Thomas Woodrow Wilson: 28th Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
The election of 1912 may have been the greatest election we’ve ever had. William Howard Taft was the sitting president being primaried hard by former President Theodore Roosevelt who thought Taft had abandoned many of his progressive measures. Governor of New Jersey and former President of Princeton University Woodrow Wilson represented the Democratic Party.
Roosevelt lost the Republican nomination to Taft but did not bow out. Instead, he ran under the Progressive Party and capsized Taft’s reelection bid. The split of the Republican vote allowed Wilson to win the White House.
Wilson was a southerner and an academic. He is the only president with a doctorate: a PhD in the History of Government from Johns Hopkins.
Wilson was the first President to deliver the State Of The Union in person to Congress since John Adams. Wilson tried to bring the ivory tower to the oval office. He was a collegial leader acting as a first among equals in cabinet meetings where free discussion reigned.
Wilson and Civil Rights
Randy Dotinga recounts, in a 1902 book about American history, how Wilson exposed his bigotry on the page in a passage about immigrants. These words came back to haunt Wilson. He apologized and praised immigrants to the leaders of Polish, Hungarian, and Italian organizations. He even rewrote a new edition of the book, according to Chace’s account of the 1912 election. But this reversal didn’t persuade Wilson to push to remove the ban on blacks at Princeton.
Wilson suffered from “genteel racism,” a prejudice that couldn’t stomach the idea of racial equality or inappropriate behavior in the pursuit of white supremacy. For Wilson, bringing up the existence of racism meant that you were hurting the eradication or alienation of it.
As for relations between the races, he was appalled that the French army allowed blacks to serve next to whites, and he worried about Communism creeping into the US among black veterans returning from World War I. Actually, while Wilson worked with diverse world leaders to spread American values, he was reluctant to enter World War I for fear of further depleting the white race.
Wilson and Segregated Government
As president, Wilson oversaw unprecedented segregation in federal offices which had been surprisingly integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier. At an April 11, 1913, Cabinet meeting, Postmaster General Albert Burleson argued for segregating the Railway Mail Service. He took exception to the fact that workers shared glasses, towels, and washrooms. Wilson offered no objection to Burleson’s plan for segregation, saying that he “wished the matter adjusted in a way to make the least friction.”
Both Burleson and Treasury Secretary William McAdoo took Wilson’s comments as authorization to segregate. The Department of Treasury and Post Office Department both introduced screened-off workspaces, separate lunchrooms, and separate bathrooms. In a 1913 open letter to Wilson, W.E.B. DuBois — who had supported Wilson in the 1912 election before being disenchanted by his segregation policies — wrote of “one colored clerk who could not actually be segregated on account of the nature of his work [and who] consequently had a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions of many years.” That’s right: Black people who couldn’t, logistically, be segregated were put in literal cages.
Outright dismissals were also common. Upon taking office, Wilson himself fired 15 out of 17 black supervisors in the federal service and replaced them with white people. After the Treasury and Post Office began segregating, many black workers were let go. The head of the Internal Revenue division in Georgia fired all his black employees, saying, “There are no government positions for Negroes in the South. A Negro’s place in the corn field.” To enable hiring discrimination going forward, in 1914 the federal government began requiring photographs on job applications.
It’s a shameful side to his legacy that came to a head one fall afternoon in 1914 when he threw the civil-rights leader William Monroe Trotter out of the Oval Office. It’s worth stressing that Wilson’s policies here were racist even for his time. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft had been much better about appointing black statesmen to public office, and other political figures, including whites, attacked Wilson’s moves toward segregation
Wilson and Foreign Affairs
Wilson’s racism even extended to foreign affairs. While it had been customary to appoint black ambassadors to Haiti and Santa Domingo (now the Dominican Republic), Wilson didn’t do that either. At the Versailles Convention in 1919, Wilson helped kill a proposal from Japan calling for the treaty to recognize the principle of racial equality. While 11 out of 17 members at the meeting considering the amendment favored it, Wilson, who was presiding, arbitrarily decided that the amendment had been defeated because the vote wasn’t unanimous. This wasn’t an actual rule that the proceedings were operating under; a simple majority vote was enough to decide that the League of Nations would be headquartered in Geneva. Wilson just really didn’t want the treaty to recognize racial equality and wanted to appease the British Empire, which was premised on subjugating African and South Asian people.
Wilson and the Lost Cause
Wilson was governor of New Jersey when he became president in 1913, but he had been born in Virginia and raised in Georgia and South Carolina. He was, historian William Keylor notes, the first Southerner elected to the presidency since Zachary Taylor in 1848. Southern racists, accordingly, rejoiced his election. “Washington was flooded with revelers from the Old Confederacy, whose people had long dreamed of a return to the glory days of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, when southern gentlemen ran the country,” Keylor writes. “Rebel yells and the strains of ‘Dixie’ reverberated throughout the city.”
Wilson himself was the descendant of Confederate soldiers, and identified deeply with the “Lost Cause” narrative, according to which the Confederacy was a government of noble men trying to preserve a decent agrarian way of life against crude Northern industrialists, rather than a separatist movement premised on white supremacy. Historian Wesley Moody describes Wilson’s most famous book as an academic, A History of the American People, as “steeped in Lost Cause mythology.” The book was generally sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan, describing them as “men half outlawed, denied the suffrage, without hope of justice in the courts, who meant to take this means to make their will felt.” (“This means” being violence and intimidation against black people.)
The following quote from the book even made its way into The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s infamous feature valorizing the Ku Klux Klan as saviors of the South:
The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation ….. until at last there had sprung into existence the great existence of the Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the south, to protect southern country
Lest one think this is a misrepresentation of Wilson’s views, The Birth of a Nation actually cut off the most racist part of the first half of the quote:
The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and conducted in the interest of adventurers.
And that was only the last of three Wilson quote title cards in the film. This one came first:
[A]dventurers swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of one race as of the other, to cozen, beguile, and use the Negroes.…In the villages the Negroes were the office holders, men who knew none of the uses of authority, except its insolences.
And then this one:
The Policy of the congressional leaders wrought…a veritable overthrow of civilization in the South.…in their determination to “put the white South under the heel of the black South.”
For his part, Wilson lent The Birth of a Nation his approval by screening it at the White House and reportedly telling Griffith that it could “teach history with lightning.”
Wilson and Reconstruction
Elsewhere in the book, Wilson attacked Reconstruction on the grounds that “the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.” He was strongly against black suffrage:
It was a menace to society itself that the negroes should thus of a sudden be set free and left without tutelage or restraint.”
He praised those freed slaves who “stayed very quietly by their old masters and gave no trouble” but bemoaned that they were the exception, the being “vagrants, looking for pleasure and gratuitous fortune” who inevitably “turned thieves or importunate beggars. The tasks of ordinary labor stood untouched; the idlers grew insolent; dangerous nights went anxiously by, for fear of riot and incendiary fire.”
At the end of Reconstruction, “Negro rule under unscrupulous adventurers had been finally put an end to in the South, and the natural, inevitable ascendancy of the whites, the responsible class, established.” In a 1881 article that went unpublished, Wilson defended the South’s suppression of black voters, saying that they were being denied the vote not because their skin was dark but because their minds were dark.
Wilson’s racism wasn’t the matter of a few unfortunate remarks here or there. It was a core part of his political identity, as indicated both by his anti-black policies as president and by his writings before taking office. It is completely accurate to describe him as a racist and white supremacist and condemn him accordingly.
Wilson and the Great Migration
The Great Migration was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest and West that occurred between 1916 and 1970. It was caused primarily by the poor economic conditions as well as the prevalent racial segregation and discrimination in the Southern states where Jim Crow laws were upheld.
The historic change brought by the migration was amplified because the migrants, for the most part, moved to the then largest cities in the United States (New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Washington DC) at a time when those cities had a central cultural, social, political, and economic influence over the United States. There, African Americans established influential communities of their own.
From the earliest U.S. population statistics in 1780 until 1910, more than 90% of the African-American population lived in the American South. By the end of the Great Migration, just over half of the African-American population lived in the South, while a little less than half lived in the North and West. Moreover, the African-American population had become highly urbanized.
In 1900, only one-fifth of African Americans in the South were living in urban areas. By 1960, half of the African Americans in the South lived in urban areas, and by 1970, more than 80% of African Americans nationwide lived in cities.
In 1991, Nicholas Lemann wrote:
The Great Migration was one of the largest and most rapid mass internal movements in history—perhaps the greatest not caused by the immediate threat of execution or starvation. In sheer numbers, it outranks the migration of any other ethnic group—Italians or Irish or Jews or Poles—to the United States. For blacks, the migration meant leaving what had always been their economic and social base in America and finding a new one.
Some historians differentiate between a first Great Migration (1916–40), which saw about 1.6 million people move from mostly rural areas in the South to northern industrial cities, and a Second Great Migration (1940–70), which began after the Great Depression and brought at least 5 million people—including many townspeople with urban skills—to the North and West. Since the Civil Rights Movement, the trend has reversed, with more African-Americans moving to the South—albeit far more slowly. Dubbed the New Great Migration, these moves were generally spurred by the economic difficulties of cities in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, growth of jobs in the “New South” and its lower cost of living, family and kinship ties, and improved racial relations.
East St. Louis Massacre
The East St. Louis Massacre was a series of outbreaks of labor- and race-related violence by White Americans who murdered between 40 and 250 African-Americans in late May and early July 1917. Another 6,000 black people were left homeless and the burning and vandalism cost approximately $400,000 ($7,982,000 in 2021) in property damage. The events took place in and near East St. Louis, Illinois, an industrial city on the east bank of the Mississippi River, directly opposite the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
The July 1917 episode in particular was marked by white-led violence throughout the city. The multi-day massacre has been described as the “worst case of labor-related violence in 20th-century American history”, and among the worst racial massacres in U.S. history.
In the aftermath, the East St. Louis Chamber of Commerce called for the resignation of the local police chief because officers were told not to shoot white citizens and were unable to suppress the violence and destruction. A number of black people left the city permanently; black enrollment in public schools in the area had dropped by 35% by the time schools opened in the fall. At the end of July, some 10,000 black citizens marched in silent protest in New York City in condemnation of the massacre.
1917 Chester Race Riot
The 1917 Chester race riot was a race riot in Chester, Pennsylvania that took place over four days in July 1917. Racial tensions in Chester increased greatly during the World War I industrial boom due to white hostility toward the large influx of southern blacks who moved North as part of the Great Migration.
The riot began when a black man stabbed and killed a white man and escalated into a four day violent melee involving mobs of hundreds of people. The Chester police along with the Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania State Police, mounted police officers and a 150 person posse finally quelled the riot after four days. The riot resulted in 7 deaths, 28 gunshot wounds, 360 arrests and hundreds of hospitalizations.
Houston Riot of 1917
The Houston Riot of 1917 (August 23) was a mutiny and riot by 156 soldiers of the Third Battalion of the all-black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry Regiment. The events of the riot occurred within a climate of overt hostility from members of the Houston Police Department against members of the local black community and black soldiers stationed there. Following an incident, where police officers arrested and assaulted some black soldiers, many black soldiers at Camp Logan mutinied and marched to Houston, where they opened fire and killed numerous people.
The events took place over a single night, and resulted in the deaths of 11 civilians and five policemen. Four soldiers were also killed and Sergeant Vida Henry, who led the mutineers, died by suicide. In accordance with policies of the time, the soldiers were tried at three court-martials for mutiny. Nineteen were executed, and 41 were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Harlem Renaissance (1918 – mid 1930s) was an intellectual and cultural revival of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, theater and politics centered in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, spanning the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the “New Negro Movement”, named after The New Negro, a 1925 anthology edited by Alain Locke. The movement also included the new African-American cultural expressions across the urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest United States affected by a renewed militancy in the general struggle for civil rights for African-Americans that occurred in the wake of civil rights struggles in the then-still-segregated US Armed Forces in WWI and which was further inspired by the NAACP, the Garveyite movement and the Russian Revolution, combined with the Great Migration of African-American workers fleeing the racist conditions of the Jim Crow Deep South, Harlem being the final destination of the largest number of those who migrated north.
Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood, many francophone black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the movement] Many of its ideas lived on much longer.
The zenith of this “flowering of Negro literature”, as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, took place between 1924—when Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance—and 1929, the year of the stock-market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. The Harlem Renaissance is considered to have been a rebirth of the African-American arts. Many people would argue that the Harlem Renaissance never ended and has continued to be an important cultural force in the United States through the decades: from the age of stride piano jazz and blues to the ages of bebop, rock and roll, soul, disco and hip-hop.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr. (August 1887 – June 10, 1940) was a Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator. He was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL, commonly known as UNIA), through which he declared himself Provisional President of Africa. Ideologically a black nationalist and Pan-Africanist, his ideas came to be known as Garveyism.
Garvey was born to a moderately prosperous Afro-Jamaican family in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, and apprenticed into the print trade as a teenager. Working in Kingston, he became involved in trade unionism before living briefly in Costa Rica, Panama, and England. Returning to Jamaica, he founded UNIA in 1914. In 1916, he moved to the United States and established a UNIA branch in New York City’s Harlem district.
Emphasizing unity between Africans and the African diaspora, he campaigned for an end to European colonial rule across Africa and the political unification of the continent. He envisioned a unified Africa as a one-party state, governed by himself, that would enact laws to ensure black racial purity. Although he never visited the continent, he was committed to the Back-to-Africa movement, arguing that some people of African descent should migrate there.
Garveyist ideas became increasingly popular and UNIA grew in membership. However, his black separatist views—and his relations with white racists such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to advance their shared interest in racial separatism—divided Garvey from other prominent African-American civil rights activists such as W. E. B. Du Bois who promoted racial integration.
Committed to the belief that black people needed to secure financial independence from white-dominant society, Garvey launched various businesses in the U.S., including the Negro Factories Corporation and Negro World newspaper. In 1919, he became President of the Black Star Line shipping and passenger company, designed to forge a link between North America and Africa and facilitate African-American migration to Liberia.
In 1923 Garvey was convicted of mail fraud for selling the company’s stock and imprisoned in the United States Penitentiary Atlanta for nearly two years. Many commentators have argued that the trial was politically motivated; Garvey blamed Jewish people, claiming that they were prejudiced against him because of his links to the KKK.
Deported to Jamaica in 1927, where he settled in Kingston with his wife Amy Jacques, Garvey continued his activism and established the People’s Political Party in 1929, briefly serving as a city councillor. With UNIA in increasing financial difficulty, in 1935 he relocated to London, where his anti-socialist stance distanced him from many of the city’s black activists. He died there in 1940, although in 1964 his body was returned to Jamaica for reburial in Kingston’s National Heroes Park.
Garvey was a controversial figure. Some in the African diasporic community regarded him as a pretentious demagogue and were highly critical of his collaboration with white supremacists, his violent rhetoric, and his prejudice against mixed-race people and Jews. He nevertheless received praise for encouraging a sense of pride and self-worth among Africans and the African diaspora amid widespread poverty, discrimination, and colonialism.
Red Summer is the period from late winter through early autumn of 1919 during which white supremacist terrorism and racial riots took place in more than three dozen cities across the United States, as well as in one rural county in Arkansas. The term “Red Summer” was coined by civil rights activist and author James Weldon Johnson, who had been employed as a field secretary by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1916. In 1919, he organized peaceful protests against the racial violence which had occurred that summer.
In most instances, attacks consisted of white-on-black violence. However, numerous African Americans also fought back, notably in the Chicago and Washington, D.C. race riots, which resulted in 38 and 15 deaths, respectively, along with even more injuries, and extensive property damage in Chicago. Still, the highest number of fatalities occurred in the rural area around Elaine, Arkansas, where an estimated 100–240 black people and five white people were killed—an event now known as the Elaine massacre.
The anti-black riots developed from a variety of post-World War I social tensions, generally related to the demobilization of both black and white members of the United States Armed Forces following World War I; an economic slump; and increased competition in the job and housing markets between ethnic European Americans and African Americans. The time would also be marked by labor unrest, for which certain industrialists used black people as strikebreakers, further inflaming the resentment of white workers.
The riots and killings were extensively documented by the press, which, along with the federal government, feared socialist and communist influence on the black civil rights movement of the time following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. They also feared foreign anarchists, who had bombed the homes and businesses of prominent figures and government leaders.
Chicago Race Riot of 1919
The Chicago race riot of 1919 was a violent racial conflict started by white Americans against black Americans that began on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, on July 27 and ended on August 3, 1919. During the riot, 38 people died (23 black and 15 white).
Over the week, injuries attributed to the episodic confrontations stood at 537, with two thirds of the injured being black and one third white, and approximately 1,000 to 2,000, most of whom were black, lost their homes. It is considered the worst of the nearly 25 riots and civil disturbances in the United States during the “Red Summer” of 1919, named because of the racial and labor violence and fatalities across the nation. The prolonged conflict made it one of the worst riots in the history of Illinois.
In early 1919, the sociopolitical atmosphere of Chicago around and near its rapidly-growing black community was one of ethnic tension caused by racism and competition among new groups, an economic slump, and the social changes engendered by the involvement of the United States in World War I. With the Great Migration, thousands of African Americans from the American South had settled next to neighborhoods of European immigrants on Chicago’s South Side near jobs in the stockyards, meatpacking plants, and industry. Meanwhile, the Irish had been established earlier, and they fiercely defended their territory and political power against all newcomers.
Racism and tensions caused inter-community frictions, especially in the competitive labor and housing markets. Overcrowding and the increased African American resistance against racism, especially by war veterans contributed to the visible racial frictions. Also, a combination of ethnic gangs and police neglect strained the racial relationships.
The turmoil came to a boil during a summer heat wave with the murder of the 17-year-old Eugene Williams, an African American who had inadvertently drifted into a white swimming area at an informally-segregated beach near 29th Street. A group of African-American youths were diving from a 14 foot by 9 foot raft that they had constructed. When the raft drifted into the “white beach area,” one white beachgoer was indignant, began hurling rocks at the young men, striking Williams, and caused the teen to drown. The official coroner’s report cited that Williams drowned because the stonethrowing had kept him from coming to shore.
When black beachgoers complained that whites attacked them, violence expanded into neighborhoods in which white mobs attacked innocent black residents. Tensions between groups arose in a melee, which blew up into days of unrest. Black neighbors near white areas were attacked, white gangs went into black neighborhoods, and black workers seeking to get to and from work were attacked. Meanwhile, some blacks organized to resist and protect, and some whites sought to lend aid to blacks, but the Chicago Police Department often turned a blind eye or worse.
Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson had a game of brinksmanship with Illinois Governor Frank Lowden, which may have exacerbated the riot since Thompson refused to ask Lowden to send in the Illinois Army National Guard for four days although Lowden had ensured that the guardsmen were called up, organized in Chicago’s armories, and ready to intervene.
After the riots, Lowden convened the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, a nonpartisan interracial investigative committee, to investigate the causes and to propose solutions to racial tensions. Their conclusions were published in 1922 by the University of Chicago Press as The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot. President Wilson and the US Congress attempted to promote legislation and organizations to decrease racial discord in America.
Governor Lowden took several actions at Thompson’s request to quell the riot and promote greater harmony in its aftermath. Sections of the Chicago economy were shut down for several days during and after the riots since plants were closed to avoid interaction among the bickering groups. While Thompson drew on his association with the riot to influence later political elections, one of the most lasting effects may have been decisions in both white and black communities to seek greater separation from each other.
Omaha Race Riot of 1919
The Omaha race riot occurred in Omaha, Nebraska, September 28–29, 1919. The race riot resulted in the lynching of Will Brown, a black civilian; the death of two white rioters; the injuries of many Omaha Police Department officers and civilians, including the attempted hanging of Mayor Edward Parsons Smith; and a public rampage by thousands of white rioters who set fire to the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Omaha. It followed more than 20 race riots that occurred in major industrial cities of the United States during the Red Summer of 1919.
Charleston Riot of 1919
The Charleston riot of 1919 took place on the night of Saturday, May 10, between members of the US Navy and the local black population. They attacked black individuals, businesses, and homes killing six and injuring dozens.
Longview Race Riot
The Longview race riot was a series of violent incidents in Longview, Texas, between July 10 and July 12, 1919, when whites attacked black areas of town, killed one black man, and burned down several properties, including the houses of a black teacher and a doctor. It was one of the many race riots in 1919 in the United States during what became known as Red Summer, a period after World War I known for numerous riots occurring mostly in urban areas.
The riot ended after local and state officials took actions to impose military authority and quell further violence. After ignoring early rumors of planned unrest, local officials appealed to the governor for forces to quell the violence. In a short time, the Texas National Guard and Texas Rangers sent forces to the town, where the Guard organized an occupation and curfew. Some men were shot and numerous black homes and businesses were burned prior to the arrival of the law enforcement and military units. One black man was shot and killed by armed whites before the National Guard occupied the town. No one was prosecuted for the events, although numerous whites and blacks were arrested. The black suspects were taken to Austin for their safety; half were advised against ever returning to Longview.
Knoxville Riot of 1919
The Knoxville riot of 1919 was a race riot that took place in the American city of Knoxville, Tennessee, on August 30–31, 1919. The riot began when a lynch mob stormed the county jail in search of Maurice Mays, a biracial man who had been accused of murdering a white woman. Unable to find Mays, the rioters looted the jail and fought a pitched gun battle with the residents of a predominantly black neighborhood. The Tennessee National Guard, which at one point fired two machine guns indiscriminately into this neighborhood, eventually dispersed the rioters.[
At the end of August 1919 the Great Falls Daily Tribune reported four killed in a “race war riot”while the Washington Times reported “Scores dead.” Other newspapers placed the death toll at just two, though eyewitness accounts suggest it was much higher.
The Riot of 1919 was one of several violent racial incidents that occurred during the so-called Red Summer when race riots plagued cities across the United States. The riot was one of the worst racial episodes in Knoxville’s history and shattered the city’s vision of itself as a racially tolerant Southern town. After the riot, many black residents left Knoxville, and racial violence continued to flare up sporadically in subsequent years.
The Elaine Massacre occurred on September 30–October 1, 1919 at Hoop Spur in the vicinity of Elaine in rural Phillips County, Arkansas. Some records of the time state that eleven black men and five white men were killed but estimates of deaths made in the immediate aftermath of the Elaine Massacre by eyewitnesses range from 50 to “more than a hundred”. Walter Francis White, an NAACP attorney who visited Elaine shortly after the incident stated “… twenty-five Negroes killed, although some place the Negro fatalities as high as one hundred”. More recent estimates of the number of black people killed during this violence are higher than estimates provided by the eyewitnesses, recently ranging into the hundreds.
The white mobs were aided by federal troops (requested by Arkansas governor Charles Hillman Brough) and terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, “the Elaine Massacre was by far the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas history and possibly the bloodiest racial conflict in the history of the United States”.
After the massacre, state officials concocted an elaborate cover-up, falsely claiming that blacks were planning an insurrection. The cover-up was successful, as national newspapers repeated the falsehood that blacks in Arkansas were staging an insurrection. A New York Times headline read, “Planned Massacre of Whites Today,” and the Arkansas Gazette (the leading newspaper in Arkansas) wrote that Elaine was “a zone of negro insurrection.”
Subsequent to this reporting, more than 100 African-Americans were indicted, with 12 being sentenced to death by electrocution. After a years-long legal battle by the NAACP, the 12 men were acquitted. Because of the widespread attacks which white mobs committed against blacks during the Red Summer of 1919, the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, Alabama classified the black deaths as lynchings in its 2015 report on the lynching of African Americans in the South.
