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Chapter 24

Woodrow Wilson and the "Great War"


 
Analytical Themes

1. Shift from active international policy (League of Nations) to isolationism.

2. Progressive reforms over the course of WWI such as Prohibition, suffrage, and rise of labor unions

3. The failure of Wilson's Fourteen Point Plan and Treaty of Versailles due to the partisan biases toward the issues

4. Political and economic turmoil in Eastern Europe after WWI from failure of proper peace agreements and the rise of Communism

5. Expansion of government and bureaucracy during WWI

6. Slow shift from neutrality to supporting the Allies in WWI due to fear of fascism and Communism (First Red Scare)

7. Reduction of civil liberties of those opposed to war


I. Missionary (Moral) Diplomacy-Spread democracy

A. Wilson denounced imperialism and Dollar Diplomacy as a foreign policy. He insisted that the U.S. would deal with Latin American countries "upon terms of equality and honor." His actions sometimes did not reflect this.

B. Like Roosevelt, Wilson regarded maintaining Open Door in China and completing the Panama Canal as important.

C. Mexico was a prime example of Wilson's "fuzzy" missionary diplomacy.

D. Francisco Madero, a progressive advocate of Democracy, was violently overthrown by Huerta.

1. Wilson would not recognize the new government.

2. This broke traditional diplomacy, which usually disregarded the way in which power was obtained. Also, European nations recognized it.

3. Exploiting a small dispute, Wilson initiated the invasion of Veracruz in 1914.

E. Carranza took over after Huerta abdicated.

1. Originally, Wilson supported an opponent of Carranza, "Pancho" Villa. After seeing Carranza's commitment to social reform and Villa's terrorist-like actions, Wilson switched sides.

2. Villaís men crossed into U.S.A. and killed American citizens on two occasions.

3. Wilson left Mexico to itself.

F. Wilson's actions led to an anti-American sentiment.

 

II. The Great War: Neutrality and Alliances

A. The assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was the catalyst to the war. Alliances created an instant world war.

B. Alliances:

1. Central Powers were chiefly made of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

2. Allied Powers were chiefly made Britain, Italy, France, Russia, and later the U.S.

C. The U.S. was psychologically unprepared for the war and was for neutrality.

D. Wilson called for neutrality despite his admiration for Britain.

E. Early in the war, the U.S. traded with both the Central Powers and the Allied Powers. This created tension as each side felt that the U.S. was "selling them out".

 

III. Shift towards Allied Powers

A. A third of the U.S. population had direct ethnic ties to the warring countries. Although a number of Germans and Irish were against the Allies, the majority was for the Allies.

B. The German surprise attack through neutral Belgium in the von Schlieffen Plan was seen as barbaric. The Allied Powers barely held, as WWI became a stalemate.

C. Propaganda by the Pro British/Allied Powers Press exploited the Belgium attack to draw sentiment. In contrast, German propaganda gained only a few converts.

D. The British Navy was dominant and set up blockades against the Central Powers with loose and sometimes illegal interpretations of what is considered "contraband." The British, however, sometimes paid for confiscated cargo.

E. U.S. trade with the Allied Powers quadrupled to $3.2 billion while trade with the Central Powers was fleeting. U.S. even lent $2 billion to the Allied Powers.

F. Germans developed a new technology called the U-boat (or submarine); however, the subs were limited in their effectiveness and did not follow the rules of war.

G. Using surprise attacks, the Germans created a war zone surrounding the British Isles and sunk belligerent ships and some neutrals.

H. The Lusitania was sunk in 1915. 128 of the 1200 killed were Americans. This created a backlash in the U.S.

I. Wilson allowed British blockades, but he condemned the usage of U-boats on any vessel with U.S. citizens. 

J. Neutrality advocate William Jennings Bryan resigned from his Secretary of the State position since Wilson did not listen to his "it would be like putting women and children in front of an army" logic.

