Wilson’s Fourteen Points were addressed to the world on January 8th, 1918 at the Palace of Versailles in Paris to assure his fellow Americans that something was being done towards the war effort in Europe. Wilson wrote the Fourteen Points to promote a lasting world peace by eliminating the factors that caused WWI and to prevent other rising issues from causing another conflict. The most widely known and important points were to prevent any private treaties or alliances between countries; to institute freedom of the seas; to remove all economic barriers or trade restrictions; to reduced national weaponry stores to lowest possible level; to give the public a much larger say in government affairs; and to create of a body of nations that would serve to settle disagreements between and within nations before they grew violent. The other points recommended ways in which Europe be divided after the war ended. (President Wilson, 1918)

The problems that needed to be addressed were alliances, economic barriers, and the build up of weapons within individual nations. He also wanted to create a way for problems to be solved in a peaceful manner before they had a chance to develop into a violent conflict. President Wilson was an idealist and did not realize the angry and vengeful sentiments later expressed by the Allies. The Allies felt that the war was Germany’s fault and that Germany should pay for all of the damage done. Therefore the Allied Powers rejected the majority of Wilson’s points because he did not include any form of punishment or repayment by the Central powers towards the Allies. Even though his Fourteen Points were initially unsuccessful, they were the basis for other reforms and groups such as the United Nations. 

Wilson noticed that many of the countries that became involved in World War I did so because they were forced to by the alliances they had made, especially those that had been made in secret. Britain’s alliances with Japan, Australia, Canada, India, and other countries resulted in their inclusion in the war. For example, a military agreement between Japan and England caused Japan to side with England and declare war on Germany. Due to Austria-Hungary’s alliance with Germany, it in turn declared war on Japan two days later. Those countries may not have ever become involved in the first place if they had not been allied with the six main powers of the war. Blacks from England’s West Indies and Panamanians, specifically after the United States joined the war, were recruited and coerced to fight in the war by the Allies. (BBC) The war would not have included as many deaths as it did had less people had fought in the war. Because people in colonies controlled by the six main nations fueling the war effort were taken in and forced to fight, there were over 15 million deaths and millions more casualties. (firstworldwar.com, 2009) Wilson saw this as a threat to the peace if small conflicts ever did arise.

President Wilson also saw that there were economic issues that had started WWI as well. England and Germany had become economic rivals before WWI due to the rapid industrialization occurring in Europe during the late nineteenth century. This competition for resources and economic issues such as inflation, as has happened in the past, led to Wilson’s conclusion that economy was a large contributor to war and therefore included this in his Fourteen Points to prevent future conflicts of that nature. Wilson also felt, however, that too many modern weapons had been accumulated before the start of the war. Between 1910 and 1914 Germany had increased its defensive military expenses by 73 percent, Britain by 13 percent, and Russia by 39 percent. (Busika Blog) Once the conflicts between Germany and the Allies began, there seemed no other choice but to use the weapons that all of the nations had been accumulating for years. Wilson felt that if countries had fewer weapons they would not feel so compelled to find a use for them.

Finally, in order to insure a more permanent peace between nations, Wilson proposed that a group of nations be formed to negotiate any problems that might have arisen in a peaceful way. He proposed that it be called the League of Nations and that it be comprised of many different nations, allowing it to be a fairer method of negotiation. Wilson wanted to create a better world through peaceful means as well as by eliminating the factors that could possibly threaten the relative peace that had just recently been achieved. Wilson did not want to take any risks, so he drew up the most logical and idealistic ideas he could and hoped they would change the world.


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