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tv   Woodrow Wilson World War I  CSPAN  September 9, 2018 9:18pm-9:59pm EDT

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taxi form i knew take out the golf clubs because they stayed on weekends because we worked and worked and i would play golf and that helped me really definitely. >> how did it help you? was it just a more relaxed atmosphere? >> no. it was 18 holes, it takes four hours and there's a lot of good talk. and we would talk about what we do. so it gave me an insider view of exactly what was happening. >> and the more times you did something like that, did you feel as if it was easier to relate with some of the male members, especially on ways and means? did they accept you more? >> oh, yeah. you know, there were silly things that they did. one time we were working late and i wasn't agreeing on some things and i came in, you know, they had the peatsy already there and they said you can't have it, you're not voting with us. just small things. but that didn't last at all.
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not at all. you know my father was such a strong man and you know, this was this and this was this and the guys didn't intimidate me, not at all. not at all. and that's the thing -- i didn't ever let them know it bothered me and when you don't bite, it's over. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our website where all our video is archive. that's >> the c-span bus is traveling across the country on our 50 capitols tour, visiting all 50 state capitols. this summer the bus left the mainland and traveled by ferry to juneau, alaska, and honolulu, hawaii. join us as we feature our 40th bus stop in des moines iowa. live monday on washington journal with our guest iowa senate president charles
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schneider. >> next on american history tv, a look at president woodrow wilson's decision in 1917 to enter world war i. the foreign desk editor for the washington post is the author of march, 1917, on the brink of war and revolution. he talks about wilson's views on human rights, world affairs democracy, and america's role in the world. he spoke at the eisenhower national historic site in gettysburg pennsylvania. this is 40 minutes. >> welcome, everyone, we are at the eisenhower national historic site in gettysburg, pennsylvania. it is great war camp cole weekend. we're having a complete program of programs as well as speakers here. our next speaker is will
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englund. he's a veteran correspondent for the baltimore sun and the washington post. he's a winner of the pulitzer prize for investigative reporting as well and presently he is a foreign desk editor at the washington post. he will be taking leave this fall to teach at princeton journalism. he lives in baltimore with his wife who is also a journalist. well in moscow he became interested in the year 1917 the year that the united states entered the war and the russians left the war. he wrote about the 1917 year and how it changed the world as well as how it changed world war i. he's going to talk about woodrow wilson and how he was going to make the world safe for
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democracy by leading the united states into world war i. i'll turn it over to you and you can tell us all about it. >> thank you all for coming. what a great day it is after this past week, i've got to say the weather is really risk. so i want to talk about how we got into the war in march and april of 1917 and in order to do that, i think i've got to talk about democracy a little bit. democracy is a question that americans have been dealing with since at least 1776ing and in the spring of 1917 i would argue this question really came into really sharp focus, but first, let's -- let them just set the stage a little bit. the war began in 1914. the u.s. stayed out of it. if we can go to the first slide. this is a picture of new york in the spring of 1917. money was pouring into the united states because of all
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that we were selling to the europeans who were at war. we were selling bullets, we were selling barbed wire, molasses, dried milk ham, bacon, mules were a great big export because they were much sought after on the western front because they were much less skittish than horses. mule exports tripled in the first couple of years of the war. and the flow of money into the country, into the united states, of course was creating very good economy. but, as always, when this happens, there were great disruptions going on at the same time and a lot of people felt that the money was not being shared equitably. let's go to the next slide. the war was also great for the news business in the united states. evening papers could have that day's war news ready for readers when they left work, got in their street cars and went home. this is a photograph of news
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boys in oklahoma city, taken by lewis hine, a famous photographer. okay so we'll go to the next one now. this really is one of my favorite pictures. it's an ad from the saturday evening post, march of 1917. it's advertising the saxon automobile. but if you look really closely you might think that's the white house. i don't know whether you can see in the light here, but that looks very much like the white house at the top of the hill and if you look even more closely, that could very well be president woodrow wilson driving the car driving the automobile of state in a stately fashion toward a brighter and more prosperous future. but the other thing i find ironic about this ad is that it talks about saxon supremacy referring to the automobile, but, of course, wilson was also a believer in anglo-saxon
