War and Revolution,
After reading Chapter 20, you should be able to:
1. Explain the reasons behind the U.S. involvement in World War I.
2. Understand the role European colonial conquest played in the pre-war period.
3. Discuss why President Wilson and the U.S. feared revolutions abroad.
4. Detail the struggle over traditional lines of hierarchy and control in the United States.
5. Give the reasons why so many Americans were in favor of neutrality early in World War I.
6. Explain how and why citizens’ fears of corporate monopolies increased.
7. Discuss the significance of the Great Migration for African Americans.
8. Comprehend how the home front was mobilized during the First World War.
9. Explain how dissent was repressed and free speech restricted during and after the war.
10. Detail the impact of the Russian Revolution on American society.
11. Understand how President Wilson attempted to shape the peace settlement.
12. Discuss how the U.S. engaged in counterrevolutionary activities overseas after 1917.
13. Analyze the Red and Black “scares” at home.
Suez Canal built
Japan defeats Russia in war
Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reach the North Pole
Sun Yat-sen replaces Manchu dynasty in China with republic
Woodrow Wilson elected president
Native American Jim Thorpe wins at Swedish Olympic Games
The Sixteenth Amendment ratified, allows a federal income tax
The Seventeenth Amendment ratified, requiring direct election of U.S. senators
Ludlow, Colorado massacre of immigrant coal miners and their families
World War I begins in Europe
U.S. Marines occupy Haiti
Sinking of the British liner Lusitania
Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigns over President Wilson’s lack of neutrality
U.S. Marines occupy the Dominican Republic
National Park Service established
Puerto Ricans granted U.S. citizenship
U.S. Marines occupy Cuba
U.S. enters the First World War
Espionage Act passed
Sedition Act passed
World War I ends
Nineteenth Amendment gives women the right to vote
Transcontinental airmail service begins
Tulsa race riot
From the discovery of the North Pole (1909) to the Tulsa race riot (1921), the United States was
the scene of unusual conflicts and struggles. As reformists attempted to solve social problems at
home, international events turned American attention abroad to wars and revolutions. Reactions
to these events varied wildly, as conformity and intolerance conflicted with growing demands for
equality and peace.
I. A World in Upheaval
Between 1910 and 1920, the United States became involved in world affairs and war as never
before. At home, struggles intensified over traditional hierarchies of color, gender, and class.
A. The Apex of European Conquest
In 1913, 75% of the world’s population lived under the rule of Europeans or people of European
descent. New technology and communications tied the world more closely together. The
competition between European powers would lead to war as Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and
Russia scrambled for new colonies and greater power over Africa and Asia.
The United States emerged as a global power at this time. By 1913, the U.S. consumed as much
coal and oil as Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and Austria-Hungary combined. The U.S.
became the major status-quo power, and revolutions throughout the world began rejecting the
B. Confronting Revolutions Abroad
Despite President Woodrow Wilson’s hatred for social upheaval, the world in which he led the
U.S. was increasingly turbulent, with non-western peoples challenging European and American
dominance. As nationalists in China, Mexico, and Russia overturned weak central governments
controlled by foreign capital, American interests seemed to be at stake.
Revolutionary struggles in eastern Europe had implications for the United States. Of even greater
import was Latin America, a region that the U.S. had always considered its “backyard.” In
addition to the physical closeness of Latin America, U.S. corporations had invested more money
in Latin America than anywhere else. Most importantly of all, leaders in the United States
worried about Mexico and the revolution that began there in 1910.
The central slogan of the Mexican Revolution, “Land for the Landless and Mexico for the
Mexicans,” did nothing to reassure U.S. capitalists who owned 43% of Mexico’s wealth. In
addition, more than half of Mexico’s trade was with her northern neighbor, while by 1921,
Mexico became the world’s second largest producer of oil. As refugees fled the violence to the
south and entered the United States, there was fear they might bring revolutionary ideas with
them. To protect U.S. investors, Wilson tried unsuccessfully to reestablish a regime that would
uphold the rights of foreign property. The United States twice sent the army into Mexico in
order to influence events.
C. Conflicts over Hierarchies at Home
Much as revolutions abroad troubled American investors, less well-off U.S. residents contested
hierarchy and control at home. Racial lines were not always clear, as anthropologists began
questioning the significance of racial differences. Jim Thorpe, a Native American, was the U.S.
hero of the 1912 Olympic Games and Louis Brandeis was appointed first Jewish Supreme Court
justice in 1916. At the same time, white supremacy found a voice in Madison Grant’s The
Passing of the Great Race which claimed that Jesus was a “Nordic.”
