The War to End War
On January 31, 1917 Germany announced its decision to wage unrestricted submarine warfare on all ships, including American ships, in the war zone.
War by Act of Germany
German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann secretly proposed a German-Mexican alliance with the Zimmermann note. News of the Zimmermann note leaked out to the public, infuriating Americans.
On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked for a declaration of war from Congress after 4 more unarmed merchant ships had been sunk.
3 Mains Causes of War: Zimmermann Note, Germany declares unrestricted submarine warfare, Bolshevik Revolution.
Wilsonian Idealism Enthroned
President Wilson persuaded the public for war by declaring his twin goals of "a war to end war" and a crusade "to make the world safe for democracy." He argued that America only fought to shape an international order in which democracy could flourish without fear of dictators and militarists.
Wilson was able to get war to appeal to the American public.
Wilson's Fourteen Potent Points
Wilson delivered his Fourteen Points Address to Congress on January 8, 1918.
The message, though intensely idealistic in tone and primarily a peace program, had certain very practical uses as an instrument for propaganda. It was intended to reach the people and the liberal leaders of the Central Powers as a seductive appeal for peace, in which purpose it was successful. It was hoped that the points would provide a framework for peace discussions. The message immediately gave Wilson the position of moral leadership of the Allies and furnished him with a tremendous diplomatic weapon as long as the war persisted.
The first 5 points and their effects were:
1. A proposal to abolish secret treaties pleased liberals of all countries.
2. Freedom of the seas appealed to the Germans, as well as to Americans who distrusted British sea power.
3. A removal of economic barriers among nations was comforting to Germany, which feared postwar vengeance.
4. Reduction of armament burdens was gratifying to taxpayers.
5. An adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of both native people and the colonizers was reassuring to the anti-imperialists.
The largest achievement, #14, foreshadowed the League of Nations - an international organization that Wilson dreamed would provide a system of collective security.
Creel Manipulates Minds
The Committee on Public Information was created to rally public support of war. It was headed by George Creel. His job was to sell America on the war and sell the world on Wilsonian war aims.
The Creel organization employed thousands of workers around the world to spread war propaganda. The entire nation was as a result swept into war fever.
Enforcing Loyalty and Stifling Dissent
There were over 8 million German-Americans; rumors began to spread of spying and sabotage. As a result, a few German-Americans were tarred, feathered, and beaten. A hysterical hatred of Germans and things related to Germany swept the nation.
The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 reflected fears about Germans and antiwar Americans. Kingpin Socialist Eugene V. Debs and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) leader William D. Haywood were convicted under the Espionage Act.
At this time, nearly any criticism of the government could be censored and punished. The Supreme Court upheld these laws in Schenck v. United States (1919); it argued that freedom of speech could be revoked when such speech posed a danger to the nation.
The Nation's Factories Go to War
President Wilson created a Civilian Council of National Defense to study problems of economic mobilization; increased the size of the army; and created a shipbuilding program.
No one knew how much steel or explosive powder the country was capable of producing. Fears of big government restricted efforts to coordinate the economy from Washington. States' rights Democrats and businesspeople hated federal economic controls.
In 1918, Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries Board in order to impose some order on the economic confusion. The Board never really had much control and was disbanded after the end of the war.
Workers in Wartime
Workers were discouraged from striking by the War Department's decree in 1918 that threatened any unemployed male with drafting.
The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) were victims of some of the worst working conditions in the country. At the end of the war, the AF of L's (American Federation of Labor) membership had more than doubled.
Wartime inflation threatened to eliminate wage gains and thousands of strikes resulted.
In 1919, the greatest strike in American history hit the steel industry. More than 250,000 steelworkers walked off their jobs in an attempt to force their employers to recognize their right to organize and bargain collectively. The steel companies resisted and refused to negotiate with union representatives. The companies brought in 30,000 African-Americans to keep the mills running. After several deadly confrontations, the strike collapsed, marking a grave setback that crippled the union movement for over 10 years.
