Posts tagged congress.

January 8, 1918: Woodrow Wilson issues his “Fourteen Points”.

Ten months before the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson delivered to a joint session of Congress a speech in which he detailed specific points that would provide for a secure and long-lasting peace and not a rebalancing of power that had been the go-to solution for so many past wars. In September of 1917, Wilson set up “the Inquiry”, a group of 150 men that included historians, librarians, professors, geographers, lawyers, and other academics whose research helped the president prepare his plans for this idealistic peace plan. Their research formed the basis of the Fourteen Points, which can be paraphrased as:

1. No secret alliances or agreements between nations.
2. Freedom of the seas during both wartime and peacetime.
3. Lowered or removed economic barriers between nations, which would ideally result in an “equality of trade… among all nations”. 
4. A reduction in “national armaments”.
5. An “absolutely impartial” adjustment of colonial claims to suit the interests of both the colonial powers and colonized populations.
6. The evacuation of Russian territory, and treatment of Russia by foreign nations demonstrative of “their good will… their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.”
7. The evacuation of Belgian territories.
8. The evacuation of French territories and the restoration to France the territory of Alsace-Lorraine, which had been lost to Prussia in the settlement of the Franco-Prussian War.
9. “
The readjustment of Italian boundaries along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.” 
10. Autonomy for the various people of Austria-Hungary.
11. The evacuation of the Balkans and free access to the sea for Serbia, and guaranteed “political and economic independence and territorial integrity” for these states.
12. Free passage for all nations through the Dardanelles, and protection for non-Turkish people living under Turkish rule.
13. Independence and access to the sea for Poland.
14. The formation of a league of nations “for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

Reception was mixed. Georges Clemenceau declared, upon hearing of Wilson’s speech (which had been delivered without prior consultation with the United States’ allies) and his “Fourteen Points” that “The good Lord only had ten!” But his points were eventually incorporated into the 1918 armistice that ended the war, because his speech was really the only specific statement of war aims officially issued by leaders on either side. Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the next year for his efforts. But at the Paris Peace Conference that same year, President Wilson was outmaneuvered, to Germany’s dismay, by his European allies, who demanded that Germany be punished and held responsible for the war and regarded this aim as a higher priority than an American president’s idealistic plans for world peace. Although Wilson arrived at the conference with great purpose, John Maynard Keynes noted that the president was “ill-informed”, “slow and unadaptable”, and “incompetent”. His League of Nations was formed as a result of the conference, but the United States never joined, and it proved useless in preventing the series of aggressions that led to World War II. By then, Wilson’s points and lasting peace were far-off dreams. 

Title: Douglas MacArthur - 260 plays

April 19, 1951: Douglas MacArthur addresses Congress after his removal as General of the Army.

On April 11, 1951, President Truman shocked Americans and the world when he relieved Douglas MacArthur of his command - Douglas MacArthur, World War II hero, major general at age 44, recipient of the Medal of Honor and two Purple Hearts - fired. In Truman’s own words

"I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. That’s the answer to that. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals."

On April 19, the beloved general made his last official appearance, delivering a farewell address to a joint session of Congress. This speech is now popularly known as the “Old Soldiers Never Die" speech, and it often ranks as one of the greatest of the 20th century. 

The excerpt above contains the last two minutes of the speech, by far the most famous portion, but you can read it in its entirety here and listen to the rest here.

November 7, 1916: Jeannette Rankin becomes the first female member of Congress.

A Montana native, Rankin was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican before most women even had the right to vote. She was thirty-six at the time, a suffragist, pacifist, and progressive. When she was sworn in at the Capitol at the beginning of the 65th Congress, “the House cheered and rose, so that she had to rise and bow twice, which she did with entire self-possession.”