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Wilson’s League of Nations: Collective Security and National Independence

  • Lloyd E. Ambrosius

Abstract

Historians of President Woodrow Wilson’s role in the creation of the League of Nations generally have agreed that he sought to revolutionize American foreign policy. They have argued that he abandoned the tradition of isolationism in favor of active participation in world affairs. Noting the system of collective security that he attempted to establish through the League, they have concluded that the president departed radically from the historic policy of the United States.1 This widely held interpretation has overemphasized Wilson’s departure from traditional American diplomacy. He abandoned American isolationism in part—but only in part. By his personal participation in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and by his vision of future American participation in the League of Nations, the president obviously altered the traditional policy. Never before had the American government shown such direct and extensive concern for the political and military situation in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

Keywords

Military Force World Affair Collective Security Positive Obligation Peace Settlement 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    For explicit statements of this thesis, see John Chalmers Vinson, Referendum for Isolation: Defeat of Article Ten of the League of Nations Covenant (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1961), 1–2, 35, 96;Google Scholar
  2. Ruhl J. Bartlett, The League to Enforce Peace (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944), 52–5;Google Scholar
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  9. The same thesis is implicit in other major works, including Denna Frank Fleming, The United States and the League of Nations, 1918–1920 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1932), 82–117;Google Scholar
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  17. 2.
    Walter Lippmann, Men of Destiny (New York: Macmillan, 1927), 122–3.Google Scholar
  18. 3.
    Ray Stannard Baker and William E. Dodd, eds., The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 6 vols. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1925–7), 5: 258.Google Scholar
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  22. 6.
    Pichon to Wilson, Paris, Feb. 4, 1919, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Léon Bourgeois, Le Pacte de 1919 et la Société des Nations (Paris: Bibliothèque Charpentier, 1919), 197–215.Google Scholar
  23. 7.
    David Hunter Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant, 2 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928), 1: 168–9, and 2: 264, 430–1, 550;Google Scholar
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    Baker, World Settlement, 1: 288; Stephen Bonsai, Unfinished Business (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1944), 29.Google Scholar
  28. 11.
    Baker and Dodd, Public Papers, 6: 351; for the relationship between Wilson’s policy toward Eastern Europe and the League, see John M. Thompson, Russia, Bolshevism, and the Versailles Peace (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966), 240–1, and Address of the President to the Democratic National Committee, Feb. 28, 1919, Joseph P. Tumulty Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
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  32. 37.
    White to Countess Seherr-Thoss, Aug. 6, 1922, quoted in Allan Nevins, Henry White: Thirty Years of American Diplomacy (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1930), 487; see also White to J. W Davis, Paris, March 18, 1919, John W Davis Papers, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lloyd E. Ambrosius 2002

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  • Lloyd E. Ambrosius

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