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World War I (1914-1920)

AP US History Study Terms: American Neutrality, Triple Alliance, Triple Entente, Black Hand June, Ethnic Diversity, Woodrow Wilson, Lusitania, Bryan’s resignation, Robert Lansing, Gore-McLemore Resolution, Sussex incident, Woman’s Peace Party, American Union against Militarism, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Socialist party, Zimmerman Telegram, Mexican-American war, National Defense Act of 1916, Navy Act of 1916, Selective Service Act, Allies, armistice, War Industries Board, Food Administration, RRD Administration, Fuel Administration, Revenue Act of 1916, War Revenue Act of 1917, Civil Liberties, Committee on Public Information, Espionage Act, Sedition Act, Schenck v. US, Abrams v. US, Bolshevik Revolution, Red Scare, League of Nations, Versailles, Irreconcilables, Reservationists, Henry Cabot Lodge

I The Outbreak of War and American Neutrality

A competition in trade, colonies, allies, and arms

i. Triple Alliance [Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy] vs. Triple Entente [Great Britain, France, Russia].

ii.  Assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne by the Serbian group Black Hand June 1914.

- resulted in the German declaration of war on August 1

B Wilson began by issuing a proclamation of neutrality.

- Neutrality was hard to maintain due to

i. Ethnic Diversity – People took sides according to their nat’l origins

ii. Economic Ties – The US and Britain had big time trading/banking    links

-Wilson opposed trade at first, but conceded as it was essential to US economic health.

iii. Ideological Similarities – British supremacy gave Wilsons’ principles more of a chance.

C Wilsonianism consisted of:

1)traditional American ideals [democracy, Open Door], 2)internationalism,

3)American exceptionalism –US is world leader in era of capitalism                 4)diplomacy

D Wilson still didn’t want to go to war, and attempted to preserve    neutrality

II Wilson’s Decision for War

A. series of events got Wilson to start considering WAR

i. Lusitania incident – In May 1915 the British passenger liner Lusitania was sunk by a British submarine, killing 128 Americans. *Note: The Germans HAD issued a warning that British vessels could be destroyed, but nobody listened.

ii. Bryan’s resignation – Bryan suggested Americans be forbidden from traveling on ships and that contraband not be allowed on passenger vessels, but Wilson disagreed and insisted the Germans stop their sub warfare. Bryan resigned in protest, and Robert Lansing [pro-Allied] took his place.

iii. Gore-McLemore Resolution – After the sinking of the Arabic in early 1916 Congress debated this resolution, which would have prohibited Americans from traveling on armed merchant vessels or ships w/contraband. But, the resolution was eventually killed off.

iv. Sussex incident – Another U-boat attack led Wilson to threaten Berlin w/the severance of diplomatic relations. The Germans promised not to do it again.

B. Anti-war groups:

1) Woman’s Peace Party

2) American Union against Militarism [pacifist Progressives]

3) Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [Carnegie & Ford                         were both anti-war]

4) the Socialist party.

C The anti-war advocates were big on the fact that war:

(1) kills young people,

(2) fosters repression

(3) is not moral [

(4) lets business moguls make big $ at expense of the little guys. 

D In 1916 Wilson claimed to be anti-war, running [and winning] the   Presidential Election of 1916 on a promise to keep out of the           conflict. In early 1917, he tried one last time to bring peace via a conference.

E Two major short-term causes of WWI:

1)   Germany started unrestricted sub warfare, gambling that it could wipe out the Allies before the US could bring troops across to Europe.

2)   The Zimmerman Telegram was intercepted in February 1917. The telegram asked Mexico to join an alliance against the US in exchange for help recovering territories lost in the Mexican-American war.

F Wilson first asked for “armed neutrality,” but anti-war Senators filibustered            the bill out, so Wilson ended up calling Congress into special session       on April 2, 1917. After naming US grievances [violation of freedom of    the seas, disruption of commerce, the Mexico deal, etc.], Wilson            finally got his declaration of war passed. So, brimming w/idealism       [Wilson planned to reform the world], USA entered WWI on April 6.

III Winning the War

A. US had been getting ready for war even before it was declared

B National Defense Act of 1916 and Navy Act of 1916 provided for the           largest naval expansion in US history.

C After the declaration of war, Congress passed the Selective Service Act,             requiring all males between 21and 30 (changed to 18 and 45 later)             to register.

