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President Woodrow Wilson’s effort to win support for ratification of the Versailles Treaty, by holding a White House meeting with influential senators, failed in August 1919. He then decided to go over the politicians' heads and appeal to the electorate, in the hope that a public outcry would save the agreement.Wilson's wife and close advisors became convinced that the president was exhausted by travel and long work days. Huge crowds gathered and wildly cheered the speeches in scenes reminiscent of Wilson’s welcome in the European capitals earlier in the year.The president’s offensive came to an abrupt halt on September 25 in Pueblo, Colorado. The exhausted Wilson collapsed during his speech, suffering either a mild stroke or a nervous breakdown.The train immediately headed back to Washington, where Wilson, against the advice of his doctors, insisted on returning to work. For the next seven months, Wilson was essentially cut off from direct contact with the outside world. Any hope that the treaty would be salvaged was dashed in the resulting leadership vacuum.
See also Wilson's Search for Peace.
The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America’s Strategy for Peace and Security
The Will to Believe examines Woodrow Wilson’s national security strategy from the beginning of the First World War in 1914 to the end of his presidency, contrasting his ideas with alternative policies offered by his political rivals. Despite contradictions and weaknesses in Wilson’s argument, Kennedy argues, the president’s formulation proved more attractive to Americans during his presidency than those offered by others, and after a hiatus in the 1920s and 1930s, returned to dominate American foreign policy down to the present.
Wilson and the ‘liberal internationalists’, who generally agreed with his analysis of the world situation, believed that ‘power politics’ or ‘balance of power’ policies pursued by the European great powers had precipitated the war. The system, they argued, had proved inherently unstable, forcing participants to militarize their societies. If the United States found itself having to arm heavily to protect itself from potential enemies such as Germany, militarism might jeopardize its democratic institutions also. To escape from the power politics game, Wilson reasoned, the balance of power must be replaced by collective security, in which every nation would become responsible for maintaining the peace.
Winning acceptance of an entirely new form of international organization, however, proved difficult in the midst of war. Initially, Wilson hoped to clear the way for reform by mediating an end to the conflict on the basis of status quo ante bellum, with a ceasefire to be followed by the inauguration of a system of collective security. But it soon became clear that neither the Entente nor the Central Powers wanted peace on those terms. And in any case, Wilson distrusted the German government. He doubted that an autocratic, militaristic regime could become a reliable partner in a system of collective security. A durable peace, he became convinced, required not only that the Germans return the territories they had occupied since the beginning of the war, but that the German government must be democratized. In short, he found himself essentially in sympathy with the Allied objectives. Once the United States entered the war in April 1917, Wilson concluded that his only chance to achieve liberal internationalist goals would come at the peace conference. The peace might be imposed by the victors, but to reform international relations, it must it be acceptable to all sides as just.
How could Wilson imagine that the Germans would see being forced to give up conquered territory and pay for damage inflicted on Belgium and France as fair? Why should they accept what looked from their point of view like a defeat? Kennedy argues that Wilson, like most Americans, believed that the Allies would eventually prevail, and that as they found themselves losing, the Germans would become more receptive to his peace terms, provided they felt they were being treated respectfully and could see that the proposed settlement would assure them security. He was convinced that they would recognize that the United States, alone among the major powers, had no selfish interests and wanted only to create an international system that would be fair to everyone. Wilson’s certainty that other nations would recognize and accept American exceptionalism was a major part of the ‘will to believe’ in Kennedy’s title.
Aside from the obvious difficulties in attempting to reform the international system in the midst of a war, Kennedy argues that there were serious inconsistencies in Wilson’s own position. One was that while he distrusted the German autocracy and essentially argued that the German people needed to replace it with a more democratic system, he did not entirely trust a democracy – particularly a German democracy – either. Ordinary citizens, he noted, could be swayed by emotion, and he displayed little confidence that a democratic Germany would necessarily be more peaceful than the Reich. Any peace therefore needed to be severe enough so that the Germans would learn the cost of aggression, yet conciliatory enough so that they would see the terms as fair. Even if such terms could be designed theoretically, however, winning the consent of the Allies and, after 1917, the American public, to them proved impossible.
An equally fundamental contradiction within Wilson’s program became obvious even before the United States entered the war. During the neutrality period, Kennedy contends, the president favored the Allies for ideological reasons and threw ‘America’s weight onto the Allied side on the scales of a balance of power directed at Germany’ (p. 122), thus rendering mediation impossible and undermining his own efforts at international reform. Following America’s entry into the war, the contradiction became even more explicit as the United States employed force to compel a German surrender and to try to impose a new system that would theoretically make force unnecessary.
Wilson’s program did not escape criticism in the United States. The group centered on Theodore Roosevelt, which Kennedy calls ‘Atlanticists’, agreed with the president that power politics tended to create international anarchy, but they could see no alternative to each nation being prepared to defend its interests. They doubted that nations in a collective security system would really be willing to use force to defend the rights of others if their own interests were not involved. Although they saw autocracies as likely to be militaristic, they, even more than Wilson, had little confidence that democracies would be more peaceful. Prior to the beginning of the war, Roosevelt in fact believed that the international system, dominated by ‘civilized’ great powers, was becoming more stable. The balance of power, he argued, had tended to make war less likely. That argument, of course, lost much of its appeal after war began, but the Atlanticists did not give up their belief that each nation’s ability to deter a potential attack reduced the risk of conflict. Collective security seemed to them essentially unworkable.
Kennedy labels a second group of domestic critics of Wilson’s liberal internationalism ‘pacifists.’ This, he admits (p. 229, n.3), is not an entirely satisfactory term, since some of the important members of the group – William Jennings Bryan, for example – were not pacifists in the sense of opposing all uses of force. It also seems strange that he omits any mention of the most notorious pacifist of the era, Eugene Debs. My own preference would have been to use Robert David Johnson’s term, ‘the peace progressives’, but the issue is not crucial. The pacifists’ central argument was that participation in the war ‘would imperil both America’s safety and the cause of international reform’ (p. 114). Unlike the Atlanticists, they shared Wilson’s belief in a system of collective security, although they generally preferred that an international league of nations pursue the resolution of disputes, arms limitation, and anti-imperialism by non-coercive methods. In the end, believing that no foreign nation posed a credible threat to the United States, they were skeptical of Wilson’s arguments both for entry into the war and for collective enforcement of international peace. They charged that the Treaty of Versailles contradicted Wilson’s own Fourteen Points because it stripped the Germans of territory rightfully theirs, handed over Chinese territory to the Japanese, imposed excessive reparations on the Germans, excluded Germany from the League of Nations, and disarmed Germany without general disarmament. They distrusted Wilson’s contention that the League could correct the admitted weaknesses of the treaty.
Given the logical force and popular appeal of the arguments advanced by the Atlanticists and pacifists, why did Wilson’s position not only win out but go on to shape American foreign policy well into the 21st century? As Kennedy points out, Wilson had the advantage of incumbency, and he proved a talented political leader with a particular gift for public speaking. His arguments, which rested on assertions of American exceptionalism, also had a strong and continuing appeal for Americans who assumed their nation’s moral superiority over all others. The Atlanticists’ arguments, on the other hand, implied American participation in a balance of power system that was foreign to American tradition and seemed extremely risky. The pacifists’ assertion that the United States could rely for its security on geography and for its influence on moral suasion also seemed increasingly questionable in the age of submarines and airships. By the 1920s, however, with liberal internationalism rejected and the Atlanticists having failed to make a convincing case for an alternative balance of power strategy, America’s traditional policy, ‘the course of relatively disarmed isolation from international political-military affairs’ (p. 125), became dominant by default. Then, when the events of the 1930s and 1940s discredited that position, liberal internationalists reasserted their primacy. In the cold war, Kennedy contends, the key assumption of liberal internationalism, that the United States had to respond to every threat to peace everywhere, came to shape policy, and after the end of the cold war, apparent American military superiority in the world made the argument even more attractive. Thus the Wilsonian formulation continues to influence American policy.
