tv Woodrow Wilsons Second Term CSPAN August 28, 2015 8:29am-9:57am EDT
don't give a lit toll the belgian elites, in particular. and it's true that by the middle of the war the belgians have a pretty smooth running organization. when america joins the war in 1917, the american delegate vs to leave. and the belgians really take over a lot of the work. they have spanish and dutch neutrals, also, supervising. but it's a much less hands on role than what the americans had and the belgians can kind of function. you know? without all of the supervision. so, to conclude, i hope i've demonstrated that the partnership was vital to the functioning of the food aid program. the outpours of gratitude of belgians during and after the war is evident by gifts an awards. was genuine and hoover became a beloved figure. this is actually the library rebuilt with american money. there's a bust to hoover inside and it's on the herbert hoover
plain. this is another hoover sign. there are a lot of hoover street signs in europe. there aren't any memorials to the countless volunteers, nor to the u.s. delegates who did the grunt work. but i think in the centennial year it's important to remember that the work that they did. thank you. this weekend, on the c-span networks, politics, books and american history. on c-span saturday, at 6:00 p.m. eastern, hurricane katrina's tenth anniversary with the live coverage from new orleans. speakers include president bill clinton and mitch landrieu and sunday evening at 6:30 on our road to the white house coverage, speeches from democratic candidates hillary clinton and bernie sanders at the democratic national committee summer meeting in minneapolis. on c ha-span2, book tv.
talking to "the new york times" immigration reporter liz robins about his book undocumented tracing the journey to the top of the class of princeton university and sunday at 1:15 p.m., to mark the tenth anniversary of hurricane katrina, several programs about the storm and its aftermath featuring former mississippi governor barbour and investigative reporter green. on american history tv on c-span3, saturday afternoon, a few minutes past 2:00 p.m., former astronaut don thomas discusses the history of space stations, comparing the development of programs since the early 1950s and looking at the future of international space station efforts. and sunday at 4:00 p.m. on real america, appointment in tokyo is a 1945 u.s. army signal corps film documenting the course of world war ii from the japanese invasion of the philippines and the death march through the
surrender ceremony on september 2nd, 1945. get our complete schedule at c-span.org. author and oxford university history professor margaret macmillan talks about the second term of president woodrow wilson. once the u.s. entered the first world war, most of the efforts focused on foreign affairs and diplomacy. professor macmillan talks about wilson's work and attempts for lasting peace through the 1919 paris peace conference and the league of nations. the university of virginia's miller center hosted this 90-minute program. >> here in the united states, the great war is indelibly linked to the presidency of woodrow wilson. wilson's presidency was infused with irony and contradiction. many of you may know that when
he assumed office in 1913 his primary focus was intentionally going to be on domestic priorities. but he wound up spending most of the next eight years dealing with one foreign crises after another and most particularly world war i. when world war i erupted, wilson wanted to stay aloof. keep the united states neutral. but he wound up embarking on a great crusade abroad to make the world safe for democracy. wilson was the first president during his tenure in office to actually go abroad. he went to paris at the end of 1918 to engage in the negotiations at the paris peace conference. when he went abroad, he was heralded as a great savior in december of 1918. the crowds in paris and london
and rome, all the great cities of europe he visited right before the peace conference, people came out in the hundreds of thousands to greet wilson. he was a real hero. by the time he wound up leaving paris in june of 1919, permanently, he was being scorned and ridiculed and personally he couldn't wait to leave. and when he return eed home, th league and the treaty seemed to have the majority support of the american people, at least judged by newspaper editorials and magazine editorials. but his foes in the u.s. senate assailed wilson's handiwork, the treaty of versailles and particularly the league of nations and impaled him to go on a nationwide tour to drum up support for the league of the nations and the treaty during which; of course, he was strict within a terrible stroke and
inka ka pass tated for the rest of his presidency. even in his personal life, wilson was a very contradictory figure. to many, and if you see pictures of him, you think of him as a very prudest and austere person. but privately, wilson was charming and witty and very passionate. he was grief stricken when his first wife died in 1914. but very quickly, he struck up a romantic relationship with a washington socialite named ed it bolan and the joke around washington went like this. quote, what do the new mrs. wilson do when the president proposed? the answer, she fell out of bed with surprise. so, i lifted that anecdote
actually from margaret macmillan's wonderful book on peace making in 1919. and we are incredibly lucky to have margaret macmillan here with us today. she is truly one of the outstanding, one of the most distinguished historians of international relations in the world. she's a professor of history at oxford. and the warden, head of saipt anthony's college at oxford. for those of you who have been at oxford, i went a year there about a decade ago and you know that it is one of perhaps arguably the best place in the world to study international relations. professor macmillan has written many books, she's written on british women in india, on nixon's opening of relations with china, she's written on the
uses and abuses of history. but most of all, she's known for her two wonderful volumes on world war i. the first that she wrote about a dozen years ago was on peace making in 1919. and the other which just appeared last year is about the origins of world war i, the war that ended peace. that's the name of the book. and the former book, the one that in some ways will be the framework for today's lecture, i suspect, won i'd say a half dozen of the english speaking world's most prestigious prizes for the best book on international relations. so, i'm incredibly happy to have margaret macmillan here with us. she's going to talk for 40 or 45
minutes about wilson and war and peace and then i'll engage her in a conversation for 10 or 15 minutes and then i'll open it up for questions. thank you. >> i'd like to thank you very much for that kind introduction. i should warn you about that joke about mrs. wilson. the man who made it was asked to leave washington. and i'd like to thank the miller center for inviting me. it's a great pleasure to be here and a great pleasure -- i'm ashamed to say, my first visit to university of virginia and charlottesville. i'm going to talk today about woodrow wilson and war and peace. as you probably know, in 1913, just at the beginning of his first administration, he said to a friend it would be an irony of fate if my administration had to
focus on foreign policy. it was not his interest. it was not something that he particularly wanted to have to do. and as professor leffler said, that was something that he ended up doing and i think we look at him because he presides over the united states at a time of great crisis in world history, the great world, the first world war and one of the great crises of modern history. it shattered much of the old european order. it had consequences which lasted for decades, perhaps into the 21st century and it affected much of the rest of the world, as well. but it's also very important moment in american history and world history because it's a time the united states is in the process of transforming its already great economic strength, its great strength as a nation which is finally coming together after the scars and trauma of the civil war and the united states begins transforming that strength into military strength. and when the war began, the
united states was not a military power. in any sense of the word. it had a small nauf vi, although it was beginning to build up the naval strength. it had a very small army. it counted in military terms much less than a much smaller country such as italy an enwhat we see as a consequence of the first world war is the beginnings of the united states becoming a truly global power. i mean, those beginnings were there before 1914 but the period of 1914 and 1918 is as i say both a very important period in the history of the united states and a very important period in the history of the world. and so, it is important i think to look both at what was happening in the world, what was happening in the united states and at the personality of woodrow wilson himself because as president he not only expressed the feelings and aspirations of a great many americans, he came to power on that great surge of progressive sentiment, sentiment that was hoping to remake american society. but he also came to express something of american views as
themselves and what they might be doing in the world and so i do think we have to pay attention to wilson the man but we have to put him firmly in the context of his times. his personality and his character and his many foibles would not have mattered if he was not in charge of an important nation and increasingly important nation at a pivotal time in history. melvin said something about the personality of that man and i think he remains a puzzle to a lot of us, historians and others and will continue to remain a puzzle because like i a lot of human beings, he is contradictory. he was a great idealist and he was also someone who would act in an absolutely ruthless way f. you crossed him, he tentded to assume that you were his enemy. he was not good of accepting different points of view. his life is marked by a series of rejecting those that rejected him, stood against him. he could be extraordinarily