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supremacy. he had introduced jim crow into the federal government for the first time. the federal government became segregated and this gets at what i wanted to talk about today in terms of whose democracy is it? let's go to the next slide. the war propelled african-americans for the first time in a big way out of the south. this was the beginning of the great migration. there were two reasons for that. one was there was all this business in the north. manufacturing goods for the europeans. and secondly, the flow of immigrants into the united states from europe had been totally cut off by the war. 1.4 million immigrants had entered the u.s. the year before the war and by 1917 virtually no one was so whites and blacks from the south were being recruited to go up north. now, this also gave a great boost to civil rights organizations, such as the naacp, which had been founded in 1909. let's go to the next picture
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please. this is -- this era also created a lot of labor disputes. as i was saying, the money was flowing into the country, there was a feeling it wasn't being shared equitably and there were strikes all over the country in that spring, far more than we would have ever have today. this is a street car strike in washington d.c. the crowd of people is trying to prevent what the management called replacement workers, what the strikers called scabs from getting to those street cars in the background to drive them away. and let's go to the next slide. 1917 was also a year of great ferment in the suffrage movement. the women who were running this movement felt that the time had come to really press for a federal constitutional amendment to extend the vote to women all across the country. they thought the time was really ripe and that the opportunity had presented itself. in the previous fall, 11 states
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out of the 48 states that then existed were places where women could vote. and the suffrage organizations, there were two main ones. they wanted to push for a national suffrage amendment and they began picketing at the white house every day, starting on january 1st of 1917. every day there was a group of picketers on pennsylvania avenue and every day was organized by a different kind of affiliate organization. so these are women from new york state, sometimes, it was college. the first college to send a group of picketers was in new york. wilson was cordial, not entirely opposed to the idea of women voting, but he felt strongly it was an issue that should be left to the states and he did not support a constitutional amendment. he did, however, have the white house butler send out hot drinks
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on cold days and occasionally sandwiches for the picketers. wilson had something else in mind which was he was getting more and more concerned about the effects of the war, even though the u.s. was not in it. he felt that europe was tearing itself apart and if europe was tearing itself apart, in his mind what did that mean? it meant that white civilization in his own words was tearing itself apart, and he felt that america, the last great white power as he put it, had stayed out of the war needed to find a way to broker peace. so in january of 1917, he called for peace without victory. let everybody just put down their arms wherever they are let's not worry about the boundaries for right now. let's have a peace without victory. the united states will guarantee that peace. we're going to broker talks that will lead to a lasting settlement and out of the settlement, out of this horrible, horrible war which had already killed millions of people maybe we can have a
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better world come out of it, a better world be created. this was the beginning of this wilsonian idea. how did the germans react? this is the next slide, please. they reacted by declaring unrestricted submarine warfare in the atlantic ocean. they were prepared to sink even american ships, american merchant vessels headed for england or france. in late february it also became clear that they had sent the famous zimmerman telegram to mexico asking the mexicans if in the event of war will you join us and by the way, will you invite the japanese to join us in fighting against the united states? let's go to the next slide. some people you may recognize this guy. some people felt that this in itself was an act of war and that american honor was at stake, that american softness was being challenged, and we had to step up and prove our manhood and go to war against germany
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and its allies, austria and the ottoman turks. wilson was -- roosevelt was very strongly in favor of getting into the war. but a lot of people, within and without the republican party had just the opposite feeling. let's go to the next slide. this is senator robert, also a republican from wisconsin, and he was completely opposed to getting into the war. his argument was the germans have done nothing to hurt us. they're not going to invade the united states. zimmerman telegram is irrelevant and if the british want our goods so badly, let them send their own ships over here. why do we have to go in harm's way? we have no quarrel with the germans and there were an awful lot of people in the united states who supported that idea, particularly the further west you get. it was this great sense that somehow people like teddy