Kennedy’s argument is based on solid research in published collections of documents and papers – particularly Arthur Link’s edition of The Papers of Woodrow Wilson – and wide secondary reading. Every major point is buttressed by appropriate quotations from the primary sources. Kennedy has a shrewd eye for the telling quotation and a gift for expressing his principals’ arguments clearly and concisely. His juxtaposition of Wilson’s arguments against those of the Atlanticists and the pacifists for the whole period from 1914 to 1920 goes far to clarify both the weaknesses of Wilson’s position and the reasons it won out despite those limitations. I know of no other study of this period that so sharply defines and contrasts competing formulations of national security policy.
The limitation of Kennedy’s approach, in my view, is that it both overstates the consistency of Wilson’s objectives and makes his adversaries sound more unified than they were. To be sure, Wilson always blamed the war on balance of power politics – so did most Americans – but he did not immediately propose collective security as an alternative. Throughout the autumn of 1914 and well into 1915 he displayed great uncertainty about the best American policy. The sharp differences between his ideas and those of Secretary of State Bryan that led to Bryan’s resignation in June 1915 did not seem obvious to either man prior to the late spring of 1915.
The so-called ‘loan ban’ offers a case in point. Traditional neutrality did not require it, and its effect on the belligerents would not have been impartial, since the Allies had greater need of foreign money and supplies than their enemies. Bryan proposed the ban not to favor the Central Powers, however, but to curtail access for both sides to the vast sums needed to sustain modern warfare, and Wilson accepted it initially for the same reason. Subsequently, as it became apparent that the ban would hurt American interests as well as the Allies in particular, both men went along, first, with permitting ‘credits’, and later with an outright repeal of the ban. Kennedy mentions the incident, but, to my mind, understates the degree to which neutrality policy was shaped by economic self-interest as well as an ideological preference for one side over the other. The fact that the United States was in a recession at the outbreak of the war had a significant influence on the administration’s policy.
Missing from Kennedy’s analysis are a number of important figures who seem not to fit conveniently into his categories, including Claude Kitchin and most other Congressional leaders, as well other leaders such as Charles Evans Hughes and Herbert Hoover. Congressional debates, as well as the elections of 1916 and 1918, surely played some role in shaping American policy, yet they receive little or no discussion in the book. And, unless one accepts Wilson’s opinion that Robert Lansing was only a sophisticated clerk, the secretary of state’s logical and thoughtful interpretation of American policy deserves more thorough treatment than Kennedy gives it.
A perhaps minor example of the way in which Kennedy’s focus on analyzing Wilson’s thought from a single perspective subtly distorts his argument is the case of the Overman Act. Kennedy depicts the act, passed in April 1918, as part of a conscious effort by Wilson to ‘sharply’ expand ‘the government’s powers over the economy’ (p. 146). Certainly it had somewhat that effect, although Wilson never made much use of it, but his main goal in asking Senator Overman to sponsor the legislation was not to enhance presidential power so much as to head off a Republican attempt to seize control over the war by creating a congressionally dominated ‘war cabinet.’ Partisan politics, more than a specific theory of how the president could make his office stronger, led to the law’s passage. It was defensive rather than offensive. Kennedy is certainly correct that one of the war’s effects was to enlarge the power of the presidency, but it is not always clear that Wilson deliberately sought that power, and it is notable that he tried to surrender as much of it as possible after the conflict ended. As Kennedy correctly notes, Wilson feared the militarization of the government. My disagreement with Kennedy’s treatment of the Overman Act is with his depiction of it as part of a conscious plan, not with his estimate of its effect. A similar point, I think, could also be made about other aspects of his argument.
Kennedy’s use of broad labels – liberal internationalists, Atlanticists, pacifists – for the various points of view he discusses has the probably inescapable effect of making them seem more coherent than they were. He is careful to point out disagreements within groups, but the mere use of the terms creates a greater impression of unity than was the case. The problem becomes particularly evident in his discussion of the period after the negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles. Of course, as Wilson had anticipated, conversion of collective security from theory to treaty not only highlighted differences between America and the European Allies, and between the Allies and the Germans, but also realigned the groups in the United States. That was a major reason that he resisted offering specifics of his plans for so long. Indeed, the fragmentation of pre-war and wartime alignments was so great, with some pacifists supporting the treaty and some moving into isolationism, and with some Atlanticists outright opposed to it and others willing to accept it with reservations, that it becomes questionable whether Kennedy’s categories retain any meaning. Perhaps he might have been well-advised to abandon them and devise new ones for the post-war period.
Curiously, after spending most of the book seemingly building the case that the internal contradictions within Wilson’s position, as well as the criticisms of it made by the Atlanticists and pacifists, ultimately prevented American ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and entrance into the League of Nations, Kennedy abruptly concludes that ‘the decline of Wilson’s health in the summer and fall of 1919 played the decisive role in preventing ratification of the treaty’ (p. 219). That argument seems to contradict his preceding ideological analysis, and Kennedy does not explain how the two can be reconciled. Indeed, the health argument seems like something of an afterthought here.
Nevertheless, despite these reservations, I think The Will to Believe is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Woodrow Wilson’s ideas, their rejection by the Senate in 1919, and their enduring influence on American foreign policy. Although it is notable for the clarity of its analysis and writing, it is perhaps not the best starting point for novices interested in understanding Wilson’s policy, but specialists will value its trenchant and original analysis.
The author thanks Professor Clements for his thoughtful and detailed review and does not wish to comment further.
Woodrow Wilson Was a Democrat, Friend of the KKK, and a Racist
Finally there’s something that I can agree with the liberal student crybabies. For some time now some students at Princeton University have opposed Woodrow Wilson — a Democrat — who served as president of Princeton from 1902 to 1910 and as the 28th President of the United States. Because of the iconoclasm going on around the country, Wilson&rsquos reputation is coming under scrutiny:
Princeton University will remove the name of President Woodrow Wilson from its school of public policy and a residential college, the school said in a statement Saturday.
The Princeton University Board of Trustees voted Friday to rename the policy school the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, the statement says. The college formerly named for him will be known as &ldquoFirst College&rdquo in recognition of its &ldquostatus as the first of the residential colleges that now play an essential role in the residential life of all Princeton undergraduates,&rdquo according to the statement. (CNN)
There’s a lot not to like about Wilson, but his racial views are some of the worst. It’s too bad that the anti-Wilson students don’t realize that it wasn’t only Wilson’s racial views that have damaged our nation. This point has been made repeatedly by conservatives for a very long time, but because Wilson was a &ldquoprogressive&rdquo and Democrat, he was untouchable.
Let&rsquos begin with his blatant racist views.
A controversial and epic-making silent American film produced and directed by D. W. Griffith was three hours of myth presented as history. The Birth of a Nation chronicles the fall of the South as a result of the Civil War (1861–1865) and the reinstitution of white political power over the interracial state governments that were put in place during the era of Reconstruction.
The film originally premiered under the title The Clansman in January 1915 in California. Three months later it was released as The Birth of a Nation when it premiered in New York. The name change was designed to give the film broader appeal. The film was based on Thomas Dixon’s 1905 play The Clansman, the second volume in a trilogy of books dealing with racial issues. The NAACP, founded just six years earlier in 1909, described it as “3 miles of filth.” ((The NAACP in the 47-page booklet “Fighting a Vicious Film: Protest Against The Birth of a Nation.”))
On the other hand, Wilson, who had been a classmate of Dixon at Johns Hopkins University, was reported to have said that it was “like writing history in lightning . . . and yet it is all so terribly true.” While the attribution of the quotation to Wilson is disputed, his History of the American People, which praised the Ku Klux Klan of the post-Civil War era, is quoted extensively throughout the film. Birth of a Nation was the first film shown in the White House. Its distorted history became America’s history:
“Griffith’s message was regarded so seriously at the time that schoolchildren were taken to his movie to learn history. . . . Griffith’s main concern, however, was rewriting the history of the South and the Civil War, and he was well aware of the power of his medium. He saw his film as an educational tool, and he set out to use it as such, an intention that was itself political. The Birth of a Nation was the first important American political film, not only because it reshaped the image of the South but also because it influenced the way Americans thought about politics.” ((Terry Christensen, Reel Politics: American Political Movies from Birth of a Nation to Platoon (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987), 16, 20.))
