History 104 Western Civilization after 1600
Please write a three to four page essay (around 900-1200 words), answering one of the questions below. In order to do well on this assignment you will need to use primary sources in our reader, Sources of the Western Tradition, as evidence for your argument. You will also need to acquaint yourself with the relevant secondary sources (i.e. lectures and the editor’s comments in Sources of the Western Tradition) so that you better understand the context of the documents in our reader.*
Woodrow Wilson: The Idealistic View
(May 26, 1917) We are fighting for the liberty, the self-government, and the undictated development of all peoples, and every feature of the settlement that concludes this war must be conceived and executed for that purpose. Wrongs must first be righted and then adequate safeguards must be created to prevent their being committed again…No people must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live. No territory must change hands except for the purpose of securing those who inhabit it a fair chance of life and liberty. No indemnities must be insisted on except those that constitute payment for manifest wrongs done. No readjustments of power must be made except such as will tend to secure the future peace of the world and the future welfare and happiness of its peoples.
And then the free peoples of the world must draw together in some common covenant, some genuine and practical cooperation that will in effect combine their force to secure peace and justice in the dealings of nations with one another.
(The following are excerpts from the 14 Points, the plan for peace that Wilson announced on January 8, 1918)
IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principal that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined…
VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interests of all.
IX. A readjustment in the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
X. The peoples of Austria-Hungry whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development…
XII. The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule, should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
(February 11, 1918) …The principals to be applied in the peace settlement are these:
First, that each part of the final settlement must be based upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent;
Second, that peoples and provinces are not to be battered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game, even the great game, now forever discredited, of the balance of power;
Third, every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned, and not s apart of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival states;
Fourth, that all well defined national aspiration shall be accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them without introducing new or perpetuating old elements of discord and antagonism that would be likely in time to break the peace of Europe and consequently of the world.
(April 6, 1918)…We are ready, whenever the final reckoning is made, to be just to the German people, deal fairly with the German power, as with all others. There can be no difference between peoples in the final judgment, if it is indeed to be righteous judgment. To propose anything but justice, even-handed and dispassionate justice, to Germany, at any time, whatever the outcome of the war would be to renounce and dishonor our own cause. For we ask nothing that we are not willing to accord.
(December 16,1918)…The war through which we have just passed has illustrated in a way which can never be forgotten the extraordinary wrongs which can be perpetrated by arbitrary and irresponsible power. It is not possible to secure the happiness and prosperity of the world, to establish an enduring peace, unless the repetition of such wrongs is rendered impossible. This has indeed been a peoples war. It has been waged against absolutism and militarism, and these enemies of liberty must from this time forth be shut out from the possibility of working their cruel will upon mankind.
(January 3, 1919)…Our task at Paris is to organize our friendship of the world, to see it that all the moral forces that make for right and justice and liberty are united and are given a vital organization to which the peoples of the world will readily and gladly respond. In other words, our task is no less colossal than this, to set up a new international psychology, to have a new atmosphere.
(January 25, 1919)…We are…here to see that every people in the world shall choose its own masters and govern its own destinies, not as we wish, but as it wishes. We are here to see, in short, that the very foundation of this war are swept away. Those foundations were the private choice of small coteries of civil rulers and military staffs. Those foundations were the aggression of great powers upon the small. Those foundations were the holding together of empires of unwilling subjects by the duress of arms. Those foundations were the power of small bodies of men to work their will upon mankind and use them as pawns in a game. And nothing less than the emancipation of the world from these things will accomplish peace.
Georges Clemenceau: French Demands for Security and Revenge
Wilson’s promised new world clashed with French demands for security and revenge. Almost all the fighting of the war’s Western Front had taken place in France; its industries and farmlands lay in ruins and many of its young men had perished. France had been invaded by Germany in 1870 as well as in 1914, so the French believed that only by crippling Germany could they gain security. Premier Georges Clemenceau, who was called “the Tiger,” dismissed Wilson’s vision of a new world as mere noble sentiment divorced from reality, and he fought tenaciously to gain security for France. Clemenceau’s profound hatred and mistrust of Germany are revealed in his book The Grandeur and Misery of Victory (1930), written a decade after the Paris Peace Conference.
For the catastrophe of 1914 the Germans are responsible. Only a professional liar would deny it…
What after all is this war, prepared, undertaken, and waged by the German people, who flung aside every scruple of conscience to let it loose, hoping for a peace of enslavement under the yoke of militarism destructive of all human dignity? It is simply the continuance, the recrudescence, of those never-ending acts of violence by which the first savage tribes carried out their depredations with all the resources of barbarism. The means improve with the ages. The ends remain the same…
Germany, in this matter, was unfortunate enough to allow herself ( in spite of her skills at dissimulation) to be betrayed into an excess of candor by her characteristic tendency to go to extremes. Deutschland uber alles. Germany above everything! That, and nothing less, is what she asks, and when once her demand is satisfied she will let you enjoy a peace under the yoke…
And what is this “Germanic civilization,” this monstrous explosion of the will to power, which threatens openly to…impose the implacable mastery of a race…? The historian Heinrich von Tireitschke asserts that Germany find herself condemned, by her very greatness, either to absorb all nations in herself or to return to nothingness…ought we not all to feel menaced in our very vitals by this mad doctrine of universal Germanic supremacy over England, France, America, and every other country?…
What document more suitable to reveal the direction of “German culture” than the famous manifesto of the 93 super intellectuals of Germany, issued to justify the bloodiest and the least excusable of military aggression against the great centers of civilizations? At the moment…violated Belgium lay beneath the heel of the malefactor (October 1914)…and German troops were razing…great historical buildings to the ground and burning down…libraries…
Professor Ostwald had already written, “Germany has reached a higher stage of civilization than the other peoples, and the result of the War will be an organization of Europe under German leadership.” Professor Haeckel had demanded the conquest of London, the division of Belgium between Germany and Holland, the annexation of North East France, of Poland, the Baltic Provinces, the Congo, and the great part of the English colonies. Professor Lasson went further still: We are morally and intellectually superior to all men. We are peerless. So too are our organizations and our institutions. Germany is the most perfect creation known in history, and the Imperial Chancellor, Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, is the most eminent of living men.
Coming from duly hallmarked professors, such statements explain all German warfare by alleging that Germany’s destiny is universal domination, and that for this very reason she is bound either to disappear altogether or to exercise violence on all nations with a view to their own betterment…
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