This Day in History: December 4, 1918

On this day in 1904, President Woodrow Wilson departed Washington, D.C, on the first European trip ever taken by a U.S. president. After several days at sea aboard the S.S. George Washington, Wilson arrived at Brest, France. He then traveled by land to Versailles, where he led the American delegation to the peace conference seeking an official end to World War I.

Despite Republican opposite to the trip, Wilson worked indefatigably to hash out an agreement that would lead to a lasting peace in Europe. During the stay, Wilson also pushed for the establishment of the League of Nations, an international organization designed to promote world peace by avoiding wars and settling international disputes.

At Versailles, Wilson’s hopes for a “just and stable peace” were opposed by the other victorious Allies, and the final treaty, which called for stringent war reparations from the former Central Powers, was met with intense disapproval in Germany. Regardless, President Woodrow Wilson was awarded the 1920 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to end the war and ensure peace throughout the world. Unfortunately, he could not attend the ceremony in Oslo after suffering a debilitating stroke.

Wilson thus became only the second sitting U.S. president to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Theodore Roosevelt won it in 1906 for his work in helping to end the Russo-Japanese War. Former President Jimmy Carter was honored with the prize in 2002, and President Barack Obama received the 2009 peace prize.

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