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Herbert Hoover Describes The Ordeal Of Woodrow Wilson
The great tragedy of the twenty-eighth President as witnessed by his loyal lieutenant, the thirty-first
June 1958 | Volume 9, Issue 4
It was obvious that the opposition in the Senate and the country to ratification of the Treaty was concentrating mainly on Article X of the Covenant, which read: The Members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.
The President’s statements greatly stressed the inviolability of this article. To the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 19, he said: Article X seems to me to constitute the very backbone of the whole Covenant. Without it the League would be hardly more than an influential debating society.
… While the President actually began his crusade for Senate ratification in his statement accompanying submission of the Treaty to the Senate on July 10, his major effort began on September 4, when he started west to carry the fight for Treaty ratification to the country. On this journey he made forty addresses (often two in a single city), in twenty-seven cities, stretching from Washington to the Pacific coast.
He discussed the League at length in almost every address. His speeches were moving and impressive. He often referred to the vital relationship of Article X to the entire settlement. He was adamant against accepting any reservations to the Treaty. He devoted much time to explaining the compromise by which Japan was assigned the German rights in Shantung; he vigorously defended the mandates; he expounded on the changes made in the original draft of the Covenant to meet Senatorial concern for the Monroe Doctrine, to provide the right of withdrawal from the League and to safeguard our internal affairs. He explained the necessity for compromises on reparations and other features of the Treaty.
Mostly, the President spoke extemporaneously, and was often on his feet several hours during a day. This strain, together with the attendant travel and the necessity for constant contact with individuals, was greater than any human being should have risked—let alone a man physically weakened by the stresses of the war and seven months of negotiation in Paris.
The President collapsed after his speech at Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25, 1919. Through no fault of his own Woodrow Wilson’s crusade was over.
Woodrow Wilson’s ordeal ended on February 3, 1924. He had never fully recovered from his stroke.
Pericles’ oration over the Greeks who died for their country could well be the epilogue for Woodrow Wilson: So they gave their bodies to the commonwealth and received, each for his own memory, praise that will never die, and with it the grandest of all sepulchres, not that in which their mortal bones are laid, but a home in the minds of men, where their glory remains fresh to stir to speech or action as the occasion comes by. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of famous men; and their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.
For a moment at the time of the Armistice, Mr. Wilson appeared to rise to intellectual domination of most of the civilized world. With his courage and eloquence, he carried a message of hope for the independence of nations, the freedom of men and lasting peace. Never since his time has any man risen to the political and spiritual heights that came to him. His proclaimed principles of self-government and independence aided the spread of freedom to twenty-two races at the time of the Armistice.
But he was to find that his was a struggle between the concepts of the New and Old Worlds. European statesmen were dominated by the forces of hate and revenge of their peoples for grievous wrongs; by the economic prostration of their peoples; and by the ancient system of imperial spoils. Mr. Wilson was forced to compromise with their demands in order to save the League, confident that it would in time right the wrongs that had been done.
Woodrow Wilson lived to see some parts of his defeats at Paris become victories. He saw his ferment of freedom bring independence to Iran and Egypt. But he witnessed the Republics of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan snuffed out by Communist Russia. Above all he lived to see the League of Nations come into being despite America’s absence. He witnessed the settling of dangerous controversies and the making of many treaties which aided the economy, health and morals of the world. He lived to see the World Court of International Justice bring solution to many conflicts and the International Labor Organization bring benefits to men who work.
Had Mr. Wilson lived two decades longer, he would have seen the seeds planted by the Old World statesmen at Versailles bring another, and even more terrible, World War. He would have seen the freedom of a dozen nations consumed in the vortex of Communism. Yet his ferment of freedom still survives in the revolts of their people armed only with naked hands against machine guns. Also, he would have seen the Old World of Western Europe moving into a common ground of concepts of self-government and a common front against the spread of Communism.
Had he lived, he would have seen the League concept rise again from this second blood bath of mankind under the name of the United Nations. The spirit of Woodrow Wilson came to the world again.