Woodrow Wilson Letter-marshall Foch-militarist, Imperialist & Obstacle To Peace
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Woodrow Wilson Letter-marshall Foch-militarist, Imperialist & Obstacle To Peace:
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)28th president of the United States (March 4th, 1913 - March 4th, 1921)
Exceptional Woodrow Wilson Letter Signed Regarding Marshall Foch, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WWI -- "…I was entirely disillusioned about [Foch] while I was in France…he is the leader of the militaristic and imperialistic elements in France…they are the worst enemies of the peace of the world…"
Historically important typed letter signed by Woodrow Wilson, shortly after he left office, regarding the World War I Supreme Allied Commander, Marshall Ferdinand Foch. Wilson gives his forthright, unfavorable opinion about Foch, which is striking as Foch was widely considered a most able and effective commander responsible for winning World War I.
Dated 25 April 1921 upon Wilson's personal stationery, letter reads in full:
"My dear Mr. Holt:
I do not think it would be wise for me to comment on your suggestion regarding Marshall Foch, because I was entirely disillusioned about him while I was in France. He proved himself in the Peace negotiations the most difficult obstacle to a peaceful settlement.
Some day I hope I may in conversation give you full information to what I refer. Suffice it to say for the present that he is the leader of the militaristic and imperialistic elements in France which are bent upon reversing the Alsace-Lorraine business in the Ruhr District. For the moment they are the worst enemies of the peace of the world.
Personally I could not receive Marshall Foch. With kindest regards and regret I cannot help out in this matter;
Cordially and faithfully yours,
The letter is accompanied by a return reply from Holt to Wilson thanking him for writing "so frankly…what you say is an entirely new point of view to me." Holt had written Wilson for comments upon Holt's favorable editorial of Foch, which had been published in "The Independent." In this editorial, Holt went so far in his praise of Foch to suggest that the United States grant him a tract of land as she had done for French General Lafayette after the Revolutionary War.
In addition, this offering includes a letter from Holt, dated March 23rd, 1931, to a Mrs. Johnson, referencing Wilson's letter, explaining that "When Marshall Foch visited Washington, he called on Wilson, but he was not received. The papers said the next morning it was because Wilson was too ill. Wilson's letter, however, gives undoubtedly the real reason."
All three letters in very good condition; Wilson's single page letter measures 7" x 9.5", with some creasing and minute foxing. Wilson's full signature is bold and clear. A fascinating letter by President Wilson, providing new insight into post WWI European and American tension, which would inextricably build to the breaking point of World War II less than twenty years later.
Note 1 - World War I background of Marshal Foch and sources of Woodrow Wilson’s antipathy -
In 1914 Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929) checked the invading German troops as they fanned across French territory. A brilliant tactician, he was largely responsible for General Joffre's crucial victory at the Marne and in 1918 he became commander of the allied armies on the Western front. His strategic and well-planned attacks led to the German army's withdrawal and the November 11, 1918 armistice that ended hostilities. He made important contributions to the armistice negotiations and the Paris Peace Conference that followed.
However, during the peace negotiations, the French would not relent in their age-long hatred of the Germans. At the same time, their dislike of Wilson increased dramatically. Foch was a leading advocate, with other French military officers, for a Rhine frontier that would insure peace. Because Wilson delayed offering the so-called reinsurance treaty with France to the U. S. Senate until he could get some assurance that the main treaty would be favourably acted upon, French leaders complained that the Anglo-Saxons, who had saved them, were jockeying them. Nor was it merely the work of disappointed statesmen. Foch did not stand alone in his denunciation of Wilson. The French elections of November, 1919, resulted in an overwhelming victory for the reactionaries, but when the Chambers proceeded to choose the next President they defeated Clemenceau largely on the ground that he had yielded too much to Wilson.
Note 2 - Holt editorial for The Independent –
In his editorial Holt acknowledged Foch's importance to the allied victory observing that he had been the de facto commander-in-chief of the U.S. armies in France during World War I and compared him to the French general and American Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette.
After sending proofs of the editorial for comment, Holt received letters from both Taft and Wilson, the two ex-presidents still alive at the time. The latter deeply disliked Foch for his perceived intransigence during the negotiations that lead to the final peace treaty. Taft's letter, in which he compares Foch to American general and president Ulysses S. Grant, was printed in The Independent along with the editorial.
Note 3 – Text for an associated letter written by William H. Taft, the 27th President, regarding Marshal Foch –
This typed letter signed ("Wm. H. Taft"), with holograph corrections, is datelined “New Haven, April 25, 1921,” written on Taft’s personal stationery to newspaper editor Hamilton Holt (1872-1951).
"My dear Mr. Editor:
The case of Marshall Foch is an exceptional one in the history of this country, and needs, therefore, exceptional treatment. He was in supreme command of the forces of the world, engaged in struggling to save the world from domination of militarism. He, therefore, commanded our army, of more than a million men, in the greatest war in history, and a war the like of which we are all struggling to make impossible hereafter. We may all admit that Marshall Foch was the great strategical genius of the war, and that he was able. to carry to successful demonstration the principles he had so lucidly set forth in his lectures on Military Science. When General Grant was dying at Mt. McGregor, and the heart of the whole country was throbbing with gratitude for what he had done in leading the army of the Republic to victory in our Civil War, and in saving the country whole, Congress enacted a law authorizing the President to appoint, and the Senate to confirm, as General of the Army on the retired list, at a salary of $12,000, a General who had commanded an army in the Civil War. President Arthur at once nominated General Grant, and the Senate at once confirmed the nomination; and this gracious and grateful demonstration of the feeling of the country toward him cheered the dying days of the national hero. It seems to me that using this precedent, with appropriate variations, the people of this country, through Congress and the President, may evidence to Marshall Foch, and to the people of France, our deep appreciation of the great services of this son of France to us and to the World.
Research reference: Register – Hamilton Holt Papers, processed by Peter E. Robinson, Mills Memorial Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, 1964,
These letters are mentioned in Box 2 (Correspondence 1918-1922 - Letters pertaining to Marshall Foch's visit to U.S., Wilson's criticism of Foch)
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