Resources and Responsibility: The First World War and the Peace Settlement

  • Anne Orde


The First World War marked an important stage in the rise of American power, absolutely and in relation to that of Britain. By the end of the war the United States was acknowledged to be not merely a potential but an actual great power of the first rank. Whereas the European belligerents had expended lives and capital with a prodigality never seen before, United States resources grew and her losses were insignificant. She was able and willing to use her power. But it was not unlimited. Economic and financial resources, important though they were in relations with the belligerents, were not enough to give a neutral United States the position of arbiter in the conflict that President Wilson desired. Military intervention was eventually forced on a reluctant country, and was decisive in the Allied victory. Wilson then aimed to apply American ideals and principles to the peace, and thus to serve American interests as well as those of humanity. He articulated the aspirations of many European as well as American liberals. But the peace, like the war, was that of a coalition, and already before the treaties were signed it was uncertain whether the American people would endorse the role that the President wished to give their country.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Military history of the war is not discussed in this chapter. A useful account of the political side is David Stevenson, The First World War and International Politics (Oxford, 1988).Google Scholar
  2. For American neutrality, Ernest R. May, The World War and American Isolation 1914–1917 (Cambridge, MA, 1959);Google Scholar
  3. Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight. Woodrow Wilson’s Neutrality (London, 1974).Google Scholar
  4. For American belligerency: David F. Trask, The United States in the Supreme War Council. American War Aims and Inter-Allied Strategy 1917–1918 (Middletown, CT, 1961);Google Scholar
  5. E.B. Parsons, Wilsonian Diplomacy. Allied-American Rivalries in War and Peace (St Louis, 1978);Google Scholar
  6. David R. Woodward, Trial by Friendship. Anglo-American Relations 1917–1918 (Lexington, 1993);Google Scholar
  7. Arthur Walworth, America’s Moment 1918. American Diplomacy at the End of World War I (New York, 1977). For the peace conference, see note 56.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    For example James F. Muirhead, Nation, 15 Oct. 1914; Spectator, 29 Aug., 12 Sep., 31 Oct.Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    See for example A. Maurice Low, National Review, May 1915; Lindsay Rogers, Contemporary Review, May; Eustace Percy (Foreign Office) to A. Willert (The Times correspondent in Washington), 12 Feb., Yale University, Willert Papers, box 4.Google Scholar
  10. 5.
    Armin Rappaport, The British Press and Wilsonian Neutrality (Stanford and London, 1951) charts the ups and downs of British press reactions to American events and policy.Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    For an analysis of American opinion see Arthur S. Link, Wilson (Princeton, 1960–5), III, pp. 6–31; John Milton Cooper, jr., The Vanity of Power. American Isolationism and the First World War 1914–1917 (Westport, CT, 1969).Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    Mary R. Kihl, ‘A Failure of Ambassadorial Diplomacy’, Journal of American History, LVII (1970–1) pp. 636–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 8.
    For House and his relationship with Wilson see especially Link, Wilson, III–V. The text of House’s diary and correspondence printed in The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link et al. (Princeton, 1978 ff., hereafter cited as PWW),Google Scholar
  14. is to be preferred to that in Charles Seymour, The Intimate Papers of Colonel House (Boston, 1926–8).Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    Grey to Spring Rice, 22 Dec. 1914; Spring Rice to Grey, 24 Dec., Grey to Spring Rice, 2 Jan. 1915, PWW, XXXI, pp. 517–20, 522–3. For the whole subject see George W. Egerton, Great Britain and the Creation of the League of Nations (London, 1979).Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    See J.M. Cooper Jr, ‘The British Response to the House-Grey Memorandum. New Evidence and New Questions’, Journal of American History, LIX (1973) pp. 958–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 15.
    See for example Grey to House, 28 Jun., 28 Aug. 1916, PWW, XXXVII, pp. 412–13; XXXVIII, 38, pp. 89–90; Spring Rice to Grey, 19 May, 14 and 31 Jul. 1916, The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring Rice, ed. Stephen Gwynn (London, 1929), II, pp. 331–3, 339, 342–3.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    See for example Norman Angell, North American Review, May 1915; American Review of Reviews, Dec.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    See Link, Wilson, IV, pp. 48, 50; PWW, XXXVI, pp. 114–21, 173–5: the version of the speech published by Ray Stannard Baker and William E. Dodd, The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson (New York, 1925–7), IV, pp. 106–15 says ‘incomparably the most adequate navy in the world’; Literary Digest, 19 Feb., 11 Mar. 1916; Archibald Hurd, Fortnightly Review, 1 Jun.Google Scholar
  20. 18.
