THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND PEACEMAKING, 1917-1920: ATTITUDES OF STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS TOWARD WILSON'S PEACEMAKING EFFORTS

MARYANN CIVITELLO, Fordham University

Abstract

The State Department played only a minor role in the formulation of an American peace program and in the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles. By the fall of 1917, the department was overburdened with work and President Wilson had begun to question Secretary of State Robert Lansing's ability and loyalty. Therefore, Wilson authorized Colonel Edward House to establish the Peace Inquiry Bureau which was to draft an American peace program. The purpose of this dissertaion is to determine how the six major officials of the State Department reacted to the major aspects of Wilson's peace program and to his circumventing of the department for the peace preparatory work. These officials are Secretary of State Lansing, Counselor Frank L. Polk, First Assistant Secretary of State William Phillips, Second Assistant Secretary of State Alvey A. Adee, Third Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long and Director of the Consular Service Wilbur J. Carr. The major sources for this study were the manuscript collections and the published memoirs of these officials. The manuscript collections of these men for the years 1913 through 1920 were consulted to determine whether they expressed any reaction to Wilson's relationship with the department, the Inquiry, the negotiation and final text of the Treaty of Versailles, the creation of the League of Nations and the ratification struggle in the United States.^ These officials expressed no resentment of Wilson's practice of acting as his own secretary of state or of his reliance upon House to handle important diplomatic negotiations. Moreover, Polk and Phillips became important sources of information for House and attempted to work through him to influence policy. None of the officials studied indicated any resentment over the President's creation of the Inquiry. The department cooperated with the Inquiry, although Phillips and others wanted greater coordination of its work with that of the department.^ The major departmental representative at the Paris Peace Conference was Secretary Lansing. In the close atmosphere of the peace negotiations, Lansing found Wilson's continued preference for House's advice and his own exclusion from decision making difficult to bear. Lansing became increasingly bitter toward Wilson and House and blamed them for unnecessary compromises of the American peace program, including the reparations and Shantung settlements. The Secretary was extremely critical of Wilson's methods of handling the negotiations and of the President's plans for the League of Nations. Lansing believed that the final League Covenant, which authorized the use of force as a league sanction, insured great power domination over world affairs. He unsuccessfully attempted to convince Wilson to adopt a different guarantee of the world's peace, a self-denying pledge of league members not to disturb the peace or to violate the territorial integrity of other member states. Polk, Phillips and Long supported Wilson's plan for the league.^ All the officials studied wanted the Treaty of Versailles ratified by the American Senate. Lansing, Polk and Phillips wanted the President to compromise with treaty opponents and to accept reservations to the treaty, once they realized that such a course of action was necessary to secure the treaty's ratification. They believed that it was essential for the United States to join the league, even with reservations. Only Long endorsed Wilson's policy of refusing to accept reservations to the treaty. One of the great tragedies of the treaty debate was that Wilson isolated himself from the department and did not follow the advice of those officials who supported compromise. ^

Subject Area

History, United States

Recommended Citation

CIVITELLO, MARYANN, "THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND PEACEMAKING, 1917-1920: ATTITUDES OF STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS TOWARD WILSON'S PEACEMAKING EFFORTS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8124278.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8124278

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