Thousands of blacks were drawn to the North in wartime by the allure of war-industry employment. The blacks served as meatpackers and strikebreakers. Deadly disputes between whites and blacks consequently erupted.
Suffering Until Suffrage
The National Woman's party, led by Alice Paul, protested the war.
The larger part of the suffrage movement, represented by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, supported Wilson's war.
War mobilization gave momentum to the suffrage movement. Impressed by women's war work, President Wilson supported women suffrage. In 1920, The 19th Amendment was passed, giving all American women the right to vote.
Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act of 1921, providing federally financed instruction in maternal and infant health care.
In the postwar decade, feminists continued to campaign for laws to protect women in the workplace and prohibit child labor.
Forging a War Economy
Herbert C. Hoover led the Food Administration. Hoover rejected issuing ration cards and, to save food for export, he proclaimed wheatless Wednesdays and meatless Tuesdays, all on a voluntary basis.
Congress restricted the use of foodstuffs for manufacturing alcoholic beverages, helping to accelerate the wave of prohibition that was sweeping the country. In 1919, the 18th Amendment was passed, prohibiting all alcoholic drinks.
The money-saving tactics of Hoover and other agencies such as the Fuel Administration and Treasury Department yielded about $21 billion towards the war fund. Other funding of the war came through increased taxes and bonds.
Making Plowboys into Doughboys
Although President Wilson opposed a draft, he eventually realized that a draft was necessary to quickly raise the large army that was to be sent to France. Through much tribulation, Congress passed the draft act in 1917. It required the registration of all males between the ages of 18 and 45, and did not allow for a man to purchase his exemption from the draft.
For the first time, women were allowed in the armed forces.
Fighting in France-Belatedly
In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution in communist Russia toppled the tsar regime. Russia pulled out of the "capitalist" war, freeing up thousands of Germans on the Russian front to fight the western front in France. Russia pulling out allowed the U.S. fight solidly for Democracy in the war.
A year after Congress declared war, the first American troops reached France. They were used as replacements in the Allied armies and were generally deployed in quiet sectors with the British and French. Shipping shortages plagued the Allies.
American troops were also sent to Belgium, Italy, and Russia. Americans hoped to prevent Russian munitions from falling into the hands of the Germans.
America Helps Hammer the "Hun"
In the spring of 1918, the German drive on the western front exploded. Spearheaded by about 500,000 troops, the Germans rolled forward with terrifying momentum. The Allied nations for the first time united under a supreme commander, French marshal Foch.
In order to stop Germany from taking Paris and France, 30,000 American troops were sent to the French frontlines. This was the first significant engagement of American troops in a European war.
By July 1918, the German drive had been halted and Foch made a counteroffensive in the Second Battle of the Marne. This engagement marked the beginning of a German withdrawal.
The Americans, dissatisfied with simply bolstering the French and British, demanded a separate army; General John J. Pershing was assigned a front of 85 miles. Pershing's army undertook the Meuse-Argonne offensive from September 26 to November 11, 1918. One objective was to cut the German railroad lines feeding the western front. Inadequate training left 10% of the Americans involved in the battle injured or killed.
As German supplies ran low and as their allies began to desert them, defeat was in sight for Germany.
The Fourteen Points Disarm Germany
In October of 1918, the Germans were ready for peace based on the Fourteen Points. On November 11, 1918, after the emperor of Germany had fled to Holland, Germany surrendered.
The United States's main contributions to the victory had been foodstuffs, munitions, credits, oil, and manpower. The Americans only fought 2 major battles, at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. The prospect of endless U.S. troops, rather than America's actual military performance eventually demoralized the Germans.
Wilson Steps Down from Olympus
President Wilson had gained much world popularity as the moral leader of the war. When he personally appealed for a Democratic victory in the congressional elections of November 1918, the plan backfired and the voters instead returned a Republican majority to Congress.
Wilson's decision to go to Paris in person to negotiate the treaty infuriated the Republicans because no president had ever traveled to Europe.
