Woodrow Wilson's Presidency

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What were the main ideas of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points?

The main ideas of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points were open diplomacy, open access to the seas, national self-determination, disarmament, and the creation of the League of Nations.

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Wilson's Fourteen Points were designed to prevent another world war from happening. One of the key points was a push for open diplomacy. This was important since the mechanisms that brought about World War I were formed with the creation of secret alliances. Another part of Wilson's Fourteen Points was...

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Wilson's Fourteen Points were designed to prevent another world war from happening. One of the key points was a push for open diplomacy. This was important since the mechanisms that brought about World War I were formed with the creation of secret alliances. Another part of Wilson's Fourteen Points was the free and open access to the seas. This was important since the German U-boat was one of the factors that led to the United States being involved in the war. Britain objected to this because it would negate British naval power. It is also important to note that during the negotiations that Germany still faced a blockade.

Another key part of the Fourteen Points was a scaling back of arms in general. Wilson believed that the buildup of munitions led to the environment being favorable for war. France and Britain did not agree with this idea because it would put them at a the mercy of a potentially rearmed Germany in the future though both nations had financed a great deal of their war with borrowed money from the US.

Still another part was national self-determination. Wilson called for a free and independent Poland with access to the sea. This would be controversial because it took Russian land though Russia was not a member of the Central Powers. Later the Soviet Union and Germany would divide Poland since neither nation agreed to let Poland exist. National self-determination was directed at the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the birthplace of the war. Despite all of the experts, the breakup of the empire was not perfect and there is still some racial and ethnic tension in the Balkans.

The most important part of the Fourteen Points was the creation of the League of Nations. This League would be a place where nations great and small could debate their issues and use arbitration instead of war. Though European nations joined, the United States never did. Wilson alienated members of Congress by not including them in the negotiations. Also, many members of Congress had concerns that the US would lose some of its sovereignty to the League. The League failed to prevent World War II, and it was replaced in 1945 with the United Nations.

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In his speech delivered to the United States Congress on January 8, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson expressed his position regarding the conditions for the establishment postwar global peace and justice.

He called for open diplomacy, stemming from the understanding that secret treaties contributed to the outbreak of the First World War (1914-18).

Wilson also expressed the need for open access to the seas outside of territorial waters and for unhindered international trade. German U-boat warfare and other wartime obstacles to U.S. trade had contributed to the American decision to enter the war in April 1917.

President Wilson also called for disarmament to a level necessary for domestic security. Notably, he did not differentiate between the Allies, or Entente, and the Central Powers.

The most dramatic theme in the speech was decolonization and national self-determination. Points five through fourteen all deal primarily with this theme. See the link below. Although the borders of Europe were redrawn more in line with nationality, decolonization did not really get underway until after the Second World War.

Finally, Wilson called for the creation of an international body to help guarantee national sovereignty. For this reason, the League of Nations, which the United States Congress chose not to join, is considered to be Wilson's brainchild.

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Renewed submarine warfare and sinking of ships with Americans on board forced the United States to join the first World War on the side of the Allies. However, President Woodrow Wilson was already anticipating the situation after the War. He felt the need to justify the United States’ entry, the country’s main objective, and the values guiding the nation’s participation. He also hoped to provide solutions to end the war and stop such events from happening in the future.

We entered this war because violations of right had occurred which touched us to the quick and made the life of our own people impossible unless they were corrected and the world secure once for all against their recurrence.

Wilson addressed the issues that he believed caused the World War, and he narrowed them down to secret treaties, lack of democracy, economic barriers, and stockpiling of armaments. In his speech he asserted that nations should engage in open agreements and treaties. He also urged nations to make provisions for open trade and allow freedom of navigation. Additionally, he asked nations to keep armaments sufficient for interior safety.

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Woodrow Wilson proposed his plan for a peace treaty that would end World War I.  His plan was called the Fourteen Points.  Wilson believed the peace treaty should go easy on the defeated Central Powers. He believed a harsh treaty, which was being proposed by Britain, France, and Italy, would come back and haunt the Allies.  His fourteen-point plan can be divided into five major themes.  First, Wilson believed secret treaties needed to end.  It was a huge embarrassment for the Allies when the Russians, after pulling out of the war in 1917, revealed the secret plans the Allies had made for Europe once World War I had ended.  Wilson didn’t want a repeat of that. The second main point was to create independent countries after the war ended based on the concept of self-determination. One reason why World War I began was because people of one ethnic group ruled people from a different ethnic group. He wanted new countries to be formed where people of one nationality would rule people of the same nationality. (For example, Polish people would rule Polish people.)  A third major feature of his plan was to establish the concept of freedom of the seas. One reason why we joined World War I was because the Germans weren’t respecting our rights as a neutral nation. The Germans were using submarines to sink our merchant vessels without warning.  A fourth component of the plan was to reduce the number of weapons that countries had.  Wilson knew that when countries had weapons and armies, they tended to use them.  Finally, Wilson wanted an organization where countries could come to discuss problems and to propose solutions without going to war. This organization was called the League of Nations.  It was the centerpiece of his Fourteen Point program.  Many of Wilson’s idealistic goals were reflected in his plan to end the war, the Fourteen Points.

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