rigid. he was a great orator. perms one of the greatest among american presidents but he also in private told some of the worst jokes i have ever seen. when he was in paris, he was surrounded by a group of, of course, people who were working for him and admiring him an used to write down the conversations in the evening and they wrote down his jokes and if you want to go, there's a huge collection of his papers and find really bag shaggy dog stories, go to the wilson papers. these are jokes i don't know how they stood them. sort of jokes that go on for 20 moneys with an irishman, an a scotsman, you know that sort of joke. i won't bother to tell them. he was a sbe lukt july in office and a very good practical poll sirn. anyone governor of new jersey knew about the practicalsties of policies. he was an effective governor. he liked discussing ideas and he could also be very rigid once he
made his mind up. he would talk about politics and then no further discussion. he also had a confidence and who knows where it came from that he understood wetter than in other leaders what the people wanted and the people he said and he never really defined what the people was but it seemed to be those that agreed with him that spoke through him and he ran into trouble in europe and said to the elected leaders your people have spoken to me. i know what they want. i know what the people of the world want. the french ambassador in washington who observed him closely and i think quite liked him, said of him that he was a man who had he lived a couple of centuries ago would have been the greatest tyrant in the world because he does not seem to have the slightest conception that he can ever be wrong. and i think this is something that marks wilson. i mean, a very intelligent, interesting man and a man immovable and rinld. now, when he came to office he
had linlg of course many americans very strong sense of what the united states could do in the world. and i think part of his understanding and his views of what the united states could do in the world came from his own background. he was a devout presbyterian. he remained a believer all his life and i think he believed in the role of good works, that it was the responsibility of people put on earth to carry out good works and he believed that the united states had a role and indeed an obligation to do good works in the world. he believed that the united states could and should be a force for good. the united states should be an example to the world. as he said when he was campaigning in new jersey in 1912, america is an idea, america is an ideal, america is a vision. and that i think is something that helps to shape his attitude towards american neighbors, to those it has to deal with and towards america's enemies. he supported the spanish-american war and initially opposed it but he
convinced himself that the united states was actually bringing the benefits of civilization to the territories which it took over from the spanish. he supported the intervention of the united states in the affairs of latin american countries. again, because he felt that the united states was a force for good in those countries. and when he became president, in the first term of his presidency, he intervened quite forcefully in mexican affairs, often i think on rather shaky grounds but he felt he was doing the right thing as he said to british diplomat, i'm going to teach the south american republics to elect good men. and this is an odd view for a democratic and felt he was carrying out in a sense a mission of god's work and said of mexico sending troops into mexico, we have gone to mexico to serve mankind if we can find the way. we do not want to fight the mexicans. if you were a mexican you might see it a bit differently. so, this is the man who's
president of the united states when the war breaks out. someone who's prepared to use american power where he sees it as necessary to do good and also of course i think admitted to defend american interests. he certainly felt that in dealing with the caribbean basin and mexico, the united states had every right to defend the rights of american strategic interests. he did not in 1914 i think see the united states as playing a larger role in the world. he was at that stage still very much focused on domestic reforms and a prime minister of domestic reforms. but when the war broke out, he was horrified like many were. distracted, of course, by the fact that his wife was dying in the first days of august as europe was going into the first world war. but he took himself away from her death bed and sent her a note which, unfortunately, was not paid attention to, two different sides moving toward war offering to act as a mediator. the note was not answered by this point.
the european nations siding towards war. the war started and there were those in the united states who said forcefully that the united states should get involved. theodore roosevelt among them and also those on the other side who said equally forcefully the united states should not get involved under any circumstances and there was also considerable debate about if the united states were to get involved on what side should it get involved and it was not a foregone conclusion to intervene on the side of the allies, britain, france, subsequently italy an russia and i think a number of reasons for this. there were large sections of the population in the united states which had no particular love for britain. a large irish population which was not prepared to support the united states going in on the british side. and there were all those who had fled russia for very good reason and who had moved to the united states and saw no reason to
support an autocracy and democrats whether they had family who had come from russia did not feel comfortable with the united states supporting a country that was known for being thoroughly undemocratic and autocratic. there was also a large population of german descent in the united states, many of whom if they were not prepared to advocate the united states to join on the german side and not willing to see them fight a country for which they had a good deal of affection and as the war broke out i think there was division in public opinion in the united states, fair to say although before public opinion polls probably the majority of americans hoped that the united states could stay out of the war. they looked at what was happening in europe. with horror. particularly, as the war developed. as it seemed that what had been promised to be a short war was going to turn into a hideous war of attrition, that was going to drag on and on and on. a lot of americans looked at
europe and thought why are they doing it? with a sense of bewilderment, shock, horror that the europeans seemed intent on destroying their own civilization and so i think initially at least in the first year of the war if you can gauge american public opinion i think the feeling was that the united states should stay out. but a number of factors some of them outside wilson's control and sometimes inside his control began to push the united states gradually towards the allied side. wilson himself was probably more sympathetic to the allies than he was to the central pow earls of germany and austria, hungary and other allies, the ottoman empire, bulgaria and so on. i think -- he had visited europe much. he was a great admirer of the development of constitutionalism in britain and the development of liberal thinking in britain and he felt on balance the
allied side was the better side. and so, from the beginning when there was a question of doing something that might favor the allied side or might favor the central powers, wilson tended although not always to come down on the side of the allied side and so for example on the issue of loans to belligerence, this was a rather thorny issue. should nose fighting be able to borrow money in the united states? his secretary of state was for a ban on both sides and argued with justification true neutrality. if you are neutral, you should not lend to either side but there was pressure of business, banks to lend and the people were the allies because they were in a better position to borrow. the state department was also in favor of making loans to the allies. and by the late fall of 1914, wilson had ordered the state department and ordered brian to make it possible for the allies to borrow in the united states. and as brian quite i think
correctly argued this was, in fact, tilting towards the allies. the allies to the loan to the allies were going to increase steadily to the point of 1917 the united states mostly private interests had lent some $7 billion to the allies and so gradually at least financially the united states became more and more committed to the allies and wilson did nothing to stop it and in fact facilitated it. the war also had a
going some of them to germany but again the bulk to allied powers. by 1917, u.s. export $3.5 billion. there's a marked increase in the war and which doesn't commit the united states to the allies but does entangle the united states more and more economically through the loans and the exports with the allies. the united states was also pushed towards the allied side by what the germans did and wasn't that the british didn't irritate the united states. the british, the great british weapon was the naval blockade and the british imposed on germany. they began to disrupt neutral trade, trade being carried in neutral shipping to germany which began to irritate, of course, american public opinion when american ships were stopped, when american cargoes seized on the grounds they could be there for war and this
remained a constant irritant in the relations twaen the united states and the allies, particularly between the united states and britain. but on the whole, it was germany that managed to enrage american public opinion much more than britain did. and there were a number of reasons for this. the germans increasingly as the war went on found the policy or allowed their policy made by the military. and military, the german military like military everywhere tended to see very much in terms of what they're doing in terms of winning the war and tended to ignore or down play political factors and this you can see at the beginning of the war: the jer mans invaded belgium. whose neutrality had been guaranteed by a number of european states and germany itself and what germany is doing is breaking its own guarantee to belgium, invading a very small . . opinion against germany.
