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Wilson`s Search for Peace

Wilson`s Search for Peace

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The Fourteen Points. In January 1918, Woodrow Wilson outlined Fourteen Points that he hoped would form the basis of peace at the conclusion of World War I. Boiled down to their essentials, Wilson wanted the following: (1) fair treatment for Germany as a means to lessen the prospect of future conflict, (2) consultation with resident nationalities in determining postwar international boundaries, (3) the curbing of maritime excesses by Germany and Britain through the establishment of freedom of the seas, (4) an end to arms races through disarmament, and (5) the creation of an international association of nations for the promotion of peaceful means to settle international disputes.Reaction from international leaders was not encouraging. Leaders of the other Allied powers had little interest in Wilson's idealism and were dedicated to imposing stiff terms on their enemies, hoping that a weakened Germany would not be able to make war in the future.Armistice. The beginning of a string of Allied victories in mid-1918 encouraged Wilson to devote more of his energies to his peace effort. Wilson, in an effort to strengthen his hand at the coming peace conference, called upon American voters to return the Democrats to power in the congressional elections later in November; the electorate shut its ears to the president's appeal and gave the Republicans majorities in both houses.Competing War Aims. Despite this embarrassing setback, Wilson announced his intention to lead the American peace delegation personally and sailed for Europe in early December. He was initially heartened by thunderous welcomes from adoring crowds in a number of European capitals, but quickly had to face the reality that the war aims of allies Britain, France, Italy and Japan did not necessarily mesh with the Fourteen Points.Paris Peace Conference. Wilson's spoken hopes for implementing a just peace under the Fourteen Points provoked conflict with Allies in Paris and began to stir opposition at home.Treaty of Versailles. The President pinned his hopes for future world order on the League of Nations and reluctantly abandoned principles advanced in the Fourteen Points.Covenant of the League of Nations. The creation of the League of Nations offered the hope of avoiding future wars, but the prospect of continuing involvement in Europe dampened the enthusiasm of important American leaders.Struggle for Ratification. Partisan factions within the U.S. Senate were unable to muster the necessary two-thirds vote to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, either with the Lodge reservations or in the original form favored by the president.Election of 1920. The American public, exhausted by war and weary of Wilson's unceasing idealism, voted overwhelmingly for Harding, Republicans and "normalcy."

Fourteen Points

The Fourteen Points was a statement of principles for peace that was to be used for peace negotiations in order to end World War I. The principles were outlined in a January 8, 1918 speech on war aims and peace terms to the United States Congress by President Woodrow Wilson. However, his main Allied colleagues (Georges Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of the United Kingdom, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy) were skeptical of the applicability of Wilsonian idealism. [1]

The United States had joined the Triple Entente in fighting the Central Powers on April 6, 1917. Its entry into the war had in part been due to Germany's resumption of submarine warfare against merchant ships trading with France and Britain and also the interception of the Zimmermann Telegram. However, Wilson wanted to avoid the United States' involvement in the long-standing European tensions between the great powers if America was going to fight, he wanted to try to separate that participation in the war from nationalistic disputes or ambitions. The need for moral aims was made more important when, after the fall of the Russian government, the Bolsheviks disclosed secret treaties made between the Allies. Wilson's speech also responded to Vladimir Lenin's Decree on Peace of November 1917, immediately after the October Revolution in 1917. [2]

The speech made by Wilson took many domestic progressive ideas and translated them into foreign policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination). Three days earlier United Kingdom Prime Minister Lloyd George had made a speech setting out the UK's war aims which bore some similarity to Wilson's speech but which proposed reparations be paid by the Central Powers and which was more vague in its promises to the non-Turkish subjects of the Ottoman Empire. The Fourteen Points in the speech were based on the research of the Inquiry, a team of about 150 advisers led by foreign-policy adviser Edward M. House, into the topics likely to arise in the anticipated peace conference.


In April 1917, the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allies. Previously angered by the sinking of Lusitania, President Woodrow Wilson led the nation to war after learning of the Zimmermann Telegram and Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. Though possessing a massive pool of manpower and resources, the United States required time to mobilize its forces for war. As a result, Britain and France continued to bear the brunt of the fighting in 1917 as their forces took part in the failed Nivelle Offensive as well as the bloody battles at Arras and Passchendaele. With American forces preparing for combat, Wilson formed a study group in September 1917 to develop the nation's formal war aims.

Woodrow Wilson arrives in France for peace talks

On December 13, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson arrives in France to take part in World War I peace negotiations and to promote his plan for a League of Nations, an international organization for resolving conflicts between nations.