More than 200 million people saw The Birth of a Nation between 1915 and 1945. Some attribute the revival of the Ku Klux Klan to racial attitudes and fears that were shaped by the film. A study done by L.L. Thurstone and Ruth C. Peterson “sought to measure changes in the attitudes of groups of children toward certain social values after those children had a viewed a selected motion picture.” ((Henry James Forman, Our Movie-Made Children (New York: The Macmillan Co.,  1935), 122–123.)) Of particular interest is how the attitudes of children changed regarding “Negroes” after watching The Birth of a Nation. Henry James Forman describes the study in Our Movie-Made Children, first published in 1933:
“The investigators found in Illinois a town with a population of 5700 people which had no Negroes. According to the superintendent of schools, very few children in Crystal Lake, the town fixed upon, had ever known or seen Negroes. Upon the subject of prejudice, therefore, for or against the Negro, here obviously were some slates ((“Slates” were small portable blackboards on which students wrote out their school lessons and derived their name from the stone that was used to make them.)) from which much could be learned. . . . A test administered to a group of 434 Crystal Lake children, from grades six to twelve, that is, including seniors of the high school, showed a pronounced liberality toward the Negro race. Only a very small proportion of the group betrayed prejudice by agreeing with such statements in the test as ‘The white race must be kept pure at all costs, even if the Negroes have to be killed off.’ Or, ‘The Negro should be considered in the lowest class among human beings.’ On the contrary, they gave large endorsement to propositions such as this: ‘I believe that the Negro deserves the same social privileges as the white man’ or, ‘by nature the Negro and white man are equal.’
“Such were the slates. The next step was to write upon them. Not so long ago ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ a picture considered as a powerful example of anti-Negro propaganda, was revived with sound. The test on general attitude toward Negroes having been administered to the children, it was decided to show them that film, the ‘Birth of a Nation,’ which is anti-Negro. Here was a way of writing upon virgin and unmarked slates with the assurance of being able to read scientifically what was written thereon.
“The day after the showing of the picture the children were once again tested on their attitude toward the Negro race. One wishes the reader could see the curve of graphs plotted by the psychologists on the before and after readings. If you compare the ‘before’ readings to a peak, then the ‘after’ readings sink almost to a crater. Where before the picture had been seen the favorable attitude curve rose to a height of, say, nearly 200 units, it dropped after ‘The Birth of a Nation’ had been seen to well under 100, the unfavorable attitude rising correspondingly. The unmarked slates, in other words, now bear definite record of a shift toward anti-Negro prejudice. After five months, when the test was again administered without a further showing of the picture, simply upon the recollection of the past, the effect of prejudice against the Negro still remained.” ((Forman, Our Movie-Made Children, 125–126.))
Let&rsquos not forget that Wilson ran as an anti-foreign intervention candidate. After the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania by a German U-boat, he committed the United States to war. World War I was a fiasco that led to World War II.
Wilson&rsquos ongoing policies are equally destructive. It was during his administration that we got the income tax amendment and the Federal Reserve.
Of course, Wilson was not alone in calling for an income tax that was sold to American taxpayers as a tax on the rich. There were RINOs in Wilson&rsquos day. &ldquoWhen Wilson signed the bill in October [of 1913], it included an income tax of 1 percent on individual income over $3,000 ($4,000 for married couples). It also featured a progressive surtax ranging from 1 percent to 6 percent, depending on income.&rdquo The majority of income earners would not be taxed since the average income was below $3000 per year. (Tax History Project)
A copy of the original IRS form from 1913. Image by National Archives.
If you convert 1913 dollars to dollars today using the highest measure of equivalence — how much was a dollar worth back then as a percentage of the overall economy, compared with today — $3,000 was worth more than $1 million. (PBS)
The Democrats pushed for even more taxes. In his famous &ldquopolitics is adjourned&rdquo speech he called for higher taxes, including levies on income, estates, and &ldquoexcess&rdquo profits.
While there have been great advancements in racial relationships since Wilson&rsquos day, Wilson&rsquos policies continue to wreak havoc on our nation. It&rsquos not enough to remove Wilson&rsquos name from a policy center and building, it&rsquos long past time to remove his destructive economic policies that are crippling the economy and empowering the State.
American History: Wilson Urges Support for Idea of League of Nations
BOB DOUGHTY: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
After the end of World War One, President Woodrow Wilson sought national support for his idea of a League of Nations. He took his appeal directly to the American people in the summer of nineteen nineteen.
This week in our series, Tony Riggs and Frank Oliver continue the story of Wilson's campaign.
TONY RIGGS: The plan for the League of Nations was part of the peace treaty that ended World War One. By law, the United States Senate would have to vote on the treaty. President Wilson believed the Senate would have to approve it if the American people demanded it. So he went to the people for support.
For almost a month, Wilson traveled across America. He stopped in many places to speak about the need for the League of Nations. He said the league was the only hope for world peace. It was the only way to prevent another world war.
Wilson's health grew worse during the long journey across the country. He became increasingly weak and suffered from severe headaches. In Witchita, Kansas, he had a small stroke. A blood vessel burst inside his brain. He was forced to return to Washington.
FRANK OLIVER: For a few days, President Wilson's condition improved. Then, his wife found him lying unconscious on the floor of his bedroom in the White House. Wilson had lost all feeling in the left side of his body. He was near death.
The president's advisers kept his condition secret from almost everyone. They told reporters only that Wilson was suffering from a nervous breakdown.
For the next few days, the medical reports from the White House were always the same. They said Mister Wilson's condition had not changed.
People began to wonder. Were they being told the truth. Some people began to believe that the president was, in fact, dead. Vice President Thomas Marshall was worried. If the president died or could not govern, then he – Marshall -- would become president. But even Vice President Marshall could get no information from Wilson's doctors.
TONY RIGGS: After several weeks, the president seemed to get a little stronger. He was still very weak. He could not work, except to sign several bills. This simple act took most of his strength.
Wilson's wife Edith guarded her husband closely. She alone decided who could see him. She alone decided what information he could receive. All letters and messages to Woodrow Wilson were given first to Edith Wilson. She decided if they were important enough for him to see. Most, she decided, were not. She also prevented members of the cabinet and other government officials from communicating with him directly.
Mrs. Wilson's actions made many people suspect that she -- not her husband -- was governing the country. Some spoke of her as the nation's first woman president.
FRANK OLIVER: There was one issue Mrs. Wilson did discuss with her husband: the League of Nations.
The Senate was completing debate on the Treaty of Versailles. That was the World War One peace agreement that contained Wilson's plan for the league. It seemed clear the Senate would reject the treaty. Too many Senators feared the United States would lose some of its independence and freedom if it joined the league.
The leader of Wilson's political party in the Senate, Gilbert Hitchcock, headed the administration campaign to win support for the treaty. He received Mrs. Wilson's permission to visit her husband.
Hitchcock told the president the situation was hopeless. He said the Senate would not approve the treaty unless several changes were made to protect American independence. If the president accepted the changes, then the treaty might pass.
TONY RIGGS: Wilson refused. He would accept no compromise. He said the treaty must be approved as written.
Senator Hitchcock made one more attempt to get Wilson to reconsider. On the day the Senate planned to vote on the treaty, he went back to the White House. He told Mrs. Wilson that compromise offered the only hope for success.
Mrs. Wilson went into the president's room while Hitchcock waited. She asked her husband: "Will you not accept the changes and get this thing settled?" He answered: "I cannot. Better a thousand times to go down fighting than to surrender to dishonorable compromise."
FRANK OLIVER: The Senate voted. Hitchcock's fears proved correct. The treaty was defeated. The defeat ended Wilson's dream of American membership in the League of Nations.
Mrs. Wilson gave the news to her husband. He was silent for a long time. Then he said: "I must get well."