The Ocoee massacre was a white mob attack on African-American residents in northern Ocoee, Florida, which occurred on November 2, 1920, the day of the U.S. presidential election. Most estimates total 30–35 Black people killed. Most African American-owned buildings and residences in northern Ocoee were burned to the ground. Other African Americans living in southern Ocoee were later killed or driven out on threat of more violence. Ocoee essentially became an all-white town. The massacre has been described as the “single bloodiest day in modern American political history”.
The attack was intended to prevent Black citizens from voting. In Ocoee and across the state, various black organizations had been conducting voter registration drives for a year. Black people had essentially been disfranchised in Florida since the beginning of the 20th century.
Mose Norman, a prosperous African-American farmer, tried to vote but was turned away twice on Election Day. Norman was among those working on the voter drive. A white mob surrounded the home of Julius “July” Perry, where Norman was thought to have taken refuge.
After Perry drove away the white mob with gunshots, killing two men and wounding one who tried to break into his house, the mob called for reinforcements from Orlando and Orange County. The whites laid waste to the African-American community in northern Ocoee and eventually killed Perry. They took his body to Orlando and hanged it from a lightpost to intimidate other black people.
Norman escaped, never to be found. Hundreds of other African Americans fled the town, leaving behind their homes and possessions.
“Most of the people living in Ocoee don’t even know that this happened there”, said Pamela Schwartz, chief curator of the Orange County Regional History Center, which sponsored an exhibit on it. For almost a century, many descendants of survivors were not aware of the massacre that occurred in their hometown.
Wilson And The The Constitution
Following Wilson’s election in 1912, the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th amendments were ratified. Three would be transformational, but one would be infamous.
Article I, Section 2 and Section 9 create the “rule of apportionment,” which required Congress to tax each state based on the state’s population rather than taxing individuals based on personal wealth or property. For example, if the people of Delaware were four percent of the U.S. population, they would pay four percent of the total federal tax. In 1895, the U.S. Supreme Court in Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan & Trust Co. declared that a federal income tax (imposed on property owned by individuals) was unconstitutional because it violated this “rule of apportionment.”
Although a direct income tax had previously been imposed during the Civil War, the Court’s ruling in Pollock spurred Congress to pass and send to the states Amendment XVI. This provision gives Congress the power to impose a uniform, direct income tax without being subject to the apportionment rule. It has become the basis for all subsequent federal income tax legislation and has greatly expanded the scope of federal taxing and spending in the years since its passage. The Sixteenth Amendment was ratified by the states in 1913.
Under Article I, Section 3, two senators from each state were elected by the legislature of each state. Under this scheme senators represented the states to the federal Union, and members of the House represented the local voters in their district.
But a series of scandalous elections and widespread political infighting in state legislatures led Progressives to call for the election of senators by voters of each state. Ratified by the states in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment provides that senators be elected by the people directly.
Ratified on January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the making, transporting and selling of alcoholic beverages. Adopted at the urging of a national temperance movement, proponents believed that the use of alcohol was reckless and destructive and that prohibition would reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, decrease the need for welfare and prisons, and improve the health of all Americans. During prohibition, it is estimated that alcohol consumption and alcohol related deaths declined dramatically.
But prohibition had other, more negative consequences. The amendment drove the lucrative alcohol business underground, giving rise to a large and pervasive black market. In addition, prohibition encouraged disrespect for the law and strengthened organized crime. Prohibition came to an end with the ratification of Amendment XXI on December 5, 1933.
For much of American history, certain groups of people, including African Americans and women, did not have the right to vote. The struggle for women’s voting rights — also known as the women’s suffrage movement — lasted through much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Although some states permitted women to vote and to hold office prior to the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment, the ratification of Amendment XIX on August 18, 1920, extended voting rights to all women. Since ratification, women’s right to vote has become commonly accepted by Americans.
Wilson and New Freedom
The New Freedom was Woodrow Wilson’s campaign platform in the 1912 presidential election, and also refers to the progressive programs enacted by Wilson during his first term as president from 1913 to 1916 (excluding wartime policy) while the Democrats controlled Congress. First expressed in his campaign speeches and promises, Wilson later wrote a 1913 book of the same name. After the 1918 midterm elections, Republicans took control of Congress and were mostly hostile to the New Freedom.
As president, Wilson focused on three types of reform:
- Tariff reform: This came through the passage of the Underwood Tariff Act of 1913, which lowered tariffs for the first time since 1857 and went against the protectionist lobby.
- Business reform: This was established through the passage of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, which established the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and halt unfair and illegal business practices by issuing “cease and desist” orders, and the Clayton Antitrust Act.
- Banking reform: This came in 1913 through the creation of the Federal Reserve System and in 1916 through the passage of the Federal Farm Loan Act, which set up Farm Loan Banks to support farmers.
Wilson’s First Term
After his election, Wilson told the chairman of the Democratic Party: “Remember that God ordained that I should be the next president of the United States.” Wilson later said that the United States had been created by God “to show the way to the nations of the world how they shall walk in the paths of liberty.” During his first term, he initiated a long list of major domestic reforms. These included:
Wilson Signs The Revenue Act of 1913
The Revenue Act of 1913 re-established a federal income tax in the United States and substantially lowered tariff rates. Wilson and other members of the Democratic Party had long seen high tariffs as equivalent to unfair taxes on consumers, and tariff reduction was President Wilson’s first priority upon taking office.
Following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, Democratic leaders agreed to seek passage of a major bill that would dramatically lower tariffs and implement an income tax. Representative Oscar Underwood quickly shepherded the revenue bill through the House of Representatives, but the bill won approval in the United States Senate only after extensive lobbying by the Wilson administration. Wilson signed the bill into law on October 3, 1913.
The Revenue Act of 1913 lowered average tariff rates from 40 percent to 26 percent. It also established a one percent tax on income above $3,000 per year; the tax affected approximately three percent of the population. A separate provision established a corporate tax of one percent, superseding a previous tax that had only applied to corporations with net incomes greater than $5,000 per year. Though a Republican-controlled Congress would later raise tariff rates, the Revenue Act of 1913 marked an important shift in federal revenue policy, as government revenue would increasingly rely on income taxes rather than tariff duties.
Wilson Signs The Federal Reserve Act
The Federal Reserve Act was passed by the 63rd United States Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913. The law created the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States.
The Panic of 1907 convinced many Americans of the need to establish a central banking system, which the country had lacked since the Bank War of the 1830s. After Democrats won unified control of Congress and the presidency in the 1912 elections, President Wilson, Congressman Carter Glass, and Senator Robert Latham Owen crafted a central banking bill that occupied a middle ground between the Aldrich Plan, which called for private control of the central banking system, and progressives like William Jennings Bryan, who favored government control over the central banking system. Wilson made the bill a top priority of his New Freedom domestic agenda, and he helped ensure that it passed both houses of Congress without major amendments.
Federal Reserve System
The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve or simply the Fed) is the central banking system of the United States of America. It was created on December 23, 1913, with the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, after a series of financial panics (particularly the panic of 1907) led to the desire for central control of the monetary system in order to alleviate financial crises. Over the years, events such as the Great Depression in the 1930s and the Great Recession during the 2000s have led to the expansion of the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System.
The U.S. Congress established three key objectives for monetary policy in the Federal Reserve Act:
- maximizing employment
- stabilizing prices
- moderating long-term interest rates
The first two objectives are sometimes referred to as the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate. Its duties have expanded over the years, and currently also include supervising and regulating banks, maintaining the stability of the financial system, and providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions.The Fed also conducts research into the economy and provides numerous publications, such as the Beige Book and the FRED database.
The Federal Reserve System is composed of several layers. It is governed by the presidentially appointed board of governors or Federal Reserve Board (FRB). Twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, located in cities throughout the nation, regulate and oversee privately owned commercial banks. Nationally chartered commercial banks are required to hold stock in, and can elect some of the board members of, the Federal Reserve Bank of their region.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) sets monetary policy. It consists of all seven members of the board of governors and the twelve regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents, though only five bank presidents vote at a time (the president of the New York Fed and four others who rotate through one-year voting terms). There are also various advisory councils. Thus, the Federal Reserve System has both public and private components.[list 2] It has a structure unique among central banks, and is also unusual in that the United States Department of the Treasury, an entity outside of the central bank, prints the currency used.
The federal government sets the salaries of the board’s seven governors, and it receives all the system’s annual profits, after dividends on member banks’ capital investments are paid, and an account surplus is maintained. In 2015, the Federal Reserve earned a net income of $100.2 billion and transferred $97.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury. Although an instrument of the US Government, the Federal Reserve System considers itself “an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by Congress, and the terms of the members of the board of governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms.
Wilson Signs The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914
The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 established the Federal Trade Commission. The Act was signed into law by US President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 and outlaws unfair methods of competition and unfair acts or practices that affect commerce.
The Federal Trade Commission Act does more than create the Commission:
Under this Act, the Commission is empowered, among other things, to (a) prevent unfair methods of competition, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce; (b) seek monetary redress and other relief for conduct injurious to consumers; (c) prescribe trade regulation rules defining with specificity acts or practices that are unfair or deceptive, and establishing requirements designed to prevent such acts or practices; (d) conduct investigations relating to the organization, business, practices, and management of entities engaged in commerce; and (e) make reports and legislative recommendations to Congress.
The Federal Trade Commission Act works in conjunction with the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act. Any violations of the Sherman Act also violates the Federal Trade Commission Act and so the Federal Trade Commission can act on cases that violate either act. The Federal Trade Commission Act and both antitrust laws were created for the sole objective to “protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.” The acts are considered the core of antitrust laws and are still very important in today’s society.
This commission was authorized to issue “cease and desist” orders to large corporations to curb unfair trade practices. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission Act is also considered a measure that protects privacy since it allows the FTC to penalize companies that violate their own policies by false advertising and other actions that can harm consumers. Some of the unfair methods of competition that were targeted include deceptive advertisements and pricing.
The act was part of a bigger movement in the early 20th century to use special groups like commissions to regulate and oversee certain forms of business. The act passed the Senate by a 43-5 vote on September 8, 1914 and the House on September 10 without a tally of yeas and nays. It was signed into law by President Wilson on September 26.
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil (non-criminal) U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection. The FTC shares jurisdiction over federal civil antitrust enforcement in the United States with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. It is headquartered in the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, DC.
It’s headed by five Commissioners, each serving a seven-year term. Commissioners are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. No more than three Commissioners can be of the same political party. The President chooses one Commissioner to act as Chairman.
The FTC was established in 1914 with the passage of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, who was a strong proponent of it, the Federal Trade Commission Act was a major response to 19th-century monopolistic trusts. Trusts and trust-busting were significant political concerns during the Progressive Era.
Since its inception, the FTC has enforced the provisions of the Clayton Act, a key antitrust statute, as well as the provisions of the FTC Act. Over time, the FTC has been delegated with the enforcement of additional business regulation statutes and has promulgated a number of regulations (codified in Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations). The broad statutory authority granted to the FTC provides it with more surveillance and monitoring abilities than it actually uses.
Wilson Signs the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914
The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 was a part of United States antitrust law with the goal of adding further substance to the U.S. antitrust law regime; the Clayton Act sought to prevent anti-competitive practices in their infancy. That regime started with the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the first Federal law outlawing practices that were harmful to consumers (monopolies, cartels, and trusts).
The Clayton Act specified particular prohibited conduct, the three-level enforcement scheme, the exemptions, and the remedial measures. Like the Sherman Act, much of the substance of the Clayton Act has been developed and animated by the U.S. courts, particularly the Supreme Court.