Wilson had initially tried to keep America out of the war by claiming neutrality in 1914, when hostilities broke out in Europe. The 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, a passenger ship carrying American citizens, and Germany’s expansion of submarine warfare into the Atlantic, fueled increasing U.S. anger toward Germany. However, it wasn’t until March 1917, when a telegram from Germany to Mexico proposing an alliance between the two countries was made public that Wilson decided to ask Congress to declare war on Germany, which he did in early April. American troops later joined their British and French allies in fighting the Central Powers until an armistice was reached in November 1918.

The war, in which approximately 320,000 American soldiers died, grimly illustrated to Wilson the unavoidable relationship between international stability and American national security. In January 1918, Wilson outlined a plan for a League of Nations, which he hoped would peacefully arbitrate international conflicts and prevent another war like the one just ended. Wilson took this plan with him to France in December 1918 and reiterated what he had told Americans in a January speech: “the world [must] be made fit and safe to live in and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression.”

What Were the Fourteen Points?

In his speech, Wilson itemized 14 strategies to ensure national security and world peace. Several points addressed specific territorial issues in Europe, but the most significant sections set the tone for postwar American diplomacy and the ideals that would form the backbone of U.S. foreign policy as the nation achieved superpower status in the early 20th century.

Wilson could foresee that international relations would only become more important to American security and global commerce. He advocated equal trade conditions, arms reduction and national sovereignty for former colonies of Europe’s weakening empires.

One of Wilson’s purposes in delivering the Fourteen Points speech was to present a practical alternative to the traditional notion of an international balance of power preserved by alliances among nations�lief in the viability of which had been shattered by World War I𠅊nd to the Bolshevik-inspired dreams of world revolution that at the time were gaining ground both within and outside of Russia.

Wilson hoped also to keep a conflict-ridden Russia in the war on the Allied side. This effort met with failure, as the Bolsheviks sought peace with the Central Powers at the end of 1917, shortly after taking power following the Russian Revolution.

In other ways, however, Wilson’s Fourteen Points played an essential role in world politics over the next several years. The speech was translated and distributed to the soldiers and citizens of Germany and Austria-Hungary and contributed to their decision to agree to an armistice in November 1918.

Wilson`s Search for Peace - History

One hundred years later, the Versailles settlement stands as the foremost example of world leaders drawing all the wrong lessons from tragedy.

I n every age, some of the world’s leading thinkers have argued that the trajectory of humanity is a steady, even inevitable, advance toward ever-greater prosperity, peace, and moral enlightenment. In reality, the undeniable progress that humanity has made over the millennia has frequently been disrupted, even reversed, by catastrophe and collapse. In our competitive and anarchic world, the relationships between states and peoples have repeatedly been punctured by horrific breakdowns of peace and security. Societies are upended and even destroyed human suffering unfolds on an epic scale the world’s most advanced nations descend into depravity the accumulated achievements of generations crumble amid shocking violence. From the Peloponnesian War in the fifth century B.C.E. to the world wars of the 20 th century, the history of international affairs has often seemed a monument to tragedy.

If tragedy is a curse for those who endure it, it can be a blessing for those who draw strength and wisdom from it. The memory of tragedy has often impelled the building of international orders that have succeeded—if only for a time—in holding the forces of upheaval at bay. In the wake of great geopolitical crackups like the Thirty Years’ War and the wars of the French Revolution, leading statesmen have found the foresight to create new systems of rules to regulate the relationships between states, and—just as critically—to erect the stable balances of power that sustain them. Driven by painful experience, they have accepted the geopolitical hardships necessary to avoid the far greater costs of a return to upheaval. Many of the great diplomatic achievements of the modern era—the Peace of Westphalia, the Concert of Europe, and others—have rested on such an understanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson captured the basic ethos: “Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.”

There is, however, another kind of response to tragedy. If knowledge of tragedy can have an invigorating effect on those willing to fully profit from its lessons, it can also be enervating, even crippling to effective statecraft. After all, great efforts and prolonged exertions can ultimately lead to exhaustion and cause nations to flinch from the necessary application of power. Too much experience with a tragic world can tempt leaders and citizens to seek refuge in withdrawal, appeasement, or utopianism. Such human impulses are understandable enough after a period of trauma. Yet when they morph into an unwillingness to defend an existing order under assault, the results can themselves be tragic.

I n this regard, the aftermath of World War I stands as the cautionary example. That conflict caused a greater spasm of violence than any previous upheaval, and inspired a near universal conviction that such carnage must never happen again. Yet the years thereafter did not see an effective order-building project in the mold of Westphalia or the Concert of Europe. Rather, they saw a well-meaning but quixotic attempt to escape the harsh constraints of power politics, followed by a catastrophic paralysis in the face of rising dangers.