Woodrow Wilson was extremely sick. Yet he was not the kind of man who accepted opposition or defeat easily. From his sick bed, he wrote a letter to the other members of the Democratic Party. He urged them to continue debate on the League of Nations. He said a majority of Americans wanted the treaty approved.
Wilson probably was correct about this. Most Americans did approve of membership in the League of Nations. But they also wanted to be sure membership would not restrict American independence.
TONY RIGGS: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to re-open discussion on the treaty. It searched yet again for a compromise. It made new efforts to get Wilson to accept some changes.
But, as before, Wilson refused. He was a proud man. And he thought many of the Senators were evil men trying to destroy his plan for international peace.
Wilson's unwillingness to compromise helped kill the treaty once and for all. The Senate finally voted again, and the treaty was defeated by seven votes. The treaty was dead. The United States would never enter the League of Nations. And one of the most emotional and personal stories in the making of the American nation had ended.
FRANK OLIVER: The long battle over the Treaty of Versailles ended with political defeat for Woodrow Wilson. Yet history would prove him correct.
Wilson had warned time and again during the debate that a terrible war would result if the world did not come together to protect the peace. Twenty years later, war came. The First World War had been called 'the war to end all wars'. But it was not. And the Second World War would be far more destructive than the first.
TONY RIGGS: The debate over the Treaty of Versailles was the central issue in American politics during the end of Woodrow Wilson's administration. It also played a major part in the presidential election of nineteen twenty.
Wilson himself could not be a candidate again. He was much too sick. So the Democratic Party nominated a former governor of Ohio, James Cox. Cox shared Wilson's opinion that the United States should join the League of Nations. He campaigned actively for American membership.
The Republican Party chose Senator Warren Harding as its candidate for president. Harding campaigned by promising a return to what he called 'normal times'. He said it was time for America to stop arguing about international events and start thinking about itself again.
FRANK OLIVER: The two presidential candidates gave the American people a clear choice in the election of nineteen twenty.
On one side was Democrat James Cox. He represented the dream of Woodrow Wilson. In this dream, the world would be at peace. And America would be a world leader that would fight for the freedom and human rights of people everywhere.
On the other side was Republican Warren Harding. He represented an inward-looking America. It was an America that felt it had sacrificed enough for other people. Now it would deal with its own problems.
Warren Harding won the election.
TONY RIGGS: The results of the election shocked and hurt Woodrow Wilson. He could not understand why the people had turned from him and his dream of international unity and peace. But the fact was that America was entering a new period in its history. For a long time, it would turn its energy away from the world beyond its borders.
That will be our story next week.
BOB DOUGHTY: Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Tony Riggs and Frank Oliver.
Wilson`s Appeal to the Nation - History
My fellow countrymen: I suppose that every thoughtful man in America has asked himself, during these last troubled weeks, what influence the European war may exert upon the United States, and I take the liberty of addressing a few words to you in order to point out that it is entirely within our own choice what its effects upon us will be and to urge very earnestly upon you the sort of speech and conduct which will best safeguard the Nation against distress and disaster.
The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the Nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits and men proclaim as their opinions on the street.
The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict. Some will wish one nation, others another, to succeed in the momentous struggle. It will be easy to excite passion and difficult to allay it. Those responsible for exciting it will assume a heavy responsibility responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of the United States, whose love of their country and whose loyalty to its government should unite them as Americans all, bound in honor and affection to think first of her and her interests, may be divided in camps of hostile opinion, not against each other, involved in the war itself in impulse and opinion if not in action.
Such divisions amongst us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation not as a partisan, but as a friend.
I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men's souls. We must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another.
My thought is of America. I am speaking, I feel sure, the earnest wish and purpose of every thoughtful American that this grc:it country of ours, which is, of course, the first in our thoughts and in our hearts, should show herself in this time of peculiar trial a Nation fit beyond others to exhibit the fine poise of undisturbed judgment, the dignity of self-control, the efficiency of dispassionate action a Nation that neither sits in judgement upon others nor is disturbed in her own counsels and which keeps herself fit and free to do what is honest and disinterested and truly serviceable for the peace of the world.
Shall we not resolve to put upon ourselves the restraints which will bring to our people the happiness and the great and lasting influence for peace we covet for them?
12 Years a Slave's Reminder: Slaves Didn't Win Freedom by Being Manly
Christian America’s Must-See TV Show
The Soft Radicalism of Erotic Fiction
And yet, for all its verisimilitude, the encounter never happened. It appears nowhere in Northup's autobiography, and it’s likely he would be horrified at the suggestion that he was anything less than absolutely faithful to his wife. Director Steve McQueen has said that he included the sexual encounter to show "a bit of tenderness . Then after she's climaxes, she's back … in hell." The sequence is an effort to present nuance and psychological depth — to make the film's depiction of slavery seem more real. But it creates that psychological truth by interpolating an incident that isn't factually true.
This embellishment is by no means an isolated case in the film. For instance, in the film version, shortly after Northup is kidnapped, he is on a ship bound south. A sailor enters the hold and is about to rape one of the slave women when a male slave intervenes. The sailor unhesitatingly stabs and kills him. This seems unlikely on its face—slaves are valuable, and the sailor is not the owner. And, sure enough, the scene is not in the book. A slave did die on the trip south, but from smallpox, rather than from stabbing. Northup himself contracted the disease, permanently scarring his face. It seems likely, therefore, that in this instance the original text was abandoned so that Ejiofor's beautiful, expressive, haunting features would not go through the entire movie covered with artificial Hollywood scar make-up. Instead of faithfulness to the text, the film chooses faithfulness to Ejiofor's face, unaltered by trickery.
Other changes seem less intentional. Perhaps the most striking scene in the film involves Patsey, a slave who is repeatedly raped by her master, Epps, and who as a consequence is jealously and obsessively brutalized by Mistress Epps. In the movie version, Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) comes to Northup in the middle of the night and begs him, in vivid horrific detail, to drown her in the swamp and release her from her troubles. This scene derives from the following passage at the end of Chapter 13 of the autobiography:
Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see [Patsey] suffer, and more than once, when Epps had refused to sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her secretly to death, and bury her body in some lonely place in the margin of the swamp. Gladly would Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared she escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his hand.
As you can see, in the book, it is Mistress Epps who wants to bribe Northup to drown Patsey. Patsey wants to escape, but not to drown herself. The film seems to have misread the line, attributing the mistress's desires to Patsey. Slate, following the lead of scholar David Fiske (see both the article and the correction) does the same. In short, it seems quite likely that the single most powerful moment in the film was based on a misunderstood antecedent.
Critic Isaac Butler recently wrote a post attacking what he calls the "realism canard"—the practice of judging fiction by how well it conforms to reality. "We're talking about the reduction of truth to accuracy," Butler argues, and adds, "What matters ultimately in a work of narrative is if the world and characters created feels true and complete enough for the work's purposes." (Emphasis is Butler's.)
His point is well-taken. But it's worth adding that whether something "feels true" is often closely related to whether the work manages to create an illusion not just of truth, but also of accuracy. Whether it's period detail in a costume romance or the brutal cruelty of the drug trade in Breaking Bad, fiction makes insistent claims not just to general overarching truth, but to specific, accurate detail. The critics Butler discusses may sometimes reduce the first to the second, but they do so in part because works of fiction themselves often rely on a claim to accuracy in order to make themselves appear true.
This is nowhere more the case than in slave narratives themselves. Often published by abolitionist presses or in explicit support of the abolitionist cause, slave narratives represented themselves as accurate, first-person accounts of life under slavery. Yet, as University of North Carolina professor William Andrews has discussed in To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, the representation of accuracy, and, for that matter, of first-person account, required a good deal of artifice. To single out just the most obvious point, Andrews notes that many slave narratives were told to editors, who wrote down the oral account and prepared them for publication. Andrews concludes that "It would be naïve to accord dictated oral narratives the same discursive status as autobiographies composed and written by the subjects of the stories themselves."
