president wilson walk

He wanted to make the world safe for democracy

Photograph of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, colorized and enhanced. Source Wikipedia Commons Public Domain.

President Wilson Walk, named after Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States from 1914 to 1921, who led America into World War I with the goal of ‘making the world safe for democracy.’ Wilson’s vision for a post-war world included the establishment of the League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations, aimed at preventing future conflicts through international cooperation and diplomacy.

Cornell University Collection of Political Americana, Cornell University Library. Postcard 1912. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Neutrality and Peace Efforts (1914-1916)

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, President Wilson maintained a policy of neutrality for the United States. He was re-elected in 1916 with the campaign slogan “He kept us out of war.” During this time, Wilson made efforts to mediate peace and called for a “peace without victory” in Europe.

Image Reference Here. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the Entry into War (1917)

Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, including attacks on neutral ships, and the interception of the Zimmermann Telegram (a communication proposing a military alliance between Germany and Mexico against the United States) prompted Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war. The United States officially entered World War I on 6 April 1917.

President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany, causing the United States to enter World War I. Source: Wikimedia Commons

War Aims and Fourteen Points (1918)

In January 1918, Wilson outlined his vision for a just and lasting peace in a speech to Congress, which became known as the Fourteen Points. These principles included open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, free trade, disarmament, and the right to self-determination for nations. The Fourteen Points aimed to establish the foundation for a post-war world order.

Front-page headline from The New York Times, December 15, 1918, including phrase Woodrow Wilson “Sees Enduring Peace Only in a League of Nations”. The New York Times (U.S. newspaper, 1918). Source: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

League of Nations

One of Wilson’s key goals for the post-war world was the establishment of an international organisation to prevent future conflicts. He played a crucial role in drafting the Covenant of the League of Nations, which was included in the Treaty of Versailles. The League of Nations was envisioned as a forum for diplomatic negotiations and collective security.

The full personnel of the American Commission taken at their headquarters, Hotel Crillon, Paris, just before the signing of peace. In the front row, from left to right, are: Col. E. M. House, Robert Lansing, President Wilson, Henry White, General Tasker H. Bliss.

Photographer: Underwood and Underwood. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Treaty of Versailles and Senate Opposition

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, formally ended World War I. Wilson attended the Paris Peace Conference and was a major architect of the treaty. However, back in the United States, Wilson faced opposition in the Senate, particularly from isolationist senators and those who were critical of the League of Nations.

This cartoon implies that without America the bridge would collapse. The bridge represents the League of Nations, and Uncle Sam, the personification of America is reluctant to place the keystone in the bridge to complete it. This is odd because in the Treaty of Versailles, it was Woodrow Wilson the president of America that suggested that the League of Nations as part of his fourteen points. The missing keystone demonstrates how difficult it will be for the League to function without having the United States as a member. Leonard Raven-Hill Punch Magazine 10 December 1919. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Failed Ratification of the Treaty

Despite Wilson’s efforts to gather public support for the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles, he faced opposition in the Senate. The Senate rejected the treaty, primarily due to concerns about the League’s potential impact on American sovereignty and a desire to avoid entangling alliances.

Woodrow Wilson and American flags. Patriotic postcard from World War 1. Source: Wikimedia Commons

President Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy

Woodrow Wilson’s leadership during World War I and advocacy for the League of Nations reshaped global diplomacy, laying the groundwork for future peace initiatives despite America’s non-membership. His presidency marked a pivotal shift for the U.S., transitioning from neutrality to active engagement in the conflict and shaping post-war strategies.

Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points | History (Duration 4 mins 49 secs) Source: YouTube

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