Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview
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16

"The Primary Essential"

Before House's intimacy with Wilson ended in April the colonel was able to continue his work in satisfying national demands that impeded the revision of the League Covenant. A text had been tentatively adopted in February and supplemented by two American amendments in March. A third, designed to safeguard the Monroe Doctrine, was yet to be approved. This prime concern could not be brought up at Paris without a risk of provoking a demand by Japan for a similar reservation in respect of its influence in Asia. i. It would be difficult, moreover, to get the assent of the British and French delegates unless Lloyd George was first satisfied with respect to sea power and Clemenceau with respect to security. In the face of these obstacles Wilson was reluctant to seek explicit recognition of the Monroe Doctrine. House, however, was insistent.

When Lloyd George let it be known that a formula that would allay British fear of American naval rivalry was a sine qua non, House complained to Lord Robert Cecil of the intransigence of the prime minister, from whom he expected some compensation for concessions that Wilson had made to the British Empire. 2.

Lloyd George's position was based firmly upon public opinion in England and upon the support of the British Empire delegation. 3. He was being pressed by the necessity for a reduction in British naval expenditures, and he would like to bring this about without sacrificing British primacy on the seas. 4. The prospect for any understanding on this question was clouded by contentious nationalism on the part of "blue-sea" Englishmen and "big-Navy" Americans. 5.

House was confident that economic necessity would make both sides see reason before very long. 6. Yet only with difficulty had he succeeded in the prearmistice meetings in devising a compromise formula to overcome British resistance to Point

____________________
2.
See above, pp. 187, and 281. House diary, March 27. Miller, vol. I, March 25 and 26, 1919. Auchincloss diary, March 25 and 26, 1919. Cable, Wiseman to Reading, April 11, 1919, Wiseman papers, Y.H.C. "British Empire Interests," memorandum of the British Empire delegation, Lothian papers, box 141. In his Fontainebleau memorandum Lloyd George wrote that the first condition for the success of the League of Nations was a firm understanding among the five major powers that there would be no competitive building of fleets or armies.
3.
"Wilson has lost much of his popularity in England and does not get much support now even from liberal and labour press.... American insistence on the Monroe Doctrine in the Covenant has created a very bad impression. It is thought that the American attitude is 'everybody else must abate their sovereignty except America!' Altogether it is felt that America has redeemed her ideals somewhat cheaply. This feeling is widespread in England and France," cable, Wiseman to Reading, April 18, 1919, Y.H.C., Wiseman papers.

Miller, vol. 1, p. 205. Minutes, ACTNP, March 27, 1919.

4.
J. Kenneth McDonald, "Lloyd George and the Search for a Post-War Naval Policy, 1919," in Lloyd George: Twelve Essays, ed. A. J. P. Taylor, pp. 193-194.
5.
Wiseman to Reading, March 26, 1919, Wiseman papers. Polk to J. W. Davis, February 10, 1919, Y.H.C.
6.
Arthur Willert, Washington and Other Memories, p. 150.
i.
Miller, My Diary, vol. 1, March 16, 1919.

-302-

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