The Treaty of Versailles was a controversial treaty, not only because of what it embodied, but what it took to get the Treaty in motion. The Great War, or World War I, lasted between 1914 and 1918. This war occurred over a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, political alliances between nations, ethnic tensions in Europe, and most of all, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Austria-Hungary. With the bloody stalemate continuing without any end, the United States still held its position as a neutral world power, but events, such as the sinking of the Lusitania, caused the United States to recant its neutral position to a position in fighting against Germany. The end of World War I officially ended by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, but wasn’t signed by the U.S. Whether this was President Wilson’s fault or the Senate’s fault, has been questioned over the last decade.
There were a variety of reasons that the United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles with the biggest reasons being that the Senate felt that the Treaty embodied ideals and practices, such as joining the League of Nations, which directly contradicted American foreign policy. As seen in Document A, William Borah stated that the League is essentially creating more problems to solve problems. He said that shouldn’t we want a League run by Americans who have the same values and ideals rather than delegates from foreign countries? In Document B, it is stated that, “The Treaty of Versailles…it does much to intensify and nothing to heal the old and ugly dissensions.” It was common knowledge and a wide held belief that the United States should remain neutral in foreign matters. The American citizens knew about Washington’s Farewell Address and how it stated that we would stay out of the business of foreign countries.
The Treaty of Versailles only created bigger rifts in American society with its controversial policies. Woodrow Wilson, the President at the time, also included that, along with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the American public should accept his Fourteen Points. Also seen in Document F, John Maynard Keynes spoke about a certain aspect of the Treaty of Versailles that many people were afraid to talk about; maybe it was because he wrote a book dedicated to his cause. Keynes stated that simply forcing a country to accept a set of reparations and servitudes isn’t really creating progress. Document E shows how if any country shows just cause for their actions, that they can then be truly forgiven. These are just the views of the American public and the Legislative Branch (mainly the Senate). But what about the views of Woodrow Wilson, a man who recanted his views of neutrality to that of an active role in war matters?
Woodrow Wilson had a lot going for himself when he first took office as the President of the United States. Wilson’s postwar plans detailed his Fourteen Points, which were imbued with the ideals of Progressivism, and a permanent League of Nations, which he planned on making the United States join. In an address to Woodrow Wilson, former President Herbert Hoover stated how it would be beneficial to have a League of Nations, even how much better it would be if it got an early ratification (Document D). In a speech by Woodrow Wilson on September 5, 1919, he stated, “When you read Article X, therefore, you will see that it is nothing but the inevitable, logical center of the whole system of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and I stand for it absolutely” (Document C). Woodrow Wilson wanted a “real” end to the War; an end that could only come by United States joining the League of Nations in order to fight international problems. In his “Appeal to the Country” on October 3, 1920, Wilson stated, “The Founders of the Government thought of America as the light of the world as created to lead the world in the assertion of the rights of peoples and the rights of free nations…This light the opponents of the League would quench” (Document G). Woodrow Wilson is interpreting certain aspects of historical events to his liking and is attempting to persuade the public to support him in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It was also a known fact that Wilson suffered from a variety of illnesses, which many people believed altered his mind, so he eventually lost all support from the public as well as his colleagues in government.
With the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson came an era of Progressivism; an era that would be defined by many of his successful and failed attempts in gaining public support for his actions. His most failed attempt was getting the public and government to support his views on passing the Treaty of Versailles, supporting his Fourteen Points, and joining the League of Nations. Many believed that joining the League of Nations would destroy all that this nation stood for, as detailed by George Washington in his Farewell Address. Although the Treaty of Versailles was not passed, which was a fault on both the Senate and Wilson’s part, Wilson eventually tried hard to concentrate on problems back at home through certain social programs and his ideology of the “New Freedom.”
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