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Title: Woodrow Wilson's Administration and Achievements
Author: Frank B. Lord and James William Bryan
Release Date: August 29, 2009 [eBook #29850]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WOODROW WILSON'S ADMINISTRATION AND ACHIEVEMENTS***
Patriotism consists in some very practical things—practical in that they belong to the life of every day, that they wear no extraordinary distinction about them, that they are connected with commonplace duty. The way to be patriotic in America is not only to love America, but to love the duty that lies nearest to our hand and know that in performing it we are serving our country.—From President Wilson's Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 14, 1914.
|Americanism—From President Wilson's Independence Hall Address, Philadelphia, July, 1914||2|
|History's Proving Ground||7-8|
|Portrait in typophotogravure of President Wilson at America's Entry in the War—Charcoal Sketch by Hattie E. Burdette||10|
|Woodrow Wilson's Administration—Eight Years of the World's Greatest History—Courtesy of the New York Times||11-69|
|Early Accomplishments of Administration||15|
|Foreign Policies, 1913-1914||22|
|Landmarks in Mexican Policy||23|
|Appeals for Mediation||30|
|The European War, 1914-1916||30|
|Federal Reserve—From President Wilson's Address to Congress, April, 1913||31|
|Typophotogravure of Governor Woodrow Wilson and Joseph P. Tumulty with Newspaper Men, 1912||32|
|Senator Glass on Woodrow Wilson, 1921—Courtesy of the New York Times||36|
|Personal Messages to Congress from President Wilson's First Address to Congress, April 8, 1913||39|
|Typophotogravure of President Wilson Reading First Message to Congress, April 8, 1913||40|
|Mediation Efforts, 1916-1917||43|
|Hamilton Holt's Tribute||44|
|United States in the War||46|
|Rural Credits from President Wilson's Remarks on Signing Bill, July, 1916||48|
|Typophotogravure of the President in 1918||50|
|The Fourteen Points||58-59|
|Peace Conference and Treaty, 1919||61|
|The Closing Year, 1920-1921||66|
|Cartoon—The Founders of the League of Nations, by Baldbridge in the Stars and Stripes||70|
|Verse—Beware of Visions, by Alfred Noyes||70|
|Poem—In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea||71|
|Poem—America's Answer, by R. W. Lillard.—Courtesy of New York Evening Post||71|
|Sonnets—Recessional by Richard Linthicum—Courtesy of the New York World||72|
|Workmen's Compensation—From President Wilson's Speech of Acceptance, 1916||73|
|Typophotogravure of Portrait of President Wilson at Peace Conference, by George W. Harris||74|
|Woodrow Wilson's Place in History—An Appreciation by General The Right Honorable Jan Christian Smuts, 1921||75-79|
|Cartoon—Without the Advice or Consent of the Senate, by Kirby in the New York World||80|
|We Die Without Distinction—From the President's Address at Swarthmore College, 1913||80|
|Woodrow Wilson—An Interpretation—Courtesy of the New York World||81-93|
|Typophotogravure of the President on Board Ship Returning from Peace Conference||87|
|The President and the Peace Treaty||87|
|Typophotogravure of the President at the Last Meeting with his Cabinet, 1921||88|
|Two Pictures—From Address by Joseph P. Tumulty||88|
|The Covenant of the League of Nations||93-100|
HISTORY'S PROVING GROUND
he modern newspaper through its intensive, minute and zealous activities in searching out, presenting and interpreting each day the news of the entire world, is tracing with unerring accuracy the true and permanent picture of the present. This picture will endure as undisputed history for all time.
Let us concede that the newspaper writer sometimes, in the passion of the hour, goes far afield. It is equally true that no statement of importance can thus be made that is not immediately challenged, answered and reanswered until, through the fierce fires of controversy the dross is burned away and the gold of established fact remains. Not alone the fact stands out, but also the world's immediate reaction to that fact, the psychology of the event and the man dominating the cause and the effect.
The modern newspaper is the proving ground of history. To illustrate let us suppose that our newspaper press, as we know it today, had existed in Shakespeare's time. Would there now be any controversy over the authorship of the world's greatest dramas?
Could the staff photographer of a Sunday supplement as efficient as one of our present day corps have snapped Mohammed in his tent and a keen reporter of today's type questioned him as to his facts and data, would not all of us now be Mohammedans or Mohammed be forgot? Had such newspapers as ours followed Washington to Valley Forge and gone with him to meet Cornwallis, would the father of his country be most intimately remembered through the cherry tree episode? Consider the enlightenment which would have been thrown upon the pages of history had a corps of modern newspaper correspondents reported the meeting of John and the Barons at Runnymede or accompanied Columbus on his voyages of discovery.
Would not even Lincoln be more vivid in our minds and what we really know of him not so shrouded in anecdote and story?
In Washington's time America became a Nation. In Lincoln's time our country was united and made one. In Wilson's time our Nation received recognition as the greatest of the world powers. It remained, however, for Wilson alone to reach the highest pinnacle of international prominence in the face of the pitiless cross fires of today's newspaper press. Yet this inquisition, often more than cruel, was not without its constructive value, for it has searched out every fact and established every truth beyond the successful attack of any future denial.
This little volume—the first perhaps of its kind concerning any man or event—presents with no further word of its compilers a summary of Woodrow Wilson's Administration and Achievements—eight years of the world's greatest history—taken entirely from the newspaper press.
It contains not one statement that has not been accurately weighed in the critical scales of controversy. Its object is simply to present the truth and have this truth early in the field so that the political canard which was so shamelessly indulged in during the close of the Wilson Administration may not be crystalized in the public mind and cloud for a time the glorious luster of his name.
It shall be as Maximilian Harden, the keenest thinker of the defeated Germans said: "Only one conqueror's work will endure—Wilson's thought."
Frank B. Lord
James William Bryan
Woodrow Wilson's Administration
Eight Years of the World's Greatest History
Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office as President on March 4, 1913, after one of the most sweeping triumphs ever known in Presidential elections. Factional war in the Republican Party had given him 435 electoral votes in the preceding November, to Roosevelt's 88 and Taft's 8; and though he was a "minority President," he had had a popular plurality of more than 2,000,000 over Roosevelt and nearly 3,000,000 over Taft.
Moreover, the party which was coming back into control of the Government after sixteen years of wandering in the wilderness had a majority of five in the Senate and held more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower house. With the opposition divided into two wings, which hated each other at the moment more than they hated the Democrats, the party seemed to have a fairly clear field for the enactment of those sweeping reforms which large elements of the public had been demanding for more than a decade.
With this liberalism, which was not disturbed at being called radicalism, Mr. Wilson in his public career had been consistently identified. During his long service as a university professor and President he had been brought to the attention of a steadily growing public by his books and speeches on American political problems, in which he had spoken the thoughts which in those years were in the minds of millions of Americans on the need for reforms to lessen those contacts between great business interests and the Government which had existed, now weaker and now stronger, ever since the days of Mark Hanna.
The ideas of Mr. Wilson as to governmental reform, to be sure, went further than those of many of his followers, and took a different direction from the equally radical notions of others. An avowed admirer of the system of government which gives to the Cabinet the direction of legislation and makes it responsible to the Legislature and the people for its policies, he had been writing for years on the desirability of introducing some of the elements of that system into the somewhat rigid framework of the American Government, and in his brief experience in politics had put into practice his theory that the Executive, even under American constitutional forms, not only could but should be the active director of the policy of the dominant party in legislation as well. But a public addicted to hero worship, little concerned with questions of governmental machinery, and inclined to believe that certain parts of the work of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had been accomplished under divine inspiration, had comparatively little interest in the Wilson concepts of reform in political methods. They regarded him, in the language of those days, as a champion of the "plain people" against "the interests." They had seen in his long struggle with antagonistic influences in Princeton University—a struggle from which he retired defeated, but made famous and prepared for wider fields by the publicity which he had won by the conflict—a sort of miniature representation of this antithesis between the people and big business and they had learned to regard Mr. Wilson as a fighter for democratic principles against aristocratic tendencies and the money power.
This reputation he had vastly expanded during his two years as Governor of New Jersey. His term had been distinguished not only by the passage of a number of reform measures consonant with the liberal ideas of the period, but by a spectacular struggle between the Governor and an old-time machine of his own party—the very machine which had nominated him. In this fight, as in his conflict at Princeton, he had been for a time defeated, but here again the fight itself had made him famous and won him a hundred supporters outside of his own State for every one he lost at home.
At the very outset of his term, he had entered, against all precedent, into the fight in the Legislature over a Senatorial election. Demanding that the Legislature keep faith with the people, who in a preferential primary had designated a candidate for United States Senator who did not command the support of the organization, he had won his fight on this particular issue and set himself before the public as a sort of tribune of the people who conceived it his duty to interpose his influence wherever other officials showed a tendency to disregard the popular will.
In the legislative fight for the enactment of reform legislation, too, the Governor had continually intervened in the character of "lobbyist for the people," and while the opposition of the old political organization, which he had aroused in the fight for the Senatorship, had partially halted the progress of this program, the great triumph in November, 1912, had returned a Legislature so strong in support of the Governor that before he left Trenton for Washington practically all of the measures included in his scheme had become laws. Mr. Wilson, then, was known to the country not only as a reformer but as a successful reformer; and his victories over the professional politicians of the old school had removed most of the latent fear of the ineffectuality of a scholar in politics. In point of fact, the chief interest of this particular scholar had always lain in politics, and it was partly chance and partly economic determinism that had diverted him in early life from the practice of politics to the teaching of its principles and history.
Abroad, where his election was received with general satisfaction, he was still regarded as the scholar in politics, for a Europe always inclined to exaggerate the turpitude of professional politicians in America liked to see in him the first fruits of them that slept, the pioneer of the better classes of American society coming at last into politics to clean up the wreckage made by ward bosses and financial interests. Scarcely any American President ever took office amid so much approbation from the leading organs of European opinion.
His radicalism caused no great concern abroad and was regarded with apprehension only in limited circles at home—and even here the apprehension was more over the return to power of the Democratic Party than on account of specific fears based on the character of the President-elect. The business depression of 1913 and 1914 would probably have been inevitable upon the inauguration of any Democratic President, particularly one pledged to the carrying out of extensive alterations in the commercial system of the country. For in 1912 Wilson had been in effect the middle-of-the-road candidate, the conservative liberal. Most of the wild men had followed Roosevelt, and the most conservative business circles felt at least some relief that there had been no re-entry into the White House of the Rough Rider, with a gift for stinging phrases and a cohort of followers in which the lunatic fringe was disproportionately large and unusually ragged.
So Woodrow Wilson entered the Presidential office under conditions which in some respects were exceptionally favorable. His situation was in reality, however, considerably less satisfactory than it seemed. To begin with, he was, in spite of everything, a minority President and the representative of a minority party. He had even, during a good part of the Baltimore Convention, been a minority candidate for the nomination. If the two wings of the Republicans should during the ensuing Administration succeed in burying their differences and coming together once more, the odds were in favor of their success in 1916. Moreover, the Democrats were definitely expected to do something. Dissatisfaction with the general influence of financial interests in public life, a dissatisfaction which had gradually concentrated on the protective tariff as the chief weapon of those interests, had been growing for years past. In 1908 a public aroused by Roosevelt but afraid of Bryan had decided to trust the Republican Party to undo its own work, and the answer of the party had been the Payne-Aldrich tariff. That tariff broke the Republican Party in two and paved the way for the return of Roosevelt; it had also, in 1910, given the Democrats the control of the House of Representatives.
Now, at last the Democrats had full control of both Legislature and Executive, and the country expected them to do something: unreasonably, it was at the same time rather afraid that they would do something. To do something but not too much, to meet the popular demands without destroying the economic well-being which the Republican ascendency had undoubtedly promoted, to insure a better distribution of wealth without crippling the production of wealth—this was the problem of a President who had had only two years in public life, and most of whose assistants would have to be chosen from men almost without executive experience.
The chief peculiarity of President Wilson's political position lay in a theory of American Government which had first come to him in his undergraduate days at Princeton and which had been steadily developing ever since. That theory, briefly, was that the American Constitution permitted, and the practical development of American politics should have compelled, the President to act not only as Chief of State but as Premier—as the active head of the majority party, personally responsible to the people for the execution of the program of legislation laid down in that party's platform. Fanciful as it had seemed when first put forward by him many years before, that concept of the Presidency was now, perhaps for the first time, within the reach of practical realization.
Dissatisfaction with the general secrecy and irresponsibility of Congressional committees which had charge of the direction of legislation, in so far as there was any direction, had been growing for years; and an incident of the revolt against the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the break in the Republican Party had been the internal revolution in the House of Representatives, taking away from the Speaker the power of controlling legislation which he had for some time enjoyed, and which would have been a serious obstacle to Presidential leadership such as Wilson had in mind. Moreover, the activity of Cleveland and Roosevelt had shown the public that even in time of peace an energetic President had a much wider field of action than most Presidents had attempted to cover, and the more recent example of Taft had increased the demand for a President who would act, would not leave action to those men around him who "knew exactly what they wanted."
Early Accomplishments of Administration
Underwood-Simmons tariff, establishing the lowest average of duties in seventy-five years, enacted October 3, 1913.
Federal Reserve act, organizing the banking system and stabilizing the currency, December 23, 1913.
Clayton Anti-Trust law.
Creation of Federal Trade Commission.
Repeal of Panama Canal tolls exemption.
End of dollar diplomacy.
Negotiation of a treaty (never ratified) with Colombia to satisfy the Colombian claim in Panama.
There were, however, two great obstacles to the operation of Mr. Wilson's theory. The first was constitutional. In Europe the Premier who directs the legislative policy of the Government is answerable not only in Parliament but to the people whenever his policy has ceased, or seems to have ceased, to command public confidence. The President of the United States finishes out his term, no matter how bad his relations with Congress or how general his unpopularity among the people. The check upon his leadership, as Mr. Wilson presently realized, could come only at the end of his term, when the President as a candidate for re-election came before the public for approval or rejection. So, even before his first inauguration, Mr. Wilson had written to A. Mitchell Palmer, then a Congressman, expressing disapproval, quite aside from any personal connection with the issue, of the proposal to restrict the President to a single term. That had been a plank in the Democratic platform of the year before; already it was apparent that this phase of the party's program would have to be sacrificed in order to make the party leader responsible in the true sense for the program as a whole. But that plank had not been seriously intended, and by 1916 the march of events had made it a dead letter.
A more serious difficulty, in March, 1913, lay in the fact that the President was not the party leader. There was an enormous amount of Wilson sentiment over the country, and there were many enthusiastic Wilson men; but a good many of these were of the old mugwump type, or men who had hitherto held aloof from politics. In 1912, as later in 1917 and 1918, there was seen the anomaly of a leader who was himself an orthodox and often narrow partisan, yet drew most of his support from independent elements or even from the less firmly organized portions of the opposition. And not only were most of the Wilson men independents or political amateurs; a still greater stumbling block lay in the fact that very few of them had been elected to office. In the great Democratic landslide of 1912 the Democrats who had got on the payroll were mostly the old party wheel-horses who had been lingering in the outer darkness of opposition for sixteen years past, or more or less permanent representatives of the Solid South.
In so far as the party had a leader at that time, it was Bryan. Bryan had played the leading part in the Baltimore Convention. If he had not exactly nominated Wilson, he had at least done more than anybody else to destroy Wilson's chief competitors. There were not enough Bryan men in the country to elect Bryan, not even enough Bryan men in the party to nominate Bryan a fourth time; but there were enough Bryan Democrats to ruin the policy of the incoming President if he did not conciliate Bryan with extreme care.
So the first efforts of the new Administration had to be a compromise between what Wilson wanted and what Bryan would permit. This was seen first of all in the composition of the Cabinet, which Bryan himself headed as Secretary of State. Josephus Daniels, who as Secretary of the Navy was to be one of the principal targets of criticism for the next eight years, was also a Bryan man. Of the "Wilson men" of the campaign, William G. McAdoo was chosen as Secretary of the Treasury, not without some grave misgivings as to his ability, which were not subsequently justified by his conduct of the office. The rest of the Cabinet was notable chiefly for the presence of three men from Texas, a State whose prominence reflected not only its growing importance and its fidelity to the party but also the influence of Colonel Edward Mandell House, a private citizen who had risen from making Governors at Austin to take a prominent part in the making of a President in 1912. At the beginning of the Administration and throughout almost all of President Wilson's tenure of office he was the President's most influential adviser, a sort of super-Minister and Ambassador in general; and his position from the first caused a certain amount of heartburning among the politicians who resented this prominence of an outsider who had never held office.
Perhaps because many of his official aids and assistants were more or less imposed upon him, the President showed from the first a tendency to rely on personal agents and unofficial advisers. And this was to become more prominent as the years passed, as new issues arose of which no one would have dreamed in the Spring of 1913, issues for which the ordinary machinery and practice of American Government were but little prepared.
For the eight years which began on March 4, 1913, were to be wholly unlike any previous period in American history. An Administration chosen wholly in view of domestic problems was to find itself chiefly engaged with foreign relations of unexampled complexity and importance. The passionate issues of 1912 were soon to be forgotten. Generally speaking, the dominant questions before the American people in 1912 and 1913 were about the same as in 1908, or 1904, or even earlier. But from 1914 on every year brought a changed situation in which the issues of the previous year had already been crowded out of attention by new and more pressing problems.
No American President except Lincoln had ever been concerned with matters of such vital importance to the nation; and not even Lincoln had had to deal with a world so complex and so closely interrelated with the United States. Washington, Jefferson and Madison had to guide the country through the complications caused by a great world war; but the nation which they led was small and obscure, concerned only in keeping out of trouble as long as it could. The nation which Wilson ruled was a powerful State whose attitude from the very first was of supreme importance to both sides. And the issues raised by the war pushed into the background questions which had seemed important in 1913—and which, when the war was over, became important once more.
None of this, of course, could have been predicted on March 4, 1913. A new man with a new method had been elected President and intrusted with the meeting of certain pressing domestic problems. At the moment the public was more interested in the man than in his method; and not till the crisis had been successfully passed did popular attention concentrate on the manner of accomplishment rather than on the things accomplished.
Problems at Home, 1913-1914
One of the passages of President Wilson's inaugural address contained a list of "the things that ought to be altered," which included:
A tariff which cuts us off from our proper part in the commerce of the world, violates the just principles of taxation, and makes the Government a facile instrument in the hands of private interests; a banking and currency system based upon the necessity of the Government to sell its bonds fifty years ago and perfectly adapted to concentrating cash and restricting credits; an industrial system which, take it on all sides, financial as well as administrative, holds capital in leading strings, restricts the liberties and limits the opportunities of labor, and exploits without renewing or conserving the natural resources of the country; a body of agricultural activities never yet given the efficiency of great business undertakings or served as it should be through the instrumentality of science taken directly to the farm, or afforded the facilities of credit best suited to its practical needs.
The items had been set down in the order of their immediate importance. First came the tariff, for the tariff had come to be in the minds of many Americans a symbol of the struggle between the "plain people" and "the interests." The Payne-Aldrich tariff, enacted by a party pledged to tariff revision, had been not only an injury but an insult, and if any American Presidential election could ever be interpreted as a popular referendum on any specific policy the election of 1912 meant that the Payne-Aldrich tariff must be revised. At the time of the enactment of that bill Mr. Wilson had written a critical article in The North American Review which expressed a widespread popular sentiment in its criticism of "the policy of silence and secrecy" prevalent in the committee rooms when this and other tariffs had been drawn up and a demand for procedure in the open where the public could find out exactly who wanted what and why. Joined with this objection to the methods of tariff making were some observations by Mr. Wilson on the principles of tariff revision. He saw and said that a complete return to a purely revenue tariff was not then possible even if desirable, and that the immediate objective of tariff reform should be the adjustment of rates so as to permit competition and thereby necessitate efficiency of operation.
The ideas which in March, 1909, were merely the criticism of a college professor had become in March, 1913, the program of the President of the United States, the leader of the majority party, determined to get his program enacted into law. Congress was convened in special session on April 7, and the President delivered a message on the one topic of the tariff. Going back to the precedent of Washington and Adams, broken by Jefferson and never resumed again, he read his message in person to the Congress as if to emphasize the intimate connection between the Executive and legislation which was to be a feature of the new Administration. The principle of tariff reform laid down in that bill was a practical and not a theoretical consideration, the need of ending an industrial situation fostered by high tariffs wherein "nothing is obliged to stand the tests of efficiency and economy in our world of big business, but everything thrives by concerted agreement.... The object of the tariff duties henceforth laid must be effective competition, the whetting of American wits by contest with the wits of the world."
