Woodrow Wilson - Vol. 1

Woodrow Wilson - Vol. 1

Woodrow Wilson - Vol. 1

Woodrow Wilson - Vol. 1

Excerpt

DURING THE YEAR 1856 the political atmosphere of Europe was cleared, temporarily. The swords of national ambition that had let blood in the Crimea were returned to their scabbards at the Congress of Paris.

In the Hall of Clocks at Versailles a group of diplomats of the old school, dignified by high collars, black stocks, and side whiskers, faced one another around a velvet-topped table and invoked the principle of legitimacy--" long live the status quo." Undercover, the old game of power politics went on. Lobbyists, male and female, plied their trade. Intrigue was carried into the theater, the drawing room, even into the boudoir. Finally, after a month of plot and counterplot, one of the delegates at Versailles remarked: "Everybody is on edge. It is time to sign." And so a feather was plucked from a black eagle in the Jardin des Plantes, and a quill from it was used in signing a few of the twenty- eight documents of peace. A hundred and one guns boomed from the Hôtel des Invalides, and Europe was at peace!

It was a compact between haughty nations that held themselves above the moral standards that rule ethical individuals; and it brought to Europe a fragile truce that was destined to last but three years. To be sure, tenuous provision was made for containment of Russian expansionism and four "maxims" were set forth to strengthen the rights of neutrals on the high seas in time of war. These measures marked some progress toward the rule of national appetites by law, and within a year more than forty nations approved the Declaration of Paris. But the young United States stood out for complete freedom of the seas, contending that the maxims did not go far enough, that all innocent private property should be immune on the oceans of the world.

Europe's political resources had been running out. The years 1830 and 1848 had been darkened by barricades and bloodshed, and now the Continent was to sink into the morass of the hundred-year feud between France and Germany. In the mills, workers were ground fine on the wheels that were turning for the glory of Empire--or because of it. On the land, peasants bowed to the czar's manifesto: "Listen, ye heathen . . .

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