The embodiment of the first tendency was Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was hardly the only person who believed that World War I must be “the war to end all wars”: The rapturous public reception he received in Europe and elsewhere after the war testifies to the widespread popularity of his ideas. But he was surely its most eloquent advocate. Wilson had no lack of appreciation for tragedy, and his vision for the postwar world was deeply rooted in his revulsion at the great horror that had befallen humanity in this “most terrible and disastrous of all wars.” His solution, breathtaking in its ambition, was to create a fundamentally new world order that would allow humanity to break free of the depravities that, he believed, had ushered in such a cataclysm in the first place.

In his Fourteen Points speech in January 1918, Wilson promoted what we would now call a liberal international order—one that sought to address the perceived causes of instability and aggression by promoting national self-determination and disarmament, enshrining a liberal trading system and freedom of the seas, strengthening international law, and creating a global organization that would arbitrate grievances and thwart conquest. Most importantly, Wilson shunned the idea that statecraft should consist of the search for equilibrium and the pursuit of national self-interest, arguing instead that the world’s nations must stand on moral principle and practice collective security. “There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power,” he told the Senate in 1917 “not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace.”

This “community of power” sounded, at least superficially, somewhat similar to what had emerged after Westphalia and Vienna. It also featured an unprecedented leadership role for the United States not just as the conscience of humanity, but as a coordinator and convener of collective action. Crucially, however, the primary currency of power in Wilson’s new order would shift from military force to reason and morality. “We are depending primarily and chiefly upon one great force, and that is the moral force of the public opinion of the world,” Wilson informed his fellow leaders at the Versailles peace conference. If coercion was required, it would be undertaken on behalf of humanity as a whole through the unanimous action of an international community. There could be no going back, no return to the old ways of secret diplomacy, shifting coalitions, and cold-eyed geopolitical competition. For Wilson, a world in which common rules could be identified and accepted, international moral opinion could restrain threats, and nations could cooperate on the basis of the global good was the prerequisite for escaping future tragedies. Once this true peace was achieved, he promised, “Men in khaki will not have to cross the seas again.”

At Versailles, however, Wilson’s desire for a transformative peace collided both with his own animus against German militarism and with the desires of America’s European allies—namely France—for a more punitive settlement. For French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, the cause of World War I was not the existence of the balance of power, but its breakdown under pressure from a rising Germany. The solution was to reduce German power and aggressively enforce that outcome over time. “If we have no means of imposing our will,” he warned, “everything will slip away bit by bit.”

The resulting settlement was an awkward hybrid. The Treaty of Versailles saddled Germany with the blame for World War I, while also seeking to contain future German militarism through restrictive measures. The treaty adjusted territorial boundaries in Europe in an attempt to create geopolitical buffers around Germany, authorized the allied occupation of the Rhineland for up to 15 years, and stripped Germany of its overseas possessions. It called for strict curbs on Germany’s armed forces and required the German government to pay reparations to the Allies.

Yet the treaty was not as harsh as sometimes believed, because it neither permanently dismembered Germany nor permanently crushed its economic capacity. The treaty, moreover, aimed to do much more than just punish Germany, because it reflected Wilson’s spirit and many of his guiding ideas. Among other things, the treaty provided for an unprecedented degree of national self-determination within Europe it essentially codified the destruction of four European empires by blessing the emergence of smaller independent states. Most notably, the treaty created the League of Nations, a body that built on earlier precedents and ideas yet nonetheless represented a revolutionary effort to forge an international community dedicated to confronting aggressors and preserving the peace. “The treaty constitutes nothing less than a world settlement,” Wilson declared upon his return to America in July 1919. It marked a visionary effort “to get away from the bad influences, the illegitimate purposes, the demoralizing ambitions, the international counsels and expedients out of which the sinister designs of Germany had sprung as a natural growth.” The trouble, however, was that the settlement Wilson did so much to shape contained the seeds of future upheavals, precisely because it—like the President himself—was not attentive enough to the tragic geopolitics he aimed to escape.

The settlement left Germany deeply embittered but mostly intact and therefore only temporarily constrained—a combination that practically ensured future revisionism. In fact, Germany’s geopolitical position had arguably been enhanced by the end of the war. Before 1914, Germany had been surrounded by great powers: the Russians, the Austro-Hungarians, and the French. By 1919, the Communist Revolution in Russia and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had left an exhausted France as Germany’s only formidable neighbor. The triumph of self-determination, meanwhile, was simply encouraging German revanchism: first, by surrounding Germany with weak states in the east and second, by giving its future leaders a pretext for seeking to assert control over foreign lands—in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland—where ethnic Germans were numerous.

