Historical Problems

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Stephany Coffman
United States: 1919-1945
Historical Problems Paper #1

Woodrow Wilson has been described as “cold, aloof and often arrogant, but he was not all intellect.” By the time Wilson was elected governor of New Jersey he had never held a political office, and had never taken more than a theorist’s interest in politics. Wilson’s personal view on how the Presidential office should be run is to lead a country rather than to be lead. He believed that a president should act like a prime minister and not be isolated from Congress. Wilson himself dreamed of a utopian society and amongst his intellectual supporters believed that this “most terrible and disastrous wars” could be countenanced only by perceiving of it as the harbinger of eternal peace. The utopian spirit of the war took concrete form in Wilson’s proposal of a postwar federation of nations, in itself not a utopian scheme but one which, from the first, was freighted with utopian aspirations. Though Wilson may have been an effective war president by delegating responsibilities to those qualified his aspirations for a perfect world and his sentiments of “peace without victory” obscured his reality. President Wilson presented his ideas for peace in his famous Fourteen Points address on January 8, 1918. Wilson’s chief goal was to have the treaty provide for the formation of a League of Nations. He hoped that the threat of economic or military punishment from League members, including Germany, would prevent future wars. Though Wilson held a prominent role in drafting the Treaty of Versailles, and would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize for, the other major Allies, however, had little interest in honoring either Wilson’s Fourteen Points or all his goals for the League of Nations. The allies had suffered far greater losses and wanted to punish Germany severely. Strong opposition to the treaty developed in the United States. Many Americans disagreed with Wilson’s generous approach to worn-torn...
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