I. War by Act of Germany The Alliance system sets the stage for war. The Zimmermann note pushed us into it. – March 1, 1917, the German secretary Arthur Zimmermann secretly proposed a German-Mexican alliance, promising Mexico they would recover Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. – This same week German U-boats sank 4 unarmed merchant vessels, and Russia had a revolution which toppled the tsar’s regime. America could now join and fight for democracy.
II. Wilsonian Idealism Enthroned How could Wilson get the country behind him after more than a century of isolationism? – The majority of the country wouldn’t care about the threat submarines posed… – Wilson presented his argument for war as, “making the world safe for democracy.”
III. Wilson’s Fourteen Potent Points The first 5 were broad in scope: 1.Abolish secret. 2.Freedom of the seas. 3.A removal of economic barriers 4.A reduction of armament burdens. 5.An adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of both native peoples and the colonizers. To Wilson, the most important point was probably the 14 th. The foreshadowed League of Nations. – His dream of collective security (instead of Alliances
IV. Creel Manipulates Minds Getting the public’s mind ready for war would fall to the Committee on Public Information. – Headed by George Creel, he was to sell America on the war and sell the world on Wilsonian war aims. – Creel’s propaganda took a variety of forms. Propaganda Posters Propaganda Booklets Propaganda Songs
V. Enforcing Loyalty and Stifling Dissent German Americans made up over 8 million of the 100 million total population. As the propaganda machine whipped the nation into a frenzy, the hatred for all things German came to the surface. The Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918) reflected the fears about Germans and antiwar Americans. – Over 1,900 people were prosecuted under these acts.
Among those were antiwar Socialists like Eugene V. Debs, who was convicted under the Espionage Act in 1918 and sentenced to ten years in a federal penitentiary. – Virtually any criticism of the government could be censored and punished. Schenck v. United States (1919), critics claimed the new laws were breaking the 1 st Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed their legality, arguing that freedom of speech could be revoked when such speech posed a “clear and present danger” to the nation. After the war, presidential pardons were handed out freely. Harding pardoned Eugene V. Debs in 1921.
VI. The Nation’s Factories Go to War The pacifistic Wilson had only slightly prepared for the event of war, and that didn’t begin until 1915. – As a result, the U.S. was caught flatfooted right before it was about to be thrust into the conflict. Ignorance was one of the biggest obstacles. – No one knew how much steel or powder the country was even able to produce.
Wilson also had to fight traditional fears of big government control. – Big business fought the proposed federal governments economic controls. – Late in the war (1918) Wilson was finally able to appoint Bernard Baruch, as head of the War Industries Board. The board didn’t actually have much power, but it did set a precedent for the federal government to take a central role in economic planning during crisis. It was disbanded only days after the armistice, and Americans returned the their laissez-faire, weak central government.
VII. Workers in Wartime The slogan of the day was, “Labor will win the War.” – The War Department set a rule in 1918, which required all men to “work or fight.” This threatened any unemployed male with being immediately drafted – a powerful discouragement to go on strike. The major Unions supported the war, but some smaller ones, like the Industrial Workers of the World, did not.
– Sometimes called “Wobblies” or “I Won’t Workers,” transient workers faced some of the worst working conditions in the nation, therefore they felt justified in engineering some of the most damaging industrial sabotage.
VIII. Suffering Until Suffrage Although some women fought the war effort, the vast majority were for it. – The National American Woman Suffrage Association supported Wilson’s war. Wilson was able to make the case that if they wanted to take part in shaping the peace, they needed to take part in the war effort. Toward the end of the war women all over the world were gaining the right to vote. – In America, 70 years after the first calls for suffrage at Seneca Falls, the 19 th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote.
IX. Forging a War Economy As the larder (a cupboard for storing food) of democracy, America had to feed itself and its allies. – Herbert Hoover was chosen to head the Food Administration. He had already gain popularity because he had led a massive food drive which fed the starving people of war- racked Belgium. He relied on voluntary compliance rather than government mandates. – He was able to accomplish it by an intense propaganda campaign via posters, billboards, newspapers, pulpits, and movies.
As a result of this propaganda: – The country observed Hoover’s call for wheatless Wednesdays and meatless Tuesdays. – the country began hoeing their way to victory with “victory gardens.” – Farm production increased by one-fourth, and food exports to the Allies tripled. Hoover’s methods were imitated in other war agencies as well. – The Fuel Administration began “heatless Mondays”, “lightless nights”, and “gasless Sundays.” – The Treasury Department started Liberty Loan drives.