it outweighed by far the ir tans of the britain blockade and began to see germany as something that had been domin e dominated and running out of control and there were going to be several incidents in the invasion of bell yum which really shocked american opinion and opinion elsewhere. the germans behaved with increasingly brutality in belgium. they were enraged when the belgians decided to resist and round up civilians, use them for forced labor in germany and began as a sort of warning occasionally to shoot a number of belgian civilians and contrary to the rules of war. it is fairly clear that the germans also burnt a large part of the very ancient city of leuven in belgian and including a very great old library and this really shocked american
public opinion as it shocked opinion around the world. this seemed an act of bar barism, an act of civilization. one german later on said that the two things that really swayed american public opinion against us were leuven and the luis tan yeah. in 1915 when german submarines sank the british liner the a large number of civilians were drowned and a number of americans and a real shock to american public opinion and so you can see a gradual shift in american opinion which wilson certainly does nothing to stop and probably shares towards the allied side and this is a long way saying that the united states should be involved in the war. wilson's own view was that we shouldn't be involved, this is not a war that involves us and on several occasions he offered his services or the services of the united states as a mediator. while this was happening there was also debate within the united states about whether the
quite should get more prepared for war. should the united states up its mill trar prepations in a world that was increasingly turbulent? and this was something that, again, divided american public opinion but it was something again that woodrow wilson felt himself had to be done that the united states he argued could not take the chance in a world that was at war of not being prepared militarily. he cast this in terms of being prepared against mexico, in terms of continental defense. but that could be stretched to mean and preparedness in terms of naval preparedness in the atlantic, for example. there was a fear increasingly in the united states if germany won in europe it would be a europe hostile to the united states and that the united states would then find itself in a position where it would be more vulnerable eventually as technology was clearly changing and advancing, it would become more vulnerable to threats from europe. in any case, december 15th, december 1915, wilson and his
state of the union speech talked very focused, it was very focused on military preparedness. he developed new an approved new five-year plan for the navy and approved by the senate in june 1916, after a great deal of debate. in congress, a national defense act was approved which increased the army to some 223,000 people and had been an army of less than 70,000 people so this was a very, very marked increase. again, this was cast in terms of defense of the united states. not of getting into war. i think you can see the similarities between the sort of debate that took place in the united states before 1941. a similar debate that the united states doesn't want to get involved in war. doesn't approve of the war. doesn't want to choose sides. but nevertheless, should look out for itself in a world that's becoming very, very difficult. what you also got was an interesting debate in the united states about what the proper role for the united states should be in the world. and it's a debate which i think
has recured throughout the history of the united states. i think we see it again today. a debate about whether the united states should be internationalist, whether it should get involved in the world for any number of reasons, to promote american safety and security, economic interests or american values. the debates go right back to the founding of the republic and i think will continue. or whether the united states should withdraw from the world, look after itself first and not let the rest of the world impung upon it. it's the world isolationist enters the vocabulary and with us very much today. you probably all know what happened. the war drags on. the united states is more and more involved economically. american opinion is debating what the united states should be doing. wilson runs in 1916 on a platform of keeping the united states out of the war. we will be too proud to fight, he said.
he kept us out of the war, was what the democrats said when wilson won and this was very much the platform he ran on. again, i think there's a real jájz dell nor roosevelt in 1940. again, arguing that he was the one to keep the united states out of the war. in the end, what brought the united states in i think was both this gradual shift in a public opinion and not enough to do but i think really it was what the germans did, the germans behaved in a way that i can only describe as folly. the german supreme command by 1917 virtually in command of the german state. it had set up something close to a military dictatorship and it had been pressing to renew unrestricted submarine warfare. this had stopped in 1915. after an american ship had been sunk. and there was huge protest in the united states and the german government at the time had recognized that unrestricted
warfare and submarines firing on any shipping approaching british shores, ew t the high command add been pressing for resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare and in january 1917 they got their wish. and so, the sinkings and the loss of american lives began to go up and american opinion begins now to harden. in 1917, beginning of 1917, wilson talks to the senate. he's still hoping to keep the united states out of the war but what's, i think, very significant is that he's sketching a world after the war, beginning to take an active role in defining what that world should look like. that's not the same as going into the war but indicating that the united states, at least as far as wilson is concerned and quite a lot of support of this, is saying that the world will be different place and we ought to have a say in it and once you think that, you're more likely to want to get involved. it is in this address to the
senate in january 1917 that he talks about peace without victory. he talks for the first time about how the world might develop a community of powers to replace the old balance of power. and begins to sketch out some of his ideas for a new type of way, a new type of -- a new way of managing international relations. well, the germans do their best to make up american minds. they do not -- not only do they resume unrestricted submarine warfare, but they sell a telegram to the mexican government, known as the zimmerman telegraph after the foreign secretary who sends it, and what zimmerman sends to the mexican government is a telegram saying we think you probably, paraphrasing, you would like to have back the territory which the united states took for you in the 19th century. we suggest that you declare war on the united states. we can probably persuade japan to join in and we will certainly support you.
the germans had to send it on british cables because the british cut the german telegraph cables to the new world. and coded but the british broken the german code and the british decode the cable, look at it, realize they have a really hot potato here. sit on it for a time being as they decide to try what to -- what they'll do with it. and in february they take it to woodrow wilson. and you can imagine his reaction. i mean, this is treachery of the first order. this is now a menace to the security of the united states right there on the southern border of the united states. and so, from that point on it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the united states will enter the war on the allied side. what also makes it easier for the united states to contemplate doing this is in february 1917 there's also a revolution in russia. this is not yet the bolshevik revolution. this is the first revolution and a constitutional and democratic government is set up. and so, one of the main
objections that used to come from liberals and people who profoundly democratic to joining on the allied side that the allies included this autocratic power and now suddenly it's removed and so in april to cut a long and quite complicated story short wilson goes to congress and asks for a declaration of war. it's one of his best speeches. he does so not in a triumphant way. he does anytime a very somber way. the united states he says is entering into a war which is going to cost it, going to lose, going to suffer, going to suffer the loss of life. he himself has a heavy heart but what he hopes is that the war will end in producing a better world. and what he hoped privately and said to many, that he hoped it would bring the american people together. educate them about international issues and their responsibility towards the war. he was, i wouldn't say, a great war leader but i think he understood very clearly what needed to be done in war. he understood the importance of mobilizing the nation for war.
