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Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points: Definition, Speech & Summary

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  • 0:01 What Are the Fourteen Points?
  • 2:27 The Outcome of the…
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Cote

Katie teaches high school social studies and has a master's degree in history from Providence College.

Learn about President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech delivered in 1918. Discover what these points actually were and how they affected the outcome of the end of World War I. Following this, test your new knowledge with a quiz.

What Are the Fourteen Points?

There are few speeches in history that influenced the world in the way Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech did. As the leader of the free world, Wilson addressed a global audience as he outlined the characteristics of an everlasting peace. His words were echoed in the policies of every major Western power for the rest of the 20th century. But, how did Wilson find himself in the most influential position in the free world and how did he develop these characteristics of peace?

The Fourteen Points are a list of moral guidelines that were developed by Woodrow Wilson as a response to the various causes of World War I. He declared these guidelines to the world in a message to Congress on January 8, 1918. When the war ended and the leaders of the victorious countries met to develop peace treaties and dole out punishments, the Fourteen Points were used as a basis for negotiations. The key features of the Fourteen Points include:

  1. No secret agreements
  2. Freedom of navigation on the seas
  3. No economic barriers between nations
  4. Disarmament of nations
  5. Impartial decisions in regards to the colonies
  6. The German Army was to leave Russia, and Russia would be able to develop its own political setup.
  7. Belgium should regain her independence.
  8. France would be liberated from any kind of occupation and would have Alsace-Lorraine returned.
  9. All Italians should live in Italy and the borders of Italy should reflect the lines of nationality (in other words, if Italians make up the majority of the population, then that piece of land should be a part of Italy).
  10. People living in Austria-Hungary should follow national self-determination.
  11. The Balkan States should also be allowed to national self-determination and their independence should be guaranteed.
  12. The Turkish government should govern only the Turkish people. For the non-Turks that were living in the old Turkish Empire, they should be able to govern themselves.
  13. Poland should be recreated and should have access to the sea.
  14. The League of Nations should be set up (the purpose was to guarantee political and territorial independence of all states).

The League of Nations was the precursor to the current United Nations and was an organization of nations that would discuss issues diplomatically before resorting to war.

The Outcome of the Fourteen Points

When the nations involved met to discuss the postwar world at the Paris Peace Conference, Britain, France, and Italy were mainly concerned with regaining their lost territories and establishing security on the borders with Germany. They also wished to punish the German nation by putting them at fault for the war.

The four main players at the conference were nicknamed 'The Big Four' and consisted of David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States. These other countries did not have their sights set on world peace but on guaranteed security and harsh revenge for the nations deemed responsible, specifically Germany. So, when Wilson pushed for his Fourteen Points to form the basis of the peace treaties, he didn't find a receptive audience.

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