Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson


Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson


Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964




1919 April 11


Herbert Hoover writes to Woodrow Wilson about the United States’ role in keeping peace and joining the League of Nations.


Hoover-Wilson Correspondence, Hoover Institution, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964--Correspondence





Dear Mr. President

Your economic group has had before it the question of whether the United States should continue membership in the various commissions set up under the peace treaty. I should like to lay before you my own views on this subject.

I feel strongly that any continuation of the United States in such allied relationship can only lead to vast difficulty and would militate against the efficiency of the League of Nations. My reasons are as follows:

I. These commissions are primarily to secure the enforcement of reparation and other conditions imposed upon Germany and Austria the Central Empires. As the United States is not calling for any form of reparation that requires continued enforcement, our presence on these commissions would appear to be for one of the following purposes.

a. To give moral and political support to the Allied Governments in measures generally for their benefit. It cannot be conceived that in the prostrate condition of the enemy that the Allies will require any physical assistance to the enforcement of their demands. In this event, the United States will be lending itself to the political and financial interests of other governments during peace, a situation that must be entirely repulsive to our national interests, traditions and ideals.

b. Another objective might be that we should remain in these commissions with a view to securing justice and moderation in the demands of the Allies against Germany the Central Empires. We would thus be thrust into the repulsive position, of the defender of our late enemy in order to secure what we would conceive to be constructive and statesmanlike rehabilitation in Europe, of assuming the role of defender of our late enemy. Our experience during the last three months has shown us bitterly that we thus subject ourselves to complaint and attack from the Allied Governments and such a continued relationship should only breed the most acute international friction.

II. If our experience in the last four months counts for anything, the practical result always is that the Allied Governments, knowing our disposition, necessarily ask for more than they expect to get, and that we find ourselves in the psychologically sit and, in fact, politically on the side of the enemy in these negotiations, and in a constant desire to find practical working formula we are frequently forced to abandon some measure of what we consider sane statesmanship. The continuation of this relationship will pbind us for a long period of years to a succession of compromises fundamentally at variance with our national convictions. I am not attempting to dispute the righteousness of any Allied demand but merely to set up the fact that our viewpoint is so essentially different. One other practical result of our experience already is that the Americans who sit non such commissions, if they don't acquiesce nand assist in enforcing nany proposition from various other government officials, become immediately and personally subject to attack as being inimiclal to their interests and with the powerful engines of propaganda which they employ in Europe and our own country no such man can endure for long. These governments if they were faced with the sole responsibility for their actions would not attempt the measures which the seek under our protection. Therefore for all reasons I do not see that we can effect any real justice in these matters.

III. The most important phase of this matter in my mind, however, centers around the fact thatIII. iIf we continue to sit in the enforcement of this peace, we will be in effect participating in an armed alliance in Europe, where every change in the political wind will effect the action of these commissions. We will be obliged to participate in all European questions and we will be firmly tied definitely to one side, unless we precipitate a break and lend ourselves to the charge that we have failed to play the game been traitors to the “common cause”.

IV.  I think tThis whole matter is has a very practical relationship to the Legague of Nations. If we can bring an early end our whole relationship to these political combinations, in Europe, which grew up before and during the war and can lend our strength to the League of Nations, that body will gain a stability and importance which it could not otherwise attain. As the Central Empires and Russia will hnot be for some years admitted to the League, and if we continue in what is in effect an armed alliance in Europe dominating these group empires, the League will become simply a few neutrals gyrating around this armed alliance. It will tend to drive the Central Empires and Russia into an independent League. If, on the other hand, we can again secure our independence, we can make of the League that strong and independent Court of Appeal that will have authority.

V. I am vconvinced that there has grown up since the Armistice the policy, perhaps unconscious but nevertheless effective, of dragging the United States into every political and economic question in Europe and constantly endeavoring to secure pledges of economic or political support from us in return for our agreeing to matters which we consider for the their coommon good where we have no interest, and constantly using us as a stocking horse economically and politically, solely in the interests of internal political groups of needing the Allied governments. These objectives and interests may be perfectly justified from their point of view, but it forces us into viqolations of our every instinct and into situations with that our own people will never stand. For instance, I don't see how we can remain in these enforcement commissions unless we participate in the military enforcement owith its enormous cost and risk, and the tendency will always be to exact the political objectives with the military strength of the United States as a backgropund.

VI. I have the feeling that revolution in Europe is by no means over. The social wrongs in these countries are far from solution and the tempest must blow itself out, probably with enormous violence. Our people are not prepared for us to undertake the military control policy of Europe while it boils out its social wrongs. I have no doubt that if we could undertake to police the world and had the wisdom of statesmanship to see its gradual sociaol evolution, that we would be making the first a great contribution to civilization, but I am certain the American people are not prepared for any such a measure and I am also sure that if we remiain in Europe with military force, tied in an alliance which we have never undertaken, we should be forced into this storm of and forced in under terms of co-ordination with other people that would make our independence of action wholly impossible.

VII.It grows upon me daily that the United States is the one great moral reserve in the world today and that we cannot maintain that independence of action through which this reserve is to be maintained if we allow ourselves to be dragged into detailed European entnanglements over a period of years. In my view, if the Allies can be brought to adopt peace on the basis of the 14 points, we should retire from Europe lock, stock and barrel, and we should lend to the whole world our economic and moral strength. or the world will swirl in a sea of and If they cannot be brought to accept peace on this basis, our national honor is at stake and we should have to make peace independently and retire. I know of nothing in letter or spirit of any letter or statement of your own, or in the 14 points, that directly or indirectly ties the United States to carry on this war through the phase of enforcement of or the multitudinous demands and intrigues of a great number of other governments and their officials. It does appear to me that your conception of the League of Nations was with view to the provision of a dominant Court, where these difficulties could be thrashed out and if we sit as one of the prosecutors, the Court will have no judge.

Faithfully yours,
Herbert C. Hoover


Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964, “Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson,” 1919 April 11, WWP19501, Hoover Institute at Stanford University Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.