Hoover on Wilson

 

On February 15, 1919 President Wilson left the Paris Peace Conference and sailed for Washington for a whirlwind visit back to the States.  He would return to the Paris Peace Conference on March 24, 1919.  On the whole Wilson believed that things were going well at the conference.  However future President Herbert Hoover, in his book The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, writes that this view was largely an illusion:

 

In the sixty days of the President’s first visit to Europe, he had received stupendous acclaim from the European people. He had established the major principles of the League and had secured agreement for its inclusion in the Treaty with Germany by the unanimous vote of the Conference. He had formed the organization of Relief and Reconstruction, under American direction and on a nonpolitical basis, against the solid opposition of the Allies. He had defined American opposition to the tight blockade on Europe, with its economic degeneration, and had paved the way for some relaxation of it as to food. With the esteem of all Europe and warm good wishes for his return, it seemed at the time of his departure for New York that he had only to come back for a few weeks to this friendly atmosphere and complete a few remaining items to reach his final triumph.

One suggestion of the dissension to come marred the picture. Mrs. Wilson states that, before he left for the United States on February 14, Mr. Wilson had considered asking for Secretary of State Lansing’s resignation because of his lack of enthusiasm for the League. He did not do so but appointed Colonel House as the effective head of the American Delegation.

But while the President was in Washington, his troubles began. There were the Senate demands for amendments to the Covenant.

Even more disturbing, during his absence from Paris, the Allied Prime Ministers began to develop new attitudes about which the American Delegation in Paris kept him informed. By cable he was told of the French demands for the creation of an independent Republic of the Rhineland, their demands for Syria, the British demand for most of the other Arab States, and the Italian demands for all the possessions promised in the secret Pact of London. …

Hoover thought highly of Wilson, having served as the head of the US Food Administration during the War and then as head of the American Relief Administration after the War, which provided lifesaving food to millions starving in Europe.   However, he was not blind to his flaws.  Perhaps the prime flaw of Wilson is a common one for intellectuals:  an inability to understand that other people might disagree with his ideas for reasons other than base motives.  American needed a pragmatic deal maker at the head of the country at this time, but instead we had a stubborn theorist who specialized in building castles in the sky.

Published in: on February 15, 2019 at 7:14 am  Comments Off on Hoover on Wilson  
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