Samuel F. Bemis:


THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND THE PEACE SETTLEMENT

Samuel Flagg Bemis is one of the great figures in the ranks of America's diplomatic historians. In the most recent of his many volumes in this field, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy, Professor Bemis pays scholarly tribute to the kind of highprincipled but hard-headed diplomacy which he most admires. The following selection explaining the elements of Wilson's program and procedure comes from Bemis's standard text, A Diplomatic History of the United States.

THE United States in 1917 went over to the Allied cause unconditionally, wholeheartedly, overwhelmingly.

It is the unconditional feature of that decisive intervention which most concerns the historian of American diplomacy.

That the intervention was decisive we are told by British and French historians. They say that it marked the turning-point of the war. They declare that, without this intervention, which followed the collapse of Russia, Germany would have won the war. We may believe this.

It would have been quite possible, and honorable, for the United States to have restricted itself to the maritime sphere, to defending the freedom of the seas, the violation of which bad brought the Republic into the war. Toward the fighting on the continent of Europe it could have remained in only a state of war, like Brazil and Cuba, without sending an army to Europe or raising from its citizens huge loans for support of the Allies. At least this full endeavor could have been withheld until there was some sort of agreement upon the terms of a victorious peace which would be won now only by full American co-operation. That an explicit understanding of such a nature was not made a prerequisite by the Government of the United States showed diplomatic ineptitude. It meant that the United States gave without stint of its treasure and its manhood, of its power and its soul, with no guaranty that its ideals or its interests would be written into the peace of victory. That the Allies were prepared to expect some such demand as a reasonable condition of full American participation is indicated by the British mission led by Arthur Balfour which came to Washington in April, 1917, and the French mission which immediately followed. Balfour had full details about the secret treaties which the European Allies bad made among themselves marking out the share which each was to have in the final victory.

These treaties were generally unknown in the United States when it entered the war although American diplomatic advisers like Colonel House knew

____________________
From A Diplomatic History of the United States, Fourth Edition, Chapter XXXIII, pp. 617, 619-640, by Samuel Flagg Bemis. By permission of Henry Holt and Company. Copyright 1955.

-1-

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