Monday, March 16, 2009

How Time Flies!

Well, it does.  

I have been away from the blog, traveling to and attending a conference, working on a couple of papers, and just generally taking some time off from the grind of the Paris 1919.  

But the guys couldn't do that ninety years ago.  Well, Wilson seemed to.  He jumped on board the USS George Washington (the 1919 version of Air Force One) and steamed to the United States in mid-February.  But kicking back was not his idea.  (Indeed, the concept of Wilson kicking back is ... well, just crazy...)  He went home to make sure he had support from Congress for his plans.  

Indeed, broadly put, Wilson had experienced the utter elation of cheering crowds when he got to Europe, the heady days of seeming to be in control of the Conference, the quick end of the honeymoon with David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau (as Keynes quite brilliantly described them, "subtle and dangerous spellbinders whom a tremendous clash of forces and personalities had brought to the top as triumphant masters in the swift game of give and take"), extreme feelings of the unsettling discovery that no one at home was really willing to rally round, and, finally, the betrayal of all his closest allies.

Well, let me rephrase that last one:  Wilson imagined that he had been betrayed by his allies.  Actually, he was in a sense betrayed by Colonel House.  As we have seen, that effete, smug puppet master of politics from Houston disapproved of the pacing of the Conference, mostly the result of Wilson's need to have everyone agree with him.  So House used his authority as Wilson's unofficial placeholder to hurry things along with little compromises.  

Was this so very wrong of House?  From his point of view, many of Wilson's famed ideas were of his own seeding anyway.  Why not operate directly for once, instead of through a middleman. Note, also, that House was in charge because Wilson had progressively thrown over or distanced himself from just about every advisor he had, including his Secretary of State.  

We will discuss the Wilson-House spat later:  for now, let us register it.  And let us also register the fact that from this point on, ninety years ago, the personality of the Conference began to change, and the personality of Woodrow Wilson began to change.  Some advisors recorded noticing a facial tic.  Robert Lansing described an increasingly obstrusive laugh or giggle.  As we shall see, both Clemenceau and Lloyd George began ramping up about the time that Woodrow Wilson began to come apart.  

So, about this time, things began to move rapidly on many fronts.

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