the day after signing the declaration of war he made a list which he called his program and he said we need clearly to up the measures for war. we need to increase the size of the army and navy. we need to pass all necessary legislation to put the country in a thorough state of defense and preparation for action. we need -- and this is one of more controversial things he did and he in fact did it, public control public expression and speech carefully. we need to make sure that we do not have spies and we do not suffer espionage at home. and this, i think, is one of the areas which is very contentious about the days of the presidency because there's a real curtailment of civil liberties and spying on the american citizens, and woodrow wilson, it could be said, and i would agree, did not do enough to
defend basic civil liberties and allowed a tax on civil minorities, unions, segregation in the armed forces. as a war leader i think he did a lot to bring the united states together and you can look at areas where he didn't. he also recognized that the war was going to have to be financed and he put bernard baruch in charge of the war and industries board and baruch and others tried to coordinate without i would say a great deal of success american industrial output and also managed to raise a great deal of money through the sale of bonds known as liberty loans. unlike some of the predecessors, unlike theodore roosevelt, he was not himself particularly interested in things military. and he did not on the whole intervene in either making strategy, he allowed strategy for winning the war to be made by the allies so now had a coherent command and supreme commander. but he was prepared to support general pershing and the attitude is more that he would allow pershing what he felt best
and you get very little interference by wilson in the direction of the war. he doesn't play the role of churchill or roosevelt in the second world war. what he does do in the course of the war is continue to sketch out american war aims. on january the 18th, a year after his address, in which he talks about peace without victory, of course, january 1918, he unveils the 18 points and more comprehensive statement of the world he wants. he doesn't use self-determination in that speech, although that term associated with him. it had been used previously by the british prime minister, david lloyd george, making a similar speech. it was suspected in the white house to preempt and to steal publicity from him. who knows? lloyd george sketched out a liberal world of the post-war
world in which he talked about self determination. and although the term now i think forever associated with wilson he does not use it initially all that much and uses it later on and in the 14 points he talks about the sort of liberal world order he wants, a world in which there is open diplomacy, openly arrived at. a lot of americans are now this blame the war in europe on secret agreement, secret diplomacy. the idea that relations will be transparent. that in fact doesn't last and something that's very, very difficult to do. he talks about community of nations, collective security, and this, of course, is the forerunner of the league of nations. he talks not about self determination but he talks about autonomy for the different parts of the empire. he talks about helping russia to find its way. he talks about disarmament. he talks about lower trade barriers and this is a liberal international order of
collective security, if we can have disarmament, if we can link the world together through trade increasingly then we'll have a world that's safer and a world as he said, of course, safe for democracy. and he continued to elaborate on his views of the post-war world in the last months and year of the war. increasingly, too, and you can see it in his private conversation and his speeches, he tends to blame what he calls german militarism for a lot of the war. he doesn't blame germany itself, although it's certainly very close to that. but he is increasingly vehement against what he calls oppression of militarism. the ascendency of the military and the ascendency of values. these he says must be removed from germany before germany can
be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community of nations and so in spite of what later historians said, he was not prepared to be soft with germany, chastise germany, amend germany, make germany a better place and then and only then would germany be fit to be admitted into the community of nations. the war ended, as you know, very quickly. the germans made a last great push in the summer of 1918. but they had by this point run out of steam and i think the fact that there were now a million americans in europe and more in training camps, 2 million more in training camps in the united states, that tremendous american support, material, manpower, fresh, fresh approach to the war was now counting against germany. the germans simply crumbled. they were no longer capable of sustaining the war. the german home front was collapsing and by the awe thumb of 1918, german allies were beginning to fall away. and so the germans, the high command who continued to assure the german civilian government, the shadowish civilian
government with very little power and all is going well and then panic at the end of the september and say we have to have an armistice. we have had it. the german government hoping, i think, that they might get gentler treatment from the united states because of the sorts of speeches that were woodrow wilson has been making and very well-reported in germany send an open note to woodrow wilson asking him to broker an armistice and wilson much to the fury of his european partners -- he will never call them allies. he says the united states is an associate power and much of the fury of the british and french begins to negotiate through open communication published in newspapers with the germans and not something the british and french approve of, but they're preempted of the germans and wilson does. and so the armistice is made really in spite of what the british and the french want. on the british and french side, there is a sentiment that it is probably better to go on and that germany needs to be thoroughly defeated and certainly those in the united states who are arguing this, as
well. teddy roosevelt is saying, and so is senator henry cabot lloyd, there's the seeds of the trouble for the future. sometimes i think they were right. it's a very, very difficult debate. very interesting. you will remember in the second world war, roosevelt and churchill decided on unconditional surrender as a policy. they were not going to have any conditional surrender as there was in the first world war. the armistice was made. it was made in such a way that germany continued as a state, although there had been some talk of breaking it up into its component parts, and germany on the whole did not come badly out of that armistice. the government had been, by this point, replaced by the more or less democratic government. soil was not occupied except for the west bank of the rhine. and this perhaps led to trouble
in the future. i would argue that it did. most germans never really felt they were defeated or saw the consequences of defeat. and the high command who so rapidly fashion demanded that the government ask for an armistice a month later were saying we could have fought on. we don't know why the government asked for the armistice. they panicked and we didn't. and then with the support of the right in germany to promote this pernicious myth that germany had been stabbed in the back. that it had never been defeated on the battlefield that it had been stabbed in the back at the traitors at home, liberals, communists, socialists and unfortunately jews and became a very, very dangerous founding myth and grew in power rather than lessening in the 1920s and '30s. so the war ends on november 11th, 1918. and the question now is what sort of peace will be made? and as professor leffler mentioned, wilson came himself
to the peace conference to take place in paris. he was heavily criticized for it at the time. i think he was right to go because this was a very, very important conference. the world had, in many ways, quite literally been turned upside by the war and europe and much of the rest of the world was in turmoil. four empires had disappeared or were in process of disappearing. germany falling to pieces. was losing territories which it had conquered a century earlier. losing the polish territories, losing its colonies. the ottoman empire to disappear. by november 19 -- shortly after november 11th, 1918, the austrian-hungarian empire had already disappeared, falling into component pieces, and new nations were struggling to be born in the wreckage of that. and russia had had both an internal revolution and was losing an empire. the states on the periphery of russia were declaring their independence. states such as latvia, ukraine
tried and succeeded very briefly in its independence. georgia, russia was both an empire and a regime and both were splintering in the aftermath of that great war. and so there were huge questions that the world had to settle. what was the shape of europe going to be like. what was the shape of the middle east going to be like. as the ottoman empire fell to pieces suddenly all the arab territories, vast arab territories of the ottoman empire were up for grabs of some sort. africa in the south pacific, questions to be settled in the far east and a real danger that many felt at the time that europe and the world were going to plunge into even more revolution. the second revolution in russia, the revolution of november 1917, had seen a very small fanatical splinter group, and there were fear that is that revolution followed elsewhere and some evidence it would be. there was a communist revolution
in bulgaria and lasted for a week, and enough to worry people. a communist revolution in hungary lasting for six months. insurrections in italy, in france. general strikes, militant ones in britain. in canada. so there were troubles around the world and i think there was a very real fear that 1918 was not the end of something, it was the beginning of another even more dreadful period in human history. and so i think wilson was absolutely right to go to paris. i think where he made a mistake was in the way he chose his delegation. he did not include any republicans. well, a nominal republican and paid absolutely no attention to. and this, i think, was wrong. he also fought the 1918 congressional election as a vote of confidence in himself. he made the making of peace a partisan affair and i think again you can criticize him for that and striking that fdr in 1945 made sure that any peace arrangements he made, any international conferences he went to before he died in 1945 bipartisan, he had bipartisan support for what he was trying to do. i think wilson was right to go to paris.