The Clayton Act made both substantive and procedural modifications to federal antitrust law. Substantively, the act seeks to capture anticompetitive practices in their incipiency by prohibiting particular types of conduct, not deemed in the best interest of a competitive market. There are 4 sections of the bill that proposed substantive changes in the antitrust laws by way of supplementing the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. In those sections, the Act thoroughly discusses the following four principles of economic trade and business:
- price discrimination between different purchasers if such a discrimination substantially lessens competition or tends to create a monopoly in any line of commerce
- sales on the condition that:
- (A) the buyer or lessee not deal with the competitors of the seller or lessor (“exclusive dealings”) or
- (B) the buyer also purchase another different product (“tying”) but only when these acts substantially lessen competition
- mergers and acquisitions where the effect may substantially lessen competition or where the voting securities and assets threshold is met
- any person from being a director of two or more competing corporations, if those corporations would violate the antitrust criteria by merging
Wilson Signs The Seamen’s Act
The Seamen’s Act (enacted March 4, 1915) was designed to improve the safety and security of United States seamen and eliminate Shanghaiing. It’s been described as the Magna Carta of sailors’ rights.
Provisions of the act include:
- abolish imprisonment for desertion
- reduce penalties for disobedience
- regulate the working hours of seamen both at sea and in port
- establish a minimum quality for rations supplied to seamen
- regulate the payment of wages to seamen
- establish a harsh penalty of double wages per day that any wages remained unpaid upon a sailor’s discharge (which resulted in one case in 1982 where the U.S. Supreme Court awarded $302,790.40 to a sailor who had been discharged with $412.50 in unpaid wages)
- set safety requirements, including the provision of lifeboats
- require a minimum percentage of the seamen aboard a vessel to be qualified able seamen
- require at least 75% of the seamen aboard a vessel to understand the language spoken by the officers
Wilson Signs The Federal Farm Loan Act
The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 (enacted July 17, 1916) was a United States federal law aimed at increasing credit to rural family farmers. It did so by creating a federal farm loan board, twelve regional farm loan banks and tens of farm loan associations. Sponsored by Senator Henry F. Hollis (D) of New Hampshire and Representative Asbury F. Lever (D) of South Carolina, it was a reintroduced version of the Hollis-Bulkley Act of 1914 that had not passed Congress due to Wilson’s opposition.
In 1908, the Administration of Theodore Roosevelt commissioned a study on the problems facing rural families. At this point in U.S. history, these families made up the largest demographic of Americans. The commission concluded that access to credit was one of the most serious problems facing rural farmers and recommended the introduction of a cooperative credit system.
Four years later, Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson sent a commission of Americans to study cooperative credit systems for farmers in Europe. Components of such European programs at the time included cooperative land-mortgage banks and rural credit unions. This commission concluded that the best form of cooperative credit system would include both long-term credit to cover land mortgages and short-term credit to cover regular business needs
The Act established the Federal Farm Loan Board to oversee and supervise federal land banks and national farm loan associations. It was also responsible for setting benchmark rates of interest for mortgages and bonds. Finally, it could intervene when it thought specific banks were making irresponsible loans.
The twelve Federal Land Banks were required to hold at least $750,000 in capital. Stock ownership of the banks were held by national farm loan associations and other interested investors, including any individual, corporation or fund. In the case of insufficient capital, the U.S. Treasury (through the Federal Farm Loan Board) made up the difference. When additional subscriptions were made from other sources, federal ownership in the banks was retired.
National Farm Loan Associations were established groups of 10 or more mortgage-holding farmers who together owned 5% or more of a federal land bank. Once formed, they were subject to a charter review process by the Federal Farm Loan Board. This structure aimed to align the incentives of individual farmers with the banks, as farmers held two roles: borrowers and lenders.
The act furthered Wilson’s reputation against trusts and big business. By providing small farmers with competitive loans, they were now more able to compete with big business. As a result, the likelihood of agricultural monopolies decreased.
While Wilson’s commission suggested that short-term credit also be incorporated in any nationalized credit system, the Act lacked this crucial component. Due to increased competition and the need for agriculture machinery, a system for short-term credit was incorporated into the current system in Agricultural Credits Act of 1923.
Wilson Signs The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916
The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 (enacted July 11) and was the first federal highway funding legislation in the United States. With the Model T craze roaring along, the demand for better roads was irresistible. The Act provided federal subsidies to road-building efforts.
The Federal Aid Road Act, as the first federal highway funding law, was instrumental in extending and improving the country’s road system. Prior to its passage (and for several decades afterward), the condition of many roads was deplorable; “They were often little more than trails that were muddy in the rain and dusty the rest of the time. Any long trip by automobile required not only time, patience, and ingenuity, but tire-patching equipment, tools, spare parts, and emergency food and fuel”.
A growing interest in road improvements was spurred by farmers who needed roads to take their goods to market, the introduction of Rural Free Delivery by the Postal Service, and the burgeoning popularity of the personal automobile. The 1907 Supreme Court case Wilson v. Shaw also paved the way for passage of the roads act by holding that the Commerce Clause authorized Congress to construct interstate highways.
By 1917, every state had a highway agency to administer the federal funds. World War I and its concomitant demands on personnel and materials impeded the implementation of the 1916 act, as did the act’s small appropriation and its limit on federal funding to $10,000 per mile. These and other problems were addressed in the next national road bill, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921.
Wilson Signs The Warehouse Act of 1916
The Warehouse Act of 1916 (enacted August 11) permitted Federal Reserve member banks to give loans to farmers on the security of their staple crops which were kept in Federal storage units as collateral. United States President Woodrow Wilson proposed the Warehouse Act at a political nomination convention in Sea Girt, New Jersey on September 2, 1916:
For the farmers of the country we have virtually created commercial credit, by means of the Federal Reserve Act and the Rural Credits Act. They now have the standing of other business men in the money market. We have successfully regulated speculation in “futures” and established standards in the marketing of grains. By an intelligent Warehouse Act we have assisted to make the standard crops available as never before both for systematic marketing and as a security for loans from the banks. We have greatly added to the work of neighborhood demonstration on the farm itself of improved methods of cultivation, and, through the intelligent extension of the functions of the Department of Agriculture, have made it possible for the farmer to learn systematically where his best markets are and how to get at them.
Wilson Signs The National Park Service Organic Act
The National Park Service Organic Act is a United States federal law that established the National Park Service (NPS), an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. The Act was signed into law on August 25, 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson, and is codified in Title 16 of the United States Code.
The act was sponsored by Representative William Kent (I) of California and Senator Reed Smoot (R) of Utah. First NPS Director Stephen Mather was put in charge of supervising and maintaining all designated national parks, battlefields, historic places, and monuments.
National parks began to be designated in the second half of the 19th century, and national monuments in the early part of the 20th century. Each park or monument was managed individually or, alternately in some cases, by the United States Army, each with varying degrees of success.
Beginning in 1910, the American Civic Association with the support of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Sierra Club had led the call for a federal service to manage the parks. The noted landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was also a booster of a single national organization to manage the National Parks.
Beginning in 1911, Smoot and Representative John E. Raker of California had submitted bills to establish the National Park Service to oversee the management of all these holdings. The bills were opposed by the director of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, and his supporters. The Forest Service believed that a National Park Service would be a threat to continued Forest Service control of public lands that had been set aside for the timber trade.
A successful and influential industrialist, Mather was challenged by Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane to lobby for legislation creating a bureau to oversee the National Parks. Mather accepted pro bono (accepting a perfunctory salary of $1) and with assistance primarily by a young lawyer named Horace Albright a campaign was begun.
By 1915, regular meetings were occurring at Kent’s home in Washington. The group’s regulars were Kent, J. Horace McFarland of the American Civic Association, and the few Washington staff members of the Department of the Interior responsible the National Parks.
The National Park Service established by the Act “shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”.
Wilson Signs The Keating-Owen Act
The Keating–Owen Child Labor Act of 1916 was a short-lived statute enacted by the U.S. Congress which sought to address child labor by prohibiting the sale in interstate commerce of goods produced by factories that employed children under fourteen, mines that employed children younger than sixteen, and any facility where children under fourteen worked after 7:00 p.m. or before 6:00 a.m. or more than eight hours daily. After its original failure to be enacted, the bill was revised and re-introduced to Congress, where it was finally accepted.
The basis for the action was the constitutional clause giving Congress the task of regulating interstate commerce. The Act specified that the U.S. Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Agriculture would convene a caucus to publish from time to time uniform rules and regulations to comply with the Act.
To enforce the Act, the Secretary of Labor would assign inspectors to perform inspections of workplaces that produce goods for commerce. The inspectors would have the authority to make unannounced visits and would be given full access to the facility in question. Anyone found in acceptance of this Act or who gave false evidence would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.
Lewis Hine’s photography focusing on labor in America was among the factors that led to a change in attitudes about labor policy. This image was used on a 1998 US stamp to commemorate the passage of the Keating–Owen Act.
The bill was named for its sponsors: Edward Keating and Robert Latham Owen, and was signed into law in 1916 by President Wilson, who had lobbied heavily for its passage. It went into effect September 1, 1917; however, it was ruled unconstitutional nine months later in Hammer v. Dagenhart.
Wilson Signs The Adamson Act
The Adamson Act (passed September 2, 1916) was a United States federal law passed that established an eight-hour workday, with additional pay for overtime work, for interstate railroad workers. Named for Georgia representative William C. Adamson, this was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies.
The terms that were embodied in the act were negotiated by a committee of the four railroad labor brotherhoods of engineers, firemen, brakemen and conductors, chaired by Austin B. Garretson. Garretson was the respected leader of the conductors’ union. He had formerly been a member of the President’s Commission on Industrial Relations, investigating the causes of industrial violence. Congress passed the Act in order to avoid a nationwide strike.
The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in 1917. When the railroads refused to abide by the law while their court challenge to its constitutionality was pending, the railway unions began preparing again to strike. The Supreme Court’s decision brought the employers around, however, and they entered into settlement discussions concerning implementation of the law.
The unions’ success spurred other railway employees not covered by the Act to press similar demands. Their negotiations were leading to a strike when President Wilson, exercising the authority granted by the Army Appropriations Act of 1916, took over operation of the railroads on December 26, 1917.
Wilson Signs the Federal Employees Compensation Act
The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), is a United States federal law, enacted on September 7, 1916. Sponsored by Sen. John W. Kern (D) of Indiana and Rep. Daniel J. McGillicuddy (D) of Maine, it established compensation to federal civil service employees for wages lost due to job-related injuries. This act became the precedent for “disability insurance” across the country and the precursor to broad-coverage health insurance.
The Federal Employees’ Compensation Commission was the original administrator of the FECA; however, the Commission did not exist at the time the FECA went into effect and claims accumulated for more than six months while members were selected and sworn into office. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Commission officially began its duties on March 14, 1917, and was abolished on May 16, 1946 by President Harry S. Truman as part of the Reorganization Act of 1939. Its duties were transferred to the Federal Security Agency on July 16, 1946, and the Act is now administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Unlike Roosevelt, who believed that big business could be successfully regulated by government, Woodrow Wilson believed that the federal government should break up big businesses in order to restore as much competition as possible.
Wilson Rides the Bull Moose To Reelection
The Bull Moose platform expressed Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”: a strong government to regulate industry, protect the middle and working classes, and carry on great national projects. This New Nationalism was paternalistic, in direct contrast to Wilson’s individualistic philosophy of “New Freedom”.
When Wilson’s first term expired, the nation was on the brink of entering the bloodiest conflict in human history. He had definite ideas about how the postwar peace should look, but he would have to survive reelection first. As an appeal to the Roosevelt Progressives, he signed many legislative measures suggested by the Bull Moose Campaign and became the first Democratic presidential candidate to earn a second term since Andrew Jackson in 1832.
Wilson and World War I
World War I or the First World War (July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918) was a global war originating in Europe. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or “the war to end all wars”, it led to the mobilization of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It also was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated 8.5 million combatant deaths and 13 million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the related 1918 Spanish flu pandemic caused another 17–100 million deaths worldwide, including an estimated 2.64 million Spanish flu deaths in Europe and as many as 675,000 Spanish flu deaths in the United States.
