Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Woodrow Wilson Archive from The Paris Peace Conference and Japanese Expansion in Shantung. A fascinating and important archive of letters, documents and photographs concerning the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the controversy over the "Shantung Decision". The papers were retained by R. Emmet Conden who served as secretary to Henry White (1850-1927), one of the five American Peace Commissioners at the 1919 conference. Dating largely between April and November 1919, this collection of original letters, retained drafts, memorandums, and diplomatic cables provide a vivid glimpse into the workings of the American mission to the Paris Peace Conference and how Wilson's idealism was shattered on the rocks of the ruthless chess of great power politics. In particular, the group provides a significant documentary record of U.S. efforts to resolve the Sino-Japanese conflict over the province of Shantung (Shandong). The resulting controversy was a political embarrassment to Wilson as he attempted to sell the much-flawed Treaty of Versailles to a skeptical Senate in the summer of 1919. The archive, consisting of 180 pages (approximately) of mostly typescript documents and letters include signed correspondence from President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), Assistant Secretary of State William Phillips (1878-1968), Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (1887-1944), Delegate and financier Thomas William Lamont (1870-1948), as well as copies of communications from Secretary of State Robert Lansing (1864-1928), American Peace Commissioner Henry White (1850-1928), and Naval Attaché Admiral Harry S. Knapp (1856-1928). A large body of typed and signed material comes from Delegate Stanley K. Hornbeck (1883-1966), an influential China expert who would later head up the Far Eastern Division at the State Department. Hornbeck strongly influenced U.S. diplomacy toward Japan in the years leading to the Second World War. This archive represents the beginning of Hornbeck's long tenure as a top United States diplomat and demonstrates his early thinking on Sino-Japanese relations. Though a small portion of the archive concern issues including the Greco-Turkish War and provisions for protecting submarine cables, the majority concern the Shantung question and the U.S. delegation's efforts to salvage the crisis over the concession to Japan. The collection also includes a fine set of U.S. Army Signal Corps photographs documenting parts of Wilson's time in Paris. The "Shantung Decision" had far-reaching consequences for world affairs. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles granted Japan rights to the German leasehold on the valuable port of Qingdao together with its "sphere of influence" over the province of Shantung. The award of these concessions to Japan, which had been wrested by Germany from China by force and threat in 1898, touched off the May Fourth Movement that is considered by many historians as the birth of modern Chinese nationalism. The concession to Japan, allowed by Wilson, was seen in China as a betrayal of his ideals embodied the Fourteen Points, and lay open to question his credibility. The movement, which began as a student strike at Beijing University blossomed into a significant cultural movement that signaled a seismic shift in Chinese intellectual currents. Whereas many had considered Western democracy the path for China to follow to the modern world prior to Versailles, now Marxism offered a popular alternative. The movement would pave the way for the establishment of the Chinese Party of China in 1921. Wilson's concession to Japan came after he had personally annulled a vote on the "Racial Equality" clause to the Covenant of the League of Nations. Bowing to pressure from the British Empire as well as southern Democrats at home, he defied the majority of the delegations who voted for the provision citing strong objections by certain members. He placated the insulted Japanese delegation (who intimated that they would not sign the treaty) by allowing them the German concessions in the Treaty of Versailles. The decision also caused much consternation in the American delegation. Robert Lansing had remarked in his memoirs of the Peace Conference noted that Wilson rarely consulted with his own commissioners and was "inclined to let matters drift, relying apparently on his own quickness of perception and his own sagacity to defeat or amend terms proposed by members of other delegations. From first to last there was no teamwork, no common counsel, and no concerted action..." It was Lansing's opinion that this led to "some of the more undesirable settlements which were incorporated into the terms of peace." (Lansing, The Big Four And Others of the Peace Conference. (1921) p. 50-51). This incident confirmed the frustrations of many in the delegation concerning Wilson's tendency to ignore his advisors including Hornbeck wanted to resign the commission. E.T. Williams, on the secret advice of Lansing and Bliss, resigned in order to go back to the U.S. to launch a public campaign against the Shantung decision. Before leaving Paris, he wrote to Paul Reinsch, the American minister in Beijing (who would resign his post in August): "there could be no greater indignation in Peking than existed in Paris in the breast of nearly every American. The few who endorsed the amazing decision... are those obsessed that the League of Nations is more important than just. I am ashamed to look at the Chinese in the face and I am hastening away from Paris as soon as possible.... [T]here is no explanation that will justify the action taken [by Wilson]... When I first came here, Secretary Lansing told me that the President will stand right behind China. He did, and pushed her over." (Shizhang Hu, Stanley K. Hornbeck and The Open Door Policy, 1919-1937. (1995) p. 50). Hornbeck, a philosophical disciple of Reinsch, remarked, "this settlement will be interpreted as a concession of force, a confirmation of the 'right' of militarism. It may be expected to have highly undesirable effects both in China and Japan." (Hu, Stanley K. Hornbeck. p. 50). Hornbeck did not resign, lest he end his fledgling diplomatic career. He would continue with the delegation, working behind the scenes to secure from Japan a written commitment to restore Chinese sovereignty over Shantung. The controversy over Shantung did little for Wilson's credibility at home either. The concession to the Japanese revealed all to clearly Wilson's inability to convince the Great Powers to abide by his Fourteen Points which sought to turn the treaty ending the Great War into a model document that would be fair to all parties. It also highlighted Wilson's overall political weakness, both in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the treaty and the League were marked for defeat, and among the world powers themselves. This archive illustrates most dramatically the declining influence of the American delegation to the Peace Conference in the spring and summer of 1919 as Wilson's stature at the conference waned. More fundamentally the Shantung decision signaled a shift in American-Japanese relations that would breed suspicion culminating in open war in 1941. Though the United States still supported China, Wilson's decision in Paris alienated many Chinese and opened the door to the Communists who would assume power in 1949. Cover foxed and toned, pages clean. Condition: Except where noted, the documents are in very good to fine condition including minor marginal chips and tears and a few paperclip stains. Photographs are overall in fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2006
    12th-13th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 464

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 2 days left to consign to the 2019 July 19 Musical Instruments Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage has gone above and beyond my expectations in handling all of my transactions in a thoroughly professional manner. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone worldwide for the exemplary auction and valuation services they provide.
    Richard H.,
    Corsicana, TX
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 May 14 Historical Manuscripts Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    2019 May 14 Historical Manuscripts Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $735,674