The Fourteen Points. In January 1918, Woodrow Wilson outlined Fourteen Points that he hoped would form the basis of peace at the conclusion of World War I. Boiled down to their essentials, Wilson wanted the following: (1) fair treatment for Germany as a means to lessen the prospect of future conflict, (2) consultation with resident nationalities in determining postwar international boundaries, (3) the curbing of maritime excesses by Germany and Britain through the establishment of freedom of the seas, (4) an end to arms races through disarmament, and (5) the creation of an international association of nations for the promotion of peaceful means to settle international disputes.
Reaction from international leaders was not encouraging. The Germans launched a major offensive in the spring of 1918 and initially made great progress on the Western Front; at this point they were more interested in acquiring additional territory than in discussing peace. Leaders of the other Allied powers had little interest in Wilson's idealism and were dedicated to imposing stiff terms on their enemies, hoping that a weakened Germany would not be able to make war in the future.
Armistice. The beginning of a string of Allied victories in mid-1918 encouraged Wilson to devote more of his energies to his peace effort. Discussion regarding an armistice began in October and led to the cessation of hostilities on November 11. Wilson, in an effort to strengthen his hand at the coming peace conference, called upon American voters to return the Democrats to power in the congressional elections later in November; the electorate shut its ears to the president's appeal and gave the Republicans majorities in both houses.
Competing War Aims. Despite this embarrassing setback, Wilson announced his intention to lead the American peace delegation personally and sailed for Europe in early December. He was initially heartened by thunderous welcomes from adoring crowds in a number of European capitals, but quickly had to face the reality that the war aims of allies Britain, France, Italy and Japan did not necessarily mesh with the Fourteen Points.
Paris Peace Conference. Wilson's spoken hopes for implementing a just peace under the Fourteen Points provoked conflict with Allies in Paris and began to stir opposition at home.
Treaty of Versailles. The President pinned his hopes for future world order on the League of Nations and reluctantly abandoned principles advanced in the Fourteen Points.
Covenant of the League of Nations. The creation of the League of Nations offered the hope of avoiding future wars, but the prospect of continuing involvement in Europe dampened the enthusiasm of important American leaders.
Struggle for Ratification. Partisan factions within the U.S. Senate were unable to muster the necessary two-thirds vote to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, either with the Lodge reservations or in the original form favored by the president.
Election of 1920. The American public, exhausted by war and weary of Wilson's unceasing idealism, voted overwhelmingly for Harding, Republicans and "normalcy."