The measure which Democratic leaders had already prepared for that purpose and which eventually became known as the Underwood-Simmons Act was intended to accomplish its end only gradually. Notoriously outrageous schedules of the Payne-Aldrich Act, such as that dealing with wool, were heavily reduced, and the general purport of the bill is perhaps expressed in the phrase of Professor Taussig, that it was "the beginning of a policy of much moderated protection." It went through the House without much difficulty, passing on May 8, and then it struck the Senate committee rooms, from which no tariff bill had ever emerged quite as innocent as it entered. The usual expeditionary forces of lobbyists concentrated in Washington and the Senate talked it over, while Summer came on and Washington grew hotter and hotter. In course of time Senators began to come to the President and tell him that it was hopeless to get the bill through at that session and that Washington was getting pretty hot. The President replied that he knew it was hot, but that Congress would have to stay there till that bill was passed. Already he had given the lower house something to keep it busy while the Senate wrestled with the tariff.
As for the lobby, the President had his own method of dealing with that. On May 26 he issued a public statement calling attention to the "extraordinary exertions" of lobbyists in connection with the tariff. "The newspapers are being filled," he said, "with paid advertisements calculated to mislead not only the judgment of the public men, but also the public opinion of the country itself. There is every evidence that money without limit is being spent to maintain this lobby.... It is of serious interest to the country that the people at large should have no lobby and be voiceless in these matters, while the great bodies of astute men seek to create an artificial opinion and to overcome the interests of the public for their private profit." The outraged dignity of Senators and Representatives, not to mention lobbyists, rose to protest against this declaration. A Republican Senator even declared that the President, who had been actively urging his views on legislators just as he had done in New Jersey, was himself the chief lobbyist in connection with the Tariff Bill. A Senate Committee was appointed to find out if there had been any lobbying, and discovered that there had. Meanwhile the bill was being argued out in the Senate, and the President stood firm against any substantial modification. It was finally passed on Oct. 3.
It was a vindication of the platform promise and a fulfillment of the duty with which the party had been charged in the last election, and it was a notable triumph for the personal policy of the President-Premier, who more than anybody else had literally forced the bill through Congress. The tariff had taken such a prominent place in the fight against business influence in the Government that the passage of a bill which made a material reduction in rates was a moral victory for progressivism at large, and for President Wilson in particular.
The actual effect of the tariff, or rather the actual effect that it might have had, is something impossible to estimate at this time. Before it had been in operation a year, before the country had had a chance to study the new conditions brought in by the legislation of the first year of the Wilson Administration, the war broke out in Europe. The conditions which had prevailed through half a century of tariff making had ceased to exist. They have not yet returned. A subsidiary feature of the Underwood-Simmons Act, however, was to attain enormous importance in the course of the Wilson Administrations. To supply the deficiency in revenue which the lowered duties might be expected to produce there was added an income tax law, which had recently been permitted by constitutional amendment. Even the light duties of the first year, with their $3,000 exemption, were denounced by conservatives as a rich man's tax; but within four years more the exemption was to be lowered to $1,000, and the peak of the tax raised to tenfold its original height.
So long as the Wilson Administration was reducing the tariff, it was carrying out the traditional policy of the Democratic Party; but the next task which the President laid before Congress was much more delicate and much more important. As the event showed, the result was to be of infinitely greater benefit to the nation. Reform of the currency had long been an evident necessity, and the panic of 1907 had recently called attention to the dangers of the system based on emergency measures of the Civil War period. Mr. Wilson himself had said much of the necessity of freeing business from unnatural restrictions, among which the makeshift currency system was included. During the previous Administration Senator Aldrich's plan for a centralized reserve bank had been widely discussed, and innumerable modifications had been suggested. Democratic leaders were already working on plans for currency reform when the new Administration came in, and on June 26 a bill was introduced in the House by Carter Glass and in the Senate by Robert L. Owen.
It took six months of hard work to get this adopted, but it was a marvelous achievement to get it adopted at all. For a large faction of the Democratic Party, including its most influential leader, still represented the old hostility to the "money power," which regarded the overthrow of the United States Bank as the great triumph of the American Democracy. The Glass-Owen bill differed from Senator Aldrich's scheme largely in the direction of decentralization and giving more control to the Government and less to the banks, but, even so, it was a suspicious document to those numerous Democrats whose economic ideas were obtained from the Greenback and Populist Parties of former years. And it was not satisfactory to the majority of the articulate bankers of the country, who wanted a central bank instead of the regional division of the reserve functions, and who thought that the banks should have a good deal to say about appointments to the Federal Reserve Board.
As late as the beginning of December there were still three separate bills before Congress, but the party organization under the President-Premier held together, and on December 23 the Glass-Owen Bill, with some modifications acquired en route, was signed by the President. The pressure on the White House during that struggle was perhaps the hardest which President Wilson encountered during his entire eight years. Many an honest Democrat thought the fundamental principles of the party were being betrayed, and many a Senator or Representative who regarded the reserve banks with profound alarm felt, nevertheless, that if the iniquitous things were going to be established there ought to be one in his home town. When Paul M. Warburg, a Wall Street banker, was appointed as one of the members of the Federal Reserve Board, there were more protests from politicians who professed to believe that the nation was being delivered over to the money power, while the complaints of bankers who thought that the banks were being given over to politicians had not yet died down. But when the act once went into operation criticism almost disappeared; and in the course of a few months the unprecedented financial strain attendant on the outbreak of the European war made it plain to almost anybody that without this timely reform of the banking system 1914 would have seen a disaster far worse than that of 1907.
The work of "striking the shackles off business" was continued in 1914 by the introduction of bills to carry out the President's recommendations for prohibiting interlocking directorates, clarifying the anti-trust laws, establishing an Interstate Trade Commission, and supervising the issue of railroad securities. The chief results of this discussion were the creation of the Trade Commission, a body of which much more was expected at the time than it has accomplished, and the passage of the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which exempted farmers' combinations and labor unions from the anti-trust laws, and wrote into the statutes the declaration that labor is not a commodity. The La Follette Seamen's Bill, drawn by Andrew Furuseth of the Seamen's Union, was introduced in 1913 and not enacted until much later. Its friends declared that it would at least establish decent living conditions for sailors, and its opponents, including nearly all the shipping interests, asserted that, so long as foreign ship owners were not under similar restrictions, the bill would ruin the American Merchant Marine. Of the actual workings of this law there has really been no fair test, as conditions which arose during the war unsettled the entire shipping situation.
The domestic program of the first year and a half of the Wilson Administration comprised, then a long-needed and immeasurably valuable reform of the banking and currency system, a revised tariff, which was at least a technical victory for Democratic principles, and a number of minor measures which seem less important in retrospect than they did at the time. The program neither completely unshackled business nor opened the door to a new era of coöperation and human brotherhood, but it was a large and on the whole decidedly creditable accomplishment, and it was above all the work of President Wilson, who had led the fight that carried the Administration measures through Congress, quite as any Prime Minister might have done. He had not done it without exposing himself to severe criticism. Ex-Senator Winthrop Murray Crane, for example, declared that he had "virtually obliterated Congress." But he had got most of what he wanted, and by the end of his first year in office Mr. Bryan was no longer the most powerful individual in the Democratic Party.
Foreign Policies, 1913-1914
In The North American Review for March, 1913, edited by Colonel George Harvey, the original Wilson man, who had mentioned Wilson as a Presidential possibility back in 1904, when such a suggestion was regarded as only a playful eccentricity, who had begun to work hard for him in 1911, and who had finally been asked by Wilson himself to give up his activity because the connection of one of Harvey's magazines with J. P. Morgan & Co. was hurting Wilson in the West—there appeared an article entitled "Jefferson—Wilson: A Record and a Forecast." It consisted of eight pages of quotations from Wilson's "History of the American People," dealing with the beginning of Jefferson's Administration. The reader's attention was arrested by the startling parallel between the division in the Federalist Party and the quarrel between Hamilton and Adams that facilitated Jefferson's election, and the situation which led to Wilson's victory in November, 1912. Wilson, writing a dozen years before the fight between Taft and Roosevelt, had unconsciously drawn a parallel closer perhaps than the facts warranted; and the reader who had been attracted by this similarity read on into Wilson's characterization of Jefferson an introduction to the achievements of his Administration with a growing hope—if he happened to be a Wilson man—that after as before election Wilson's record would duplicate Jefferson's.
Colonel Harvey was as good a prophet in 1913 as in 1904. Wilson's achievement in domestic affairs in the first year of his Administration was not likely to suffer much by comparison with Jefferson's. But it could not have crossed anybody's mind in March, 1913, that complications of international politics such as had almost ruined the country under Jefferson would in the latter part of Wilson's first term expose him to as much criticism as Jefferson, and for the same reasons.
America was still new as a world power, but was beginning to feel more at home. In Taft's Administration, with Philander C. Knox as Secretary of State, there had been for the first time the beginnings of what might fairly be called a consistent foreign policy. True, it was not a very lofty policy, nor was it by any means generally approved in America. It was called by its friends "dollar diplomacy," meaning the promotion of American commercial interests by diplomatic agencies. It had been exemplified principally in Central America, where its operations had not always commanded admiration, and in China, where Knox had made a well-intentioned but not very skillful effort to prevent the absorption of Manchuria by Russia and Japan.
Landmarks in Wilson's Mexican Policy
Program for armistice and elections to end civil war, August, 1913.
"Watchful waiting," 1913-14.
Capture of Vera Cruz, April 21, 1914.
A B C mediation, April 25, 1914.
Flight of Huerta, July, 1914.
Recognition of Carranza, September, 1915.
Villa's raid on Columbus and Pershing's expedition into Mexico, March, 1916.
Flight and death of Carranza, May, 1920.
However primitive this organization of foreign policy, none the less Taft and Knox had taken a great step forward in the improvement of American diplomatic machinery. The diplomatic service and the State Department were beginning to be regarded as two parts of the same agency, and for the first time diplomacy had begun to be a career with possibilities. The practice of promoting able young secretaries to chiefs of legation, begun by Roosevelt, had been widely extended by Taft; and though the highest posts were still filled by wealthy amateurs it seemed that at last the American diplomatic service offered some attraction to an ambitious man. It was the general expectation in Europe and still more in America that President Wilson, who by training and inclination might be expected to approve of the elevation of standards in the diplomatic service, would continue and extend this work. Instead of that, he undid it, or rather permitted it to be undone.
Mr. Bryan had of necessity been made Secretary of State, and it may be supposed that there was equal necessity for opening up the diplomatic service as a happy hunting ground for the Bryan men—"deserving Democrats," as Mr. Bryan called them in a famous letter. The chief European posts, to which the Taft Administration had not begun to apply the merit system, were filled chiefly by Mr. Wilson's own nominees. These included several well-known men of letters, and with one or two exceptions the amateur diplomats serving as the heads of the missions in Europe did satisfactory and even brilliant service under the unprecedented strain which the war brought on them. The service in Latin America, however, which Knox had almost entirely professionalized, was given over bodily to personal followers of Bryan. In what was in 1913 perhaps the most important of our diplomatic posts, the embassy to Mexico, Mr. Wilson was compelled to rely provisionally on Henry Lane Wilson, a holdover appointee from the previous Administration.
It was soon made clear that there was to be no more dollar diplomacy. The Knox policies in Central America were dropped—although American troops continued to dominate Nicaragua—and in 1914 the Administration successfully discouraged American participation in a six-power loan to China. The Russo-Japanese absorption of Manchuria was to be treated as the accomplished fact that it was; and in general the policy of the new Administration was anything but aggressive. It would not use diplomacy to advance American commercial interests, nor was it prepared to accept the assistance of American financiers in promoting the policies of diplomacy.
But it was evident from the outset that the most quiescent foreign policy could not prevent foreign complications. Growing anti-Japanese sentiment in California led to the passage of a State law against Japanese land holdings. There was much resentment in Japan, and protest was made to the Federal Government. Mr. Bryan, as Secretary of State, had to make a personal trip to Sacramento to intercede with the Californians; and at one time (May, 1913) military men appeared to feel that the situation was extremely delicate. But the crisis passed over, the Californians modified the law, and though in its amended form it suited neither the Californians nor the Japanese, the issue remained in the background during the more urgent years of the war. Toward the very end of the Wilson Administration it was to come back into prominence.
Another question which caused much disturbance to the new Administration was the question of Panama Canal tolls. An act passed in 1912 had exempted American coastwise shipping passing through the canal from the tolls assessed on other vessels, and the British Government had protested against this on the ground that it violated the Hay-Pauncefote treaty of 1901, which had stipulated that the canal should be open to the vessels of all nations "on terms of entire equality." Other nations than England had an interest in this question, and there was a suspicion that some of them were even more keenly if not more heavily interested; but England took the initiative and the struggle to save the exemption was turned, in the United States, into a demonstration by the Irish, Germans and other anti-British elements. Innate hostility to England, the coastwise shipping interests, formed the backbone of the opposition to any repeal of this exemption, but the Taft Administration had held that the exemption did not conflict with the treaty (on the ground that the words "all nations" meant all nations except the United States), and British opposition to the fortification of the canal, as well as the attitude of a section of the British press during the Canadian elections of 1911, had created a distrust of British motives which was heightened by the conviction of many that the Hay-Pauncefote treaty had been a bad bargain.
It was understood early in President Wilson's Administration that he believed the exemption was in violation of the treaty, but not until October did he make formal announcement that he intended to ask Congress to repeal it. The question did not come into the foreground, however, until March 5, 1914, when the President addressed this request to Congress in ominous language, which to this day remains unexplained. "No communication I addressed to Congress," he said, "has carried with it more grave and far-reaching implications to the interests of the country." After expressing his belief that the law as it stood violated the treaty and should be repealed as a point of honor, he continued: "I ask this of you in support of the foreign policy of the Administration. I shall not know how to deal with other matters of even greater delicacy and nearer consequence if you do not grant it to me in ungrudging measure."
It has been most plausibly suggested that this obscure language had reference to the Mexican situation, which a few weeks later was to lead to the occupation of Vera Cruz. The European powers were known to be much displeased at the continuing disturbances in Mexico and the American policy of "watchful waiting," and the belief has been expressed that repeal of the exemption was a step to get British support for continued forbearance with Mexico. Other critics have seen a reference to the unsettled issues with Japan and a fear that England might give more aggressive support to her ally if the tolls question were left unsettled. The attempt of a writer of biography to maintain that even in March, 1914, the President and Colonel House foresaw the European war and wanted to arrange our own international relations by way of precaution has been generally received with polite skepticism.
At any rate, the President's intervention in the question, against the advice of his most trusted political counselors, brought down on him a shower of personal abuse from Irish organs and from the group of newspapers which presently were to appear as the chief supporters of Germany. The arguments against the repeal were unusually bitter, and even though Elihu Root took his stand beside the President and against the recent Republican Administration, partisan criticism seized upon the opening. Nevertheless the tolls exemption was repealed in June, and events of July and August gave a certain satisfaction to those who had stood for the sanctity of treaties.
As a part of what might be called the general deflation of overseas entanglements, the new Administration brought about a material change in the treatment of the Philippines. From the beginning great changes were made in the personnel of the Philippines Commission and of the Administration of the country. Many American officials were replaced by Filipinos, but the separatist agitation in the islands was not much allayed by the extension of self-government. In October, 1914, the Jones Bill, which practically promised independence "as soon as a stable government shall have been established," was passed by the House of Representatives, but Republican opposition was strengthened by those who remembered Bryan's anti-imperialism in 1900 and by the supporters of a strong policy in the Pacific. This issue, like others of the early period, came back into greater prominence in the last years of the second Wilson Administration, when war issues were temporarily disposed of.
A specially conciliatory policy toward Latin America was one of the chief characteristics of the early period of the Administration. At the Southern Commercial Congress in Mobile, on October 27, 1913, the President declared that "the United States will never seek one additional foot of territory by conquest;" a statement which was understood in direct relation to the demand for intervention in Mexico, and which had a very considerable effect on public sentiment in Central and South America. The passing of "dollar diplomacy," too, was generally satisfactory to Latin America, and, though Mr. Bryan's inexperienced diplomats made a good many blunders and could not help, as a rule, being compared unfavorably with the professionals who had held the Latin-American posts in the previous Administration, the general policy of Wilson created much more confidence in the other two Americas than did the spasmodic aggressiveness of Roosevelt or the commercialized diplomacy of Taft.
One specific attempt was made to heal a sore spot left by Roosevelt in relations with Latin America by the new Administration. Negotiations with Colombia to clear up the strained situation left by the revolution in Panama had been under way in the Taft Administration, but had come to nothing. Under Wilson they were resumed, and on April 7, 1914, a treaty was signed by which the United States was to pay to Colombia a compensation of $25,000,000 for Colombian interests in the Isthmus. The treaty further contained a declaration that the Government of the United States expressed its "sincere regret for anything that may have happened to disturb the relations" between the two countries, and this suggestion of an apology for Roosevelt's action in 1903 roused the violent hostility of Republicans and Progressives. The opposition was so strong that in spite of repeated efforts the Administration could never get the treaty ratified by the Senate; but the undoubtedly sincere efforts of the Executive had of themselves a considerable effect in mollifying the suspicions of Latin America.
But all problems south of the Isthmus were insignificant compared with the difficulties in Mexico which had begun with the Madero Revolution against Diaz in 1910. Just at the close of the Taft Administration Madero had been overthrown and killed by Huerta, who then ruled in Mexico City and was recognized by England and Germany in the Spring of 1913. Villa and Carranza were in arms against Huerta in the north, calling themselves the champions of the Constitution; Orozoco and Zapata were in arms against everybody in the south; foreign life and property were unsafe everywhere except in the largest cities. The demand for intervention, which had been strong ever since the troubles began, was increasing in 1913. Huerta professed to be holding office only until a peaceful election could determine the will of the nation, but the date of that peaceful election had to be constantly put off. The embargo on shipments of arms from the United States still existed, preventing Huerta from supplying his troops; but there was a good deal of smuggling to the revolutionary armies in the north. Of the interventionists some wanted intervention against Huerta and some wanted intervention for Huerta; and the pressure of economic interests in Mexico was complicating all phases of the situation.
From the first President Wilson had expressed his disapproval of the methods by which Huerta had attained office. Ambassador Wilson, on the other hand, thought that Huerta ought to be supported, and when his policy did not commend itself to the President he resigned in August, 1913. But already the President had been getting information about Mexico from extra-official sources. His first envoy was William Bayard Hale, author of one of his campaign biographies. Ambassador Wilson was virtually replaced in August by another special representative, John Lind, who carried to Huerta the proposals of President Wilson for solution of the Mexican problem. They included a definite armistice, a general election in which Huerta should not be a candidate, and the agreement of all parties to obey the Government chosen by this election, which would be recognized by the United States. Huerta refused and presently dissolved Congress. When the elections were finally held on October 2 Huerta won, and there was no doubt that he would have won no matter how the voting had happened to go.
The President's program for Mexican reform, it may be said, was not as evidently impracticable in 1913 as it seems in retrospect. It was widely criticised at the time, and the phrase "watchful waiting" which he invented as a description of his Mexican Policy was made the object of much ridicule. Throughout the first winter of the new Administration the American Government was apparently waiting for something to happen to Huerta or for Huerta to reform, and President Wilson several times sharply criticised the actions of the Mexican dictator. But Huerta did not reform and nothing sufficient happened to him; it began to look as if watchful waiting might continue indefinitely when a trivial incident furnished the last straw.
A boatload of American sailors from the warships anchored off Tampico to protect American citizens had been arrested by the Mexican military authorities. They were released, with apologies, but Admiral Mayo demanded a salute to the American flag by way of additional amends, and when Huerta showed a disposition to argue the matter the Atlantic Fleet was (April 14, 1914) ordered to Mexican waters. A week later, as negotiations had failed to produce the salute, the President asked Congress to give him authority to use the armed forces of the United States "against Victoriano Huerta." There was much criticism of the policy which had endured serious material injuries for more than a year to threaten force at last because of a technical point of honor, and besides those who did not want war at all the President found himself opposed by many Congressmen who thought that the personal attack on Huerta was rather undignified, and that the President should have asked for a downright declaration of war.