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, occurred on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo when they were mortally wounded by Gavrilo Princip. Princip was one of a group of six assassins also containing Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Vaso Čubrilović, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Cvjetko Popović and Trifko Grabež (one Bosniak and five Serbs consecutively) coordinated by Danilo Ilić, a Bosnian Serb and a member of the Black Hand secret society. The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary’s South Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The conspirators’ motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia. The assassination led directly to World War I when Austria-Hungary subsequently issued an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia, triggering actions leading to war between most European states.
The Serbian military conspiracy was organized by Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević with the assistance of Major Vojislav Tankosić and Rade Malobabić, a Serbian intelligence agent. Tankosić armed the assassins with bombs and pistols and trained them. The assassins were given access to the same clandestine network of safe-houses and agents that Malobabić used for the infiltration of weapons and operatives into Austria-Hungary.
The assassins, the key members of the clandestine network, and the key Serbian military conspirators who were still alive were arrested, tried, convicted and punished. Those who were arrested in Bosnia were tried in Sarajevo in October 1914. The other conspirators were arrested and tried before a Serbian court on the French-controlled Salonika Front in 1916–1917 on unrelated false charges; Serbia executed three of the top military conspirators. Much of what is known about the assassinations comes from these two trials and related records. While various countries of the former Yugoslavia largely view Gavrilo Princip as a terrorist, the governments of Republika Srpska and Serbia continue to insist that Princip is a hero.
The July Crisis, a series of interrelated diplomatic and military escalations among the major powers of Europe in the summer of 1914, led to the outbreak of World War I (1914–1918). The crisis began on June 28, 1914, when Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. A complex web of alliances, coupled with miscalculations when many leaders regarded war as in their best interests or felt that a general war would not occur, resulted in a general outbreak of hostilities among most major European nations in early August 1914.
Austria-Hungary viewed the irredentist movements of South Slavs, as promoted by Serbia, as a threat to the unity of its multi-national empire. Following the assassination, Austria sought to inflict a military blow on Serbia to demonstrate its own strength and to dampen Serbian support for Yugoslav nationalism; however, Vienna, wary of the reaction of the Russian Empire (a major supporter of Serbia), sought a guarantee from its ally Germany that Berlin would support Austria in any conflict.
Germany guaranteed its support, but urged Austria to attack quickly, while world sympathy for Ferdinand was high, in order to localize the war and to avoid drawing in Russia. Some German leaders believed that growing Russian economic power would change the balance of power between the two nations, that a war was inevitable, and that Germany would be better off if a war happened soon. However, rather than launching a quick attack with available military forces, Austrian leaders deliberated into mid-July before deciding that Austria would give Serbia a harsh ultimatum on 23 July and would not attack without a full mobilization of the Austro-Hungarian Army (which could not be accomplished before 25 July 1914).
Just prior to the Serbian reply to the ultimatum, Russia decided that it would intervene in any Austro–Serbian war and ordered a partial mobilization of its armed forces. While Russian military leadership acknowledged that Russia was not yet strong enough for a general war, Russia believed that the Austrian grievance against Serbia was a pretext orchestrated by Germany and that Saint Petersburg needed to show strength in support of its Serbian client.
The Russian partial mobilization – the first major military action not undertaken by a direct participant in the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia – increased the willingness of Serbia to defy the threat of an Austrian attack and greatly increased the alarm in Germany about masses of Russian troops assembling near its borders. Previously, the German General Staff had predicted that Russian mobilization in the east would be slower than that of Russia’s French ally on Germany’s western border; therefore, German military strategy in any conflict with Russia involved attacking France through Belgium (to avoid French fixed defenses) and quickly defeating France in the west before turning to face Russia in the east. France, aware that it would have to act together with its Russian ally to defeat its German rival, escalated its military preparations as tensions along the Russian border increased, which, in turn, further alarmed Germany.
While the United Kingdom was semi-formally aligned with Russia and France, it also had relatively friendly diplomatic relations with Germany, and many British leaders saw no compelling reason to involve Britain in a continental war. Britain repeatedly offered to mediate, using the Serbian reply as the basis of negotiation, and Germany made various promises in an attempt to ensure British neutrality; however, Britain decided that it had a moral obligation to defend Belgium and to aid its formal allies, and thus became the last major country actively involved in the July Crisis to formally enter the conflict on August 4. By early August, the ostensible reason for armed conflict, the dispute between Serbia and Austria-Hungary over the murdered heir, had already become a sidenote to a general European war.
The Triple Entente describes the informal understanding between the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic and Great Britain. It built upon the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894, the Entente Cordiale of 1904 between Paris and London, and the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907. It formed a powerful counterweight to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The Triple Entente, unlike the Triple Alliance or the Franco-Russian Alliance itself, was not an alliance of mutual defense.
The Franco-Japanese Treaty of 1907 was a key part of building a coalition as France took the lead in creating alliances with Japan, Russia, and (informally) with Britain. Japan wanted to raise a loan in Paris, so France made the loan contingent on a Russo-Japanese agreement and a Japanese guaranty for France’s strategically vulnerable possessions in Indochina with Britain encouraging the Russo-Japanese rapprochement. Thus was built the Triple Entente coalition that fought World War I.
At the start of World War I in 1914, all three Triple Entente members entered it as Allied Powers against the Central Powers: Germany and Austria-Hungary. On September 4, 1914, the Triple Entente issued a declaration undertaking not to conclude a separate peace and only to demand terms of peace agreed between the three parties. Historians continue to debate the importance of the alliance system as one of the causes of World War I.
The Triple Alliance was an agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy formed May 20, 1882 and renewed periodically until it expired in 1915 during World War I. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been closely allied since 1879, and Italy was looking for support against France shortly after it lost North African ambitions to the French. Each member promised mutual support in the event of an attack by any other great power.
The treaty provided that Germany and Austria-Hungary were to assist Italy if it was attacked by France without provocation; in turn, Italy would assist Germany if attacked by France. In the event of a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Italy promised to remain neutral. The existence and membership of the treaty were well known, but its exact provisions were believed to have been kept secret until 1919.
When the treaty was renewed in February 1887, Italy gained an empty promise of German support of Italian colonial ambitions in North Africa in return for Italy’s continued friendship. It is believed that Austria-Hungary had to be pressured by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck into accepting the principles of consultation and mutual agreement with Italy on any territorial changes initiated in the Balkans or on the coasts and islands of the Adriatic and Aegean seas. Italy and Austria-Hungary did not overcome their basic conflict of interest in that region despite the treaty. In 1891, attempts were made to join Britain to the Triple Alliance, which, though unsuccessful, were widely believed to have succeeded in Russian diplomatic circles.
Shortly after renewing the Alliance in June 1902, Italy secretly extended a similar guarantee to France. By a particular agreement, neither Austria-Hungary nor Italy would change the status quo in the Balkans without previous consultation.
On October 18, 1883, Carol I of Romania, through his Prime Minister Ion C. Brătianu, had also secretly pledged to support the Triple Alliance, but he later remained neutral in the First World War due to viewing Austria-Hungary as the aggressor. On November 1, 1902, five months after the Triple Alliance was renewed, Italy reached an understanding with France that each would remain neutral in the event of an attack on the other.
When Austria-Hungary found itself at war in August 1914 with the rival Triple Entente, Italy proclaimed its neutrality, considering Austria-Hungary the aggressor. Italy also defaulted on the obligation to consult and agree to compensations before changing the status quo in the Balkans, as agreed in 1912 renewal of the Triple Alliance.
The Triple Alliance was only defensive in nature, allowing Italy to stay out of the war until April 1915, when it joined the Allied Powers after its relations with Austria-Hungary deteriorated. Following parallel negotiation with both Triple Alliance (which aimed to keep Italy neutral) and the Triple Entente (which aimed to make Italy enter the conflict), Italy sided with the Triple Entente and declared war on Austria-Hungary.
Declarations of War
Russia felt it necessary to back Serbia, and approved partial mobilization after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade, which was a few kilometres from the border, on July 28, 1914. Full Russian mobilization was announced on the evening of July 30; the following day, Austria-Hungary and Germany did the same, while Germany demanded Russia demobilize within twelve hours. When Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on Russia on August 1st in support of Austria-Hungary, the latter following suit on August 6th; France ordered full mobilization in support of Russia on August 2nd.
In the end, World War I would see the continent of Europe split into two major opposing alliances; the Allied Powers, primarily composed of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland, the United States, France, the Russian Empire, Italy, Japan, Portugal, and the many aforementioned Balkan States such as Serbia and Montenegro; and the Central Powers, primarily composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.
The Schlieffen Plan was a name given after the First World War to German war plans, due to the influence of Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen and his thinking on an invasion of France and Belgium, which began on August 4, 1914. Schlieffen was Chief of the General Staff of the German Army from 1891 to 1906. In 1905 and 1906, Schlieffen devised an army deployment plan for a war-winning offensive against the French Third Republic requiring German forces to invade France through the Netherlands and Belgium rather than across the common border.
On August 2nd, Germany demanded free passage through Belgium, an essential element in achieving a quick victory over France. When this was refused, German forces invaded Belgium on August 3rd and declared war on France the same day; the Belgian government invoked the 1839 Treaty of London and, in compliance with its obligations under this treaty, Britain declared war on Germany August 4th. Britain and France also declared war on Austria-Hungary August 12th; on August 23rd, Japan sided with Britain, seizing German possessions in China and the Pacific.
First Battle of the Marne
The First Battle of the Marne (Sepember 6-14, 1914) was a battle of the First World War resulting in an Allied victory against the German armies in the west. The battle was the culmination of the Retreat from Mons and pursuit of the Franco–British armies which followed the Battle of the Frontiers in August and reached the eastern outskirts of Paris.
Field Marshal Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), began to plan for a full British retreat to port cities on the English Channel for an immediate evacuation. The military governor of Paris, Joseph Simon Gallieni, wanted the Franco–British units to counter-attack the Germans along the Marne River and halt the German advance. Allied reserves would restore the ranks and attack the German flanks, and on September 5th, the counter-offensive by six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) began.
By September 9th, the success of the Franco–British counteroffensive left the German 1st and 2nd Armies at risk of encirclement, and they were ordered to retreat to the Aisne River. The retreating armies were pursued by the French and British, although the pace of the Allied advance was slow: 12 mi in one day. The German armies ceased their retreat after 40 mi on a line north of the Aisne River, where they dug in on the heights and fought the First Battle of the Aisne.
The German retreat between September 9th and September 19th marked the end of the attempt to defeat France by crushing the French armies with an invasion from the north through Belgium and in the south over the common border. Both sides commenced reciprocal operations to envelop the northern flank of their opponent, in what became known as the Race to the Sea which culminated in the First Battle of Ypres.
All Quiet on the Western Front
The German advance into France was halted at the Battle of the Marne and by the end of 1914, the Western Front settled into a war of attrition, marked by a long series of trench lines that changed little until 1917 (the Eastern Front, by contrast, was marked by much greater exchanges of territory). In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Austria-Hungary and Germany, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and the Sinai Peninsula. The war was fought in (and drew upon) each power’s colonial empire also, spreading the conflict to Africa and across the globe.
In 1915, Italy joined the Allied Powers and opened a front in the Alps. Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in 1915 and Greece joined the Allies in 1917, expanding the war in the Balkans. Though Serbia was defeated in 1915, and Romania joined the Allied Powers in 1916, only to be defeated in 1917, none of the great powers were knocked out of the war until 1918.
The Gallipoli campaign was a military campaign that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula from February 17, 1915 to January 9, 1916 during the First World War. The Entente powers, Britain, France and Russia, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the Turkish straits. This would expose the Ottoman capital at Constantinople to bombardment by Allied battleships and cut it off from the Asian part of the empire. With Turkey defeated, the Suez canal would be safe, and a year-round Allied supply route could be opened through the Black Sea to warm water ports in Russia.
The Allied fleet’s attempt to force the Dardanelles in February 1915 failed and was followed by an amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915. In January 1916, after eight months’ fighting, with approximately 250,000 casualties on each side, the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force withdrawn. It was a costly defeat for the Entente powers and for the sponsors, especially First Lord of the Admiralty (1911–1915), Winston Churchill. The campaign was considered a great Ottoman victory.
