Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points

President Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921)

Below please find a set of web questions on President Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” speech, which he delivered to Congress in January 1918. These questions were written by your classmate, Raquel Mlabassati. You can find the text of “The Fourteen Points” in The Shaping of the Modern World, pp. 316-319. Remember to answer one of these questions with a response of a paragraph or more.

  • Why did you think Woodrow Wilson formulated the Fourteen Points? What was in it for him?
  • Were the Fourteen Points a realistic vision for world relations?  
  • To your mind, which one of the Fourteen Points is most important and why?
  • Why do you think support for the Fourteen Points was so weak in the U.S.?
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12 Comments

  1. Ksenia Kurtseva

     /  November 21, 2012

    The Fourteen Points was a plan that President Wilson outlined for the world after World War I. He presented made a presentation of his plan to the US Congress in January of 1918. According to him, that was a peace plan which would allow the world to succeed and improve after the war. Most of his 14 points were concerned with specific European problems that, as he anticipated, would have to be addressed after the war. The most important of the Points was the 14th Point. According to this point, a League of Nations had to be created. A League of Nation was supposed to become an international organization that will get involved in solving issues between nations and prevent future wars. In a way, Wilson’s plan was too idealistic because it assumed that countries that won the war would want to obey all of his demands in the Fourteen Points. But even though most of his points were rejected, some of the ideas of Wilson’s plan helped to create the United Nations after World War II.

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  2. Malka Mermelstein

     /  November 21, 2012

    On the question regarding a realistic vision…
    I think that Wilson’s 14 Points were partially realistic- his points regarding specific states and nations right to sovereignty and independence were realistic. However, his points on freedom of the sea and trade are idealistic. And his points to have no secret alliances and an eventual elimination of weapons are also a bit too idealistic. The fact is that the world is divided in different nations, with different thoughts, cultures, governments, etc. And, each nation wants itself to prove to the world it is most powerful and capable; when each nation is in it for itself, ultimately, there cannot exist full freedom in economy (trade/sea) Additionally, Yes, we can strive to have global peace, but who was he trying to fool? Did he really think there would be no weapons anymore? A nation has a right and a responsibility to be ready to protect itself just in case the need arises, which inevitably and unfortunately, it does. His idea for an “association of nations” was partially realistic- it did create the League of Nations and then the UN, but I think he envisioned it to be a lot more of a success than it really is. But in Wilson’s defense, he was correct in not wanting to charge Germany with such high reparations, but alas, his one really “prophetic” piece of advice was not listened to.

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  3. ori izhaki

     /  November 25, 2012

    The 14 points were a set of rules created after ww1 by Woodrow Wilson. it was made to help keep peace in the world. i personally think the most important point was the last one number 14. the reason for this is, because it brought upon the league of nations which was a very important aspect to keep peace. it was an organization set up to help settle any disputes and stop wars. it was like a parent over the nations, when 2 children would fight the mom would come in and resolve the issue that is just how it was. many of the other points had to be compromised for the most important point, number 14 to work.

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  4. Samira Afifi

     /  December 3, 2012

    Adding onto what Ksenia stated, Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Point plan was not too realistic although it won President Wilson a Nobel Peace Prize. Of course there was no guarantee that all the countries in Europe would maintain peace in the years following World War I. Many of the points were considerably ideal, such as no secret alliances between countries that way it is fair and out in the open what countries agree/support each other and what countries do not see eye to eye. In order for the Fourteen Point Plan to have success, all the countries mentioned in the plan like Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Poland, Italy, etc. would have to have all agreed with the points Woodrow Wilson made. I have to also agree with Ori’s comment on the fourteenth point being the most important as it brought about the League of Nations.

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  5. The Fourteen points were unrealistic for the world at this time in history, the world during the first world war was unstable. I don’t believe that certain counties such as Germany would have followed through. Germany was still bitter on how they were treated, they thought the reparations were unreasonable. I don’t believe the no secret alliance goal was realistic, countries that suffered in the war they needed assurance that they would have aid if an enemy decided to take advantage them. If no country could trust another the whole idea of the fourteen points has no value. Although Wilson’s ideas brought the League of Nations, it ultimately failed because there was way of enforcing rules that were put in place to avoid another world war.

