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Charles R. Crane and Wilsonian Progressivism


Zacharie Leclair

This book presents a study of the career of Charles R. Crane, a central player in President Woodrow Wilson’s entourage. In the wake of the U.S. intervention in the Great War, Crane participated in important diplomatic and fact-finding missions. Leclair follows Crane through revolutionary Russia and on the Western front, in the emerging countries born out of the Ottoman Empire, and then in postwar China. In the process, Leclair’s book offers original insights into some of the major domestic and international decisions that define Wilson’s presidency and its legacy in the history of the United States and of international relations, most notably Wilson’s motivation and effort to bring about a new world order under American political and moral leadership. Leclair convincingly portrays Crane as a proponent of the principle of self-determination –one, indeed, whose aversion to colonialism predated Wilson’s international vision as formulated in his Fourteen Points. While a convergence of reform interest and humanitarian concerns brought Crane and Wilson together on some of the most complex issues of the time, Crane’s vision –propelled by a genuine philanthropic commitment—adds substance to what has largely been derided as empty Wilsonian idealism. The thematic structure of this book, the quality of its narration, and the wealth of information it contains, are added elements that make it an excellent contribution to the field of U.S. history. It could be used as a an assigned reading in college or university courses, especially in advanced American history, American Political thought and international relations courses.

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Chapter 5. Charles R. Crane and Versailles: Toward the Emancipation of the Ottoman Peoples, 1919


← 178 | 179 →

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Crane and America’s Reaction to the Armenian Issue

Charles Crane cast his first glance at the non-European world through a prism tinged with both religious and political considerations. An avid tourist since the end of the 1870s, the young Crane had come to perceive the Ottoman Empire as a nemesis of the Slavs and Christians of Europe. He owed this view to the Russian-Turkish rivalry in Crimea and the tensions caused by Ottoman and Muslim dominance over the Balkans. Having witnessed multiple conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the Slavic peoples of Russia and of the Balkans, Crane later interpreted the 14–18 war partly as a war against the Ottoman encroachment upon Europe, which was abetted by the scheming Central Powers. However, what he feared above all, as expressed in a letter to President Wilson, was “that Asia is growing rapidly in political power. With that situation facing the Christian world, for it to engage in this fearful war is to run the risk of placing Europe at the mercy of Asia.”1

This impression formed in the late 1870s did not, however, prevent him from becoming voluntarily involved in the field of education in the Ottoman Empire as of 1910. He made donations to the Robert College of Constantinople ← 179 | 180 → and to the Constantinople College for Girls and became a member...

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