In Turkey, it is regarded as a defining moment in the history of the state, a final surge in the defense of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire retreated. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the declaration of the Republic of Turkey eight years later, with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who rose to prominence as a commander at Gallipoli, as founder and president. The campaign is often considered to be the beginning of Australian and New Zealand national consciousness; April 25th, the anniversary of the landings, is known as Anzac Day, the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in the two countries, surpassing Remembrance Day (Armistice Day).
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun (February 21 – December 18, 1916) was fought on the Western Front in France. The battle was the longest of the First World War and took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse. The German 5th Army attacked the defenses of the Fortified Region of Verdun and those of the French Second Army on the right (east) bank of the Meuse.
Using the experience of the Second Battle of Champagne in 1915, the Germans planned to capture the Meuse Heights, an excellent defensive position with good observation for artillery-fire on Verdun. The Germans hoped that the French would commit their strategic reserve to recapture the position and suffer catastrophic losses at little cost to the Germans.
Poor weather delayed the beginning of the attack until February 21st, but the Germans captured Fort Douaumont in the first three days. The advance then slowed for several days, despite inflicting many French casualties.
By March 6th, 20+1⁄2 French divisions were in the RFV and a more extensive defense in depth had been constructed. Philippe Pétain ordered no retreat and that German attacks were to be counter-attacked, despite this exposing French infantry to German artillery-fire.
By March 29th, French guns on the west bank had begun a constant bombardment of Germans on the east bank, causing many infantry casualties. The German offensive was extended to the left (west) bank of the Meuse, to gain observation and eliminate the French artillery firing over the river but the attacks failed to reach their objectives.
In early May, the Germans changed tactics again and made local attacks and counter-attacks; the French recaptured part of Fort Douaumont but then the Germans ejected them and took many prisoners. The Germans tried alternating their attacks on either side of the Meuse and in June captured Fort Vaux. The Germans advanced towards the last geographical objectives of the original plan, at Fleury-devant-Douaumont and Fort Souville, driving a salient into the French defences. Fleury was captured and the Germans came within 4 km (2 mi) of the Verdun citadel but in July the offensive was cut back to provide troops, artillery and ammunition for the Battle of the Somme, leading to a similar transfer of the French Tenth Army to the Somme front.
From June 23rd to August 17th, Fleury changed hands sixteen times and a German attack on Fort Souville failed. The offensive was reduced further but to keep French troops in the RFV, away from the Somme, ruses were used to disguise the change.
In September and December, French counter-offensives recaptured much ground on the east bank and recovered Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux. The battle lasted for 302 days, the longest and one of the most costly in human history.
In 2000, Hannes Heer and Klaus Naumann calculated that the French suffered 377,231 casualties and the Germans 337,000, a total of 714,231 and an average of 70,000 a month. In 2014, William Philpott wrote of 976,000 casualties in 1916 and 1,250,000 in the vicinity during the war. In France, the battle came to symbolize the determination of the French Army and the destructiveness of the war.
Battle of the Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle fought between Britain’s Royal Navy Grand Fleet, under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet, under Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer, during the First World War. The battle unfolded in extensive maneuvering and three main engagements (the battlecruiser action, the fleet action and the night action), from May 31 to June 1, 1916, off the North Sea coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. It was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in that war.
Jutland was the third fleet action between steel battleships, following the Battle of the Yellow Sea in 1904 and the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905, during the Russo-Japanese War. Jutland was the last major battle in world history fought primarily by battleships.
Germany’s High Seas Fleet intended to lure out, trap, and destroy a portion of the Grand Fleet, as the German naval force was insufficient to openly engage the entire British fleet. This formed part of a larger strategy to break the British blockade of Germany and to allow German naval vessels access to the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Great Britain’s Royal Navy pursued a strategy of engaging and destroying the High Seas Fleet, thereby keeping German naval forces contained and away from Britain and her shipping lanes.
The Germans planned to use Vice-Admiral Franz Hipper’s fast scouting group of five modern battlecruisers to lure Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty’s battlecruiser squadrons into the path of the main German fleet. They stationed submarines in advance across the likely routes of the British ships; however, the British learned from signal intercepts that a major fleet operation was likely, so on May 30, Jellicoe sailed with the Grand Fleet to rendezvous with Beatty, passing over the locations of the German submarine picket lines while they were unprepared. The German plan had been delayed, causing further problems for their submarines, which had reached the limit of their endurance at sea.
On the afternoon of May 31st, Beatty encountered Hipper’s battlecruiser force long before the Germans had expected. In a running battle, Hipper successfully drew the British vanguard into the path of the High Seas Fleet.
By the time Beatty sighted the larger force and turned back towards the British main fleet, he had lost two battlecruisers from a force of six battlecruisers and four powerful battleships—though he had sped ahead of his battleships of 5th Battle Squadron earlier in the day, effectively losing them as an integral component for much of this opening action against the five ships commanded by Hipper. Beatty’s withdrawal at the sight of the High Seas Fleet, which the British had not known were in the open sea, would reverse the course of the battle by drawing the German fleet in pursuit towards the British Grand Fleet. Between 6:30 pm, when the sun was lowering on the western horizon, back-lighting the German forces, and nightfall at about 8:30 pm, the two fleets—totalling 250 ships between them—directly engaged twice.
Fourteen British and eleven German ships sank, with a total of 9,823 casualties. After sunset, and throughout the night, Jellicoe maneuvered to cut the Germans off from their base, hoping to continue the battle the next morning, but under the cover of darkness Scheer broke through the British light forces forming the rearguard of the Grand Fleet and returned to port.
Both sides claimed victory. The British lost more ships and twice as many sailors but succeeded in containing the German fleet. The British press criticized the Grand Fleet’s failure to force a decisive outcome, while Scheer’s plan of destroying a substantial portion of the British fleet also failed.
The British strategy of denying Germany access to both the United Kingdom and the Atlantic did succeed, which was the British long-term goal. The Germans’ “fleet in being” continued to pose a threat, requiring the British to keep their battleships concentrated in the North Sea, but the battle reinforced the German policy of avoiding all fleet-to-fleet contact.
At the end of 1916, after further unsuccessful attempts to reduce the Royal Navy’s numerical advantage, the German Navy accepted that its surface ships had been successfully contained, subsequently turning its efforts and resources to unrestricted submarine warfare and the destruction of Allied and neutral shipping, which—along with the Zimmermann Telegram—by April 1917 triggered the United States of America’s declaration of war on Germany.
Subsequent reviews commissioned by the Royal Navy generated strong disagreement between supporters of Jellicoe and Beatty concerning the two admirals’ performance in the battle. Debate over their performance and the significance of the battle continues to this day.
The Brusilov offensive (June to September 1916) was the Russian Empire’s greatest feat of arms during World War I, and among the most lethal offensives in world history. The historian Graydon Tunstall called the Brusilov offensive the worst crisis of World War I for Austria-Hungary and the Triple Entente’s greatest victory, but it came at a tremendous loss of life. The heavy casualties eliminated the offensive power of the Imperial Russian Army and contributed to Russia’s collapse the next year.
The offensive involved a major Russian attack against the armies of the Central Powers on the Eastern Front. Launched June 4, 1916, it lasted until late September taking place in an area of present-day western Ukraine, in the general vicinity of the towns of Lviv, Kovel, and Lutsk. The offensive takes its name after the commander in charge of the Southwestern Front of the Imperial Russian Army, General Aleksei Brusilov.
Battle of the Somme
The Battle of the Somme (July 1 – Novemeber 18, 1916) was fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire during WWI. It took place on both sides of the upper reaches of the Somme, a river in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies with more than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in human history.
The French and British had committed themselves to an offensive on the Somme during the Chantilly Conference in December 1915. The Allies agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives against the Central Powers in 1916 by the French, Russian, British and Italian armies, with the Somme offensive as the Franco-British contribution. Initial plans called for the French army to undertake the main part of the Somme offensive, supported on the northern flank by the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
When the Imperial German Army began the Battle of Verdun on the Meuse February 21, 1916, French commanders diverted many of the divisions intended for the Somme and the “supporting” attack by the British became the principal effort. The British troops on the Somme comprised a mixture of the remains of the pre-war army, the Territorial Force and Kitchener’s Army, a force of wartime volunteers.
On the first day on the Somme (July 1st), the German 2nd Army suffered a serious defeat opposite the French Sixth Army, from Foucaucourt-en-Santerre south of the Somme to Maricourt on the north bank and by the Fourth Army from Maricourt to the vicinity of the Albert–Bapaume road. The 57,470 casualties suffered by the British, including 19,240 killed, were the worst in the history of the British Army.
Most of the British casualties were suffered on the front between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt to the north, which was the area where the principal German defensive effort (Schwerpunkt) was made. The battle became notable for the importance of air power and the first use of the tank in September but these were a product of new technology and exceedingly unreliable.
At the end of the battle, British and French forces had penetrated 6 mi (10 km) into German-occupied territory along the majority of the front, their largest territorial gain since the First Battle of the Marne in 1914. The operational objectives of the Anglo-French armies were unfulfilled, as they failed to capture Péronne and Bapaume, where the German armies maintained their positions over the winter.
British attacks in the Ancre valley resumed in January 1917 and forced the Germans into local withdrawals to reserve lines in February before the scheduled retirement by about 25 mi (40 km) in Operation Alberich to the Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line) in March 1917. Debate continues over the necessity, significance and effect of the battle. British soldiers derogatorily called the battle the “Great Fuck Up”, where Haig had originally called it the “Great Push Forward”.
The February Revolution (March 8 – March 16) was the first of two revolutions which took place in Russia in 1917. The main events of the revolution took place in and near Petrograd (present-day Saint Petersburg), the then-capital of Russia, where long-standing discontent with the monarchy erupted into mass protests against food rationing. Revolutionary activity lasted about eight days, involving mass demonstrations and violent armed clashes with police and gendarmes, the last loyal forces of the Russian monarchy.
On March 12, mutinous undisciplined garrison forces of the capital sided with the revolutionaries. Three days later Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, despite the rest of the nation and army being loyal to the government, ending Romanov dynastic rule and the Russian Empire. A Russian Provisional Government under Prince Georgy Lvov replaced the Council of Ministers of Russia.
The revolution appeared to have broken out without any real leadership or formal planning. Russia had been suffering from a number of economic and social problems, which compounded after the start of World War I in 1914.
Disaffected soldiers from the city’s garrison joined bread rioters, primarily women in bread lines, and industrial strikers on the streets. As more and more troops of the undisciplined garrison of the Capital deserted, and with loyal troops away at the Front, the city fell into chaos, leading to the Tsar’s decision to abdicate under his generals’ advice. In all, over 1,300 people were killed during the protests of February 1917.
Wilson Enters War
The United States initially remained neutral, though even while neutral it became an important supplier of war materiel to the Allies. Eventually, after the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the declaration by Germany that its navy would resume unrestricted attacks on neutral shipping, and the revelation that Germany was trying to incite Mexico to initiate war against the United States, the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Trained American forces did not begin arriving at the front in large numbers until mid-1918, but the American Expeditionary Force ultimately reached some two million troops.
Wilson Reacts to the Sinking of the Lusitania
The sinking of the Cunard ocean liner RMS Lusitania occurred on Friday, May 7, 1915 during the First World War, as Germany waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom which had implemented a naval blockade of Germany. The ship was identified and torpedoed by the German U-boat U-20, took on a heavy starboard list, and sank in 18 minutes. The vessel went down 11 miles (18 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, killing 1,198 and leaving 761 survivors turning public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributed to the American entry into World War I two years later and became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.
Lusitania fell victim to torpedo attack relatively early in the First World War, before tactics for evading submarines were properly implemented or understood. The contemporary investigations in both the United Kingdom and the United States into the precise causes of the ship’s loss were obstructed by the needs of wartime secrecy and a propaganda campaign to ensure all blame fell upon Germany.