12 Years a Slave is just such an oral account. Though Northup was literate, his autobiography was written by David Wilson, a white lawyer and state legislator from Glens Falls, New York. While the incidents in Northup's life have been corroborated by legal documents and much research, Andrews points out that the impact of the autobiography—its sense of truth—is actually based in no small part on the fact that it is not told by Northup, but by Wilson, who had already written two books of local history. Because he was experienced, Andrews says, Wilson's "fictionalizing … does not call attention to itself so much" as other slave narratives, which tend to be steeped in a sentimental tradition "that often discomfits and annoys 20th-century critics." Northup's autobiography feels less like fiction, in other words, because its writer is so experienced with fiction. Similarly, McQueen's film feels true because it is so good at manipulating our sense of accuracy. The first sex scene, for example, speaks to our post-Freud, post-sexual-revolution belief that, isolated for 12 years far from home, Northup would be bound to have some sort of sexual encounters, even if (especially if?) he does not discuss them in his autobiography.
The difference between book and movie, then, isn't that one is true and the other false, but rather that the tropes and tactics they use to create a feeling of truth are different. The autobiography, for instance, actually includes many legal documents as appendices. It also features lengthy descriptions of the methods of cotton farming. No doubt this dispassionate, minute accounting of detail was meant to show Northup's knowledge of the regions where he stayed, and so validate the truth of his account. To modern readers, though, the touristy attention to local customs can make Northup sound more like a traveling reporter than like a man who is himself in bondage. Some anthropological asides are even more jarring in one case, Northup refers to a slave rebel named Lew Cheney as "a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the generality of his race." That description would sound condescending and prejudiced if a white man wrote it. Which, of course, a white man named David Wilson did.
A story about slavery, a real, horrible crime, inevitably involves an appeal to reality—the story has to seem accurate if it is to be accepted as true. But that seeming accuracy requires artifice and fiction—a cool distance in one case, an acknowledgement of sexuality in another. And then, even with the best will in the world, there are bound to be mistakes and discrepancies, as with Mistress Epps's plea for murder transforming into Patsey's wish for death. Given the difficulties and contradictions, one might conclude that it would be better to openly acknowledge fiction. From this perspective, Django Unchained, which deliberately treats slavery as genre, or Octavia Butler's Kindred, which acknowledges the role of the present in shaping the past through a fantasy time-travel narrative, are, more true than 12 Years a Slave or Glory precisely because they do not make a claim to historical accuracy. We can't "actually witness … American slavery" on film or in a book. You can only experience it by experiencing it. Pretending otherwise is presumptuous.
But refusing to try to recapture the experience and instead deciding to, say, treat slavery as a genre Western, can be presumptuous in its own way as well. The writers of the original slave narratives knew that to end injustice, you must first acknowledge that injustice exists. Accurate stories about slavery—or, more precisely, stories that carried the conviction of accuracy, were vital to the abolitionist cause.
And, for that matter, they're still vital. Outright lies about slavery and its aftermath, from Birth of a Nation to Gone With the Wind, have defaced American cinema for a long time. To go forward more honestly, we need accounts of our past that, like the slave narratives themselves, use accuracy and art in the interest of being more true. That's what McQueen, Ejiofor, and the rest of the cast and crew are trying to do in 12 Years a Slave. Pointing out the complexity of the task is not meant to belittle their attempt, but to honor it.
Wilson`s Appeal to the Nation - History
It was Wilson's hope that the final treaty would have the character of a negotiated peace, but he feared that the passions aroused by the war would cause the Allies to make severe demands. In this he was right. The concept of self-determination proved impossible to implement. Persuaded that his greatest hope for peace, the League of Nations, would never be realized unless he made concessions to the Allies, Wilson compromised on the issues of self-determination, open diplomacy and other specific points during the peace negotiations in Paris. However, he resisted the demands of the French premier, Georges Clemenceau, to detach the entire Rhineland from Germany, prevented France from annexing the Saar Basin, and frustrated a proposal to charge Germany with the whole cost of the war -- although the Versailles Peace Treaty did levy a heavy burden of reparations upon Germany.
In the end, there was little left of Wilson's proposals for a generous and lasting peace but the League itself -- and the president had to endure the final irony of seeing his own country spurn League membership. Partly due to his own poor judgment at the time, Wilson made the political mistake of failing to take a leading member of the opposition Republican Party to Paris on his Peace Commission. When he returned to appeal for American adherence to the League, he refused to make even the moderate concessions necessary to win ratification from a predominately Republican Senate.
Having lost in Washington, Wilson carried his case to the people on a tour throughout the country. On September 25, 1919, physically ravaged by the rigors of peacemaking and the pressures of the wartime presidency, he suffered a crippling stroke at Pueblo, Colorado, from which he never fully recovered. In March 1920, the Senate rejected both the Versailles Treaty and the League Covenant. As a result, the League of Nations, without the presence of the United States or Russia, remained a weak organization.
Wilson's belief in a moral and legal basis for war and peace had inspired the nation. However, when events didn't live up to this optimistic standard, Wilsonian idealism gave way to disillusion, and the nation withdrew into isolationism.
(1947) W.E.B. DuBois, “An Appeal to the World : A Statement of Denial of Human Rights to Minorities…”
(1947) W.E.B. DuBois, “An Appeal to the World : A Statement of Denial of Human Rights to Minorities in the Case of citizens of Negro Descent in the United States of America and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress.”
There are in the Unites States of America, fifteen millions or more of native-born citizens, something less than a tenth of the nation, who form largely a segregated caste, with restricted legal rights, and many illegal disabilities. They are descendants of the Africans brought to America during the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and reduced to slave labor. This group has no complete biological unity, but varies in color from white to black, and comprises a great variety of physical characteristics, since many are the off-spring of white European-Americans as well as of Africans. Similarly, there is an equal and perhaps even larger number of white Americans who also descend from Negroes but who are not counted in the colored group nor subject to caste restrictions because the preponderance of white blood conceals their descent.
The so-called American Negro group, therefore, while it is in no sense absolutely set off physically from its fellow Americans, has nevertheless a strong, hereditary cultural unity, born of slavery, of common suffering, prolonged prescription and curtailment of political and civil rights and especially because of economic and social disabilities. Largely from this fact have arisen their cultural gifts to America—their rhythm, music and folk-song’ their religious faith and customs their contribution to American art and literature their defense of their country in every war, on land and sea and especially the hard, continuous toil upon which the prosperity and wealth of this continent has largely been built.
The group has long been internally divided by dilemma as to whether its striving upward, should be aimed at strengthening its inner cultural and group bonds, both for intrinsic progress and for offensive power against caste or whether it should seek escape wherever and however possible into the surrounding American culture. Decision in this matter has been largely determined by outer compulsion rather than inner plan for rabid and prolonged policies of segregation and discrimination have involuntarily welded the mass almost into a nation with an nation with its own schools, churches, hospitals, newspapers, and often other business enterprises.
The result has been to make American Negroes to a wide extent provincial, introvertive, self-conscious, and narrowly race loyal but it has also inspired them to frantic and often successful effort to achieve, to deserve, to show the world their capacity to share modern civilization. As a result there is almost no area of American civilization in which the Negro has not made credible showing in the face of all his handicaps.
If however the effect of the color caste system on the American Negro has been both good and bad, its effect on white America has been disastrous. It has repeatedly led the greatest modern attempt at democratic government to deny its political ideals, to falsify its philanthropic assertions, and to make its religion a vast hypocrisy. A nation which boldly declared “All men equal,” proceeded to build its economy on chattel slavery masters who declared race-mixture impossible, sold their own children into slavery and left a mulatto progeny which neither law nor science can today disentangle churches which excused slavery as calling the heathen to God, refused to recognize the freedom of converts or admit them to equal communion. Sectional strife over the vast profits of slave labor and conscientious revolt against making human beings real estate led to bloody civil war, and to a partial emancipation of slaves which nevertheless even to this day is not complete. Poverty, ignorance, disease, and crime have been forced on these unfortunate victims of greed to an extent far beyond any social necessity and a great nation, which today ought to be in the forefront of the march toward peace and democracy, finds itself continuously making common cause with race hate, prejudiced exploitation and oppression of the common man. Its high and noble words are tuned against it, because they are contradicted in every syllable by the treatment of the American Negro for three hundred and twenty-seven years.
