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Remarks to the League for the Rights of Man in Paris, France

January 28, 1919


I particularly appreciate your courtesy in coming in person to convey these admirable sentiments to me. The phrase "the rights of man" is somehow associated more intimately with the history of France than with the history of any other country, and I think that the whole world has regarded France as a sort of pioneer in the ideal interpretation of that phrase. It was not an accident which drew France and the United States into close association. The Marquis Lafayette did not come to the United States because he alone entertained the sentiment of sympathy. He came, and we recognized that he came as a representative--shall I say, knight errant? —of the sympathy of France: and when this opportunity came, not to repay our debt to France, for such debts are not repaid, but to show the similar sentiment that moved us and the equal willingness on our part to help France in her time of need, it was with genuine satisfaction that we came to help. It is true, sir, I believe, that our coming prevented a catastrophe that might have overwhelmed the world. That adds to our delight: that adds to our gratification that we could have served France in so exigent an hour.

Therefore, when you, who have through many difficulties represented an ideal principle, bring me these assurances of your friendship, it causes me an unusual emotion. I am grateful to you. I appreciate your homage and feel that it brings a message not only of friendly feeling but a message of comprehension and sympathy which is peculiarly delightful and acceptable.

APP Notes: The League of Human Rights was founded in Paris in 1898.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks to the League for the Rights of Man in Paris, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317834

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