K. The Germans made the Sussex Pledge to stop sinking merchant ships without warning in March of 1916.

L. Military spending grew after the sinking of the Arabic.

M. Despite everything, most citizens were against war. Merchants believed that it was best to remain neutral.

 

IV. The Election of 1916

A. The looming war and progressive reform directed the election of 1916.

B. Roosevelt was ready to support any Republican to remove Wilson.

C. Wilson was aided by progressive reforms like the Owen-Keating child labor law and the appointment of Brandeis, a Jewish Progressive to the Supreme Court.

D. The Democrats' slogan and Wilson's idealism was "keep us out of war."

 

Several Important Quotes by Wilson

1. "Peace without victory"

2. "War to end all wars"

E. Wilson won a narrow victory against Hughes.

 

V. The Road to War

A. Wilson sent envoys to both the Central and Allied powers to work toward settlement. He called for "Peace Without Victory". Neither side showed interest.

B. The Germans denounced the Sussex Pledge and had 100 U-boats cut off logistics and starve Britain.

C. The Russian Army collapsed after the Communist revolution. It's now a war with one front for the Germans.

D. The Germans felt that they could win the war before the U.S. could be an impact, and on Feb. 3, 1917, the Germans stepped-up attacks. - p. 668.

E. On April 6, 1917, the USA declares war. It was almost a year before U.S. forces reached Europe.

 

VI. Mobilizing the Economy

A. Lack of American industrial organization led to a dependency on British and French weapons.

B. The problems of mobilization were further complicated by six weeks of debate on conscription. Draftees reached training camps six months after the declaration of war.

C. Wilson created the War Industry Board that controlled production, prices, and resource distributions for the U.S.

D. Antitrust laws were suspended and producers were actually encouraged to cooperate with one another.

E. This regulation went far beyond "New Nationalism" and replaced the laissez-faire view of "New Freedom."

F. The War Industry Board sent prices high enough for profit. U.S. Steel made $5 billion during the war.

G. The greatest triumphs were in food production under the leadership of Herbert Hoover. It was just in time, Britain's food supplies could support six more weeks.

H. Using the Lever Act, Hoover set prices and made successful rationing plans. He also created a government corporation, which bought the entire American and Cuban sugar crop.

I. Slogans like "If U fast, U beat U boats", "Serve beans, by all means" were effective in encouraging rationing and food conservation (Propaganda was key in war effort).

J. Farm exports rose from 12.3 to 18.6 million tons.

 

VII. Workers in Wartime

A. Immigration during the war was greatly reduced, and, as men went off to war, work became easy to find.

B. Wilson created the War Labor Policies Board in 1918, which compelled management to deal with labor leaders and in turn led to an increase in unionization.

C. Wages more than doubled for unskilled workers.

 

VIII. Paying for the War

A. The U.S. lent large sums of funds to Europe; very little of this debt would be paid back.

B. War/Liberty Bonds worked well due to patriotism and advertising and paid for 2/3 of the $33.5 billion war.

C. Taxes, especially from the wealthy paid for $10.5 billion of the war. This war's cost was distributed very equitably.

 

IX. Propaganda and Civil Liberties

A. Led by George Creel, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was created in 1917. It produced propaganda portraying the Germans as oppressors.

B. New names were created to avoid German references such as "liberty cabbage" instead of sauerkraut, and French toast instead of German.

C. The German language was removed from course offerings at high schools.

D. The minority who opposed the war was exposed to public humiliation and assault.

E. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 made it illegal to speak against the government or the war through a wide set of laws.

F. Eugene Debs did not agree with this suspension of rights, and he ridiculed the war policy. He was sent to jail for 10 years. He ran for president out of jail in 1920.

G. Anarchist Ricardo Magon was jailed for criticizing the Mexican policy, an issue that did not tie with the war.

H. The Constitutionality of the Espionage Act was upheld in Schenck v. the United States when a man mailed notices to draftees urging them not to report.

I. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was created as a reaction to the attacks on civil liberties during the war and the following Red Scare.

 

X. War Time Reforms

A. Child labor was reduced during the war.

B. Progressive trends were evident through masses of skilled workers entering public management boards and other government services.

C. Patriotism and public service seemed to be united. 

D. The 18th and 19th Amendments were passed as well as reforms on prostitution.

 

XI. Women and Blacks in Wartime

A. The majority of women supported the war effort in numerous ways:
1. Women filled empty roles in industry, but most lost their jobs when the soldiers returned.