he has been blamed ever since for much that went wrong. i mean, the many views of wilson in paris. there's wilson the messiah, who came from the united states with the gift of peace and international fellowship and greeted by black-hearted and cynical people in europe who took his gift and destroyed it. that was promulgated by people that wilson was too good in the europeans, europeans didn't understand what it was he was offering and sunk in the old ways of doing things. my own view is that is wrong. many europeans supported what wilson was trying to do. they had after all seen firsthand and many survived what the war had done to their society and so i think for lot of europeans wilson offered promise, hope and many of the ideas he was bringing with him were ideas in europe for a listening time and these were
not just ideas he had come up with. these were ideas, for example, collective security and ideas talked about throughout the 19th century in europe, ideas of ideas of international arbitrations, to try to settle dispute the among nations. these were things that had been talked about and indeed been tried. international free trade. disarmament. they hadn't succeeded, but the ideas certainly were there. so i think the view that wilson was too good for europe was wrong. i think the idea that wilson was to total incompetent at paris was wrong. this was propagated by others, like john maynard keynes, the clever young economist who was very critical of everyone in paris. he portrays them as dreadful, xenical old men who don't know what they're doing. clemenceau knew, whatever he
thought of the germans, that france was going to have to work with them at some point at some level. he portrays the british prime minister as a half goat, half man coming out of the welsh mists who weaves spells and wilson, and he portrays wilson as someone blindfolded who's spun round and round and round till he doesn't know whether he's coming or going. and this is not true. i think wilson made mistakes. they all did. he awe sumd that the league could do too much. whenever a question came up, he said, look, as long as we get the league up and running, it will sort it out, and the league will be able to deal with it. i think he had too much optimism, but i think he was bringing something very important. he was bringing to the forefront of public opinion another way of looking at the world and another way to run the world. and i think this was enormously important, particularly when you could see what happened. i think forever, for all of the tremendous great strength of wilson's vision, and i think there was real support for it in europe, he was trying to do something that was probably
impossible. i take a view of the paris peace conference with my view is that it made mistakes, that it did not create a stable world, but that it probably couldn't have done much better. the conditions for a lasting peace was simply not there. it's all very well to say that those people sitting in paris should have sorted the world out. the world was not in a condition to be sorted out. it was very different in 1815 when the powers met at the congress of vienna to try to sort out the aftermath of the french wars of revolution and the napoleonic wars. by 1815, europe was tired. it didn't want any more war, nobody wanted any more war. in 1918 that wasn't true. there were a whole series of small wars after 1918. winston churchill called them the wars of the pygmies. wars between poland and ukraine. wars in the middle east. wars in the southern parts of europe. so this was not a peaceful world. this was not a world that was yet ready for peace. what's more, it was a world in which revolutionary feelings were running high. the russian revolution had set
off revolutionary fervor around europe. and it was not clear when that was going to end. and it was the a world in which nationalisms, in particular ethnic rationalism was high. suddenly they saw open doors, an attempt to establish nations of their own. the trouble was that establishing a nation with national boundaries was not easy, because there were no clear markers of where those boundaries should be. the center of europe had a mix of peoples. nationalities were so mixed up that you'd have a hungarian village next to a german village. how did you draw a reasonable boundary. there was no way of putting all of the speakers in a neat box. nor were there in many cases clearly defined historic boundaries. because european history had seen so much, there was too much of it and for so many centuries,
boundaries had. it had come and gone, what was a legitimate boundary. they all said history shows this should be the extent of our nation. but human nature being what it is, what they called on was the time their nation had been biggest in the past. so the bulgarians looked back to the 14th century when they'd been big. and they were often claiming the same bits of territory. and you can just imagine what the greeks did. [ laughter ] or the italians. they could go back further with even more justification. so i would argue that it wasn't wilson's fault, it wasn't lloyd george's fault, it wasn't clemenceau's fault. the circumstances were not right for it. and they tried. they tried very hard. they brought their experts. this was one of the times when for better or worse, people like me, history professors, were allowed to go along and give their opinion on how boundaries should be drawn. this is the beginning of the use
of experts. and the committees worked very hard, and they heard delegations who came in with maps who showed that they should have this piece of territory rather than somebody else. the americans on the whole in those committees were pretty reasonable. they tried to draw rational boundaries. they tried to give countries a fighting chance of surviving. they tried to make them economically stable. they tried to incorporate railway networks, but they tried also to resist the more outlandish claims. and the americans, on the whole, i think played a very reasonable part. the trouble was they were dealing with something that was not reasonable. ethnic nationalism wasn't by its nature reasonable, and it wasn't going to be settled very easily. national self-determination, in the end, what it did mean. robert lansing, who was wilson's secretary of state, he said, well, how do you define an ethnic nation? what about the people within it who doesn't want to be part of it, and they are an ethnic nation too. and how small can you get? can you keep subdividing it until you get smaller and smaller nations. how can they survive? how can they survive in an
independent world. wilson himself told the senate at the end of 1919 that he'd come to regret that he ever uttered the words national self-determination. he said i didn't foresee what trouble it would cause. and so, you look at the paris peace conference. i'm inclined to say that wilson and the rest of them did the best job they could. nevertheless, you can -- and i'll just finish with this. there are things you can criticize about what wilson, and you can certainly criticize what some of the others did. he was right, i think, to insist on negotiating the league covenant first. he said we've got to get the covenant first. so the covenant was the first part of the treaty with germany to be written, and then it was going to be put into all the other treaties as well. there is, certainly, grounds to criticize. one of the things i would criticize is the way he handled the japanese request. japan was a new nation in the world order. it was part of the liberal world order. the japanese wanted to be part of a liberal international order, but what they wanted was to be recognized. and they were very sensitive
about the fact that their nationals had been denied entry into the united states, into canada into australia on racial grounds. what they wanted to be written into the covenant was a phrase, which came to be known as the racial equality clause that there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion or nationality. and wilson ruled it out on a rather feeble technicality. he was afraid of losing votes from the west coast and felt that if he challenged the fears on the west coast, if he didn't go along with what the west coast wanted, that is exclusion of asian immigration, then he would have more trouble getting the treaty through congress. i think he was wrong on this, because it served to poison relations in the long term with japan. i think he was also wrong -- but it was not him alone -- when china came to the peace conference, and china and japan were both allies in the first world war. and they said now that germany