For its part, the League of Nations was an indisputably progressive effort to safeguard the peace, but it also suffered from critical flaws. In particular, it left the two most powerful European countries—Germany and the Soviet Union—on the outside of a settlement they had great incentive to disrupt. Moreover, its collective security role hinged on the assumption that its leading members could act unanimously in the face of aggression, a Wilsonian conceit that would prove impossible to realize. Two earlier postwar settlements—the Peace of Westphalia and the Concert of Europe—had proven comparatively durable because they rested on both a commitment to shared values and a stable geopolitical foundation. The post–World War I settlement, by contrast, was biased toward revanchism and instability. “This is not a peace,” Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during World War I, declared. “It is an armistice for 20 years.” When the U.S. Senate declined to ratify American participation in the League, in part because of Wilson’s obstinate refusal to accept any conditions on U.S. involvement, the postwar system became more precarious still.

That rejection was the product of another type of American escapism in the interwar era—the tendency to withdraw at a time when there appeared to be no immediate threats to U.S. security. Domestic opposition to the League and other parts of the Versailles settlement arose from a variety of concerns: that they would undermine U.S. sovereignty, usurp Congress’s constitutional prerogatives with respect to declaring war, and abrogate the tradition of strategic non-entanglement in Europe. Underlying all this, however, was a sense of strategic complacency brought on by the fact that, with Germany’s defeat, geopolitical dangers to America seemed to have retreated far over the horizon. Had Wilson been more of a political realist, he might nonetheless have salvaged a compromise with the treaty’s more moderate opponents and thereby preserved a strong, if modified, American leadership role in the order he sought to create. In the event, however, the combination of domestic reluctance and Wilsonian intransigence ensured that the Senate eventually rejected American participation in the League. The United States would stay deeply involved economically in Europe during the 1920s, but it never committed strategically either to the community of power Wilson envisioned or to a more traditional balance of power that might have better underwritten the peace.

These escapist tendencies persisted into the interwar era, with mostly pernicious results. Wilson’s League may have been defeated at home, but his core ideas remained influential both in the United States and abroad. Indeed, leading thinkers often found Wilson’s thesis more persuasive than Clemenceau’s—they argued that the problem was not that the balance of power had collapsed but that such a mechanism had ever been relied upon. They therefore determined to set aside the traditional instruments of statecraft in hopes that moral pressure and communal adherence to liberal principles would make war a thing of the past. This movement was exemplified by the myriad disarmament conferences that followed World War I, and by the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, which outlawed war as an instrument of national policy. “This should be a day of rejoicing among the nations of the world,” the Washington Star opined after the conclusion of that agreement. War, it appeared, was being banished into illegality.

George Kennan would later describe this period of American statecraft as “utopian in its expectations, legalistic in its concept of methodology, moralistic in the demands it seemed to place on others, and self-righteous in the degree of high-mindedness and rectitude it imputed to ourselves.” War was no longer to be prevented through deterrence, alliances, and the willingness to use force, but through the willingness to abjure precisely these measures. Other Americans, disillusioned by the failure of the postwar settlement to live up to Wilson’s grand ambitions, or simply convinced that the geopolitical sky would remain cloudless for years to come, were happy to “return to normalcy” and steer clear of European security matters. All of these impulses—idealism, cynicism, and disengagement—were understandable responses to World War I. All, unfortunately, did more to weaken than fortify the constraints on future aggression.

T he same could be said of another response to the tragedy of World War I—the democratic powers’ unwillingness to forcefully resist growing challenges to the settlement they had created. During the 1920s, memories of the last war were strong, but the dangers of the next one still seemed largely hypothetical. Over the course of the 1930s, the international landscape darkened. The world sank into depression protectionism ran rampant as international cooperation collapsed and nations pursued beggar-thy-neighbor policies. More ominous still, aggressive authoritarianism returned in Europe and Asia alike.

Radical ideologies flourished in some of the most powerful states on earth the fascist nations armed themselves and used violence and coercion to alter the status quo from Manchuria to Central Europe. One by one the advances accumulated slowly but unmistakably the geopolitical balance shifted against the democratic powers. Despite all this, the democracies often seemed frozen, unable to stir themselves to multilateral action or an effective response. The United States remained mostly geopolitically absent as the situation in Europe progressively worsened the other Western democracies mostly sought to avoid confrontation until 1939, after Hitler had built up great strength and momentum. As Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, later remarked, “They let us through the danger zone. . . . They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs. And when we were done and well armed, better than they, then they started the war.”

Far from moving aggressively to thwart the revisionist powers, the democracies often handcuffed themselves strategically. The French adopted a military system that made it nearly impossible to use force absent general mobilization that requirement, in turn, made even the limited use of force nearly inconceivable in the 1930s. The British slashed real defense expenditures to pay for the rising costs of social services. In absolute terms, the money spent on the army and navy hardly increased between 1913 and 1932, despite the vast diminution of purchasing power caused by two decades’ worth of inflation. Into the early 1930s, defense budgets reflected the assumption that no major conflict would occur for at least a decade—a rule that gave London tremendous incentive to avoid such a confrontation.