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roosevelt and others in the big cities in the east were trying to whip up some war enthusiasm so to maybe save wall street, which had invested so much in the allies or maybe just to kind of establish a stronger financial footing for the great banks of the east and westerners didn't care for that so much. let's go to the next slide. in late february of 1917, the woman on your right, was head of the national american women's suffrage association suddenly announced without consulting with any of her colleagues that women would support wilson and the women's suffrage movement would support wilson whatever course he chose to take. and if he went to war, the women's group would support that. her calculation was getting the vote was the most important thing. war was a secondary issue. getting the vote was that mattered to her and if women
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opposed the war as many of them philosophically did at that point it would undermine the suffrage movement entirely. it would prove to men that women were not capable of being tough enough to take part in the democracy so in order to fulfill her democratic vision, she said okay we're with wilson, whatever he does. now to a lot of people and the women's movement were shocked and appalled by that. they didn't like the idea. and they thought it was counterproductive. all the pressure fell on the woman on the left. her name is jeanette ranken. first woman to be elected to the united states congress from montana, which was one of the 11 states where women could vote. and she was a sensation. the whole country was interested in this idea of a woman congressman. what's that going to be like? she embarked on a 20-city speaking tour in the beginning
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of march. the crowds, thousands came out to see her to hear her, to see what she was going to say. she believed very strongly in getting a suffrage amendment. her primary goal was to get the vote for women across the country. she also was a strong opponent of the anaconda copper mining company, which basically owned montana. people talked about politicians in montana wearing the copper collar. she was very much opposed the rockefellers who through various holding companies controlled anaconda. she believed in federal help, for healthcare for young children and new mothers. she believed in prohibition and she believed in help for ranchers. she was quite popular in montana. i just want to give you a little bit of a sense of what it was like on her opening address of her 20-city speaking tour. this was in new york city in
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carnegie hall. and there were about 3,000 people in the audience. she talked about how wonderful montana was and about how important it was to organize for the vote, but the one thing she did not talk about was the war. she refused to even engage in a question of the war. so new york tribune reported on her appearance at carnegie hall. the article read her chiffon dress fluttered in the breeze of her own eloquence. her white satin cloak laid over the back of the chair. she was a dub taunt on her way to the coming out party of women into the class of real people. the evening world wrote i don't know if she's a pacifist. in an article under the headline first congresswoman in u.s. is good cook and knows how to make own clothes, won't commit herself on war question. well so that's the way it was.
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people like roosevelt were arguing that, you know, if you look at the war, you've got england and france and italy. they're allies. they're more or less democracies. and then you look at the germans with their kaiser and the hungarians with their emperor and the turks with their sultan. this was a war between the democracies and the autocracies. and shouldn't the united states be stepping in to help the democracies? this was an argument that had some legitimacy in wilson's eyes, but there was one hitch and let's go to the next slide. that hitch was this man and the country he ran, he's the czar nicholas ii of russia and russia was also allied with the english and the french and the italians. so how can you enter into a war for democracy if one of your allies is the most renowned tyrant on the face of the earth?
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russia was famous in american minds for dysfunctional and corrupt, unjust, and tyrannical. lennon called russia the prisonhouse of nations, but i think a lot of americans felt the same way about it. what's the worst kind of government you could have? russia was what came to mind back in those days. americans were particularly offended and outraged really by the anti-semitism which was so prevalent in russia in those days. in 1917, the ground central of anti-semitism was not germany, it was russia. so the war had not gone well for the russians, partly because of incompetence, mismanagement and presumption and by 1917, by the early months of that year let's go to the next slide. there were food shortages in the capital, st. petersburg today.
