The Fourteen Points
January 8, 1918 （Audio）
Gentlemen of the Congress:
Once more, as repeatedly before, the spokesmen of the Central
Empires have indicated their desire to discuss the objects of the war
and the possible basis of a general peace. Parleys have been in progress
at Brest-Litovsk between Russsian representatives and representatives
of the Central Powers to which the attention of all the belligerents
have been invited for the purpose of ascertaining whether it may be
possible to extend these parleys into a general conference with regard
to terms of peace and settlement.
The Russian representatives presented not only a perfectly
definite statement of the principles upon which they would be willing to
conclude peace but also an equally definite program of the concrete
application of those principles. The representatives of the Central
Powers, on their part, presented an outline of settlement which, if much
less definite, seemed susceptible of liberal interpretation until their
specific program of practical terms was added. That program proposed no
concessions at all either to the sovereignty of Russia or to the
preferences of the populations with whose fortunes it dealt, but meant,
in a word, that the Central Empires were to keep every foot of territory
their armed forces had occupied -- every province, every city, every
point of vantage -- as a permanent addition to their territories and
It is a reasonable conjecture that the general principles of
settlement which they at first suggested originated with the more
liberal statesmen of Germany and Austria, the men who have begun to feel
the force of their own people's thought and purpose, while the concrete
terms of actual settlement came from the military leaders who have no
thought but to keep what they have got. The negotiations have been
broken off. The Russian representatives were sincere and in earnest.
They cannot entertain such proposals of conquest and domination.
The whole incident is full of significances. It is also full of
perplexity. With whom are the Russian representatives dealing? For whom
are the representatives of the Central Empires speaking? Are they
speaking for the majorities of their respective parliaments or for the
minority parties, that military and imperialistic minority which has so
far dominated their whole policy and controlled the affairs of Turkey
and of the Balkan states which have felt obliged to become their
associates in this war?
The Russian representatives have insisted, very justly, very
wisely, and in the true spirit of modern democracy, that the conferences
they have been holding with the Teutonic and Turkish statesmen should
be held within open, not closed, doors, and all the world has been
audience, as was desired. To whom have we been listening, then? To those
who speak the spirit and intention of the resolutions of the German
Reichstag of the 9th of July last, the spirit and intention of the
Liberal leaders and parties of Germany, or to those who resist and defy
that spirit and intention and insist upon conquest and subjugation? Or
are we listening, in fact, to both, unreconciled and in open and
hopeless contradiction? These are very serious and pregnant questions.
Upon the answer to them depends the peace of the world.
But, whatever the results of the parleys at Brest-Litovsk,
whatever the confusions of counsel and of purpose in the utterances of
the spokesmen of the Central Empires, they have again attempted to
acquaint the world with their objects in the war and have again
challenged their adversaries to say what their objects are and what sort
of settlement they would deem just and satisfactory. There is no good
reason why that challenge should not be responded to, and responded to
with the utmost candor. We did not wait for it. Not once, but again and
again, we have laid our whole thought and purpose before the world, not
in general terms only, but each time with sufficient definition to make
it clear what sort of definite terms of settlement must necessarily
spring out of them. Within the last week Mr. Lloyd George has spoken
with admirable candor and in admirable spirit for the people and
Government of Great Britain.
There is no confusion of counsel among the adversaries of the
Central Powers, no uncertainty of principle, no vagueness of detail. The
only secrecy of counsel, the only lack of fearless frankness, the only
failure to make definite statement of the objects of the war, lies with
Germany and her allies. The issues of life and death hang upon these
definitions. No statesman who has the least conception of his
responsibility ought for a moment to permit himself to continue this
tragical and appalling outpouring of blood and treasure unless he is
sure beyond a peradventure that the objects of the vital sacrifice are
part and parcel of the very life of Society and that the people for whom
he speaks think them right and imperative as he does.