While Congress was debating the resolution the American naval forces (on April 21) seized the Vera Cruz Custom House to prevent the landing of a munition cargo from a German ship. This led to sharp fighting and the occupation of the entire city. General Funston with a division of regulars was sent to relieve the naval landing parties; and war seemed inevitable. Even the Mexican revolutionaries showed a tendency to prefer Huerta to the intervention of the United States. But on April 25 the Governments of Argentina, Brazil and Chile proposed mediation, which Wilson and Huerta promptly accepted. A conference met at Niagara Falls, Ontario, and through May and June endeavored to reach a settlement not only between the United States and Mexico, but between the various Mexican factions. The President was still attempting to carry out his policy of August, 1913, and the chief obstacle was not Huerta, but Carranza, who had refused to consent to an armistice and for a long time would not send delegates to Niagara Falls. Meanwhile Huerta made one concession after another. Watchful waiting had indeed ruined him; for President Wilson's opposition had made it impossible for him to get any money in Europe—and in the early part of 1914 some European nations would still have considered Mexico a good risk. Moreover, from February to April the embargo on arms had been lifted, and the Constitutionalists armies in the north, munitioned from the United States, were steadily conquering the country. On July 15 Huerta resigned, and soon afterward sailed for Spain; and on August 20 Carranza entered Mexico City.
Despite the criticism that had been heaped on the President's handling of the Tampico-Vera Cruz affair, he had got rid of Huerta without getting into war. A still more important consequence, the full effect of which was not immediately apparent, was the enormous increase in the confidence felt by Latin America in the good intentions of the Wilson Administration. The acceptance of A-B-C mediation in 1914 made possible the entry of most of the Latin-American powers into the European War in 1917 as allies of the United States. And for a time it was to appear as if this had been about the only tangible profit of the episode; for Carranza presently proved almost as troublesome as Huerta. The Fall of 1914 saw the outbreak of a new civil war between Villa and Carranza, in which Zapata, Villa's ally, for a long time held Mexico City. Obregon's victories in 1915 drove Villa back to his old hunting grounds.
By this time the European war was occupying most of the attention of the American people, but Mexico was a constant irritant. Carranza carried the Presidential art of biting the hand that fed him to an undreamed-of height. Wilson, Villa and Obregon had enabled him to displace Huerta, and Obregon had saved him from Villa. Yet he had quarreled with Villa, he was eventually to quarrel with Obregon; and though the United States and the chief Latin-American powers had given him formal recognition in September, 1915, his policy toward Wilson continued to be blended of insult and obstruction. Henry Prather Fletcher, the ablest of the diplomats accredited to Latin-American capitals, had been called back from Santiago de Chile to represent the United States in Mexico; but despite his skill, despite the infinite forbearance of the Administration, Mexico sank deeper and deeper into misery, foreign lives and property were unsafe throughout most of the country, and there was a continuing succession of incidents on the border.
These were the fault of bandits, chiefly of Villa, whose repeated murders of American citizens led to futile attempts to get satisfaction out of Carranza. The culmination of these outrages came on March 9, 1916, when Villa raided across the border, surprised the garrison of Columbus, N.M., and killed some twenty Americans. A punitive expedition of regulars under General Pershing was promptly organized. It pushed about 200 miles into Mexico, destroyed several small parties of Villistas, and wounded Villa himself. But it did not catch him nor any of his principal leaders, and in April outlying parties of Americans came into skirmishing with Carranza forces at Parral and Carrizal. It was evident that further advance meant war with Carranza; and indeed much American sentiment aroused by the capture of American soldiers by Carranzistas, demanded war already. But relations with Germany were very acute at the moment, so Pershing dug in and held his position throughout the Summer and Fall. In May the National Guard was ordered out to protect the border, and remained in position for months without taking active steps.
President Wilson's Appeals for Mediation
Formal offer of mediation to all belligerents, August 5, 1914.
German proposal of peace conference, December 12, 1916.
President's appeal to the belligerents to state their terms, December 18, 1916.
German refusal to state terms, December 26, 1916.
Allied statement of war aims, January 11, 1917.
President's "peace without victory" speech, January 22, 1917.
Notification of unrestricted submarine war, January 31, 1917.
Diplomatic relations with Germany broken, February 3, 1917.
Declaration of war, April 6, 1917.
The Mexican policy of the Administration was one of the chief points of attack during the campaign of 1916, but the re-election of President Wilson and the progress of events in Europe presently threw the issue into the background. In February and March, 1917, when war with Germany seemed inevitable, the expeditionary force under Pershing was recalled.
Carranza's pro-Germanism, or rather anti-Americanism, was hardly disguised during the war, and the confiscatory policy of his Administration in dealing with foreign oil and mineral properties threatened to do much damage to American interests. When the war in Europe had ended, the question of Mexico once more came back to the foreground of attention. Carranza's Administration had not been stained by so much guilt as Huerta's, and the opposition to it was on the scale of banditry rather than revolution; but Mexico was far worse off after years of the war than it had been in 1913, and disregard of American rights was still the cardinal policy of the Government. Carranza's security, however, was illusory. In the Spring of 1920 Presidential elections were announced at last, and Carranza's attempt to force Ygnacio Bonillas, his Ambassador in Washington, into the Presidential chair led to a revolt which eventually attracted the leadership of Obregon. Carranza fled from Mexico City and was murdered on May 22, 1920, and, after the interim Presidency of Adolfo de la Huerta, Obregon came into office in the Fall.
The European War, 1914-1916
When in the last week of July, 1914, a war of unparalleled intensity and magnitude suddenly fell upon a world which for forty years had been enjoying unprecedented well-being and security, the practically unanimous sentiment of Americans was gratitude that we were not involved. The President's first steps, a formal proclamation of neutrality and equally formal tender of mediation to the belligerents, "either now or at any other time that might be thought more suitable," had general approval.
We must have a currency, not rigid as now, but readily, elastically responsive to sound credit, the expanding and contracting credits of everyday transactions, the normal ebb and flow of personal and corporate dealings. Our banking laws must mobilize reserves; must not permit the concentration anywhere in a few hands of the monetary resources of the country or their use for speculative purposes in such volume as to hinder or impede or stand in the way of other more legitimate, more fruitful uses.—From the President's Address to Congress, April 23, 1913.
But a sharp division of sentiment showed itself when, on August 18, he issued an address to the American people warning against partisan sympathies and asking that Americans be "impartial in thought as well as in action," in order that the country might be "neutral in fact as well as in name." The great majority of the American people, or of such part of it as held opinions on public questions, had already made up their minds about the war, and most of the others were in process of being convinced. Some of them had made up their minds from racial sympathies, but others had thought things out. And among these last, particularly, there was a revolt against the assumption that in the presence of such issues any impartiality of thought was possible.
Moreover, the world-wide extent of the war, and the closer inter-relations of nations which had grown up in recent years, made almost from the first a series of conflicts between the interests of the United States and those of one or the other set of belligerents. Preservation of neutrality against continual petty infractions was hard, and was rendered harder by the active sympathy felt for the different belligerents by many Americans. A further complication came from the growing feeling that America's military and naval forces were far from adequate for protection in a world where war was after all possible. The Autumn of 1914 saw the beginning for better national preparedness, and counter to that the rise of organized peace-at-any-price sentiment which from the first drew much support from pro-German circles.
The President appeared to incline toward the pacifists. He called the discussion of preparedness "good mental exercise," and referred to some of its advocates as "nervous and excitable," and in the message to Congress in December, 1914, he took the position that American armaments were quite sufficient for American needs. In this it was apparent that he was opposed by a large part of the American people; how large no one could yet say. But the Congressional elections of 1914 had conveyed a warning to the Democrats. They were left with a majority in both houses, but the huge preponderance obtained in 1912 had disappeared. And the reason was even more alarming than the fact; the Progressive Party almost faded off the map in the election of 1914. Most of the voters who had been Republicans before the Chicago Convention of 1912 were Republicans once again. Of the Progressive Party, there was nothing much left but the leaders, and many of these were obviously thinking of going back to the old home.
The Government had already had occasion to protest against British interference with allied commerce when, on February 4, 1915, the Germans proclaimed the waters about the British Isles a war zone open to submarine activities. The President promptly warned the German Government that it would be held to "strict accountability" if American ships were sunk or American lives lost in the submarine campaign. Along with this a message was sent to the British Government protesting against British restriction of neutral commerce. There was good ground for objection to the practices of both Governments, and the simultaneous protests emphasized the neutral attitude of the United States. Not until later was it evident that to the Germans this policy seemed to indicate the possibility of putting pressure on England through America.
"Strict accountability" seemed to be a popular watchword, except among pacifists and German sympathizers, but Americans soon began to be killed by the submarines without provoking the Government to action. When the Lusitania was sunk on May 7, 1915, and more than a hundred of the 1,200 victims were Americans a great part of the nation which had been growing steadily more exasperated felt that now the issue must be faced. The President was the personal conductor of the foreign policy of the Administration; Mr. Bryan's sole interest in foreign affairs seemed to be the conclusion of a large number of polite and valueless treaties of arbitration, and it was certain that with Germany, as with Mexico, the President would deal in person. In the few days after the sinking of the Lusitania the nation waited confidently for the President's leadership, and public sentiment was perhaps more nearly unanimous than it had been for eight months past, or was to be again for two years more.
The President's note on May 13 met with general approval. It denied any justification for such acts as the sinking of the Lusitania, and warned the Germans that the Government of the United States would not "omit any word or act" to defend the rights of its citizens. But some of the effect of that declaration had already been destroyed by a speech the President had made two days before, in which he had said that "there is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight," and the Germans, it was learned presently, had been still further reassured by a declaration of Mr. Bryan (entirely on his own authority) to the Austrian Ambassador that the note was intended only for home consumption.
At any rate, the note was not followed by action. Throughout the whole Summer the President maintained a correspondence with the Germans, distinguished by patient reasoning on his part and continual shiftings and equivocations on theirs. Meanwhile nothing was done; the public sentiment of the first days after the Lusitania had been sunk had slackened; division and dissension had returned and redoubled. Pacifism was more active than ever and German agents were spreading propaganda and setting fire and explosives to munition plants. Mr. Bryan, who apparently alone in the country was fearful that the President might needlessly involve the nation in war, resigned as Secretary of State on June 8. Aside from a certain relief, the public almost ignored his passing; the man who had been the strongest leader of the party in March, 1913, had in the last two years sunk almost into obscurity. Attention was now concentrated on the policy which the President, whose new Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, was hardly more than a figurehead, was pursuing toward Germany.
In August two more American passengers were drowned in the sinking of the liner Arabic, and in other submarine exploits of the Summer a number of American seamen lost their lives. The President's persistence at last had the effect of getting from the Germans, on September 1, a promise to sink no more passenger boats, and on October 5 they made a formal expression of regret for the Arabic incident. Meanwhile some of the acts of sabotage against American industries had been traced back to the Austro-Hungarian Embassy, and the Ambassador, Dr. Dumba, was sent home in September. A few months later Papen and Boy-Ed, the Military and Naval Attachés of the German Embassy, followed him for a similar reason.
But the German outrages continued, and so did the submarine sinkings, though these were now transferred to the Mediterranean and Austria was put forward as the guilty power. Also, nothing had been done about the Lusitania. The country had apparently been divided by internal discords. The condition which the President had hoped to prevent by his appeal for "impartiality in thought as well as in action" had come about. Also, the danger of war had revealed the inadequacy of America's military establishment, and a private organization, whose moving spirit was General Leonard Wood, had undertaken to supply the deficiencies of the Government by establishing officers' training camps. Toward Wood and his enterprise the Government seemed cold, and he was reprimanded by the Secretary of War for permitting Colonel Roosevelt to make an indiscreet speech at the training camp at Plattsburg. But when Congress assembled in December the President deplored and denounced that new appearance in American public life, the hyphenate, and urged upon Congress that military preparation which he had derided a year before.
Congress, it was soon evident, was far less convinced than the President that anything had happened during 1915. In December, 1915, and in January, 1916, Mr. Wilson made a speaking tour through the East and Middle West in support of his new policy. His demand for a navy "incomparably the most adequate in the world," which Mr. Daniels translated into the biggest navy in the world, aroused some doubts in the minds of the public as to where the Administration thought the chief danger lay, and German influences did their best during the Winter to stir up anti-British sentiment in Congress—the more easily since the controversy over British interference with American commerce was still unsettled.
Eventually, and largely as a result of the President's speaking tour, Congress adopted a huge naval program, which was destined to remain on paper for some years. Military reform, however, had a different fate. The President had supported the policy favored by the Secretary of War, Lindley M. Garrison, of supplementing the regular line by a federalized "Continental army" of 400,000 men. The House Committee on Military Affairs, led by James Hay, would not hear of this and insisted on Federal aid to the National Guard. The President, declaring that he could not tell a Congressional committee that it must take his plan or none, appeared to be ready to give in to Hay, and Garrison resigned in protest. Hay had his way, and Garrison was succeeded by Newton D. Baker, previously regarded as inclined to the pacifist side of the controversy.
Senator Glass on Woodrow Wilson
It is my considered judgment that Woodrow Wilson will take a place in history among the very foremost of the great men who have given direction to the fortunes of the nation. No President of the United States, from the beginning of the Republic, ever excelled him in essential preparation for the tasks of the office. By a thorough acquisition of abstract knowledge, by clear and convincing precept and by a firm and diligent practical application of the outstanding principles of statecraft, no occupant of the Executive chair up to his advent was better furnished for a notable administration of public affairs. And Wilson's Administration has been notable. Its achievements, in enumeration and importance, have never been surpassed; and it may accurately be said that most of the things accomplished were of the President's own initiative.
Of the President's personal traits and characteristics I cannot as confidently speak as those persons whose constant and intimate association with him has given them observation of his moods and habits. To me he always has been the soul of courtesy and frankness. Dignified, but reasonably familiar; tenacious when sure of his position, but not hard to persuade or to convince in a cause having merit, I have good reason to be incredulous when I hear persons gabble about the unwillingness of President Wilson to seek counsel or accept advice. For a really great man who must be measurably conscious of his own intellectual power, he has repeatedly done both things in an astonishing degree during his Administration; and when certain of a man's downright honesty, I have never known anybody who could be readier to confide serious matters implicitly to a coadjutor in the public service.
Written for The New York Times,
February 18, 1921.
Meanwhile the submarine issue was still an issue. Little satisfaction had been obtained for events in the Mediterranean, and in March the Sussex, a cross-Channel passenger boat, was torpedoed in plain violation of the German promise of September 1. There followed another interchange of notes, but the usual German efforts to deny and evade were somewhat more clumsy than usual. On April 19 the President came before Congress and announced that "unless the Imperial Government should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of submarine warfare against passenger and freight carrying vessels" diplomatic relations would be broken off. The threat had its effect; the Germans yielded, grudgingly and in language that aroused much irritation, but on the main question they yielded none the less, and promised to sink no more merchantmen without warning.
During this crisis the President had had to contend with a serious revolt in Congress, which took the form of the Gore Resolution in the Senate and the McLemore resolution in the House, warning American citizens off armed merchantmen. The President took the position that this was a surrender of American rights, and upon his insistence both resolutions were brought to a vote and defeated. The Lusitania question was still unsettled, but on the general issue of submarine war the Germans had at last given way to the President's demand, and through most of 1916 the submarine issue was in the background.
During the year there was a continuation of diplomatic action against the British Government's interference with neutral commerce and with neutral mails. But, aside from the comparative unimportance of these issues beside the submarine assassinations, the Lusitania and similar episodes had stirred up so much indignation that not many Americans were seriously interested in action against England which could only work to the advantage of Germany. The year saw the institution of the Shipping Board, which was to look after the interests of the American merchant marine brought into being by the war, and also some efforts to extend American commerce in South America. Of more eventual importance for Latin-American relations was the necessity for virtually superseding the Government of the Dominican Republic, which had become involved in civil war and financial difficulties, by an American Naval Administration, as had been done in Haiti the year before.
The principal domestic event of the year was the threatened railroad strike, which came at the end of the Summer. The President summoned the heads of the four railroad brotherhoods and the executives of the railroad lines to Washington for a conference in August, and attempted without success to bring them to an agreement. A program to which he eventually gave his approval provided for the concession by the employers of the basic eight-hour day, with other issues left over until the working of this proposal could be studied. The railroad executives refused this, and while the negotiations were thus at a deadlock it became known that the brotherhoods had secretly ordered a strike beginning September 4. To avert this crisis the President asked Congress to pass a series of laws accepting the basic eight-hour day, providing for a commission of investigation, and forbidding further strikes pending Government inquiry.
None of these proposals except the eight-hour day, the center of the whole dispute, met the approval of the brotherhoods, and none of them except the eight-hour day and the commission of investigation was adopted. But, with A. B. Garreston, of the Brotherhood of Conductors, holding a stopwatch in the gallery, Congress hastily passed these laws and the strike was called off.
The eight-hour issue was the last item on the record on which President Wilson came up for re-election in the Fall of 1916. Despite the single-term plank in the Democratic platform of 1912, it had been evident long before the end of Mr. Wilson's first term that he was the only possible candidate. In March, 1913, he had seemed almost like an outside expert called in for temporary service in readjusting some of the problems of public life; he was by no means the leader of the party. But long before Bryan resigned in alarm at the tendencies of a foreign policy over which the Secretary of State had no control the President had become the leader of the party, and by 1916 he was almost the only leader of prominence.
In the record on which the electorate was to express its judgment only a minor place was taken by the issues which had seemed of such importance in 1913. The Federal Reserve Act had already proved its value so well that it was being taken as a matter of course, and people were forgetting that they had ever had to depend on a currency which ran for cover in every crisis and on a banking system where each bank was a source of weakness to its neighbors instead of strength. What effect the Underwood-Simmons Tariff and other measures of the first year might have had on American business no man could say, for conditions created by the war had left America the only great producer in a world of impatient consumers whose wants had to be met at any price.
Mexico, which had provided the most pressing problem in foreign affairs during the Taft Administration, was still an unsolved problem in 1916, and more disturbing than ever. The President had indeed avoided war with Mexico, but had become involved in two invasions of the country and in an expensive mobilization. During the 1916 election the nation had in Mexico most of the drawbacks of war without any of the possible benefits. In forcing out Huerta the President had indeed won a notable diplomatic triumph, but he had not succeeded either in winning greater security for American life and property or in getting a Mexican Government more disposed to good relations with the United States; and the Republicans maintained that war had been avoided only at the sacrifice of both American prestige and American interests.
Personal Messages to Congress
I am very glad, indeed, to have this opportunity to address the two Houses directly and to verify for myself the impression that the President of the United States is a person, not a mere department of the Government hailing Congress from some isolated island of jealous power, sending messages, not speaking naturally and with his own voice—that he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service. After this pleasant experience I shall feel quite normal in all our dealings with one another.—From the President's First Address to Congress, April 8, 1913
But Mexico, despite the emphasis placed upon it by the Republicans, was a secondary issue in the campaign of 1916. The great issue was the conduct of American relations with Germany, and the ultimate Republican failure in the election may be laid primarily to the inability of the Republican Party to decide just where it stood on the main issue.
The President had in this field also won a diplomatic victory. Like his victory over Huerta, it was more apparent than real, for the submarines were still active, and even during the campaign several incidents occurred which looked very much like violations of the German promise made in May. The most serious incident, that of the Lusitania, was still unsettled and the opponents of the President charged him with having bought peace with Germany, like peace with Mexico, at the cost of national interest and honor. Still the technical victory in the submarine negotiations had remained with the President, and he had succeeded in winning at least a nominal recognition of American rights without going into a war which, as every one realized, would be a much more serious enterprise than an invasion of Mexico. German propaganda and terrorist outrages, which had been so serious in 1915, fell off materially in 1916 largely on account of the energetic work of the Department of Justice, which had sent some of the most prominent conspirators to jail and driven others out of the country. But a considerable section of the population had made up its mind that Germany was already an enemy and was dissatisfied with the President's continual efforts to preserve impartiality of thought as well as of action.
The President was renominated at the Democratic Convention in St. Louis, and the platform expressed a blanket endorsement of the achievements of his Administration. But the chief incident of that convention was the keynote speech of Martin H. Glynn, which was based on the text, "He kept us out of war." His recital of the long list of past occasions in American history when foreign violations of American rights and injuries to American interests had not led to war was received with uproarious enthusiasm by the convention and completely overturned the plans which had been made by the Administration managers to emphasize the firmness of the President in defense of American rights.
But the Republicans presently gave that issue back to them. The party passed over Colonel Roosevelt; the memory of 1912 was still too bitter to permit the old-line leaders to accept him. On the other hand, the Colonel and his following had to be conciliated, so the Republican Convention nominated Charles E. Hughes, who had viewed the party conflict of 1912 from the neutrality of the Supreme Court bench. The Progressive Party duly had its convention and nominated Roosevelt; and when Roosevelt announced that Hughes's views on the preservation of American interests were satisfactory and that the main duty was to beat Wilson, a good many Progressives followed the Colonel back into camp. A rump convention, however, nominated a Vice Presidential candidate, and virtually went over to Wilson.