The interwar statesmen were not cowards or fools. There were many reasons, all seemingly plausible at the time, why the democracies adopted a posture that appears so disastrously naïve and misguided in retrospect. Collective action was hard to organize amid divergent national interests and the economic rivalries caused by depression and protectionism. Feelings of guilt that the postwar peace had been too harsh discouraged confrontation, while budgetary pressures and desires for normalcy inhibited rearmament. There persisted a strong Enlightenment belief in the power of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve disagreements. Even in the late 1930s, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would say that “if we could only sit down at a table with the Germans and run through all their complaints and claims with a pencil, this would greatly relieve all tensions.” And, as is often the case in international politics, citizens and leaders found it difficult to understand how crises occurring in faraway places, or involving seemingly abstract principles such as non-aggression, really mattered to their own security.

Yet the most fundamental factor was simply that all of the democratic powers were deeply scarred by memories of what had come before and seized with fear that another great conflict might occur. Upon returning from Versailles in 1919, Walter Lippmann had concluded that “we seem to be the most frightened lot of victors that the world ever saw.” Throughout the interwar period, the haunting memory of World War I hung over the Western powers, menacing them with visions of new destruction should conflict return.

Central to these fears were the jaded interpretations of World War I that increasingly took hold in the 1920s and 1930s. In the United States, historical revisionism took the form of accusations that the “merchants of death”—the arms industry and the financial sector—had manipulated America into joining a costly war that did not serve its national interests. By 1937, a full 70 percent of Americans polled believed that entering the war had been a mistake. In Europe, a generation of disillusioned observers argued that the great nations of the world had stumbled into a catastrophic conflict that none of them had wanted or fully anticipated, and from which none of them had benefited. As David Lloyd George wrote in his Memoirs, “The nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war without any trace of apprehension or dismay.” According to this interpretation, a willingness to act boldly in the face of crisis led not to stability and deterrence but to a deadly escalatory spiral. The implication was that the greatest risk of another awful conflagration lay in overreacting rather than under-reacting to threats.

Indeed, World War I had been so searing an experience—even for the victors—that it convinced many thinkers and statesmen that nothing could be worse than another major struggle. Stanley Baldwin, three times Prime Minister of England between 1923 and 1937, thought that the war had demonstrated “how thin is the crust of civilisation on which this generation is walking,” and he frequently declared that another conflict would plunge the world into an unrecoverable abyss. This attitude permeated Western society and politics in the years preceding World War II.

It was evident in the infamous resolution of the Oxford Union in 1934 that its members would fight for neither king nor country, and in the profusion of antiwar literature that emerged on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1920s and 1930s. “They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1935. In modern war, however, “You will die like a dog for no good reason.” It was evident in the series of Neutrality Acts passed by the U.S. Congress out of conviction that the greatest danger to America was not passivity but entanglement in another European war. It was evident in France’s reluctance to use or even threaten force against Hitler when his troops reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, despite the extreme weakness of Berlin’s position at that time.

Finally, it was evident in the crippling fear that the result of another war would be to lose another generation of soldiers in the fields of France and a great mass of civilians to indiscriminate terror attacks from the air. British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax put the basic attitude bluntly in explaining the government’s reluctance to push Germany too hard, stating that “he could not feel we were justified in embarking on an action which would result in such untold suffering.” Or as Neville Chamberlain stated, more infamously, at the time of the Munich crisis, “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.” Tragedy, for the interwar generation, was not a source of resolve in the face of danger. It was an inducement to an inaction that contributed, in its turn, to still greater horrors to come.

T he great order-building achievements of the modern era have flowed from the fact that leading powers were able to turn an acquaintance with tragedy into the mixture of diplomatic creativity and strategic determination necessary to hold dangerous forces at bay. The great failure of the interwar period was that the democracies were too often paralyzed by the past. Donald Kagan concluded his sweeping book On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace with the declaration that “a persistent and repeated error through the ages has been the failure to understand that the preservation of peace requires active effort, planning, the expenditure of resources, and sacrifices, just as war does.” This is a lesson that too many in the interwar era forgot in their efforts to escape, rather than confront, the tragic patterns of global politics. In doing so, however, they helped ensure that their post–World War II successors would not make the same mistake.

