Thomas Woodrow Wilson served two terms as our 23rd President, his second term including the entirety of World War I. One of President Wilson’s most famous accomplishments – if not his most successful – was creation of his Fourteen Points that helped bring an end to the war.
WOODROW WILSON AND WIFE FIRST LADY EDITH WILSON
Of the Fourteen Points, eight identified specific actions Wilson felt would assure future sovereignty and self-rule for Russia, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, the Balkan States, Poland and Turkey. President Wilson asserted there should be no more secret agreements among countries, free navigation of all seas, an end to economic barriers between countries and a universal reduction in the number of weapons.
His final point called for creation of a League of Nations that would assure “political and territorial independence of all states.”
WOODROW WILSON'S FINE WHITE HOUSE CHINA PLATE
With the easy perspective of historical hindsight, we know President Wilson’s Fourteen Points, however well-intended, were overly idealistic. Despite widely proclaimed initial verbal support, when it came time to formally end the war via the Treaty of Versailles, most of the points were omitted by foreign leaders anxious to retain their various colonial advantages and punish Germany as harshly as possible.
Many historians believe that Germany’s vengeful treatment under the Treaty of Versailles laid the groundwork for World War II.
Even here at home, President Wilson’s proposal for a League of Nations was not supported by Congress, which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Many among the American public and its leaders were firmly in favor of isolationism, so they had no interest in joining an international peace-keeping organization.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE DISCUSSING WILSON'S 14 POINTS
However, President Wilson campaigned actively around the country in favor of his plan. During this effort, he suffered a stroke and was not able to continue his campaign with the same fervor. Some historians wonder if things would have turned out differently were his health not compromised.
President Wilson – and millions around the world – hoped the end of the war represented a new era in which peace would prevail. In announcing his Fourteen points, President Wilson said, “The day of conquest and aggrandizement is gone by; so is also the day of secret covenants entered into in the interest of particular governments and likely at some unlooked-for moment to upset the peace of the world.”
Although ignored by the United States, the League of Nations was formed and ultimately became the precursor for today’s United Nations. President Wilson’s vision of a “world made fit and safe to live in” may not yet be achieved, but he opened the door for a dialog about how nations could work together in support of peace, and that conversation continues to this day. And his Fourteen Points have left an indelible legacy in other areas. His ideas promoting abolition of secret treaties, freedom of the seas, free trade and concurrent international disarmament were all incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles and remain fundamental tenets of international law and commerce today.
HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR - RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired pieces from President Benjamin Harrison and Caroline Scott Harrison’s official White House China Collection. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. His collection is the second largest privately-owned collection of White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.