Promises of Glory
On December 4, 1918, the former North Germany Lloyd Company liner George Washington, confiscated during the war by the Americans, steamed out of New York harbor, bearing Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. Small boats crowded the Hudson channel, tooting their hopeful farewells. Airplanes soared above, and thousands of cheering people jammed the docksides. Standing at the ship's rail, the President waved his hat to the exulting well-wishers, while the George Washington slipped past the Statue of Liberty and out onto the gray Atlantic.
Several days later, far at sea, Wilson acknowledged to his advisers the difficulties he would face in persuading the Old World statesmen who awaited him at Paris to accept an American peace plan. The President knew that Pershing's modest military successes against Germany had given him little diplomatic leverage on the Allies, and the war's sudden end had virtually struck from his hands the economic "weapons" he had hoped to flourish. But Wilson still had the force of his ideals, and undiminished faith in his favorite political tactic: a direct popular appeal. He still felt confident of his ability to forge from humanity's devotion to his promised peace the most powerful of political instruments. "If necessary," he had said in July 1918, "I