Proposal for Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference

Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference Proposal

At the conclusion of the Paris Peace conference in 1919, American President Woodrow Wilson declared that “at last the world knows America as the savior of the world!”[1] He had reason to be so aggrandizingly ecstatic—the First World War was over and Wilson, in his idealistic way, regarded himself as the prophet who brought peace to the international scene. Herbert Hoover shared this view and once said that the life of Wilson was “the story of the leader of [a] Crusade.”[2] In many ways Wilson and Hoover were right. Wilson dominated the Paris Peace Conference, and set the framework for arbitration and diplomacy for the next hundred or more years of world history. Wilson popularized what is sometimes known today as ‘globalism,’ though that specific word would not be used until years later. Wilson’s globalism was made clear in his Fourteen Points, a set of guidelines which Wilson delivered to the Congress in early 1918, which outlined a new form of international justice and order, the most important of which was the fourteenth point, the establishment of a League of Nations. It seems worthwhile to delve into the research surrounding Wilson and the efforts he went through to bring about his new paradigm during the Paris Peace Conference and the reception to it by the other leaders and representatives at the Peace Talks, specifically the Big Four.

There is a wealth of information from countless viewpoints, and the discussion concerning Wilson and the effects of the conference are legion; these appear in both primary and secondary sources and are nearly inexhaustible. In order to approach the topic from a more original point of view and wade through the sea of material, it may be helpful to use Hoover’s statement as a central guiding point: Wilson put his idealism first and worked his globalist agenda so to engineer the world—the Paris Peace Conference was Wilson’s Crusade to shape the world to his own desires, backed by his own pomposity.

The resources that have been and will continue to be consulted are both primary and secondary, but are more importantly divided into different research biases: those who like Wilson, and those who do not. This seems to be a more important factor in looking at Wilson than by merely separating the sources into primary and secondary. Needless to say, there is much to criticize about Wilson, and that is the direction that further research should take. About Paris, John Maynard Keynes said “[it] was a nightmare, and every one there was morbid.” It was, of course, a hostile environment. Keynes’ 1920 The Economic Consequences of Peace does not paint a positive picture of Wilson, alluding to him as a puppet, and argued that though Wilson’s goals may have been generous and good-willed, they were promises lacking all serious detail. Keynes described Wilson’s ideas as “nebulous and incomplete,” and of Wilson he wrote that he was “slow and unadaptable.”[3] Keyne’s work will provide an invaluable trove of personal commentary on Wilson. Margaret Macmillan’s 2001 work, Paris 1919, reveals that the negative view of Wilson was not rare, meaning that there are plenty of both primary and secondary sources that can be included. She quoted the French Ambassador in Washington, who said of Wilson that “had he lived a couple of centuries ago, [Wilson] would have been the greatest tyrant in the world, because he does not seem to have the slightest conception that he can ever be wrong.” Macmillan described this flaw of Wilson’s as “a dangerous egotism.”[4] More works concerning Wilson and his personality in relation to his globalist Crusade are readily available, and will be included. But to name a few more who address Wilson’s pompous nature there is Karl Friedrich Nowak’s 1928 book, Versailles, which shows that Wilson saw himself as Justice incarnate; Klaus Schwabe’s 1985 book, Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking, 1918-1919, gives some in-depth insight into Wilson’s diplomatic skills. For example, Wilson’s ultimatum to Germany concerning either joining his new world order or remaining isolationist, and therefore poorer is touched upon.

To provide a counterpoint to the research position herein proposed, there are many historians who also praise Wilson for his efforts, or at least analyze him from a less hostile historical position. They must be included to give a fairer analysis. This should be no problem, as the sources of this research approach are also abundant. Arthur Walworth’s 1986 book, Wilson and His Peacemakers, regularly refers to Wilson as an American prophet. Walworth includes the notion that Wilson felt that the league might do better than Christianity at international peace. Another admirer and critic of Wilson is Thomas A. Bailey, as seen in his 1944 work, Woodrow Wilson and the Lost Peace. Bailey sets forth to find a middle ground between the camps he identifies as the “Wilson-worshippers and the Wilson-haters.” He explains that his purpose is to help make sure that the world does not find itself in the same predicament to which the consequences of World War I unfortunately led.

It seems, then, that this topic is worthy of further research. Besides the abundance of material concerning Wilson’s personality and his globalist Crusade, this topic also presents an American President—and the leader of the nation that helped win The Great War—as someone incredibly ambitious, somewhat unprepared, and as an ideologue. Too often are the ‘great lives’ histories forgetful of the intensely human elements in their respective stories. The story of Wilson and the quest to establish a League of Nations offers a more personal view of the man behind the diplomacy, and how he was received by the other diplomats involved.



Ambrosius, Lloyd E. Wilsonianism: Woodrow Wilson and His Legacy in American Foreign

Relations. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.


Bailey, Thomas Andrew. Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal. New York: Macmillan

Company, 1945.


——— Woodrow Wilson and the Lost Peace. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1963.


George, David Lloyd. Memoirs of the Peace Conference. New Haven: Yale University Press,



Hoover, Herbert. The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.


House, Edward Mandell, and Charles Seymour. What Really Happened at Paris; the Story of

the Peace Conference, 1918-1919. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1921.



Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920. Project Gutenberg.


Lentin, A. Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson and the Guilt of Germany: An Essay in the Pre-

history of Appeasement. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1985.


MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random

House, 2002.


Notter, Harley. The Origins of the Foreign Policy of Woodrow Wilson. Baltimore, MD, 1937.


Nowak, Karl Friedrich, Norman Thomas, and E. Dickes W. Versailles. London: V. Gollancz,



Rozwenc, Edwin C., and Thomas Lyons T. Realism and Idealism in Wilson’s Peace

Program. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1965.


Schwabe, Klaus. Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking, 1918-1919:

Missionary Diplomacy and the Realities of Power. Chapel Hill: University of North

Carolina Press, 1985.


Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. “Oliver Stone: The Myth of American Exceptionalism.”

USA Today. October 25, 2013.



Striner, Richard. Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Burden Too Great to Bear. Rowman

& Littlefield, 2014.


The Treaty of Versailles and after. New York: Oxford University Press, 1935.


Walworth, Arthur. Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace

Conference, 1919. New York: Norton, 1986.

[1] Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. “Oliver Stone: The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” USA Today. October 25, 2013.


[2] Herbert Hoover. The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958) 272.


Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920. Project Gutenberg.


[4] MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2002. 5.