US President Woodrow Wilson stated openly before the First World War:

"Diplomacy and, if need be, violence must open the way to the (foreign) markets."

His central argument was that US industries have

"spread to the point where they will burst at the seams if they cannot freely access the world's markets".(15)

Some historians even say that this was one of the main reasons for the US entering the First and Second World War.

This is quoted from Jürgen Todenhöfer: "Die große Heuchelei: Wie der Westen seine Werte verrät", Ullstein, 2019. (My translation from this page).

US-Präsident Woodrow Wilson erklärte vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg offen: „Diplomatie und, wenn es sein muss, Gewalt müssen den Weg zu den (ausländischen Märkten) erschließen.“ Sein zentrales Argument lautete: Die US-Industrien haben sich „bis zu dem Punkt ausgebreitet, wo sie aus den Nähten platzen werden, wenn sie keinen freien Zugang zu den Märkten der Welt finden“ (15). Manche Historiker meinen sogar, dies sei einer der Hauptgründe für den Kriegseintritt der USA in den Ersten und Zweiten Weltkrieg gewesen.

Allegedly, this is just citing

(15) Kennedy, Paul: Aufstieg und Fall der großen Mächte. Ökonomischer Wandel und militärischer Konflikt von 1500 bis 2000. Frankfurt am Main 1989, S. 374

The German version is not available to me, but checking this against Paul Kennedy: "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000", Random House, 1987 I could not find this quote. Not even something remotely similar.

Widening the search for anything like that directly by Wilson was a dead end as well.

As far as I understand formatting of citations, the author implies to get his Wilson quote from Kennedy and either shortens it or splices two closely related sentences into one:

Diplomacy and, if need be, violence must open the way to the (foreign) markets […?][because] US industries have spread to the point where they will burst at the seams if they cannot freely access the world's markets.

Is this quoted out of context, invented, or did Wilson say something to this effect?


1 Answer 1


Wilson did publish something similar to your quote, but you need to search with the word power instead of violence.

Here's a mention of a source:

In 1902 he published the four-volume History of the American People, which made it clear that the historian-as-politician-as-would-be-world-leader viewed economic expansion as the frontier to replace the continent that had been occupied. A section in volume 5 (which reads like a close paraphrase of some essays written by Brooks Adams) recommended increased efficiency in government so that the United States "might command the economic fortunes of the world." He concluded his analysis by stressing the need for markets—markets "to which diplomacy, and if need be power, must make an open way."

The full quote looks like this, from A History Of The American People Vol V, BY WOODROW WILSON,pg 295.

The great East was the market all the world coveted now, the market for which statesmen as well as merchants must plan and play the game of competition, the market to which diplomacy, and if need be power must make an open way.

Concerning the second portion of the quote, I find nothing resembling 'burst at the seams' or 'freely access' in either Wilson's work, or in Paul Kennedy's.

  • 1
    Err... How do you find a quote in volume 5 of a 4-volume work?
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 17:55
  • 1
    @jamesqf I thought that was funny too. The linked version has 5 volumes though.
    – justCal
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 19:32
  • 1
    Honestly, I'm not even sure that was a bad translation. He's clearly talking about what we'd today call "soft power" vs. "hard power", and using the word "power" to indicate hard power. But its also past tense and describing basically how Westerners (particularly the Europeans) treated China. Barring further context, this wasn't a description of a future plan.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 22:18
  • 1
    @T.E.D. I don't think he's talking about soft power. The quote is from 1902 and the Great East Wilson is talking about was China. China in 1900 pursued the Boxer Rebellion who's objective was to force all foreigners out of their country, which the United States opposed militarily (1 of 8 countries to do so with troops). Likewise The United States at that time was well into it's imperial period where it pursued annexation of Hawaii 1898, The Philippine-American War, 1899–1902. Both aimed at creating and maintaining coal stations to enable US trade with China.
    – user27618
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 2:18
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    @T.E.D. How Wilson is translated is OK, (gaining a little when it went into German, and a little more when I re-translated) even though it could be read in the original as affirmative of him for this (past) 'recipe' as well. It's the context and misleading citation that's troubling. The second part appears to be from Wilson, but is not (I think now, that's still missing in answers… Is that from Wilson as well or paraphrasing from p359 in Kennedy) Commented May 27, 2019 at 8:35

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