Aims of the Participants and the Peacemakers

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It was on the back of the Fourteen Points that Germany and her allies agreed to an armistice in November 1918. However, due to specific aims of numerous nations in post-war period, the terms of Treaty of Versailles, that were finally agreed on incorporated only a fraction of the provisions he wanted. Were Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points a realistic target for the Treaty of Versailles to live up to? Were his 14 points were too idealistic or over-ambitious? Was the peaceful world that he wished to create, too utopian, unrealistic and impossible in that day and time?

This paper aims to answer these questions by taking a close look at the war and its aftermath through the eyes of Wilson and other nations. II. Thomas Woodrow Wilson – The Man Himself A. Early Life Thomas Woodrow Wilson, born in Staunton, Virginia on December 28 ,1856 to Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Jessie Janet Woodrow [2] , was the 28th President of the United States of America who served his term from March 4 1913  to March 4 1921. [3A] At the Princeton University, where he was the president from 1902 to 1910, that Wilson rose to fame with his ideas on reforming education.

In pursuit of turning his ideas into reality, he entered politics as governor of the State of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. [4] B. Presidency In 1912, he won the presidential election and commenced his reforms which included revision of banking systems, cleansing of monopolies and fraudulent advertising, and preventing unfair business practices. Wilson was narrowly reelected to presidency in 1916, with the legislation of laws such as prohibiting child labour and limiting the working hours of railroad workers to 8 hours a-day, and the mere slogan “He Kept Us Out Of War”. [3B]

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During WWI, Wilson determinedly worked to maintain neutrality. He questioned and barred Acts/Pacts of the European Powers such as the British and Germans. He offered mediations for both sides but failed on various occasions. C. Post-War He worked tirelessly at the post-war Paris Peace Conference to build an enduring peace based on the principle of The Points. Thus, 1919, he brought home the Treaty but it had incorporated only part of the provision he wanted. Upon, the failure of the ratification of the Treaty by the Senate, he set out on a nation-wide campaign to gain public support for the Treaty.

D. His Life’s End Unfortunately, while campaigning, after a speech in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25th 1919, he collapsed because of a severe stroke that nearly killed him and never fully recovered thereafter. He died peacefully under the care of his second wife in 1924. [3C] III. The Fourteen Points A. The Speech In his 1918 speech to the Joint Session of the American Congress, President Wilson brought forward the Fourteen Points which he hoped were to be used for peace negotiations after WWI.

The speech was formed based on reports generated by a group of about 150 political and social scientists , named ‘The Inquiry’, which was organized by Edward M House, President Wilson’s adviser and close friend. The Inquiry worked secretly, studying Allied and American policies in virtually every region of the world and analyzing the economic, social and political facts that were likely to be brought out during the post-war conference. [1B] B. The Perception of Causes

It was through their findings, that President Wilson concluded, what he perceived to be the immediate causes of the World War I, as being secret alliances and treaties, excessive possession of armaments, perplexing and obscure definitions of national borders on the European Continent which leads to territorial disputes and lack of cooperation and mediation between the great powers of the world. C. The Measures Incorporated The principle behind the formation of his Fourteen points was to ensure that the conditions that gave rise to WWI and the conflict in Europe wouldn’t happen again.

Thus, the Points included measures such as the elimination of secret alliances, reduction of armaments in various nations, clarification of the national borers based on self-determination and the formation of an international forum which could ensure solving conflicts in a peaceful, non-aggressive, just and transparent way. Wilson also made proposals that would ensure world peace in the future, such as freedom of seas, removal of economic barriers between nations and the promise of ‘self-determination’ for those oppresses minorities and a world organization that would provide a system of collective security for all nations. Ap. 1] It was on the back of the Points that the Germans and its allies agreed to sign the Armistice in November 1918. IV. The Paris Peace Conference Commenced on January 18th 1919, it was the meeting of the victorious allied powers after the signing of the Armistices and declaration of the end of WW1. It involved diplomats of more than 28 countries; however the most dominant in the conference were the British, the French, the Italians and the Americans, dubbed the “Big Four”.

The Conference ended on January 21st 1920, with the inaugural General Assembly of the League of Nations. It was here that the Allied Powers were baffled with the question; “Should the Treaty punish or rehabilitate Germany? ” V. The Treaty of Versailles The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, was one of the peace treaties at the end of WWI. It also ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers although it was signed nine months after the signing of the armistice, which officially ended the war. 5] Most of Wilson’s 14 points were scuttled by the English and French leaders. England, France and Italy, were not interested in a just peace, rather they were more interested in regaining what they had lost and gaining more from punishing Germany. They were interested in retribution. Germany was to admit guilt for the war and pay unlimited reparations. The German military was reduced to a domestic police force and its territory was truncated to benefit the new nations of Eastern Europe. The territories of Alsace and Lorraine were restored to France.

German colonies were handed in trusteeship to the victorious Allies. No provisions were made to end secret diplomacy or preserve freedom of the seas. However, Wilson’s capstone point calling for a world organization that would provide some system of collective security was incorporated into the Treaty. This organization would later be known as the League of Nations. Hopeful that a strong League could prevent future wars, he returned to present the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate. Faced with strong opposition in the U.

S. Senate, Wilson would later suggest that without American participation in the League, there would be another world war within a generation and leaves with the remark; “Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world? ” [3D] Even after risking his life in the exhausting campaign to gain America’s support, Wilson failed and the treaty was never adopted and the United States never joined the League of Nations. VI. Conclusion The Fourteen points were incredibly ambitious and to an extent unrealistic too.

The idea of self-determination was a nice idea but in practice it became unwieldy. The hope for no war reparations was unrealistic in the atmosphere that existed in Europe at that time. He was also relying in the co-operation of people who have just proven they are powerful and probably wanted to maintain their western supremacy ideology and appearance. The Fourteen Points were an attempt to outline a utopian ideal settlement. They could not possibly have worked because they were applied differentially in the Versailles negotiations of early 1919.

Wilson should have known that the French would have had a more punitive plan in mind. They had suffered severely and wanted to prevent German aggression by bringing Germany to its feet. No way could the Americans expect France to accept some kind of equal status among nations with Germany. The proposed settlement of colonial claims, the return to France of the disputed territories of Alsace-Lorraine, the adjustment of Italy’s borders on the basis of nationality, and the de facto break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, created as many, if not more, problems than they solved.

Tensions were heightened, not reduced, and fresh territorial and national disputes arose to replace those which had existed prior to 1914. Even Wilson’s own country was not behind his plan, the idea that the US would emerge from its isolation after barely entering an unpopular war, was optimistic at best. By attempting to cover too broad a canvas, Wilson ensured the ultimate failure of his central thesis – world peace through the reduction and resolution of tensions and conflicts. Where Wilson’s 14 points were too ambitious was in what he called their ‘essential rectifications of wrong and assertions of right’.

VII. Bibliography [1A,B] President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points (1918). http://www. ourdocuments. gov/doc. php? flash=true&doc=62 [2] John Milton Cooper, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (2009) pp 13-19 [3A,B,C,D] President Woodrow Wilson http://www. whitehouse. gov/about/presidents/woodrowwilson [4] 1919 Nobel Peace Prize – Woodrow Wilson http://www. nobelprize. org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1919/wilson-bio. html [5] Treaty of Versailles http://www. firstworldwar. com/source/versailles. htm VIII. Appendix [Ap. 1] I.

Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view. II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants. III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety. V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined. VI.

The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire.

The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy. VII. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another.

Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired. VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all. IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality. X.

The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development. XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.

XII. The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of an autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees. XIII.

An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant. XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.