Woodrow Wilson wanted to be a man of the people, even at a young age. He wasn’t a big fan of violence or wars, yet he had to lead the American nation into World War I. At the war’s end, Wilson’s dream was to find a way to prevent any further wars from ever occurring again. To do this, he established the League of Nations, which could also be referred to as the “world court,” with politicians and representatives as the judges. The dream came to a collapse when the Senate rejected the league and America backed away into their previous form of isolationism (158). Many have argued that Wilson’s own personality helped create and destroy his dream of a safe and democratic world after the war that was supposed to “end all wars.”
“From the writings of Thomas Jefferson he derived much of his democratic idealism and his invincible faith in the judgment of the masses, if properly informed. From his stiff-backed Scotch Presbyterian forebears, he inherited a high degree of flexibility; from his father…he learned a stern moral code that would tolerate no compromise with wrong, as defined by Woodrow Wilson.”(Oates 158).
Woodrow Wilson brought democracy to whole new levels during his term as president. He was the first president to cross the ocean to attempt getting involved with foreign policy. The backfire of his ideals of worldwide peace and prosperity with an “involved America” were shot down by his own Senate and our foreign allies. It all started with his appeal for a Democratic Congress in 1918, which in the end remained a Republican by a narrow margin. Wilson had unnecessarily staked his prestige on the outcome and lost. Wilson believed that if he had got the League of Nations to be formed, then his prestige would be restored with the people. When Wilson presented the League to the Senate, they turned it down in its current form, which meant Wilson had to make modifications back in Paris. Wilson was gone from the US at so many times throughout this year, that Republicans back home tried to “run the show” with no one to stop them (160). Wilson eventually was unsuccessful in trying to insert all of his ideals in the Treaty of Versailles, which came about in 1919. Many American felt that the repercussions and debts brought fourth by the English and French in the treaty were too harsh for the Germans. In the end, a weak League emerged without the presence of a once again “politically isolated” United States suffering from postwar delusions (161). It would take another thirty years before the United States would realize that they can’t be politically isolated forever.
“As a war leader, Wilson was superb. Holding aloft the torch for idealism in one hand and the flaming sword of idealism in one hand and the flaming sword of righteousness in the other, he aroused the masses to a holy crusade. We would fight a war to end wars; we would make to world safe for democracy. The phrase was not a mockery then. The American People, with an amazing display of self- sacrifice, supported the war effort unswervingly.”(Oates 158).
At the war’s end, Wilson towered at the pinnacle of his popularity. He had emerged as the moral judge of the world and the hope for all people for a better tomorrow. He began to lose his wartime touch with a series of costly mistakes after the war. He was so busy with fixing the world that he took his attention off important things and caused himself a lot of trouble. Wilson may have had success leading the country during the war, but afterwards, the world didn’t the same views that he did. Instead of sharing his idealism, the world was looking towards being more imperialistic towards the defeated European countries (159). The other victorious allies looked at Germany a whole different way than Wilson, which resulted in many discrepancies and arguments over the matter.
“The noblest expression of Wilson’s idealism was his Fourteen Points address to Congress in January, 1918…It appealed tremendously to oppressed peoples promising such goals as the end of secret treaties, freedom of the seas, the removal of economic barriers, a reduction of arms burdens, a fair adjustment of colonial claims, and self-determination for oppressed minorities.” (Oates 158).
Woodrow Wilson developed the Fourteen Points as a way to help and improve conditions in the war-struck European countries. They also were a set of ideals that involved preventing any huge major wars in the future (158). After presenting these ideals to the British, French, and his own government, he was met with great resistance. His own government had their issues with agreement for a League of Nations, which would require America to back out of the traditionally held belief of isolationism, and the British and French wanted to see Germany suffer in war debts rather than help them recover from the defeat. The eventually signed Treaty of Versailles only contained around four of the original fourteen points, but Wilson really would do anything to keep the League of Nations as a salvaged bit (160). In the end, it was hard for Wilson to delay the inevitable and prevent the League of Nations from failing. The European powers were just filled with too much hatred and anger to listen and Wilson’s own government was delusional from the war’s suffering and economic troubles.
Woodrow Wilson was one of the greatest men to ever hold the title of President of the United States. His ambitions for a world democracy were the first from any president and the roots for future presidents to come. Wilson ushered in a whole new political era of global involvement, that while it was not successful, it left behind much for Wilson’s eventual successors during WWII to build off from. If it had not been for Wilson’s personality issues and the thoughts from his own government and the European Allies, the League of Nations may have been a great success and all of Wilson’s Fourteen Points might have been included in the Treaty of Versailles, which could have led to WWII being prevented. We can only speculate and discuss these possibilities of peace and world democracy.