James T. Shotwell


Photo: Signal Corps U.S.A., National Archives at College Park

American historian, international relations scholar and diplomat involved in the formation of key international organizations of the 20th century. He was born in Canada, in a family of ­American Quakers. He graduated from the University of Toronto (1898), after which he received his doctorate from Columbia University (1903) – he was associated with the latter university until 1943, from 1908 as a lecturer. His research ­interests included the study of the influence of scientific and technological progress ­on historical processes, including the spread of liberal values and the democratic foundations of social organization. In 1917 he became research director of the newly established foundation Carnegie ­Endowment for International Peace.

In the same year, Shotwell became an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson – as co-organizer of the and a member of the ­American delegation to the . During the ­conference, he served as historian of the American delegation, and was also heavily ­involved in the drafting of the Constitution of the International Labour Organization. After the conference, Shotwell joined the effort to get the ­United States to join the League of Nations. In the ­following years, in addition to continuing his scholarly work, he engaged in diplomatic activities, ­which resulted, among other things, in the signing of the Briand–Kellogg ­Pact (1928) – committing the signatories to renounce war as a means of conducting international politics. During ­World War II, ­President Franklin D. Roosevelt engaged Shotwell to develop the ­legal basis for the United Nations. From 1942, he worked at the Carnegie ­Foundation, including as its president (1949–50). In 1952, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. James Shotwell is the author and editor of numerous items on history, international relations as well as entries to the Encyclopedia Britannica.


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December 1918: Members of the Peace Inquiry Bureau aboard the "George Washington" ship, on their way to the Paris Peace Conference. Isaiah Bowman sits second on the left, James Thomson Shotwell stands in the first row first on the left, Robert Howard Lord stands in the last row first on the right. Photo: Lieut. E. N. Jackson, Signal Corps U.S.A., National Archives at College Park

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Washington, DC, May 8, 1939: James Thomson Shotwell, a professor at Columbia University, during a meeting of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress, LC-H22-D- 6530 [P&P]

The Inquiry – President Wilson’s personal think tank

Paris, February 27, 1919

Lunch as a guest of the Polish Delegation. Bowman, Young and I, and two younger men, [Samuel] Morison and [Joseph] Fuller, engaged on Polish research, were guests of the Polish Delegation at the apartment of a wealthy Pole, M. Pulaski, descendant of the Pulaski of the American Revolution. His apartment, in the Rue La Péerouse, right beside the Étoile, is the headquarters of the Paris Committee of the Poles, and we had a formal luncheon with an equal number of Poles. At the end of lunch-full menu and champagne – M. Pulaski rose in a dignified manner and spoke of the historic occasion which brought us together; but none of us was quite sure just what the occasion was. […] Bowman tried to bring matters down from the clouds by replying jokingly without getting up. On adjourning to the drawing room, however, we found a formal gathering of some twenty Polish leaders, who stiffly shook hands with each other and with us.

Pulaski took charge of the ceremonies and introduced one after another, asking them to present the different phases of the Polish claims: their demands for Danzig, Posen, Lemberg and the north and east. Unfortunately, it was overdone. Historians treated us to disquisitions on the superlative quality of Polish toleration (the one nation in all history that had consistently never persecuted anyone!). Representatives of outlying territories on the borders of Poland pleaded for Poland irredenta. Maps and statistics were at hand. […] At the close Bowman replied for us in a very happy speech, but it was only by executing a flank movement on the stairs that we succeeded in breaking through the serried ranks of geographers and economists who were prepared to exact conversion at the price of another five-hour talk. However, we postponed that for a couple of days and made for the car. Young and I are still unconvinced that the Danzig Corridor is wise, or is even in Poland’s own interest. […]

May 1, 1919

[…] In the evening Dr. Isaiah Bowman and his wife gave a farewell dinner to the President of the [Ministerial] Council of Poland, Paderewski, and the Foreign Minister, Dmowski. […] The large round table was scattered with red roses and red and white decorations, since Poland’s flag is red and white. The favors were lilies of the valley, in honor of May Day. […]

Madame Paderewski was very gracious and so was he. He says that he has forever given up music now, and even that he cares for it no longer. The only music he has written recently is a Polish national hymn, and Madame Paderewski said that at a meeting in Warsaw not long ago which had this hymn on the program he quite forgot to call for it. I asked her if he gives the same amount of nervous energy to his speeches that he used to put into the preparation for a concert, but she says that politics doesn’t call for an artistic temperament and that her husband now can lead a perfectly normal life. As for Dmowski, he told me that music is mere noise to him and that he never was at any of Paderewski’s concerts until almost the very last, when Paderewski took him along to one at Brighton, in England. […]


The restoration of Poland by the Paris Peace Conference owes much – if not, indeed, most – to the American Delegation; and its frontiers were largely determined by Dr. Bowman, who traced them with scrupulous care on the basis of exhaustive demographic surveys. Professor Lord, as a partisan of Poland, sought to gain all for the Poles that sympathy for their tragic history could demand. […]

The British, however, were uneasy at the extent to which this preoccupation with the restoration was cutting into the map of Europe. The Foreign Office, and especially Mr. Headlam-Morley, were afraid that the seeds of a future war would be sown in a corridor stretching across Germany in order to give Poland “free and secure access to the sea,” even if this corridor were guaranteed by an “international covenant. […] We all recognized the extreme difficulty of the problem – that a nation of thirty million could not be restored to its national home without displacing others. But at bottom the German-Polish question is not merely one of territory. It will not be settled until the attitude of each nation toward the other is changed; for arrogance on Germany’s part breeds resentment on the part of the Poles, and now the Poles can strike back.


The new nations in the east of Europe unfortunately do not live on different sides of any clearly defined line. They fringe out into each other over a wide borderland through which it is possible to draw several lines each one of which would have a distinct justification. Still harder is the problem of dealing with islands of people set in the midst of other races. The City of Lemberg is solid Polish, but is surrounded by Ruthenians who form the majority of the country population of that part of Galicia. Add to this fact the further complication that many of the Poles are Jewish, while on the other hand much of the land in the country of the Ruthenians is owned by Polish nobles. The people themselves cannot decide the question and are at war. What is to be done? […]

The sentimental claims of history are often just as real as the demands of nationality. The fact that Upper Silesia had never belonged to Poland since the rise of modern states is as real a fact in its way as the national history of Bohemia. […] And when one adds to racial claims the legitimate demands of economics, the need for provisions for transit and for markets, the rival claims for territories with supplies of raw material, the geographical and strategical elements in boundaries that would overrun cross-country railroad lines, and a dozen other considerations varying with each new boundary, one realizes that the decisions of the , no matter what they were, would leave the door open to further controversy.

It is quite possible, of course, that the actual boundaries drawn in the Treaty are open to objection, but it should be remembered that no boundaries can be drawn which will meet the approval of all parties concerned.

source: Shotwell, James T. “At The Paris Peace Conference”, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937.