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Adams was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a wealthy family, the son of Elizabeth Harper (née Truslow) and William Newton Adams Jr. [3]

His father had been born in Caracas, Venezuela. His paternal grandfather, William Newton Adams Sr., was American of English descent with roots in Virginia and his paternal grandmother, Carmen Michelena de Salias, a Venezuelan of Spanish descent back to Gipuzkoa in the eighteenth century and a family from Seville. [4] The earliest paternal ancestor was Francis Adams from England, an indentured servant who settled the Province of Maryland in 1638. [5] [6] [7] [8]

Adams took his bachelor's degree from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering (then Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn) in 1898, and a MA degree from Yale University in 1900. He entered investment banking, rising to partner in a New York Stock Exchange member firm. [3] In 1912, he considered his savings ample enough to switch to a career as a writer.

In 1917, he served with Colonel House on President Wilson's commission, "The Inquiry", to prepare data for the Paris Peace Conference. [3] By 1918, he was a captain in the Military Intelligence Division of the General Staff of the U.S. Army. [3] By late 1918, he was selected for the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. [3] His main task consisted in the provision of maps and the selection of plans and atlases that should be acquired by the War College, the American Geographical Society, and the Library of Congress.

Adams gained national attention with his trilogy on the history of New England (1921–26), winning the Pulitzer Prize for the first volume. Scholars welcomed his social history of the colonial era, Provincial Society, 1690–1763 (1927). He wrote popular books and magazine articles in a steady stream. His Epic of America was an international bestseller, and was included in Life Magazine's list of the 100 outstanding books of 1924–1944. [9] He was also the editor of a scholarly multi-volume Dictionary of American History. [10] Adams was the editor, with Roy V. Coleman as managing editor, of The Atlas of American History (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943), and The Album of American History, 4 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944). [11]

American Dream Edit

Adams coined the term "American Dream" in his 1931 book The Epic of America. [12] [13] His American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." [14]

However, Adams felt the American Dream was in peril during the 1920s and 30s. He complained that "money making and material improvements . . . mere extensions of the material basis of existence", had gained ascendancy, becoming "goods in themselves . . . [mimicking] the aspects of moral virtues." The original American Dream had always been about "quality and spiritual values": "The American dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, although that has doubtless counted heavily. It has been much more than that." He warned that "in our struggle to 'make a living'" we were neglecting "to live". The Epic of America was his attempt to save a "priceless heritage", and sustain the distinctly American understanding of progress in humane and moral terms. The true American Dream was of "a genuine individual search and striving for the abiding values of life", and for the "common man to rise to full stature" in the free realms of "communal spiritual and intellectual life." [15]

Two educations Edit

A quote from one of Adams' essays "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live" is widely misattributed to John Adams. The quote is part of an essay by Adams entitled "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education" which appeared in the June, 1929 issue of Forum. The essay is very critical of American education, both in school and at the university level, and explores the role of American culture and class-consciousness in forming that system of education.

In a more complete version of that quote, Adams says:

There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live. Surely these should never be confused in the mind of any man who has the slightest inkling of what culture is. For most of us it is essential that we should make a living . In the complications of modern life and with our increased accumulation of knowledge, it doubtless helps greatly to compress some years of experience into far fewer years by studying for a particular trade or profession in an institution but that fact should not blind us to another—namely, that in so doing we are learning a trade or a profession, but are not getting a liberal education as human beings.

Adams lived in Southport, Connecticut, where he died of a heart attack. [3]

After 1930, Adams was active in the American Academy of Arts and Letters [16] serving as both chancellor and treasurer of that organization. He was also a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Massachusetts Historical Society, American Antiquarian Society, American Historical Association, and the American Philosophical Society. Among British societies, he was honored as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. [17]

  • James Truslow Adams (1921). The Founding of New England. Atlantic Monthly Press. pp. 3–. Pulitzer Prize for History[18]
  • Revolutionary New England (1923)
  • James Truslow Adams (1 November 2001). reprint. Simon Publications LLC. ISBN978-1-931541-57-2 . [19]
  • New England in the Republic, 1776-1850 (1926) [20]
  • Provincial Society, 1690-1763 (1927) [21]
  • Our Business Civilization: Some Aspects of American Culture (1929) [22]
  • The Adams Family (1930) Kessinger Publishing, 2005, 9780766197749[23]
  • The Epic of America (1931) Simon Publications 2001 paperback: 1-931541-33-7
  • reprint. Transaction Publishers. 1 May 2012. ISBN978-1-4128-4701-8 .
  • The March of Democracy (2 vols. 1932–1933) [24]
  • Justice Without (1933)
  • Henry Adams (1933) [25]
  • The Record of America (1935)
  • Building the British Empire: To the End of the First Empire (1938) [26]
  • James Truslow Adams: Select Correspondence. Transaction Publishers. 1 June 2012. ISBN978-1-4128-4697-4 .

Adams wrote 21 monographs between 1916 and 1945. He was also editor in chief of the Dictionary of American History, The Atlas of American History, and other volumes.


