When people think of the First World War, they think of Woodrow Wilson and his decision to enter the war. However, some scholars argue that it was not Wilson's decision but his cabinet's decision to actually enter WWI.
Examined here will be both primary and secondary sources addressing Wilson and the war, which will provide information as to the decision he made and what was really behind it (i.e. was he going by the advice of his cabinet, or did he, personally, decide that entering WWI was the best option for the United States at that time in history. Wilson was in office from 1913 to 1921. He was a historian as well as dabbling in political science, and his thoughts on ruling the country and doing it correctly were very serious. He also created a lot of legislation during his first presidential term, including the Federal Reserve System. In 1916, upon his reelection, his focus was the Treaty of Versailles and WWI. Ultimately, the Treaty was rejected by the U.S. Senate. That was unfortunate, because Wilson believed the Treaty could have been use to end the War. When it comes to talking about Wilson and what he did before and during the War, the Treaty is significant.
One of the things Wilson desired most was a League of Nations.
He wanted to get a treaty signed, even if it was not a very good one, and then let the league fix it later. What matters most here, though, is what he did before the war. The events leading up to WWI are available for any historian to peruse, but the actual causes of the War are still somewhat arguable. Additionally, many argue as to whether Woodrow Wilson actually wanted the U.S. To get involved in the war, or whether it was something he felt he had to do because of political pressure and other issues he was facing. That could have a strong impact on the reasons the U.S. joined the War and whether it was something that should have occurred at all or whether it came about from pressure from Wilson's cabinet that either could have been avoided or that Wilson should have ignored.
There are two schools of thought on Woodrow Wilson and his decision to enter the War. One school believes that it was clearly Wilson's choice to send the U.S. into the First World War. The other school believes Wilson did not want the War, but that he was under too much pressure from his cabinet. Both are significant issues to consider, and there is some evidence for both. However, an examination of the papers of Wilson as well as other documents shows that he chose to enter the war, and that it was not pressure from others that made him decide. Still, he did have serious issues to consider when he went to war, and there was political pressure - but it was not so strong as to force Wilson to join the war if he wanted to remain neutral and avoid it at all costs. First, the evidence that it may have been Wilson's cabinet pressure will be discussed. Then, the facts in favor of the war entrance being Wilson's choice will be addressed. That will allow for conclusions that show what really happened before the U.S. joined WWI and why Wilson made that choice on his own.
Wilson's Cabinet - Did They Pressure Him Into War?
Re-election was important to Woodrow Wilson.
When he was first elected he was determined to lead the country correctly and start it down a path to peace and prosperity. He also wanted to make sure it stayed the most powerful nation, and he was willing to do what he could to be a good president. Unlike some of the other men who have been elected to office both before and after Wilson, his commitment to the country ran deep. With that in mind, however, he was still a politician. There were concerns that political pressure from his cabinet became too much for him, and he went to war to pacify others.
There is some evidence for this. His impending re-election, though, did not shed much light on it. Wilson was re-elected narrowly while the war was taking place but the U.S. had not yet entered the fray. The reason for his re-election, it was believed, was due to the fact that he was able to keep the United States out of the war.
Keeping the U.S. safe, peaceful, and protected is part of the job of a president, and Wilson was committed to doing that. By avoiding the war he was able to get re-elected. Unfortunately, it was not that long after his re-election that things began to change for Wilson and for the country. More and more problems with Germany started to appear, and Wilson cautioned the country that he was not going to tolerate any more German attacks on ships which contained Americans. This was in response to a U-boat that sank the Lusitania. It was a British ship, but there were more than 100 Americans aboard it when it went down. Some thought Wilson should enter the war at that time, because these kinds of attacks on Americans could not be tolerated. Still, Wilson said America was "too proud to fight, " and he chose not to declare war on Germany.
In 1917, however, Germany decided it would go back to submarine warfare that was unrestricted. The country realized that America would likely enter the war because of that, but it was still undeterred.
Germany also offered to help Mexico by financing its operations to recover Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. When Wilson found out about that plan, he released the information to the public.
It was too much to take, and war was declared. The plan was to win the war and then make sure that militarism was eliminated from the world. That way, there would be no more danger and no more wars. Naturally, there has been one other world war since that time, and countless smaller skirmishes. Wilson's dream of having a peaceful world did not materialize. His cabinet, the same one that supported him and helped him get re-elected on the idea that he kept the country out of war, was now urging him to get involved. If the U.S. wanted a voice at the peace conference that would follow the war, it was necessary to get involved in the war. Otherwise, there would be no say for the U.S.
That could end up detrimental to its interests and problematic for the country for a long period of time. Wilson had to consider everything he was being told by others and all of the information he was seeing for himself. Sometimes, presidents are briefed on certain aspects of the world and what is taking place in it by those who have agendas. Assuming something is very dangerous where war is involved. There has been some speculation that Wilson's cabinet urged him to go to war more strongly than was necessary, but there was no denying the fact that Germany was up to something and had blatantly disregarded the U.S. stance on not using any unrestricted submarine warfare.
With that being the case, the U.S. had two choices: it could back down and be perceived as weak, but stay out of the war and allow the other countries to fight it out amongst themselves, or it could move into the war in a big way, see that the war was won for the "right" side, and make sure (allegedly) that there would be no more militarism and no more need for war in the future.
Wilson's Choice to go to War
In April of 1917, Wilson went before Congress and urged them to go to war.
His speech was eloquent and there appeared to be no hesitation about what he was doing. It was the speech of a man who had, clearly, "had enough" and saw that the only way out was through the middle. There would be no going around the sides or backing up to get out of something the country was facing. There was nothing else to be done other than to move forward in the best way possible or the safety and longevity of the American people and their country. Congress agreed, and war was declared on Germany. From that point on, most of the events are well-known to Americans and to the citizens of the other countries that were involved in the war in some way. Despite the common knowledge of the war, how much is really known about Wilson's final choice in the matter and what pushed him "over the edge," so to speak, when it came to a declaration of war on Germany.
It would seem, on closer examination of the available information, that there were several factors in Wilson's decision to ask Congress for a war declaration. The…