Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking, 1918-1919: Missionary Diplomacy and the Realities of Power

By Klaus Schwabe; Rita Kimber et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II

The German-American Dialogue on
Peace and Armistice in October 1918

i. Germany's Appeal to Wilson—Origins and
Responsibilities

ONE

On October 6, 1918, the President of the United States received a note from the German government. This note, which was signed by Chancellor Max of Baden, consisted of only a few lines and read as follows:

The German Government requests the President of the United States of America to take steps for the restoration of peace, to notify all belligerents of this request, and to invite them to delegate plenipotentiaries for the purpose of taking up negotiations. The German Government accepts, as a basis for the peace negotiations, the program laid down by the President of the United States in his message to Congress of January 8, 1918, and in his subsequent pronouncements, particularly in his address of September 27, 1918. In order to avoid further bloodshed the German Government requests to bring about the immediate conclusion of a general armistice on land, on water, and in the air.'

This German request for peace and an armistice did not come as a total surprise to the United States Government, 2 but it still caused considerable stir in Washington; the main enemy of the United States had accepted the American President's peace program as a basis for negotiations. The responsibility for ending four years of world conflict now lay with Woodrow Wilson. It was Germany's peace initiative, of all things, which had cast the United States in the role of arbiter between the warring parties, a role which Wilson had been seeking for a long time. 3 But which forces in Germany had prompted their government to make this peace move? What were their motives, and what did they hope to achieve by this move?

Officials in the United States pondered these questions again and again in the weeks following delivery of the note, and the answers to them can

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