-Critics felt the measure would lead to excessive militarism, but     supporters countered that it would lead to good, healthy patriotism.

D Most draftees were white, poorly-educated Americans in their early 20s   – some African Americans signed up and were assigned to                                       segregated units

E American organizations like the Commission on Training Camp Activities,            etc. attempted to        keep soldiers healthy and moral during the war,

F soldiers faced trench warfare, poison gas, and the horrors of the new         weapons technology.

G Americans managed to turn the tide against the Germans after the       Allied victory in July 1918 at Second Battle of the Marne, which was       followed by a huge Allied offense that forced Germany into an   armistice on November 11, 1918.

IV America on the Home Front: Economic Change

WWI created a vastly different society in which the gov’t spend a lot more money and exercised more control over the economy. Several important economic developments resulted from WWI war production, as follows:

A   Business-Government Cooperation – The war ushered in a new era of business/gov’t cooperation. Early on, the gov’t relied on industrial committees for advice on purchases/prices, but after they turned out to be corrupt in July 1917, the War Industries Board replaced them. Still, the WIB worked closely w/corporations, and big business grew due to the suspension of antitrust laws and gov’t-industry contracts.

B    New Gov’t Economic Agencies – As follows:

i.    War Industries Board – Headed by Bernard Baruch, the WIB coordinated the nat’l economy by making purchases, allocating supplies, and fixing prices. It also ordered the standardization of goods. Not all-powerful, though, b/c there had to be lots of compromising w/the big corporations.

ii.    Food Administration – Led by Herbert Hoover, the FA had voluntary programs [like the “victory gardens”] and other duties, like setting prices and regulating distribution.

iii    RRD Administration & Fuel Administration – Regulated their respective industries, fuel administration rationed gasoline as well.

C   Boom Years for Farmers and Industry – One of the positive results of war production was that it allowed farmers to get mechanized [due to high demand and high prices] and led to great growth in some industries.

D   Errors & Fuel Shortages – On the negative side, there were mistakes made due to the hectic pace of production and distribution, and there was a severe coal shortage which left many w/o heat in 1917-1918.

E    Inflation – Increased buying [more demand than supply], liberal credit policies, and the setting of prices on raw materials rather than on finished products led to skyrocketing prices.

F    New Tax Policies – To pay for the war, taxes went up through laws like the Revenue Act of 1916 [raised tax on high incomes and corporate profits, added tax on large estates, and increased the tax on munitions manufacturers] and the War Revenue Act of 1917 [more income and corporate taxes]. Liberty Bonds also contributed to gov’t incomes.

G   Labor Shortage – Unemployment basically vanished and wages increased [though the costs of living did too]. People rushed into the cities and into manufacturing jobs. As a result of the shortage, strikes were strongly discouraged, and the National War Labor Board was established in 1918 to coordinate management and unions. The AFL joined the NWLB, but the Socialists and IWW members still continued to agitate.

H   Women in the Work Force ­– Women temporarily took over many male-dominated professions. Similarly, black women were able to take jobs formerly reserved to white women. After the war, however, women were displaced back into the home.

I     African American Migration to the Cities – New opportunities also appeared for blacks, and male blacks rushed into the cities to take advantage of them, regardless of the discrimination that persisted. This resulted in race riots through the “Red Summer” of 1919.

- Economically, the war brought increased gov’t involvement and a temporary boom in industry.

V America on the Home Front: Civil Liberties

A. As soon as the war began, the gov’t also instituted control of speech, and the limiting of civil liberties. Anyone who refused to support the war faced repression from the gov’t, and the issue of free speech was seen as a question of policy for the first time.

1    Committee on Public Information – Headed by Progressive journalist George Creel, the CPI set about the making of propaganda through posters, films, pamphlets, speeches, and so on.

2    Espionage Act (1917) – The EA forbade “false statements” against the draft or the military, and banned anti-war mails.

3    Sedition Act (1918) – The SA made it illegal to obstruct the sale of war bonds and to use nasty language against the gov’t, Constitution, flag, or uniform. It was very vague, and allowed for plenty of gov’t intimidation.

4    Imprisonment of Socialists – As a result of the new acts, IWW members and Socialists faced major problems. For example, Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the Socialist Party, was arrested for speaking about the freedom to criticize the gov’t.