    See Anne Orde, British Policy and European Reconstruction after the First World War (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 9–11, 13;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carl P. Parrini, Heir to Empire. United States Economic Diplomacy 1916–1923 (Pittsburgh, 1969), pp. 15–21, 31–7;Google Scholar
  22. Burton K. Kaufman, Efficiency and Expansion. Foreign Trade Organization in the Wilson Administration 1913–1921 (Westport, CT, 1974), pp. 166–70, 172–5.Google Scholar
  23. 21.
    Memorandum by Keynes, 10 Oct. 1916, J.M. Keynes, Collected Writings, ed. Elizabeth Johnson (London, 1971–83), XVI, pp. 197–8.Google Scholar
  24. For the whole story of Anglo-American financial relations see Kathleen Burk, Britain, America and the Sinews of War 1914–1918 (Boston and London, 1985).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See Stanley J. Kernek, ‘The British Government’s Reaction to President Wilson’s “Peace” Note of December 1916’, Historical Journal, XIII (1970) pp. 721–66. Lloyd George’s speech in the House of Commons in reply to the German note, also aimed partly at American opinion with an evocation of Abraham Lincoln, in HCDeb., 5th ser., vol. 88, cols 1333–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 30.
    A useful general account is David Kennedy, Over Here. The First World War and American Society (New York, 1980).Google Scholar
  27. See also John A. Thompson, Reformers and War. American Progressive Publicists and the First World War (Cambridge, 1987).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 31.
    See Trask, The United States in the Supreme War Council; Woodward, Trial by Friendship. For Russia see R.H. Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations 1917–1921, I, Intervention and War (Princeton, 1961).Google Scholar
  29. 37.
    For the episode see David F. Trask, Captains and Cabinets. Anglo-American naval relations, 1917–1918 (Columbia, MO, 1972).Google Scholar
  30. For American shipping and trade see Jeffrey J. Safford, Wilsonian Maritime Diplomacy 1913–1921 (New Brunswick, NJ, 1978); Kaufman, Efficiency and Expansion.Google Scholar
  31. 40.
    Bayley to Balfour, 13 Jul. 1917, PRO, FO 800/209. Wiseman’s memorandum of his conversation with Wilson is printed in PWW, XLIII, pp. 172–5; Wilton Bonham Fowler, British-American Relations 1917–1918. The Role of Sir William Wiseman (Princeton, 1969), pp. 243–6.Google Scholar
  32. 50.
    Accounts of the episode in Trask, Captains and Cabinets; V.H. Rothwell, British War Aims and Peace Diplomacy 1914–1918 (Oxford, 1971); Stevenson, First World War and International Politics; correspondence in PWW, LI.Google Scholar
  33. 51.
    Memorandum by Wiseman, ‘The attitude of the United States and of President Wilson towards the peace conference’, c. 20 Oct. 1918, Fowler, British-American Relations, pp. 290–6.Google Scholar
  34. 55.
    Imperial War Cabinet, 47, 48, 30 and 31 Dec. 1918, PRO, CAB 23/42. On the colonial settlement see Wm. Roger Louis, Great Britain and Germany’s Lost Colonies 1914–1919 (Oxford, 1967). Members of the War Cabinet were willing to encourage American involvement in German colonial territory or Ottoman territory, in areas where Britain did not have paramount interests.Google Scholar
  35. 56.
    A useful overview of the problems and the outcome of the peace conference is given by Stevenson, First World War and International Politics, ch. 6. For British preparations see Erik Goldstein, Winning the Peace. British Diplomatic Strategy, Peace Planning, and the Paris Peace Conference (Oxford, 1991).Google Scholar
  36. For Anglo-American relations see Seth P. Tillman, Anglo-American Relations at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 (Princeton, 1961).Google Scholar
  37. 57.
    See Inga Floto, Colonel House in Paris, 2nd edn (Princeton, 1981);Google Scholar
  38. Arthur Walworth, Wilson and his Peacemakers. American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference (New York, 1986).Google Scholar
  39. 60.
    Hankey diary, 24 Nov. 1918, Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, II (London, 1972), p. 25; minute by Drummond, 27 Nov.; C.F.Dormer to Drummond, 28 Nov., PRO, FO 800/329.Google Scholar
  40. 66.
    Hoover to Wilson, 24 Oct. 1918; Hoover to Cotton, 7 Nov., PWW, LI, pp. 437–8, 634–6. See papers by Murray N. Rothbard and Robert H. Van Meter jr. in Herbert Hoover. The Great War and its Aftermath 1914–23, ed. Laurence E. Gelfand (Iowa City, 1979).Google Scholar
  41. 67.
    For French policy see Marc Trachtenberg, Reparation in World Politics. France and European Economic Diplomacy 1916–1923 (New York, 1980), chs 1–2. For American policy see Parrini, Heir to Empire, chs 1–3. See also Orde, European Reconstruction, ch. 2.Google Scholar
  42. 69.
    W.M. Hughes to Lloyd George, 18 Dec. 1918, Lloyd George Papers, F/28/2/18. For the origins of British reparation policy see Robert E. Bunselmeyer, The Cost of the War 1914–1919. British Economic War Aims and the Origins of Reparation (Hamden, CT, 1975).Google Scholar
  43. Bruce Kent, The Spoils of War. The Politics, Economics and Diplomacy of Reparations 1918–1932 (Oxford, 1989), pp. 28–40 is a useful short account of the discussions at the peace conference.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anne Orde 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Orde
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DurhamUK

Personalised recommendations