The southern-born Wilson may have talked about “New Freedom,” but it did not apply to
African Americans. Wilson’s cabinet was full of white Southerners who segregated those few
agencies that hired blacks at all. Rather than support an anti-lynching law, President Wilson
endorsed the Birth of a Nation, a 1915 film that glorified the Ku Klux Klan.
Regardless of color, women lived under specific forms of discrimination. At issue was the nature
of women’s political identity, since American women lost their citizenship if they married a
foreigner, whereas American men did not. By 1912, numerous European nations and nine
American states had granted women the vote. Americans were also divided over women’s special
roles. Should motherhood be promoted or birth control allowed?
Most workers fought with their bosses since 2 percent of the population owned 60 percent of
the wealth labor produced. The anticapitalism of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers
of the World frightened both capitalists and more conservative members of the labor movement.
Businesses continued their long tradition of fighting any attempt to build unions. Backed by the
government, owners usually refused to even negotiate with workers.
On Easter night, 1914 in Ludlow, Colorado, state militia and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s private
guards attacked a mining camp with torches and machine guns. Before federal troops restored
order, 66 people had died. Such open brutality shocked many and the Wilson administration
responded by slowly supporting the rights of laborers to organize.
II. The Great War and American Neutrality
A. “The One Great Nation at Peace”
During World War I, President Wilson was determined that the United States, as a neutral power,
should be allowed to trade with belligerents. American factories depended on overseas trade and
bankers had invested $10 billion in loans overseas (primarily to Britain and France). Americans
also shunned a war where industrialized warfare resulted in massive death tolls. Unlike the
American upper class which tended to identify with Britain and France, immigrants in the U.S.
came from both sides of the conflict and thus neutrality made domestic political sense.
B. Reform Priorities at Home
Competition in the key sectors of the economy was disappearing and many citizens demanded
government regulation. The Seventeenth Amendment ratified in 1913 required direct election of
U.S. senators, who had previously been chosen by state legislatures. The Wilson administration
also cut tariffs by almost 50 percent, introduced a progressive federal income tax (Sixteenth
Amendment, ratified in 1913), and created the Federal Reserve System to control the amount of
currency in circulation.
The largest single issue between 1913 and 1915 was the question of monopolies. Huge new
corporations, such as U.S. Steel, American Tobacco, and Du Pont, destroyed all competition, in
direct violation of America’s long anti-monopoly tradition. After 1910, laws were passed which
protected particular groups, especially women, children, and certain types of workers. Another
type of protective legislation focused on conservation, and the National Park Service was
established in 1916.
C. The Great Migration
In the first decades of the twentieth century, most African Americans lived in the South, where
white mob violence was rampant with lynchings and race riots. Victims of segregation and
discrimination, the vast majority of blacks lived in poverty. When war-related orders created a
huge demand for workers in northern factories, it was no surprise that more than half a million
African Americans moved to cities like Chicago and Detroit.
Despite discrimination in the North, African Americans found that daily life was far better in
places where they could vote, earn better wages, attend better schools, and even sit where they
wanted to on public transportation. Likewise, large numbers of Mexicans and Mexican
Americans moved to get jobs in the Southwest and Midwest. Los Angeles saw its Mexican
American population soar from 6,000 (1910) to 100,000 (1930).
B. Limits to American Neutrality
A number of interests pulled America towards war after 1914. Most Americans who followed
events carefully favored the Entente over the Central Powers. Despite ethnic diversity, the
country’s fundamental cultural and linguistic connections were to England. President Wilson
admired Britain, which was favored by most major newspapers.
Concrete economic interests pushed the United States to the Allied side, since bankers lent 85
times as much money to the Entente as to the Central Powers. Large corporations reaped the
bulk of profits, while many average workers earned decent wages filling war orders. Powerful
Americans like Theodore Roosevelt pushed Americans to prepare themselves for war.
Progressives split over the war. Many radicals joined Socialist Eugene Debs in condemning the
war as a capitalist one, while most Progressives followed Wilson’s lead of first opposing and
then supporting America’s entrance into the carnage.
III. The United States Goes to War
A. The Logic of Belligerency
Wilson found his policy of free trade blocked by both the British Navy and German U-Boats.
Although both sides tried to restrict American commerce, the British, who had the superior
surface fleet, were able to do so without loss of life. The German navy was faced with an
entirely different dilemma. Germany’s submarines were extremely vulnerable if they surfaced to
warn passengers to evacuate on lifeboats. So, German U-Boats sunk ships without warning,
resulting in the loss of innocent life. These acts angered many Americans, especially the sinking
of the British liner Lusitania in 1915. Twice, Germany put her unrestricted submarine warfare
on hold, but as the British blockade led to mass starvation, the U-Boat attacks began again.
