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What if Wilson died in Europe in 1919?

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  • What if Wilson died in Europe in 1919?

    What if President Woodrow Wilson had in Europe in March, 1919 died from a massive stroke?

    1. How would the settlement of the war differed?
    2. How would the situation with the major powers in Asia develop
    (Japan, China, Russia, United States, British Empire)
    3. Would technologies have developed differently from how they actually did?
    4. Would the Soviet Union develop as it did?
    5. Would there have been a Great Depression?


    I think this would have made a major effect on history. I see in this scenario the behavior of the United States, and France and Great Britain, changing drastically. I think that Wilson because of his (and the USs power was able to a large degree to impose his will on the Conference - although of course the US never joined the League of Nations).

    I see the US becoming once again isolationist, as much of the public, particularly in the midwest wanted. President Thomas Marshall would essentially be a caretaker President until the 1920 election. The US Congress would be calling the shots, and the US would pretty much take a hands-off position in Europe, including calling home troops involved in supporting the White Russians.

    The French and British, and to a much lesser extent Italy, would then get to call the shots according to their natural inclinations. This would be take a very punitive stand against Germany, including occupation for the indefinite future. The French and British would decide 1. To support Germany becoming several small countries, based around Bavaria as one country, and several others including a smaller Prussia, and 2. To more or less divide the other countries by ethnicities, ie Poland, Czechland, Slovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Austria, etc.

    The rough spheres of Influence are that Catholic Southern Germany and Austria are to be economically dependent on France, While Britain has key influence in Northern Germany. The rest of Europe is more "open" but Poland will be more French influenced given their history of contacts and the Balkans will be more of a British area, given their interests in Greece, Cyprus, Malta, etc. Italy gets some small areas from the Austria.

    Turkey would arise from the remains of the Ottoman Empire as it in fact did.

    I think that the Soviet Union and Japan would both develop as they did, and that a Communist Party would develop in China. I think there still would have been a Depression, as the logic of capitalism would still lead to such an event.


    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    For one thing, a lot more people would know who Thomas Marshall was.

    You suggest that Marshall would have been a "caretaker" only. Why? Historical precedent shows a number of elevated vice presidents were not mere caretakers. Truman certainly wasn't. Nor were Teddy Roosevelt, John Tyler or Milliard Fillmore. Andrew Johnson tried his best to thwart Lincoln's reconciliation plans. I'm not sure we can gather much based on Marshall's refusal to take control once Wilson was sick. Wilson was alive after all, and IIRC Marshall didn't want to create a potential constitutional crisis. If Wilson died, all bets are off.

    So, I don't think we can answer your question without having some idea of what Marshall's policies would have been. For example:

    Would Marshall have followed Wilson's course or charted his own?

    Would he have had greater or less success in dealing with Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Orlando than did Wilson?

    Would he have been more successful in passing the Versailles Treaty (in whatever form) through the Senate?

    Any Marshall scholars out there?
    Last edited by The Ibis; 11 Feb 10, 13:20.

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    • #3
      Good point, your right, I was glossing over Marshall. The way I was looking at it, the country was really more in tune, overall, with the leaders who were against the treaty. I was looking from the stanpoint that Wilson couldn't get his program through. Marshall may very well have gone along with the opponents and tried to modify the treaty, so that the US may have ended up joining, and perhaps history would have been greatly different for that reason.

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      • #4
        Its been a while since I've read about it, but if I recall correctly, perhaps the biggest impediment to US ratification of the Versailles Treaty was Wilson's refusal to consult with influential senators. If Marshall was more diplomatic in that regard, he may have had more success.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by lakechampainer View Post


          The French and British, and to a much lesser extent Italy, would then get to call the shots according to their natural inclinations. This would be take a very punitive stand against Germany, including occupation for the indefinite future. The French and British would decide 1. To support Germany becoming several small countries, based around Bavaria as one country, and several others including a smaller Prussia,....
          This subject came up in a 20th Century European History class I took circa 1980. The Prof Kline-Albrandt refered to the various documents & memiors of the principle leaders at Versailles, particularly the French. he said those contradicted the public hard line the French & British were taking. The two nations were facing a military problem in 1919 that was actively undercutting their ability to enforce a partition. Specifically:

          The British and French armies had been largely demobilized. Globally the two together fielded less that one million men, hardly half of which were present in the Rhineland or France.