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this is a breed line. the food shortages primarily came about because so many soldiers had been constricted from the farming visual, but also the railroads were horribly mismanaged. on march 8th, international women's day, a group of women met in a central square and began to protest. it says glory to the women who are fighting for freedom. that's what that sign says. and other people began joining them and then other people and more and more people joining them and some factories went out on strikes. and that night, the protesters dispersed, the american ambassador sent a note to washington saying, you know there was protests today, it's no big deal. nothing to be concerned about. nothing to pay attention to. the bolshevics, the communists in russia had a meeting that
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night and they came to the same conclusion. russia's not ready for a revolution nothing is going to come of this. the next day the women came back, more protesters joined them, more strikers joined them. the next day, and the next day and on march 11th a sunday, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands were on the streets. we can go to the next slide and this is the day that the police opened fire. both with rifles as you can see here, also from machine gun nests set up on the little bridges that crossed the canals and snipers were deployed on the roofs of buildings to shoot down into the crowds before. it's never been clear how many died, but it was a signature moment in the history of russia. let's go to the next slide. the russian army, those regiments, mostly made up of conscripts, instead of supporting the authorities began defecting en masse to the
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protester side. these soldiers are revolutionary soldiers, they've joined the protesters, they're manning a barricade near to where the u.s. embassy was and when the army goes to war against the police, the army generally wins. so what happened? by march 15th, a week after these protests which weren't going to amount to anything started, the czar had abdicated. his government was overthrown and a provisional government made up of liberal members of this little window dressing parliament that the russians had called a duma, they slader themselves the new government of russia and they declared moreover that they were going to pursue a democratic future for russia. let's go to the next slide. this idea hit americans like a thunder clap. russia has become a democracy and wilson in particular was taken with this idea. if russia of all countries, the
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most tyrannical country, can become a democracy, well who knows? maybe we are at the dawn of a new era. maybe we can start pushing for a democratic future for all of the world. let's go to the next slide. this right here, in the middle of march of 1917 is when this idea arises that maybe the united states has a role to play in the world pushing democracy onto the rest of the world. the idea that we have not only an opportunity, but maybe even an obligation to protect and extend democracy. protect the young fragile democratic government of russia and extend it. who knows maybe to germany. maybe to austria. maybe around the world. wilson had this idea of a league of honor as he called it at that time. all the great democracies of the world convening in a common
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session to discuss problems, come up with solutions, avoid war in the future. okay. so suddenly with the russian revolution we're heading much more quickly into war. the germans have sunk a couple of ships. at first, you know were no casualties. right after the czar was overthrown, a ship sank and a dozen people were killed, a dozen americans were killed and so you know, the war fervor began to really grip the whole country. let's go to the next slide. now, what about african-americans? african-americans who did not have the vote in most states. what was to be their response? w.e.b.dubois argued that this war presents an opportunity an opportunity for african-americans to organize
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to demonstrate their patriotism. he had no illusions about germans as being any less racists than anybody he faced in the united states, but an opportunity to step up and show what they could do, show what african-americans could do and thereby force white america to give african-americans a place at the democratic table. this was his idea. the counterargument comes from the guy on the right father of a long-time congressman. and he said wait a minute, you know, a war is a time of crisis and a crisis is a moment to take advantage of. let's get a few things settled here first before we stand up and make ourselves targets for german bullets. let's get the vote. let's get a federal government that shows it cares more about the wellbeing of black or colored men, women and children than it does about the fate of mules and molasses on ships
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bound for europe. when you look through the black press of that time you see that argument playing out throughout the end of march. i don't care, it's not my war. it is my war. where he can make something of it it's an opportunity. a fierce debate. the civil rights movement like the women's movement like the labor movement cut right in half by this issue of should we go to war or should we not? let's go to the next picture. this is alice paul, head of the national women's party. she was personally opposed to getting into the war. opposed to what kerry chatman cat wanted to do, but she didn't make a public issue of it. she did say, however if war comes, women are going to be drawn into the munitions factories, they're going to be drawn into the manufacturing plants, they're going to be working on the railroads and on the street car lines of this country. we're going to be called upon to make a sacrifice to do what we can for a democracy.