Submarine warfare combined with the incident of the Zimmermann telegram, in which Germany
offered Mexico lost territory belonging to the United States if Mexico joined the war as
Germany’s ally, to give the U.S. reason to go to war. Not everyone was convinced that Wilson
had been sincere in his neutrality. Secretary of State William Jennings Byran resigned in 1915 to
protest what he saw as Wilson’s backhanded support for Britain.
B. Mobilizing the Home Front
Going to war required a type of centralized planning that only the government could coordinate.
The federal government created a number of new agencies, ranging from U.S. Railroad
administration to the War Industries Board. Close cooperation between industry and Wilson’s
administration combined with strong demand for goods by Allied governments resulted in soaring
C. Enduring Unity
With the death of U.S. soldiers and sailors, support for the war became an emotional issue and
dissent was brutally suppressed. Almost anything German was suspect. A number of states
outlawed the teaching of German, while sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage” and frankfurters
became “hot dogs.” Discontent among workers redoubled anxieties about national unity as 6000
strikes took place during the year and a half the U.S. was in the war.
Laws like the Espionage Act (1917) and Sedition Act (1918) criminalized dissent. Socialists like
Debs and Wisconsin Congressman Victor Berger went to prison, while the Supreme Court ruled
that the right of free speech could be suspended in times of crisis. Pro-war sentiments combined
with hostility to unions, particularly in the West, led to brutal beatings and murders of union
leaders and activists. Although most blacks supported the war, they were subject to everincreasing
white violence, as competition for jobs and African American insistence on fair
treatment caused resentment among many whites.
D. The War in Europe
Although the United States declared war in the spring of 1917, no significant U.S. military action
took place until February 1918. In the meantime, the Russian Revolution had put the Bolsheviks
in power, 49 divisions of the French army had mutinied, and Austro-Hungary had inflicted a
major defeat on Italy. In response, particularly to the Russian Bolsheviks, President Wilson
outlined his “14 points” in a speech to Congress in January 1918.
His program promised a world of peace based on national self-determination, open diplomacy,
and freedom of commerce and travel. To achieve all these things, there would be created a new
League of Nations. The competing visions of Wilson and Lenin contained the roots of the later
Cold War, since Wilson viewed the world as a collection of nations, whereas Lenin saw it as a
battleground between two classes.
IV. The Struggle to Win the Peace
A. Peacemaking and the Versailles Treaty
The four great empires of Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman were destroyed
by war and revolution and, at the Paris Peace Conference, the Allied leaders had to decide what to
put in their places. To isolate revolutionary Russia, the “Big Three,” as the leaders of the United
States, France, and Britain were called, created a series of nations out of the collapsed empires of
central Europe. This language of self-determination was considered dangerous as the world’s
nonwhite majority wondered if it should apply to them.
The biggest single problem at the Paris conference was what to do with Germany. Wilson
wanted lenient terms but the England and French insisted on large reparations and an admission
of guilt. President Wilson ultimately went along after being promised his League of Nations. By
not including any leading Republicans among the American delegation to Paris, Wilson insured
that the Republican-controlled Senate would refuse to join the League of Nations.
B. Waging Counterrevolution Abroad
Soon after Russia withdrew from the war, the western Allies intervened in the civil war on the
side of various counterrevolutionaries. The U.S. sent 7000 troops to Russia’s Vladivostock and
an additional 5000 joined with British troops to invade Archangel to secure Allied supplies.
Besides fighting the Red Army, the Wilson Administration gave money and military aid to the
leaders of the counterrevolutionaries. Although the U.S. troops left in 1920, the U.S. refused to
recognize the new Soviet government for another 13 years.
C. The Red and Black Scares at Home
The year 1919 saw a massive strike wave in which one out of five workers went out on strike for
improved wages and working conditions as well as the right to collective bargaining. In Seattle, a
general strike shut down the city for a week. Anarchists conducted a bombing campaign which,
while largely ineffective, did injure the wife and maid of a U.S. senator.
Although many Americans sympathized with workers’ struggles, others saw them as part of an
attack on private property and the social order. The “Red Scare” of 1919 associated reform and
social justice with subversion. Private groups, like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Legion,
attacked radicals and the foreign-born. Attorney General Palmer ordered 249 foreign-born
radicals deported and directed raids that arrested thousands more.
This violence extended to African Americans, resulting in an increase in lynching and white mobs
burning down black neighborhoods. With the inclination towards deference largely gone from the
African American community, black citizens fought back against white marauders in Washington
and Chicago. President Wilson was by this time incapacitated by a stroke and unable to exercise
any leadership even had he chosen to do so, which is unlikely given his racist views.
