Economic Terms of Peace




Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library




United States Senate
Committee on Finance

Dear Mr. President:

Certain Republican leaders are attempting to make a partisan use of Paragraph III of your peace terms found in your address to Congress, January 8, 1918. No one has authority to reply to a misconstruction of any part of your address excepting yourself, but I, as Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Senate, wish you would make reply to these statements and insinuations which are being industriously circulated by the opposition to embarass you in the handling of these delicate matters.

Sincerely yours,
FM Simmons.

The President,
The White House.


Dear Senator:

I am glad to respond to the question addressed to me by your letter of October 26th. The words I used in my address to the Congress of January 8th, 1918, were:

"The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance."

I of course meant to suggest no restriction upon the free determination by any nation of its own economic policy, but only that, whatever tariff any nation might deem necessary for its own economic service, be that tariff high or low, it should apply equally to all foreign nations in other words, that there should be no discriminations against some nations that did not apply to others This leaves every nation free to determine for its self its own internal policies and limits only its right to compound these policies of hostile discriminations between one nation and another. Weapons of economic discipline and punishment should be left to the joint action of all nations for the purpose of punishing those who will not submit to a general program of justice and equality.

The experiences of the past among nations have taught us that the attempt by one nation to punish another by exclusive and discriminatory trade agreements has been a prolific breeder of that kind of antagonism which oftentimes result in war, and that if a permanent peace is to be established among nations every obstacle that has stood in the way of international friendship should be cast aside. It was with that fundamental purpose in mind that I announced this principle in my address of January 8th. To  pervert this great principle for partisan purposes, and to inject the bogey of free-trade, which is not involved at all, is to attempt to divert the mind of the nation from the broad and humane principle of a durable peace by introducing an internal question of quite another kind. American business has in the past been unaffected by a policy of the kind suggested and it has nothing to fear now from a policy of simple international justice. It is indeed lamentable that the momentous issues of this solemn hour should be seized upon in an effort to bentd them to partisan service. To the initiated and discerning, the motive is transparent and the attempt fails.

Sincerely yours,

Hon. FM Simmons,
United States Senate.

Original Format






Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Economic Terms of Peace,” 1918 October 26, WWP20652, Woodrow Wilson Press Statements, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.