Argument over whether the ship was a legitimate military target raged back and forth throughout the war as both sides made misleading claims about the ship. At the time she was sunk, she was carrying over 4 million rounds of small-arms ammunition (.303 caliber), almost 5,000 shrapnel shell casings (for a total of some 50 tons), and 3,240 brass percussion fuses, in addition to 1,266 passengers and a crew of 696. Several attempts have been made over the years since the sinking to dive to the wreck seeking information about precisely how the ship sank, and argument continues to the present day.
The Zimmermann Telegram was a secret diplomatic communication issued from the German Foreign Office in January 1917 that proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico if the United States entered World War I against Germany. Mexico would recover Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. One of the earliest occasions on which a piece of signal intelligence influenced world events, the telegram was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence.
Revelation of the contents enraged Americans, especially after German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann publicly admitted on March 3 that the telegram was genuine. It helped to generate support for the American declaration of war on Germany in April. The decryption was described as the most significant intelligence triumph for Britain during World War I.
Wilson Signs Espionage Act of 1917
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years.
It was intended to prohibit interference with military operations or recruitment, to prevent insubordination in the military, and to prevent the support of United States enemies during wartime. In 1919, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled through Schenck v. United States that the act did not violate the freedom of speech of those convicted under its provisions. The constitutionality of the law, its relationship to free speech, and the meaning of its language have been contested in court ever since.
Among those charged with offenses under the Act are German-American socialist congressman and newspaper editor Victor L. Berger, labor leader and five-time Socialist Party of America candidate, Eugene V. Debs, anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, former Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society president Joseph Franklin Rutherford, communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Cablegate whistleblower Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Defense Intelligence Agency employee Henry Kyle Frese, and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. Rutherford’s conviction was overturned on appeal. Although the most controversial sections of the Act, a set of amendments commonly called the Sedition Act of 1918, were repealed on December 13, 1920, the original Espionage Act was left intact.
Wilson Signs Sedition Act of 1918
The Sedition Act of 1918 (enacted May 16, 1918) was an Act of the United States Congress that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds. It forbade the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. Those convicted under the act generally received sentences of imprisonment for five to 20 years.
The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that met those same standards for punishable speech or opinion. It applied only to times “when the United States is in war.” The U.S. was in a declared state of war at the time of passage, and the law was repealed on December 13, 1920.
Though the legislation enacted in 1918 is commonly called the Sedition Act, it was actually a set of amendments to the Espionage Act. Therefore, many studies of the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act find it difficult to report on the two “acts” separately.
For example, one historian reports that “some fifteen hundred prosecutions were carried out under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, resulting in more than a thousand convictions.” Court decisions do not use the shorthand term Sedition Act, but the correct legal term for the law, the Espionage Act, whether as originally enacted or as amended in 1918.
Battle of Passchedaele
The Battle of Passchendaele (July to November 1917) took place on the Western Front fighting for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lies on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from Roulers (now Roeselare) a junction of the Bruges (Brugge) to Kortrijk railway.
The station at Roulers was on the main supply route of the German 4th Army. Once Passchendaele Ridge had been captured, the Allied advance was to continue to a line from Thourout (now Torhout) to Couckelaere (Koekelare). Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuport (Nieuwpoort), combined with an amphibious landing (Operation Hush), were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier.
Although a general withdrawal had seemed inevitable in early October, the Germans were able to avoid one due to the resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather in August, the beginning of the autumn rains in October and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy. The campaign ended in November, when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele, apart from local attacks in December and early in the new year. The Battle of the Lys (Fourth Battle of Ypres) and the Fifth Battle of Ypres of 1918, were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.
A campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, opposed the offensive, as did General Ferdinand Foch, the Chief of Staff of the French Army. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until July 25th. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since 1917 include the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.
The choice of Flanders, its climate, the selection of General Hubert Gough and the Fifth Army to conduct the offensive, debates over the nature of the opening attack and between advocates of shallow and deeper objectives, remain controversial. The time between the Battle of Messines (June 7–14) and the first Allied attack (the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, July 31st), the extent to which the internal troubles of the French armies influenced the British, the effect of the exceptional weather, the decision to continue the offensive in October and the human costs of the campaign are also debated.
The October Revolution was led by the Bolshevik Party of Vladimir Lenin that was instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917–1923. It was the second revolutionary change of government in Russia in 1917. It took place through an armed insurrection in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) on November 7, 1917. The rise of the Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik factions was the precipitating event of the Russian Civil War.
The October Revolution followed and capitalized on the February Revolution earlier in the year. Contrary to popular belief, Lenin did not overthrow the Tsar.
The February Revolution had overthrown the Tsarist autocracy, resulting in a provisional government. The provisional government had taken power after being proclaimed by Grand Duke Michael, Tsar Nicholas II’s younger brother, who declined to take power after the Tsar stepped down.
During this time, urban workers began to organize into councils (soviets) wherein revolutionaries criticized the provisional government and its actions. The provisional government remained widely unpopular, especially because it was continuing to fight in World War I, and had ruled with an iron fist throughout the summer (including killing hundreds of protesters in the July Days).
Events came to head in the fall as the Directorate, led by the left-wing Socialist Revolutionary Party, controlled the government. The left-wing Bolsheviks were deeply unhappy with the government, and began spreading calls for a military uprising.
On October 23, 1917, the Petrograd Soviet, led by Trotsky, voted to back a military uprising. On November 6, the government shut down numerous newspapers and closed the city of Petrograd in an attempt to forestall the revolution; minor armed skirmishes broke out.
The next day a full scale uprising erupted, as a fleet of Bolshevik sailors entered the harbor and tens of thousands of soldiers rose up in support of the Bolsheviks. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the Military-Revolutionary Committee began the occupation of government buildings on November 7, 1917. The following day, the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia) was captured.
As the Revolution was not universally recognized, the country descended into civil war, which would last until 1923 and ultimately lead to the creation of the Soviet Union in late 1922. The historiography of the event has varied.
The victorious Soviet Union viewed it as a validation of their ideology, and the triumph of the worker over capitalism. During Soviet times, revolution day was made a national holiday, marking its importance in the country’s founding story. Contemporary Russia now distances itself from its Soviet past by removing the October Revolution as a national holiday.
On the other hand, the Western Allies saw it as a violent coup, which used the democratic Soviet councils only until they were no longer useful. The event inspired many cultural works, and ignited communist movements across Europe and globally. Many Marxist–Leninist parties around the world still celebrate revolution day.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a separate peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, between the new Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central Powers (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire), that ended Russia’s participation in World War I and stopped further invasion. The treaty was signed at German-controlled Brest-Litovsk (now in modern Belarus), after two months of negotiations. According to the treaty, Soviet Russia defaulted on all of Imperial Russia’s commitments to the Allies and eleven nations became independent in Eastern Europe and western Asia.
In the treaty, Russia ceded hegemony over the Baltic states to Germany; they were meant to become German vassal states under German princelings. Russia also ceded its province of Kars Oblast in the South Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire and recognized the independence of Ukraine.
According to historian Spencer Tucker, “The German General Staff had formulated extraordinarily harsh terms that shocked even the German negotiator.” Congress Poland was not mentioned in the treaty, as Germans refused to recognize the existence of any Polish representatives, which in turn led to Polish protests. When Germans later complained that the later Treaty of Versailles in the West of 1919 was too harsh on them, the Allied Powers responded that it was more benign than the terms imposed by the Brest-Litovsk treaty.
The treaty was annulled by the Armistice of 11 November 1918, when Germany surrendered to the western Allies. However, in the meantime it did provide some relief to the Bolsheviks, already fighting the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) following the Russian Revolutions of 1917, by the renunciation of Russia’s claims on modern-day Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
It is considered the first diplomatic treaty ever filmed. The October Revolution, the creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic, and the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by the new government in March 1918, ended Russia’s involvement in the war.
German Spring Offensive
Germany now controlled much of eastern Europe and transferred large numbers of combat troops to the Western Front. The German Spring Offensive was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War, beginning on March 21, 1918. The Germans had realized that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the United States could fully deploy its resources. The German Army had gained a temporary advantage in numbers as nearly 50 divisions had been freed by the Russian withdrawal from the war with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
There were four German offensives, codenamed Michael, Georgette, Gneisenau, and Blücher-Yorck. Michael was the main attack, which was intended to break through the Allied lines, outflank the British forces (which held the front from the Somme River to the English Channel) and defeat the British Army. Once that was achieved, it was hoped that the French would seek armistice terms.
The other offensives were subsidiary to Michael and were designed to divert Allied forces from the main offensive effort on the Somme. No clear objective was established before the start of the offensives and once the operations were underway, the targets of the attacks were constantly changed according to the battlefield (tactical) situation.
Once they began advancing, the Germans struggled to maintain the momentum, partly due to logistical issues. The fast-moving stormtrooper units could not carry enough food and ammunition to sustain themselves for long, and the army could not move in supplies and reinforcements fast enough to assist them.
The Allies concentrated their main forces in the essential areas (the approaches to the Channel Ports and the rail junction of Amiens). Strategically worthless ground, which had been devastated by years of conflict, was left lightly defended. Within a few weeks, the danger of a German breakthrough had passed, though related fighting continued until July.
The German Army made the deepest advances either side had made on the Western Front since 1914. They re-took much ground that they had lost in 1916-17 and took some ground that they had not yet controlled.
Despite these apparent successes, they suffered heavy casualties in return for land that was of little strategic value and hard to defend. The offensive failed to deliver a blow that could save Germany from defeat, which has led some historians to describe it as a pyrrhic victory.
In July 1918, the Allies regained their numerical advantage with the arrival of American troops. In August, they used this and improved tactics to launch a counteroffensive. The ensuing Hundred Days Offensive resulted in the Germans losing all of the ground that they had taken in the Spring Offensive, the collapse of the Hindenburg Line, and the capitulation of Germany that November.
Using new tactics, the German March 1918 Offensive was initially successful. The Allies fell back and held. The last of the German reserves were exhausted as 10,000 fresh American troops arrived every day.
Hundred Days Offensive
The Hundred Days Offensive (August 10 to November 11, 1918) was a series of massive Allied offensives which ended the First World War. Beginning with the Battle of Amiens (August 8–12) on the Western Front, the Allies pushed the Central Powers back, undoing their gains from the German spring offensive. The Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line, but the Allies broke through the line with a series of victories, starting with the Battle of St Quentin Canal on September 29.
The Allies drove the Germans back in their Hundred Days Offensive, a continual series of attacks to which the Germans had no countermove. One by one, the Central Powers quit: first Bulgaria (September 29), then the Ottoman Empire (October 31) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (November 3). With its allies defeated, revolution at home, and the military no longer willing to fight, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on 9 November and Germany signed an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending the war.
The offensive, together with a revolution breaking out in Germany, led to the Armistice of 11 November 1918 which ended the war with an Allied victory. The term “Hundred Days Offensive” does not refer to a battle or strategy, but rather the rapid series of Allied victories against which the German Army had no reply.
Battle of Amiens
The Battle of Amiens was the opening phase of the Allied offensive which began August 8, 1918, later known as the Hundred Days Offensive, that ultimately led to the end of the First World War. Allied forces advanced over 11 kilometres (7 mi) on the first day, one of the greatest advances of the war, with Gen Henry Rawlinson’s British Fourth Army (with 9 of its 19 divisions supplied by the fast moving Australian Corps of Lt Gen John Monash and Canadian Corps of Lt Gen Arthur Currie) playing the decisive role.
The battle is also notable for its effects on both sides’ morale and the large number of surrendering German forces. This led Erich Ludendorff to later describe the first day of the battle as “the black day of the German Army”. Amiens was one of the first major battles involving armoured warfare.
Battle of Megiddo
The Battle of Megiddo ( September 19-25, 1918) was fought on the Plain of Sharon, in front of Tulkarm, Tabsor and Arara in the Judean Hills as well as on the Esdralon Plain at Nazareth, Afulah, Beisan, Jenin and Samakh. Its name, which has been described as “perhaps misleading”since very limited fighting took place near Tel Megiddo, was chosen by British General Edmund Allenby for its biblical and symbolic resonance.
