Even before the war is over Woodrow Wilson writes out Fourteen Points on which peace is to be based. Wilson doesn't believe in revenge; he believes in the power of fairness. He is like an old-time Puritan, convinced of God's grace and very sure of himself. His father was a minister; he has the preacher's genes. He speaks eloquently and tells the world how to behave. At one point he says, "I can predict with absolute certainty that within another generation there will be another world war if the nations of the world do not concert the method by which to prevent it." Wilson grew up in the defeated South of the Civil War. He knows about the hatreds that can come after a war. He doesn't think an enemy needs to be shamed, or made poor. He says he wants "peace without victory." His Fourteen Points may be the most forgiving peace plan ever.
Wilson sets off for Paris on a ship named the George Washington . He is anxious to lead the peace conference . But France, England, and Italy feel very differently than Wilsonthey want to blame Germany for the whole war. They want to be repaid for what they have suffered. And they don't like being told what to doeven if the teller is right. Only one of Wilson's ideasthe idea of an international government to enforce the peacea League of Nationsseems acceptable . But back home there are powerful Republican senators in Congress who hate Woodrow Wilson. Some are thinking of the next election and they speak out against the League of Nations . When the president returns from France he criss crosses the country, determined to convince the American people of the importance of the League . "America cannot be an ostrich with its head in the sand," he says. Sometimes he gives three or four speeches in one day. It is too much for his health. He has a stroke and can no longer fight . His opponents in the Senate gain control and the United States does not join the League of Nations. A defeated Wilson writes, "I have given my vitality, and almost my life, for the League of Nations."
The United States embarks on a period of "isolation." We try to stay away from the rest of the world and its concerns. But that can no longer be done. Like it or not, the United States has become a world leader. And out of the Great War's effects will come the Communist Revolution in Russia, Nazism in Germany, and, eventually, World War II. And America at home has changed too.