Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

'To End All Wars' - Woodrow Wilson in WW1

An evaluation of President Woodrow Wilson presidency with particular emphasis on his policies in WW1.

  • Login to see the comments

'To End All Wars' - Woodrow Wilson in WW1

  1. 1. ‘To End All Wars’ Woodrow Wilson and his legacy Dr Daryl Le Cornu, HTAA Conference, Brisbane 2014
  2. 2. djlecornu@hotmail.com
  3. 3. With the centenary of America’s entry into the First World War how should we remember President Woodrow Wilson?
  4. 4. Will the real Woodrow Wilson stand up? 1. Introduction
  5. 5. WW1 Centenary Renewed interest in Woodrow Wilson April 1917 – American Entry into WW1 January 1918 – 14 Points Speech 1919 – Treaty of Versailles 1919 – the ‘League Fight’ 1920 – League of Nations begins
  6. 6. WW1 Centenary Will the following also be commemorated? May 1916 - League to Enforce Peace speech November 1916 Election – Wilson committed USA to a ‘league of nations’ 18 December 1916 American Peace Note 22 January 1917 – ‘Peace Without Victory’ speech
  7. 7. Who was Woodrow Wilson? 28th president of the United States of America Led the USA into World War 1 Founded the League of Nations One of the most well-known presidents BUT Also one of the most controversial US presidents
  8. 8. Reputation roller-coaster MESSIAH – a way out of WW1 that gave hope to the future FAILURE – sacrificed everything to achieve his main objective (a League) then failed to convince the US to join PROPHET – reputation revived in WW2 – Wilson was now seen as being right about the League
  9. 9. Best and worst presidents Does not appear near the top of the many lists of best US presidents Yet Wilson does not appear near the bottom of any of the lists So, what was Bob Carr on about?
  10. 10. Carr’s concerns about Wilson  Segregation policies  Civil rights abuses in WW1  Wartime strategy  Harsh Treaty of Versailles and post-war settlement  League had no chance of succeeding Was Carr right about Woodrow Wilson?
  11. 11. Woodrow Wilson’s legacy We will consider… historians’ views contemporary supporters research on the views of British and American peace activists
  12. 12. 2. Historians’ views
  13. 13. Laurence Martin  Peace Without Victory 1958  relationship between British Radicals and President Wilson  influence went both ways  similar views on liberal internationalism  Agreed on most points of detail and method  BUT  Serious misgivings since US entry in 1917  Harsh critics of Treaty of Versailles
  14. 14. Thomas Knock  To End All Wars 1992  centrality of the League to Wilson’s foreign policy  a statesman ahead of his times BUT  made crucial mistakes of strategy  Alienated most of his supporters by 1919  STILL  The enduring relevance of his vision
  15. 15. James Blight & Robert McNamara  Wilson’s Ghost 2001  Wilson – only world statesman who sensed that the human race might destroy itself and that radical changes were needed to the international system  Advocated multilateral approach via the League  Wilson’s predictions about the 20th Century were tragically correct BUT  Failed - and Wilson was wrong on self-determination
  16. 16. Thomas Fleming  The Illusion of Victory 2003  British and French duped Wilson into entering WW1 on their side by use of propaganda – Wellington House  Wilson’s ‘tragically flawed’ intervention into WW1 which showed the limitations of power  Illusion of idealism – the expectation that noble words could be translated into meaningful realities  Wilson corrupted the peace process by claiming principles that he failed to support  Wilson betrayed the moderates in Germany who created the Weimar Republic
  17. 17. David S Paterson  The Search for a Negotiated Peace 2008  Wilson failed to work with others with similar beliefs  Wilson wanted to mediate an end to the war on his own not with other neutrals  ignored conference of neutrals idea in 1915 and 1916 BUT  failed in his own mediation attempts from Dec 1916 to Feb 1917  After US entry attacked the ‘stupidity’ of pacifists  lost opportunities with negotiated peace
  18. 18. John Milton Cooper  Breaking the Heart of the World 2001  The League Fight  Wilson’s inflexibility and refusal to compromise  Illness the biggest obstacle to a more constructive outcome  BUT  ‘for all their decency and intelligence, Wilson’s opponents were wrong. For all his flaws and missteps, Wilson was right. He should have won the League fight. His defeat did break the heart of the world.’
