Lesson 3: Wilson and American Entry into World War I

In August 1914, President Woodrow Wilson asked Americans to remain impartial in thought and deed toward the war that had just broken out in Europe. Wilson wanted the United States to exemplify the democratic commitment to peace, but "The Great War" continually challenged the nation's neutrality. American farms and factories fed and armed Europe's armies; both the Allied and Central powers violated international laws governing ocean travel and shipping. For almost three years, the President presided over a difficult, deteriorating neutrality, until finally the provocations could no longer be ignored or negotiated. In this lesson, students will analyze one of the most significant moments in twentieth century U.S. foreign relations: Wilson's decision to enter World War I in order to make the world "safe for democracy."

Guiding Questions

After almost three years of neutrality, was the decision to intervene in World War I justified?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students should be able to: Explain why the United States adopted a policy of neutrality after the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914

Identify challenges to American neutrality

Explain why Wilson decided to request a declaration of war

Discuss the ways in which Wilson wanted to use victory in the war to fundamentally change international relations and to promote the spread of democracy