Woodrow Wilson: Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War against Germany

(1917)

Woodrow Wilson's Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War against Germany, delivered to a joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917, asked the legislature to recognize that a state of war existed between the United States and Germany. In addition to Congress, Wilson directed his speech to the American people, offering a rationale as to why the United States must enter the conflict. Notably, Wilson called for a war to make the world “safe for democracy.” This idealistic declaration set the United States apart from the other warring nations, which fought for specific territorial goals they had outlined in secret treaties with one another. Wilson’s address met with strong congressional approval. On April 6 he signed the war resolution that Congress drafted and passed in the wake of his speech, thereby leading his country into World War I.

One could argue that World War I formally began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Throughout the...

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President Woodrow Wilson addressing Congress in 1917 (Library of Congress)

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