Wilson’s Fourteen Points
World War I, was also called “The Great War.” It began in 1914. The three biggest countries involved were Germany, France and England in the beginning. As time passed, other countries, including Canada, Belgium and Russia became involved. The one country that refused to get involved in the beginning was the United States.
President Woodrow Wilson didn’t want to join in the conflict for many reasons. First of all, a large ocean protected the United States from the conflict. In addition, the US was still trying to get past the results of the Civil War. But most of all, Wilson was reluctant to take sides in what was shaping up to be a battle of the European super powers. However, German submarines started patrolling the east coast of the United States. Wilson felt he could no longer stay out of the conflict. But he wanted to make sure that if the US got involved, the goals would be moral and just. He did not want to just argue over lines on a map. He felt it would be wrong for the United States to take territory half a world away.
Toward that end, Wilson and his team outlined what they felt were terms of justice for war. On January 8, 1918, Wilson presented his Fourteen Points to the House and Senate. He spoke to tell the nation that they were fighting a moral war. He also wanted to give them goals to create a lasting peace, not just in Europe, but in the whole world. He believed if countries followed his fourteen points, this would be the last war the United States, or anyone else, would ever have to fight. He began to call World War I “The War to End All Wars.”
Wilson’s Fourteen Points
- I. That when countries talked about peace and treaties, those discussions should be public. Everyone from other leaders to the common people should be able to hear the talks.
- II. Seas are free, and can belong to no nation.
- III. To remove all economic barriers and promote free trade between all nations.
- IV. All countries agree to reduce their weapons of war. Countries should only keep enough weapons to protect their people.
- V. That a fair and impartial party would look at all colonial claims.
- VI. Russia would be free. The Russian people would be free to develop their own form of government.
- VII. Belgium, which Germany had invaded, should be given back to the Belgian people.
- VII. All French territory taken by Germany should be given back to the French people. The land that France and Germany would share the land that both claimed in a way that benefitted the countries and the people living in the area.
- IX. The Italian people can live within established borders of Italy as they choose.
- X. The people of Austria-Hungary shall have the right to create their own country and government.
- XI. The people of the Balkan States shall have the right to create their own country and government.
- XII. The people who live in Turkey shall have the right to create their own country and government. Their laws must protect the rights of all people who live within their borders.
- XIII. The people of Poland shall have the right to create their own government and live in their own country. Their country will have its own deep water port.
- XIV. The world will create a League of Nations. Representatives to the League of Nations will come from every country. This league will deal with disputes between nations so that no country will ever have a reason to go to war.
The fourteen points tried to show people around the world how to live without fighting. They guaranteed freedom of the seas, of trade and of people. It outlined a fair way to end the war. Unfortunately, when the Paris Peace
Conference began to end the war, Wilson got sick. He wasn’t able to fight for his points. France had been hurt more than other countries by the war. The representative from France wanted revenge on Germany more than he wanted peace.
So he changed many of Wilson’s points. He forced Germany to take all of the guilt for the war. The country was required to pay billions to rebuild France and was not allowed to keep an army.
Instead of ending the “War to End All Wars,” The treaty simply fed German anger and aggression, setting the stage
for World War II.