Monday, October 13, 2014

Woodrow Wilson on the results of Creel's Committee on Public Information 's Overseas Propaganda (1917-1919)

Note for a Planned Article
(comments welcome; draft, not for citation)

From George Creel, Rebel at Large: Recollections of Fifty Crowded Years (1947), pp. 205-206:
I talked with him [Woodrow Wilson] often on the deck of the George Washington [on the way to Europe for the Versailles peace conference], and one evening as we walked on the deck I spoke of the tremendous help that his address had been to us in our work [see]. He stood silent for a while, and then answered slowly and soberly: "It is a great thing you have done, but I am wondering if you have not unconsciously spun a net for me from which there is no escape. It is to America that the whole world turns today, not only with its wrongs, but with its hopes and grievances.

image from

The hungry expect us to feed them, the roofless look to us for shelter, the sick of heart and body depend depend upon us for cure. All of these expectations have in them the quality of terrible urgency. There must be no delay. It has been so always. People will endure their tyrants for years, but they tear their deliverers to pieces if a millenium is not created immediately. Yet you know, and I know, that these ancient wrongs, these present unhappinesses, are not to be remedied in a day or with the wave of a hand. What I seem to see -- with all my heart I hope that I am wrong -- is a tragedy of disappointment.

Updated, 10/15/2014

From Ronald Steele, Walter Lippmann and the Twentieth Century, pp. 135-136:
Point Ten [of the Fourteen Points] focused on the critical problem of Austria-Hungary. Here Wilson accepted the Inquiry's [see] argument that Central Europe not be "balkanized" into a congeries of weak nation-states. Instead, Point Ten supported internal autonomy within the empire for nationalist groups like the Serbs and Czechs. Agitation of the various nationalities should be encouraged, but Vienna given "assurances that no dismemberment of the Empire is intended." Wilson was driven from that position at Paris by pressure from emigré [sic] groups and from the British. Ultimately he agreed to dissolve the empire, a concession Lippmann later described as having destroyed the political balance in Central Europe and opened the way to Hitler. 
Updated, 10/13/2014 5:00 pm

Walter Lippmann's views on Wilson' attitude toward the War and European propaganda. From Walter Lippmann, "The Intimate Papers of Colonel House by Charles Seymour" [Review], Foreign Affairs, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Apr., 1926).

p. 384:
Wilson, in spite of the complexity of his character and his mind, was moved by the old American feeling that America is a new land which must not be entangled with Europe. The sympathy of his mind was pro-Allies though chastened by a certain irony about their moral pretensions, a suspicion of their motives, and a conviction that unfortunately they ... were mad; in this period his heart was always neutral and non-European. His real judgment he expressed several times, to the horror not only of the Allied spokesmen but of Colonel House; it was that the war arose out of obscure causes that were hatched in a sinister system of a tortuous diplomacy. Wilson never accepted the official propaganda even when it blew the hottest; he never respected it, and could hardly bear to listen to it. What he wanted above all things was to keep out of the hideous mess. House on the other hand was much too practical a politician to permit himself to stray into such a wilderness of unusable truth, even if he had not really wanted the Allies to win.
P. 386
He [Wilson] wished to keep the country out of the war. For that reason he wished to end the war. He did not wish to fight on order merely to vindicate that part of our neutral rights with Germany was violating. If he had to fight, he wished to justify war by some objective which was greater than the war aims of the war aims of the Allies. The aloofness of Wilson from the pressure of those who usually surround the head of a state helped him to his uncanny understanding of what the mass of American people really believed about the war. It is no wonder that they reelected him in 1916 in the belief that he had kept out of the war in Europe, nor that they elected the Republicans in 1920 because they promised to keep the country out of Europe and another war in Europe. In the period of neutrality Wilson saw more clearly than any living man what the country really wanted. He was in sympathy with the country. He was very much alone, and yet his intuitions were those of the mass of unseen and non-vocal Americans, once you looked beyond the views which were acquired and imposed by German frightfulness and Allied propaganda and the personal and social connections of the upper classes on the Eastern seaboard.

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