President Wilson In France

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

On December 14, 1918, President Wilson arrived in Paris. He had by

leaving North America done something never done before by an American

president; but he was never afraid to establish a new precedent if he

believed his duty called upon him to do so. Very rarely have the

presidents gone in person before Congress to read their messages, but

Woodrow Wilson revived the custom. In leaving the continent, however,

he was
ot reviving an abandoned custom but establishing an entirely

new precedent.

He sailed on one of the huge American transports, the George

Washington, and was wildly welcomed upon his arrival at Brest, the

American base in France.

[Illustration: A photograph of the United States Transport George

Washington taken from an airplane convoying the steamer out to sea.

From the forward mast is flying the President's flag, distinguishable

by the four white stars. At the bow and stern can be seen the naval

guns, used formerly in case of submarine attack.]

In Paris, at a great dinner given in his honor, he was welcomed by

President Poincare in the following words:--

Mr. President: Paris and France awaited you with impatience. They

were eager to acclaim in you the illustrious democrat whose words and

deeds were inspired by exalted thought, the philosopher delighting in

the solution of universal laws from particular events, the eminent

statesman who had found a way to express the highest political and

moral truths in formulas which bear the stamp of immortality.

They had also a passionate desire to offer thanks, in your person, to

the great Republic of which you are the chief for the invaluable

assistance which had been given spontaneously, during this war, to the

defenders of right and liberty.

Even before America had resolved to intervene in the struggle she had

shown to the wounded and to the orphans of France a solicitude and a

generosity the memory of which will always be enshrined in our hearts.

The liberality of your Red Cross, the countless gifts of your

fellow-citizens, the inspiring initiative of American women,

anticipated your military and naval action, and showed the world to

which side your sympathies inclined. And on the day when you flung

yourselves into the battle with what determination your great people

and yourself prepared for united success!

Some months ago you cabled to me that the United States would send

ever-increasing forces, until the day should be reached on which the

Allied armies were able to submerge the enemy under an overwhelming

flow of new divisions; and, in effect, for more than a year a steady

stream of youth and energy has been poured out upon the shores of


No sooner had they landed than your gallant battalions, fired by their

chief, General Pershing, flung themselves into the combat with such a

manly contempt of danger, such a smiling disregard of death, that our

longer experience of this terrible war often moved us to counsel

prudence. They brought with them, in arriving here, the enthusiasm of

Crusaders leaving for the Holy Land.

It is their right today to look with pride upon the work accomplished

and to rest assured that they have powerfully aided by their courage

and their faith.

Eager as they were to meet the enemy, they did not know when they

arrived the enormity of his crimes. That they might know how the

German armies make war it has been necessary that they see towns

systematically burned down, mines flooded, factories reduced to ashes,

orchards devastated, cathedrals shelled and fired--all that deliberate

savagery, aimed to destroy national wealth, nature, and beauty, which

the imagination could not conceive at a distance from the men and

things that have endured it and today bear witness to it.

In your turn, Mr. President, you will be able to measure with your own

eyes the extent of these disasters, and the French Government will make

known to you the authentic documents in which the German General Staff

developed with astounding cynicism its program of pillage and

industrial annihilation. Your noble conscience will pronounce a

verdict on these facts.

Should this guilt remain unpunished, could it be renewed, the most

splendid victories would be in vain.

Mr. President, France has struggled, has endured, and has suffered

during four long years; she has bled at every vein; she has lost the

best of her children; she mourns for her youths. She yearns now, even

as you do, for a peace of justice and security.

It was not that she might be exposed once again to aggression that she

submitted to such sacrifices. Nor was it in order that criminals

should go unpunished, that they might lift their heads again to make

ready for new crimes, that, under your strong leadership, America armed

herself and crossed the ocean.

Faithful to the memory of Lafayette and Rochambeau, she came to the aid

of France, because France herself was faithful to her traditions. Our

common ideal has triumphed. Together we have defended the vital

principles of free nations. Now we must build together such a peace as

will forbid the deliberate and hypocritical renewing of an organism

aiming at conquest and oppression.

Peace must make amends for the misery and sadness of yesterday, and it

must be a guarantee against the dangers of tomorrow. The association

which has been formed for the purpose of war, between the United States

and the Allies, and which contains the seed of the permanent

institutions of which you have spoken so eloquently, will find from

this day forward a clear and profitable employment in the concerted

search for equitable decisions and in the mutual support which we need

if we are to make our rights prevail.