X. Making Plowboys into Doughboys American’s pictured our part in the war as producing war materials, giving loans (which totaled around 10 billion), and using our navy to uphold freedom on the seas. – However, Europe confessed that they were not just short on money but that they were running dangerously short on man power, and that if we didn’t act the western front would collapse. Although Wilson hated the draft, seeing that it was necessary he reluctantly supported it as a disagreeable and temporary necessity.
– Recruits were to have six months of training and then another two once they were overseas, but instead, the urgency forced many to be thrown into battle barely knowing how to operate their weapons.
XI. Fighting in France—Belatedly Russia’s collapse to the communistic Bolsheviks in 1917, forced the Allies to move even quicker. – As the Bolsheviks withdrew from the war, Germany was able to reallocate their forces from the eastern front to the west. As U.S. troops finally began landing in France they were to serve as replacements in the more quiet sections of the war. – They soon began making “friends” with many of the French girls. Soon after, American soldiers suffered from high rates of venereal disease.
XII. America Helps Hammer the “Hun” Late in 1918, the Germans smashed to within 40 miles of Paris, threatening to knock out France. – Newly arrived Americans were thrown into the battle at Chateau-Thierry, right in the middle of the German advance. (Led to an Allied victory) – Americans also participated in the Second Battle of the Marne, which was the beginning of the German withdrawal. – As part of the last Allied assault, American General John J. Pershing was given a front of 85 miles.
Pershing’s army undertook the Meuse-Argonne offensive, from September 26 to November 11, 1918. – The battle engaged 1.2 million American troops resulting in 120,000 killed or wounded.
XIII. The Fourteen Points Disarm Germany With Berlin ready to talk peace, they turned to the softhearted Wilson in October 1918, seeking peace based on the Fourteen Points. At 11 o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, all was quiet on the western front. In all, nearly 9 million soldiers had died, and more than 20 million suffered horrible wounds. – An additional 30 million died in a world wide flu pandemic in 1918-1919.
XIV. Wilson Steps Down from Olympus With the nation still united in the face of crisis Wilson’s popularity was at a pinnacle. Wilson broke the truce by personally appealing for a Democratic victory in the congressional elections of November 1918. – The maneuver backfired when the Republican majority (led by Henry Cabot Lodge)returned to congress. Wilson then decided to go to Paris himself which to many in America looked like grandstanding.
XV. An Idealist Amid the Imperialists Wilson was praised by the masses of Europe, because they saw his idealism as a promise of a better world. The Paris Conference pretty much included every nation great and small (except Germany,) but the Big Four pretty much ran the show. – Woodrow Wilson (US), Premier Vittorio Orlando (Italy), Prime Minister David Llyod George (Britain), and Premier Georges Clemenceau (France)
Wilson’s ultimate goal was the League of Nations, a kind of world parliament system that would ensure peace. – It would be an assembly with seats for all nations with a council to be controlled by the great powers. His immediate energies went in to trying to compromise European imperialism and Wilsonian idealism.
XVI. Hammering Out the Treaty Wilson faced great opposition to his vision when republican senators, known as the irreconcilables, fought to defeat the treaty. Wilson returned to Paris needing to beg the Allies for changes so that his congress would accept the treaty. – All of his bargaining power was gone, and the Allies knew it. – They began making much stronger demands from their defeated foes.
Wilson was fighting for fairness in the treaty while the Allies were looking to punish and prosper.
XVII. The Peace Treaty That Bred a New War The Treaty of Versailles was handed to Germany in June 1919. – Vengeance, not reconciliation was the dominate tone. Wilson was aware of some of the injustices that had been forced into the treaty, but he was hoping the League of Nations would iron out the inequities.
XVIII. The Domestic Parade of Prejudice With Wilson’s commitment to usher the U.S. into his League of Nations, old school isolationists denounced the treaty.
XIX. Wilson’s Tour and Collapse (1919) Even with isolationist opposition, a strong majority of people still seemed to favor it. Senator Lodge and his palls were no longer looking to stop it, only amend it so that they could take some political credit for the changes. During the summer of 1919, Senate work on the treaty had bogged down, while the nation was drifted into confusion and apathy. – Wilson decided to take his case over the heads of the Senate, directly to the people.
– Wilson’s speech tour across the country was against the advice of both physicians and friends. Stress from the war and illnesses he had even before the war were catching up to him. – September 25, 1919, Wilson collapsed from exhaustion and had a stroke several days later. He didn’t meet with his cabinet for the next seven months.
XX. Defeat Through Deadlock The Lodge/Wilson feud came to a head and ultimately played a role in the defeat of the treaty. – Lodge had put forth his fourteen formal reservations to Wilson’s fourteen points written in the treaty… a slap in the face to Wilson. – Wilson called for every democrat to reject Lodge’s reservations. – Eventually, Wilson called for an all or nothing approach and received nothing.