Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who's in Charge Over There?

Back to Paris to meet Col House the only man the Pres ever listened too,....
Will Rogers

As Woodrow Wilson steams back toward Europe, we should think briefly about his intentions as to what should happen in Paris while he was gone, at least his intentions as to leadership in peace matters.

Lloyd George had gone home for a short stay about the time that Wilson departed, but he was soon back, and he and Clemenceau resumed discussions in both the Four and the Ten. But now with Wilson's chosen emissary, Edward M. House.

Who was this guy? For a full profile of the enigmatic Houstonian, see the excellent piece on Wilson's alter ego by Robert Higgs. In fact, it might help to read this before going on.

In any case, this strange Progressive kingmaker, a man who was intimate with kingmakers the world over, was left in charge of the negotiations. And his diaries make it abundantly clear that both he and the his temporary counterparts, Lloyd George and Clemenceau, enjoyed this immensely.
March 6
The most interesting feature of the day was lunch with Lloyd George at his apartment.... I thought that if the British did not consent to the sinking of the German fleet instead of partitioning it, it would lead to a large naval programme in American and that England and the United States would be in the same attitude toward one another in the future as England and Germany had been in the past. He readily recognized this, and asked me to say this at the Quai d'Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry, where the Council of Ten met] when the question came up.... We agreed to send for Orlando immediatley, and that he (Lloyd George), Clemenceau, and Orlando should thresh out everything before the President came and arrive at decisions [sic]. The President could agree or point out wherein his views were not as ours. In this way matters might be greatly expedited....
March 7
We did our work rapidly and both George and Clemenceau felt encouraged that so much could be done so quickly. It was agreed that we should meet again in a day or two to decidce matters before going to the Quai d'Orsay....

And so forth!

Did you get that line "The President could agree or point out wherein his views were not as ours"?

"Our views"? House had spent much of the war period and all the postwar in Europe, speaking to heads of state, representing the United States, working to get the United States into the war on the Entente side. But "our views"? He was still negotiating for the United States after all, right?

I point all this out in part to prepare for the blow-up that "will" occur (well... will occur in the "ninety years later" view) when the President returns.

We have have already worked on the diagnosis of Wilson, but Colonel House gives us a new subject on the couch.

The kingmaker, the "wire puller" as the Germans say, the man behind the curtain, House had exhibited enormous enthusiasm for politics, but only as the manipulator behind the scenes. Clearly, much of the Wilsonian program was his, but his agreement with the two crafty Europeans to arrange everyting in advance of the Council of Ten meetings hardly met with Wilson's "open covenants openly arrived at," a sentiment upon which, for all Wilson's failings, he insisted.

So with this short notice, we begin to Usher in the Fall of House.

(Apologies all around!)


  1. Dear Prof. Tooley:

    I very much appreciate this weblog initiative. Dr. Tom Woods tipped me about it at the LRC Blog. Thank you!

    I first heard of Colonel House when reading Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's Leftism Revisited.

    Would you care to blog something in connection with the upcoming 90th anniversary of the Habsburg departure from Austria on March 24?

    I know your theme is how the Paris peace conference laid the grounds for a violent century. Woodrow Wilson's idealism of democracy and self-determination, although largely betrayed at the Paris conference, did lay the grounds for a century where skepticism of democracy has been pushed into the periphery and where checks on democracy have no place. It might not be within the theme of your blog, but would you consider doing something on the democratism of the past century, democracy as ideology, and with no acceptable alternative, as a result of Woodrow Wilson's idealism? And perhaps the consequences of this democratism (including its contribution to the pervasive government of our time)?

    Again, thank you!

  2. As you may have seen, I am replying belatedly to all comments on the blog. This is an excellent idea for a blog entry. I am thinking of beginning again, either with this blog or a related one, so I will keep it in mind. Many thanks for your good comments, suggestions, and encouragements! Best, tht


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Design of a Violent Century by Hunt Tooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.