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if this is going to be a war about democracy, how hypocritical would it be if the vote were not extended to those of us who answer the call? this was her argument. the russians, the new revolutionary government in russia, one of its first acts had been to proclaim that women would have the vote there. on march 28th the british parliament cleared the way for women to have the vote. alice paul said we have to be next. next slide, please. so there were great loyalty rallies across the country. a huge one in philadelphia. but there were also anti-war rallies. so a lot of people felt wait a minute, why are we being rushed into the most violent and most destructive war in the history of the world? i don't get it. a couple of ships have sunk. what is this about? so this is a crowd of anti-war protesters gathering for a demonstration right on the steps of the u.s. capitol at the end of march. there were ads in the papers both ways.
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there was a pro-war rally in new york city, where the head of the carnegie endowment for international peace talked about how it was important for americans to stand shoulder to shoulder with the democracies of britain, of france and thank god almighty the great democracy of russia. so next slide, please. this pressure all comes down on this person. this is again jeanette ranken, she's gotten to washington. congress is convening on april 2nd. the eyes of the country are upon her. there's a sense as a woman maybe she's going to be against the war. maybe women are not so aggressive or not so tough as men are. how is she going to vote? she wouldn't say. she continued not to say. she really wanted to push for suffrage and she was under tremendous pressure from women in the group who wanted her to
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follow with wilson and others, particularly back in montana who were against the war. she understood that she represented not only the people of montana, but also in some sense all the women of the united states and in another sense, she represented, she stood in for all the women who were going to follow her in office in the years and decades to follow so she felt under tremendous tremendous pressure. go to the next slide please. so here it is. wilson asks for war on april the 2nd in the evening. and his most famous line is the world must be made safe for democracy and that was the most important point he wanted to make and he invoked the russian revolution before he made that point. the senate took a couple of days to approve a war resolution. the senator held it up in procedural matters. went to the house on april the 5th and the house spent all
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day talking about it. ranken spent most of that day at her new apartment in washington with a couple of colleagues and finally, in the evening she went over to the house and took her seat. so as you can see, you know spoiler alert the house voted for war. there were a couple of things about this page that surprised me. one is house at 3:12 a.m. votes for war. in our modern digital age in those days when everything was much more manual the new york times was able to do that. the other is you probably can't read it but the main secondary headline under big headline mentions ms. ranken votes no sobbing. and she claimed for years afterwards that she wasn't sobbing because she had been crying for three days and she had no tears left, but it's interesting that the focus was on her when, in fact, 49 other members of the house also voted
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no. so competing with a brass band here, but i'll go quickly. what happened? what happened after that? well, let's go to the next slide. alice paul was right. women were drawn into the factories of the country. we all know about roskie the riveter in world war ii. the same exact thing happened in world war i and those women were sent home again when the war was over. let's go to the next picture quickly. women joined the military the first woman to hold any military post other than a nurse was loretta walsh who joined the navy. she was from oliphant, pennsylvania. she was a yeoman and had to design her own uniform because there were no women in the navy at that time. by the end of the war there were 13,000 women yeomen in the united states navy. there were women in the army as well working as telephone operators. i just read this morning that they were denied veterans benefits when the war was over.
