Wilson Delivers Fourteen Points Speech

On this day in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson delivers his Fourteen Points speech to Congress. In it, he articulated the ideas that would form the backbone of American foreign policy as the nation inched toward superpower status in the early 20th century. The First World War grimly illustrated to Wilson the unavoidable relationship between international stability and American national security. At the same time, he sought to placate American isolationist sentiment by stating that the world [must] be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression.

In his speech, Wilson itemized 14 strategies to ensure national security and world peace. Several points addressed specific territorial issues in Europe; however the most significant sections set the tone for post-war American diplomacy. Wilson could foresee that international relations would only become more important to American security. He advocated equal trade conditions, arms reduction and national sovereignty for former colonies of Europe’s weakening empires. Finally, Wilson urged the establishment of an international governing body of united nations formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. His idea gave birth to the unsuccessful League of Nations—the more viable United Nations would come to pass only after the conclusion of yet another global conflict.

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