Explain the significance of each of the following:
1. Mexican Revolution:
2. Sun Yat-sen:
3. Porfirio Diaz:
4. Francisco “Pancho” Villa:
5. General John J. Pershing:
6. The Passing of the Great Race:
7. Birth of a Nation:
8. Jeannette Rankin:
9. Lawrence Textile strike (1912):
10. Sixteenth Amendment:
11. J.P. Morgan:
12. Clayton Antitrust Act (1914):
13. The Great Migration:
6. A. Philip Randolph:
15. Zimmermann telegram:
16. Espionage Act (1917):
17. Victor Berger:
18. Vladimir Lenin:
19. “14 Points”:
20. Versailles Treaty:
21. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.:
22. League of Nations:
23. May Day (1919):
24. Red Scare:
25. Baldwin-Felts detective agency:
Multiple Choice Questions:
1. On the eve of World War I, what percentage of the world lived under European rule?
A. 75 percent
B. 25 percent
C. 50 percent
D. 35 percent
E. 10 percent
2. President Woodrow Wilson was
A. a political scientist.
B. former Governor of New Jersey.
C. a native Southerner.
D. all of the above
E. none of the above
3. During 1914-1918, which of the following Latin American nations did the U.S. invade?
B. Dominican Republic
D. all of the above
E. none of the above
4. If a female U.S. citizen married a foreigner, she would
A. be accused of social climbing.
B. lose her U.S. citizenship.
C. gain the right to vote in federal elections.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above
5. By around 1915, the richest 2 percent of the American population owned
A. 20 percent of the wealth in the United States.
B. 35 percent of the wealth in the United States.
C. 47 percent of the wealth in the United States.
D. 53 percent of the wealth in the United States.
E. 60 percent of the wealth in the United States.
6. By around 1915, the poorest two-thirds of the American population owned
A. 2 percent of the wealth in the United States.
B. 5 percent of the wealth in the United States.
C. 7 percent of the wealth in the United States.
D. 30 percent of the wealth in the United States.
E. 45 percent of the wealth in the United States.
7. Which was NOT a reason the U.S. entered World War I?
A. U.S. banks had given 10 billion dollars in loans to the Entente.
B. President Wilson deeply admired British political values and institutions.
C. Americans feared that Germany would destroy Russian democracy.
D. The U.S. was angry about German U-Boats sinking American ships.
E. all of the above.
8. The “Great Migration” of the early twentieth century refers to
A. European fleeing the fighting in their homeland.
B. Asians fleeing the flu epidemic.
C. African Americans fleeing southern oppression and poverty.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above.
9. The presidential election of 1916 saw most voters choosing
A. peace candidates.
B. Theodore Roosevelt.
E. none of the above.
10. Close cooperation between industry and government during World War I
A. caused corporate earnings to soar.
B. was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
C. resulted in greatly reduced profits.
D. was prohibited by the Seventeen Amendment.
E. although expected never really took place.
11. The Supreme Court in Schenck v. United States (1919)
A. ruled that lynching was unconstitutional.
B. upheld restrictions on free speech in the case of a “clear and present danger.”
C. held that Victor Berger’s prison sentence was illegal.
D. allowed the conviction of Eugene V. Debs to stand.
E. none of the above.
12. Woodrow Wilson argued that World War I was important so that the
A. English capitalists could rob Mesopotamia and Palestine.
B. aggression against the Netherlands could be punished.
C. Czar of Russia remained in charge of Russia.
D. Anglo American business could seize oil reserves in the Mid-East.
E. world was made safe for democracy.
13. African American soldiers during the First World War
A. were given the hardest and least-inspiring work.
B. served in segregated units.
C. were treated with respect by the French.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above.
14. At the Versailles Peace Conference, self-determination was
A. proclaimed for all the peoples of the world.
B. completely rejected as a Bolshevik plot.
C. not extended to the world’s nonwhite majority.
D. rejected by Woodrow Wilson as a typical French maneuver.
E. opposed in every instance by the United States.
15. The “Red Scare” of 1919
A. was mainly aimed at native-born white Americans.
B. associated movements for reform and social justice with subversion.
C. was opposed by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above.
After examining Map 20.1, explain what accounts for the military activity described. Why was
there more activity in some places (Cuba) than in others (Virgin Islands)?
Compare and contrast the League of Nations with the United Nations. What is fundamentally
the same about both organizations? What is significantly different? Why?
Imagine you were an African American woman serving in France during the First World War.
Write about how you would feel about white people after your service in France.
Answers to Multiple Choice Questions
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