          The Allied soldiers were highly war weary. Most of the French were conscripts and both the Brit & French soldiers were unhappy with their continued service either in the Rhineland or the Middle East, Russia, ect... The French were very concerned another mutiny would breakout.

          The German army had only partialy been demobilized. As many as 300,000 were still under arms, and the Germans were maintaining a reserve system. The plan for the 100,000 man Reichwehr had not yet been imposed. Neither had the weapons of the German army been completely secured by the Allies.

          At least part of the German veterans were willing to fight for 'Germany' & the recruitment into the Free corps suggested how German veterans might respond were the Allies to attempt enforcement of a partition.

          Unsure of their own strength, concerned over the possible strength of the German army, and unwilling to start another war in 1919 the Allied leaders talked rough, but did not take any high risks or the partition question.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
            This subject came up in a 20th Century European History class I took circa 1980. The Prof Kline-Albrandt refered to the various documents & memiors of the principle leaders at Versailles, particularly the French. he said those contradicted the public hard line the French & British were taking. The two nations were facing a military problem in 1919 that was actively undercutting their ability to enforce a partition. Specifically:

            The British and French armies had been largely demobilized. Globally the two together fielded less that one million men, hardly half of which were present in the Rhineland or France.

            The Allied soldiers were highly war weary. Most of the French were conscripts and both the Brit & French soldiers were unhappy with their continued service either in the Rhineland or the Middle East, Russia, ect... The French were very concerned another mutiny would breakout.

            The German army had only partialy been demobilized. As many as 300,000 were still under arms, and the Germans were maintaining a reserve system. The plan for the 100,000 man Reichwehr had not yet been imposed. Neither had the weapons of the German army been completely secured by the Allies.

            At least part of the German veterans were willing to fight for 'Germany' & the recruitment into the Free corps suggested how German veterans might respond were the Allies to attempt enforcement of a partition.

            Unsure of their own strength, concerned over the possible strength of the German army, and unwilling to start another war in 1919 the Allied leaders talked rough, but did not take any high risks or the partition question.
            I have read that Pershing from the beginning felt that the armistice was a mistake, that he felt the Germans would soon feel they had not been beaten. I can understand the British and French troops feeling that way of course - but what I have never understood is given the reality that Russia was defeated by Germany, France and Britain (with its Dominions) were almost defeated, and yet they, especially the British, still focused heavily on India, Singapore, etc. rather than on the immediate, life or death threat.

            The plan I proposed of course took much from what the Western allies did do in WW II, to the extent they could given the reality of the Soviets in Central and Eastern Europe.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
              Its been a while since I've read about it, but if I recall correctly, perhaps the biggest impediment to US ratification of the Versailles Treaty was Wilson's refusal to consult with influential senators. If Marshall was more diplomatic in that regard, he may have had more success.
              I have also read that part of the problem was that Wilson tried to play politics in the Congressional election of 1918, asking the voters to essentially give him a mandate. They didn't, the Republicans (barely) got control of the Senate. The Republicans felt ill-used as they had supported Wilson heavily once the US entered the war.

              I have also read that Wilson generated ill will in Europe, by not visiting the battle sites until it became a matter of negative comment in France. Likewise, in Britain, he didn't praise the efforts of the British and Dominions soldiers and people.

              Following is the Wikipedia article on Marshall. His most famous line is: What this country needs is a really good five cent cigar.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_R._Marshall
              Last edited by lakechampainer; 11 Feb 10, 19:54.

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              • #8
                I picked March 1919 because the Conference went from mid-January to late June. I picked March with the idea it was the middle of the conference and his death would have had the most disruptive effect at that point.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by lakechampainer View Post
                  His most famous line is: What this country needs is a really good five cent cigar.
                  Another example of "what was true then is still true today."

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                  • #10
                    What is a Good Cigar Worth

                    Using this inflation calculator web site

                    http://measuringworth.com/calculators/uscompare/

                    A cigar selling for five cents in 1918 would sell for

                    $0.71 using the Consumer Price Index
                    $0.49 using the GDP deflator
                    $1.51 using the value of consumer bundle
                    $2.44 using the unskilled wage
                    $3.27 using the nominal GDP per capita
                    $9.52 using the relative share of GDP

                    I'll leave it to the economics majors to argue the merits and differences of each method of calculation.

                    In 1918 cheap lunch at a diner cost 10 to 15 cents. Taking the low number

                    $1.43 using the Consumer Price Index
                    $0.99 using the GDP deflator
                    $3.03 using the value of consumer bundle
                    $4.87 using the unskilled wage
                    $6.54 using the nominal GDP per capita
                    $19.04 using the relative share of GDP


                    In 1968 when I recieved my first SSN the minimum wage was $ 1.55, in 2008...