Justice Hughes's views on public issues were not known before he was nominated, and on the great issue of the campaign they were never very clearly known until after the election, when it was too late. He had strong opinions on Democratic misgovernment and maladministration and outspoken opinions on Mexico, but whenever he tried to say anything about the war in Europe he used up most of his energy clearing his throat. A large element in the American people, which was influential out of proportion to its numbers because it included most of the intelligent classes and most of the organs of public opinion, felt that the President had been too weak in the face of German provocation. To this element, chiefly in the East, Colonel Roosevelt appealed with his denunciation of German aggression and of the President's temporizing with Germany; but Colonel Roosevelt was not running for President. There was another minority, considerably smaller and far less reputable, which consisted of bitter partisans of the German cause. This minority was fiercely against the President because he had dared to challenge Germany at all; and though Mr. Hughes gave it no particular encouragement, it supported him because there was nobody else to support.
So, in the Eastern States, where anti-German sentiment was strongest, the Democrats advocated the re-election of Wilson as the defender of American rights against foreign aggression, while in the West he was praised as the man who had endured innumerable provocations and "kept us out of war." When Hughes swept everything in the East, it was confidently assumed on election night that Wilson had been repudiated by the country; but later reports showed that the East was no longer symptomatic of the country's sentiment. For three days the election was in doubt. It was finally decided by California, where the Republican Senator whom Hughes had snubbed was re-elected by 300,000 majority, while the Democratic electoral ticket won by a narrow margin. Wilson had carried almost everything in the West. Those parts of the country which lay further away from Europe and European interests had re-elected him because he had "kept us out of War."
Mediation Efforts, 1916-1917
It has been stated by Count von Bernstorff that, if Hughes had been elected, President Wilson would immediately have resigned, along with the Vice President, after appointing Hughes as Secretary of State, in order to give the President-elect an opportunity to come into office at once and meet the urgent problems already pressing on the Executive. Whether the President actually entertained any such intention or not, it would have been a logical development of his theory of the Chief Executive as Premier. But the President-Premier had received a vote of confidence, and was free to deal with the new situation created by the various peace proposals of the Winter of 1916-1917. The negotiations which followed during December and January were obscure at the time and are by no means clear even yet. The fullest account of them is that of Bernstorff, whose personal interest in vindicating himself would make him a somewhat unreliable witness even if there were nothing else against him. And at the time, when the President's motives were unknown to a public which had not his advantage of information as to what was going to happen in Europe, almost every step which he took was misconstrued, and his occasional infelicities of language aroused suspicions which later events have shown to be entirely unjustified.
Reports of American diplomats in the Fall of 1916 indicated that the party in Germany which favored unrestricted submarine war without consideration for neutrals was growing in strength. It was opposed by most of the civilian officials of the Government, including the Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg; Jagow and Zimmermann, the successive Foreign Secretaries, and Bernstorff, the Ambassador in Washington. But the Admirals who supported it were gradually winning over the all-powerful Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff, and it appeared only a question of time until the promise to America of May, 1916, should be broken. And, as Bernstorff has expressed it, the President realized after the Sussex note there could be no more notes; any future German aggression would have to be met by action or endured with meekness.
In these circumstances the President was driven to seek opportunity for the mediation which he had been ready to offer, if asked, from the very beginning of the war. But to offer mediation, so long as the war was undecided, was a matter of extreme delicacy. The majority of intelligent Americans were strong partisans of the allied cause and firmly believed that that cause was bound to win in the long run. There was a minority which had equal sympathy for Germany and equal confidence in her ultimate success. To offer mediation while the war was still undecided would have been to offend both of these elements, as well as the warring nations themselves, all of which were still confident of victory. Specifically, to offer mediation during the course of the Presidential election would have been to drive over to Hughes all the pro-Ally elements in America, which in the state of mind of 1916 would have seen in such a proposal only a helping hand extended to a Germany whose cause was otherwise hopeless.
So, though during 1916 the President would have welcomed a request for mediation, he did not dare suggest it on his own account. And neither side dared to propose it, for such a request would have been taken as an admission of defeat. Nineteen hundred and sixteen was an indecisive year, but the fortune of war gave now one side and now the other the conviction that a few months more would bring it to complete victory. In such circumstances the losers dared not make a proposal which would hearten their enemies and the victors would not suggest the stopping of the war when they hoped that a few months more would see them in a much more favorable position.
A Sympathetic Tribute
Hamilton Holt, head of a delegation that visited the White House on October 27, 1920, in connection with the campaign advocating our entry into the League of Nations, said in the course of his address to President Wilson:
"It was you who first focused the heterogeneous and often diverse aims of the war on the one ideal of pure Americanism, which is democracy. It was you who suggested the basis on which peace was negotiated. It was you, more than any man, who translated into practical statesmanship the age-old dream of the poets, the prophets and the philosophers by setting up a league of nations to the end that coöperation could be substituted for competition in international affairs.
"These acts of statesmanship were undoubtedly the chief factors which brought about that victorious peace which has shorn Germany of her power to subdue her neighbors, has compelled her to make restitution for her crimes, has freed oppressed peoples, has restored ravaged territories, has created new democracies in the likeness of the United States, and above all has set up the League of Nations."
But by December Germany's situation was more fortunate than at any time since the early Summer. Rumania, which had come into the war three months before, had been defeated and overrun in a spectacular campaign which had brought new prestige to the German armies. The triumph was of more value in appearance than in reality, for no decision had been reached on the main fronts and none of the chief belligerents was willing to give up. Germany was under a terrible strain, and the civilian Government concluded that the end of 1916 offered an opportunity to make a peace proposal, without loss of prestige, which might lead to a settlement of the war that would leave Germany substantially the victor. For it was known that unless some such decisive result were soon attained the military party would unloose the submarines in the effort to win a complete victory, and thereby bring about complications too serious for the civilian officials to contemplate with any sense of security.
So on Dec. 12 Bethmann Hollweg proposed a peace conference. He mentioned no terms which Germany would consider; he spoke in the arrogant tones of a victor; and the total effect of his speech was to convince the world that he was trying to influence the pacifist elements in the allied countries rather than to bring about an end of the war. But his step caused profound uneasiness in Washington, for he had anticipated the action which the President had long been considering. If Mr. Wilson could not have offered mediation before the election, he might have tried it in November had not the German deportation of Belgian workingmen just then aroused such a storm of anti-German feeling in America that it would have been unsafe to take a step which public opinion would have generally regarded as favorable to Germany. Now that Bethmann Hollweg had anticipated him, it was evident that any proposal which the President might make would be regarded as a sort of second to the German motion.
Nevertheless, the situation was urgent, and the President seems to have felt that his interposition could perhaps accomplish something which the German initiative could not. Colonel House in the last two years had made a number of trips to Europe as a sort of super-Ambassador to all the powers in the endeavor to find out what their Governments regarded as suitable terms of peace. Mr. Wilson's own interest lay first of all in the establishment of conditions that would reduce—or, as men would have said in 1916, prevent—the possibility of future wars. On May 27, 1916, he had delivered a speech before the League to Enforce Peace in which he favored the formation of an international association for the delay or prevention of wars and the preservation of the freedom of the seas. Later speeches contained doctrines most of which were eventually written into the League covenant, and were based on the central theory that all nations must act together to prevent the next war, as otherwise they would all be drawn into it. On Oct. 26 he had declared that "this is the last war the United States can ever keep out of."
The United States in the War
Declaration of war, April 6, 1917.
American warships in European waters, May 4, 1917.
First Liberty Loan offered, May 14, 1917.
Selective Service act operative, May 18, 1917.
First American troops in France, July 1, 1917.
Fourteen Points speech, January 8, 1918.
"Force to the utmost" speech, April 6, 1918.
Americans in action at Cantigny, May 28, 1918.
Chateau-Thierry, June 1-5, 1918.
Marne-Aisne offensive, July 15-August, 1918.
St. Mihiel offensive, September 12, 1918.
Mèuse-Argonne offensive, September 26-November 11, 1918.
Austrian peace proposal, September 15, 1918.
First German peace note, October 4, 1918.
Armistice ending the war, November 11, 1918.
Yet the President also had ideas on the nature of the peace terms by which the war then going on should be concluded, though he felt that no good could be obtained by the proposal of such terms from a neutral. On Dec. 18, accordingly, he addressed the belligerent Governments with an invitation to state the specific conditions which each of them regarded as essential to a just peace, in the hope that they would find they were nearer agreement than they knew. Unfortunately, the President made the observation that the objects of the two alliances, "as stated in general terms to their own people and the world," were "virtually the same." That was true; each side had said that it was fighting in self-defense in order to preserve international justice, the rights of nationalities, and a number of other worthy interests. But the public, both in America and in the allied countries, saw in this renewed effort at "impartiality of thought as well as of action" an indication that the President saw no moral difference between the two sides. From that moment any good result of the President's suggestion, in America or in the allied countries, was out of the question; and if any hope had remained, the Germans presently destroyed it. They wanted a peace conference with no terms stated beforehand, where they could play on the divergent interests of the allied countries; nor did they want the President to have anything to do with the making of peace, lest, as Bethmann Hollweg expressed it to Bernstorff, the Germans should be "robbed of their gains by neutral pressure." So the German reply on Dec. 26 politely observed that a direct conference between the belligerents would seem most appropriate, which conference the German Government proposed. For the general idea of a League of Nations the Germans expressed their approval, but they wanted peace of their own kind first.
The allied reply was delayed until Jan. 11, but at least it met the President's request for details. It laid down the specifications of what the allied powers would regard as a just peace, and the bulk of that program was eventually to be written into the Treaty of Versailles. But at the time, of course, it was evident that the belligerents were further from agreement than they thought, or at any rate than the President thought. Of such terms Germany would hear nothing; nor would her Government give to the President, even in confidence, its own idea of the specifications of a just peace.
So the President, determined to carry out his program in spite of all obstacles, finally went before the Senate on Jan. 22, 1917, and laid down some general considerations of what he thought a just peace should be like. It was the logical next step in his effort to stop the war before America should become involved, but it was taken under conditions which made success impossible. As a matter of fact, the Germans had already decided to resume the unrestricted submarine war; the decision had been taken on Jan. 9, but was not to be announced till Jan. 31. Moreover, in America and the allied countries public sentiment was unprepared for anything like the speech of Jan. 22. Few people in the United States realized the danger. Mr. Lansing had followed upon the December note with a statement to correspondents that if the war were not soon stopped America might be drawn into it. That was the fact, but it depended on information unknown to the public; and though the most natural inference was that a new crisis with Germany was at hand no one knew exactly how to take it—particularly as Lansing, on orders from the White House, hastened to explain that he had been misunderstood.
Moreover, the President was still desperately striving to keep in good understanding with the German Government, and in pursuance of this policy James W. Gerard, the Ambassador to Germany, had declared at a dinner in Berlin on Jan. 6 that the relations between America and Germany had never been better than they were at that moment. This, also, the public in the United States found it hard to understand. If Lansing's reference to the danger of war had meant anything, what did this mean?
So the President's address to the Senate on Jan. 22 did not and could not have the reception that he hoped. He set forth his idea of the necessity of a League of Nations, he declared that the peace must be based on democratic principles and on the doctrine that was to become famous before long under the name of self-determination. There must be no more forcible conquests, no more bartering of unwilling populations. The peace that ended this war, he said, must be guaranteed by a League of Nations—of all nations; and if America was to enter that League she must be assured that the peace was a peace worth guaranteeing.
So far every one might have followed him, in America at least; but the President called such a peace a "peace without victory," and to the supporters of the Allies in America, rendered suspicious by a course whose motives they could not see, that meant a peace without allied victory and consequently an unjust peace. Few of the President's public addresses have been more unfavorably received.
Wilson had stated his peace terms—of course, only in general principles; the Allies had stated theirs in detail. Except for an article in a New York evening newspaper, inspired by Bernstorff but bearing no mark of authority, the German terms had not even been suggested. On the day following his Senate speech, according to Bernstorff, the President volunteered to issue a call for an immediate peace conference if only the Germans would state their terms. But they did not state them until the 29th, when a note for the President's private information detailed a program which was as obviously unacceptable to the allied powers as the Allies' terms were to the Germans. In any case this program had only an academic interest, for along with it came a formal notice that unrestricted submarine war would begin on Feb. 1.
The German Government had deliberately broken its promises of Sept. 1, 1915, and May 5, 1916. Moreover, that Government, which for months past had been sending the President private assurances of its hearty approval of his efforts toward peace, had by its intrusion and its refusal to deal openly wrecked those efforts when at last he had brought them to a head. There was only one thing to do, and the President did it. On Feb. 3 he announced to Congress the rupture of diplomatic relations with Germany.
But breaking of relations did not mean war. The President told Congress that if the threat against American lives and property conveyed by the resumption of submarine war were followed by overt acts of actual injury to Americans he would come before Congress once more and ask for authority to take the necessary steps to protect American interests. But for the moment he seems to have felt that only a warning was necessary; that the Germans, if convinced that America meant business, would reconsider their decision. And he added, "I take it for granted that all neutral Governments will take the same course." Logically they should have done so, since the proclamation of submarine war was virtually a declaration of war on all neutrals; but the European neutrals did not dare to run the risk even if they had been so minded.
The submarines set to work and more ships were sunk, some of them ships with American passengers. The nation began to demand war to end an impossible situation. For the moment the President's aspirations were more moderate, and he asked Congress in the closing days of his first term for authority to arm American merchant ships for defense against submarines. The bill readily passed the House and commanded the support of seven-eighths of the Senate; but a dozen pacifists, pro-Germans and professional obstructionists, whom the President denounced as "a little group of willful men," filibustered it to death in the Senate in the last hours of the session. Almost the first act of the President after his inauguration, however, was the preparation to arm the ships by Executive authority.
The farmers, it seems to me, have occupied hitherto a singular position of disadvantage. They have not had the same freedom to get credit on their real assets that others have had who were in manufacturing and commercial enterprises, and while they sustained our life, they did not in the same degree with some others share in the benefits of that life.—From President Wilson's remarks on signing the Rural Credits Bill, July 17, 1916.
Meanwhile secret agents had discovered an attempt by the German Foreign Office to enlist Mexican and Japanese support in the prospective war against America by promising annexations in the Southwest and on the Pacific Coast. Publication of this on March 1 converted a good many Americans of the interior who had hitherto been slow to recognize the seriousness of the German danger; and as the submarine campaign continued and no European neutrals followed the American example, the sentiment in favor of declaration of war grew every day.
But for the President this involved considerable logical difficulty. From the first he had striven to maintain "impartiality of thought," or at least of speech. He had said that the war was no concern of America's; it would be the task of long historical research to assign the responsibility for its outbreak; that "with its causes and objects we are not concerned. The obscure foundations from which its tremendous flood has burst forth we are not interested to search for and explore." It was a war which should be ended by a peace without a victory. Whatever meaning the President attached to these statements when he made them, the meaning attached to them by the public was a serious obstacle to the man who was going to have to lead the nation into war. But he solved the dilemma by a change of base which affected the whole political complexion of the war thereafter, which introduced a new and overriding issue—an issue which, addressing Congress on April 2, he introduced to the world in his most famous phrase and the most effective of his speeches. America, he said, had no quarrel with the German people; that people had not made the war. But the Germans were ruled by an autocratic Government which had made neutrality impossible, which had shown itself "the natural foe of liberty." That Government had forced America to take up the sword for the freedom of peoples—of all peoples, even of the German people. America must fight "to make the world safe for democracy." On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war.
America at War, 1917-1918
Once committed to war, the President found behind him a nation more thoroughly united than could ever have been hoped in the dark days of 1915. Again, as in the week after the sinking of the Lusitania, he was the universally trusted leader of the people; and to a considerable extent the unity of the nation at the entrance into war could be traced back to the very policies of delay which had been so sharply criticised. The people who had been on the side of the Allies from the first and who had seen through German pretenses long before were now solidly behind the President, for he had at last come over to their views. But other and important elements which might have been hostile two years before were now convinced of the necessity for fighting the Germans.
And the President's call to a crusade for democracy won the support, permanent or temporary, of many of those liberals who otherwise, in America and the allied countries, were inclined during the whole war to see in the Kaiser and Ludendorff the natural allies of liberalism. There was a feeling of great ideas stirring the world in the Spring of 1917. The Russian revolution had just overthrown the most reactionary and apparently the most firmly established of autocratic Governments, and no one in Western Europe or America doubted that Russia would jump in six months as far as England, France and America had painfully toiled in two centuries, and become and remain a free democracy. If Russia had had a revolution, might not Germany have a revolution, too? Would not the German people, whose injuries at the hands of their own rulers the President had so well pointed out, rise up and overthrow those rulers and bring about a just and lasting peace? Many people in the Spring of 1917 expected exactly that; the millennium was just around the corner.
Moreover, it seemed that perhaps the Allies would win the war in the field before America could get into it. A British offensive in Artois had important initial successes, and Nivelle's bloody failure on the Aisne was for a long time represented to the world as a brilliant victory. War, for America, might involve a little expenditure of money, but hardly any serious effort, according to the view widely current among the population in the Spring of 1917; it was more than anything else an opportunity for the display of commendable moral sentiments, and for enthusiastic acclamations to the famous allied leaders who presently began to come to the United States on special missions. It is hardly too much to say that most of the American people went into this war in the triumphant mood usually reserved for the celebration of victory.
It may some day be regarded as one of the chief merits of the Wilson Administration that it was not affected by this popular delusion. While a large part of the people seemed to expect a cheap and speedy victory by some sort of white magic, the Administration was getting ready to work for victory. And thanks largely to the unity which had been bought by the President's caution in the two previous years, Congress and the people assented to measures of exertion and self-denial such as no man could have expected America to undertake until compelled by bitter experience.
The first step was the dispatch of American naval forces to aid the Allies in the fight against the submarines, which for a few months were to come dangerously near justifying the confidence that had been placed in them. The process of naval reinforcement was slow, and not till 1918 did the American Navy become a really important factor in the anti-submarine campaign; but every destroyer added to the allied forces was of immediate value. The American Treasury was opened for vast credits to the Allies, who by their enormous purchases of war materials in the United States had created the abounding prosperity of 1916, and had pretty nearly exhausted their own finances in doing so. More than that, the Administration began at once to prepare for the organization of a vast army; and faced with this most important duty of the conduct of the war, the President took the advice of the men who knew. The army officers knew that if America were to take a serious part in the war the regular army and the National Guard would not be enough, nor even Garrison's Continental Army which had been rejected in 1916. A big army would be needed, and the right way to raise it was by conscription.
So the Selective Service act was introduced in Congress and passed in May, without very serious opposition. At the very start the American people had accepted a principle which had been adopted in the crisis of the Civil War only after two years of disaster and humiliation. It was the estimate of experts that this army would need a year of training before it would be fit for the front line, and a huge system of cantonments was hastily constructed to house the troops, while the nucleus of men trained in the Plattsburg camps was increased by the extension of the Plattsburg system all over the country.
For the leadership of this army General Pershing was selected, not without considerable criticism from those who thought General Wood deserved the position. The reasons which led to the selection of Pershing are not yet officially known to the public, but Pershing's record was to be a sufficient justification of the appointment.
But military and naval measures were only a part of the work needed to win this war. Allied shipping was being sunk by the submarines at an alarming rate, and new ships had to be provided. An enormous American program was laid out, and General Goethals, in whom there was universal confidence, was made head of the Emergency Fleet Corporation charged with its execution. But Goethals could not get along with William Denman, head of the Shipping Board, and changes of personnel were constant through the year until in 1918 Charles M. Schwab was finally put in chief control of the shipbuilding program.
For this and the development of the industrial program necessary for military efficiency the support of labor was essential. Mr. Wilson now reaped once more the benefit of a policy which had previously brought him much criticism. His retreat before the railroad brotherhoods in August of 1916, as well as the general policy of his Administration, had won him the invaluable support of the American Federation of Labor, and this good understanding, together with the unprecedented wage scales which came into operation in most industries with the war emergency, gave to the United States Government much more firm support from organized labor than most of the allied countries had been able to obtain.
