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

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview

Epilogue

When its president left Paris at the end of June, the United States was tentatively committed as never before to an active role in the affairs of the world. In addition to the vital questions raised at Paris by national interests, divers pleas for social and political causes had sought satisfaction at the Peace Conference. The American delegates were importuned by advocates of labor, the press, and organized womanhood. They were urged also to promote the creation of a Jewish homeland, Irish independence, and welfare of other peoples that had kin in the United States. Under these pressures and those exerted by commercial and humanitarian impulses, the Americans interceded in the making of arrangements for the Old World to an extent that could hardly be considered legitimate under the code of European diplomacy of the nineteenth century.

The American ship of state was tugging at its old isolationist moorings. The United States was engaged militarily in several remote areas. It was subsidizing equipment for White Russian armies. Its troops were still helping to police the eastern shore of the Adriatic. American regiments were occupying German territory on the Rhine, and others were ready to serve in patrolling plebiscites. Moreover, the vast program of relief that Hoover administered was providing essential supplies to the peoples of the lands of east central Europe, and the American government had supplied credits to make this possible. Furthermore, in response to pressure from aggressive minority groups in the United States, the Americans at Paris exerted their influence toward the conclusion of treaties that would protect minorities in the new states. The participation of American scholars in the peacemaking had contributed much to a judicious delineation of frontiers and to rational consideration of economic issues. Nevertheless, some among the Europeans, noting Hoover's desire to liquidate surpluses of food in America, Baruch's concern for American trade, and the provisos attached by the Treasury to some of its credits, were asking whether the American eagle in its unprecedented flights was not fixing its eye on legitimate prey that would nourish the economic life of the United States, perhaps to the disadvantage of European interests. The wonder of the Europeans grew when the eagle that had soared so high returned to its nest and behaved like an ostrich, leaving Europe to proceed to fulfill the prevailing expectation of prompt action to disarm Germany and to arrange for the functioning of the peace treaty and the League of Nations.

In his preoccupation with the power of ideals and in his faith in their appeal to the common man, Wilson had boldly challenged the actual powers of Europe. He learned, to his distress, that its statesmen had national mandates that were better respected than his spiritual revelations. Certain realities of power politics and of

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