Great Britain and the Creation of the League of Nations: Strategy, Politics, and International Organization, 1914-1919

By George W. Egerton | Go to book overview

3

War and Ideology: The League
of Nations Movement, 1917

The new Lloyd George coalition, which came to power on 7 December 1916, represented those who shared the prime minister's determination to fight the war "to a knock-out." One of the first tasks confronting the new government, however, was to respond to peace notes from both Germany and America. The German note of I2 December was dismissed contemptuously by Britain and France as a political maneuver. But Wilson's note of 18 December demanded careful handling, given the vital dependence of the Allies on American finance and supply. After reelection, fearing a new German submarine offensive, Wilson had determined to test the possibilities of peace. His note called for the clarification of the real war and peace objectives of the belligerents. As stated publicly, these objectives appeared very similar. Furthermore, both sides had expressed interest in a league of nations to ensure peace. Wilson promised that the American people and government were "ready, and even eager" to cooperate fully in this project when the war was over. 1

In preparing a suitable response to Wilson, Cecil and Balfour, now foreign secretary, advised expressing warm sympathy with the president's desire for a league of nations while asking for more specific assurances that the American government "had the will and the power to give armed support to the decisions of any such league." 2 In addition, Wilson was to be made aware that the league project was dependent upon, and not a substitute for, a satisfactory peace.

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