Whatever safeguards we may erect for the future, no one, alas, can

assert that we shall forever spare to mankind the horrors of new wars.

Five years ago the progress of science and the state of civilization

might have permitted the hope that no Government, however autocratic,

would have succeeded in hurling armed nations upon Belgium and Serbia.

Without lending ourselves to the illusion that posterity will be

forevermore safe from these collective follies, we must introduce into

the peace we are going to build all the conditions of justice and all

the safeguards of civilization that we can embody in it.

To such a vast and magnificent task, Mr. President, you have chosen to

come and apply yourself in concert with France. France offers you her

thanks. She knows the friendship of America. She knows your rectitude

and elevation of spirit. It is in the fullest confidence that she is

ready to work with you.

President Wilson replied:--

Mr. President: I am deeply indebted to you for your gracious

greeting. It is very delightful to find myself in France and to feel

the quick contact of sympathy and unaffected friendship between the

representatives of the United States and the representatives of France.

You have been very generous in what you were pleased to say about

myself, but I feel that what I have said and what I have tried to do

has been said and done only in an attempt to speak the thought of the

people of the United States truly, and to carry that thought out in


From the first, the thought of the people of the United States turned

toward something more than the mere winning of this war. It turned to

the establishment of eternal principles of right and justice. It

realized that merely to win the war was not enough; that it must be won

in such a way and the question raised by it settled in such a way as to

insure the future peace of the world and lay the foundations for the

freedom and happiness of its many peoples and nations.

Never before has war worn so terrible a visage or exhibited more

grossly the debasing influence of illicit ambitions. I am sure that I

shall look upon the ruin wrought by the armies of the Central Empires

with the same repulsion and deep indignation that they stir in the

hearts of the men of France and Belgium, and I appreciate, as you do,

sir, the necessity of such action in the final settlement of the issues

of the war as will not only rebuke such acts of terror and spoliation,

but make men everywhere aware that they cannot be ventured upon without

the certainty of just punishment.

I know with what ardor and enthusiasm the soldiers and sailors of the

United States have given the best that was in them to this war of

redemption. They have expressed the true spirit of America. They

believe their ideals to be acceptable to free peoples everywhere, and

are rejoiced to have played the part they have played in giving reality

to those ideals in cooeperation with the armies of the Allies. We are

proud of the part they have played, and we are happy that they should

have been associated with such comrades in a common cause.

It is with peculiar feeling, Mr. President, that I find myself in

France joining with you in rejoicing over the victory that has been

won. The ties that bind France and the United States are peculiarly

close. I do not know in what other comradeship we could have fought

with more zest or enthusiasm. It will daily be a matter of pleasure

with me to be brought into consultation with the statesmen of France

and her Allies in concerting the measures by which we may secure

permanence for these happy relations of friendship and cooeperation, and

secure for the world at large such safety and freedom in its life as

can be secured only by the constant association and cooeperation of


I greet you not only with deep personal respect, but as the

representative of the great people of France, and beg to bring you the

greetings of another great people to whom the fortunes of France are of

profound and lasting interest.

This meeting of the American and the French presidents at a banquet in

the French capital is a remarkable incident in the history of the

world. The statement of the likelihood of such a meeting would have

been ridiculed before the war.

[Illustration: President Wilson driving from the railroad station in

Paris with President Poincare of France to the home of Prince Murat, a

descendant of Marshal Murat, Napoleon's great cavalry leader.]

As we read the speeches, however, and grasp their full meaning, we

understand that the most remarkable fact about the historic meeting is

that the leaders of two great republics met with minds and hearts set

upon justice. They were determined that the weak who had suffered

unimaginable wrong should not fail to secure justice because they were

weak and they were equally of a mind that the high and mighty who were

responsible for these wrongs should not escape justice because they

were high and mighty.

Many times in the history of the world, meetings of the great have been

remembered because of the show of Might, on every hand. The meeting of

President Wilson and President Poincare in Paris on December 14, 1918,

will never be forgotten because it was the greatest demonstration the

world has ever seen of the power of Right.


Truth forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne,--

Yet that scaffold sways the future,

And, behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow,

Keeping watch above His own.