Hoover at Versailles

At the Versailles Peace Conference, hostility existed between George Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of England, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy. Threats over boundaries, reparations, war debts, relief, displaced persons, and trade were almost constant. Herbert Hoover served as a catalyst, with some success, to reach compromises. Prior to the Conference, President Wilson toured Europe amidst great crowds and public approval. This did not please many Members of Congress, especially those who did not vote for the war. Most countries were in a terrible post war aftermath. Senator George Norris, the Nebraska Republican, stated the Wilson travelled around Europe “… and spent money like a drunken sailor.”

What all powers agreed on, however, was a World Court and Coalition of Nations to keep the peace. Woodrow Wilson’s proposal of a League of Nations was the cornerstone of his 14 Points. Hoover also thought the League was indispensable to Wilson’s crusade to “make the world safe for democracy;” but, as often stated, the ends never justify the means.

One of Wilson’s 14 Points was Open Covenants Openly Arrived At. Nevertheless, the President and the other other Heads of State were very secretive regarding agreements. Historian John Maynard Keynes stated that “Mr. Hoover was the only man who emerged from Versailles with an enhanced reputation.” Returning home, Woodrow Wilson asked voters to return a Democratic majority to Congress in the mid-term elections in 1918. Had he respected the constitution as Hoover did, Wilson would have consulted the Senate immediately. Instead, the President stated that Democratic gains would be a public mandate for his post war vision.

This was a foolish move which Herbert Hoover did not agree with but publicly supported. The party in the White House of course traditionally loses congressional seats in midterm elections. This time Republicans gained a majority in both houses, making things more difficult for the President.

I do not feel that the Republican sweep in 1918 was a referendum on the League. It was a reaction to the Post War Depression, which was a sudden vertical drop in the economy. This depression, which lasted for five years, was the our most serious ever up to that time. It does not get the deserved attention because of the more severe problems in the thirties. The Post World War I Depression had many causes-decreased purchases from other countries, the rising national debt and interest payments, and the halt to military procurement. Woodrow Wilson also relaxed wartime controls, which caused inflation at the same time.

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