  19. 19. John Milton Cooper  Woodrow Wilson 2009  ‘In the end, much about Wilson remains troubling.’  Do his sins of omission and commission outweigh the good he did, or do his words and deeds overshadow his transgressions?’  ‘..one of the deepest and most daring souls ever to inhabit the White House. His was also a flawed soul rendered worse by the failing of his body, which consigned his presidency to an inglorious end.’
  20. 20. A Scott Berg  Wilson 2014  ‘a century after Wilson's inauguration, and .. he still remains the most successful, extremely progressive figure we've had in American politics.’  ‘loomed larger than any other president in the 20th Century’  BUT  A progressive thinker but the biggest strike against him personally was that he was a racist
  21. 21. Richard Striner  Wilson’s strategic incompetence gave a good cause a bad name  ‘The most striking thing to me about his wartime record was his failure to engage in sufficient contingency planning when it came to the politics of the war.’  ‘Wilson set back his own cause through his miserable judgement, his naïve suppositions, his petulance, his rhetorical excess – all of it!’  ‘To put it harshly, he was a disaster. He was not the right leader for American during World War 1.’
  22. 22. Historians’ wisdom of hindsight Historians have the benefit of hindsight What about the views of Wilson’s contemporaries at the time? We will examine the views of some of his supporters from August to November 1917
  23. 23. Who were Wilson’s supporters? American peace activists American progressives and socialists British Radicals British Left Peace groups – eg Union of Democratic Control (UDC), NCF, feminists etc
  24. 24. 3. Wilson and World War 1
  25. 25. Outbreak of War Wilson’s attitude to the War – like most Americans he was puzzled about causes Not persuaded by atrocity stories Early offers to mediate
  26. 26. Wilson and WW1 to 1917 Woodrow Wilson (Democratic Party) – opposed to entering WW1. Pursued neutrality while offering to mediate. The Left – opposed involvement in War. Instead, they advocated that the US should mediate. Feminist groups – dropped suffrage campaign to advocate a mediated peace. Most notable - Jane Addams and the Womens’ Peace Party 35
  27. 27. 36 American delegation to the Hague Congress
  28. 28. American delegation to the International Womens’ Congress The Hague 1915
  29. 29. WW1 - ‘peace groups’ mobilise ON THE CONTINENT Women’s Hague Congress April/May 1915  1800 women  Jane Addams  Julia Grace Wales  19 point plan to end the war and create a just and lasting peace  Advocated a Neutral Conference of Continual Mediation to operate while the war continues to develop a peace plan  Took the plan to national leaders of belligerent and neutral nations  Origin of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  30. 30. Links to ‘league’ organisations League of Free Nations July 1918 League of Nations Society May 1915 League of Nations Union Oct 1918 LEP League to Enforce Peace USA 1915 President Wilson From May 1916
  31. 31. House-Grey Memorandum Feb 1916
  32. 32. League to Enforce Peace speech May 1916 Promised to support the creation of a ‘league of nations’ once the War was over
  33. 33. Presidential election Nov 1916 Made the ‘league’ a major plank of his foreign policy platform in the November 1916 Elections.
  34. 34. The German Peace Note 12 December 1916 Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg had favoured a possible US mediation since September. Bethmann-Hollweg wanted to achieve a negotiated peace to thwart the High Command’s (Hindenburg & Ludendorff) plan to escalate the War by initiating unrestricted submarine warfare. 44
  35. 35. The American Peace Note 18 December 1916 Wilson had delayed an attempt at public mediation until after the November 1916 election. With a second term secured Wilson felt free to mediate peace. Received high praise from British and American ‘peace movements’. eg UDC Allied leaders were shocked and felt betrayed. The King of England ‘wept’
  36. 36. The Reaction of Allied Governments to the Peace Notes Allied governments were outraged. Note: Britain now had a right-wing coalition government under ex- Liberal Lloyd George dedicated to a fight to the finish with Germany – a ‘Knock-Out Blow’. Allied Replies: -  Dismissed German peace offer as arrogant  But, a polite rejection of US Note - 10th Jan 1917 –due to financial dependence on US loans. 46
  37. 37. Peace Without Victory Speech 22 January 1917
  38. 38. ‘Peace Without Victory’ speech President Wilson’s speech 22 January 1917 Criticized secret diplomacy, imperialism and militarism of both sides. Reflected the UDC prescription for a just and lasting peace Supported the creation of a ‘league of nations’ An attempt to keep mediation alive. Wilson’s most significant speech. 48
  39. 39. Significance of ‘Peace Without Victory’ Speech A world statesman appeared to have reacted to the pressure of British and American ‘peace groups’ by adopting a left-wing liberal-internationalist prescription for world order. Wilson’s gave hope to a war-weary public 49
  40. 40. Steps to US entry into WW1 Unrestricted Submarine Warfare – Feb. 1917 & Zimmerman Telegram. Wilson still hoped for mediation during February and March but failed to engage Germany in peace discussions Lloyd George suggested the only way he could influence the peace settlement was join the War on the side of the Allies War Speech – 2 April 1917 USA at War 6 April 1917 50
  41. 41. Reasons for US Entry into WW1 To make the world ‘safe for democracy’ not for selfish gain To have a seat at the peace conference and shape the peace settlement To get a League of Nations – the major aim of US foreign policy since May 1916 51
  42. 42. War Speech – 2 April 1917
  43. 43. War Speech – 2 April 1917 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Xh0IRgr-lI
  44. 44. Conditions for US Entry? No collusion on Allied secret treaties An ‘Associated Power’ NOT an ally Why? – to reserve the right for a separate peace BUT Did not set conditions on US assistance to Allies 54
  45. 45. Long-term strategy  AEF will win the war (by 1919 or 1920)  Allies will be financially indebted to the USA  So, the USA will dominate at the peace conference & secure a league of nations and just peace
  46. 46. Long-term strategy The Allies will be financially in our hands.