has been defeated we would like back what had been german concessions in china. and the japanese said we also have a claim on those because we helped to defeat germany and the allies. wilson certainly could have stopped it. they could have gave german concessions to the japanese and it infuriated the chinese. it helped spur the growth of the chinese communist party and helped to turn china, again, from a liberal international order. as one young chinese intellectual said, we used to trust people like wilson, now we think they're just great liars. i think you can look what wilson did for expediency and realize it was going to have very long-term consequences. can you blame him for not foreseeing it? no, i don't think you can. what i think, in the end, he felt, and they all felt the treaty was the best they could have got. was it too harsh on germany? i would argue not. but this is something we can talk about again. i think the final criticism i would make of wilson is that he didn't make it possible for the
treaty to go through congress. he came back. there was opposition. but as far as we know -- and, again, this was before public opinion polls -- american public opinion, if anything, was in favor of the united states joining the league. literary review did a survey. an opinion was, i think, 2-1, over 2-1 in favor of the u.s. joining the league. and there was an organization to promote the american membership of the league which had far more members than the parallel organization to oppose american membership of the league. i think, in the end, why the treaty failed was because wilson was not prepared to compromise. he was not prepared to accept the reservations which came attached to the treaty as it made its way through the senate. he ordered his democrats to vote against the treaty as amended. and so the treaty -- therefore, american membership of the league was defeated by a combination of democrat and republican votes.
you can argue, and some would, that wilson was no longer the man he'd been. he suffered a dreadful stroke in the fall of 1919 in the course of this trip. and he had become both isolated and extremely stubborn. so on the balance, my own view is that wilson was not the savior of the world that people hoped he would be, but he was not the bamboozled and blindfolded figure spun around that the people like keynes thought he was. he was a complicated man. he presided over the united states at a complicated time in a complicated world. his record is mixed. but given those circumstances, i think anyone's record would have been mixed. thanks. [ applause ] >> margaret, thank you. that was a wonderful survey of
the united states and wilson in war and peace. so i neglected to say when i introduced you that you're canadian by birth and you've been in england for many years. most americans think of woodrow wilson as a great idealist. and they're often -- that's infused, both with respect and also with a little bit of contempt, that he was a great idealist. do you think wilson was a great idealist? >> yes, i do. and i think you needed great idealists then, and we probably need them now. i mean, this view that we can muddle along, you know, each nation in a dog-eat-dog world, i don't think it's going to work. i think the consequences can be so dreadful that we need to think of other ways of thinking. perhaps this is a canadian view because we are such a small power. but we see cooperation with
other nations as a way for security and safety in the world. and, you know, conflicts on the scale of the first world war, much less the second world war, and let's hope there'll never be that scale again, are so damaging to us all that i think it's actually not idealistic to try and build ways of preventing those. it's actually very practical. >> but he's often viewed as idealistic, because when he comes back to the u.s., he refuses to compromise. >> yeah. >> and much of what we think about wilson, i think, stems from that intransigence about compromising with his domestic foes. some people who don't think he was an idealist point to the fact that actually when he was negotiating in paris, as you point out many times, he was a remarkable compromiser. >> yeah.
>> i mean, in fact, some of his domestic opponents ridiculed him, precisely because he had compromised too much and had betrayed his own principles, again and again and again, during the negotiations in paris. >> yeah. >> so was he really a ridged idealist or was he a pragmatic compromiser? >> i think he became more ridged when he was back in the united states, and i think the consequences of the stroke are important, and that he was kept pretty much in isolation by his wife. that he was not either in a position to compromise or was not getting the right advice or was simply not capable of doing it. he did compromise in paris, and i think you have to. i mean, the idea that can you go in and hold your ideals high and never make a compromise, he was
dealing with other very powerful nations. and there's a tendency, i think, for people to read back the great power of the united states, which is certainly had by 1944, 1945, back to this period. yes, it was a powerful country, but it was not the dominant power it would be by 1944, 1945. britain was still a great power. france was a great power. so wilson could not push them around in a way that roosevelt could get churchhill to do. and so i think wilson had to recognize that other nations had interests here. and there was a real problem over germany. i mean, wilson wanted a peace without retribution. although, he felt very strongly that germany should be punished in some way. the idea that wilson was prepared to be so gentle with germany is a wrong one. i mean, i think he really
thought germany did need to pay a price for what it had done. he shared the view that germany had started the war. but it was easy for him to say, look, we shouldn't exact too much in the way of reparations from germany, because it wasn't going to hurt the united states. but the french had a real problem. and so did the british. the french looked at the north of france where a lot of the war had been fought, something like a quarter of all their industrial plants had been destroyed. their mines had been destroyed. their railways had been destroyed, villages and towns had been destroyed. the french lost more men proportionately to the population than anyone else. they looked across the border to germany, virtually unscathed. virtually none of the war was fought on german soil, and they thought, why can the germans go on living like this and we have to rebuild. why shouldn't the germans pay? and clemenceau said i have to look at what the public says. it probably wasn't sensible. and in the end, it was very difficult to get reparations out
of germany, but public opinion put clemenceau in a position where he had very little choice. and the british said, well, the french and the belgians are going to get recompense for their damage, they argued that the pensions paid to widows and children should be also in the build. you could say wilson shouldn't have gone along with this, but it was difficult to go against his allies. he really ran the risk of not -- what they were doing was drawing up the treaty with germany, and if he had failed to compromise, it might well have broken down, because this is something the french in particular were not prepared to compromised on. but what the french did do, they backed down on a lot. they backed down on occupying germany, they backed down on long-term proposals to break germany up. so the compromise was not just on wilson's side. the french compromised, too.
the british compromised, too. and it was a very difficult situation. one thing wilson might have contemplated, but he was against it. it would have been difficult, i think, was to cancel allied debts to the united states. the allies had borrowed some $9 billion from the united states to pay for the war. and that was one of the reasons they were so firm on getting reparations, because the british had lent to the french, they both lent to the russians. well the russians weren't paying anybody anything at this point because they had canceled all debts. the british and french and its italians had huge debts. and so that gave added impetus for them to want to extract reparations from germany. now keynes came up with a plan. he said, why don't we just cancel the whole lot. if the united states would cancel the debts, britain and france can agree not to get reparations from germany, it will be a lot better. it would probably have been a lot better, but it was politically impossible, i think.
