Clipboard icon. This link bypasses navigation taking you directly to the contents of this page.


How to Use
the Readings


Inquiry Question

Historical Context


Reading 2
Reading 3



Table of

Determining the Facts

Reading 1: Wilson's Passion for the League of Nations

In his efforts to persuade Americans to support the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, Woodrow Wilson addressed an audience in the City Auditorium of Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25, 1919. Following are excerpts from that speech taken from The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Arthur S. Link, ed., vol. 63, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, pp. 500-513).

 Mr. Chairman and fellow citizens: It is with great pleasure that I find myself in Pueblo, and I feel it a compliment that I should be permitted to be the first speaker in this beautiful hall. One of the advantages of this hall, as I look about, is that you are not too far away from me, because there is nothing so reassuring to men who are trying to express the public sentiment as getting into real personal contact with their fellow citizens....
 The chief pleasure of my trip has been that it has nothing to do with my personal fortunes, that it has nothing to do with my personal reputation, that it has nothing to do with anything except the great principles uttered by Americans of all sorts and of all parties which we are now trying to realize at this crisis in the affairs of the world.
 But there have been unpleasant impressions as well as pleasant impressions, my fellow citizens, as I have crossed the continent. I have perceived more and more that men have been busy creating an absolutely false impression of what the treaty of peace and the Covenant of the League of Nations contain and mean....
 Don't think of this treaty so much as merely a settlement with Germany. It is that. It is a very severe settlement with Germany, but there is not anything in it that she did not earn [applause]....
 But the treaty is so much more than that. It is not merely a settlement with Germany; it is a readjustment of those great injustices which underlay the whole structure of European and Asiatic societies. Of course this is only the first of several treaties. They are constructed under the same plan....
 But at the front of this great treaty is put the Covenant of the League of Nations. It will be at the front of the Austrian treaty and the Hungarian treaty and the Bulgarian treaty and the treaty with Turkey. Every one of them will contain the Covenant of the League of Nations, because you cannot work any of them without the Covenant of the League of Nations. Unless you get united, concerted purpose and power of the great governments of the world behind this settlement, it will fall down like a house of cards.
 There is only one power behind the liberation of mankind, and that is the power of mankind. It is the power of the united moral forces of the world. And in the covenant of the League of Nations the moral forces of the world are mobilized....But all the nations that have power that can be mobilized are going to be members of the League, including the United States. And what do they unite for? They enter into solemn promise to one another that they will never use their power against one another for aggression; that they will never impair the territorial integrity of a neighbor; that they will never interfere with the political independence of a neighbor; that they will abide by the principle that great populations are entitled to determine their own destiny; and that they will not interfere with that destiny; and that no matter what differences arise amongst them, they will never resort to war without first having done one or other of two things–either submitting the matter of controversy to arbitration, in which case they agree to abide by the result without question, or having submitted it to the consideration of the Council of the League of Nations, laying before the Council all the facts, agreeing that the Council can publish the documents and facts to the whole world.
 In other words, they consent, no matter what happens, to submit every matter of difference between them to the judgment of mankind. And, just so certainly as they do that, my fellow citizens, war will be in the far background, war will be pushed out of the foreground of terror in which it has kept the world generation after generation, and men will know that there will be a calm time of deliberate counsel....
 I believe that we will see the truth, eye to eye and face to face. There is one thing that the American people always rise to and extend their hand to, and that is the truth of justice and of liberty and peace. We have accepted the truth and we are going to be led by it, and it is going to lead us, and through us the world, out into pastures of quietness and peace such as the world has never dreamed of before.
Following is an excerpt from the memoir of Wilson's private physician taken from The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Arthur S. Link, ed., vol. 67, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, pp. 466-670).

 I succeeded in persuading him [Wilson] to cancel his plans formed for the journey in early August, but later on, the conviction grew upon him that he must go. Opposition to the Treaty was increasing in the Senate, and he must rally the moral opinion of the country and do it immediately, so he felt. I played my last card and lost. Going to the study one morning I found the President seated at his desk writing. He looked up and said: 'I know what you have come for. I do not want to do anything foolhardy but the League of Nations is now in crisis, and if it fails I hate to think what will happen to the world. You must remember that I, as Commander in Chief, was responsible for sending our soldiers to Europe. In the crucial test in the trenches they did not turn back–and I cannot turn back now. I cannot put my personal safety, my health in the balance against my duty–I must go.'

Questions for Reading 1

1. What does Wilson say has been the "chief pleasure" of his trip? Why? What did he not like? Why?

2. There was one note of applause early in the speech. What do you think the listeners liked about that point made?

3. According to Wilson, why should the U.S. join the League of Nations? Do you find this reason persuasive? Why or why not?

4. Why did Wilson feel he had to ignore his doctor's advice to cancel plans for his speaking tour?



Comments or Questions

National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.