Woodrow Wilson came to the presidency with little knowledge of or interest in foreign affairs. His well-known remark to a Princeton friend, "It would be the irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs," seemed to emphasize his concentration on domestic questions. But from the start of his term, Wilson saw close relationships between domestic and foreign policies. The New Freedom envisaged a return to free competition in the United States. The monopolistic interests had to be destroyed at home and their influence in foreign policy dispelled, and thus Wilson's initial rejection of "dollar diplomacy." Although he was not unqualifiedly hostile to business interests, he believed that their activities ought to serve, rather than dominate, the public interest.
Wilson's ethical and religious beliefs also profoundly influenced his foreign policy. Nations, like individuals, should adhere to high ethical and moral standards. Democracy, Wilson thought, was the most Christian of governmental systems, suitable for all peoples. The democratic United States thus had a moral mandate for world leadership. At the end of World War I, the president saw the League of Nations as an instrument for the application of Wilsonian democracy on an international scale.