In the Constitution of the United States, Negroes are referred to as fellows although the word “slave” is carefully avoided before the thirteenth amendment. Article I (1787) Section 2, apportionment of members of the House of Representatives: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.” “Other persons” means Negro slaves. Article I, Section, 9 “The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.” “Each person” refers to Negro slaves. Article IV, (1787) Section 2, “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered upon claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” This refers particularly to fugitive slaves. Article XIII (1865) Section 1. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Article XIV, (1868) Section 1. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, not deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, representatives in Congress, the executive or judicial offers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the Untied States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State. Section 3. No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of President or Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each house, remove such disability. Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the Untied States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave but all such debts, obligations, and claims shall be held illegal and void. Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” Article XV, (1870) Section 1. “The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
We appeal to the world to witness that this attitude of America is far more dangerous to mankind than the Atom bomb and far, far more clamorous for attention than disarmament or treaty. To disarm the hidebound minds of men is the only path to peace and as long as Great Britain and the United States profess democracy with one hand and deny it to millions with the other, they convince none of their sincerity, least of all themselves. Not only that, but they encourage the aggression of smaller nations: so long as the Union of South Africa defends Humanity and lets two million whites enslave ten million colored people, its voice spells hypocrisy. So long as Belgium holds in both economic and intellectual bondage, a territory seventy-five times her own size and larger in population, no one can sympathize with her loss of dividends based on serf labor at twenty-five to fifty cents a day. Seven million “white” Australians cannot yell themselves into championship of democracy for seven hundred million Asiatics.
Therefore, Peoples of the World, we American Negroes appeal to you our treatment in America is not merely an internal question of the United States. It is a basic problem of humanity of democracy of discrimination because of race and color and as such it demands your attention and action. No nation is so great that the world can afford to let it continue to be deliberately unjust, cruel and unfair toward its own citizens.
This is our plea to the world and to show its validity we are presenting you with the proof. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with more than a half million members, has asked four scholars under my editorship to present chapters showing in detail the status of American Negroes in the past and today, in law, administration and social condition and the relation of this situation to the Charter of the United Nations.
Milton R. Konvitz who writes Chapter one is a white American of Jewish descent. He is associate professor and director of research, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University he is a member of national legal committee, NAACP and author of The Constitution and Civil Rights (Columbia University Press, 1946), and The Alien and the Asiatic in American Law (Cornell University Press, 1946).
The writer of the second chapter is an American Negro, Earl Dickerson of Chicago. Mr. Dickerson is a practicing lawyer and formerly a member of the legislature of the state of Illinois.
The third chapter is by William R. Ming, Jr. of the federal office of Price Administration and recently had been made a member of the institute of social scientists and lawyers of the University of Chicago.
Rayford R. Logan the writer of the fourth chapter is a Harvard doctor of philosophy and history 1st Lieutenant in World War I and now professor of history at Howard University. He has written Diplomatic Relations of the United States and Haiti, The Operation of the Mandate System in Africa, and The Negro in the Post-War World. He was editor and contributor to What the Negro Wants.
New documentary tells Brian Wilson's survival story
NEW YORK (AP) — The tragedies of Brian Wilson's life is a rock ‘n’ roll story well told.
The postscript — that he's a survivor nearing age 80 who appears to be supported personally and professionally in a way he never really had before — is less familiar.
Despite some uncomfortable moments in “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road,” that important update is the point of the documentary that premieres Tuesday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
The film's heart is a series of drives around southern California, where Wilson and Rolling Stone magazine editor Jason Fine talk, listen to music and occasionally stop at restaurants. There's a comfort level between the two Fine is a journalist who has become a friend.
Wilson, the creative force behind the Beach Boys, has dealt with an abusive, hard-driving father, the mental illness Schizoaffective disorder where he'd hear voices berating and belittling him, and band members often resistant to where he was going musically. Add in years of drug abuse, a quack psychologist who effectively held him prisoner for a decade and the younger brothers who died early, and it's a lot to endure.
“He doesn't deserve the accolades about his music,” Elton John says in the film. “He deserves the accolades about his personal life.”
John, along with Bruce Springsteen, Don Was and Linda Perry, are eloquent in describing what made Wilson's work unique and enduring, crucial to making the film appeal to more than just his fans.
Film director Brent Wilson (no relation) contacted Fine after his own attempts to interview Wilson bore little fruit. Fine said his own experiences with the musician have taught him that “being there when he's ready to talk has always been a big thing with Brian.”
So they hit the road, eventually filming some 70 hours.
Wilson's importance to southern California is evident at some of the stops along their drive. A sign now marks the spot where a Beach Boys album cover was shot. While the boyhood home of Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson in Hawthorne no longer stands, a plaque marks that location, too.
“I didn't feel that Brian's story, Brian's third act now, had been done properly,” Fine said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think that Brian is often seen as a recluse, as a victim, as someone who burned out (and). lost his way,” he said. “That's not how I see Brian at all. Ever since I've known him I see him as a hero, a courageous person, who gives everybody who goes to his shows strength and inspiration.”
Fine said that “I wanted to show people Brian's humanity, his decency, his kindness, his humor, his curiosity.”
In the film, Fine stops the car outside of the former home of Wilson's brother Carl, who died of lung cancer at 51 in 1998. Fine gets out Wilson wants to stay in the passenger seat. The camera catches Wilson wiping away a tear.
At another point, as they passed a spot where he once owned a health food store, Wilson says that “I haven't had a friend to talk to in three years.”
They are moments that are deeply discomforting, bordering on exploitive. Wilson is clearly a damaged soul and, for his sake, you wonder at times in “Long Promised Road” if he would have been been better served by the dignity of privacy.
Fine doesn't see it that way.
“All of it is done on Brian's terms and on Brian's comfort level, so I don't see it as exploitive,” he said.
Wilson himself, in a Zoom call with reporters, said little. Asked why he agreed to participate in the film, he said, “I don’t know. I just made up my mind.”
Fine said it appears that the level of fandom that Wilson inspires is sometimes intimidating. He was struck once, following a show where Wilson and his band performed the “Pet Sounds” album, when Wilson told him that he'd always doubted it, but that now he thought that people loved his music and that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing.
“You'd think that was something he would felt over the last 60 years or so, being onstage with people singing and screaming for his music,” he said. “But what you feel inside is different than what comes from the external sources. I think that he feels the love and I think that's huge.”
After all the years where his life was dominated by negativity, Wilson now has a positive, supportive personal life with wife Melinda and their family. He's also surrounded by musicians who clearly revere him and are devoted to bringing what Elton John called the orchestra in Wilson's head to life.
Nerves drove Wilson off the concert circuit at the height of the Beach Boys' success. Now he loves performing, Fine said.
Perhaps, within himself, Wilson has accepted that he's done things that mean so much to others, he said.
“That sort of simple message he really wanted to give people through his music going back to the ‘60s — a sense of warmth, a sense that it’s going be OK in the same way that music lifted him up from his darkness, he'd try to do for other people,” he said. "I think now, more than earlier in his career, he accepts that he does that and that's a great comfort to him.”
(1936) Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, “Appeal to the League of Nations”
Without warning, Italian armed forces invaded Ethiopia on October 3, 1935, quickly defeated the Ethiopian Army, and forced Emperor Haile Selassie into exile first in Palestine and eventually in Great Britain. On June 30, 1936, Emperor Selassie came before the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to plead for assistance. He decried the use of poison gas which killed civilians and soldiers alike and at the end said, “I ask what measures do you intend to take? What reply shall I have to take back to my people?” The entire speech appears below.
“I, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, am here today to claim that justice which is due to my people, and the assistance promised to it eight months ago, when fifty nations asserted that aggression had been committed in violation of international treaties.
There is no precedent for a Head of State himself speaking in this assembly. But there is also no precedent for a people being victim of such injustice and being at present threatened by abandonment to its aggressor. Also, there has never before been an example of any Government proceeding to the systematic extermination of a nation by barbarous means, in violation of the most solemn promises made by the nations of the earth that there should not be used against innocent human beings the terrible poison of harmful gases. It is to defend a people struggling for its age-old independence that the head of the Ethiopian Empire has come to Geneva to fulfill this supreme duty, after having himself fought at the head of his armies.