But this war touched every department of human affairs. The Allies were short of food, and one of the first achievements of the American Government was the institution of a limited food control in the United States, under the directorship of Herbert Hoover. Saving of food by voluntary effort was popularized, and increased production and reduced consumption prevented the appearance of any serious food crisis in the allied countries. Later a fuel control was instituted under Dr. Harry A. Garfield, and the principle of voluntary self-denial established by the Food Administration was carried on into the field of news, where the newspapers submitted to voluntary restriction of the publication of news that might unfavorably affect military and naval movements. The Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, was in general supervision of this work, and, though it was, on the whole, unpopular and accomplished no very useful purpose at home, it developed during 1918 a service of European propaganda which was of immense value in heartening the Allies, informing the neutrals and discouraging the enemy.
For all this money was needed, and in May and June the first Liberty Loan of $2,000,000,000 was put before the public in an intensive campaign of publicity. Mr. McAdoo proved himself an extremely able advertiser of the public finances, and with the vigorous coöperation of banks and business men the loan was more than 50 per cent oversubscribed. There were other and larger loans later, but after the success of the first one there was no doubt that they would be taken; the first great accomplishment in national financing was almost as much of a surprise to the public as the ready acceptance of the draft.
Early in April the railroads were put in charge of a committee of five railroad Presidents, who were given great powers in the combination of facilities for better service. But the system did not work well, and on Dec. 26, 1917, the President announced the assumption by the Government of control of the railroads for the war emergency, with Mr. McAdoo as Director General.
Nineteen hundred and seventeen, then, saw the Wilson Administration undertaking far heavier burdens than any previous Administration had attempted, and meeting with a measure of success which was beyond all prediction. The most powerful nation in the world was getting ready for war on an enormous scale, getting ready slowly, to be sure, but with a surprising ease and a surprising harmony. The nation which had re-elected the President in November because he had kept it out of war was whole-heartedly behind him from April on as he led it into war.
But great as was the President's moral authority at home, it was still greater abroad. The principles proclaimed in his address of April 2, and repeated and elaborated later in the year, became the creed of almost every political element in Europe except the German military party. The Russian revolution was still a liberalizing influence, in the early part of the year, and self-determination began to be proclaimed over all Europe as the central principle of any satisfactory peace settlement. In the allied countries, where Mr. Wilson's forbearance toward Germany had been heaped with ridicule for the last two years, he became over night the interpreter of the ideals for which the democratic peoples were fighting. Hereafter in any negotiations with Germany the President by general consent acted as the spokesman of all the allied Governments, and the peoples of the allied countries accepted his declarations as a sort of codification of the principles of the war. It must be left for the historian of the future to decide how much of this deference was due to appreciation of the President's service in clarifying the allied ideals, and how much to his position as head of the most powerful nation in the world, whose intervention was expected to bring victory to the Allies.
But in other countries as well, Wilson's ideals had become a dogma to which everybody professed allegiance no matter what his views. The President's principles, as publicly expressed in his speeches, had been in effect a declaration of worthy ends, such as all right thinking persons desired. He had been less concerned with the means to those ends, and consequently all who agreed with his principles were inclined to assert that the President's ideals were exemplified by their own practices. In 1917 the President enjoyed the unusual experience of seeing American liberals, British Laborites, three or four kinds of Russian Socialists, neutral Socialists, neutral clericals, neutral pacifists and even certain groups in the enemy countries all proclaiming their adherence to the ideals of President Wilson.
For a time, indeed, it seemed that the war might be decided by moral force. Beginning to take alarm at the activity of America, and not yet certain of the effect of the Russian revolution (which was having grave consequences in Austria-Hungary) the Germans inclined during the Summer of 1917 to a new peace offensive. Bethmann Hollweg was dropped on July 14, and five days later a majority of the Reichstag voted for a peace virtually on the basis of the status quo ante. In August the Vatican issued a peace proposal suggesting a settlement on that general principle, with territorial and racial disputes to be left for later adjustment; and the Socialists of Europe were preparing to meet at Stockholm for a peace conference of their own influenced by the same ideas.
But the President had changed his opinion that America had no concern with the causes and the objects of the war; he had had to search for and explore the obscure foundations from which the tremendous flood had burst forth. His Flag Day speech on June 14 showed that he was now thinking of the political and economic aspects of the German drive for world supremacy; and when the allied powers intrusted him with the task of answering the Pope's peace suggestion in the name of all of them, he declared that "we cannot take the word of the present rulers of Germany as a guarantee for anything that is to endure." The German Government could not be trusted with a peace without victory.
That peace offensive died out in early Fall. The Germans had lost interest, for they seemed likely to reach their objective in other ways. Things were going badly for the Allies. The offensives in the west had broken down and France's striking power seemed exhausted. Italy suffered a terrific defeat in October. America was preparing, but had not yet arrived, and the chief result of the Russian revolution had been the collapse of the eastern front. When in November the Bolsheviki overthrew Kerensky and prepared to make peace at any price, it was evident that the German armies in France would soon be enormously reinforced. So the Winter of 1917-18 saw a new peace offensive, but this time most of the work was done by the Allies, and the object was to detach Austria-Hungary from Germany.
The item of principal interest in the long-range bombardment of speeches on war aims by which the statesmen of the various powers conducted this exchange of views was the proclamation of the famous Fourteen Points, in which the President for the first time put his ideas as to the conditions of a just peace into somewhat specific form. The origin of this program, which was eventually to become the basis of the peace treaty, is still a matter of conjecture. Lloyd George on Jan. 5, 1918, had stated war aims in some respects identical with those which the President embodied in the Fourteen Points three days later. A good deal of the program had been included in the allied statement of Jan. 11, 1917, but the Fourteen Points were somewhat more moderate. They seemed to be, indeed, a rather hasty recension of old programs in the effort to modify allied aspirations so that Austria would accept them; for while the Fourteen Points professed to contain the scheme of a just peace, they were set forth as a step in the endeavor to persuade Austria to desert her ally. As it happened, Austria could not have deserted Germany even if she had desired; and, in any event, the effort to compromise was quite impracticable. The section referring to Austrian internal problems, for instance, proposed a solution which the Austrian Government had rejected only a few weeks before, and which the Austrian subject nationalities would no longer have been willing to accept
Whatever the origin of the Fourteen Points, their immediate effect was slight. The Austrians, and to a lesser extent the Germans, professed interest, but it was soon apparent that the Germans at least were not ready to approach the allied point of view. And the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, forced upon Russia on March 3, was in such stark contrast with the benevolent professions of German statesmen that the President realized that nothing could be gained by debate and compromise. On April 6, in a speech at Baltimore, he declared that only one argument was now of use against the Germans—"force to the utmost, force without stint or limit." The process of conversion from the viewpoint of January, 1917, was complete.
As a matter of fact, however, the application of force had already begun. On March 21 Ludendorff had opened his great offensive in France which was to bring the war to a German victory, and for the next few months Foch, and not Wilson, was the dominant personality among the Allies. And for a time it seemed that however much America had contributed to the moral struggle between the alliances, she would be able to furnish comparatively little force. The winter of 1917-18 had been full of humiliations. The railroad disorganization which had led to the proclamation of Government control at the end of December was being cleared up only slowly. The Fuel Administration was in an even worse tangle, and in January business and industry had to shut down for several days throughout the whole Eastern part of the country in order to find coal to move food trains to the ports. Great sums of money and enormous volumes of boasting had been expended on airplane construction without getting any airplanes. Hundreds of millions had been poured into shipyards and ships were only beginning to come from the ways. The richest nation in the world allowed hundreds of its soldiers to die in cantonment hospitals because of insufficient attention and inadequate supplies. Artillery regiments were being trained with wooden guns and only 150,000 Americans, many of them technical troops, were in France.
The Secretary of War, called before a Congressional committee to answer questions on these shortcomings, had created the impression that he either did not know that anything was wrong or did not care. On Jan. 19 Senator Chamberlain, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, declared that "the military establishment of the United States has broken down; it has almost stopped functioning," and that there was "inefficiency in every bureau and department of the Government." The next day he introduced bills for a War Cabinet and a Director of Munitions, which would practically have taken the military and industrial conduct of the war out of the President's hands.
The President met the challenge boldly with the declaration that Senator Chamberlain's statement was "an astonishing and unjustifiable distortion of the truth," and must have been due to disloyalty to the Administration. Chamberlain's reply, while admitting that he might have overstated his case, was a proclamation of loyalty to his Commander-in-Chief and an appeal for getting down to the business of winning the war.
The Fourteen Points
President Wilson's program for the world's peace was outlined in the Fourteen Points, which constituted part of an address delivered before Congress January 8, 1918, as follows:
No Private Understandings
1 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.
Freedom of the Seas
2 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.
No Economic Barriers
3 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.
Reduce National Armaments
4 Adequate Guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
5 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.
6 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.
Restoration of Belgium
7 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.
Alsace-Lorraine to France
8 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.
New Frontiers for Italy
9 A Readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
Autonomy in Austria-Hungary
10 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.
Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro
11 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.
Autonomy in Turkey
12 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 autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
For an Independent Poland
13 An Independent Polish State should be erected which should include the territory 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.
League of Nation
14 A General association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guaranties of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small States alike.
But the war did not go on into 1919. If America could contribute no aircraft and guns to the campaign of 1918, she could at least contribute men. The emergency of March and April brought forth a prodigious effort, and soldiers began to be shipped across the Atlantic by hundreds of thousands. By July 4 there were a million, before the end of the year over 2,000,000; and they could fight. At the end of the Summer the Germans realized that the war was lost; and realizing it, they turned back to President Wilson's mediation which they had rejected eighteen months before, and to the Fourteen Points which had been looked on so coldly in the previous Winter.
The first move was made by the Austrians, who on Sept. 15 proposed a conference for a "preliminary and non-binding" discussion of war aims. The President refused the next day, with the observation that America's war aims had been stated so often that there could be no doubt what they were. But it was evident that more peace proposals would follow, and on Sept. 27 the President delivered an address in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in which his latest conception of the duties of the Peace Conference was set forth. He had realized that peace without victory was unsafe in view of the character of the German Government; it must be a peace with guarantees, for nobody would trust the Germans. But it must be a peace of impartial justice, "involving no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just," and the guarantee must be provided by a League of Nations which the Peace Conference itself—and not a subsequent general conference, as the President had held in the days of his neutrality—must organize. The development was logical; nearly all the American powers had entered the war, and neutrals were far less numerous than in 1916. And he argued that the League of Nations must be formed at the Peace Conference, to be "in a sense the most essential part" of its work, because it was not likely that it could be formed after the conference, and if formed during the war it would only be an alliance of the powers associated against Germany.
The Germans apparently thought these pronouncements offered some hope. Their Government was hastily being covered with a false front of democratic institutions to suit his insistence, and on Oct. 4 the new Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, appealed to the President to call a peace conference at once, the basis of peace to be the Fourteen Points and conditions set forth in the President's later addresses, specifically that of Sept. 27. There ensued an interchange of notes lasting throughout an entire month, in which the President acted nominally as intermediary between the Germans and the Allies, though actually he was in constant touch with allied statesmen. What began as a duel of diplomatic dexterity presently developed into a German diplomatic rout as the German armies, retreating everywhere, drew nearer and nearer German soil. Positions which the German Government had hoped to defend were successively abandoned; the Germans agreed to accept without argument the Fourteen Points, with discussion at the conference limited only to details of their practical application, and to recognize the alterations which had been made in some of them by subsequent decisions of the American Government. They accepted the President's insistence that a peace conference must be conditional on an armistice which would imply complete evacuation of allied territory and the assurance of "the present supremacy" of the allied armies, and they strove desperately to convince him that the democratization of the German Government was real. Delegates went to Marshal Foch to discuss the armistice terms, and on Nov. 5 the Allies formally notified the President that they accepted the Fourteen Points, with the reservation of the freedom of the seas and subject to a definition of the restitution which the Germans must make for damage done.
On the same day sailors of the German High Sea Fleet, ordered out to die fighting in a last thrust at the British, mutinied and began a revolution that spread all over the empire. From the balcony of the Imperial Palace in Berlin Karl Liebknecht proclaimed the republic; the Kaiser fled across the Dutch border between two days; and on Nov. 11 the fighting ended and the Germans submitted to the terms imposed by Marshal Foch.
Peace Conference and Treaty, 1919
So the war had been ended by the military defeat of the Germans. In arranging the preliminaries of peace Mr. Wilson's influence had been dominant. But the personal aspect of his triumph was far more imposing in 1918 than it could possibly have been in 1916. Had his mediation ended the war before America entered it would have been bitterly resented in the allied countries and by American sympathizers of the Allies. But in the interval the President had appeared as the leader of the nation which furnished the decisive addition to allied strength that brought the final victory; he had at last condemned in strong terms the German Government, toward which he had to maintain a neutral attitude earlier in the war, and he had had the satisfaction of seeing that Government overthrown at last when the German people realized that it had cost them more than it was worth. So now the war was ended in victory, but still ended by Wilson's mediation, and moreover on terms which he himself had laid down—another triumph that would have been unthinkable two years earlier. In November, 1918, Woodrow Wilson was exalted in the estimation of the world more highly than any other human being for a century past, and far more highly than any other American had ever been raised in the opinion of the peoples of Europe.
But he had just suffered a surprising defeat at home. It became evident to Democratic leaders in the early Fall of 1918 that they were likely to lose the Congressional elections. Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives had been so notoriously incompetent that most of the war measures had had to be carried through under the leadership of Republicans, and there was grave dissatisfaction with some of the members of the Cabinet. The appeals of Democrats in danger were heard sympathetically at the White House, and on Oct. 25 the President had issued a statement asking the people to vote for Democratic Congressional candidates "if you have approved of my leadership and wish me to continue to be your unembarrassed spokesman in affairs at home and abroad." He admitted that the Republicans in Congress had supported the war, but declared that they had been against the Administration and that the time was too critical for divided leadership. It was the sort of appeal that any European Premier might have made upon "going to the country," and the President ended with the statement that "I am your servant and will accept your judgment without cavil."
If this statement had never been issued, the results of the ensuing election might not have been accepted as a repudiation of the President. But he had made it a "question of confidence," to borrow a term from European politics, and the result was disastrous. The elections gave the Republicans a majority of thirty-nine in the lower house and a majority of two in the Senate, which by a two-thirds vote would have to ratify the peace treaty which the Executive would negotiate. In such a situation a European Premier would, of course, have had to resign, but the President of the United States could hardly resign just as the war was coming to an end. The attempt to fit the parliamentary system into the framework of the American Constitution had failed. The President made no comment on the outcome of the election, but he continued to be the unembarrassed spokesman of America in affairs at home and particularly abroad. It soon became known that he intended to go to the Peace Conference in person—at the request, it was intimated, of Clemenceau and Lloyd George. The criticism of this plan was by no means confined to Republicans, but the President persisted in it. There was a widespread demand for a non-partisan Peace Commission, but the apparent concession which the President finally made to this sentiment—the appointment of Henry White, long out of the diplomatic service and never very active in politics, as the sole Representative on a commission of five—satisfied the bulk of Republican sentiment not at all. It should be observed however, that behind the five official delegates there was a host of experts—military, economic, legal and ethnological—some of whom did very important service at the conference; and in the selection of this body no party lines had been drawn.
On December 4 the President sailed from New York on an army transport, accompanied by Mrs. Wilson and by a whole caravan of savants loaded down with statistics and documents. He left a nation whose sentiment was divided between sharp resentment and a rather apprehensive hope for the best, but he landed on a continent which was prepared to offer to Woodrow Wilson a triumphal reception such as European history had never known. The six weeks between his landing at Brest and the opening of the Peace Conference were devoted to a series of processions through England, France and Italy, in which the Governments and the people strove to outdo each other in expressing their enthusiasm for the leader of the great and victorious crusade for justice and democracy. Sovereigns spiritual and temporal and the heads of Governments heaped him with all the honors in their power, and crowds of workingmen stood for hours in the rain that they might see him for a moment at a railroad station. Even from neutral Holland, divided Ireland and hostile Germany came invitations to the President, and he would probably have been received by those peoples as enthusiastically as by British, French and Italians.
For the war had been ended on the basis of the ideals of President Wilson. Those ideals had been expressed in vague and general terms, and every Government thought that its own war aims coincided with them. Every people, suddenly released from the long and terrible strain of the war, thought that all its troubles were suddenly to be ended by the principles of President Wilson. Jugo-Slavs and Italians claimed Istria and Fiume, and each felt itself supported by the principles of President Wilson. To Frenchmen those principles meant that Germany must pay for the war forced on France, and to Germans they meant that a ruined France and an uninvaded Germany could start again on the same footing.
The Peace conference that began on January 18 was bound to disillusion a great many people, including President Wilson himself. Principles had to be translated into practice, and every effort to do so left one party to the dispute, if not both, convinced that the principles had been betrayed. The treaty which was eventually produced led American liberals to complain that the President had surrendered to European imperialism, and brought from such Republicans as still admired the Allies the complaint that he had betrayed allied interests at the promptings of pacifism. Equally diverse opinions might have been obtained from all types of extremists in Europe. The Fourteen Points were susceptible of varying interpretations, according to individual interests; and at the very outset the American delegates found some of the allied leaders contending that they need not be considered, since the Germans had surrendered, not because they regarded the principles of President Wilson as just, but because they had been beaten. There was undoubtedly a great deal of truth in this contention, but the American delegates succeeded in holding the conference to the position that having accepted the German surrender on certain terms it would have to abide by those terms. The terms had to be interpreted, however, and every agreement on the details led to a protest from somebody that the President had abandoned the Fourteen Points.
All this, together with the growing Republican opposition at home which was making itself heard in Europe, led to a rapid decline in the President's prestige. So long as it was a question of generalities he was the moral leader of the peoples of the world, but after a few weeks of getting down to particulars he was only the head of the peace delegation of a single State—and a State in which there was already serious opposition to his policy. This altered standing was made evident toward the end of April, when a protracted disagreement with the Italian delegation over the Adriatic question led the President to issue a declaration of his position which was virtually an appeal to the Italian people over the heads of their own representatives. Nowhere had the President been received with more enthusiasm than in his trip through Italy four months before; but now Dr. Orlando, the Italian Premier, went home and promptly got a virtually unanimous vote of confidence from his Parliament, which was supported by the overwhelming majority of the people.
The treaty was finally signed on June 28, and the President left at once for home to take up the fight to get it through the Senate—a fight which, it was already apparent, would be about as hard as the struggle to get any treaty evolved at all out of the conflicting national interests in Paris. There was a demonstration for him at Brest as he left French soil, but nothing like the enthusiasm that had greeted his arrival. This was perhaps the measure of his inevitable decline in the estimation of Europe; it remained to be seen how he stood at home. As early as January 1, before the Peace Conference met, Senator Lodge, Republican leader in the Senate, had declared that the conference ought to confine itself to the Peace Treaty and leave the League of Nations for later discussion.
On February 14, after the first reading of the League covenant, the President had made a hurried trip home to talk it over with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations—a committee that had been loaded up with enemies of the League of Nations. The members of the committee dined with him at the White House on February 26, and the covenant was discussed for several hours. But the President could not convert the doubters; on March 3 Senator Lodge announced that thirty-seven Republican Senators were opposed to the League in its present form, and that they regarded a demand for its alteration as the exercise of the Senate's constitutional right of advice on treaties. The President took up the challenge, and on the following day, just before sailing back to Paris, he declared in a public address that the League and treaty were inextricably interwoven; that he did not intend to bring back "the corpse of a treaty," and that those who opposed the League must be deaf to the demands of common men the world over.
The fight was now begun. Some modifications were made in the covenant in the direction of meeting criticisms by Elihu Root, but it was adopted. On July 10 the treaty was laid before the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, which at once began to hear opinions on it. The President himself appeared before the committee on August 19. Outside the Senate party lines were breaking up; the Irish and German elements who had come into line during the war, but had felt that their interpretation of President Wilson's ideals had been violated by the treaty, were aligned in support of the Republican opposition; and a certain element of the Democratic Party which inclined to admire the theory of traditional isolation found itself in harmony with the Republicans. On the other hand, many moderate Republicans supported the President, chief among them Mr. Taft; and in the churches and colleges support of the League commanded an overwhelming majority.
Convinced that the people were behind him against the Senate, or would be behind him if they understood the issue, the President left Washington on September 3 for another appeal to the country. Declaring that if America rejected the League it would "break the great heart of the world," he went to the Pacific Coast on a long and arduous speaking tour, another request, in effect, for a vote of confidence for his work as Premier. The effort was too much; he broke down at Wichita, Kan., on September 26, and was hurried back to the White House, where for weeks he lay disabled by an illness whose nature and seriousness were carefully concealed at the time, and even yet but imperfectly understood. Meanwhile the treaty had been reported out of committee, and the offering of a multitude of amendments, all of which were defeated, led eventually to the drawing up of the "Lodge reservations," finally adopted on November 16.