An Idealist Battles the Imperialists in Paris
The Paris Conference fell into the hands of an inner clique, known as the Big Four. Wilson, having the most power, was joined by Premier Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Britain, and Premier Georges Clemenceau of France.
The Conference opened on January 18, 1919. Wilson's ultimate goal was a world parliament known as the League of Nations. It would contain an assembly with seats for all nations and a council to be controlled by the great powers. In February 1919, the skeptical Old World diplomats agreed to make the League Covenant.
Hammering Out the Treaty
Republicans in America had much animosity towards the League of Nations. The Republican Congress claimed that it would never approve the League of Nations in its existing form. These difficulties delighted Wilson's Allied adversaries in Paris who were now in a stronger bargaining position because Wilson would have to beg them for changes in the covenant that would safeguard the Monroe Doctrine and other American interests valued to the senators.
France settled for a compromise in which the Saar Valley would remain under the League of Nations for 15 years, and then a popular vote would determine its fate. In exchange for dropping its demands for the Rhineland, France got the Security Treaty, in which both Britain and America pledged to come to its aid in the event of another German invasion.
Italy demanded Fiume, a valuable seaport inhabited by both Italians and Yugoslavs. The seaport went to Yugoslavia after Wilson's insisting.
Japan demanded China's Shandong Peninsula and the German islands of the Pacific, which it had seized during the war. After Japan threatened to walk out, Wilson accepted a compromise in which Japan kept Germany's economic holdings in Shandong and pledged to return the peninsula to China at a later date.
The Peace Treaty That Bred a New War
The Treaty of Versailles was forced upon the Germans in June 1919. The Germans were outraged with the treaty, noticing that most of the Fourteen Points were left out.
Wilson, also not happy with the outcome of the treaty, was forced to compromise away some of his Fourteen Points in order to salvage the more precious League of Nations.
The Domestic Parade of Prejudice
Critics of the League of Nations came from all sides. Irish-Americans, isolationists, and principled liberals all denounced the League.
Wilson's Tour and Collapse (1919)
The Republicans in Congress had no real hope of defeating the Treaty of Versailles; they hoped to rather "Americanize" or "Republicanize" it so that the Republicans could claim political credit for the changes.
In an attempt to speed up the passing of the treaty in the Senate, President Wilson decided to go to the country in a speechmaking tour. He would appeal over the heads of the Senate to the sovereign people. The speeches in the Midwest did not go as well as in the Rocky Mountain region and on the Pacific Coast.
On his return to Washington, Wilson suffered a stroke and suffered from physical and nervous exhaustion.
Defeat Through Deadlock
Senator Lodge, a critic to the president, came up with fourteen reservations to the Treaty of Versailles. These safeguards reserved the rights of the U.S. under the Monroe Doctrine and the Constitution and otherwise sought to protect American sovereignty.
After the Senate rejected the Treaty twice, the Treaty of Versailles was defeated. The Lodge-Wilson personal feud, traditionalism, isolationism, disillusionment, and partisanship all contributed to the defeat of the treaty.
The "Solemn Referendum" of 1920
Wilson proposed to settle the treaty issue in the upcoming presidential campaign of 1920 by appealing to the people for a "solemn referendum."
The Republicans chose Senator Warren G. Harding as their presidential nominee for the election of 1920. Their vice-presidential nominee was Governor Calvin Coolidge. The Republican platform appealed to both pro-League and anti-League sentiment in the party.
Democrats nominated pro-League Governor James. M. Cox as their presidential hopeful and chose Franklin D. Roosevelt as their vice-presidential nominee.
Warren Harding won the election of 1920. Harding's victory lead to the death of the League of Nations.
The Betrayal of Great Expectations
The Treaty of Versailles was the only one of the four peace treaties not to succeed.
After the war, America did not embrace the role of global leader. In the interests of its own security, the United States should have used its enormous strength to shape world-shaking events. It instead permitted the world to drift towards yet another war.