Wilson outlines the Fourteen Points - HISTORY
Year
1917

Wilson outlines the Fourteen Points

In an address before a joint meeting of Congress, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson discusses the aims of the United States in World War I and outlines his famous “Fourteen Points” for achieving a lasting peace in Europe.

The peace proposal, based on Wilson’s concept of peace without victory, called for the victorious Allies to set unselfish peace terms, including freedom of the seas, the restoration of territories conquered during the war and the right to national self-determination in such contentious regions as the Balkans. Most famously, Wilson called for the establishment of a general association of nations—what would become the League of Nations—to guarantee political independence to and protect the territorial lines of great and small States alike.

Wilson’s principal purpose in delivering the speech was to present a practical alternative both to the traditional notion of an international balance of power preserved by alliances among nations—belief in the viability of which had been shattered by the Great War—and to the Bolshevik-inspired dreams of world revolution that at the time were gaining ground both within and outside of Russia. Wilson hoped also to keep a conflict-ridden Russia in the war on the Allied side. This effort met with failure, as the Bolsheviks sought peace with the Central Powers at the end of 1917, shortly after taking power. In other ways, however, Wilson’s Fourteen Points played an essential role in world politics over the next several years. The speech was translated and distributed to the soldiers and citizens of Germany and Austria-Hungary and contributed significantly to their decision to agree to an armistice in November 1918.

Like the man himself, Wilson’s Fourteen Points were liberal, democratic and idealistic—he spoke in grand and inspiring terms but was less certain of the specifics of how his aims would be achieved. At Versailles, Wilson had to contend with the leaders of the other victorious nations, who disagreed with many of the Fourteen Points and demanded stiff penalties for Germany. The terms of the final peace treaty—including an ineffectual League of Nations convention that Wilson could not even convince his own Congress to ratify—fell far short of his lofty visions and are believed by many to have ultimately contributed to the outbreak of a second world war two decades later.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The Battle of New Orleans

Two weeks after the War of 1812 officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, U.S. General Andrew Jackson achieves the greatest American victory of the war at the Battle of New Orleans.In September 1814, an impressive American naval victory on Lake Champlain forced ...read more

Wilson announces his 14 Points

In an address before a joint meeting of Congress, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson discusses the aims of the United States in World War I and outlines his “14 Points” for achieving a lasting peace in Europe. The peace proposal called for unselfish peace terms from the victorious ...read more

Mona Lisa exhibited in Washington

At the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, is exhibited for the first time in America. Over 2,000 dignitaries, including President John F. Kennedy, came out that evening to view the famous painting. The next day, the ...read more

Astronomer Galileo dies in Italy

Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei dies in Italy at age 77. Born February 15, 1564, Galileo has been referred to as the “father of modern astronomy,” the “father of modern physics” and the “father of science” due to his revolutionary discoveries. The first person to use a ...read more

Allies retreat from Gallipoli

On January 8, 1916, Allied forces stage a full retreat from the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, ending a disastrous invasion of the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli Campaign resulted in 250,000 Allied casualties and greatly discredited Allied military command. Roughly ...read more

Crazy Horse fights last battle

On this day in 1877, Crazy Horse and his warriors–outnumbered, low on ammunition and forced to use outdated weapons to defend themselves–fight their final losing battle against the U.S. Cavalry in Montana.Six months earlier, in the Battle of Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse and his ...read more

Mussolini questions Hitler’s plans

On this day, a message from Benito Mussolini is forwarded to Adolf Hitler. In the missive, the Duce cautions the Fuhrer against waging war against Britain. Mussolini asked if it was truly necessary “to risk all-including the regime-and to sacrifice the flower of German ...read more

Peace talks resume in Paris

National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Hanoi’s Le Duc Tho resume peace negotiations in Paris.After the South Vietnamese had blunted the massive North Vietnamese invasion launched in the spring of 1972, Kissinger and the North Vietnamese had finally made some progress on ...read more

Operation Cedar Falls is launched

About 16,000 U.S. soldiers from the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, 173rd Airborne Brigade and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment join 14,000 South Vietnamese troops to mount Operation Cedar Falls.This offensive, the largest of the war to date, was designed to disrupt insurgent ...read more

Music City Miracle

On January 8, 2000, in an American Football Conference (AFC) wild card match-up at Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee, the Tennessee Titans stage a last-second come-from-behind victory to beat the Buffalo Bills 22-16 on a kickoff return play later dubbed the “Music City ...read more

Fourteen Points

The Fourteen Points speech of President Woodrow Wilson was an address delivered before a joint meeting of Congress on January 8, 1918, during which Wilson outlined his vision for a stable, long-lasting peace in Europe, the Americas and the rest of the world following World War ...read more

Crazy Horse fights his final battle

Outnumbered, low on ammunition, and forced to use outdated weapons to defend themselves, Crazy Horse and his warriors fight their final losing battle against the U.S. Cavalry in Montana.Six months earlier, Crazy Horse (Tashunca-uitco) and his ally, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake), ...read more

Elvis Presley receives his first guitar

In competing versions of the story, what Elvis Presley really wanted for his birthday was a rifle or a bicycle—both fairly typical choices for a boy his age growing up on the outskirts of Tupelo, Mississippi. Instead, Elvis’s highly protective mother, Gladys—”She never let me out ...read more