Nobody knew how sick the President was, but Senator Hitchcock, who had led the fight for the treaty in the Senate, saw him on November 18 and was told that in the President's opinion the Lodge reservations amounted to nullification of the treaty. So the Democrats voted against the treaty. Lodge's refusal to accept Wilson's treaty was as unshakable as Wilson's refusal to accept Lodge's treaty. When the special session ended and the regular session began the President eventually yielded a little and consented to interpretative reservations proposed by Senator Hitchcock. But this would not satisfy the Republicans; and on March 20 the rejected treaty was finally sent back to the White House.
The Closing Year, 1920-1921
The President's recovery was slow, and the first incidents of his return to the management of public affairs were rather startling, in view of the abrupt manner with which he resumed the direction of executive policy. During his illness the Cabinet had met from time to time and in a fashion had carried on the routine work of the executive department. Had it not done so, had the gravity of the President's illness been generally known, the demand which was heard for an explanation of the constitutional reference to the "disability of the President" and an understanding of the circumstances under which the Vice-President might assume the office would have been much stronger. There was a good deal of apprehension, therefore, when Secretary of State Lansing resigned, and the published correspondence showed that the President had regarded his action in calling Cabinet meetings as a usurpation of Presidential authority. It was evident from the correspondence that another and perhaps stronger reason for the President's disapproval had been the action of the Secretary in conducting a Mexican Policy on his own initiative, during the President's illness, which showed considerable divergence from the President's own. Nevertheless, the manner of the action caused some uneasiness and there was much surprise when Mr. Lansing was replaced by Bainbridge Colby, a comparatively recent proselyte from the Progressive Party.
There was still further uncertainty as to the condition of the President when he re-entered with a series of rather sharp notes into the Adriatic controversy, which England, France and Italy had been trying to settle, without consulting the Jugoslavs, during his illness; and a letter to Senator Hitchcock on March 8, asserting that the militarist party was at that time in control of France, aroused grave misgivings on both sides of the Atlantic. These, however, were unjustified; the President's improvement, though gradual, continued. But the work of the Executive during 1920 was far less important than in previous years, for the interest of the country was concentrated on the Presidential election.
On January 8 a letter from the President had been read at the Jackson Day dinner in Washington, in which he refused to accept the Senate's decision on the treaty as the decision of the nation. "If there is any doubt as to what the people of the country think about the matter," he added, "the clear and single way out is ... to give the next election the form of a great and solemn referendum." Once more, as in 1918, the President had asked for a verdict on his leadership. There was some perturbation among the Democratic leaders, for into a Presidential election so many issues enter that it would be difficult to regard it as a referendum on any particular issue. It might have been so accepted if the President himself had come forward as a candidate for a third term, but there was no sign from the White House as to his attitude on this issue, and there was no spontaneous demand for him outside. The leading candidate during the pre-convention campaign was William G. McAdoo, the President's son-in-law, who had resigned as Secretary of the Treasury and Director General of Railroads after making a successful record during the war, and before the criticism of the Wilson Administration as a whole had become acute. McAdoo had the powerful support of organized labor and most of the Federal office-holders, but whether or not he had the support of the White House no man knew. The Republicans assumed it for their own purposes, and Senator Lodge's keynote speech at the Chicago Convention was full of denunciations of the "Wilson dynasty"; but if McAdoo were Wilson's candidate the President showed no sign of knowing it.
That McAdoo was not nominated, however, can be ascribed very largely to his relationship to the President and the suspicion that he was the President's candidate. The Democratic Convention at San Francisco adopted a platform praising and indorsing the President's record in all details. The convention had to do that; the President's record was the party's record. Homer Cummings as Temporary Chairman kept the convention cheered up by a keynote speech of eulogy of that record, which moved the assembled Democrats to such enthusiasm that Secretary of State Colby, who had not been a Democrat long enough to know much about the behavior of the species, declared that at any movement that day the rules could have been suspended and the President renominated by acclamation. But when the convention came down to the work of nomination the President was not considered, and the delegates devoted themselves to finding the most available man who had not had any connection with the Administration. James M. Cox was finally nominated on Woodrow Wilson's record and sent out to the great and solemn referendum.
Aside from a formal proclamation of unity of ideals and intentions with the candidate, the White House took practically no part in the campaign. Not until October, when a delegation of pro-League Republicans called at the White House, was it known that the President's health had temporarily taken a turn for the worse and that active participation would have been impossible. It could hardly have affected the result very much in either direction.
Whether or not the President had intended to turn over the Government to Hughes in November, 1916, he did nothing so unkind to Harding in November, 1920. The President-elect was allowed plenty of time to try to choose his Cabinet and his policies, but the Administration had gradually withdrawn from all connection with European affairs, and it was made known soon after Congress met in December that nothing would be done which might embarrass the new Administration in its handling of foreign relations and interrelated problems.
The history of Woodrow Wilson's Administration virtually ends with the rejection of the treaty; but the business of government had to be carried on through the final year. During 1920 old issues that had long been hidden behind the war clouds came out into the open again. Obregon overthrew Carranza and entered into power in Mexico, but the Wilson Administration maintained neutrality during the brief struggle. Ambassador Fletcher had resigned, but Henry Morgenthau, appointed to succeed him, did not obtain the confirmation of the Senate, and the new Administration had not been formally recognized at the end of President Wilson's term. A controversy over the status of American oil rights was one of the chief impediments to recognition, though Obregon's general attitude was far more friendly to America than that of Carranza.
The President in November announced the boundaries of Armenia, which he had drawn at the request of the European Allies. But these boundaries were of no particular interest by that time, since the Turks and the Bolsheviki were already partitioning Armenia; and the mediation between the Turks and Armenians which the Allies requested the President to undertake was forestalled by the Bolshevist conquest of the remnant of the country. The Adriatic dispute, in which the President had taken such a prominent part in 1919, was finally settled without him by direct negotiation between Italy and Jugoslavia. In one other international problem, however, that of Russia, the United States Government still exerted some influence. The President during 1918 had showed more willingness to believe in the possibility of some good coming out of Bolshevist Russia than most of the European Governments, and the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia took no active part in the fighting there. At the Peace Conference the President had been willing to call the various Russian parties to the Prinkipo conference, but nothing came of this; and America eventually took up a middle ground toward Russia. While the British seemed ready to make friends with the Bolsheviki and the French remained irreconcilably hostile, the American Government—whose policy was fully set forth in a note of August 10, 1920—refused to attack them, but also to have any dealings with them. This policy was much criticised as being purely negative, but toward the end of Mr. Wilson's Administration both England and France were tending to follow it through the force of circumstances, England's effort to find a basis of trade relations with Bolshevist Russian being as futile as France's support of anti-Bolshevist revolutionary movements.
The Republicans and their Irish supporters in the 1920 campaign revived the old demand for the exemption of American shipping from the Panama Canal tolls, but this and various other differences with England which arose toward the end of Mr. Wilson's Administration were left over for settlement by the new President. More urgent, however, was another ancient issue now revived—the California land question. In 1917, when America was just entering the war and could not afford any dangerous entanglements on the Pacific, the Lansing-Ishii agreement was negotiated with Japan. By this the United States recognized Japan's "special interests" in China, particularly in "the parts to which her territory is contiguous," while both powers professed agreement on the principles of Chinese independence and territorial integrity, and the open door. However necessary this concession in order to protect an exposed flank in time of war, it was regarded with much alarm by friends of China, whose wrath was later aroused by the action of the President at the Peace Conference in agreeing to the cession of Shantung to Japan. There was a renewed antagonism between American and Japanese interests in certain quarters, and the American Army in Siberia, if it did nothing else, at least kept the Japanese from seizing Vladivostok until the Americans had left.
With this background, the situation created by the revival of anti-Japanese agitation in California seemed more or less disquieting, but when a more stringent land law was enacted by the Californians in November negotiations between the two Governments began at once and are still going on at the close of the Administration with good prospect of agreement.
The President's unpopularity had been so violently expressed by the election of November 2 that it was bound to be mitigated soon after, and this natural reaction was aided by the failure of the Republican Congress to accomplish anything in the short session and by President-elect Harding's slowness in deciding among candidates offered for the Cabinet and policies put forward for his attention. As President Wilson prepared to turn over the executive duties to his successor there was already evidence that the American public was returning to a greater appreciation of his services. As a token of the estimation in which he was still held by the more intelligent circles abroad, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him in December, 1920; and European statesmen who had opposed him at the Peace Conference were already expressing surprise at learning that Mr. Harding believed that the League of Nations was dead.
Copyright New York Times.
Published through the courtesy of the New York Times.
In Flanders Fields
By Lieut. Col. John McCrea
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch. Be yours to lift it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, tho poppies blow
In Flanders fields.
By R. W. Lillard
Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead!
The fight that ye so bravely led
We've taken up! And we will keep
True faith with you who lie asleep,
With each a cross to mark his bed,
And poppies blowing overhead
Where once his own life blood ran red!
So let your rest be sweet and deep
In Flanders fields!
Fear not that ye have died for naught,
The torch ye threw to us we caught!
Ten million hands will hold it high,
And Freedom's light shall never die!
We've learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders fields!
By Richard Linthicum
The tide is at the ebb, as if to mark
Our turning backward from the guiding light;
Grotesque, uncertain shapes infest the dark
And wings of bats are heard in aimless flight;
Discordant voices cry and serpents hiss,
No friendly star, no beacon's beckoning ray;
We follow, all forsworn, with steps amiss,
Envy and Malice on an unknown way.
But he who bore the light in night of war,
Swiftly and surely and without surcease,
Where other light was not, save one red star,
Treads now, as then, the certain path to peace;
Wounded, denied, but radiant of soul,
Steadfast in honor, marches toward the goal.
The spirit that was Peace seems but a wraith,
The glory that was ours seems but a name,
And like a rotten reed our broken faith,
Our boasted virtue turned to scarlet shame
By the low, envious lust of party power;
While he upon the heights whence he had led,
Deserted and betrayed in victory's hour,
Still wears a victor's wreath on unbowed head.
The Nation gropes—his rule is at an end,
Immortal man of the transcendent mind,
Light-bearer of the world, the loving friend
Of little peoples, servant of mankind!
O land of mine! how long till you atone?
How long to stand dishonored and alone?
To Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1921.
THE FOUNDERS OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Make firm, O God, the peace our dead have won,
For folly shakes the tinsel on her head
And points us back to darkness and to hell,
Cackling, "Beware of Visions," while our dead
Still cry, "It was for visions that we fell."
We must hearten and quicken the spirit and efficiency of labor throughout our whole industrial system by everywhere and in all occupations doing justice to the laborer, not only by paying a living wage but also by making all the conditions that surround labor what they ought to be. And we must do more than justice. We must safeguard life and promote health and safety in every occupation in which they are threatened or imperiled. That is more than justice, and better, because it is humanity and economy.—From President Wilson's Speech of Acceptance at Shadow Lawn, September 2, 1916.
Woodrow Wilson's Place in History
By General the Right Honorable Jan Christian Smuts, Premier of the Union of South Africa
General the Right Honorable Jan Christian Smuts, premier of the Union of South Africa, served with President Wilson on the League of Nations commission of the peace conference.
Gen. Smuts was an active leader of the Boer Army in the field in the Boer war. He is a graduate of Cambridge University in England, served as state attorney for the South African Republic, and was known as a member of the bar at Cape Town.
Accepting the outcome of the Boer war, he entered the service of the British Government, becoming colonial secretary for the Transvaal in 1907 and exercising a leading influence as a delegate in the national convention in 1910, which drew up the constitution for the present Union of South Africa. He was minister of the defense of the South African Government and commanded the troops in the campaign against the Germans in East Africa in 1916-17. Promoted to be an honorary lieutenant-general, he was the South African representative in the imperial war cabinet in 1917-18. This led to his prominence in the peace conference and to his close contact with President Wilson. On February 8, of this year, Premier Smuts and the South African party won a decisive victory at the polls over Gen. Hertzog and those who advocated the secession of South Africa from the British Empire.
Written for the New York Evening Post and The Washington Herald
Pretoria, South Africa, January 8, 1921.
It has been suggested that I should write a short estimate and appraisal of the work of President Wilson on the termination of his Presidency of the United States of America. I feel I must comply with the suggestion. I feel I may not remain silent when there is an opportunity to say a word of appreciation for the work of one with whom I came into close contact at a great period and who rendered the most signal service to the great human cause.
There is a great saying of Mommsen (I believe) in reference to the close of Hannibal's career in failure and eclipse: "On those whom the gods love they lavish infinite joys and infinite sorrows." It has come back to my mind in reference to the close of Wilson's career. For a few brief moments he was not only the leader of the greatest State in the world; he was raised to far giddier heights and became the center of the world's hopes. And then he fell, misunderstood and rejected by his own people, and his great career closes apparently in signal and tragic defeat.
Position of Terrible Greatness
What is the explanation for this tremendous tragedy, which is not solely American, which closely concerns the whole world? Of course, there are purely American elements in the explanation which I am not competent to speak on. But besides the American quarrel with President Wilson there is something to be said on the great matters in issue. On these I may be permitted to say a few words.
The position occupied by President Wilson in the world's imagination at the close of the great war and at the beginning of the peace conference was terrible in its greatness. It was a terrible position for any mere man to occupy. Probably to no human being in all history did the hopes, the prayers, the aspirations of many millions of his fellows turn with such poignant intensity as to him at the close of the war. At a time of the deepest darkness and despair, he had raised aloft a light to which all eyes had turned. He had spoken divine words of healing and consolation to a broken humanity. His lofty moral idealism seemed for a moment to dominate the brutal passions which had torn the Old World asunder. And he was supposed to possess the secret which would remake the world on fairer lines. The peace which Wilson was bringing to the world was expected to be God's peace. Prussianism lay crushed; brute force had failed utterly. The moral character of the universe had been signally vindicated. There was a universal vague hope in a great moral peace, of a new world order arising visibly and immediately on the ruins of the old. This hope was not a mere superficial sentiment. It was the intense expression at the end of the war of the inner moral and spiritual force which had upborne the peoples during the dark night of the war and had nerved them in an effort almost beyond human strength. Surely, God had been with them in that long night of agony. His was the victory; His should be the peace. And President Wilson was looked upon as the man to make this great peace. He had voiced the great ideals of the new order; his great utterances had become the contractual basis for the armistice and the peace. The idealism of Wilson would surely become the reality of the new order of things in the peace treaty.
Saved the "Little Child"
In this atmosphere of extravagant, almost frenzied expectation he arrived at the Paris Peace Conference. Without hesitation he plunged into that inferno of human passions. He went down into the Pit like a second Heracles to bring back the fair Alcestis of the world's desire. There were six months of agonized waiting, during which the world situation rapidly deteriorated. And then he emerged with the peace treaty. It was not a Wilson peace, and he made a fatal mistake in somehow giving the impression that the peace was in accord with his Fourteen Points and his various declarations. Not so the world had understood him. This was a punic peace, the same sort of peace as the victor had dictated to the vanquished for thousands of years. It was not Alcestis; it was a haggard, unlovely woman with features distorted with hatred, greed and selfishness, and the little child that the woman carried was scarcely noticed. Yet it was for the saving of the child that Wilson had labored until he was a physical wreck. Let our other great statesmen and leaders enjoy their well-earned honors for their unquestioned success at Paris. To Woodrow Wilson, the apparent failure, belongs the undying honor, which will grow with the growing centuries, of having saved the "little child that shall lead them yet." No other statesman but Wilson could have done it. And he did it.
People Did Not Understand
The people, the common people of all lands, did not understand the significance of what had happened. They saw only that hard, unlovely Prussian peace, and the great hope died in their hearts. The great disillusionment took its place. The most receptive mood for a new start the world had been in for centuries passed away. Faith in their governors and leaders was largely destroyed and the foundations of the human government were shaken in a way which will be felt for generations. The Paris peace lost an opportunity as unique as the great war itself. In destroying the moral idealism born of the sacrifices of the war it did almost as much as the war itself in shattering the structure of Western civilization.
And the odium for all this fell especially on President Wilson. Round him the hopes had centered; round him the disillusion and despair now gathered. Popular opinion largely held him responsible for the bitter disappointment and grievous failure. The cynics scoffed; his friends were silenced in the universal disappointment. Little or nothing had been expected from the other leaders; the whole failure was put to the account of Woodrow Wilson. And finally America for reasons of her own joined the pack and at the end it was his own people who tore him to pieces.
Must Wait for Judgment
Will this judgment, born of momentary disillusion and disappointment, stand in future, or will it be reversed? The time has not come to pass final judgment on either Wilson or any of the other great actors in the drama at Paris. The personal estimates will depend largely on the interpretation of that drama in the course of time. As one who saw and watched things from the inside, I feel convinced that the present popular estimates are largely superficial and will not stand the searching test of time. And I have no doubt whatever that Wilson has been harshly, unfairly, unjustly dealt with, and that he has been made a scapegoat for the sins of others. Wilson made mistakes, and there were occasions when I ventured to sound a warning note. But it was not his mistakes that caused the failure for which he has been held mainly responsible.
Let us admit the truth, however bitter it is to do so, for those who believe in human nature. It was not Wilson who failed. The position is far more serious. It was the human spirit itself that failed at Paris. It is no use passing judgments and making scapegoats of this or that individual statesman or group of statesmen. Idealists make a great mistake in not facing the real facts sincerely and resolutely. They believe in the power of the spirit, in the goodness which is at the heart of things, in the triumph which is in store for the great moral ideals of the race. But this faith only too often leads to an optimism which is sadly and fatally at variance with actual results.
Says Humanity Failed
It is the realist and not the idealist who is generally justified by events. We forget that the human spirit, the spirit of goodness and truth in the world, is still only an infant crying in the night, and that the struggle with darkness is as yet mostly an unequal struggle.
Paris proved this terrible truth once more. It was not Wilson who failed there, but humanity itself. It was not the statesmen that failed so much as the spirit of the peoples behind them. The hope, the aspiration for a new world order of peace and right and justice—however deeply and universally felt—was still only feeble and ineffective in comparison with the dominant national passions which found their expression in the peace treaty. Even if Wilson had been one of the great demi-gods of the human race, he could not have saved the peace. Knowing the Peace Conference as I knew it from within, I feel convinced in my own mind that not the greatest man born of woman in the history of the race would have saved that situation. The great hope was not the heralding of the coming dawn, as the peoples thought, but only a dim intimation of some far-off event toward which we shall yet have to make many a long, weary march. Sincerely as we believed in the moral ideals for which he had fought, the temptation at Paris of a large booty to be divided proved too great. And in the end not only the leaders but the peoples preferred a bit of booty here, a strategic frontier there, a coal field or an oil well, an addition to their population or their resources—to all the faint allurements of the ideal. As I said at the time, the real peace was still to come, and it could only come from a new spirit in the peoples themselves.
Wilson Had to Be Conciliated
What was really saved at Paris was the child—the covenant of the League of Nations. The political realists who had their eye on the loot were prepared—however reluctantly—to throw up that innocent little sop to President Wilson and his fellow idealists. After all, there was not much harm in it, it threatened no present national interest, and it gave great pleasure to a number of good unpractical people in most countries. Above all, President Wilson had to be conciliated, and this was the last and the greatest of the fourteen points on which he had set his heart and by which he was determined to stand or fall. And so he got his way. But it is a fact that only a man of his great power and influence and dogged determination could have carried the covenant through that Peace Conference. Others had seen with him the great vision; others had perhaps given more thought to the elaboration of the great plan. But his was the power and the will that carried it through. The covenant is Wilson's souvenir to the future of the world. No one will ever deny that honor.
Great Creative Document
The honor is very great, indeed, for the covenant is one of the great creative documents of human history. The peace treaty will fade into merciful oblivion and its provisions will be gradually obliterated by the great human tides sweeping over the world. But the covenant will stand as sure as fate. Forty-two nations gathered round it at the first meeting of the League at Geneva. And the day is not far off when all the free peoples of the world will gather around it. It must succeed, because there is no other way for the future of civilization. It does not realize the great hopes born of the war, but it provides the only method and instrument by which in the course of time those hopes can be realized. Speaking as one who has some right to speak on the fundamental conceptions, objects and methods of the covenant, I feel sure that most of the present criticism is based on misunderstandings. These misunderstandings will clear away, one by one the peoples still outside the covenant will fall in behind this banner, under which the human race is going to march forward to triumphs of peaceful organization and achievements undreamt of by us children of an unhappier era. And the leader who, in spite of apparent failure, succeeded in inscribing his name on that banner has achieved the most enviable and enduring immortality. Americans of the future will yet proudly and gratefully rank him with Washington and Lincoln, and his name will have a more universal significance than theirs.