There is, moreover, a voice calling for these definitions of
principle and of purpose which is, it seems to me, more thrilling and
more compelling than any of the many moving voices with which the
troubled air of the world is filled. It is the voice of the Russian
people. They are prostrate and all but hopeless, it would seem, before
the grim power of Germany, which has hitherto known no relenting and no
pity. Their power, apparently, is shattered. And yet their soul is not
subservient. They will not yield either in principle or in action. Their
conception of what is right, of what is humane and honorable for them
to accept, has been stated with a frankness, a largeness of view, a
generosity of spirit, and a universal human sympathy which must
challenge the admiration of every friend of mankind; and they have
refused to compound their ideals or desert others that they themselves
may be safe.
They call to us to say what it is that we desire, in what, if in
anything, our purpose and our spirit differ from theirs; and I believe
that the people of the United States would wish me to respond, with
utter simplicity and frankness. Whether their present leaders believe it
or not, it is our heartfelt desire and hope that some way may be opened
whereby we may be privileged to assist the people of Russia to attain
their utmost hope of liberty and ordered peace.
It will be our wish and purpose that the processes of peace, when
they are begun, shall be absolutely open and that they shall involve
and permit henceforth no secret understandings of any kind. The day of
conquest and aggrandizement is gone by; so is also the day of secret
covenants entered into in the interest of particular governments and
likely at some unlooked-for moment to upset the peace of the world. It
is this happy fact, now clear to the view of every public man whose
thoughts do not still linger in an age that is dead and gone, which
makes it possible for every nation whose purposes are consistent with
justice and the peace of the world to avow nor or at any other time the
objects it has in view.
We entered this war because violations of right had occurred
which touched us to the quick and made the life of our own people
impossible unless they were corrected and the world secure once for all
against their recurrence. What we demand in this war, therefore, is
nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe
to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every
peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life,
determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing
by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish
aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this
interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice
be done to others it will not be done to us. The program of the world's
peace, therefore, is our program; and that program, the only possible
program, as we see it, is this:
I. 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.
II. 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.
III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers
and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the
nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its
IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments
will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
V. 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.
VI. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a 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.
VII. 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.
VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded
portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in
the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the
world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may
once more be made secure in the interest of all.
IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations
we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest
opportunity to autonomous development.
XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied
territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the
sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another
determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of
allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the
political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the
several Balkan states should be entered into.
XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be
assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now
under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and
an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the
Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships
and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
XIII. 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.
XIV. 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
In regard to these essential rectifications of wrong and
assertions of right we feel ourselves to be intimate partners of all the
governments and peoples associated together against the Imperialists.
We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand
together until the end. For such arrangements and covenants we are
willing to fight and to continue to fight until they are achieved; but
only because we wish the right to prevail and desire a just and stable
peace such as can be secured only by removing the chief provocations to
war, which this program does remove. We have no jealousy of German
greatness, and there is nothing in this program that impairs it. We
grudge her no achievement or distinction of learning or of pacific
enterprise such as have made her record very bright and very enviable.
We do not wish to injure her or to block in any way her legitimate
influence or power. We do not wish to fight her either with arms or with
hostile arrangements of trade if she is willing to associate herself
with us and the other peace- loving nations of the world in covenants of
justice and law and fair dealing. We wish her only to accept a place of
equality among the peoples of the world, -- the new world in which we
now live, -- instead of a place of mastery.
Neither do we presume to suggest to her any alteration or
modification of her institutions. But it is necessary, we must frankly
say, and necessary as a preliminary to any intelligent dealings with her
on our part, that we should know whom her spokesmen speak for when they
speak to us, whether for the Reichstag majority or for the military
party and the men whose creed is imperial domination.
We have spoken now, surely, in terms too concrete to admit of any
further doubt or question. An evident principle runs through the whole
program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples
and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and
safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.
Unless this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of
international justice can stand. The people of the United States could
act upon no other principle; and to the vindication of this principle
they are ready to devote their lives, their honor, and everything they
possess. The moral climax of this the culminating and final war for
human liberty has come, and they are ready to put their own strength,
their own highest purpose, their own integrity and devotion to the test.