2. Women served in philanthropic organizations such as the YMCA and Red Cross and could also serve as nurses.

3. Some female military roles at home.

B. Sexism in the working world was seen through women's exclusion from labor unions.

C. African Americans migrated in large numbers for the first time to North.  They filled unskilled urban jobs.

D. Blacks who left the South improved their economic conditions; however, paranoid that they could be replaced, Northern whites had a minor backlash against newcomers.

E. Over 200,000 African Americans fought in segregated regiments such as the 369th Battalion; few were commissioned as officers.

F. There was a racist bias in recruitment in the South. A riot broke out in Texas where Black recruits killed 17 white civilians.

 

XII. "Over There"

A. U.S. committed troops in March of 1918. Few volunteered, thus creating the need for forced conscription. This army was known as the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)

B. The Navy, using convoys and zigzag patterns, limited the effectiveness of the U-boats after 1918.

C. 1.2 million new soldiers participating in gruesome fighting

D. War ends with armistice on Nov. 11, 1918

E. 8.5 million were killed, 120,000 of which were Americans.

 

XIII. Preparing for Peace

A. The Allied Powers wanted severe reparations and unfair peace accords resulted for the Germans.

B. The West became concerned with Communism and the power vacuum left in Germany and Austria-Hungry.

C. Wilson's internationalist idea of peace, which looked beyond vengeance, was called the Fourteen Point Plan. This plan was visionary and contains many elements of America's modern foreign policy. The plan included:

1. Overt peace treaties and negotiations

2. Freedom of the seas

3. An end to trade barriers

4. Arms reductions

5. National self-determination of boundaries and governments

6. A multinational organization to arbitrate disputes and settle conflict prior to war - the League of Nations.

E. The Allies wished to fall back on the old standard of reparations and punitive settlements.

F. Wilson was highly successful in some European reforms:

 

1. He dangled the Germans to overthrew Kaiser Wilhelm II and hinted to the Allies there is a separate peace plan for Germany to get approval on his Fourteen Point Plan.

2. Wilson also planned to attend the peace conference in Paris.

G. Wilson made errors in attending the Paris Peace Conference. He represented partisan issues and ignored economic problems at home. As a result, the Republicans won both houses in 1918.

H. The League of Nations was a break from U.S. isolationist policy.

I. Wilson excluded Senate members such as Henry Cabot Lodge (reservationist) and powerful Republicans from the peace process. This error cost him his dreams of making the world safe for democracy.

 

XIV. Paris Peace Conference

A. Each of the Big Four, which included Wilson, Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George the British Prime Minister, and Vittorio Orlando the Italian Prime Minister, promoted their own interests, creating rifts within the peace process.

B. National self-determination did not come about, and even Italy gained parts of German-speaking Austria.

C. The Germans were handed heavy reparations of $33 Billion and took responsibility for the war.

D. The Treaty of Versailles was largely a failure due to the loss of support for the Fourteen Point Plan. Also, the League of Nations failed on an international level.

E. The greatest losses were the heavy reparations and guilt clause of the war on Germany.

F. The peace conference also was exclusionary; Russia was left out.

 

XV. The Senate and the League of Nations

A. Most Americans favored the internationalist idea of the League of Nations, but details concerned congress.

B. Wilson gained numerous concessions from the European leaders to appease the U.S. Congress.

C. Congressmen that opposed the treaty fell into two groups:

1. Reservationists led by Henry Cabot Lodge

2. Irreconcilables led by Senator William Borah of Idaho and La Follette of Wisconsin

D. The issue was complicated because the Treaty of Versailles was tied to the League of Nations. The Republicans could not bring closure to the war without supporting the League of Nations.

E. Irreconcilables were inflexible in their approach to ensure U.S. national sovereignty over international cooperation.

F. Reservationists wanted to modify the League of Nations, especially Article Ten. This would commit the U.S. to war without an act of Congress.

G. Lodge united the several factions to support his Lodge Reservations, which limited and countered the Fourteen Point Plan.