THE NOBLE PEACE PRIZE 1920
Published Through the Courtesy of the New York World
No other American has made so much world history as Woodrow Wilson, who retires at noon today from the office of President of the United States. No other American has ever bulked so large in the affairs of civilization or wielded so commanding an influence in shaping their ends.
The great outstanding figure of the war, Mr. Wilson remains the great outstanding figure of the peace. Broken in health and shattered in body, Mr. Wilson is leaving the White House, but his spirit still dominates the scene. It pervades every chancellery in Europe. It hovers over every capital. Because Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States during the most critical period of modern history international relations have undergone their first far-reaching moral revolution.
Mr. Harding is assuming the duties of the Presidency, but the main interest in Mr. Harding is still a reflected interest, which is concerned chiefly with the efforts that his Administration may make to adjust itself to the forces that Mr. Wilson has set in motion. Stripped of all the paraphernalia of his office, Mr. Wilson, by virtue of his achievements, remains the most potent single influence in the modern world; yet after this eight years in the White House it may be doubted if even the American people themselves know him better or understand him better than they did the day he was first inaugurated.
Neither Mr. Wilson's friends nor his enemies have ever succeeded in interpreting him or in explaining him, nor can any interpretation or explanation be satisfactory which fails at the outset to recognize in him the simplest and at the same time the most complex character in the greatest drama ever played on the stage of human history. Even his closest associates have never found it easy to reconcile a fervent political democracy with an unbending intellectual aristocracy, or to determine which of those characteristics was dominant in his day-to-day decisions.
No man ever sat in the President's chair who was more genuinely a democrat or held more tenaciously to his faith in democracy than Woodrow Wilson, but no other man ever sat in the President's chair who was so contemptuous of all intellect that was inferior to his own or so impatient with its laggard processes.
A President Who Dealt in Ideas
Mr. Wilson was a President who dealt almost exclusively in ideas. He cared little or nothing about political organization and rarely consulted the managing politicians of his party. When they conferred with him it was usually at their request and not at his request. Patronage hardly entered into his calculations as an agency of government. He disliked to be troubled about appointments, and when he had filled an office he was likely to be indifferent as to the manner in which that office was subsequently administered, unless his own measures were antagonized or his policies obstructed.
No man was ever more impersonal in his attitude toward government, and that very impersonality was the characteristic which most baffled the American people. Mr. Wilson had a genius for the advocacy of great principles, but he had no talent whatever for advocating himself, and to a country that is accustomed to think in headlines about political questions his subtlety of mind and his careful, precise style of expression were quite as likely to be an obstacle to the communication of thought as a medium for the communication of thought. That is how such phrases as "too proud to fight" and "peace without victory" were successfully wrested from their context by his critics and twisted into a fantastic distortion of their true meaning.
Mr. Wilson was likewise totally deficient in the art of advertising, and advertising is the very breath of American politics. He held himself aloof from all these points of public contact. The World's relations with him have certainly been as close and intimate as those of any other newspaper; yet during the eight years in which Mr. Wilson has been in the White House he never sought a favor from The World, he never asked for support either for himself or any of his policies, he never complained when he was criticised, he never offered to explain himself or his attitude on any issue of government. In the troublesome days of his Administration he often expressed his gratitude for services that The World had rendered in the interpretation of his policies, but he never solicited such interpretation or took measures to facilitate it. He was an eloquent pleader for the principles in which he believed, but he had no faculty whatever for projecting himself into the picture.
The Experience of History
Mr. Wilson's enemies are fond of calling him a theorist, but there is little of the theorist about him, otherwise he could never have made more constructive history than any other man of his generation. What are commonly called theories in his case were the practical application of the experience of history to the immediate problems of government, and in the experience of history Mr. Wilson is an expert. With the exception of James Madison, who was called "the Father of the Constitution," Mr. Wilson is the most profound student of government among all the Presidents, and he had what Madison conspicuously lacked, which was the faculty to translate his knowledge of government into the administration of government.
When Mr. Wilson was elected President he had reached the conclusion which most unprejudiced students of American government eventually arrive at—that the system of checks and balances is unworkable in practice and that the legislative and executive branches cannot be in fact coördinate, independent departments. Other Presidents have acted on that hypothesis without daring to admit it, and endeavored to control Congress by patronage and by threats. Mr. Wilson without any formality established himself as the leader of his party in Congress, Premier as well as President, and the originator of the party's program of legislation.
Senators and Representatives denounced him as an autocrat and a dictator. Congress was described as the President's rubber stamp, but Mr. Wilson established something that more nearly resembled responsible government than anything that had gone before, and Congress under his direct leadership made a record for constructive legislation for which there is no parallel. It was due to this kind of leadership that such measures as the Federal Reserve Banking Law were enacted, which later proved to be the one bulwark between the American people and a financial panic of tragic proportions.
But Mr. Wilson's domestic policies in spite of their magnitude have been obscured by his foreign policies. Had there been no war, these policies in themselves would have given to the Wilson Administration a place in American history higher than that of any other since the Civil War. What some of his predecessors talked about doing he did, and he accomplished it by the process of making himself the responsible leader of his party in Congress—a process that is simple enough but capable of fulfillment only in the hands of a man with an extraordinary capacity for imposing his will on his associates. Mr. Wilson's control over Congress for six years was once described as the most impressive triumph of mind over matter known to American politics.
Mr. Wilson's Foreign Policies
When we begin the consideration of Mr. Wilson's foreign policies we are entering one of the most remarkable chapters in all history, and one which will require the perspective of history for a true judgment.
The first step in the development of these foreign policies came in Mr. Wilson's refusal to recognize Huerta, who had participated in the plot to murder President Madero and made himself the dictator of Mexico by reason of this assassination. The crime was committed during Mr. Taft's Administration. When Mr. Wilson came into office he served notice that there would be no recognition of Huerta and no recognition of any Mexican Government which was not established by due process of law.
What was plainly in Mr. Wilson's mind was a determination to end political assassination in Latin America as a profitable industry, and compel recognition, to some extent at least, of democratic principles and constitutional forms. On this issue he had to face the intense opposition of all the financial interests in the United States which had Mexican holdings, and a consolidated European opposition as well. Every dollar of foreign money invested in Mexico was confident that what Mexico needed most was such a dictatorship as that of Huerta or American intervention. Mr. Wilson's problem was to get rid of Huerta without involving the United States in war, and then by steady pressure bring about the establishment of a responsible government that rested on something at least resembling the consent of the governed. Only a statesman of high ideals would ever have attempted it, and only a statesman of almost infinite patience would have been able to adhere to the task that Mr. Wilson set for himself.
Mexico is not yet a closed incident, but Mr. Wilson's policy has been vindicated in principle. For the first time since Mr. Roosevelt shocked the moral sense and aroused the political resentment of all the Latin-American states by the rape of Panama, faith in the integrity and friendship of the United States has been restored among the other nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Of equal or even greater ethical importance was Mr. Wilson's insistence on the repeal of the Panama Canal Tolls Act, which discriminated in favor of American ships in spite of the plain provisions of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty. This was the more creditable on Mr. Wilson's part because he himself had been tricked during the campaign into giving his support to this measure. When he began to perceive the diplomatic consequences of this treaty violation Mr. Wilson reversed himself and demanded that Congress reverse itself. Had he done otherwise, the American people would have had scant opportunity to protest against the German perfidy which turned a treaty into "a scrap of paper."
When Germany, at the beginning of August, 1914, declared war successively on Russia, France and Belgium, thereby bringing Great Britain into the most stupendous conflict of all the centuries, Mr. Wilson did what every President has done when other nations have gone to war. He issued a proclamation of neutrality. He then went further, however, than any of his predecessors had done and urged the American people to be not only neutral in deed but "impartial in thought." Mr. Wilson has been severely criticised for this appeal. The more violent pro-Germans and the more violent pro-French and pro-British regarded it as a personal insult and an attempt on the part of the President to stifle what they were pleased to regard as their conscience.
Mr. Wilson asked the American people to be impartial in thought because he knew as a historian the danger that threatened if the country were to be divided into two hostile camps, the one blindly and unreasoningly applauding every act of the Germans and the other blindly and unreasoningly applauding every act of the Allies. In the early years of his life the Republic was all but wrecked by the emotional and political excesses of the pro-French Americans and the pro-British Americans in the war that followed the French Revolution. The warning against a passionate attachment to the interests of other nations which is embodied in Washington's Farewell Address was the first President's solemn admonition against the evils of a divided allegiance. Mr. Wilson had no desire to see the country drift into a similar situation in which American rights, American interests and American prestige would all be sacrificed to gratify the American adherents of the various European belligerents. Moreover, he understood far better than his critics that issues would soon arise between the belligerents and the United States which would require on the part of the American people that impartiality of thought that is demanded of the just and upright judge. He knew that the American people might ultimately become the final arbiters of the issues of the conflict.
The United States was the only great nation outside the sphere of conflict. It was the only great nation that had no secret diplomatic understandings with either set of belligerents. It was the only great nation that was in a position to uphold the processes of international law and to use its good offices as a mediator when the opportunity arose.
For two years Mr. Wilson genuinely believed that it would be possible for the United States to fulfill this mission, and he never fully lost hope until that day in January, 1917, when the German Government wantonly wrecked all the informal peace negotiations that were then in progress and decided to stake the fate of the empire on a single throw of the U-boat dice.
A United Country First
Mr. Wilson perceived quite as quickly and quite as early as anybody the possibility that the United States would be drawn into the war, but he perceived also what most of his critics failed to perceive, that the immediate danger of the country was not war but a divided people. While he was engaging in framing the first Lusitania note he discussed the situation with one of his callers at the White House in words that have since proved prophetic:
I do not know whether the German Government intends to keep faith with the United States or not. It is my personal opinion that Germany has no such intention, but I am less concerned about the ultimate intentions of Germany than about the attitude of the American people, who are already divided into three groups: those who are strongly pro-German, those who are strongly pro-Ally, and the vast majority who expect me to find a way to keep the United States out of war. I do not want war, yet I do not know that I can keep the country out of the war. That depends on Germany, and I have no control over Germany. But I intend to handle this situation in such a manner that every American citizen will know that the United States Government has done everything it could to prevent war. Then if war comes we shall have a united country, and with a united country there need be no fear about the result.
Mr. Wilson's policy from that day to April 2, 1917, must be read in the light of those words. He plunged forthwith into that extraordinary debate with the German Government over the submarine issue—the most momentous debate ever held—but he was only incidentally addressing himself to the rulers of Germany. He was talking to the conscience of the civilized world, but primarily to the conscience of the United States, explaining, clarifying, elucidating the issue. His reluctance to countenance any extensive measures of preparedness was the product of a definite resolution not to give Germany and her American supporters an opportunity to declare that the United States, while these issues were pending, was arming for war against the Imperial Government.
When Mr. Wilson began this debate he knew something which his critics did not know and which for reasons of state he did not choose to tell them. Weeks before the destruction of the Lusitania two-thirds of the German General Staff were in favor of war with the United States as a military measure in the interest of Germany. They were under the spell of Tirpitz. They believed that the submarine could do all that the Grand Admiral said it could do. They argued that inasmuch as the Allies were borrowing money in the United States, obtaining food from the United States and purchasing great quantities of munitions in the United States Germany, by restricting submarine warfare in answer to American protests, was paying an excessive price for what was in effect a fictitious neutrality. In their opinion the United States as a neutral was already doing more for the Allies than it could do as an active belligerent if free scope were given to the U-boats. The American Navy, they said, could be safely disregarded, because with Germany already blockaded by the British Navy, and the German Grand Fleet penned in, the addition of the American Navy, or a dozen navies for that matter, would make little difference in respect to the actual facts of sea power. On the other hand there was not enough shipping available to feed the Allies and enable the United States to send an army to Europe. If the United States tried to provide troops, the British would starve. If the United States could not send troops, Germany would be just as well off with the United States in the war as out of the war, and would have the priceless additional advantage of being able to employ her submarines as she saw fit, regardless of the technicalities of international law.
In the fall of 1916 Mr. Wilson decided definitely that the relations between the United States and Germany were approaching a climax. If the war continued much longer the United States would inevitably be drawn in. There was no prospect of a decision. The belligerent armies were deadlocked. Unwilling to wait longer for events, Mr. Wilson made up his mind that he would demand from each side a statement of its aims and objects and compel each side to plead its own cause before the court of the public opinion of the world. This was done on December 18, 1916, in a joint note which was so cold and dispassionate in its terms that its import was hardly understood.
With Clean Hands
The President said that the aims and objects of the war on both sides "as stated in general terms to their own people and the world" seemed to be "virtually the same," and he asked for a bill of particulars. Instantly there was wild turmoil and recrimination on the part of the Allies and their friends in the United States.
The President had declared, they said, that the Germans and the Allies were fighting for the same thing. Mr. Wilson had expressed no opinion of his own one way or the other and the obvious discovery was soon made in London and Paris that the President had given to the Allies the opportunity which they needed of officially differentiating their war aims from those of the Germans. The German Government missed its opportunity completely, and by their own answer to the President's note the Allies succeeded in consolidating their moral positions, which was something they had never previously been able to do in spite of all their propaganda.
Informal peace negotiations were still in progress, although conducted in secret and carefully screened from the knowledge of all peoples involved in the conflict. On January 22, 1917, Mr. Wilson made his last attempt at mediation in the "peace without victory" address to the Senate in which he defined what he regarded as the fundamental conditions of a permanent peace. Most of the basic principles of this address were afterward incorporated into the Fourteen Points. Here again Mr. Wilson was the victim of his own precision of language and of the settled policy of his critics of reading into his public utterances almost everything except what he actually said. He himself has insisted on giving his own interpretation of "peace without victory," and this interpretation was instantly rejected by the super-patriots who regarded themselves as the sole custodians of all the issues of the war.
The President and the Treaty
President Wilson sails for Europe, December 4, 1918.
Visits to England, France and Italy, December-January, 1918-19.
Peace Conference opened, January 18, 1919.
League Covenant adopted, February 14, 1919.
President Wilson's trip home, February 24-March 5, 1919.
The treaty signed, June 28, 1919.
Submission to the Senate, July 10, 1919.
The President's speaking tour, September 3-26, 1919.
Adoption of the Lodge reservations, November 16, 1919.
Final defeat of the treaty in the Senate, March 20, 1920.
By Joseph P. Tumulty
Two pictures are in my mind. First, the Hall of Representatives crowded from floor to gallery with expectant throngs. Presently it is announced that the President of the United States will address Congress. There steps out to the Speaker's desk a straight, vigorous, slender man, active and alert. He is sixty years of age, but he looks not more than forty-five, so lithe of limb, so alert of bearing, so virile. It is Woodrow Wilson reading his great war message. The other picture is only three and a half years later. There is a parade of Veterans of the Great War. They are to be reviewed by the President on the east terrace of the White House. In a chair sits a man, your President, broken in health, but still alert in mind. His hair is white, his shoulders bowed, his figure bent. He is sixty-three years old, but he looks older. It is Woodrow Wilson. Presently, in the procession there appears an ambulance laden with wounded soldiers, the maimed, the halt and the blind. As they pass they salute, slowly reverently. The President's right hand goes up in answering salute. I glanced at him. There were tears in his eyes. The wounded is greeting the wounded; those in the ambulance, he in the chair, are alike, casualties of the Great War.
From address by Joseph P. Tumulty
Thursday, Oct. 28, 1920
When the armistice was signed one of the most eminent of living British statesmen gave it as his opinion that the war had lasted two years too long, and that the task of salvaging an enduring peace from the wreck had become well-nigh insuperable. It will always be one of the fascinating riddles of history to guess what the result would have been if Mr. Wilson's final proposals for mediation had been accepted. The United States would not have entered the war, and a less violent readjustment of the internal affairs of Europe would probably have resulted. There would have been no Bolshevist revolution in Russia and no economic collapse of Europe. Nor is it certain that most of the really enduring benefits of the Treaty of Versailles could not have been as well obtained by negotiation as they were finally obtained through a military victory which cost a price that still staggers humanity.
Be that as it may, the German Government, now fighting to maintain the dynasty and the Junker domination, took the issue out of Mr. Wilson's hands. Ten days after his "peace without victory" address the German autocracy put into effect its cherished programme of ruthless submarine warfare. The only possible answer on the part of the United States was the dismissal of Count von Bernstorff the German Ambassador, and from that time war between the United States and Germany was only a matter of days. But Mr. Wilson had achieved the great purpose that he had formulated two years before. He had been balked in his efforts at mediation, but he had united the American people on the issues of the conflict. He had demonstrated to them that their Government had exerted every honorable means to avoid war and that its hands were clean. There was no uncertainty in their own minds that the responsibility for the war rested solely on Germany, and Mr. Wilson now purposed to write the terms of peace with the sword.
A Call to a Crusade
Mr. Wilson's War Address on the night of April 2, 1917, was the most dramatic event that the National Capitol had ever known. In the presence of both branches of Congress, of the Supreme Court, of the Cabinet and of the Diplomatic Corps, Mr. Wilson summoned the American people not to a war but to a crusade in words that instantaneously captivated the imagination of the Nation:
But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.
This was not Woodrow Wilson, the intellectual aristocrat, who was speaking, but Woodrow Wilson, the fervent democrat, proclaiming a new declaration of independence to the embattled peoples.
No sooner had Congress declared war than Mr. Wilson proceeded to mobilize all the resources of the Nation and throw them into the conflict. This war was different from any other war in which the United States had ever engaged, not only by reason of its magnitude but by reason of the necessity for coördinating American military plans with the military plans of the Allies. The Allies were not quite agreed as to what they desired of the United States, aside from unlimited financial assistance, and the solution of the general problem depended more or less on the trend of events.
The test of any war policy is its success, and it is a waste of time to enter into a vindication of the manner in which the Wilson Administration made war, or to trouble about the accusations of waste and extravagance, as if war were an economic process which could be carried on prudently and frugally. The historian is not likely to devote serious attention to the partisan accusations relating to Mr. Wilson's conduct of the war, but he will find it interesting to record the manner in which the President brought his historical knowledge to bear in shaping the war policies of the country.
The voluntary system and the draft system had both been discredited in the Civil War, so Mr. Wilson demanded a Selective-Service Act under which the country could raise 10,000,000 troops, if 10,000,000 troops were needed, without deranging its essential industries. It had taken Mr. Lincoln three years to find a General whom he could intrust with the command of the Union armies. Mr. Wilson picked his Commander in Chief before he went to war and then gave to Gen. Pershing the same kind of ungrudging support that Mr. Lincoln gave to Gen. Grant. The Civil War had been financed by greenbacks and bond issues peddled by bankers. Mr. Wilson called on the American people to finance their own war, and they unhesitatingly responded. In the war with Spain the commissary system had broken down completely owing to the antiquated methods that were employed. No other army in time of war was ever so well fed or so well cared for as that of the United States in the conflict with Germany.
Wilson as a War President
Mistakes there were in plenty, both in methods and in the choice of men, and errors of judgment and the shortcomings that always result from a lack of experience, but the impartial verdict of history must be that when everything is set forth on the debit side of the balance sheet which can be set forth Mr. Wilson remains the most vigorous of all the war Presidents. Yet it is also true that history will concern itself far less with Mr. Wilson as a war President than with Mr. Wilson as a peace-making President. It is around him as a peace-making President that all the passions and prejudices and disappointments of the world still rage.
Mr. Wilson in his "peace without victory" address to the Senate previous to the entrance of the United States into the war had sketched a general plan of a coöperative peace. "I am proposing, as it were," he said, "that the nations with one accord should adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the world." He returned to the subject again in his War Address, in which he defined the principles for which the United States was to fight and the principles on which an enduring peace could be made. The time came when it was necessary to be still more specific.
In the winter of 1918 the morale of the Allies was at its lowest ebb. Russia had passed into the hands of the Bolsheviki and was preparing to make a separate peace with Germany. There was widespread discontent in Italy, and everywhere in Europe soldiers and civilians were asking one another what they were really fighting for. On January 8 Mr. Wilson went before Congress and delivered the address which contained the Fourteen Points of peace, a message which was greeted both in the United States and in Europe as a veritable Magna Charta of the nations. Mr. Wilson had again become the spokesman of the aspirations of mankind, and from the moment that this address was delivered the thrones of the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs ceased to be stable.
