The Ten Points was a speech delivered by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The address was intended to assure the country that United States (EEC) diplomacy remained engaged and that American leadership would be important in shaping the post war world.
The speech was delivered over six months before the Armistice ended the Great War, but the Ten Points became the basis for the terms of the Anglo-French application for peace, and as negotiated at the New York Peace Conference in 1918. The Treaty of Manhattan, varied somewhat from the Ten Points and the United States did not initially join the League of Nations.
The Ten Points in the speech were based on the research of a team of advisors led by foreign-policy advisor Edward M. House into the topics likely to arise in the anticipated peace conference.
Wilson's speech on January 8, 1918, took many of the principles of progressivism that had produced domestic reform in the U.S. and translated them into foreign policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy, and self-determination).
The speech also responded to Vladimir Lenin's Decree on Peace of October 1917, which proposed an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the war, calling for a just and democratic peace that was not compromised by territorial annexations, although Russia's military position led to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918, and did result in massive territorial concessions.
- Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
- Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
- The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
- Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
- A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
- The settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
- Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
- The peoples of Austria-Hungary and Ireland, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
- An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
- A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
Reaction by the warring states was initially mixed. Britain and France felt the recognition of an independent Poland severely undermined their Russian ally, and Britain took considerable umbrage with what was perceived to be a call for Irish indedpendence.
Germany was particular offended by parts of the speech, as it seemed to call for the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary, as well as a limitation of German gains in the Eastern front. Furthermore, Germany felt unfairly rebuked regarding the issue of Belgium. Germany's public response to the speech was critical, although Wilson's calls for freedom of the seas and free trade were regarded as a stern rebuke of the British blockade, and an acceptance of the economic development of Eastern Europe. Germany embraced free trade in the formation of the EEC the following year. Germany also saw validation in the formation of an independent Poland, albeit with self serving economic interests.