Woodrow Wilson photo

Remarks at Buckingham Palace in London, England

December 27, 1918

Your Majesty:

I am deeply complimented by the gracious words which you have uttered. The welcome which you have given me and Mrs. Wilson has been so warm, so natural, so evidently from the heart that we have been more than pleased; we have been touched by it, and I believe that I correctly interpret that welcome as embodying not only your own generous spirit toward us personally, but also as expressing for yourself and the great nation over which you preside that same feeling for my people, for the people of the United States. For you and I, sir—I temporarily—embody the spirit of two great nations; and whatever strength I have, and whatever authority, I possess only so long and so far as I express the spirit and purpose of the American people.

Any influence that the American people have over the affairs of the world is measured by their sympathy with the aspirations of free men everywhere. America does love freedom, and I believe that she loves freedom unselfishly. But if she does not, she will not and can not help the influence to which she justly aspires. I have had the privilege, sir, of conferring with the leaders of your own Government and with the spokesmen of the Governments of France and of Italy, and I am glad to say that I have the same conceptions that they have of the significance and scope of the duty upon which we have met. We have used great words, all of us, we have used the great words "right" and "justice," and now we are to prove whether or not we understand those words and how they are to be applied to the particular settlements which must conclude this war. And we must not only understand them, but we must have the courage to act upon our understanding.

Yet, after I have uttered the word "courage," it comes into my mind that it would take more courage to resist the great moral tide now running in the world than to yield to it, than to obey it. There is a great tide running in the hearts of men. The hearts of men have never beaten so singularly in unison before. Men have never before been so conscious of their brotherhood. Men have never before realized how little difference there was between right and justice in one latitude and in another, under one sovereignty and under another; and it will be our high privilege, I believe, sir, not only to apply the moral judgments of the world to the particular settlements which we shall attempt, but also to organize the moral force of the world to preserve those settlements, to steady the forces of mankind and to make the right and the justice to which great nations like our own have devoted themselves the predominant and controlling force of the world.

There is something inspiriting in knowing that this is the errand that we have come on. Nothing less than this would have justified me in leaving the important tasks which fall upon me upon the other side of the sea, nothing but the consciousness that nothing else compares with this in dignity and importance. Therefore it is the more delightful to find myself in the company of a body of men united in ideal and in purpose, to feel that I am privileged to unite my thought with yours in carrying forward those standards which we are so proud to hold high and to defend.

May I not, sir, with a feeling of profound sincerity and friendship and sympathy propose your own health and the health of the Queen, and the prosperity of Great Britain?

APP Note: The President addressed his remarks to King George V.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks at Buckingham Palace in London, England Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317503

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