>> inside the united states you mean? >> in the second world war they did actually provide a lot of the financing for the allied war effort without expecting to be repaid. >> that's a good experience of learning from the past, right? >> maybe learning from the past, yeah. >> so, i mean, i tend to agree with you, that wilson was an artful compromiser. artful compromiser, during the paris deliberations, and everybody really compromised quite a bit. so the notions that we often have of wilson the ridged idealist comes from when he returns home and he refuses to compromise with his adversaries. and as you say, and i think most historians have now pointed out, in fact, the best we can call, american supported the league. it wasn't that americans were
isolationist in 1918, 1919. they supported america's role in the world. and it was a question of how to define that, what that role would be. so, you know, one of the continuing debates in american foreign relations history is the question of should wilson have compromised with lodge. and of course once, you know, he's stricken, obviously that has a real impact on him physically and psychologically, and he becomes even more intransigent. but even before then, he shows every sign of not wanting to compromise at all. in fact, he shows a lot of contempt for his domestic adversaries. and of course this increases
their contempt for him in turn. so how, how -- one, how should we explain this. and should we be, should we be very critical? i mean, could we have had a constructive american role in the world if wilson had been willing to make some compromise? >> my own view is you could. and i think the world would have been a better place for it. wilson did make compromises in paris. but as you pointed out, compromises with the republicans. this was the side of wilson's character that says if you disagree with me, it's not just that you disagree with me, but there's something wrong with you. he hated lodge. he thought lodge was evil. this wasn't just someone who disagreed with him. i look at the criticisms that lodge made with the league covenant, and these were not unreasonable. they're very reasonable. he's saying, should we mind
ourselves in advance to support, you know, action, you know, in a conflict which we don't yet know what the conflict's going to be. these, i thought, were reasonable, and indeed, it's a debate that goes on. but wilson simply treated lodge as someone who's beyond the pale. it was very, very foolish, and he wouldn't talk to teddy roosevelt. roosevelt typically wanted to go over to europe leading his own regiment. and wilson wouldn't even talk to him about it. what he could have done, he could have said, this is wonderful. roosevelt was not good at dealing with political opponents. he was very skillful at maneuvering. he was a very effective president in many ways. you look at what he got through in the terms of domestic legislation in his first term, it's extraordinary. >> and you can only do that by being a great compromiser and leader. >> yeah. but when it came to making the peace he sort of had this vision and believed that anybody who
didn't have the vision was worth listening to. and this is where fdr was so right. he made it bipartisan, the making of the peace, right from the beginning. and wilson didn't. and he, you know, he came back to the united states briefly during the peace conference, and he was out of the united states until, he came back on february 14th for a month. and he didn't make any -- he wouldn't see lodge. he wouldn't, he went to boston, which is lodge's hometown, and made a sort of speech about his vision about those who don't agree with him, which is stupid. it was antagonistic. and he did even silly things. one of his daughters had had a grandson and he looked at this tiny infant and said it's just like a senator. it keeps its mouth open the whole team and keeps its eyes shut. this is stupid. >> these are important lessons for americans to think about. we tend to think that contemporary partisan acrimony is unique, and what we forget, for example, is in this critical period of time just how acrimonious and poisonous
politics was in the united states and also how dismal the consequences were as a result of it, because there was possibility for compromise. most americans wanted, in some form, the united states to participate in the league. or in an international organization. it didn't come about because of the intransigence and inflexibility of these people. it's true, you know, as you're suggesting, of course, that wilson had utmost contempt for lodge. but it's also true that that contempt was fully reciprocated. lodge detested wilson. these are two men who really loathed one another. i want to sort of shift the context of this conversation just for a few minutes. in the aftermath of world war ii, the treaty of versailles, of course, was blamed for world war ii. nowadays, the treaty of
versailles, and not the treaty of versailles, but the peacemakers of 1919 and 1920 are usually criticized for the problems in the middle east and persian gulf today. and that there's a huge amount of literature saying the problems in iraq, for example, and in syria today, go back to the first world war. >> yeah. >> would you be kind enough to sort of elaborate upon that and tell us what you think? >> well, i tend to think that events in the past cast a shadow, but you can't look at the event and then subtract everything that happens in between. so, you know, the argument just to talk about europe for a second, that the treaty of versailles led directly to 1939. my question is, what was everyone doing for 20 years? other things are happening. and in the middle east, it certainly is true that the settlement made in the middle
east enraged a lot of arab opinion. mostly elite opinion, except in egypt where there was a deeply-rooted nationalist movement. but otherwise it was mostly elite movement. but there was a sense among the arabs that they had been promised independent arab states and they'd been betrayed. and that of course gets fatally mixed up with a jewish homeland in palestine, so the presence of the jews in palestine comes to be the symbol. and so i do think what was done in 1919 and subsequent years, because the peace settlement in the middle east took a while to work out and the united states wasn't much involved with part of the withdrawal. the u.s. no longer had strong interest there. it wasn't an ideal settlement. again, you know, it's difficult. this was a time of empire.
and people making decisions in the west tended to think they could dispose of peoples around the world as they wished. and it would have perhaps taken more enlightened leaders, more 20th century leaders rather than 19th century leaders, to recognize that you couldn't go on parceling out people like this. one of the things wilson did do was three got written into the league of nations the issue -- the mandates that, and this is something he said also in the 14 points and subsequent speech is that you cannot parcel out people and hand them out without thinking of their interests. so when the middle east territories and the african colonies and so on were disposed of, they were handed over as mandates of the league of nations. in other words, britain and france were given mandates to run these bits of territory so they had to report to the league of nations.