In 1915, a strong "preparedness" movement emerged. It argued that the United States needed to immediately build up strong naval and land forces for defensive purposes an unspoken assumption was that the US would fight sooner or later. General Leonard Wood (still on active duty after serving a term as Chief of Staff of the Army), ex-president Theodore Roosevelt, and former secretaries of war Elihu Root and Henry Stimson were the driving forces behind the preparedness movement, along with many of the nation's most prominent bankers, industrialists, lawyers and scions of prominent families. There emerged an "Atlanticist" foreign policy establishment, a group of influential Americans drawn primarily from upper-class lawyers, bankers, academics, and politicians of the Northeastern US, committed to a strand of Anglophile internationalism. [4]

A representative leader was Paul D. Cravath, one of New York's foremost corporation lawyers. For Cravath, in his mid-fifties when the war began, the conflict served as an epiphany, sparking an interest in international affairs that dominated his remaining career. Fiercely Anglophile, he strongly supported US intervention in the war and hoped that close Anglo-American cooperation would be the guiding principle of post-war international organization. [5]

The preparedness movement had a "realistic" philosophy of world affairs—it believed that economic strength and military muscle were more decisive than idealistic crusades focused on causes like democracy and national self-determination. Emphasizing the weak state of national defenses, the movement showed that America's 100,000-man army, even augmented by the 112,000 National Guardsmen, was outnumbered 20 to one by the German Army, which was drawn from a smaller population. Reform to them meant UMT or "universal military training", i.e. conscription. Preparedness backers proposed a national service program under which the 600,000 men who turned 18 every year would be required to spend six months in military training, and afterwards be assigned to reserve units. The small regular army would primarily serve as a training agency.

This proposal ultimately failed, but it fostered the Plattsburg Movement, a series of summer training camps that in 1915 and 1916 hosted some 40,000 men largely of elite social classes, and the later Citizens' Military Training Camps that trained some 400,000 men from 1921 to 1940. [6] [7]

The Socialist Party was a bulwark of opposition to the preparedness movement. [8] Antimilitarists and pacifists — strong in Protestant churches and women's groups — protested the plan would make the US resemble Germany (which required two years' active duty). [9] Advocates retorted that military "service" was an essential duty of citizenship, and that without the commonality provided by such service the nation would splinter into antagonistic ethnic groups. One spokesman promised that UMT would become "a real melting pot, under which the fire is hot enough to fuse the elements into one common mass of Americanism." [10] Furthermore, they promised, the discipline and training would make for a better paid work force. The hostility to military service was so strong at the time it is difficult to imagine such a program winning approval indeed, even in World War II, when Stimson as Secretary of War proposed a similar program of universal peacetime service, he was defeated. [11] Underscoring its commitment, the preparedness movement set up and funded its own summer training camps (at Plattsburgh, New York, and other sites) where 40,000 college alumni became physically fit, learned to march and shoot, and ultimately provided the cadre of a wartime officer corps. [12] [notes 1]

Suggestions by labor unions that talented working class youth be invited to Plattsburgh were ignored. The preparedness movement was distant not only from the working classes but also from the middle class leadership of most of small town America. It had had little use for the National Guard, which it saw as politicized, localistic, poorly armed, ill trained, too inclined to idealistic crusading (as against Spain in 1898), and too lacking in understanding of world affairs. The National Guard on the other hand was securely rooted in state and local politics, with representation from a very broad cross section of American society. The National Guard was one of the nation's few institutions that (at least in some northern states) accepted African-Americans on an equal footing with whites. [13]

The Democratic Party saw the preparedness movement as a threat. Roosevelt, Root and Wood were prospective Republican presidential candidates. More subtly, the Democrats were rooted in localism that appreciated the National Guard, and the voters were hostile to the rich and powerful in the first place. Working with the Democrats who controlled Congress, Wilson was able to sidetrack the preparedness forces. Army and Navy leaders were forced to testify before Congress to the effect that the nation's military was in excellent shape. Wilson had to resist the demands for preparedness because there was a powerful anti-preparedness element of the party, led by William Jennings Bryan, women, [14] Protestant churches, [15] the AFL labor unions, [16] and Southern Democrats such as Claude Kitchin, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. John Morton Blum, a biographer of Wilson, wrote:

Wilson's long silence about preparedness had permitted such a spread and such a hardening of antipreparedness attitudes within his party and across the nation that when he came in at late last to his task, neither Congress nor the country was amenable to much persuasion. [17]