H. Wilson was inflexible and did not realize that he made too sharp of a break from isolationism. He could not get enough votes to approve the Treaty of Versailles.

 

XVI. Demobilization

A. The War Industry Board was dismantled and military contracts were canceled.

B. Business boomed due to pent-up of consumer demand, but increased wages and too few consumer goods led to high inflation.

C. Agricultural prices dropped due to the loss of European demand.

D. Unemployment rose due to returning soldiers and economic problems.

 

XVII. The Red Scare

A. Returning vets were unhappy with the labor conditions (increased wages for their replacements), further increasing economic woes.

B. Striking unions were increasingly affiliated with the Communist movement and the rising proletariat.

C. Russian and Socialist influences on strikes were exaggerated in the press:

1. 100,000 Seattle workers put down their tools in a general strike.

2. 343,000 walked out in the Steel Strike, which was led by radical William Foster.

3. The Boston Police Strike - Governor Coolidge called the National Guard.

D. Some anarchists targeted J.D. Rockefeller and Attorney General Palmer with violence.

E. Since most radicals were immigrants, misconceptions were developed that all foreigners were either radicals or communists. Few immigrants were communists or radicals; many came to escape the oppression of Europe.

F. Attorney General Palmer's Red Hunts used nativist rhetoric (p. 685) to raise the crisis beyond reality. His Red Hunts were equivalent to the Salem Witch Trials. Palmer Raids imprisoned and violated the civil rights of 6000 people.

G. The Justice Department under J. Edgar Hoover led a sweep on Russian union workers; 650 were arrested and only 43 led to evidence to pursue convictions.

H. Palmer's false prediction of a May Day revolution caused a decline in his credibility and the Red Scare.

 

XVIII. The Election of 1920

A. The Democrats nominated James Cox from Ohio. The League of Nations became the party's central issue.

B. Harding wanted to "Return to Normalcy." Americans responded by electing Harding. It would be discovered he is an easily manipulated drunk.

 


Key Terms

Lusitania: British luxury liner torpedoed and sunk by German submarines; created great anti-German sentiment in the U.S.

Sussex Pledge: an attempt to end unrestricted submarine warfare

Zimmerman Note: German proposal to align with Mexico; a primary catalyst for U.S. entry in WWI

War Industry Board: controlled the type and amount of industrial output, socialistic in nature

Lever Act: Hoover's policy to set prices of goods and rationing plans

War Bonds / Liberty Bonds: primary source of funds for the war effort

Committee on Public Information (CPI): headed by Creel to spread propaganda for support of the war

George Creel: used propaganda to gain support for the war

Espionage Act of 1917: provided penalties for obstructing recruitment of soldiers or selling war secrets

Sedition Acts of 1918: provided penalties for those who spoke out against the U.S. and its war policies

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): reactionary union to protect civil liberties suspended during WWI

18th Amendment: prohibition

19th Amendment: women suffrage

369th Battalion: battalion of African Americans well known for its bravery and valor

American Expeditionary Forces (AEF): another name for the troops serving in Europe during WWI

Fourteen Point Plan: Wilson's post-WWI goals that were idealistic in nature however, only four of the points were actually in the Treaty of Versailles

League of Nations: Group of nations that gathered to discuss international relations and conflicts

Big Four: Woodrow Wilson (U.S.), Orlando (Italy), George (England), Clemenceau (France)

Treaty of Versailles: treaty between Germany and the Allies ending WWI; Germany received unfavorable terms.

Reservationists: Supported the Treaty of Versailles, but advocated modifications

Irreconcilables: isolationists who hated every aspect of the Treaty of Versailles

May Revolution: the rumor that on May Day there would be Communist revolution in the U.S.

Steel Strike: a 1919 strike in which 300,000 steel workers went on strike

Boston Police Strike: 19 officers were suspended after being put down by a state militia

Red Hunts/Palmer Raids: Nativist raids on suspected communists organized by Palmer

Article Ten of the League of Nations: called for the support of a League member if an aggressive nation attacked, conflicted with constitution by declaration of war without Congress approval

 


 

 

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