5    Spread of Vigilante Organizations – Some people thought they would help out by…umm…helping get rid of unpatriotic people or bullying them into buying Liberty Loans and such. These organizations included the Sedition Slammers and American Defense Society.

B These steps led to a questioning of the whole free speech thing – CO        Roger Baldwin founded the Civil Liberties Bureau to defend people        accused under the E/S Acts and redefined free speech as            something separate from the identity of the speaker.

C Two important SC cases also dealt w/the new developments:

1 Schenck v. US (1919), in which Holmes upheld the EA by using the                           whole fire in a movie theater argument [if there is a “clear                            and present” danger free speech is restricted],

2 Abrams v. US (1919) in which the SA was also upheld [but this time                                     Holmes and Brandeis dissented].

VI The American Reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution: Labor Strikes and the Red Scare

A. As a continuation of the suppression of civil liberties that occurred         during the war, Americans continued to oppress radicals following           the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 – they worried about Bolshevism in       the country, and resented Russia as a result of its separate peace             w/Germany after the revolution.

B Wilson despised the Russians so much that he even fought an     undeclared war against Lenin by        sending military expeditions to “guard Allied supplies and rescue Czechs” in Siberia. He also          refused to recognize the Bolsheviks, sent arms to their opponents,      and economically blockaded            Russia.

C US unemployment and the post-war recession contributed to anti-      radical sentiment as well. In 1919, a        series of labor and an incident with mail bombs on May 1 led to the Red Scare.

D.  A steel strike partially led by an IWW member only made things worse     by allowing leaders to label the strike a conspiracy by foreign          radicals, which was not the case as the American left was actually    badly split between Communist Labor Party and Communist Party.

E. Consequently, anti-radical elements like the American Legion joined        with Wilson’s attorney general Mitchell Palmer, who was appointed         as head of the Radical Division of the Dept. of Justice, in chasing             down supposed Reds. This climaxed in the January 1920 with the             Palmer Raids – gov’t agents broke in to meeting halls and homes      w/o warrants and arrested many people.

F. The anti-red activities were regarded as anti-Constitutional by many civil           libertarians, and even conservatives turned against Palmer when he           asked for a peacetime sedition act. But e/t Palmer’s activities stopped for the most part in 1920, American radicalism suffered.

VII America and the Postwar World

A During the whole Red Scare deal, Wilson actually was more into     international relations than anything else.

B He began by announcing his Fourteen Points

1 Self-determination

2 Freedom of the seas

3 lower tariffs

4 Arms reduction,

5 Open diplomacy

6 League of Nations.

C when Wilson arrived in Paris in December 1918 for the Peace            Conference, he faced problems

- the other allies – France, Britain and Italy – wanted to see Germany               majority punished.

D At Versailles the Big Four met secretly, and made a treaty that       included the dreaded war guilt clause and huge payments for   Germany. Also, it placed German/Turkish colonies under the     control of other imperial nations  and made new democracies            in Eastern Europe.

E As for the key part, the charter for the League of Nations, Wilson came      up with a council of 5 permanent members, an assembly of all       members, and a world court.

- Most importantly, there was Article 10, a collective security    provision, which made members promise to protect territorial           integrity against aggressors.

-Germany was forced to sign.

F This was b/c there was strong opposition to the treaty at home, where     Senators [and others] felt that the Versailles’ Treaty didn’t protect US     interests enough, and that Article 10 was going to get the country            stuck in a ton of foreign entanglements.

-Charges of hypocrisy were also rampant, as Wilson’s points hadn’t    been included in the Treaty.

G There were two camps of opposition

1) the Irreconcilables (no treaty, no way)

2) Reservationists (yes, but make changes first).

-Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was one of those urging slight      amendments to the charter, so that Congress had to approve   obligations under Article 10.

H In response to the opposition, Wilson went on a speaking tour leading to             a massive stroke. The Senate continued to reject the Treaty – Wilson         refused to compromise – it never passed. The US eventually made a      separate treaty w/Germany instead.

I The disappointment about the Treaty also did two opposing things:

1 increase the peace movement

2 appeals for arms control, and lead to a better trained more                              professional military. But the bottom line is that maybe b/c of US                        non-support (or at least somewhat b/c of it) the internat’l system after the war was crap.

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