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let's go to the next slide. african-americans, once war was declared pretty much did flock to the colors, did do their duty as they were called upon. this is a national guard group in new york city at a training camp in new york. go to the next picture since we have some music playing i'll just show you this one. this is the clef club band. they were the preeminent society dance band in america in the years before the war. they were led by the guy sitting at the piano on the far side, james reese europe who believed very strongly in the powers and beauties of african-american music and the fact that only african-american musicians could really play it correctly. his bands were playing in saratoga springs, in newport in the summertime palm beach in the wintertime. new york city. he put together -- he was an
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empres airio. he had dreams of a negro symphony orchestra. he int greatlied carnegie hall in 1912 with a concert and u.b. blake who played with him then and had a very successful career for decades afterwards would say many years later that jim europe was the martin luther king of music. next picture, please. this is jim europe a couple of months after that picture. a lieutenant in the united states army, fought with the legendary harlem hell fighters group. women didn't get veterans benefits, they didn't get the vote until 1920 which was a considerable delay. jim europe who agreed with w.e.b. dub ois was wrong. lynchingswent up in the 1920s. the clan had its heyday in that
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era. there was great resentment against black americans in the north where they were seen as newcomers and the world was not made safe for democracy and particularly russia was not made safe for democracy. the russian government had promised the united states and the other allies that it was going to renew the fight against germans with even more vigor to protect democracy, but what they neglected to understand was that the russian people had no interest in that whatsoever. the russian army demobilized itself. millions of deserters throughout the summer of 1917 and a communist revolution based on the idea of peace and bread took place in the fall of that year and vladimir lenin came to power. and americans learned over the decades that followed that the war really had not made the world safe for democracy. this is december of 1941. jeanette ranken had been unable to win re-election to congress
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in 1918 because of her vote against the war. 1940 she finally won election to a second term in time to be the only member of congress to vote against war with japan in that era, but let's go to the next picture. in 1968, she was still at it. she felt that her vote against world war i demanded consistency so she was opposed to not only world war ii, but the war in vietnam. this was an anti-war group that called themselves the brigade. in a peace march in january of 1968. what i find interesting here is the banner is against the world but it also says end the social crisis at home. so the issue here is end the social crisis at home. how can we perfect democracy? that in a sense is what they are saying. how can we expand and improve this democratic experiment? am i arguing that this idea of america promoting democracy around the world is foolish or wrong? i'm not.
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there was a couple of very successful examples of moments when america really stepped up to the plate and created some terrific opportunities for people elsewhere in the world. one of the most memorable was the marshall plan under harry truman which put europe back on its feet and another one was this next slide 1975, president gerald ford on the left and soviet leader on the right. this interestingly was a summit that took place in a city called helsinki in finland between the american and russian leaders. europeans were there, as well. what they're signing are the helsinki accords, which many people at that time thought was a great soviet diplomatic victory because it recognized the established boundaries of europe at that point, but it also recognized that human rights were an international
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concern and recognized freedom of conscience and it gave interestingly enough -- this summit, this agreement led to the establishment of groups that called themselves helsinki watch, not only in the west, but in eastern europe, as well. it gave dissidents a foundation to stand upon and i would argue that the dissident movement that got this great boost from the agreement of 1975 led to more than almost any other factor to the downfall of communism in eastern europe and eventually even the soviet union in the decade that followed. both of those things, the marshall plan and the helsinki accords were examples of america promoting democracy without i might add using military as a means of doing so. but if i've had learned anything --
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once you've solved a problem, it tends not to stay solved. so let's go to the next picture. russia today is not a democracy. it's not a place that recognizes human rights. americans have this tendency when a place like russia has a regime change to say russia, it's a democracy, it's great it's wonderful. we did it in 1917 and we were wrong. and we did it in 1991 when the soviet union fell and we were wrong then. and i will bet you anything that when putin leaves office by whatever means he leaves office there will be people in this country who think russia can finally become a democracy and the lesson here is that a country that is corrupt and dysfunctional and unjust cannot become competent and functional and just overnight. democracy is a -- is a process in a sense. democracy is something that takes a great long time to
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build. so let's go to the last slide here. my argument would be the 1917 allowed us to really face the question whose democracy is it? and it's a question that we've been working on and trying to answer ever since. so i'll leave it at that. thank you very much for your attention. [applause] >> any questions? >> you mentioned that the united states supported the allies in europe, britain and france. they didn't do so with germany. they didn't sell lot of material to germany? is that correct? >> that's correct. the reason being there was a british naval blockade. >> but we honored that, was there a movement in the united states that said, yeah, we should be selling supplies and ammunition to germany as well as britain and the allies?
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>> not really. there were some sales of some materials that went to scandinavia and were transshipped then to germany. it was a way of avoiding the british blockade but the sea approaches to germany were so restrictive that the british were able to maintain a -- not waterproof, but shipproof blockade. this was something that senator had brought up. what's the difference between the british blockading germany and the germans having submarine blockade of britain and people thought submarines were underhanded. any other questions? it's a british march right now! >> well, thank you all. >> thank you very much. appreciate it. [applause] i hope you enjoy the rest of the day. >> interested in american history tv? visit our website you can view our tv schedule,
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