Ten months later they were to crumble and collapse. Before the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, Mr. Wilson had overthrown the doctrine of Divine right in Europe. The Hapsburgs ran away. The Kaiser was compelled to abdicate and take refuge in exile, justifying his flight by the explanation that Wilson would not make peace with Germany while a Hohenzollern was on the throne. This was the climax of Mr. Wilson's power and influence and, strangely enough, it was the dawn of his own day of disaster.
For nearly six years Mr. Wilson had manipulated the Government of the United States with a skill that was almost uncanny. He had turned himself from a minority President into a majority President. He had so deftly outmanœuvred all his opponents in Congress and out of Congress that they had nothing with which to console themselves except their intensive hatred of the man and all that pertained to him. Then at the very summit of his career he made his first fatal blunder.
Every President in the off-year election urges the election of a Congress of his own party. That is part of the routine of politics, and during the campaign of 1918 Mr. Wilson's advisers urged him to follow the precedent. What they forgot and he forgot was that it was no time for partisan precedents, and he allowed his distrust of the Republican leaders in Congress to sweep him into an inexcusable error that he, of all men, should have avoided. The Sixty-fifth Congress was anything but popular. The Western farmers were aggrieved because the price of wheat had been regulated and the price of cotton had not. The East was greatly dissatisfied with the war taxes, which it regarded as an unfair discrimination, and it remembered Mr. Kitchin's boast that the North wanted the war and the North would have to pay for it. There was general complaint from business interests against the Southern Democratic control of the legislative department, and all this sentiment instantly crystallized when the President asked for another Democratic Congress. Republicans who were loyally supporting the Administration in all its war activities were justly incensed that a party issue had been raised. A Republican Congress was elected and by inference the President sustained a personal defeat.
Misfortunes did not come singly in Mr. Wilson's case. Following the mistake of appealing for the election of a Democratic Congress he made an equally serious mistake in the selection of his Peace Commission.
To anybody who knows Mr. Wilson, who knows Mr. Lloyd George, who knows Mr. Clemenceau, nothing could be sillier than the chapters of Keynes and Dillon in which they undertake to picture the President's unfitness to cope with the European masters of diplomacy. Mr. Wilson for years had been playing with European masters of diplomacy as a cat plays with a mouse. To assume that Mr. Wilson was ever deceived by the transparent tactics of Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Clemenceau is to assume the impossible. It would be as easy to conceive of his being tricked and bamboozled by the United States Senate.
The Peace Commission
Mr. Wilson needed strong Republican representation on the Peace Commission not to reinforce him in his struggles with his adversaries at Paris but to divide with him the responsibility for a treaty of peace that was doomed in advance to be a disappointment. Although the popular sentiment of Europe was almost passionate in its advocacy of President Wilson's peace program, all the special interests that were seeking to capitalize the peace for their own advantage or profit were actively at work and were beginning to swing all the influence that they could command on their various Governments. It was inevitable from the outset that Mr. Wilson could never get the peace that he had expected. The treaty was bound to be a series of compromises that would satisfy nobody, and when Mr. Wilson assumed all the responsibility for it in advance he assumed a responsibility that no stateman who had ever lived could carry alone. Had he taken Mr. Root or Mr. Taft or both of them with him the terms of the Treaty of Versailles might have been no different, but the Senate would have been robbed of the partisan grievance on which it organized the defeat of ratification.
Day after day during the conference Mr. Wilson fought the fight for a peace that represented the liberal thought of the world. Day after day the odds against him lengthened. The contest finally resolved itself into a question of whether he should take what he could get or whether he should withdraw from the conference and throw the doors open to chaos. The President made the only decision that he had a moral right to make. He took what he could get, nor are the statesmen with whom he was associated altogether to blame because he did not get more. They too had to contend against forces over which they had no control. They were not free agents either, and Mr. Smuts has summed up the case in two sentences:
It was not the statesmen that failed so much as the spirit of the peoples behind them. The hope, the aspiration, for a new world order of peace and right and justice, however deeply and universally felt, was still only feeble and ineffective in comparison with the dominant national passions which found their expression in the peace treaty.
All the passions and hatreds bred of four years of merciless warfare, all the insatiable fury for revenge, all the racial ambitions that had been twisted and perverted by centuries of devious diplomacy—these were all gathered around the council table, clamorous in their demand to dictate the terms.
Mr. Wilson surrendered more than he dreamed he was surrendering, but it is not difficult to follow his line of reasoning. The League of Nations was to be a continuing court of equity, sitting in judgment on the peace itself, revising its terms when revision became necessary and possible, slowly readjusting the provisions of the treaty to a calmer and saner state of public mind. Get peace first. Establish the League, and the League would rectify the inevitable mistakes of the treaty.
It is a curious commentary on human nature that when the treaty was completed and the storm of wrath broke, all the rage, all the resentment, all the odium should have fallen on the one man who had struggled week in and week out against the forces of reaction and revenge and had written into the treaty all that it contains which makes for the international advancement of the race.
Why The Treaty Was Beaten
Into that record must also go the impressive fact that the Treaty of Versailles was rejected by the United States Senate, under the leadership of Henry Cabot Lodge, not because of its acknowledged defects and shortcomings, not because it breathed the spirit of a Carthaginian peace in its punitive clauses, but because of its most enlightened provision, the covenant of the League of Nations, which is the one hope of a war-racked world.
When people speak of the tragedy of Mr. Wilson's career they have in mind only the temporary aspects of it—the universal dissatisfaction with the treaty of peace, his physical collapse, his defeat in the Senate and the verdict at the polls in November. They forget that the end of the chapter is not yet written. The League of Nations is a fact, whatever the attitude of the United States may be toward it, and it will live unless the peoples of the earth prove their political incapacity to use it for the promotion of their own welfare. The principle of self-determination will remain as long as men believe in the right of self-government and are willing to die for it. It was Woodrow Wilson who wrote that principle into the law of nations, even though he failed to obtain a universal application of it. Tacitus said of the Catti tribesmen, "Others go to battle; these go to war," and Mr. Wilson went to war in behalf of the democratic theory of government extended to all the affairs of the nations. That war is not yet won, and the Commander in Chief is crippled by the wounds that he received on the field of action. But the responsibility for the future does not rest with him. It rests with the self-governing peoples for whom he has blazed the trail. All the complicated issues of this titanic struggle finally reduce themselves to these prophetic words of Maximilian Harden: "Only one conqueror's work will endure—Wilson's thought."
Woodrow Wilson on this morning of the fourth of March can say, in the words of Paul the Apostle to Timothy:
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
Copyright 1921, New York World.
The Covenant of the League of Nations
ADOPTED BY THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE PEACE CONFERENCE
Paris, April 28, 1919
In order to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security, by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as to actual rule of conduct among governments, and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another, the high contracting parties agree to this Covenant of the League of Nations.
The original members of the League of Nations shall be those of the signatories which are named in the annex to this Covenant and also such of those other states named in the annex as shall accede without reservation to this Covenant. Such accessions shall be effected by a declaration deposited with the Secretariat within two months of the coming into force of the Covenant. Notice thereof shall be sent to all other members of the League.
Any fully self-governing state, dominion, or colony not named in the annex, may become a member of the League if its admission is agreed by two-thirds of the assembly, provided that it shall give effective guarantees of its sincere intention to observe its international obligations, and shall accept such regulations as may be prescribed by the League in regard to its military and naval forces and armaments.
Any member of the League may, after two years' notice of its intention so to do, withdraw from the League, provided that all its international obligations and all its obligations under this Covenant shall have been fulfilled at the time of its withdrawal.
[Executive and Administration Machinery]
The action of the League under this Covenant shall be effected through the instrumentality of an Assembly and of a Council, with a permanent Secretariat.
The Assembly shall consist of representatives of the members of the League.
The Assembly shall meet at stated intervals and from time to time as occasion may require, at the seat of the League, or at such other place as may be decided upon.
The Assembly may deal at its meetings with any matter within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world.
At meetings of the Assembly, each member of the League shall have one vote, and may have not more than three representatives.
The Council shall consist of representatives of the United States of America, of the British Empire, of France, of Italy, and of Japan, together with representatives of four other members of the League. These four members of the League shall be selected by the Assembly from time to time in its discretion. Until the appointment of the representatives of the four members of the League first selected by the Assembly, representatives of Belgium, Brazil, Greece and Spain shall be members of the Council.
With the approval of the majority of the Assembly, the Council may name additional members of the League whose representatives shall always be members of the Council; the Council with like approval may increase the number of members of the League to be selected by the Assembly for representation on the Council.
The Council shall meet from time to time as occasion may require, and at least once a year, at the seat of the League, or at such other place as may be decided upon.
The Council may deal at its meetings with any matter within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world.
Any member of the League not represented on the Council shall be invited to send a representative to sit as a member at any meeting of the Council during the consideration of matters specially affecting the interests of that member of the League.
At meetings of the Council, each member of the League represented on the Council shall have one vote, and may have not more than one representative.
[Decision by Unanimity or Majority; Initial Meetings]
Except where otherwise expressly provided in this Covenant, or by the terms of this treaty, decisions at any meeting of the Assembly or of the Council shall require the agreement of all the members of the League represented at the meeting.
All matters of procedure at meetings of the Assembly or of the Council, the appointment of committees to investigate particular matters, shall be regulated by the Assembly or by the Council and may be decided by a majority of the members of the League represented at the meeting.
The first meeting of the Assembly and the first meeting at the Council shall be summoned by the President of the United States of America.
The permanent Secretariat shall be established at the seat of the League. The Secretariat shall comprise a Secretary-General and such secretaries and staff as may be required.
The first Secretary-General shall be the person named in the annex; thereafter the Secretary-General shall be appointed by the Council with the approval of the majority of the Assembly.
The Secretaries and the staff of the Secretariat shall be appointed by the Secretary-General with the approval of the Council.
The Secretary-General shall act in that capacity at all meetings of the Assembly and of the Council.
The expenses of the Secretariat shall be borne by the members of the League in accordance with the apportionment of the expenses of the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union.
[League Capital; Status of Officials and Property; Sex Equality]
The seat of the League is established at Geneva.
The Council may at any time decide that the seat of the League shall be established elsewhere.
All positions under or in connection with the League, including the Secretariat, shall be open equally to men and women.
Representatives of the members of the League and officials of the League when engaged on the business of the League shall enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities.
The buildings and other property occupied by the League or its officials or by representatives attending its meetings shall be inviolable.
The members of the League recognize that the maintenance of a peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with the national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.
The Council, taking account of the geographical situation and circumstances of each state, shall formulate plans for such reduction for the consideration and action of the several governments.
Such plans shall be subject to reconsideration and revision at least every ten years.
After these plans shall have been adopted by the several governments, limits of armaments therein fixed shall not be exceeded without the concurrence of the Council.
The members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections. The Council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those members of the League which are not able to manufacture the munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety.
The members of the League undertake to interchange full and frank information as to the scale of their armaments, their military and naval programmes and the condition of such of their industries as are adaptable to warlike purposes.
A permanent commission shall be constituted to advise the Council on the execution of the provisions of Articles One and Eight and on military and naval questions generally.
[Territorial and Political Guarantees]
The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression, the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.
[Joint Action to Prevent War]
Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations. In case any such emergency should arise, the Secretary-General shall, on the request of any member of the League, forthwith summon a meeting of the Council.
It is also declared to be the fundamental right of each member of the League to bring to the attention of the Assembly or of the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb either the peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends.
[Postponement of War]
The members of the League agree that if there should arise between them any dispute likely to lead to a rupture, they will submit the matter either to arbitration or to inquiry by the Council, and they agree in no case to resort to war until three months after the award by the arbitrators or the report by the Council.
In any case, under this Article the award of the arbitrators shall be made within a reasonable time, and the report of the Council shall be made within six months after the submission of the dispute.
[Arbitration of Justiciable Matters]
The members of the League agree that when ever any dispute shall arise between them which they recognize to be suitable for submission to arbitration and which cannot be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy, they will submit the whole subject matter to arbitration. Disputes as to the interpretation of a treaty, as to any question of international law, as to the existence of any fact which if established would constitute a breach of any international obligation, or as to the extent and nature of the reparation to be made for any such breach, are declared to be among those which are generally suitable for submission to arbitration. For the consideration of any such dispute the court of arbitration to which the case is referred shall be the court agreed on by the parties to the dispute or stipulated in any convention existing between them.
The members of the League agree that they will carry out in full good faith any award that may be rendered and that they will not resort to war against a member of the League which complies therewith. In the event of any failure to carry out such an award, the Council shall propose what steps should be taken to give effect thereto.
[Permanent Court of International Justice]
The Council shall formulate and submit to the members of the League for adoption plans for the establishment of a permanent court of international justice. The court shall be competent to hear and determine any dispute of an international character which the parties thereto submit to it. The court may also give an advisory opinion upon any dispute or question referred to it by the Council or by the Assembly.
[Settlement of Disputes by Council or Assembly; Exclusion of Domestic Questions]
If there should arise between members of the League any dispute likely to lead to a rupture, which is not submitted to arbitration as above, the members of the League agree that they will submit the matter to the Council. Any party to the dispute may effect such submission by giving notice of the existence of the dispute to the Secretary-General, who will make all necessary arrangements for a full investigation and consideration thereof. For this purpose the parties to the dispute will communicate to the Secretary-General, as promptly as possible, statements of their case, all the relevant facts and papers; the Council may forthwith direct the publication thereof.
The Council shall endeavor to effect a settlement of any dispute, and if such efforts are successful, a statement shall be made public giving such facts and explanations regarding the dispute and terms of settlement thereof as the Council may deem appropriate.
If the dispute is not thus settled, the Council either unanimously or by a majority vote shall make and publish a report containing a statement of the facts of the dispute and the recommendations which are deemed just and proper in regard thereto.
Any member of the League represented on the Council may make public a statement of the facts of the dispute and of the conclusions regarding the same.
If a report by the Council is unanimously agreed to by the members thereof other than the representatives of one or more of the parties to the dispute, the members of the League agree that they will not go to war with any party to the dispute which complies with the recommendations of the report.
If the Council fails to reach a report which is unanimously agreed to by the members thereof, other than the representatives of one or more of the parties to the dispute, the members of the League reserve to themselves the right to take such action as they shall consider necessary for the maintenance of right and justice.
If the dispute between the parties is claimed by one of them, and is found by the Council to arise out of a matter which by international law is solely within the domestic jurisdiction of that party, the Council shall so report, and shall make no recommendation as to its settlement.
The Council may in any case under this Article refer the dispute to the Assembly. The dispute shall be so referred at the request of either party to the dispute, provided that such request be made within fourteen days after the submission of the dispute to the Council.
In any case referred to the Assembly all the provisions of this Article and of Article Twelve relating to the action and powers of the Council shall apply to the action and powers of the Assembly, provided that a report made by the Assembly, if concurred in by the representatives of those members of the League represented on the Council and of a majority of the other members of the League, exclusive in each case of the representatives of the parties to the dispute, shall have the same force as a report by the Council concurred in by all the members thereof other than the representatives of one or more of the parties to the dispute.
Should any member of the League resort to war in disregard of its covenants under Articles Twelve, Thirteen or Fifteen, it shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nations and the nationals of the covenant-breaking state and the prevention of all financial, commercial, or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking state and the nationals of any other state, whether a member of the League or not.
It shall be the duty of the Council in such case to recommend to the several governments concerned what effective military or naval forces the members of the League shall severally contribute to the armaments of forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League.
The members of the League agree, further, that they will mutually support one another in the financial and economic measures which are taken under this Article, in order to minimize the loss and inconvenience resulting from the above measures, and that they will mutually support one another in resisting any special measures aimed at one of their number by the covenant-breaking state, and that they will take the necessary steps to afford passage through their territory to the forces of any of the members of the League which are cooperating to protect the covenants of the League.
Any member of the League which has violated any covenant of the League may be declared to be no longer a member of the League by a vote of the Council concurred in by the representatives of all the other members of the League represented thereon.
[Disputes of Non-Members]
In the event of a dispute between a member of the League and a state which is not a member of the League, or between states not members of the League, the state or states not members of the League shall be invited to accept the obligations of membership in the League for the purposes of such dispute, upon such conditions as the Council may deem just. If such invitation is accepted, the provisions of Articles Twelve to Sixteen inclusive shall be applied with such modifications as may be deemed necessary by the Council.
Upon such invitation being given, the Council shall immediately institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the dispute and recommend such action as may seem best and most effectual in the circumstances.
If a state so invited shall refuse to accept the obligations of membership in the League for the purposes of such dispute, and shall resort to war against a member of the League, the provisions of Article Sixteen shall be applicable as against the state taking such action.
If both parties to the dispute, when so invited, refuse to accept the obligations of membership in the League for the purposes of such dispute, the Council may take such measures and make such recommendations as will prevent hostilities and will result in the settlement of the dispute.
[Registration of International Engagements]
Every convention or international engagement entered into henceforward by any member of the League shall be forthwith registered with the Secretariat and shall as soon as possible be published by it. No such treaty or international engagement shall be binding until so registered.
[Revision of Former Treaties]
The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by members of the League of treaties which have become inapplicable, and the consideration of international conditions of which the continuance might endanger the peace of the world.
[Abrogation of Understandings not Consistent with the Covenant]
The members of the League severally agree that this Covenant is accepted as abrogating all obligations or understandings inter se which are inconsistent with the terms thereof, and solemnly undertake that they will not hereafter enter into any engagements inconsistent with the terms thereof.
In case members of the League shall, before becoming a member of the League, have undertaken any obligation inconsistent with the terms of this covenant, it shall be the duty of such member to take immediate steps to procure its release from such obligations.
[The Monroe Doctrine]
Nothing in this covenant shall be deemed to affect the validity of international engagements such as treaties of arbitration or regional understandings like the Monroe Doctrine for securing the maintenance of peace.
[Mandatory Tutelage of Colonies and Backward Races]
To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the states which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this covenant.
The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples be entrusted to advanced nations who, by reasons of their resources, their experience or their geographical position, can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as mandatories on behalf of the League.
The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic condition and other similar circumstances.
Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the mandatory.
Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience or religion subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defense of territory and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other members of the League.
There are territories, such as Southwest Africa and certain of the South Pacific islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population or their small size or their remoteness from the centers of civilization or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the mandatory and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the mandatory as integral portions of its territory subject to the safeguards above mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population. In every case of mandate, the mandatory shall render to the Council an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.
The degree of authority, control or administration to be exercised by the mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.
A permanent commission shall be constituted to receive and examine the annual reports of the mandatories and to advise the Council on all matters relating to the observance of the mandates.
[Humanitarian Provisions; Freedom of Transit]
Subject to and in accordance with the provisions of international conventions existing or hereafter to be agreed upon, the members of the League (a) will endeavor to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women and children both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend, and for that purpose will establish and maintain the necessary international organizations; (b) undertake to secure just treatment of the native inhabitants of territories under their control; (c) will entrust the League with the general supervision over the execution of agreements with regard to the traffic in women and children, and the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs; (d) will entrust the League with the general supervision of the trade in arms and ammunition with the countries in which the control to this traffic is necessary in the common interest; (e) will make provision to secure and maintain freedom of communication and of transit and equitable treatment for the commerce of all members of the League. In this connection the special necessities of the regions devastated during the war of 1914-1918 shall be in mind; (f) will endeavor to take steps in matters of international concern for the prevention and control of disease.
[Control of International Bureaus and Commissions]
There shall be placed under the direction of the League all international bureaus already established by general treaties if the parties to such treaties consent. All such international bureaus and all commissions for the regulation of matters of international interest hereafter constituted shall be placed under the direction of the League.
In all matters of international interest which are regulated by general conventions but which are not placed under the control of international bureaus or commissions, the Secretariat of the League shall, subject to the consent of the Council and if desired by the parties, collect and distribute all relevant information and shall render any other assistance which may be necessary or desirable.
The Council may include as part of the expenses of the Secretariat the expenses of any bureau or commission which is placed under the direction of the League.
[The Red Cross and International Sanitation]
The members of the League agree to encourage and promote the establishment and coöperation of duly authorized voluntary national Red Cross organizations having as purposes improvement of health, the prevention of disease and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world.
[Amendments of the Covenant; Right of Dissent]
Amendments to this Covenant will take effect when ratified by the members of the League whose representatives compose the Council and by a majority of the members of the League whose representatives compose the Assembly.
No such amendment shall bind any member of the League which signifies its dissent therefrom, but in that case it shall cease to be a member of the League.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WOODROW WILSON'S ADMINISTRATION AND ACHIEVEMENTS***
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