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  6. Firuz Dadabaev

     /  December 13, 2012

    Woodrow Wilson presented the Fourteen Points as a proposal for insuring peace in the world and avoiding any future possible wars. Having seen and analysed all severe consequences of World War I, he decided to come up with something that could be beneficial for everybody and liked by general population. It was a right time to present this plan because at that time everybody got tired from the war and such a good proposal could be supported by many countries and perhaps it could bring him general recognition at international level and some supporting votes for his president elections.

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  7. Jacob Brace

     /  December 14, 2012

    Wilson created these points in obvious interest for countries worldwide to live in a realm of safety and freedom, and to avoid any possible future wars. I believe he had good intentions on creating this 14 point system for a worldwide perspective because nobody wants to remain in a time of war. On the other hand I also believe he did this to gain a support system from our country during a time when people wanted to hear something like this. The country was in constant fear of attack and wanted to avoid a war, but that wasn’t possible. So I do think there was some sense of self-interest involved with his decision, but thats just my opinion.

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  8. David Chomali

     /  December 16, 2012

    Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points were a set of rules created in order to keep peace in the world. In my opinion the most important of Wilson’s 14 points was number 14. Point #14 was so important because it created an alternative to war. Point #14 said that instead of nations going to war they can discuss issues in an open forum and resolve them without war. I think that it is because of point number 14 that today we have the United Nations which has prevented many wars. In some sense Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points were unrealistic. For example point #1 (no countries should form secret alliances) is unrealistic because when a country goes to war usually it is the nature of another country to form an alliance with them if they see it’s in their best interest.

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  9. Andrey Gorelik

     /  December 18, 2012

    Woodrow Wilson wrote 14 points in order to prevent a future break out of war. Every one saw what damage could World war bring, and everyone was hoping it would never happen again. Wilson’s 14 points was his attempt to maintain world piece and prevent any future wars, especially a large war like World War 2

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  10. Kayla Scurry

     /  December 18, 2012

    Wilson formulated the Fourteen Points to bring peace to the nations, to the world! Although it seems unrealistic, I believe he did this to genuinely bring the world to a peaceful state. It could be viewed as him doing this to solely benefit him by making his presidency easy and conflict-free, but it also could’ve benefited many nations. He saw peaceful and rational relations between nations, so it was totally fair for him to have hope in the world.

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  11. Youjie Lin

     /  December 19, 2012

    President Wilson proposed fourteen points, he though these was feasible idea to keep world peace after world war. He basic said that First, as the forms of governance, democracy better than the monarchy, the United States of America pursues democracy and will support other democracy countries. In order to prevent war, it is better to eliminate the causes of war, support of the peace movement, reduction of armaments, decrease invasion of defeat countries. The Fourteen Points were a realistic vision for world relations, but in 1919 Paris Peace Conference’s terms did not agree to the original intention of Fourteen Points. Britain and France manipulated the meeting process oppose the idea of the Fourteen Points, the United States Congress only refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and refused to participate the League of Nations.

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  12. Alondra Nino

     /  December 19, 2012

    Woodrow Wilson formulated the fourteen points because he wanted other nations to come along and form peace with one another. Trying to settle down different countries would be difficult because they all had different issues with one another during World War I. A simple list of guidelines to the post-war would not just fix the problems that they had. What Woodrow Wilson would gain out of this would be popularity and world peace. His goal was to reduce the amount of problems that the countries had and prevent any future wars from happening. I believe that the most important point out of all the fourteen points was number two which states, “Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants”(Shaping 317). The reason as to why I believe that this is the most important point is because the sea itself is not own by anyone. Countries should have the liberty to have an open sea so that exporting an importing of goods can happen. Countries should not be restricted to the access of different ports. If they want to travel to another sea than they can do so. All the bodies of water are interconnected with each other and in time of war every men for themselves and they must use the resources to obtain what they want.

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