                    $9.59 using the Consumer Price Index
                    $7.64 using the GDP deflator
                    $10.20 using the value of consumer bundle
                    $9.97 using the unskilled wage
                    $16.22 using the nominal GDP per capita
                    $24.60 using the relative share of GDP

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                    • #11
                      Of course, I glossed over the heart of the matter, when said countries would be formed by ethnic groups/national groups. Large parts of Europe had groups intermingled, with for example Germans living in towns and cities throughout Eastern Europe, with what is now Poland and Belarus having groups of Poles, Belorussians, Germans, Jews, etc, with Hungarians settled in Transylvania, etc. The only solution would be to as much as possible divide the land up by country, and then to give people freedom of choice to move (For example Germans kicked out of what was Easternmost Prussia could move to Prussia, etc.) Of course, this would have cost a fortune, which only the US could really pay for.

                      An Advantage of dividing Imperial Germany into 4 or 5 countries, though, would be most of the Germans would live in these countries, there wouldn't be, for example, a huge group of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia, as happened in real life.

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                      • #12
                        I'm not sure how enforceable the division of Germany would be in practice. France might have been gung ho about it, but only France would benefit from the division. Britain had no use for ANY hegemony. Then there's the Germans. The Germans were needed to crush the non-Russian Soviets, well them and the Poles, and there would be no Freikorps to wring Bela Kun's neck, or save the Baltic countries if the Germans pull a long guerrilla movement in the former Germany and I can bet that if France tries it, the Hitler that does come along will assuredly be less concerns with killing Jews and more of exterminating the French, and I would not blame him. Germany would congeal back in some form, probably before 1940.

                        It's such a can of worms I don't think anybody took it seriously but France, and then more for imperialism than genuine fear. America rightly or wrongly gets credit for making Versailles 'too light' but I don't think anything beyond what Versailles did was practical in implementation. Remember the demobilization too and the fact that Britian implemented it's first gun laws at this time, such was the fear of communists and republicanism among the recently discharged soldiers. France was in worse shape, and the Allies needed a peace almost as badly as the Germans and the Germans needed it more only because of the food blockade.
                        How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
                        275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wolery View Post
                          I'm not sure how enforceable the division of Germany would be in practice. France might have been gung ho about it, but only France would benefit from the division. Britain had no use for ANY hegemony. Then there's the Germans. The Germans were needed to crush the non-Russian Soviets, well them and the Poles, and there would be no Freikorps to wring Bela Kun's neck, or save the Baltic countries if the Germans pull a long guerrilla movement in the former Germany and I can bet that if France tries it, the Hitler that does come along will assuredly be less concerns with killing Jews and more of exterminating the French, and I would not blame him. Germany would congeal back in some form, probably before 1940.

                          It's such a can of worms I don't think anybody took it seriously but France, and then more for imperialism than genuine fear. America rightly or wrongly gets credit for making Versailles 'too light' but I don't think anything beyond what Versailles did was practical in implementation. Remember the demobilization too and the fact that Britain implemented it's first gun laws at this time, such was the fear of communists and republicanism among the recently discharged soldiers. France was in worse shape, and the Allies needed a peace almost as badly as the Germans and the Germans needed it more only because of the food blockade.
                          Good points. I think I was not taking account the (realistic) fear of communists coming into power in Germany and other places, and I wasn't thinking of Bela Kun and Hungary's communists, who were already in power.

                          The other thing I think I missed was how much of an artificial creation Poland was, and that it was set up because France and others thought it would make them safer having Poland between Germany and Russia.

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                          • #14
                            Maybe the European powers UK , France Italy would have been even more vengful than the Treaty of Versailles was. Russia might have decided to forment even more unrest in Germany leading to soviet Germany, a quater century before it happens after Yalta .
                            Several posters have said people would know who VP Marshall was.
                            I think that a bill might have passed Congress forbiding a sitting Persident from leaving the country. And before Pres. T Roosevelt went to Panama
                            while in office no president had traveled abroad until either before or after his term of office . I also think that Isolationism would have been even more rampant that it was.

                            "To all who serve , have or will serve , Thank You"

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                            • #15
                              Edith Wilson would not be as much discussed in my History classes. And Herbert Hoover would, most likely, not have been the president in 1929.

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