In July 1915, Wilson instructed the Army and Navy to formulate plans for expansion. In November, he asked for far less than the experts said was needed, seeking an army of 400,000 volunteers at a time when European armies were 10 times as large. Congress ignored the proposal and the Army remained at 100,000 soldiers. Wilson was severely handicapped by the weaknesses of his cabinet. According to Blum, his Secretaries of the Navy and War displayed a "confusion, inattention to industrial preparation, and excessive deference to peacetime mores [that] dangerously retarded the development of the armed services." [18] Even more, Wilson was constrained by America's traditional commitment to military nonintervention. Wilson believed that a massive military mobilization could only take place after a declaration of war, even though that meant a long delay in sending troops to Europe. Many Democrats felt that no American soldiers would be needed, only American money and munitions. [19] Wilson had more success in his request for a dramatic expansion of the Navy. Congress passed the Naval Act of 1916, which encapsulated the planning by the Navy's professional officers to build a fleet of top-rank status, but it would take several years to become operational. [20]

Wilson, less fearful of the navy, embraced a long-term building program designed to make the fleet the equal of the Royal Navy by the mid-1920s. "Realism" was at work here the admirals were Mahanians and they therefore wanted a surface fleet of heavy battleships second to none—that is, equal to Britain. The facts of submarine warfare (which necessitated destroyers, not battleships) and the possibilities of imminent war with Germany (or with Britain, for that matter), were simply ignored. The Administration's proposals touched off a firestorm of antiwar protest. [21] Secretary of War Lindley Garrison adopted many of the proposals of the preparedness leaders, especially their emphasis on a large federal reserves and abandonment of the National Guard. Garrison's proposals not only outraged the localistic politicians of both parties, they also offended a strongly held belief shared by the liberal wing of the progressive movement. They felt that warfare always had a hidden economic motivation. Specifically, they warned the chief warmongers were New York bankers (like J. P. Morgan) with millions at risk, profiteering munition makers (like Bethlehem Steel, which made armor, and DuPont, which made powder) and unspecified industrialists searching for global markets to control. Antiwar critics such as Wisconsin's Republican Senator La Follette blasted them, saying there was an unnamed "world-wide organization" that was "stimulating and fomenting discord in order that it may make profit out of the furnishing of munitions of war." The only road to peace was disarmament, reiterated Bryan, speaking for the antiwar Democrats. [22]

Garrison's plan unleashed the fiercest battle in peacetime history over the relationship of military planning to national goals. In peacetime, War Department arsenals and navy yards manufactured nearly all munitions that lacked civilian uses, including warships, artillery, naval guns, and shells. Items available on the civilian market, such as food, horses, saddles, wagons, and uniforms were always purchased from civilian contractors.

Peace leaders Edit

Peace leaders like Jane Addams of Hull House and David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, redoubled their efforts, and now turned their voices against Wilson because he was "sowing the seeds of militarism, raising up a military and naval caste." Many ministers, professors, farm spokesmen and labor union leaders joined in, with powerful support from a band of four dozen southern Democrats in Congress who took control of the House Military Affairs Committee. [23]

Wilson appeals to the people Edit

Wilson, in deep trouble, took his cause to the people in a major speaking tour in early 1916, a warm-up for his reelection campaign that fall. Wilson seems to have won over the middle classes, but had little impact on the largely ethnic working classes and the deeply isolationist farmers. Congress still refused to budge, so Wilson replaced Garrison as Secretary of War with Newton Baker, the Democratic mayor of Cleveland and an outspoken opponent of preparedness. (Garrison's kept quiet, but felt Wilson was "a man of high ideals but no principles.") [24]

President Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points (1918)

In this January 8, 1918, address to Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proposed a 14-point program for world peace. These points were later taken as the basis for peace negotiations at the end of the war.

In this January 8, 1918, speech on War Aims and Peace Terms, President Wilson set down 14 points as a blueprint for world peace that was to be used for peace negotiations after World War I. The details of the speech were based on reports generated by “The Inquiry,” a group of about 150 political and social scientists organized by Wilson’s adviser and long-time friend, Col. Edward M House. Their job was to study Allied and American policy in virtually every region of the globe and analyze economic, social, and political facts likely to come up in discussions during the peace conference. The team began its work in secret and in the end produced and collected nearly 2,000 separate reports and documents plus at least 1,200 maps.

In the speech, Wilson directly addressed what he perceived as the causes for the world war by calling for the abolition of secret treaties, a reduction in armaments, an adjustment in colonial claims in the interests of both native peoples and colonists, and freedom of the seas. Wilson also made proposals that would ensure world peace in the future. For example, he proposed the removal of economic barriers between nations, the promise of “self-determination” for those oppressed minorities, and a world organization that would provide a system of collective security for all nations. Wilson’s 14 Points were designed to undermine the Central Powers’ will to continue and to inspire the Allies to victory. The 14 Points were broadcast throughout the world and were showered from rockets and shells behind the enemy’s lines.

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