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A speech by Woodrow Wilson on the League of Nations (25 September 1919).   The full text is available at: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/wilsonleagueofnations.htm.   After the speech, Wilson complained of a headache.   he was ordered by his doctor to cancel his campaign tour, and soon after suffered a stroke.

 

     

 

My fellow citizens, it is only certain bodies of foreign sympathies, certain bodies of sympathy with foreign nations that are organized against this great document which the American representatives have brought back from Paris.   Therefore, in order to clear away the mists, in order to remove the impressions, in order to check the falsehoods that have clustered around this great subject, I want to tell you a few very simple things about the treaty and the covenant.

 

Do not think of this treaty of peace as merely a settlement with Germany.   It is that.   It is a very severe settlement with Germany, but there is not anything in it that she did not earn.  Indeed, she earned more than she can ever be able to pay for, and the punishment exacted of her is not a punishment greater than she can bear, and it is absolutely necessary in order that no other nation may ever plot such a thing against humanity and civilization.   But the treaty is so much more than that.   It is not merely a settlement with Germany; it is a readjustment of those great injustices which underlie the whole structure of European and Asiatic society.   

This is only the first of several treaties.  They are all constructed upon the same plan.   The Austrian treaty follows the same lines.   The treaty with Hungary follows the same lines.   The treaty with Bulgaria follows the same lines.   The treaty with Turkey, when it is formulated, will follow the same lines.  

What are those lines?   They are based upon the purpose to see that every government dealt with in this great settlement is put in the hands of the people and taken out of the hands of coteries and of sovereigns who had no right to rule over the people.   It is a people's treaty, that accomplishes by a great sweep of practical justice the liberation of men who never could have liberated themselves, and the power of the most powerful nations has been devoted not to their aggrandizement but to the liberation of people whom they could have put under their control if they had chosen to do so. 

Not one foot of territory is demanded by the conquerors, not one single item of submission to their authority is demanded by them.   The men who sat around that table in Paris knew that the time had come when the people were no longer going to consent to live under masters, but were going to live the lives that they chose themselves, to live under such governments as they chose themselves to erect.   That is the fundamental principle of this great settlement.

  

And we did not stop with that.   We added a great international charter for the rights of labor.   Reject this treaty, impair it, and this is the consequence of the laboring en of the world, that there is no international tribunal which can bring the moral judgments of the world to bear upon the great labor questions of the day....   We must see that all the questions which have disturbed the world, all the questions which have eaten into the confidence of men toward their governments, all the questions which have disturbed the processes of industry, shall be brought out where men of all points of view, men of all attitudes of mind, men of all kinds of experience, may contribute their part of the settlement of the great questions which we must settle and cannot ignore.

  

At the front of this great treaty is put the Covenant of the League of Nations.   It will also be at the front of the Austrian, treaty and the Hungarian treaty and the Bulgarian treaty and the treaty with Turkey.   Every one of them will contain the Covenant of the League of Nations, because you cannot work any of them without the Covenant of the League of Nations.   Unless you get the united, concerted purpose and power of the great Governments of the world behind this settlement, it will fall down like a house of cards.   There is only one power to put behind the liberation of mankind, and that is the power of mankind.   It is the power of the united moral forces of the world, and in the Covenant of the League of Nations the moral forces of the world are mobilized.

  

My friends, on last Decoration day I went to a beautiful hillside near Paris, where was located the cemetery of Suresnes, a cemetery given over to the burial of the American dead....    I wish some men in public life who are now opposing the settlement for which these men died could visit such a spot as that. I wish that the thought that comes out of those graves could penetrate their consciousness.   I wish that they could feel the moral obligation that rests upon us not to go back on those boys, but to see the thing through, to see it through to the end and make good their redemption of the world.  

For nothing less depends upon this decision, nothing less than liberation and salvation of the world.