I pray to Almighty God that He may spare nations the terrible sufferings that have just been inflicted on my people, and of which the chiefs who accompany me here have been the horrified witnesses.
It is my duty to inform the Governments assembled in Geneva, responsible as they are for the lives of millions of men, women and children, of the deadly peril which threatens them, by describing to them the fate which has been suffered by Ethiopia. It is not only upon warriors that the Italian Government has made war. It has above all attacked populations far removed from hostilities, in order to terrorize and exterminate them.
At the beginning, towards the end of 1935, Italian aircraft hurled upon my armies bombs of tear-gas. Their effects were but slight. The soldiers learned to scatter, waiting until the wind had rapidly dispersed the poisonous gases. The Italian aircraft then resorted to mustard gas. Barrels of liquid were hurled upon armed groups. But this means also was not effective the liquid affected only a few soldiers, and barrels upon the ground were themselves a warning to troops and to the population of the danger.
It was at the time when the operations for the encircling of Makalle were taking place that the Italian command, fearing a rout, followed the procedure which it is now my duty to denounce to the world. Special sprayers were installed on board aircraft so that they could vaporize, over vast areas of territory, a fine, death-dealing rain. Groups of nine, fifteen, eighteen aircraft followed one another so that the fog issuing from them formed a continuous sheet. It was thus that, as from the end of January, 1936, soldiers, women, children, cattle, rivers, lakes and pastures were drenched continually with this deadly rain. In order to kill off systematically all living creatures, in order to more surely to poison waters and pastures, the Italian command made its aircraft pass over and over again. That was its chief method of warfare.
Ravage and Terror
The very refinement of barbarism consisted in carrying ravage and terror into the most densely populated parts of the territory, the points farthest removed from the scene of hostilities. The object was to scatter fear and death over a great part of the Ethiopian territory. These fearful tactics succeeded. Men and animals succumbed. The deadly rain that fell from the aircraft made all those whom it touched fly shrieking with pain. All those who drank the poisoned water or ate the infected food also succumbed in dreadful suffering. In tens of thousands, the victims of the Italian mustard gas fell. It is in order to denounce to the civilized world the tortures inflicted upon the Ethiopian people that I resolved to come to Geneva.
None other than myself and my brave companions in arms could bring the League of Nations the undeniable proof. The appeals of my delegates addressed to the League of Nations had remained without any answer my delegates had not been witnesses. That is why I decided to come myself to bear witness against the crime perpetrated against my people and give Europe a warning of the doom that awaits it, if it should bow before the accomplished fact.
Is it necessary to remind the Assembly of the various stages of the Ethiopian drama? For 20 years past, either as Heir Apparent, Regent of the Empire, or as Emperor, I have never ceased to use all my efforts to bring my country the benefits of civilization, and in particular to establish relations of good neighborliness with adjacent powers. In particular I succeeded in concluding with Italy the Treaty of Friendship of 1928, which absolutely prohibited the resort, under any pretext whatsoever, to force of arms, substituting for force and pressure the conciliation and arbitration on which civilized nations have based international order.
Country More United
In its report of October 5th 193S, the Committee of Thirteen recognized my effort and the results that I had achieved. The Governments thought that the entry of Ethiopia into the League, whilst giving that country a new guarantee for the maintenance of her territorial integrity and independence, would help her to reach a higher level of civilization. It does not seem that in Ethiopia today there is more disorder and insecurity than in 1923. On the contrary, the country is more united and the central power is better obeyed.
I should have procured still greater results for my people if obstacles of every kind had not been put in the way by the Italian Government, the Government which stirred up revolt and armed the rebels. Indeed the Rome Government, as it has today openly proclaimed, has never ceased to prepare for the conquest of Ethiopia. The Treaties of Friendship it signed with me were not sincere their only object was to hide its real intention from me. The Italian Government asserts that for 14 years it has been preparing for its present conquest.
It therefore recognizes today that when it supported the admission of Ethiopia to the League of Nations in 1923, when it concluded the Treaty of Friendship in 1928, when it signed the Pact of Paris outlawing war, it was deceiving the whole world. The Ethiopian Government was, in these solemn treaties, given additional guarantees of security which would enable it to achieve further progress along the specific path of reform on which it had set its feet, and to which it was devoting all its strength and all its heart.
The Wal-Wal incident, in December, 1934, came as a thunderbolt to me. The Italian provocation was obvious and I did not hesitate to appeal to the League of Nations. I invoked the provisions of the treaty of 1928, the principles of the Covenant I urged the procedure of conciliation and arbitration. Unhappily for Ethiopia this was the time when a certain Government considered that the European situation made it imperative at all costs to obtain the friendship of Italy. The price paid was the abandonment of Ethiopian independence to the greed of the Italian Government. This secret agreement, contrary to the obligations of the Covenant, has exerted a great influence over the course of events. Ethiopia and the whole world have suffered and are still suffering today its disastrous consequences.
This first violation of the Covenant was followed by many others. Feeling itself encouraged in its policy against Ethiopia, the Rome Government feverishly made war preparations, thinking that the concerted pressure which was beginning to be exerted on the Ethiopian Government, might perhaps not overcome the resistance of my people to Italian domination. The time had to come, thus all sorts of difficulties were placed in the way with a view to breaking up the procedure of conciliation and arbitration. All kinds of obstacles were placed in the way of that procedure. Governments tried to prevent the Ethiopian Government from finding arbitrators amongst their nationals: when once the arbitral tribunal a was set up pressure was exercised so that an award favorable to Italy should be given.
All this was in vain: the arbitrators, two of whom were Italian officials, were forced to recognize unanimously that in the Wal-Wal incident, as in the subsequent incidents, no international responsibility was to be attributed to Ethiopia.
Following on this award. the Ethiopian Government sincerely thought that an era of friendly relations might be opened with Italy. I loyally offered my hand to the Roman Government. The Assembly was informed by the report of the Committee of Thirteen, dated October 5th, 1935, of the details of the events which occurred after the month of December, 1934, and up to October 3rd, 1935.
It will be sufficient if I quote a few of the conclusions of that report Nos. 24, 25 and 26 “The Italian memorandum (containing the complaints made by Italy) was laid on the Council table on September 4th, 1935, whereas Ethiopia’s first appeal to the Council had been made on December 14th, 1934. In the interval between these two dates, the Italian Government opposed the consideration of the question by the Council on the ground that the only appropriate procedure was that provided for in the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928. Throughout the whole of that period, moreover, the dispatch of Italian troops to East Africa was proceeding.
These shipments of troops were represented to the Council by the Italian Government as necessary for the defense of its colonies menaced by Ethiopia’s preparations. Ethiopia, on the contrary, drew attention to the official pronouncements made in Italy which, in its opinion, left no doubt “as to the hostile intentions of the Italian Government.”
From the outset of the dispute, the Ethiopian Government has sought a settlement by peaceful means. It has appealed to the procedures of the Covenant. The Italian Government desiring to keep strictly to the procedures of the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928, the Ethiopian Government assented. It invariably stated that it would faithfully carry out the arbitral award even if the decision went against it. It agreed that the question of the ownership of Wal-Wal should not be dealt with by the arbitrators, because the Italian Government would not agree to such a course. It asked the Council to dispatch neutral observers and offered to lend itself to any enquiries upon which the Council might decide.
Once the Wal-Wal dispute had been settled by arbitration, however, the Italian Government submitted its detailed memorandum to the Council in support of its claim to liberty of action. It asserted that a case like that of Ethiopia cannot be settled by the means provided by the Covenant. It stated that, “since this question affects vital interest and is of primary importance to Italian security and civilization” it “would be failing in its most elementary duty, did it not cease once and for all to place any confidence in Ethiopia, reserving full liberty to adopt any measures that may become necessary to ensure the safety of its colonies and to safeguard its own interests.”