so there's a step forward at any rate that these territories have to be administered in some sort of a system for the benefit of the people living there. a lot of people thought it was cynical imperialism. and a lot of it was. there was an important view mentioned here. the problem with the middle east, i think, and it's something i keep thinking about. is again, it was a sort of problem you had. how could you draw rational boundaries to make rational states. the peoples were mixed. you couldn't have ethnic states. even drawing a kurdish state would have been difficult because the peoples are so mixed. in what became iraq you had persians, kurds, arabs, jews. baghdad was a very jewish city in 1919. so you couldn't draw -- you couldn't make ethnically-based states. what could you make? and in iraq, i think iraq is more defensible than the borders of syria. it was three provinces of the ottoman empire which had
been sometimes collectively treated, baghdad was seen as a senior province. and geographically, there's a sort of unity there. you come down the valleys of the tigress and euphrates. and, you know, there was a possibility, i think -- and i've talked to people who know iraqi history better than i do. there were accidents, as often happens in history. faisal, who turned out to be a very good king died early. his son was a useless playboy who killed himself in a car accident. and there was another boy with a not very good regent. so that was a problem. then you have a series of political movements in iraq. then you had a series of military coups. given a different sort of history and a few different accidents, iraq might have developed in a different way. if you draw boundaries, you can't expect a country to grow within it. if you look at the boundaries of canada, they couldn't be more artificial. it's just one straight line from
the end of the great lakes out to the west coast. but a country has grown within those borders. and you look at many african countries, and national feeling has developed. so whether things could have turned out differently -- iraq,z i think, was hopeful. syria was cursed from the beginning because the french took a lot and populated lebanon. egypt has become a functioning country. god knows it's got problems, but it geographically made sense. libya never made sense. it was two different provinces of the ottoman province. so yes, you can blame a lot on what happened in 1919, but i don't think you can blame everything. and of course the trouble with the middle east is where it is. it is at a crossroads. it's constantly being meddled with by outside powers. the cold war didn't help, you know? >> one of the things we so admire about your work is that you're able to put policymakers in the context of their time and
really understand the constraints under which they operate and the limits of the options. so i think we should take ten minutes or so, now, to open it up for questions. i know there are some people here who -- yeah. [ inaudible ] one second, there's a microphone here. >> oh, thank you. >> why tonight you introduce yourself. >> i'm fred hitts. and what i wanted to ask you about, and had a chance to chat with you before the lecture, is this issue of, and you said a lot about it, i think, quite, in quite graphic terms, was wilson ill when he went to the conference? you make a point of the fact that he had -- although he did not choose a republican to be member of the delegation, he had some pretty fancy people, some pretty fancy minds on board the boat. and he didn't really meet with them much. and then when he got to europe, he was caught up in the
celebration of the 14 points and the league. that sort of thing. was he, was he somebody who'd had a heart event or something before it really collapsed later in the spring, do you think? >> i don't know. i mean, there's a lot of speculation. it's a good question. there's a lot of speculation about wilson's health, and he tended to have these moments of total collapse. this was even before he became president. you know, there would be times when he'd suddenly have terrible trouble with his vision, not be able to see. doctors weren't quite sure what it was. i'm not a doctor. but whether this was a thrombosis -- his health was always something of an issue. and in paris, i mean, the work would have really done it for most of us. because i mean, they were at it from morning till night. and the pressures on them were absolutely huge. and there's a real sense of urgency. if we don't get a deal cobbled together the world could get in a worse state. and there was this incidence in
paris after he had came back to the united states where he had what was described as flu, and, you know, that could have covered a number of things, and was very, very sick. and there is some speculation. and arthur link in editing the wilson papers at princeton got doctors to look at the evidence. and there's a one sort of thing in one of the many volumes which i can't recall the details of now. but said it could have been a stroke. he did begin to behave a bit erratically after that episode. there was this one curious episode when he came into the room with one of his secretaries and said i don't like the way these chairs are arranged. we should put all the red ones this way and the green ones there. which was sort of odd. and the secretary sort of moved them around. so it may be that he had some sort of -- they think -- what the doctors at the time, it could have been a stroke, a sort of milder stroke than the one that actually failed him in the fall of 1919. very difficult to know. but he was someone who was prone
to sudden attacks, which would really lay him low. >> i think the general view now is that he did have two minor strokes while he was in paris, and of course, he had had one in 1905 when he was president of please. barbara? there's a microphone, barbara, yeah. >> i'm barbara perry and the co-chair. let us say we would resurrect woodrow wilson from his national resting place in the national cathedral and bring him to the miller center and we would have you and melon the panel to ask questions. what would be the first question you would ask him? >> oh. do you want to go first? >> i'd ask him, are you sorry you didn't compromise with the reservationists. i think that would be the first
question i would put to him. >> yeah, and just on that, the interesting thing, this is not answering your question, but on the reservations that came attached to the treaty, the european leaders later said they could have worked with them. you know, whether or not they would have done, is another matter. but lloyd george said we would have accepted them because we wanted the united states in the league. i don't know. i might have liked to have pushed him on why he allowed more segregation rather than less in the federal service. i know he was a southerner. but this was a man who expressed high moral principles. was a great liberal. why did he allow it? you know, the federal post office. they began to segregate the offices, and this was happening elsewhere in washington. so i'd like to know what his rationale was for allowing that to happen. >> i'd go even further than that along the same lines. i think one would ask him, do you think you went too far in terms of your implementation of the alien and sedition laws that were passed at the time.
because one of the principal books that's been written about wilson and world war i by a historian named tom knock makes the notion that wilson's principles undid his agenda. he very much alienated them and could no longer rely upon them for support afterwards. and they fell incredibly alienated by wilson at that time. >> yeah. >> yes, please. >> thank you. mary j. abbott, retired. foreign service officer. could you just very briefly compare and contrast. is this going out? >> yes. >> very briefly compare and contrast the league of nations and the united nations.
what one has the other one does or doesn't have. a couple of the articles perhaps, and how one developed from the other, if that was the case. >> yeah. well, i think the u.n. certainly develops from the league of nations. in fact, initially, and the league still existed until 1945. and initially there was some talk of resurrecting the league and redoing it, and then they decided it was so much identified with the outbreak of the second world war that it wouldn't be worth doing, so they decided to set up a new united nations. but many of the league organizations like the international labor organization were carried over into the united nations. so some of the associated bodies of the united nations that we see, in fact, have a much longer history than the united nations itself.
and many of the personnel, actually, are carried over into the united nations. i mean, i suppose the key difference with the united nations is that the security council has five members with permanent members with vetoes, and that was to reassure the great powers that their interests would always be listened to. but the problem is now they reflect the wrong people. buff i think that was one of the key differences. what happened with the league is that there would be, i think, what, four permanent members? five permanent members and four elected, but they'd all have equal votes. and then of course when the united states didn't join, you had only, you had fewer permanent members. and there was always the danger of deadlock. and i think roosevelt was very concerned that this, that the powers should be reassured that their voice would be heard in the united nations. which is why the security council still has so much power. i would say that's the key difference with the league. i think, also, if you look at the united nations, it was not
as ambitious in what it, i mean, it has some of the same provisions, but it is, i think, more cautious in its approach to conflicts than the league of nations was, so there for, i think the possibility of disappointment is less, but, you know, in many ways, i think the league was a useful, exercise is the wrong word, but it was a useful forerunner of the united nations. and it introduced into our understanding, into the public, the idea that we could have actual international organizations like this, which i think are useful. i think if we didn't have them, we'd be wanting to invent them. so that's a short answer to a complicated question. >> one last question. up here. stephanie? >> john waterson. do you think it really mattered that the united states did not
join the league of nations, especially considering the pacifism and anti-war sentiment that generally and rejection of american participation in world war i that you see in the 1930s? >> it's an interesting question. i mean, we'll never know. i think if the united states joined the league it would have been a stronger institution, and it would have given a very important non-european voice to the league. as it was, the united states was so involved in what was going on in europe anyway. when they tried to broker an end to the endless reparations, twice it was done by the united states. at league disarmament conferences, the united states was there. the united states was often involved. and i think if they'd been more formally involved it would have been good.
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