I want to begin by acknowledging Professor Moser’s breadth of knowledge of famous quotes. However, I fail to see how noting which quote I chose to include and which I chose to omit is germane to the discussion other than to act as a red herring. In an attempt to put the discussion back on course I submit that “Wilson’s famous quote” provides support for the position I put forth in my original response.
Because neither individuals nor history are “clean,” analysis of an individual’s actions must be taken on the whole. Wilson was a complicated man. He was neither wholly good or wholly bad. As such, it is Wilson’s cross to bear that he lamented the loss of liberty while remaining passive as others limited civil liberties in his name. “Once lead this people into war and they will forget there ever was a thing as tolerance” is a testament to Wilson’s ability to “read” the American people. The attacks on German-Americans and the constant bombardment from state and local officials to take action against labor radicals are but two examples of how right Wilson was in his assessment of the American people and what he called their “mob passion.” I agree with Professor Moser that the president did not protect individual liberties during the war. While it is claimed he disagreed with many of the actions taken under the Espionage Act, the mistake he made was to not reverse or call for a stop to them.
Professor Moser seems to have missed the point entirely in his second response to my comments. Wilson did not abandon his hopes for international reform. Rather, they simply did not come to fruition, as he feared. Decisions to go to war in order to have a seat at the table notwithstanding, Wilson’s hope was for a world without war. Did he succeed by leading the United States into the war? I submit the rise of fascism and the Second World War as exhibits A and B that he did not. Additionally, basing the argument on Wilson’s belief that a seat at the table would allow him to reach his goals falls flat once the lens is expanded to encompass the Paris Peace Conference and the presence of Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau. Both of these men spent four years pressuring Wilson to get involved in the war and then held Wilson at arm’s length due to the lack of American blood spilt on European fields. Actions, as Professor Moser has acknowledged, speak louder than quotes.