were shutting down.
The Bethlehem Chapel in the National Cathedral offered their services and location for Wilson's funeral and burial, which pleased Edith since she didn't want a state funeral. Edith wrote Lodge telling him that he wasn't welcome to the funeral or burial; Lodge responded very courteously saying he would not attend, and he released a notice to the press that he was unable to attend due to a respiratory condition. Edith's behavior was at its worst in that she used the time before the funeral/burial to exact some petty revenge on those she felt had wronged her husband. Edith arranged for a small private funeral at home and then a second formal funeral at the Bethlehem Chapel where only about 300 could attend. Edith would spend her remaining years in the same house where she had lived with her husband after he left the Presidency.
The Bethlehem Chapel was not the final resting place for Wilson; in 1956 Wilson was moved on the grounds of the National Cathedral, interred in a limestone sarcophagus which was more visible in honoring Wilson and more accessible. Edith, age 85, was there for the ceremony. On 20 January 1961, Edith was in the third row in the Presidential Platform for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and during the Inaugural Parade Edith rode in the same car as Eleanor Roosevelt. Edith Wilson died at the age of 89 from heart/lung problems on 28 December 1961, which was Wilson's birthday . . . she was interred with Wilson in the South Nave of the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C.