There is much more to say about the origins of the conference, but as the day approaches, it is well worth pointing out that the American President, Woodrow Wilson, was by this time ninety years ago, already in Europe, indeed, had been for a month. Wilson's presidential ship, The George Washington, steamed out of New York Harbor with great fanfare on December 4, 1918, preceded by the battleship Pennsylvania. Wilson's convoy reached the French naval center of Brest on December 13. Wilson had brought with him a team of 150 experts he called "The Inquiry,"--mostly academics, attorneys, and international finance experts--organized by Edward Mandell House, Wilson's closest advisor (as Wilson said, "my alter ego"). The Inquiry had been working for over a year on materials and policies related to the conference. Three days before The George Washington reached Brest, Wilson called the whole delegation, including The Inquiry, together. "Tell me what is right, and I'll fight for it," he told them.
Landing, Wilson proceeded to tour Paris, Rome, and London, to the adulation of admiring, sometimes almost hysterical crowds. Wilson was, after all, the head of the great decisive power which had intervened in European affairs when the Allies backs were against the wall, in 1917.
More on the President later, but for the moment we are tracking him--elated by the public opinion of London, Rome, and Paris--as he arrives back in Paris to settle into the Hotel Crillon and get ready for the business of the conference--or, in his terms, the fight for what was right.