The battle was the final Allied offensive of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War. The contending forces were the Allied Egyptian Expeditionary Force, of three corps including one of mounted troops, and the Ottoman Yildirim Army Group which numbered three armies, each the strength of barely an Allied corps.
The series of battles took place in what was then the central and northern parts of Ottoman Palestine and parts of present-day Israel, Syria and Jordan. After forces of the Arab Revolt attacked the Ottoman lines of communication, distracting the Ottomans, British and Indian infantry divisions attacked and broke through the Ottoman defensive lines in the sector adjacent to the coast in the set-piece Battle of Sharon. The Desert Mounted Corps rode through the breach and almost encircled the Ottoman Eighth and Seventh Armies still fighting in the Judean Hills.
The subsidiary Battle of Nablus was fought virtually simultaneously in the Judean Hills in front of Nablus and at crossings of the Jordan River. The Ottoman Fourth Army was subsequently attacked in the Hills of Moab at Es Salt and Amman.
These battles resulted in many tens of thousands of prisoners and many miles of territory being captured by the Allies. Following the battles, Daraa was captured on September 27th, Damascus on October 1st and operations at Haritan, north of Aleppo, were still in progress when the Armistice of Mudros was signed ending hostilities between the Allies and Ottomans.
The operations of General Edmund Allenby, the British commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, achieved decisive results at comparatively little cost, in contrast to many offensives during the First World War. Allenby achieved this through the use of creeping barrages to cover set-piece infantry attacks to break a state of trench warfare and then use his mobile forces (cavalry, armoured cars and aircraft) to encircle the Ottoman armies’ positions in the Judean Hills, cutting off their lines of retreat. The irregular forces of the Arab Revolt also played a part in this victory.
Armistice of 11 November 1918
The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice signed at Le Francport near Compiègne that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and their last remaining opponent, Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also known as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed at 5:45 a.m. by the Allied Supreme Commander, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, it came into force at 11:00 a.m. Paris time on November 11, 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender.
The actual terms, largely written by Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German forces to behind the Rhine, Allied occupation of the Rhineland and bridgeheads further east, the preservation of infrastructure, the surrender of aircraft, warships, and military materiel, the release of Allied prisoners of war and interned civilians, eventual reparations, no release of German prisoners and no relaxation of the naval blockade of Germany. Although the armistice ended the fighting on the Western Front, it had to be prolonged three times until the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on June 28, 1919, took effect on January 10, 1920. Fighting continued up to 11 o’clock, with 2,738 men dying on the last day of the war.
Wilson Attends Paris Peace Conference
The Paris Peace Conference was the formal meeting in 1919 and 1920 of the victorious Allies after the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers. Dominated by the leaders of Britain, France, the United States and Italy, it resulted in five controversial treaties that rearranged the map of Europe and parts of Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands and imposed financial penalties. Germany and the other losing nations had no voice which gave rise to political resentments that lasted for decades.
The conference involved diplomats from 32 countries and nationalities, and its major decisions were the creation of the League of Nations and the five peace treaties with the defeated states; the awarding of German and Ottoman overseas possessions as “mandates,” chiefly to Britain and France, the imposition of reparations upon Germany, and the drawing of new national boundaries, sometimes with plebiscites, to reflect ethnic boundaries more closely.
The main result was the Treaty of Versailles with Germany; Article 231 of the treaty placed the whole guilt for the war on “the aggression of Germany and her allies.” That provision proved to be very humiliating for Germany and set the stage for the expensive reparations that Germany was intended to pay (it paid only a small portion before its last payment in 1931). The five great powers (France, Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States) controlled the Conference. The “Big Four” were French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, US President Woodrow Wilson, and Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando. They met informally 145 times and made all major decisions before they were ratified.
The conference began on January 18, 1919. With respect to its end, Professor Michael Neiberg noted, “Although the senior statesmen stopped working personally on the conference in June 1919, the formal peace process did not really end until July 1923, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed.” It is often referred to as the “Versailles Conference,” but only the signing of the first treaty took place there, in the historic palace, and the negotiations occurred at the Quai d’Orsay, in Paris.
Wilson and His Fourteen Points
The American army’s entrance into World War 1 was decisive, and 19 months after we declared war on Germany Wilson would become the first sitting president to conference in Europe. He would go to Europe looking to secure, “peace for the world that will last for all time.”
Wilson was greeted tremendously in Europe. He was viewed as a fresh new force that brought horrible conflict to an end. In Paris, London and Rome, children threw roses at his feet. He was a hero. The savior from the west.
The Fourteen Points was a statement of principles for peace that was to be used for peace negotiations in order to end World War I. The principles were outlined in a January 8, 1918, speech on war aims and peace terms to the United States Congress by President Woodrow Wilson. However, his main Allied colleagues (Georges Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of the United Kingdom, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy) were skeptical of the applicability of Wilsonian idealism.
The United States had joined the Triple Entente in fighting the Central Powers on April 6, 1917. Its entry into the war had in part been due to Germany’s resumption of submarine warfare against merchant ships trading with France and Britain and also the interception of the Zimmermann Telegram. However, Wilson wanted to avoid the United States’ involvement in the long-standing European tensions between the great powers; if America was going to fight, he wanted to try to separate that participation in the war from nationalistic disputes or ambitions. The need for moral aims was made more important, when after the fall of the Russian government, the Bolsheviks disclosed secret treaties made between the Allies. Wilson’s speech also responded to Vladimir Lenin’s Decree on Peace of November 1917, immediately after the October Revolution in 1917.
The speech made by Wilson took many domestic progressive ideas and translated them into foreign policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination). Three days earlier United Kingdom Prime Minister Lloyd George had made a speech setting out the UK’s war aims which bore some similarity to Wilson’s speech but which proposed reparations be paid by the Central Powers and which was more vague in its promises to the non-Turkish subjects of the Ottoman Empire. The Fourteen Points in the speech were based on the research of the Inquiry, a team of about 150 advisers led by foreign-policy adviser Edward M. House, into the topics likely to arise in the anticipated peace conference.
Wilson Signs the Treaty of Versaille
The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on June 28, 1919 in the Palace of Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties.
Although the armistice, signed on November 11, 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.
Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required “Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage” during the war (the other members of the Central Powers signed treaties containing similar articles). This article, Article 231, later became known as the War Guilt clause.
The treaty required Germany to disarm, make ample territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion gold marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US$442 billion or UK£284 billion in 2021).
At the time economists, notably John Maynard Keynes (a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference), predicted that the treaty was too harsh—a “Carthaginian peace”—and said the reparations figure was excessive and counter-productive, views that, since then, have been the subject of ongoing debate by historians and economists. On the other hand, prominent figures on the Allied side, such as French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, criticized the treaty for treating Germany too leniently.
The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left no one satisfied, and, in particular, Germany was neither pacified nor conciliated, nor was it permanently weakened. The problems that arose from the treaty would lead to the Locarno Treaties, which improved relations between Germany and the other European powers, and the re-negotiation of the reparation system resulting in the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan, and the indefinite postponement of reparations at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. The treaty has sometimes been cited as a cause of World War II: although its actual impact was not as severe as feared, its terms led to great resentment in Germany which powered the rise of the Nazi Party.
Although it is often referred to as the “Versailles Conference”, only the actual signing of the treaty took place at the historic palace. Most of the negotiations were in Paris, with the “Big Four” meetings taking place generally at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Quai d’Orsay.
Wilson Enters The League of Nations
The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Founded on January 10, 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War, it ceased operations on April 20, 1946.
The organisation’s primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labor conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe.
The Covenant of the League of Nations was signed on June 28, 1919 as Part I of the Treaty of Versailles, and it became effective together with the rest of the Treaty on January 10, 1920. The first meeting of the Council of the League took place on January 16, 1920, and the first meeting of Assembly of the League took place on November 15, 1920. In 1919 U.S. president Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leading architect of the League.
The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. The League lacked its own armed force and depended on the victorious First World War Allies (France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan were the permanent members of the Executive Council) to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed. The Great Powers were often reluctant to do.
During the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, when the League accused Italian soldiers of targeting International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement medical tents, Benito Mussolini responded that “the League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out.”
At its greatest extent from September 28, 1934 to February 23, 1935, it had 58 members. After some notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis powers in the 1930s. The credibility of the organization was weakened by the fact that the United States never joined the League and the Soviet Union joined late and was soon expelled after invading Finland. Germany withdrew from the League, as did Japan, Italy, Spain and others.
The onset of the Second World War showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war. The League lasted for 26 years; the United Nations (UN) replaced it after the end of the Second World War and inherited several agencies and organizations founded by the League.
Legacy of WW1
World War I was a significant turning point in the political, cultural, economic, and social climate of the world. The war and its immediate aftermath sparked numerous revolutions and uprisings. Ultimately, as a result of the war, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires ceased to exist, and numerous new states were created from their remains. However, despite the conclusive Allied victory a second world war followed just over twenty years later.
Wilson Battles Congress
The treaty signed at Versaille allowed for a provision for the league of nations, but Wilson needed approval by a GOP controlled Senate. This meant vehement opposition by Henry Cabot Lodge, the powerful Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Wilson, instead of negotiating with Congress, decided to rally public opinion on his side by embarking on a physically demanding cross country speaking tour.
Wilson physically collapsed in Pueblo, Colorado making him curtail his speaking tour. He returned to Washington where he’d suffer a severe stroke.
For the last 18 months of Wilson’s term, the country did not have much of president. Mrs. Wilson was fiercely protective of her husband, covering up the severity of his condition and keeping visitors away. She relayed important matters of state to Wilson and reported back to cabinet what he was thinking.
While Mrs. Wilson was acting as executive, she could not stop political gridlock spreading over the capital with the League of Nations and Treaty of Versaille. When the treaty and league met final defeat in the senate, Wilson exclaimed “they have shamed us in the eyes of the world”
Wilson was a giant of a President and radically changed our country. Wilson was so transformational, that he should actually be looked at as a source of bitching. Income taxes, direct election of Senators and women’s suffrage happened under his administration as well as the extremely unpopular Prohibition.
Workmen’s compensation, child labor laws, the 8 hour workday and overtime, rights for sailors, strengthened anti-trust laws, the federal trade commission, the Federal Reserve and reducing protectionism are also hallmarks of his administration. people bitch today about abuse of Workmen’s compensation laws, but that’s due to the growth of the federal government advocated by both parties now. This would also coincide with the growing strength of unions and decreasing influence of bankers and corporate financiers thanks to the Fed and trade policy that encouraged it by reducing tariffs which consequently lowered prices here as foreign competition was introduced into the market. Are we starting to understand why the policies of Trump and Sanders make little sense now? They are 20th century solutions for 21st century problems.
Wilson’s failure to compromise with Congress had far reaching implications. Without the U.S.support, the League of Nations proved ineffective setting the stage for another generation with another world war. If Wilson gives enough ground so Senate would have had to pass the Treaty of Versaille, the U.S. joins the League of Nations, and the course of the next 20 years and indeed world history are different.
Wilson laid the cornerstone of a new relationship between America and the world grappling with the problem and the idea of what America’s role should be in the world. This progressive icon – a legendary advocate for expanding all sorts of rights and an inspiration to the world after the Great War – was backwards and bigoted when it came to race.
He also addressed the needs of the common and working man extending the platform of TR. Legislation was passed domestically with the public and specifically labor in mind. His foreign policy agenda was largely thwarted by our denial of admission into the League of Nations.
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Warren Harding (1920 – 1924) would follow Woodrow Wilson.
William Howard Taft (1909 – 1913) preceded Woodrow Wilson
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) would assume the presidency after the Mexican War.
Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981) would be the only Democratic President for 25 years post Civil Rights.
George W. Bush (2000 – 2008) is the final President in our series.