  47. 47. Long-term strategy The Allies will be financially in our hands. BUT  Wilson did not set conditions with the Allies for US joining the war  US mobilisation was painfully slow  US soldiers in France not allowed to fight until whole US Army formed
  48. 48. Wilson’s diplomacy 1917 SILENT for months – said nothing about revising war aims ignored Russian request for a revision of war aims
  49. 49. Russian Revolution March 1917 Liberal-Socialist government adopted moderate war aims. Known as the Petrograd Formula – ‘no annexations, no indemnities’ Requests for Allies to redefine war aims to make a Germany more likely to accept a negotiated peace. 59
  50. 50. Benedict XV – Papal Peace Note THE VATICAN - Pope Benedict XV Sought to mediate peace since 1914 Proposed Christmas Truce in 1914  Approved of Wilson’s previous proposals for a negotiated peace with Germany, a just peace and ‘freedom of the seas’ August 1917 – Issued his PAPAL PEACE NOTE – with a simple 8- point plan for ending the war
  51. 51. Benedict XV – Papal Peace Note Bright Hope, p. 143
  52. 52. 4. The New Wilsonian Vision: Sept-Nov 1917
  53. 53. Wilson’s Reply to the Papal Peace Note – 27 Aug 1917  Rejected negotiated peace based on Pope’s seven-point plan.  No return to the ‘status quo ante bellum’  Targeted the German rulers, not the German people WHY? 1. German government is a menace to the world 2. Russia would be doomed if German rulers were left in power 3. Germans would use a negotiated peace to recuperate and strike again at some future date
  54. 54. Henry W Massingham Nation  Wilson’s Reply was impractical and short-sighted  Making a German revolution a pre-condition for peace would prolong the War  Despaired of Wilson’s strategy
  55. 55. Phillip Snowden Labour Leader What about the Allied war aims and secret treaties?  Wilson’s demand for democracy in Germany was ‘objectionable’  Hypocritical – are the constitutions of Allied nations any more democratic? Suggested there should be a revolution for democracy in Great Britain and America too
  56. 56. Henry Brailsford Herald  ‘Mr Wilson has ruined the Pope’s intervention.’  Wilson’s Reply cannot be reconciled with Wilson’s ‘Peace Without Victory’ speech  If America helps the Allies to crush Germany will Wilson be able to restrain the Allies’ ‘plans of dismemberment and vengeance?’  Wilson’s Reply will retard German democracy
  57. 57. John Nevin Sayre brother of Wilson’s son-in-law  Wilson’s Reply starkly different to his Dec 1916 Peace Note  Will strengthen German reactionaries  Will lengthen the War  Will end up with a ‘peace of exhaustion’ which will not be a good basis for a just and lasting peace
  58. 58. Randolph Bourne ‘The Collapse of American Strategy’ Aug 1917  Armed Neutrality had been the USA’s best option  Will prolong the War and encourage reactionaries US strategy now the same as the Allies The pacifists were right when they predicted this when the US entered the War
  59. 59. Randolph Bourne ‘The Collapse of American Strategy’ Aug 1917 ‘The liberals …trusted him to use a war-technique which should consist of an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other. They have had to see their strategy collapse under the very weight of that war-technique. Guarding neutrality, we might have countered toward a speedy and democratic peace. In the war, we are a rudderless nation, as the Allies wish, politically and materially, and towed to their aggrandizement, in any direction which they may desire.’ Randolph S Bourne, ‘The Collapse of American Strategy’, pp. 34- 35.
