Fourteen Points

Fourteen Points

) remained skeptical of the applicability of Wilsonian idealism. [Irwin Unger, These United States (2007) 561.]

The speech was delivered over 10 months before the Armistice with Germany ended World War I, but the Fourteen Points became the basis for the terms of the German surrender, as negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and documented in the Treaty of Versailles. However, the United States Senate did not then ratify the Treaty of Versailles. [cite book
last = Hakim
first = Joy
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = War, Peace, and all that Jazz
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 1995
location = New York
pages = 16-20
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =


The United States of America joined the Allies fighting the Central Powers on April 6 of 1917. By early 1918, it was clear that the war was nearing its end. The Fourteen Points in the speech were based on the research of the "Inquiry," a team of about 150 advisors led by Colonel Edward M. House, Wilson's foreign policy advisor, into the topics likely to arise in the anticipated peace conference. Woodrow Wilson's speech on January 8, 1918 took many of the principles of progressivism that had produced domestic reform in the U.S. and translated them into foreign policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination). The Fourteen Points speech was the only explicit statement of war aims by any of the nations fighting in World War I: some belligerents gave general indications of their aims; others wanted to gain territory, and so refused to state their aims.

The speech also responded to Vladimir Lenin's Decree on Peace of October 1917, which proposed an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the war, calling for a just and democratic peace that was not compromised by territorial annexations, and led to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918.

Fourteen Points

# Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
# Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
# The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
# Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
# A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
# The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
# Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
# All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
# A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
# The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
# Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.
#The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
# An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
# A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. [cite web|last=Wilson|first=Woodrow|date=1918-01-08|url=|title=President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points|format=HTML|accessdate=2005-06-20] [cite web|last=Wilson|first=Woodrow|date=1918-01-08|url=|title=THE CONDITIONS OF PEACE|format=HTML|accessdate=2005-06-20]


Influence on the Germans to surrender

The speech was widely disseminated as an instrument of propaganda, to encourage the Allies to victory. Copies were also dropped behind German lines, to encourage the Central Powers to surrender in the expectation of a just settlement. Indeed, a note sent to Wilson by Prince Maximilian of Baden, the German imperial chancellor, in October 1918 requested an immediate armistice and peace negotiations on the basis of the Fourteen Points. The speech was made without prior coordination or consultation with Wilson's counterparts in Europe. As the only public statement of war aims, it became the basis for the terms of the German surrender at the end of the First World War, as negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and documented in the Treaty of Versailles.

Opposition from the Allies

Opposition to the Fourteen Points among British and French leaders became clear after hostilities ceased: the British were against freedom of the seas; the French demanded war reparations.

Wilson was forced to compromise on many of his ideals to ensure that his most important point, the establishment of the League of Nations, was accepted. In the end, the Treaty of Versailles went against many of the principles of the Fourteen Points, both in detail and in spirit. Rather than "peace without victory," the treaty sought harsh punishment of Germany both financially and territorially. The resulting bitterness in Germany laid the seeds for the rise of Nazism in the 1930s which resulted, in part, from the economic depression of the 1920s in Germany which the Versailles Treaty helped create.

Failure of the U.S. to ratify the Treaty of Versailles

The United States Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, making it invalid in the United States and effectively hamstringing the nascent League of Nations envisioned by Wilson. The largest obstacle faced in the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles was the opposition of Henry Cabot Lodge. It has also been said that Wilson himself was the second-largest obstacle, not least because he kept the leaders of the Republican-led Congress in the dark during treaty deliberations, and refused to support the treaty with any of the alterations proposed by the United States Senate. One of the largest obstacles was over the League of Nations. Congress believed that committing to the League of Nations also meant committing U.S. troops to any conflicts that might have arisen (see also Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations).

Nobel Peace Prize

Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize in 1920 for his peace-making efforts. He also inspired independence movements around the world, including the March 1st Movement in Korea.

ee also

* American Commission to Negotiate Peace
* Treaty of Versailles



* [ Text and commentary] from John Jay College of Criminal Justice
* [ Text and commentary] from
* [ Interpretation of President Wilson's Fourteen Points] by Colonel House

External links

* [ Wilson's shorthand notes] from the Library of Congress

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