The Fourteen Points

President Woodrow Wilson articulated what became known as the Fourteen Points before Congress on January 8, 1918. The Points were the only war aims clearly expressed by any belligerent nation and thus became the basis for the Treaty of Versailles following World War I. The speech was highly idealistic, translating Wilson's progressive domestic policy of democracy, self-determination, open agreements, and free trade into the international realm. It also made several suggestions for specific disputes in Europe on the recommendation of Wilson's foreign policy advisor, Colonel Edward M. House, and his team of 150 advisors known as “The Inquiry.” The points are:

  1. Abolition of secret treaties
  2. Freedom of the seas
  3. Free Trade
  4. Disarmament
  5. Adjustment of colonial claims (decolonization and national self-determination)
  6. Russia to be assured independent development and international withdrawal from occupied Russian territory
  7. Restoration of Belgium to antebellum national status
  8. Alsace-Lorraine returned to France from Germany
  9. Italian borders redrawn on lines of nationality
  10. Autonomous development of Austria-Hungary as a nation, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved
  11. Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and other Balkan states to be granted integrity, have their territories deoccupied, and Serbia to be given access to the Adriatic Sea
  12. Sovereignty for the Turkish people of the Ottoman Empire as the Empire dissolved, autonomous development for other nationalities within the former Empire
  13. Establishment of an independent Poland with access to the sea
  14. General association of the nations – a multilateral international association of nations to enforce the peace (League of Nations)

The speech was controversial in America, and even more so with her Allies. France wanted high reparations from Germany as French agriculture, industry, and lives had been so demolished by the war, and Britain, as the great naval power, did not want freedom of the seas. Wilson compromised with Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and many other European leaders during the Paris Peace talks to ensure that the fourteenth point, the League of Nations, would be established. In the end, Wilson's own Congress did not accept the League and only four of the original Fourteen Points were implemented fully in Europe.

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