  60. 60. Randolph Bourne ‘The Collapse of American Strategy’ Aug 1917 ‘The liberals …trusted him to use a war-technique which should consist of an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other. They have had to see their strategy collapse under the very weight of that war-technique. Guarding neutrality, we might have countered toward a speedy and democratic peace. In the war, we are a rudderless nation, as the Allies wish, politically and materially, and towed to their aggrandizement, in any direction which they may desire.’ Randolph S Bourne, ‘The Collapse of American Strategy’, pp. 34- 35.
  61. 61. 5. From the Fourteen Points to the League
  62. 62. The Fourteen Points Speech 8 January 1918  Influenced by UDC and progressive ideas. Wilson’s Aims  to counter Bolshevik appeal  to rally public opinion behind his vision for peace.  to pressure Allied leaders to accept his terms. To cause dissent in Germany
  63. 63. The ‘Fourteen Points’ to the Armistice Wilson’s League proposal was part of the ‘14 Points’ Oct 1918 – Germany asks for Armistice on basis on ‘14 Points’ BUT - Allied leaders (British, French and Italian) had not signed up to the ’14 Points 6 Nov 1918 - Allied leaders agreed to Armistice with Germany on the basis of the ‘14 Points’ – though a conditional acceptance
  64. 64. Constructing the League Wilson did not consult or attempt to build bipartisan consensus Political and organic vision for the League Discouraged public discussion on plans for a League until the war was over LEP’s vision of a judicial law-based League - rejected
  65. 65. Peace Conference
  66. 66. Peace Conference – fighting for the League Feb 1919 - Wilson fought against Allied leaders to get the League  British government influence on draft League Covenant via Robert Cecil and Jan Smuts  League accepted as part of the Treaty
  67. 67. Peace Conference – fighting for the League  Feb 1919 - Wilson fought against Allied leaders to get the League  British government influence on draft League Covenant via Robert Cecil and Jan Smuts  League accepted as part of the Treaty PROBLEM  Wilson had to agree to a harsh peace treaty in return for acceptance of his League by Allied leaders  Both the League and Treaty of Versailles were rejected by the US Senate USA did not join the League
  68. 68. The ‘League Fight’ back home Lodge led Senate opposition to League ratification by the US. Opposition to multilateral commitment by USA. Now, as a great power the USA should act unilaterally in world affairs and avoid entangling obligations. 78 Senator Lodge
  69. 69. Why did Wilson lose the ‘League Fight’? Wilson’s alienation of his support base Wilson’s poor judgment October – Wilson fell victim to a massive stroke after an exhausting tour of the nation in September. Wilson hardened and refused any watering down of the League. March 1920 – League ratification fails for the second time USA never joined the League 79
  70. 70. 6. Wilson’s failure as a neutral and at war
  71. 71. Wilson’s failure in WW1 – to April 1917 Shunned other neutral nations who wanted US leadership of neutral mediation attempts  Failed to engage with other plans to end the war via mediation  Wilson followed official neutrality but refused to stop munitions trade, Allied loans, or curtail the right of Americans to sail on belligerent ships  Played a ‘lone hand’ on mediation. If there was to be mediation it was to be himself as mediator.
  72. 72. Wilson’s failure in WW1 – after US Entry  Wilson was the lone ‘Wilsonian’ in his government  Incapable of defending civil liberties domestically Appeared to abandon his policy of achieving a lasting peace via a negotiated end to the War  Wilson’s entry into the War on the side of the Allies was unconditional  Wilson killed off possibilities of a negotiated peace during 1917 Declared no definite peace terms until Jan 1918 Kept the Allied leaders at arms length and put them under no pressure to revise their war aims
  73. 73. 7. Wilson’s legacy
  74. 74. Wilson’s Legacy The only world statesman to promote the idea of a League of Nations to guarantee the future peace of the world Succeeded in creating a League of Nations League was the forerunner of the United Nations and post WW2 settlement which has created the legal (and moral) foundation for the world today. .
  75. 75. Wilson’s Legacy The only world statesman to promote the idea of a League of Nations to guarantee the future peace of the world Succeeded in creating a League of Nations League was the forerunner of the United Nations and post WW2 settlement which has created the legal (and moral) foundation for the world today.. And the only hope for the future

×