Those are the terms of the report of the Committee of Thirteen, The Council and the Assembly unanimously adopted the conclusion that the Italian Government had violated the Covenant and was in a state of aggression. I did not hesitate to declare that I did not wish for war, that it was imposed upon me, and I should struggle solely for the independence and integrity of my people, and that in that struggle I was the defender of the cause of all small States exposed to the greed of a powerful neighbor.
In October, 1935. the 52 nations who are listening to me today gave me an assurance that the aggressor would not triumph, that the resources of the Covenant would be employed in order to ensure the reign of right and the failure of violence.
I ask the fifty-two nations not to forget today the policy upon which they embarked eight months ago, and on faith of which I directed the resistance of my people against the aggressor whom they had denounced to the world. Despite the inferiority of my weapons, the complete lack of aircraft, artillery, munitions, hospital services, my confidence in the League was absolute. I thought it to be impossible that fifty-two nations, including the most powerful in the world, should be successfully opposed by a single aggressor. Counting on the faith due to treaties, I had made no preparation for war, and that is the case with certain small countries in Europe.
When the danger became more urgent, being aware of my responsibilities towards my people, during the first six months of 1935 I tried to acquire armaments. Many Governments proclaimed an embargo to prevent my doing so, whereas the Italian Government through the Suez Canal, was given all facilities for transporting without cessation and without protest, troops, arms, and munitions.
Forced to Mobilize
On October 3rd, 1935, the Italian troops invaded my territory. A few hours later only I decreed general mobilization. In my desire to maintain peace I had, following the example of a great country in Europe on the eve of the Great War, caused my troops to withdraw thirty kilometers so as to remove any pretext of provocation.
War then took place in the atrocious conditions which I have laid before the Assembly. In that unequal struggle between a Government commanding more than forty-two million inhabitants, having at its disposal financial, industrial and technical means which enabled it to create unlimited quantities of the most death-dealing weapons, and, on the other hand, a small people of twelve million inhabitants, without arms, without resources having on its side only the justice of its own cause and the promise of the League of Nations. What real assistance was given to Ethiopia by the fifty two nations who had declared the Rome Government guilty of a breach of the Covenant and had undertaken to prevent the triumph of the aggressor?
Has each of the States Members, as it was its duty to do in virtue of its signature appended to Article 15 of the Covenant, considered the aggressor as having committed an act of war personally directed against itself? I had placed all my hopes in the execution of these undertakings. My confidence had been confirmed by the repeated declarations made in the Council to the effect that aggression must not be rewarded, and that force would end by being compelled to bow before right.
In December, 1935, the Council made it quite clear that its feelings were in harmony with those of hundreds of millions of people who, in all parts of the world, had protested against the proposal to dismember Ethiopia. It was constantly repeated that there was not merely a conflict between the Italian Government and the League of Nadons, and that is why I personally refused all proposals to my personal advantage made to me by the Italian Government, if only I would betray my people and the Covenant of the League of Nations. I was defending the cause of all small peoples who are threatened with aggression.
What of Promises?
What have become of the promises made to me as long ago as October, 1935? I noted with grief, but without surprise that three Powers considered their undertakings under the Covenant as absolutely of no value. Their connections with Italy impelled them to refuse to take any measures whatsoever in order to stop Italian aggression. On the contrary, it was a profound disappointment to me to learn the attitude of a certain Government which, whilst ever protesting its scrupulous attachment to the Covenant, has tirelessly used all its efforts to prevent its observance. As soon as any measure which was likely to be rapidly effective was proposed, various pretexts were devised in order to postpone even consideration of the measure. Did the secret agreements of January, 1935, provide for this tireless obstruction?
The Ethiopian Government never expected other Governments to shed their soldiers’ blood to defend the Covenant when their own immediately personal interests were not at stake. Ethiopian warriors asked only for means to defend themselves. On many occasions I have asked for financial assistance for the purchase of arms That assistance has been constantly refused me. What, then, in practice, is the meaning of Article 16 of the Covenant and of collective security?
The Ethiopian Government’s use of the railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa was in practice a hazardous regards transport of arms intended for the Ethiopian forces. At the present moment this is the chief, if not the only means of supply of the Italian armies of occupation. The rules of neutrality should have prohibited transports intended for Italian forces, but there is not even neutrality since Article 16 lays upon every State Member of the League the duty not to remain a neutral but to come to the aid not of the aggressor but of the victim of aggression. Has the Covenant been respected? Is it today being respected?
Finally a statement has just been made in their Parliaments by the Governments of certain Powers, amongst them the most influential members of the League of Nations, that since the aggressor has succeeded in occupying a large part of Ethiopian territory they propose not to continue the application of any economic and financial measures that may have been decided upon against the Italian Government. These are the circumstances in which at the request of the Argentine Government, the Assembly of the League of Nations meets to consider the situation created by Italian aggression. I assert that the problem submitted to the Assembly today is a much wider one. It is not merely a question of the settlement of Italian aggression.
It is collective security: it is the very existence of the League of Nations. It is the confidence that each State is to place in international treaties. It is the value of promises made to small States that their integrity and their independence shall be respected and ensured. It is the principle of the equality of States on the one hand, or otherwise the obligation laid upon small Powers to accept the bonds of vassalship. In a word, it is international morality that is at stake. Have the signatures appended to a Treaty value only in so far as the signatory Powers have a personal, direct and immediate interest involved?
No subtlety can change the problem or shift the grounds of the discussion. It is in all sincerity that I submit these considerations to the Assembly. At a time when my people are threatened with extermination, when the support of the League may ward off the final blow, may I be allowed to speak with complete frankness, without reticence, in all directness such as is demanded by the rule of equality as between all States Members of the League?
Apart from the Kingdom of the Lord there is not on this earth any nation that is superior to any other. Should it happen that a strong Government finds it may with impunity destroy a weak people, then the hour strikes for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history will remember your judgment.
I have heard it asserted that the inadequate sanctions already applied have not achieved their object. At no time, and under no circumstances could sanctions that were intentionally inadequate, intentionally badly applied, stop an aggressor. This is not a case of the impossibility of stopping an aggressor but of the refusal to stop an aggressor. When Ethiopia requested and requests that she should be given financial assistance, was that a measure which it was impossible to apply whereas financial assistance of the League has been granted, even in times of peace, to two countries and exactly to two countries who have refused to apply sanctions against the aggressor?
Faced by numerous violations by the Italian Government of all international treaties that prohibit resort to arms, and the use of barbarous methods of warfare, it is my painful duty to note that the initiative has today been taken with a view to raising sanctions. Does this initiative not mean in practice the abandonment of Ethiopia to the aggressor?
On the very eve of the day when I was about to attempt a supreme effort in the defense of my people before this Assembly does not this initiative deprive Ethiopia of one of her last chances to succeed in obtaining the support and guarantee of States Members? Is that the guidance the League of Nations and each of the States Members are entitled to expect from the great Powers when they assert their right and their duty to guide the action of the League? Placed by the aggressor face to face with the accomplished fact, are States going to set up the terrible precedent of bowing before force?
Your Assembly will doubtless have laid before it proposals for the reform of the Covenant and for rendering more effective the guarantee of collective security. Is it the Covenant that needs reform? What undertakings can have any value if the will to keep them is lacking? It is international morality which is at stake and not the Articles of the Covenant. On behalf of the Ethiopian people, a member of the League of Nations, I request the Assembly to take all measures proper to ensure respect for the Covenant.
I renew my protest against the violations of treaties of which the Ethiopian people has been the victim. I declare in the face of the whole world that the Emperor, the Government and the people of Ethiopia will not bow before force that they maintain their claims that they will use all means in their power to ensure the triumph of right and the respect of the Covenant.
I ask the fifty-two nations, who have given the Ethiopian people a promise to help them in their resistance to the aggressor, what are they willing to do for Ethiopia? And the great Powers who have promised the guarantee of collective security to small States on whom weighs the threat that they may one day suffer the fate of Ethiopia, I ask what measures do you intend to take?
Representatives of the World I have come to Geneva to discharge in your midst the most painful of the duties of the head of a State. What reply shall I have to take back to my people?”